Privacy, Agency, and Why Picturelife Now Accepts Bitcoin

Your Privacy Agency shouldn’t stop at .jpg.

Nate Westheimer


We think Bitcoin is The Future of payments, and so we’ve begun accepting them at Picturelife. Here’s why:

If you’re like me, you’re no expert on Bitcoin. It’s conceptually elaborate, mathematically complex, and like any new medium, it feels strange at first touch.

But, if you’re also like me, you’re wildly fascinated by what you’ve learned about the currency so far. As you glean each new bit about how its market functions, you’re becoming increasingly excited about Bitcoin’s possibilities and ramifications for our entire social fabric — far, far beyond just the financial market it represents.

Part of the brilliance of Bitcoin, and its potential impacts on society, is its focus on what I call “privacy agency.” When I say privacy agency, I’m not just talking about the uncrackability of some code, or unhackability of some servers (though Bitcoin has these benefits for its bearers), but about the basic human decency that says my business is my business, and what I do and how I do it is up to me. With Bitcoin, I can be who I want when I pay: a publicly known person with a detailed, trackable transaction history, or a brand new, anonymous person, who to the rest of the world is making his first purchase (that you know of). Privacy agency means the choice of privacy is mine and real.

We’ve entered an era where this agency — this choice — is increasingly important because it’s increasingly taken away from us. More and more of our financial information is vulnerable and shared. Some of this is intentional, as is the case with peer-to-peer payments services like Venmo and Square. But, so much of it is unintentional. In some cases, this means a data breach — the Target debacle is the most obvious, recent event — but in a world of credit cards, it gets much muddier, and something as common as having your credit card rejected for fraud-prevention purposes can leave you feeling embarrassed and exposed.

At Picturelife, we think about this “privacy agency” concept a lot. We founded the company in early 2011 with the then somewhat novel notion that users should have ultimate control of who sees their photos — their most personal digital belongings. It’s why every photo uploaded to our platform is private by default, going against the tsunami tide of social photo apps that think every photo is game for their network.

It’s with this eye that, beyond our personal curiosities, we’ve been paying close attention to the evolution of the Bitcoin market and thinking about what it could mean for our customers.

Today, in an effort to give our customers new options, and to add our vote of confidence to this new financial paradigm, I’m excited to announce that we’re accepting Bitcoin at Picturelife.

To start, we’re taking it slow. We’re using the Coinbase platform and API to power our Bitcoin cart. We chose Coinbase because they have fantastic tools for merchants, but also because they allow you to checkout without having an account — paying with any Bitcoin address. For this very purpose, we have decided not to implement their recurring billing features yet, as requiring an account on a new payment platform would defeat the purpose of giving you this option in the first place.

Another thing we’ve decided to do, for the time being, is hold our incoming BTC in BTC. While Coinbase allows you to cash out to USD on a nightly basis, we’re going to test holding some of our revenue in this new currency.

Lastly, we’ve lowered our prices for new customers checking out with Bitcoin. Our standard Picturelife Premium plan cost $70 a year for 100GB. But, on our Bitcoin checkout page, we’re allowing you to both name your price and get a low rate of $0.50 per GB, per year. This means for $50 of Bitcoin, you can get 1 year and 100GB of Picturelife Premium, or for $10 a year you can get 20GB. Your money, your identity, your call.

For me, and for us, this is just the beginning of our exploration of Bitcoin and what it means for the future of our society, our economy, and the software services we use. If you want to keep learning about this new currency with me, I recommend reading Andrew Parker’s musings on his blog (Spark is a Picturelife investor), this great WSJ op-ed by Marc Andreessen, or these posts by Chris Dixon (also a Picturelife investor).



Nate Westheimer

Now: Head of Product — Amazon Photos Then: Founder & CEO — Picturelife; Organizer — NY Tech Meetup; Advisor — Flybridge