Today, Namecheap has announced that they, like WordPress, Reddit and Mega before them, are now accepting Bitcoin as payment for their services. Namecheap is most well-known as a domain name registrar, offering domain registration services for as low as $3.99 per year (compared to GoDaddy’s $10-$15 per year), but they also sell a number of other web services, including web hosting, virtual private servers and SSL certificates, and are ranked by Alexa as the 927th most visited site in the world, making them the fifth most popular website after WordPress, Reddit, the Internet Archive and 4Chan to accept Bitcoin.
Just like WordPress, Namecheap’s reasons for accepting Bitcoin are primarily political in nature. As Namecheap community manager Tamar Weinberg wrote, “We’re a freedom loving registrar. We donated over $100,000 to the Electronic Frontier Foundation to help keep the fight for internet freedom alive with the introduction of SOPA and CISPA. Our pride is our customers, and we are completely focused on doing what it takes to make you happy That’s why we’re integrating Bitcoin: you’ve asked, and we’ve answered.” The domain registration business may appear to be too low-level and utility-like to support such ideological preferences, but the industry took a decidedly political turn in December 2011 when the US government attempted to pass the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a law which, detractors argue, would have effectively made sites hosting user-generated content like Reddit and YouTube illegal. GoDaddy was discovered to be one of the supporters of the law, and so a grass-roots, large-scale internet-organized boycott ensued. GoDaddy was quickly forced to backpedal on its support of the law, with CEO Warren Adleman expressing the non-committal position that “fighting online piracy is of the utmost importance, which is why GoDaddy has been working to help craft revisions to this legislation – but we can clearly do better.” However, the damage to GoDaddy’s reputation was irreversible. At the same time, the potential for domain takedowns to be used as a mechanism for governments like that of the United States to enforce laws outside of its own borders quickly became clear, and “freedom-friendly” businesses in a number of internet-related industries have either emerged or gained considerable publicity since then – Namecheap included.
Namecheap is not the first company to offer domain registration services or web hosting and virtual private servers for Bitcoin; Zhou Tong’s NameTerrific and the VPS provider VPS6 have been providing those two services, respectively, for nearly a year. However, the fact that existing businesses that already have a significant foothold in their respective industries are now starting to accept Bitcoin is something completely different. In a small, but rapidly growing number of fields, Bitcoin is already a force to be reckoned with. Several days ago, TorrentFreak released an article that showed that over half of all major VPN providers are now accepting Bitcoin. Although market-leading domain registrar GoDaddy will likely be one of the last companies to accept the “currency of online freedom”, Namecheap is an official reseller of the second largest registrar, eNom, and so through Namecheap Bitcoin is now accepted by the second largest registrar in the market. Far from a scattered collection of hobby businesses, this represents serious market penetration in industries that matter. If WordPress was Bitcoin’s first foothold in the mainstream, the web services industry may well become its first fully conquered territory.