Wall of Coins is a peer to peer exchange for Bitcoin that advertises security and privacy as their primary features. Their service features zero transaction fees, a web API, and they boast 100% cold storage reserves. While their infrastructure for exchange is an interesting departure from both centralized and P2P exchanges, how practical and convenient is it compared to more sophisticated options like Circle and Mycelium? With a service that operates as uniquely as Wall of Coins, I think it necessary to evaluate where it fall in as a Bitcoin exchange solution.
Let me start by stating that I use Circle and Mycelium as my standard solutions for the purchase and sale of Bitcoin. Both of these services have put a lot of thought into polishing their platforms, so your mileage may vary based on your exchange of choice, especially regarding user-friendliness. The aim of this review is to evaluate where Wall of Coins falls in the spectrum of Bitcoin exchanges and cover why (or why not) to give it a try, not to make direct comparisons to older, more mature solutions. However, analogous features will be pointed out where relevant.
Ease Of Use Is Paramount
The website proper is simple and inviting, with a no-nonsense interface and big, clearly labeled exchange functions. The design language harkens back to the pre-HTML5 internet, in the best way possible. The dynamic backgrounds, scrolling animations, and opaque site navigation that have become ubiquitous in new web startup splash pages is markedly absent, giving Wall of Coins a very professional aesthetic. Account creation is impermanent and not strictly necessary, and their 2-factor authentication system is refreshingly easy to use. The most convenient facet of their account system is that ID based verification isn’t required, which admittedly is a standard feature of most P2P exchanges.
I used Wall of Coins for a few transactions to evaluate their system. Buying and selling Bitcoin is easy enough, and with a minimum transaction amount of $5, their system is pretty flexible compared to other P2P solutions, which depend on the sellers to set pricing and minimums. I’d say their system is perfect for those that are new to or only dabble in buying and selling Bitcoin, as it doesn’t have the ID verification barrier of traditional exchanges, and works around the proverbial craigslist murder-factor pretty well compared to older P2P solutions.
There are a few quirks in their system that could put new users off, though. You have to drive to a bank to deposit your purchase directly into one of Wall of Coins’ accounts, to avoid transaction fees among other things. The other big hang-up is the rates you get on each purchase. On average they’re lower than traditional exchanges, and even most P2P exchanges if you put even a little work in (your mileage may vary based on your location and the state of the market.) This can be attributed to their smaller size compared to more established solutions, though. Bitcoin is released to your wallet quickly compared to central exchanges, taking around half an hour in my tests compared to a few days average on my solution of choice, despite Wall of Coins acting as a security intermediary.
Selling Bitcoin is equally simple,
though I wasn’t able to use it, as my bank is not supported by their website (I use a local credit union.) [EDIT: they do support Credit unions through the “co-op banking” option in the initial drop-down menu, as well as Western Union and Moneygram if you aren’t comfortable with providing bank info. While these options could be organized better in their interface, they are present.] You can set your price per Bitcoin, the amount you want to sell, and even track your sale price dynamically to several popular exchanges. As Wall of coins handles the transactions between the buyer and vendor, this process feels a lot like selling on a traditional exchange, which is a significant step up from most P2P solutions. The difference is in ease of use. You simply go through a few drop down menus, deposit your Bitcoin, and wait. How fast your sale goes through depends on buyers, so be sure to price accordingly.
Where Does Wall of Coins Fit in?
The ease of use and low entry barriers inherent in Wall of Coins’ infrastructure make the exchange very newcomer and casual user-friendly.
However, the exchange does have its flaws. While the 100% commitment to transparency and peer to peer exchange is posted prominently on their site, they act as an intermediary layer between Bitcoin buyers and sellers in the same way central exchanges do, so for security reasons, there will always be some necessary opacity in their system. This also brings a lot of drawbacks to their transaction system that P2P exchange users are looking to avoid in the first place. While their exchange has a substantial elegance and convenience not present in most P2P exchanges, the central authority that moderates the transaction system puts it in a strange middle ground between traditional and P2P exchanges. They have publicly auditable deposit addresses and a system that is markedly more private than traditional exchanges, but the way they solve the problems with older P2P exchange methods detracts from their decentralized nature. The layers between buyer and seller necessary to make their system work could understandably put off the more hardcore P2P Bitcoin adopters, and their simpler, more transparent exchange system may well drive away those looking for an “exchange as a service” experience.
It’s difficult to place precisely where Wall of Coins falls within the range of exchanges. The market that best fits their services can be hard to place at first, too. They offer elegant solutions to problems pervasive in the P2P Bitcoin exchange ecosystem, and offer up far more info in the name of transparency compared to centralized exchanges, but fall short on the core features that each market seeks out because of it, making Wall of Coins decidedly a niche platform. However, they do what they do very well. Their offering is secure, private, easy to use, and refreshingly elegant. While I’d like to recommend Wall of Coins to everyone because of the positive experience I had using their exchange, they don’t offer an all in one platform for centralized exchange users, or a completely decentralized solution for fans of P2P exchange methods. If Traditional exchanges can be compared to commercial banks, and P2P exchanges to anonymous money orders, then Wall of coins would be close to a credit union. While I can’t say it’s a perfect solution for everyone, I think that it IS good for those new to Bitcoin. The simplicity and integration of traditional bank deposits make it easy for a casual user to buy Bitcoin without sacrificing privacy or trusting a faceless stranger, which breaks down the most common barriers to people on the fence about Bitcoin adoption.
Wall of Coins’ exchange platform may not be what people want from a day to day Exchange platform, but it’s simplicity and robust design have obvious utility for many interested in Bitcoin, but don’t know where to get started. While that use case is the best fit for Wall of Coin at present, their strong foundation could easily take their exchange mainstream in either direction as they add features and polish to their platform. If you’re happy with your current exchange(s), then I see no reason to switch, as you’ll be sacrificing features or privacy depending on what camp you come from. If you want to introduce others to the Bitcoin ecosystem or are new to it yourself, though, Wall of Coins is certainly worth a look.
Where do you think Wall of Coins fits in in the Bitcoin exchange market? Be sure to let us know in the comments!
Images Courtesy of GeniTrust