Coinchat is a Bitcoin-incentivised browser-based chatroom where you can shoot the breeze with strangers online and earn Bitcoin in the process. Where’s the catch? Well, there isn’t really one. The Bitcoin you’re earning through chatting with other users comes from the site’s own revenue generation – funded by ads and also a transfer fee it charges when users send Bitcoin tips.
In addition to earning fractions of Bitcoin for chatting, Coinchat users can tip each other/individual messages, if they like the cut of each other’s chat, and also tip particularly useful bots (which users can create) – so that’s another way to earn a little cryptocurrency on the site.
Coinchat also supports scripted games (mostly betting-type games) where you can spend a little Bitcoin for the chance to earn a little more (or lose it all). Users can also plough their Bitcoin earnings into chatroom furniture like additional font colours, if they so desire. And if you want to take your earnings/winnings away to spend elsewhere the site lets you withdraw BTCs to Inputs.io: a Bitcoin wallet service run by the same developer behind Coinchat.
Coinchat’s founder, a 28-year-old male freelance web developer based in Australia who (in keeping with Bitcoin’s shadowy origins) wishes to remain anonymous to avoid any Bitcoin associated “drama” or the threat of “doxxing”, tells TechCrunch the service has been up and running for about five months. In that time it has amassed around 8,000 registered users – mostly in Western nations, with a sizeable community of cash-strapped school age/college age folk among its user-base. There’s also an active Spanish community of Coinchat users.
The largest amount of BTC withdrawn in one go is 10BTCs (around $1,288 at current exchange rates), according to the founder. As for the chatting, the site has played host to around 3.5 million messages since April. He says users display a variety of behaviours, including some who’re obviously just there just to earn free Bitcoin, and – at the other end of the spectrum – Coinchat regulars who participate in the community, hanging out and collaborating on their own projects, Reddit-style. “There was a collaborative horror story being worked upon by coinchatters earlier for instance,” he says.
Chat-based earnings on Coinchat accrue as fractions of a BTC (earnings can range from 0.02mBTC to 2mBTC per message). The rewards rates are also varied behind the scenes, presumably to keep pace with Bitcoin’s (sometimes wildly swinging) exchange rates.
“There’s an algorithm that determines how much coins you earn based on a variety of factors,” says the founder, who clearly doesn’t want to go into too much detail to avoid gaming of the system. Obvious stuff like spamming, posting gibberish and cutting and pasting swathes of text to try and ramp up your earnings won’t work, though. “Make sure what you say has some quality to it,” is one basic piece of advice for newbs.
For an idea of how much you can earn, about an hour’s chatting (and one 0.25 mBTC tip) earned me 0.535 mBTC on the site. “As long as you don’t waste your money gambling, you will earn BTC surprisingly fast,” chips in one Coinchat user when I ask about the rewards system.
As for tips, as well as some pre-set tip rates, tip amounts can be set by individual users – so it’s possible to hit it big if you impress the right Coinchatter. “A few days ago someone gave away 800 mBTC (almost an entire Bitcoin!),” says another user. “I’ve seen a few times over the past month where people have given out around a Bitcoin to random people.”
While Coinchat users rack up their BTC earnings, the site isn’t making its founder filthy rich yet but that’s not a concern for him; the ability to cross promote his other Bitcoin services is clearly worth the minimal running costs. “Coinchat is making a slight amount of money – even if it lost a bit of money, I’m happy to keep it running as a ‘loss leader’,” he says. “My goals are for it to become a popular chat network – everything starts out small.”
Android and iOS apps for Coinchat are currently in the works, but it’s possible to run the chatroom on a smartphone in the browser as an HTML5 web app. The native apps will be faster, and include features like push notifications plus a more streamlined UI, the founder adds.