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WordPress Now Accepts Bitcoin

Bitcoin payments will extend WordPress services to countries formerly shuttered by PayPal restrictions.

2 min read
WordPress Now Accepts Bitcoin

For the last year, Bitcoin has been kind of like the kid who moves to a new town right in the middle of high school. Sitting alone at lunch. Quiet, but proud. Widely suspected of dealing drugs. He doesn't have any friends and he's not sure he wants them.

Well, that's all over, because this week Bitcoin started hanging out with one of the most popular kids in school.

WordPress, the most widely used blogging platform on the Internet, announced last night that it now accepts Bitcoin payments. (The basic platform is free, but it charges for a number of add-on services.) This is the most high-profile company to link up with Bitcoin since the cryptocurrency went online in 2009 and quite possibly the biggest boost to its reputation as well.

In his announcement Andy Skelton, a developer for WordPress, explained the company's decision as an effort to further democratize blogging. He explains that WordPress has taken umbrage with PayPal (and, to a lesser extent, credit cards) due to a policy that restricts access to a large number of countries. Most, like Afghanistan and Pakistan, are either war-torn or suffering through economic or political upheaval. Individuals in these countries can set up free blogs with the WordPress software, but until now they've had no way of buying add-ons like advertisement-free content and customized design.

According to Skelton, the choice was mainly ideological:

PayPal alone blocks access from over 60 countries, and many credit card companies have similar restrictions. Some are blocked for political reasons, some because of higher fraud rates, and some for other financial reasons. Whatever the reason, we don’t think an individual blogger from Haiti, Ethiopia, or Kenya should have diminished access to the blogosphere because of payment issues they can’t control. Our goal is to enable people, not block them.

Because Bitcoin transactions are processed by a peer-to-peer network, there is no feasible way for a third party to intervene on payments. Furthermore, the system is blind to the identity of both the donor and the recipient. Nationality doesn't even come into question.

Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress, says he wants to bring this same approach to blogging. "The philosophy and equality of access in Bitcoin is very much in line with our goal to democratize publishing. We want to put the power of the printing press in everybody's hands."

It probably doesn't hurt that in doing so they will open up a new market for themselves in each of these countries.

This is a major score for BitPay, as well, the company that WordPress has chosen to handle its Bitcoin payments. WordPress won't actually accept Bitcoins directly. Rather they have set up an account with BitPay, which will receive payments in Bitcoin and immediately convert them into U.S. dollars. BitPay will also be solely responsible for quoting rates as the price of Bitcoin rises and falls. This service has expanded impressively over the past year (it now has over 1100 clients), and is certainly one of the reasons more merchants are willing to take a chance with Bitcoin.

Alas, it must be said that while it's getting easier to get rid of your Bitcoins, it's still not getting any easier to buy into the currency. It's the cryptocurrency catch-22.

Image credit: Bitcoin

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Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

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