What, if anything, is Amazon planning to do in the cryptocurrency space?
That’s the question after the cloud and retail giant was spotted registering three web domains relating to the field this week. As first reported by Domain Name Wire, on Tuesday Amazon’s legal department secured the following web addresses: amazonethereum.com, amazoncryptocurrency.com, and amazoncryptocurrencies.com. The company already has amazonbitcoin.com, but that registration took place in 2013—the address now automatically forwards to Amazon’s main site, whereas the more recently-registered domains don’t serve up anything yet. After Domain Name Wire broke the news of Amazon’s latest registrations on Wednesday, some guy called Byron Wiebe also registered amazonripple.com, which forwards to the website for the Ripple cryptocurrency. It is highly possible that Amazon (AMZN, +1.61%) only registered its cryptocurrency-related domains in order to stop other people registering them in this way, which potentially infringes on the company’s trademark.
As CNBC pointed out, Amazon Pay vice president Patrick Gauthier said only last month that the company has no plans to accept payments in virtual currency, due to a lack of demand. That’s entirely plausible, especially as bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency, is currently more lucrative as a speculative asset than as a tool for actually paying for stuff.
But how about that Ethereum-related domain? The second-biggest cryptocurrency is not appreciating in value like bitcoin is, and its underlying blockchain mechanism also has more uses, being touted as a repository for self-executing “smart contracts” and other tools for technical decentralization. Joseph Lubin, one of Ethereum’s co-founders, said just last week that such tools could be used to build a decentralized competitor to Amazon, made up of “many different actors with different roles.” But that’s more about blockchain technology than cryptocurrencies. Maybe Amazon’s move has something to do with mining cryptocurrencies in its cloud? As recent analyses have shown, cryptocurrency mining is a scarily energy-intensive activity, so perhaps the company has figured out some clever way to mine smarter.
This is just spitballing, though. Really, at this point only Amazon knows why it registered those domains, and—we have asked—it’s not telling.