I realise that the underlying technologies for Bitcoin and flattr are different, but do they serve the same purpose?

For example: if I set up a webapp that uses micropayments for revenue (like github - being able to buy private repositories) would it make more sense to use flattr or Bitcoin?

Would I use them in concert - Bitcoin for micropayments, flattr for "charity" like payments for people who just want to support the site, but don't need extra functionality?

Does Bitcoin have a clear advantage over flattr for certain situations and clear disadvantages in others?

6 Answers 6


Regarding the specific questions about your website, it is up to you to decide which payment methods to accept. If you want to accept small payments, Paypal and credit cards may not interest you because of their high fees. So both Flattr and Bitcoins can replace Paypal as an alternative for cheaper micro-payments.

As for advantages/disadvantages:

  • Flatter charges 10% of your income
  • Bitcoins are not limited to small payments (you can accept any amount of them without fees)
  • Bitcoin price fluctuates a lot right now - you might want to consider using bit-pay if you want a steady income.

Like other answers stated, you must understand that these are different systems. One is a currency and the other is a service. They can complement each other and you don't lose anything by accepting both.


Flattr is a social micropayments system. Bitcoin is a currency.

There is no reason the two could not be integrated together, pay with bitcoins and then share the bitcoins out using the same method as flattr.

In fact, I would go as far as saying this would be an excellent idea due to lack of transaction fees and friction for small amounts.

Flattr is the service, Bitcoin is the currency. They don't compete; they could certainly complement each other though, in my opinion.


Flattr recently added the ability to send a tip without being a subscriber, but they don't yet have the ability to receive a tip without losing a chunk of it to subscription fees.

To solicit a tip in bitcoin, one merely needs to provide a Bitcoin address for the sender to use. Because it is a direct transaction, there is no intermediary sucking fees from the transaction (except for the bitcoin transaction fees, which cost about penny at current levels).

Here is just a subset of those doing exactly this: - http://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Donation-accepting_organizations_and_projects

However, if the recipient doesn't already know of Bitcoin or doesn't accept bitcoins currently, two services can be used to give an amount that is held in escrow by the intermediary and the recipient then can claim the funds using the intermediary's web site. This is something Flattr just recently added as well -- they refer to it as "unclaimed things": http://flattr.com/support/unclaimed

These two services that do this with bitcoins are: http://www.YouTipIt.org and http://www.PayBitBack.com YouTipIt lets you send a tip to any TipIt already registered on their site but also they offer the ability to send a tip to any Facebook user. If the user is not already registered with YouTipIt, the funds will be held in escrow until they are claimed by the Facebook user.

PayBitBack follows the same concept except theirs is a Twitter based escrow system.


The two use different systems of currency.

Flattr is simply an easier way of offering micropayments in the traditional currencies, whereas Bitcoin is a more revolutionary attempt to create a whole new currency. Because of this, I'd say it neither complements nor competes with Bitcoin.

It could help Bitcoin if it decided to start accepting payments in Bitcoins.

  • I would clarify you first sentence to something like "One uses currency the other is a currency". Flattr isn't a currency anymore than Paypal, or VISA are currencies. Flattr is a method of payment involving small sums in social media but could potential use any currency (including bitcoin). Oct 14, 2011 at 19:47

Does flattr compete with bitcoin?

Flattr does not compete with bitcoin, as long as it has unique features left compared to bitcoin. So let's have a look at what flattr can offer first.

So far, flattr is actually offering a couple of services:

  • An internet payment system
  • A micro payment system
  • A one-click payment system
  • A "scalable" payment system
  • A fixed sum donation distribution system
  • A hub for creators and donators who want to receive and send donations on a voluntary base
  • (An instant payment system)

The first one is obviously true for both flattr and bitcoin as well as many other systems.

The second one can easily be done with bitcoin as well, bitcoins are very suitable to be send in very small amounts.

For the third one using the main bitcoin client, you'll usually need some copy&pasting, a few more clicks and the typing of a number. With better integration of the [bitcoin URI scheme][1] it could probably be brought down to just one click as well.

For the fourth item, as Thilo has already mentioned, the current bitcoin protocol and implementation would have trouble to scale to VISA like transaction amounts. For a system with a central authority, like flattr, it is usually easier to scale. However, quite some people are positive that this could be improved when needed. Also see ['Scalibality'][2] in the bitcoin wiki.

With item number five I mean that you do not have to think about how much you want to donate to someone, flattr takes care of that and distributes monthly donations evenly to all people you flattred during the last month. Together with item three nearly any effort needed by the donating person's brain is removed (the next and probably final step would only be to insert a probe in your brain which determins whether you liked something and if so will click for you :) ). Such a fixed sum donation, equal distribution system is not possible with bitcoin alone yet. However the more I think about it, it should be possible to implement such a feature within the bitcoin client (or a new client which uses the [bitcoin client's json-rpc interface][3]), together with some additions to the bitcoin URI scheme plus browser plugins.

For the sixth item, my current impression is that it is not (easily) possible to achieve such a content index in a decentral, peer 2 peer way, the bittorrent or bitcoin way. Otherwise content indexes like torrent websites would probably already have implemented it.

The last item is something that's not possible with the current bitcoin protocol due to the time and hashing power needed to confirm a transaction and so far no way to speed this up without reducing security and keeping decentralisation has been found. However, although flattr has the possibility to instantly notice the flattring of something, they are not actually using it for a user's benefit as far as I know. Also, giving something back in return to the person just having flattred would probably be somehow contrary to flattr's philosophy, I guess.

So on the long run I only see the sixth point, the content hub, remaining a unique feature for flattr.

Despite from that nearly any feature mentioned on for instance [weusecoins.com][4] or the ones listed below can be features unique to bitcoin, competing with flattr if there were no / not enough unique features to flattr left in the future.

Does flattr complement bitcoin?

Today, bitcoin and flattr do complement each other. Flattr needs to receive its funds from somewhere and bitcoin can technically offer a value transfer for such a use-case at least as good as paypal or whatever. Additionally bitcoin can offer the following to flattr compared to for instance paypal:

  • lower transaction fees
  • easier account funding (e.g. no login required)
  • resistent against blockings and censorship (against both flattr and its users)
  • independance from other payment service providers
  • possibility to prove correctness of transaction flows, certainity for both creators and donators that there is no fraud
  • no risk of chargebacks for flattr and the content creators
  • bitcoin might be the only payment possibility for most people in some countries (e.g. any country minus [these][5] ones for paypal? also see [here][6])

Whether in the future the remaining features (e.g. only the content hub/indexing?) of flattr over bitcoin would be enough to keep flattr attractive and allow a complementing relationship between flattr and bitcoin is something I cannot say yet.

Relevant Links: http://pastebin.com/E5iRbk0P (sry, I'm new here, spam protection prevented me from posting them all)


I used to think that Bitcoin could make Flattr obsolete, but I changed my mind.

The reason is that Bitcoin alone is not very useful for micro-payments. The way I see it is that the Bitcoin blockchain transaction protocol does not scale to day-to-day end-user transactions, let alone microtransactions. The transaction volume would be way too much, and the wait for confirmations is another hassle. The way both problems will be solved is by having wallet services on top of Bitcoin, that allow instantaneous transactions between users that do not occur on the blockchain (but just on the books of the wallet services). End users would still (if they are clever) keep their saving on their own wallet files, and only occasionally transfer money in and out of these services.

Bitcoin exchange and gambling sites are already examples for these services (but the between-wallet-services, off-blockchain transactions are still missing, I think). Flattr could be one of these services, as could PayPal.

It would be a nice addition for Flattr to accept Bitcoin deposits (in addition to the payment methods they already have). This has been brought up on their forum, but they are very hesitant because of financial services regulations.

In the mean-time, you could use YouTipIt, which is a similar service to Flattr, but using Bitcoins.

  • -1 Why doesn't bitcoin scale well for day-to-day transactions? Oct 14, 2011 at 19:49
  • Because the size of the blockchain will become unmanageable.
    – Thilo
    Oct 17, 2011 at 2:16

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