Bitcoin.com CEO Roger Ver once told me he manages Bitcoin.com, a Bitcoin-themed website offering many services and products. I wasn’t sure what “managed” meant in this context, since most everyone in the crypto space seemed to believe he owned the site. His company, Saint Bitts LLC, is the registered owner of the website. The registration date is 1-04-2008. But, yet, Mr. Very is the manager.
Ver didn’t elucidate on what “manages” means when over e-mail. So who owns Bitcoin.com remains a mystery. Several sources I reached out to for this story told me they were under NDA as to the true history of Bitcoin.com.
Bitcoin.com has pages on how to buy bitcoin, how to use bitcoin, a forum (with its own .onion address), a wiki, a free bitcoin faucet, news, a mining pool, a store, and a recently incorporated casino with software by Curacao-based SoftSwiss. Ver, who refers to himself as the “world’s first Bitcoin investor”, says people will soon be able to gamble on the darknet with bitcoins via Bitcoin.com’s Tor onion address.
Rumors abound regarding the history of Bitcoin.com. Wayback Machine details a history of Bitcoin.com dating back to 2003, when it redirected to Ivntech.com, a Korean wireless technology site. In 2009, defunct photo editor Picnik.com appeared at Bitcoin.com.
By 2011, the first Bitcoin company, Tradehill, a Bitcoin exchange that suspended operations citing regulatory and banking issues, appears at Bitcoin.com. Ver seemingly takes over management duties sometime thereafter and begins renting the site to others. In 2013, Bitcoin.com was used as a Coinbase affiliate program, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong told me via e-mail. CoinDesk, a blockchain news website, falsely reportedly in 2014 that Coinbase operated Bitcoin.com.
“It looks like I will be managing things for years to come,” Ver told me via e-mail late last year.
While Ver says the terms of the deal were finalized in an afternoon, the whole process transpired over years. He calls the process towards what he terms “sole control” over Bitcoin.com “complicated.” Ver knows of four prior users of the domain, and said our research seems “about right.”
Once Ver had “sole control” over Bitcoin.com, numerous Bitcoin companies and individuals rented the digital real estate.
Blockchain.info, a Bitcoin wallet service launched in 2011, rented the domain for five-years starting in 2015 from Ver. The company said it would use the site to help “drive consumer adoption and education.” Ver didn’t feel that Blockchain.info, in which he has invested, was making full use of the domain. The deal was terminated.
Ver then signed a five year deal to lease the site to OKCoin, a Chinese based Bitcoin exchange. Several months into the contract, Ver claims OKCoin ceased paying for their use of the website. Ver claims the company (or somebody at the company) even forged his signature. You can watch a dramatic encounter between Ver and the OKcoin CEO, Star Xu, in which they argue at a Bitcoin conference about their contractual disagreements over Bitcoin.com.
“Lawyers and courts move very slowly, but I look forward to things finally being settled one day,” said Ver, who calls himself an “anarcho-capitalist”.
Jack Liu, OKCoin Chief Strategy Officer, told me Ver’s allegations were “completely false and without any factual basis.”
He added: “OKCoin has provided every piece of evidence to prove our innocence. We are glad to proceed in court.”
Uncovering Ver’s road to “managing” Bitcoin.com ultimately led me to Medellin, Colombia, where Jered Kenna, the former CEO of Tradehill, is opening a brewery with the namesake of 20Mission, his San Francisco Mission District based co-working space for artists and technologists. Kenna offers insights into Bitcoin.com during the early days of Bitcoin.
“I had a deal that I got as an equity investment,” Kenna told me. “The investor, who wants to remain anonymous, approached me out of nowhere when I launched Tradehill in June 2011.” Right after Tradehill launched, Mt. Gox froze deposits and withdrawals for sixteen days.
“Bitcoin was about to go nuts,” Kenna, an early Bitcoin miner who bought his first coins at two cents, recalls.
“I could see the value in the domain. So I traded a million equity in the company for Bitcoin.com on the condition that if we went under, the domain wouldn’t be liquidated or anything, but, rather, returned to the owner,” he shares. Kenna says he had “complete control.”
Ultimately, Dwolla stopped processing Tradehill transfers, and the Bitcoin exchange had to shut down. The investor asked for the domain back. Kenna said no problem.
“He was pleasantly surprised I just handed it over instead of giving him B.S. that we were going to relaunch soon,” he said.
Kenna says he felt “pretty broken”, recalling the excitement he had over holding Bitcoin.com. Kenna suspects the true Bitcoin.com owner purchased it on the cheap, perhaps pre-Bitcoin. He might have simply thought the words “bit” and “coin” sounded cool together.
Kenna suspects the owner paid thousands of dollars for the domain, not the millions it is now worth. He reckons the owner would have been happy to sell it for “a lot of money” and make “the kind of return you see in Bitcoin.” But, he wouldn’t surprised if the individual held onto the site.
“He’s a long term believer [in Bitcoin],” he said. “Still involved.”