Today, we unveiled a new set of services aimed at helping to usher in the wider use of digital currency in everyday payments and commerce. Specifically, we are expanding our rollout of Business Accounts for USDC, and for the first time introducing a set of developer-oriented platform services dubbed Circle APIs. Combined, we hope that these services will help to unleash a new era of commerce on the internet, enabling businesses everywhere to easily integrate and benefit from the breakthrough of programmable money on the internet.
Until now, for most businesses, digital currency meant one thing — speculating on the value of new forms of non-government issued money and assets. It wasn’t something that could be relied upon or trusted to be used in everyday transactions or commerce more generally.
From the earliest days of founding Circle, we envisioned a world where “everyday money” such as dollars, euros and other popular currencies could inherit the most powerful features of digital currencies like bitcoin — open, global, connected to anyone and anything on the internet; fast, cheap and secure to transmit. We were enamored by the potential of programmable money and smart contracts and how that could transform economic opportunities for people and businesses everywhere.
Over the years, we have persisted in meeting that vision, and believe now is the time that programmable internet money will be unleashed, and that creative developers and businesses everywhere can safely build on this new layer of the internet.
Today, for the first time, we are opening early access to these services, marking a big step towards realizing this vision.
The expanding role of USDC and stablecoins
Circle Business Accounts and Circle APIs are built on top of the innovation of USDC, the fastest growing full reserve and regulated US dollar stablecoin. Introduced less than 18 months ago, USDC has become a critical market infrastructure for the blockchain industry; it’s now widely used for payments and settlements between counter-parties all around the world, it’s supported by hundreds of 3rd parties who have integrated it into everything from digital wallets and exchanges, to securities platforms, trade finance systems, payment products, savings and lending, and even games.
USDC’s rapid growth is happening in a broader context, one where stablecoins are widely viewed as one of the most fundamental breakthroughs in how the international monetary system may function. Big techs like Facebook plan to introduce US dollar stablecoins for their own payment system, and big governments such as China are rolling out digital token-based money tied to the Chinese Yuan as a form of digital cash that will work on the internet.
The underlying infrastructure that supports these digital currencies is also improving at a rapid pace, with 3rd generation blockchains launching that can support global scale in users and apps across the public internet and private networks.
Now is the time for businesses everywhere to start diving into the power of programmable dollars on the internet. Just as every business eventually built a website, or setup social media channels, we believe we are on the verge of every business having a digital currency wallet and account. Developers will then be able to build on open APIs from platforms like Circle and mash these up with the powerful capabilities of public blockchains and smart contracts, inventing new models for trade and commerce.
For businesses, this technology heralds the possibility of making and receiving payments with anyone, anywhere in a low-cost and highly secure fashion. It also heralds breakthroughs on how developers can automate money as it becomes a native data type on the internet like other forms of content and data, bringing digital money into apps and services with the same ease and creativity that developers have brought content and communications into services.
While value exchange may be the initial killer app, it’s the programmability of digital money that will ultimately usher in business model breakthroughs. Streaming payments between devices; payment contracts with gig economy workers that pay by the second; business contracts between buyers and sellers anywhere in the world mediated by code; more directly monetized digital content and digital goods; and of course, fundamental improvements to building block finance apps such as payments, lending, savings and investment — all immediate and exciting possibilities for programmable money. We’re excited to see what people can build!
How can we make this easy for businesses and developers?
Until recently, for a business to take advantage of this infrastructure it has often been complicated and confusing. Crypto wallets, exchanges, blockchain transaction management, gas fees, private key security, banking connectivity, and compliance hassles have all been technical and operational impediments to the average internet business jumping into digital currency.
As we know from years of work supporting millions of customers and hundreds of billions of dollars in transactions, running blockchain nodes reliably, securing digital currencies and assets in online and offline systems, connecting to the existing banking system, and navigating the complex waters of risk and compliance brought on by crypto is no small feat.
Our goal with Circle Business Accounts and Circle APIs is to simplify things so that a company can setup and begin using an account with the same ease that they might open a business bank account. Companies should be able to then easily upload their dollars to the internet, convert them into digital currency dollars, and start storing and using these stablecoins for everyday payments. Similarly, developers should be able to quickly and transparently access our APIs in a sandbox, get great examples and documentation, and begin building apps in minutes. These accounts and services should be as easy to adopt and integrate as other popular fintech cloud services such as Stripe or Plaid.
Circle Business Accounts
With the initial launch of USDC, we provided accounts for institutional traders focused on making markets or block trading digital currency, with customers who were interested in using USDC as the best available fiat on and off ramps. While that use case continues to be very strong for USDC, we’ve also seen USDC adoption begin to grow into other use cases including in savings, lending, payments, investments, trade finance and cross border payments and settlement.
With the launch of our new platform services and Circle APIs, we are also expanding the focus of USDC with the introduction of Business Accounts, allowing any business from 150+ countries to open an account and begin realizing the benefits of internet-native money.
Having a Circle Business Account is also the starting place for taking advantage of our programmable APIs, connecting your funds with powerful APIs.
We are in the process of rolling out a family of new API services for businesses to leverage stablecoins to drive innovation in payments, finance and commerce applications. Our APIs are being designed with any business or internet commerce service in mind, not just crypto applications.
Today, we’re announcing three sets of APIs: Payments API, Wallets API and Marketplaces APIs.
- In the initial release of our Payments API, we make it possible to connect existing card rails directly into USDC, helping to bridge electronic money on cards into truly digital money. For businesses, this means that they can easily accept card payments but settle in USDC. Cards are just the first of many legacy rails that we’ll provide bridges for connecting into the world of stablecoins.
- Our Wallets API gives customers the ability to store and manage stablecoins, to handle and make payments, and to create automated workflows around complex account or sub-account structures that might exist for a business and commerce application. We take away the complexity of running nodes, reliable interaction with public chains, handling gas transaction fees, and crucially, of securing your digital assets.
- Our Marketplace APIs extend the capabilities of Payments and Wallets to support the unique needs of online marketplaces and multi-sided platform businesses — e-commerce markets, gig and sharing economy services, markets for digital goods and content. Marketplace platforms are some of the most valuable internet commerce enterprises, and we believe these will be among the first to embrace the clear superiority of digital currency for their suppliers and end customers.
These APIs are rolling out starting today and over the coming weeks will be expanding. Developers can sign-up today to access our Developer Sandbox, get an API key, and start building.
Learn more about Circle APIs.
While many firms in crypto may be very familiar with Circle, most existing internet businesses are less familiar with this space. Part of our story with these new products is the incredible foundation that they are built on top of.
With over 5 years of fundamental technology development and innovation, Circle’s platform services have supported over 10 million consumers, over 500 million transactions worth over $300B. We’ve securely stored and custodied over $5B in digital assets.
As one of the most licensed and regulated firms in the blockchain industry, we’ve also had the benefit of working with leading banking and card network schemes, enabling us to build products and services that can seamlessly integrate between the old and the new. And as a supervised financial institution, business can have confidence that we are maintaining the highest levels of security and compliance to protect their critical financial applications.
We are excited to unleash our platform capabilities for other developers and creators to build upon!
What’s our business model?
We believe that every business in the world should operate in a more fully digital context, and that now includes having digital currency financial accounts and integrating digital money more fully into their financial and commerce use cases.
As such, we want this technology to be broadly used and available, so we’ll always have a free account for any business getting started. This free account will also include free access to our API sandbox, so in addition to storing and using digital currency, your team can imagine and develop apps on our APIs.
As customers grow their usage, we plan to introduce affordable subscriptions with scalable usage-based pricing. We will introduce more information about pricing options in an upcoming commercial launch, but businesses should rest-assured that our focus is on starting free and scaling up, all through self-service products.
What can I do today? What’s next?
Today, if you operate a business, you can open a Circle Business Account and start experimenting with the power of digital dollars. If you are a developer, you can sign up for our Developer Sandbox, access our docs and example app, and start building with our APIs.
We will be rolling out production access and many more APIs over the coming weeks and months.
Show us what you can build, give us feedback, and please join us on Discord where Circle team members and other community members are available to connect.
Originally published at https://blog.circle.com on March 10, 2020.