Bitcoin’s Digital Waiting Line: “Micropay-for-Queue”

Bitcoin and micropayment-enabling technologies (like the 21 Bitcoin Computer) will allow society to monetize economies previously untouched by legacy payment methods. One of the first potential applications, monetizing time, may revolutionize the way we “wait”.

“Micro-Pay for Queue” with Bitcoin


Pay per second with satoshi’s instead of wait in line? Sure!

Historically the currency we spend to hold our spot line is time. One individual might be willing to spend 2 hours waiting in line to purchase tickets while those more fanatical are willing to spend 18 hours and camp out overnight. We see such scenarios play out with all kinds of events (sports, music, appearances) and releases (iphone, Black Friday, etc.). The cost of time is a prohibitive mechanism for many who might otherwise be willing to participate.

The challenge for online sales is that there is no prohibitive mechanism (cost) to develop a queue for priority… until now. By placing a bitcoin micro-fee to each second/minute/hour a spot in the queue is held we can now develop true digital waiting lines to establish order. (i.e. whoever is willing to pay the most over the longest period of time gets the first spot, second spot, third spot, and so-on).

I’m Still Not Getting It, Give Me a Metaphor

Imagine you are waiting in line to purchase something in high demand… something you want very badly. Maybe it’s playoff tickets for your favorite sports team or preferred seats for your favorite band. You know they’re gonna sell out fast.

Also imagine that instead of waiting in line overnight for hours, you have the option to simply pay a fraction of a penny per second (say 0.01 pennies = 28 satoshi’s) to hold a spot in line.

Tickets go on sale Friday at 10 AM. You decide to start paying for a “spot in line”on Thursday night at 8:00 PM. To hold this spot you will pay second-by-second for 14 hours of “micro-pay for queue” time. 14 hours amounts to 50,400 seconds. Here is a rate breakdown:

50,400 seconds x $0.0001 Dollars = $5.04


50,400 seconds x 28 Satoshis = 0.014 BTC

You’ve effectively monetized the cost of your time and paid it out on a second-by-second basis to maintain your spot in queue.

Additional Benefits of “Micro-Pay for Queue”

Enabling digital queues online via “micro-pay for queue” systems would make a host of other added benefits possible.

  • Preventing Bad Actors

Spam free e-mail is an application often touted by bitcoin micropayment proponents. A cost to send an e-mail acts as a disincentive for spammers because the fees of high-volume spam attacks have the potential outweigh the benefit. The same principles apply for an online queue.

A sunk cost needs to exist in a queue to prevent bad-actors from participating. If there is no sunk cost bad-actors are free to clog the line (DDoS attack) to:

A) Generate the illusion of demand

B) Dominate the queue with their own requests

C) Clog the queue to disrupt the service

  • A New Revenue Stream

A new revenue stream would emerge for both merchants and service providers. High demand events would likely drive the fee-per-second price higher. You might imagine a future where “micropay-for-queue” fees add entire percentage points to tickets sales.

  • Reducing Customer Dissatisfaction

For many consumers high-demand events can lead to significant issues for online sales. Crashed servers, faulty purchases, customer service nightmares, etc. By enabling digital waiting lines many of these issues would be mitigated, providing ideal experiences for the most invested customers. In fact, you’d imagine that events with greater demand (high cost-per-second queue fee) would become more anti-fragile.

Beyond Ticketing

Ticketing is a palatable example for how this kind of system might apply to the real world. In the short term I can imagine such technologies being adopted by major online ticket-brokers to save real costs and add new revenue streams.

What I believe is even more exciting is for this kind of queue-ing technology to make its way into the physical world. You might imagine this kind of system applying to reservations of any kind for high-demand services; be it a table at a restaurant, a parking space in a garage, or future IoT machines claiming a spot in a queue against other machines. I wonder if robots call shotgun?


**Update 12/5/2015**

If this post was of interest you may also enjoy this paper from @AnouarElHaji:



Case in Point: The night tickets went on sale for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” I did my best to buy seats for opening night with bitcoin on and via my credit card on Fandango. Given that both servers crashed and that I had to do a number of refunds based on faulty purchases — I think a few satoshi’s would have been well worth the cost to ensure a smooth and fair experience.


To the credit of they refunded the bitcoin I paid for this purchase after a couple days and e-mails.