Čvn 26

Barclays Bank Confirms Talks With Regulators to ‘Bring Bitcoin Into Play’

· June 26, 2017 · 1:30 pm

British multinational bank Barclays has confirmed they have been in talks with UK financial regulators, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), to see how they can “bring Bitcoin into play.”


Consulting Regulators and Fintech Firms

Speaking with CNBC, the bank’s UK chief executive, Ashok Vaswani, confirmed that the company had been in talks with both regulators and fintech firms in order to determine how the bank can safely bring cryptocurrencies to their customers.

While the conversation with CNBC did revolve around Bitcoin, in particular, it is important to note that Vaswani made it clear that they were looking at blockchain technology as a whole.

UK chief executive, Ashok Vaswani

According to Vaswani:

We have been talking to a couple of fintechs and have actually gone with the fintechs to the FCA to talk about how we could bring, the equivalent of bitcoin, not necessarily bitcoin, but cryptocurrencies into play.

He also discussed the importance of caution with regard to cryptocurrency integration:

[It’s] obviously a new area we’ve got to be careful with […] We’re working on it, [it’s] not ready for prime time, we’ll get there soon.

Not Barclays’ First Bitcoin Rodeo

Barclays’ move comes on the heels of recent news that JP Morgan Chase is planning to integrate Zcash with its blockchain platform as well as Chase’s announced inclusion in the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance. This is not the first time that Barclays has dipped its toes into the cryptocurrency pond, however.

In April 2016, Barclays became the first British bank to partner with a digital cryptocurrency firm when they backed social payments app Circle, which allows users to send and receive payments via text message. Circle operates in part on Bitcoin’s blockchain and it offers the cryptocurrency as a payment option as well.

Barclays implements smart contracts

Barclays made use of smart contracts to facilitate derivatives trading last year and has also invested, via incubators, in numerous companies making use of blockchain technology. One of the most notable of these is the Africa-based startup Consent which uses the blockchain to log medical records.

Where Investors Go Banks Follow

As Bitcoin continues to show record breaking gains, the interest level from retail investors is at an all-time high. With this increased interest, it should come as no surprise that banks are starting to sit up and take notice. With Bitcoin boasting YTD gains of near 200% – and Ethereum over 3000% – banks are realizing that cryptocurrency and blockchain technology are here to stay.

Bitcoin YTD gains

Barclays and JP Morgan Chase are hardly the first banks to embrace Bitcoin and the blockchain, however. Other banks that have made inroads include:

  • Banco Santander
  • Citi Bank
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Standard Chartered
  • UBS

Bitcoin is now being offered in investment portfolios at both Hargreaves Lansdown and Fidelity Investments, demonstrating a clear willingness to cater to this increasing demand. Fidelity Investments seems to have taken a keener interest in the technology, where others remain cautionary.

Ultimately, questions as to the direction Barclays will take are still unanswered, but the important thing is that they are talking about it, investing in it and researching possible opportunities.

What do you think about Barclay’s venture into cryptocurrency and blockchain technology? How can this benefit their customers? Let us know in the comments below.


Images courtesy of Barclays, Shutterstock, Twitter

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Kvě 30

UASF Continues to Gain Support as ‘Secret’ SegWit2x Roadmap Revealed

· May 30, 2017 · 10:30 am

Though a Bitcoin scaling agreement was reached at the recent Consensus conference in New York, many companies are increasingly supporting a User-Activated Soft Fork (UASF)  as a means to activate SegWit.


UASF Still on the Table

Although reports have stated that the Bitcoin scaling debate may be coming to an end due to what has been known as the ‘Barry Silbert Agreement,’ recent developments indicate that it may still be far from over, leaving other options like the User Activated Soft Fork (UASF), a proposal that has been slowly gaining traction among Bitcoin businesses.

The given agreement dubbed “SegWit2x” is a compromise by several companies in the blockchain space that represent roughly 83% of the global hash rate to activate the SegWit proposal at an 80% threshold and to activate a 2MB hard fork within six months.

Meanwhile, prominent Bitcoin community member “WhalePanda”  tweeted out the details of the SegWit2x proposal today. The roadmap sets only a month for testing. Furthermore, it proposes to get the nodes up and running as well as signaling by July 21st, 2017.

Interestingly, this falls before the BIP 148 August 1st activation date.

Given its short timeframe, Bitcoin Core proponents say that the given approach is not enough to properly implement a hard fork. Due to its risky nature, it would require a second SegWit BIP to be introduced before the current one expires.

This means that the UASF may be the only way to realistically implement SegWit. Although the proposal is viewed by some as somewhat “intrusive” or even dangerous, 27 companies have shown support for it, a number that has more than doubled since the last time we talked about this subject.

Who Supports UASF?

Since the last time we visited this subject, 15 companies have signaled their support for the UASF proposal, including:

  • Abra;
  • Bitcoin Embassy;
  • Bitcoin India;
  • Bitfury;
  • Bitrefill;
  • Electrum;
  • Mycelium and others.

Currently seven companies are also opposing the UASF: Bitpay, Bitillions, BTCPOP, CoinATMRadar, F2Pool, MrCoin, and OXT. Meanwhile, both the Ledger and Trezor hardware wallet manufacturers are currently ready for the UASF BIP 148 update.

While most companies are in favor of the miner activated SegWit, the same level of support is not reflected with the UASF proposal. Some companies are still waiting for a less intrusive method of activating SegWit. ShapeShift, for example, has publically stated that it will wait for the Barry Silbert agreement to materialize. If it doesn’t, then ShapeShift will run a BIP 148 UASF node.

The reason why companies are still waiting for other solutions can be found in the nature of the User Activated Soft Fork, which poses some potential dangers for the Bitcoin ecosystem.

What is UASF & What Are the Risks?

A User Activated Soft Fork is a soft fork in which the users or nodes create a penalty for miners that do not signal the intended soft fork. This is done through a modified version of a Bitcoin Client, which gives a block height limit for miners to start signaling SegWit.

Once this block height is reached,  nodes that are running the UASF client will stop accepting blocks that don’t support SegWit. Since nodes are the ones that verify transactions, if a majority of nodes is running a UASF client, then blocks that don’t signal SegWit will be considered invalid by the majority of nodes, while SegWit blocks will be accepted by every node, old and new.

Though this system seems like a sure way to activate SegWit, it sill poses some dangers for miners that continue to mine non-SegWit blocks and for nodes that are not running the UASF client. If a majority of miners decide not to support SegWit, there will be a chain split and old nodes that are not running UASF will follow the chain with the most miners.

This would mean that the Bitcoin blockchain would be split into two chains, one with and the other one without SegWit. The blockchain in which SegWit would be active would be the one with the least hash power, a concerning factor for Bitcoin’s security.

Do you think SegWit can be activated without the UASF proposal? Can the SegWit + 2mb Hard fork Bitcoin Scaling Agreement get it done? Share your thoughts on the comment section.


Images courtesy of Twitter, Shutterstock

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Kvě 16

Blockchain-Based Identity Management Will Soon Be a Reality

· May 16, 2017 · 6:00 am

Airbitz has partnered with Sphre to secure their Blockchain-Based Identity Management Platform, AIR.


Airbitz Partners with Blockchain-Based Identity Firm

Sphre, a blockchain-based identity management firm, announced their partnership with Airbitz, one of the most popular mobile Bitcoin wallets and a data security platform with over 140,000 users. Airbitz has been working on its Edge Security Platform since the company’s inception, focusing on providing a secure and easy-to-use solution for decentralized blockchain projects and dApps as a means enhance cryptocurrency mass adoption.

Announced today, the partnership will see Sphre leverage Airbitz’ Edge Security, a blockchain-agnostic and zero-knowledge single sign-on solution, to secure their smart contract-based platform, AIR.

Daren Seymour, Director at Sphre commented on the new partnership:

The easy and intuitive user experience, coupled with rich functionality, great development environment and team made Airbitz an easy choice when considering the right partner for Sphre. We look forward to delivering an easy-to-use product to the market, and our partnership with Airbitz is a key component on this journey.

AIR is digital identity and individual microeconomic engagement system based on blockchain infrastructure, allowing individuals, enterprises, and organizations to manage their digital identity through a single, decentralized application, thus retaining full control and ownership of said identity, which would not be possible in a centralized setting.

The AIR whitepaper reads:

In an interconnected, open digital world it does not make sense that digital identity is still fragmented in outdated, closed systems.

The AIR Platform is build upon the Hyperledger blockchain and is comprised of two major components: The Chaincode or ‘smart contract’, which forms the basis of the given identity, and the Application Programming Interface (API), which will allow third-party organizations and enterprises to integrate support for AIR into their existing and new systems, while the mobile application secures and maintains each individual’s private key.

The AIR Platform & XID tokens

Currently in development, the AIR Platform will soon host a crowdfunding campaign to fund the development, marketing, and management of the AIR project. During the crowdfunding campaign or ICO, participants will receive XID tokens, which are used within the Air platform to facilitate identity-based transactions and handle profit-sharing disbursement based on the customizable monetization agreements that users can engage in.

Blockchain Banking App Humaniq Reschedules ICO, Offers Solidarity to Chinese Investors

The XID token is to be issued on the Bitcoin blockchain through the Omnilayer platform that allows the distribution of digital identity monetization benefits to be handled through a decentralized mechanism, which is far more transparent and reliable than traditional alternatives.

Due to the use of Omnilayer, AIR will not only allow any given user or organization to “authenticate/authorize themselves against their registration”, but also to attest/verify the identity of an account with whom they have successfully transacted, based on information found on the Bitcoin, the safest and oldest blockchain in the world.

Can blockchain technology become the new security standard for individual and enterprise digital identity? Let us know in the comment section.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock

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Kvě 08

24 Million Australians can now pay their bills with Bitcoin

· May 8, 2017 · 4:00 pm

As Bitcoin grows in popularity, more use cases for the cryptocurrency pop up every day. This time, an Australia-based startup has created a service that allows citizens in the country to pay their household bills with Bitcoin.


Paying Bills with Bitcoin

Dubbed the Living Room of Satoshi, the Australian startup allows users to pay their bills with Bitcoin by entering the details of the payment, choosing a payment system (bank account or BPay) and sending their coins to the BTC address shown.

Yesterday Living Room of Satoshi tweeted:

The Living Room of Satoshi’s new service supports payment for any type of utilities like telecommunications, electricity, gas, school fees, water and credit cards. What’s more is that the company charges no extra fees for the BTC payments. The service also features a point system, where every $1 spent in bills awards users with 1 point that can be turned into gifts.

Daniel Alexiuc, CEO of the  Living Room of Satoshi said in an interview:

Daniel Alexiuc, CEO of the Living Room of Satoshi Bitcoin Bill Pay

As the first truly international, decentralised and peer to peer currency, Bitcoin is perfectly suited to bill payments in Australia,” he said. “It also enables new possibilities, like parents in foreign countries being able to easily support their children studying in Australia by paying some of their bills.

Bitcoin in Australia

Australia is generally thought of as a Bitcoin-friendly place. However, the country does have a double-tax issue where the cryptocurrency is considered barter and not money, which means that companies must pay both a tax when receiving cryptocurrencies as a payment and a goods-and-services tax (GST) when selling them for fiat.

However, the Australian government announced plans to solve this issue in March last year Now, according to a statement released last week, the government is working with the FinTech Advisory Group to solve the double taxation problem. The statement reads:

The Government agrees that consumers should not be subject to the GST twice when using digital currency to purchase goods or services. For this reason, the Government has already committed, through its Backing Australian FinTech statement, released on 21 March 2016, to address the ‘double taxation’ of digital currencies.

Other than the absurd double taxation problem which is being taken care of, Bitcoin seems to have a bright future ahead in Australia. The $AUD currently ranks 12th on Bitcoin’s daily trading volume with multiple BTC exchanges and Bitcoin ATMs providing services in the country. Electricity is also cheap, allowing citizens to access Bitcoin through mining.

Not only is Bitcoin easily accessible and popular among the country’s citizen, Australia’s Central Bank has also taken a notice to Bitcoin’s underlying technology, the Blockchain. The bank published a report dubbed  Developments in the Financial System Architecture. It reads:

One aspect of fintech that has been examined closely is the emergence of distributed ledger technology (DLT), often referred to as ‘blockchain’ technology. The Bank is participating in a working group of the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures examining DLT and its implications. In February, the working group published an analytical framework for authorities wishing to review and analyse the use of this technology for payments, clearing and settlement.

What can you do with Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is becoming increasingly popular and as more people start working with it, new and exciting use cases and services for the cryptocurrency arise. What was once a “worthless” internet currency can now be used to pay for goods and services across the world, allowing merchants to save money on credit card fees and more.

So, what can you do with Bitcoin? The use cases are extensive: You can buy houses, boats, cars. You can rent a hotel room with Expedia or an apartment, buy millions of items from OverStock, buy gift cards, pay your electricity bills in Japan, pay your college tuition in multiple countries (including Australia). You can even get a Bitcoin IRA, get a Bitcoin loan, and buy and sell gold with BTC on the Vaultoro exchange.

Shut Up and Take My Bitcoin

There’s a lot we can do with Bitcoin nowadays. So much that we are currently running at full capacity. With the infrastructure in place, now all Bitcoin needs in order to continue to grow is the ability to do so in terms of scalability.

Will we continue to see interesting use cases for Bitcoin, like the one discussed here, show up with time? Can the scaling issues in Bitcoin, stop its infrastructure’s progress? Let us know in the comment section.


Images courtesy of LinkedIn, BitcoinTalk, Pixabay

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Kvě 04

$500k Miner Fees Could See One Transaction Trigger Big Blocks

· May 4, 2017 · 5:00 pm

A $500,000 initiative to incentivize miners to upgrade Bitcoin’s block size has received substantial support on social media.


273 Bitcoins To Break The 1MB Mold

The so-called ‘Save the chain’ transaction, attached to which is 273.99971476 BTC in fees, is only mineable once nodes upgrade to include transactions over 1 megabyte in size.

Included are 99,940 zero-value anyone-can-spend outputs.

“This allows anyone, with zero trust required, to create a descendant transaction to add to the incentive for miners to increase the maximum block size limit,” Reddit user /u/SaveTheChain explained in introductory comments.

They continued:

This transaction is considered “non-standard” by most full node software. Therefore, miners need to customize their node software to mine this transaction. Additionally, nodes will not broadcast this transaction or any of its descendant transactions… For now, descendant transactions will need to be published by other means (such as a comment here).

A Counterpoint To Scaling Wars?

The latest user-generated cause to force a decision in the Bitcoin scaling debate comes as the cycle of infighting and insult-trading among well-known industry figures continues unabated.

This week saw former Bitcoin Core developer turned Bitcoin Unlimited proponent Gavin Andresen call Blockstream’s Greg Maxwell and Samson Mow “toxic trolls.”

Blockstream came in for further criticism from big block supporter Rick Falkvinge, the Swedish Pirate Party founder claiming the company’s support of SegWit was due to an interest in filing patents associated with the technology.

Maxwell and Blockstream founder Adam Back both subsequently denied Falkvinge’s accusations.

As Bitcoin continues to hit new record highs and commentators highlight strong underlying metrics such as investment, it appears the ongoing stalemate is affecting sentiment less and less.

Peter Rizun

SavetheChain’s most popular supporter meanwhile came in the form of Ledger Journal editor Peter Rizun, who described it as “awesome work” and wrote:

Now we need someone to make a website where people can submit children transactions with high miner fees, and the website can track the growing pot available to the miner (or miners) who includes them. It would be good publicity for the big-block cause.

Current statistics show a slight lead in miner support for Bitcoin Unlimited over Bitcoin Core, the two solutions receiving 38.3% and 35.9% respectively.

What do you think about SaveTheChain’s transaction offer? Let us know in the comments below!


Images courtesy of Twitter, AdobeStock

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Dub 19

ViaBTC Explains Why They Don’t Support SegWit

· April 19, 2017 · 12:00 pm

ViaBTC’s latest blog post sheds some light on why the mining pool is opposing the Bitcoin scaling proposal, SegWit.


ViaBTC, Bitcoin Core and SegWit

ViaBTC just published a blog post in which they explain the reason behind their opposition to SegWit, citing the concerns regarding the complexity of the soft fork, the irreversible damage it may and the introduction of second-tier networks like Lightning Network. The mining pool also mentions Bitcoin Core’s impact on Bitcoin and the community as a negative, claiming that they are “abusing their previous influence”. The post reads:

Today, Bitcoin is in urgent need of diversified dev teams and implementations to achieve decentralization in Bitcoin development.

As companies and mining pools choose their side of the debate, SegWit or Bitcoin Unlimited, most have released statements regarding which solution they are backing and why. While most companies favor the activation of SegWit, mining power has been on the side of BU. Among the pools that support BU, Antpool and ViaBTC have been two of the most vocal regarding Bitcoin Core and the Segregated Witness proposal. On ViaBTC’s transaction accelerator page, a popup service statement reads:

ViaBTC is of the opinion that the current “Bitcoin Core + Blockstream” Bitcoin development team is not taking satisfactory steps to ensure the growth and advancement of Bitcoin in accordance with satoshi’s original white paper, and is in fact actively harming the health of the Bitcoin economy by actively stifling efforts to solve some of Bitcoin’s most pressing problems.

“SegWit doesn’t solve the most urgent capacity issue”

In the latest blog post dubbed “Why we don’t support SegWit”, ViaBTC states that SegWit is a soft fork solution for transaction malleability and that it cannot solve the current network overcapacity problem which is currently the most urgent issue in the Bitcoin network.ViaBTC goes on to state that second-tier networks like Lightning Network cannot be considered as a block scaling solution. The blog post reads:

LN transactions are NOT equal to Bitcoin’s peer-to-peer on-chain transactions and most Bitcoin use scenarios are not applicable with Lightning Network. LN will also lead to big payment “centers”, and this is against Bitcoin’s initial design as a peer-to-peer payment system.

However, the SegWit is not Lightning Network (LN). SegWit introduces a much-needed fix for a pressing issue in Bitcoin, which is transaction malleability. This fix would allow LN to be implemented in Bitcoin.

Bitcoin network overcapacity

However, ViaBTC seems to be missing some very important points. The introduction of a patch to one of Bitcoin’s bugs should not be considered as harmful just because it allows developers to build a second network on top of Bitcoin. Bitcoin should be cleared of bugs like transaction malleability and developers should be free to build whatever they want (which is what has happened so far) on top of Bitcoin.

The fact that a mining pool would block an important fix like this due to the possibility of losing out on transaction fees is, at best, selfish. ViaBTC also seems to have missed the fact that some forms of second-tier networks are already possible in Bitcoin, even without the transaction malleability fix, and are being developed right now. Lastly, one should also note that without these channels, users that are looking for the advantages they would provide will find them elsewhere either through altcoins or centralized payment systems, which can only result in the loss of use cases for Bitcoin with nothing gained.

ViaBTC’s statement that “SegWit doesn’t solve the most urgent capacity issue” is, however, correct. While it may be considered as a “quick-fix” that will double the network’s capacity, further updates will have to be made in the future. This is where Bitcoin Unlimited seems to please its supporters, their Emergent Consensus protocol proposes a fix that is somewhat “permanent” as it allows the block size limit to change according to demand.

“SegWit makes it harder for future block scaling”

Here, ViaBTC cites some real concerns regarding the possibility for future scaling updates which are indeed made harder by SegWit’s changes. SegWit allows blocks to reach a 4MB limit due to the way witness data is accounted for. However, this limit is not meant to be reached, as the only data that is read differently is the witness data and not the tx. inputs and outputs. This results in a ~2MB block limit under regular circumstances.

This means that a possible attack vector is to create 4MB block which is a problem for the network. So, any future increases, for example from a ~2MB limit to a ~4MB limit, will theoretically allow a block that is four times bigger to be created, in the example above this would mean a ~16MB limit. This, however, is extremely unlikely and is not seen as a problem for Bitcoin Core developers.

The problem is that if a way to implement this attack did come along, SegWit could not be reversed. The blog post reads:

On technical terms, SegWit uses a transaction format that can be spent by those who don’t upgrade their nodes, with segregation of transaction data and signature data. This means SegWit is irrevocable once it’s activated, or all unspent transactions in SegWit formats will face the risk of being stolen.

While this may be a real concern to a certain degree, the prospect of an attack vector that is currently considered impossible and would theoretically become a problem once the network implements a second scaling update, which may never happen, doesn’t seem to be a valid reason for blocking SegWit.

“SegWit will deepen Core’s impact on the community”

In the last section of the blog post, ViaBTC states its concerns regarding the Bitcoin Core development team and its influence on the Bitcoin community, citing problems like the infamous censorship perpetrated by Bitcoin Core on Reddit and Bitcoin forums. This seems to be completely off from what Bitcoin is supposed to be, a global apolitical currency.

Bitcoin forums, boards and development teams are not part of Bitcoin. They are exterior to the network. If there is indeed censorship going on in these places, users should abandon them. If the Bitcoin Core team is trying to turn Bitcoin into a centralized payment system (or whatever), the community/miners should not approve their updates. However, rejecting an update based on the developer that proposed it, and not on the actual code, is childish. This reason could easily be turned around on the Bitcoin Unlimited development team, which has had its fair share of controversy.

Conclusion

While we do believe that both scaling proposals have their strengths and weaknesses, ViaBTC’s concerns regarding SegWit seem to be non-existent at best: Blocking transaction malleability is a malicious act on the network. Opposition to SegWit should be based on the problems it will cause the network and not on the problems it could theoretically cause if a currently-nonexistent attack vector is eventually found. Lastly, users should decide what is best for the network and not whom, that’s the beauty of Bitcoin.

Do you think that ViaBTC is right and that we are missing the point? If so, let us know in the comment section.


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Dub 14

Core Dev Maxwell: UASF ‘Does Not Measure Up To Standard’

· April 14, 2017 · 9:00 am

Bitcoin core developer Greg Maxwell has newly outlined why he “does not support” a user-activated soft fork (UASF) as it figures in BIP 148.


Maxwell: UASF ‘Guarantees Disruption’

In a circular to the Core mailing list Friday, Maxwell said that although he is not strictly against a soft fork, its incarnation in BIP 148’s UASF does not “really measure up to the standard set by segwit itself.”

The debate over whether to galvanize the entire Bitcoin ecosystem into Segwit activation via a UASF has gained considerable traction over the last month.

Proponents say it is the quickest way to move Bitcoin on from its current stalemate, yet detractors highlight its disruptive nature as a reason for caution. If a UASF occurred, for example, non-supportive miners would find their blocks invalid after the deadline, and would not receive rewards for their work.

Maxwell too notes that this “disruption” is a key difference between a UASF and segwit activation via miners.

“The primary flaw in BIP148 is that by forcing the activation of the existing (non-UASF segwit) nodes it almost guarantees at a minor level of disruption,” he continued. “Segwit was carefully engineered so that older unmodified miners could continue operating _completely_ [sic] without interruption after segwit activates.”

Time Still Not Of The Essence

Despite the increasingly slow and expensive nature of the Bitcoin network, Maxwell still advocates a measured approach without speed as a priority.

…The fastest support should not be our goal, as a community– there is always some reckless altcoin or centralized system that can support something faster than we can– trying to match that would only erode our distinguishing value in being well engineered and stable.

First do no harm.’ We should use the least disruptive mechanisms available, and the BIP148 proposal does not meet that test.

The developer has meanwhile found himself under fire lately from Bitcoin Unlimited proponents, notably Roger Ver, who released a dedicated presentation with quotes from Maxwell highlighting alleged errors.

“It’s important the users not be at the mercy of any one part of the ecosystem to the extent that we can avoid it– be it developers, exchanges, chat forums, or mining hardware makers,” Maxwell concluded.

Ultimately the rules of Bitcoin work because they’re enforced by the users collectively– that is what makes Bitcoin Bitcoin, it’s what makes it something people can count on: the rules aren’t easy to just change.

Meanwhile, Bitcoin’s recent price spike over $1,200 has been attributed by some to a sharp rise in the number of UASF-signaling nodes. Though this does not necessarily imply causation, the price has also dipped following the publication of Maxwell’s post.

What do you think about Greg Maxwell’s perspective on a UASF? Let us know in the comments below!


Images courtesy of uasf.org, twitter.com, shutterstock

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Dub 13

Why National Cryptocurrencies Will Never Beat Bitcoin

· April 13, 2017 · 2:00 pm

National cryptocurrencies will never be able to compete with Bitcoin because no one will trust a system that requires advance permission from and which is controlled by a government to use it. 

[Note: This is an op-ed, edited by Allen Scott] 


National Cryptocurrencies Will Never Be Global

News is just in that the mint of a very important, historic sovereign nation has just hired a company in a separate nation to help it launch its own “Blockchain not Bitcoin” attempt to ride the Bitcoin wave. This is extraordinary in several ways, and allows a general principle to be explored.

First off, this mint doesn’t understand how Bitcoin works. That is clear. They’ve made the common error of believing what computer illiterates in well regarded newspapers mistakenly repeat verbatim about Bitcoin; that you can have “Blockchain without Bitcoin”. And this is only the first of their many errors in this project.

Even if their technical and economic assumptions were correct, there is no way that their private money system can beat the market. The Russians and the Chinese will never accept domination of a global e-money by a single foreign nation coded by a second party.

They will at a minimum, launch their own central bank altcoin, or more likely, settle on Bitcoin as the civilized global standard. These people have made the fundamental error of thinking that they can beat the market. It is the same error the Americans made thinking that everyone would use CDMA instead of GSM.

This new money will never be international. No one will trust a system that requires advance permission from and which is controlled by a government to use it, that can exclude any actor based on arbitrary rules of a hostile government when Bitcoin is available. There is no logical reason to trust anyone when Bitcoin exists; any system that is tainted by the requirement of trust is inferior to Bitcoin, and will make rational actors choose Bitcoin over those other, broken systems every time.

There are other problems with this new project, some of which will be of concern to the State. With a software simulation of money, the company providing the service is the mint, with absolute control over the money and its operation, not the mint.

In order to be the mint, you must directly control the levers of the machinery, you cannot outsource that control to other men, and certainly never to men from a foreign country; these foreigners de facto control everything if no one in the mint can understand how anything works. They seem to have forgotten what the word “Sovereign” means.

If you’re going to outsource the creation of a new e-money, and cede control over its development to foreigners, why not go all the way and give it to the global experts: Bitcoin Core?

You get all the benefits of the hundreds of developers working on Bitcoin, and access to the global Bitcoin network, its first mover advantage, huge ecosystem and its network effects. You are already willing to give up control, so you may as well give it up for something and not for nothing.

Outsourcing Sovereignty?

This is another example of the global Computer Literacy Crisis, where the ‘aparatchicks’ don’t understand how anything works, and are rendered helpless, delegating all responsibility to software developers who are now one of the top global powers on Earth as a class.

We saw this with government departments around the globe accepting Microsoft Windows as “the standard” for decades, with the late realization that this gives control (and back-door NSA espionage access) to a foreign company. Much better to use Linux that belongs to no one, is transparent and infinitely more secure and controllable. Just like Bitcoin.

For 7 years I’ve been talking about the book “Good Money” by George Selgin:

If you are interested in Bitcoin and why “private Blockchain” is junk, you should read this book. What is fascinating about this news of a sovereign mint hiring a foreign company to create a system for them is that the private money vs State money is turned on its head in the Bitcoin era.

In the 1700s, button makers switched to minting coins for private use, because the Royal Mint couldn’t supply the demand for small change. Now, government mints are turning to bespoke “Blockchain not Bitcoin Tokens” while Bitcoin becomes the sovereign money of the world.

The picture is entirely reversed; the state is minting private money to fill an (imaginary) need while Bitcoin is the money everyone uses but has trouble getting a hold of. Azteco is a service that aims to solve that problem.

Like many projects with no hope of traction because they are fundamentally flawed, this new platform has put its software up on GitHub, hoping to attract developers to work on it for free. This will not happen.

Bitcoin Devs Won’t Waste Time With Other Blockchains

First of all, the number of developers with the skill to hack cryptocurrencies in C is extremely small, and all of them are working on Bitcoin. They’re all doing so mostly without compensation, for the good of society, just like Linux kernel developers do. There is no way you are going to persuade these ethical men to stop working on Bitcoin and to devote that time to a bogus “permissioned ledger” project run by a company on behalf of a nation state.

Bitcoin devs simply aren’t going to split their limited time between projects like Corda or any anti-Bitcoin project. And of course, Corda has conceded defeat and given up on “making blockchains programmable” and other fanciful hand-waving nonsense.

“GitHub Open Source” isn’t a magic wand that will cause men to flock to your repo and software to be written for you for nothing, and no, you can’t hire developers to do this work either; there are none available.

Developers at this skill, experience and knowledge level are an extremely rare breed, and they are all working on Bitcoin, and will never contract to work on unethical software, for any amount of money.

Every year the State wastes time on vanity projects they can’t even understand, Bitcoin grows, spreads and strengthens. The number of new, fundamental features coming to Bitcoin is not matched by any other project, and how these will synergise is anyone’s guess.

(From The Elements Project, new features coming to Bitcoin https://elementsproject.org/elements/ SegWit will activate, on Litecoin first and then Bitcoin. Then everything will change.)

Every software project has a use case. The developers are eager to make their case so they can gain users. When they won’t make the case clearly, something is very wrong. There is no use case for a sovereign nation to launch its own altcoin that is inferior to Bitcoin.

Its like launching a new mobile phone network standard; no manufacturer is going to incorporate another set of protocols, chips, transceiver and antennae into its phone to accommodate you, and yet, this is exactly what these people believe they can do with Bitcoin. All rational nation State actors are now running to embrace and profit from the inevitable domination by Bitcoin and not betting against it.

We can be sure of this. No “permissioned,” “BlockChain,” alt-coin reality denying project launched by a Nation State that has outsourced development of its software to a private company in a foreign land can ever hope to outperform Bitcoin on any level.

Incredibly, the lessons of the doomed and fundamentally flawed Canadian “Mint Chip” have not been learned yet. This is a good thing, believe it or not. The longer Bitcoin’s enemies think they can reinvent the wheel and beat Bitcoin, the better it is for Bitcoin. By the time they figure all of this out, it will be too late. In fact, it already is too late.

KYC/AML is Dying

There has been some very good news on the Bitcoin perception front. Another judge, this time in of all jurisdictions, New York, has ruled that Bitcoin is not Money.

[…] a federal judge in New York has recommended that money-laundering charges be dropped in a local case, based on his determination that Bitcoin doesn’t qualify as money. Instead, U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott has opined that Bitcoin more closely resembles a commodity. While he noted that Bitcoin might one day become so acceptable that it could be considered as money, Scott suggested that it currently has more in common with collectibles – like trading cards and other novelty items.

I wrote about this several times previously.

Any business in Bitcoin, if it is run by competent men, should now destroy their “compliance” data and stop all KYC/AML work immediately. They can rely on these two judgements as pretext, and if any prosecutor or three letter agency wants to take them to court, they should accept the challenge, because they will win.

Coinbase, for example, has been asked for a database dump of all their customers who transferred Bitcoin from 2013 to 2015. They are going to fight this in court, and it may cost them millions to defend this outrageous attack.

Instead of going to court to defend handing over customer data, Coinbase should permanently destroy the data, and fight in court to prove Bitcoin is not money, and not subject to any law any more than Linden Labs “Linden Dollars” are.

Doing this, they will forever be unable to hand over data they don’t have, and will not be asked for it again. They will streamline their service, and increase their profitability. Or burn rate. Either way, the way out of their current problems is to embrace these two judgements and amplify them so that the entire industry is both protected and relieved of onerous administrative burdens simultaneously.

Stopping KYC/AML will increase on ramp speeds, increase profits, increase Bitcoin throughput and midwife “The Transformation”. You are already in a fight with the State, who are using your own data against you; data that you did not have to collect in the first place, that you volunteered to collect, expecting a pat on the head.

Doing this will also turn you from an unethical company into an ethical one. Its a no brainer.

For the Lulz

Finally, for some lulz. People love predicting the collapse of things. Its like a perverted spectator sport, where you’re betting on which gladiator is going to die first. Y2K hysteria Twitter and even the internet have been predicted to “collapse” and these predictions failed.

We all remember Clifford Stoll. No surprise then, when people pop up to predict that Bitcoin will have a “complete and total collapse” for no given reason whatsoever.

What we can see emerging is the fact that the vast majority of men have reached their intellectual limit in 2017. Most of the things are incomprehensible to them. Bitcoin is one of those most things. As time goes on, this problem is going to get much worse. Its like the familiar tale of Artificial Intelligence making new versions of itself that man has no capacity to understand.

The problem isn’t that people don’t understand new technology. This has always been true since man started forging steel, and of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. The problem is that these ignorant people insist on forcing other people who do understand the new tools, to conform to their mistaken ideas of how they should work with them and present it to the market.

Bitcoin has been suffering this for a few years now, but with the recent court decisions, Japanese “Legitimization” (remember when everyone kept saying “legitimacy” is what Bitcoin needs? Now its “adoption” and “scale”) and increase market penetration through great services like Local Bitcoins, it is now clear that Bitcoin will win. No matter what you want.

Lastly…

Finally, some good news. Samson Mow, notorious milliner, Bitcoin thinker, expert analyst, conference organizer, East West bridger, Ubisoft expander, organizer of the “Scaling Bitcoin” event and meme manipulator extraordinary, has just been hired by Blockstream.

Normally hirings of this sort would not be worth comment, but this one is given what is under discussion in this piece. Some were calling for this very useful man to be fired over his very amusing tweets and totally accurate analysis. This is not good thinking.

Because people conflated Bitcoin with money, there is an underlying assumption that the men involved in Bitcoin must emulate the behavior of stuffy, stiff, humorless bankers. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We know that Bitcoin is not money and in properly designed businesses, no one needs to be trusted; Bitcoin itself is the infallible guarantor. All the social signals that men used to use to assess trust (ties, logos, and all the trappings of banking) have been replaced with software. This leaves people behind the levers to “let it all hang out” and be totally honest, because the software is what you trust, not the men who wrote it. This is another benefit of Bitcoin, that is slowly starting to emerge.

The people stuck in the 20th Century are the same ones who never encrypted their email and think that Bitcoin is for buying Starbucks on chain. They’re the ones doing the speech policing, and calling internet culture “toxic.”

Samson Mow being hired is an explicit rejection of these wrong ideas; he is being hired because he merits the job, and nothing else. Bitcoin is not about illusions, it is about MATHEMATICAL FACTS.

[Full disclosure: The author of this piece is the founder of Azteco]

Do you agree with this assessment of Bitcoin? Share your thoughts below! 


Images courtesy of elementsproject.org, Twitter, Shutterstock 

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Dub 12

‘The Blockchain and Us’: A New Documentary on Bitcoin Tech Changing the World

· April 12, 2017 · 7:00 am

A new documentary film called The Blockchain and Us was released last week exploring how Blockchain technology can change the world in a meaningful way.


Documentary: ‘The Blockchain and Us’

A documentary film dubbed “The Blockchain and Us” by Manuel Stagars has been released last week. The 8-part documentary focuses on what blockchain technology is and the social and economic impact it can have in the world, if its potential is successfully harnessed.

the-blockchain-and-us_still-airport-after-rain

The preview description reads:

Economist and filmmaker Manuel Stagars portrays this exciting technology in interviews with software developers, cryptologists, researchers, entrepreneurs, consultants, VCs, authors, politicians, and futurists from the United States, Canada, Switzerland, the UK, and Australia.

The 30-minute long documentary features cuts from several interviews with industry leaders like Christian Decker from Blockstream, Perianne Boring Founder & President at the Chamber of Digital Commerce, Taylor Gerring Co-Founder at Ethereum, Matthew Roszak Co-Founder & Chairman of Bloq, and many more.

The documentary does not focus on the technical aspects of blockchain technology and should not be viewed as an introductory video. Instead, the film seeks to give a high-level view of the blockchain “far from hype” and “starts a conversation about its wider implications” in several aspects of our society.

Chapter 1: First Contact With The Blockchain

In the first segment, the interviewees describe their first contact with blockchain technology. An experience that has changed many lives but usually starts off with a pinch of disbelief. Most people were quick to dismiss Bitcoin and the blockchain once they run into it for the first time, but many return to it after understanding how it works and the potential it has to change the world.

Matthew Roszak Co-Founder & Chairman of Bloq, shared his experience:

I did what most people do the first moment they are exposed to Bitcoin. I discounted it. I thought this was silly internet money, you could mine it, it’s like a golden goose and it took me about an year to really re-explore the technology…

Chapter 2: Blockchain Technology

Here, the documentary delves into a high-level explanation of what blockchain technology is and what makes it tick, and what we can do with it.

Image result for R. Jesse McWaters

R. Jesse McWaters Financial Innovation Lead at the World Economic Forum, explained:

You have the ability to create records that are indelible. You have the ability to transfer value by making updates to those records. And you have the ability to automate updates to the records through these things called smart contracts. That means potentially that you could transform the structure of financial services.

Chapter 3: Influence Of The Blockchain

This chapter focuses on how blockchain technology can influence various industries and aspects of our society like financial inclusion, identity, and IoT.

Image result for Rik Willard

Rik Willard, Founder & Managing Director at Agentic Group, said:

As the blockchain became more influential in our thinking we began to realize that it was a profound shift in how the Internet could be used to create new forms of value and how it could be used to enfranchise and include people in global finance.

Chapter 4: New Business Opportunities

Chapter 4 talks about the infrastructure that is being built around blockchain technology, the business opportunities that arise from it and how traditional industries are dealing with and adapting to this disruptive new technology.

Image result for Paul Meeusen

Paul Meeusen, Head Finance and Treasury Services at Swiss Re, stated:

We are all, also in the financial services industry trying to recognize that we don’t have to be defensive but we rather have to embrace not just this technology but this enabler that it brings us to access a vastly underutilized or undiscovered market that we have to do business with on an eye-to-eye level.

Chapter 5: The Blockchain and Banks

This segment explores how big financial institutions will implement blockchain technology through slow upgrade processes and how some of these institutions are reluctant to accept this technological shift, while others are actively researching and testing the technology to stay ahead of the curve.

Image result for Caitlin Long

Caitlin Long, Chairman of the Board & President at Symbiont.io, explained:

I know how big financial institutions work. They’re not going to do something reckless with technology. This is people’s money and livelihood they’re working with.These are slow upgrade processes. These systems, once they get implemented, will run in parallel with the old systems for a while before you have a switch over to the new one. That’s standard in technology upgrade.  knew this was going to take time. But there are antagonists, players who are threatened. It’s the AT&T/Verizon/Kodak analogy again. Their business model is threatened by this and they’re going to do things to slow down and water down the transformational networks. There is a game theory approach to how the technology is being rolled out in the markets, for sure.

Chapter 6: The Blockchain And Financial Inclusion

An estimated 74% of the world population (according to the World Bank) do not have access to basic financial services provided by Banks. Chapter 6 explores how Blockchain technology can drastically change the financial inclusion landscape and allow people to interact with the world economy in a much more meaningful way than micro-finance institutions and other alternatives.

Eric Van der Kleij, Founder OF Adeptra, London Tech City, Level39 and adviser to the UKGovernment expressed his opinion on the subject:

I don’t like to think that we’re creating so much prosperity for the less than one percent. I like to think of purpose-led businesses. By the way, that’s the trick, I think, for large corporations: to understand that the cost/efficiency of embracing this new technology will potentially widen their accessible markets at a cost, that’s reasonable. That in itself will create prosperity in different areas. Something that we should think about.

Chapter 7: The Real Revolution

Blockchain technology can be considered the fourth technological revolution. With it come the same concerns, which is the loss of jobs due to automation. Blockchain technology has the power to cut out institutions that act as intermediaries or “middlemen”, including banks themselves.

This chapter delves into this concern and how various people perceive it. Dolfi Müller, Mayor of the City of Zug stated:

It’s called the ‘fourth technological revolution’ and I think we are at the beginning of such a revolution just now. That’s why we don’t close our eyes. Some people say ‘There will be much trouble, people will lose their work,’ and so on. I’m sure it will happen but it’s better we face it than deny it.

Chapter 8: The Blockchain and Us

In the eighth and final chapter of the Blockchain and Us documentary, interviewees express their thoughts on how blockchain technology can be implemented on a larger scale and how it can affect our lives. From an idea to a full-scale revolution, blockchain technology is here to stay and has the potential to change the world in a meaningful way.

Guido Rudolphi, Founder of Cryptocash:

Everything will change. In my opinion, the possibilities are endless.

The documentary can be seen here.

Full interviews can be seen here.

Do you think Blockchain can truly change the world for the better? Share your thoughts below!


Images courtesy of Angel.co, Linkedin, Blockchain-newyork.com, Caitlin-long.com, Twitter, Shutterstock

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Dub 08

Cambridge University: Cryptocurrency Use Seeing ‘Significant Growth’

· April 8, 2017 · 12:00 pm

A report by Cambridge University’s CCAF reveals that the number of people using cryptocurrency today has seen significant growth and rivals the population of small countries.


Global Cryptocurrency Benchmarking Study

The Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF) has recently published a research paper called Global Cryptocurrency Benchmarking Study, which examines several sectors of the global cryptocurrency industry, including exchanges, wallets, payment providers, mining and more.

The study was led by Dr.Garrick Hileman, senior research associate at the CCAF and a researcher at the Centre for Macroeconomics. According to the CCAF, it’s the first global research of its kind to systematically investigate all key cryptocurrency industry sectors based on non-public “off-chain” data.

The paper makes several key findings that challenge some of the erroneous concepts that many have regarding the cryptocurrency space and shows that digital currencies are becoming an increasingly important part of our society. Dr.Garrick Hileman wrote:

Dr.Garrick Hileman

“The growing usage and range of capabilities we document in this study indicate that cryptocurrencies are taking on an ever more important role in the lives of a growing number of people (and machines” around the world. As we show in this study, the number of people using cryptocurrency today has seen significant growth and rivals the population of small countries.”

According to Dr. Hileman, a second paper by the CCAF focusing blockchain technology will also be launched in the following weeks. The paper is centered around the use of blockchain technology by more established industry players as well as at public sector institutions such as central banks.

What’s in it

The study collected data from nearly 150 cryptocurrency companies and individuals, covering 38 countries from five world regions, including names like Peter Smith from Blockchain.info, Roger Ver from Bitcoin.com and companies like Coinbase, Bitmain, BTCC, Unocoin, and others.

The CCAF carried out four online surveys from September 2016 to January 2017 and communicated with the companies and individuals involved in order to collect this data. For companies that did not contribute to the study, the dataset was supplemented with additional research and web scraping using commonly applied methods.

The 114-page report counts with four sections, each covering one of the aforementioned industry sectors: exchanges, wallets, payments and mining. There are also three appendixes; the first one is an introduction to cryptocurrencies, the second offers a more detailed intro to the cryptocurrency industry and the third covers the geographical dispersion of cryptocurrency users.

Key Findings

The CCAF highlights the following findings as the key points of the paper:

  • The current number of unique active users of cryptocurrency wallets is estimated to be between 2.9 million and 5.8 million. (The majority of which are located in North America and Europe)

Cryptocurrency wallet users donut chart

  • The lines between the different cryptocurrency industry sectors are increasingly blurred: 31 percent of cryptocurrency companies surveyed are operating across two cryptocurrency industry sectors or more, giving rise to an increasing number of universal cryptocurrency companies.
  • At least 1,876 people are working full- time in the cryptocurrency industry and the actual total figure is likely well above two thousand when large mining organizations and other organizations that did not provide headcount figures are added.
  • Average security headcount and costs for payment companies and exchanges as a percentage of total headcount/operating expenses are similar but significantly higher for wallets.

Exchanges

  • The exchanges sector has the highest number of operating entities and employs more people than any other industry sector covered in the study; a significant geographical dispersion of exchanges is observed.
  • 52% of the small exchanges hold a formal government license compared to only 35% of large exchanges.
  • On average, security headcount corresponds to 13% of total employees and 17% of the budget is spend on security.

Cryptocurrency exchanges chart

Wallets

  • The lines between wallets and exchanges are increasingly blurred; 52% of wallets surveyed provide an integrated currency exchange features, of which 80% offer a national-to-cryptocurrency exchange service. In contrast with exchanges, the majority of wallets do not control access to user keys.

Payments

  • While 79% of payment companies have existing relationships with banking institutions and payment networks, the difficulty of obtaining and maintaining these relationships is cited as this sector’s biggest challenges.
  • On average, national-to-cryptocurrency payments constitute two-thirds of total payment company transaction volume, whereas national-to-national currency transfers and cryptocurrency-to-cryptocurrency payments account for 27% and 6% respectively.

National-to-cryptocurrency transactions vs other transactions

Mining

  • 70% of large miners rate their influence on protocol development as high or very high, compared to 51% of small miners.
  • The cryptocurrency mining map shows that publicly known mining facilities are dispersed, but a significant concentration can be observed in certain Chinese provinces.

Cryptocurrency mining by country

Do you think cryptocurrency use is growing? Have you seen indicators of increased mainstream adoption? Let us know in the comments below!


Images Courtesy of CCAF, AdobeStock

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