Kvě 22

Ethereum Certified Developer Bernard Peh on The Future of Crypto, Dealing with Regulations, and Blockbid (Interview)

· May 21, 2018 · 9:00 pm

Bitcoinist recently caught up with Bernard Peh, one of only 56 Ethereum Certified developers in the world, and picked his brain on his current project, the state of the cryptocurrency market, and what being “Ethereum Certified” even means. 


Bitcoinist: You are one of only 59 Ethereum Certified developers in the world. What exactly does “Ethereum Certified” mean, exactly?

BP: First of all, I like to congratulate B9lab for setting the golden standard in Ethereum Certification. As of today, the passing rate (based on the number of students who signed up) was about 15%. Basically, you cannot be certified if you do not have very good knowledge of Ethereum and its high-level programming language – Solidity.

In theory, being “Ethereum Certified” means that people should feel more secure with my code in the Blockchain. I have deployed many Ethereum smart contracts and I am still very skeptical of my own code due to the immutability of the blockchain. I think being certified might differentiate you from the rest, but having a paranoid attitude is required if you want to travel far in the blockchain journey. I am proud to be one of the 59 Ethereum certified developers in the world. (At the time of this interview.)

Ethereum

Bitcoinist: Tell us a bit about your new project, Blockbid, of which you are the Lead Blockchain Technologist.

BP: The purpose of Blockbid is to make cryptocurrency trading extremely attractive to traders and competitive with other exchanges. We want our exchange to be very secure and have a very user-friendly UI. Therefore, we have decided to build the bulk of the exchange in-house. This means that we have spent a considerable amount of resources in getting top quality developers. I am glad that I have the chance to work with the brightest minds in the industry.

My role is to liaise with the backend and infrastructure team to ensure that all the wallets for all our coins are implemented correctly. Our users will eventually benefit from our vision and the effort that we put in. Everyone will be able to trade with confidence on our exchange in the next few months.

Bitcoinist: What problem, specifically, does Blockbid solve in the industry today?

BP: Blockbid is being designed to help traders overcome three main issues; the inconvenience of needing to sign up to multiple exchanges, the unease associated with having coins scattered across multiple (and potentially untrustworthy) exchanges, and missed investment opportunities caused by time lapses in transferring funds between different platforms.

Blockbid is the only exchange to offer an insurance policy to protect against potential cyber-attack. Users do not have to worry about their cryptocurrencies in our exchange because they are insured.

Bitcoinist: How will Blockbid protect users’ funds against potential cyber-attacks?

BP: Blockbid is the only exchange to offer an insurance policy to protect against potential cyber-attack. Most other exchanges offer 2FA and for the majority of their liquidity to be held offline in cold wallets. While Blockbid will also offer 2FA and liquidity held in cold wallets, it is the only exchange to offer an additional layer of security in having an insurance policy.

I feel that the cryptocurrency market is still flooded with traders doing pumps and dumps. This has caused huge instability in the price of cryptocurrencies, preventing mass adoption for day-to-day purchases. Most people using cryptocurrencies today are risk-takers or people who are willing to bet money on their curiosity. I would love to see wider adoption.

Bitcoinist: Has Blockbid had to overcome any obstacles in relation to regulations? How difficult is it to comply with different rules in different regions of the world?

BP: With recent legislation last year in December being passed by the government requiring Australian exchanges to register with AUSTRAC, we can proudly say that Blockbid is only the third recipients of an AUSTRAC license, meaning they have been granted permission to legally operate as a digital currency exchange, according to Australian law. This follows on from the guidelines set out for Australian AML/CTF policies and require all our users to complete our KYC forms before trading, prior to this we were operating under the guideline of an AFSL license although now AUSTRAC has taken over as the regulatory body and has been setting the requirements and processes for the cryptocurrency industry in Australia.

In regards to complying with changing regulations in other countries, Blockbid stays up to date and monitors all news and information that would directly impact its operations offshore and acts accordingly. For example, restrictions and regulations on US or China based traders were closely monitored over the past year to ensure we operate legally and in compliance with the regulations of those countries.

Bitcoinist: What excites you most about working at Blockbid?

BP: Throughout my entire software development career, building a secure crypto exchange must have been the most challenging of all and in return, the most rewarding. There are many moving parts and many things to consider. The crypto landscape is changing very fast and the software needs to adapt to the changes quickly. We have to dissect every component and question everything. We also have a very strong team with a good rapport with everyone. There have been a lot of hair pulling moments but also a lot of laughter and I think our Chief Operating Office, David Sapper, has done a good job in gelling everyone together. I’m really glad that we value the team culture more than anything else.

Bitcoinist: What do you feel are the best ways to evaluate a cryptocurrency?

BP: There are a plethora of cryptocurrencies to choose from on the ever-expanding crypto market but there are a few things you should look out for when evaluating a cryptocurrency.

You should always check the development activity of a cryptocurrency. A coin with an active development team will be updating and patching bugs all the time. If there aren’t active developments in a particular crypto, you should steer clear.

Looking into the trading volume of a crypto can also indicate if the price will grow. There isn’t much point investing when no one else is trading it. This low trading volume will cause huge price spikes whenever some are bought or sold which is not good if you’re planning a long-term investment.

Avoid pump and dump schemes by investing in coins with larger market capitalization. Low market capitalization can easily be manipulated whereas those with larger market capitalization will require significant capital to manipulate it.

7 Steps for ICO Analysis

Bitcoinist: What are your opinions on the current regulatory landscape? Do you feel that regulators have investors’ best interests at heart?

BP: Regulation is needed to be able to distinguish the real from the fake, to avoid distrust amongst potential participants, and prevent scammers finding any kind of success. Hopefully, regulators don’t enforce harsh regulations upon cryptocurrencies and kill the market off at such an early stage of development. We will have to see if regulators and governments can embrace the blockchain and aid the growth of the cryptocurrency market.

Bitcoinist: Do you have any advice for new investors?

BP: Consumers like to take their first tentative steps into the crypto market by purchasing a currency they have no doubt heard of before, such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. However, it is key to do your research and know what ICOs (Initial Coin Offering) are happening and whether the project is viable – if it’s not, then it’s not worth your money as you could end up with nothing. This is where we need to be mindful of crypto-scams.

There is no clear indicator of when a project or coin might be a scam but there are a few red flags to be mindful of. Any reputable ICO project will have a detailed whitepaper document which details everything you need to know about the campaign. If this is not readily available, then you should ask yourself why. To this effect, it is once more where research becomes a great tool. Look into who the team is behind the project, what is their experience and what are they hoping to achieve. Scams and crypto thefts are increasing and are becoming more widely documented, and so we are seeing crypto exchanges beginning to form self-regulating tightening their regulations

Bitcoinist: What do you identify as the most significant problems in the cryptocurrency market today?

BP: The risk of a data breach is a common one faced by crypto exchanges. Playing host to a large scale of sensitive information, it is possible for company and user information to be accessed, without permission, through mining malware activity and DDoS attacks. The use of mining malware allows hackers to hijack a computer’s resources for mining cryptocurrency, resulting in a diminished processing power which enables fraudsters to make a speedy profit.

Bitcoinist: What solutions do you propose to the problems you mentioned?

BP: The solution would be for greater security protocols and more regulation within the cryptocurrency sphere – although this can only be executed efficiently through a comprehensive understanding of the digital landscape. Without this understanding, exchanges and traders are left vulnerable.

Let’s be honest; cryptocurrency is a technical subject. To use it confidently, you do need to have some technical understanding of how it works. We feel that educating the public on the technology is important. For example, most people do not know what is happening when they transfer one bitcoin to their friend. They might get panicked when their bitcoin didn’t get through to their friend after one hour and then got bombarded with terminologies like confirmation times and transaction fees when they raised a support ticket. We like to have a personal relationship with our clients and hand hold them from the start to the end of the process.

Bitcoinist: Where do you see blockchain technology in 5 years?

BP: Blockchain is already a household name. You see this word being used in almost all tech conferences today. A lot of funds have been poured into making blockchain scale and once we can hit a few thousand transactions per second, we are ready for global adoption. When that day comes (in the next five years), blockchain technology will be used everywhere, from personal identity to buying things online. Coupled with AI and Smart Contracts, there will be no longer a need for a middleman, cutting cost and saving time.

Do you have any other questions for Bernard Peh? Ask them in the comments below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Markus Spiske/Unsplash

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Dub 20

Tax Attorney: Blockchain Immutability ‘Does Make The IRS Smile’ (Interview)

· April 20, 2018 · 4:30 pm

Bitcoinist spoke with Alexander Stern, legal attorney and founder of Attorney IO, to unpack the complexities related to Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies taxes, potential loopholes for users, and how the IRS can easily track individuals using Bitcoin compared to fiat currencies. 


Alexander Stern

The fact that a lot of this is on a blockchain (and cannot be tampered with) does make the IRS smile.

– Alexander Stern

Bitcoinist: First, how and for how long has your law firm been involved with Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies? Are you seeing increasing interest from clients?

Alexander Stern: I’m an attorney and the founder of Attorney IO. Attorney IO is a startup that provides legal AI to other lawyers to give them an AI’s perspective on the law. We proudly support lawyers working on the latest cryptocurrency issues, spanning from taxes to securities. I believe smart contract technology and legal AI are the future of the legal profession.

Bitcoinist: So do you see the legal profession also facing disruption? In other words, will many legal experts be replaced by AI and smart contracts in the future? 

Alexander Stern: Yes, I think a huge number of lawyers will be replaced by AI and smart contracts. However, the best lawyers will embrace this techno-legal future rather than fight it. It is now common to get a joint degree in law and business.

With the rise of AI and smart contracts, I think we’ll start seeing a lot more people getting joint degrees in law and computer science.

Bitcoinist: Is trading crypto-to-crypto on an exchange like Binance or Poloniex, for example, a taxable event? Is it retroactive? If so, from what date did this go into effect?

Alexander Stern: We asked some of the top tax law professors in the country this question. The Attorney IO Panel Report generally found that starting January 1st, 2018, all crypto-to-crypto exchanges are taxable events.

This is the case whether you use an exchange such as Poloniex or even if you make a private swap without using an exchange. The only exception I’m aware of may be to use non-taxable retirement accounts. However, the panel said that, prior to 2018, a great deal of crypto-to-crypto exchanges are taxable events and have been since before the Bitcoin whitepaper was published. The question is whether the two crypto assets being exchanged are highly similar to each other in how they function.

For example, it is arguable that Bitcoin and Litecoin are sufficiently similar to suggest swapping one for the other may be a non-taxable “like-kind exchange.”

On the other hand, one panelist said, “I don’t think a swap of cloud storage for a car is LK [like-kind]. So why should a digital asset that allowed you only to get cloud storage be LK [like-kind] with a digital asset that could be redeemed only for a car?” In other words, all exchanges going back to Bitcoin’s release are potentially taxable events, especially when the two coins are meaningfully different in function.

Bitcoinist: Is it possible to have taxable gains despite never having been converted into dollars? Moreover, what if the gains were wiped out by later unrealized losses?

Alexander Stern: Yes, this is the single biggest news of the panel report. The blockchain ecosystem could move into a second generation of coins and leave the first generation in the dust. If that happens and most of this first wave of tokens drop to levels seen only a few years ago, thousands of families could owe tens of billions of dollars in taxes, despite receiving much less than that in dollars. This could haunt people for the rest of their lives.

One panelist, Prof. Ainsworth, answered this question as follows: “Absolutely. The same happens in any real estate bubble where people are flipping homes. Some people flip every month, and if they end up flipping a $1 million home at the top of the market, and the value of all real estate ‘tanks,’ it is possible to have [taxable] gains that exceed the current market value of real estate.”

Another panelist, Prof. Kane, said, “I could exchange an appreciated, valuable painting for a farm. Not like kind (even before 2017 changes), so I recognize gain. But then the land market crashes, and I take a big loss. Was it wrong for the system to tax me given I did not really end up with any gain at the end of the day?”

Bitcoinist: The CFTC considers crypto to be commodities while the SEC believes some are securities. Is there any clarity at this point?

Alexander Stern: Cryptocurrencies are a completely new technology and paradigm. Regulators could decide they have features of both securities and commodities. It will also likely depend on the token itself rather than the asset class as a whole.

Bitcoin looks a lot more like a commodity. The latest ICO often looks a lot more like a security.

Ultimately, one token could be regulated as both a security and a commodity. This could mean at least two federal agencies would have simultaneous authority over one token.

Bitcoinist: Many people in the crypto space get paid salaries in Bitcoin, for example. Would this be taxable the same as income in dollars?

Alexander Stern: Yes. If you get paid in Bitcoin or any other digital asset, you generally have the same tax responsibilities as payment in dollars.

Bitcoinist: We’ve seen instances where people claim they got “hacked” and that the funds are no longer theirs. How can the IRS technically prove that an individual has control of their funds?

Alexander Stern: In my opinion, this seems very similar to losses due to theft outside of the blockchain. If you keep half of your salary as cash under your mattress, it is vulnerable to theft too. In some cases, the IRS does allow you to deduct for theft, but it is a very case-specific process. If you have a substantial theft from a cryptocurrency hack, you should get a tax attorney to guide you.

Documentation, such as police reports or news articles on a major hack, can be crucial to demonstrate to the IRS that you did indeed lose money due to theft. Nobody should consider claiming a hack that is not genuine. That may lead to serious consequences that could include jail and fines.

Bitcoinist: Are there any legal loopholes that Bitcoin users can use to avoid taxation? For example, sending bitcoin to another person as a “gift”?

Alexander Stern: Generally speaking, no. A good rule of thumb in the tax world is to ask whether something would be effective if you use dollars instead of cryptocurrencies. If you get a salary in dollars or cryptocurrencies, you cannot avoid income tax by saying you gifted it all away.

IRS

Bitcoinist: The IRS is increasingly forcing third-party intermediaries to turn over records such as we’ve seen with Coinbase. However, since technological innovation is always one step ahead, could new tech, such as anonymizing features, decentralized exchanges, cross-chain atomic swaps, etc., make it even harder for authorities to track individuals? Who do you see winning this game of cat-and-mouse?

Alexander Stern: These new technologies could make it harder for the IRS but certainly not impossible. The Bitcoin blockchain is particularly susceptible to scrutiny. Panelist Prof. Ainsworth notes that “all the IRS needs to do is get a good computer out and draft assessment notices once they have the account numbers.

The fact that a lot of this is on a blockchain (and cannot be tampered with) does make the IRS smile. Assessments could not be easier. The metaphor of ‘fish in a barrel’ comes to mind.”

However, the IRS is a very capable agency. People try to dodge taxes outside of blockchain investments all of the time. When you start driving around in a Lamborghini but report only a small income, that raises some serious red flags. If the IRS can catch tax evaders using cash, it can do so with even the most sophisticated anonymous blockchain assets.

Bitcoinist: Given that 2017 was a record year in terms of price gains across the board for cryptocurrencies, do you believe we’ll see more people file taxes on the crypto returns this year or less?

Alexander Stern: All sorts of federal and state government agencies have seen the dramatic price appreciation of cryptocurrencies. They all want to increase their authority and get a piece of the pie. The panel report notes that only a few months ago we saw a ramp up in IRS scrutiny of Coinbase.

I think we’ll start seeing significant legal action taken against cryptocurrency tax dodgers, and this enforcement will spark a community-wide increase in paying taxes.

Bitcoinist: Do you think tax service companies like Turbo Tax or H&R Block will start offering cryptocurrency tax services as it becomes more popular?

Alexander Stern: Yes, I think that’s a great idea. Turbo Tax and H&R Block could make a ton of money by tapping into this burgeoning market. Most people want to comply with the law and that means paying taxes. These companies can make a few small additions to their systems and capture this market.

taxes

Bitcoinist: What’s your advice for cryptocurrency users moving forward? Should they keep track of every single transaction and trade?

Alexander Stern: The panel report does find people should track every single trade. Panelist Prof. Chodorow says, “To comply with the tax laws, keep track of how much you paid for each coin. Further, keep track of which coin you sell or spend as well as the value of the coin at the time you dispose of it. You will also need to determine how long you have held the coin. If you hold your coins at one of the exchange companies, those companies should be able to provide you that information.”

He adds, “Any time that you sell or spend a virtual coin, you will have a tax gain or loss if the value of the coin at the time you sold or spent it differs from the value when you acquired it.”

In other words, even if you buy a small item such as a cup of coffee, you are technically incurring a tax obligation.

It is no different than if you sold $5 in Bitcoin and took that $5 to the coffee shop. Both events are taxable. While this could limit the practical use of these assets as currencies, it may not be so onerous if you are with an exchange that automatically records all of the necessary information each time you make a trade.

Bitcoinist: Finally, where can people find more information on this topic?

Alexander Stern: I suggest that people read the entire Attorney IO panel report on cryptocurrency taxes and adjust their bookkeeping and tax strategies accordingly. Some of the best law professors in the world took the time to educate the cryptocurrency community about their obligations. It’s worth looking into what they have to say.

Did you pay your cryptocurrency taxes this year? Share your comments below! 


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Attorney IO

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Lis 11

Flixxo: A Swarm of Individuals Connected

· November 10, 2017 · 11:00 pm

Like many other industries being disrupted by blockchain today, content sharing platforms are facing new challenges in their quest to meet the new consumer trends and needs. The obvious synergy behind blockchain technologies and p2p content sharing protocols (i.e. torrents) has brought to life a new generation of decentralized online services that are on the heels of such market’s giants as YouTube, Twitch, and Netflix.


To explore the nascent future of this industry Bitcoinist talked to Adrián Garelick, CEO of Flixxo. Adrián is the industry veteran, best known for having created RSK Labs. His new project, Flixxo, is a video sharing network, which employs distributed storage and BitTorrent protocol to store and share the content.

Flixxo launched a token sale campaign on October 24 which will end in 30 days or once the hard cap of 75,000 ETH is reached.

Bitcoinist: Both torrents and video sharing platforms revolutionized the paradigm of content sharing. One was a service allowing users to share free and often shady content, no questions asked. Another introduced the concept of monetizations and created online billionaire celebrities. What middle ground is Flixxo seeking? Or is it creating something completely different? 

AG: I love this metaphor I´ve heard from a Youtuber “We are building beautiful houses on a piece of land we are renting from someone else”. With Flixxo, a video creator is building on top of his/her own network of followers. On top of his own land. This is only achievable by using p2p distribution systems, in which every user, every subscriber or follower, is making author´s network stronger. In this ecosystem, the creator of content sets the rules on top of his/her content and he/she can reward his/her fans. And the consumers have the power to bring wealth to the author, incentivizing him/her to create more content.

Bitcoinist: Modern online media is slowly shifting from pre-recorded material to lifestreams. Torrents are also shifting in collective perception from a hip tech to a dumpster for pirated content. Bearing in mind these two trends, what in your opinion will help Flixxo stay relevant and cool?

AG: I find torrents and blockchain similar technologies and also comparable in the collective perception. At the beginning blockchain (represented by Bitcoin) was accused to be a technology for money laundering and financing drug trafficking. Finally, financial institutions and governments found that it was an amazing technology that could be used for their own benefit. On the side of torrents, the protocol has been accused by big movies studios of only being used for piracy… when it has already proved to be a compelling technology for media distribution. Instead of adopting the protocol to their own benefit, they´ve decided to fight against it. Instead of exploring the possibilities, they´ve chosen to ban it. And studios didn’t succeed in stopping torrents, because of their decentralized nature. In this context Flixxo takes the most out of both technologies and creates a synergy, encouraging seeding of legal content.

And about lifestreams, there will always be space for quality pre-recorded videos. It is not only about what is happening right now in someone´s life, it is about good storytelling and quality content. However, torrents can be used for live stream and it is on our roadmap to explore that path.

Flixxo network

Bitcoinist: Professional content creators depend on centralized platforms to offer their content to huge audiences and monetize the views. Will Flixxo be able to offer YouTubers comparable audience and monetary rewards? Please explain the math behind the platform if possible.

AG: We cannot bring four billion views to the next “Despacito”, but we can really help monetizing authors from a few thousand to some million views per month. These authors are making from nothing to pennies out of their productions on YouTube. In our platform, they get paid every time a user hits the play button. We have developed a complete economy in which consumers, who need Flixx to play a video, can earn tokens by watching advertising or by becoming distributors of content. So almost every token that comes from advertising goes to the wallet of the content producers, and they can exchange the tokens to fiat or to any crypto with liquidity, directly from advertisers.

We were surprised that premium content creators, with more than 1 billion views on YouTube, reached out to us and showed interest in bringing their content to the platform!

Bitcoinist: How will you incentivize people to join Flixxo, both content creators and consumers?

AG: For authors, we will launch a campaign in which we assume the role of co-producers of original content for Flixxo, in exchange they will have to invite their YouTube followers to our platform. For users we have reserved 500M tokens that will be distributed during ten years, and will reward certain social benchmarks (e.g. having distributed their first five videos, having sent or received two tokens with friends, etc) These incentive tokens will end up in the hands of content creators, encouraging them to bring more content to the platform, and more quality content will bring more users. We will need to be smart and to be ready to deal with this fragile flow.

Bitcoinist: To draw an audience to Flixxo, you’d probably want creators involved with Flixxo to no longer post anything on YouTube. Won’t content creators who keep sharing their content on YouTube even after joining Flixxo be nigh useless for Flixxo’s development? In other words, how important is exclusive content and how will you fight for it?

AG: Once authors find out that they can create a better profit out of their exclusive videos, they will stop posting them on YouTube. We are offering a new model, this new model may require a different content than the content they post on Youtube. So, some content creators would feel comfortable with this model and would be protective of their Flixxo content, and some of them would still prefer posting on both platforms.

Bitcoinist: A huge issue for current content creators is non-transparent and often draconian censorship policies centralized platforms observe. How will Flixxo make sure censorship is not a problem for anyone who is at least not creating criminal content according to international law?

AG: Flixxo is a platform and a network. As a platform, we’ve decided to stay family-friendly and to not allow certain content (such as pornography). However, the network cannot be censored and anyone is able to build a platform for their content on top of it. Back to the house metaphor, it is your own land, is up to you to build the house you want to build.

Bitcoinist: Futurists suggest that in the online world of tomorrow content sharing services will become concepts much broader than how we understand them today. Perhaps we will see social media become one huge conglomerate of imaginable services. In your opinion, how does Flixxo push the humanity in that particular direction? How do you see it evolve?

AG: At the end, it is always about human interactions. All the actual models of interactions rely on third parties, on triangles. There is always author, consumer, and YouTube; he, she and Facebook; client, retailer, and Visa. Flixxo is an ecosystem in which people interact without intermediaries: our network is a swarm of individuals connected, with a common interest in sharing audiovisual content. A network where video content is the language in which they communicate with each other. Directly with each other, without outsiders monetizing on their interactions or messing up the communication.

For more information about Flixxo and the services they offer, please visit their company website at flixxo.com.

Do you think the prospect of better monetization will be enough to woo content producers away from YouTube and on to Flixxo? Let us know in the comments below.


Images courtesy of Flixxo

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