Zář 08

Japanese Company Jumping into Bitcoin Mining Could Start Digital Arms Race

· September 8, 2017 · 3:15 pm

A Japanese company, GMO Internet Group, is looking to jump into bitcoin mining with new chips that could start a digital arms race.


One thing you can say about the subject of bitcoin mining is that it’s never dull. New players and technologies continue to rise up to keep everything interesting. The newest player to venture into bitcoin mining is GMO Internet Group, which is based in Tokyo, Japan. The company has long been associated with hosting web services and registering domain names, but it now plans on jumping into bitcoin mining with a sizeable monetary investment.

Joining the Modern Gold Rush of Bitcoin Mining

GMO Internet Group has worked with cryptocurrency through its regular internet-based business activities by accepting digital currencies as payment as well as starting an exchange and trading service. Now it seeks to join the modern gold rush of bitcoin mining by creating a new entity called GMO Coin, Inc. The Japanese company believes that cryptocurrencies will become “new universal currencies” that will be available for use by anyone in the world and eventually create a “new, borderless economic zone.”

GMO Internet Group is following the template of other major players in bitcoin mining, such as Bitmain from China. GMO will operate their own mines, rent mines to others, create and sell mining rigs, and develop their own chips to facilitate bitcoin mining in a cheaper and more efficient manner. It is the development of new chips by GMO that is of major interest. The chips they are developing will use 7 nanometer modes that will be four times more energy efficient than the 16 nm nodes that are the current standard.

The Start of an Arms Race?

There is speculation that the proposed 7 nm node chips from GMO could start an arms race. Diego Guiterrez of RSK Labs says,

The other [mining chip makers] will surely follow and create their own 7 nm chips if they are not already doing it. As [chip fabricators] get the new technology, everybody can access it.

Guiterrez also points out that current bitcoin mining operators could find their rigs obsolete once the new chips hit the market. Of course. proposing new and innovative chips is a far cry from actually releasing said chips. Yet GMO Internet Group is putting their money where their mouth is. They are planning on spending more than 10% of their consolidated noncurrent assets, which was at $32,379,001, on this endeavor.

The new chips would be a major shakeup for bitcoin mining and mark another chapter in the back-and-forth over which entities (and countries) will come out on top. Right now, China has a major hold with Bitmain as its mining pools, BTC.com and Antpool, account for over 25% of all the processing power on the global bitcoin network. Russia is challenging China as Putin aims to raise $100 million through an ICO, and Russian power companies are looking to give bitcoin miners a massive boost by selling off excess energy to them at greatly reduced rates. Now it appears that the Land of the Rising Sun has entered the fray.

What do you think about GMO Internet Group entering bitcoin mining? Will their proposed chips start a digital arms race? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Flickr, and GMO Internet Group.

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Čvc 17

The Biggest Mining Pool is Now Signaling to Keep Bitcoin Whole

· July 17, 2017 · 11:00 am

BIP91 blocks have been successfully mined by BiXin and Antpool helping to allay fears that Bitcoin could split in the face of incompatibility between rival Segwit2x and BIP148 implementations.


BIP91 (or Bitcoin Improvement Proposal 91) is the work of software engineer James Hilliard, it addresses incompatibilities between the competing SegWit2x and BIP148 protocols. Both bring SegWit to Bitcoin, except that SegWit2x refuses communication with BIP148, which would effectively cause Bitcoin to split in two.

What’s BIP91?

BIP91 seeks to address this problem by enabling SegWit2x and BIP148 to communicate. However, in order for BIP91 to be successful it must also be adopted by a significant number of mining pools in order to successfully activate. Activation of any of these SegWit improvements to Bitcoin need to gain a significant proportion of the Bitcoin network hashpower (80%) to be generated by miners and mining pools.

Rival Improvements

SegWit2x was agreed by Bitcoin companies and large miners, whereas BIP148 came from an independent groundswell of Bitcoin users and developers. The two rival protocols looked set on forking Bitcoin until BIP91 joined the fray.

SegWit2x has been identified by Luke-Jr, amongst others, as essentially a power grab by large Bitcoin mining operations, primarily Bitmain, allowing them potential control of the whole Bitcoin network.

“By promoting BIP91 and Segwit2x as an alternative to BIP148, what miners are really doing is another power grab to try to take back their veto, which has no purpose other than to be used by Bitmain to block the whole thing at the last minute…,” warns Luke-Jr.

If too little of the economy has upgraded to BIP148 in time for August, it gives Bitmain the opportunity to perform a chain split attack, and fool outdated nodes into following their invalid chain, possibly becoming financially dependent on it before realizing the attack has occurred.

Mining Pools Rally to the Cause

With more pools now coming forward and signaling BIP91 it seems that the community and mining pools are realizing that action is needed to prevent any potentially catastrophic Bitcoin splits and forcing users to take matters into their own hands.

A coordinated effort like this is a rare thing to see, especially considering there is no central figure to oversee such efforts and negotiate with mining pools for adoption. With time also of the essence pools are being mobilized and standing up to the potential vested interests of SegWit2x.

BIP91 should reduce the possibility of a Bitcoin split, which most rational Bitcoin users, miners and operators will agree is a good thing.

Will this BIP91 announcement reassure Bitcoin Investors and users ahead of the August 1st segwit activation date? Let us know in the comments below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Twitter, xbt.eu

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Čvn 01

UK’s Most Popular Investment Platform to Offer Bitcoin

· June 1, 2017 · 8:30 am

UK’s most popular investment platform, Hargreaves Lansdown, will soon allow its clients to invest in Bitcoin.


Hargreaves Lansdown

Hargreaves Lansdown, the administer £70bn of investor money with 876,000 clients, has announced it will allow customers access to invest in Bitcoin.

“By adding self-service, online dealing, the team at Hargreaves Lansdown is providing UK investors with professional and quick access to bitcoin in the UK and greater Europe,”  Ryan Radloff, XBT’s head of investor relations told the Telegraph.

This follows the recent news that the American financial services corporation, Fidelity Investments, will soon allow their clients the ability to view their cryptocurrency holdings on the Coinbase website.

However, Hargreaves Lansdown, are using a fund offered by a Swedish company, XBT Provider, which is structured as an ETN or exchange-traded note. These funds are listed on the stock exchange meaning Bitcoin can be bought and sold as a share.

“The value of and any amount payable under the certificates will be strongly affected by the performance of Bitcoin and the US dollar/krona exchange rate,” XBT Provider explains. “As such an investment in the certificates is likely to be highly volatile and thus risky.”

In other words, British Bitcoin investors will be exposed to two areas of risk, not just the famous volatility of the cryptocurrency itself, but also to the US dollar/Swedish Krona exchange rate.

Clients Asked to Invest in Bitcoin

Danny Cox, head of communications at Lansdown noted that the decision to add Bitcoin as an investment option was driven in part by customer demand.

Cox:

We have seen a handful of clients asking for the ETN, so it’s not purely driven by a provider wanting to be listed.

This interest, although written off as a handful, demonstrates that the demand must surely have been significant among traditional investors for the company to include it.

Despite the potential risks, Bitcoin has (again) been outperforming every asset and fiat currency in 2017, and smart money is starting to pay attention. This is a major step for Bitcoin towards mainstream adoption and becoming a legitimate asset for traditional finance.

Is Bitcoin finally breaking into mainstream finance? Will other brokers follow suite? Let us know in the comments below!


Images courtesy of Twitter, Shutterstock, moneytothemasses.com

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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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Dub 25

Charlie Shrem: ‘It’s Not About The Technology Anymore, It’s About Power’

· April 25, 2017 · 9:00 am

Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem shared his views on the scaling debate, stating that “it’s not about technology anymore, it’s about power.”


Shrem: ‘It’s About Power’

Charlie Shrem, Bitcoin entrepreneur and co-founder of Intellysis, was present in today’s episode of the  Double Down show, dubbed “Does Block Size Matter?” with the usual hosts Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert.

Hard Fork Wars

During the show, Shrem expressed his thoughts regarding the current state of the scaling debate or as Herbert called it, “the Great Blocksize War of 2017.”

Shrem stated:

In reality, it’s not a technical argument anymore. Everyone on both sides of the table say that SegWit is the best technology that we have.

According to Shrem, the scaling debate is no longer about the most viable technology or solution that can be used to scale Bitcoin. Instead, the scaling debate has become a power struggle between two development teams, Bitcoin Unlimited and Bitcoin Core.

“The other side of the debate, which is Bitcoin Unlimited, they agree that SegWit is a great technology,” he continued. “But to them it’s not about technology anymore, it’s about power.”

Shrem went on to say:

They want to remove [Bitcoin Core’s] ability to work on Bitcoin and instead have a closed-membership small group of four to five developers, who they think are the best for the job, run Bitcoin going forward.

A Test for Bitcoin

However, there is a silver lining in this development, which Shrem considers it as an “extremely bullish situation for Bitcoin.” The current block size “drama” is showcasing Bitcoin’s ability to resist a malicious attack on the network.

He noted:

Here you have a group of bad actors who are trying to overtake the Bitcoin network and essentially fork all of bitcoin and force all Bitcoin users to be able to use their developers and their codebase and their everything and it’s not a group of miners that’s preventing this.

Shrem sees the current hash power signaling as a “glorified poll” when it comes to hard fork given that nodes are the ones that validate blocks and they can discard the ones from the hard-forked chain at will, meaning that miners don’t have nearly as much power as they think they do.

This can be observed the UASF proposal, which would bypass the miners completely and leave it up to the nodes to force SegWit into activation.

However, it may not come down to a UASF, as mining pools like F2Pool are beginning to move to SegWit driven by demand from individual users that contribute hashrate to the pool.

Champagne Problem

Not all is gloomy for Bitcoin, however. Amidst all the tension and drama, one must also look at the bright side, which is the reason we’re having this heated debate at all: Bitcoin is growing at an exponential rate.

This is, as Shrem puts it, a “champagne problem,” one that gives us as much to celebrate as it gives us to fight about. 

Bitcoin 2016

“It’s a good problem to have. Bitcoin has grown really quickly. We never expected this to happen so quickly, to be honest. We’re getting towards what they call a ‘champagne problem,’ how do you scale?” he said.

This means that not only is Bitcoin working as intended, but there is also an urgent need for such a currency in the world. Now, it’s only a matter of making sure that Bitcoin can become that currency and still maintain its decentralized and immutable characteristics.

Shrem concluded:

There has always been research and conversations on scaling over the past three years but, to be honest, we didn’t think we’d see this exponential growth in Bitcoin and now it’s time to have that conversation.

Do you agree? Is the scaling debate actually about power and control? Share below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, alchetron.com, coin.dance

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Dub 21

7 Reasons Why BTC Price is Now Climbing to $1300

· April 21, 2017 · 9:00 am

Bitcoin price now appears to be shrugging off politics that have split the community as it looks to test the critical $1,300 mark yet again.


Key Resistance Level at $1,300

BTC price is again coming within striking distance of the critical $1,300 mark, currently sitting at $1,250 at press time. 

Back on March 6, Bitcoin set the all-time closing high of $1,277 with a record-high spike of around $1,330 a few days later fueled by ETF hype before crashing more than 25% after the rejection by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

But the world’s first decentralized cryptocurrency has rallied since its March 24 low of $960 when divisive politics and heightened fears of a hard fork put downward pressure on the price. 

What’s more, the resurgence also comes at a time when Chinese exchanges have still not resumed their Bitcoin withdrawals.

In addition to being up 30% so far in 2017, Bitcoin’s market capitalization is now looking to break its all-time high of about $20.6 billion as it climbs towards the critical $1,300 resistance level.

“$1300 is a significant psychological price point,” Civic CEO, Vinny Lingham, wrote back in February. “This is the point that arguably no one who had previously bought coins during the last ‘bubble’ is under water.”

7 Positive Trends Driving BTC Price

With Litecoin coming closer to SegWit activation, many hope that the ‘silver to Bitcoin’s gold’ will become a testbed for this promising technology. This has made Litecoin price rise significantly in recent weeks while also raising hopes for SegWit activation on Bitcoin while allaying fears of a contentious hardfork.

However, this is only one positive factor in what has been a string of good news for Bitcoin in recent weeks.

First, Japanese businesses and several major retailers already seem enthusiastic about experimenting with Bitcoin payments following their legalization in the country on April 1st.

Second, Bitcoin adoption appears to be growing everywhere in the world from P2P trading to remittances to the amount of people actually using it for payments, according to a recent Cambridge University study, which noted:

[T]he number of people using cryptocurrency today has seen significant growth and rivals the population of small countries.

Third, following increasing regulatory clarity from China, Russia may also be planning to ‘legalize’ Bitcoin by as early as 2018. Meanwhile, another major economy, India, is seeing major growth with people increasingly using Bitcoin as a store-of-value and for online purchases in the wake of the demonetization disaster.

Fourth, the traditional global banking system including SWIFT appears to be under constant attack from hackers, not to mention the NSA. As a rule, any weakness and uncertainty in the traditional financial spells good for a potentially better alternative that’s more secure due to its decentralized, pseudonymous natures and immutability aspect.

Fifth, major companies such as Microsoft are beginning to actually use the Bitcoin blockchain for other things besides money such as record time-stamping and document verification. This could introduce more use cases for the Bitcoin network, boosting its development, growth, and overall value as a result. 

Bitfinex Sticking Out Like a Sore Thumb

Another major factor in the upward pressure on BTC price is Bitcoin exchange Bitfinex, which seems to be experiencing problems on the fiat side due to recent complications with partner banks. There also seem to be problems with liquidating the USDT (Tether) cryptocurrency token that replaces the USD currency on the Poloniex exchange.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Bitcoin on Bitfinex is trading at nearly $1,330 or $80 above market price as traders seek safety. Of course, the solvency of the Bitfinex exchange is also coming increasingly under question despite official statements to the contrary.

[Editor’s note: It remains to be seen whether this is a positive or a negative factor for the BTC price in the short term. However, shaking out insolvent businesses should be a healthy step for the Bitcoin economy moving forward.] 

In any case, Bitcoin should continue to chug along as its overall growth since 2014 has made it more resilient and much more capable of withstanding another ‘Mt.Gox’ scenario if it arises.

Will Bitcoin finally break the $1300 psychological barrier? Share your thoughts below!


Images courtesy of coinmarketcap.com, shutterstock 

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Dub 17

Bitcoin is Booming in India as ‘Digital Gold’ Among Other Underlying Benefits

· April 17, 2017 · 8:30 am

Bitcoin is gaining a lot traction in India. Bitcoinist spoke with Sunny Ray, co-founder of India’s Bitcoin exchange UnoCoin, to better understand what is fueling this growing trend in the country.


Bitcoin Goes Mainstream in India

Bitcoin is going places. After conquering China and catapulting it to the front line of Bitcoin’s trading and mining sector, it is now starting to get traction in other countries like Japan and South Korea.

Now, Bitcoin is also showing signs of a growing adoption rate in India, a country that has been deeply impacted by the demonetization policies implemented.

A look at yesterday’s Times of India publication shows that Bitcoin is featured on the front page. The publication tells the story of a man who unknowingly exchanged, what would now be, a Bitcoin fortune for extra lives on an online game, something that he obviously regrets.

The article also provides some facts about the cryptocurrency, its price, and regulatory standing. It also mentions the Interdisciplinary Committee created to assess the current state of existing global regulatory and legal structures as a means to apply the best regulatory framework possible for Bitcoin in India.

The paper reads:

Finance ministry has set up a committee that will look at global regulatory frameworks for Bitcoin and suggest measures for India.

Bitcoin adoption in the country can be seen, not just in media reports, but also in the data provided by Unocoin, India’s most popular Bitcoin Exchange. Co-founder Sunny Ray recently noted that:

It took 2 years and 10 months for Unocoin to reach 100,000 users. It only took another 6 months to reach 200,000 users.

Why is Bitcoin Booming in India?

Bitcoin’s received a lot of attention after the demonetization policies that saw India’s highest denomination banknotes removed from the economy were implemented in November 2016.

Since then, however, much has changed. Unocoin’s Sunny Ray explained what’s fueling Bitcoin’s growing popularity in the country:

We think it’s less to do with demonetization and more to do with its underlying benefits. The uses range from: store of value is the number one use case (digital gold), second is inward remittance (as opposed to losing 4 days and 10% in fees), p2p payments, buying things online (mobile top up, etc), and it keeps going.

Furthermore, it’s not just Unocoin that is seeing an increasing adoption in Bitcoin within the country.

Trading volume from p2p exchange LocalBitcoins reveals this growing trend, for example, as does the global INR market data provided by CryptoCompare:

“We conclude that, while the demonetization itself may have been a catalyst for Bitcoin’s growth in India, it simply revealed one of the many advantages that Bitcoin brings, in this case, the lack of centralized control and the superior privacy provided by the cryptocurrency,” he added.

India’s Government is Studying Bitcoin

Earlier this month, the Indian government established an Interdisciplinary Committee chaired by various institutions like the country’s central bank and ministry of home affairs.

The committee’s main functions are

  • to take stock of the present status of virtual currencies (VCs) in and outside of India;
  • examine existing global regulatory and legal structures for VCs;
  • suggest measures for dealing with such VCs including issues relating to consumer protection, money laundering, etc;
  • and to examine any other matter related to VCs that may be considered as relevant.

Bitcoin India

The committee is expected to release a report on its findings by July of this year. 

It is unclear what changes the committee will bring about but Ray hopes that the creation of this organization will help citizens better understand virtual currencies, their benefits and risks.

Ray told Bitcoinist:

Our only hope is to try and educate the public. We are working with the best law firm in the country. The same law firm that’s helped to establish the largest self regulatory body in India, they helped enable payment processing and ecommerce to emerge and many many other seemingly disruptive change to the country:  Nishith Desai & Associates. All we can do is try. And the fact that some journalists in India are writing sensationalist articles to pry on people’s fears is not helping the cause.

The “largest self regulatory body in India” mentioned by Ray is the Digital Asset and Blockchain Foundation of India (DABFI). The self-regulatory body is comprised of Bitcoin startups in the country such as Unocoin, Zebpay, Coinsecure, and Searchtrade.

The organization will focus on creating standard guidelines for trading blockchain based assets, KYC/AML and STR norms, while collaborating with regulators, creating awareness about the benefits and risks of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, and producing an environment that will stimulate the creation of other blockchain startups. DABFI will also publish reports regarding cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.

Will the new Interdisciplinary Committee help advance Bitcoin’s adoption in the country? Let us know in the comment section!


Images courtesy of Times of India, CryptoCompare, Shutterstock

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Dub 05

Japan: Bitcoin Payments Could See 260,000 Stores by Summer

· April 5, 2017 · 5:00 am

Bitcoin payments may be accepted at over 260,000 stores in Japan by this summer following partnerships between the country’s Bitcoin exchanges and major retailers.


Bic Camera to Trial Bitcoin Payments

Japanese electronics chain Bic Camera has partnered with Tokyo-based bitFlyer, which runs the country’s largest bitcoin exchange that currently comprises about 10% of the Bitcoin market.

This Friday, Bic Camera’s flagship shop in Tokyo’s Yurakucho district along with Bicqlo Bic Camera, a hybrid outlet with Uniqlo, will begin a trial run using bitFlyer’s bitcoin payment system, according to the official release.

Customers will be able to pay up to 100,000 yen (~$900 USD) with Bitcoin, which will also include reward points at the same rate as for cash payments. The trial will determine if Bic Camera will expand Bitcoin payments to its other 39 nationwide locations.

260,000 Merchants Can Now Accept Bitcoin

Meanwhile, another Tokyo bitcoin exchange, Coincheck, has partnered with Recruit Lifestyle, the retail support arm of human resources conglomerate Recruit Holdings.

Coincheck, which currently holds 99% of the bitcoin payment market share in Japan, will bring Bitcoin payments to shops that use AirRegi, a point-of-sale app developed by Recruit Lifestyle, by this summer.

To pay with bitcoin, customers can simply scan the barcode displayed on the app. Coincheck will process the transaction, converting the bitcoin into yen for the merchant.

Additionally, the app also supports Alipay, China’s leading third-party payment solution. However, Chinese tourists visiting Japan will be able to finally spend their bitcoin, something they cannot do in their home country.

Today, the most popular electronic payment options in Japan include Suica and Rakuten’s Edy, which are accepted at 380,000 and 470,000 locations, respectively. But with these recent moves, virtual currency could soon enter their ranks as AirRegi terminals are already used at 260,000 eateries and other retail locations nationwide.

Japan: Land of the Rising Bits

Bitcoin transaction volume in Japan began to increase significantly since 2016, and in January 2017 its volume exceeded 541.1 billion yen (about 20 times compared to the same period last year).

Just recently, on April 1, 2017, Japan’s Payment Services Act for virtual currencies went into effect, recognizing Bitcoin as a legal payment option while forcing cryptocurrency exchanges to register with the government. Starting in July, purchases of virtual currency will be exempt from the consumption tax.

Overall, the new regulations and tax incentives are expected to boost consumer confidence and growth of the domestic virtual currency market, which already had over 4,000 locations accepting bitcoin.

Will these new partnership make Bitcoin a mainstream payment method in the country? Share your thoughts below! 


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, air-regi.com, 

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Dub 01

Japan’s New Bitcoin Law Could Do More Damage Than NY BitLicense

· April 1, 2017 · 9:00 am

7,130 views

According to IndieSquare Co-founder Koji Higashi, new regulations in Japan, which will make Bitcoin an official form of payment (starting today April 1), may do more harm than good for the fledgling industry in the country.


Japan to Introduce Own ‘Bitlicense’

Following the disastrous demise of the infamous Japanese exchange, Mt. Gox and the arrest of its CEO Mark Karpelès, regulators in the country decided to introduce regulations for Bitcoin.

Bitcoinist_Mt. Gox

The regulatory framework has been in the works for over two years. The first bill was submitted to the Diet in Japan (the legislature consisting of the Lower and the Upper Houses) last March, and the Payment Services Act and the Act on Preventing of Transfer of Criminal Proceeds were amended in May 2016. Now, new drafts for detailed regulations and guidelines have been approved.

The new law, which is now in place starting today (April 1), is meant to protect consumers and to help them distinguish safe, i.e. approved exchanges, from fraudulent operations.

The law also recognizes approved cryptocurrencies as a legal method of payment in Japan, preventing users from investing in so-called scam coins, fake digital assets, and IOU tokens.

Although praised by western and Japanese media alike, the new regulatory framework may pose serious problems for the Japanese Bitcoin community, according to Koji Higashi, Co-Founder of IndieSquare and Community Director at the Counterparty Foundation.

profile-pic

In a blog post, Higashi outlines the major issues with what he calls “Japan’s Bitlicense” due to the similarities found between the two, saying:

I’d actually argue that this law may turn out to be more damaging to the Japanese industry in the long run than what Bitlicense has been to NY.

Why It Could Be Worse Than NY’s

The Bitlicense introduced in New York has been widely perceived by the community as damaging for Bitcoin startups in the region due to the bureaucracy and high entry barriers for small startups. It resulted in several startups like ShapeShift and LocalBitcoins halting services for NY-based customers.

Now, Japan is doing the same, explains Higashi. “If you are not a fan of the excessive cost for legal and compliance fee for Bitcoin startups, however, the new law in Japan is certainly not exciting news for you,” he notes. 

bitlicense

Among others, the requirements involve the submission of a 3-year business plan, segregated fund management, KYC/AML requirements, segregated fund management, frequent reporting to authority, and external audits.

Some experts estimate that the costs involved with becoming a compliant exchange could be as high as $300,000-$500,000 USD. Moreover, additional fees and paperwork will also apply to companies beyond trading platforms and will affect P2P decentralized exchanges as well.

Higashi:

It’s hard to say whether the regulation in Japan is more costly than the Bitlicense but I can say it’s expensive enough to put serious financial pressure on startups and may force them to go out of business completely in some cases.

Another issue with the new regulatory framework is that it will require virtual currencies to be accepted into an official list of approved coins. Although this system may protect users from being scammed out of their savings, it may end up damaging the reputation of coins that don’t make it to the list, which will most likely be a conservative one at best.

Bitcoin in Japan

The new regulations may affect Bitcoin startups negatively but are also likely to push adoption forward and to create a sense of trust for new users in the virtual currency space. Japan is the fastest growing country in the Bitcoin market. For example, trading volume in Japan has recently surpassed that of China and the U.S.

bitcoinist_jpy_volume_09_feb

The country is experiencing growing interest in Bitcoin from users, investors, and merchants. Blockchain is also a technological focus point both for companies and the government. The Japanese community is also one of the biggest investors in crypto-related crowdfunding campaigns and Initial Coin Offerings, according to Higashi. 

[Note: This article was originally published on February 9, 2017. It has been updated as today (April 1) is the first day Japan’s new cryptocurrency law comes into effect.]

Will the new regulations drive companies away from Japan? Or will it usher a new age for cryptocurrency adoption in the country?


Images courtesy of CryptoCompare, Shutterstock, Counterparty.io

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