Bře 08

Amazon Shares Drop 2.6 Percent As Centralization Alienates Suppliers

Amazon suppliers received a lesson in centralization on March 7 after the e-commerce giant abruptly began canceling huge numbers of orders in a profits push. 


Amazon: We ‘Saw Opportunity’

As Bloomberg reported, quoting a statement from Amazon, the company wants to increase returns at the heart of its e-commerce operations. This has involved fundamentally altering the supply line, forcing even long-time sellers to sell products directly on its marketplace instead of using Amazon as a middleman.

This, reports say, results in reduced costs, as suppliers themselves foot the bill for issues such as storage and shipping. Amazon also takes a commission from each transaction.

“We regularly review our selling partner relationships and may make changes when we see an opportunity to provide customers with improved selection, value and convenience,” the statement reads.

The knock-on effect for suppliers, perhaps predictably, has already touched a nerve. As Bloomberg notes, given purchase orders agreed months in advance, seismic changes from Amazon can easily trigger chaos.

“If you’re heavily reliant on Amazon, which a lot of these vendors are, you’re in a lot of trouble. If this goes on, it can put people out of business,” the publication quoted Dan Brownsher, CEO of a consultancy counting around 50 Amazon vendors among its clients, as saying.

At press time, Amazon’s share price was down by close to three percent on the day.

amazon

Can Decentralization Tackle Monopolies?

As Amazon has grown to achieve a practically worldwide monopoly, the perils of relying on a giant centralized partner will ring true for those businesses which have adopted an alternative ethos.

Nonetheless, decentralized marketplaces have yet to achieve widespread popularity. Efforts to take on the e-commerce giants have so far seen little progress, with highly-anticipated offerings such as OpenBazaar failing to dent consumer habits.

“You should be able to buy and sell using cryptocurrency… if you get crypto, you should be able to spend it… you and buy whatever you need for your daily activity,” the platform’s founder, Washington Sanchez, told cryptocurrency advocate Tatiana Moroz’s podcast the Tatiana Show in January.

Sanchez is overseeing a diversification of OpenBazaar’s core offering, branching out into related software as part of parent company OB1.io.

What do you think about Amazon’s change of strategy? Let us know in the comments below! 


Images courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Bře 04

Bitcoin Can’t Be Stopped By Politics – Lightning ‘Torch’ Goes From Iran to Israel

The Lightning Network ‘torch’ payment has reached Israel after it was sent by an Iranian in a symbolic gesture of peace between the two nations. The historic occasion proves that Bitcoin is truly an apolitical and borderless money technology.


#LNTrustChain Keeps Growing

As reported previously by Bitcoinist, concerns over censorship didn’t stop the #LNTrutChain, otherwise known as the ‘Lightning Torch,’ from being sent to a user based in Iran.

Ziya Sadr, a Coinex executive, gained support from the community to receive the torch after Peach Inc. senior software engineer Vijay Boyapati claimed political factors prevented him from involving him.

Sadr then passed the Lightning Network (LN) payment to another Iranian and founder of Bushido Labs, Sam Abassi, who took advantage of the opportunity to showcase Bitcoin’s political neutrality and censorship-resistance.

Now, the 229th recipient of the torch becomes the Tel Aviv-based Bitcoin Embassy in Israel, who commented:

We received the #LNTrustChain torch!  The torch went from Iran to @samabbassi, an Iranian living abroad, and then to us in Tel Aviv! We’re very proud to be a part of this historic moment  Reply with your invoices and let’s get this torch on the move again!

Bitcoin is Borderless: Palestine Next?

The so-called ‘Lightning Torch’ involves Bitcoin users passing around a transaction on the Lightning Network, adding funds and sending it forward. The current amount has grown to about 3,730,000 satoshis or about $144 USD.

The initiative, started by Twitter user @Hodlonaut, has gained significant interest since it began its journey in January. It has been relayed by such notable entities as Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Fidelity Investments.

Online commentators meanwhile celebrated the occasion praising the apolitical and borderless money technology that is Bitcoin.

“Bitcoin cannot be stopped by sanctions or bureaucrats,” commented Atlantic Financial CEO, Bruce Fenton, on Twitter, adding:

Users drive Bitcoin, not central authorities. The future is here.

User Fontaine also added:

Bitcoin unites us all and that is the best thing about it! Would be great to see @BitcoinemBassy send the torch to a Palestinian

Lightning Network is Growing Rapidly

The milestone comes as Bitcoin’s second-layer Lightning Network has been growing exponentially, particularly in the past few months. Data from monitoring resource 1ML.com shows that overall capacity increased almost 20 percent last month alone, while the number of nodes is nearing 7,000.

The instant and near-zero fee transactions over the Lightning Network also go far beyond simply payments.

Last week, Blockstream had used its Lightning Satellite setup to broadcast the world’s first ‘space meme.’ While other use-cases include everything from online roulettes to a remote chicken feeder. In fact, many new Lighting Applications or ‘LApps’ have started to emerge for such as for online tipping and buying pizza, a payment that can be sent for a fee of less than one cent.

Yesterday, Bitcoinist reported that major US retailer Kroger is now also considering accepting Lightning Network payments after abandoning Visa credit cards due to high merchant fees.

While a long shot, LN has actually been found to be a few seconds slower than the best (centralized) digital payment solutions on the market such as Apple Pay, according to a recent study. What’s more, it is actually “days faster” when it comes to onboarding merchants, according to researcher JP Thor.

Do you want the LN torch to go to Palestine next? Let us know below!!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock

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Bře 03

Major US Retailer Ditches Visa – Now Considering Bitcoin’s Lightning Network

US retail giant, Kroger, is no longer accepting Visa credit cards at its chain of Smith’s food and drug stores. So Anthony Pompliano tweeted an offer to hook them up with Bitcoin’s Lightning Network nationwide.


Fees-a Not Accepted Here

It all started on Friday when Kroger announced the move to no longer accept Visa credit cards, citing excessive fees. The Smith’s chain comprises 134 food and drug stores across 7 states, employing 20,000 staff.

Card fees charged by Visa are higher at Smith’s than any other credit card brand, explained Kroger CFO, Mike Schlotman:

Visa has been misusing its position and charging retailers excessive fees for a long time.

Visa is actually due to increase fees for the banks processing card payments on behalf of merchants in April.

Pomp And Circumstance

In the circumstances, it seemed only natural for somebody to suggest a crypto alternative, and Pompliano rose to the occasion. “Who knows someone on the leadership team there?” he tweeted.

The Morgan Creek Digital team will fly to meet them and get them hooked up with the Lightning Network nationwide.

A couple of hours later a product manager from Kroger Digital tweeted a response and set up a conversation.

Obviously, the Ripple army dove right onto this, questioning Lightning Network’s readiness, and suggesting XRP as a better alternative. More interestingly, someone suggested selling Smith’s gift-cards on BitRefill, which would certainly make a zero effort stop-gap solution.

The Tip Of The Iceberg

But this is a very big deal. Smith’s is the second Kroger brand to stop accepting Visa credit cards, after Foods Co. supermarkets in California. Successful implementation of a Lightning Network payment solution at the retailer could lead to a wider roll-out across Kroger brands.

kroger

Kroger is the largest supermarket chain by revenue and the third largest employer in the United States, along with the third largest retailer in the world. As of December 2018, it operated 2,765 supermarkets and multi-department stores, either directly or through subsidiaries.

Ripple army excepted, I’m sure there is a high level of confidence in Pompliano and Morgan Creek Digital to make this work.

And Visa… you only have yourself to blame!

Will major retailers like Kroger accept Bitcoin and Lightning Network payments? Share your thoughts! 


Images courtesy of Shutterstock

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Úno 25

‘Very Sad’: Lightning Torch Creator Laments Exclusion of Iranian Bitcoin User

The Lightning Network (LN) faced unusual censorship allegations this weekend after it emerged a participant in the Lightning Torch event refused to include a member from Iran.


Sending Transaction To Iran ‘Very Difficult’

In a debacle which continues to unfold on social media, Coinex executive Ziya Sadr confirmed Peach Inc. senior software engineer Vijay Boyapati declined his request to be involved.

Lightning Torch is a transaction relay in which users join or use LN to receive and contribute to a single Bitcoin (BTC) payment.

Similar to the Olympic Flame, the Torch has gained considerable publicity since it began in January, involving the likes of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Blockstream CEO Adam Back.

iran

As a US resident, however, Boyapati expressed concern that ‘sending’ the Torch – which in reality involves sending a payment – to Sadr would draw the attention of authorities. Iran is currently subject to a host of new US economic sanctions.

“I really really REALLY wanted to send it to (Sadr) but US law makes it very risky for me as a citizen,” he claimed.

Very sad that two peaceful people cannot transact with each other across the world because of the state.

Bitcoin Doesn’t Care?

Sadr responded by avoiding calls to label Boyapati a “moron” for his decision, only confirming the legitimacy of the events.

The Twitter user known as hodlonaut, who started Lightning Torch, described Sadr’s predicament as “very sad.”

The Torch currently resides with Adam Back as of press time Monday. He joined the list of holders behind Charlie Shrem and major US broker Fidelity, which accepted it last week.

Lightning itself continues to grow, with momentum building to take the network’s overall capacity to an all-time high of almost 725 BTC ($2.74 million). The size of the Lightning Torch transaction, by contrast, is 3.6 million satoshis ($137.13).

What do you think about Vijay Boyapati’s decision? Let us know in the comments below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock

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Úno 22

Cluck the Banks: Bitcoin Lightning Network Powers Remote Chicken Feeder

A new and decidedly niche consumer product for Bitcoin’s Lightning Network has launched, allowing anyone to use the payment protocol… to feed chickens.


A Different Breed Of Blockchain Supply Chain

Currently circulating on social media, Pollofeed.com facilitates automated feeding of the birds, powered by Bitcoin Lightning Network payments.

“Pollo Feed is a automated chicken feeder powered by bitcoin lighting payments,” the service’s description reads.

Users use the website to generate a payment invoice and send funds. After, Pollo Feed automatically dispenses a small amount of feed to a chicken in an enclosure in a hitherto unknown location.

The chicken is visible via a stream from within the enclosure, and developers promise that each successful payment will result in video evidence of receipt.

There is as yet no data concerning how many times the chickens have profited from Bitcoiners’ generosity, or exactly how automated the setup is.

Doing More With Lightning

Despite its relatively small appeal as a tool, the reaction to Pollo Feed further demonstrates the rapidly increasing mainstream popularity of Lightning, which just months ago remained all but unknown beyond technical circles and enthusiasts.

As Bitcoinist reported, multiple new services designed to make using the network easy and attractive for the lay consumer have launched this year alone.

In February, these included Lightning Pizza, delivering Domino’s to any US resident and soon elsewhere, and Tippin.me expanding Bitcoin micropayments to Twitter users.

Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, further stated that it was a case of “not ‘if’ but ‘when’” regarding Bitcoin Lightning implementation in his own payment network Square.

Lightning continues growing hit new records on a daily basis, with currently capacity topping 715 BTC ($2.8 million) according to monitoring resource 1ML.com.

What do you think about Pollo Feed? Let us know in the comments below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, pollofeed.com

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Úno 20

Google Registers Bitcoin.dev as New Domain TLD Goes Public

Bitcoin.dev is no longer available on the Google .dev domain registry. This news comes amid the public rollout of the .dev top-level domain (TLD).


$12,500 for Bitcoin.dev

If you were eyeing ownership of bitcoin.dev while waiting for Google to release the new TLD officially, that chance is long gone. A redditor with the name “salsa-system” posted a couple of hours ago that Google has registered both the bitcoin.dev and blockchain.dev domains on Tuesday (February 19, 2019).

bitcoin.dev

This news means that someone splashed $12,500 to lock down the .dev domain for the top-ranked cryptocurrency. That’s $25,000 in total if the same entity also acquired blockchain.dev.

As at press time, a quick check on the registry shows that ethereum.dev is unavailable but addresses like satoshi.dev and btc.dev haven’t been claimed yet. Like in other business segments, prime domain names are also highly sought after in the cryptocurrency ecosystem.

.dev TLD Now Available

The news comes as Google, the owners of the .dev domain announced the public release of the new TLD in a blog post published on Tuesday. According to the statement, individuals and companies alike can utilize the early access program to acquire their preferred .dev domain names.

An excerpt from the announcement reads:

We hope .dev will be a new home for you to build your communities, learn the latest tech and showcase your projects-all with a perfect domain name.

Entities who chose to register their domains names on the day of the launch paid $12,500 in total fees. Those electing to do so today, Wednesday (January 20, 2019) will pay $3,500. By the end of February, getting a .dev domain will cost $20.

Making .dev Public Again

Currently, platforms and organizations like GitHub, Salesforce, and JetBrains are already using the new TLD. According to Google, the .dev domain is for developers and coders.

This admission by the company might in some way be an attempt to appease developers. In 2015, Google’s acquisition of the .dev TLD caused an uproar from stakeholders in the industry.

At the time, developers used the domain for their internal website testing protocols. This situation became even further exacerbated when a couple of years later, the company took the domain private, causing test webpages to stop working.

In any case, it seems like Google is starting to dip its toes into Bitcoin. Just yesterday, Bitcoinist reported that Google has introduced the Bitcoin symbol (₿) into its iOS keyboard.

Who do you think paid $22,000 to lock down bitcoin.dev and blockchain.dev domain names? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


Image courtesy of Google (.dev registry), Shutterstock

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Úno 01

Visualizing Bitcoin Adoption Across the Globe

Bitcoin remains the most popular cryptocurrency in the world today with a network that spans across the globe. But just what the distribution of Bitcoin nodes tell us about the rate of adoption of the top-ranked cryptocurrency on a global scale?


Global Distribution of Bitcoin Nodes

According to a 2019 study by Themetafriend, there are 36 countries in the world with at least one percent of their population as Bitcoin users. This study assumed a relationship between the ratio of Bitcoin nodes in any two countries to that of the number of users in those countries.

Using this ratio, it seems theoretically possible to examine the distribution of Bitcoin users worldwide. The following is an estimate of the number of Bitcoin users in different continents.

Europe and North America

Europe and North America are hardly ever absent from any conversation related to technological advancements. Of the 36 countries where Bitcoin users make up at least one percent of their population, 26 are in Europe or North America.

These nations include Canada, France, Belgium, Belarus, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. Others are Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Romania, Iceland, Slovenia, and Sweden.

Looking at the current global nodes distribution as provided by Bitnodes, there is a high density of nodes in both Europe and North America. Also, of the top ten countries based on the number of nodes, only three (China, Singapore, and Japan), come from outside Europe and North America.

South America, Asia, and Australia

Back in November 2018, Bitcoinist reported that the total number of public Bitcoin nodes had surpassed 10,000. According to the latest figures from Coin Dance, the Bitcoin network currently boasts 10,071 listening full nodes and with over 61,000 nodes in total, according to other data sources.

Apart from Japan and Singapore, South Korea, Australia and India also have at least one percent of their population as Bitcoin users. China, however, does not fall into this category making India’s presence particularly noteworthy given the similarities in their population figures.

In South America, Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina have the most BTC users. Venezuela does not appear to rank on a significant scale, however.

Africa

In Africa, only South Africa registers any significant number of users. According to the study, the southernmost nation in Africa has between 0.1 and 0.99 percent of its population as Bitcoin users. Places like Angola and Tanzania have between 0.01 and 0.099 percent.

With access to electricity still a luxury in many places on the continent, the results from the study come as no surprise. According to Bitnodes, the highest ranked African nation based on the number of Bitcoin nodes, South Africa, is in the 33rd position (out of 100).

Not the Full Picture of BTC Adoption

The methodology by Themetafriend uses node distribution to determine Bitcoin users. It should be noted, however, that such a methodology might not show the entire spectrum of adopting technology as multifaceted as Bitcoin.

For example, countries in Africa aren’t running Bitcoin nodes (maybe due to inadequate electricity supply and/or lack of hardware), but the three of the top five countries on Google Trends for Bitcoin are from the continent including Nigeria – the country marked in orange (low adoption) on the map.

Bitcoin adoption also involves such aspects as remittance, mining, acceptance for payments, infrastructure support etc. apart from running nodes.

For example, it appears that Venezuelans aren’t running a significant number of Bitcoin nodes, but the country continues to post massive figures on Localbitcoins.

Unsurprisingly, places like China and Iceland where electricity is cheap but using BTC is restricted tend to be the leaders in mining.

Businesses in countries like Japan and the Netherlands meanwhile are taking initiative in accepting BTC for goods and services.

There are more BTMs in the United States and Switzerland, for example, as there is more emphasis on building Bitcoin-based businesses. Meanwhile, Vietnam and the South East Asian region as a whole are more engaged in remittance.

What is the best way to gauge adoption? Let us know your thoughts below!


Images courtesy of Themetafriend, Bitnodes, Google Trends, Shutterstock

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Led 28

Top Bitcoin Lightning Apps You Can Use Today (Part 2)

So we continue our journey into the wonderful (and sometimes weird) world of Lightning Apps (LApps). And as a testament to how far the market has come, my quick ‘listicle’ has morphed into a two-part behemoth.


If you haven’t already, then check out Part 1, covering wallets, marketplaces, content monetization, and tip jars. If you have, then let’s get on with the ride.

Messaging via Lightning Network

International SMS messages cost a small fortune, but with Insms, the price comes down to that of a small lightning transaction. Ideal for anonymously stalking someone in another country. Or, if you need to receive an SMS, but don’t want to reveal your mobile number, Receive SMS has you covered. Temporary numbers to receive messages are currently available only in the US, with more countries coming soon.

But if you think terrestrial messaging is just a little passé, why not send a message via satellite.

Gaming and Gambling

Hammerland is a MineCraft lookalike MMORPG, using lightning for in-game payments (and rewards). Or if you prefer your MineCraft to be more… MineCraft, then BitQuest is the first MineCraft server denominated in cryptocurrency.

For those who prefer to expound less effort to gain (or lose) their bitcoin, there are a wealth of ways to gamble away your money with Lightning. Lightning Spin is a simple ‘wheel of fortune’-type game where sending an LN payment feels like you’re putting in a quarter into an arcade.

Meanwhile, Lightning Roulette is… well, a full-blown game of roulette.

Alternatively, depending on your preference, you can bet on Three-Card Monte. Although sadly the implementation of Thunder Dice, no longer seems to be active.

Setting Up Shop

There are several ways of accepting Lightning payments at your online store. Strike is one of the best and easiest to use, taking a flat 1% fee on all transactions, and offering unlimited free daily withdrawals.

Or if your establishment is a bit less virtual, and almost entirely more ‘brick and mortar’, then you can use nanopos. This simple Lightning Point-of-Sale system works best with stores selling fixed-price items, although it also offers a custom price option. So your customers can now use LN payments to buy coffee, beanies, a hat-stand, comedy tickets, ticker tape, audio cassettes, hearing aids, condoms…

Speaking of random stuff.

Random Stuff

Unleash your inner artist (or just scrawl obscenities on somebody else’s artwork) at Satoshi’s Place, where you can endlessly paint over as many pixels as you can pay for.

Buy a virtual coffee at StarBlocks; Listen to music on Lightning Jukebox; Set up a Twitter-bot to get paid for likes, retweets, and follows.

Or just exchange your cryptocurrencies in seconds for low fees at Shapeshift-esque ZigZag, and hunker down behind TorGuard‘s VPN.

Oh… then wait to see what amazing abilities LApps bring us in the future.

What other Lapps have you tried? Share your experiences below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock

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Led 23

Bitcoin’s Liquid Sidechain Welcomes Japanese Yen Stablecoin

Blockstream has announced Crypto Garage, a joint venture with Digital Garage and Tokyo Tanshi, to serve the Japanese Bitcoin market. The partnership will soon launch the Liquid sidechain based SETTLENET suite, the first application of which will be a yen-pegged stablecoin.


SETTLENET on Bitcoin’s Liquid Sidechain

The SETTLENET suite aims to provide Japanese exchanges and OTC trading desks with enhanced liquidity, speed and security. Although why Crypto Garage feel the need to shout SETTLENET every time is anybody’s guess.

Exchanges can issue the JPY-token (L-JPY) on the Liquid sidechain, and trade it against Liquid Bitcoin (L-BTC) using atomic swaps. Atomic swaps allow instant, trustless, peer to peer trading between different types of digital asset.

Needless to say, Blockstream CEO, Adam Back’s tweet of the announcement attracted equal parts awe and mockery. The latter, in particular, from the Ripple-army, who were quick to point out how easily XRP could achieve this (though whether XRP is trustless is a different argument).

Compliant With Japanese Regulations

One of the Crypto Garage partners must have some friends in high places because SETTLENET has already received regulatory clearance. Both the Japanese Financial Services Authority and the Cabinet Secretariat approve. This leaves the JPY-token well-placed to be a key driver in Japanese Bitcoin market liquidity.

CEO of Crypto Garage, Masahito Okuma, said:

SETTLENET together with Liquid makes trustless Bitcoin trading a reality, in a sustainable regulated environment. This is going to lead to a huge boost in Bitcoin liquidity in Japan and cement the region’s place as a leader in the emerging Bitcoin industry.

Liquid Growth

The venture also marks the continuing growth of the Liquid Network sidechain since its launch last October. Blockstream market Liquid as a fast, secure, and confidential method for high trading-volume entities such as exchanges, brokers, and financial institutions to transact.

money laundering

JPY-token is just the beginning of Blockstream’s ambitions for the stablecoin market, according to CSO, Samson Mow:

We expect SETTLENET’s Japanese yen token to be the first of many stablecoin issuances on Liquid.

What do you think about the Liquid sidechain welcoming its first stablecoin? Share your thoughts!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Twitter/@adam3us

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Led 20

Australian Bitcoin ATM Startup Says Its Raking in $360,000 Per Week

A Bitcoin ATM company from Australia has reported a weekly turnover of $500,000 AUD (roughly $360,000 USD) despite the cryptocurrency bear market. 


$360,000 Weekly Turnaround

Auscoin, an Australian bitcoin ATM company, has reported a weekly turnaround of $360,000 in 2018. According to the reports, it’s currently operating 31 ATMs throughout Australia but it’s planning to expand.

Speaking on the matter, Sam Karagiozis, founder at Auscoin, said:

We currently have 31 Auscoin ATMs in Australia… and our turnover is $500,000 a week, which is just insane considering how much the price of Bitcoin has dropped. […] It just shows there really is a market for it and cryptocurrency is seen as a way of the future for many.

bitcoin atm

Auscoin bitcoin ATM

The company had an underwhelming ICO in 2018 after it managed to raise only $2 million of the projected $30 million. However, it hopes to expand to a network of more than 1200 bitcoin ATMs across Australia.

It’s Getting Easier to Buy Bitcoin

It’s becoming increasingly easier for people to buy Bitcoin at a range of physical locations. According to Karagiozis, accessibility is the main barrier to entry for regular people:

We believe the most significant barrier to entry for everyday people in the cryptocurrency market is accessibility.

Bitcoinist reported that the number of Bitcoin ATMs has doubled in 2018, growing to more than 4,000 in 76 different countries. According to the tracking website Coinatmradar, Australia has 54 Bitcoin ATMs in operation.

At the beginning of the month, France started selling Bitcoin at tobacco shops. The plan is to expand buying bitcoin to 24,000 tobacco kiosks across the country in the near future.

Just a couple of days ago, US-based Bitcoin ATM company Coinme partnered up with international coin counter Coinstar. The initiative has enabled users to buy Bitcoin at 20,000 Coinstar kiosk locations.

Meanwhile, Venezuela is also expected to see its first bitcoin vending machine go live within the next two weeks.

What do you think of the growing popularity of Bitcoin ATMs? Will this have a positive impact on its widespread adoption? Don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock

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