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What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a digital crypto-currency with no single point of failure due to its decentralized peer-to-peer architecture. The source code is publicly available and changes to the reference Bitcoin client are made via concensus within the community. Advantages of Bitcoin include irreversible transactions (i.e. no possibility of chargebacks as with credit cards), pseudo-anonymous, limited and fixed inflation, near instant transactions, multi-platform, no double-spend and little to no barriers to entry and more. It was created by an anonymous person known as Satoshi Nakamoto. Find out more at WeUseCoins.com.

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Posted on 17 January 2018 | 2:57 pm

Bitcoin sell-off deepens, digital currency now down 50% from recent peak as Dow closes above 26000 - USA TODAY


USA TODAY

Bitcoin sell-off deepens, digital currency now down 50% from recent peak as Dow closes above 26000
USA TODAY
Bitcoin's sell-off, sparked by fears of a regulatory crackdown, deepened Wednesday with the price of a single coin briefly dropping below $10,000 for the first time since November and its total loss spiraling to 50% since its mid-December peak. The ...
Sorry, Bitcoin Fans. Digital Currency Is Still a Dream.Bloomberg
The price of Bitcoin could reach $100000 in 2018, says analyst who correctly forecast last year's price riseDaily Mail

all 7 news articles »

Posted on 17 January 2018 | 2:03 pm

Cryptocurrency’s Red Tuesday Firesale Leaves Everyone Speculating

cryptomarket_sell-off.png

The cryptocurrency sky fell yesterday as 49 of the top 50 coins (by Market Cap) were down with only Tether (USDT) posting a gain. In fact, only two coins, KuCoin Shares and VeChain, showed losses less than 10 percent and only 12 of the top 50 have lost less than 20 percent of their value.

The effects of the market-wide shock are clear, but explanations vary based on where you get your news. In an effort to make sense of the situation, here are the stories and rationales explaining the systemic drop.

South Korea

Korean leadership this week has been fragmented on the subject of cryptocurrencies, causing a public backlash in a country that has enthusiastically embraced the new asset class.

On January 16, 2018, Yonhap News reported that the Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon stated, “What the justice ministry is going to do is not immediately shut down (exchanges) ... As this is a legislative issue, it is not possible to shut them down without going through the National Assembly.”

This seemingly contradicts a radio interview given earlier in the day by Korea’s finance minister, Kim Dong-yeon, who stated in a radio interview with TBS Radio, “The government stance is that it needs to regulate cryptocurrency investment as it is a largely speculative investment … The shutdown of virtual currency exchanges is still one of the options (that the government has).”

The perceived discord from top Korean officials is a carry over from January 11, 2018, reports where Justice Minister Park Sang-ki stated regulators were preparing legislation to halt cryptocurrency trading. Those statements were walked back by the presidential office (The Blue House) later in the day, when a spokesperson relayed that the government has not yet decided on shutting down cryptocurrency exchanges. This statement came a mere seven hours after the Justice Minister’s statements and after a petition to the presidential office gained viral support. This communicative disharmony doesn’t even address the raids on Korean exchanges Coinone and Bithump last week.

Bloomberg (which also cites China as a causal factor), New York Post, MarketWatch, and others have cited the latest actions today by South Korea as an inciting reason for the digital currency market-wide bloodbath.

China Threatens More Bans

Korean Leadership may not be the only source of consternation for the cryptocurrency market. Some media outlets, such as Quartz have pointed towards Korea’s much larger neighbor to the West, China.

China has had a tumultuous history with cryptocurrencies. In the past few months alone, the Central Bank of China banned ICOs in September 2017, followed by a January 2, 2018, leaked memo where the leading internet-finance regulator in the country, the Leading Group of Internet Financial Risks Remediation, called for an orderly exit of crypto-mining operations. The forced exodus of crypto-mining operations, according to TechCrunch, will slowly extinguish a group that is estimated to produce three-quarters of the world’s supply of bitcoin.

The final straw for the China thesis were reports on Monday, January 15, 2018, that the Chinese government is escalating its crackdown to include domestic cryptocurrency trading by planning to block access to online platforms, exchanges, market-makers and mobile application platforms that cater to Chinese citizens.

While Chinese citizens have in the past used VPNs to work around similar blocks to sites such as Google and Facebook, China has been determined to stem capital outflows from the country (and the government has ordered a crackdown of VPN usage starting next month).

Cryptocurrencies have provided the potential for unregulated outflows of capital from the mainland, so it seems that the cryptocurrency facilitators in China may face a different fate than their internet counterparts.

The U.S., Brazilian, Indian, French, German Regulator Effect

Regulation is the name of 2018. If the regulatory issues out of South Korea and China were standalone examples, that may be enough to explain the sell-off. But other regulatory fears may have been increased by a flurry of announcements over the past week:

On January 12, 2018, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin mentioned a working group comprised of multiple federal agencies had been formed to look into how to regulate cryptocurrencies.

That same day, Brazilian regulator CVM banned funds from buying cryptocurrencies.

On January 14, 2018, The Hindustan Times reported the Indian government has formed a committee to fast-track the country toward regulating the domestic cryptocurrency marketplace. In line with previous efforts by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to demonetize lower denominated rupees last year, the committee was formed, according to The Financial Express, based on Indian authorities’ apprehension of illicit money being used to trade cryptocurrencies (colloquially referred to as “black money”).

On January 15, 2018, French Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire announced the creation of a working group with the purpose of regulating cryptocurrencies and appointed Jean-Pierre Landau, the former deputy governor of the Banque de France, to lead the group. Landau wrote an editorial piece for the Financial Times in 2014 titled “Beware the mania for Bitcoin, the tulip of the 21st century.”

Also on January 15, 2018, a board member for Germany’s Central Bank (Bundesbank), Joachim Wuermeling, called for effective regulation of virtual currencies on a global scale.

The Post-FOMO FUD Factor

The cause for the market wide plummet yesterday in cryptocurrencies could simply be a case of FUD (“Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt”) among new investors panic selling in the face of all of these regulatory actions or initiations by major world economies. Or perhaps it is entrenched investors taking regulatory actions as their signal to sell before regulations negatively impact their unrealized profits.

It may be a combination of events and speculation. The news reports differ on what events are emphasized depending on what coverage you look at (and if you look to John McAfee for causation, you’ll note the market drop was all because of J.P. Morgan spiking fears about potential government bans).

Regardless of the cause, the effects are clear. It now remains to be seen whether there will be a rebound or whether the sell-off will gain momentum as we look ahead to a future where regulatory impacts potentially curtail the bull-run the industry blossomed under in 2017.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 17 January 2018 | 12:40 pm

Qtum Forges Ahead with Development of Its x86 Virtual Machine and Expanded Network

qtum_dev.jpg

Qtum is on the move with the announcement of a partnership with Baofeng to begin running 50,000 full Qtum nodes and an upcoming x86 VM to support multiple languages for smart contracts.

Qtum is a hybrid of Bitcoin and Ethereum that is based on proof-of-stake consensus instead of proof of work, and is compatible with existing Ethereum contracts as well as Bitcoin gateways. Supporting the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) wasn’t enough for Qtum co-founder Jordan Earls, who has been working on an x86 Virtual Machine for the Qtum system.

Earls comments that a great reason to build a x86 VM is to add more programming language support for smart contracts, his favorite being Rust. The overall list of objectives is much bigger though:

  • Programming Language Support
  • Standard Library
  • Optimized Gas Model
  • Unlock the full power of the Account Abstraction Layer (AAL)
  • New possibilities for smart contracts
  • First-Class Oracles
  • Blockchain Analysis
  • Alternative Data Storage
  • Explicit Dependency Trees
Bitcoin Magazine spoke with Earls with some more in depth questions about some of those items:


Bitcoin Magazine: What proof of concept or scalability testing have you done for the VM?

Jordan Earls: We have a very rough proof of concept we completed a few months ago where we integrated a prototype x86 VM into the Qtum network. This success is what led us to pursue this plan. We are confident that the x86 VM will be more scalable than the EVM, but we are thus far unsure how much. We are designing the VM and all of its APIs and other aspects to be scalable. We are making a big shift in the smart contract world where we actually reward smart-contract developers (in the form of cheaper gas costs) for limiting the features their smart contract has access to, and we are confident it will be faster than current EVM technology.  

Bitcoin Magazine: What are you doing to address the problem with x86 programming in general, where they assume near infinite memory and CPU time being available?

Jordan Earls: We think smart contract development crossed with this x86 paradigm will resemble something similar to real-time or embedded programming, where there are various constraints that developers must always be optimizing for.  

We foresee the same kind of design optimizations happening in the smart contract world as happen in the embedded world, and, for the first time, Qtum's blockchain will allow for these small optimizations to be directly rewarded for all users of the smart contract.

We know these optimizations are not cheap for smart contract developers to spend their time on, so we need to reward developers for taking such steps to keep the Qtum blockchain running smoothly and efficiently.

Bitcoin Magazine: What are some of the advantages with the Standard Library that will help keep smart contract code tight?

Jordan Earls: Currently in Ethereum, if you want to do a simple operation, like testing if two pieces of text are equal, you need to write your own code to do it.

This is a problem for a number of reasons: Developers in a secure context should rely on existing code that's been tested and verified, if possible. A naive implementation of this function will be slow, but a more complex and optimized implementation could have security problems. Deploying this code with your contract means another 100 bytes or so of wasted code that every node in the ecosystem now has to worry about.

Qtum will provide a standard library of functions that contract developers can rely on to have reasonable gas costs, secure and validated implementation and an easy to use interface. This means less bloat on the blockchain, easier to write and understand smart contracts and even a faster blockchain (since these functions can be optimized with native code).

Bitcoin Magazine: What about executable size? These x86 programs tend to be quite large.

Jordan Earls: This is true but also misleading. If I write a C program that just prints "hello world," about 8kB of that is going to just be the number "0." This is because x86 processors (as well as many others including ARM) benefit from a thing called "alignment." The important thing for Qtum is that the wasted bytes doing alignment can be discarded without performance impact. This immediately brings down that C program build to ~1-2kB.

We can reduce even more because we don't need all the baggage required by a standard program for Windows: We have our own "operating system" for smart contracts, so only a dozen or so bytes of actual setup code is wasted.

We have done some actual physical tests with these configurations to compare what an x86 smart contract might look like compared to an EVM smart contract. Our findings indicate that x86 programs are around 10–20 percent smaller than their EVM equivalent and, in many cases, significantly more so. And this was done without the standard library concept that was discussed above. We are not worried about getting usable executable sizes from x86 programs.

Bitcoin Magazine: So the language compiler has to be modified to support the VM? What kinds of modifications?

Jordan Earls: Only minor modifications need to be made. The language compilers do support our x86 VM already, but the Qtum smart contract environment is different from a traditional operating system like Windows or Linux. So, basically, the only big modification we have to make is to tell the language how to communicate with our smart-contract operating system.

Bitcoin Magazine: Is QTUM going to provide language packages or libraries to support the VM so people can just use those?

Jordan Earls: C and C++ will be the first languages we support "out of the box" because they tend to be the easiest due to the way they are designed. We also plan to support Rust. Go should easily be possible. For interpreted languages like Python and Perl, it becomes more complex and we must do research to ensure that they can be supported in an efficient and secure manner.

Bitcoin Magazine: Is this going to impact the development of your eSML smart contract language?

Jordan Earls: We are continuing to research the eSML approach and will decide at a later point if it is still a requirement to achieve our goals. We prefer to not do more work if it won't have a tangible benefit to our ecosystem.


Helping to support all this growth is the partnership announced on January 4, 2018, with Chinese video portal giant, Baofeng. With the help of Baofeng, the Qtum network will be boosted to 50,000 full network nodes, making it the most decentralized blockchain platform with the largest number of nodes with more than Bitcoin and Ethereum combined. The increased size of the Qtum system should provide for improved security, stability and speed, all of which will provide a solid base for the upcoming x86 VM later this year.

Earls projects that the x86 will be integrated into the Qtum main network in Q3 of 2018 but hopes to have a prototype to test with before Q2.


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 17 January 2018 | 12:09 pm

Bitcoin tests important price level after dramatic plunge - CNBC


CNBC

Bitcoin tests important price level after dramatic plunge
CNBC
He uses Tradeview data. "So if the bounce is 'feeble' off the 100-day, the 200-day is usually the likely spot. We'll see if the 50-day that was support for the past year turns into resistance," he said. The 200-day moving average is around $7,100 on ...

and more »

Posted on 17 January 2018 | 12:08 pm

Goldman's Jafari: Watch For Signs of Price Base Just Below $10K

A new analysis by Goldman Sachs technician Sheba Jafari released a new paper claiming bitcoin could recover just below $10,000.

Posted on 17 January 2018 | 12:00 pm

Visa CEO: We won't process transactions in bitcoin, because it's not a payment system - CNBC


CNBC

Visa CEO: We won't process transactions in bitcoin, because it's not a payment system
CNBC
Bitcoin, the world's largest cryptocurrency, is not really money and Visa won't touch it, the credit card giant's CEO told CNBC. "I don't view it as payment system player," Alfred Kelly said in an interview recorded on Tuesday at the National Retail ...
Retailers retreat from bitcoin feverAxios

all 3 news articles »

Posted on 17 January 2018 | 11:46 am

Bitcoin's Breach of $10000 Triggers Sell Signal for Technicians - Bloomberg


Bloomberg

Bitcoin's Breach of $10000 Triggers Sell Signal for Technicians
Bloomberg
Ross also advises caution on crypto cousins Litecoin and Ethereum, which have mirrored Bitcoin's fall. He recommends keeping an eye on Litecoin's 100-day moving average of $142 and Ethereum's 50-day moving average of $772. The calls represent an about ...

and more »

Posted on 17 January 2018 | 11:26 am

Bitcoin plunges below $10000 in worst 2-day rout in 3 years - Financial Times


Financial Times

Bitcoin plunges below $10000 in worst 2-day rout in 3 years
Financial Times
Bitcoin plunged below $10,000 on Wednesday, marking its worst two-day rout in three years, only hours before the first monthly futures contracts on the controversial cryptocurrency expired. The most widely held digital currency has fallen almost a ...
As the first bitcoin futures expire, price and volume concerns ariseCNBC

all 7 news articles »

Posted on 17 January 2018 | 11:10 am

Israel Releases Draft Plan for Taxing ICOs

Israel's government has published draft circular outlining possible approaches to taxing the proceeds of initial coin offerings (ICOs).

Posted on 17 January 2018 | 10:45 am

The dollar will eventually run like bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, venture capitalist Joyce Kim predicts - CNBC


CNBC

The dollar will eventually run like bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, venture capitalist Joyce Kim predicts
CNBC
That can be upgraded," she added. Kim, also co-founder of digital currency payments platform Stellar, spoke after the price of bitcoin after a number of other major digital assets fell sharply this week on concern about a crackdown on virtual ...

Posted on 17 January 2018 | 9:27 am

The First Blockchain ETFs Have Launched on the Nasdaq Exchange

Reality Shares Advisors and Amplify Trust ETF launched the first blockchain-based exchange-traded funds on Nasdaq today.

Posted on 17 January 2018 | 8:00 am

Bitcoin's Price Drops Below $10,000 for First Time Since Early December

The price of bitcoin has fallen below $10,000 for the first time since early December.

Posted on 17 January 2018 | 7:26 am

Enterprise Ethereum Alliance Appoints First Executive Director

The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance has announced the appointment of its first executive director.

Posted on 17 January 2018 | 7:00 am

As Bitcoin's Slide Continues, Prices Look Towards $8K

Bitcoin is still dropping and might soon test near-$8,000 levels, chart analysis indicates.

Posted on 17 January 2018 | 6:00 am

Bitcoin dips below $10000 for first time since December - BBC News


BBC News

Bitcoin dips below $10000 for first time since December
BBC News
Bitcoin has traded below $10,000 for the first time since early December. The value of one bitcoin fell to $9,958 (£7,222) before making a slight recovery, according to the price index run by the news site Coindesk. That represents a drop of nearly 50 ...
Bitcoin Plunges to $10000, Half Its Peak Price, as Investor Fears BlossomFortune
Bitcoin Watchers Are Blaming the Slump on the MoonBloomberg
Bitcoin drops 50 percent from its peak value as it falls below $10000The Verge
Barron's -CNBC -Engadget -Bloomberg
all 918 news articles »

Posted on 17 January 2018 | 5:28 am

To Understand Bitcoin, I Studied Karl Marx

While both were great minds, neither Marx nor Satoshi had the power to predict how their ideas would influence others or be implemented.

Posted on 17 January 2018 | 5:00 am

Proposed US Task Force Would Tackle Crypto Use in Terrorism Financing

A new bill introduced by a U.S. lawmaker calls for the formation of a task force to combat the use of cryptocurrencies in financing terrorism.

Posted on 17 January 2018 | 3:00 am

Did Bitcoin Just Burst? How It Compares to History's Big Bubbles ... - Bloomberg


Bloomberg

Did Bitcoin Just Burst? How It Compares to History's Big Bubbles ...
Bloomberg
Bitcoin's recent wobbles have given fresh urgency to a question that's gripped market observers for much of the past year: Will the cryptocurrency go down as one of history's most infamous bubbles, alongside tulipmania and the dot-com craze? The ...

and more »

Posted on 17 January 2018 | 2:25 am

The Sidechains Breakthrough Almost Everyone in Bitcoin Missed

Though it's garnered little attention, "non-interactive proofs of proofs of work" may clear a roadblock for sidechains, a potential "altcoin killer."

Posted on 16 January 2018 | 10:00 pm

A Note to CoinDesk Readers

On Tuesday, we had technical difficulties that prevented us from posting for several hours. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Posted on 16 January 2018 | 5:49 pm

Bitcoin Price Analysis: Bitcoin Sees Lower Lows as It Drops Below Historic Support

Bitcoin Price Analysis

Over the last couple months, we’ve been tracking a potential Distribution Trading Range at the top of bitcoin’s market cycle. Today, we have received higher confidence that bitcoin may have topped out. At around 3:00 p.m. EST, bitcoin broke through the bottom of the trading range and is now seeing aggressive selling as long positions begin to close and short positions begin to open. Today marks the first day of lower lows since bitcoin topped out around $20,000:

Figure_1.JPGFigure 1: BTC-USD, 4-Hour Candles, Distribution Trading Range

Bitcoin managed to blow through several milestones including both the parabolic and the linear trends. The linear and parabolic trends have been guiding trends for the last three years, and today bitcoin has broken parabolic support. It could get ugly:

Figure_2.JPGFigure 2: BTC-USD, 1-Day Candles, Macro Trend

What was once strong support has now become resistance as bitcoin scrambles to find a bottom. We can see quite clearly there is a line of support around $10,000 where the macro Fibonacci retracement values for the 50% retracement line exist. Any downward continuation will likely be supported in the interim. However, it’s fair to say that bitcoin is beginning a new downward trend. As stated earlier, today marks the first day of lower highs and lower lows — i.e., a downtrend.

So where does the bottom lie? That remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that there was a systematic distribution of bitcoin from large players to the masses; and now we are beginning the next phase of the market cycle — the markdown phase. Will it be a sustained markdown? It’s too early to tell at the moment, so we will have to play it by ear.

Bitcoin is a long-time fan of violent drops and violent bounces, so it’s unclear how this downtrend will terminate. For now, I highly recommend traders stay away from smaller time frames and focus more on the macro view of things.

As we come to test the macro 50% retracement values, it’s important to view how the market responds and see how the volume reacts. If we don’t see strong follow-through on a bounce from the 50%, there could be a strong bearish continuation in its future. Volume is your friend and confirms the trend. If you don’t see strong volume following an upward bounce, it’s entirely possible you could get stuck in a bull trap — and no one wants that.

Bull traps are designed to lure aggressive bulls into long positions prematurely to create liquidity for the bearish investors in the market. If you are unsure of what direction the market is moving, there is nothing wrong with sitting out.

Summary:

  1. A potential markdown phase is under way as bitcoin sees aggressive selling pressure.

  2. Today marks the first day of lower lows in weeks and marks a potential macro downtrend.

  3. Support will likely be found at the $10,000 values, which coincide with the 50% macro Fibonacci retracement values.


Trading and investing in digital assets like bitcoin and ether is highly speculative and comes with many risks. This analysis is for informational purposes and should not be considered investment advice. Statements and financial information on Bitcoin Magazine and BTC Media related sites do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BTC Media and should not be construed as an endorsement or recommendation to buy, sell or hold. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 16 January 2018 | 3:18 pm

Most of the World's Biggest Cryptocurrencies Are Down Today

It's been a day of major losses so far across the cryptocurrency markets, with the top 20 all in the red and a big chunk knocked off the total value.

Posted on 16 January 2018 | 10:36 am

Metropolitan Bank Denies Policy Change on Crypto Wire Transfers

Metropolitan Bank released a statement stating that it had a "long-standing policy" barring crypto-related wire transfers outside the U.S.

Posted on 16 January 2018 | 9:20 am

Mark Cuban: Dallas Mavericks to Accept Bitcoin, Ether 'Next Season'

The Dallas Mavericks will begin accepting cryptocurrency payments during their next season, according to owner and investor Mark Cuban.

Posted on 16 January 2018 | 8:50 am

Ripple Price Drops to 2.5-Week Low, Eyes Sideways Trading

Ripple's XRP token fell to a 2.5-week low today, and is looking at a more or less sideways movement in the short-term, chart analysis suggests.

Posted on 16 January 2018 | 8:00 am

BlackWallet Hacked: Warns Stellar Community Not to Log In to Site

Stellar Wallet “BlackWallet” Hacked

On January 13, an unknown hacker(s) hijacked the DNS server for BlackWallet.co, a web-based wallet for the Stellar Lumens cryptocurrency, and redirected it to their own server.

Security researcher Kevin Beaumont, who analyzed the code, said, “The DNS hijack of Blackwallet injected code, if you had over 20 Lumens it pushes them to a different wallet.” It is estimated that nearly 700,000 Lumens (XLM) were stolen, with a current value of over $400,000.

Warnings and alerts not to log into the BlackWallet site have been sent out by the BlackWallet team and other XLM users via Stellar Community, Galactic Talk, Reddit, Twitter and GitHub. Unfortunately, users continued to log in for some time, and thus, saw their funds vanish from their wallets.

Following the address of the attacker, it is possible to track the movement of funds from BlackWallet to the Bittrex exchange, where they are likely to convert the funds and cover their tracks. BlackWallet has since messaged Bittrex in an effort to coordinate with the exchange to block the hacker’s account.

In a statement on Reddit, the BlackWallet admin is suggesting that people move their funds to a new wallet using the Stellar account viewer. At the time of this writing, the BlackWallet website is returning a 404 error. Bitcoin Magazine will update this story as it evolves.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 15 January 2018 | 2:31 pm

St. Louis Fed: In Some Ways, Bitcoin Is More Robust Than Many Fiat Currencies

StLouisCrypto.jpg

In a recent article on the basics of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies (PDF), Aleksander Berentsen and Fabian Schär of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis cover the usefulness of bitcoin and other alternative cryptoassets.

Throughout the article, Berentsen and Schär make the case that cryptoassets are well suited to become a new, important asset class. The duo goes as far to say that bitcoin is, in some ways, more robust than many fiat currencies.

Cryptocurrencies Are a Welcome Addition to the Current Currency System

Surprisingly, Berentsen and Schär are of the belief that cryptocurrencies are a welcome addition to the current currency ecosystem. While some critics claim bitcoin’s price should drop to zero because there is no intrinsic value found in the cryptoasset, the co-authors of the article from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis point out that this argument also applies to the various government-issued currencies around the world.

“Bitcoin is not the only currency that has no intrinsic value,” states the article. “State monopoly currencies, such as the U.S. dollar, the euro, and the Swiss franc, have no intrinsic value either. They are fiat currencies created by government decree. The history of state monopoly currencies is a history of wild price swings and failures. This is why decentralized cryptocurrencies are a welcome addition to the existing currency system.”

Berentsen and Schär also cover the possibility of Bitcoin’s consensus rules eventually being changed to allow for an increase in the supply of bitcoin tokens. They take the view that this scenario is very unlikely to unfold.

Even though in theory it is possible to increase the Bitcoin supply, in practice, such a change is very unlikely because a large part of the Bitcoin community would strongly oppose such an attempt.

The authors go on to point out that this sort of change in monetary policy may be more likely in a fiat currency protocol.

“Undesirable changes in fiat currency protocols are very common and many times have led to the complete destruction of the value of the fiat currency at hand,” says the article. “It could be argued that, in some ways, the Bitcoin protocol is more robust than many of the existing fiat currency protocols. Only time will tell.”

Bitcoin Is the Most Apparent Application of Blockchain Technology

In addition to offering some basic information on the topic of cryptoassets, the article from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis also provides a general outlook on the future of blockchain technology.

According to Berentsen and Schär, the most apparent application of this technology right now is the use of bitcoin as a new type of asset. The duo see cryptoassets, such as bitcoin, emerging as their own asset class and having the potential to develop into an interesting instrument for investment and diversification.

“Bitcoin itself could over time assume a similar role as gold,” says the article.

The paper also covers applications of blockchain technology in the areas of colored coins, smart contracts and data integrity. The Ethereum network is specifically pointed out as a leader in the area of smart contracts.

Risks of Blockchain Technology

The article from Berentsen and Schär also covers some of the risks associated with cryptoassets.

Minority splits from major cryptoasset networks, such as Bitcoin Cash (Bcash) and Ethereum Classic, are the first risk pointed out in the article, but the downsides of these sorts of spin-off assets are not discussed.

One could argue that these sorts of minority forks create uncertainty around the value of a particular cryptoasset, although this is also the case with the creation of new altcoins more generally.

The paper mentions excessive power consumption as another potential risk of blockchain technology, but Berentsen and Schär do not necessarily agree that proof-of-work mining is wasteful.

“There are those that criticize Bitcoin and assert that a centralized accounting system is more efficient because consensus can be attained without the allocation of massive amounts of computational power,” says the article. “From our perspective, however, the situation is not so clear-cut. Centralized payment systems are also expensive. Besides infrastructure and operating costs, one would have to calculate the explicit and implicit costs of a central bank. Salary costs should be counted among the explicit costs and the possibility of fraud in the currency monopoly among the implicit costs.”

In the past, “Mastering Bitcoin” author Andreas Antonopoulos has argued that the power consumed by Bitcoin miners is “used” rather than “wasted.”

The last risk associated with blockchain technology found in the article is bitcoin’s price volatility. Berentsen and Schär claim that a rigid, predetermined supply of bitcoin is not a desirable monetary policy in the sense that it will not lead to a stable currency.

“If a constant supply of money meets a fluctuating aggregate demand, the result is fluctuating prices,” explains the article. “In government-run fiat currency systems, the central bank aims to adjust the money supply in response to changes in aggregate demand for money in order to stabilize the price level. In particular, the Federal Reserve System has been explicitly founded ‘to provide an elastic currency’ to mitigate the price fluctuations that arise from changes in the aggregate demand for the U.S. dollar. Since such a mechanism is absent in the current Bitcoin protocol, it is very likely that the Bitcoin unit will display much higher short-term price fluctuations than many government-run fiat currency units.”

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 15 January 2018 | 11:04 am

Credit Suisse Argues Irrational Exuberance Around ICOs Indicates Bitcoin Bubble

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In a paper written in the fall of 2017 and published on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) on Friday, January 12, 2018, Credit Suisse’s Dietmar Peetz and Gregory Mall argue that the boom in the initial coin offering (ICO) market is the clearest indicator of a bubble in bitcoin.

Zurich-based Credit Suisse is one of the 40 largest banks in the world with more than $800 billion in total assets, according to Standard & Poor.

According to Peetz and Mall, bitcoin should not be seen as a currency. Instead, the Credit Suisse duo places bitcoin into a new, distinct asset class.

The paper notes that bitcoin’s epic price run, which started in September 2015 and accelerated further in July 2017, is obviously not sustainable over the long term. However, it also adds, “There are arguments for a continuation of this trend for some time.”

The ICO Boom

ICOs were all the rage in 2017, and these new mixtures of seed investing and crowdfunding raised more than $5 billion throughout the year (according to Token Data).

The basic idea with an ICO is that a company or project will create a new token (usually via the ERC-20 standard on Ethereum), which will have some sort of utility on a platform that is either in development or already available.

Whether it makes sense to hold these sorts of digital tokens as investments or speculations is still up for debate.

“These [ICO tokens] often trade at penny-stock prices, experiencing dramatic price increases within hours and are often trading at very low liquidity,” says the paper from Peetz and Mall. “Most of these companies merely offer a so-called ‘white paper,’ basically a business plan that explains which product a company wants to develop in the future and how it wants to market it. Most of these promised projects are praised as having huge potential but are extremely uncertain to be actually developed.”

Having said this, the paper adds that “ICO companies” may continue to raise large sums of money over the short-to-medium term. As supporting evidence for this claim, Peetz and Mall point to the fact that the amounts raised from ICOs increased after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission began to caution investors over the summer.

The paper also compares the irrational exuberance around ICOs to the dotcom bubble; however, Peetz and Mall note a key difference in that the dotcom boom at least had companies selling real goods and recording cash flows.

Questions remain as to whether there is any direct correlation between a token’s price and the level of success achieved by a platform connected to the token.

“Most investors acknowledge the bubble situation,” the paper continues. “However, they argue that central bank’s easy money will help the bubble mania to grow bigger and bigger, thus attracting even more investors (speculators) looking for easy profits. They remain bullish because of the Greater Fool Theory.”

Authorities May Prevent Bitcoin from Becoming a Currency

While some people use bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies simply because they have no other option available to them for a particular type of transaction, Peetz and Mall argue that bitcoin is not a transactional currency — mainly due to its inability to act as a reliable unit of account.

Although the paper indicates bitcoin volatility has declined from its peak from 2014 and could fall further through the financialization of the asset, Peetz and Mall also argue a currency cannot work as a clearing mechanism for payments if it cannot be accurately valued.

“The enormously high bitcoin price volatility makes it unsuitable for a reliable day-to-day exchange medium,” says the paper.

In addition to the lack of price stability and time-tested store of value properties in bitcoin, Peetz and Mall also point out a multitude of reasons as to why, in their view, widespread use of the intrinsically-deflationary asset would be detrimental to the overall economy. For this reason, the paper argues authorities may be emboldened to prevent bitcoin from becoming a currency.

“Based on historical precedents, it is not unthinkable that in times of economic or financial crisis, political and regulatory pressure on an unwanted currency would increase, possibly in a similar manner as in the U.S. in 1934, when the Gold Reserve Act of 1934 was ratified, nationalizing all gold and subsequently revaluing it by 69% in U.S. dollar terms,” says the paper.

Of course, Bitcoin was designed to be resistant to government coercion — a sort of BitTorrent for digital, free-market money.

The Bitcoin Bubble Could Continue

So what happens next? According to Peetz and Mall, the bitcoin bubble could continue for some time.

“We believe the most realistic scenario for bitcoin, based on the premise of the currency not being banned by major regulatory agencies, is that it will continue to rise in price in the short to medium term with increased institutional demand prior to the initial hype fading,” says the paper. “At that juncture, bitcoin’s monetization or return prospect realities will begin to set in and, if history is any guide, eventually dominate valuation.”

From Peetz and Mall’s perspectives, the financialization of bitcoin is a symptom of a bubble in money available for investment and the unavailability of productive, real-economy investments.

“Borrowing money for free and having easy access to capital and leverage (for big entities) is the fuel asset bubbles crave,” says the paper. “By aggressively mitigating the effects of the 2008 financial crisis via unparalleled global monetary debasement extending for nearly a decade, central banks have brought us today’s ‘bubbles everywhere’ investment landscape.”

In terms of specific events that could trigger an end to the bitcoin bubble, the paper mentions a crash in the equities market or a potential ban on the possession of bitcoin as two possible scenarios.


Further Reading: Op Ed: Bitcoin is not a Bubble; It's in an S-Curve and It's Just Getting Started

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 15 January 2018 | 10:57 am

Nationwide Insurance Rolls Out Proof of Insurance on the RiskBlock Blockchain

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The Institutes has announced a new blockchain framework called RiskBlock to provide more streamlined and secure proof of insurance. Nationwide Insurance is the first company to begin rolling out product on the platform.

RiskBlock is the first blockchain framework delivered from the newly formed RiskBlock Alliance and the first of its kind that is designed specifically for the risk management and insurance industry. The Institutes RiskBlock Alliance is an industry-led, insurance-focused consortium that developed the RiskBlock framework.

RiskBlock will provide insurers with real-time verification of insurance coverage; allow law enforcement to verify proof of insurance efficiently without relying on paper forms; provide insurers with a streamlined and cost-effective way to offer proof of insurance; and, in the near future, will allow insured clients to share trusted, third-party verified proof of insurance with a click on their mobile devices.

“The current way that drivers provide proof of insurance is cumbersome and uncertain,” said Christopher G. McDaniel, executive director of The Institutes RiskBlock Alliance in a statement. “Sharing proof of insurance through blockchain is key to streamlining the process of providing proof and marks the start of our efforts to revolutionize many other aspects of the insurance industry. Our collaboration with Nationwide is the first step toward a better overall system.”

The membership of the Alliance includes over 30 companies as members, ranging from the top 10 carriers to brokers and reinsurers. Nationwide Insurance is the first to use the platform in a pilot program to simplify real-time insurance coverage verification, eliminating paper insurance cards and providing a mobile app for real-time verification. ac

The coverage verification is an initial use case and the Alliance anticipates its members will be able to better serve policyholders and reduce costs by streamlining claim payments and premiums, reducing fraud through centralized recording of claims and improving acquisition of new policyholders by validating accuracy of customer data.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 15 January 2018 | 8:42 am

Making Voting, Elections Both Secure and Accessible with Blockchain Technology

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Voatz, a startup based in Boston, MA, promises to dispel some of the biggest challenges associated with voting: access, security, transparency and efficiency. The company plans to achieve this goal by combining internet-based voting with blockchain technology.

What is Voatz?

Voatz enables voters to make their voices heard conveniently by allowing mobile voting via any smartphone or tablet connected to the internet. The platform integrates blockchain technology and cutting-edge security to maintain the integrity of the electoral process.

“Voatz tackles two of the core challenges in voting –– low participation in local elections and the need for better citizen engagement. Its mobile-first solution is poised to be a category leader, democratizing voting across government, corporate, academic, and union elections," explained Julie Lein, managing partner of the Urban Innovation Fund.

Accessibility and Security via Blockchain Technology

Unlike current voting systems, Voatz can ensure tamper-proof record keeping, identity verification and proper auditing by incorporating a secure, immutable blockchain. Therefore, citizens on the Voatz platform will have virtual certainty of the accuracy of their internet-based voting results.

Alongside concerns over voter fraud and security, conversations around voter accessibility are focusing attention on underrepresented citizens who often lack proper forms of voter ID, such as the poor or the elderly, and those who live in remote areas with limited access to proper infrastructure services.

Voatz co-founder and CEO Nimit Sawhney told Bitcoin Magazine that Voatz is working to connect disenfranchised citizens so that the platform plans to remain accessible to all, regardless of geography or socioeconomic status.

“Aside from major government-issued IDs such as driver’s licenses, state IDs or passports, Voatz has experience using the ten different kinds of official documents for the purposes of verifying a voter’s identity.”

Sawhney noted that Voatz has started testing its secured tablet ballot stations in hospitals and elder-care centers. He explained that the Voatz platform also removes friction in the registration process, especially in states where “motor voter” (the National Voter Registration Act) is available.

The Effect of Voting Technology on Disenfranchised Citizens

Sawhney explained that the Voatz platform is designed to make it easier for disenfranchised voters to participate. The platform is flexible and meant to simplify current barriers to voting.

“Voters who are willing to go through the initial security/vetting process can use their own devices. If a voter doesn’t have a compatible device, he or she can use certain shared devices such as the Voatz Tablet Ballot Station to vote in person after going through a security verification process.”

In the case of public elections, Sawhney notes that traditional voting methods will remain available as well, and that Voatz is just another, more convenient option.

The Future of Voatz and Democracy

Voatz technology has been incorporated in pilot programs by more than 70,000 voters in elections and voting-related events in multiple jurisdictions. State political parties, leading universities, labor unions and nonprofits have successfully used the Voatz platform. Voatz is also in the process of deploying its technology for town-meeting voting in Massachusetts.

The Voatz team recently completed the 2017 Techstars and MassChallenge startup accelerator programs in Boston. For their cutting-edge system, the team has been awarded the 2017 Harvard SECON Prize, the 2017 MassChallenge Gold Award and the 2016 MIT Startup Spotlight Favorite Prize.

On Monday, Voatz announced a $2.2 million seed funding round led by Overstock.com’s subsidiary, Medici Ventures. Jonathan Johnson, president of Medici Ventures, shared his enthusiasm for the project, and vision for the future of democracy:

“The Voatz team has developed a leading solution to usher in an era of greater efficiency and transparency in voting. Democracy will benefit greatly from critical improvements [that] blockchain technology can bring to voting systems.”

The Voatz platform is currently invite-only and will be accessible to a wider audience in the coming weeks.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 11 January 2018 | 10:02 am

Telegram’s Privacy-Focused User Base Could Become TON Blockchain’s Killer App

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In December 2017, an interesting rumor surfaced: According to “sources familiar with the matter,” the messaging app Telegram, very popular among crypto-enthusiasts for its strong encryption and privacy features, would launch its own blockchain platform and cryptocurrency.

On January 8, 2018, TechCrunch reported that several unnamed sources had confirmed the news and quoted a secret Telegram white paper. According to TechCrunch, “the potential for a cryptocurrency inside a widely adopted messaging app is enormous.”

Of course, a leaked executive summary of the white paper is now available. The document has been shared by Cryptovest, and its authenticity has been independently confirmed by TNW. The 23-page executive summary often refers to an unreleased technical white paper which, according to TechCrunch, has 132 pages.

“This paper outlines a vision for a new cryptocurrency and an ecosystem capable of meeting the

needs of hundreds of millions of consumers, including 200 million Telegram users,” reads the white paper. “Launching in 2018, this cryptocurrency will be based on a multi-blockchain proof-of-stake system — TON (Telegram Open Network, after 2021 The Open Network) — designed to host a new generation of cryptocurrencies and decentralized applications.”

Scaling and Adoption

According to Telegram, while cryptocurrencies and other blockchain-based technologies have the potential to make the world more secure and self-governed, no consensus-backed currency has been able to appeal to the mass market and reach mainstream adoption. Despite the utility of Bitcoin and Ethereum, “there is no current standard cryptocurrency used for the regular exchange of value in the daily lives of ordinary people.” This is what the TON project wants to change. According to Telegram, the world needs an electronic “decentralized counterpart to everyday money — a truly mass-market cryptocurrency.”

Scaling transaction throughput to the tens of thousands of transactions per second supported by major credit card networks such as Visa and Mastercard is an important requirement for a mass-market cryptocurrency. While Bitcoin and Ethereum developers are working toward achieving higher throughput, the Telegram white paper notes that Bitcoin and Ethereum are currently limited to a maximum of only seven transactions per second for Bitcoin and 15 transactions per second for Ethereum, resulting in insufficient speeds and higher transaction costs. The white paper does not seem to take second-layer protocols into account, however.

Existing cryptocurrencies face other roadblocks as well, according to Telegram. For example, they are still too complicated for average merchants and consumers, the demand for crypto-assets comes mainly from investors rather than consumers, and there’s no critical mass for the ecosystem to grow and “eventually become adopted by hundreds of millions of users.”

“Telegram will use its expertise in encrypted distributed data storage to create TON, a fast and

inherently scalable multi-blockchain architecture,” states the white paper. “TON can be regarded as a decentralized supercomputer and value transfer system. By combining minimum transaction time with maximum security, TON can become a VISA/Mastercard alternative for the new decentralized economy.”

The Tech Specs

The TON blockchain will consist of a master chain and (eventually) a huge number (2**92) of accompanying blockchains (shards) that can dynamically split and merge to accommodate changes in load and achieve optimal throughput. TON will use a proof-of-stake approach based on a variant of the Byzantine Fault Tolerant protocol and instant hypercube routing to partition the workload among shards. Network protocols for storage, TOR-like privacy and micropayments will be released after the TON blockchain core.

Of course, TON will be fully integrated in the Telegram messaging network. According to the white paper, this will permit leveraging Telegram’s massive user base and developed ecosystem to provide a clear path to cryptocurrencies for millions of people, with light wallets implemented in Telegram applications. The white paper notes that 84 percent of blockchain-based projects have an active Telegram community, more than all other chat applications combined, which makes Telegram the “cryptocurrency world’s preferred messaging app.”

According to the roadmap in the white paper, a Minimal Viable Test Network for TON will be launched in Q2 2018. Then, after a testing phase and a security audit, a stable version of TON and a Telegram wallet will be deployed in Q4 2018.

Funding with Grams

The TON coins will be called Grams. To fund TON, Telegram will launch a token sale in Q1 2018. Initially, 44 percent of the total supply (2.2 billion) of Grams will be sold at a price that will start at $0.10 per Gram and gradually increase, with each Gram priced one billionth higher than the previous one, reaching $1 per Gram once 2.2 billion tokens have been sold. Based on these projections, it seems that Telegram’s token sale could easily become the biggest in history.

Of the total supply of Grams, 52 percent will be retained by the TON Reserve “to protect the nascent cryptocurrency from speculative trading and to maintain flexibility at the early stages of the evolution of the system,” and the remaining 4 percent will be reserved for the development team.

According to current plans, the token sale will use a Simple Agreement for Future Tokens (SAFT), to be converted 1:1 to native TON Grams after the deployment of the TON Blockchain.

Telegram wants to serve as a launch pad for TON, but it plans eventually to transfer ownership and governance of the TON system to a non-profit TON Foundation. “By 2021, the initial TON vision and architecture will have been implemented and deployed,” states the white paper. “TON will then let go of the ‘Telegram’ element in its name and become ‘The Open Network.’ From then on, the continuous evolution of the TON Blockchain will be maintained by the TON Foundation.”

The TON Killer App: A Privacy-Focused User Base

TON’s killer app is Telegram’s ability to leverage the enthusiasm of millions of cryptocurrency fans among the app’s 200 million users. At the same time, however, it’s worth noting that the greater population doesn’t really care much about encryption or cryptocurrencies. Many other messaging apps, such as Facebook’s Messenger and Whatsapp, are much more popular than Telegram.

Telegram is independent, self-funded and privacy-focused. The popularity of Telegram among cryptocurrency enthusiasts can be explained by the fact that the messaging app was founded “by libertarians to preserve freedom through encryption.” These features make it more attractive than other platforms, like Messenger or Whatsapp, to users who feel strongly about privacy protection.

It’s then interesting to speculate about possible moves of Facebook toward developing a cryptocurrency integrated with its social network and messaging platform.

In a recent post, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg notes that, contrary to the once widespread belief that technology could be a decentralizing force that puts more power in people's hands, it now appears that technology’s net effect is that of centralizing power in the hands of large corporations and governments.

“There are important counter-trends to this — like encryption and cryptocurrency — that take power from centralized systems and put it back into people's hands,” says Zuckerberg. “But they come with the risk of being harder to control. I'm interested to go deeper and study the positive and negative aspects of these technologies and how best to use them in our services.”

In as speech by FBI Director Christopher Wray on January 9, 2018, to the International Conference on Cyber Security, he highlighted his concerns over encryption, pointing out that last year, 7,800 devices were rendered inaccessible to law enforcement.

“This problem impacts our investigations across the board — human trafficking, counterterrorism, counterintelligence, gangs, organized crime, child exploitation and cyber,” he stated.

He called on the private sector to find ways that would allow them to “respond to lawfully issued court orders, in a way that is consistent with both the rule of law and strong cybersecurity.” It is these sorts of access measures that Zuckerberg will probably be considering.

While it doesn’t seem plausible that Facebook could become a staunch champion of privacy like Telegram, it will definitely be interesting to watch Facebook’s moves in the cryptocurrency space.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 10 January 2018 | 11:08 am

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January 17, 2018 -
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