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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.

Bitcoin Latest News

Bitcoin and pot help fuel 'frenetic activity' in retail investing: TD Ameritrade CEO - CNBC


CNBC

Bitcoin and pot help fuel 'frenetic activity' in retail investing: TD Ameritrade CEO
CNBC
Bitcoin and pot help fuel 'frenetic activity' in retail investing: TD Ameritrade CEO. There has been a "spectacular" increase in retail investor activity, thanks in part to cryptocurrencies and marijuana-related securities, TD Ameritrade CEO Tim Hockey ...

and more »

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 4:41 pm

South Korea Allows Cryptocurrency Trading for Real-Name Registered Accounts

South Korea Allows Cryptocurrency Trading for Real-Name Registered Accounts

Six Korean banks will begin allowing the simultaneous opening of accounts, deposits and withdrawals, as well as transfers of funds between these accounts and exchanges, beginning on January 30, 2018, but with some new restrictions.

South Korea’s government continues its efforts to rein in the trading of virtual currencies such as ether and bitcoin with a new announcement from South Korea’s Financial Services Commission. Investors will now be required to convert their virtual bank accounts to real-name bank accounts in order to continue trading. Deposits and withdrawals are allowed only between real-name bank accounts and matching crypto-exchange accounts within the same bank. The “real name” registration system for cryptocurrency trading will begin by January 30, 2018, with six banks, which include Nonghyup Bank and Shinhan Bank.

Koreans have found cryptocurrencies to be an attractive high-yield investment option; it is estimated that South Korea accounts for 20 percent of bitcoin trades worldwide. The Korean government has been trying to restrict crypto-trading recently, raiding major exchanges and floating ideas such as bans on domestic trading. A statement from the Office for Government Policy Coordination reflected an increased level of frustration with speculative investing in cryptocurrencies: “[We] can’t let this abnormal situation of speculation go on any longer.”

The South Korean government also said this week that it is planning to collect corporate and income taxes at a collective rate of 24.2 percent from local cryptocurrency exchanges this year.

Today’s announcement is also seen as a method to curb money laundering and fraud in addition to providing what should be a simpler and more acceptable (to the government) method of trading crypto in South Korea.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 4:00 pm

Bitcoin is all the rage — but is it worth the risk? - Washington Post


Washington Post

Bitcoin is all the rage — but is it worth the risk?
Washington Post
Even as the stock market continues to soar, investors are looking for the next great thing that will turn them into the millionaire next door. Many believe bitcoin is that thing. They like the thrill of a new payment system taking hold. So despite ...
Who's Trading Bitcoin? South Korea Wants To KnowNPR
Study: 6 in 10 Americans have heard about BitcoinTechCrunch
Bitcoin, Ethereum or Litecoin: Which is best for you?CNET
CNBC -Investopedia (blog) -The Independent
all 362 news articles »

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 3:01 pm

PhD Student Wins 1 Bitcoin For Cracking DNA Code Challenge - Cointelegraph (Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency and Blockchain News)


Cointelegraph (Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency and Blockchain News)

PhD Student Wins 1 Bitcoin For Cracking DNA Code Challenge
Cointelegraph (Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency and Blockchain News)
A young PhD student has won 1 bitcoin by cracking a code in a tube of DNA - a challenge created at the 2015 World Economic Forum in Davos. University of Antwerp doctoral student Sander Wuyts successfully solved the DNA Storage Bitcoin Challenge before ...

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 1:24 pm

Bitcoin Forking Madness Could Result in 50 Splits This Year - Fortune


Fortune

Bitcoin Forking Madness Could Result in 50 Splits This Year
Fortune
Bitcoin God arrived last month. Bitcoin Pizza was delivered in January. Bitcoin Private's issuance date is… still a secret. They're just a few of the growing stable of so-called forks — a type of spinoff in which developers clone Bitcoin's software ...

and more »

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 1:19 pm

EU Commissioner to Host 'High Level Roundtable' on Cryptocurrencies

A European Union commissioner plans to hold a meeting of public and private sector stakeholders to discuss the impact of cryptocurrencies.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 1:15 pm

Edge's Paul Puey: “Digital Security Will Take Place on the Edges”

EdgeSecure CEO Paul Puey: “Digital Security Will Take Place on the Edges”

Security is one of the hottest topics in today’s ever-evolving digital world. A steady flow of debate continues to take place at tech forums worldwide on topics like encryption, passwords, two-factor authentication, hardware wallets and the like.

As cryptocurrencies and the tools being used to manage them take shape, questions loom about the most efficacious ways to protect both user assets and privacy. One individual who is at the epicenter of this active space is Paul Puey. He is co-founder and CEO of EdgeSecure, a blockchain-inspired, decentralized, open-source, zero-knowledge, global information security solution platform.

Airbitz, his signature enterprise was birthed in 2013 as a bitcoin wallet provider and merchant directory. Today, he’s orchestrating a rebrand of this wallet, now called Edge.

In an interview with Bitcoin Magazine, Puey talks about the tricky balance between new security and privacy measures being introduced and user experience. He also explores an emerging theme called “securing the edges” that forms the basis of his current work

BM: What sort of problems are you attempting to solve these days?

PP: The aspect of cryptocurrency we initially wanted to address revolved around how to effectively use secure keys. That was the impetus behind our decision to build a feature rich, functionally rich wallet at Airbitz over the years. We feel like this has really differentiated us in the whole area of key management.

BM: How does your concept of EdgeSecure fit in here?

PP: Our goal has been to broaden Airbitz by turning our key management standard into a platform for other apps. Even before we rebranded, we were already using the term Edge Security to examine how to come up with a solution that’s different from enterprise security. We view our approach as fundamentally different in the sense that we’re not trying to make a router or server more secure. Rather, our aim is to take data and secure it before it ever hits a device.

In short, we are able to secure data before it goes out onto a network or server. People and their devices are what we are trying to secure. That’s where the term Edge comes from — before a user’s data ends up on their device, goes out to a network, goes onto a server — the encryption of that data happens first, as we say, “on the edges.”

BM: But what about server networks?

PP: We still believe that server security is important. But the visibility and encryption of that data all happens first before the data gets saved, broadcast and sent out on the network or gets onto a server. The concept of making data private and secure to the point where only the user can access it “on the edges” has never been an area of focus for cybersecurity companies.

BM: So, in a nutshell, how does all of this actually work?

PP: It works through a combination of technologies we’ve had for decades but have never been packaged the way we are seeking to. The technology that we’ve developed involves encrypting data on the client side. Most of the software out there doesn’t do this. Rattle off any app that you are running on your computer or your phone, and the data you generate and create is not encrypted, let alone automatically backed up.

BM: Are there other security measures you’ll be employing?

PP: We’ve also added two-factor authentication, although I fundamentally hate it from a user experience point of view. Two-factor is particularly problematic and a poor approach if the second factor for authorizing access is a phone number or email address. It’s better than nothing, but it’s not what one would consider to be “good two-factor.”

BM: Is there a solution to this?

PP: Yes, since 2015, we’ve been employing what we call “one touch, two-factor,” where we take two-factor and make it invisible by baking it in our Airbitz app. This eliminates the need for notification by SMS or email, or via an app like Authy or Google Authenticator.

BM: Can you talk a bit about password recovery? This can be a big issue with crypto users.

PP: It is indeed. Think about this for a moment: If you lose your mobile phone or other type of device, in the Google Authenticator world you have just lost your access completely. So, it’s up to the service you are using to determine a recovery mechanism. What’s interesting is that some services don’t give you one. Others offer recovery via email, SMS, or other similar mechanism which then introduces the same issue. We, therefore, believe in recovery via time lock, where your account is locked for a period of time before you can reset it.

BM: In the meantime, are there ways to prevent users from losing their password in the first place?

PP: There is some psychology involved here. Part of our philosophy at EdgeSecure is to carefully align technology with humanity. This involves a recognition of the fact that we’re all fallible beings, that we do forget passwords. One step we employ to help people not forget passwords is to ask them to voluntarily enter it from time-to-time when they go to access their app. Our intent is to give them the opportunity to change it if they forget it at that moment.

BM: How exactly does this work?

PP: We have an algorithm inside of the app that has what we call a reminder “step off,” based on users actually entering it. This “step off” is how frequently we remind you based on how many times you’ve actually entered the password in the past. Obviously, you can get into the app with a pin, thumbprint and now facial ID. But if you lose that device, the password is the only way to get back on.

BM: This seems like an idea that other tech solution providers will likely want to pick up on.

PP: No doubt. We fashion ourselves as the world’s only password recovery for encrypted data. While that, in and of itself, is a patentable idea, we’ve opted to not patent, in the name of open source, open collaborative effort.

BM: What sort of criticism do you hear from the crypto community?

PP: One of the main ones we get is that we are not as secure as a hardware wallet. These criticisms come from people that often harbor the biggest fears of something that I have yet to see happen, namely, a person losing crypto from a device attack. Sure, you might hear of publications espousing theoretical exploits. But I haven’t seen evidence of a mass exploit with cryptocurrency taken on a device with encrypted data. Yet there are millions, if not billions, of dollars being poured into solutions for that problem.

BM: Aren’t hardware wallets a great resource then for those who have these concerns?

PP: They can be. But it’s important to keep in mind that with hardware wallets, the attack vector isn’t someone getting into it digitally over the internet. Rather, the attack vector is the individual user. I can’t count the number of people who say to me after purchasing a hardware wallet, “Now, I’m secure!” I then ask them, what did you do with the backup information? Often they’ll say, “I put it on Google Drive.” My response: “You did what? That’s the worst thing you could possibly do with the private key.”

BM: Finally, what are your thoughts regarding security vulnerabilities among centralized exchanges?

PP: It’s a big concern, no doubt. Coinbase is obviously the most recognizable example in the crypto world, but I don’t think that their model can survive long term. I’d describe them as a $15 billion piñata for hackers. Yes, they haven’t been hacked and I believe a combination of luck and skill has prevented that from occurring.

BM: So do you believe that it’s just a matter of time before a serious hack occurs?

PP: Let me say this. One of the hardest aspects of centralized security is that it doesn’t scale. In other words, the bigger you get, the harder it is for you to secure. And as the pot becomes bigger, you have to hire and entrust more and more people inside the company. So it takes just one bad apple with access and there goes a lot of user money.

BM: Where do you see this security space headed?

PP: In the next 3–5 years, we should actually see a trend where users will seek out what I call Edge-secured apps, where people can control their own data. These encryption and Edge solutions will be invisible to those using the app, which will go a long way toward enhancing user experience along with security and privacy.


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 1:11 pm

Stripe is ending support for bitcoin payments on April 23 - TechCrunch


TechCrunch

Stripe is ending support for bitcoin payments on April 23
TechCrunch
Payments platform Stripe will stop supporting bitcoin in April, citing the cryptocurrency's volatility and long transaction times, among other things. It's a logical decision, but one likely to anger the easily provoked crypto-crowd. The problems with ...
Stripe will end bitcoin support because customers aren't interestedThe Verge
Stripe Is Dropping BitcoinMotherboard
Stripe is giving up on bitcoin as a payment methodRecode
Inverse -Cointelegraph (Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency and Blockchain News) -Business Insider
all 24 news articles »

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 12:39 pm

Virginia Lawmaker Calls for Crypto Impact Study

A new bill introduced to the Virginia state legislature calls for a study on the impact of cryptocurrencies.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 12:10 pm

Malta Finance Watchdog Pushes Ahead With Crypto Investment Fund Rules

The Malta Financial Services Authority published the feedback it received on its proposed rules for cryptocurrency investment schemes.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 10:35 am

Bitcoin is now higher, reversing earlier losses that brought it below $10000 - CNBC


CNBC

Bitcoin is now higher, reversing earlier losses that brought it below $10000
CNBC
Bitcoin jumped more than 10 percent Tuesday from session lows of below $10,000. The digital currency climbed to $11,358 in midday trading, up 13.9 percent from a low of $9,972.29 hit early Tuesday morning, according to CoinDesk's bitcoin price index ...
Bitcoin Falls Below $10000 As South Korea Worsens Investor FearsForbes

all 4 news articles »

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 9:40 am

TD Ameritrade Cites Blockchain Stock Interest in Q1 Results

TD Ameritrade said that the first quarter of fiscal year 2018 was a strong one, buoyed in part by interested in stocks related to blockchain.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 9:25 am

Goldman Sachs Warns Investors of Bitcoin 'Bubble' in New Report - CoinDesk


CoinDesk

Goldman Sachs Warns Investors of Bitcoin 'Bubble' in New Report
CoinDesk
Goldman Sachs has claimed that bitcoin is a bubble bigger than the dot-com era and the famous Dutch tulip mania. In a research letter to investors, the banking firm's analysts warned about the increase in cryptocurrency values, highlighting the price ...
Ominous Wall Street predictions hammer bitcoin as price decline continuesMashable
This Long-Time Wall Street Analyst Says Bitcoin Could Fall to $1000Fortune
90% of bitcoin's value could get wiped out, Wall Street veteran Peter Boockvar warnsCNBC
Cointelegraph (Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency and Blockchain News)
all 51 news articles »

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 8:37 am

Goldman Sachs Report Warns Investors of Bitcoin 'Bubble'

Goldman Sachs analysts have claimed bitcoin is in a bubble bigger than the dot-com era and the famous Dutch tulip mania.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 8:31 am

Ether Price Outlook Gloomy After Again Falling Below $1K

The price of ether is likely to head south unless the bulls can quickly pull the price back over $1,100, price chart analysis indicates.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 8:00 am

Advertise with Anonymous Ads

Researchers find that one person caused bitcoin to spike from $150 to $1000 in 2013 - CNBC


CNBC

Researchers find that one person caused bitcoin to spike from $150 to $1000 in 2013
CNBC
Within two months, one bitcoin was worth $1,000. Four researchers from the Tandy School of Computer Science at The University of Tulsa and the Berglas School of Economics at Tel Aviv University now believe that this spike was caused by one individual ...
Bitcoin: If currency crashed, plunge would harm its investors but not economyUSA TODAY
The View From the Bitcoin BubbleNew York Times

all 30 news articles »

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 7:41 am

Bitcoin And Gold: An Inverse Relationship - Seeking Alpha


Seeking Alpha

Bitcoin And Gold: An Inverse Relationship
Seeking Alpha
There appears to an inverse relationship between Bitcoin and gold: one moves up, the other moves down; one moves down, the other moves up. Based on Elliott Wave analysis, Bitcoin appears to have made a new low and is poised for a move up in the coming ...

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 6:54 am

Just Because It's Bad for Your Coin Doesn't Mean It's FUD

Not all unwelcome tidings can be dismissed as attempts to sow "fear, uncertainty and doubt," and shooting the messenger won't make the message untrue.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 6:00 am

Advertise with Anonymous Ads

Bear Grip Strengthens as Bitcoin Price Nears $10K

Bitcoin prices look set to explore sub-$10,000 levels, leaving the bulls an uphill task to achieve a reversal.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 5:20 am

Microsoft, Hyperledger, UN Join Blockchain Identity Initiative

Tech giant Microsoft and blockchain alliance Hyperledger and others have joined blockchain-based digital identity initiative, the ID2020 Alliance.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 4:30 am

China's Banking Regulator Pushes Blockchain Adoption for Credit Market

China's banking regulator, the CBRC, thinks the country should double down on its adoption on blockchain technology to improve the credit market.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 3:30 am

Vermont City Pilots Land Registry Record With Blockchain Startup

The City of South Burlington in Vermont is partnering with a blockchain startup to pilot a land registry ledger based on the tech.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 12:00 am

How to Save on Bitcoin's Soaring Fees

Transaction fees are the talk of the bitcoin ecosystem, with many users upset by the rising cost to send funds, but there are simple ways to cut fees.

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 10:09 pm

US Senators Blast Venezuela's Oil-Backed Cryptocurrency Plan

U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R.-Fl) and Robert Menendez (D.-NJ) have denounced Venezuela's planned cryptocurrency in a new letter.

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 3:55 pm

Study Suggests 25 Percent of Bitcoin Users Are Associated With Illegal Activity

Study Suggests 25 Percent of Bitcoin Users Are Associated With Illegal Activity

In a newly published paper on the use of bitcoin for illegal activity, researchers from the University of Sydney, the University of Technology Sydney and the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga indicate that a quarter of all bitcoin users are associated with illegal activity.

The use of bitcoin for illicit purposes has long been the most controversial aspect of the cryptoasset, although it has taken a back seat to speculation around the bitcoin price over the past few years.

In addition to estimating the scale of illegal activity involving bitcoin, the research paper also claims this sort of activity accounts for a significant portion of bitcoin’s intrinsic, underlying value.

Methodology

In the paper, which was co-authored by Sean Foley, Jonathon R. Karlsen and Tālis J. Putniņš, publicly available information is used as the basis to identify an initial sample of users involved in illegal activity on the Bitcoin blockchain. Seizures of bitcoin by law enforcement, hot wallets of darknet markets, and Bitcoin addresses on darknet forums are used here, in addition to the trade networks of users who were identified in this data set.

Additionally, the researchers use a formula of their own creation to detect users likely to be involved in illegal activity by analyzing the entire public blockchain up until the end of April 2017. The formula for detecting criminals on the blockchain involves a wide variety of metrics such as transaction count, transaction size, frequency of transactions, number of counterparties, the number of darknet markets active at the time, the extent the user goes to conceal their activity and the degree of interest in bitcoin in terms of Google searches at the time.

“Bitcoin users that are involved in illegal activity differ from other users in several characteristics,” the paper says. “Differences in transactional characteristics are generally consistent with the notion that while illegal users predominantly (or solely) use bitcoin as a payment system to facilitate trade in illegal goods/services, some legal users treat bitcoin as an investment or speculative asset. Specifically, illegal users tend to transact more, but in smaller transactions. They are also more likely to repeatedly transact with a given counterparty. Despite transacting more, illegal users tend to hold less bitcoin, consistent with them facing risks of having bitcoin holdings seized by authorities.”

The paper also notes that bitcoin transactions between illegal users are three to four times denser, meaning those users are much more connected to each other through their transactions. This is consistent, the paper says, with illegal users taking advantage of bitcoin’s use as a medium of exchange, while legal users tend to view the cryptoasset as a store of value.

The Scale of Illegal Activity on the Bitcoin Network

As with any research into the activities of criminals on the internet, it’s important to take the findings of this study with a grain of salt. Remember, this is a study on the activities of those who do not wish their activities to be discovered in the first place.

For example, another study Bitcoin Magazine reported on last week indicated a much lower level of illegal activity — albeit limited to the concept of bitcoin laundering — on the Bitcoin network than what was found in the study being reported on today.

Having said that, here are the levels of illegal activity on the Bitcoin network, according to the study:

  • 24 million illicit users, which is 25 percent of all users
  • 36 million illicit transactions per year, which is 44 percent of all transactions
  • $72 billion worth of illicit transactions per year, which is 20 percent of the dollar-value of all transactions
  • $8 billion in illicit bitcoin holdings at the time of the study
  • 51 percent of all bitcoin holdings throughout bitcoin’s history have been illegal in nature

The study compares Bitcoin’s black market to the markets for illegal drugs in the United States and Europe. In the United States, this market is worth $100 billion per year. In Europe, the market is 24 billion euros on an annual basis.

“While comparisons between such estimates and ours are imprecise for a number of reasons (and the illegal activity captured by our estimates is broader than just illegal drugs), they do provide a sense that the scale of the illegal activity involving bitcoin is not only meaningful as a proportion of bitcoin activity, but also in absolute dollar terms,” the paper says.

More Takeaways from the Paper

While the amount of illegal activity taking place on the Bitcoin network appears to be relatively large, the paper indicates that the prevalence of this sort of activity has been declining since 2015 as more mainstream users have entered the market due to the interest in bitcoin as a store of value or speculative asset.

The paper notes that the illegal activity involving bitcoin is inversely correlated to the number of searches for “bitcoin” on Google.

“Furthermore, while the proportion of illegal bitcoin activity has declined, the absolute amount of such activity has continued to increase, indicating that the declining proportion is due to rapid growth in legal bitcoin use,” says the paper.

The paper also indicates that privacy-focused altcoins, such as Monero and Zcash, may be cutting into bitcoin’s role as the currency of the online black market.

The paper notes that it’s currently unclear if bitcoin is leading to an increase in black market activity or if this is simply offline activity moving onto the internet.

“By providing an anonymous, digital method of payment, bitcoin did for darknet marketplaces what PayPal did for [eBay] — provide a reliable, scalable, and convenient payment mechanism,” the paper adds.

According to the paper, this use case is the underlying value of the bitcoin asset.

“Our paper contributes to understanding the intrinsic value of bitcoin, highlighting that a significant component of its value as a payment system derives from its use in facilitating illegal trade.”

In addition to implications the online black market could have on the valuation of the bitcoin asset (a claim that is highly speculative as the bitcoin price has continued to see tremendous gains in the face of declining use for illicit payments), the paper adds that this realization also has ethical implications: those who choose to speculate on the bitcoin price may question whether they wish to provide liquidity for a payment system that enables illegal online transactions.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 3:36 pm

Bitcoin Slides More Than 10 Percent to Near $10,000 Level

The price of bitcoin is down more than 10% today, according to CoinDesk's Bitcoin Price Index (BPI).

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 3:00 pm

Op Ed: Here’s What Paul Krugman Got Wrong in His Bitcoin Tweetstorm

Op Ed: Here’s What Paul Krugman Got Wrong in His Bitcoin Tweetstorm

Like many other mainstream economists, Paul Krugman has long-shown a complete disdain for Bitcoin. In late 2013, he went as far as to write a piece titled “Bitcoin Is Evil” for his column in The New York Times.

Moral objections to bitcoin are one thing, but Krugman also does not see much utility in the cryptoasset at all. While he has been able to express his hatred for Bitcoin quite clearly, his technical criticisms of bitcoin as a new type of asset and store of value leave something to be desired.

In a tweetstorm on Sunday, January 21, 2018, Krugman illustrated his ignorance on the usefulness and utility of bitcoin around the world.

Starts Out Well Enough With the Digital Gold Analogy

Krugman’s tweetstorm started out well enough. In fact, the opening tweets were likely some of the nicest things the Nobel Laureate has ever had to say about bitcoin.

“As I see it, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are in effect like digital gold coins, in the sense that they can't be counterfeited ... Cryptocurrencies use cryptographic techniques plus distributed storage to create non-material entities that are nonetheless impossible to fake,” tweeted Krugman.

Digital gold is still the best analogy to sum up the digital asset’s value proposition, and the utility of bitcoin should become more apparent as the world moves deeper into a cashless society. In a cashless society, bitcoin would become the last financial bastion of freedom in a world where the global financial system is under complete control of governments.

The Avoidance of Trusted Third Parties in Payments Is a Big Deal

After those tolerable first few tweets, Krugman goes off the rails with the claim that online payments that don’t involve a trusted third party aren’t that important.

“Cryptocurrency lets you make electronic transactions; but so do bank accounts, debit cards, Paypal, Venmo etc. All these other methods involve trusting a third party; but unless you're buying drugs, assassinations, etc. that's not a big deal,” tweeted Krugman.

First all of all, there’s no reason to bring morals into an exploration of bitcoin’s utility. Either people will use it or they won’t. Whether you like what they’re doing is a different matter. Bitcoin’s use in darknet markets, ransomware, online gambling and other fringe areas cannot be ignored. Utility is utility.

Secondly, not everyone has access to PayPal, Venmo, and other online payment platforms. These options are centralized and permissioned. They’re also highly regulated, which means plenty of people fall through the cracks and cannot gain access to them.

Online freelancers in Venezuela take bitcoin because their government and payment platforms like PayPal have failed them.

Interesting post on /r/Bitcoin from a Redditor who compares the different options for storing value in Venezuela.

"I know a lot of people who sold everything they could to leave the country and took their money to bitcoins through @LocalBitcoins."
https://t.co/dvmxu4ozhV pic.twitter.com/R3egCdmoLa

— Kyle Torpey (@kyletorpey) December 1, 2017
Krugman goes on to point out the clunkiness of Bitcoin as it exists today, and he’s generally correct on this front. But this does not mean there’s no utility here. In fact, the opposite is true: There is so much utility that it has become difficult to scale the system to all of the people who want to use it.

Complaining about the lack of cheap, user-friendly payments on Bitcoin today is analogous to someone in 1995 complaining that the internet doesn’t have Netflix. Just give it a minute. Payment layers are currently being built on top of the base Bitcoin blockchain, with the Lightning Network being the most obvious example.

The Claim That Bitcoin Has Nothing to Backstop Its Value

Krugman then turned to the often-used argument that bitcoin lacks any sort of underlying value. This should come as a surprise, since he just laid out how it is useful for illicit digital payments.

“Meanwhile, what backstops a cryptocurrency's value? Paper money is ultimately backed by governments that will take it in payment of taxes (and central banks that will reduce the monetary base in case of inflation). Gold is actually useful for some things, like filling teeth and making pretty jewelry; that's not most of its value, but it does provide a tether to reality, along with a 5000-year history,” tweeted Krugman.

“Cryptocurrencies have none of that,” Krugman continued. “If people come to believe that Bitcoin is worthless, well, it's worthless. Its price rise has been driven purely by speculation — by what Robert Shiller calls a natural Ponzi scheme, in which early entrants make money only [because] others buy in.”

If bitcoin is useful for permissionless digital payments, then it has the same sort of underlying utility that the U.S. dollar has in the form of tax payments.

Additionally, the U.S. dollar would also become worthless if people woke up one morning and came to believe that it was worthless.

Of course, all of this misses the point anyway. How much of the value of all the U.S. dollars in the world comes from its use in tax payments? How much of the value of all the gold in the world comes from its use in electronics? Not much.

Krugman misses that storage of value is also a form of utility, and bitcoin is the most uncensorable, unseizable store of value the world has ever seen. You can walk around with a passphrase in your head that can unlock access to thousands of bitcoins, and no one would be the wiser. Not to mention there is no centralized party that can inflate the supply.

The Point of Market Manipulation

Krugman also touched on the high potential for manipulation in the bitcoin market, pointing to a paper regarding the manipulation of the bitcoin price by now-defunct bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, as an example.

This is another claim with some basis in reality, but it ignores the massive amounts of manipulation and lack of transparency in the traditional financial system, which is what led to the creation of bitcoin in the first place.

Through the use of cryptographic proofs, bitcoin has the potential to become much more transparent and trustless than the traditional financial system. Bitcoin’s monetary policy is already much more transparent than what goes on at the Federal Reserve. There’s a reason someone put up a “Buy Bitcoin” sign while Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen spoke against the need for further audits of the central bank.

Bitcoin exchanges are highly centralized institutions, which opens the door for manipulation. However, these exchanges have also become much more regulated over time. Today, it’s far more difficult to run an exchange at the level of incompetence that was found at Mt. Gox.

The potential for market manipulation should decline as the technology around bitcoin improves. Eventually, more trades may take place on decentralized exchanges, where it’s impossible to fudge the numbers.

In his last tweet from his thread on Sunday, Krugman said it’s unclear if the Bitcoin blockchain — or any blockchain for that matter — is useful.

Around $3 billion worth of bitcoin has been transacted on the Bitcoin network per day this year, according to Blockchain; $75 million worth of bitcoin per day was the norm the day Krugman first published an article on the subject.

Krugman’s arguments, as well as arguments from other well-known economists, have not changed much since 2013, but the Bitcoin network has continued to grow. It’s possible that Krugman and his colleagues are unable to comprehend the usefulness of bitcoin as an asset because it does not fit into the regulated, controlled environment they’ve built their economic and political worldviews around.

Bitcoin cannot be tamed, and they hate that.


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 10:32 am

What is Ripple?

ripple101.jpg

By Shawn Gordon

What is Ripple? Technically speaking, is Ripple a cryptocurrency in the mold of Bitcoin? The short answer is probably “no,” but that doesn’t stop it from often being lumped into that same category.

What is Ripple?

Originally released in 2012 as a subsequent iteration of Ripplepay, Ripple is a real-time gross settlement system (RTGS), currency exchange and remittance network. Using a common ledger that is managed by a network of independently validating servers that constantly compare transaction records, Ripple doesn't rely on the energy and computing intensive proof-of-work used by Bitcoin. Ripple is based on a shared public database that makes use of a consensus process between those validating servers to ensure integrity. Those validating servers can belong to anyone, from individuals to banks.

The Ripple protocol (token represented as XRP) is meant to enable the near instant and direct transfer of money between two parties. Any type of currency can be exchanged, from fiat currency to gold to even airline miles. They claim to avoid the fees and wait times of traditional banking and even cryptocurrency transactions through exchanges.

How Is It Fundamentally Different From Bitcoin?

It is the validating servers and consensus mechanism that tends to lead people to just assume that Ripple is a blockchain-based technology. While it is consensus oriented, Ripple is not a blockchain. Ripple uses a HashTree to summarize the data into a single value that is compared across its validating servers to provide consensus.

Banks seem to like Ripple, and payment providers are coming on board more and more. It is built for enterprise and, while it can be used person to person, that really isn't its primary focus. The main purpose of the Ripple platform is to move lots of money around the world as rapidly as possible.

Thus far, Ripple has been stable since its release with over 35 million transactions processed without issue. It is able to handle 1,500 transactions per second (tps) and has been updated to be able to scale to Visa levels of 50,000 transactions per second. By comparison, Bitcoin can handle 3-6 tps (not including scaling layers) and Ethereum 15 tps.

Ripple’s token, XRP, isn't mined like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and many other cryptocurrencies. Instead, it was issued at its inception, similar in fashion to the way a company issues stocks when it incorporates: It essentially just picked a number (100 billion) and issued that many XRP coins.

What is XRP and What’s It Used For?

As a technology, the Ripple platform may have real value and real history that validate the claims they make for its efficacy. The XRP token itself, however, seems to have negligible use cases. In fact, Ripple had planned to phase it out — at least, until fevered interest in cryptocurrencies began to take off in 2016. Nevertheless, as CNBC noted today, if Ripple hits $6.57, its market capitalization will be bigger than Bitcoin’s.

There are 100 billion XRP tokens that were issued by the Ripple company. At the moment, the company promises that this is the total number of XRP that there will ever be (though, technically, there is nothing to stop them from issuing more tokens in the future). Ripple’s hub-and-spoke design positions XRP in the middle as a tool that is fungible with any currency or digital asset, such as frequent flyer miles. Ripple can settle a payment in 3.5 seconds through XRP and have it available and spendable. The use of XRP is totally independent of the Ripple network in general; that is, banks don't actually need XRP to transfer dollars, euros, etcetera which is what many small investors might be missing when they are buying the token.

What Is Ripple’s Value Proposition?

The value here is the Ripple network itself and its ability to move assets around the world quickly, rather than in the XRP token.

Banks are able to use the Ripple software to shift money between different foreign currencies. Currently, this is typically accomplished using SWIFT, a system that is cumbersome and relies on the banks having separate accounts in every country they work in. Ripple says it has signed up more than 100 banks (compared to SWIFTs 11,000 financial institutions) including American Express.

So Why All the Hype?

While Bitcoin has seen a dramatic rise in price over the course of 2017, the end of the year saw the cryptocurrency almost breaking $20,000. As the price drove higher, we saw a massive increase in price for a large number of altcoins, with Litecoin jumping from $50 to nearly $400, Ethereum doubling, NEM and EOS going up by a factor of five, and the list goes on and on. The fear of missing out has driven many investors wild and “lower-priced” currencies are attractive to new investors who mistakenly think that the high price of an entire BTC puts the currency out of their reach.

Add to all the hype the rumors that had been swirling on social media through December 2017, that Coinbase was going to list Ripple, which caused the price to surge, which in turn prompted Coinbase to address the rumors in a more generic fashion in this blog post on January 4, 2018:

“As of the date of this statement, we have made no decision to add additional assets to either GDAX or Coinbase. Any statement to the contrary is untrue and not authorized by the company.”

ripple chart jan19

The Coinbase announcement caused a big drop in Ripple, back to around the same levels as before the rumors began. SInce then, Ripple has both dipped dramatically and recovered, as have many other volatile cryptocurrencies. While Coinbase doesn’t support Ripple, there are a number of ways for people to acquire Ripple, should they still want to.

Words of Caution

There has been a lot of ink used on criticizing Ripple as well. The complaint from Bitcoin and other blockchain enthusiasts is that Ripple’s centralized control is in direct contrast to the ideals and advantages of decentralized blockchains like Bitcoin.

Ripple also maintains a trusted Unique Node List (UNL) that is meant to protect against potentially malicious or insecure validating servers. It is the UNL that controls the network rules, presenting a conundrum: On the one hand, it protects against problematic validators, but, in theory, a regulating body or government could come in and force a change that isn't necessarily desirable or is downright invasive. Furthermore, because of a FinCEN violation and fine in 2013, Ripple has updated its policies and will only recognize and recommend gateways that are in compliance with financial regulations.

New York Times reporter Nathaniel Popper commented on Twitter that he has yet to find a bank that anticipates using the XRP token in any meaningful way. Ripple’s CEO, Brad Garlinghouse, has denied Popper’s claims stating, “Over the last few months I’ve spoken with ACTUAL banks and payment providers. They are indeed planning to use xRapid (our XRP liquidity product) in a serious way.” However, as Popper points out, even the banks that he contacted at Ripple’s suggestion were non-committal in their plans to implement Ripple anytime soon.

According to the Financial Times, of the 18 banks and financial services companies publicly linked to Ripple, most of them stated that they “had not yet gone beyond testing” while a few had moved on to using Ripple’s systems “for moving real money.” However,  not one of the 16 companies that responded had used the XRP token.


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 19 January 2018 | 10:15 am

Cornell IC3 Researchers Propose Solution to Bitcoin’s Multisig “Paralysis” Problem

Cornell IC3 Researchers Propose Solution to Bitcoin’s Multisig “Paralysis” Problem

Owning cryptocurrency comes with its own set of challenges. One of the biggest of those challenges is managing the private keys that enable you to spend funds. Lose your private keys, and your money is gone.

In a business environment, a common way to manage funds owned by multiple people is via what’s called a multisignature (multisig) address, a type of smart contract requiring two or more parties to sign off on a transaction to move the funds. 

This can be problematic, however. Let’s say you have a three-of-three multisig that requires you and two business partners to sign off on a transaction. If one person dies, disappears or becomes incapacitated, those assets become frozen — a risk some might feel uncomfortable with when dealing with tens of thousands of dollars or more.   

One way to ameliorate that risk might be to opt for a two-of-three multisig, where only two instead of all three individuals need to sign off on a transaction. But that’s not a complete solution either. Two players could conspire against the other one and run off with the money.

What now? If your funds are on the Ethereum blockchain, you could write a smart contract that would allow you to free the funds if one person in your trio disappeared.

However, Bitcoin with its limited scripting language makes things more difficult. “This seems like an unsolvable problem if you think about the traditional tools,” said Ari Juels, a professor at Cornell Tech and co-director of the Cornell Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Contracts (IC3).

Paralysis Proofs

In a paper titled “Paralysis Proofs: How to Prevent Your Bitcoin from Vanishing,” researchers Fan Zhang, Phil Daian, Iddo Bentov and Ari Juels from the IC3 outline how to deal with what happens when a party is unable, or unwilling, to sign off on a multisig transaction in Bitcoin. The solution involves a combination of blockchain technology and trusted hardware — Intel SGX, in this case.   

Trusted hardware allows you to run code inside a protected enclave. Even a computer’s own operating system is unable to access data inside an enclave, so if your computer were to be hacked, the code in the enclave would remain secure.

IC3’s solution proposes replacing a trusted third party, such as a lawyer or a bank, who would put money in an escrow, with a trusted hardware solution that retains control of a master key to the funds.  

If one of the three people in the contract dies, the other two initiate a “paralysis proof.” That proof is based on a challenge sent to the missing third person. If the missing person responds to the challenge, the money stays put. If the missing person does not respond, the trusted hardware releases the funds to the remaining two players.  

Trusted hardware is only part of the solution, however. If the third person were to try and respond to the challenge request with an indication she is still alive, conceivably, the other players could intercept that message. To ensure that does not happen, the second half of IC3’s solution involves sending the message via the blockchain, which provides a tamper-proof and censorship-resistant medium.    

“By combining these two [methods], we can achieve the exact properties we’re after,” Juels explained to Bitcoin Magazine. “We can enable trusted hardware to determine whether or not somebody is alive, and there is no way to prevent a relevant message from getting transmitted if it is coming through the blockchain.”   

How It Works

Put simply, this is how to achieve a paralysis proof as outlined by the IC3 researchers:

  • Two players suspect a third is dead, so they post a challenge on the blockchain. The challenge consists of a tiny “dust” UTXO that the third person must spend within a certain period of time, say 24 hours, to prove she is alive.
  • The two players also get a “seize” transaction they may post to the blockchain later to collect the funds, if the third person does not respond to the challenge.
  • If the third person sends back a response by spending the UTXO, the game is over; the two others are not able to take control of the funds.  
  • Alternatively, if the third person does not return an “alive” signal by spending the UTXO before the time-out, then the two others can use the “seize” transaction to take control of the funds.  

This not the only use case for a paralysis-proof system. Juels thinks the solution would work well in any situation that called for a controlled access to private keys that could not otherwise be maintained on a blockchain. “It is actually a very general scheme you could use for lots of other purposes,” he said.   

For instance, a paralysis-proof system could be used as a dead man’s switch for control over the release (or decryption) of leaked information or a journalist’s raw materials. It could also be used in numerous ways to control daily spending limits from a common pool of money or as a conditioned expenditure based on an outside event (as reported by an oracle), like a student getting good grades or a salesperson meeting a sales quota.   

“Basically, you can a rich set of conditions around the expenditure of money using the fact that a trusted hardware kind of acts like a trusted third party,” said Juels.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 19 January 2018 | 9:07 am

Decentralizing the Sharing Economy With Blockchain Technology

Decentralizing the Sharing Economy With Blockchain Technology

San Francisco–based startup Origin is creating a set of protocols that allow developers and businesses to build decentralized marketplaces on the blockchain, with a focus on the sharing economy.

The Origin Protocol is a set of open-source blockchain protocols for buyers and sellers of services like car-sharing or home-sharing to transact on a decentralized, open web platform.

The protocol’s applications will store transactional data such as pricing and availability directly on the blockchain.

Leveraging the Ethereum blockchain and the Interplanetary File System (IPFS), the Origin platform will create and book services and goods in a decentralized way, without traditional intermediaries.

Recently, Origin launched its functional, completely decentralized prototype Origin Protocol Demo DApp, live on the Ethereum test network. It also announced that several companies have committed to developing further applications on the Origin platform.

“Our vision for Origin is to create protocols that allow marketplaces to be governed by a set of rules instead of corporate rulers. We want to eliminate the rent-seeking middlemen, maximize personal liberty, reduce censorship and redistribute value to the early participants in the network,” Origin co-founder Josh Fraser said in conversation with Bitcoin Magazine. “Partners are building on Origin because they realize they can get to market sooner and we can share network effects by working together.”

Tackling the Problems of the Centralized Marketplace

Uber and Airbnb, the hugely popular marketplaces for ride-sharing and home-sharing, are usually considered the leading players in the emerging “sharing economy.” Another buzz phrase, “people as a service,” describes the business models of these two companies, both of which attracted funding that values them in the tens of billions of dollars.

Consumers perceive that Uber and Airbnb are faster, cheaper and better alternatives to traditional services like taxis and hotels, delivered via sophisticated yet easy to use apps. But, while the consumer has the impression that they are buying services directly from individual providers in decentralized, P2P networks, Uber and Airbnb are centralized systems where transactions between individual consumers and providers are routed through infrastructure, hubs and software that belong to the companies that own the platform.

Centralization makes Uber and Airbnb vulnerable to regulatory actions, and there is the possibility that both services could be shut down by the government at any time. In the meantime, besides taking a fee, the platform owners are in complete control of the networks and the individual providers and are often accused of predatory behavior.

“Look at Uber and Airbnb as examples,” said Fraser. “Both companies have been banned or heavily regulated in cities all around the world. Likewise, those companies have a history of banning certain individuals for life from ever using their marketplaces.”

Uber and Airbnb (the Services) without Uber and Airbnb (the Companies)

According to data provided by Origin, Uber, Airbnb and other centralized sharing marketplaces are expected to earn $40 billion in platform fees annually by 2022, and the sharing economy as a whole is expected to top $335 billion by 2025. Some centralized sharing services charge upwards of 30 percent fees for hosting transactions.

Origin wants to cut out these middlemen with new standards based on blockchain technology.

The Origin platform “enables people to freely transact on the blockchain in decentralized marketplaces without rent-seeking middlemen,” says Coleman Maher. who recently joined Origin as its first business development hire. “We aim to eliminate excessive transaction fees, reduce censorship and redistribute value back to the community.”

“We imagine a broad collection of vertical use cases (e.g short-term vacation rentals, freelance software engineering, tutoring for hire) that are built on top of Origin standards and shared data,” reads the Origin product brief. Origin applications will be able to share users, creating a “shared network effect” that could benefit all application providers, as well as the consumers.

Bee Token, SnagRide, JOLYY, Acquaint, Aworker, BlockFood, Edgecoin and ODEM have committed to building on the Origin platform. More partners will be announced in the coming months.

The first two projects are in Airbnb and Uber territory. The Bee Token team, a group of former employees from Google, Facebook, Uber and Civic, is building a middleman-free, peer-to-peer network of hosts and guests on the decentralized web, with the stated goal of “reinventing the home sharing economy.” SnagRide is a ride-sharing application for mid– to long-distance rides, which leverages artificial intelligence and blockchain-powered smart contract technologies to smartly manage drivers and passengers willing to travel together between cities and share the cost of the trip.

The Origin ecosystem will offer incentives based on the Origin token, an ERC20 utility token on the Ethereum blockchain, described in the Origin white paper. The Origin token, to be distributed later in 2018, is the currency used for transactions on the Origin platform. However, the Origin team plans to implement on-the-fly conversions of fiat currencies and Ethereum to the Origin token in future releases.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 18 January 2018 | 11:06 am

Bitcoin price climbs over $4,000

Posted on 14 August 2017 | 1:16 am

Bitcoin reaches new all-time high: $3,000

Posted on 12 June 2017 | 1:06 am

CRYENGINE now accepts Bitcoin

Posted on 29 March 2017 | 1:24 am

Consulting firm EY Switzerland accepts Bitcoin

Posted on 26 November 2016 | 12:47 am

Bitcoin Trading Bots

There have been a wide variety of situations in which algorithmic trading programs have proven to be beneficial for investors. However, investors who only trade a cryptocurrency can also take advantage of bitcoin trading bots. Through bitcoin bot trading, traders can become more flexible and prompt, minimize errors and process information more rapidly. At this… Read More »

Posted on 8 November 2016 | 6:20 pm

Steam accepts Bitcoin

Posted on 29 April 2016 | 1:09 am

Major Magazine Publisher to Accept Bitcoin Payments

Posted on 18 December 2014 | 12:43 pm

Microsoft accepts Bitcoin

Posted on 11 December 2014 | 5:06 am

Mozilla accepting Bitcoin

Posted on 20 November 2014 | 1:55 pm

PayPal and Virtual Currency

Posted on 23 September 2014 | 9:52 pm

German Newspaper "taz" accepts Bitcoin

Posted on 22 July 2014 | 1:32 pm

airBaltic - World’s First Airline To Accept Bitcoin

Posted on 22 July 2014 | 11:03 am

January 23, 2018 -
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