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Blockchain, Blockchain technology, Cryptocurrency

Facebook is reportedly working on a cryptocurrency money transfer application that will be integrated into WhatsApp. The service, which is set to be launched in India upon approval, will apparently target the remittances market.

According to Bloomberg, WhatsApp is developing a stablecoin for the project, and its value will be pinned to that of the U.S. dollar. A stablecoin will be able to overcome the huge price swings that affect the value of digital currencies such as Bitcoin whose rates can shift by over 10 percent within 48 hours.

Facebook has been carrying out research related to blockchain and digital coins for some time now. In May, it put together a research unit headed by former President of PayPal, David Marcus. He is currently also Vice President of Messaging Products at the company. The group currently has about 40 researchers. Marcus is believed to have played a key role in the company’s latest crypto venture.

The Facebook exec has previously talked about the prospect of bringing cryptocurrency payments to Facebook Messenger and pointed out a few drawbacks. In his view, high transaction fees and slow processing times would definitely hinder widespread adaptation of such a feature. He was, however, optimistic that the cryptocurrency community would in time come up with solutions that would make a crypto payment integration feasible.

Facebook is reported to be on a hiring spree to build up its crypto-blockchain research and development team, which is currently comprised of former PayPal and Instagram execs. Some Facebook employees have also been recruited and including Geoff Teehan, who is Head of Product Design and Morgan Beller, a member of the Corporate Development team at the company.

Why Crypto Payments in India?

India tops the list of countries with the highest volume of cash remittances from abroad. Figures from 2017 stand at about $69 million, according to a recent World Bank report. This was a 9.9 percent increase from the previous year. Total global remittance figures reached $613 billion in 2017.

Facebook is thought to be targeting this market with its WhatsApp crypto application. India currently has over 200 million WhatsApp users. The application also has a market penetration of about 28 percent, according to data from Statista.

WhatsApp Has Been Pushing for a Payment Service Approval

WhatsApp CEO, Chris Daniels, was recently reported to have sent a letter to the Reserve Bank of India requesting to extend payment services to its users in the country.

The letter, which is dated November 5, sought for the approval of a BHIM UPI (Unified Payments Interface). The company is reportedly also working with the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) to fulfill regulatory requirements and has already started to implement recommendations from the RBI. They include data storage requirements that oblige the company to provide unfettered access of payments info to the RBI. The proposal is still awaiting approval.

In February, WhatsApp began testing its payment platform in India. The project was undertaken in conjunction with ICICI Bank. Around 700,000 users reportedly took part in the program. The rollout was postponed after the Cambridge Analytica scandal exploded. It led to serious privacy concerns that prompted the Reserve Bank of India to issue a new directive targeting data storage and access requirements forcing the company to remodel the project.

A crypto-payments system approval from the Indian government would make WhatsApp a leading funds transfer platform in the country.

The Impact on the Remittances Market in India

A cryptocurrency remittance feature is likely to lead to reduced costs in transactions, as well as, faster processing as opposed to conventional modes of money transfer. Regular cash transfer platforms charge transaction fees that can reach and exceed 5 percent of the total figure transacted. Making cross-border payments can attract a currency conversion fee.

In many cases, the process can take a few days for the funds to reach the recipient. On the other hand, cryptocurrency transaction fees are usually extremely low. TRON transactions, for example, only lead to a fee of about $0.0000901, while Monero trades cost about $0.01. This is according to data obtained from Bitinfo Charts.

Tether, which is the most popular stablecoin by market trade volume, does not charge any rates for transfers but applies withdrawal charges.

This article was originally published at CoinCentral.com.

 
 
 
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Blockchain, Blockchain technology, Cryptocurrency

On May 22, 2018, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a complaint against Titanium Blockchain, an Israeli start up in the middle of its ICO at the time. According to the SEC, the firm had violated the commission’s registration and anti-fraud regulations in the process of raising funding from investors.

Charged with securities fraud, company founder, Michael Stollaire stands accused of falsifying information. Allegedly, the company was caught claiming false ties to large firms like Boeing, Disney, and PayPal.

WHAT IS TITANIUM BLOCKCHAIN?

According to their official website, Titanium Blockchain is a research, development and consulting company that offers full-scale blockchain development services to enterprises in several industries.

They are focused on exposing corporations to the applications of blockchain technology for benefits such as increased efficiency and speed. The firm claims that it delivers deep insights to its clients, based on a wealth of experience within the field. They follow a comprehensive roadmap which encompasses every stage of operation, from elaborate planning and product architecture to selecting the best technical solutions, product definition, outlining R&D processes and final execution.

Their main services include consulting, private and public blockchain development as well as ICO services.

The Tel Aviv-based firm makes use of several existing blockchain applications including Hyperledger, NEO, Ripple, Waves, Cardano, Quorum, AION, Wanchain, Blockchain as a Service (BaaS), and Ethereum-based decentralized applications among others.

In September 2018, Titanium blockchain announced that it officially became a technology partner of WLTH, a health blockchain platform which rewards users for achieving health goals. Some other significant partnerships include:

  • Gaby, a community management tool
  • Millentrix, a cryptocurrency management service
  • Verv, a smart home energy assistance that provides information on electricity usage
  • Bidipass, an ID verification solution
  • The ICO platform

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WHAT WAS THE TITANIUM BLOCKCHAIN INFRASTRUCTURE SCAM?

According to a statement by Robert Cohen, head of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Cyber Unit:

“This ICO was based on a social media marketing blitz that allegedly deceived investors with purely fictional claims of business prospects. Having filed multiple cases involving allegedly fraudulent ICOs, we again encourage investors to be especially cautious when considering these as investments.”

In detail, the Titanium fraud involved an inflation scheme that allowed it to profit from deceiving investors. It entailed orchestrating a social media campaign, using fake testimonials and false claims of corporate relationships with over thirty well-known companies, to create the illusion of credibility and expertise to unsuspecting investors.

This generated a high demand for their digital asset during the ICO stage since the brands that were falsely named gave the firm an extra layer of credibility. They also offered incentives and created a sense of urgency leading to FOMO (fear of missing out) which prompted investors to buy into their tokens without analyzing the project properly.

SEC COMPLAINT

In its complaint against Titanium Blockchain, the SEC has also sued the firm for evading a valid offering exemption and registration. EHI Internetwork and Systems Management Inc., another company linked to Stollaire, was also mentioned in the complaint. Following the initial complaint, regulatory officials successfully obtained an emergency asset freeze which applied to the Titanium ICO in which over $21 million was raised.

The SEC is focused on the retrieval of investor funds with interest and several penalties. The regulator also has plans to ban company founder, Stollaire, from any further participation in future digital offerings. Following the issuance of a temporary restraining order by the SEC, all involved parties have agreed to a preliminary injunction for the status of the firm to become a permanent receivership.

This case can be linked to the recent focus on cracking down on fraudulent misrepresentation within the industry. The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) has also increased its efforts to dismantle fraudulent activity carried out by cryptocurrency firms. To this effect, operation Crypto Sweep was launched in April 2018 and is currently investigating more than 50 firms.

This is not the first time an ICO has been deemed fraudulent. In September 2017, the SEC filed charges against Maksim Zaslavskiy when it was revealed that fraudulent blockchain projects, REcoin and Diamond Reserve Coin ICOs only existed on paper. Through aggressive marketing tactics, Zaslavskiy was able to con about 100 investors out of $300,000. Neither coin issued investors’ tokens nor developed blockchain infrastructure as advertised.

Recently, Centra, another budding blockchain startup, along with its three co-founders were accused of a similar case of misrepresentation in which they claimed strong ties to card network giants, Visa and Mastercard.

WHAT LESSONS CAN BE LEARNED FROM THIS SCANDAL?

Now that the cryptocurrency regulatory atmosphere is becoming stricter by the day due to new initiatives by regulators, there will likely be a reduction in fraudulent cases like that of Titanium Blockchain. If one thing is clear, it is that there is a lesson for both firms and investors within the space who either perpetrate fraud or fall prey to it.

Firstly, in any ICO, issuers must adhere to publishing only truthful representations of their business model, promises, and operations in their whitepapers, press releases and any other documents that can be classed as marketing material. This also applies to social media use, since there is a large audience on several platforms who can become investors in future.

Issuers must also check with regulators to see if their marketing tactics are legal and properly placed in a way that does not mislead the public on the nature of products or services being offered. This should be done before any marketing campaign begins, to avoid any problems.

Generally, for issuers who use testimonials as a way to boost credibility and gain trust, extra care should be taken to ensure that they do not contain any misrepresentation, whether intentionally or not. Misrepresentation may lead to complaints and accusations from investors who feel that they have been defrauded.

It goes without saying that the use of information, including logos and names from other companies without permission, attracts a legal consequence. The same thing goes for falsifying records such as certificates and degrees to show a high level of expertise. Any of these acts can invite regulatory scrutiny. The Howey Test may also be carried out, to determine the contract nature of the asset being offered.

Investors who are looking to buy tokens from an issuer must be careful to carry out checks on such companies. These checks should typically include the background information of the company team members, their past companies, and performance. It is also imperative that investors confirm if such a firm is licensed to offer its tokens and which regulator issued the license. As for issuers who use testimonials from companies, investors could contact some of them to find out whether such claims are true.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Regulatory issues have plagued the cryptocurrency scene for a long time and have acted as a blockade for future development. If users are too scared to invest in blockchain projects because they are afraid of being scammed, how is the ecosystem supposed to move forward? Firms such as Titanium Blockchain, while under the guise of building the blockchain industry, have inadvertently contributed to tearing it down.

Blockchain investment can be highly rewarding. However, due to fraudulent parties, it can also be disappointing. While regulators combat these parties and bring them to book, investors must be shrewd when deciding which projects to put any amount of money into.

This article was originally published at MinDice.com.

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Blockchain, Blockchain technology

What Is SALT Lending?

SALT lending is a platform that provides Blockchain-Backed Loans. SALT (Secured Automated Lending Platform) enables you to put up your crypto as collateral in exchange for a cash loan. This strategy is ideal if you need to pay-off an unexpected expense or want to make a big purchase without having to sell-off your blockchain assets.
 
 
In this SALT lending guide, we’re going to outline:

How Does SALT Lending Work?

SALT revolves around the company’s trademarked Blockchain-Backed Loans. Blockchain-Backed Loans are simply loans in which you hand over a blockchain asset, like Bitcoin, as collateral in exchange for traditional currencies. Unlike traditional auto or home loans, you can use these loans for any personal or business expense.

Membership (UPDATED)

Originally, to use the SALT lending platform, you first needed to pay to become a member. There were three tiers of membership:
  1. Base (1 SALT/year)
  2. Premier (10 SALT/year)
  3. Enterprise (100 SALT/year)
Higher membership tiers enabled you to borrow more money across additional currencies and gave you more flexible loan terms. Higher tiers also enjoyed a range of other perks such as early access to new products, portfolio management, and credit/debit cards.
SALT lending memberships

Original SALT Lending Tier System

UPDATE: As of this writing, the company is reorganizing their memberships, so you’re unable to sign up for one. However, you’re still able to take out a loan. And, you no longer need SALT to do so. If you stake SALT for your loan, though, you’ll receive a better rate and/or terms. You need to provide several pieces of personal information to create an account and become a member. This information includes your first namelast namevalid email address, and country. You’re also subject to Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) restrictions, so be prepared to upload an ID.

Lenders

On the other side of SALT are the lenders. Lenders have previously avoided dealing with cryptocurrencies because of the oftentimes complicated nature of the assets. SALT provides lenders with the infrastructure, compliance, and security they need to accept crypto collateral without adding additional costs to their current processes. In exchange for these services, lenders must also pay for a SALT membership.

Loan Process

Once again differing from traditional finance, SALT never inquires your credit score. Instead, the platform only uses the value of your crypto collateral to determine the terms of your loan. Lenders kick-off the loan process by posting the terms in which they’re willing to lend. As a borrower, you can look through the various terms and choose the one that’s best suited for you.
SALT lending process

SALT Lending Process

Once you pick a loan, the loaners commit the cash funds while you provide collateral to a smart contract. The cash funds are sent directly to your bank account. You then pay monthly installments based on the loan terms, and when your loan is paid-off, SALT releases your collateral from the smart contract and returns it back to you.

SALT Oracle

The SALT Oracle creates the smart contracts for each loan and triggers the events of the loan. To lower the risk of default, the Oracle also records loan payments and monitors the changing value of the crypto collateral. Every loan starts with a loan-to-value ratio that’s calculated from the terms of the loan. This ratio is effectively the amount of the loan divided by the amount of collateral. For example, a $100,000 loan secured by $125,000 worth of Ethereum would have an original loan-to-value ratio of: $100,000 / $125,000 = 80.0% As you pay off the loan, this ratio decreases because the amount of the outstanding loan decreases. However, if the value of your collateral decreases due to a decline in the market price, this ratio will increase. If the ratio ever increases beyond the initial loan-to-value ratio, you’ll be required to either:
  1. provide more collateral, or
  2. pay-off an additional amount of the loan
until the ratio returns to the original level. The Oracle autonomously tracks the loan-to-value ratios and notifies the borrowers when it becomes too high. The amount of time a borrower has to correct the ratio differs based on the velocity of the price decline
 

SALT Lending Team & Progress

The SALT team is over 15 members strong and was led by Shawn Owen as CEO. Owen is a serial entrepreneur with years of experience in hospitality operations. In July 2018, Owen left the company leaving CTO Bill Sinclair to take his place. The most notable member of the SALT team is one of their advisors, Erik Voorhees. Voorhees is the founder and CEO of ShapeShift – one of the most popular crypto-to-crypto exchanges. SALT reached a big milestone in January 2018 by officially beginning to provide loans for top-tier members. The platform already has over 70,000 loans and has funded over $50,000,000 in those loans. Plans for 2018 included launching credit cards, creating loan funds, and expanding collateralization to other alternative coins as well. The team only hit some of those milestones. The company expanded support, adding Litecoin and Dogecoin loans. But, it looks as if credit cards and developer tools are still some time out.
SALT milestones

2018 Roadmap

Competition

SALT is the current leader in blockchain-based loans; however, there are a few other competitors popping up in the space. ETHLend and Elix are two younger competitors that provide decentralized lending on the Ethereum blockchain. SALT differentiates itself by focusing on institutional cash loans that are backed by cryptocurrency while the other two projects appear to have taken a peer-to-peer approach. Both use-cases should have a solid place in the market. Additionally, SALT is competing with more traditional platforms that provide crypto-backed loans but aren’t using a specific token.

SALT Token

SALT tokens, also known as membership tokens, are ERC20 tokens that you spend to become a member of the SALT lending platform. Furthermore, you can redeem these tokens to pay down loan interestreceive better rates on loans, and purchase items from SALT’s online store. At one point, these tokens held a different value on the lending platform than what they were trading for in the market. They used to be worth exactly $27.50 on the lending platform while trading at a value below that price. You could also previously pay-down the capital of your loans with SALT tokens. So, this created an interesting arbitrage opportunity. If you had the bankroll, you could technically get an Enterprise membership for $1200 and take out a $1M loan backed by $1.25M of Bitcoin. You could then turn around and buy $1M worth of SALT tokens from the market (~83,333 SALT). Because the SALT tokens were worth $27.50 on the platform you would only need to spend ~45,455 SALT tokens to pay back your loan. This would leave you with a little under 40,000 SALT tokens plus the original Bitcoin you put up as collateral – about a 40% return. The SALT team must have caught on to this scheme because they’ve since removed the opportunity.

Trading

SALT held their ICO in Q3 2017 in which you could purchase a membership token for $3.00 – $7.00 depending on the time that you bought it. There are a total of 120M SALT tokens, and just over 80M are currently circulating in the market. The SALT price briefly experienced the common “post-ICO” dip before spiking back up to a little over $7 in October 2017. Shortly after, the price fell to the $2-$4 (0.0003-0.0005 BTC) range and stayed there until December 2017.  
 
 
Starting in December 2017, the price steadily rose and jumped to an all-time high of over $17 with the announcement that lending on the platform had finally begun. Since that high at the very end of 2017, the price has fallen drastically. Throughout 2018, the coin has lost over 98 percent of its value. It’s currently worth about $0.25. Because SALT isn’t required to use the lending platform, there’s not much that will cause the price to rise again. A healthy cryptocurrency market should help. And juicy enough membership incentives may also provide some positive demand-side pressure. Other than that, it’s tough to see this coin rising from the dead.

Where to Buy SALT

The most popular exchanges to purchase SALT are Binance and Bittrex. To trade for SALT on one of these exchanges you need to first have Bitcoin or Ethereum. If you don’t have either, you can purchase them with traditional currency on an exchange like Gemini and then transfer them over. For a full list of exchanges where you can buy SALT, check out CoinMarketCap.

Where to Store SALT

Because SALT is an ERC20 token, you have a few different options on where to store it. A popular online option is MyEtherWallet. The SALT website recommends that you use the Jaxx wallet and even provides instructions here. Jaxx is available on Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, Linux, and as a Chrome extension. The most secure way to store your tokens is by using a hardware wallet like Trezor or the Ledger Nano S. Using hardware wallets keeps your funds offline and out of the reach of hackers and ill-intended software.

Conclusion

The SALT lending platform is a great option if you want/need to make some real-world expenses and don’t want to lose the potential gains from your crypto holdings. Beyond that, the project works to solve a major problem of blockchain assets – illiquidity. By opening up an entirely new form of loans, the project brings more liquidity to the cryptocurrency market. The team has a solid foundation of blockchain experience and is advised by a leader in the industry. With a working platform in the market already, SALT is ahead of many other blockchain projects. That being said, there’s no requirement to use SALT tokens on the platform. So, it should make you wonder why the company has a specific token in the first place. Hopefully, the new membership tiers will make this more obvious. Editor’s Note: This article was updated by Steven Buchko on 12.04.2018 to reflect the recent changes of the project. This article was originally published at CoinCentral.com.
 
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Blockchain, Cryptocurrency

TRON CRYPTOCURRENCY is a digital currency created by controversial figure Justin Sun that aims to expand the area of decentralized applications (DApps) by making the tools for their creation and management more accessible to users.

Despite the fact that over 1000 DApps currently exist (mostly on the Ethereum blockchain), creating them is still a huge challenge for developers. This in turn limits blockchain adoption since the technology is best used in applications that normal people interact with.

One main challenge faced by developers is the complex protocols associated with blockchain technology. Since the technology is fairly new, developers have a problem figuring out how to fit their applications into the system.

This is where TRON comes in. It eases the transition, allowing developers to turn otherwise centralized applications into decentralized ones and create new DApps from scratch. TRON does this by simplifying the distribution of data without restrictions. Users can easily upload and store data in various content formats, including videos and audio files through content-enabled channels.

The TRON platform also rewards users with its asset known as TRX for uploading digital content. Usually, the user receives rewards proportional to the number of uploads they’ve done on the network. This sustains the platform by incentivizing users to upload even more files in the DApp creation process.

The most important value that TRON presents is its unflinching focus on people rather than enterprise. Using TRON cryptocurrency, users now have a cheap, secure and efficient way to keep their digital footprints intact. This way, it will be more difficult for them to fall prey to phishing ads on the internet.

The TRON transaction system also bears a huge advantage for users. They are all carried out on a public ledger, allowing anyone to trace transactions even without giving up user data. This system, known as the TRONix transaction system, uses a model UTXO, which unlocks preset amounts of TRON that users send using a defined set of rules.

HOW IS TRON DIFFERENT FROM OTHER CRYPTOCURRENCIES?

A major difference between TRX coin and other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin is that it cannot be mined.

Apart from the fact that it cannot be mined, TRON bears even more differences to its peers. One of them is that it is mostly entertainment-focused. While the platform retains its decentralized use of blockchain, it is aimed at the global content and entertainment sector through its foundation.

The entertainment industry is rife with agents and other middlemen that make it difficult for creators to make and keep enough of their profits. TRON cuts out these middlemen, allowing digital content creators to receive money directly from their customers.

Traffic dependency on larger platforms like Twitter and Facebook are also greatly reduced since the process becomes more streamlined for creators. They are able to reach customers directly on the TRON platform, without the problem of filtering out a niche-specific target audience.

Other applications of TRON that set it apart from other cryptocurrencies include:

Providing a solution to the issue of data privacy and centralization, which limits content creators by streamlining them into a few companies.  Such companies collect data from the general population to be implemented in their own operations. All monetary support for the TRON foundation is derived from the TRONix system.

Using a UTXO model to monetize content to allow its creators to reap the benefits of their hard work.

Guaranteeing privacy by eliminating the need for social ads so that the bigger social platforms have less access to user data.

undefined HOW DOES IT WORK?

TRON is capitalizing on the peer-based systems in existence to ensure that creators aren’t cheated out of their work. The platform is achieving this by creating a bridge between them and their consumers. Like any other content-focused system, for the TRON ecosystem to work, several things must happen:

  • Creators have to create content which they want to distribute and be rewarded for.
  • Consumers have purchased this content, allowing the revenue to go directly to its creators.
  • DApps are built on the same principles that govern the entire system.
  • Code on the network is executed, and with time, determines the value of TRX cryptocurrency.
  • Another way that TRON is achieving better content distribution is by pushing decentralization, as opposed to the use of centralized servers.

HOW TO GET TRON:

Getting TRON is quite easy as long as users follow these steps:

Set up a TRON wallet which supports TRX tokens. Since TRX initially used the Ethereum ERC20 standard, it was compatible with Ether wallets. However, ever since its huge move to its main net in May 2018, there are dedicated wallets that are compatible with TRX now. Some of these wallets include TRON wallet (mobile & web), TRONscan wallet (web), Cobo wallet (mobile), Altcoin.io wallet (desktop client & web) and Ledger Nano wallet (hardware). These wallets are available for iOS, Android, Windows, and chrome.

As soon as the wallet is downloaded, users can now be issued public and private keys. The public key acts as a wallet address to be given to those who would like to send money to it. The private key, on the other hand, acts as a password and must never be disclosed to other parties.

TRX can be bought on exchanges like Binance, OKEXx, and HitBTC. This means that a user must buy another cryptocurrency such as Ethereum on an exchange like Coinbase first. After, the ETH can be exchanged for TRX.

MARKET PERFORMANCE & PROMINENT FIGURES WHO ARE BACKING TRON:

Comparing the price of TRX now ($0.0138) to what it was in June 2018, it is easy to see that the currency is currently underperforming in a pattern shared with other major digital currencies such as Bitcoin.

Initially, there was some speculation on whether or not TRX would be able to hit $1 before the end of 2018. While that currently seems unlikely, the cryptocurrency markets have continuously shown that a few days can make a huge difference. This is especially evident in the case of Bitcoin, which began December 2017 at a price point of $10,839 and reached its peak of more than $20,000 less than nine days later.

TRX was not left out of the bullish December with a 750% price increase at the end of December 2017 and a 12255% increase in January 2018.

Apart from the influential Justin Sun, TRON is supported by BITMAIN Co-founder, Jihan Wu, who has shown eagerness to purchase it in the past.  Although Wu is a controversial figure in the industry, his endorsement has been a huge defining factor for the platform, which raised about $70,000,000 in its crowdfunding efforts.

Another big name backing TRON is Dai Wei, one of the most successful transport executives and TRON investors, as well as the founder of Ofo. BTCC.com founder Yang Linke and popular business magnate Yin Mingshan are also backing the project

FINAL THOUGHTS

TRON is working to solve one of the biggest problems that accompanied global acceptance of the internet: fair content distribution. The decentralization of the entire process reduces the overall cost incurred and ensures the longevity of the distribution system.

TRON is moving closer to its grand vision every day, along with TRX, its digital asset. Maybe eventually, the centralized model of content delivery will be eradicated completely, giving rise to a fairer, decentralized ecosystem.

This article was originally published at MinDice.com.

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Bitcoin, Blockchain, Blockchain technology, Cryptocurrency

To understand cryptocurrency, you first need to understand the history of the virtual coin. Virtual coin, or digital currency, differs from traditional fiat currency in that there is no physical representation to accompany each unit of value. Long before the crypto craze of 2017, there were the pioneers of electronic cash.

These early financial freethinkers shaped the market and prepared the world for the digitization of the economy. Fast forward to today’s crypto market, and thanks to the efficiency of blockchain technology, you now see digital money experiencing increased adoption globally.

Virtual Coin Before Bitcoin

Over the last twenty years, virtual currency payment systems have flourished. These systems existed long before the advanced blockchain technology of today made virtual coins, such as Bitcoin, a household name.

Virtual currencies are not considered a legal tender in most countries for many reasons. Governments do not issue these coins. Instead, virtual currencies are issued by the platform’s developers. Today, there are many ways in which companies release virtual coins. Before cryptocurrencies, bonuses were the most popular form of issuing digital currency.

 

 

Problems with Early Virtual Coin

The problem with these early virtual coins was that they were too susceptible to attack from hackers or scammers. Additionally, the lack of any form of material confirmation left many businesses skeptical of the true value behind these concepts. Remember, this was 20 years prior to the emergence of blockchain technology. Many people didn’t even own a computer at this time.

Netherlands, 1980s

One of the first examples of an attempt to create a digital cash comes from the Netherlands in the late 1980s. Gas station owners were fed up with their businesses being robbed. The problem got so bad that someone decided it would be safer to find a way to place money onto smart cards. Trucking company owners could load these cards and give them to their drivers. The drivers would then use the cards at the participating gas stations.

Flooz.com

Another example of virtual coin usage before cryptocurrency is the internet currency Flooz. Flooz.com issued these virtual coins in 1998 as part of a marketing campaign. Each Flooz equaled one dollar in value.

Users would receive Flooz coin for purchases made on the Flooz.com website. Users could then spend their Flooz on more products on the site, or they could take their bonus earnings and shop at numerous other participating vendors.

The concept was well before its time, and despite a multi-million dollar advertising campaign, Flooz never achieved the level of adoption required to sustain the project. The platform also took heavy losses after a combination of Russian and Filipino hackers made purchases using stolen credit cards. The company is now defunct, but the inspiration of their project lives on in the digital currencies of today.

Blinded Cash

In 1981, an American cryptographer by the name of David Chaum released his now famous paper titled Untraceable Electronic Mail, Return Addresses, and Digital Pseudonyms. Chaum described an anonymous digital currency system. In 1989, Chaum developed his protocol into a working virtual coin known as DigiCash.

David Chaum via Quartz

David Chaum via Quartz

The protocol was revolutionary and introduced the world to the concept of blind signatures. Blind signatures disguise the content of a message and utilize a combination of a public and private password to verify the validity of the participants. Today, this concept is used in major cryptocurrencies in the form of public keys.

B-Money

A decade after DigiCash entered the market, a developer by the name of Wei Dai made waves in the cryptographic community after publishing a paper called B-Money Anonymous, Distributed Electronic Cash System. This virtual coin concept utilized a decentralized network, which included private sending capabilities and auto-enforceable contracts. While the technical aspects of this virtual coin were far from blockchain technology, and the project never gained enough momentum to take flight, the concept greatly influenced the future cryptocurrency market.

Bit Gold

Longtime virtual coin advocate, Nick Szabo, pioneered the proof-of-work system used today by cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin with his Bit Gold protocol. Bit Gold helped to cement the concept of a decentralized network and the elimination of third-party verification systems. Satoshi borrowed many of Bit Gold’s concepts. So much so, that many people believed Satoshi Nakamoto to be Nick Szabo. It took a public denial by Szabo to finally convince people otherwise.

HashCash

Many crypto enthusiasts consider HashCash to be the direct inspiration for Bitcoin. HashCash was introduced in 1997 by cryptographer Adam Beck. Beck incorporated a proof-of-work protocol to verify the validity of a transaction. HashCash’s proof-of-work protocol previously saw use as a spam reduction technique before being adapted for virtual coins. The concept impacted Nakamoto to the point that he cites Beck in the Bitcoin white paper. However, HashCash lost relevance after suffering scalability issues due to increased network congestion.

Enter Bitcoin and the Wonders of Blockchain

Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous creator of Bitcoin, labels the world’s most successful cryptocurrency as “a peer-to-peer electronic cash system.” Unlike the virtual coins before Bitcoin, Satoshi had the backing of powerful new technology, blockchain.

Blockchain technology stores information in duplicate over a vast network of computers. Prior to any changes to the blockchain, fifty-one percent of the nodes must agree on the validity of the chain. This validation process references the previous blocks. The longest verifiable chain of transactions remains the valid chain. In this manner, blockchain technology eliminates the need for third-party verification systems such as banks.

Advantages of Virtual Coins

The advent of blockchain technology increased the benefits of virtual coins significantly. Users can transfer cryptocurrency in near instant time, and at a much cheaper rate than the traditional methods of global money transfer. Cryptocurrencies eliminate the need for verification systems, which saves you big time.

To put the level of savings experienced by crypto users into perspective, look at the traditional international money transfer methods. Today, your funds require verification from potentially thirty-six different third-party organizations when sent globally. And, each organization tacks on a fee for their services.

Virtual Coins Are Here to Stay

Now, the world has multiple legitimate virtual currency options to consider. These digital currencies continue to shape the economics of the future. Today, virtual coins are more common than ever, and for the first time in history, digital money receives recognition from traditional financial firms.

 
 
  This article was originally published at CoinCentral.com.
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Bitcoin, Blockchain, Blockchain technology, Cryptocurrency

Post Oak Motor Cars, the luxury automobile retailer which stocks Rolls-Royce, Bentley, and Bugatti vehicles has announced plans to accept Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash payments at its dealership. The retailer is reportedly the first one in the U.S. to embrace the use of popular cryptocurrencies for retail payments.

The auto retailer will operate its crypto payment service via Bitpay, a popular payment service provider. According to Tilman Fertitta, renowned American businessman, and owner of Post Oak Motor Cars, the company is moving forward with this new plan to enhance the buying experience for its customers who are cryptocurrency holders or wish to use digital currencies for their own reasons. He also stated that crypto purchases will make it easier and faster for people to buy cars from the dealership.

The statement by Fertitta reads:

“Being a premier luxury car dealer, I always want to offer my customers the very best buying experience and this partnership will allow anyone around the world to purchase our vehicles faster and easier.”

In 2017, Fertitta opened up to reporters concerning his thoughts on Bitcoin, stating that people will most likely not buy it since it is not exactly insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). However, Bitcoin adoption has grown considerably since that statement was made and various corporations have risen to the task of catering to the ever-growing population of crypto investors. Currently, Post Oak Motor Cars is no exception.

According to the press release, Bitpay is embracing the dealership’s plan due to its reputation and the popularity of the luxury automobiles it stocks.

The statement by Sonny Singh, Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) of BitPay, reads:

“We’ve noticed people prefer to make larger purchases with bitcoin since it is a simple way to make payments. This partnership is timely with the increasing popularity of Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Bugatti vehicles. Post Oak Motors has a great reputation for selling the finest cars, and we are thrilled to be partnering with Tilman.”

THE POST OAK MOTOR CARS LUXURY EXPERIENCE

Like other Tilman Fertitta companies, Post Oak offers a luxury experience to its customers, that seeks to integrate them into its ecosystem, making them return several times. At its prestigious uptown/galleria area of Houston, the dealership welcomes customers looking to purchase Bentley, Rolls-Royce, and Bugatti vehicles.

The world of cryptocurrency is often characterized by the presence of millionaires, flashy cars and real estate. This is why it makes sense that Post Oaks sees an emerging class of cryptocurrency owners among its clients. By allowing this group of customers pay with their digital currency, the firm is retaining customers and opening its doors to even more customers within the field.

The firm aims to create the best possible automotive experience and in the past, this has meant post-delivery services, including major repairs, oil changes, brake repairs, and tire replacements. Now, however, this includes catering to its crypto crowd and ensuring that people are not restricted when paying for luxury items. This is especially convenient for investors since it is not easy to convert cryptocurrency back to fiat currency without any hassle.

Cryptocurrency acceptance is still minimal, seeing as there is still much development going on, in terms of stability, security, and regulation. This means that businesses accepting cryptocurrency are few. There are currently over 20 million active Bitcoin wallets and about 5% of Americans use cryptocurrency, so this presents a unique opportunity, just waiting for brands to snatch it up.

WHO IS TILMAN FERTITTA?

Tilman Joseph Fertitta is an American entrepreneur as well as the Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and owner of Landry’s, Inc. With over $3.5 billion in assets, the company operates more than 500 restaurants, hotels, and casinos across various international locations, generating $3.4 billion in revenue annually.

Fertitta is also a TV personality, Chief Executive Officer at The Oceanaire, Inc., and Co-Chairman as well as Chief Executive Officer of Landcadia Holdings, Inc. He currently serves as Chairman at Houston Police Foundation, Houston Children’s Charity, Golden Nugget, Inc. and University of Houston System Board of Regents. He is worth an estimated $3 billion and is regarded as the richest restaurateur in the world.

Born in Galveston, Texas, in 1957, Fertitta spent part of his childhood learning the ropes at his father’s seafood restaurant. According to many reports, Tilman Fertitta began investing in stock as early as high school and successfully established his first business in his twenties. After graduating from high school he got into Texas Tech University and later transferred to the University of Houston, where he studied business administration and hospitality management.

By 23, a young Fertitta, still in college, took a loan of $6,000 to start a seaside hotel in Galveston. This was his first business. Soon, he was able to build a restaurant empire which he has continued to expand till date.

In September 2017, he signed an agreement to purchase popular NBA team, the Houston Rockets, for $2.2 billion. He is also credited as one of the original investors who helped shape the future of the Houston Texans as an NFL team although he eventually sold his franchise. He served as the director of NBA team, the Houston Rockets for a long time.

Tilman Fertitta was the star of the reality show “Billion Dollar Buyer” which aired on CNBC from 2016 and featured the businessman traveling across the country to test innovative hospitality products to be used in Landry’s, Inc.’s hotels and casinos. In 2004, Tilman Fertitta became the second-youngest Texan to be inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame.

WHAT ARE OTHER CAR BRANDS DOING WITHIN THE CRYPTOCURRENCY INDUSTRY?

Luxury Car,  Bitcoin

As cryptocurrency users continue to increase, the auto industry is making moves to promote adoption and incorporate blockchain technology into their operations. One example is Daimler AG, the Germany based automobile giant responsible for a range of luxury cars including Mercedes-Benz.

The firm recently created MobiCoin, its own digital currency, as a way to reward drivers for maintaining eco-friendly driving practices like low-speed driving. The vehicles will transmit data directly to Daimler AG which will allocate MobiCoins based on this data, all carried out via a mobile app.

Other examples are BMW, Renault, Ford, and General Motors, which are among 30 companies in the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI), including IBM and Bosch. These companies hope to accelerate blockchain adoption and promote new use cases in areas like ride-sharing.

Recently, Ford also filed a patent for a vehicle-to-vehicle communication system, involving the exchange of cryptocurrency tokens as a way to facilitate traffic flow.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Brands continue to push for cryptocurrency adoption due to the rising demand and secure ways to purchase items with these currencies. For several reasons including anonymity, and transaction speed, many people find it easier to spend cryptocurrency. This is why it is important for companies to map out ways to cater to this portion of their customer base.

Post Oak Motor Cars is no amateur when it comes to the convenience of its customers. Under the leadership of Tilman Fertitta, the company is showing that it is more than willing to go to great lengths to improve the buying experience for them.

This article was originally published at MinDice.com.

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Bitcoin, Blockchain, Blockchain technology, Cryptocurrency

Unlike the period in which Bitcoin first emerged, it is a lot easier to buy cryptocurrency today. The major upside of this is that users do not have to break their necks searching for a way to buy their favorite coin.

There are numerous ways to go about it, including exchanges and Bitcoin ATMs, as opposed to attending crypto meetups and hanging around chatrooms in the hopes of meeting people who are willing to sell their tokens. However, most exchanges have not completely figured out how to make it easy for users to buy Bitcoin using fiat currency. In fact, this is a major drawback since people mostly have fiat currency as their starting point for acquiring cryptocurrency.

Normally, fiat purchases can be carried out through third-party applications like Paypal. However, users have found it nearly impossible to do something as simple as buying some Bitcoin straight from their Paypal accounts. With the Paypal active user base falling to 250 million, this is a far-reaching problem.

Currently, attempting to buy cryptocurrency through Paypal is difficult and expensive, mostly due to the potential for users to take advantage of chargebacks. For example, a user could buy some Bitcoins on an exchange, directly from their Paypal account and use its support system to charge it back so that they receive a refund. This can be problematic for exchanges since they can’t request refunds from the Bitcoin wallets they’ve credited.

WAYS IN WHICH BITCOIN CAN BE PURCHASED WITH A PAYPAL ACCOUNT

Although they are few, there are still some other ways in which users can purchase Bitcoin directly from their Paypal accounts, including direct trade, Bitcoin loans, and centralized exchanges and Specialized payment apps.

1. P2P DIRECT TRADE

Since most exchanges do not accept Paypal payments in exchange for BTC, direct trade is the most efficient way forward for those bent on using the payment app.

This involves sites that facilitate peer-to-peer agreements to sell and purchase Bitcoin using Paypal. Essentially, one user connects with another, either in person or through the use of a decentralized exchange like Localbitcoins, Paxful or Cancoin. After connecting, both users can agree on Paypal as a method of payment for their mutual benefit.

LOCALBITCOINS

Localbitcoins is easily the most popular way to buy BTC from a Paypal account. It is a peer-to-peer marketplace that aims to connect buyers and sellers who want to carry out their transactions using Paypal.

The platform method has continuously proven to be an effective way to achieve this. However, users must be careful when choosing sellers to avoid any fraudulent issues. Traders can be filtered by looking at their trade volume and feedback.

PAXFUL

This is another popular marketplace which links buyers and sellers as well as provides escrow services. The fees on Paxful are higher than the market rate but may prove to be worth it. Its user interface bears some slight similarities to Localbitcoins. Apart from Paypal, the platform also conducts transactions via Skrill, Payoneer and gift cards. The site will only accept verified U.S. Paypal accounts.

CANCOIN

Cancoin is a relatively new, decentralized peer-to-peer exchange for Bitcoin traders. It facilitates transactions between users and allows them to carry out these transactions using Paypal. Cancoin greatly emphasizes its security and range of tools to make the user experience more convenient.

Some features include multiple escrow orders, multi-signature transactions, custom alerts via email, SMS, desktop or browser and Interactive price history graphs. Creating an account on the platform is free but sellers pay a 1% fee on each transaction apart from the normal Bitcoin transaction fees. Buyers on the other hand, do not pay fees.

2. P2P BITCOIN “LOANS”

Bitcoin lending is becoming increasingly popular and since a large number of users receive money through Paypal, several bitcoin lending platforms accept it as a payment method. In these systems, users who hold Bitcoin can decide to lend their tokens to other users in hopes of generating profits from interest.

Since Bitcoin lending is still a growing concept, there are not many lending platforms. As a result, the chances of finding one that accepts Paypal as a payment method are slim. xCoins has managed to stand out in this regard.

XCOINS

xCoins is a cryptocurrency exchange, which also serves as a peer-to-peer marketplace, offering additional services including Bitcoin lending. It primarily exists to act as a bridge between Bitcoin lenders and borrowers.

When users fund their xCoins account, they can decide on what interest rates they would like to charge their borrowers, with a starting point of 15%.

Borrowers on the platform are matched with loans, according to the needs they specify.

xCoins guarantees a high level of security through its internal rating system. This way, the credibility of users can be verified easily.

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3. CENTRALIZED CRYPTOCURRENCY EXCHANGES

A handful of centralized exchanges have also developed their own systems for ensuring security while accepting Paypal as a payment method. They include Virwox and eToro.

VIRWOX

VirWoX, an acronym for Virtual World Exchange, is a centralized cryptocurrency exchange which accepts Paypal payments. It was launched in 2007 as a digital currency exchange even though it precedes Bitcoin.

Currently, the platform has over 1 million registered users and uses an automatic order system to match them. Like almost any other exchange, a user must create an account to use the platform.

After this step, funds can be deposited in a virtual wallet using Paypal, credit cards, and a host of other options. Subsequently, buy-sell pairs, market limits or order limits can be created on the exchange page and submitted.

ETORO

eToro is a popular social trading and online forex platform where users can invest in several digital assets. The platform offers a wide array of cryptocurrencies and ensures that all user assets are managed in a single place.

It also eliminates the need for a digital wallet and claims to use high-quality encryption technology to secure investors’ funds. Unfortunately, fees on the Etoro platform are relatively high.

4. SPECIALIZED PAYMENT APPS

Some payment apps act as intermediaries to allow Paypal users access cryptocurrency from their accounts. One example is WirexApp which is not an exchange, yet facilitates the purchase of digital currency.

WIREXAPP

WirexApp allows users to set up consistent Paypal cryptocurrency payments. Unfortunately, a user’s first transaction takes about 1-2 days but all transactions after that are carried out instantly.

It is available in several countries including Bahamas, Bahrain, Iceland, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Malta, Philippines, Romania, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates among others.

To get started, users must create and verify a WirexApp account. This gets them a free virtual visa card which they have to deposit about $3 into. The card can be added to Paypal and used to pay for cryptocurrency transactions.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Buying cryptocurrency from a Paypal account has many upsides. But fraud, its major drawback seems to trump them all. Until major exchanges find a way around chargebacks, users may be stuck jumping through hoops just to buy cryptocurrency conveniently.

At the same time, platforms that currently offer this service are few and as a result, there is more profit to go around in the form of transaction fees. While this is great for these exchanges it does not do users any favors– since the scarcity of a Paypal payment option on cryptocurrency exchange will only drive up the existing transaction fees on the few platforms that offer this option. Hopefully, exchanges will become fiat-friendly in the next future and allow users to pay for cryptocurrency more conveniently.

This article was originally published at MinDice.com.

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Bitcoin, Blockchain, Blockchain technology, Cryptocurrency

What is Bitcoin Gold?

Only a few months after the Bitcoin Cash hard fork, the Bitcoin blockchain experienced another community-driven hard fork known as Bitcoin Gold (BTG).

Bitcoin Gold hopes to change the paradigm around mining on the Bitcoin blockchain. According to the founders, the Bitcoin blockchain has become too centralized. Large companies with huge banks of mining computers now mine the vast majority of Bitcoin. For the founders of Bitcoin Gold, having large companies control the Bitcoin network defeats the purpose of a decentralized ledger and peer-to-peer currencies.

In response, they’ve initialized the Bitcoin Gold project. It’s an alternate fork of the Bitcoin blockchain that implements changes that make mining more equitable. The goal of Bitcoin Gold is to create a network where anyone can become a miner with only basic hardware. As a result, Bitcoin Gold mining would be spread among many miners, instead of a few large companies.

In this guide, we cover all things Bitcoin Gold such as:


Decentralizing the Bitcoin Blockchain

In the very early days of Bitcoin, ordinary computers verified and completed the proof of work needed to power the Bitcoin blockchain. However, the past several years have seen rapid development in the hardware used to mine Bitcoin.

What started as normal computers on the original Bitcoin network soon graduated to specialized rigs with graphics processing units (GPUs) installed to hash the proof of work faster.

Today, the hardware has advanced even further. Application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) now perform nearly all of the mining on the Bitcoin blockchain. These are devices built specifically for Bitcoin mining that are 1,000,000 times better at mining than your home computer. Buying, installing, and running ASICs has a high startup cost, making it difficult for the average user to get involved.

[Editor’s note: The more expensive mining becomes, the fewer people can actually do it. This means that the mining network becomes that much more centralized. The argument Bitcoin Gold wants to make is to make mining Bitcoin something everyone can do, therefore keeping the mining as decentralized as possible.]

In addition, most successful Bitcoin mining operations today involve entire rooms or warehouses full of ASICs running 24/7. Small time miners simply can’t compete.

Mining Farm

Mining farm. Photo by Marco Krohn – Creative Commons

Bitcoin Gold’s motto, “Make Bitcoin Decentralized Again,” is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Donald Trump’s election campaign slogan. However, it also references Satoshi’s original vision for Bitcoin of a peer-to-peer network where anyone could take part in the mining process. In order to change Bitcoin mining into something more equitable, Bitcoin Gold proposes changing the blockchain to eliminate ASIC mining.

SHA-256 vs Equihash

The fundamental change in Bitcoin Gold is choosing a different hashing algorithm that makes proof of work more difficult for ASICs. This is accomplished when a hashing algorithm requires more memory (RAM) to complete. Since ASICs are about pure processing power, requiring more memory bottlenecks their processing ability. This makes small-time mining on GPUs competitive once again.

The current, ASIC-driven Bitcoin blockchain uses a hashing algorithm known as SHA-256 for its proof of work. The founders of Bitcoin Gold instead use another algorithm known as Equihash. Alex Biryukov and Dmitry Khovratovich developed Equihash as an ASIC-resistant algorithm, and it has already seen success powering other cryptocurrencies, the most famous of which is Zcash.

Ultimately, changing to Equihash would make Bitcoin mining more distributed, and that’s really the only change that Bitcoin Gold proposes for the network. While mining centralization is an issue on the Bitcoin blockchain, with miners blacklisting some users or giving preference to certain transactions, there’s a limit to how much power these central miners can wield. It’s not clear that mining centralization has had an overly negative impact on Bitcoin.

If it ever did, the Bitcoin core developers could implement Equihash themselves, essentially firing all the current ASIC miners on the Bitcoin blockchain. The prospect of losing the hundreds of thousands of dollars they invested in their mining hardware with an algorithm change is enough to keep most miners on the network honest.


Who Received Bitcoin Gold?

Since Bitcoin Gold is a fork of the original Bitcoin blockchain, everyone who owned BTC before the fork received the same amount of BTG, at a 1:1 ratio. You didn’t need to do anything special to receive the BTG, but claiming it may have gotten tricky depending on how you had your wallet set up.

You’re able to trade BTG on nearly 20 exchanges. The most popular options are HitBTC, OKEx, Bitfinex, and Binance.

How to Mine Bitcoin Gold

If you’re interested in how to mine Bitcoin Gold, we’ve got good news. The set-up process is relatively simple, and you mine with just a GPU – no ASICs required.

First, you need to join a mining pool. You’ve got over ten to choose from with pool.gold as one of the most popular options. Next, download the mining software from the pool that you joined. Pool.gold has mining software available for NVIDIA and Radeon.

If you don’t have a BTG wallet, set one up. Your options include BTGWallet.online, the Bitcoin Gold Core Wallet, or any exchange that supports BTG.

Continuing with pool.gold as the example, you have separate instructions based on your GPU:

  • NVIDIA: Edit the start.bat file to include your Bitcoin Gold wallet address followed by the worker name.
  • Radeon: Edit the config.txt file to include your Bitcoin Gold wallet address followed by the worker name.

Finally, double-click “start.bat” and begin mining.


When Did It Go Live?

The Bitcoin Gold hard fork occurred on October 24, 2017, with block 491,407 on the Bitcoin blockchain.When that happened, Bitcoin Gold took a snapshot of all the balances and transactions on Bitcoin up to that point. The new blockchain began from there.

Is Bitcoin Gold a Competitor to Bitcoin?

Although Bitcoin Gold is a hard fork of the original Bitcoin blockchain, it’s not really a competitor to Bitcoin. While other hard forks, like Bitcoin Cash, cannibalized some miners from the Bitcoin network to work on the new blockchain, Bitcoin Gold’s anti-ASIC algorithm means virtually none of Bitcoin’s current miners will want to switch to mining BTG.

Instead, Bitcoin Gold competes with other anti-ASIC cryptocurrencies like Ethereum for mining power. Mining on such networks comes in the form of smaller-scale GPU mining. The problem for Bitcoin Gold is those other anti-ASIC cryptocurrencies have a longer history and are more predictable for miners. It’s not clear why a miner would want to switch to BTG, unless the price per BTG surges.

The one advantage that Bitcoin Gold has is wide dispersal. Everyone on the Bitcoin network received will receive BTG, so there’s potential for widespread adoption.

Bitcoin Gold vs Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, & SegWit2x

With so many forks on the Bitcoin blockchain in such quick succession, it can be confusing to keep track of the differences. Here’s a table to help you out:
 BitcoinBitcoin GoldBitcoin CashSegWit2x (cancelled)
PoW TypeASICASIC-resistant (GPU)ASICASIC
Block Time~10 mins~10 mins~10 mins~10 mins
Difficulty adjustment~2 weeksEach block~2 weeks~2 weeks
SegWitYesYesNoYes
Replay ProtectionYesYesNo
Total Coin Supply21 million21 million21 million21 million
Bitcoin Gold is the only Bitcoin fork to date to implement a new ASIC-resistant proof of work algorithm. Along with that new hashing algorithm, Bitcoin Gold implements a new difficulty adjustment with every block, gradually increasing the difficulty based on past block times. Finally, Bitcoin Gold is one of the only Bitcoin forks to support both Segregated Witness (SegWit) technology and replay protection. SegWit increases the number of transactions possible per block and replay protection prevents fraudulent parallel transactions on two forks.

Replay Protection After a Fork

hard fork

A hard fork.

Replay protection is critical when implementing a fork of an existing blockchain. The shared code and wallet addresses between BTC and BTG make it possible to implement a replay attack. Basically, if you want to conduct a transaction on both BTC and BTG at the same time, you’re fine. However, if you want to pay someone in BTC and keep your BTG, you’re open to an attack. An attacker could send a false signal between the forks that causes you to lose both currencies when you only meant to send one.

Bitcoin Gold offers full replay protection on BTG to prevent such attacks. The solution involves a SIGHASH_FORK_ID mechanism that rehashes transactions, meaning they can’t be transferred across from BTC to BTG.

What People are Saying About Bitcoin Gold

Most new cryptocurrencies involve ASIC-resistant hashing algorithms, and it’s becoming something of an industry standard to promote decentralization. In that respect, Bitcoin Gold holds a lot to be excited about. At its core, it’s about transitioning the Bitcoin network to more decentralized mining.

However, as we saw above, there’s not much evidence that the current Bitcoin mining system is broken. There have been some small complaints, and it’s not ideal that the network is so centralized. Nevertheless, miners on Bitcoin have a lot to lose if they wield their power too aggressively. There are also new entrantsto the Bitcoin mining community that are decentralizing control from a few key ASIC farms.

The general consensus from Bitcoin experts is there’s not enough new in Bitcoin Gold to warrant an independent investment. While it certainly doesn’t hurt to hold onto your free BTG that you receive as a result of the fork (if you owned Bitcoin before Oct 24), wait until the dust settles before deciding whether to buy more.

  This article was originally published at CoinCentral.com.
 
 
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Bitcoin, Blockchain, Blockchain technology, Cryptocurrency

Bitcoin was all the rave last year, with its high-profit margins and an influx of new investors. However, it is safe to say that over the span of one year, it has matured considerably. Like Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin told CNBC, Bitcoin may never have as much hype as it did in 2017 because so many people are now aware of cryptocurrency and how it works.

A lot of things have changed in the cryptocurrency sector since over-the-top forecasts were made in 2017, including a $160,000 price estimation for Bitcoin. One of such changes is the introduction of Bitcoin Futures which control the price of BTC by allowing large investors to exert pressure on it.

This means that predictions of large price values like the one above are unlikely to be met in the near future. Another change is the start of Bitcoin institutional investing. For example, both the Bakkt and the Nasdaq platforms claim to be open to offering cryptocurrency investing to institutions.

While stakeholders struggle to keep the BTC price at bay, one daunting question still looms: Will Bitcoin crash again in 2019 or will it peak and stabilize at a better price point than it currently has?

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE?

The last major cryptocurrency crash which followed the December 2017 peak brought about a need for an evolution in Bitcoin investment. Where Ethereum had ICOs as a new way to pour funds into the cryptocurrency industry, Bitcoin lacked one.

Soon, industry experts like the Winklevoss twins started looking towards exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to create long-term sustenance of Bitcoin as an investment vehicle. Unfortunately, these ETFs cannot function without approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission, so the industry is at a crossroads: evolve and survive, or continue at the same pace and end in a bubble burst.

 

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AN EMPHASIS ON NON-PHYSICAL BITCOIN ETFS

An exchange-traded fund is a security that tracks underlying real-world assets like gold, equities, oil, bonds, commodities or cryptocurrency. It allows investors to buy into it and earn dividends from their investment. Such shares are easy to trade like stocks and can get rid of any barriers faced by investors when trying to purchase those underlying assets themselves.

The submitted ETFs proposals describe funds that are primarily derivatives. They can be shorted or coordinated with a Bitcoin future. Only physical Bitcoin ETFs are currently a good fit for the Bitcoin market since derivatives bring about the unfavorable market to another state.

Bitcoin exchange-traded funds have been in the headlines lately, mostly for their rejections. Just recently, theWinklevoss twins faced a rejection of their own. This has not deterred other parties who are bent on seeing this new form of investment come to life.

Unfortunately, the SEC is building up quite a track record of rejections with a toll of up to 15 rejected Bitcoin ETFproposals since 2013.

BITCOIN PRICE FORECAST VS. BITCOIN USAGE     

One major factor to consider when looking at the possibility of another crash is the adoption rate of Bitcoin. Currently, ownership is still quite low, only a few points higher than last year. This implies stagnation and also that investors have found other coins which they deem more competitive. The younger generation is generally more bullish on Bitcoin usage since they consider it a product of their age, but the older generation remains skeptical.

However, this brief stagnation does not prove that Bitcoin will crash. If anything, the introduction of Futures and the demand for ETFs make up for it and shows that Bitcoin is here to stay.

It also shows that users are serious about integrating it into their daily transactions, which may eventually save the pioneer digital currency.

The introduction of stable coins like tether and application-tolerant platforms like Ethereum and EOS have given Bitcoin a serious run for its money. The high price point, which has been Bitcoin’s most attractive feature in the past has also turned out to be its Achilles’ heel.

Percentage increases in profit are simply not as good as those in cryptocurrencies with lower prices. For example, a user who buys $2000 worth of XRP at $0.3 can afford to purchase 6666 tokens while the same amount will only purchase about 0.3 BTC at $6000 per unit. While XRP can easily rise by 100% to $0.6, it will take a lot more for BTC to hit $12,000. This makes it more profitable to buy into smaller cryptocurrencies.

But what about the earlier forecasts of Bitcoin? How do they tie in with this new usage information? Simple, they do not. Several forecasts were made with assumptions of an ideal situation in which adoption would progress quickly and at a steady rate. Some of these forecasts have been revisited, with extended timelines that seem more realistic in light of Bitcoin’s recent performance.

WHAT ARE THE BITCOIN PRICE PREDICTIONS FOR 2019 AND 2020?

The recent issues faced by Bitcoin have not stopped industry figures from making future predictions about its price. Industry predictions generally fall between $25,000-$29,000 as a realistic price point for Bitcoin.

This is especially because it has been trending in its transition band, in which it will trade most of the time, since May 2018. This signifies an imminent major bull run in the cryptocurrency industry.

Some other significant Bitcoin price predictions for 2019 include:

  • $28,000 by the end of 2019, according to Ronnie Moas, crypto bull and founder of Standpoint Research, in a report published by Cointelegraph.
  • $36,000 by the end of 2019, according to Sam Doctor, Quantamental Strategist at Fundstrat Global Advisors, who based his prediction on the historical average 1.8x P/BE multiple.
  • $25,000 according to Thomas Lee, Co-Founder and Head of Research at Fundstrat Global Advisors
  • $1 million, according to John McAfee, Founder of McAfee Associates, who earlier predicted a $500,000 price point before modifying it. McAfee claims that he used the same model which was used to predict $5000 at the end of 2017.
  • $10,000-$100,000 in the next 5 years, according to Joe DiPasquale, CEO of BitBull Capital.
  • $10,000 by the end of 2020 according to Fred Schebesta, Co-Founder and CEO of Finder.
  • $61,900 by the end of 2020 according to Bobby Ullery, CTO of Waysay who also predicted a shared market capitalization of $4.5 trillion between Ethereum and Bitcoin.
  • $30,000 by the end of 2020, according to Matias Dorta, Founder of ICO Informer, who also sees several countries adopting Bitcoin as a reserve currency by 2030.
  • $30,000 by the end of 2020, according to Craig Russo, Co-founder of sludgefeed.com
  • $75,000 by the end of 2020 and a market capitalization of $1.3 trillion, according to Brandon Quittem, a cryptocurrency analyst & writer.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Due to all the factors discussed above, including pending ETF proposals, stagnation, the introduction of Bitcoin futures and the competition among cryptocurrencies, it is difficult to say whether Bitcoin will indeed crash again in 2019. Considering its current performance, the leading cryptocurrency is at a point where it could either crash again or blossom into a widely accepted medium of exchange and investment.

As with almost everything else in this relatively new industry, the future of Bitcoin is shrouded in unpredictability and falls heavily in the hands of investors and regulators. However, there is no denying that Bitcoin is evolving every day as more people become exposed to it, including those who are not direct users.

This article was originally published at MinDice.com.

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Bitcoin, Blockchain, Blockchain technology, Cryptocurrency

Have you ever thought about how blockchain could affect the diamond industry? Probably not, right? But now diamond blockchain technology could improve how we track diamonds, from the mine to the jewelry store.

But there’s an issue with diamonds. As with any popular industry, the diamond market isn’t exactly squeaky clean. Some diamonds, known as conflict diamonds, are illegally traded to fund wars abroad. You may not know this due to the high demand for diamonds. Almost 50 percent of the demand for diamonds come from the US — and it isn’t a surprise. After all, it is the go-to jewel of engagements and weddings. And because of its hardiness, diamond is ideal for industrial use.

That said, mining for diamonds can be a violent affair. The 2006 hit Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, introduced the travesties related to diamond mining in Africa to the world’s stage.

Regardless, stakeholders in the diamond industry rightfully want to stop the trade of conflict diamonds, and blockchain might be the solution.

What Is a Conflict Diamond?

For those who don’t know, a conflict diamond is an uncut diamond that is mined in an armed conflict zone. The diamond is then traded, and the funds are used to finance the fighting. These blood diamonds are usually associated with conflicts in central and western Africa.

According to CNN, about 4 percent of the world’s diamond population came from Sierra Leone during its civil war (1991-2002). And that’s from just one country! In an article by CBS, experts suggested that blood diamonds could make up 15 percent of the diamond trade.

Despite these statistics, there are measures in place that attempt to smother the illegal industry. The primary actor is the Kimberley Process. This certification scheme connects local governments and international organizations to solve the problem. Their solution: Ensure every shipment of diamonds from these areas has certification.

Does It Work?

The Kimberly Process says it does and claims a 99.8 percent success rate.

But with so many intermediaries, and so many steps between mining and selling the diamonds, fraud is still highly probable. Many believe the process could be more effective, including the diamond giant De Beers.

The Diamond Blockchain

The De Beers Group, which owns over 30 percent of the diamond market, has recently announced its intent to pursue blockchain tech. That’s right. One of the industry leaders wants to utilize the blockchain to curb conflict diamonds.

From what we knew about blockchain, it should work. Cataloging diamonds on the blockchain will create transparency. Only a select few will have access to the ledger, in order to ensure that each individual in the process does their job correctly. You no longer need to trust governments, the mines, the shipment team. If the diamond is certified on the blockchain, it’s legit.

De Beers plans to track the diamonds from initial mining to final sale. That way, you can trace every move of the diamond on the digital ledger.

Their blockchain venture, Tracr, launched in January 2018. Despite being founded by De Beers, the company stresses that it has no access to the data unless it’s shared by the data owner. Using the Kimberly Process as a guide, they’ve invested with diamond offices, producers, graders, retailers, and other stakeholders to make the project a reality.

Diamond Blockchain: A screenshot from the Tracr website, listing the problems of supply chain

A screenshot from Tracr’s homepage. These supply chain vulnerabilities are exploited by the trade of conflict diamonds.

But they aren’t the only ones using blockchain to kill conflict diamonds.

In 2015, Everledger was used to securely track diamonds. It came back in 2017 with a new Diamond Time-Lapse plan (DDLP). This new initiative tracks the whole process, from mining to certification, in real time.

But Everledger isn’t completely unrelated to De Beers, either. This tech was built by Dharmanandan Diamonds, a trust of the DDPL and a sight holder of De Beers. In other words, the creators of Everledger are authorized purchasers of rough diamonds by De Beers.

Is De Beers the Solution?

IBM joined the diamond-tracking trade in April of 2018, partnering with various jewelry firms, and they weren’t alone. In fact, a Canadian NGO, Impact, left the Kimberly Process altogether, citing that the De Beers solution was unsatisfactory.

If this is true, there could be more room for blockchain tech development in the diamond industry.

Summary

Saying conflict diamonds are an issue is an understatement. The funds from these illicitly traded gems are funding violence and terror. Blockchain offers a stunning solution.

So far, we’ve seen industry leaders accept the new tech with open arms, but there’s still room for the technology to grow, and the process can still evolve.

But one thing is certain: These initiatives are making us think about how we can prevent the trade of blood diamonds and pave the way to peace.

 This article was originally published at CoinCentral.com.
 
 
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