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What is Bitcoin?

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

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Posted on 19 February 2018 | 8:15 am

$850 Million Raised in ICO So Far, Says Telegram

Messaging app provider Telegram has raised an initial $850 million in its controversial initial coin offering (ICO), according to a public document.

Posted on 19 February 2018 | 7:20 am

Sidechains: Why These Researchers Think They Solved a Key Piece of the Puzzle

Sidechains and Why These Researchers Think They Solved a Key Piece of the Puzzle

New blockchains are born all the time. Bitcoin was the lone blockchain for years, but now there are hundreds. The problem is, if you want to use the features offered on another blockchain, you have to buy the tokens for that other blockchain.

But all that may soon change. One developing technology called sidechains promises to make it easier to move tokens across blockchains and, as a result, open the doors to a world of possibilities, including building bridges to the legacy financial systems of banks.

In October 2017, Aggelos Kiayias, professor at the University of Edinburgh and chief scientist at blockchain research and development company IOHK; Andrew Miller, professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Dionysis Zindros, researcher at the University of Athens, released the paper “Non-Interactive Proofs of Proof-of-Work” (NiPoPoW), introducing a critical piece to the sidechains puzzle that had been missing for three years. This is the story of how they got there.

But, first, what exactly is a sidechain?    

Same Coin, Different Blockchain

A sidechain is a technology that allows you to move your tokens from one blockchain to another, use them on that other blockchain and then move them back at a later point in time, without the need for a third party.  

In the past, the parent blockchain has typically been Bitcoin, but a parent chain could be any blockchain. Also, when a token moves to another blockchain, it should maintain its same value. In other words, a bitcoin on an Ethereum sidechain would remain a bitcoin.  

The biggest advantage of sidechains is that they would allow users to access a host of new services. For instance, you could move bitcoin to another blockchain to take advantage of privacy features, faster transaction speeds and smart contracts.  

Sidechains have other uses, too. A sidechain could offer a more secure way to upgrade a protocol, or it could serve as a type of security firewall, so that in the event of a catastrophic disaster on a sidechain, the main chain would remain unaffected. “It is a kind of limited liability,” said Zindros in a video explaining how the technology works.

Finally, if banks were to create their own private blockchain networks, sidechains could enable communications with those networks, allowing users to issue and track shares, bonds and other assets.

Early Conversations

Early dialogue about sidechains first appeared in Bitcoin chat rooms around 2012, when Bitcoin Core developers were thinking of ways to safely upgrade the Bitcoin protocol.

One idea was for a “one-way peg,” where users could move bitcoin to a separate blockchain to test out a new client; however, once those assets were moved, they could not be moved back to the main chain.  

“I was thinking of this as a software engineering tool that could be used to make widespread changes,” Adam Back, now CEO at blockchain development company Blockstream, said in an interview with Bitcoin Magazine. “You could say, we are going to make a new version [of Bitcoin], and we think it will be ready in a year, but in the meantime, you can opt in early and test it.”

According to Back, sometime in the following year, on the Bitcoin IRC channel, Bitcoin Core developer Greg Maxwell suggested an idea for a “two-way peg,” where value could be transferred to the alternative chain and then back to Bitcoin at a later point.

A two-way peg addressed another growing concern at the time. Alternative coins, like Litecoin and Namecoin, were becoming increasingly popular. The fear was these “altcoins” would dilute the value of bitcoin. It made sense, Bitcoin Core developers thought, to keep bitcoin as a type of reserve currency, and relegate new features to sidechains. That way, “if you wanted to use a different feature, you wouldn’t have to buy a speculative asset,” said Back.

To turn the concept of sidechains into a reality, Back along with Maxwell and a few other Bitcoin Core developers formed Blockstream in 2014. In October that year, the group released “Enabling Blockchain Innovations with Pegged Sidechains,” a paper describing sidechains at a high level. Miller appears as a co-author on that paper as well.

How Sidechains Work

One important component of sidechains is a simplified payment verification (SPV) proof that shows that tokens have been locked up on one chain so validators can safely unlock an equivalent value on the alternative chain. But to work for sidechains, an SPV proof has to be small enough to fit into a single coinbase transaction, the transaction that rewards a miner with new coins. (Not to be confused with the company Coinbase.)

At the time the Blockstream researchers released their paper, they knew they needed a compressed SPV proof to get sidechains to work, but they had not yet developed the cryptography behind it. So they outlined general, high-level ideas.

The Blockstream paper describes two types of two-way pegs: a symmetric two-way peg, where both chains are independent with their own mining; and an asymmetric two-way peg, where sidechain miners are full validators of the parent chain.

In a symmetric two-way peg, a user sends her bitcoins to a special address. Doing so locks up the funds on the Bitcoin blockchain. That output remains locked for a contest period of maybe six blocks (one hour) to confirm the transaction has gone through, and then an SPV proof is created to send to the sidechain.

At that point, a corresponding transaction appears on the sidechain with the SPV proof, verifying that money has been locked up on the Bitcoin blockchain, and then coins with the same value of account are unlocked on the sidechain.

Coins are spent and change hands and, at a later point, are sent back to the main chain. When the coins are returned to the main chain, the process repeats. They are sent to a locked output on the sidechain, a waiting period goes by, and an SPV proof is created and sent back to the main blockchain to unlock coins on the main chain.  

In an asymmetric two-way peg, the process is slightly different. The transfer from the parent chain to the sidechain does not require an SPV proof, because validators on the sidechain are also aware of the state of the parent chain. An SPV proof is still needed, however, when the coins are returned to the parent chain.

The Search for a Compact Proof

In a sidechain, a compact SPV proof needs to contain a compressed version of all the block headers in the chain where funds are locked up from the genesis block through the contest period, as well as transaction data and some other data. In this way, an SPV proof can also be thought of as a “proof of proof-of-work” for a particular output.

Inspiration for the compact SPV proof comes from a linked-list-like structure known as a “skip list” developed 25 years ago. In applying this structure to a compact SPV proof, the trick was in finding a way to skip block headers while still maintaining a high level of security so that an adversary would not be able to fake a proof.

In working through the problem, Blockstream showed an early draft of its sidechains paper to Miller, who had been mulling over compact SPVs for a few years already.

In August 2012, in a post on a BitcoinTalk forum titled “The High-Value-Hash Highway,” Miller described an idea for a “merkle skip list” that a Bitcoin light client could use to quickly determine the longest chain and begin using it. In that post, he described the significance of the data structure as “absolutely staggering.”

When Miller read through the Blockstream draft, he spotted a vulnerability in the compact SPV proof described in the paper. Discussions ensued, but they “couldn’t find a way to solve that problem without compromising efficiency,” Miller said.

Miller’s non-trivial contributions to the Blockstream paper ended up being a few paragraphs in Appendix B that describe the challenges in creating a compact SPV proof.

It should “be possible to greatly compress a list of headers while still proving the same amount of work,” the section reads, but “optimising these tradeoffs and formalising the security guarantees is out of scope for this paper and the topic of ongoing work.”

That ongoing work remained stuck for three years.

Compact SPV

During that ensuing time, researchers at IOHK began taking a more serious interest in sidechains. Plans were taking shape for Cardano, a new proof-of-stake blockchain that IOHK had been contracted to build.

Cardano would consist of two layers: a settlement layer, launched in September 2017, where the money supply would be kept, and a smart contract layer. Those two layers would be two sidechain-enabled blockchains. In this way, the settlement could remain simple and secure from any attacks that might occur on the smart contract layer. But if IOHK was to get Cardano to work as intended, it needed to solve sidechains.

In February 2016, Kiayias, then a professor at the University of Athens, and two of his students, Nikolaos Lamprou and Aikaterini-Panagiota Stouka, released “Proofs of Proofs of Work with Sublinear Complexity” (PoPoW).

The paper was the first to formally address a compact SPV proof. Only, the proof described in the paper was interactive; whereas, to work for sidechains, it needed to be non-interactive.

In an interactive proof, the prover and the verifier enter into a back-and-forth conversation, meaning there could be more than one round of messaging. In contrast, a non-interactive proof would be a simple, short string of text that would fit neatly into a single transaction on the blockchain.

The PoPoW paper was presented at BITCOIN’16, a workshop affiliated with the International Financial Cryptography Association’s (IFCA) Financial Cryptography and Data Security conference. Miller, who was at the conference, approached Kiayias and shared an idea for making the protocol non-interactive.

It was a “nice observation,” Kiayias told Bitcoin Magazine, but making the proof secure was “not obvious at all” and would require significant work.

Zindros, who had just started working on his PhD under Kiayias, was also at the conference, and he needed a topic for his thesis. Kiayias saw a good fit, “so we pressed on, the three of us, and adapted the PoPoW protocol and its proof of security to the non-interactive setting,” Kiayias said.

In October 2016, Kiayias officially joined IOHK, and a year later, Kiayias, Miller and Zindros released “Non-Interactive Proofs of Proof-of-Work,” introducing a compact SPV proof five years after sidechains had first been talked about on Bitcoin forums.

“If it were interactive, I don’t know if it would have worked; with a non-interactive proof, it is really smooth,” Zindros told Bitcoin Magazine.

More Work to Be Done

Even with NiPoPoW, sidechains are still not fully specified. Several questions remain, including, how small can the proofs be made? After a transaction is locked up on one chain, how much time needs to pass before it can be spent on the other? And, will it be possible to move a token from a sidechain directly to another sidechain?

“A lot of theory still needs to be defined,” IOHK CEO Charles Hoskinson said in speaking to Bitcoin Magazine.

Also, while NiPoPoW is designed to work for proof-of-work blockchains, some believe that if blockchains are to take their place in the world on a grand scale, the future rests in proof-of-stake protocols like Ouroboros, Algorand or Snow White, which promise to be more energy-efficient than Bitcoin.

In particular, if Cardano, which is based on Ouroboros, is to work according to plan, IOHK researchers still need to discover a non-interactive proof of proof-of-stake (NiPoPoS).

Hoskinson is confident. “We can definitely do that,” he said. “We can definitely have a NiPoPoS. The question is how many megabytes or kilobytes is it going to be? Can we bring it down to 100 KB? That is really the question.”

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 19 February 2018 | 7:12 am

Record Retest? ETC Looks Poised on Double-Digit Climb

A prominent alternative to the ethereum blockchain is showing signs of building a higher base amid a period of strong market activity.

Posted on 19 February 2018 | 6:45 am

Coinbase. Ripple. Uphold? Investor Greg Kidd Defends Bold Bet

Exuberant investor Gregg Kidd outlines his plans for Uphold, a profitable crypto startup that's largely flown under the radar until now.

Posted on 19 February 2018 | 6:00 am

Bitcoin Closes In on $11000 Threshold in Fourth Day of Gains - Bloomberg


Bloomberg

Bitcoin Closes In on $11000 Threshold in Fourth Day of Gains
Bloomberg
Bitcoin climbed for a fourth day, accelerating a rally that began when it bounced off a technical support level. The biggest cryptocurrency rose 8.9 percent to $10,985 as of 12:08 p.m. in London. That brought its increase to 54 percent since Feb. 6 ...
Total Crypto Market Cap Back Over $500 Bln, Bitcoin Pushes $11KCointelegraph (Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency and Blockchain News)
What Could Lift Bitcoin, Ripple, Ethereum, And Litecoin Prices Back Towards New HighsForbes

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Posted on 19 February 2018 | 5:32 am

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Bitcoin $10K: Back On Track To A Trillion Dollar Valuation - Seeking Alpha


Seeking Alpha

Bitcoin $10K: Back On Track To A Trillion Dollar Valuation
Seeking Alpha
Bitcoin has surged by more than 80% since hitting a significant bottom roughly two weeks ago. And it's not just Bitcoin, the whole cryptocurrency complex has nearly doubled since bottoming. Many digital assets perform the same functions that are ...

Posted on 19 February 2018 | 5:04 am

Bitcoin broke through $11000 for the first time since January - CNBC


CNBC

Bitcoin broke through $11000 for the first time since January
CNBC
Bitcoin broke through the $11,000 mark over the weekend for the first time since the end of January as its price continues to slowly rise following a violent sell-off at the start of the month. The price of the cryptocurrency went as high as $11,279.18 ...
Bitcoin price could hit 'near-zero', co-founder of rival cryptocurrency Ethereum warnsMetro
Bitcoin price broke through $11000 for first time since JanuaryKHOU

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Posted on 19 February 2018 | 4:06 am

PC Giant Lenovo Seeks Blockchain Validation Patent

New patent filings from Lenovo indicate the technology company hopes to use a blockchain-based system for the authentication of physical documents.

Posted on 19 February 2018 | 12:00 am

The Real Problem With Nocoiners - Coindesk


Coindesk

The Real Problem With Nocoiners
Coindesk
Marco Santori, a lawyer who's represented bitcoin startups since the early days and now the president and chief legal officer of wallet provider Blockchain, recently tweeted his distaste for the word "nocoiner," writing that "it has a bitter us-vs-them ...

Posted on 18 February 2018 | 8:44 pm

The Real Problem With Nocoiners

What makes a nocoiner a nocoiner is not simply the absence of cryptocurrency from his investment portfolio, but his sanctimonious attitude about it.

Posted on 18 February 2018 | 8:35 pm

Bitcoin for buying juice? Only in Australia - CNET


CNET

Bitcoin for buying juice? Only in Australia
CNET
You thought you had to pay real money for bitcoin? Well you could do that, or you could enter Boost Juice's competition and win a bitcoin instead. If you live in Australia, that is. The Australian company on Monday announced its latest publicity stuff ...

and more »

Posted on 18 February 2018 | 6:43 pm

Bitcoin Thieves Threaten Real Violence for Virtual Currencies - New York Times


New York Times

Bitcoin Thieves Threaten Real Violence for Virtual Currencies
New York Times
In the beach resort of Phuket, Thailand, last month, the assailants pushed their victim, a young Russian man, into his apartment and kept him there, blindfolded, until he logged onto his computer and transferred about $100,000 worth of Bitcoin to an ...
Hard to catch bitcoin thieves who threaten real violence for virtual currenciesThe Straits Times
Wild, wild world of bitcoin: Armed thieves target digital currency holdersWRAL Tech Wire

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Posted on 18 February 2018 | 12:26 pm

Why Bitcoin Is Still Worth Investing In - Daily Beast


Daily Beast

Why Bitcoin Is Still Worth Investing In
Daily Beast
You may have heard more people recently both celebrate and bemoan the state of the cryptocurrency market, especially the explosive rise and fall (and most recently, rise again) of Bitcoin. Even if you only have a layman's knowledge of how the ...
White House Official: Bitcoin Regulation Won't Happen Anytime SoonBitcoinist
10 tips on how to pay taxes on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrenciesThe Daily Dot
We're Not Even Close to Regulating Bitcoin: US Cybersecurity CzarCryptovest

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Posted on 18 February 2018 | 7:38 am

Wall Street Has Solved A Big Problem For Bitcoin - Forbes


Forbes

Wall Street Has Solved A Big Problem For Bitcoin
Forbes
Wall Street has solved a big problem for Bitcoin: market volatility, paving the way for the people's currency to gain broad acceptance among merchants as a medium of exchange. That's a bullish development for the “people's currency.” Starbucks and ...

Posted on 18 February 2018 | 6:31 am

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How a $20 bitcoin buy led to a multiyear hassle - CNET


CNET

How a $20 bitcoin buy led to a multiyear hassle
CNET
And I was one of the first US users of this newfangled kind of machine. A tiny bitcoin investment, made in pursuit of a story, kicked off a multi-year saga of forgetfulness, password frustration and the kind of jackpot that would make a hardened slots ...

Posted on 18 February 2018 | 6:00 am

No, Not All ICOs Are Securities

A recent op-ed paints all ICOs with the same brush, claiming every one of them offers securities subject to SEC scrutiny. That is simply not the case.

Posted on 18 February 2018 | 4:20 am

Doge Is Helping Ethereum Solve Its Biggest Issue

Years after it was written off as a joke, dogecoin continues to prove useful, this time factoring into a major ethereum test.

Posted on 18 February 2018 | 3:00 am

In 10 Years We Won't Have Blockchains

Instead, we may have something that does what a blockchain does, only faster, cheaper and scalable. It'll look more like a graph than a linear chain.

Posted on 17 February 2018 | 4:00 am

Ethereum Game CryptoKitties Now Has Some Serious Rivals

CryptoKitties may be the best-known ethereum app, but other games are fast winning users and registering notable volumes for expensive collectables.

Posted on 17 February 2018 | 3:00 am

Swiss Regulator Gives Clear Guidelines for Launching ICOs

Swiss Regulator Gives Clear Guidelines for Launching ICOs

On February 16, 2018, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority FINMA put the world on notice by being the first major economy to set out clear guidelines on initial coin offerings (ICOs). In an announcement, the Swiss regulator addressed plans to apply financial market legislation to different tokens as well as lay out how ICO organizers can get proper input from FINMA when planning or launching their initial coin offerings.


The guidelines, offered as a downloadable PDF, show market participants what information is needed to help the Swiss regulator adequately address all issues presented in inquiries to the regulator, as well as how FINMA intends for current financial market legislation to be applied to ICOs. The published guidelines are intended to complement FINMA Guidance 04/2017, which in September 2017 addressed regulatory treatment of initial coin offerings.  

Important to note is FINMA’s concern over creating transparency. According to the regulator, “Creating transparency at this time is important given the dynamic market and high level of demand.”

FINMA also cited an increase in the number of inquiries corresponding with a sharp increase in the quantity of planned and executed ICOs in the country as a motivating factor for the move.

The regulator’s concern over transparency is clearly illustrated when they state in the guidelines that “ICOs raise a variety of legal issues for which there is no relevant case law and no consistent legal doctrine. Given the wide variety of types of token and ICO set-ups, it is not possible to generalise. Circumstances must be considered holistically in each individual case.”

The press release on the guidelines also provides useful information. The Swiss regulator highlighted that they would focus “on the underlying purpose of the tokens” and that the tokens were “tradeable and transferable.”

The release also showed how FINMA categorizes the tokens into three types — payment tokens, utility tokens and asset tokens (allowing for tokens to possibly take on aspects of more than one group) — and ascribes definitions for organizers to better understand their tokens’ potential assessment.  

Another major emphasis in the press release was on the guidelines’ role in displaying how FINMA will handle ICO inquiries regarding Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and securities regulations compliance. In the release, they referred market participants to the diagram on page 8 of the guidelines (as shown below), which distinguishes the regulator’s stance based on which of the three categories the tokens are put in.

Swiss Regulator Gives Clear Guidelines for Launching ICOs chart

While the press release does finish with a note to investors about the risks associated with investing in ICOs, the most important part of the announcement is the portion where FINMA highlights the “innovative potential” of blockchain technology. In it, FINMA CEO Mark Branson stated:

The application of blockchain technology has innovative potential within and far beyond the financial markets. However, blockchain-based projects conducted analogously to regulated activities cannot simply circumvent the tried and tested regulatory framework. Our balanced approach to handling ICO projects and enquiries allows legitimate innovators to navigate the regulatory landscape and so launch their projects in a way consistent with our laws protecting investors and the integrity of the financial system.

While regulations on ICOs are either ambiguously evolving or demonstrating outright hostility in other countries, FINMA has given a clear signal that it wants to provide transparency, open communication and certainty (where possible) to those launching ICO projects within the Swiss Confederation.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 16 February 2018 | 4:20 pm

FCC: Bitcoin Miner Interfered With T-Mobile Network

The Federal Communications Commission says a crypto mining rig has caused interference with T-Mobile's LTE network in Brooklyn, New York.

Posted on 16 February 2018 | 3:15 pm

Decentralized Exchanges Stake Their Claim in the Cryptocurrency Ecosystem

Decentralized Exchanges Stake Their Claim in the Cryptocurrency Ecosystem

The cryptocurrency ecosystem has continued to take some major hits lately, causing many investors and holders to rethink the way they trade their crypto assets. Several high profile cryptocurrency hacks have made the news in the past few years. In one of the most recent hacks, the Japanese cryptocurrency exchange, Coincheck lost more than $500 million dollars worth of digital coins, adding to a growing perception that cryptocurrencies are particularly vulnerable to hackers.

Yet, as the total market capitalization of cryptocurrencies continues to increase (now above $4 billion), the most recent Coincheck hack may finally be a wake up call for crypto investors and holders.

As the vulnerability of centralized cryptocurrency exchanges is becoming more and more apparent to the cryptocurrency community, some are looking to alternatives in the form of decentralized exchanges.

Unlike a centralized exchange system that handles the trading of cryptocurrencies for its users, decentralized exchanges allow users to control their own funds within their own wallets. Decentralized exchanges do not rely on a third party service to hold a user’s funds, making them less vulnerable to large hacks. This also means that trades on a decentralized exchange happen directly between users in a peer-to-peer manner. These features make decentralized exchanges less vulnerable and much more transparent than centralized exchanges.

Decentralized exchanges such as AirSwap, Bisq, EtherDelta and Hodl Hodl — the newest player to enter the scene — have sparked the interest for crypto enthusiasts looking to control their own assets with little hand holding involved. Users on these decentralized exchanges keep their own private keys and transact directly with each other, demonstrating a truly decentralized form of trading crypto assets.

“We believe that there will be a huge liquidity migration from centralized exchanges to decentralized exchanges when it comes to token-to-token trading,” AirSwap strategist, Sam Tabar, told Bitcoin Magazine. “AirSwap’s mission is to let people trade crypto assets without a middleman involved and blockchain technology allows for just this.”

He pointed out that AirSwap doesn’t hold any user assets. The platform uses the Ethereum blockchain and atomic swaps based on smart contracts to make sure assets cannot be traded without another asset coming to a user.  

“In a way, centralized exchanges act as a bank, broker and clearing house because they hold all your money and charge fees. This is problematic though, and hacks are happening quite often because of this model,” said Tabar.

What About Crypto to Fiat Trades?

Most decentralized exchanges allow for crypto-to-crypto trading. While this model is common, Bisq is one of the few decentralized exchanges that lets users buy and sell bitcoins in exchange for national fiat currencies as well as alternative cryptocurrencies.

“Crypto-to-fiat exchange transactions are inherently difficult to decentralize, because fiat itself is under the centralized control of banks and governments,” Bisq co-founder, Chris Beams, told Bitcoin Magazine. “This means that any system designed to automate the process of trading crypto for fiat must get permission from these gatekeepers, and all too often they choose to close their gates to Bitcoin and cryptocurrency-related transactions — just as we saw last month with Visa shutting down all Bitcoin-based debit cards on its network.”

Bisq, however, solves this problem by coordinating out-of-band, manual fiat payments. It’s important to note that Bisq does not directly integrate with banks or other national currency payment systems in any way. Rather, Bisq’s trading protocol orchestrates the process of buyer and seller working together to settle fiat payments outside of the Bisq application — for example, via normal person-to-person SEPA payments in Europe or via a person-to-person payment system like Zelle in the U.S.

Bisq is also impressive in that their peer-to-peer network ensures a high level of user security.

“Centralized exchanges require users to ‘deposit’ cryptocurrency and fiat funds, putting them in the control — or custody — of the centralized exchange. Bisq is entirely non-custodial, meaning that you, the user, stay in control. You never hand over your private keys to a third party, meaning that they cannot be lost or stolen by that third party. This makes Bisq a fundamentally more secure way to exchange,” said Beam.

Most recently, the beta version of Hodl Hodl was launched. Hodl Hodl is another peer-to-peer crypto exchange that allows users to trade directly with each other, without holding user funds.

Instead, funds on Hodl Hodl are locked in multisig escrow.

Each time a contract is created between two parties, a multisig escrow cryptocurrency address is generated. The seller sends cryptocurrency from his wallet to this account and when the cryptocurrency is locked in escrow, the buyer sends fiat to the seller. The seller then releases the locked cryptocurrency from escrow and the buyer receives it directly in their wallet.

Enhanced Privacy

Furthermore, because decentralized exchanges do not hold funds and because the exchanges are all peer-to-peer, there are no AML/KYC requirements for users to set up accounts.

“AML/KYC type of compliance, in combination with the transparent nature of Bitcoin's blockchain, represents a significant loss of privacy,” said Manfred Karrer, founder of Bisq, when it first launched as Bitsquare.

“By piecing together the data collected by these exchanges, it can become trivial to figure out how much someone earns, or saves, or spends, and often even what the money is spent on. That’s not just inconvenient; it really makes Bitcoin unsuitable for all sorts of transactions ‒ including perfectly legal ones.”



This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 16 February 2018 | 3:11 pm

Crypto Regulation? Not Anytime Soon, Says White House Official

The White House cybersecurity coordinator said crypto regulation is still far from becoming a reality.

Posted on 16 February 2018 | 1:00 pm

Ellen DeGeneres on Bitcoin: It's 'Either Worth $20K or Nothing'

Ellen DeGeneres says she has learned about bitcoin...but only 'a bit.'

Posted on 16 February 2018 | 11:35 am

Swiss Finance Regulator to Treat Some ICO Tokens As Securities

Switzerland's financial regulator has released new guidelines indicating it will treat some initial coin offerings (ICOs) as securities.

Posted on 16 February 2018 | 9:30 am

SEC Suspends 3 Companies Claiming Crypto Connection

The SEC has temporarily halted trading of three companies after comments they made about cryptocurrency and blockchain-related business moves.

Posted on 16 February 2018 | 7:54 am

Silent No More: Ethereum Users Spurn Recovery Code

Community members have taken to Github to express their discontent over a controversial proposal for lost fund recovery.

Posted on 16 February 2018 | 6:05 am

CFTC Advisory Committee Recommends Creation of Virtual Currency Subcommittee

CFTC Advisory Committee Recommends the Creation of a Virtual Currency Subcommittee

On Wednesday, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Committee’s (CFTC) Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) held a public meeting at its Washington, D.C., headquarters. During the meeting, members of the Bitcoin and cryptoasset industry shared information regarding this emerging market and offered guidance on how the CFTC may approach regulating the space in 2018.

Multiple participants in the public hearing made comments to differentiate between different types of cryptoassets and their associated technologies.

Potential regulation around cryptoasset exchanges was also discussed as a potential area for further regulation, as has been noted by regulators worldwide over the past few months.

By the end of the portion of the public hearing dedicated to virtual currencies, the TAC voted unanimously to recommend that the CFTC create a subcommittee for this new asset class.

Differentiating Between Different Types of Cryptoassets

One of the key points made by those who were invited to speak about the cryptoasset industry was that all of these tokens or coins should not necessarily be treated equally. For example, during his opening remarks, Coin Center Executive Director Jerry Brito discussed the differences between traditional cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, and initial coin offerings (ICOs).

“Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are commodities, of course, as the SEC has previously [said].  Questions remain however about the borders [around] these categories and about how one can responsibly share tokens to future investors,” noted Brito.

Special Counsel Gary DeWaal of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP went on to discuss the often-mentioned Howey Test and how it helps determine which types of tokens are securities under U.S. law. In DeWaal’s view, the CFTC could offer assistance in differentiating between commodities and securities in the cryptoasset market.

“Ultimately there has to be some clarification. The distinction between a commodity, the distinction between a security, may seem (from a common sense perspective) clear, but there are very, very important issues around those that I think this committee could very much [help clarify],” said DeWaal.

Notably, DeWaal also pointed out that cryptoassets are “critical” to decentralized ledgers.

“They are the mechanism in proof-of-work blockchains where miners are rewarded: In proof-of-state blockchains where fees are paid, these are the ways you incentivize folks to keep the system together. If you’re only talking about centralized ledgers, sure, you don’t need to worry about coins,” DeWaal added.

Regulation of Cryptoasset Exchanges

RGM Advisors’ chief executive, Richard Gorelick, also made an appearance at the CFTC’s public hearing, and he focused on the market structure of cryptoassets during his brief opening presentation (PDF). Gorelick was one of the only people in the room who referred to the subject at hand in terms of “cryptoassets” rather than “cryptocurrencies” or “virtual currencies.”

One of the key areas of focus for Gorelick during his presentation was the problems associated with current cryptoasset exchanges. More specifically, Gorelick discussed the issues associated with connectivity of liquidity between global exchanges.

“Generally speaking, I think trading on these [exchanges] can be challenging, particularly if your goal is to trade across multiple spot exchanges. It’s difficult to weave liquidity across exchanges and jurisdictions due to a number of factors,” noted Gorelick.

Some of the factors limiting the movement of funds between various exchanges pointed out by Gorelick include:

  • Technology
  • Concerns about deceptive trading
  • Lack of standard best practices
  • The fickle nature of banking relationships
  • Capital inefficiency
  • Security and transparency
  • The slow speed at which money and assets can move in and out

In the face of these issues found on cryptoasset exchanges, Gorelick hit on the large scale of the over-the-counter (OTC) markets.

Representatives from LedgerX and CME also provided updates on the state of the Bitcoin futures market later in the public hearing.

After gathering information from representatives of the cryptoasset industry and asking questions, the TAC voted unanimously to recommend that the CFTC create a new subcommittee focused on virtual currencies.


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 15 February 2018 | 2:32 pm

Space Decentral: Using Blockchain Tech to Democratize Space

Space Decentral: Using Blockchain Tech to Democratize Space

Renowned scientist Stephen Hawking recently called for a concerted effort to launch humans into space saying:

To leave Earth demands a concerted global approach, everyone should join in. We need to rekindle the excitement of the early days of space travel in the ‘60s.”

While NASA and Tesla are already well established in the game, Space Decentral, founded by international Space Cooperative, is staking its claim in outer space and all that’s in it. Using the latest blockchain technology to launch a social network, they’re on a mission to democratize space by crowdsourcing information and crowdfunding citizen-powered space travel.

As interest in space travel grows worldwide, an international group of scientists, engineers, architects, futurists, artists and software developers including former and current NASA employees is working collaboratively to share the latest scientific research and help crowdfund projects that lack government funding.

According to Space Decentral advisor Dr. Paolo Tasca, Executive Director of the Centre for Blockchain Technologies at University College London (UCL):

“It's a global space research lab where individuals and organizations can contribute knowledge and pool intellectual property in an open manner and where revenue can be fairly shared among contributors."

"This is a massive project that will require the presence of hundreds of scientists, engineers and innovators,” he adds.

Space Decentral hopes to leverage some of the current development work under way in the Ethereum community to produce an open-source toolbox to collaboratively design space missions.

"Space technology and Earth technology go hand in hand we need to utilize systems thinking to solve problems in parallel,” said Yalda Mousavinia, Space Decentral co-founder, referring to blockchain technology and distributed engineering.

Faster Than Light: A Utility Coin?

Offering their Faster Than Light coin (FTLcoin), Space Decentral is planning an ICO to raise at least $10 million with a maximum goal of $35 million, as soon as the membership has approved its final white paper (due at the end of February 2018).

In an interview with Bitcoin Magazine, Mousavinia acknowledges that this first ICO will only fund the initial setup and there will need to be subsequent ICOs as projects are approved. She notes:

“The goal is to fund the technological infrastructure, such as decentralized collaboration tools and smart contracts that will make the process for operating a space DAO more efficient.”

They hope to sell internationally and within the U.S., where they will write the SEC to ask that their FTLcoin be considered a utility coin and not a security.

“We are in the process of writing a letter to the SEC that makes our case for why we believe it is a utility token. What we are really trying to do here is create a community where people want to purchase the token to actually have a voice on humanity's future in space this isn't a pump-and-dump ICO,” says Mousavinia.

Building an Aragon DApp

Space Decentral’s governance and operations will be mediated by smart contracts, using Aragon, an organization that builds DApps on the Ethereum blockchain to help new startups securely manage their organization and governance.

“We’re building our organization on top of Aragon’s governance and decision-making infrastructure. Aragon's refactored DApp goes live on testnet this month and it’ll be rigorously tested,” says Mousavinia.

“We are looking into using Giveth's minime smart contract for the token sale. This smart contract has been used by both Aragon and Status and has had several security audits. Additionally, we are thinking about using the Gnosis multisig as the initial wallet.”

Evolving Into a DAO

The founding team is currently managing and directing Space Decentral, but their goal is to be replaced by a decentralized voting process and regular community meetings of all their members.

“We envision Space Decentral as a vehicle for humanity’s interest in space exploration, and recognize that it must be fully autonomous in order for it to truly serve that purpose,” Mousavinia said.

Mousavinia recognizes that the transition will be challenging as the team has so far set priorities and has already developed proposed space missions like Martian Spring and Lunar Odyssey.

The goal is to connect multiple organizations while making it easy and transparent for individuals to collaborate without any organizational affiliation and incentivize involvement by rewarding contributors adequately and giving them a voice. 

Space Decentral is laying out a roadmap to give potential investors assurances that the team is in it for the long haul.

Mousavinia explained:

“We plan on creating milestone-based smart contracts, such that there will be separate tranches of funding that are activated once different aspects of the technical roadmap or community development is accomplished. These full details are still being worked out and will be described more in the full white paper.

She added that the team is determining a timeline which will give the DAO ultimate approval on the yearly budget. “A mutual understanding will be developed on the best way to monitor funds that provides transparency in addition to room for experimentation as needed.”

"We all need to take the long view and work together to create the system that sustainably makes humans a true spacefaring species,” said Space Decentral co-founder and former NASA engineer, Dr. Marc M. Cohen, a member of the core team that is designing the DAO.

“We may not complete the effort in our lifetime, but we have an obligation to humanity to begin.” 


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 13 February 2018 | 7:53 am

The Electrum Personal Server Will Give Users the Full Node Security They Need

The Electrum Personal Server Will Give Users the Full Node Security They Need

The Electrum Personal Server promises a resource-efficient, secure and private way to use bitcoin with hardware and software wallets, connected to full nodes. Developed by open-source programmer Christian Belcher, best known for his contributions to JoinMarket, the Electrum Personal Server directly addresses vulnerabilities with the popular Electrum Bitcoin wallet, while sparing users the significant resource usage of an Electrum server.

According to Belcher, connecting Electrum with the Electrum Personal Server is the most resource-efficient, secure and private way to use a hardware or software wallet connected to a full node. It is important for all users to connect their wallets to full nodes for the Bitcoin network to maintain long-term security, he maintains.

“If bitcoin is digital gold, then a full node wallet is your own personal goldsmith who checks for you that received payments are genuine,” explained Belcher in correspondence with Bitcoin Magazine.

Full Nodes vs. Thin Clients Refresher

In the Bitcoin blockchain, full nodes are programs that validate transactions and blocks on the network. Full nodes assist the network by accepting transactions and blocks from other full nodes, validating them and sharing them with other full nodes. Essentially, full nodes are the referees of the Bitcoin blockchain –– they check to see that chains are following the rules of the network and ignore chains who break them. As an example, Belcher noted that “[transactions] printing infinite money would be rejected by [full nodes] as if they never existed.” In this way, Bitcoin can ensure that no more than 21 million coins are ever minted.

While full nodes are the most secure, they are are also more resource-intensive. A full node takes up around 156 GB of disk space (a number which is growing by more than 50 GB per year), can take days to sync when used for the first time, requires significant amount of bandwidth each month, and takes up CPU power validating all transactions and blocks on the network.

Thin clients (also known as lightweight clients), however, do not download the entire Bitcoin blockchain. Instead, they only download a copy of all the headers for the blocks in the blockchain. Thin clients are able to achieve increased efficiency and speed by receiving notifications when a transaction affects their wallet specifically. But this does mean that thin clients must tell a third party which addresses belong to them, which is bad for privacy. Additionally, thin clients trade full validation and security for efficiency, placing their trust in full nodes to verify that rules are being followed on the Bitcoin blockchain.

Electrum

Since 2011, the Electrum wallet –– a light client –– has been among the community favorites. It features a pleasant user interface, hardware wallet connectivity, “forgiving” seed recovery phrases, cold storage solutions, decentralized servers to prevent downtimes, and multi-sig permissions. However, similar to other thin clients, the Electrum wallet’s lightweight connection with the Bitcoin blockchain comes at the cost of privacy, validity and scalability.

By default, the Electrum wallet sends all its bitcoin addresses to an Electrum server, which sends back a user’s history and balance. According to Belcher, “This means that the Electrum server knows all the user’s bitcoin addresses and could spy on them, essentially seeing everything a user does.” Users should note that anytime their bitcoin addresses are stored on a thin-client server, their transactions can be monitored.

Like other thin clients, if Electrum servers do not properly verify the rules of the Bitcoin blockchain, wallets can be deceived. For example, a compromised Electrum server could lead the Electrum wallet to accept a fake transaction for USD $1000 worth of bitcoin that would not have been validated by a full node.

Electrum servers also store records of every address ever used on the Bitcoin network, which, as user-base increases, poses a hindrance to scalability.

In the Electrum ecosystem, the only way for a user to avoid these vulnerabilities inherent to the Electrum thin client is to run their own Electrum server and connect it to their wallet. This fix is more resource-intensive than running a Bitcoin full node; it requires the unpruned Bitcoin blockchain, the full transaction index and extra address index. Electrum Servers are also more RAM and CPU intensive than full nodes, and are not made to be turned on and off efficiently.

Electrum Personal Server Solution

The Electrum Personal Server provides bitcoin users with increased efficiency, security and privacy. In this implementation of the Electrum server protocol, users seeking a full node connection can interact with all traditional Electrum wallet features while running a Bitcoin full node, instead of downloading an Electrum server.

Efficiency

From an efficiency perspective, connecting an Electrum wallet to a full node allows users to take advantage of resource-saving Bitcoin Core features such as pruning, disabled txindex and blocksonly. These features are not available to an Electrum server.

Users also benefit from the traditional Electrum wallet user experience/user interface and functionality such as hardware wallet integration, offline signing, recovery phrases and multi-signature wallets.

Security and Privacy

Because users are connected to a full node, they aren’t prone to any of the aforementioned privacy and security threats posed to thin clients.

There is a caveat –– users lose the popular “instant-on” feature of the Electrum wallet when using a full node such as the Electrum Personal Server. The full node must synchronize first, before displaying a wallet’s bitcoin balance. Depending on connection speeds and time since last connectivity, this process could take a few minutes or hours.

For users seeking to connect their wallet to an Electrum Personal Server, the process is fairly straightforward. According to Belcher’s blog post, users must:

  1. Download the alpha version;
  2. Configure the Electrum Personal server with their master public key. Those addresses are then imported into Bitcoin Core as watch-only;
  3. Rescan the wallet if it contains historical transactions. There is no need to rescan, however, if a new, empty wallet is created.

Why Should the Average Bitcoin User Care?

Belcher outlined that since the inception of the Bitcoin network, the basic security model has relied on most of the economy using full node wallets, not thin clients that are vulnerable to manipulation. This way, legitimate Bitcoin transactions are always accurately verified, nefarious transactions are always rejected, and the hard limit of 21 million bitcoins (which are really just bits and bytes) is enforced.

Belcher believes that “bitcoin is dead in the long term” if most of the Bitcoin economy does not use full node wallets.

He hopes that the Electrum Personal Server can serve as a framework for other lightweight Bitcoin wallets to connect to full nodes run by users, rather than (centralized) servers. For instance, a Samourai Wallet or Breadwallet can utilize a script similar to the Electrum Personal Server to connect to a full node.


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 12 February 2018 | 3:21 pm

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Vermont Lawyer Warns of Legal Complications Ahead for Cryptocurrency Miners

Vermont Lawyer Warns of Legal Complications Ahead for Cryptocurrency Miners

Are miners — the nodes on a blockchain that process transactions — partners in a company? And, if they are deemed partners, and a cryptocurrency project collapses leaving coin holders holding the bag, what legal construct is in place to protect miners from lawsuits? One Vermont lawyer sees a “nightmare” unfolding.

Stepping back a few steps, last month, several news sites ran stories about proposed legislation (S.269) in Vermont put forth by Senator Alison Clarkson on January 3, 2018. Most focused on the tax element — blockchain projects based in the state would have to pay $0.01 per token mined, traded or transferred — but missed the main point of the legislation, which was to set Vermont up as a safe haven for cryptocurrency projects.

The legislation seeks to establish a so-called “digital currency limited liability corporation” (LLC) in Vermont. An LLC is a type of corporate structure where individuals cannot be held personally liable in case the company is sued. Right now, blockchain companies operate in a fuzzy gray area in terms of business structure. If push comes to shove, they could be classified as statutory partnerships, leaving miners and others who contributed to the project with no liability shield.

“Legally, it is not only plausible; it is the most probable outcome,” said Vermont lawyer Oliver Goodenough in speaking to Bitcoin Magazine. Goodenough is co-director at the Center for Legal Innovation of Vermont Law School, the body that produced the report  behind the Vermont legislation.  

Goodenough is not alone in thinking about setting up a subcategory LLC for blockchain projects. Carla Reyes, assistant law professor at Stetson University, also touches on the idea of blockchain LLCs in her working paper “If Rockefeller Were a Coder.”

General Partners by Default

What are blockchain companies if they are not partnerships? In the U.S., the default association of two or more persons who carry on as co-owners of a for-profit business is a general partnership, whether or not that is what those individuals intended.

In a general partnership, liability is not simply limited to the assets of the business, but individual assets as well. That means, if a cryptocurrency crash occurs, and coin holders suffer losses because a token’s value has dropped to nothing, plaintiffs’ attorneys could argue a blockchain constitutes a statutory partnership and hold miners personally liable.

“Miners are running a mutual network from which they profit mutually and for which they have rules for the division of that profit, and that is quite plausibly a partnership,” said Goodenough who thinks it could spell disaster for blockchain entities. “Miners wake up one morning and suddenly, in this nightmare land, they are all partners,” he said.

The idea is not so far fetched when you realize some cryptocurrency projects are already being hit by lawsuits. After ruling that some virtual tokens, including the DAO token, qualify as securities and are subject to federal securities laws, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) stopped short of filing charges against the DAO.

But that did not stop the securities plaintiffs’ bar from taking aim at ICOs. In fact, currently, at least four class-action suits have been levied against the organizers of Tezos, a project that raised $232 million in an ICO in July 2017. Who is to say cryptocurrency miners would not face similar class-action suits?

Move to Vermont

The point of the Vermont bill is to roll out the welcome mat for blockchain businesses. Setting up a subcategory LLC means that cryptocurrency projects will be able to specify how the company designates the participants within the system.

In addition to outlining a business structure, Goodenough says a digital currency LLC would also allow projects to legally define who has the authority, and under what conditions, to initiate a hard fork to change the protocol or roll back a large transaction, such as when Ethereum initiated a blockchain hard fork to roll back the DAO funds.

“Essentially, Vermont is saying, ‘Come set your business up here, we have a law, you pay us a little tax, and it will all be fine,’” Goodenough said, adding “It was meant to provide an opportunity for folks.”

If the bill passes, cryptocurrency projects wanting to set up digital currency LLC, would have to maintain a physical presence or conduct some of their activities in the state. As mentioned, they would also have to pay a minor tax on any token produced or transacted, but, overall, it may not be a bad deal for blockchain projects.  

“They could form an LLC in Vermont,” said Goodenough. “They would be legitimate and get the benefit of all these rules for a crypto LLC. We’ve got it all defined. We are enabling them to give themselves a structure to protect themselves.”

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 12 February 2018 | 10:38 am

Bitcoin tops $10,000 milestone

Posted on 29 November 2017 | 2:30 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

Major Magazine Publisher to Accept Bitcoin Payments

Posted on 18 December 2014 | 12:43 pm

Mozilla accepting Bitcoin

Posted on 20 November 2014 | 1:55 pm

PayPal and Virtual Currency

Posted on 23 September 2014 | 9:52 pm

Wikimedia Foundation Now Accepts Bitcoin

Posted on 30 July 2014 | 3:14 pm

German Newspaper "taz" accepts Bitcoin

Posted on 22 July 2014 | 1:32 pm

February 19, 2018 -
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