Category: cryptocurrency

Bitcoin Passes $8,000 For the First Time in History

Just weeks after crossing the $7,000 milestone, bitcoin surged to a new all-time high on November 16, peaking at $8020 on the Bitfinex exchange. This marked the first time the cryptocurrency’s value passed the $8,000 mark, though it dropped back down to $7,896 at the time of writing.

Earlier this month, Sheba Jafari, the vice president of the Goldman Sachs FICC market strategies team, predicted bitcoin’s value would consolidate somewhere around $8,000. “The market has shown evidence of an impulsive rally since breaking above 6,044. Next in focus $7,941. Might consolidate there before continuing higher,” she wrote in a note to investors, according to CoinTelegraph.

Whether she’s right and bitcoin lingers around $8,000 or immediately continues upward is up for debate. Veteran trader masterluc said in August that he expects it to hit almost double that — $15,000 —before the end of the year, and FundStrat Global Advisor co-founder Tom Lee believes it could surge to $25,000 over the next five years.

With bitcoin gaining acceptance in the mainstream, neither of those predications are outside the realm of possibility.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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A Popular Payment App Now Lets Users Buy and Sell Bitcoin

Square Supports Bitcoin

Square’s Cash app makes it incredibly easy for friends, family members, and co-workers to send money to one another. Users can then transfer their money to their bank account or just save it within the app and spend it from there. Now, the makers of the Cash app appear interested in expanding to other currencies, namely bitcoin.

As reported by TechCrunch, a small number of users noticed last week that their Cash app had been updated to support the buying and selling of bitcoin.

As the bitcoin integration is still in beta, features are limited, but right now, users can buy and sell bitcoin, as well as track the currency’s value and performance over the last day, month, or year. To access the new features, the users simply need to swipe right from the main Cash Card page.

However, the app’s core feature — sending and receiving money — doesn’t support bitcoin yet. This was reported by Forbes as well as TechCrunch, who cited a source claiming a transaction had yet to be reflected in their bitcoin balance.

Future Updates

In a statement provided to both outlets, Square confirmed that the bitcoin features have only been enabled for a small number of users. That access will likely expand once any kinks are worked out, and it’s also probably safe to assume more features will be added in the future, as well as support for other cryptocurrencies, such as ether.

That said, the company is confident in bitcoin’s ability to change how people make transactions.

“We’re always listening to our customers, and we’ve found that they are interested in using the Cash app to buy bitcoin,” said a Square spokesperson in a statement to Forbes and TechCrunch.

“We’re exploring how Square can make this experience faster and easier and have rolled out this feature to a small number of Cash app customers. We believe cryptocurrency can greatly impact the ability of individuals to participate in the global financial system, and we’re excited to learn more here,” they added.

The Square Cash Visa card. Image Credit: Square Cash
The Cash app Visa card. Image Credit: Square Cash

We’ll have to wait to see if the Cash app and Visa card ever come to support bitcoin transactions. If the latter comes to fruition, it would be the latest in a growing number of crypto debit cards that makes spending cryptocurrencies just as convenient as spending traditional money.

The recently announced Dragoncard from the London Block Exchange aims to provide this very service in the U.K., but Square and the Cash app could do the same for the U.S. if the work is done to make it possible. Support from Square could also make it easier for people to enter the world of bitcoin trading and understand how the currency works.

Ultimately, there’s something to be said for familiarity, and Square may have enough of it to help usher bitcoin into the mainstream.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Bitcoin Forks Could Play a Key Role in the Cryptocurrency’s Continued Development

Split Opinion

Bitcoin is still the biggest cryptocurrency on the market – in fact, it’s so popular that it’s already ‘forked’ into various spinoffs. Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold are two prominent examples, with the former launching in August, and the latter making its debut this November.

There are some who would argue that these forks undermine the overall strength of the cryptocurrency by fracturing its usage. Others maintain that this is the best way to ensure Bitcoin’s stability going forward.

“These different forks will have a life on their own, they will compete,” said Karthik Iyer, India’s ambassador to the P2P Foundation, the organization which hosted a 2009 paper that outlined Satoshi Nakamoto’s vision for Bitcoin, in an interview with Inverse. “A thousand flowers will bloom, and whichever system is efficient…I think it will take over.”

Iyer likens the situation to the Android operating system in which smartphone manufacturers are able to produce their own take on the OS. If they introduce features that are particularly well received, they’re sometimes implemented in the core edition.

Each Bitcoin fork makes its own tweaks to the established formula. Bitcoin Cash increases the size of an individual block by eight times, which allows for faster transactions. Bitcoin Gold uses an algorithm that discourages the use of specialized mining hardware in an effort to make the currency more egalitarian.

Different forks might serve their own specific audiences who are looking for certain features. It’s even possible that one of these forks might one day become more popular than Bitcoin itself – although, at present, the cryptocurrency seems rather unassailable.

Fork in the Road

2017 has been an exciting year for Bitcoin investors. The cryptocurrency has defied all predictions, with its value breaking the $6,000 mark in October and then exceeding $7,000 just a few weeks later.

Now, the only question is when and how this wild growth will stop. Recently, a high-ranking analyst at Goldman-Sachs projected that Bitcoin would consolidate at around $8,000 before rising even further. But some experts believe that the cryptocurrency could climb as high as $25,000 in years to come.

By all accounts, Bitcoin is thriving – but the same can’t be said for all of its forks. Bitcoin Classic, a prior attempt to increase block size, was shut down this November and the controversial Segwit2x fork was suspended before it ever came to pass.

Forks like Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold could play a key role in shaping the cryptocurrency, but it remains to be seen whether they’ll manage to carve out their own niche.

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Bitcoin Classic Shuts Down

Bitcoin Classic

Bitcoin Classic is a fork from Bitcoin Core that looked to increase block size limit in an attempt to increase transaction processing capacity. While promising at first, Bitcoin Classic is now officially shutting down because of claims by developers that Bitcoin Cash (BCH) will rise to the top and be ‘Bitcoin’ in as soon as 6 months.

Thursday morning, release manager Tom Zander made a public statement that Bitcoin Classic had, “fulfilled its promise,” but that “It is now up to you which chain will gain the most traction. It is now up to the next billion people to start to use Bitcoin Cash. In at most six months I’m sure we’ll just drop the ‘Cash’ and call it ‘Bitcoin.”

Anticipating the new hard fork, which is set for November 13th, BCH soared in value over 35 percent. This is its highest value since its debut, sparking further support for this transition.

The New ‘Bitcoin’

The last few days have been a roller-coaster for Bitcoin, not an unusual state for the cryptocurrency, with rising and falling value and the immense failure of SegWit2x. Especially because of the SegWit2x move, investors have been refocusing on this new fork.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
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Zander commented that “The fact that the Legacy chain is stuck at 1 MB, and likely always will be, confirms the Cash chain’s viability. Now the market will decide.”

Before this announcement, BCH has played a fairly secondary role in Bitcoin. But since this change was first publicly stated, a large majority of the public has expressed their support for the move. In the short term, it is likely that, while Bitcoin Classic is shut down, BCH will continue to rise in value or stay at its increased level. It is not possible to say with certainty whether or not, in 6 months, BCH will become what we refer to as ‘Bitcoin,’ but many investors and experts have publicly shown support for the elimination of Bitcoin Classic.

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Cryptocurrency “Farming” Could Make Blockchain More Eco-Friendly

A Green Cryptocurrency

Bitcoin has been creating a lot of buzz lately as more and more people invest in the cryptocurrency. But, behind all this success is a blockchain that’s sustained by miners who, as it turns out, actually use massive amounts of electricity for each transaction. Bitcoin are mined using the computing power of hundreds of CPUs all over the world, with each one eating up electricity to continuously verify transactions within the Bitcoin blockchain.

But…is there’s a way to cut out the energy used in blockchain transactions?

Enter BitTorrent inventor Bram Cohen who just started the new company Chia, which he describes in an interview with TechCrunch as “a better bitcoin.” Instead of depending on what’s called a “proof of work” to verify its blockchain, Chia will launch a cryptocurrency that is based on proof of time and storage. This means that Chia will depend on already existing, unused storage space in hard drives.

Farming Not Mining

The proof of work model, according to Cohen, is also prone to instability, because the few bitcoin miners with access to cheap electricity actually end up having an outsized influence. “The idea is to make a better bitcoin, to fix the centralization problems,” Cohen told TechCrunch. In this sense, Chia becomes an even more decentralized blockchain.

Chia, instead of using proof of work, solves security concerns in proof of space by supplementing its blockchain verification with proofs of time. In short, in the model that Cohen proposes in Chia — which they refer to as farming instead of mining — the same level of security can be achieved while using less electricity.

Image credit: Chia
Chia is looking to change the crypto game. Image Credit: Chia

Others have tried to get around the challenges of cryptocurrency mining by turning to malware that hijacks the computers of unsuspecting users. Cohen has opted for a more challenging solution, one that could make blockchain more energy efficient. However, while getting Chia to work will be a challenge, Cohen plans to get on the right track with the help of Tradehill’s COO Ryan Singer. “It’s technically ambitious and there’s a big meaty chunk of work to do,” Cohen said. “I’ve done enough raising money and recruiting. Now for the real work.”

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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You Can Help Make the World’s Very First Tokenized Song

A Tokenized Song

Songwriter and digital storyteller Taryn Southern is comfortable at the intersection of music and technology — her past work includes an album collaboration with an artificial intelligence (AI) — and at last week’s Ethereal Summit in San Francisco, she launched a unique experiment using blockchain technology to write the world’s first tokenized song.

A smart contract, also known as a cryptocontract, is a way of exchanging assets in a transparent manner without the need for an intermediary. In partnership with TrustToken and the Stem payment platform, Southern is using Ethereum smart contracts to create her tokenized, collaborative song.

blockchain cryptocurrency trusttoken smart contracts
Taryn speaking at the Ethereal Summit in SF on Friday. Image credit: Taryn Southern

The experiment, which is called Song Token, relies on the decentralized nature of blockchain to eliminate the usual woes independent creators like Southern face in a traditional system that’s often fraught with corrupt practices.

“Currently, artists who collaborate on a video or song are limited in how they can share in the success of that video or song,” Southern told Futurism in an email. “With smart contracts, we can enable multiple collaborators to split ownership of a piece of content and for that to be tracked across multiple distribution platforms. That’s what we want to demonstrate through the tokenized song challenge.”

“Smart contracts can help artists do powerful and flexible equity crowdfunding,” TrustToken market designer Stephen Frey explained to Futurism via email. “They can take out some of the middlemen involved in aggregating and distributing payments.”

The Future Is Collaborative

With Song Token, anyone who has an Ethereum wallet can acquire a token asset that gives them access to a private collaborative network. There, they can work in tandem with Southern to write the lyrics of the song. Not only that, anyone with a token can also receive revenue from the song, which is kept secure by a special legal entity called a SmartTrust.

Things to Come: A Timeline of Future Technology [INFOGRAPHIC]
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Frey put this in context: “Before this, if you wanted to have 10,000 people each give Taryn $5 to record her new album in exchange for ‘equity’ in the album, that would be an accounting nightmare.” Now, not only can artists get their work out there and earn from it without relying on the help of big music studios, fans can earn along with them.

“It wouldn’t particularly benefit music studios (who benefit from artists’ financial dependence on them), and artists wouldn’t know how to set it up,” said Frey. “[TrustToken] makes it easy for an artist like Taryn to issue blockchain-based tokens for a creative piece, where the tokens give her fans beneficial ownership and equity rights in the new work.”

The Song Token experiment is yet another example of how blockchain is transforming many of today’s industries. For Southern, it just might represent the future of creative work.

“Like many emerging technologies, AI and blockchain have the opportunity to transform the creative industry,” she explained. “I’m excited to see how blockchain technology will eliminate barriers to entry, unnecessary gatekeepers, ambiguous rules, and glaring inefficiencies across the creative field.”

Those who want to take part in creating the first-ever tokenized song have until Saturday, November 11, to sign up and purchase tokens.

Disclosure: TrustToken is working in partnership with Futurism’s Agency. This content is not sponsored, and they had editorial review privileges on this article. Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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After Brief Dip Below $7,000, Bitcoin Prices Are Climbing Again

Bitcoin, the world’s first and most valuable cryptocurrency, endured through a brief scare yesterday when it dipped below the $7,000 point. Bitcoin prices fell as low as $6,948.57.

The decline was short-lived, and the currency is now, at the time of writing, trading at $7,487.95, with a daily high of $7,512.32 thus far. Previous days had, once again, seen record-breaking prices reaching $7,601.39.

 

Bitcoin prices fell below $7000 dollars on November 7 before climbing back to near previous record prices.
Image credit: CoinDesk

The market seems to be remaining volatile in the run-up to the next hard fork, when a new code proposal called Segwit2x way create yet another cryptocurrency, Bitcoin2x. August saw a similar split with the creation of Bitcoin Cash (BTC), and more recently another split that created Bitcoin Gold.

Arguments on whether another hard fork is beneficial to the currency, and cryptocurrencies in general, will likely allow prices to remain uncertain.

Experts from Goldman Sachs have predicted that Bitcoin prices may consolidate around the $8,000 price point before continuing to surge onward.

The infancy of cryptocurrency makes it an inherently volatile market. As seen in many examples over the past year, any changes to the market or its potential, especially in the form of regulation, add another source of uncertainty.

There are predictions from experts all along the spectrum, which is further evidence of the uncertainty of the market. The rollercoaster of Bitcoin will continue along the tracks in the dark, taking us all on a wild ride into the future.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Goldman Sachs: Bitcoin Will Consolidate at $8,000 Before Rising Even More

Goldman Sachs Imagines New Heights for Bitcoin

Earlier this month, Bitcoin continued its upward trend by reaching a new record high, breaking the $7,000 barrier. Unprecedented it may be; but now Goldman Sachs has issued a prediction that the cryptocurrency will consolidate somewhere around a value of $8,000.

Sheba Jafari, the vice president of the Goldman Sachs FICC market strategies team, made the forecast over the weekend. “The market has shown evidence of an impulsive rally since breaking above 6,044,” she wrote, according to a report from Coin Telegraph. “Next in focus $7,941. Might consolidate there before continuing higher.”

Image credit: BTC Keychain

However, we should note that Jafari made very different predictions for the future of Bitcoin only a few months ago. In August she suggested that the currency could hit a high of $4,800 – but that it would subsequently dip down to somewhere in the region of $2,200.

Jafari no longer believes that a major downturn is on the cards for Bitcoin. After a brief period consolidating around $8,000, she projects that it will increase in value even further – and given the increases we’ve seen over the course of this year, it’s perhaps unsurprising that he’s reticent to set an upper bound.

Money Talks

There are still dissenting opinions in the room regarding Bitcoin. In September, JPMorgan Chase CEO James Dimon stated his opinion that the cryptocurrency is a “fraud,” and called any trader working for his company that was trading in the coin “stupid” – even though the group is itself investigating blockchain technology.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
Click to View Full Infographic

One short month ago, as Bitcoin was enjoying a period of enormous growth, Harvard’s Kenneth Rogoff stated that its price couldn’t continue to increase indefinitely. He cited the potential for governmental restrictions impeding its utility as the biggest threat to cryptocurrencies’ continued good health.

That said, there are many holding to optimism. One respected Bitcoin trader theorized that it could hit a value of $15,000 before the end of the year, which now seems admittedly ambitious. Other experts have made more reserved predictions that it might reach $20,000 over the next three years.

There are more aspects of Bitcoin beyond investment opportunities seeing great praise. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak recently said that Bitcoin is better than gold, because its capacity to resist arbitrary supply changes translates into reliable stability.

Obviously, there are still numerous unanswered questions about the future of Bitcoin. However, Jafari’s comments from this weekend suggest that even those who’ve harbored doubts about the cryptocurrency’s longevity are beginning to change their tune.

 

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Ethereum’s Co-Founder Just Unveiled His Plan for the Future of Cryptocurrency

Solving the Scalability Problem

When it comes to hosting secure transactions, blockchain continues to be an attractive option for a number of industries. Arguably, the top blockchain option for enterprise and app use is Ethereum — and its co-founder Vitalik Buterin, wants to keep it that way. At Devcon3, Ethereum Foundation’s third developer’s conference in Cancún, Mexico, Buterin presented what he called a “modest proposal” for the future of the Ethereum blockchain and cryptocurrency.

On Thursday, Buterin discussed a three to four year long-term plan for Ethereum. The roadmap primarily covers technical improvements and changes designed to facilitate scalability, i.e. Ethereum’s capacity to handle transactions. “The amount of activity on the blockchain is orders of magnitude larger than it was just a couple of years ago,” 23-year old Buterin told the audience, as reported by Coindesk. The daily transaction rate on the Ethereum network has gone up to more than 20,000 nodes.

To keep up with and to continue this growth, Buterin’s priority is to come up with solutions that mitigate the cost of expanding storage as the system continues to hold more transactions. “Scalability is probably problem number one […] There’s a graveyard of systems that claim to solve the scalability problem but don’t,” he pointed out. “It’s a very significant and hard challenge. These are just known facts.”

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Blockchain: The Foundation of the Future

The next Internet? Blockchain is even bigger than that. We met with top experts around the world to break it down.

Posted by Futurism on Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Encouraging Ethereum’s Growth

For Buterin, the most probable solution is a technical improvement he calls “sharding” or the partitioning of data into subsets, where each node would only have to store a small part of the entire Ethereum network. The idea has been around for a while now, and it looks good in theory. Each node is able to, supposedly, rely on other nodes for data to keep the entire system accountable — despite being kept in subsets.

For sharding to work and keep the network secure by preventing nodes form sending false information to other nodes, Buterin proposed a new sharding infrastructure that’s different from other ideas developers have been considering. The new proposal involves partitioning Ethereum into different types of shards, where the main shard would be the current Ethereum network, and other shards (which Buterin called other “universes”) would hold other transactions.

“Other universes where all this stuff we’ve been working on these last few years can be rolled out much much faster,” Buterin said, according to Coindesk. This means changes can be easily implemented on these other shards, while keeping the main Ethereum network secure and intact. Difficulties in scaling were a contributing cause of Bitcoin’s recent blockchain troubles, meaning solving the scalability problem is of the essence for other cryptocurrencies in the market who want to avoid a similar fate.

Apart from sharding, Buterin also presented a number of other improvements as part of Ethereum’s new roadmap. There would be upgrades to the ethereum virtual machine (EVM), which is the technology that compiles smart contracts. Then there’s project eWASM, which would allow for running Ethereum on a web browser, as well as plans to help clients sync more quickly to the network. Details on each of these, including the research behind each, are available in Ethereum’s Github page.

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Could Amazon Be Launching Its Own Cryptocurrency?

The Beginning of Amazon Cryptocurrency?

Last month, a rumor began circulating that suggested Amazon would soon announce plans to begin accepting bitcoin. The retailer still hasn’t made any such announcements, but recent domain purchases may signify the start of their cryptocurrency plans.

Domain Name Wire (DNW) reports that three domains were registered this week that are related to blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies: amazoncryptocurrencies.com, amazoncryptocurrency.com and amazonethereum.com. Initially, one may think the retailer is preparing to reveal something related to Ethereum and Ether tokens, or that it’s about to launch its own crytocurrency.

CoinDesk notes the new domains are tied to Amazon’s subsidiary company Amazon Technologies, Inc; phone numbers listed on the registration are associated with the company’s legal department. This means Amazon may just want to own the domains in order to cover its brand, or so it’ll have the domains ready in the event it ever decides to incorporate blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies into its business. It could also be a move made to further distance Amazon Coins from cryptocurrencies.

Anticipation and Speculation

This isn’t the first time Amazon has purchased a domain related to a cryptocurrency. In 2013, the retailer bought AmazonBitcoin.com, which has nothing to do with Bitcoin. In fact, it redirects to Amazon.com’s homepage — a sign that these new domains may be used for similar purposes.

Interestingly enough, today’s news comes a little over a week after Ethereum co-founder Joseph Lubin graded Apple, Google, and Amazon on their respective plans for blockchain technology. On Amazon, Lubin simply said, “we’ve not seen that much, so we’ll see.”

Amazon has previously stated it wouldn’t accept cryptocurrencies until their was a demand. As the price of Bitcoin continues to rise — potentially a sign of its own rising popularity and demand — we may soon see Amazon giving its consumers the means to use it.

The much more interesting situation, however, is one in which Amazon introduces its own currency or coin. Not only would such a move potentially force the average person to finally learn what cryptocurrencies are, but Amazon’s currency could become incredibly popular or the preferred form of payment, especially if there are incentives for Amazon Prime subscribers. Amazon Prime is currently $99 a year, but what if you could get it for “cheaper” through the use of “Amazon Ether tokens?” The only ones who know what Amazon is up to are the higher ups at Amazon, so we’ll have to wait and see how this situation plays out.

 

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Bitcoin Just Hit a New Record High of More Than $7,000

Editor’s Note: Since this article was published, bitcoin prices have changed dramatically. At the time of writing, bitcoin was valued at $7,054.77. The currency reached an all-time high of $7,355.35 Thursday morning.

Anyone hoping the price of bitcoin would fall at the beginning of the new month was left disappointed on November 1. Instead of dropping, bitcoin’s value increased to a new all-time high of more than $6,600.

As reported by CoinDesk, the height of the price surge occurred around 16:34 UTC (12:34pm EST), at which point bitcoin had a value of $6,629.00. At the time of writing, it’s dropped down to only $6,608.11.

Bitcoin’s value increased fairly consistently throughout October. On October 12, it surpassed $5,300, following a temporary drop in price the previous month. A little more than one week later, it broke $6,000 for the first time and was hovering above $6,000 on October 31.

Following this latest surge, bitcoin’s total market capitalization is over $110 billion, and it now accounts for 60 percent of the $183 billion cryptocurrency market.

The value of bitcoin is expected to continue to increase, with some experts believing it will cross the $25,000 threshold within the next five years. Only time will tell if the recent launch of bitcoin gold will negatively impact the original’s growth, but so far, the crypto has shown no signs of slowing down.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Bitcoin Prices Surge as World’s Largest Exchange Owner Opens Bitcoin Futures

Bitcoin Trading via Bitcoin Futures

The largest exchange owner in the world just reversed its previous stand on Bitcoin. CME Group, Inc. announced today that it’s opening up bitcoin futures, a stock investment trading for the cryptocurrency, by the end of 2017, after it acquires the necessary regulatory permits from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The decision comes only a month after CME Group President Bryan Durkin previously dismissed the idea, saying on Bloomberg Television that, “I really don’t see us going forward with a futures contract in the very near future.”

“Given increasing client interest in the evolving cryptocurrency markets, we have decided to introduce a bitcoin futures contract,” Terry Duffy, CME Group chairman and CEO, said in a company press release. “As the world’s largest regulated [futures exchange] marketplace, CME Group is the natural home for this new vehicle that will provide investors with transparency, price discovery and risk transfer capabilities.”

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
Click to View Full Infographic

Even before the CME Group’s decision to launch bitcoin futures, bitcoin trading has already been happening. Most notably, a startup called LedgerX already received CFTC approval earlier this month to offer swaps and option on bitcoin, according to Bloomberg. Apart from LedgerX, however, most of professional traders and investors who are keen on bitcoin had to trade in rather unfamiliar venues that too often risk “anti-money laundering and know-your-customer rules,” Bloomberg added. With the CME Group, these professional traders and investors would have a more regulated avenue to access the rather volatile cryptocurrency.

Continuous Growth?

The creation of bitcoin futures by the CME Group could finally make it possible to establish an exchange-traded fund that’s based on the world’s most popular cryptocurrency, which has been previously difficult due to bitcoin’s largely unregulated nature. The CEM Group plans to use the CME CF Bitcoin Reference Rate (BRR) as a daily reference rate for the U.S. dollar price of bitcoin, in order to try to put a semblance of order and regulation. The BRR was calculated and published by the CME Group in tandem with Crypto Facilities Ltd.

“We are excited to work with CME Group on this product and see the BRR used as the settlement mechanism of this important product,” Dr. Timo Schlaefer, CEO of Crypto Facilities, said in a statement. “The BRR has proven to reliably and transparently reflect global bitcoin-dollar trading and has become the price reference of choice for financial institutions, trading firms and data providers worldwide.”

News of the CME Group’s decision has already affected the standard value of bitcoin, as prices have surged past a previous record-high of $6,000. As of writing, bitcoin is currently hovers just above $6,000, up by almost $900 compared to last week’s prices. Experts have been predicting even more price hikes in the coming months, with bitcoin expected to reach $10,000 by April 2018 on the road to soar above $25,000 in next five years. Bitcoin prices have remained high despite news of another Bitcoin blockchain split looming.

 

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Ethereum Has Had an Incredible Year So Far

Enter the Ether

At this point, you’re probably familiar with, or have at least heard of, Ethereum. If you’re not, it is a quickly growing blockchain network. Many different things can be done using the Ethereum network, as it’s simply a platform for building any decentralized application (dApp), but it’s primarily being used to complete financial transactions of different kinds. However, it’s not just another way of sending money from one person to another person. It’s capable of far more than that.

As the New York Times explained in a recent article, Ethereum is gaining the interest of many top companies because of the more complex transactions that can be done on the network.

“Let’s say two companies want to conduct a complicated financial transaction, like settling a stock option. Neither company trusts the other company to conduct the transaction on its computers,” the Times wrote. “Both companies could hire a third party, like a stock exchange, to conduct the transaction, which is what they generally do today. But that forces them to trust that third company and to pay that company fees. With Ethereum, they can conduct the transaction on a shared computer that allows them both to check the records, ideally saving on fees.”

That’s just one of many complex transactions Etheruem can be useful for, which is why industry leaders are paying attention to it and trying to find ways to utilize it. There have been many intriguing headlines since Ethereum started becoming more popular this year. “Blockchain Used to Sell Real Estate For the First Time,” a recent Newsweek headline reads. “Ethereum First: Investment Product Opens for Trading on Nasdaq Exchange,” reads a CoinDesk headline. DJ Khaled is even on the Ethereum train

Discuss Ethereum at this upcoming event

With how quickly things are changing in the Ethereum world, it’s obviously difficult to keep up. One interesting event where people can learn about where Ethereum stands and where it’s heading is Ethereal SF. It’s a conference that will feature leading experts on Ethereum and also people like renowned futurist Peter Diamandis. It takes place October 27 at the Terra Gallery in San Francisco. Many are calling it the “SXSW of blockchain,” as it will also feature art installations, virtual reality experiences and more.

“Ethereal is a nexus for leaders in decentralizing technologies like Ethereum to come together with entrepreneurs, developers, and futurists to decide together how we want to build the next generation of the Internet – the next generation of our reality,” Amanda Gutterman, a co-creator of Ethereal and ConsenSys chief marketing officer, told Futurism. “We are on the verge of sweeping, global change, ushered in by the evolution of exponential technologies like blockchain. As one of the largest and fastest growing companies in the blockchain space, focused on building software on the Ethereum platform, ConsenSys is proud to play host to these important conversations at Ethereal and beyond.”

Leading up to this conference, there was a hackathon at UC Berkeley from October 21-22. The hackathon focused on “designing and building a blockchain-based governance system that takes advantage of Ethereum’s unique platform of identity, voting and asset transfer systems,” according to theEthereal website

Ethereal is being hosted by ConsenSys, which is a production studio that builds applications for blockchain networks. ConsenSys has been leading the way in the Ethereum world for nearly three years.

“At Ethereal we speak about building the Web 3.0, about harnessing blockchain technology to improve how our world works,” Gutterman said. “The Ethereal Hacakthon at UC Berekely was an opportunity to bring students and professionals together to design solutions in real life, today, on the powerful blockchain platform afforded by Ethereum.” She said she believes ConsenSys and its partners are “uniquely positioned” to guide those breaking into Ethereum.

If you’re interested in Ethereum or just like hearing the latest innovators talk about the future, come join us at Ethereal. There will be plenty there to keep you busy.

Disclosure: Futurism is an official media partner of Ethereal and is receiving press passes to the event.

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Rumor Suggests Amazon Will Begin Accepting Bitcoin

As Bitcoin rises in value and becomes more widely accepted, attentions are turning to online retailer Amazon as the next in line to accept the digital currency.

According to German newspaper Welt, as later reported by CoinTelegraph, financial technology sources in Silicon Valley are making claims about Amazon’s plans to support Bitcoin as a new payment method. These rumors are supposedly similar to a claim made by investor James Altucher last month, who said that Amazon might make a Bitcoin announcement during an earnings conference call set for October 26.

When Welt reached out to Amazon regarding the rumors, a spokesperson replied saying they do not engage in speculation but that they do “include new products or services only when these are useful for our customers.”

Despite’s Amazon’s predictable response to the rumors, Welt writes that “Even if the Oct. 26 date is not set in stone, Bitcoin introduction should probably be expected soon.”

It seems that we’ll have to wait to see if these rumors are true. If the retailer does reveal plans to adopt the digital currency, it’ll be one of the biggest online storefronts to do so, which could prompt others to do the same. Amazon is a business after all, and if Bitcoin could boost its performance, it will certainly make an effort to embrace it.

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Bitcoin is Splitting Into Two. Here’s What it Means for Your Investments.

Bitcoin Gold Standard

It seems that Bitcoin will experience another hard fork, much like the situation earlier this year that resulted in the creation of Bitcoin Cash (BTC). As of block 491,407, we’ll see another permutation of the cryptocurrency — dubbed Bitcoin Gold (BTG).

The idea behind Bitcoin Gold is a desire to make the cryptocurrency truly decentralized once again, as its creators believe that larger companies now have too much control over the network. To this end, the use of powerful mining systems known as application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) will be prohibited.

The team behind the project claims that a total of twenty exchanges and wallets have pledged their support for Bitcoin Gold. However, Coinbase – one of the most popular exchanges based in the US – has already stated that it won’t yet support the cryptocurrency, citing a lack of transparency.

Bitcoin Gold is set to be created before its source code is made available to the public. Coinbase has referred to this decision as a “major security risk” and, as such, the exchange is holding off on supporting the currency for the time being. Of course, this could change at a later date if it proves to be a success.

It’s worth noting that Coinbase tends to err on the side of caution when it comes to hard forks. The exchange has yet to provide official support for Bitcoin Cash, which launched in August 2017, though it plans to offer this capability by January 1, 2018.

Forking Off

Anyone that is in possession of bitcoin will be issued Bitcoin Gold at a rate of one BTC to one BTG. The launch of this fork was marred by a distributed denial-of-service attack that took its website offline.

Opinions are split over whether a hard fork is a good idea. While there are some that feel that Bitcoin can be improved upon, others feel that this kind of activity only serves to dilute the market, potentially stifling cryptocurrency as a whole.

Bitcoin Gold is the brainchild of LightningAsic CEO Jack Liao, who has made no secret of his thoughts on the bitcoin mining landscape. His company sells GPUs and other hardware that can be used to mine Bitcoin Gold which could perhaps explain his desire to pursue a hard fork of the cryptocurrency.

In the first few hours of trading, the price of Bitcoin Gold fell harshly, but it’s obviously far too early to tell if it will be a success in the long run. The cryptocurrency market is constantly changing as it grows, but it remains to be seen whether or not upstarts will be able to compete with the more established players in the industry.

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Ethereum Founder Says 90% of Token Startups Will Fail

Initial Coin Offering

Vitalik Buterin knows a thing or two about how to launch a cryptocurrency. At 23, the co-founder of Ethereum is widely considered to be an expert in the field, having written about the subject extensively before diving in and developing his own platform. However, Buterin is realistic about the prospects of the vast majority of initial coin offerings. Speaking at the ETHWaterloo hackathon earlier this month, he stated it should be an established fact in the cryptocurrency industry that most token startups will fail. Buterin estimates at least 90 percent are doomed.

“There are some good ideas, there are a lot of very bad ideas, and there’s a lot of very, very bad ideas,” said Buterin, speaking as part of a panel on decentralized technology. “And quite a few scams as well.”

This isn’t necessarily such a bad thing. Buterin explained that while the current first wave of tokens will soon give way to an improved second generation, those tokens that emerge in 2018 and 2019 will be better, simply due to experimentation that is going on right now. Still, the thrust of Buterin’s remarks was that the plenitude of ICOs could pose a problem for the continued health of cryptocurrency as a whole.

Of course, his comments about token startups don’t refer to a situation unique to that market. His estimate of a 90 percent rate of failure is based on the fact that 90 percent of startups, across the board, never see success.

Token Trepidation

ICOs can rack up some serious funding, often for a technology that’s completely unproven. In July 2017, the Tezos blockchain set a new record by amassing $232 million over the course of its ICO. Buterin has previously made some very public criticisms of that project, too.

China recently issued a ban on ICOs that sent ripples through the entire cryptocurrency market, as investors worried that similar legislation might be put into place elsewhere. It’s since been said that these measures are temporary. Yet this serves to demonstrate that governments could well step in to regulate the practice sooner rather than later.

At the end of the day, ICOs–like many facets of cryptocurrency–just aren’t the guaranteed win that some might make them out to be. Whether you’re investing in Bitcoin or buying up tokens for a brand new coin, there’s always a chance that you might end up taking a loss. The key is making sure not to get caught up in the hype.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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MasterCard Announces That Payments Can Now be Made on Blockchain

Best of Both Worlds

Credit card companies are a long-standing pillar in the financial services sector. Credit cards were the first cashless payment option made available to the public and now, one of the leading financial services firms in the world has decided that it’s time for credit cards to get involved in blockchain technologies. On Friday, MasterCard announced that it’s opening up access to a blockchain-based business-to-business (B2B) payment service under a new option called the “MasterCard Blockchain API.”

Launched during the Money 20/20 Hackathon in Las Vegas this past weekend after testing and validation had been completed, this service is slated to become available to customers this week. “MasterCard’s blockchain solution provides a new way for consumers, businesses and banks to transact and is key to the company’s strategy to provide payment solutions that meet every need of financial institutions and their end-customers,” the company said in a press statement.

This move comes as a bit of a surprise, as MasterCard previously issued a blanket rejection of Bitcoin. Still, MasterCard’s blockchain service heralds what Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin described to be blockchain’s potential to replace credit cards. Instead of being taken over by blockchain technologies, however, MasterCard decided to embrace the movement.

For Everything Else

As a decentralized digital transaction ledger, blockchain offers MasterCard users a more private and secure option for making transactions, one that is both easily scalable and flexible. The new blockchain API builds on MasterCard’s existing payment network, which covers some 22,000 financial institutions, and also expands blockchain’s capability to handle transactions. The move also solves some of the challenges that B2B schemes typically have, which include “speed, transparency, and costs in cross-border payments.”

“By combining MasterCard blockchain technology with our settlement network and associated network rules, we have created a solution that is safe, secure, auditable and easy to scale,” Ken Moore, MasterCard Labs EVP, said in the press release. “When it comes to payments, we want to provide choice and flexibility to our partners where they are able to seamlessly use both our existing and new payment rails based on the needs and requirements of their customers.”

With a financial giant like MasterCard betting on blockchain, previous predictions by experts seem to be coming true. Blockchain is changing the way we do things — particularly financial transactions. Recently, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation opened up a payment platform that caters to those without access to traditional financial services. The blockchain revolution, however, is definitely not limited to just the world of finance. Industries like healthcare, aviation, energydiplomacy, and education are also exploring blockchain solutions to fit their needs. There is even the possibility of a new internet powered by blockchain.

In short, in the age of information, a secure yet easily trackable method of keeping tabs on data is in high demand — especially with recent hacks and security breeches. Blockchain solutions might just be what the world needs.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Bitcoin Breaks $100 Billion in Value, Soars Over $6000 for the First Time in History

Welcome to a new kind of currency, or rather, welcome to a new kind of financial system. Today, for the first time ever, Bitcoin surpassed the $6000 barrier, proving that cryptocurrency is, in all likeliness, here to stay.

Bitfinex, which has the highest volume BTC/USD exchange, broke the $6,000 barrier initially. Now, the same can be said for all of the other major exchanges. It has only been a little over a week since the price of bitcoin soared passed $5,300, and then it quickly surpassed $5,800. Now, it has surpassed another barrier.

Ultimately, this surged caused its market capitalization to exceed $100 billion for the first time.

The digital currency is expected to continue rising in price, with cryptocurrency mogul Mike Novogratz predicting that it could hit $10,000 sometime next year and other industry experts saying it will top $25,000 within the next 5 years.

Considering how quickly Bitcoin has risen recently, such predictions may not be impossible…or even unlikely.

That said, Bitcoin isn’t infallible and could eventually collapse. Earlier this month, Harvard professor of economics Kenneth Rogoff claimed that it is only a matter of time before the currency takes a turn for the worse:

“It is one thing for governments to allow small anonymous transactions with virtual currencies; indeed, this would be desirable,” he said in an article that he wrote for MarketWatch. “But it is an entirely different matter for governments to allow large-scale anonymous payments, which would make it extremely difficult to collect taxes or counter criminal activity.”

This year alone, Bitcoin has been impacted by bans and restrictions that were set in countries like ChinaRussia, and South Korea. It seems, however, that these developments were only minor stumbling blocks for the currency, as Bitcoin has risen by more than 500 percent in value this year alone, and Vladimir Putin subsequently stated that Russia would issue its own cryptocurrency.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Bitcoin Reaches New Record High Near $6,000

Soaring to New Heights

It’s been a little over a week since the price of bitcoin soared passed $5,300 and then quickly surpassed $5,800. Now, the digital currency has reached a new record high, putting it exceedingly close to $6,000.

Both Bloomberg and Business Insider reported the currency’s sudden surge on October 20, though the cause of the rise in value is currently unknown. At the time of writing, bitcoin’s price is at $5,929, but that could change quickly and at any time.

This year alone, Bitcoin has been impacted by bans and restrictions set in countries like China, Russia, and South Korea. It’s clear, however, that they were only minor stumbling blocks for the currency as bitcoin has risen by more than 500 percent in value this year alone.

Steady Growth

The digital currency is expected to continue rising in price, with cryptocurrency mogul Mike Novogratz predicted that it could hit $10,000 sometime next year and other industry experts saying it will top $25,000 within the next 5 years. Considering how quickly Bitcoin has risen recently, such predictions may not be impossible.

That said, Bitcoin isn’t infallible and could eventually collapse. Earlier this month, Harvard professor of economics Kenneth Rogoff expressed that it’s only a matter of time before the currency takes a turn for the worse:

“It is one thing for governments to allow small anonymous transactions with virtual currencies; indeed, this would be desirable,” he said. “But it is an entirely different matter for governments to allow large-scale anonymous payments, which would make it extremely difficult to collect taxes or counter criminal activity.”

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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The Gates Foundation Just Launched a Blockchain-Powered Mobile Payment System

Interoperability is Key

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is no stranger to blockchain. Since 2015, the foundation has been working on ways to use the decentralized digital ledger of transactions through its Level One Project. Now, they’ve launched Mojaloop, which is an open-source payment platform designed for people who lack access to the usual payment services.

Mojaloop’s mobile payment software, built as part of the Level One Project, is powered by the Interledger technology, which in turn was built by distributed ledger technology (DLT) startup Ripple. It “establishes a blueprint for connecting today’s financial services sector, and can be used as a solution to barriers that banks and providers seeking interoperability have traditionally faced,” the foundation’s announcement said. In short, Mojaloop wants to link financial institutions, payment providers, and other companies that provide payment services and share information using blockchain.

The Ideal Platform

Blockchain’s secure and decentralized nature makes it ideal for such interoperability or sharing of information that’s particularly crucial in financial transactions. “Interoperability of digital payments has been the toughest hurdle for the financial services industry to overcome,” Kosta Peric, Financial Services for the Poor deputy director at the Gates Foundation, said in the press statement. “With Mojaloop, our technology partners have finally achieved a solution that can apply to any service, and we invite banks and the payments industry to explore and test this tool.”

Aside from Ripple, the Gates Foundation also worked with other financial technology companies to make Mojaloop easily accessible. An open application programming interface (API) for mobile systems companies developed by Ericsson, Huawei, Telepin, and Mahindra Comviva will make it easier for mobile money providers to integrate their services with, and build products for, Mojaloop. Interested software developers can view the code here.

Mojaloop is yet another example of how blockchain is breaking the traditional financial service setup, which ends up benefitting a greater number of people. As the foundation notes, it’s a step at leveling the economic playing field “by crowding in expertise and resources to build inclusive payment models to benefit the world’s poor.”

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Leading Expert Says Bitcoin Will Soar Above $25,000 in 5 Years

Bitcoin’s Rise

It has been almost a week since the latest historic Bitcoin price breakthrough, when the world’s most popular cryptocurrency surged past $5,300, only to reach $5,800 just a few hours later. At time of writing, the price of the popular cryptocurrency has been hovering around $5,700 — up by more than $500 in 24 hours, and by $342 since last week.

Experts say the upward trend for Bitcoin will only continue: FundStrat Global Advisor co-founder Tom Lee believes the value of bitcoin could ultimately achieve a high of $25,000 in the next five years. Speaking to Business Insider for the first episode of their crypto-finance show “the bit,” Lee explained that bitcoin could eventually replace gold as the standard of financial value.

“I think this next generation of young people view bitcoin as their store of value. And if it captures 5% of the gold market, it’s worth at least $25,000 per unit,” Lee said.

More Coins, More Value?

Bitcoin is like a social network, Lee said. The more engagement bitcoin has, the higher its value will rise. “And in the short-term, we think bitcoin will reach at least $6,000 by mid-2018,” he added. That’s actually a moderate estimate: Other experts have predicted it could hit $6,000 before the end of this year. Crypto coin mogul Mike Novogratz recently told CNBC he believes that bitcoin could reach  $10,000 by April 2018.

Lee also said that, the more cryptocurrencies there are (and there re currently some 630 crypto coins) the better it is for Bitcoin. “[W]hat we found in our research is that the more coins that are being issued, the more are using bitcoin as their master ledger, which means bitcoin’s value is actually growing as there’s more coins.”

In any case, what’s clear is that the price of Bitcoin will continue to go up, despite critics assertion that cryptocurrencies are just a fad or “bubble.” To that end, Lee pointed out a basic but oft forgotten fact. “[W]hen people talk about bitcoin’s volatility today, they’re forgetting that when we went off the dollar — the gold standard on the dollar, gold’s volatility for 4 years was about the same as bitcoin’s volatility today.”

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Vladimir Putin: Russia Will Issue its Own Cryptocurrency

 

Russian-styled Cryptos

At a closed-door meeting in Moscow, Vladimir Putin officially called for a state-run blockchain-based digital currency which will be called “CryptoRuble,” according to local Russian publication AIF, first mentioned by CoinTelegraph. The CryptoRuble might put an end to some of crypto’s most challenging weeks in Russia, where the government blocked cryptocurrency exchanges despite a repeated show of interest for digital cash.

“I so confidently declare that we will launch a [cryptocurrency] for one simple reason: if we do not, then in 2 months our neighbors in the Eurasian Economic Community will do it,” Russian communications minister Nikolay Nikiforov said, as reported by AIF.

Yet despite the announcement, there seems to be no indication that the government will withdraw its cryptocurrency ban. On the contrary, Nikiforov said that the creation of CryptoRuble will not translate to a legalization of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. It does, however, confirm Russia’s previously expressed interest in blockchain technologies, like Bitcoin’s rival Ethereum.

What About Decentralization?

The CryptoRuble won’t be a typical crypto coin, as it won’t be open for miners. Instead, the government would be the only one able to issue, control, and maintain the currency. CryptoRubles could be exchanged for Rubles anytime, with a 13 percent tax levied on owners unable to declare the source of their crypto coins. A similar 13 percent tax would be incurred by transactions involving the buying and selling of CryptoRubles.

“It will, most likely, be a closed model with a certain volume of regulated emissions,” Nikiforov explained. The minister added that further details are still in development, adding that a Russian cryptocurrency should use Russian cryptography.

While this guarantees the same type of security that blockchain-based coins provide, there’s one apparently major difference. It seems that the CryptoRuble doesn’t run on the same decentralized model that makes blockchain and crypto coins unique and popular. Still, it’s a first step to Russian cryptocurrency adoption, which experts predict will be the key for a blockchain revolution.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Bitcoin Price Goes Over $5,800, Setting a New All-Time High Record in Less Than 24 Hours

Bitcoin prices surged past the $5,300 mark on Thursday, closing at $5,363 — only to reach a new all-time high value at $5,856.10 some time early Friday morning, after markets had opened at a $5,439.

The increase in value comes after Russia banned Bitcoin and expressed interest in rival Ethereum. The Russian ban followed previous moves against cryptocurrencies by South Korea and China, which included prohibiting initial coin offerings (ICOs). The market, it would seem, finally got over the fears incited by these moves.

bitcoin-price-surge-coindesk
Image credit: Coindesk

At the time of writing, revitalized Bitcoin is now at $5,714.95 marking a more than 13 percent increase in value in less than one day, and an over 30 percent increase in just one week. It isn’t the only cryptocurrency benefitting from the price surge, as the overall cryptocurrency market cap peaked at $171.94 billion early Friday morning — almost reaching a high comparable to that of September 1, when it reached $172.5 billion. Bitcoin, which makes up more than 55 percent of the whole crypto market, capped at $95.5 billion today (Friday, Oct 13).

Cryptocurrencies are no stranger to fluctuations in prices, which critics are always quick to note. Experts say crypto is destined to be more than a fad however, and that Bitcoin’s popularity will herald a bigger blockchain revolution. Whatever the case may be, experts expect Bitcoin to go as high as $6,000 by the end of the year, and over $10,000 by the first half of 2018.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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After Falling in September, Bitcoin Breaks Previous Records

Bitcoin is back in a big way. After a few tumultuous weeks caused by some intense government regulation from states like China and South Korea, and fears of impending bans in Russia, Bitcoin has been able to rally and surpass its previous record value established in early September.

Prices soared to $5,314.06 at the point of writing, beating the previous record of $5,013.91. Prices were expected to take a dip after the cryptocurrency hit the $5,000 point as some investors likely had sell orders placed for that milestone. However, China’s announcements about the temporary ban followed by other developments played a major role in the tumult that followed.

Image credit: CoinDesk
Bitcoin’s value is taking a wild ride. Image Credit: CoinDesk

Bitcoin prices have achieved 424 percent growth since the beginning of the year, proving that the cryptocurrency is particularly resilient, contrary to some assumptions.

Bitcoin could be back on track with its meteoric rise. Experts seem to be unphased by the rollercoaster changes of the past few weeks. Speaking during CNBC’s Fast Money segment, former Fortress Investment Group hedge fund manager turned cryptocurrency investor Mike Novogratz predicted that Bitcoin will reach heights above $10,000 in the next six to ten months.

The cryptocurrency market is anything but stable. There is no definitive way to predict how it will perform in the coming days, let alone weeks or months. Still, whether crypto is a bubble or not, there’s no doubt that it is disrupting the financial sector.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Latest Prediction Puts Bitcoin at $10k by April 2018

As Bitcoin prices remain stable, experts predict a continued increase in value. In a recent interview featured in CNBC‘s “Fast Money” segment, former Fortress Investment Group hedge fund manager turned cryptocurrency investor Mike Novogratz said the rise in value isn’t likely to stop any time soon.

“I’m pretty confident to say it’s going higher,” he said on Wednesday, adding that “It would not surprise [me] if in the next six to 10 months we’re over $10,000.” Just last week, other experts predicted bitcoin prices would reach $6,000 by the end of the year, though still warning against volatility.

Indeed, many have pointed out that cryptocurrencies tend to be unstable. For Novogratz, however, this volatility is normal. “Yes, it’s a bubble, it’s going to be one of the great manias of all time,” he explained. “Bitcoin happens to be the bellwether of this entire decentralized revolution, so it’s the easiest way people get gain exposure to it. […] Things like Ethereum I think will be the public utility of this new space.” This blockchain revolution, he added, would “change the way we live.”

Despite fears of a dip in prices due to Russia’s cryptocurrency ban, recent numbers show that bitcoin prices have stayed at the upper $4,000 mark after closing at another all-time high on Monday. The Russian ban comes after China and South Korea made similar moves against cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs).

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Harvard Professor: “In the Long Run, the Price of Bitcoin Will Collapse”

Futures Market

This summer, the total value of the bitcoin market reached $160 billion, almost 10 times what it was at the beginning of 2017. Now, a leading economic expert is warning investors that while cryptocurrencies may very well be the financial wave of the future, the value of bitcoin will collapse eventually.

Kenneth Rogoff is a professor of economics at Harvard University, and from 2001 to 2003, he served as the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund. In an opinion piece published by The Guardian this week, he praises the technology underpinning bitcoin, but says he believes too many factors are working against the currency for its value to continue to increase indefinitely.

In the article, he argues that bitcoin evangelists who expect the currency to become ubiquitous are just setting themselves up for disappointment.

“It is folly to think that bitcoin will ever be allowed to supplant central-bank-issued money,” wrote Rogoff. “It is one thing for governments to allow small anonymous transactions with virtual currencies; indeed, this would be desirable. But it is an entirely different matter for governments to allow large-scale anonymous payments, which would make it extremely difficult to collect taxes or counter criminal activity.”

Bad for Bitcoin

Bitcoin was once the only cryptocurrency with any real cachet, and it’s still the most popular. However, a variety of competing alt-coins and tokens have emerged in recent years, with the likes of ether and ripple quickly establishing themselves within the crypto market.

External competition isn’t the only reason Rogoff believes bitcoin will collapse, though. According to the economist, governments could end up crippling the currency’s value if the current “free-for-all” crypto landscape changes too much or too quickly. He holds the opinion that regulation is unavoidable, as governments are going to want to keep an eye on transactions to cut down on tax evasion and other crimes.

Rogoff points to Japan as an example. Bitcoin is already very popular in the Asian nation, and it appears set to grow even more so thanks to relaxed regulation. However, if the country decides to draft and enforce new legislation or if its banks are successful in their attempts to create an alternative cryptocurrency, bitcoin’s value could suffer.

Rogoff doesn’t say when bitcoin will collapse, though, so actually taking action based on his prediction is futile. Meanwhile, other experts have shared far more concrete predictions for bitcoin’s future, and many of those are also far more optimistic.

Ronnie Moas of Standpoint Research believes bitcoin’s value could reach $20,000 in the next three years, while veteran trader masterluc has predicted that bitcoin will be worth $15,000 before the end of 2017. As for regulations having an impact on the crypto’s future value, economists at the central bank of Finland believe blockchain technology is self-regulating and that governments likely couldn’t regulate it even if they wanted to.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Russia Moves to Block Cryptocurrency Exchanges

No Crypto in Russia

Russians looking forward to incorporating cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin into their lives awoke to less-than-stellar news Tuesday morning, as Russia now intends to block cryptocurrency exchanges and the websites that offer them.

As reported by Reuters, Central Bank First Deputy Governor Sergei Shvetsov called cryptocurrencies “dubious” during a conference in Moscow. He went on to add that digital currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are something people shouldn’t be able to easily access.

“We can not stand apart. We can not give direct and easy access to such dubious instruments for retail (investors),” said Shetsov. According to CoinTelegraph, the deputy governor further backed up the decision, saying financial instruments based on digital currencies are nearly impossible to support; additional regulations would need to be put into place to prevent the Russian domestic market from dealing in cryptocurrencies.

As for the ban’s effect on digital currencies, CNBC reports that Bitcoin experienced a $600 drop in value around the same time as the announcement, though it quickly recovered soon after.

Yet Another Ban

Russia’s decision comes after China and South Korea imposed similar bans on cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings, though China’s is said to be temporary. For Russia, specifically, it comes as a bit of a surprise. It was only last month that the country struck a deal to create Ethereum Russia, and soon after, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov stated plans were in the works to legalize cryptocurrencies.

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“The state understands indeed that crypto-currencies are real. There is no sense in banning them, there is a need to regulate them,” said Siluanov at the time.

The ban may only be temporary considering these plans, and may have only been enacted until proper regulations are put forward later this year. If the ban is permanent, however, it will be yet another market digital currency has lost a foothold on, and another potential setback to the currency’s worldwide adoption.

 

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Cash Is Quickly Becoming Obsolete in China

Do You Take Cash?

There are more ways to pay for goods and services now than ever before, and as such paper money seems increasingly old-fashioned. In China, cash is all but dead thanks to more convenient options.

Last year, the volume of mobile payments in China more than doubled, surging to a total of $5 trillion. Figures from the first three months of 2017 suggest that Alipay and WeChat Pay are the two services that dominate the market, with the former accounting for 54 percent of transactions, and the latter making up 40 percent.

CLSA, a research investment company based in Hong Kong, predicts that electronic payments in China will reach a volume of $45 trillion by 2021. Even now, everything from bike rental to fast food can be paid for with a smartphone — and sometimes cash isn’t a valid form of payment.

Loose Change

The ubiquity of smartphones makes it easy to conduct fast, secure payments whether you’re sending money to a friend, or paying for something in a store. However, it may well be that the current rise of digital transactions is simply an intermediary step.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
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If cash is indeed on its way out, cryptocurrency seems to be its heir apparent. It offers up all the same benefits in terms of convenience and accessibility, but with the added protection of a digital ledger, and technological advantages like smart contracts.

That being said, a cashless future isn’t without its drawbacks. Most digital transactions are easier to track than cash payments — with certain cryptocurrencies serving as notable exceptions — which provides more methods of data collection to companies and organizations that have an interest in tracking consumer behavior to allocate advertising and marketing for optimum exposure.

 

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Schools Are Officially Accepting Bitcoin for Tuition

Using Bitcoin for Tuition Payments

Bitcoin has been used to buy homes, and countries like Venezuela and Vietnam are beginning to truly embrace the currency. Now, certain universities are adopting the payment method of bitcoin for tuition, albeit with a few caveats.

The Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Switzerland announced the decision to accept bitcoin payments this week, saying it is an indication of “its ability to disseminate knowledge on cutting-edge technologies such as blockchain, as well as its desire to gain experience in the practical aspects of this novel area.” The university offers courses focused on financing, economics, music, and more, meaning it was really only a matter of time before it invited bitcoin inside its walls.

Lucerne doesn’t handle the bitcoin transactions, instead entrusting all bitcoin payments to processing firm Bitcoin Suisse AG. The company will use a banking system similar to an e-banking portal, enabling the school to accept the digital currency without having to maintain possession of it. Bitcoin payments are converted into Swiss francs once a week, or once a day if more than 10,000 Swiss francs are acquired.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
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“Bitcoin Suisse AG bears the risk of any exchange rate losses and currency fluctuations,” explains Lucerne.

Students who use bitcoin for tuition will incur a 1% payment fee, which Bitcoin.com notes is much less than traditional payment fees. Lucerne doesn’t expect many of its students to pay with bitcoin initially, but believes those who understand the currency will be among the first to take advantage of the option.

“Those most likely to avail themselves of this opportunity will either be already familiar with the concept of financial services and blockchain or interested in pursuing continuing and executive education opportunities in this subject area,” the university added.

Expanding Curriculum

According to Bitcoin.com, Lucerne isn’t the only university that’s started to accept bitcoin. Last December, business school ESMT Berlin became the first German university to accept the cryptocurrency as payment, calling it “the most well-developed blockchain application.” Even earlier than that, The University of Nicosia in Cyprus announced that it was the first school in the world to adopt bitcoin in 2013, while King’s College was the first U.S. college to do so in 2014. Despite these colleges’ efforts, many people are unfamiliar with cryptocurrencies and how they work. As a society, we’re a long way out from being to use them for all of our transactions.

As bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies become more popular and widely accepted, expect to see universities around the world to not only accept them as payment, but also introduce courses focused on blockchain technology. As reported by CoinTelegraph, the financial industry has a large demand for people with blockchain expertise, but the supply currently isn’t there. Fortunately, universities in the U.S., Europe, and Russia have incorporated such courses, including Duke University, Princeton University, UC Berkeley, the aforementioned University of Nicosia, and the National University of Science and Technology.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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One of the World’s Largest Airlines Is Looking Into Blockchain Technology

Blockchain Takes Flight

Aircraft maintenance is, obviously, a crucial part of any airline business. Keeping tabs with replacement parts on in-service planes is necessary to avoid serious complications in flight. Which is why Air France KLM is putting a premium on its ability to keep their airplanes in tip-top shape, and they’ve decided to employ blockchain technology to do so.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
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Speaking in a webinar together with Microsoft and software for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) systems provider Ramco Aviation, Air France talked about the benefits of relying on digital currency technology. James Kornberg, Air France KLM business unit director of innovation, said that he is working with his team to come up with a clear business case for blockchain use in improving maintenance processes and work flows. “The use case has to be realistic,” he said, Aviation Today reports. “The four features of blockchain are resilience, traceability, integrity and disintermediation are well suited to the aviation supply chain.”

Expanded Value

Blockchain, the innovative technology that powers cryptocurrencies, isn’t just useful for financial transactions. Already, this decentralized digital ledger have found use in storing medical data, in managing power grids, as a potentially new internet, and even in how we distribute aid. Now, airline companies are taking the technology by the wings.

Kornberg pointed out, however, that airline data has to completely transition to digital first before they can fully take advantage of what blockchain has to offer. “In the aviation industry, we still have a lot of our data that is not digitalized, still a lot of analog data, the first step, and that’s what we’re doing at the moment,” he added.

Apart from Air France’s idea of using it to keep track of maintenance needs, blockchain has the capacity to transform the entire commercial airline transportation industry. “The characteristics of the airline industry—and also the broader travel industry—align very well with the capabilities of the blockchain,” an Accenture write-up notes. The key is in how blockchain handles data. Airline companies can employ blockchain to improve ticketing services by using smart-contracts, managing loyalty points, as well as in keeping passenger information and data more secure.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Malware That Hijacks Your Computer to Mine Cryptocurrency Is Swarming Across the Internet

Revenue Scheming

Last month, visitors of BitTorrent search engine/piracy website The Pirate Bay noticed their central processing unit (CPU) usage spike. However, the problem wasn’t related to the illegal downloading taking place on the site (that’s another issue entirely). This same kind of increased CPU usage was experienced by users of the entirely legal online streaming service Showtime some days later.

Ultimately, users realized that both The Pirate Bay and Showtime had employed cryptocurrency mining malware to turn visitors’ computers into satellite cryptocurrency miners. Showtime has since said that they’ve removed the errant code, but they didn’t clarify whether it was implemented on purpose or if the site was hacked. The Pirate Bay, on the other hand, admitted that the addition of this code was part of a 24-hour test and said they’ve removed it.

The above are just two examples of what is becoming a growing trend amongst websites. Instead of relying on ad placements — the most common revenue source for non-subscription-based websites — sites are turning to cryptocurrency mining. In fact, a company called Coinhive released a tool specifically for use by website owners looking to earn money without displaying ads.

The problem is that Coinhive has also become popular with malware developers, who have embedded it in Chrome extensions, hacked sites, and various other corners of the internet. These tools mine less-popular cryptos, such as Monero and zCash, which have features that make their transactions untraceable by authorities.

Raising Concerns

Indeed, the act of secretly turning other peoples’ computers into personal crypto miners is now rampant. From January to August of this year, cryptocurrency mining attacks that target enterprise websites have grown sixfold, according to IBM X-Force’s security team. Cybersecurity advisor Kaspersky Lab reported a similar trend amongst their users. Some 1.6 million of their clients had their computers infected by cryptocurrency mining malware this year, and the problem has apparently been growing since last year.

Obviously, this raises concerns that might spell trouble for the blockchain and cryptocurrency community. Cryptocurrency mining is an integral part of blockchain technology — it’s how hosts are rewarded for keeping tabs on the transactions in their respective networks, which can be costly in terms of hardware and electricity needs.

The key to a blockchain’s security is that no single individual handles all of the ledger’s transactions. Instead, they’re scattered across numerous CPUs owned by miners. While legitimate miners use their own PCs, though, those employing crypto-mining malware are taking advantage of other peoples’ computers and essentially compromising them.

Clearly, such a setup would have some appeal as an alternative source of income for website owners. However, infecting unsuspecting users with cryptocurrency mining malware is a violation of their privacy and safety — not to mention a nuisance that slows down their computers. Thankfully, a standard ad blocker is currently enough to prevent the embedding of these mining tools.

If website owners were to inform users beforehand that such a tool exists when they visit a website, perhaps this could become a legitimate source of revenue. That’s one of the many issues nations should consider as they develop regulations to govern blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Goldman Sachs Is Considering Ways to Facilitate the Trading of Cryptocurrencies

Banks and Bitcoin

Goldman Sachs is considering ways to incorporate bitcoin and other digital currencies into their trading operations, according to people familiar with the banking company’s plans.

Those sources tell The Wall Street Journal that the development is still in its earliest stages and was inspired by client curiosity. “In response to client interest in digital currencies, we are exploring how best to serve them in this space,” a Goldman Sachs spokeswoman told the WSJ.

According to the WSJ, Goldman Sachs intends to serve their own investors who have bet on bitcoin to be the next big thing. If done properly, their operation could lead to the creation of new markets that operate in much the same way as the markets used to buy shares in a company. Being the first to create such an operation would also put Goldman Sachs in a prime position to further expand the market.

“The smartest Wall Street firms have an opportunity to lead the market in offering financial services to the burgeoning cryptocurrency industry,” Matthew Goetz, CEO of cryptocurrency investment firm BlockTower Capital and former Goldman Sachs vice president, told CNBC. “I think it behooves the smart and more forward-thinking firms to be involved in cryptocurrency, given the number of new services and business lines that will stem from it as this important new industry continues to build and institutionalize.”

New Markets

Goldman Sachs isn’t the first financial institution to explore blockchain technology, nor is this the first time they’ve expressed interest in it — they even have a page of their website dedicated to explaining the tech. However, they are the first blue-chip Wall Street firm to consider facilitating the trading of cryptocurrencies.

While Goldman Sachs explores ways to move forward with blockchain technology, other financial institutions are being vocal about their disinterest in it. JP Morgan’s CEO has even called bitcoin “a fraud,” and this hesitation to dive into the world of cryptocurrencies is understandable. They started out as a mysterious alternative to government-backed money and were often linked to shadier dealings. Even though cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ether have seen record price increases over the past year, the market still volatile.

While the WSJ‘s sources were sure to note that Goldman Sachs may not move forward with crypto trading, the fact that they’re even considering it is promising. The more institutions and governments we have exploring how cryptocurrencies can best be incorporated into society, the sooner we’ll be able to take advantage of all the benefits of blockchain.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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EmCash Is Dubai’s First Official Cryptocurrency

Future City, Future Cash

The government of the city of Dubai launched their own blockchain-based cryptocurrency last week. The city’s economy department partnered with one of its subsidiaries called Emcredit Limited and U.K.-based Object Tech Group, Ltd. to create emCash. This new “encrypted digital currency” is a product of partnerships Dubai has cultivated through their Accelerators Initiative and brought under the umbrella of the Dubai Economy Accelerators.

“A digital currency has varied advantages – faster processing, improved delivery time, less complexity and cost, to name a few,” Dubai Economy deputy director general Ali Ibrahim said in a press statement. “It will change the way people live and do business in Dubai, and mark a giant leap for the city in harnessing game-changing innovations to improve ease of business and quality of life.”

Officials claim that emCash uses the latest blockchain technology and works as part of payment system called emWallet. As the city’s credit bureau, Emcredit has made sure that the emWallet handles various types of transactions—from “their daily coffee and children’s school fee to utility charges and money transfers”—with a near-field communication (NFC) support through a smartphone.

The city will also have a shared platform, called Blockchain as a Service, to help Dubai government agencies use blockchain in various projects.

Investing in the Future

Blockchain’s potential as a decentralized and secure platform for transactions, financial or otherwise, isn’t lost to those with eyes to the future. Dubbed as the “city of the future,” Dubai is certainly one of those, but it isn’t the first to have an “official” cryptocurrency. The launch of the emCash, however, is only a first step.

Dubai has been working on becoming the world’s first economy that’s built on the blockchain, and with it its own cryptocurrency. This is where the city’s efforts differ, and could potentially influence economies through the entire United Arab Emirates (UAE). “Obtaining approvals from other UAE authorities will be taken into consideration if required,” Ibrahim said.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Smart Dubai, the government office responsible for encouraging innovation in the country, will be conducting government and private organization workshops over the next few months to identify those services best enhanced by blockchain. After that, the office expects that pilot projects in both the public and private sectors will begin rolling out this year.

“The fast paced environment and incredible willingness to adopt innovative technology has made Dubai the perfect place for us to do business,” said Muna Al Qassab, CEO of Emcredit Limited, in the city’s press release. “This project is a great example of the ambition we have met here, together we are essentially creating a whole new economic ecosystem.”

Disclaimer: The Dubai Future Foundation works in collaboration with Futurism and is one of our sponsors.

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Fidelity Investments Is Mining for Cryptocurrency

Investing in Crypto

Investment and financial institutions are beginning to take cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies more seriously. Among them is Fidelity Investments, which manages $2.3 trillion in assets. Fidelity, while exploring the potential of bitcoin and dipping their toes into the blockchain waters, has recently begun a cryptocurrency mining program that is already generating a profit.

At the 2017 Consensus conference, Fidelity’s CEO Abigail Johnson said, “We set up a small bitcoin and ethereum mining operation…that miraculously now is actually making a lot of money.” The company started mining to learn more about the process.

Crypto mining, thankfully, doesn’t involve any pickaxes or collapsible underground tunnels. Instead, it is a process in which crypto transactions are verified and added to the blockchain — or public ledger. This process also allows for the creation of new bitcoin.

Financial Mining

The applications of blockchain technologies, and specifically cryptocurrencies, extend well beyond financial transactions. As more (and larger) companies show interest and seriously invest in a blockchain-based future, these technologies will grow in potential. Mining is becoming increasingly commonplace. Some individuals are trying to turn a profit with it, but right now it’s only a realistic moneymaking method (which is debated) for large institutions.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
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Fidelity has set the stage as a massive firm confident in venturing into crypto mining, so perhaps blockchain technologies will continue to be taken more seriously and adopted by a greater number of bigger organizations. Johnson will hopefully pave the way for others with a large presence to get involved. She has mined about 200,000 satoshis so far, according to a report in The Financial Times, and by the looks of it, she and Fidelity will continue to push forward as major supporters of blockchain technologies and cryptocurrency mining.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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South Korea Has Banned the Sale of All New Cryptocurrencies

Banning New ICOs

Today, South Korea announced a ban on initial coin offerings (ICO), the method through which many cryptocurrency startups raise funds. As reported by Reuters, the ban comes after the Financial Services Commission (FSC) in Seoul ultimately decided ICOs need to be controlled and monitored before being widely accepted.

The FSC’s concerns aren’t entirely unfounded. Cryptocurrencies have been used to raise a significant amount of money for legitimate operations this year, but they’ve also been used in phishing scams and other cyber crimes.

“Raising funds through ICOs seem to be on the rise globally, and our assessment is that ICOs are increasing in South Korea as well,” South Korea’s financial regulator wrote in a statement, adding that “stern penalties” would befall anyone that continues to issue ICOs. The details of those penalties were not revealed, however.

South Korea’s announcement follows a similar decision made by China earlier this month, though that ban may be temporary. The U.S., Canada, and Hong Kong have also issued warnings about ICOs, but none have outright banned the practice.

Impact on Bitcoin and Ether

According to Bloomberg, digital currencies like bitcoin and ether experienced a small drop in price following the ban — 5.7 percent for ether and 3.5 percent for bitcoin — but both have already recovered.

Thomas Glucksmann, head of marketing at bitcoin exchange company Gatecoin, told Bloomberg a drop in value following such an announcement is to be expected, as traders in crypto markets would immediately turn to selling off the currencies.

“The majority of ICO tokens are being issued through the Ethereum platform,” he said. “At any sign of vulnerability, the first reaction would be a mass selloff in ether. That’s why the price of ether is susceptible.”

South Korea notes that the ban doesn’t mean it accepts the trading of cryptocurrencies within the financial market. For now, the nation will continue to observe operations to see what other regulations can or should be implemented. That said, it’s currently unclear how, exactly, the country would attempt to regulate crypto.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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The Showtime Question: Should Companies Be Allowed to Use Your Computer to Mine Crypto?

Mining Money

A significant portion of internet users don’t like seeing ads. To avoid these sometimes distracting pop-ups and banners, they may install ad-blockers on their browser or turn exclusively to ad-free sites. Meanwhile, advertisers are spending larger and larger portions of their ad budgets with big online players like Google and Facebook. This is causing internet ad revenues to plummet for sites that may rely on that money to stay afloat.

Privacy and the Internet of Things
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Now, BitTorrent search engine The Pirate Bay and the Showtime streaming service have been caught monetizing their online visitors another way: by using their systems to mine cryptocurrency.

Both sites were found to be sending mining code to users’ computers, and both have now stopped this practice.

The Pirate Bay acknowledged the situation, claiming that it was simply a test. “We really want to get rid of all the ads,” read a statement published by The Pirate Bay. “But we also need enough money to keep the site running.” Showtime, meanwhile, has yet to respond to questions.

Selling Your System

Using visitors’ systems to mine cryptocurrency would provide a potent new revenue stream for sites and services, but whether users would agree to it is another question entirely.

When a site uses a visitor’s computer to mine cryptocurrency, they take up a portion of the system’s resources. At its least intrusive, this practice might cause the system to run a bit slower. In an extreme scenario, it could tear through the battery of a portable device or even inflate a home’s electric bill.

The biggest problem with this particular discovery is that neither The Pirate Bay nor Showtime warned users in advance about their plans. While some users might agree to give up a bit of processing power in exchange for an ad-free experience, most would likely agree that running code on someone’s system without their permission is rather dishonest.

If users don’t agree to the practice, it doesn’t stand much of a chance of gaining traction as a new revenue source for sites — a standard ad blocker will impede mining code just as easily as it blots out ad content.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Get Ready for the First Smartphone Designed for the Blockchain Generation

Sirin Labs, the company behind that ridiculously priced Android phone, now has another smartphone to share with the world, and unlike its $14,000 predecessor, this one is expected to cost just $999.

Named after scientist Hal Finney, recipient of the world’s first bitcoin transaction, the Finney smartphone is an open-source, ultra-secure phone built on an independent, free blockchain network. It’s expected to come with a 256GB internal memory, a 16 megapixel camera, and a powerful suite of security measures, and it will be powered by the Tangle technology of IOTA.

Image Credit: Sirin Labs

Sirin Labs founder and CEO Moshe Hogeg told Business Insider that the company’s line of Finney devices, which will include an all-in-one PC, will be capable of sharing data, battery power, and processing power wirelessly — although a cable would be necessary at times.

“The Finney family of devices will be the first of their kind to be specifically designed for the needs of the blockchain generation, combining an ultra-secure blockchain-enabled environment, with the functionality and essentials of Android OS,” Sirin said in a press release.

blockchain cryptocurrency finney smartphone
Image Credit: Sirin Labs

The Finney is obviously intended for a still-niche market, and Sirin Labs’ CMO Nimrod May told Digital Trends they know that: “This is an early adopter community — for now — but we believe there is a large market opportunity right behind them.”

To raise money to fund the development of these devices, Sirin Labs plans to launch a crowdsale event this October. Once built, these device have the potential to help facilitate the eventual mass adoption of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, which some experts believe is nearly inevitable.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Want to Learn More About Ethereum? Ethereum Co-Founder Explains His Cryptocurrency

Etherum co-founder Vitalik Buterin was one of the key speakers at this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt, which was held last week in San Francisco. Asked to explain what Ethereum is to the average user, Buterin defined a blockchain from the perspective of those who understand its current most popular use — in cryptocurrencies, specifically Bitcoin.

Buterin said that a blockchain can keep track of how much money a person has at any given time — or what he calls “cryptoeconomics.” But, while that’s the initial use of a blockchain, Buterin and his colleagues have found that such a decentralized system of keeping tabs on transaction records can extend to a far wider range of applications. He calls this “general purpose watching,” and it’s at the heart of what Ethereum is.

“The core idea behind Ethereum is: you can have a general purpose watching,” Buterin told the audience at Disrupt SF. “We can have a blockchain where instead of a blockchain working like a Swiss army knife where you have five different tools for five different categories of applications, you have a blockchain that understands general-purpose programming language.”

Indeed, Ethereum is considered to be the world’s foremost enterprise blockchain, with applications that extend beyond just cryptocurrencies. Ethereum has found use in manufacturing, shipping, and even in the music industry. Ethereum’s applications continue to expand, including the possibility of replacing credit card companies, a mass adoption that could disrupt many of today’s industries.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Crypto Debit Cards Are Paving the Way for Cryptocurrency Mass Adoption

Improving Crypto Usability

Cryptocurrencies, and the blockchain technology upon which these digital coins are built, have continued to make headlines in recent months. However, despite its growing appeal, the usability of cryptos remains limited; a hurdle that has kept it from achieving more rapid, widespread adoption. That might soon change, though, thanks to the growing popularity of crypto debit cards.

Crypto debit cards work like your regular flat debit cards, as they exist in a cashless payment infrastructure, but come with the added bonuses cryptocurrencies provide. Instead of being connected to a bank account, as traditional debit cards are, crypto debit cards are linked to a digital currency wallet.

One example is Centra Card, which supports several popular cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Zcash, and Dash. Since cryptocurrencies aren’t bound by banking laws specific to a country, crypto debit cards can actually be used in any mainstream commercial environment.

Towards Mass Adoption

There are still several issues that need to be resolved if cryptocurrencies are to become a more widely accepted form of currency. Government regulation is one, as well as price volatility concerns. When these problems have been solved, we might be in for a revolution. Mass adoption of crypto would change how we conduct transactions — and not just financial ones. In the mean time, crypto debit cards can help bridge the gap.

“A crypto debit card allows users to use their crypto wallets in a retail setting easily and with low friction,” blockchain-based “global consensus engine” Trive CEO David Mondrus said, according to Coin Telegraph. “I’ve travelled extensively in the US and abroad using my crypto debit card. It’s been a real life-saver at times.”

Crypto debit cards are convenient for travelers because they allow for easy cryptocurrency conversion to different currencies. These can also be a life saver in places where local currency has been deteriorating. Crypto debit cards may also help more people invest in cryptocurrencies without losing their purchasing power.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Y Combinator is Helping People Invest in Startups Using Blockchain

Smart Investment

Y Combinator wants to give people another way to invest in the startups it works with, utilizing the blockchain and cryptocurrency to offer wider access. Sam Altman, the company’s president, expressed a desire to “democratize” the process speaking at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference.

It’s thought that Y Combinator is currently investigating how cryptocurrency might be used to broaden the investment pool. There are various legal factors that need to be taken into consideration before such a system can be put in place.

The idea of using these platforms for investments is broadly similar to the initial coin offerings (ICOs) that are often used to launch a new cryptocurrency. However, Altman had some pointed remarks about the nature of ICOs in their current form.

“Do I think ICOs are silly, bordering on scams? Yes, they are,” he argued. “But, there are a few that are important, and the blockchain is more important than not…ICOs need to be regulated.”

Crypto Crowdfunding

ICOs have come under scrutiny in recent weeks. China just enforced a ban on the practice, which caused tremors across the cryptocurrency market, but authorities have since explained that this is a temporary measure intended to allow for proper regulations to be put in place.

Six EdTech Startups Democratizing Education [Infographic]
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It’s not difficult to see why there’s some trepidation about the legality of ICOs. It’s a largely unregulated form of crowdfunding that’s capable of bringing in huge amounts of money — in July, Tezos ran an ICO that accrued over $230 million in cryptocurrency.

However, the nature of ICOs demonstrate how cryptocurrency might be used by companies like Y Combinator to create room at the table for people who aren’t necessarily high-net-worth investors.

“More of the wealth creation here is not available to most people,” said Altman, speaking about Silicon Valley. “And I think that’s very bad in a society with already so much wealth inequality.”

 

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Bitcoin Was Just Used to Pay for a New Home in Texas

Texas-based real estate brokerage firm Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty has completed the first-ever sale of a real estate property using just bitcoin.

The world’s most popular cryptocurrency has long moved on from its shadowy past to become a legitimate currency used to purchase Starbucks coffeeXbox games, and now, a newly built custom home with grand entertaining areas, a master suite, and a chef-worthy kitchen.

The price of the home hasn’t been disclosed, but more important than that is the ease of the overall transaction. The buyer simply transferred the bitcoin to the seller, who then converted it into U.S. dollars.

“In all of my 33 years of closing transactions, I honestly couldn’t have expected something so unique to go so smoothly,” Kuper Sotheby’s Sheryl Lowe, the buyer’s agent, said in a press release. “In a matter of 10 minutes, the bitcoin was changed to U.S. dollars and the deal was done!”

This real estate transaction is further proof that bitcoin isn’t “a fraud,” as some have claimed. It’s also another example of the increasing acceptance of cryptocurrencies, which are poised to revolutionize a variety of industries beyond finance, from transportation to entertainment to politics.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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True, Bitcoin May Become Corrupt. But Banks Already Are.

Too Big to Fail

The financial crisis of the late 2000s had the potential to cripple the nation. Big banks played a major role in that economic disaster, and many ended up paying fines for facilitating the conditions that lead up to the crash in 2008.

So, when big banking executives start calling cryptocurrencies corrupt schemes, the accusations raise a few eyebrows.

Last week, JP Morgan CEO James Dimon leveled several criticisms at the original cryptocurrency, bitcoin, calling it a “fraud,” saying it’s “just not a real thing,” and claiming that “eventually it will be closed.” While Dimon is not the first to criticize crypto, his assertions are particularly noteworthy given his own company’s past transgressions.

Image credit: Zach Copley/Flickr
Image credit: Zach Copley/Flickr

Not only has JP Morgan been fined billions of dollars for their role in the financial crisis, they have also been fined for a slew of other corrupt and illegal practices both before and since. The bank seems particularly susceptible to fines arising from discrimination based on sex and race, the manipulation of key interest rates, and corrupt hiring practices.

JP Morgan isn’t the only bank to do wrong, either. According to Business Insider, between 2012 and 2016, the world’s top 20 banks were hit with nearly $354 billion in misconduct charges. That was an increase of nearly a third compared to the previous five years.

In the United States, this issue is of increasing concern as the current administration is working to undermine (and perhaps even completely repeal) the consumer protections of the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law — an act that established a host of new governmental agencies in response to the financial crisis of 2008. These agencies are tasked with overseeing a number of aspects of the act and, by extension, various aspects of the banking system.

Looking to the Blockchain

Banks rely on centralization and the aggregation of power and authority, which makes their abuse of power all the more alarming. Conversely, cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether are decentralized, meaning that the authority and power doesn’t reside in the hands of one executive (or bank). This decentralization has led some economists to believe that bitcoin and ether could be appropriate solutions to some of the problems inherent in our current financial system.

According to a report filed by economists at the Central Bank of Finland, the decentralized Bitcoin network, by its very nature, already effectively regulates itself: “There is no need to regulate it because, as a system, it is committed to the protocol as is and the transaction fees it charges the users are determined by the users independently of the miners’ efforts.”

While the future of cryptocurrencies is uncertain, the accusations levied at them by banking executives may say more about the execs than the crypto — do these higher ups truly believe what they are saying or are they members of an unscrupulous industry that’s desperately afraid their era of (relatively) free reign over the economy is coming to an end?

As we consider the future of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, the important thing to keep in mind is that while these systems could eventually become corrupt, many of the big banks critical of them already are.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Let’s Have a Heart to Heart: Are Blockchain Tokens Really Nothing More Than “A Scheme?”

Opportunity or Trap?

For seemingly every expert making bold claims that cryptocurrencies are the future of finance and are capable of “freeing humanity from tyranny,” there’s another expert decrying the rise of bitcoin and the like as nothing more than an unstable “bubble” built on hype and bound to pop.

Perhaps the strongest criticism levied at crypto companies, however, is that they’re massive scams — that they don’t deliver anything of material value and are intentionally designed to make money for those at the top by taking advantage of those at the bottom.

Case in point: “In my view, digital currencies are nothing but an unfounded fad (or perhaps even a pyramid scheme), based on a willingness to ascribe value to something that has little or none beyond what people will pay for it,” Howard Marks, Co-Chairman of Oaktree Capital Group.

So, who is right? Is crypto a legitimate new type of finance system or a modern take on snake oil, one peddled by supposed tech revolutionaries instead of seedy profiteers? In order to answer this question, it is important to first understand how token launches (sometimes called “ICOs” or “Initial Coin Offerings”) work in relation to IPOs (Initial Public Offerings) — to understand how crypto startups are funded in comparison to other companies.

Understanding the Terms

When a private company decides it wants to start raising funds from the public, it has what’s known as an initial public offering (IPO). For a certain fee, interested investors can purchase shares in the company. Those shares make these investors, by law, part owners in the company and entitled to dividends if the company makes a profit.

The IPO process is typically facilitated by a team of experts — lawyers, accountants, underwriters, etc. — and it is overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a non-partisan agency of the federal government with two primary objectives:

  • Ensure that the companies raising fund are telling potential investors the truth about their business, including any potential risks to investing
  • Ensure that the people facilitating the process, such as stockbrokers and exchanges, put investors’ interests first and treat them fairly and honestly

To meet these objectives, the SEC will require that a company register before their IPO, submit their financial statements to be audited, and meet a number of other requirements. In theory, the SEC acts as an unbiased third-party in the IPO process, ensuring that everything is aboveboard.

One very important point to note is that basically all brokerage firms require investors to meet some qualifications before they can participate in an IPO. Generally, you have to have a certain amount of money or a set number of transactions, which means that a vast majority of society is not able to participate.

This is the big difference between an IPO and the launch of a new blockchain token — token launches put the power, and the responsibility, in your hands.

Instead of venture funding, many blockchain startups have a token launch or an ICO. It is important to note that many individuals operating in the blockchain space, and other experts, prefer the term “token launch” instead of “ICO.” This is because some blockchain tokens/transactions do not qualify as “investment contracts,” meaning that they are not considered securities, and so the term ICO (given its similarity to IPO) may be confusing.

A Securities Law Framework for Blockchain Tokens” sums the problem with the term ICO, noting that tokens have many different applications and utilities:

There are many different types of blockchain tokens, each with varying characteristics and uses. Some blockchain tokens, like Bitcoin, function as a digital currency. Others can represent a right to tangible assets like gold or real estate. Blockchain tokens can also be used in new protocols and networks to create distributed applications…some tokens, depending on their features, may be subject to U.S. federal or state securities laws.

But, and this is the notable thing, not all tokens will have these features and be subject to security laws. With this in mind, for the purposes of clarity, we will be referring to the launch of a new blockchain token as “token launches.”

As Balaji Srinivasan, board partner at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, explained in an essay on Medium, the fundraising process that drives some token launches is a bit “like a Kickstarter on steroids.”

To raise funds through a token launch, a company will sell a certain percentage of the total amount of their crypto upfront. Purchasers of these crypto coins are not legally part owners in the company, and they don’t earn dividends if the company prospers. The success of their investment is based on the market value of the coin. In other words, as long as they can sell their cryptocurrency for a value higher than what they paid for it, they can make a profit.

Unlike the IPO process, token launches are unregulated. Companies aren’t required to adhere to a path set forth by the SEC or any other government agency, which means there is no third party ensuring that either side is telling the truth or meeting any certain requirements.

Token launches do tend to follow a certain format, however, and it starts with the company’s founders writing a white paper providing details on their startup. This paper can be any length or format, but it will usually include the company’s strategy and goals, as well as their plans for funding (the amount of money they hope to raise, the per-token cost, the duration of their token launch, etc.). Ideally, these white papers should provide a comprehensive business plan for interested parties.

If the company does not meet their minimum funding goals, the money is returned to the would-be supporters and the token launch is considered unsuccessful.

Risks vs. Rewards

According to one crypto investment expert (who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity), the token launch process can benefit both investors and innovators looking to get their projects off the ground.

“Token launches allow the broadest amount of participation we have seen yet,” they explained. “They’re a pure way to go from a creator of an idea directly to investors without a large number of middlemen. They allow investors to get in at an earlier level than an IPO. They allow anyone anywhere in the word to easily participate with very low minimum investments.”

In this respect, token launches are all about total participation and democratizing power. Instead of just a few wealthy participants, anyone can participate in a token launch or even host their own token launch, allowing individuals in impoverished areas (or who are faced with other economic or social barriers) to participate in the global economy.

“Crypto is complicated, exciting, and the future.”

Unfortunately, token launches also carry with them several inherent risks due to their unregulated nature.

“With token launches, people are able to raise large amounts of money with very little evidence they can deliver,” the expert noted. This is mostly a matter of supply and demand. Crypto has the potential to deliver high returns, so investors are eager to jump into the market. Unfortunately, the supply of crypto projects isn’t yet enough to meet this demand, which leads to investors who are more willing to take greater risks on companies with less evidence they can deliver on their claims.

“Investors are also willing to accept a longer lag between when they give their money to a token launch and when [the company] builds a product — another example of moving further out the risk spectrum,” they continued. “This dynamic lends itself well to a Ponzi scheme, where a company does a token launch, promises a product in six months, builds nothing, and then uses the money raised to market and execute another token launch two months later.”

Investors in OneCoin know the dangers of investing in crypto startups all too well. Founded by Bulgarian national Rjua Ignatova, the company raised more than $350 million before Ignatova and nearly two dozen of OneCoin’s promoters were arrested for running a fraudulent business.

This, of course, is important to note: Just because token launches are not regulated does not mean that they are held to no standards and are free to do whatever they like. Those who act with malicious intent can still be held accountable, though this is admittedly a long and painstaking process.

After the arrest, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime) Tushar Doshi told The Indian Express, “It is clear that this is a Ponzi scheme,” but that fact obviously wasn’t clear to the thousands of investors who put money into the operation. How were they supposed to know where OneCoin landed on legitimate-to-scam spectrum of business models before putting money into it?

The Point: Don’t Invest Blindly

In the end, the expert consensus indicates that, although some cryptocurrencies and token launches are nothing more than schemes, there are a great many projects that are genuine and can (and have) delivered.

Indeed, some major financial institutions are already developing their own cryptocurrencies to ensure that they’re not left behind if the economy does undergo this major transition, and even JP Morgan is looking into ways to incorporate blockchain into their operations.

Furthermore, more than a billion people worldwide don’t have a way to identify themselves, and they can’t open bank accounts and participate in the traditional economy as a result. A cryptocurrency like bitcoin has no such barrier to entry.

With this in mind, according to experts, the best way for investors to ensure they don’t fall victim to the crypto scheme is to do their due diligence. This is the big difference between an IPO and the launch of a new blockchain token — token launches put the power, and the responsibility, in your hands.

So, how do you safeguard yourself?

“Investing in token launches is a really hard business,” the expert asserted. “I’d say the most important things are knowing the team and their business plan. If the team has a history of hopping from one project to the next, they’re probably going to hop on your project. If they can’t explain their business plan in a way that makes sense to you, they probably don’t understand well what they are doing.”

Following this advice could have prevented OneCoin’s many investors from falling victim to the scam, as it raised many red flags online long before arrests were made.

As The Cointelegraph pointed out, Ignatova’s qualification were inconsistent between her resume, personal websites, and OneCoin’s website, and several of the company’s directors had been linked to scam operations in the past. When combined with several other eyebrow-raising factors — the promise of huge returns, constantly moving goal posts, and a refusal to accept payment in crypto — the illegitimacy of the operation seems obvious in hindsight.

Of course, as previously mentioned and as evidenced by cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether, not every crypto will be a scam, and some can deliver remarkable returns. Over the course of eight years, bitcoin has increased in value from eight-hundredths of a cent to more than $4,000 per coin. Ether has seen its own value surge over the last year, and Ethereum is now the blockchain technology of choice for some of the world’s biggest tech and finance companies, including Microsoft, JP Morgan, and Intel.

No doubt anyone who bought in when either of those cryptos was in its infancy now thinks the gamble was worth it. As our expert explained, “Crypto is complicated, exciting, and the future,” so as long as investors understand that token launches, by their very nature, are riskier than traditional investments, investing in them can be a potentially rewarding — and highly profitable — experience.


This interview has been slightly edited for clarity and brevity. The term ICO has been changed to “token launch” throughout. 

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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The U.S. is No Longer the World’s Largest Bitcoin Market

Japan has risen above the U.S. in the worldwide rankings for the largest bitcoin exchange market. The country now accounts for roughly 48 percent of the global market share, reaching a high of 51 percent over the weekend.

This is thanks in no small part to the Chinese government’s recent rulings on the cryptocurrency. The nation first issued a ban on initial coin offerings (ICOs) and then requested that exchanges and trading platforms cease operations by the end of September, granting an extension until October 30 for OKCoin and Huobi.

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Those deadlines are still weeks away, but traders aren’t waiting around. Many that were previously operating in China have taking their activity to Japan, causing the spike in the nation’s market share — and reducing China’s from 15 percent to less than seven percent in just three days.

It remains to be seen whether Japan’s current position will hold or is a fleeting surge. One Chinese official has claimed that the country’s ban on ICOs is a temporary measure, but the country’s position in the cryptocurrency market might be forever changed if the current situation drags on too long.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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This Illegal Piracy Site is “Borrowing” Visitors’ Computers to Mine Cryptocurrency

Secret Testing

According to TorrentFreak, a popular piracy website called The Pirate Bay has secretly been testing a Javascript cryptocurrency miner on their page that allocates a huge chunk of their visitors’ central processing units (CPUs) to the task of mining digital coins.

The website in question was created to assist people in illegally downloading files (movies, games, and music), then hijacked the users’ computers in order to mine digital money. The scheme appears to be the piracy website’s attempt at earning revenue.

It’s no secret that most websites generate income through ad placements — a platform that’s largely unavailable for a piracy website like Pirate Bay. That’s why they’re resorting to mining cryptocurrencies. This potentially new revenue stream, however, isn’t sitting well with its users, as they are caught by surprise when their computer’s CPU usage spike sharply, making their computers run more slowly.

“That really is serious, so hopefully we can get some action on it quickly. And perhaps get some attention for the uploading and commenting bugs while they’re at it,” a Pirate Bay user named “Sid” wrote in a comment, according to TorrentFreak.

A Question of Regulation

Whether this is a viable alternative to ad revenue or not, The Pirate Bay told TorrentFreak that they’re testing it for 24 hours. This development raises an important point regarding cryptocurrency and mining. Piracy is bad, yes — but exploiting users isn’t a good strategy for any website. With the rise of cryptos like Bitcoin, mining has become a widely established practice. Everyone who can afford to spend a few bucks on a dedicated CPU, and pay for electricity to maintain a blockchain, can mine digital coins.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
Click to View Full Infographic

However, just like how cryptocurrency has been subjected to questions of regulation, perhaps mining should be looked at the same way. Many say that cryptos like Bitcoin have to be regulated, although there’s yet to be a global consensus on the way to go about this. How this regulation extends to mining is another matter altogether. Should we, for example, enact certain policies to restrict who can mine cryptos, or subject erring users to penalties?

Decentralization is one of the defining points of blockchain and cryptocurrency use, and some see regulation is a potential threat to that. Clearly, a balance must be struck, otherwise people are left unprotected and exposed to potentially exploitative methods — like those who “borrow” your CPU to earn a few virtual coins.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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You Can Now Trade “Tokenized” U.S. Dollars on the Ethereum Network

Dollars to Tokens

Token currency provider Tether is bringing tokenized USD to Ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency after Bitcoin. This means that users can turn their regular currency into tokens, which makes using it on the exchange simpler and more predictable.

Tether, in partnership with the Ethereum trading and information community hub Ethfinex, announced the launch of ERC20 Tether tokens on September 11th, allowing tokenized USD to be exchanged on the Ethereum network, and hopefully eliminating the delays people often experienced when dealing with businesses and banks.

“The number of tokens and assets being tokenized on top of the Ethereum platform is growing rapidly, with many proving disruptive to traditional business models,” said Project Lead at Ethfinex Will Harborne. “By enabling all ERC20 compatible applications and protocols to integrate tokenized USD, we expect to see enhanced efficiency and further stability on the Ethereum network.”

After depositing their US dollars, Tether users will see their money converted into a digital currency known as “Tether,” symbolized as “₮.” Each Tether will have a name and symbol attached that represents the asset, which can then be traded or transferred as an aforementioned ERC20 token. In the future, currencies like euros and yen will also be supported.

Following the announcement, TokenCard revealed it will also begin supporting Tether, allowing users to use their tokenized currency just as they would use traditional money with a Token debit card.

Changes to Society

Cryptocurrencies are often seen to be troublesome or too unpredictable to rely on, but Tether and Ethereum’s new endeavor seeks to change that. Ethfinex stated a key part of this new partnership meant developing currencies that could easily be used in everyday scenarios, such as paying bills or salaries.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
Click to View Full Infographic

“We believe this development will not only open up the world of cryptocurrencies to more mainstream consumers, but also set the standard, and encourage other companies to be more innovative and accessible in their product and service offering at this pivotal time for money and payments,” said Tether co-founder Craig Sellars.

Aside from cryptocurrencies, blockchains are also changing the world in a number of ways, continuing to show that it can be used for much more than just currency. So far, it has been used to change the way we vote, improve air travel, and may soon impact the entertainment industry. If companies like Tether, Ethfinex, and Ethereum get their way, the way we think and use money could soon be changed forever.

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JPMorgan CEO Says That Bitcoin Is a “Fraud”

The New Tulip Bulb?

Bitcoin is a “fraud,” according James Dimon, the chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase — the largest of the “big four” American banks.

Dimon made this assertion during the Delivering Alpha conference in New York City on Tuesday, and he went on to state that the cryptocurrency is “just not a real thing” and that “eventually it will be closed.”

In an appearance at another event earlier in the day, Dimon compared bitcoin to “tulip mania.” This phrase is something of a shorthand for an economic bubble, a situation where an asset’s price is far higher than its intrinsic value. It originates from a period of time during the Dutch golden age in the 1600s when tulip bulbs prices briefly swelled incredibly high before crashing dramatically.

Dimon said that bitcoin investors are taking a big risk because the cryptocurrency doesn’t have legal support. He went on to state that he would immediately fire any JPMorgan trader who was trading bitcoin, explaining, “It’s against our rules, and they are stupid.”

Banks and Bitcoin

Banks like JPMorgan have a vested interest in keeping bitcoin at bay. If “the flippening” comes to pass — a point at which cryptocurrency overtakes traditional money in terms of usage — banks are going to have to scramble to find their place in the new economic landscape.

Some major financial institutions are already developing their own cryptocurrencies to ensure that they’re not left behind if the economy does undergo this major transition, and even JP Morgan is looking into ways to incorporate blockchain — the technology behind bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies — into their operations.

Furthermore, cryptocurrencies and tulips aren’t particularly comparable as the former offers tangible utility. More than a billion people worldwide don’t have a way to identify themselves, and they can’t open bank accounts and participate in the traditional economy as a result. A cryptocurrency like bitcoin has no such barrier to entry.

While Dimon is clearly skeptical of cryptocurrencies, they are inarguably on the rise right now, and many other experts are predicting further growth. Still, no one knows for sure whether they will be the future of finance.

Because cryptocurrencies aren’t backed by governments, they do carry additional risks, and bitcoin prices could drop just as quickly as they have risen. Alternatively, widespread adoption of crypto could prompt government involvement — signs that this might be about to happen in the U.S. and elsewhere have already emerged. For now, all we can do is wait to see where this upward trend in crypto leads.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Economists Assert There Is No Need to Regulate Bitcoin

Bitcoin Revolution

In what is sure to be a well needed shot in the arm for Bitcoin after a tumultuous few weeks in the cryptocurrency market, economists at the central bank of Finland have released a paper that calls Bitcoin’s economic system “revolutionary.” With the currency operating on a blockchain, the researchers contend that a degree of protection exists to make the system safe from those who wish to manipulate it. The group finds that:

Bitcoin is a monopoly run by a protocol, not by a managing organization. Familiar monopolies are run by managing organizations with discretion to determine and then change prices, offerings and rules. Monopolies are often regulated to prevent or at least mitigate their abuse of power.

The researcher go even further to say that Bitcoin cannot be regulated. “There is no need to regulate it because as a system it is committed to the protocol as is and the transaction fees it charges the users are determined by the users independently of the miners’ efforts.”

It must be noted that the views expressed in this paper do not represent the official stance of the Bank of Finland.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Growing Crypto-Community

Other nations have been joining in on embracing Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. A few weeks ago, Vietnam announced that it will begin the process to legally recognize cryptocurrency by the end of 2018, then adding framework to tax it by 2019. While, not official, this research points that Finland may be headed in a similar direction.

Other nongovernmental experts are also lining up to support cryptocurrencies. Some are even suggesting that crypto could become a valuable supplement for pensions, bringing retirement back to the realm of reality for future seniors.

Of course, how something looks on paper isn’t always how it works out in practice, especially when discussing systems as complex as structuring economies. However, Bitcoin is notable for the progress it has shown thus far. We will remain vigilant to how the cryptomarket grows and the blockchain platform evolves with it.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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According to Chinese Official, China’s Ban on Initial Coin Offerings is Only Temporary

A Temporary Situation

China may account for the lion’s share of bitcoin mining, but that doesn’t mean the nation is blindly in support of all things cryptocurrency-related. Last week, Chinese regulators announced a ban on initial coin offerings (ICOs), the method through which many blockchain-based startups raise funds, citing the potential for ICOs to be used for money laundering or the financing of terrorist organizations.

However, new details have emerged that reveal this ban may not be permanent.

Sci-Tech Priorities in China’s Latest Five Year Plan
Click to View Full Infographic

The source of these details is Hu Bing, a researcher at the Chinese government-supported Institute of Finance and Banking. During an interview with Chinese television network CCTV-13, Bing explained that last week’s “ban” isn’t actually a ban at all — ICOs have simply been “paused” while the government hashes out the appropriate regulations.

While they consider various policies for ICOs and those investing in them, the government will also consider the potential for an ICO licensing program. This would involve startups securing a license through the Chinese government prior to their ICO, which, in theory, would ensure only legitimate companies are able to use the method to raise funds.

Growing Pains

Knowing that the Chinese government intends for their “ban” on ICOs to be temporary should assuage the fears of those who were concerned it was a sign of trouble ahead for blockchain technology. In fact, this temporary pause is essentially a good omen — one of the world’s most powerful economies is putting in a significant amount of effort to ensure that a solid foundation for the technology is in place. That effort wouldn’t be necessary if they thought it was going to be a passing fad.

All new technologies go through growing pains. Some of those pains may be caused by the tech itself — even Google needed five years to figure out how to make augmented reality (AR) functional in their Glass device. Some may be a matter of figuring out how to best integrate a new technology into current society through laws and regulations — those are the kinds of challenges creators of autonomous driving systems, artificial intelligences, and gene editing are currently facing.

Blockchain is no different. The technology has already shown remarkable potential to change our world for the better, and as more people recognize this potential, more will want to invest in it. By putting policies in place that protect those investors from fraud, nations can ensure that blockchain lives up to its potential for good while minimizing the collateral damage caused by those looking to take advantage of enthusiastic supporters.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Russia is Planning to Legalize Crypto, According to Finance Minister

Legalize It

The Russian government is working on a plan to introduce new laws pertaining to cryptocurrencies. Finance minister Anton Siluanov confirmed at the Moscow Financial Forum that new regulation is in the works, but he maintained that these changes will ultimately benefit those who have invested in the crypto market.

“The state understands indeed that crypto-currencies are real,” said Siluanov. “There is no sense in banning them, there is a need to regulate them.”

It’s expected that these regulations will be completely developed by the end of 2017. They’re likely to stipulate that anyone purchasing cryptocurrencies will need to be registered, and offer up a clear delineation of what the government deems acceptable in terms of how funds are bought and circulated.

Siluanov asserted that anyone currently buying cryptocurrency runs a greater risk because there’s no external oversight. He compared an ideal system to the protections offered when buying securities like treasury bonds.

Crypto Control

As cryptocurrency continues to grow in popularity, governments all over the world are attempting to lay down legislation before its seemingly imminent mainstream adoption. Australian authorities have been considering incorporating cryptocurrency, and in the U.S., a bill is expected to be submitted to Congress later this month.

However, it remains to be seen how Russia’s legislation will work in practice. China recently implemented a ban on initial coin offerings (ICOs) which prompted widespread unrest in the cryptocurrency community and potentially caused last week’s trend of double-digit drops.

Chinese authorities have claimed that the ban is temporary and merely a method of introducing the policies required for legal ICOs. But, as it now stands, countries like Russia and China have the potential to majorly affect the value of cryptocurrencies if and when they enforce new legislation. So, as investors closely track the progress of legal frameworks, it will be interesting to see how government involvement affects the future of cryptocurrencies.

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Estonia Could Be the First Country in the World to Introduce Its Own Cryptocurrency

Birth of the Estcoin

Estonia is mulling over the idea of issuing its own cryptocurrency, known as estcoins, which would make the country the first in the world to complete an Initial Coin Offering (ICO). Previously, China has tested its own coin, and Russia demonstrates an interest in Ethereum.

The proposal is an extension of Estonia’s e-Residency program, which allows non-residents and people who want to establish a business in the country virtually to take advantage of elements of the government’s online infrastructure.

A blog post from the project manager of the e-Residency program, Kaspar Korjus, states that the program currently receives more applications in a week than there are births across the whole of Estonia in the same timeframe.

One of the biggest concerns for any government looking to accept crypto tokens is the threat of illicit usage. One of the requirements expected to be included in the cryptocurrency bill, which is set to be submitted to the US Congress, is a demonstration that the currency can’t be used for money laundering.

Estcoin could dodge this thorny issue by being tied to the digital profiles associated with e-Residency. This idea is backed by Vitalik Buterin — a co-founder of Ethereum — who has been advising the Estonian government on the project.

“An ICO within the e-Residency ecosystem would create a strong incentive alignment between e-residents and this fund, and beyond the economic aspect makes the e-residents feel like more of a community since there are more things they can do together,” said Buterin.

The New Digital Nation

While Estonia is using the term estcoin at the moment, there are hopes that the project could stretch far beyond the Baltic state.

“Its use could grow far bigger than Estonia,” writes Korjus. “The same thing is happening to e-Residency as a whole, which was initially thought of as a way to be part of the Estonian nation but is now creating a new global digital nation, powered by the Republic of Estonia.”

This kind of project has the potential to further blur the boundaries between nation states. A business owner could be a virtual resident of Estonia, and use the country as the home base for their company — without ever stepping foot there.

The world is changing, and Estonia clearly wants to remain on the cutting edge. Keeping abreast of dcryptocurrency developments could have huge benefits for the country as a whole, as the proposal states that profits from estcoin could be poured into a “community-run VC fund.”

The authors of the proposal are currently gauging interest, but plan to demonstrate how the project would benefit Estonia. It’s expected that estcoin would start as a pilot project before being scaled up as demand rises.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team are personal investors in cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Mark Cuban Just Backed a “People-Driven” $20 Million Token Fund

Blockchain is about more than just Bitcoin, or even cryptocurrency in general: it is a platform that has to potential to transform the way we connect to each other. The field is currently saturated, and still growing, with blockchain platforms and cryptocurrencies seemingly popping up daily. In an email to Forbes, celebrity investor Mark Cuban wrote, “Like Amazon and Google came out of the internet bubble there will be winners and losers in cryptocurrencies. It’s too hard to buy for most people, harder to trust that it won’t be hacked, and even harder for most to understand.”

Cuban cast a vote of confidence for one emerging crypto venture fund, 1confirmation. The fund is hoping to completely revamp how business is done in digital space. Its founder, Coinbase alum Nick Tomaino, envisions a people-driven platform. “The most interesting and useful thing about blockchains is their ability to empower people in new ways. Blockchains put power in the hands of people, and take it away from large institutions,” he said in an interview with CoinDesk.

Tomaino is looking to raise $20 million to invest in cryptographic assets and create a token economy. This new organizational structure will be comprised of decentralized networks, in which these tokens incentivize people from various backgrounds to contribute to the growth of the ecosystem. In theory, the growth of the network will increase the value of the tokens.

The fund is only in its infancy, along with many other offerings in the field. It is also a field that is too young, and growing too rapidly, to make too many bold predictions about the possibility of specific successes and failures.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team are personal investors in cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Bitcoin Cash Price Rises While Bitcoin and Ethereum Drop

Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Ethereum experienced a few changes since Monday, with some rising to new heights and others dipping down.

As reported by Business Insider, both Bitcoin and Ethereum, the two biggest cryptocurrencies, have seen a single-digit percentage drop, while Bitcoin Cash has seen a double-digit rise.

Bitcoin dropped 2.2 percent against the US dollar as of Tuesday morning, and is now valued at $4,004.67. Ethereum, which recently announced its Metropolis update, saw a slightly larger drop than Bitcoin, dropping 3 percent to $310.32. This drop continued the currency’s struggles to hit $350, and it’s unclear how the Metropolis update will further affect Ether token prices.

bitcoin cryptocurrency ethereum bitcoin cash
Bitcoin’s 2.2 percent drop. Image Credit: Business Insider

Although Bitcoin Cash only split from Bitcoin very recently, at the beginning of August, it quickly became the third-biggest cryptocurrency in the world. Compared to the top two, Bitcoin Cash rose by 15.6 percent, to $696.39. As impressive as this may be, Business Insider notes the young currency managed to top $1,000 last weekend, but skepticism about it’s staying power caused it to fall sharply.

Expect prices to fluctuate, as they often tend to do, especially when regarding Bitcoin. Trusted trader masterluc predicts the top digital currency will hit $15,000 by the end of 2017.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Congress Is Reportedly Drafting a Bill That Will “Mainstream Digital Currency”

The Bitcoin Bill

Members of the U.S. Congress are drafting legislation that would protect certain forms of cryptocurrency from being used for illegal activities while helping cultivate mainstream adoption. Reports indicate that at least one Republican senator and two Republican congressmen are working on the bill.

According to a source who spoke to The Daily Caller, the goals of the legislation are to prevent cryptocurrency from being considered as a form of security or investment, to protect transfers against taxation, and to ensure the federal government does not interfere with cryptocurrencies.

Image Credit: Architect of the Capitol

This interference is an issue we’ve seen crop up in recent months. In May, the Combating Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and Counterfeiting Act of 2017 sought to introduce a provision that would require anyone in possession of more than $10,000 in cryptocurrency to disclose it when passing a U.S. customs checkpoint — this is problematic given that a virtual currency like bitcoin is always considered to be on someone’s person.

Only cryptocurrencies that are compliant with a set of minimum requirements will be afforded the protections proposed in the bill, and the source claims a new, government-compliant digital currency is in the works: “There is a new entity that is considering issuing a brand new digital currency that is compliant with anti-money laundering laws unlike any other in circulation.”

Cleaning Up Crypto

Many cryptocurrencies offer anonymity as one of their selling points, and most users have legitimate reasons for wanting to have their identities protected. Unfortunately, being able to distance oneself from nefarious transactions is certainly an advantage for various types of criminal activity, and lawmakers obviously have a problem with that.

The hope is that the legislation will help prevent the currencies from being used by drug traffickers, terrorists, and other criminal entities, while clearing the path for others to take advantage of their benefits.

“The bottom line is that Congress needs to remove all the obstacles to a vibrant digital currency that has voluntarily taken the initiative to keep the bad guys from using it,” said The Daily Caller’s source. “The center piece of the plan is to mainstream digital currency so it can be treated just like the American dollar.”

Without seeing the bill in its entirety, it’s difficult to say whether it will foster the next stage of cryptocurrency’s mainstream acceptance or instead undercut too much of its advantage over fiat money. The proposal is expected to be filed in September 2017, so we shouldn’t have to wait too long to find out.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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A New Blockchain Platform is Taking on Ethereum

New Kid on the Blockchain

Cryptocurrency is on the rise and, as a result, there’s no shortage of companies looking to establish themselves as an essential part of the trading process. In addition to organizations fielding new coins, there are firms that handle other pieces of infrastructure, like Blockchain specialist NEO (formerly known as AntShares).

NEO’s biggest competition is currently Ethereum, the blockchain platform behind the prosperous Ether token. Both offer support for programming languages — Vitalik Buterin, who originally conceived Ethereum, has felt that the absence of such support has been a major detriment to cryptocurrency — but the group behind NEO maintains that its implementation has several advantages.

Smart contracts are automated agreements between traders that can call upon all kinds of different checks and triggers, ranging from a particular date to the balance of a particular account. NEO allows developers to write smart contracts and other projects using familiar programming languages like .NET and Java, with plans to support Python, Go, and JS in the future.

NEO also diverts from the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum in eschewing the need for anonymity. The platform uses a digital identity system that’s intended to help it integrate with the real-world economy. Digital identity is expected to give NEO a major advantage as it attempts to spur adoption in its origin country China.

Bitcoin and Ethereum use proof-of-work (POW) to validate transactions, but NEO instead uses a delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance (dBFT) consensus method.

“POW has strong availability, but it also has a big disadvantage, because it cannot ensure finality. Forks and lone blocks will occur easily,” explained company co-founder and CEO Da Hongfei. “dBFT ensures finality, which means that once a transaction is confirmed by a block, it is confirmed permanently without being rolled back or revoked. In our point of view, finality is far more important than availability in an important financial system.”

The One?

Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency to really make a splash, and it still leads the pack. However, it is still too early to determine the ramifications of its recent fork, which could turn out to be either a blessing or a curse.

NEO has been designed with a focus on avoiding the security issues that might prompt a fork. Reliability and stability are a big priority for its creators, having seen projects like Bitcoin Unlimited come undone as a result of such issues.

It certainly seems like NEO is being set up to fulfill the needs of tomorrow’s cryptocurrency market. That being said, competition from the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum won’t be easy to overcome.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Get Ready. Renowned Bitcoin Trader Says the Currency Will Hit $15,000 in 2017.

Late last week, the price of bitcoin rose beyond $3,500, and it currently sits slightly above $4,200. While some are skeptical of this steady increase in value, according to an expert observer, it won’t be ending any time soon.

Veteran trader masterluc predicts that bitcoin will be worth $15,000 before the end of the year. He believe the cryptocurrency’s current bull run will then continue into 2019, at which point its price will top out somewhere between $40,000 and $110,000.

Masterluc has historically been adept at predicting bitcoin’s future value. He was able to accurately predict in March 2013 that the crypto would enter into a bear market in November 2013, and then in May 2015, he made a prediction that proved to be just slightly off point, missing the start of the crypto’s current surge by just two months.

Masterluc isn’t the only pundit expecting bitcoin to go from strength to strength. Earlier this month, Goldman Sachs analyst Sheba Jafari predicted that the currency could reach $4,800, having previously forecast a high of $3,691 as recently as July.

Bitcoin is on a roll at the moment, and predicting when this run will start to drop off is no easy task. Masterluc has a history of being right in his predictions, and many experts agree that the uptick will continue for at least a little while longer, which could have some major ramifications for traditional currency.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Goldman Sachs Analyst Predicts Bitcoin Price Could Hit $4,800

Bitcoin Rising Again

Business Insider reports that Goldman Sachs Analyst and Head of Technical Strategy, Sheba Jafari, sent a client note on Sunday predicting that the price of bitcoin might soar as high as $4,800. Jafari set a target of $3,691 in late July, which the cryptocurrency came very close to Sunday, and has since surpassed it. On August 12 the price surpassed $4,000 for the first time.

With these milestones in the rearview mirror, Jafari predicted that the price might rise as high as $4,827. This would precede a market correction, however, which would push it back down to $2,221.

Image Credit: Geralt/Pixabay

Business Insider reports that CEO Arthur Hayes of the bitcoin derivative exchange BitMEX agrees with Jafari that bitcoin might near the $5,000 level. Hayes spoke to Business Insider soon after the recent Segregated Witness (SegWit) software update, which is intended to make transactions with the currency quicker to process and improve the coin’s scalability.

At the time of this publication, the price of bitcoin remains above $4,000, at about $4,059. According to CoinDesk, Goldman Sachs has been advising clients that money is moving into the market: “Whether or not you believe in the merit of investing in cryptocurrencies (you know who you are), real dollars are at work here and warrant watching.”

As the future of traditional markets wanes in uncertainty, the welfare of nascent cryptocurrencies is sure to be of critical importance, in the wide world of finance.

Several members of the Futurism team are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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What Would Happen if Cryptocurrency Became More Popular Than Cash?

The Flippening

For a time, Bitcoin seemed unassailable in its dominance of the cryptocurrency market, being the first digital currency to really take root and establish itself in the mainstream. Since then, a host of worthy competitors have emerged, and there’s a real possibility that the balance of power could flip.

Many who have been regularly following developments in the cryptocurrency market refer to the tipping point where one digital currency supersedes another as “the flippening”  We almost saw this occur in May 2017, when Ethereum’s market cap approached Bitcoin’s amid a surge in popularity.

When individuals have significant amounts of money invested in one cryptocurrency over another, it’s no surprise that tensions run high when they go head to head. However, these squabbles over which coin is best might be distracting us from a more pressing issue.

Some observers would argue that the true flippening isn’t a case of competition between two different forms of cryptocurrency at all. The sea of change yet to come could have more far reaching consequences, if and when digital currency as a whole becomes more popular than conventional fiat currency.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
Click to View Full Infographic

New Money

There would be some major advantages to an all-cryptocurrency future: its value can’t be manipulated as easy as fiat currency, and it lends itself to the concept of universal basic income. In fact, several different programs, such as uCoin and Cicada, are already using cryptocurrency to distribute UBI.

In a future where our transactions with shops and services are likely to be handled by automated systems, cryptocurrency removes many of the intermediaries that would take their own cut. There are many benefits for the individual, but the flippening stands to pose some major challenges for the global economy in its current form.

Should cryptocurrency manage to jump ahead of fiat money in terms of usage, cash won’t be able to close the gap. That’s the trick to the flippening — once changeover takes place, the losing party loses value and can’t do anything about it.

If everyone begins using cryptocurrency, infrastructure would need to be developed with that in mind. It might not take too long for cash to become incompatible. At this point, it remains to be seen whether established financial institutions could pivot to that new status quo in time.

At the highest level, governments will be hit hard, as they will no longer exercise the same level of control over the country’s currency. The idea of printing more money has been raised time and time again in response to financial turmoil, but that option disappears once currency has to be mined.

The flip from fiat money to cryptocurrency is a very real prospect, and it could well change the face of how our society spends and saves.

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Filecoin’s ICO Shatters Records by Raising Nearly $200 Million in Just 1 Hour

 

Amid news of the continued meteoric rise of the world’s first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, another initial coin offering (ICO) is shattering records in its earliest stages of investment. The blockchain data storage network Filecoin began its first public offering today. Despite technical issues, it has garnered an estimated $200 million from investors. In fact, sales came to a halt just about an hour after beginning.

The sale sets a new record for investor interest in an ICO. To put this massive achievement in perspective, the beginning of July saw the launch of Block.one’s EOS tokens, which set a record at $185 million raised in 5 days. A few weeks later, Tezos Blockchain Project raised $232 million in less than two weeks. Filecoin was able to nearly match this record in less time than it might take to watch an episode of Game of Thrones.

CoinDesk’s ICO Tracker shows that with a small push, Filecoin could nudge the amount of money invested in ICOs past the $2 billion mark, which is indicative of how decentralized currency has become a major industry. The entities behind these ICOs have a lot to prove in the near future if they are going to keep their offerings competitive with the seemingly unstoppable juggernaut that is Bitcoin.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Is Investing in Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies Worth the Gamble?

The Technology Behind Cryptocurrencies

The creation of Bitcoin back in 2008 fueled the exponential growth of the cryptocurrency ecosystem, facilitating the creation of a rich diversity of coins and applications that many would deem revolutionary. Those who invested in cheap coins at the outset are reaping huge returns on their capitals, dwarfing the average returns one can acquire in the stock markets. Think about it; if you had bought $1,000 worth of Bitcoin in 2010, you’d be worth a staggering $35 million now. The possibility of earning colossal returns has attracted many to the arena, and this begs a crucial question: Is the hype on cryptocurrencies warranted or it is just a game of Russian Roulette?

The birth of Bitcoin – the first digital cryptocurrency that is decentralized by design – gave rise to a technology with the potential to redefine the very fabric of our status quo. This technology is called the Blockchain, which underpins Bitcoin’s protocol.

“Every informed person needs to know about Bitcoin because it might be one of the world’s most important developments.” — Leon Luow, Nobel Peace Prize nominee

Blockchain is essentially a distributed, digital ledger where every transaction is broadcasted publicly and recorded chronologically. The database is ever growing, expanding in tandem with the amount of transactions made on the network. The decentralized nature of Blockchain technology ensures that transactions are immutable and thus immune to change, offering full transparency for each and every transaction. Add to that the traits of increased security, higher efficiency, error-resistant and reduced transaction costs, it leaves no doubt as to why many are excited about Blockchain’s possible use cases. The utility of Blockchain technology is endless, with an ever-growing list of governments, industries and companies looking to further explore its usage.

Hotbed for Money Making

The birth of a revolutionary technology would always entail those looking to capitalize on its profitability. Blockchain is no different. Investors, traders and speculators can get in on the action by buying cryptocurrencies, which are digital currencies manifesting as variant applications of the Blockchain technology. There are over 900 coins available, with each offering a slightly different approach to solving a range of problems. Many early adopters have made a great sum of money, by buying the coins cheaply at its outset and realizing them much later on. Based on the statistics provided by ICOSTATS, the return on capital of 40 cryptocurrencies since their inception stands at a staggering 6703%! In order for you to earn similar rates of returns in the stock market, it will take you approximately 957 years.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
Click to View Full Infographic

These stellar returns inevitably attract many who are looking to earn multiples over their capital. Given the extreme technicality of cryptocurrencies and the underlying Blockchain technology, many do not fully understand the fundamentals of what they’re investing in. The immaturity of the current infrastructure – stemming from the relative infancy of the cryptocurrency industry — results in an inefficient price discovery mechanism, thereby creating an extremely volatile market environment. This poses huge risks for those looking to invest in a comprehensive list of coins.

Simply entering the market with the hopes of massive short-term gains without understanding the coins and their technology is akin to playing a deadly game of Russian Roulette. The radical volatility of the coins’ prices may significantly put your capital at risk. Just to draw a picture, Bitcoin’s price lost 40% of its value in a matter of days in December 2013, and at the start of this year, Bitcoin lost approximately 34% of its value in a week. While this can spell doom for many, there are those that find gratification by profiting from the intense gyration of prices.

The Verdict?

Nine years after Bitcoin kickstarted the technological revolution, the ecosystem centered around Blockchain technology has flourished and is looking ever so promising. New coins solving real world problems are launched at a tremendous pace, with new functionalities and applications pushing the boundaries of this nascent technology. With increasing user adoption and a keen interest by nations and corporations, it is only a matter of time before Blockchain technology becomes ubiquitous in our lives.

A flip side of this emergent technology is the great risks associated with investing in cryptocurrencies, especially for those with a short-term horizon and an absence of understanding in the coins they have invested in. Truly, the extraordinary volatility unique to cryptocurrencies creates a superficial impression of high stakes gambling in the eyes of many. Armed with the right understanding and knowledge of Blockchain technology, you would begin to appreciate its innate beauty.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of Futurism or its affiliates.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Bitcoin Can Get to $100,000 If It Keeps Following One of Tech’s Golden Rules

Record Highs

Bitcoin is trading at record highs on Monday, but the cryptocurrency may still be far from hitting its ceiling.

It rallied 16.19% since July 31, despite last week’s fork that split it in two. It’s up 465% since last year.

According to analysis by Dennis Porto, a bitcoin investor and Harvard academic, bitcoin’s price could hit $100,000 per coin if it continues to follow one of tech’s “golden rules” — Moore’s law.

The rule, which was devised in 1965 by Intel cofounder Gordon Moore, describes the exponential improvements of digital technology.

“Moore’s law specifically applied to the number of transistors on a circuit but can be applied to any digital technology,” Porto wrote in an email to Business Insider. “Any technology that is growing exponentially (i.e., ‘following Moore’s law’) has a doubling time.”

Typically, however, the rule applies to a technology’s computing power or capabilities. This is the first time Porto has noticed a technology’s price following Moore’s law.

Investment Opportunity

Since bitcoin’s inception, according to Porto, its price has doubled every eight months.

Image Source: Dennis Porto

“This poses a unique opportunity for investors: Whereas it was difficult to invest in circuits or internet speeds, it is easy to buy a bitcoin,” Porto said.

Porto expects that this doubling trend could continue until bitcoin reaches mass adoption. Of course, another cryptocurrency could usurp bitcoin in the meantime.

By February 2021, Porto believes, it could be worth over $100,000.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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A Bipartisan Group of Australian Lawmakers Want the Nation to Create Its Own Crypto

Despite Bitcoin’s recent complications, a group of lawmakers from Australia’s center and left-leaning political parties are strongly encouraging the country’s Reserve Bank to officially recognize the cryptocurrency and perhaps even create its own cryptocoin. They’ve created a group called Parliamentary Friends of Blockchain to push this initiative, which they believe will secure the future stability and competitiveness of Australia’s financial services industry.

“This will be a revolutionary leap for the Reserve Bank and for Australian financial institutions; what we want to do here in Parliament is to create the political environment to allow that leap,” Labor senator Sam Dastyari told The Sydney Morning Herald. Dastyari and Liberal senator Jane Hume are the lawmakers leading the effort.

Blockchain, the technology upon which Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are built, is a decentralized digital ledger that is both more transparent and more secure than most traditional financial systems.

As Australian Digital Currency Commerce Association chairman Ronald Tucker explained to The Sydney Morning Herald, a crypto backed by the federal government would eliminate settlement times, as well as foreign currency exchanges. “It would be an auditor’s dream because you’ll be able to see any transaction that moves on it,” he added.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that a number of nations are adopting this new system of currency. China is the first country to test a national cryptocurrency, and it has plans in the works to release its own version of Bitcoin. Meanwhile, more than 260,000 stores in Japan have begun accepting Bitcoin payments, with three of the nation’s largest banks backing a Bitcoin exchange.

Australia is already showing signs that it hopes to get in on the trend while it’s still emerging, and the Parliamentary Friends of Blockchain group should help push things along.


Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Bitcoin is Now Worth Nearly Three Times the Price of Gold

Gold is often seen as an investment “safe-haven” due to the long term stability of the commodity. It is also often used as a standard by which to compare cryptocurrency, especially Bitcoin. Many of the leading cryptocurrency’s major milestones have been viewed in terms of their comparison to gold.

The latest numbers are truly staggering. The price of Bitcoin reached a high today of over $3,400 (at the time of writing it stands at a similarly impressive $3,390.66), while the price of an ounce of gold is $1,260.40. This leaves Bitcoin at nearly triple the price of gold, renewing speculations about the ability of Bitcoin to become a substitute for gold.

This is great news considering the tumultuous recent history of Bitcoin that resulted in a much-dreaded splitting point for the currency. Still, Bitcoin has never been stronger in spite of (or perhaps thanks to) the upheaval.

Bitcoin also enjoyed some significant gains this weekend, crossing $3,200 for the first time in history.

Bitcoin, and cryptocurrencies in general, are enjoying an uptick in public visibility, which is undoubtedly fortifying the impressive gains being made. It will be interesting to see how meteoric the rise of Bitcoin will continue to be.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

 

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History Is Rhyming: Fitness Functions & Comparing Blockchain Tokens To The Web

The Future of Cyrptocurrency

At the end of 2013, I wrote a blog titled: In The Future, Everyone Will Have Their Own Cryptocurrency. It was based on the premise that because we can easily create cryptocurrencies, we are going to see tokens minted for almost all networks of value, including every person. It started a multi-year rabbit hole towards designing the technical infrastructure for tokens (e.g. I worked on dogeparty, scrypt altcoins & I was a key contributor to the ERC20 standard) & the economic design of them.

The reality is:

Blockchain tokens have reduced the cost to tokenize coordination by orders of magnitude, and thus we are likely to see the effective tokenization (and by extension, the introduction of markets) into almost everything.

The reason why is quite simple: blockchain tokenization decreases the cost to coordinate by orders of magnitude. Coordination systems are utilized when the cost to run them are less than the benefits they provide. New coordination systems will come to exist because we’ve substantially lowered the costs to implement them:

Value of a coordination system > cost to coordinate.

We’ve seen this before: the web decreased cost to share information by orders of magnitude.

Value of information shared > cost to share that information.

Before the web, when you received a letter with some photos of loved ones far away, one might’ve wished to extend gratitude back immediately, but it wasn’t within our frame of reference that it would ever be possible to forward something as low bandwidth as a “like” back: which is now just a double-tap whilst you are lying in bed at night.

It was possible to do Twitter before the web, but good luck getting someone to use Twitter where we have to send it all through mail.

“Dear Donald Trump.

I hope this tweet finds you well. I think you are a terrible president. #carpediem

Yours in lulz,

Simon”

Blockchain Tokenization

Information systems today just didn’t fit into the context of the pipes that was available before the web. It was too costly, and unreasonable to do them. It’s why newspapers were bundled: they ALSO had a market (classifieds) in them, because this channel was already open. The hard work of distribution was done. But then… we began to program & automate information.

In the same vein, the modern limited liability, joint-stock corporation, (which everyone could create one), is about ~160 years old. Before then, you had to get a royal charter to allow access to tradable ownership and limited liability.

There are many coordination systems today that are being invented as we speak and that are going to be invented that just does not fit into the pipes of a corporation. A modern corporation succeeds because we have systems of law & systems of enforcement to enable them. In order to do so, we essentially rely on the massive cost of a nation state to enforce them. But now… we can now program & automate coordination.

I don’t think we can ultimately fathom how ground-breaking this is. Tokenized coordination systems that exist on scales we’ve never imagined. Like your great-grandmother not even pondering about the existence or need of something akin to sending a “like”, we haven’t even scratched the surface. We should absolutely be asking where this fits in, and where this could help. The result of which will create massive amounts of wealth.

The reason is that like information systems before the web, they under-fit the potential of information systems. We didn’t have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Wikipedia, Medium, etc because they couldn’t fit into the channels that were available. We could build substantially more granular information systems, making them fit more for specific niches and needs. The modern corporation, as great as it was, only allowed us access to certain kinds of coordination systems.

Fitting information systems more appropriately led to more information sharing: as low bandwidth a ‘like’ is, it’s likely more ‘likes’ have been shared (in size), than all newspapers in history.

If we are going to fit tokenized, coordination systems more appropriately, the result is simply: more wealth creation… Perhaps greater than anything we’ve seen before. Perhaps greater than giving access to the joint-stock corporation to everyone in society.

Image Source: Scikit Learn

Do you think it would ever have made sense to en-masse create ownership in just a song? Tokenizing attention? Tokenizing a contract directly? Tokenizing memes? Tokenizing people? Tokenizing this blog post? Tokenizing public goods? We invented something as low bandwidth as a ‘like’. How granular does blockchain tokens go? What’s the lowest bandwidth coordination system blockchain tokens allow? 10 second organizations? Idea derivatives? Meme derivatives?

Much of these coordination systems might seem overkill, but you also have to remember that much of our information systems are just machines talking to each other. The liquidity of say tokenizing a contract and effectively trading it is costly for humans. It’s likely much of these coordination systems will be primarily exploited by machines to offset inefficiencies in the markets to our collective benefit.

Conclusion:

We’ve opened the Pandora’s box. We are on the multi-year path to tokenizing almost everything.

To combine the aphorisms:

Past performance doesn’t predict future results, but it sure rhymes.

PS: I’ve been busy writing a substantially longer blog post that puts it much broader context, including the history & theory of the firm, corporate legal innovations over time, systems and complexity theory, meme & curation markets, prediction markets, graph markets, history of collectibles & multi-disciplinary research from other fields that explains it all. Coming soon.

Disclaimer: I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid. I’ve held cryptocurrencies since 2011.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of Futurism or its affiliates.

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In Less Than 2 Days, Bitcoin Cash Becomes Third Biggest Cryptocurrency

[Un]Expected Boom

Less than two days after splitting from the main Bitcoin network, Bitcoin Cash [BCC] now ranks third amongst the world’s most valuable cryptocoins. The budding cryptocurrency has reached a market cap of more $7.7 billion as of this writing, overtaking Ripple’s $6.7 billion market cap.

With a market cap of a little more than $44 billion, the original Bitcoin currency is leading the market, while Ethereum comes in second at $20.9 billion. In terms of value per coin, Bitcoin Cash is even ahead of Ethereum’s current valuation of $223.54, with a per unit value of $470.27.

The surge in Bitcoin Cash comes despite a lack of support from several mining pools and major exchanges like Coinbase and BitMEX. Some Coinbase users are even threatening to sue the exchange for not recognizing the currency.

Blockchain Global’s recently re-opened Australian Cryptocurrency Exchange, on the other hand, is confirming Bitcoin Cash trades and claims to have seen a huge demand for the currency. “We are receiving a lot of off-market orders for bitcoin cash — they’re exploding!” venture partner Sebastian Quinn-Watson told Business Insider.

A Volatile Currency

The creation of Bitcoin Cash was the result of an ongoing debate regarding how to scale Bitcoin blockchain transactions, and experts are currently divided on how the split will ultimately play out.

For now, this sudden increase in value is understandable. Bitcoin Cash carries all the history of the original Bitcoin platform up until the fork on August 1, which means anyone with Bitcoin now has an equal amount of Bitcoin Cash.

Eventually, Bitcoin Cash should be able to stabilize itself for market exchanges, but right now, speculation is causing a surge in initial interest. “People are selling their Bitcoin positions and buying Bitcoin Cash as a proposition that it is the ‘new coin’ that has more value in the future,” explained Quinn-Watson. “It’s a bit speculative.”

No one knows for sure how long Bitcoin Cash can sustain this upshot. As with other digital currencies, Bitcoin Cash’s value depends mainly on how much value investors assign to it and how easily it can be used for “real-world” transactions.

“There’s no infrastructure available out of the box to support BCC,” Fran Strajnar, co-founder and CEO of Brave New Coin, told CNBC. “The network needs further support and infrastructure needs to be as easy as Bitcoin; otherwise, it’s over for BCC.”


Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Here’s What CEOs Around the World Are Saying About the Bitcoin Fork

Of Forks and Splits

It’s official. Bitcoin has split in two. Following weeks of speculation that a hard fork was imminent, Bitcoin Cash has separated from the main Bitcoin blockchain, resulting in two distinct Bitcoin currencies and blockchains that could be used in cryptocoin exchanges.

The primary issue leading to the fork concerned conflicting ideas on how to scale up transaction support over the Bitcoin blockchain. Bitcoin Cash emerged as the final solution. It increases Bitcoin blocks to eight megabytes — the previously agreed upon compromise, BIP91, was expected to double the current block size to two megabytes several months from now.

A Pivotal Moment?

Several experts have weighed in on the potential effects of this split.

Aragon co-founder Luis Cuende thinks it “will positively impact Bitcoin.” He explained, however, that Bitcoin Cash may be short-lived. “Probably a fatal bug will crash the whole network (it already happened with Bitcoin Unlimited, Cash’s predecessor) or people will just lose interest in a currency engineered to look decentralized while being totally centralized,” he said in a statement.

The same concern has led major exchanges like Coinbase and BitMEX to hold off on support for Bitcoin Cash. “When we look back 30 days from now, this is essentially going to be a non-event,” said Coinsource CEO Sheffield Clark. “We have absolutely no plans to integrate Bitcoin Cash at our machines at this time.”

“While the markets will ultimately decide, I think there is little chance that Bitcoin Cash will be successful in the long-term. It may have increased capacity, but several issues remain,” said Ryan Taylor, CEO of Dash Core. He argued that Bitcoin Cash didn’t solve Bitcoin’s scaling issues and that it isn’t really forking.

ZenCash co-founder Rob Viglione is more optimistic: “[T]here are pros and cons to everything. The downside of a split is that Bitcoin loses part of its ecosystem, and network effects are so important to this industry. That said, this isn’t a zero-sum game, and it’s more than possible to see both chains flourish in parallel.”

This new cryptocurrency won’t be usable for trading for some while, however. Bitcoin Cash will first need to make it past initial adjustment difficulties and secure multiple block confirmations. For now, all we can do is wait to see how this fork plays out.


Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Stock Analyst Predicts “Cryptocurrencies Will Continue to Rise”

In a report published in part on Sunday, Standpoint Research founder and independent stock analyst Ronnie Moas predicts a favorable future for cryptocurrencies.

Moas spent the better part of last month testing out digital currencies. He wrote that he expects the solid performance of cryptocoins like bitcoin and ether to continue, and he predicts the value of the latter will double by 2018 to about $400. He previously said that he expects the value of bitcoin to increase to $5,000 per token by 2018 and possibly reach $50,000 in the next 10 years.

At the time of writing, a token of ether costs $219, up by almost 5 percent from the past week. Meanwhile, a unit of bitcoin is valued at $3,000, despite today’s BTC-BCC fork.

Aside from cryptocurrency heavyweights Bitcoin and Ethereum, the report also featured alternative cryptocoin Litecoin. Moas predicts that the price of this so-called “silver bitcoin” will double in 2018 to $80.

“In my view, the genie is out of the bottle, and cryptocurrencies will continue to rise and take market share away from stocks, other precious metals, bonds, and currencies,” Moas wrote in the new report, according to CNBC.

Ultimately, he encourages investors to give cryptocurrencies a try: “I think investors should take a shot on this and hold for a few years. If you lose a few bucks, at least you took a shot. In life, you miss every shot that you do not take. It will probably be more upsetting to watch it (from the sidelines) go up another 1,000 percent.”


Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Bitcoin “Civil War” Leads Cryptocurrency to Split

The Split

Bitcoin power brokers were unable to come behind a single solution that would have preserved a unified cryptocurrency by Tuesday morning’s deadline.

As such, the digital currency has split in two: bitcoin and bitcoin cash.

“There seems to be some technical issues that might be slowing it down, but yes, the fork has happened,” Peter Borovykh of Blockchain Global, a blockchain technology company, told Business Insider.

“Bitcoin cash is here.”

Eric Voorhees, CEO of ShapeShift, a digital trading company, took to Twitter at around 9:30 a.m. ET to announce the fork this morning.

“Fork has happened,” he wrote.”Now awaiting first block from bitcoin cash. Regardless of opinions, this is very exciting/fascinating day in cryptoland.”

Supporters of the newly formed bitcoin cash (BCC) believe the currency will “breath new life into” the nearly ten-year-old bitcoin by addressing some of the issues that have underpinned the bitcoin (BTC) as of late, such as slow transaction speeds.

The “Civil War”

To recap, bitcoin power brokers have been squabbling over the rules that should guide the cryptocurrency’s blockchain network.

On one side of this civil war, there are the so-called core-developers who are in favor of smaller bitcoin blocks, which make up the network, to protect it against hacks. On the other side, are the miners who want to increase the size of blocks to make the network faster and more scalable.

Until last week, the solution known as Segwit2x, which would increase the size of bitcoin blocks to two megabytes, was slated to become the standard.

Then, bitcoin cash came along. The solution is a fork of the bitcoin system: it’s a new software that has all the history of the old platform but bitcoin cash blocks will be eight megabytes.

Bitcoin cash came out of left field, according to Charlie Morris, the chief investment officer of NextBlock Global, an investment firm with digital assets.

“A group of miners who didn’t like SegWit2x are opting for this new software that will increase the size of blocks from the current one megabyte to eight,” Morris told Business Insider.

Only a minority of bitcoin miners, the folks who unlock bitcoin from bitcoin blocks, support the new currency. Furthermore, a number of exchanges have said they won’t back bitcoin cash.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be a dud or that it couldn’t potentially usurp the original bitcoin. Miners might rally behind bitcoin cash if it turns out to be the better digital currency.

“Bitcoin cash has a chance to become the dominant cryptocurrency contingent upon its ability to gain trust and support from both current and new players as well as security of its network,” Borovykh said. “Due to, at least temporary, solution of the scalability issues, bitcoin cash could attract more new capital to the entire crypto space, thus helping increase overall market cap.”

Arthur Hayes, CEO of BitMex, a bitcoin derivative exchange, told Business Insider he thinks a fork will benefit the cryptocurrency in the long run, despite short term volatility and confusion.

“There are people with billions of dollars of skin in the game and they will ultimately go with the superior bitcoin network and the market will follow,” Hayes said.

Bitcoin is trading down 5.78% at $2,715 following word that bitcoin cash has gone live.

Get the latest Bitcoin price here.

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Bitcoin Swings Ahead of Tuesday’s Big Decision

Bitcoin traders are on edge as they await the outcome of the civil war that will decide the fate of the cryptocurrency. Bitcoin is trading up 0.52% at near $2,773 a coin.

On Tuesday, core developers and miners will decide whether bitcoin remains as is, or if there will be a hard fork that splinters the cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin developers want to keep the blocks that make up bitcoin’s network limited in their size to 1 megabyte per block while miners want to make the blocks bigger to improve the network’s speed.

Up until recently, it looked like everyone was on board with SegWit2x, a proposal that, according to bitcoin evangelist Paul McNeal, moves the threshold for implementation down to 80% and also allows for a small increase in the size of blocks on the chain to 2 MBs. That was until bitcoin cash, an alternative to both bitcoin and the SegWit2x version, entered the picture.

“Bitcoin cash basically came out of nowhere,” Charlie Morris, the chief investment officer of NextBlock Global, an investment firm with digital assets, told Business Insider.” A group of miners who didn’t like SegWit2x are going to opt for this new software that will increase the size of blocks from the current 1 megabyte to 8.”

For what it’s worth, the majority of bets placed in the gambling markets aren’t predicting a good outcome for bitcoin. Accroding to Ed Pownell, a company spokesperson at Bodog, of the 470 people who have wagered on the event, “310 people think the price will dip below $2,000 per coin.”

Bitcoin is up 186% in 2017.

Bitcoin Swings Ahead of Tuesday’s Big Decision

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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This Altcoin Is Ready to Challenge Bitcoin’s Domination of the Crypto Market

While Bitcoin currently leads the cryptocurrency market in terms of adoption and market cap, some argue that other, newer cryptos are actually a better investment. Once proposed alternative is Litecoin. Sometimes referred to as the “silver Bitcoin,” this altcoin could prove superior based on four factors.

First, Litecoin’s algorithm is far simpler than Bitcoin’s, which makes it easier to run on graphics processing units (GPUs). This results in a lower barrier to entry for Litecoin miners in comparison to Bitcoin.

Second, Litecoin has a faster block generation speed. Processing a Litecoin block takes two-and-a-half minutes as opposed to Bitcoin’s 10. This decreases transaction fees, making the Litecoin cryptocurrency more attractive to investors.

Third, Litecoin is about to launch a “lightning network” that will improve its already superior ability to adapt to changes. This network will make it easier for Litecoin to scale as it gains more traction.

Fourth, Litecoin’s lifetime cap is higher than Bitcoin’s (84 million coins as opposed to 24 million). Once this cap is reached, miners will no longer be a part of the process, and this could decrease the security and stability of the blockchain supporting each currency.

While cryptocurrencies in general are increasing in popularity, the individual variants are constantly vying for market dominance. Perhaps Litecoin will come out on top, or perhaps it won’t — the primary characteristic shared by all cryptocurrencies right now is volatility, and only time will tell how the crypto market ultimately plays out.


Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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What Does Net Neutrality Mean for the Future of Cryptocurrency?

Net Neutrality

Americans are slowly realizing the significance of the potential consequences of the FCC’s current net neutrality regulations being repealed. These regulations once protected small businesses and content providers from intrusion by private, monopolistic internet service providers (ISPs), such as Verizon and Comcast. Before net neutrality, ISPs could disrupt, slow, and even censor content on the internet without any liability. This controversy reached its climax in 2007 when Verizon was exposed for blocking group chat conversations coming from a large pro-choice abortion group. However, many defenders of net neutrality are currently overlooking the political dynamic between net neutrality and the development of cryptocurrencies.

Blockchain and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have greatly benefited from past net neutrality regulations. Bitcoin’s price has increased 300 percent since Obama’s regulations were put in place in February 2015. This growth has been attributed to many factors, including the governments of Japan and China becoming more tolerant of cryptocurrency use. Not to mention countless initial coin offerings (ICOs) also hitting the worldwide market. The last two years have been the most profitable and evolutionary period for cryptocurrencies since their inception. However, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been in the middle of a financial bubble, and a series of interventions from ISPs could force that bubble to implode  — which may not be a bad thing. Without net neutrality regulations, ISPs can function without any accountability. What that will mean for cryptocurrencies remains yet unknown.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
Click to View Full Infographic

The Effect of ISPs on Cryptocurrency

It’s no secret that many American corporations lean staunchly conservative, and would happily wipe out a disruptive technology that  works against their interests — something like cryptocurrencies. ISPs and the U.S. government maintain close ties, something which has become increasingly obvious in the past few months. The appointment of former Verizon lawyers such as Ajit Pai, as the head of the FCC is just one example, and state policies continue to keep 60 percent of Americans confined to just a single internet provider option.

The concentration of power amongst ISPs allows the government to more effectively regulate and influence the internet’s evolution. When and if cryptocurrencies are viewed as a problem by the U.S. government, the internet service provider will be looked at to find the solution. Under the current status quo, Bitcoin will not be considered as an alternative monetary system because it is too difficult to control and tax. Not to mention that Congress’ position on virtual currencies is still unclear, and interpretations of the Stamp Payments Act of 1862 may provide Congress with the legal footing to leverage against cryptocurrencies.

The Act states that:

Whoever makes, issues, circulates, or pays out any note, check, memorandum, token, or other obligation for a less sum than $1, intended to circulate as money or to be received or issued in lieu of lawful money of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

A simple way in which an ISP can affect the attractiveness of cryptocurrency investment is by slowing down broadband speeds of blockchain sites, which would in turn  slow down transaction speeds. Yet, the speed (or lack thereof) of transactions has seemingly had zero effect on investment. Thus, cryptocurrencies themselves aren’t necessarily at risk unless ISPs conduct structural attacks on blockchain servers. By nature, blockchains are immune to human intervention. However, the internet provider holds the ability to implement a partition or delay attack. These attacks could effectively create a blackhole, where all bitcoin transactions are lost and made impossible to track. This could lead to wasted processing power and doubled spending for miners. However, these concerns are coming from the lawyers and businessmen, not the engineers.

Engineers see this “problem” as a perfect example of why blockchain was designed the way it was. To them, repealing net neutrality regulations would invite the possibility of having to reposition themselves back onto an I2P network, like Kovri.

Net neutrality— while it does embody the decentralization mantra of blockchain—is far from a requirement for the functionality of blockchain. The future of the monetary system is a global currency free from human intervention. If Bitcoin fails to survive the coming storm, it would be because of structural errors — not ISP intervention. In addition, if the ISPs start  a war against blockchain and cryptocurrencies, the internet may experience an accelerated evolution of decentralization. In the context of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, net neutrality may be a blessing in disguise, forcing further development in the industry.

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A Tech Startup Is Releasing a Wearable Cryptocurrency Payment Device

Wearing Your Wallet

Cryptocurrencies are enjoying a groundbreaking year. The market is growing in popularity, attracting investors and sending crypto values to ever new heights. However, the market currently lacks the technology necessary for everyday use in real-world scenarios.

Bitcart is looking to rectify this.

The Irish startup has developed the world’s first Dash cryptocurrency payment wristband. Named Festy, the device allows the wearer to pay for products with the Dash cryptocurrency. Users can add funds to their wrist-mounted “wallet” at a Festy-branded ATM or using an online transfer service.

Although Dash is a cryptocurrency, Festy is compatible with any point-of-sale system that accept Visa contactless payments. It can also be used to make payments on any phone or computer using near field communication (NFC) tags or offline payments via quick response (QR) codes. The wristband is designed primarily for bar and festival hoppers and can also be used to store tickets, which could play a role in eliminating fraud or verifying ages of compliance at events.

A Better Payment System

For customers, Festy offers several advantages over traditional credit cards. Payments made via the wearable are nearly immediate and a card number or private key is never displayed.

Vendors benefit from the system, too. “Our partnership with Dash makes the perfect payment solution for everyday transactions,” Bitcart CEO Graham de Barra told Bankless Times. “Unlike existing traditional bank payments that take a two to five percent fee, there is no cost on receiving Dash for merchants.”

Cryptocurrencies are built on blockchain technology that has the potential to revolutionize transactions worldwide. They boast increased transparency and security, but they are unlikely to go mainstream without easy to use tech like Festy.

Thankfully, Bitcart is just one company working hard to help cryptocurrencies break into the mainstream. A number of Bitcoin debit cards are making it easier to make payments via the currency, and in nations like Japan, bitcoin is on track to become a commonly accepted form of payment.


Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Spoiler Alert: Blockchain is About Far More Than Just Crypto

Blockchain

Blockchain on the brain and I can’t sleep.

There is a fundamental problem with the way I’m hearing blockchain discussed. I’ll be skipping over a lot of central aspects of the technology, so if you are unfamiliar, please check out the Satoshi white paper here, the Ethereum white paper here, and the Gnosis white paper here. These will give you a good starting point on blockchain fundamentals and what’s going on in the current world of crypto currencies, although crypto currencies have been discussed since the 80’s.

cryptocurrency ubi blockchain automation
Image Source: Stefan Bohrer/Wikimedia

Let’s start with the fundamental misunderstanding of blockchain technology solely as a currency. It’s easy to see why this would be the default perception (after all, the bitcoin white paper is titled “A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”). As early as 9,000 BCE, people were using grain for money, and over time money has been represented by a variety of objects, including shells, gold coins, and paper. Historically, people have looked to objects that are scarce, hard to replicate, and durable as a form of currency. Some forms of currency have had commercial use, while others have solely acted to represent value. For example, our USD is a piece of paper not good for much other than paying for stuff (see fiat currency). Silver, on the other hand, is useful for many industrial applications.

Blockchain is more like silver than fiat currency. If we believe that blockchain is inherently valuable as a building block for future business models, we should stop thinking of it simply as a currency, and more as a platform that is going to change the way we build all kinds of systems. Blockchain tokens represent the first time that a digital asset is able to exist in one place at one time, securely and with certainty. By thinking in these terms, I believe that we will be able to expand our view of the possibilities for what this technology can do. But how will these businesses get built?

ICOs in the house! ICO stands for Initial Coin Offering and involves the launching of a new token on a blockchain. ICOs certainly have the potential to change a lot about how companies get funded in the future. However, we should all realize that there are reasons for the SEC and their regulations around who can invest in private companies, the primary reasons being to protect individuals from getting scammed, and keeping them away from assets whose risks are tough to understand and can lead to bankruptcy. Typically, these private investments are restricted to qualified investors because rich people “can afford” the risks of potentially losing their money and should have (or can hire) the expertise to understand complex financial instruments.

Being a libertarian, I’m not a fan of protectionist regulations, but the rules were put in place for explicit reasons, and those reasons haven’t changed. A general best practice is for people to save the extra money they have in a combination of safe and risky assets in a measured way. Now, there is excitement about the ability for anyone to participate in ICOs, because at this time they are largely unregulated. However, if the only difference is that now any person can send crypto to fund / invest in an early stage company, that will almost certainly wind up being regulated in the same way investments are currently regulated. Yes, the ICO market is very hot and yes, some of these projects are getting massive amounts of funding very quickly, but let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

Cryptocurrency

Over the past few years there have been many individuals that have had massive windfall returns from their investments in blockchain protocols and specific tokens. Let’s use an example of someone using Ethereum (ETH). “Alex” bought $10,000 of ETH in January 2016 for $1 because he thought it sounded cool and just let it ride. Now, Alex has about $4,000,000 USD equivalent in his digital wallet and probably feels pretty good. But there are two big questions here: 1) where does Alex spend all this newfound wealth and 2) what about taxes?

Anyone close to the crypto space realizes that there is a liquidity problem. (This is less true for Bitcoin and Ethereum, but if you are looking to go down that rabbit hole here ya go.) Here’s a simple example. Alex bought his crypto using Coinbase and now has $4MM USD equivalent of ETH in his wallet. He wants to convert that to real USD in his bank account so he can buy some stuff. If he hasn’t done much to increase his limits, it could take him several months to get this money out. There are other ways to get more liquidity with BTC and ETH, but the point here is that illiquid markets create artificial damming of value.

The tax question may be an even bigger element of friction keeping value locked up in the crypto markets. If Alex were to liquidate all $4MM USD, he would need to pay taxes on the $3.999MM worth of gains. However, if he keeps it in crypto, he can postpone that taxation event to a later date, maybe indefinitely. So between liquidity and taxation, a lot of value is tied up in the crypto currency markets that would otherwise flow elsewhere.

Cue the market for ICOs. ICOs are a way for anyone to buy company specific tokens. These tokens can be used for several purposes: 1) a form of ownership in a company, 2) a form of voting, and/or 3) as a way to participate in whatever product, service, or application the company is offering. The first two sound a lot like equity, which I will discuss more later, but in regards to purpose 3, many players with massive illiquid returns carrying with them large potential tax consequences now have something to spend those returns on that provide additional upside and avoid triggering a taxation event, #WinWin. Because while turning ETH into USD can be tough, sending ETH is very easy. Just point a transfer at a wallet id and send away (Want to try it? Hit me at 0xE8d8c7bE6E9F5Ed7A3Fa7ceF090Bb5044c2735Bf ;-))

Jokes aside, it is my feeling that these returns are being spent more like lottery dollars than they are being used as investment dollars. When a person wins the lottery, they often spend that money in careless ways. Similarly, many people who have experienced these massive windfall returns and don’t have an easy form of liquidity are viewing these token launches as a way to put some of that value to work. The result is a heavily inflated ICO market on the back of the massive returns driven initially by the earlier protocol appreciation. The truth is that 90% of startups do not work out, as will almost certainly be the case with companies raising via ICO. I just want to echo a recent AVC post and say, “Be cautious.”

Enough doom and gloom. Tokens are great and going to totally change the world we live in. Also, this massive shift of value through ICOs is going to fuel many incredible projects that will pave the way for future companies. One in particular working on the liquidity problem, for example, is Omega One.

While I’ve spent a lot of time talking about what’s going on in the ICO market, the point I really want to drive home is that crypto tokens on top of blockchain technology represent a fundamental advancement in technology. It is the first time a digital asset can exist in one place at one time with certainty, and while this has led to tokens being viewed and used as a currency, that is a narrow application. There are so many things that this will change- the way games are built, the way media is stored, the way personal data is monetized (anyone working on this?) are just a few initial targets, with many more left to be discovered. My hope is that by expanding the perspective of this technology, we start developing truly revolutionary ideas that will change the world for good.

This is not a new pattern. Early radio hosts just read the newspaper out loud, and early movie stars performed as if they were still on a stage. The problem with a new technology is that typically, the first move is to push old models on top hoping to make it better, but true innovation comes when we can see the technology for what it is and what it will make possible that before was impossible. One method I use to do this is an innovation chart.

Spoiler Alert: Blockchain is Far More Than Just Crypto

It’s simple. Write a list of old industries on the top and then list new technologies on the side. Then assess where they intersect and what opportunities that might unveil. For example, if you put something like cell phones as a new technology and maybe something like yellow cab as an old industry, you could arrive at an interesting place.

This is a space I’m spending a lot of time in and am always interested in talking to entrepreneurs working on cool projects, so please reach out!

Twitter: @lapecc

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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A Bitcoin Civil War Has Been Avoided, at Least Temporarily

This Way or That Way?

Like a season premiere of the popular HBO series Game of Thrones, the finance world is eyeing July 31 with both anticipation and slight trepidation.

An ongoing disagreement between miners and developers over the future of Bitcoin’s blockchain has had many Bitcoin analysts, investors, and enthusiasts fearing a potential split in the cryptocurrency at the end of this month. However, as a moderate solution seems more likely to be accepted, fears of a network hard fork are beginning to die down.

As previously reported, the Bitcoin crisis is the result of a clash of ideas for the future of the popular cryptocurrency and its blockchain’s transactional capacity. Miners wanted to increase Bitcoin’s block limit, while developers proposed moving data off the main blockchain network.

The more moderate solution, which was activated on July 22, is Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP) 91. This protocol update prevents a hard fork from occurring by providing a compromise between what miners and developers want. Last week, more than 80 percent of bitcoin miners expressed support for BIP91, passing the threshold required for implementation.

Temporary Calm

This is definitely good news, but the potential for chaos hasn’t been entirely avoided. It’s only July 25, so five days remain before the required July 31 lock in. More than 51 percent of miners must begin using the BIP91 protocol by then for it to be fully adopted.

For now, though, it seems less and less likely that a hard fork is coming between July 31 and August 2. As if anticipating future smooth sailing, bitcoin’s value has risen to $2,729 as of this writing. That’s a $570 increase over last week’s value.

Still, some are quick to point out that this current period of peace could be temporary.

“Segwit2X locked-in on July 21st with +90% miner support so many people could now be tempted to assume that the scaling debate is over and Bitcoin is now good to scale to the masses,” Juan Manini-Rios, CEO of SHA256 Trading, wrote in a Medium post. “Unfortunately, that is not the case at all and a Bitcoin fork is still almost certain.”

For AQR Capital Management former managing director Aaron Brown, a currency split may not be that bad for Bitcoin. “It is the rule, not the exception, that currencies evaporate due to hyperinflation, government default or expropriation, or a losing a war,” he told MIT Tech Review. “People do not use them because they have faith in their long-term survival, but because they can facilitate transactions today.”


Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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The Third-Largest Cryptocurrency, Ripple’s XRP, Up Almost 4000% in Second Quarter

Ripple Exploding In Q2

The digital currency market has been dominated by Ripple’s XRP for the first half of the year. XRP finished its second financial quarter up 3,977 percent from the beginning of the year at $0.26. It has now dropped to about $0.19, but this is still an impressive display of growth and strength.

Image Credit: ak Yip/Flickr
Image Credit: ak Yip/Flickr
In Q2 alone, Ripple recorded more than $11 million in transactions, and XRP joined 25 new exchanges. XRP now has the third-largest market capitalization in cryptocurrencies — behind only Bitcoin and Ether. Ripple has also recently differentiated the use case for XRP, which, in turn, spiked interest in the cryptocurrency in Q2: “With respect to XRP, we are incredibly focused on international payments, I think we are probably the only digital asset that has a clear use case with respect to what we are trying to do with the asset,” Miguel Vias, Ripple’s head of XRP markets, told CNBC.

Cryptocurrency Renaissance

Ripple and XRP are just part of the latest example of cryptocurrencies booming during an overall digital currency renaissance. Right now, various countries are experimenting with cryptocurrencies, acknowledging their role in the future of finance and looking to secure their place in that future. For example, the South African Reserve Bank, the country’s central bank, is trying on Bitcoin regulation for size; China is testing a national cryptocurrency — a sensible option in a country that has gone almost totally cashless in urban areas; and “Ethereum Island” may be coming to the African coast as Mauritius moves to take its place as a cryptocurrency and blockchain technology hub.

Meanwhile, despite some rocky days, many experts think that now is the best time to invest in cryptocurrencies — whichever platform appeals to you. While some are worried that the cryptocurrency market might be experiencing a bubble, others see this period of rapid growth as a sign of larger changes in the world economy. As countries like China and Japan sway the cryptocurrency market, it becomes clearer that close attention to technological advancement, a desire to achieve cybersecurity, and a need to control one’s money are the decisive factors for many cryptocurrency investors.

This makes Ripple’s focus on international payments seem shrewd, and feel like a strong explanatory factor in XRP’s current strong position in the cryptocurrency market.

 

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Op Ed: The Death of Net Neutrality Could Also be the Death of Blockchain

Net Neutrality

The Internet is great. It has music, video games, cat videos, more cat videos…, etc. However, the Internet is only as good as it is because it is open and free. Anyone can access the Internet (not exactly, but that’s another issue) and everyone can contribute. Unfortunately, this is changing.

As many of you already know, the FCC has voted to overturn Net Neutrality rules and will begin rolling back crucial protection for the internet.

If you don’t know what Net Neutrality is, watch these videos!

Net Neutrality ensures that large corporations and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) don’t control the internet. For example, let’s say that you started up a small store to sell artisan donuts. Of course, you want to easily reach a large and global audience. So, you start a web commerce store and start selling your donuts online. Sadly, there’s a big existing company, DonutsRUs Inc. DonutsRUs Inc. does not sell artisan products. They sell factory made chemical donuts that are terrible for the environment. DonutsRUs Inc. sees you as a threat to their business. Because Net Neutrality doesn’t exist in this dystopian world, DonutsRUs Inc. is able to go to internet providers and pay to slow down your site or pay for their site to be faster. Customers that wanted to buy your donuts would get bored waiting and leave to DonutsRUs Inc.

Cryptocurrency Ecosystem

With Net Neutrality in place, the Internet is “neutral” and “fair”. No website is able to get preferential treatment. There’s been a lot of videos, blogs, and opinion articles done on why Net Neutrality protects companies. However, there has not been a lot of work done about Net Neutrality and Blockchain.

(If you’re reading this, I hope you have a good understanding with the cryptocurrency ecosystem. Token Sales, transactions, etc. However, it’s ok if you don’t. Check this out, you’ll thank me later.)

Recently, there have been a lot of token sales and ICO’s. Without getting into the arguments about the benefits and drawbacks, it is obvious that these are important and a very large part of the crypto ecosystem.

Net Neutrality forces internet traffic to be treated the same. This would include blockchain transactions. It’s estimated that 30% of the Bitcoin network is hosted by 13 ISPs60% of all Bitcoin transactions cross only 3 ISPs. (ETHZ) It’s not impossible to imagine a world where ISP’s could slow down the transactions to a certain address or smart contract. If one company, (we’ll call it TastyDonutCoin) had a crowdsale to fund their donut company, another company (EvilDonuts) could pay ISP’s to slow down or block the transactions to TastyDonutCoin, which would prevent TastyDonutCoin from raising any money.

It could get even worse. Looking beyond ICO/Token Sales, many blockchain companies are running or considering running operations on Smart Contracts and blockchain-based code. If a competitor was able to tamper with these transactions in any way, it would be a disaster. Imagine a traditional hosting system (AWS, DigitalOcean, Google Cloud, etc.). Now, imagine if other companies could mess with the connections hosted there. Companies would be forced to pay out large “protection fees” just to ensure that their market had access to their content. How is this a good free market system?

There’s already been some research done on how ISP’s can interfere with blockchain. Basically, when a crypto transaction goes through an ISP, that ISP can interfere with it and do a partition attack (separates the network) or a Delay Attack (delays the block). This interference would destroy any attacked blockchain.

So, now you’re thinking to yourself, “How can I help save Net Neutrality?” (If you’re not, look at this and think about how your Internet experience would be destroyed.)

There’s a few very simple and easy ways.

  1. Share this article and the videos linked in this article with your friends. The more people that know about this, the better.
  2.  Go to https://www.battleforthenet.com/ and fill out the form to send an email directly to the FCC.

Let’s save the Internet. #BetterTogether

The post Op Ed: The Death of Net Neutrality Could Also be the Death of Blockchain appeared first on Futurism.

Want to Invest in Crypto? Here’s A Crash Course.

A Major Return on Investment

When the first cryptocurrency was developed in 2009, it could be had for a song. One bitcoin was worth a mere eight hundredths of a cent. By 2010, 10,000 units were still only enough to purchase a pair of pizzas. When Ethereum first began selling ether in July 2014, 2000 tokens could be purchased for one bitcoin, meaning each token was valued at just about $0.30.

Now, ether tips the digital scales at more than $200 per token, and the bitcoins used to buy dinner in 2010 would be worth roughly $20 million today.

Clearly, these currencies are trending upward, but many are still unfamiliar with the world of blockchain and the cryptocurrencies that operate on them. As such, buying and selling crypto is murky territory. So let’s take a moment to cover the basics of what you’ll need to know to tread through this newly emerging landscape.

A Crash Course in Crypto

The first step to investing in cryptocurrencies is understanding how they differ from traditional currencies.

A traditional currency, such as the U.S. Dollar or the Euro, is controlled by a centralized authority. In the U.S., that authority is the Federal Reserve, and it is responsible for promoting economic stability and regulating the nation’s financial institutions, such as banks or investment firms. Each of those institutions is then responsible for maintaining and securing records of their transactions.

A cryptocurrency has no centralized authority. The value of the currency is set by the market, and transactions happen directly between parties. These transactions are recorded on a digital ledger known as a blockchain. Every cryptocurrency has its own blockchain, and this ledger is stored across a large network of computers, each known as a “node.”

When two parties decide they want to make a transaction using a cryptocurrency, the request is broadcast to all of these nodes, and they each record the change on their copy of the ledger. Ultimately, a group of these individual transactions will comprise one timestamped block in the blockchain.

The whole transaction process takes seconds or minutes, instead of the days or weeks sometimes required by a traditional bank. Cryptocurrencies then use a layer of cryptoeconomics to incentivize validators to always keep the blockchain honest. This works similarly to games like the prisoner’s dilemma. In cryptocurrencies, any one individual is incentivized to tell the truth because if they lie and the others tell the truth, the liar misses out.

Distributed databases are also more secure than the centralized databases used by traditional financial institutions, which are susceptible to hacking and other cyberattacks. Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether are also far easier to use across international borders.

Those are just a few of the reasons tech experts view blockchain-based systems as a massive improvement on current methods of record keeping, and not just for financial transactions. Blockchain is poised to transform everything from the healthcare industry to the Internet of Things (IoT), and entire countries have even announced plans to transition to blockchain systems.

So now you know the basics of how blockchains and cryptocurrencies function, but how do you actually invest in them?

Entering the Market

The first thing you’ll need to do is decide which cryptocurrency you want to purchase. You have hundreds to choose from, and each is slightly different from the others.

To make this decision, the two things you will most likely want to familiarize yourself with are Bitcoin and Ethereum. Ultimately, bitcoin and ether are the cryptocurrencies with the greatest market caps (approximately $38 billion and $18 billion, respectively). They have a number of differences, but the primary one is that the Bitcoin blockchain is currently used strictly for peer-to-peer financial transactions (though that may change), while the Ethereum platform supports a range of transactions.

Rather than researching the multitude of cryptocurrencies currently in existence and diving in headlong, for first-time investors, it may be a better idea to spend some time following the trends and getting to know just a few currencies, and then begin to branch out once the basics of a few tokens are fully understood.

Once you’ve decided on a cryptocurrency you want to invest in, you’ll need to choose an exchange. Exchanges are websites that allow you to buy, sell, or trade cryptocurrencies, and once again, you have a lot to choose from. Like cryptocurrencies themselves, each exchange is unique.

One of the most important things to understand is that not every exchange supports every cryptocurrency, so you’ll need to find one that works with your crypto of choice. For example, CoinBase, one of the most popular exchanges, supports the trading of both bitcoins and ether, as well as litecoins. However, if you want to trade in a less “in demand” cryptocurrency, such as ripple, you’ll want to consider an exchange like Kraken, which supports 16 different cryptos.

Sites like Coin Market Cap are great resources for choosing an exchange, as they can provide you with information on trading volume, market values, and most frequently traded pairings. When choosing one to join, you’ll also want to consider such variables as an exchange’s reputation, accepted payment methods, and geographical restrictions.

After you’ve settled on an exchange, you’ll need to create an account, which will generally require ID verification. Once that is done, you’ll then be able to add money to your account, make trades, or withdraw funds (do note that each action requires a small fee). If you decide you want to trade on a different exchange, you’ll have to repeat the process and pay the fees required by that particular exchange.

A Better Way to Trade

Though the process thus far may seem relatively straightforward (if a bit time-consuming), actually making money via crypto trading is anything but simple. Cryptocurrencies are still in their nascent stages, and unfortunately, not all of the kinks have been worked out just yet, which has led to a volatile, expensive market for investors.

Having a large number of crypto exchanges does more than just burden investors with extra fees — it also leads to problems with liquidity, which is a market’s ability to enact transactions without affecting an asset’s price. To break this down to the basics, if an exchange doesn’t have enough of a cryptocurrency available at or near the market price when a buyer makes the decision to buy, that buyer will be forced to pay what is called a “liquidity fee,” and they can amount to 1 to 10 percent the total value of the trade.

An illiquid market can also cause flash crashes like the one ether experienced in June, which dropped the crypto’s value by 99.9 percent in less than one second. This volatility is intimidating for investors, and it’s slowing down the adoption of blockchain-based finance systems.

Thankfully, a new platform has emerged that could stabilize crypto markets while simultaneously lowering trading costs for investors: Omega One.

Instead of buying or selling crypto directly through exchanges, Omega One users simply create a wallet on the platform and do all of their trading through it—no need for multiple accounts. When you want to make a transaction, you place the order through the platform. Once the system verifies that you have the funds to make the trade, it locks the transaction. You won’t be able to spend those funds elsewhere, but they are still in your possession.

Omega One then executes the trade for you across as many exchanges as necessary to ensure the lowest fees. It may even spread out the transaction over a period of time rather than completing it instantaneously, if that makes the most financial sense. Ultimately, this intelligent execution of transactions increases the liquidity of cryptocurrency markets and prevents destabilization, all while keeping costs low for investors — in fact, large orders could see a fee reduction of up to 90 percent compared to traditionally executed transactions.

Omega One is poised to make crypto trading cheaper and simpler, all while helping stabilize the market as a whole, providing a benefit to both new and seasoned investors alike. So keep a lookout for their launch later this year.


The preceding communication has been paid for by Omega One, and Futurism has a small financial stake in Omega One’s token launch. This communication is for informational purposes only and does not constitute an offer or solicitation to sell shares or securities in Omega One or any related or associated company. The Omega One tokens described herein are not being structured or sold as securities or any other form of investment product, and consequently, none of the information presented herein is intended to form the basis for any investment decision, and no specific recommendations are intended. This communication does not constitute investment advice or solicitation for investment. Futurism expressly disclaims any and all responsibility for any direct or consequential loss or damage of any kind whatsoever arising directly or indirectly from: (i) reliance on any information contained herein, (ii) any error, omission or inaccuracy in any such information or (iii) any action resulting from such information.

Each recipient of this communication expressly acknowledges that the Omega One tokens are being sold solely for the purpose of providing purchasers of such tokens with access to the services associated with the tokens, and that such persons are not being offered, and will not be purchasing, any tokens for any other purposes, including, but not limited to, any investment, speculative or other financial purpose. Each recipient further acknowledges that they are aware of the commercial risks associated with Omega One and the network associated with its tokens.

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As Cryptocurrency Prices Recover, “Bitcoin War” May Be Averted

After a rough weekend of historic lows, Bitcoin prices began to recover on Monday, reaching over $2,300, signaling a crisis averted — for now. It’s also an optimistic sign that the potential network hard fork may be avoided, with more bitcoin shareholders, miners and developers, warming up to a proposed solution.

Bitcoin prices dropped dramatically beginning Friday and continuing well into the weekend. Economic forecasts had suggested that the most turbulent period in the cryptocoin’s history was imminent. It didn’t come as a complete surprise, as many were expecting the so-called Bitcoin Civil War to ensue between miners and developers, after a deadlock in deciding what direction the cryptocurrency should take amidst increased blockchain traffic.

Miners wanted to increase Bitcoin’s block-size limit, while developers have proposed moving data off the main blockchain network, which would diminish the influence miners wield. The scaling solution in question is the Bitcoin Improvement Protocol (BIP) 91, which makes the SegWit2x update and the BIP 148 compatible. Essentially, it would make it easier for the SegWit2x update to be adopted, while at the same time avoiding the split that BIP 148 might cause.

To lock in by July 31, BIP 91 only needs 80 percent miner support — unlike BIP 148, which would require 95 percent. With increased support for BIP 91, the expected July 31 to August 2 bitcoin split could still be averted.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Australia Joins the Tech Train With AI and Blockchain

The Future of Australian Business

Australia is currently seeing the first manifestations and ramifications of two of the business world’s key technologies: blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI). Both could fundamentally change how financial and professional operations are conducted in Australia.

Currently, blockchain technologies are being explored through research and start-ups looking to implement the purely digital ledger. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the Australian government’s federal agency for scientific investigation, released a report last month exploring how blockchain could support the country, along with the risks it presents. In addition, in June, Melbourne hosted the Annual blockchain summit, while the newly formed Blockchain Association of Australia finished its first meeting on July 13th.

Businesses in Australia have also started implementing and trialing blockchain technologies. Three companies, in particular, are using the ledger for food and water related purposes. Civic Ledger is researching blockchain solutions for the governmental water market, TBSX3, and is using it as a method of exchange that ensures that food exports are genuine and authentic. AgriDigital is using it to centralize and organize the agriculture process from field to shelf. Meanwhile, Othera has proposed the use of blockchain to begin a lending business.

AI has also come into vogue within the country. Testra, a key player in the Australian telecommunications and media industries, has announced that it will begin introducing AI into its operations. The company’s CEO Andrew Penn  labeled the technology “perhaps [the] most significant driver of technology innovation” during his speech at AMCHAM, and he continued by explaining that AI will be the “highest priority at Telstra [which] is to improve customer advocacy.”

The impact of AI on Australia’s business world was highlighted in a recent speech in Sydney made by Peter Norvig, the research director of Google, who urged every company to appoint at least one member of staff to assess the potential benefits of AI to their company. He said, “You have to have somebody who understands how to make the call and, from that, the rest will flow.”

A Worldwide Movement

Australia’s federal and corporate progress concerning the integration of blockchain and AI are symptomatic of a worldwide growth, development, and implementation of the technologies.

Blockchain technologies are being used to investigate currencies and transfer systems on a national and international basis. Multiple countries have launched efforts to try to understand the complexities and intricacies of digitizing a national currency. China has developed a prototype that could become a progenitor for a real life equivalent, Singapore is looking at a ‘tokenised’ form of the currency in collaboration with Fintech, and Sweden and India are both considering cryptocurrencies as part of their larger plans to become cashless societies.

A similar worldwide change can also be seen in the adoption of AI, which is being accepted into a variety of institutions at an exponential rate. The Canadian government has developed a $125 million budget to fund investigations and research into AI, while the US government has been holding meetings to plan and consider the effects of implementing the tech.

This revolution, however, is being most directly felt in technology circles. Recently, Google has announced that they are focusing all of their resources on developing an AI that can take over many of the company’s other functions. However, the nature of the transition — or perhaps the threat — is reflected best by the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society, a collaboration between tech giants that ensures that AI is implemented responsibly on a worldwide basis.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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The Finance World Is Preparing for a Bitcoin Civil War

A House Divided

Bitcoin may be the most popular, longest standing cryptocurrency, but that doesn’t mean its path forward is without potential conflict. In fact, analysts are now predicting that the cryptocurrency is on the brink of a civil war that would put Captain America and Iron Man’s to shame.

Like the Marvel story, the Bitcoin rift is an ideological one. On one side of the divide are the bitcoin miners who oversee every transaction made on the Bitcoin blockchain. On the other side are the developers that have maintained Bitcoin’s bug-proof software — they’re led by a group called Core.

The problem of how to handle increased Bitcoin traffic has caused the rift. The former group wants to increase Bitcoin’s block size limit in order to process more transactions. Meanwhile, the latter wants to move data off the main network, which would diminish the influence of miners and essentially make Bitcoin more enterprise-friendly, like its main competitor, Ethereum.

“It’s moderates versus extremists,” Stephen Pair, chief executive officer of bitcoin wallet provider BitPay, told Bloomberg. “It depends on how much a person values the majority of people staying on one chain at least for a little while longer, versus splitting and allowing each [to pursue] their own vision for scaling.”

Of Forks and Roads

What’s ironic about this situation is that it’s made possible by blockchain’s decentralized nature, which is often heralded as one of the technology’s most interesting features. The absence of a central Bitcoin authority has made it difficult for a consensus to be reached.

At any rate, a compromise called the SegWit2x update has been developed, and it should be available by July 21. It changes how some of Bitcoin’s data will be stored while also doubling the block size limit.

Though support for SegWit2x is reportedly high, no one knows for sure how it will be received until it is actually released. “It’s a high-stakes game of chicken,” Arthur Hayes from Hong Kong-based BitMEX told Bloomberg. “If you’re a trader, there’s a lot of uncertainty as to what happens.”

Bitcoin has been enjoying a continuous upward trend in market value for the past several months — at one point, it was even more valuable than gold. We’ll have to wait to see if this growth can continue past the next couple of weeks, which will possibly be the most turbulent in Bitcoin’s history. As Hayes said, “Once there’s a definitive signal about what will be done, the price could move very quickly.”

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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No, Ether Isn’t “Getting Crushed.” Here’s What’s Really Going On.

A Misleading View

In case you missed it, yesterday, Business Insider published an article entitled “Ethereum is Getting Crushed.” If you give the article a casual glance, the piece seems to be heralding the downfall of ether (the value token of the Ethereum blockchain, and the latest darling child of cryptocurrencies). The author, Jonathan Garber, supports this claim with the following:

  • The cryptocurrency is trading at its lowest level in more than a month;
  • Ether is down 9.9 percent, at $215/ether;
  • Ether has fallen more than 45% since reaching a record high of nearly $400 on June 13; and
  • This chart (which was the featured image on the article):

Market Insider

While the article and associated chart are factually accurate, the chart and main title of the piece are ultimately a bit misleading.* For starters, the chart that they decided to use only goes from $210 to $245. This is a remarkably small monetary value. Second, the chart only spans one day. All of this serves to make the dip look significant.

If you head to the source image and check the three-month view (3M), you will immediately see that such fluctuations are, and have been, common place over the last few days, weeks, and months. Given the extreme rise that we’ve seen recently, this is to be expected—ether has risen an unbelievable 4,500 percent in 2017, after all.

Later in the article, Garber does note this same fact (that these fluctuations are to be expected and that, in the long term, ether looks promising). He quotes Mike McGovern, the new head of investor services fintech offerings at Brown Brothers Harriman, who asserts that ether is actually remarkably stable: “When looking at bitcoin blockchain versus Ethereum, there’s no doubt Ethereum is superior. It doesn’t cost as much to mine ether tokens, because it requires less electricity than bitcoin.”

So the title and chart herald the downfall of ether, but the article seems to be saying the opposite…?

Let’s take a moment to dive into a bit of history and break down what’s really going on here. TLDR: No, ether is not getting crushed, and given the short attention span of most internet browsers, it’s a bit problematic to structure articles with the title and featured image that were selected by Business Insider.

A State of Flux

Check out our graph that shows the price of ether over the last few months:

*5* [Don’t edit] No, Ether Isn’t “Getting Crushed.” Here’s A Better View.

You’ll see that $210 is still fantastically high. Yes, there is a dip. Such dips were anticipated and mimic what was seen with bitcoin (as we noted in a previous article, the rapid boom of both Ethereum and Bitcoin showcase not only the massive potential of blockchain technology, but the volatility of the cryptocurrency world). And to this end, the main focus should be the incredibly steep rise alongside the dip. At the time this article was written, ether was at $214. This is up $203 since last year – a total 1,870% increase.

Yes, it has dropped since last month, and while this drop may be significant to some, history indicates that it’s most likely temporary. As CoinDesk’s Pete Rizzo notes, “while it has yet to surpass bitcoin’s total value, as some had predicted, there is still broad optimism about the asset among traders, who believe it to be a rare cryptocurrency that has established a viable value proposition by enabling token issuance.”

Ether’s success this year is, in some respects, even eclipsing bitcoin’s. At the start of the year, ether was worth only around five percent as much as bitcoin, but as of last month, The New York Times reports that “outstanding units of the ether currency were worth around $34 billion…82 percent as much as all the bitcoin in existence.”

It’s too soon to tell how ether will end the year, but this dip needs to be taken into consideration alongside the impressive rise seen in recent months.

* Editors note: Writers are often not the ones who choose titles or featured images, so the decision may not actually have fallen to Garber

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Ethereum Co-Founder Takes to Twitter to Disagree With Tezos Blockchain Plan

Vitalik Buterin, the 23-year old co-founder of Ethereum, recently got in a long Twitter exchange over the future of the blockchain startup Tezos. In case you haven’t heard of them yet, here’s a quick refresher: Ethereum is the world’s first true enterprise blockchain. Tezos is a startup that boasts a type of blockchain that offers a “self-amending” cryptoledger.

Blockchain offers a digital ledger of transactions that’s decentralized, and therefore more secure. Tezos wants to give all token holders the ability to make decisions on the blockchain. These decisions could be made transparently and would then be pushed to the network automatically — eliminating what’s called as extra-protocol governance. This is the element that Buterin doesn’t agree with:

Vitalik said that he’s not convinced such a “rough consensus” would be a sustainable governance model for blockchain. Tezos, meanwhile, didn’t leave the Ethereum co-founder’s comment hanging: Tezos replied that it wants to eliminate the need — but not the possibility — of extra-protocol governance.

Tezos is currently running what could be the largest Initial Coin Offering (ICO) there is, generating more than $200 million worth of bitcoin and ether, meaning it’s likely to remain a competitive member of cryptocurrency’s future.

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An Anonymous Ether Trader Just Made $200 Million in One Month

0x00A651D43B6e209F5Ada45A35F92EFC0De3A5184

Nope, that header isn’t a typo. That’s the identification code for the virtual wallet of an anonymous cryptocurrency trader that’s made more than $200 million in just over a month. Supposedly, this unknown trader was able to raise their cryptocurrency assets from $55 million to $283 million in that short span of time; a 413 percent accumulated profit from Ethereum blockchain’s digital money, ether.

In an Instagram post, someone (or maybe several people) purporting to be the trader in question said, “I get many private messages asking how much ether I have. One of the cool things about Ethereum is that all wallets around the world are transparent and open for everyone to see. And this is my wallet’s savings.”

While the amount of earnings from cryptocurrency trading is incredible, it isn’t at all impossible. Recently, the values of both bitcoin and ether have been going up. The total value of cryptocurrencies reached an all-time high on June 6 when it surpassed $100 billion, according to Bloomberg.

Anonymity and Security

Faced with the growth of cryptocurrencies, experts are asking whether anonymity is beneficial or not. It’s certainly one of the key reasons cryptocurrencies are becoming so popular. “One of its more important features is that you don’t have identities tied to this,” Spencer Bogart, research head at venture firm Blockchain Capital, said in Bloomberg “This financial privacy is an important characteristic.”

That’s also the source of some of its troubles, though: there have been a handful of cyberattacks that asked for ransom in bitcoin, and that trend could continue as it becomes more widely used. “The credibility of virtual currencies will not rise if they are used for criminal purposes,” a draft online currency legislation by the European Parliament noted. “In this context, anonymity will become more a hindrance than an asset for virtual currencies.”

To this end, would tying digital wallets to identifiable persons be a problem for a mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies? For a cryptocurrency like ether — which is used to pay for applications that run on the Ethereum blockchain — it may not be such a big deal. It could even help ether avoid having its reputation sullied by cyberattacks like bitcoin. At present, ether seems to be moving into the mainstream. The rise of Initial Coin Offering (ICO) is helping, and Ethereum is working to make their transactions even more efficient and powerful.

For now, though, it wouldn’t hurt to be careful. As Peter Denious from Aberdeen Asset Management told Bloomberg, “A lot of lessons will be learned. A lot of money will be lost before a lot of money can be made.”

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In the Age of Blockchain, Crypto Has a Major Problem

The Blockchain Revolution

Less than a decade after blockchain first emerged as the foundation upon which digital currency bitcoin could thrive, the technology has evolved into something with so much more potential. Nearly every facet of society could benefit from the secure, decentralized database provided by blockchain, and indeed, many already have.

Blockchain has already helped companies across the globe keep track of their international shipmentscombat insurance fraud, and develop better autonomous driving systems. The tech has been used to support the implementation of renewable energy, provide refugees with food and supplies, and manage universal basic income (UBI) trials. Some experts predict that blockchain could improve how we collect taxes and vote in elections within the next five to 10 years, and it could even help usher in the era of quantum computing.

Everyone from renowned futurist and Google’s head of engineering Ray Kurzweil to internet pioneer Brian Behlendorf is bullish on the technology, but despite its remarkable growth and expansion, blockchain still has major obstacles to overcome in the industry in which it was born: finance. Though these issues are currently preventing the tech from realizing its full potential, we may soon have a way to solve them.

Stunted Potential

Before blockchain can become the foundation upon which the world conducts its financial transactions, we must address a fundamental issue stressing blockchain-supported digital currency markets, such as bitcoin or ether: the problem of liquidity.

Liquidity refers to a market’s ability to handle a transaction without affecting the asset’s price. For example, cash is the most liquid asset, so if someone wanted to buy USD$1 million worth of Euros, the market would be able to absorb the transaction easily. The value of the dollar and the Euro would remain almost completely unaffected, likely changing by less than .01 percent, and the massive amount of available Euros to buy would mean the trader completes their order at roughly the cost they expected when they placed it.

However, buying USD$1 million worth of bitcoin would affect the crypto’s value by 1 to 10 percent, meaning a transaction that would barely cause a ripple in the Euro market could cause a relative tidal wave in bitcoin. This is due to the market’s lack of liquidity. Specifically, the amount of bitcoin available on the specific exchange at or even close to the market price when the buyer made the decision to buy will run out, leaving the transaction to be completed at a price 1 to 10 percent higher than expected. This will cost the buyer of bitcoin between $10,000 and $100,000 more than the original price to make the $1 million trade, and that liquidity cost alone could be enough to discourage trading.

Compounding this issue, trading of cryptocurrencies is fragmented across many exchanges. Bitcoin alone is traded across dozens of exchanges: Coinbase, Gemini, Kraken, etc. This prevents any one bitcoin exchange from offering as robust liquidity as it could. The exchanges themselves are also struggling to keep up with increases in volume, causing outages that can further dampen liquidity. For example, during bitcoin’s value surge in late May and throughout June, some exchanges had trouble keeping up with increased activity. The crypto’s value plummeted briefly when Coinbase — an exchange CryptoCompare claims accounts for roughly 17 percent of bitcoin’s trade volume — suffered outages due to “unprecedented traffic and trading.

A Volatile Situation

A combination of these two issues contributed to the flash crash ether experienced in June.

After a multi-million dollar market sell order was placed on the GDAX exchange, the value of ether dropped by more than 99.9 percent, from $317.81 to $0.10 within a second. The initial sell order dropped the price to $224.48, but this further triggered additional sell orders from customers who had stop loss orders and margin positions. Ether sales from the triggered stop loss orders further triggered even more automated stop loss orders, creating a cascading effect that sent the price of ether down to $0.10 within a second.

The ether market did stabilize soon after, with the price returning to more than $300, but this price volatility is one of, if not the, biggest barriers to widespread cryptocurrency adoption. The average person doesn’t want to invest in an asset prone to large value swings, and until we find a way to stabilize the market, a global finance system built upon blockchain will remain a pipe dream.

For the foreseeable future, cryptocurrencies will continue to be traded on multiple exchanges with no single, stable asset keeping their value in check. That means overcoming the problems of fragmentation and liquidity will require a different solution, and that solution is Omega One.

The End to Crypto Markets’ Woes

The Omega One platform is designed to support the growth of the digital currency market by addressing its fragmentation and liquidity problems. It facilitates trades across all cryptocurrency exchanges, thus preventing the destabilization that can occur when a single exchange is forced to absorb a major transaction.

The way it works is rather simple. When an Omega One user decides they want to make a transaction, they place an order through the platform. Once the system verifies that they have the necessary funds, the order is locked. They cannot spend those funds elsewhere, but they retain control of them for the duration of the transaction.

The platform then completes the transaction. However, instead of executing it as a single trade on a single exchange, Omega One breaks it into smaller transactions across multiple cryptocurrency exchanges, executing those transactions over a period of time rather than all at once if necessary.

By intelligently implementing transactions in this way, Omega One increases the liquidity of cryptocurrency markets and prevents a large transaction from destabilizing an asset’s value the way the multi-million dollar ether sell order did in June. Users aren’t hit with higher-than-expected liquidity costs, and they maintain custody of their funds until the process is complete.

The platform is set for a token launch later in 2017, at which point its potential to solve blockchain’s woes will be put to the test. Right now, however, Omega One seems like the most promising solution to the problems preventing the blockchain revolution from truly transforming the world of finance.


The preceding communication has been paid for by Omega One, and Futurism has a small financial stake in Omega One’s token launch. This communication is for informational purposes only and does not constitute an offer or solicitation to sell shares or securities in Omega One or any related or associated company. The Omega One tokens described herein are not being structured or sold as securities or any other form of investment product, and consequently, none of the information presented herein is intended to form the basis for any investment decision, and no specific recommendations are intended. This communication does not constitute investment advice or solicitation for investment. Futurism expressly disclaims any and all responsibility for any direct or consequential loss or damage of any kind whatsoever arising directly or indirectly from: (i) reliance on any information contained herein, (ii) any error, omission or inaccuracy in any such information or (iii) any action resulting from such information.

Each recipient of this communication expressly acknowledges that the Omega One tokens are being sold solely for the purpose of providing purchasers of such tokens with access to the services associated with the tokens, and that such persons are not being offered, and will not be purchasing, any tokens for any other purposes, including, but not limited to, any investment, speculative or other financial purpose. Each recipient further acknowledges that they are aware of the commercial risks associated with Omega One and the network associated with its tokens.

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Is Ethereum Ready for Widespread Adoption?

A Learning Trend

The popularity of cryptocurrencies is on the rise. This is evident in the recent huge increases in the market value of Bitcoin and Ethereum, perhaps the two most popular crypto coins around, despite suffering some recent setbacks. The growing popularity of Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) is another hopeful sign that we may, indeed, be moving towards a cashless world.

But how ready are these cryptocurrencies for mass adoption? China seems to be on board, as it plans to test a national cryptocurrency. But how viable is such widespread adoption really?

According to Coin Telegraph’s Pascal Thellman, Ethereum might already be moving towards mass adoption, though it might be paced similarly to how the internet became mainstream, aka, slowly but surely. “The Internet didn’t go mainstream the moment Tim Berners-Lee developed the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). It went mainstream when search engines like Google, social networks like Facebook and email services like AOL were introduced,” Thellman wrote. “We may be seeing a similar trend with the Ethereum network right now.”

A Global Trend

There are a number of issues that have to be considered with the growing Ethereum market. Among these is the transaction capacity of Ethereum. Currently, it can process about 20 transactions per second, which is measly compared to Visa’s equivalent of 24,000 transactions.

This is confounded by the huge amount of electricity and computing power required to maintain Ethereum’s Blockchain, following its current Proof of Work setup. Moreover, most people aren’t technically familiar with how to handle an Ethereum wallet — in fact, many probably haven’t even heard of Ethereum or Bitcoin.

Ethereum is working towards solving these, particularly through improving its Proof of Work model by shifting to a Proof of Stake (PoS) setup by 2018. In terms of popularity, the ICO craze is definitely helping. As businesses get funded through crypto coins, more and more people will become familiar with the currency and the process. The ICO-funded companies that end up surviving in the long-term would also help in moving towards the mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies.

For Ethereum, it also helps that its first intended market has always been business. As an enterprise blockchain, Ethereum has a sizable base of large corporations that use it for transactions. There’s also the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance (EEA), which links up Fortune 500 companies — like Microsoft, JP Morgan, Credit Suisse and Intel — with Ethereum experts.

For now, we will just have to wait and see.

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China and Japan Are Largely Responsible for the Current Success of Cryptocurrency

China and Japan’s Crypto Craze

The age of cryptocurrencies is upon us, and two countries in particular have been instrumental in their stratospheric rise: China and Japan.

Cryptocurrencies have become popular in China due to the government’s stringent control of the yuan — a power they occasionally exercise by artificially devaluing the currency for trading purposes. With private wealth in China growing, affluent individuals have found a more stable and accessible alternative to the yuan in cryptocurrencies.

Additionally, China has an abundance of cheap energy and hardware, which facilitates crypto mining (the process through which new blocks in the blockchain are created and transactions are verified). Chinese exchanges run mining “pools” to generate these blocks, and these efforts constitute 60 percent of Bitcoin’s total hashrate (the speed at which Bitcoin operations are completed).

Japan got its foot in the cryptocurrency door at the beginning of 2017 when the market in China experienced an institutional and systematic crackdown, with the most potent measure being a ban on all cryptocurrency withdrawals. This caused an increase in Japan’s trading volume, which grew from one percent to as high as six percent.

Cryptocurrency adoption was further amplified by currency turbulence in the country. Quantitive easing lead to extremely low interest rates, which have occasionally even become negative, meaning that it costs an individual to save money. As in China, cryptocurrencies therefore became viewed as a more stable asset than the native currency, so more people have chosen to invest and store their money in them.

The final piece in the cryptocurrency success puzzle for both countries is increasing institutional acceptance. In China, this takes the form of the country’s Royal Mint, which has invested resources and money into digitizing the yuan and promoting blockchain technology. Japan, meanwhile, began accepting payments in stores using cryptocurrencies earlier this year, and its three largest banks — MUFJ, Mizuho, and SMBC — have all backed the country’s largest Bitcoin exchange, bitFlyer.

A Worldwide Revolution

The enthusiasm with which China and Japan have embraced cryptocurrency systems has contributed to their worldwide success. Virtual currencies have become more popular and valuable than the vast majority of people could have anticipated upon their inception around a decade ago. The value of a single bitcoin has risen from roughly $0.00075 to $2,500, and the market cap for all cryptocurrencies has exceed $100 billion.

The success of cryptocurrencies is also reflected in their increasing adoption by formal institutions. Wall Street is making moves to start using cryptocurrency systems by next year, a Swiss town called Zug has begun to accept payments in bitcoins, and the Gemini Trust in New York has been licensed to trade ether.

However, some worrying news concerning cryptocurrencies has emerged as well. Recently, in spite of claims that the systems are highly secure, hacks have lead to personal information being leaked and exchanges have been robbed, one to the tune of $79 million.

In addition, while cryptocurrencies may be more stable assets than the native currency in Japan and China, they are not absolutely stable. In fact, they are currently far from it, and though prices continue to rise, rapid drops are not uncommon, and public opinion can have a major impact on value.

Mark Cuban illustrated the issue perfectly — when he took to Twitter to assert that Bitcoin wasn’t a currency, its valuation dropped rapidly. Even more recently, Ethereum lost $4 billion worth of market value when a bogus story that its founder, Vitalik Buterin, had died in a car crash was published on 4chan.

Cryptocurrencies are clearly on the rise, and due to their successes, they can no longer be dismissed as a niche monetary system. The pertinent question is will this rise will lead to the worldwide adoption of an entirely new currency and finance system?

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One of the World’s Biggest Bitcoin Exchanges Has Been Hacked

Bithumb

One of the largest bitcoin exchanges in the world has been hacked, and 30,000 customers’ data has been compromised, according to a report from Yonhap News.

One of the World’s Biggest Bitcoin Exchanges Has Been Hacked
Image Source: Zach Copley/ Flickr

Bithumb is based in South Korea, and the country’s watchdog Internet and Security Agency is investigating after some customers said they lost money in the attack.

Bithumb did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment, though it says users’ passwords were not stolen, according to Yonhap News.

It’s one of the busiest exchanges in the world. On Tuesday, Motherboard reported it was the fourth-largest globally in terms of volumes of all cryptocurrencies traded daily; by Wednesday, it had jumped to first place.

In a statement, Bithumb said (via the cryptocurrency news site BraveNewCoin) that an employee computer was compromised, rather than its core servers:

“The employee PC, not the head office server, was hacked. Personal information such as mobile phone and email address of some users were leaked. However, some customers were found to have been stolen from because of the disposable password used in electronic financial transactions.”

Cryptocurrency

BraveNewCoin reports “billions” of won has been stolen. For context, 1 billion won is about $870,000, or £670,000. As such, it would be markedly smaller than some previous hacks of bitcoin exchanges, such as Mt. Gox, where $460 million in bitcoin (at then current prices) disappeared in 2014.

Some Bithumb users were victims of “voice phishing,” where someone phoned them up saying they worked for Bithumb and scammed them out of funds, according to BraveNewCoin.

The incident underscores the fact that it is not just investors and digital-currency enthusiasts who are excited by the current surge of interest in cryptocurrencies — criminals are also eyeing up businesses that hold bitcoin and its sister currencies, and no one can promise absolute security.

There has been a wild surge of interest in bitcoin, Ethereum, and other digital currencies over the past month, with prices surging to all-time highs. Bitcoin is currently worth about $2,600 per coin, with a total global market cap of $43 billion, while Ethereum trades at about $260 with a market cap of $24 billion, according to data from CoinDesk.

Get the latest Bitcoin price here.

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Finance Expert Predicts Bitcoin’s Value Could Soar as High as $4,000

We’re barely past the halfway mark, and already Bitcoin is having a big year. The value of the cryptocurrency soared past $1,000 in January and then again in February. By March, its value surpassed that of gold, and on May 10, it hit what was then a record-high value of more than $1,700 per coin. In June, Bitcoin set a new record, closing above $3,000 before finishing the month at close to $2,500.

In all, Bitcoin’s first-half gain was approximately 168 percent this year, which has led various commentators, including Mark Cuban and Charles Schwab chief global investment strategist Jeffrey Kleintop, to suggest that the cryptocurrency is in a bubble.

The latest expert to weigh in on the future of Bitcoin is Goldman Sachs head of technical strategy Sheba Jafari, who sent a note to clients on Sunday, July 2, advising that while the value of Bitcoin may drop, it is ultimately likely to go even higher.

According to Jafari’s note, which was published by Zero Hedge, Bitcoin is still in the midst of a “corrective 4th wave” during which the value may fall as low as $1,857 — a drop of around 25 percent. According to Jafari, Bitcoin investors shouldn’t worry about this drop very much, though, because the currency could hit a record value during its fifth wave, perhaps as high as $3,915.

Whether the value of Bitcoin does soar toward the $4,000 mark or not, 2017 will still go down as a historic year for digital currency.

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The Tezos ICO is Already Worth $200 Million, Making it the Largest “Crypto-Funding” Ever

Revolutionizing Blockchain

The growing popularity of cryptocurrencies owes everything to the system that makes it all possible — the blockchain. Basically, this is a highly secure digital ledger that’s decentralized because of the way it records information and transactions. It’s already impressive as it is, but the innovators behind blockchain startup Tezos want to take the technology even farther.

Tezos is a new crowdfunded blockchain. It allows for consensual upgrades to its protocols, which empowers it to govern itself via what the Tezos white paper calls a “self-amending” cryptoledger. “It facilitates formal verification, a technique which mathematically proves the correctness of the code governing transactions and boosts the security of the most sensitive or financially weighted smart contracts,” Tezos claims.

Now, to get it’s blockchain up and running, Tezos is running an “initial coin offering” (ICO) through Bitcoin and Ethereum funding. At the time of this writing, the Tezos ICO has already received 53,418 Bitcoins and 273,068 Ethereum. That’s roughly $207 million at current valuation, making the Tezos ICO the largest “crypto-funding” to date. Moreover, the Tezos ICO is uncapped — there’s no upper limit to how much funding the company can raise, given the remaining eight days of crowdfunding it has left.

The ICO Phenomenon

What is an ICO, anyway? Laura Shin describes it wonderfully in an article she wrote for Forbes. “An ICO is what you get if bitcoin and Kickstarter had a baby — a crowdsale of a new crypto asset (with a cryptocurrency like bitcoin being one type of crypto asset) that powers some kind of peer-to-peer blockchain network,” she wrote.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
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Essentially, Shin wrote, it enables companies to develop new business models while “making a lot of money for the developers and entrepreneurs who are launching them.” Instead of relying on the usual funding channels, ICOs give businesses a huge amount of leeway. However, it’s not without its dangers. “And we’re not really sure how legal they are,” Shin added.

“ICOs which are uncapped are dangerous as they imply and show a complete disregard for corporate discipline — and to an extent an element of disrespect for the investor,” Charles Hayter, CEO of CryptoCompare, told Mashable. “The question that needs to be asked is can the job be done with less money (…) and that throws a spotlight on the fairness and truthfulness of the proposition being offered.”

But despite its yet unsolved legalities, ICO crowdsales have become popular. Prior to Tezos, there was that recent Bancor ICO which raised $153 million. It’s proof that blockchains and cryptocurrencies are, indeed, changing the way we conduct business.

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Ethereum Could Be Using More Than a Country’s Worth of Electricity

A Cryptocurrency Powerhouse

Thus far, 2017 has proven to be a notable year for cryptocurrencies — and not just the one most everyone’s familiar with. While Bitcoin has been on a continuous upward trend, it’s major competitor Ether is following close behind. Despite last week’s flash crash and Sunday’s “fake news” market value drop, the price of Ether is back up, opening today (Wednesday) at $282.44. That’s up by more than 13 percent since markets closed on Tuesday, and it’s continually going up.

Aside from an increase in market value, Ethereum’s price per coin is also up. It’s reached $300, which is a substantial jump from an initial value of $10 at the beginning of 2017. This is making Ethereum a more attractive option for amateur miners than Bitcoin. Therefore, there’s been a surge in Ether mining from homes, using just computer graphics cards to pump new Ether units while at the same time securing the Ethereum blockchain — the public ledger of transactions that makes it all possible.

Real-time index from cryptocurrency analysis site Digiconomist’s founder Alex de Vries shows that Ethereum mining is powered by an amount of electricity equivalent to that consumed by a small country. All those household computers turned into Ether miners each have blockchain transactions consuming at least, if not more than, 45 kWh of electricity. According to de Vries, the entire Ethereum network could be consuming as much as 4.2 Terawatt-hours (tWh) — which is only a little bit more than what’s consumed by the Middle Eastern island of Cyprus.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
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Redefining Mining

Still, the methodology behind de Vries index isn’t totally exact, and since blockchain is decentralized, it would be next to impossible to truly ascertain just how much electricity these home-based Ether mining operations are consuming. The estimates do indicate, however, just how energy-intensive cryptocurrency mining has the potential to be. One major reason for this is the power-hungry graphics cards involved. It’s ironic that mining cryptocurrencies in order to maintain blockchains — which are perhaps the most efficient and secure information ledgers we have — is a process that’s not particularly efficient.

This may not be the case for long, though. Unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum has plans to move away from its existing energy-intensive mining algorithms. Instead of operating on a Proof of Work model, it’s building a hybrid one that incorporates Proof of Stake. Simply put, this new protocol could allow an Ether holder to mine just by having their computers connected, Vries explained to Motherboard. In a full Proof of Stake algorithm, “energy consumption would become negligible,” he added.

Until then, mining for Ether will continue to demand huge amounts of electricity and computing power. Plus, as the price for Ether units continue to increase (with the market value of Ether following with it) more and more miners will be mining for it. Ultimately, they could wind up consuming as much electricity as the price of Ether could support. The question is, is this energy and computing power for digital currency worth it? For the time being it seems that it is, if the growing number of miners are any indication.

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Ethereum is Up 4000% This Year, And The World’s Elite Are All Buying In

Ethereum Goes Up

MGT Capital, the company run by John McAfee, said it would start to mine Ethereum — the bitcoin rival that has surged nearly 4,000% this year — in its latest bid to turn a profit. Although ethereum has since dropped in value, it’s an alteration that was predicted by experts, given its unprecedentedly excessive rise. And as this latest announcement highlights, tech experts and investors alike are confident that its price will soon surge again.

MGT, which is publicly traded over the counter, has pitched itself to investors mostly as a cybersecurity company. Cybersecurity is where McAfee made his mark as the founder of the antivirus company that bears his name.

But McAfee has more recently started to tout cryptocurrencies. He said last month that investments in bitcoin would help put MGT back in the black by the end of the year.

Ethereum is like bitcoin in that it can be “mined” by computers that solve complex computations. MGT said Friday that it reached an agreement with Bit5ive LLC to buy up to 60 graphics-processor-based mining computers to help mine for ether.

Cryptocurrency

“We are more convinced each day of the growth and value of digital currencies, and our company is uniquely positioned to be a leading provider of processing power to relevant blockchains,” McAfee said in the statement.

Ethereum is Up 4000% This Year, And The World’s Elite Are All Buying In
Image Source: Zach Copley/ Flickr

McAfee’s foray into the cryptocurrency space comes when others have been sounding the alarm after a huge run-up in prices.

In early June, billionaire Mark Cuban said it was evident that bitcoin was a bubble, tweeting, “When everyone is bragging about how easy they are making $=bubble.”

Days later, Goldman Sachs warned that bitcoin was looking “heavy” and that a drop to between $2,330 and $1,915 a coin was looking likely. Bitcoin put in a low of $2,076 just a day later after the scaling debate came back into focus as the bitcoin-mining firm Bitmain outlined its “contingency plan” for if a hard fork were to occur. Bitcoin has recouped those losses and now trades at $2,708.

Ethereum is up by 3,964% in 2017. As for MGT, its stock is up by 42% year-to-date.

Get the latest Bitcoin price here.

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China Becomes First Country in the World to Test a National Cryptocurrency

Benefits of Digital Currency

China’s central bank — the People’s Bank of China — has developed a prototype of a cryptocurrency that it could end up in circulation in the near future. It would be introduced alongside the China’s primary currency the renminbi (also called the yuan). China will be simulating possible scenarios and running mock transactions using the cryptocurrency with some commercial Chinese banks.  

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
Click to View Full Infographic

The potential benefits of developing a digital currency are significant, particularly in China. First, it would decrease the cost of transactions, and therefore make financial services more accessible, which would be a big help to the millions of people in the country who are unconnected to conventional banks. Second, as it would be supported by blockchain, it has the potential to decrease the rates of fraud and counterfeiting, which would be of service to the government’s attempts to reduce corruption — a key concern. Third, it would make the currency easier to obtain, which would increase the rate of international transactions, allowing for more trades and faster economic growth.

The Rise of Cryptocurrencies

Since Bitcoin’s humble beginnings back in 2009 (when it was only valued at around 0.0007 USD) the digital currency, and the very idea of cryptocurrencies in fact, has grown monumentally. The total market cap of cryptocurrencies on April 1st of this year was over $25 Billion. A single Bitcoin is now worth more than $2,500. Now many national economies, as China’s plan shows, are considering the idea of developing their own variant.

Although China’s experimental approach to simulate a self-developed cryptocurrency’s usage is the first of its kind, other countries and institutions have made strides in that direction as well. The Deputy of Russia’s central bank has emphatically stated that “regulators of all countries agree that it’s time to develop national cryptocurrencies.” Over 260,000 stores in Japan will begin accepting Bitcoin as legal tender this summer, and big banks like Santander have announced plans to develop their own version.

Cryptocurrencies have the potential of revolutionizing not only the business world, but many methods of transaction. There has already been talk of using cryptocurrencies to administer Universal Basic Incomes due to their traceability, as well as for the delivery of human aid; the potential for which was demonstrated by a recent experiment to help refugees in Jordan by the UN.

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Ray Kurzweil Says He Wouldn’t Put His Money in Bitcoin but Doesn’t Dismiss Blockchain

 

Perceived Instability

Ray Kurzweil, a leading futurist, author, inventor, and the head of Google’s engineering lab, has made some impressively accurate predictions about the future. However, this may not be the best news for the burgeoning cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. Kurzweil spoke at the Exponential Finance Summit in New York City late last week and he had some less than flattering things to say about the currency. While he may see the value in the decentralization of currency, he doesn’t feel like Bitcoin is the way forward.

He explained:

Currencies like the dollar have provided reasonable stability. Bitcoin has not. And it’s not clear to me that the whole mining paradigm can provide that type of stability… We’ve seen tremendous instability with bitcoin, so I wouldn’t put my money into it. I certainly do think there could be alternatives to national currencies emerging in the future. Algorithmic ones are a possibility, I just don’t think we’ve arrived at the right algorithm yet.

Image credit: edkohler/FlickrImage credit: edkohler/Flickr[/caption]

Bitcoin Bubble?

Kurzweil is not the only high-profile Bitcoin skeptic or opponent. Billionaire investor Mark Cuban spoke out about Bitcoin last week, denouncing it as a currency and discussing it as a bubble. Kurzweil’s comments echo these sentiments, especially with his view of the cryptocurrency’s instability. However, Daniel Roberts from Yahoo! Finance sees Kurzweil’s view of that instability as an oversimplification. When looked at in the long term, Bitcoin is showing steady gains.

Bitcoin has enjoyed a meteoric rise in recent weeks as prices have surpassed $3,000 (albeit briefly). In the first moments of 2017, Bitcoin could barely reach the $1,000 mark. As of today, the cryptocurrency stands at more than $2,550.

Bitcoin is powered by blockchain technology. A blockchain is a decentralized ledger that allows for complete anonymity, security, and transparency for all transactions taking place on the ledger. Kurzweil is more optimistic about blockchain, saying, “I think once we can demonstrate confidence, then yes, a blockchain currency makes sense, and being able to document transactions securely, but there’s a lot to work out.”

In an effort to work out those kinks, many companies and even some countries are adopting blockchain technology. Some countries are even exploring switching their national currencies over to cryptocurrencies. We are in the early stages of its development, but this could go down as one of the few predictions Kurzweil gets wrong.

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The Cryptocurrency Market is Exploding. Here’s What You Need to Know.

A Major Spike

On April 1, 2017, the total market cap for all cryptocurrencies was slightly higher than $25 billion. Roughly two months later, the cap exceeded $100 billion. In just over 60 days, the value of cryptocurrencies surged by 300 percent. So what is going on?

The leading cryptocurrency, Bitcoin,  recently made headlines by climbing dramatically in value (it’s currently sitting around $2,600 USD, about 160 percent higher than its value in April). But Bitcoin hasn’t been alone in this extreme growth. The cryptocurrency market as a whole has spiked in value within the last few months.

While those already invested in Bitcoin might be celebrating, this jump is clearly reason to pause for anyone considering entering the market. Historically, what goes up super-fast must come down — at least when it comes to the stock market. This has prompted many to call this rise a bubble, leaving investors to wonder when it will burst.

In an interview with Bank Innovation, cryptocurrency trader Jacob Eliosoff, who runs a Bitcoin-focused investment fund, explains:

Factor number one in the general price rise is just another of crypto’s periodic bubble[s]: see Nov 2013, March 2013, July 2011. Lots of coins which patently have no plausible long-term use case or value — the classic example is Dogecoin, an obsolete joke — have set new highs during this frenzy — a bad sign.

Author, professor, and game designer Ian Bogost has previously written about bitcoin for The Atlantic. He shared his view on the latest cryptocurrency surge in an interview with Mic, explaining how the investors themselves could cause a drop in value:

We’ve seen with these sort of ups and downs, these small groups of mostly Chinese pools end up with more than 50% of the capacity. And we don’t know anything about these organizations. Are they state controlled? The moment [there is too much consolidation in the mining pools], then effectively the platform is dead, at least as a currency.

Anyone looking for proof of the volatile nature of cryptocurrencies, specifically Bitcoin, got it when Mark Cuban publicly criticized the currency. After the billionaire entrepreneur claimed on Twitter that Bitcoin was in a bubble and not, in fact, a currency at all, the cryptocurrency dropped significantly in value, seemingly illustrating a fragile and unstable nature.

An Upward Trend

Whether due to historical precedent, a monopoly on investment, or simply an easily swayed investor pool, it seems pretty likely that this recent rise of cryptocurrencies will lead to some sort of drop. However, that doesn’t mean cryptocurrencies don’t have the potential to be a major player, if not the only player, in the future of finance.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
Click to View Full Infographic

One positive development is the increasing diversity of cryptocurrencies. While Bitcoin was long the definitive leader in the market, holding roughly 80 percent of the total market cap, others such as Ethereum are making major gains, knocking Bitcoin down to just about 50 percent. As TechCrunch writer Fitz Tepper notes, “The fact that these gains have come from currencies other than Bitcoin are a good sign that this is less of a bubble and more of a resurgence of interest in crypto.”

Other experts note that while drops in value are likely, they don’t signal an end to cryptocurrency by any means. As Brian Kelly, CEO and founder of global investment management firm BKCM, told CNBC, Bitcoin is “in the first years of what is likely to be a multi-year bull market. Of course there will be corrections and even crashes along the way, but Bitcoin is here to stay.”

Blockchain, the technology supporting these digital currencies, may be even more worthy of the investment than the cryptocurrencies themselves. “I would say I think conventional wisdom now is that blockchain and the underlying technology is probably more interesting and has more potential than maybe Bitcoin does by itself,” Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari explained in a Reuters report.

The link between digital currencies and this super-secure distributed database lends further support to the argument that digital currencies are a sound investment. However, only time will tell whether this current period of rapid growth will slow, plateau, drop, or continue skyward. As with any investment, the potential for reward comes with its share of risks, but right now, the future looks pretty bright for cryptocurrency.

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Bitcoin’s Rival Just Caught Russia’s Attention

Russian Evolution

You’ve likely heard of Bitcoin as the future of money, but it is not the only cryptocurrency in the running for cashless economy dominance. The second largest among them is found on the Ethereum blockchain and is called Ether. One of the critical differences between Bitcoin and Ether is that while Bitcoin is first and foremost a currency, Ether, however, can be a platform for a variety of decentralized applications. In short, Ether can do much more than Bitcoin.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
Click to View Full Infographic

The adaptive quality of the platform may be part of the reason why Russia, under President Vladimir Putin, seem to be showing great interest in Ethereum. Reporting from Bloomberg reveals that Putin has been thinking about digital currency. “The digital economy isn’t a separate industry, it’s essentially the foundation for creating brand new business models,” he said at last week’s St. Petersburg Economic Forum.

Russia could be looking at Ethereum as a way to expand the country’s economic profile of fossil fuels with technology. Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidsky suggests that Putin is “…under the impression that, to wean the country off its oil dependence, they needed a major leap in some specific area of technology that wasn’t yet dominated by Western, Chinese, or Japanese tech giants.”

Global Decentralization

Russia is already testing an Ethereum-based blockchain system through its central bank. When Deputy Governor Olga Skorobogatova was asked if Russia is pursuing a national virtual currency, she did not deny the possibility. Currently, there are a few countries already experimenting with national cryptocurrencies.

Coindesk cites eight cryptocurrencies from a variety of countries in the Eurozone. Among them are Iceland’s Auroracoin, Pesetacoin and Spaincoin from Spain, Gaelcoin from Ireland, and Aphroditecoin from Cyprus. Cryptocurrencies offer a lot of benefits including both transparency and security. The level of encryption essentially makes counterfeit transactions impossible.

Russia is among the most powerful countries in the world. Adoption of this technology would be a major boon for the platform and could accelerate the expansion of its influence across the world.

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Bitcoin Prices Continue to Surge, Regularly Breaking Records

Bitcoin or Bust

Early adopters of Bitcoin, the novel currency sweeping the globe, have plenty to celebrate this year. The cryptocurrency has grown in value by 85 percent in 2017. It has enjoyed steady growth, topping $1,700 for the first time ever today. This is the latest milestone for the digital currency, however back in March, Bitcoin surpassed the value of gold for the first time in its history. And, there are no indications of it slowing down.

The previous success of the currency has been tied to the uncertainty in markets after the results of the 2016 US elections. However, that explanation can’t continue its potency for that long. Even more, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) still has to rule on whether or not they will reverse a previous decision to reject a high profile exchange-traded fund (ETF), so the reasons behind the currency’s burgeoning strength remain unclear.

Going Global

Last month, Japanese policymakers made Bitcoin a legal method of payment. This was followed closely by an announcement that Russia would consider adopting Bitcoin (among other cryptocurrencies) in 2018. However, not all countries are readily willing to consider legitimizing Bitcoin. China, for example, has recently decided to restrict its trade.

Even with some minor hiccups, Bitcoin is set to revolutionize the way that we pay. Its footing keeps getting stronger as it continues to be the top-performing currency since the start of the decade, save for 2014.

The Japanese adoption of the currency could be a considerable boon toward it hitting the mainstream. Experts are expecting retailers in more than 260,000 stores across the country to be accepting Bitcoin. The ease afforded by the currency being international could make it a favorite for travelers as well.

The future of Bitcoin may not be entirely clear. But, if this upward trend continues, it will be difficult for policymakers to deny its rightful place in the pantheon of finance.

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By This Summer, Bitcoin Will Be Accepted at More Than 260,000 Stores in Japan

A Financial Revolution

Many contend that Bitcoin has long since passed its shadowy reputation for being the transaction standard for the internet’s darker corners. Bitcoin trading, for one, has reached record-breaking values. Now, major bitcoin exchanges in Japan are teaming up with retailers to start a transaction revolution that would allow stores to accept Bitcoin payments.

Bitcoin is an example of a cryptocurrency, i.e., a digital currency that’s based on a data structure called Blockchain. A blockchain is a digital ledger that allows for recording and keeping transactions in a decentralized and cryptographically secured manner.

Each block in a blockchain is maintain by so-called “miners” through servers spread all over the world. These miners then receive cryptocurrencies in exchange. While most markets have been slow to accept cryptocurrencies, some retailers are beginning to test the new form of payment.

According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Japanese consumer electronics retail chain Bic Camera is going to try out a payment system using Bitcoin in two of its stores in Tokyo. To do this, it will partner with Bitflyer, which is the largest bitcoin exchange by volume in Japan.

Bic Camera is not the only Japanese company to adopt cryptocurrency. At the same time, Recruit Holdings’ retail support arm Recruit Lifestyle plans to work with Coincheck bitcoin exchange to implement a similar system. This partnership with Recruit Lifestyle will add more stores that accept Bitcoins, according to Coincheck. “Bitcoin will be accepted at 260,000 shops by this summer,” the company stated.

Digital Currency and the Future

Cryptocurrency and its blockchain foundation have a growing number of users. Naturally, the first to gravitate to this technology were banks and other financial service firms. The nature of blockchain, however, has opened up this technology to applications beyond that of digital currency. Blockchain companies, such as Ethereum, have been working towards finding other ways to put this technology into use. There’s IBM’s Hyperledger, as well as a blockchain application for a universal basic income (UBI) setup.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
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Currently, about 4,500 stores in Japan accept Bitcoin as payments, according to Nikkei. Furthermore, in a Bitcoin.com interview this January, said Kagayaki Kawabata, Coincheck’s Business Development Leaddisclosed that there are already more than 5,000 merchants and websites in Japan that accept Bitcoin payments using the company’s system.

The move to adapt Bitcoin isn’t an arbitrary one, of course. Aside from security, another reason for opting for cryptocurrency is the relative ease with which transactions can be conducted. Bitcoin allows tourists to make purchases in Japan without having to go through currency exchange rates. Additionally, if more outlets accepted Bitcoin, more individual consumers would likely be persuaded to get Bitcoin accounts.

The rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin may be ushering in a new way of conducting financial transactions. To date, over 20 million people worldwide now use Bitcoin. Bitcoin is no longer seen as something to be hoarded — it’s used for shopping. As Japanese stores adapt Bitcoin, this cryptocurrency is steadily making its way into mainstream financial transactions.

The post By This Summer, Bitcoin Will Be Accepted at More Than 260,000 Stores in Japan appeared first on Futurism.

Universal Basic Income Could Become a Reality, Thanks to This Technology

Revolutionary Concepts

Though not an entirely new idea, universal basic income is becoming an increasingly viable and revolutionary solution to the looming job disruption due to automation. Another revolutionary concept — which is also not that new — is cryptocurrency. Some believe that the union of the two might be the answer to challenges increased automation in the workforce could present.

UBI is all about giving a regular income to people regardless of their socioeconomic status or employment condition. A fixed amount is decided on, which should ideally be enough to cover a person’s basic needs. In the context of automation, however, UBI is being explored as a means to cushion the effects of unemployment. As such, receiving basic income wouldn’t necessarily stop when a person finds a job, like government unemployment programs.

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UBI is a simple concept, but as its critics point out, implementation is not so easy. For one is the issue of funding, and whether or not governments could actually approve such a program. That’s where cryptocurrencies come in.

Cryptocurrencies used to have a bad reputation, thanks to Bitcoin and its association to the dark web. However, while it is the most popular, Bitcoin isn’t the only cryptocurrency around. Recently, more cryptocurrencies have been popping up — like Ether and Zcash.

Cryptocurrencies are mined from a decentralized system of ledgers and transactions known as blockchain. In a blockchain, transactions from various sources get recorded and are kept by a network of specialized computers. Usually, these blockchain keepers are “compensated” for their efforts in maintaining in a block with cryptocurrency. This process is called mining. For every digital transaction recorded and stored, a miner is paid in Bitcoin, Ether, or Zcash, depending on which blockchain they are using.

Faster Than Government

Several governments — notably Finland’s — are already implementing a UBI trial program. However, experts say “[a] government solution to this issue will not be swiftly implemented,” according to an article in the BTC Manager. Still, several institutions have begun conducting trials of UBI programs that use cryptocurrencies.

One such program, the first of its kind, is run by a U.S.-based nonprofit called the Grantcoin Foundation. It uses a digital currency called Grantcoin (GRT) to distribute basic income to participants from all over the world. Grantcoin’s UBI program began in January 31, 2016, and has since then distributed digital coins to participants on a quarterly basis. Currently, the program is on its third leg of implementation, and has already distributed digital currency to 1,132 applicants since February of this year.

Another known UBI program running on cryptocurrencies is Daniel Jeffries’ open-source distributed application platform known as Cicada. A unique characteristic of Cicada is that it makes everyone on its network into miners, with everyone limited only to one miner. It’s also based on Distributed Proof of Work (DPoW), which is regarded as being more efficient than Bitcoin’s Proof of Work. As such, individuals can mine even on their mobile phones and get paid for it, creating a UBI system from the bottom up.

These cryptocurrencies can be converted to cash, or used directly to buy goods, eliminating the need for government to fund a UBI program.

“Basic income, and especially universal basic income, requires a secure, tamper-proof ledger that can be audited by anyone to ensure the safe delivery of funds.” — Greg Slepak, a developer for the okTurtles Foundation

Additionally, there are other cryptocurrency-based UBI programs like uCoin and Swarm, as well as Circles, which uses Ethereum. There are also UBI-like programs by Kiwicoin in New Zealand, Cubecoin, Strangecoin, the Worldwide Globals Organization, and the Basic Income Project, LLC.

As increased automation is set to disrupt employment in various industries by 2020 to 2045 — with an expected 47 percent of jobs lost in the U.S. alone —, it’s crucial to have working options. UBI is one such option. And UBI via digital currency seems an even better one.

The post Universal Basic Income Could Become a Reality, Thanks to This Technology appeared first on Futurism.

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