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Sunday, 31 January 2016

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5 Things You Missed in the State of Bitcoin and Blockchain Report

Here are 5 things you may have missed from CoinDesk's State of Bitcoin and Blockchain 2016 report.

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Let's Talk Bitcoin! #280 - Observing the Inevitable

On Episode 280...

Andreas, Stephanie and Adam discuss bitcoin and its varied performance over the last few years as the only real outlier in a world competitively devaluing currencies. Then, we dig into a recently released report from the RAND corporation on "Virtual Currency" and specifically, the possibility of non-state organizations creating their own for evil.

Note: We're Having Technical Issues with Soundcloud, so for now, right-click this link and select "Save Link As" to download the episode directly

Relevant Links:

Bitcoin was the best performing currency of 2015

Bitcoin as a hedge against Azerbajian's Devaluation

Bitcoin Magazine coverage of Security Implications of Virtual Currencies

PDF copy of full report

Sponsor Section

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Credits for Episode 280

Image Credit: Modified with LTB logo

Content for today's episode was provided by Andreas, Stephanie and Adam

This episode was edited by Adam B. Levine.

Music for today's show was provided by Jared Rubens and Mind To Matter

via The Let's Talk Bitcoin Network

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'The State of Bitcoin from a Stateless Point of View,' by Jamie Redman

The first time I saw a video of Amir Taaki, I was blown away by his charisma. He explained how he single-handedly crushed the online poker monopolies, until one day he found Bitcoin. Then he described the first time he read Satoshi's white paper and how he could understand the code, reading it like an everyday language. I had never seen a person with such personality, who was just as passionate as I was. It gave me goosebumps.

A couple days ago, I watched another video of Taaki make it to the top of the Bitcoin subreddit. Many people said they missed the kind of spirit that Taaki brought to the table, along with others like him, such as Cody Wilson. Whether we like to admit it or not, we think Bitcoin is going through an identity crisis. Or maybe it is we who are suffering, and we do not understand the ghost in the machine?

Large banks and research labs are currently dedicating their resources to figuring out the virtual currency's protocol, with a total of 42 banks backing the creation of digital architecture and using concepts like Ethereum to connect a bank-to-bank system. The crypto community has applauded news of this nature and pushed it to the forefront. Many say these developments differ from the cries for freedom and privacy of cypherpunks such as Julian Assange, Eric Hughes, and early Bitcoin adopters.

As an anarchist, I came to believe in Bitcoin and I hoped it could change the paradigm of money, something we could use to "vacate Wall Street," or use as a counter economic tool against the state. As time has progressed, I've continued to study the attributes of distributed consensus and what the blockchain could really do. It could create autonomous organizations, decentralized governance, borderless identity solutions, and so much more'"a Swiss Army knife of financial and ideological disruption. How could I resist?

The Bitcoin protocol to me was something that could help defeat the banks and give this world a taste of pure free markets. But I came to realize early on that the code and the primary objective is not truly for me to decide. Satoshi created and left this cryptocurrency for everyone, including people of every ideology, religion, and human quirk. As much as I love to see Taaki's position come to life with ideas such as Dark Wallet, that doesn't mean everyone does. Or when Cody Wilson voices his opinion about the state of the cryptocurrency, it doesn't mean everyone in the community will agree.

The realization that Bitcoin is everyone's is sometimes hard for me to swallow, but I did so long ago. Bitcoin is an experiment for all people, whether anarchistic or statist. The protocol will continue to operate. But what is it meant for? Is it for the banking industry to speed up daily monetary transactions? Is it meant to save the traditional financial institutions vast amounts of revenue? It can easily be perceived this way after the 2015 blockchain revelry. Or was Bitcoin created for us, so we can 'œbe our own bank?' We continue to hear the slogan, and we still hear stories about the digital currency ending corruption in our economy.

All this could make someone new to Bitcoin awfully confused when they enter an arena in which one side cheers for banks to buy into the technology, and the other side cheers when libertarians gather to discuss bringing an end to the damage caused by fractional banking and centrality. Nearly every blockchain story or cryptocurrency tale still provides a brief introduction to the 2008 economic crash. Yet some people still applaud the banks who used deceit and corruption in scorn of the good in society. Now these same banks suddenly value fintech over legacy. The tables are turning.

As an anarchist, even without cryptocurrency, I understand that stateless ideas cannot create change over night. I do not stand in the way of people's lives and try to get them to view my ideas as 'œbetter' by using coercive speech or force. Instead of preaching down to everyone, I hope for emulation. I work my hardest to practice what I preach and I hope one day someone copies my methods. This same method can be applied to the community who adopts Bitcoin and assigns it for particular utilities. Just as the block size must be decided by consensus, so will be the identity of cryptocurrency in the world's eyes. It will carry no ideology. It will only collect the identity our individual actions put into it over time.

Every now and then, I hear someone say the 'œlibertarian phase' of Bitcoin is over, especially in the past two years. This is far from the truth, however, as many of us still operate behind the scenes and in the forefront of the community, creating and using applications that promote anarchism. Developers continue to build platforms that allow individuals sovereignty over their wealth, as opposed to third-party intrusion. Despite this, many people would still like someone to hold their hand and keep things centralized. Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, a great majority of society still believes in centralization, protectionism, nationalism, and what I believe to be societal failures.

These conflicting ideological behaviors of believing in the state and not accepting it still coexist within the Bitcoin community. In the middle, other people swim both ways in the stream. Swimming my own way through the current is the best possible method for me hoping others will see he value of and want to copy my direction. In time, the ways in which we identify the protocol's utilities will grow. As Mises explains in Human Action](, each person uses their actions to serve a purpose within the network. Bitcoin was created to be a tool neither of the supporter of central authority, nor for the exclusively anarchistic. We can guarantee there will always be people like Taaki, and others like me who want to use it to spread disruptive behavior, just as you can bet there will continue to be many who love Bitcoin while wanting the opposite of my stateless hopes.

The element of conflicting human ideologies continues, as does the growth of the technology we use. I'm here because of the disruptive potential this code brings to the world. I personally hope it will help end global monopolization and corruption.

Images courtesy of

via The Let's Talk Bitcoin Network

How to Save Bitcoin's Node Network from Centralization

BitGo's Jason Lopp looks at why the number of bitcoin nodes is diminishing across the network and discusses what it might take to reverse the trend.

via CoinDesk

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Goldman Sachs and “The Digitization of Finance”

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Bankers Weigh Blockchain Challenges at BNY Mellon Event

BNY Mellon hosted a blockchain discussion event at its Jersey City, New Jersey, campus earlier this week.

via CoinDesk


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IMF: Virtual Currencies and Their Underlying Technologies Can Provide Faster and Cheaper Financial Services

On January 20, 2016 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, during the panel on Transformation of Finance, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released a paper titled “Virtual Currencies and Beyond: Initial Considerations.”

“Virtual currencies and their underlying technologies can provide faster and cheaper financial services, and can become a powerful tool for deepening financial inclusion in the developing world,” said IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde. “The challenge will be how to reap all these benefits and at the same time prevent illegal uses, such as money laundering, terror financing, fraud and even circumvention of capital controls.”

The paper is presented as a “Staff Discussion Note.” These documents showcase policy-related analysis and research being developed by IMF staff members and are published to elicit comments and to encourage debate, with the disclaimer: “The views expressed in Staff Discussion Notes are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF, its Executive Board, or IMF management.” Plausible deniability all the way, but presenting the document at Davos seems to strongly suggest some degree of official support.

A key conclusion of the paper is that the distributed ledger concept has the potential to change finance by reducing costs and allowing for deeper financial inclusion in the longer run, states the IMF press release. This could be especially important for remittances, where transaction costs can be high, around 8 percent. Distributed ledgers can also shorten the time required to settle securities transactions, which currently take up to three days, as well as lower counterparty and settlement risks.

At the same time, notes the IMF paper, virtual currencies based on distributed ledger technology can also serve as vehicles for money laundering, terrorism financing and tax evasion. Achieving a balanced regulatory framework that guards against risks without suffocating innovation is a challenge that will require extensive international cooperation.

A conclusion of the IMF paper is that virtual currencies fall short of the legal concept of currency or money. While acknowledging that there is no generally accepted legal definition of currency or money, the authors note that both are associated with the power of the state to issue currency and regulate the monetary system.

Currently, according to the IMF, virtual currencies are unable to function as money because of the high price volatility, the relatively small size of the virtual economy, and the fact that virtual currencies are hardly being used as independent units of account in a closed-circuit economy. In fact, notes the report, the retailers who accept payment in virtual currency usually quote prices in fiat currency.

After a simplified explanation of distributed ledger technologies for virtual currencies, the paper focuses on regulatory issues.

“The potential for rapid change in the financial industry engendered by virtual currencies is a challenge for financial regulators and supervisors,” note the IMF authors, adding that the absence of effective regulations has contributed to both benefits and risks.

The IMF authors make a difference between cryptocurrencies and “legitimate” uses of the underlying distributed ledger technology: “The growing interest in blockchain technology, independent from a [virtual currency] scheme, a priori raises fewer policy concerns, because the technology would be used in a closed system administered by regulated financial institutions.”

While advocating regulation of virtual currencies, the paper acknowledges that there are unique regulatory challenges, including the fact that the geographically decentralized nature of virtual currency networks like Bitcoin doesn’t fit easily within traditional regulatory models based on local jurisdictions. Another challenge is the fact that the traceability of virtual currency transactions is is limited due to user anonymity and anonymizing service providers that obfuscate the transaction chain.

In fact, the push to increased regulation of virtual currencies is likely to be countered by the emergence of next-generation privacy-preserving digital currencies like Zcash.

The IMF paper concludes with a list of principles that could guide national authorities in further developing their regulatory responses. Besides the guidelines mentioned above, it’s worth noting that the IMF authors realize that new closed-circuit business models, where virtual money is re-used instead of exchanged for fiat, could escape regulations, and propose to extend regulations to wallet providers.

The IMF paper confirms two current trends: Virtual currencies based on distributed ledger technology are increasingly considered by top financial institutions as a necessary part of future mainstream fintech, and at the same time regulatory pressures are increasing.

Photo Mikhail Klimentyev / Creative Commons

The post IMF: Virtual Currencies and Their Underlying Technologies Can Provide Faster and Cheaper Financial Services appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

via Bitcoin Magazine

Mycelium's Leo Wandersleb: Segregated Witness a Technical Necessity

The long-lasting block-size dispute has catapulted into the center of attention again. One of the most talked-about developments is Segregated Witness, of which a public testnet iteration was launched last week. The innovation as recently proposed by Blockstream co-founder and Bitcoin Core developer Dr. Pieter Wuille is a centerpiece of a scalability “roadmap” set out by Bitcoin Core.

To find out where the broader development community stands on Segregated Witness, Bitcoin Magazine reached out to library and wallet developers; those who will need to do the heavy lifting in order to utilize the innovation once rolled out.

In part 4 of this series: Mycelium developer Leo Wandersleb.

Segregated Witness

Wuille’s Segregated Witness proposal is set to offer several improvements to the Bitcoin protocol. The benefit that has received the most attention is its potential to effectively increase the block size to a range from 1.75 megabytes to 2 megabytes without requiring a hard fork. Interestingly, however, many Bitcoin developers are more excited about the other Bitcoin protocol improvements that Segregated Witness has to offer.

Wandersleb, whose Mycelium has officially committed to integrating Segregated Witness once rolled out, acknowledged the importance of the innovation.

“Segregated Witness is not a block size increase, but a technical necessity to fix completely different issues, by also producing less load on the blockchain,” Wandersleb explained. “There is, however, a realistic chance that it will take a long while before it has an effect on total transaction throughput.”

The Mycelium developer believes, however, that Wuille’s Segregated Witness proposal is the best way forward, at this point.

“The fact that all of this is possible as a soft fork, which results in only a slightly more ugly protocol than a hard fork, is amazing at this point,” Wandersleb said. “It allows anyone to delay implementing the change, making sure nobody will be left behind.”

As such, Wandersleb is dedicated to implementing Segregated Witness in the Mycelium wallet.

“We have [been] experimenting with the Segregated Witness testnet a bit; it will probably be a very reasonable amount of work to implement, and can be done on our own schedule. Moreover, delayed implementation will not result in our users losing money, beyond the potentially higher fees they would have to pay,” he said.

Moving Forward

Roll-out of Segregated Witness on the Bitcoin network is currently scheduled for April of this year. Once a super-majority of miners agrees on the solution, Segregated Witness will be activated, and can be utilized by wallet software.

As what is perhaps the most notable difference between Bitcoin Core and Bitcoin Classic, the former plans to roll out Segregated Witness through a soft fork, while the latter wants to deploy a block size increase through a hard fork requiring all full nodes on the network to switch.

Wandersleb has voiced support for a block size increase hard fork in the past, but has come around since.

“Maybe we fell for the trap of talking about the block size, rather than more abstract goals we should commit to instead,” Wandersleb explained. “The Number One priority is censorship resistance. Without that, Bitcoin would be just another PayPal. If censorship resistance is covered we can work on priority Number Two: process all the world’s morning coffees and more.”

And, commenting on the scalability road map as set out by Bitcoin Core:

“I believe that Bitcoin Core, committed to these values, should acknowledge that increasing the block size or other hard forks might possibly be necessary. Nothing more. No tiny hard fork now, but an acknowledgement that avoiding hard forks at all costs might not be enough.”

For more information on Segregated Witness, see Bitcoin Magazine’s three-part series on the subject, or part 1, part 2 and part 3 of this development series.

The post Mycelium's Leo Wandersleb: Segregated Witness a Technical Necessity appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

via Bitcoin Magazine

Real Estate Latest Bitcoin-Friendly Luxury

Bitcoin users have not been shy about using the currency to make large purchases in the past. With the wide range of Bitcoin-friendly retailers on the Internet, it’s become even easier to purchase everything from land to jewelry with the digital currency.

As of January 17, 2016, in Philadelphia, you could buy a condo. The new Bitcoin-friendly condominiums went up for sale in the city’s historic Manayunk district at a price of around $365,000 – or 795 bitcoins, according to Curbed. This makes them the first condos in the city to be sold with Bitcoin users in mind.

A quick look at the Falcon Condominiums website reveals that the building was once home to The Polish Falcons Club. Now, condos sprawl throughout the structure, boasting hardwood flooring and extra-large windows with views of the city. State-of-the-art kitchens and private outdoor terraces round out the list of amenities, but could flexible payment options also be driving a new type of buyer to these properties?

It appears that those who have big money to spend are particularly interested in purchasing property using Bitcoin. In 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported on a Lake Tahoe property that sold for $1.6 million in bitcoin.

BitPremier founder and CEO Alan Silbert was behind the first large real estate transaction involving Bitcoin back in 2014. The transaction totaled around $500,000, according to HousingWire. Since then, Silbert has continued to see the market evolve directly on BitPremier.

“I think we are still too early in Bitcoin’s evolution to see substantial changes to the real estate market, but it has certainly started people thinking about disruption to the space,” said Silbert.

BitPremier, the Bitcoin luxury marketplace, is specifically geared toward consumers who want to spend their bitcoins on fast cars, vacation homes and everything in between (think private islands). Sellers who want to get rid of their luxuries can do so on BitPremier as well, making it a go-to spot on the Internet for all things related to Bitcoin trading.

“For now, the appreciation of bitcoin to date has created some wealthy Bitcoiners who want to diversify into other assets, be it real estate, commodities or whatever,” Silbert continues. “Real estate is seeing the benefit of that trend, as we witnessed first-hand with the villa sale BitPremier brokered between a property developer in Bali and an early Bitcoin adopter in the U.S.”

But Silbert sees the impact of Bitcoin spreading far beyond the real estate market.

“Every major financial institution has one or more people researching Bitcoin or the blockchain. I give everybody the disclaimer that it is a high-risk investment and they should only invest money they can afford to lose. That being said, Bitcoin has come a long way in a short period of time and the future looks very exciting.”

Krystle Vermes is a professional writer, blogger and podcaster with a background in both online and print journalism.

The post Real Estate Latest Bitcoin-Friendly Luxury appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

via Bitcoin Magazine

Japan's SBI Holdings Teams With Ripple to Launch New Company

SBI Holdings, the financial services business division of Japan’s SBI Group, has announced it is creating a new company with Ripple.

via CoinDesk

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Russia's Draft 'Anti-Bitcoin' Law May Be Flawed

A draft bill that would ban “money surrogates” was submitted to the Russian Parliament last month. But what might it mean for digital currencies?

via CoinDesk

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Santander: Blockchain Talk Could Turn Into Action This Year

CoinDesk speaks with representatives from Banco Santander about the bank's blockchain strategy for 2016 and beyond.

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Bank of America Drawing up 20 More Cryptocurrency & Blockchain Patents

via Gmail

Bank of England to Explore Distributed Ledger Tech for Settlement

The Bank of England has said it will consider the impact of distributed ledgers as part of a plan to modernize the country’s settlement system.

via CoinDesk

Amid Scaling Debate, Bitcoin Core Goes on Outreach Offensive

CoinDesk examines the current bitcoin scaling debate through the eyes of Bitcoin Core, the project's main developer team.

via CoinDesk

The Crypto Show with Travis Boyd of

We talk with Travis Boyd, creator of DaoWISP, about his vision of wireless ISPs and what role Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can play in that model.

DAOWISP is short for Decentralized Autonomous Organization of Wireless ISPs.

Travis has envisioned a network that automatically rewards participants with crypto for the amount of work contributed.

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via The Let's Talk Bitcoin Network

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via Gmail

Shift Card: A Glimpse Under the Hood

Shift Card: A Glimpse Under the Hood

It has now been over 2 months since our partner Shift Payments launched the first US-issued bitcoin debit card, built with the Coinbase API. To the average person, the Shift Card may appear no different from a traditional debit card. But to the growing community of people that views bitcoin as an attractive store of value, spending bitcoin anywhere VISA is accepted represents a major step towards a more efficient global economy.

Shift has quickly emerged as one of the most successful apps to launch with Coinbase. Here’s a few insights on Shift Card usage:

User Signup and Spending Growth

Since launch in November, over 10,000 people have signed up for the card and spent over $1,000,000 worth of bitcoin.

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Spending Trends

Here’s the most common types of purchases that have been made with the card (between December 1st and January 15th):

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Here’s the most commonly used merchants (between December 1st and January 15th):

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User Demographics

People in 32 states in the U.S can now use the card to spend bitcoin anywhere VISA is accepted (see here for a complete list of eligible states).

Here’s a breakdown of Shift transactions by state of user (between December 1st and January 15th):

Shift Card: A Glimpse Under the Hood

What’s next for Shift?

In the coming months, we’ll continue to work with Shift to offer the card to people in more states. The waiting list is long and growing by the day, so we’re anxious to broaden geographic eligibility. Additionally, Shift is working hard on new features to make the card more useful.

If you have any feedback, they’re keen to hear from you. Shift can be reached on Twitter and by email at

via The Coinbase Blog

Bitcoin and the Future of User Monetizable Data

Imagine a world where personal data isn’t just something that consumers give away – a world where terms of service agreements read more like shareholder agreements or term sheets, a world where your data makes you money.

Earlier this week during a lecture on Bitcoin Engineering at Stanford University, CEO, Balaji S. Srinivasan, presented this exact world, one in which data is owned and monetized by the individual. He laid out an in-depth use case whereby Instagram could become the world’s largest stock photography site – with each user making money.

Personal Data as an Asset Class

In 2011, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with management consulting firm Bain & Company, published a report targeted at executives in the telecommunications industry titled, “Personal Data: The Emergence of a New Asset Class.” In the report, they described “personal data as the new oil of the Internet and the new currency of the digital world.”

To substantiate their claim the authors present an estimate which states, “by 2020 the global volume of digital data will increase more than 40-fold.” They go on to say that, “beyond the sheer volume, data is becoming a new type of raw material that’s on par with capital and labour.”

The implications of data as an asset are profound. When data is currency, cash is expendable. Success is measured by growth, not profits:

If data is the new currency, it leads one to conclude that the companies who store our personal data are themselves actually banks.

Breaking the Bank

Web searches, page visits, online purchases, tweets, SMS messages, emails, phone calls, photos, videos, GPS coordinates – this is the data that makes up our digital lives.

For the past decade consumers have sacrificed their privacy, building giant banks of data for companies without any upside exposure to the value that they have created. Thanks to the Bitcoin Protocol and the 21 Bitcoin Computer this no longer has to be the case.

Billions of photos are shared every day by hundreds of millions of people using smartphones. Between the rapid development of high quality camera phones and the decreased cost for cloud storage, sharing photos from all around the world has become effectively free. Building a library of stock photos once required an army of photographers working around the globe; now this naturally occurs over social networks such as Instagram.

In 2012, Instagram came to the above realization and updated their terms of service:

You agree that a business may pay Instagram to display your photos in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions without any compensation to you.—2012 Instagram Terms of Service change (since reverted)

The idea of selling users photos without their consent and without compensation wasn’t very popular and the company quickly reversed their decision.

“What Bitcoin brings to the table is a programmatic way of doing small, fast, international payouts to anyone on the Internet. If you can take a photo on Instagram, you can get paid for it in bitcoin. You can take your own data and turn it into your own money.” Dr. Srinivasan told the class.

Bidirectional Payments

In addition to allowing consumers to monetize the data they produce, Bitcoin has created a world where the consumer doesn’t have to trade personal data for content. Consumers can instead pay for content up front in small amounts of money known as micropayments. This has previously not been viable because credit cards are not capable of handling such tiny transactions.

Even if these companies wanted to pay for personal data, the international banking system doesn’t have the infrastructure in place to process small transactions. This is why so many companies, such as Google with its AdSense program, put revenue thresholds that must be reached before a payout.

With Bitcoin, highly granular transactions can be executed with ease. Further, every piece of content on a web page can be charged a different amount. Using this article as an example: When someone views the article, payments could be sent directly to the photographer, the author and the publisher, who are likely three separate entities.

Still, with bitcoin alone, having to manually pay three parties each time you view a Web page is a burden and isn’t likely to be adopted. That’s where comes in. Their device maintains a continuous supply of bitcoin, allowing users to automatically make micropayments on the Web.

The Bigger Picture

Monetizable data is not just images, articles, reports and videos.

Take your genome, arguably the most valuable and personal data a person has. In the future, it is likely that every person will have a complete copy of their genome. That is data that could be useful to pharmaceutical companies looking to create new, revolutionary lifesaving drugs.

Utilizing the 21 Bitcoin Computer, Joe Pickrell created a gateway for genomic data. In exchange for payment, a researcher could rent one’s genomic data.

One-time payments are not sufficient when it comes to genomic data. If a company is able to find a cure for cancer based on the genome of an individual, that individual should be able to generate dividends off that success.

Final Thoughts

Fundamentally, these ideas are not new. In his 1980 work “Literary Machines,” Ted Nelson (he coined the words “hypertext” and “hypermedia”) introduced the concept of transclusion, a technique computer scientists use to create a large document from snippets of other documents. Nelson originally intended for transclusion to act as a mechanism by which users would make micro-payments to the individual content creators of a document.

Unfortunately, Nelson was 30 years early. Nelson’s original vision for transclusion, similar to the HTTP “402 Payment Required” status code, was not technically possible until the creation of the Bitcoin Protocol by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008. Further, it was not truly viable in a production setting until the introduction of the 21 Bitcoin Computer late last year.

The post Bitcoin and the Future of User Monetizable Data appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

via Bitcoin Magazine

Ethereum Overtakes Litecoin in Market Cap after Continued Upward Trend

On January 23, Ethereum overtook Litecoin for the first time to become the third-largest digital currency when looking at total coin market cap. This is after a two-week period where the Ethereum market cap has grown by more than 80 percent.

The price of Ethereum is on an equally steep upward trend, growing more than 300 percent since the beginning of January; 24-hour volume has grown from around $300,000 to upwards of $10 million. This is in comparison to the average daily Litecoin trading volume of $1 million and is up to a quarter of the daily trading volume of Bitcoin, which is $39.5 million. It looks like the market cap of Ethereum, which is $280M will soon rocket past the market cap of Ripple, which is $300M and the second-largest market cap for a digital currency, because of Ripple’s lower average daily trading volume of $3 million.

The announcement by Mike Hearn, who recently joined the development team for R3 CEV, that “the bitcoin experiment has failed,” may have been a factor in the demand for alternative digital currencies like Ethereum. R3 also announced that it completed a distributed ledger that connects 11 of the world’s premier banks in a private peer-to-peer blockchain using Ethereum technology and hosted by Microsoft Azure on a virtual private network.

“Ethereum is a well-known open source technology in this space,” Brad Novak, chief technology officer for R3 consortium-member Barclays Investment Bank, commented.

In addition, the Ethereum Foundation’s William Mougayar says, “There are probably a dozen banks doing stuff on Ethereum already without even being part of a consortium. You have to pay money to be part of it [R3], and it’s still at the blueprint architectural stage.”

Ethereum is in a unique position for a digital currency. It is an application layer, where developers can create decentralized applications such as smart contracts using the Ethereum APIs, available for free at GitHub. Ether, which is Ethereum’s digital token, powers the network and is analogous to “gas” that powers the Dapps (Decentralized Apps).

Ethereum eliminates the block size problem that is plaguing the Bitcoin community today, as Ethereum blocks are able to change in size based on the volume of transactions that need to be processed.

Since it was announced last year by Vitalik Buterin, there has been an increasing interest from developers who are testing the Ethereum technology. For example, Augur is a decentralized prediction market built on top of the Ethereum blockchain, where users can get “precise forecasts on any topic – from politics to commerce, from technology to entertainment,” according to the Augur website.

Many of the applications that are being developed on Ethereum are still in their early stages, either with betas released or still in their development phase. Anthony Di Iorio, one of the co-founders of the project and the head of the Toronto Ethereum Meetup group, tells Bitcoin Magazine, “It’s great to see the community growing and more and more businesses realizing the potential of Ethereum and incorporating it into their prototypes.”

Michael Gord is the founder of Bitcoin Canada and the McGill Cryptocurrency Club. While at McGill, Michael organized the Bitcoin Airdrop events where he gave hundreds of students their first bitcoin.

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Blockchain Startup Symbiont Partners With Security Giant Gemalto

Digital security firm Gemalto has partnered with blockchain platform Symbiont to let financial institutions more securely execute smart contracts.

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Spain Activists, Whistleblower Creating Digital Pay System


State of Bitcoin and Blockchain 2016: Blockchain Hits Critical Mass

CoinDesk's 2016 State of Bitcoin and Blockchain report summarizes key trends, data and events from 2015 and includes predictions for 2016.

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TransferWise on Bitcoin and the Battle for International Money Transfers

Everyone from Nick Szabo, who developed the concept of smart contracts, to Blockchain Capital Managing Partner Brock Pierce has been touting Bitcoin’s value as a vehicle for international money transfers lately, but it appears that TransferWise CEO Taavet Hinrikus has not received the memo. Hinrikus was recently on a panel with MasterCard President of International Markets Ann Cairns at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and he did not seem threatened when asked about the new Bitcoin-based alternatives to his service, such as Align Commerce, that have popped up over the past year.

Although Hinrikus appeared to be bullish on blockchain technology, he said the Bitcoin experiment is nearly over.

Bitcoin Is “Becoming Dead”

When asked directly for his thoughts on using Bitcoin for international money transfers, Hinrikus conceded that the idea sounds exciting in theory; however, the TransferWise CEO believes this digital peer-to-peer cash system will work only if more people have bitcoin wallets. He explained:

“I think [Bitcoin-powered money transfers] are super exciting, and in a world where we all have a bitcoin wallet in our phones, that actually might work. But how do we go from a world where nobody has a bitcoin wallet to a world where everyone has a bitcoin wallet? That’s the question that I haven’t been able to figure out.”

When viewing Bitcoin as a system for money transfers, Hinrikus noted the costs associated with each end of the process. In his view, these added costs make the idea more expensive than originally thought. He stated:

“If you think about it today, getting money into Bitcoin is a pain in the ass. Getting money out of Bitcoin is similarly a huge pain. You end up paying typically half a percent or one percent on both ends. It’s a process which takes multiple days, so I think Bitcoin – I’m kind of sorry to say it but – it seems that experiment is becoming dead pretty quickly.”

This response from the TransferWise CEO does not sound dissimilar from a Medium post made by former Head of Product Luis Buenaventura. After co-founding and working at for over a year, Buenaventura came to the conclusion that Bitcoin does not make international remittances cheaper due to the costs associated with the “last mile” on the recipient’s end.

Blockchain Is More Exciting

Hinrikus also echoed some of the same points he made when asked about Bitcoin at last year’s TechCrunch Disrupt. Specifically, he feels the growth of Bitcoin has been mostly driven by greed. He stated:

“It seems to me that what has been driving Bitcoin has been greed – similar to a lot of stuff that has been driving the banking system. People bought bitcoin because they thought it was going to be worth more tomorrow … I kind of don’t have much hope for bitcoin anymore. With blockchain, I think that’s much more exciting. I think about – could we see a world where blockchain disrupts MasterCard?”

Although Hinrikus noted his appreciation for blockchain technology, he made no indication that his company is currently looking at implementing (or even testing) any sort of distributed ledger technology. On the other hand, MasterCard’s Cairns said that the credit card processing giant is currently testing out blockchains for a variety of possible use cases.

BitFury CEO Defends Bitcoin

The day after the panel discussion featuring Hinrikus and Cairns took place, BitFury CEO Valery Vavilov was interviewed in the same exact spot. He took on the role of defending Bitcoin against the pessimism from the TransferWise and MasterCard representatives.

During his interview with TechCrunch’s Matt Burns, Vavilov explained why the public Bitcoin blockchain still has a key role to play in this new world of permissioned, distributed ledgers:

“Bitcoin is the most secure blockchain. The Bitcoin blockchain is the public blockchain. If we split Bitcoin and blockchain – blockchain is the ledger. Blockchain is the database. Bitcoin is the vehicle and the security. Bitcoin is today secured by 750 petahashes of computational power. Let’s look at an analogy. Imagine the top 500 supercomputers in the world. The Bitcoin blockchain security is more than 3,000 times bigger.”

In other words, Bitcoin’s open, permissionless features are not found on any of the private blockchains currently in development by R3, Digital Asset Holdings, or any other startup. Bitcoin is also backed by an exponentially larger amount of hashing power than any other public blockchain.

The only requirement for someone to receive bitcoin is for them to have a bitcoin wallet and access to the Internet. This is a much lower barrier to entry than anything attached to the legacy banking system – at least when it comes to digital payments. Bitcoin’s censorship resistance also makes it useful for getting around capital controls in more economically-restrictive countries.

TransferWise may not see the value of Bitcoin now, but at least three Bitcoin startups (Align Commerce, Abra, and Freemit) believe they’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Only time will tell who has it right.

Kyle Torpey is a freelance journalist who has been following Bitcoin since 2011. His work has been featured on VICE Motherboard, Business Insider, RT’s Keiser Report and many other media outlets. You can follow @kyletorpey on Twitter.

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ChinaCoin: People’s Bank of China Plans National Digital Currency

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) is studying the prospect of issuing its own digital currency and is aiming to roll out a product as soon as possible, Bloomberg Business reports. PBOC, China’s central bank, is persuaded that a state-backed digital currency could reduce capital outflow, money laundering and tax evasion, make economic activity more transparent and improve the efficiency of global transactions.

The creation of China’s state digital currency was discussed at a meeting in Beijing, attended by digital fintech experts and high level authorities including PBOC Governor Zhou Xiaochuan and Deputy Governor Chair Fan Yifei. The PBOC’s official statement is in Chinese only, but Chinese speakers have confirmed that the automatic translation provided by Google is reasonably accurate and understandable.

A research team including experts from Citigroup and Deloitte has been looking into digital currencies since 2014 and has achieved some encouraging initial results. This team is now expected to “set up clear strategic objectives for digital currencies issued by the central bank, and develop key technologies and applications aimed at an early launch of a digital currency issued by the central bank.”

Hao Hong, chief China strategist at the Bank of Communications, said China’s attitude toward digital currency had been shifting, South China Morning Post reports. In 2013, the central government issued negative statements on Bitcoin and limited its use by banks and payment service providers, but now it seems that the wind is changing.

“The attitude toward digital currency in China has been shifting, it has been surprising,” said Hong. “Back then it was quite hostile. Now, facing capital outflow pressure, a digital currency would make it easier to check the capital flow.”

An estimated $843 billion of capital flowed out of China in the 11 months through November, according to a Bloomberg estimate, and capital outflow results in rising interest rates and economic slowdown. Foreign transactions in a digital currency based on blockchain technology would be permanently recorded in a tamper-proof blockchain and traceable back to the persons involved. However, it seems likely that, if the Chinese government introduces an official “ChinaCoin,” wealthy Chinese will just use other means to take capital out of the country, including next-generation privacy-preserving digital currencies like Zcash .

According to the South China Morning Post article, a digital currency could be popular with Chinese consumers, as payments for goods and services are increasingly becoming digital with new applications and online players entering the potentially lucrative sector.

“[A cryptocurrency] can be popular among the people [if] it’s endorsed by the government and convenient to use with new technologies,” said Zhang Weichao, director of mining at leading Chinese Bitcoin operator Huobi.

“Right now it’s too early to see what effect PBOC’s move will have on China’s Bitcoin community,” said Wang Chun, co-founder of the mining pool F2Pool. “They could decide to let Bitcoin co-exist with its own digital currency, or chose to crack down on it.”

Besides being useful as a means to control capital outflow, a state cryptocurrency would also allow China to challenge the hegemony of the U.S. dollar.

“The U.S. dollar has the luxury of pricing everything, every commodity, in U.S. dollars,” said Hong. “That is why it can maintain a power grip on the global economy.” China’s efforts in this direction have made little progress so far, and a state-backed digital currency could help. However, Hong cautioned that would take time.

Ecuador became the first nation in the world to issue a government-backed digital currency last year, telling all of the country’s banks to get on board. There have been rumors of “Fedcoin” in the United States and some kind of “Eurocoin” in Europe. Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister, proposed a cryptocurrency dubbed Future Tax Coin (FT-Coin). Other countries including the Philippines are studying the possibility of rolling out official digital currencies. According to some Chinese economists, digital money is the future, and China should take the lead.

“China must seize the first-mover advantage to get on board,” said Hu Zhibing, the chief operating officer at Haoyouqian, a crowd-funding startup in Beijing. “The central bank would be blamed by the whole nation if other countries moved ahead while China lagged behind.”

If Chinese authorities choose to push ahead and proceed with the creation and deployment of ChinaCoin, it seems plausible that the impact could be quite disruptive.

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