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Monday, 29 February 2016

EB120 - Maciej Olpinski: Solving The Economic Mismatch Between Content And Attention

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The problem around content monetization is one which content producers are constantly trying to solve. At the core of this problem is a mismatch between supply and demand. Content, which is increasingly abundant, is captured by human attention, which is in limited supply. The volume of content being produced is growing at staggering rates while total human attention remains flat.

Our guest, Maciej Olpinski, argues that the current content monetization model is outdated, broken and is in need of an overhaul. Previously at Google and YouTube, Maciej has a broad understanding content monetization models and lays out a vision for open marketplaces for attention using blockchains. He argues that content discovery systems like the Google Page Rank algorithm and Facebook's News Feed could be replaced by open networks based on the mechanics of Bitcoin.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • How the current content monetization model works and why it's broken
  • The inner workings of content discovery
  • The economics of content discovery
  • Open marketplaces for attention and reputation
  • New web-native business models for content discovery

Links mentioned in this episode:

Sponsors:

  • GTEC: Apply now to enter the GTEC Blockchain Contest and win prizes worth '50k http://ift.tt/1QZRQ22
  • Hide.me: Protect your privacy and personal data with a free VPN account at Hide.me/epicenter

Show notes

YouTube

SoundCloud

Epicenter Bitcoin is hosted by Brian Fabian Crain, S?Ć’bastien Couture & Meher Roy.



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IBM Exec Elected Chair of Hyperledger Technical Committee

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An IBM executive has been elected as the chair of the technical advisory committee to the Linux Foundation-led Hyperledger blockchain project.

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Report: Bitcoin Wallet Providers Failing to Make Privacy a Priority

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A new report suggests that bitcoin wallet providers are not providing features that promote consumer privacy and financial independence.

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How Standard Chartered is Using Ripple to Rethink Trade Finance

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Standard Chartered is moving ahead toward "full commercialization" with its blockchain trial for trade finance.

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‘Bitcoin Always Needed More Than One Body of Developers’: An Interview With Libbitcoin’s Eric Voskuil

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Launched in 2011 by an ensemble of dedicated open-source developers led by Bitcoin’s rebellious hacker Amir TaakiLibbitcoin was born a tool of resistance. 

Offering an alternative to the original Bitcoin client, its goal was to diversify the Bitcoin development ecosystem, ensuring no single development team retained effective control over the network. “Centralized software is vulnerable to the dictates of whoever controls development of that software code, and any dictates pressured onto them,” Taaki’s Libbitcoin manifesto reads.

Five years later, Taaki has vanished from the Bitcoin scene. But Libbitcoin, a set of cross-platform, open-source libraries that serve as building blocks for a variety of Bitcoin applications, continues to grow. They are now maintained by a loosely tied team led by Seattle-based software architect and former naval aviator Eric Voskuil, and form the basis of services including AirbitzDarkWallet (alpha) and OpenBazaar (soon in alpha).

Bitcoin Magazine sat down with Voskuil to learn more about this maverick implementation.

Eric, first of all, what happened to Amir? Do you know what he's up to these days?

Yes.

...Yes?

I'm in touch with him. He's doing well. But it’s not really my place to say more.

OK, so Amir seems gone for now. One of the reasons he launched Libbitcoin was to diversify the development ecosystem. Do these ideals live forth?

I don't speak for other Libbitcoin contributors; each has their own reasons and their own opinions. But Libbitcoin's core values have always been privacy, scalability and integrity. Indeed, if any individual or group can change consensus rules – consensus means agreement by all – Bitcoin’s integrity has been compromised.

Bitcoin, therefore, needs more than one body of main developers. I don't have any issues with the Core guys, technically or philosophically. I truly think they are doing great work and for the right reasons. But that is a sword that can cut both ways. Just as there has been cause for concern in the past – think of the Bitcoin Foundation funding development – we can assume there will be in the future.

Why is a homogeneous development ecosystem such a problem? No one is forced to run the software.

True, but Bitcoin requires decentralization for survival. If there is only one team of experts maintaining the only implementation, the whole ecosystem is extremely weak. If that team ends up on one or two payrolls, or is perhaps co-opted by state actors, there are obvious implications. It's even worse than just having one Web browser, because the lack of diversity in browser choices is not as damaging to people as losing decentralized money.

To be strong, Bitcoin needs expert volunteers working in a global virtual community on various implementations that people actually use. This provides credible balance in the case of real conflict. Libbitcoin is playing the long game, and is making major investments in several important areas. This ultimately complements and improves other implementations, just as it benefits from them.

It's interesting that similar arguments have recently resurfaced. The Bitcoin Classic team in particular maintains that diversifying the development ecosystem is a key goal.

The important benefit of developer diversification is greater resistance to centralization pressure. Libbitcoin is first and foremost a tool of resistance, though to be effective it must also be great technology. A code fork that simply changes a consensus rule because there is not universal agreement is not resistance, it's an attack.

Fortunately, Bitcoin has always anticipated this scenario. The uncertainty may not be good for the exchange price in the short term, and people who aren't paying attention may lose money. But Bitcoin will be stronger for it. Bitcoin has to be able to withstand such attacks.

Increasing the block size limit by one megabyte is an attack?

A dissenter always has the option to start another coin. But an attempt to cause a change in consensus rules without actual consensus is an attempt at theft. Such changes will favor some parties at the expense of others. It's impossible to predict specifically who will be harmed when a money is altered, since value is subjective. But the question becomes moot in the case of consensus. With consensus the change is an increase in value for all, since all prefer the change.

In Bitcoin, larger hash power currently has an increasing advantage as blocks grow in size. Similarly some businesses may benefit from the possibility of higher transaction volume and minimal fee pressure. Except to the extent that these parties are also coin-holders, the theft is not of their value. At the same time they have a financial interest in changing the rules.

I'm not keen on any block size limit increase presently. I assume we may need to do so at some point, but given the minimal fee pressure we see today, there is absolutely no urgency. And given the lack of consensus it would not be appropriate to try.

Wouldn't it be better to avoid rising fees for now, to incentivize adoption? Be a bit more pragmatic?

Decentralization is the purpose of Bitcoin and essential to its existence.

Larger blocks create centralization pressure, an observation that does not seem to be in dispute among developers. And given the current state of the ecosystem, with a handful of pools directing most of the hash power and an apparent declining number of validating users, it seems one megabyte is problematic enough.

By analogy, imagine a door lock company advertising that they have the best locks on the market. People need to be able to get through doors, and their lock makes that really easy, so that the most people possible can get through! The company considers security important ... but not at the expense of ease-of-use. Can this reasonably be described as 'pragmatic'?

If Bitcoin centralizes and succumbs to the censors, it will have nothing to offer its users.

Cheap and fast transactions offer a certain value, don't they?

Sure, but costs are not reduced through the magic of Merkel trees, or some other mundane technology employed by Bitcoin. Costs are reduced by removing the state from the control of money. Censorship resistance is the only way Bitcoin achieves cost benefits over other financial technologies.

PayPal set out to do the same things as Bitcoin, and failed. Upon running afoul of the censors, their business model was forced to change. The cheap, rapid, programmable, international peer-to-peer payments they imagined never materialized.

Similarly, if Bitcoin cannot resist state controls, countless intermediaries, high transaction costs, inflation taxes, bail-ins and state-by-state currency controls will remain the norm, and it won’t be able to achieve lower cost.

Satoshi said Bitcoin should be able to scale on-chain. He thought fees would be cheap, and he said that the block size limit could be lifted when needed.

Look, there is no question whatsoever that the threat Satoshi was working to defeat is the state. And a path to Visa-level transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain is quite clearly a fatal blow to censorship resistance. His explanation of how the block size limit could be raised does not imply any contradiction, it's just Satoshi saying that when a block size increase makes sense it can be done. The decentralist perspective is not that the block size limit can never change.

Scarcity of block space would probably drive transaction fees up as well, to the point where perhaps only the wealthy can transact on-chain. Surely we must compromise somewhere?

I'm aware of these arguments, but this is a 'split-the-difference' negotiating tactic based on a faulty premise. It's sort of like declaring that only the wealthy can fly because aircraft are expensive. But not everyone needs to own a private jet. The analogy in the legacy financial system would be consumers buying a cup of coffee using the SWIFT network directly.

There will inevitably be layering on Bitcoin, as analogous systems have done for centuries.

What's interesting about rebuilding the SWIFT network? What happened to the vision of electronic cash?

The “electronic cash” envisioned by Satoshi is cash; it is not notes, scrip or bank credits. We have come to think of bank notes as cash, but they are actually contracts for debt. The note holder is owed something by the issuer. Cash is a commodity with certain properties that make it useful as money. Cash is largely gone from the world, and people cannot return to physical commodity money, as it cannot be moved online. Bitcoin is really our only option to guard against inflation, counterfeit, capital controls and high costs in general.

And given that bitcoin – lowercase b – is cash, and the blockchain is the definitive truth on where the money is, Bitcoin – uppercase B – is a settlement system. If it wasn't, it must use something else for settlement – and that isn't the case.

Some might take issue with this vision, but that's because they imagine existing banks, financial institutions, and – most importantly – censorship. A global censorship-resistant settlement network is not like anything we've ever seen before. It is, indeed, the goal many people are working towards.

That system will allow people to buy their coffee with electronic cash, but Bitcoin will never carry every coffee purchase on-chain. Those who make the Visa-analogy either don’t understand how Visa works, or don’t understand how Bitcoin works. And let’s not kid ourselves: Users really don't care how their transactions are cleared.

Rising fees might hurt Bitcoin startups as well.

Indeed, much of the block size argument is coming from outside of what I consider Bitcoin. Organizations that operate centralized services, like web-wallets and APIs. The more successful they are, the less decentralized Bitcoin becomes.

What people don't seem to realize is that you can't make money on Bitcoin in the way they are used to making money. A large part of the Bitcoin industry is fumbling around, burning off capital on stupid stuff. It's a common pattern in a new industry, I think. It's an interesting problem, profiting from a system that defies centralization and intermediaries, and that requires free software. ... But Bitcoin doesn’t exist to be a profit vehicle for startups.

So how do you suggest Bitcoin move forward?

Fundamentally, the objective is human liberty. The perpetual ubiquity of decentralized money is necessary in advancing this goal. Individual users must validate their own money for Bitcoin to survive.

But this magnificent opportunity is falling away because it's easier to use centralized services. It's my desire to see developers contributing to the strength of Bitcoin, not inadvertently contributing to its demise. Libbitcoin is our contribution to helping them succeed.

The post ‘Bitcoin Always Needed More Than One Body of Developers’: An Interview With Libbitcoin’s Eric Voskuil appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.



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Why Some Changes to Bitcoin Require Consensus: Bitcoin’s 4 Layers

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The long-lasting block size dispute and the recent introduction ofseveral new Bitcoin implementations highlighted that not all Bitcoin nodes apply the exact same rule –  and, perhaps more important, that not all development teams apply similar policies when it comes to implementing these rules.

The development team behindBitcoin Core, Bitcoin’s historic “reference client,” requires widespread community consensus before it implements rule changes such as raising the block size limit, while other changes are not held to the same standards. 

Meanwhile, some Bitcoin forks, such as Bitcoin LJR, are generally accepted by the development community, while others, such as Bitcoin Classic, attract a lot of controversy. This is considered inconsistent by some.

But this difference can be explained. Certain rule changes, implemented in certain forks, impact the Bitcoin network very differently than others. Or more specifically: Certain rule changes impact very different layers of the Bitcoin network. And some of these rules changes can split the Bitcoin network while others cannot.

To clarify these differences, Bitcoin Core developer andCiphrex CEO Eric Lombrozo recently proposed to tag the relevant layers in all Bitcoin Improvement Proposals. These are the four main layers on the Bitcoin network as specified in hisBIP 123, and the respective importance of consensus on each.

The Consensus Rules

The consensus rules are Bitcoin's most important rules. They establish – among many other things – the amount of bitcoins included in the block reward, the mining difficulty, the type of proof-of-work required, and, indeed, the block size limit. 

These rules are so important because they determine which blocks are deemed valid by full nodes. And if all full nodes apply the same consensus rules, it ensures they all maintain an identical copy of the blockchain. 

If different nodes apply different consensus rules, however, they risk accepting blocks that other nodes reject. Such discrepancy could lead to different nodes maintaining completely incompatible versions of the blockchain, effectively splitting the Bitcoin network.

Bitcoin's consensus rules can be changed in two ways. A change thatadds extra rules to the protocol (making previously valid blocks invalid) is called a soft fork. Soft forks require a majority of hash power to support the change. The blocks that are produced under the new rules would be valid under the old rules as well, so nodes that didn’t upgrade would still follow the longest chain.

However, non-upgraded miners might produce blocks that are invalid under the new rules, wasting hash power. And non-upgraded full nodes would no longer be able to verify whether blocks adhere to the new rules, requiring them to wait additional confirmations to achieve the same level of security. 

For these and other reasons, the Bitcoin Core development team has said that it will typically require a super-majority of 95 percent of hash power to agree on soft forks.

A consensus rule change that removes rules from the protocol (making previously invalid blocks valid) is called a hard fork. A hard fork requires all full nodes on the network to adopt. Any node that doesn't implement the change might not follow the longest chain at all, as it could consider that chain invalid and stay on the “old” chain instead. This could split the Bitcoin network as described above. How long such a split would persevere is not really a technical question, but rather a debate on politics, sociology, economics, game theory and more.

Soft fork changes to the consensus rules without consensus couldin a worst-case scenariocause a minority of miners to waste hash power, and (slightly) degrade the security of full nodes.

Hard fork changes to the consensus rules without consensus couldin a worst-case scenariosplit the Bitcoin network.

Peer-to-Peer Layer

The peer-to-peer layer of the Bitcoin network covers how full nodes share data and what data they share. This includes protocol rules to send and receive transactions and blocks, as well as special data packages such as Segregated Witnesses or Invertible Bloom Lookup Tables.

Most importantly, the peer-to-peer layer must ensure that new blocks find their way through the entire network, as well as data packages required to verify blocks. If this relay policy fails, it could result in a network split where different nodes hold different versions of the blockchain – at least until blocks find their way through the entire network again.

But as opposed to the consensus rules, it’s not necessarily a huge problem if not every single node applies the exact same relay policy. Since most nodes forward blocks to at least eight peers, this amplifier should ensure that all nodes receive all blocks even if some of them don’t forward properly.

Nodes have even more leeway when it comes to relaying transactions. Most nodes on the Bitcoin network today use a “first seen” policy: If they receive two or more conflicting transactions, they reject the latter. But a growing number of nodes apply variations of “replace-by-fee” policies, meaning they pick the transactions which include the highest fees – regardless of which came first. Additionally, some nodes reject certain types of transactions altogether, or don’t relay any transactions at all.

That said, miners ultimately decide which transactions they include in blocks, and why. It’s only when transaction relay policies vary wildly, or are sufficiently restrictive, that it might become unpredictable which transactions are confirmed for these reasons alone.

Changes to the peer-to-peer layer without consensus couldin a worst-case scenariosplit the network. This risk exists if blocks can’t find their way throughout the whole network. The split will, however, automatically resolve once the network is reconnected.

If the changes concern transactions only, they couldin a worst case scenarioprevent certain transactions from confirming. It could also decrease the reliability of unconfirmed transactions. But it cannot split the network.

Application Programming Interfaces and Remote Procedure Calls

The Application Programming Interface (API) and Remote Procedure Call (RPC) layers are communications layers on top of the peer-to-peer protocol. Many Bitcoin software applications – such as mobile wallets and block explorers – communicate with the blockchain through these layers by connecting to an API or software library.

If one of these layers fails, all connected software applications will be unable to reliably communicate with the Bitcoin network. Mobile wallets won't know if they received Bitcoin, and blockchain explorers can't tell whether a new block was found. However, all other Bitcoin users won’t notice a thing; the network itself is still running fine.

Changes to the API and RPC layers without consensus couldin a worst-case scenariocompletely disconnect users of these layers from the Bitcoin network. But such changes cannot split the network itself.

Applications

Last, the application layer refers to how Bitcoin software applications create and use certain types of data that doesn’t really touch the network directly, but that is useful to synchronize across applications.

This includes, for example, address formats, private keys generation or wallet back-ups. If one wallet generates an address that another wallet doesn't consider valid, transacting between them will be impossible. Or if one wallet uses one method to create a backup address seed, and another wallet uses another, users can't recover their private keys with each wallet. The same goes for wallet backups.

Changes to the application layers without consensus couldin a worst case scenarioprevent some users from mutually transacting, and cause other inconveniences. Such changes cannot split the network. Thanks go out to Lombrozo for technical guidance.

The post Why Some Changes to Bitcoin Require Consensus: Bitcoin’s 4 Layers appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.



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Artists are being inspired by bitcoin's mystery, but are they converting into digital currency users?

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On our last night in Acapulco we sit down with Dimitry Murshik at Mycelium, Tone Vays at Brave New Coin and Doug Scribner of WatchMyBit to talk about number of things

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Lightning’s Balancing Act: Challenges Face Bitcoin’s Scalability Savior

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Jameson Lopp is a software engineer at BitGo, creator of Statoshi.info and founder of bitcoinsig.com. He enjoys building web services and is intrigued by problems of scale. In this feature, Lopp examines the Lightning Network, a proposed solution for scaling the bitcoin network while enabling low-cost microtransactions. The bitcoin community has been discussing the concept […]

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The Ether Review Dev Update 2-19-16

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This is a special episode of The Ether Review. Today Taylor Gerring, the director of technology at the Ethereum Foundation joins to offer a quick development update and answer a few listener questions.

If you?'?re interested in finding out more or would like to participate, head over to ethereum.org. Questions should be sent here.



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The Tatiana Show with guests William Kehl Of Coinigy & Perianne Boring Of Digital Chamber

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Tatiana and Josh interview William Kehl of Coinigy & Perianne Boring of Digital Chamber.

William Kehl, President of Coinigy Inc, is an early Bitcoin adopter, miner, trader, developer and designer. He founded iPhoneFreelancer and several other successful startups over the years. Formerly Director of Web Operations for a global VOIP provider, William is a full stack developer with an emphasis on blockchain market tech. Along with his business partner Rob, William founded Coinigy.com in 2014 to provide professional-grade tools and API access for individuals and institutions interested in Blockchain Market Intelligence. Perianne Boring founded the first DC-based advocacy organization for the digital currency and digital asset community. Prior to forming the Chamber, she worked as a financial services television host and Forbes contributor. She began her career as a legislative analyst in the US House of Representatives, advising on finance, economics, tax and healthcare policy.

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Let's Talk Bitcoin! #284 Tell Us What You Really Think

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On Episode 284...

Adam is interviewed on the Wall Street for Main Street podcast and tells us what he really thinks on this unedited show.


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Credits for Episode 284

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Imagine the Trust: Blockchain's Growing Role in Financial Services

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A look at how financial firms could benefit from the adoption of blockchain tech and some pitfalls to avoid along the way.

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Does Bitcoin Pose a Threat to China's Economic Security?

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An expert examines the relationship between China's mainstream stock market, regulators and the digital currency ecosystem.

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Why the Great Firewall of China Is Causing Serious Issues for Bitcoin Miners

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What’s wrong with increasing the block size limit? This is the question that a portion of the Bitcoin community has been asking almost nonstop since the controversy around this possible alteration to the protocol went into hyperdrive last year.

In a recent appearance at Bitcoin Meetup Switzerland, Bitcoin Core Contributor Jonas Schnelli covered at least one possible issue with raising the block size limit too quickly: the effect larger blocks have on wasted resources for miners.

It should be noted that Schnelli has decided not to take an official, public stance on the block size debate.

In Bitcoin Mining, Every Second Counts

A key point to understand about bitcoin mining is every second of hashing affects one’s ability to turn a profit. New blocks are not received by all nodes on the network instantaneously, which means miners are, at least at times, wasting resources by building on an old block that is no longer the most recent. After all, a miner can only build on top of someone else’s found block after he knows that block exists.

Schnelli explained this issue during his recent talk in Zurich:

“There are consequences with 2-megabyte blocks. Chinese miners -- they are now [for] 2- megabyte blocks, but maybe it will turn out to be a problem for them . . . Every second really counts . . . When you mine a block that is no longer valid and you don’t get the information that a new block is here, you’re wasting lots of energy. If it’s just ten seconds you mine on the wrong block, you lose energy, and you lose coins in the end. That’s why, with Chinese miners [especially], every second counts, and [with] 2-megabyte [blocks], it’s twice the bandwidth you need.”

This is not the first time a Bitcoin Core contributor has talked about the issue of block propagation in terms of the mining process. Multiple developers discussed this problem in interviews during the leadup to Scaling Bitcoin Montreal.

Do Bigger Blocks Mean Bigger Profits for Bigger Miners?

In the past, Bitcoin Core Contributor Peter Todd also has discussed this issue. During his presentation at Scaling Bitcoin Montreal, Todd explained how lousy block propagation becomes more problematic when the Great Firewall of China is factored into the equation.

Due to the way the Great Firewall works, miners in China often find out about new blocks before miners in other countries (especially across the world in the United States). Since China also currently holds a majority of the hashing power on the network, miners who are not in China end up losing out on a bit of revenue. This is due to the fact that, on average, miners outside of China will hear about new blocks later than miners inside of China, which means non-Chinese miners waste more resources on blocks that have already been found.

Todd pointed to some past research to illustrate his point during his Scaling Bitcoin talk:

“We’ve done various simulation results. A big one that works out very well is Pieter Wuille’s work where we’ve gone and shown that -- and he actually used realistic mining and latency networks with this where when you look at the situation in China, for the amount of time it takes data to propagate over the Great Firewall of China and their relative hashing power percentage -- people who are not part of that group are earning something about like eight percent less revenue.”

Todd noted that losses are lower in reality due to Blockstream Core Tech Engineer and Bitcoin Core Contributor Matt Corallo’s Bitcoin Relay Network, and it should also be pointed out that Pieter Wuille’s work was testing 20-megabyte blocks. 

The point here is large miners have an added advantage over small miners due to the time it takes for miners to learn about new blocks. If the block size limit were increased, it would take longer for blocks to propagate around the network, thus increasing this advantage.

One of the original founders of Bitcoin Classic, Jonathon Toomim, also presented on the issues related to block propagation with bigger blocks at Scaling Bitcoin Hong Kong. His testing focused on the now-withdrawn BIP 101 proposal, and he concluded that the increase to 8 megabytes would not be appropriate. During his tests, he found it took anywhere between 15 and 150 seconds to send block data to another peer when the two parties were on opposite sides of the Great Firewall of China.

At the Bitcoin Foundation’s DevCore Workshop back in October, Bitcoin Core Developer Gregory Maxwell explained that the second-to-last mining pool to learn about a new block is currently dealing with a 5 percent orphan rate.

On a related note, there’s a theorized vulnerability in Bitcoin mining, known as selfish mining, where a miner may decide to not let others know about a block they found in order to give themselves a head start on finding the next block.

Possible Solutions to Block Propagation Issues

There are a few proposed solutions that could solve the issue of slow block propagation on the Bitcoin network. Bitcoin Core’s current roadmap includes two such solutions: invertible bloom lookup tables (IBLTs) and weak blocks. According to the Bitcoin Core website, these two features can offer a 90 percent reduction in critical bandwidth when relaying blocks, which should allow for a safer increase of the block size limit.

Two possible solutions recently brought up by Bitcoin Classic Developer Gavin Andresen on this issue are UDP broadcast of block headers and validationless mining. Bitcoin Security Consultant Sergio Lerner recently wrote a blog post on the latter of the two options.

There are also other proposed solutions for this issue, but the point is that plenty of smart people are working on potential fixes. Based on Bitcoin Core’s roadmap, it appears that IBLTs and weak blocks are the most likely solutions to get implemented first. 

It should also be mentioned that, as Blockchain Capital Managing Partner Brock Pierce recently pointed out, China’s control over the majority of hashing power may not last forever.

Scaling Bitcoin Is Not Simple

One of the last points made by Schnelli at Bitcoin Meetup Switzerland is that the issue of scalability is not as simple as some have made it out to be.

Schnelli noted:

“I don’t want to say I’m looking behind every curtain, but if you don’t really go down to the technical fundamentals it’s easy to say, ‘Increase the block size.’ Sure. Sounds nice. Everybody can understand it. But there are better solutions that maybe take more energy to think about.”

Like many other developers involved with Bitcoin Core, Schnelli views Segregated Witness (SegWit) as a viable alternative to simply increasing the block size limit. Bitcoin Core Contributor Eric Lombrozo recently outlined five benefits of the SegWit proposal at Blockchain Agenda San Diego.

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.

The post Why the Great Firewall of China Is Causing Serious Issues for Bitcoin Miners appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.



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Brexit Rumors Fail to Boost Market as Bitcoin Price Steady at $420

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Despite periods of volatility, the global bitcoin market remained calm this week, gaining 1% while fluctuating between $410 and $450.

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ChangeTip Launches ChangeTip Wallet, a Decentralized Version of Its Social Tipping Service

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This post is by John Camdir.

San Francisco based Bitcoin microtransactions startup ChangeTip announced the launch of a new service called ChangeTip Wallet today. ChangeTip Wallet is being launched as a decentralized version of ChangeTip’s social tipping service ChangeTip. ChangeTip Wallet will offer the same services as ChangeTip but it is decentralized and has fewer restrictions in terms of account size, transaction amount and user locations. Users will also be able to manage their own private keys.

Founded by Nick Sullivan in 2013, ChangeTip enables users to send micropayments or “tips” in Bitcoin across various social media websites, such as Twitter, YouTube, Reddit and Facebook, as well as handling email and text messaging. The Silicon-Valley based company has raised $3.5 million in funding and is backed by investors such as Gil Penchina, Pantera Capital and 500 Startups.

In November 2014, only one year after being launched, ChangeTip signed up around 34,000 users and had 47,000 connected social media accounts. But its growing popularity also raised a few concerns. People criticized ChangeTip’s centralized practices and off-chain transactions. ChangeTip’s control of the private keys for all Bitcoin addresses associated with the service and collection of personal and social data raised privacy concerns.

The company has worked on addressing the issues of decentralization and privacy since last year. In a blog post during that period, ChangeTip VP of community development Victoria van Eyk responded to a user whose account had become inaccessible due to geopolitical factors by saying, "Changetip has been looking to decentralize for four months now. If we want to keep ChangeTip functionality — money on social media, Bitcoin on social media — we need to...not hold custody of funds, so this never happens again. We are working on it." The user in question was able to retrieve funds through his main wallet, but not without a processing delay.

According to Nick Sullivan, Founder and CEO of ChangeTip, today’s launch of ChangeTip Wallet addresses all earlier concerns about decentralization and privacy by giving users more control over their accounts. 

“We’re really excited to launch something that’s pure Bitcoin. Many in our community like ChangeTip, but shy away from the service because it is centralized. We talked for a while about creating this [new decentralized] product, and ultimately, we decided it was something we really wanted to build.”  

In addition to the orginal tipping functionality, ChangeTip Wallet will give users control over their own private keys. Sending and approving of payments can done via a web and mobile app. Restrictions on account size, transaction amounts and user locations have been removed.

The first release of ChangeTip Wallet will be demonstrated in person to limited and selected parties February 27, 2016 at a resort somewhere in North America. ChangeTip Wallet is currently in closed beta and will be available by invitation only.  Interested parties can join the list by entering their entering their e-mail addresseshere.

The post ChangeTip Launches ChangeTip Wallet, a Decentralized Version of Its Social Tipping Service appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.



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Social Tipping Startup ChangeTip Launches Wallet Service

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Social tipping service ChangeTip has announced a new wallet service, citing demand from the bitcoin community.

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The head of Australia’s top securities watchdog said earlier this month that blockchain technology will have “profound implications”.

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MIT Hosts Annual Bitcoin Expo March 5 and 6 to Explore Challenges Facing Bitcoin

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On March 5th and 6th, the MIT Bitcoin Club is hosting its annual Bitcoin Expo in the Samberg Conference Center on the MIT campus. It is the largest annual project undertaken by the club and is one of the only academic Bitcoin conferences run entirely by students. 

World-renowned speakers will be in Cambridge, Massachusetts for the event, including Shual Kfir, CTO of Digital Asset Holdings; Joseph Poon, co-author of the Lightning Network; and Jonas Schnelli, one of the Bitcoin Core developers.

The club's mission is to “provide forums where Bitcoin-related ideas, projects, programs, events, and businesses can be studied, discussed and developed,” and the Expo is an extension of this goal. It creates a forum that brings together an international community to study the technology and discuss future implications. 

Bitcoin Magazine spoke with Nchinda, a third-year computer science student who is the president of the club and the executive director of the conference, to provide more details about the event.

When asked about the goal of the event, Nchinda explained what makes this annual expo unique:

“The expo is not a mishmash of related concepts, there is a definite function to its form. There are three things that make the MIT Bitcoin Expo a different experience from other Bitcoin conferences I've seen:

1) It is a product of a 100 percent student-run organization. It is an academic event, and we don't seek a profit off of it; we raise only as much as we need.

2) Tickets are cheap compared to most other conferences. We don't want money to be a barrier to entry. Last year, student tickets were free, this year I'm trying out the idea of ticket refunds in Bitcoin.

3) There is no cost to become a speaker. This is something I am very firm on; no amount of money can buy you a position as a speaker. We ask speakers to comepro bono, which creates an interesting meld of established companies and fledgling  startups.”

Nchinda explained that the theme of the first day of the Expo is primarily technical.

 “I want to start the Expo by looking at the challenges that Bitcoin is tackling. Then we'll move to related work inspired by Bitcoin. Bitcoin development has many parallels to the development of Internet, so Day One closes with looking at the relationship between the two.” 

Nchinda continues that Day Two will move into the financial and business aspects of blockchain technology.

“The sequence moves through examining the relationship between Bitcoin and traditional finance. We'll recognize the effort put in by financial companies to understand and develop blockchain technology. By the end of the afternoon we'll leave most of the technical discussion behind and attendees will get a dose of speculation on the future.” 

The MIT Bitcoin Club has been consistently leading grassroots movements to grow Bitcoin adoption on campus and is one of the most active chapters in the Blockchain Education Network. In 2014, the club hosted the first Bitcoin Airdrop, which they called the MIT Bitcoin Project, after they raised $500,000 to give out $100 to every incoming freshman. It also launched the MIT BitComp to inspire and motivate MIT students and alumni to develop Bitcoin-related apps, with $15,000 in prizes that were awarded to the most impressive projects.

Nchinda is encouraging club members to promote Bitcoin and related technologies from whatever angle interests them, whether from the perspective of finance, mining, cryptography or marketing. 

The post MIT Hosts Annual Bitcoin Expo March 5 and 6 to Explore Challenges Facing Bitcoin appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.



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Bitcoin Mining Company Butterfly Labs Settles Case With Federal Trade Commission for $38.6M

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This article is by Rebecca Campbell.

Butterfly Labs has agreed to settle the Federal Trade Commission’s charges of making misleading claims about their products to their customers.

In a lawsuit that has dragged on since September 2014, the Kansas-based Bitcoin company presold computer hardware that was optimized for mining Bitcoin, charging as much as $30,000 for the specialized hardware.

According to the U.S. trade watchdog FTC, Butterfly Labs was taking orders for Bitcoin mining machines, but very few machines were actually shipped, as Butterfly Labs was building and using the hardware to mine bitcoin for itself. In the few cases that the machines were shipped to customers, they had already been used by the company beforehand, generating valuable bitcoin for Butterfly Labs instead of the customer who had already paid for the hardware.

The charges filed against Butterfly Labs include that it failed to disclose to customers that it was using the machines, and that it kept upfront payments from customers even when it failed to deliver the hardware.

“BFL tested equipment on the live network generally from less than two hours to two days in the event units were in production over a weekend,” Butterfly Labs said in a statement. “This insured that customers received reliable and working equipment avoiding unnecessary down time. Customer shipments were not delayed for burn testing.”

After the FTC received 500 complaints from customers who failed to receive their orders, Butterfly Labs was temporarily shut down. It is alleged that the company took around $50 million in orders it failed to deliver. As a consequence, the FTC obtained a court order freezing the assets of Butterfly Labs in 2014. The company was later reopened following court approval in 2015. Despite this, BFL says that it successfully engineered, manufactured and shipped more than 50,000 Bitcoin machines through five product generations over four years to thousands of customers.

In a bid to wrap the case up and to provide refunds to customers, the FTC has forced the company into a $39 million out-of-court settlement. However, that out-of-court amount will be suspended once the company pays $15,000 and co-founder Sonny Vleisides pays an additional $4,000. Darla Drake, Butterfly Labs general manager, will also have her judgment of $135,878 suspended once she surrenders the cash value of all bitcoins she attained using machines from the company.

But while the judgements were suspended based on the defendant’s inability to pay, they will become due should the defendants be found to have lied about their financial situation.

“Even in the fast-moving world of virtual currencies like Bitcoin, companies can’t deceive people about their products,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “These settlements will prevent the defendants from misleading consumers.”

It has been alleged that the three named members of Butterfly Lab’s board of directors – Drake, Nasser Ghoseiri and Vleisides – spent millions of dollars of the company’s revenue on non-business expenses such as guns and saunas instead of focusing on many orders from customers that were delayed or unfulfilled.

Furthermore, amid the alleged fraud, Butterfly Labs has been accused of printing foam pitchforks to make fun of its intensely frustrated customers. 

Helen Wong, an FTC attorney said:

“…instead of fulfilling orders immediately, Defendants used their customers’ machines to mine bitcoins for themselves before shipping the now-used machines to their customers. … Further demonstrating Defendants’ disregard for their customers, they used corporate funds to make and mass order red foam pitchforks mocking their own customers, emblazoned with the words, “Y U NO SHIP – BFL IS LATE!”

While the company is operating, the settlement with the FTC means that the defendants have been prohibited from making any misleading claims about their Bitcoin mining products in the future and are banned from taking upfront payments from customers unless the products are available and will be delivered within 30 days. If they fail to do this, they must provide a refund.

Butterfly Labs continues to dispute FTC’s suit and is focusing on refunding customers.

“BFL continues to believe that the FTC case had no merit, but agreed to settle for $15,000 to avoid ongoing litigation expenses and conserve remaining assets for payment of refunds to consumers,” a BFL spokesperson stated.

In a statement from January, Butterfly Labs claims to have “insufficient funds to pay out all refund requests at the present time.” That same statement goes on to say that in 2014 and 2015 the company had refunded a total of $16.6 million to customers; however, a lack of finances at present had significantly impacted paying refunds.

 

The post Bitcoin Mining Company Butterfly Labs Settles Case With Federal Trade Commission for $38.6M appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.



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Gavin Andresen: Bitcoin Core Is Not Listening to Its Customers

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In a recent interview with Let’s Talk Bitcoin, Bitcoin Foundation Chief Scientist Gavin Andresen explained his issues with Bitcoin Core and why he has decided to help the Bitcoin Classic project. 

Bitcoin Classic is an implementation of an alternative Bitcoin protocol that would cause a hard fork with a 75 percent activation threshold in order to increase the block size limit from 1 megabyte to 2 megabytes.

During the interview, Andresen said Bitcoin Core developers are not listening to miners and the entities that are creating many of the transactions on the Bitcoin network. He also discussed his future plans as a developer in the Bitcoin ecosystem.

The Market Will Decide What’s Best

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong has routinely referred to the Bitcoin Classic vs. Bitcoin Core debate as an election, and Andresen appeared to agree with this sentiment during the interview. In terms of the possibility of Bitcoin Classic taking over as the reference implementation of the Bitcoin protocol, Andresen noted:

“The market will decide. That’s kind of where the rubber meets the road with Bitcoin is what software people decide to run.”

Although it’s practically impossible to operate Bitcoin as a direct democracy (and may not be a good idea), support for changes to the consensus rules are often measured via miner support. Miners can broadcast their support for a particular change via a coinbase transaction.

Is Bitcoin Core Listening to Its Customers?

When asked about his main disagreement with the rest of the Bitcoin Core development team (which Andresen is still technically part of), the Bitcoin Classic developer talked about Core’s unwillingness to listen to its users. He stated:

“The root of my issue with [Bitcoin] Core is I just think that they’re not listening to their customers. I don’t think that they’ve been listening to the miners, and I don’t think that they’ve been listening to the people that do the bulk of the transactions on the network.”

The idea that Bitcoin Core is not listening to miners seems somewhat debunked based on the recent Bitcoin Roundtable meeting in Hong Kong, though it should be noted this took place after Andresen’s interview on Let’s Talk Bitcoin was recorded. As a result of the meeting, representatives of roughly 80 percent of the network hashrate were able to come to consensus with a handful of Bitcoin Core contributors on a future hard fork to increase the block size limit. It should be noted that it is unclear whether the agreement from the Bitcoin Roundtable will also reach consensus among the rest of the Bitcoin Core development team.

The level of communication between Bitcoin Core and some of the main creators of Bitcoin transactions, such as Coinbase and Blockchain.info, remains unclear, although Blockstream President Adam Back has publicly invited Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong to the upcoming Satoshi Roundtable, which will have a few Bitcoin Core contributors in attendance.

Companies Taking Matters Into Their Own Hands

With support from Coinbase and Blockchain.info’s Peter Smith, Bitcoin Classic could be an example of these companies taking matters into their own hands. Andresen hinted at the unrest among some Bitcoin companies during his interview:

“We’ve long said that if companies aren’t happy with what Core is doing, then they should either get developers involved in Core or they should start their own projects. And I think companies haven’t been happy with the direction Core is going and haven’t been happy with the priorities that Core has set -- as expressed by, kind of, the code that they’re producing.”

Andresen mentioned that exchanges and wallet providers are some of the loudest proponents of larger blocks due to the way the issue is negatively affecting their companies right now. Indeed, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong has been a major supporter of Bitcoin Classic on Twitter and Medium.

Andresen Ready to Contribute to All Bitcoin Projects

When it comes to Gavin Andresen’s own plans for the future, it appears he’s ready to help any Bitcoin project, including Bitcoin Core. He explained:

“I’m happy to contribute to lots of different projects. I think my contributions will wax and wane based on whether I’m researching some interesting new area of computer science that catches my eye or am I done researching and I decide that I actually want to write some code people might actually decide to use.”

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@kyletorpeyon Twitter.

Photo Web Summit / Flickr(CC)
 

The post Gavin Andresen: Bitcoin Core Is Not Listening to Its Customers appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.



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