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Thursday, 31 March 2016

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Bank of Canada Researcher: Bitcoin Monetary Standard Would Fail

A research consultant for Canada's central bank has published a paper that envisions a world with a monetary standard based on bitcoin.

via CoinDesk

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Blockstream, Bloq, Gem, ItBit, Thomson Reuters and Others Join the Linux Foundation's Hyperledger Project

In February, Bitcoin Magazine reported that The Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Project, a collaborative effort started in December to establish, build and sustain an open, distributed ledger platform that will satisfy a variety of use cases across multiple industries, was announcing new members from across the industry, technical updates and a formal open governance structure.

Now, with a press release published on its main website and the Hyperledger website, The Linux Foundation is announcing that the Hyperledger Project has filled key leadership positions and 10 new companies are joining the project and investing in the future of an open blockchain ledger: Blockstream, Bloq, eVue Digital Labs, Gem, itBit, Milligan Partners, Montran Labs,, Tequa Creek Holdings and Thomson Reuters.

“The Hyperledger Project is gaining traction on a daily basis, displaying how vital this effort is in advancing distributed ledger technology,” said Blythe Masters, CEO of Digital Asset Holdings, who was appointed board chair for the Hyperledger Project. “Uniting the industry to drive this initiative forward is paramount to the success of distributed ledger technology. The Linux Foundation and its members are collaborating on an open source infrastructure that will increase privacy and scalability, among many other benefits.”

The project’s governing board, which manages business direction, including governance, marketing and operational decisions, has been expanded with new elected members from SWIFT and itBit.

“SWIFT is delighted to support this industry wide effort to advance distributed ledger technology,” said new governing board member Craig Young, SWIFT’s chief technology officer, in December. “Cooperation and collaboration ‒ hallmarks of the SWIFT cooperative ‒ will be key to ensuring the scalability and adoption of this technology.”

“As a financial services company that provides blockchain-based solutions, we understand the technology gaps that need to be filled to ensure enterprise demands are met,” added new governing board member Charles Cascarilla, itBit's co-founder and CEO. “Open source projects like the Hyperledger Project unite the world’s leading companies to address critical needs and advance a technology for greater adoption.” 

Chris Ferris, distinguished engineer and CTO of open technology at IBM, has been appointed chair of the technical steering committee, which drives technical direction of the Hyperledger Project and includes recognized experts from Digital Asset Holdings, Intel, R3 and Accenture.

“These member investments demonstrate that blockchain technology continues to grow in importance as the alternative approach to multinational business transactions,” said Ferris. “By providing a community for members to collaborate and contribute to an open source blockchain solution, we’re able to advance the technology collectively and ultimately drive quicker adoption and higher value across industries.”

The Linux Foundation’s announcement notes that Hyperledger wants to be a cross-industry open standard for distributed ledgers, able to securely and cost-effectively trade and track any digital exchange with value, such as real estate contracts and energy trades. Besides finance, The Linux Foundation envisages applications to manufacturing, banking, insurance and the Internet of Things (IoT). 

“There is no other effort advancing an open blockchain with this level of broad industry representation and level of leadership,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director at The Linux Foundation. “The Hyperledger Project is among our fastest growing projects at The Linux Foundation. The opportunity is great. This leadership team and the community investments among members across industries put the project in the best position possible to accomplish its mission.”

The growth of the Hyperledger project seems unstoppable and prompts speculation on the future of the distributed ledger ecosystem. In particular, and apparently in contrast with the project’s open-source nature and oversight by The Linux Foundation, Hyperledger seems a radical alternative to the Bitcoin blockchain built by the banks, for the banks, which wants to retain the practical advantages of distributed ledger technology ‒ fast and cheap transactions permanently recorded in a tamper-proof ledger ‒ without the troublesome P2P openness and grassroots, anarchic nature of the the open, public Bitcoin blockchain.

Masters, among others, expressed support for private, “permissioned” non-Bitcoin blockchains. 

“To be used by financial institutions, including capital markets firms and insurers, blockchains must supplant the costly methods introduced by Bitcoin with a mechanism that guarantees security, privacy and speed without paying for anonymous consensus,” said two Accenture executives in July

In Bitcoin Magazine’s interview with Zemlin published in February, he was asked, “Is the Hyperledger Project a replacement for Bitcoin and/or other existing cryptocurrencies?” Zemlin gave a diplomatic answer and emphasized that “there is ample room in the market for cryptocurrencies and even multiple implementations of the blockchain, but everyone stands to lose if these don’t interoperate and work together.”

The post Blockstream, Bloq, Gem, ItBit, Thomson Reuters and Others Join the Linux Foundation's Hyperledger Project appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

via Bitcoin Magazine

Gallery: ConsenSys Plots Ethereum’s Future from Hipster Haven

The headquarters of Brooklyn-based ConsenSys, don't look like your typical financial sector offices. Check out this rare behind-the-scenes tour.

via CoinDesk

US Bank Regulator to Examine Distributed Ledgers in FinTech Framework Push

The US Office of Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is looking to establish a framework for regulating financial technologies like blockchain.

via CoinDesk

Eyeing Volume, Asian Exchanges Add Support for Ether Trading

Coincheck, CHBTC, Korbit and Quoine are among a new group of exchanges that have added support for Ethereum's digital currency ether.

via CoinDesk

Global Regulators Move Closer to Regulating Fintech

By REUTERS via NYT Business Day

Coinbase Aims to Drive Bitcoin Adoption via New Killer Apps

For the past few years, many of the biggest players in the Bitcoin industry have talked about the need to build bridges to the traditional financial system. This sort of basic infrastructure has been in development by Coinbase, the Winklevoss twins and others, and it’s now getting to the point where user-friendly wallets and regulated exchanges are finally available to the masses.

Now that the base layer of services has been built, Coinbase plans to promote greater adoption of Bitcoin through the development and acquisition of new applications for the digital currency.

Actual Products for Users

In a recent Medium post, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong discussed the company’s overall vision for the future of Bitcoin and its product. While Armstrong would still like to see the company focus on making it easy for anyone to buy or sell bitcoins at the tap of a button, the Coinbase CEO also sees an opportunity for his company to help the industry grow through the development of killer apps.

In his recent post, Armstrong wrote:

“In the future, you’ll see Coinbase build or buy other apps in the space to help drive consumer adoption.”

Armstrong then used an analogy to the early days of the Web browser to bring home his point:

“When Netscape came out with their web browser, there weren’t very many people building websites. It wasn’t until they tried building one of the first web apps themselves (a shopping mall) that they realized there were a few missing pieces. This led to them inventing cookies, SSL, and javascript. Trying to build on top of your own infrastructure is a good way to improve it.”

Now that Coinbase has made it relatively easy for much of the world to purchase bitcoins online, the company wants to provide its users with various products and services that take advantage of the digital currency’s unique efficiency offerings.

Financial Services and Internet Applications

Although Armstrong did not point out specific applications Coinbase may build or acquire, he has discussed some of the main use cases of Bitcoin in the past. In an interview from last summer, Armstrong pointed to the disruption of traditional financial services, the development of financial services in the developing world, and entirely new Internet applications as three key areas for Bitcoin.

In the case of the disruption of financial services, Armstrong views international remittances and peer-to-peer lending as two areas of interest. Armstrong’s point on the developing world mainly had to do with populations that have a large number of cellphones but no access to banking.

Lighthouse and decentralized prediction markets were mentioned as two possibilities for entirely new Internet applications made possible by Bitcoin. Armstrong added, “These are very small today, but I think in the future, some of these will end up being multi-billion dollar companies and systems.”

Armstrong has also discussed the value of using Bitcoin for microtransactions.

More Futuristic Use Cases

More recently, Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam discussed Bitcoin’s ability to remove banner ads and spam from the Internet. Ehrsam sees a future where the action of making a payment is no longer necessary and transactions can take place seamlessly in the background of various devices.

The concepts of paying for online content via microtransactions and automatically purchasing system resources are ideas currently being worked on by multiple companies such as 21 and Brave.

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

The post Coinbase Aims to Drive Bitcoin Adoption via New Killer Apps appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

via Bitcoin Magazine

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Bank of England Official Discusses Implications of Central Bank Digital Currencies

Deputy Governor of the Bank of England Ben Broadbent has spoken out on the implications of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) for the financial system as we know it.

In Broadbent’s lecture at the London School of Economics on March 2, he focused on what a central bank digital currency could look like, and potential economic implications of introducing one.

Central Bank Digital Currency

A CBDC could be issued by a central bank to widen access to the central bank’s balance sheet. Liabilities on the central bank’s balance sheet include banknotes and commercial bank reserves, and are the means of settlement for all of the economy’s transactions. Currently, only banks can hold deposits at the Bank of England. A CBDC could open up access to these liabilities to specific groups of financial services firms, or even to individuals.

A CBDC could also allow a central bank to set a negative interest rate on cash, rather than only deposits. The Bank of England’s Chief Economist signalled in 2015 that the U.K. government was considering this possibility.

Broadbent recognizes that there could be significant economic implications if a CBDC competed with commercial banks by permitting individuals to make deposits. In a fractional-reserve banking system, commercial banks accept deposits and loan money using these deposits as collateral. This can be to other banks, businesses, individuals and organizations. This leads to a cycle of lending and increases the money supply in the entire economy.

While the central bank’s balance sheet consists of liquid assets, commercial banks’ balance sheets are mostly illiquid assets in the form of loans. Broadbent described commercial bank balance sheets as “inherently fragile” due to their being backed by very different assets of mostly illiquid loans. As the government guarantees deposits at the Bank of England, a flight to safety may take place and drain commercial banks of resources.

Given the Bank of England’s responsibility to promote financial stability, opening up access to central bank deposits may seem counterintuitive. However, Broadbent says this could encourage commercial banks to “narrow” and shift to structures with assets as liquid as their liabilities. In this scenario, “deposits would become inherently more secure.”

However, a shift to this structure could reduce lending by banks to the real economy. Many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are unable to issue their own securities, so lines of credit from banks are vital support. In the U.K., the British Bankers’ Association recorded £107.5 billion ($152 billion) in SME borrowing facilities at the end of 2015, including £26.6 billion ($37.7 billion) in new loans provided by banks to SMEs in 2015.

Blockchain as a Clearinghouse

“The main point here is that the important innovation in Bitcoin isn’t the alternative unit of account … but its settlement technology, the so-called “distributed ledger.”  This allows transfers to be verifiably recorded without the need for a trusted third party.  It is potentially valuable when there is no such institution and when verifying such information on a multilateral basis is costly,” said Ben Broadbent, Deputy Governor of the Bank of England

Broadbent identified the distributed ledger as the most important innovation in digital currencies, describing it as a “decentralized virtual clearinghouse and asset register” that “offers an entirely new way of exchanging and holding assets, including money.”

He recognises the potential for distributed ledgers to replace the existing complex system of custodians of securities, brokers, exchanges and clearinghouses, each of which is obliged to keep its own records. There is much potential for systemic efficiency savings; clearance and settlement of securities has been estimated by Autonomous Research to cost G7 economies $54 billion annually.

What’s Next?

The Bank will continue examining potential use of digital currencies as a part of its “One Bank Research Agenda.” This also encourages the wider community to consider policy questions, monetary and financial stability perspectives on CBDCs, implications for government-backed deposit insurance and regulation of institutions offering access to CBDCs.

Potential use of blockchain technology will also be investigated in the Bank’s review of its Real Time Gross Settlement system, which transfers balances between participants’ accounts at the Bank.

At this stage, the Bank is raising more questions than it answers. It is not the only one carrying out such research; the People’s Bank of China has announced that it is also discussing the possibility. There is clearly significant potential for CBDCs from a policy perspective, but structural implications must be considered.

The post Bank of England Official Discusses Implications of Central Bank Digital Currencies appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

via Bitcoin Magazine

Interpol War Game Models Chase for Bitcoin Blackmailers

Interpol conducted a war game scenario last week that centered on discovering the identity of a blackmailer demanding a bitcoin ransom.

via CoinDesk


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Financial Stability Board Weighs Distributed Ledger Risks

The Financial Stability Board reviewed distributed ledger technology as part of a meeting to set its 2016 priorities this week.

via CoinDesk


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Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The Crypto Show A follow up with Ladar Levison on the Apple vs FBI case

As promised in the last interview with Ladar this is a follow up that lays out the latest in the Apple vs FBI case.Thanks to the push back by people like Ladar the FBI has backed down from the iPhone back door demand in the San Bernadino case.It's obvious that the FBI was more interested in a blanket back door and not so much getting into a particular iPhone.We also get into the Lavabit replacement Darkmail, as well as 3 rules of privacy.Original air date 3/30/16 on LogosRadioNetwork

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Links: @KingLadar

@TheCryptoShow & @The_Crypto_Show


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Blockchain Development Platform Stratumn Raises €600k

A platform for developing enterprise blockchain applications has raised €600,000 in seed funding.

via CoinDesk

Canadian Bitcoin Exchange CoinTrader Shuts Down

via Gmail

Microsoft Adds Ethereum to Windows Platform For Over 3 Million Developers

Millions of Microsoft developers are now able to build decentralized applications using the Ethereum blockchain thanks to a collaboration between the software giant and Consensys, announced today. By building Ethereum’s Solidity programming language for writing smart contracts directly into Mircosoft’s Visual Studio platform, developers will be able to build, test and deploy decentralized applications, or […]

via CoinDesk

EB124 - Rune Christensen: Maker Dao Ethereum's Decentralized Central Bank

The challenges Bitcoin's wild volatility represents for achieving mass adoption have made the necessity for stable cryptocurrencies apparent long ago. With Ethereum applications, the problem is even more apparent as many use cases from predcition markets to insurance are impractical using the even more volatile ether. Maker DAO is an ambitious attempt to solve the problem by building a bank-like system to issue a value-stable currency on Ethereum.

Rune Christensen joined us to discuss the need for Maker and the complex system to guarantee stability.

Topics covered included:

  • Why money is the most successful product ever
  • What makes stablecoins are necessary
  • The different components of Maker such as the stablecoin Dai, the token MKR and the role they play
  • Why Maker needs insurance against black swan events
  • Maker's different planned stages of increasing decentralization
  • The MKR token sale and its value proposition for investors

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Show notes


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

via The Let's Talk Bitcoin Network

DTCC and Digital Asset Holdings to Test Blockchain Solutions for the $2.6 Trillion Repo Market

Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. (DTCC), a firm at the center of Wall Street’s trading infrastructure, is about to launch an important test of distributed ledger technology: seeing whether it can provide workable solutions for the $2.6 trillion repo market, The Wall Street Journal reports.

DTCC will collaborate with Digital Asset Holdings for planning and running the test.  Earlier this year, DTCC participated in a $52 million funding round for Digital Asset Holdings, with other investors including JP Morgan, Citi, Accenture, CME Group and ASX, the company behind Australia’s stock market.

A repurchase agreement (repo) is a form of short-term borrowing for dealers in securities. The dealer sells the government securities to investors, usually on an overnight basis, and buys them back the following day. Repos play a critical role in the financial system by keeping cash and securities circulating among hedge funds, investment banks and other financial firms.

DTCC, established in 1999, focuses on post-trade financial services, providing clearing and settlement services to the financial markets. It provides central custody of securities and ways for buyers and sellers to make their exchanges in a safe and efficient way. In 2011, DTCC settled the vast majority of securities transactions in the United States and close to $1.7 quadrillion in value worldwide, making it by far the highest financial value processor in the world.

In a joint press release, DTCC and Digital Asset Holdings announced plans to develop and test a distributed ledger-based solution to manage the clearing and settlement of U.S. Treasury, agency, and agency mortgage-backed repo transactions. Repo agreements were selected for this proof-of-concept because there is an opportunity to streamline how these products are cleared as repo transaction volumes continue to grow.

“Distributed ledger technology has the potential to revolutionize certain post-trade processes that are inefficient and complex, and repos are a great place to start,” said Mike Bodson, President & CEO of DTCC. “There are absolute opportunities to make clearing in this area much more efficient, and we look forward to working with Digital Asset on this exciting project. This initiative reflects our strong commitment to leverage this technology and help lead the industry to further lower risk and increase efficiency across financial markets.”

DTCC and Digital Asset will add cryptographic ledgers to existing securities trade and settlement flows. According to the companies, the project will demonstrate how market participants will be able to create and interact with a ledger of obligations and positions which evidence matched securities transactions, including normal trading activity and repo agreements. Distributed ledger technology was chosen for its real-time information sharing capabilities, which will enable buy- and sell-side firms to agree to repo trade details much more quickly, lowering risks and costs. 

“This collaboration further demonstrates Digital Asset’s commitment to enhancing post-trade processes for financial market infrastructure providers and market participants,” said Blythe Masters, CEO of Digital Asset. “DTCC has an important role to play in the integration of a distributed ledger ecosystem with the existing financial landscape, and this joint effort will accelerate innovation while decreasing cost and risk for our clients.”

Masters, a financial superstar, was appointed CEO of Digital Asset Holdings last year after a long career at JPMorgan. In 2015, Digital Asset Holdings acquired blockchain companies with innovative technologies and became a founding premier member of the Linux Foundation’s open source Hyperledger Project, to drive the adoption and standardization of distributed ledger technology.

DTCC is also a member of the Hyperledger project. 

“As a member of Hyperledger, DTCC is helping to play a leading role in creating the governance and standards for distributed ledger technology,” said DTCC Managing Director and Chief Technology Architect Robert Palatnick in a recent Hyperledger Project update issued by the Linux Foundation. “Our goal is to ensure that new opportunities are in the best interests of the post-trade process and consistent with our long-term goals of mitigating risk, enhancing efficiencies and driving cost reductions for financial market participants. Open source and industry-wide collaboration are essential to realizing the full potential of distributed ledger technology and to avoid creating a disconnected maze of siloed solutions.”

“Working with DTCC is much easier than going to talk to all the participants in the repo market separately and persuading them to adopt a new technology,” added Masters in an interview quoted by The Wall Street Journal.

The move indicates that distributed ledger technology is on its way to becoming an important part of tomorrow’s fintech, and there’s no turning back. The first phase of the DTCC and Digital Asset repo project will start immediately, developing a proof-of-concept and integrating it into the DTCC environment. Future phases will include collaboration and testing with market participants to ensure the solution meets industry needs. Then, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, DTCC plans to deploy blockchain technology to other markets outside of repos.

The detailed development and implementation plan hasn’t been disclosed, but it’s worth noting that Digital Asset Holdings and the Linux Foundation seem to support closed, “permissioned” blockchains that don’t carry Bitcoin as a currency.

The post DTCC and Digital Asset Holdings to Test Blockchain Solutions for the $2.6 Trillion Repo Market appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

via Bitcoin Magazine

Segregated Witness Enters Final Testnet Stage, Includes Lightning Network Support

Bitcoin Core developers Dr. Pieter Wuille, Eric Lombrozo and Johnson Lau launched a fourth – and probably final – iteration of the Segregated Witness testnet today. Perhaps most importantly compared topreviousversions, “SegNet 4” includes support for another upcoming Bitcoin protocol improvement,CheckSequenceVerify (CSV). This allows for experimentation with routable bidirectional payment channels, better known as lightning networks.

Segregated Witness is the nifty technical innovation that allows senders of Bitcoin transactions to move cryptographic signatures from typical blocks to separate structures. This is set to improve the Bitcoin protocol in several ways, including a long-awaited fix oftransaction malleability. And, very relevant in light of the ongoing scaling debate, Segregated Witness will offer up to 1 megabyte of additional block space, depending on the types of transactions.

Compared to earlier SegNets, SegNet 4 includes CSV support. CSV allows users to make bitcoins unspendable for a period of time, much likeCheckLockTimeVerify (CLTV), but with a relative timelock. Whereas CLTV locks bitcoins up until a specific time in the future, CSV locks bitcoins up for a specific amount of time after a CSV transaction is included in a block. This enables more sophisticated smart contracts, as it allows for greater flexibility.

Speaking to Bitcoin Magazine, Bitcoin Core developer andCiphrex CEO Eric Lombrozo explained that the combination of Segregated Witness and CSV particularly benefits added scaling layers on top of the Bitcoin blockchain.

“SegNet 4 offers a testing environment for routable bidirectional payment channels such as theLightning Network orAmikopay,” Lombrozo said. “These projects could drastically increase Bitcoin's scalability, and allow for instant secure and cheap payments. With SegNet 4, we're providing a common network on which different projects can collaborate and test their ideas. It is open for anyone, and we're encouraging wallet developers to play around with it.”

Since Segregated Witness offers both effective added block space, and enables improved added layers like the Lightning Network, the innovation represents an important early step in Bitcoin Core's scalability road map. But while the innovation is typically expected to be rolled out within the next month, Lombrozo did temper expectations a bit.

“The original roadmap doesn't include specific dates, but the FAQ page on the Bitcoin Core website notes an April deployment of Segregated Witness,” Lombrozo explained. “We're making a lot of progress, but we have a very rigorous testing and code review process which is necessary to ensure the Bitcoin network continues to operate safely and reliably. We plan to propose a feature-complete pull request in the coming month, but it might take a little longer before Segregated Witness is actually accepted and merged into Bitcoin Core. It’s a top priority, however, and we hope to be able to safely deploy Segregated Witness very soon.”

A main benefit of the current Segregated Witness design is that it can be deployed as a soft fork. Once the code is accepted and merged, only miners will need to upgrade; all other users can change their software if and whenever they want to, with no risk of being thrown off the network. Moreover, a recent improvement to the Bitcoin protocol allows soft forks to be rolled out more easily and faster than before, which should benefit Segregated Witness activation as well.

Lombrozo said:

“We're using BIP9 for activation, which means we can deploy CSV and Segregated Witness in parallel; Segregated Witness won’t have to wait for CSV activation nor vice versa. We will most likely merge CSV into Bitcoin Core in the next couple weeks, as it's been more thoroughly tested and is in the final stages of review. A Segregated Witness pull request will hopefully follow shortly after.”

The proposed Segregated Witness concept for Bitcoin was first introduced by Bitcoin Core developer and Blockstream co-founder Dr. Pieter Wuille at the secondScaling Bitcoin workshop in Hong Kong last December. The idea is widely embraced by Bitcoin's development community – though it has also received somecritique since. If a problem is found in SegNet 4, there might be a fifth iteration of the testnet, but the design is not expected to undergo further changes.

For more information on Segregated Witness, see Bitcoin Magazine’sthree-partserieson the proposal.

The post Segregated Witness Enters Final Testnet Stage, Includes Lightning Network Support appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

via Bitcoin Magazine

Bitcoin Exchange Cointrader Shuts Down After Alleged Hack

Bitcoin exchange Cointrader has announced that it is shutting down following what it claimed was a debilitating hack.

via CoinDesk

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DTCC CEO Asks Blythe Masters for Blockchain Advice in Candid Moment

DTCC CEO Michael Bodson asked Digital Asset Holdings CEO Blythe Masters yesterday for advice on how his company should respond to blockchain tech.

via CoinDesk

Coin Center Opens Nominations for the 2016 Blockchain Awards

Nominations are now open for the 2016 Blockchain Awards to be held as part of the first Coin Center Annual Dinner.

via CoinDesk

Bitcoin Marketplace Purse Takes Page From Etsy in Expansion

Bitcoin startup Purse has expanded its online marketplace in a move that now allows a wider range of buyers and sellers to connect on the platform.

via CoinDesk

Technology and Choice #01, Virtual Reality

In this Episode

Welcome to the first episode of Technology and Choice, the podcast where we're likely to talk about almost anything, as long as it centers around these two concepts.

In this episode, we introduce ourselves (John and Robert) and lay the groundwork for the ongoing podcast. Then we take up the subject of Virtual Reality technology, how it's starting to take its place in the world, as well as what choices it makes possible, and necessary.


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via The Let's Talk Bitcoin Network

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

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CFTC Commissioner: Agency Should Revisit Rules for Distributed Ledgers

CFTC's J Christopher Giancarlo said today that he believes his agency should reexamine existing rules for distributed ledger technology.

via CoinDesk

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Angela Walch: 3 Risk Factors to Consider Before Replacing Existing Financial Infrastructure With Bitcoin Blockchain Technology

While Bitcoin may not replace the U.S. dollar anytime soon, the underlying technology of the blockchain is certainly generating hype among mainstream financial institutions.  

Startups experimenting with blockchain technology for financial institutions are already receiving funding from banks like JPMorgan. In fact, in an Emerging Theme Radar note sent to its clients, Goldman Sachs has declared that the technology has the capability of drastic change.

“While the Bitcoin hype cycle has gone quiet, Silicon Valley and Wall Street are betting that the underlying technology behind it, the Blockchain, can change… well everything.” the note reads.

But, amid all the hype and excitement lie several legal and compliance issues that mainstream financial institutions will have to address if they choose to adapt the bitcoin blockchain technology as a replacement for the current financial infrastructure.

In a recent research paper exploring the complications that banks and other financial institutions  could face switching to a virtual ledger based on the bitcoin blockchain, Angela Walch, an attorney and assistant professor at St. Mary's University School of Law, said that while the existing financial system infrastructure is obsolete and needs to be upgraded, any replacements to the existing financial system should be reliable.

“But in all the excitement over this technological boon, we must keep in mind the enormous importance of reliable financial market infrastructure, and ensure that replacements to existing financial market infrastructures can be counted on,” Walch said.

Walch said that since using a single ledger, or blockchain, is not akin to signing a contract with a third party for a service, financial institutions might face complex legal and compliance snags while switching to a virtual ledger like the bitcoin blockchain.

According to Walch, some of the bitcoin blockchain’s basic features, including its status as software, its decentralized structure and its open-source software development process, creates various technology and governance risks against its potential as a financial infrastructure.

Bitcoin Blockchain’s Upgrade Process

Walch said that like any other software, the bitcoin blockchain, too, is vulnerable to bugs and attacks. Besides that, blockchain software is ever changing through new releases, and this may create a dispute and cause a split or fork in the network.

“The evolving nature of software through new releases may be a bigger problem for decentralized Bitcoin than it is for more centralized financial market infrastructures,” Walch said.

“Since controversial new releases of Bitcoin software may be unevenly adopted, there would seem to be potential for periodic forks in the network when consensus cannot be found amidst the parties in the network. This undermines the reliability of the Bitcoin blockchain, as has already been demonstrated in the March 2013 fork."

The Bitcoin Blockchain’s Decentralized Structure

According to Walch, bitcoin blockchain’s decentralized structure means it does not have an official organization or party that operates it, and the lack of any entity or organization bound by legal obligations to keep the blockchain software operational can become a major risk for financial institutions looking to adopt the bitcoin blockchain technology.

“With existing centralized financial market infrastructure, it is at least clear who has the responsibility to manage and repair it, and it is possible to impose risk-management obligations on someone,” Walch said. “Maintaining the functionality of financial market infrastructure is hugely important, and having no one specifically tasked with the responsibility for achieving this for blockchain is a significant risk.”

Bitcoin’s Open-Source Software Development Process

Walch says that similar to the bitcoin blockchain’s decentralized structure, its open source software development process creates a situation where everyone interested may participate in the development and maintenance of the software, but no one is legally obligated to do so. 

“If a crisis related to Bitcoin’s operation or value should arise, there are no financial systems or payments experts who would necessarily be involved in reacting to the crisis.” Walch said.

“It seems to make sense to have people with an in-depth understanding of the world financial and monetary systems as a whole, involved in making decisions about how it operates. Functioning financial market infrastructure benefits everyone who uses it, and users of a particular payment system or central clearinghouse are crippled if it stops working.”

 Even though banks or other financial institutions can address some of the operational issues above by creating private blockchains and hiring software coders to create the ledger and keep up with maintenance, Walch says that questions about fiduciary responsibilities will always come into play with such a highly regulated industry working with a decentralized process.


The post Angela Walch: 3 Risk Factors to Consider Before Replacing Existing Financial Infrastructure With Bitcoin Blockchain Technology appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

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Blockstream Among 10 New Firms to Join Hyperledger Blockchain Project

Bitcoin development startup Blockstream is among 10 firms that have joined the Hyperledger blockchain project.

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Bitcoin Undervalued By Over $200, Investment Bank Report Finds

A comparison of bitcoin investment to gold investment lead investment bank, Needham, to price the cryptocurrency at more than 50% its current value.

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MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative Receives a Boost With $900,000 Raised for Bitcoin Development Fund

MIT recently announced that it has raised $900,000 for the Bitcoin Developer Fund as a part of its Digital Currency Initiative (DCI). The funds raised would be used to support Bitcoin Core development efforts. 

Core developers Gavin Andresen, Cory Fields and Wladimir van der Laan currently work as a team for the MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative and, according to DCI director Brian Forde, the Bitcoin Developer Fund is intended to give the three Bitcoin coders an academic platform to work on resolving the block-size debate and other similar technical challenges.

"We built out the fund to be able to support people like Wlad [van der Laan], Cory [Fields] and Gavin [Andresen] who have supported bitcoin to continue their work in an academic way,"Forde told CoinDesk.

The donors to the fund include companies including BitFury, Bitmain, Chain, Circle and Nasdaq and individuals such asJim Breyer, Jim Pallotta, Jeff Tarrant, Reid Hoffman and Fred Wilson.

MIT’s Media Lab created the Digital Currency Initiative in April 2015 after the Bitcoin Foundation reported bankruptcy and announced plans to split up into a promotional body, a development body and an additional standards body specifically geared toward the standardization of the Bitcoin protocol.

MIT’s Media Lab was initially supposed to host a Bitcoin standards body as a part of the Digital Currency initiative, but Forde later announced that MIT’s Media Lab would host neither a development nor a standards body. Instead, it would allow the developers to focus on improving Bitcoin Core.

“The Digital Currency Initiative is not hosting a development NOR a standards body. [Andresen, Van der Laan and Fields] have accepted positions at the Media Lab to continue developing [Bitcoin core] — a community-driven free software project.”  Forde told Cointelegraph last year.

“As I mentioned in my post, we want them to do exactly what they were doing before — write the code that maintains and improves Bitcoin core. We look forward to providing them with a stable platform and the resources needed to allow them to best support the community.”

More recently, Forde reiterated the same stance on a post on Medium and said that they started the Digital Currency Initiative (DCI) at MIT, with the goal to create an environment that enabled diversity of work and thought on cryptocurrencies among students, researchers and open-source developers.

As for the funds, Forde said in the Medium post that the money will be used to cover salaries, travel and overall support of Bitcoin protocol development efforts, including events such as the Scaling Bitcoin workshop series.

He further clarified that the donors would have no influence over the developers since the donations were made in what he calls "unrestricted gifts.”

“It’s important to note that these donations are made as unrestricted gifts,” Forde said.  

“This means that, while the funds will be limited to support Bitcoin protocol development, the donors do not have any influence over the developers. Lastly, nothing has changed for Cory, Gavin and Wlad — the goal of this announcement is to publicly recognize the sponsors and address questions people might have about the fund.”

The DCI itself is funded by sponsors of MIT’s Media Lab and not the fund announced today. All the funds will be disbursed in U.S. dollars, even those received in Bitcoin.

Photo Knight Foundation / Wikimedia Commons

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DTCC CEO Pledges Future Blockchain Trials at Technology Symposium

DTCC CEO Mike Bodson spoke today at the firm's one-day Blockchain Symposium, held in New York.

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Bitcoin Wallets as Swiss Bank Accounts: The Developer's Perspective

Bitcoin was seemingly dragged into the very public debate on privacy and encryption recently. Specifically, President Barack Obama warned that if the government can't access phones, “...everybody is walking around with a Swiss bank account in their pocket,” which appeared to refer to cryptocurrency.

Last week, Bitcoin Magazine reported on Bitcoin's industry representatives and their positions on encryption, privacy, Bitcoin's role in tax evasion and money laundering and more. In part two of our coverage: What do the actual builders of these pocket-sized “Swiss bank accounts” think?

Bitcoin Magazine reached out to Electrum developer Thomas Voegtlin, Breadwallet CEO Aaron Voisine,Mycelium developer Leo Wandersleb and Ledger CTO Nicolas Bacca to see where they stand.


The debate on encryption and privacy caused by the ongoing dispute between Apple and the FBI took a sharp turn this week. The United States Department of Justice had long claimed it was unable to access encrypted iPhones without help from Apple, but this turned out not to be true.

Although the Department of Justice did not explain how they got access to the phone, the Bitcoin wallet developers Bitcoin Magazine spoke to were not surprised that they could.

Ledger CTO Nicolas Bacca speculated:

“To get access to the data, the FBI probably relied on some kind of physical attack involving the flash memory. Swapping the flash memory or disabling writes could get you infinite retries, so you can brute force the access code. The operating system doesn't handle that securely.”

Bacca also pointed out that Bitcoin itself is much more secure than a typical iPhone.

“I believe Bitcoin is less at risk against physical attacks compared to other cryptosystems, because you always get a way to invalidate a possibly compromised key - just send the coins to a different address if you notice quickly enough. The issue is properly qualifying how long is that.”


While the FBI demands Apple help the government agency access encrypted iPhones, the tech company maintains that weakening encryption could result in a privacy disaster. Obama, explaining his position last week, argued it's important to find the right balance between privacy and security, suggesting weakened encryption should be an option.

But this option was firmly rejected by all wallet developers Bitcoin Magazine spoke to.

Electrum developer Thomas Voegtlin explained:

“In the physical world, you can design a door that is difficult to break. This means that someone may be able to force that door, but not covertly, and that is why we have a balance between privacy and security. But computers are devices that tend to make things binary. In the world of computing, you either do have the key, and opening the door is very easy, or you don't, and it is impossible. If we give a special key to the government, they will be able to open millions of doors with that key, with no effort, and without attracting attention. Nothing will prevent someone from misusing that key, and eventually the key will be leaked and fall into the wrong hands. A technological backdoor is the modern equivalent of the Ring of Gyges.”

Ledger's Nicolas Bacca agreed.

“As a society I believe we should be extremely worried about calls to weaken encryption,” Bacca said. “Practically, it cannot be done for a single target, as any 'NOBUS' backdoor turns into a global risk when it's discovered. Ideologically, we already had a clear demonstration that letting agencies run loose with that kind of absolute power was a pretty bad idea. Politically, I believe it can lead to important economic collateral damages, which is another good reason to avoid doing it.”

Voisine agreed with this assesment as well. Moreover, the Breadwallet developer argued that strong encryption is itself a balancing factor against the widespread data monitoring, not a factor that itself requires balance.

“Privacy is core to the human experience. Imagine if your landlord or your extended family knew exactly how much money you had at any given time, and how much you spent and when. It would be a disaster. Privacy is a leveler that allows parties with otherwise unequal bargaining power to negotiate on equal footing. It’s even required by law in many situations, such as with the finances of publicly traded firms. Intentionally weakened encryption is absolutely something that we should all be worrying about. In a future world with the potential for ubiquitous surveillance, strong encryption available to individuals will be the counterbalancing force,” Voisine said.


Perhaps the main reason Obama cited the Swiss bank account example was to point out that strong encryption could allow citizens an easy escape from certain types of taxation. More specifically, Bitcoin users can potentially store significant amounts of wealth on their phones without government agencies knowing about it, or even being able to touch it.

Mycelium developer Leo Wandersleb, however, questioned whether that should be considered a problem at all.


“So Obama is worried that government might not have ultimate power over its citizens' assets? Help me, why again does he assume the right to have that power? I'm not a U.S. citizen, so excuse me if I'm not too firm with regard to the Constitution and its amendments ... but I know of nothing that would say 'all property is yours unless the government doesn't agree.'”

Electrum's Voegtlin took a slightly more moderate position.

“I am not an anarchist, and my involvement with Bitcoin is not motivated by anti-government ideology. I believe in a society with government, with taxes and law enforcement. I write Bitcoin software because I believe that the benefits of cryptocurrency, for society and for our economies, far outweigh the risks. However, we should not be denying there are risks. New technologies always carry new risks.”

But the answer to combating these risks is not to encroach on encryption, Voegtlin pointed out. Rather, he believes the risks should be mitigated through alternative means.


“I think that law enforcement and taxation will need to adapt to cryptocurrency. In 2011, Pirate Party founder Rick Falkvinge proposed that, in a world with Bitcoin, governments should tax consumption, rather than wealth or income. I believe that level of thinking is appropriate.”

Voisine, too, believes the answer will eventually be looked for in alternative methods of taxation.

“There are many tax revenue streams that are difficult to avoid even with the leveling power of privacy putting the individual on a more equal footing with the state. Two examples are use taxes and property taxes. As the industry grows and the world moves their wealth into Bitcoin, I think we will see a gradual shift toward more heavy reliance on these types of income streams by the state. This has the added benefit of making the true cost of state services and programs more transparent. Privacy for individuals and transparency for the state is a wonderful thing.”


Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bitcoin wallet developers have no intention of weakening the security or decreasing the privacy they offer. Rather, most intend to increase both the security and privacy of their products where possible.

Mycelium currently uses a server-based model, which means governments could potentially pressure the wallet provider to give up certain privacy sensitive information or provide false transaction data to users.

But Wandersleb explained the wallet intends to improve this:

“We are working on removing ourselves from the equation. Our new wallet will not depend on our servers, so there will be no single point of failure. It will also be open source, so even if we were forced to weaken our product, others could choose to distribute reliable versions. Lastly, Mycelium works with hardware wallets that provide a very good protection against broken operating systems.”

Bacca's Ledger is one of the companies working with Mycelium to realize this solution. Bacca explained:

“We are building additional security layers directly on the phones when we can, and we're also building a new hardware wallet device, Ledger Blue. This provides open applications development on a Secure Element, which a phone can use over Bluetooth low-energy. That would be close to the hypothetical doomsday device referred to by Obama.”

And Voisine, too, emphasized that privacy and security remain top priorities for Breadwallet.


“A Swiss bank in every pocket empowers the individual in incredible ways we've never seen before. It's time that this option becomes available to the whole world, not just the wealthy and politically connected, and we are going to give it to them.”



The post Bitcoin Wallets as Swiss Bank Accounts: The Developer's Perspective appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

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