Category Archive : Blockchain News

charles-hoskinson:-cardano-will-become-“the-most-decentralized-cryptocurrency-in-the-world”

Charles Hoskinson: Cardano Will Become “the Most Decentralized Cryptocurrency in the World”

Cardano will become the most decentralized cryptocurrency in the world, 50 to 100 times more decentralized than Bitcoin once all its upgrades are implemented.

At least that’s the word according to Cardano co-founder and CEO of IOHK Charles Hoskinson, who caught up with Cointelegraph at CV Summit, a day-long crypto event running alongside the 50th edition of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Speaking with Cointelegraph’s Kristina Cornèr, Hoskinson said he believes the hard fork, consisting of an implementation of the Ouroboros Bizantine Fault-Tolerant Consensus Protocol, will be seamless and easy. Following the hard fork, the protocol will undergo a series of additional upgrades which should eventually turn Cardano into the most decentralized cryptocurrency in the world.

Check out the full interview with Charles Hoskinson and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube Channel!

top-10-books-recommended-by-crypto-thought-leaders

Top 10 Books Recommended by Crypto Thought Leaders

At the end of 2019, Cointelegraph collected an interesting and sometimes unexpected selection of books from people without whom the world of cryptocurrency and blockchain would be completely different.

Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, Changpeng Zhao, John McAfee, Grigory Klumov and the Cointelegraph team shared the most interesting books that they read in 2019. These recommendations are for those who want to immerse themselves in the crypto industry. They also aim to help readers understand the ideas that have influenced the worldview of these industry leaders.

Here are the top 10 books that the best crypto minds of our time recommend reading.

“The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution” by Gregory Zuckerman

“I was in hedge funds for more than a decade and read every single book I could find about them since it was a pretty secretive industry that protects it secrets to make money. So there is one outstanding track record in the space that everybody knows about fact wise but very little about actual secret sauce behind it. It was exactly the reason I liked the book ‘The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution.’ The story part is still strong and I would gladly advise it to anybody who follows markets, especially algo traders.”

Gregory Klumov, Stasis founder and CEO

“The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection” by Charles Darwin

“Charles Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.’ It is the most detailed work ever on the mechanics of competition, survival, adaptation to changing environments and growth — the fundamentals of the business world. Businesses are composed of organized collections of individual members of the human species. Businesses therefore act in manners identical to the character of the human animal. They follow the same principles. Businesses begin, grow, flourish or disappear. They follow the laws of evolution exactly as species do. If you are in business and have not read ‘Origin’ from cover to cover multiple times, then you are a fool.”

John McAfee, cryptocurrency entrepreneur and founder of computer security company McAfee

“Bitcoin Billionaires: A True Story of Genius, Betrayal, and Redemption” by Ben Mezrich

“Bitcoin Billionaires is clearly our favorite book of 2019! Ben Mezrich masterfully captures the Wild West days of Bitcoin and the personalities who were ‘crazy’ enough to believe in, invest in, and build the crypto revolution over the past decade. It’s fast-paced, colorful, and distills the complexity underpinning crypto in an accessible way that gives the reader a fundamental understanding of this new technology that’s reimagining the world.”

— Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, Gemini co-founders

Read Cointelegraph’s review of the book here

“The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary” by Eric S. Raymond

Eric Raymond’s work on software development methods is based on an analysis of the Linux core development process and his personal experience managing the open-source Fetchmail project. This essay is often presented as a manifesto of the open-source movement.

The Cathedral and the Bazaar has expanded our vocabulary with new terminology. It also predicted the end of the cascading model of software development and the decline of the era of large software companies, thanks to the popular movement for free software. The central thesis of the essay is Raymond’s statement that “given enough eyes, all errors pop up.” He calls it the “Law of Linus.” — suggested by Paolo Ardoino, Bitfinex’s chief technology officer.

“Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies” by Reid Hoffman

Changpeng Zhao, known as CZ, became a leader in the crypto community of China when he founded cryptocurrency exchange Binance in 2017. Today, not one major crypto event can do without an energetic CZ. Recently, on his blog on Binance’s official site, he compiled a list of books that he recommended reading over the holidays. One of these is Blitzscaling by Reid Hoffman. CZ said that this book tells in detail how organizations of different sizes work, as well as some consequences when teams grow to different sizes. According to CZ, this was very useful for Binance when the company planned its growth as an organization. Also, the book talks about recent topics including cryptocurrencies.

“The Advantage” by Patrick Lencioni

Here is another book recommended by Changpeng Zhao. The author, Patrick Lencioni, describes how organizational culture contributes to the long-term success of a business and explains how to change the stereotypes that have developed in this area. This process requires considerable efforts from the owners of the company, but as a result, those who monitor “corporate health” become leaders, because such a unique advantage cannot be copied.

The book is based on the many years of Lencioni’s personal experience, who is one of the leading thinkers in the field of business. He describes in detail the tools necessary for serious and interesting work.

Recommendations from Cointelegraph

“The Age of Cryptocurrency” by Paul Vigna and Michael Casey

Wall Street Journal commentators Paul Vigna and Michael Casey write about the fears and rumors surrounding Bitcoin as a means of calculation and encourage readers to prepare for a new economic reality that will come.

In their book, they tell the story of Bitcoin and analyze the role of cryptocurrencies in the modern world: How they came from and where they came from, what functions they perform, and what you need to know to be ready for a new world based on cyber economics.

By eliminating the need for an intermediary, cryptocurrency technology supports an infrastructure in which strangers can conduct business with each other. This is achieved by transferring the most important function of maintaining accounting registers from centralized financial institutions to a network of autonomous ones.

“Growth: From Microorganisms to Megacities” by Vaclav Smil

Bill Gates, a famous entrepreneur, public figure, philanthropist and former shareholder of Microsoft, traditionally shares a list of the best books to read each year in order to start the next year on the right foot.

Vaclav Smil is one of Gates’ favorite authors. In the book, the author explores growth in nature and society, and discusses how we can save the planet. Gates also warned that some sections of the book resemble an engineering manual. 

In the book, growth is presented as the goal of sterilizing humans and all living organisms. The book discusses the problems of tracking the growth of empires and civilizations, explaining that we can outline the growth of organisms in the individual and evolutionary periods, but the progress of societies and economies, which is not so linear, includes both decline and renewal.

“The Art of War” by Sun Tzu

Despite the fact that the book is more than 2,500 years old, today it remains the reference book of many successful entrepreneurs. The laws and strategies described by prominent Chinese commander Sun Tzu are famously applicable in modern business conditions. The main thesis of the book is to know how to win before the start of the battle, counting all the moves, to know yourself and the enemy, choosing the right time, and using the whole range of tools and weapons available.

The main thing is to be able to comply with modern realities, know the main managerial positions, not be afraid of risk and apply effective strategic laws in practice. This is a good book on management strategy, reflecting the skills and thoughts of the Chinese commander.

“Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber” by Mike Isaac

One of the biggest business books of this year comes from Mike Isaac, a New York Times journalist who writes extensively on technology. This is a fascinating book that describes more than just recent events. The book describes almost the entire history of Uber, as well as the history of previous projects of Travis Kalanick, in which he earned a steady hostility to venture capitalists, which later expressed itself in relation to him in Uber. The book describes business details and the struggle with regulators. 

Recently, it came to light that Showtime is planning to launch a TV series on the company’s success story, based on this book, and Mike Isaac will directly participate in its creation.

2019’s-top-10-institutional-actors-in-crypto

2019’s Top 10 Institutional Actors in Crypto

Slowly but surely, institutional players are moving into the crypto/blockchain neighborhood.

According to a 2019 Fidelity Investments survey, about 22% of institutional investors already have some exposure to digital assets, with most investments having been made within the past three years. Moreover, 4 in 10 respondents say they are open to future investments in digital assets over the next five years.

“Institutional investor involvement in cryptocurrency in 2019 has been primarily about getting the infrastructure in place, such as the opening of Fidelity Digital Assets and Bakkt,” Jonathan Levin, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Chainalysis, told Cointelegraph, adding: 

“Now that the infrastructure is in place, we expect institutional volume to come as long as they can get comfortable with the compliance and market risks of cryptocurrency.”

Banks and insurance companies seem to be more engaged than other institutional segments, commented Levin, “but once institutional support from these key sectors are in place, we expect an uptake from investors such as funds and family offices.” 

Clearly, there is still work to be done — particularly with regard to compliance — but with that as a preamble, here are our top 10 institutional actors in the last year:

  1. Libra Association (stablecoin)

In June, Facebook aroused the crypto — and financial — world with its announcement of a new digital currency, Libra, and the formation of a Switzerland-based, non-profit organization, the Libra Association, to manage it — with a mandate to “help reinvent money and transform the global economy.”

The permissioned blockchain-based currency was to be tethered to a basket of bank deposits and short-term government securities. The new association began with 27 corporate partners, including Mastercard, Paypal, Visa, Vodafone, eBay and Uber.

The project ran into immediate headwinds, however, especially from global regulators who feared for their own fiat currencies and the creation of a shadow banking system. Two United States senators wrote a letter to Mastercard and Visa, among others, expressing “deep concern” that the project could destabilize the global financial system — as well as facilitate criminal and terrorist financing. Apple CEO Tim Cook said companies like Facebook shouldn’t be in charge of a global currency. Partners exited, and, by late 2019, one-quarter of the original partners were gone, including Visa, Mastercard, PayPal and eBay. 

Reports of Libra’s demise may be premature, though. Central bankers have been spurred to pilot their own digital currency projects in anticipation of Libra’s debut, and, in early December, the Libra Association was still projecting a 2020 stablecoin launch at least in some parts of the world, like Europe. 

Related: Libra Might Become Unrecognizable by Navigating Regulatory Concerns

  1. JPMorgan Chase & Co. (stablecoin)

In February, J.P. Morgan, the largest bank in the U.S., introduced JPM Coin, claiming to be the first bank to create and test a digital coin representing fiat currency. The goal was to allow instantaneous payments between the bank’s institutional clients on a permissioned blockchain platform. 

The stablecoin was to be 1:1 redeemable in a fiat currency (U.S. dollars) held by J.P. Morgan — unlike most stablecoins, like Tether (USDT) and USD Coin (USDC), that claim to have a 1:1 fiat collateral. It was slated to roll out in late 2019, but it had still not launched publicly as of Dec. 10.

J.P. Morgan has been actively exploring blockchain and crypto-related initiatives for several years — notwithstanding the fact that CEO Jamie Dimon once called digital currencies a “fraud.” Its Interbank Information Network, a bank payment and data-sharing network based on J.P. Morgan’s in-house blockchain platform Quorum, implemented in 2018, has some 365 global members today and will expand in 2020 to Japan. 

Related: Ordinary Stablecoin or XRP Killer? What We Know About JPMorgan Chase’s New Cryptocurrency

  1. Intercontinental Exchange/Bakkt (exchange)

A new institution-sized exchange company joined the crypto world in September 2019 when Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), which also owns the New York Stock Exchange, launched Bakkt, the first exchange to offer physically settled Bitcoin (BTC) futures contracts. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange, by comparison, has been settling BTC futures contracts in fiat currency, not Bitcoin, since December 2017. 

After a slow start, Bakkt’s Bitcoin futures volume edged higher through 2019 and, on Nov. 27, hit a new all-time high with 5,671 futures contracts traded (volume: $42.5 million). 

In early December, Bakkt launched the first regulated Bitcoin options and cash-settled futures in the U.S. The announcement came just a few days after Bakkt CEO Kelly Loeffler was named to fill the U.S. Senate seat of Georgia’s retiring Johnny Isakson (R).

Related: Wall St to Washington: Bakkt Launches New Products, CEO Joins Senate

  1. U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission 

The incoming chairman of U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), Heath Tarbert, said in October that Ether (ETH), as well as Bitcoin, are commodities — not securities — and, as such, will be regulated under the Commodity Exchange Act with the CFTC as its primary regulator. 

“My guess is that you will see in the near future Ether-related futures contracts and other derivatives potentially traded,” stated Tarbert. 

This statement provided regulatory clarity and some relief to Bitcoin and Ethereum developers and investors, present and future. If the CFTC was going to regulate BTC and Ether, then surely it wasn’t going to ban them, which is a real concern. 

In his first public appearance in October, Tarbert also emphasized the importance of blockchain and digital assets. The U.S. has been falling behind in blockchain innovation, receiving little support from U.S. policymakers and regulators, according to Perianne Boring, CEO of the Chamber of Digital Commerce. However, here the chairman of the CFTC said, “I want the United States to lead because whoever leads in this technology is going to end up writing the rules of the game.” This was an “incredibly important” development, Boring told Cointelegraph. 

Related: CFTC’s New Chairman: Who Is Heath Tarbert, What He Thinks of Crypto

  1. Fidelity Investments (custody):

Custody isn’t the most exciting segment of the crypto world, arguably, but it is a critical one, especially as the industry matures. It figures in many real-life investment decisions. How, for instance, will older Bitcoin holders pass on their BTC to their heirs when they die? 

In 2019, Fidelity Investments, the mutual fund colossus ($7.2 trillion under administration), stepped up with a full rollout of its Fidelity Digital Assets custody unit, four years in the making, which targets institutional investors like hedge funds, family offices and market intermediaries.

The firm’s carefully charted deployment route was marked by a series of milestones: Initial research (2014), formation of a blockchain incubator and initiation of a proof-of-concept process (May 2015), acceptance of Bitcoins as charitable donations by Fidelity Charitable (November 2015), formation of academic and industry partnerships (June 2016), acceptance of Ether for charitable donations (September 2017) and Fidelity Digital Assets unit announced (October 2018). 

In mid-December 2019, Fidelity Digital Assets announced that it may add support for Ether in 2020 if there is sufficient demand for it.

Related: Financial Institutions Use Stablecoins to Shake Things Up in 2020 

  1. Utility Settlement Coin project/Fnality International (bank consortium)

Settling cross-border trades is often cited as a promising use case of blockchain technology, and, in 2019, a global banking consortium moved closer to putting that proposition to the test.  

In June, 14 financial institutions from the U.S., Europe and Japan collectively invested $60 million in a new company, Fnality International, that will build an Ethereum blockchain, upon which trades among the banks will be settled using a token called the Utility Settlement Coin (USC) — backed with cash collateral deposited in central banks.

Spearheaded by Switzerland’s UBS in 2015, the Utility Settlement Coin project’s additional shareholders include Banco Santander, Bank of New York Mellon, Barclays, CIBC, Commerzbank, Credit Suisse, ING, KBC Group, Lloyds Banking Group, Mizuho Bank, MUFG Group, Nasdaq, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and State Street Bank & Trust.

One key challenge facing the consortium will be interoperability, according to Olfa Ransome, Fnality’s chief commercial officer:

“Not only must interoperability be achieved between legacy and digital venues and platforms, but also between competing blockchains — to support atomic settlement regardless of the standards and protocols — and between different means of on-chain payment.”

The platform is expected to be operational by mid-2020 once regulatory approvals have been secured.  

Related: Bank to Basics: USC Project Seeks to Disrupt Traditional Wholesale Banking

  1. Fairfax County Retirement Systems (pension fund)

In February, Virginia’s Fairfax County’s Retirement Systems (FCRS) became the first U.S. pension fund to invest at least a portion of its retirement holdings ($21 million) in cryptocurrency assets. The allocation, through Morgan Creek Digital, was just a small portion of the system’s assets, “given that the blockchain technology industry is still in its early stages,” explained FCRS to its participants. It reportedly invested another $50 million in a second Morgan Creek Digital fund in October.

Pension funds’ conservative mandates have made them reluctant crypto investors until now; they are generally more cautious than hedge funds and university endowments. 

 Related: First Pension Funds Investing in Crypto — a Sign of Things to Come?

  1. Chicago Mercantile Exchange (exchange)

Bakkt drew many of the crypto exchange headlines in 2019, but the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), the world’s largest futures market, notched the most Bitcoin futures contracts. At its height, in May 2019, CME was averaging $515 million in daily volume and more than 13,600 futures contracts each day. On May 13 alone, Bitcoin traded a record daily volume of 33,677 contracts, equivalent to over 168,000 BTC (worth $1.705 billion at the time). 

CME’s activity dropped toward the end of 2019, though — from a year-to-date daily average of more than 7,000 Bitcoin futures contracts in May to less than half of that by early December.  

CME continues to expand its crypto product offerings, however, announcing in November plans to introduce options on Bitcoin futures contracts by mid-January 2020. Some industry players believe the Bitcoin derivatives market will one day dwarf the BTC spot market. 

Related: CME’s Futures Options Sprinted Out of the Gate but a Marathon Lies Ahead

  1. B3i Services AG (insurance consortium)

In July, the insurance industry’s high-profile blockchain consortium, B3i Services AG, announced its first product, a catastrophe excess-of-loss reinsurance coverage. The consortium expected it to be on the market for the January 2020 renewal season. 

Formerly known as the Blockchain Insurance Industry Initiative, B3i, incorporated in 2018,   employs blockchain technology to reduce friction in the transfer of risk. Each reinsurance contract in the network is written as a smart contract atop an open-source Corda blockchain platform. The smart contracts are capable of automatically validating a condition and can determine, for example, whether an asset should go to a nominee or back to the source, or a combination thereof. 

B3i started with five insurance companies experimenting with Ethereum in May 2016. Today, the consortium encompasses 18 insurance companies and reinsurers from five continents — including Aegon, Allianz, Axa, Swiss Re, Liberty Mutual, Munich Re, Tokio Marine and Scor, among others. 

  1. Harvard University (university endowment)

When it was reported in April that Harvard University’s investment arm, Harvard Management Co. (assets: $38.3 billion), was making its first crypto investment, it was hailed as a win for the cryptocurrency/blockchain sector, which has struggled to attract institutional investors with deep pockets. 

Admittedly, the investment in blockchain-toolmaker Blockstack tokens was worth less than $12 million, a drop in the bucket for the world’s largest university endowment, but following Yale University’s lead in 2018 — that school invested in two crypto funds, managed by Andreesen Horowitz and Paradigm, respectively — it could signal a growing trend among high profile U.S. universities. Other elite university endowments, including Stanford and MIT, have been quietly testing the crypto waters, reported Cointelegraph in May.

Related: Ivy League Universities Set to Boost the Crypto Industry With an Injection of Institutional Investment

Compliance issues persist

Key obstacles remain, however, before institutions really plant their flag in crypto/blockchain territory. Chainalysis conducted a poll of financial institutions last November, in which more than half of the respondents cited compliance in one form or another as the issue preventing them from investing more in cryptocurrency. Also, 39% said they worry about the inability to control illicit activity, while nearly 18% indicated that they are unsure of their ability to comply with government regulations in the space. 

With growing commitments from heavyweights, like Fidelity, JPMorgan and ICE, however, and even stirrings from endowments and pension funds, there were clear signs in 2019 that large institutions are moving closer to embracing cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies in 2020. 

is-the-future-of-blockchain-tech-innovation-in-the-east?

Is the Future of Blockchain Tech Innovation in the East?

Since the end of World War II, the United States has been an undisputed global leader in innovation. From putting a man on the moon to the “Traitorous Eight” of Fairchild and the birth of today’s Silicon Valley, the U.S. has been at the forefront of embracing emerging technology. This position has given the country a strategic advantage in dictating how technology is adopted and setting the basic standards for its use. However, as we enter the new decade, the U.S. is at risk of losing its place as the leading innovator to Asia, impacting our technological future significantly.

The rise of China

The largest competitor to the American innovation hegemony is China. Over the past few years, China has heavily focused on developing emerging technologies such as blockchain and AI. While PwC survey respondents viewed the U.S. as the most advanced territory developing blockchain today, they believe that in the next three to five years, the leader will be China. 

Over 500 projects have registered with China’s Cyberspace Administration since being required to do so this past January. There are nearly three times as many blockchain-related patents filed in China than the next closest country. China’s spending on blockchain technology will exceed $2 billion by 2023 according to a report from American market intelligence firm IDC. Even local governments are pledging funds to blockchain projects.

Related: What Happens If the US Loses the Blockchain War?

A national priority

All this activity and interest in blockchain technology has come about because the Chinese government openly supported it.

Blockchain development became a national priority when it was included in the country’s “13th Five Year Plan” back in 2016. China President Xi Jinping reinforced its importance to the country’s future during a speech in late October of last year, stating:

“We must take blockchain as an important breakthrough for independent innovation of core technologies, clarify the main directions, increase investment, focus on a number of key technologies, and accelerate the development of blockchain and industrial innovation.”

He also stressed that “it is necessary to lead the standard setting and right to speak in the world.”

Related: How Will China Pursue Xi Jinping’s Blockchain Adoption Plan?

“De-intermediarization”

China is not known for little government oversight, and its approach towards blockchain is no different. A Chinese official even explained on state TV: 

“When talking about blockchain, many people are talking about ‘decentralization.’ I’d like to make a small change to the word. I think the essence of blockchain is ‘de-intermediarization.’ There is no way to get rid of the center.”

The standards China would like to set strongly differ from the underlying philosophy of peer-to-peer transactions created without the involvement of a state or central party. For blockchain pursuits, this might pose an uncomfortable thought, as Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin described: “While Westerners envision blockchain-based Web 3.0 as an open system, China could build a closed blockchain that it controls and corrupts for its own purposes.”

By leading the standard setting, China could significantly steer the industry in any direction of its liking and potentially limit the adoption of certain blockchain platforms it can’t control.

Related: Why the Fed Needs to Start Issuing Digital Dollars

Beyond the Great Wall

One way to set standards is to work with other global players early.

Partnering with 12 EU member states and 5 Balkan countries, China created the China-CEEC Blockchain Centre of Excellence, “focused on boosting the applied and fundamental research on blockchain and DLT technologies.”

China also formed a banking consortium with the other BRIC countries to “collaborative research on distributed ledger and blockchain technology in the context of the development of the digital economy.”

Even Walmart and IBM joined forces with JD.com and Tsinghua University to create the Blockchain Food Safety Alliance to “enhance food tracking, traceability and safety in China.”

China isn’t the only one

While China is certainly in the best position to lead blockchain innovation, it’s not the only country that could outpace the U.S. this coming decade.

The Korean market also has potential to become a leader for blockchain adoption in the world. The country is pioneering blockchain adoption in many areas of large business, startups and government. The Ministry of Science and Technology in South Korea has launched initiatives for training blockchain developers, and the Seoul Metropolitan Government plans to invest over $1 billion in blockchain and fintech startups by 2022.

A major part of enterprise blockchain development is happening in India. India is the number one country worldwide in the highly specialized field of systems integration engineering, and as a global leader in software innovation, India houses some of the world’s leading blockchain teams. India’s blockchain development leaders are leading decision-making and engineering for enterprises around the globe.

Not too late

While other countries are gaining on its position, the U.S. can still take action to keep its place as the leading global innovator. Through a combination of government intervention, investment and partnering with both private and public enterprises, the U.S. can support young industries like blockchain, fostering its growth and setting the standards for its use.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Tal Kol is the co-founder of Orbs. Tal previously co-founded Appixia, a mobile app startup acquired by Wix.com, and was the head of mobile engineering at Wix.com. He is an expert on blockchain applications and the former head of engineering of Kin at Kik Interactive.

crypto-exchange-zebpay-reopens-in-india-despite-banking-ban

Crypto Exchange Zebpay Reopens in India Despite Banking Ban

Singapore-based crypto exchange Zebpay reportedly returns to the Indian market more than a year after an Indian Reserve Bank crackdown led to the exchange’s closure in the country. 

After discontinuing Indian services in late 2018, Zebpay will open its exchange for the country once again, although the central bank ruling that caused its demise has not changed, IBS intelligence wrote on Jan. 29, Citing “reports.” 

Shutdown in the face of regulation

In September 2018, Zebpay halted exchange availability in India after the Reserve Bank of India, or RBI, forbade banks from serving crypto companies. 

Although it closed operations in India, Zebpay announced expansion to Australia in May 2019, showing the outfit was still alive and growing. 

Comeback in spite of limitation

The RBI ban has not changed, but Zebpay has decided to open its doors to Indian customers once again anyway, according to IBS intelligence. 

Surrounding the rebound, Zebpay has updated its company brass, including a new CFO and CMO. The outfit also touts added features and crypto-based trading pairs. Additionally, the exchange expects to open an avenue for involvement in mutual funds, IBS wrote. 

The past several months have yielded numerous sessions in front of India’s Supreme Court on the RBI ban in an attempt to gain clarity on the situation. 

Cointelegraph reached out to Zebpay for comment, but received no response as of press time. This article will be updated accordingly upon receipt of a response.

usdt-moves-every-eight-days-on-average,-data-shows

USDT Moves Every Eight Days on Average, Data Shows

Recent data from crypto data site Coin Metrics shows USDT tokens change locations every eight days on average. 

“The trailing 12 month velocity of @Tether_to on Omni, Ethereum and Tron has rapidly and consistently increased since September and currently sits at ATHs, where on average each $USDT turns over 46 times per year,” Coin Metrics posted on its Twitter account on Jan. 31. 

Moving on three blockchains

Tether, one of the crypto industry’s oldest stablecoin operations, originally built its USD-pegged token on Bitcoin’s Omni token layer. Tether also operates on Ethereum’s blockchain as an ERC-20 token.  

Several years after its inception, Tether issued USDT on Tron’s blockchain in 2019 as an added market option.

Based on Coin Metrics’ tweet, all three blockchains currently host all-time high USDT transaction numbers, in terms of how often each USDT token moves from any given location. 

Crunching the numbers

According to the numbers Coin Metrics listed, each USDT on the market moves approximately 46 times per year on average. 

Taking into account a 365-day year, this would mean an average USDT moves approximately every eight days. 

Such movement shows that the market still uses USDT regularly, even after years of insolvency doubts, lawsuits and questions.

Authorities subpoenaed Tether and allegedly related exchange Bitfinex near the end of 2017 on questions of solvency. 

In 2018, a law firm came forward, stating sufficient backing for USDT. As of recently, Bitfinex sits in the spotlight, facing four lawsuits for alleged market manipulation in 2017. 

Cointelegraph reached out to Coin Metrics for additional comment but received no response as of press time. This article will be updated accordingly should a response come in.

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Trezor Wallets Can Be Hacked, Kraken Reveals

Kraken Security Labs revealed on Jan 31. that Trezor hardware wallets and their derivatives can be hacked to extract private keys. Though the procedure is quite involved, Kraken claims that it “requires just 15 minutes of physical access to the device.”

The attack requires a physical intervention on the Trezor wallet by either extracting its chip and placing it on a special device or soldering a couple of critical connectors.

The Trezor chip must then be connected to a “glitcher device” that would send it signals at specific moments. These break the built-in protection that prevents the chip’s memory from being read by external devices. 

The trick allows the attacker to read critical wallet parameters, including the private key seed.

Though the seed is encrypted with a PIN-generated key, the researchers were able to brute force the combination in just two minutes. 

The vulnerability is caused by the specific hardware used by Trezor, meaning that the company cannot easily fix it. It would need to completely redesign the wallet and recall all existing models.

In the meantime, Kraken urged Trezor and KeepKey users to not allow anyone to physically access the wallet.

In a coordinated response published by Trezor, the team minimized the impact of the vulnerability. The company argued that the attack would show visible signs of tampering due to the need to open the device, while also noting that the attack requires extremely specialized hardware to perform.

Finally, the team suggested users activate the wallet’s passphrase feature to protect from such attacks. The password is never stored on the device as it is added to the seed to generate the private key on the fly. Kraken also noted that this is a viable alternative, though researchers referred to it as “a bit clunky to use in practice.”

The feature also adds significant responsibility to each user. The passphrase needs to be complex enough to not be easily brute forced as well, and forgetting it would completely lock users out of their money.

Cointelegraph reached out to Kraken for additional details, but had not received a response as of press time. The article will be updated as more information becomes available.

overstock’s-tzero-to-launch-broker-dealer-in-first-half-of-2020

Overstock’s tZERO to Launch Broker Dealer in First Half of 2020

Overstock’s blockchain arm tZERO aims to launch its cryptocurrency and digital asset broker dealer service in the first half of 2020.

In a letter to investors released on Jan. 30, tZERO CEO Saum Noursalehi provided a recap of the company’s progress over the last year and highlighted tZERO’s goals for 2020. One of the main objectives of the company is to roll out a digital assets broker dealer in the first half of the current year, dubbed tZERO Markets.

Noursalehi said that the company is working closely with regulators on the matter, and further added that “this is an important initiative as it will allow us to integrate our web and mobile app experiences in the future, enabling investors to trade digital securities and cryptocurrencies on one platform.”

As previously reported, tZERO’s Boston Security Token Exchange filed an application with the SEC to approve the launch of a market for publicly traded registered security tokens, in October 2019. The exchange asked asks the commission to “adopt rules to govern the trading of equity securities on the Exchange” which “would operate a fully automated, price/time priority execution system for the trading of ‘security tokens.’”

Broker dealers receive the green light from the SEC

Last November, Harbor, a digital platform for alternative assets, received a transfer agent license from the SEC. The license enables Harbor to maintain financial records of security token ownership, track account balances and pay out dividends while attracting blockchain companies that are looking to conduct Reg A offerings.

The blockchain-based startup Blockstack was the first-ever digital token offering to receive the go-ahead from the SEC to run a $23 million investment round under Regulation A . Founders of Blockstack Muneeb Ali and Ryan Shea reportedly spent 10 months and approximately $2 million to get approval from the SEC for a Reg A offering.

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IBM-Backed Hyperledger Fabric Releases Version 2.0

Hyperledger Fabric released version 2.0 of its enterprise distributed ledger technology (DLT) platform, according to a Jan. 30 announcement. Several major features were added to the platform that improve how its different participants communicate with each other.

Hyperledger Fabric is one of the several products of the Hyperledger consortium, which features dozens of important industry players and is primarily backed by IBM.

Fabric is a private or “permissioned” blockchain network that is used in industries such as finance and supply chains. It allows companies to control access to their networks and keep sensitive data private, while enabling some cross-industry cooperation through dedicated channels and verifiable smart contracts.

Version 2.0 made some notable improvements to decentralization by adding a new management system for chaincodes, Fabric’s term for smart contracts. Multiple organizations can now agree on key parameters of a chaincode, which can then be used on the shared ledger. 

In addition, chaincodes can be tweaked by single organizations before being committed to the ledger, which ensures that everyone agrees on what data can be shared with each other.

Data sharing has also been streamlined to work on a need-to-know basis. Organizations can now choose to share data privately with specific members of their immediate network, which removes the need to define complex channel combinations to do the same.

Finally, several performance improvements were introduced, involving parallelization of tasks and more efficient program flows. Hyperledger claims that this allows the network to support thousands of transactions per second.

What is Hyperledger Fabric?

Fabric is a highly modular DLT platform that was designed for use in industries. Unlike public blockchains, it answers to the need for businesses to maintain secrecy in their operations. For example, it allows users to customize the price of a product for each client, with none of them knowing what the others are paying for it.

At the same time, Fabric can facilitate cooperation between different industry players with its shared ledger. Companies are allowed to choose which data they want to disclose, while the validity of secret data is ensured through cryptographic mechanisms.

On a technical level, Fabric is extremely flexible. Consensus between organizations can be reached in a variety of ways, while smart contracts can have multiple architectures — those similar to Ethereum, Bitcoin, or even completely different types.

Smart contracts can be programmed in mainstream languages such as Go, Java and Javascript, in addition to Solidity. 

As an enterprise product, it features rolling and asynchronous upgrades, which is similar to how mainstream software works.

Fabric recently overtook its competitors in terms of development activity.

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Does Algorand 2.0 Prove an Appealing Option for Developers?

Algorand officially unveiled a suite of new features to its pure-proof-of-stake network at the end of November, dubbed Algorand 2.0. The latest suite of technical innovation by the emerging “frictionless finance” network, the upgrade encompasses the official commissioning of smart contracts on the network, along with the Algorand Standard Assets, or ASA, and atomic transfers. 

Algorand started off with a bang through its $60 million initial coin offering, which led into its vaunted technology upgrade — Algorand 2.0.

Designed for building decentralized finance products, enterprise-scale DApps, and business-ready blockchain solutions, Algorand 2.0 presents a compelling option for developers focused on adoption beyond the ultimately limited world of crypto.

Related: How MIT Joined Ethereum in the Race for the PoS Blockchain

The move came just before 2020 — a year proclaimed by Polkadot founder and Solidity creator Gavin Wood to be characterized by the looming “Blockchain Wars” between competing public blockchains. 

When it comes to public smart contract platforms, however, Ethereum still reigns king. While pulling developer talent away from its impressive network effects remains any protocol’s biggest challenge, Algorand continues toward growing adoption with different audiences: the public and private sectors.

High-profile partnerships launching with Algorand upgrades

With the launch of 2.0, Algorand is growing the technical capabilities of its protocol on pace with its list of formidable partners. Saving the best for last, Algorand finished 2019 with major projects underway, such as World Chess’ launch of a hybrid initial public offering, Fondazione Bordoni working with Algorand for the Italian government, the International Blockchain Monetary Reserve launching a microfinance platform for Southeast Asia on Algorand, a Sharia-compliant certification from Dubai, and $60 million in real estate tokenized on the Algorand blockchain by AssetBlock. 

The collaborations follow the ALGO token’s listing on several prominent exchanges, including Coinbase and Binance, who upgraded ALGO to support the V2 0.2 implementation.

In the public sector, Algorand’s recent partnership with Fondazione Ugo Bordoni, or FUB, in Milan to explore the potential economic and technical impact of Algorand’s protocol on developing Italy’s “trust infrastructure.” Mirella Liuzzi, under-secretary of State of Ministry of Economic Development, stated

“The signing of the agreement between the FUB and the Algorand Foundation, signed at the Milan meeting of the European Blockchain Partnership of which Italy is co-president, once again confirms the international role assumed by our country on the subject and the attention of the MiSE towards emerging technologies such as the Blockchain also through the promotion of technical-scientific synergies on the subject.”

Adoption isn’t just a function of savvy business development, however. There is a lot of new technical innovation that is helping Algorand break away from competing layer one protocols like EOS and Tezos in real-world utility.

Algorand 2.0 is appealing to developers 

Network effects in crypto networks are paramount, especially in terms of developer adoption. As mainstream business and consumer sectors have yet to adopt DApps or public blockchains as their primary financial infrastructure, attracting motivated developers — who ultimately design the products with which end-users interact — remains one of the most difficult objectives for any upstart network in the market. 

While user experience and consumer utility are the primary inducements of the mainstream, versatile yet powerful technology is a major draw for the blockchain world’s invaluable technical talent.

For example, the current ascendance of “next-generation” blockchains is predicated on the notion of improving areas where Ethereum initially struggled. High gas costs, limited on-chain transactions per second, or TPS, and costly resources for running full nodes opened the door for these platforms to steal developer interest.

Ethereum still maintains the vast majority of the developer talent pool, but Algorand 2.0 presents some promising long-term capabilities — and encouraging mainstream interest.

The Algorand 2.0 release includes a trio of developments for its layer one on-chain functionality: 

  1. Algorand Standard Assets (ASA)
  2. Atomic Transfers
  3. Algorand Smart Contracts in layer one (ASC1s)

ASA primarily focuses on one of the crypto market’s principal initiatives to attract institutional adoption: The digitization of financial assets. The ASA enables developers to digitize virtually any type of financial asset (e.g., securities, regulatory certificates, etc.) on layer one of the network. The framework is standardized, a necessity for interoperability and regulatory compliance, and can include asset characteristics such as non-fungible, fungible and restricted assets. 

In the case of restricted assets, a company such as a financial institution could issue a digitized asset using the ASA and Algorand’s Role-Based Asset Control mechanism for features like privileged asset transactions (e.g., “whitelisting”), quarantining account transfers for investigative purposes, or force-transferring assets for legal purposes. 

This is markedly different than smart contract platforms like Ethereum, where standardized protocols such as ERC-20 lack clear guidance on the semantics of its events, despite being a standard to enable functionality between wallet interfaces. 

Atomic Transfers — another feature released in Algorand 2.0 — are an exciting prospect for the broader industry. Also baked into the first layer of Algorand, Atomic Transfers are a trust-minimized method for inducing batched transactions between multiple parties, concurrently. 

In an Atomic Transfer, all transactions are either executed at once, or not at all.

Related: DEX, Explained | Cointelegraph

The method gained appeal in arbitrage trading strategies for DEXs on Ethereum but came with several limitations. Algorand expanded the concept of atomic transfers to include a much faster execution (a downstream consequence of Algorand’s high TPS), reduced fees, and most importantly — multi-party transfer of ASA assets using Atomic Transfers. 

Immediate use cases for Algorand’s atomic transfers include efficient matching funding, instant settlement of complex interactions, and multilateral trades. 

Finally, the last (but not least) integration of Algorand 2.0 is the introduction of official smart contract support into the on-chain layer. 

Due to Algorand’s high-performance and stake-based consensus, smart contracts can be executed virtually instantly at drastically reduced costs. Smart contracts are crafted with custom rules and logic, and can facilitate complex economic interactions using ASA, atomic transfers, and a transaction primitives language written by Algorand, specifically Transaction Execution Approval Language, or TEAL, which is a bytecode-based stack language used for validating and executing transactions within Algorand. TEAL operates within nodes in Algorand to determine whether or not transactions are valid, and TEAL programs should be concise, as they run in-line with block assembly and validation.

ASC1 contracts on Algorand have several downstream consequences, including regulated disbursements, cross-chain atomic transfers, and even the removal of private key management requirements for ASC1-governed accounts. 

But to better understand these perspectives from a broader context, it is important to evaluate how Algorand is partnering with other organizations to leverage the advantages of its 2.0 suite. 

Conclusion

Moving forward, 2020 will ultimately prove a pivotal year for the “Blockchain Wars” romanticized by Gavin Wood. 

Only time will tell if Algorand and the class of accompanying public blockchain networks can steal some of Ethereum’s market share before the pending release of Ethereum’s Serenity upgrade. 

The clock is ticking to return results that attract both institutional and mainstream adoption. 

Algorand 2.0 is a compelling start to serving the mainstream (versus purely crypto) world and should, at the very least, pique the interest of developers in the decentralized finance sector looking to extend Ethereum’s pioneering of the blossoming open finance movement. 

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Andrew Rossow is a millennial attorney, law professor, entrepreneur, writer and speaker on privacy, cybersecurity, A.I., AR/VR, blockchain, and digital monies. He has written for many outlets and contributed to cybersecurity and technology publications. Utilizing his millennial background to its fullest potential, Rossow provides a well-rounded perspective on social media crime, technology and privacy implications.