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Cryptocurrency: Top 5 Things You Should Know About Digital Cash

Cryptocurrency:
Top 5 Things You Should Know About Digital Cash

If you’ve had your ear to the fintech

streets over the last few years, you’ve probably heard the term Bitcoin tossed around as cash’s digital counterpart. What you may not know is how Bitcoin’s emergence in 2009 has spawned a race across the globe to be part of the emerging trend. What exactly is Bitcoin? Will it replace cash? What does it mean for your small business? Here’s a quick rundown to get you up to speed.

What is it?

Bitcoin is a type of cryptocurrency or a digital currency that uses encryption techniques to create units and secure the transaction. What’s unique about this invention is it decentralizes currency away from traditional banks, meaning people can complete financial transactions without any bank involvement or regulation. Bitcoin is the first form of cryptocurrency invented, and is still by far the largest within the market.

How do you use it?

To simplify it further, it’s basically a peer-to-peer sharing network. Members can initiate transactions through the network, however, no actual currency is created or transacted until both parties agree on the amount. Here’s how it works:

1.     Someone requests a transaction.
2.     The request is broadcast to the P2P network composed of computers or “nodes.”
3.     The network initiates a validation process to verify both users and the transaction amount.
4.     Once the transaction is validated, the cryptocurrency is created in the amount that was agreed upon in the validation process. If the amounts or the network credentials don’t add up, the transaction request is denied.

The cryptocurrency has no physical form and only exists within the network. Value is only assigned once the agreed terms are validated. Holders can then withdraw the value from a cryptocurrency ATM in exchange for the currency they’d like to use.

Is it legal?

The legality of cryptocurrency varies by country. Some have explicitly allowed it for trade, and others have totally banned it. For us, the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) ruled that bitcoin will be treated as property for tax purposes as opposed to currency. So, it’s legal to own and use for trade internationally, however, it will be subject to capital gains tax.

Are US shoppers using it?

Sure. Knowledge about Bitcoin has increased so significantly since 2014 that there are now 554 Bitcoin ATMs in the U.S. These are stations that Bitcoin owners can use to exchange for U.S. currency.

How will this impact my business?

While Bitcoin is gaining steam in the US and across the globe, it will likely be a few years before this impacts the small business sector. Since the IRS hasn’t identified cryptocurrency as a legal tender, it likely won’t surface as a mainstream payment option for another decade or so.

However, cryptocurrency has the legs to gain popularity within contract-based subsectors. If adopted at full-scale, organizations like banks and insurance companies could be replaced. Access, validation and other major functions can be performed by the technology itself, so bank and insurance underwriting would no longer be a limitation for people who are typically denied credit. Rules, contracts, and processes can be programmed within the peer-to-peer network and therefore transformed into automated processes.

Insurance policies for flight delays will pay out immediately if an airline’s flight data reports a delayed plane. For example, musicians’ royalties can be automatically paid via the blockchain when people listen to their songs, without a record company being involved. People will no longer have to waste time claiming compensation. The amount of self-generated solar power can be calculated without checks by a utility company and credited to the user’s account

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Bitcoin’s price breaks records, yet again (more)

Bitcoin's price breaks records, yet again

 

  
Bitcoin is still on a major upswing. 

The price of the cryptocurrency broke $1,500 this week — a huge milestone for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.  The $1,500 price put the total value of the cryptocurrency market above $40 billion, MarketWatch reported. Bitcoin started off 2017 trading just above $1,000, which was its first time reaching that mark in three years. Then in February, the digital currency exceeded its $1,165 record price set in 2014. Last week, bitcoin rose above $1,400, an all-time high. And now it's above $1,500 — at $1,534 on Saturday afternoon, to be exact. It could all come crashing down again — in early 2017, bitcoin's swing above $1,000 was short-lived. Or maybe $1,500 will be the going rate for one bitcoin from now on.

 

Cryptocurrency Prices Explode! Bitcoin at $1600, Ethereum at $100

Almost all cryptocurrencies are way up today bringing the combined value of the market to $46 billion.

Cryptocurrency prices appear to be unstoppable today,

with the top four blockchain assets now worth over $1 billion each. It seems much of the surge is from new money pouring into the market. This is evident from the exceptionally high trading volumes, reaching new record total for the entire ecosystem of over $2.2 billion a day. One likely reason for this is that the news of recent all-time highs are drawing in more and more new traders attracted to the opportunity.

Bitcoin is now at a record high of $1600, rising 7% since yesterday, giving it a market cap of over $26 billion. Ethereum is now at a record high of $100 rising yesterday, giving it a market cap of over $9 billion. Ripple’s XRP is now at a record high of $0.09, rising 40% since yesterday, giving it a market cap of over $3.4 billion. Litecoin is now at a record high of $25, rising 20% since yesterday, giving it a marketrising over $1.3 billion.

In fact, most of the other 700+ blockchain assets traded around the world are up significantly today. In total, the combined value of the entire market is now at a record $46 billion. While the speed at which we are seeing the value grow can cause fears of a bubble, the figure is not that unbelievable if we compare it to another online payments solution,  Paypal (NASDAQ: PYPL) which has a market cap of $58 billion. All this actually leads to some contradiction regarding the strength of bitcoin. While the original blockchain is the most valuable and keep setting new records, its cryptocurrency competitors are raising relatively faster — and bitcoin’s dominance of the market has fallen to just 57%.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Digital Gold’: Cryptocurrencies Soar as Investors Swap Dollars for Bitcoins

Digital Gold':
Cryptocurrencies Soar as Investors
Swap Dollars for Bitcoins

Cryptocurrencies are gaining in value because many see them as a new type of digital investment that has advantages over the US dollar or even gold, Economic Historian Dr. Garrick Hileman told Radio Sputnik.

  

The price of Bitcoin was soaring to new highs

during trading last week, amid an upsurge in demand. According to the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index (BPI), it broke through the $1,500 barrier for the first time on Thursday; trading on Saturday has reached $1,550 so far. Since reaching $1,000 at the turn of the year, the cryptocurrency has surged in recent months and added over 20 percent of value during April alone. The steep rise in price has led some analysts to wonder whether Bitcoin, which was invented in 2009 and broke the $100 barrier in 2013, is heading for a second wave of price growth as new money enters the market.

Cryptocurrencies expert Dr. Garrick Hileman, who is an Economic Historian at Cambridge University and the LSE, as well as a founder of the macroeconomic news website Macro Digest, told Radio Sputnik that all cryptocurrencies, not just bitcoin, are gaining in popularity. "Three years ago when Bitcoin crossed $1,000, there were still a lot of other cryptocurrencies but Bitcoin represented 90 percent of the total market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies. Today, it's just over 50 percent so there's a broader story going on beyond Bitcoin," Hileman said.

Bitcoin's steep price increase has caught the headlines but other blockchain platforms have been gaining price at an even higher rate. For example, the blockchain Ethereum, which offers native support for automated "smart contracts," is now worth $7 billion.While cryptocurrencies are being used for more and more tasks, such as cross-border payments or online transactions, financial speculation is still the source of most demand."Most people would agree that cryptocurrency today is still considered primarily a speculative instrument, a stored value. It's a bet on people needing cryptocurrency to do things like power the 'internet of things' economy and machine to machine transactions."

"We don't know how big that segment of the economy is going to be, but a lot of people think that something like Bitcoin or Ethereum or one of these other currencies could be the payment rail for a machine-to-machine economy," Hileman explained. The idea of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies being used as a kind of digital gold, an alternative way of storing money outside of traditional banks and currencies, is also gaining in acceptance. Most recently, bitcoin and other virtual currencies received official recognition in Japan last month. "More and more people are waking up to cryptocurrency as an alternative to something like the US dollar as a traditional way to opt-out of your national currency."

   Standard 24 karat gold bars being cast in the foundry of the Novosibirsk gold refinery
Why Russia's Central Bank is Stacking Bullion Bricks Like There's No Tomorrow

However, investors in virtual currency should be aware that since there is no national or international regulation of bitcoin, buyers can be the victims of theft or fraud. In addition, the price is very volatile and could end up sky-high — or zero."These are incredibly volatile instruments, there's no government or central bank standing behind them to help try to regulate the exchange rate." 

"If cryptocurrency is really a new type of digital asset, if it's a new digital gold then it's really hard to know what the price ceiling is. All the gold today is worth roughly about $7 trillion, all the cryptocurrency in the world today is worth about $45 billion so it's a small fraction of gold." "Yet, cryptocurrencies like bitcoin offer a number of advantages over gold. They are a lot easier to store, in some ways they are certainly easier to send to someone else around the world, they may be even more convenient to acquire. So, if cryptocurrency is becoming a new kind of digital gold, a new commodity, then really the sky could be the limit on the price."

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Billionaire bitcoin enthusiast Tim Draper is backing a new cryptocurrency for the first time

Billionaire bitcoin enthusiast Tim Draper is backing a new cryptocurrency for the first time

  • Draper was an early supporter of bitcoin and its underlying blockchain financial ledger technology.
  • He told Reuters in an interview he will for the first time participate in a so-called "initial coin offering" of Tezos slated later this month.
  • Most traditional venture capital firms are prohibited by agreements with investors from deploying cash into such high-risk assets as digital currencies.

Venture capitalist Draper wins US Marshals bitcoin auction.

Billionaire venture capitalist Tim Draper soon plans to take a step that even he, a long-time bitcoin aficionado, has eschewed until now: Buying a new digital currency offered by a technology start-up.Draper, an early supporter of bitcoin and its underlying blockchain financial ledger technology, told Reuters in an interview he will for the first time participate in a so-called "initial coin offering" (ICO) of Tezos slated later this month.

Tezos, a new blockchain platform launched by a husband-and-wife team with extensive Wall Street and hedge fund backgrounds, will launch the ICO on May 22. Draper will also invest in U.S.-based Dynamic Ledger Solutions Inc., the creator of Tezos, but did not disclose details. Draper, who scored big as an early backer of Skype and Baidu, becomes the first prominent venture capitalist to openly embrace initial coin offerings. This would be a significant stamp of approval for this new financing model Blockchain start-ups. Some investors have expressed concern about the lack of regulatory oversight for ICOs.

                                         Bitcoin on the rise

Over the last year, blockchain start-ups have been raising cash by creating and selling their own currencies or tokens in unregulated offerings that bypass banks or venture capital firms as intermediaries. Interest in these deals has been stoked by the runaway performance of the original cyber currency, bitcoin, which has surged more than 67 percent in the last six weeks to hit a record high. "The best thing I can do is lead by example," said Draper, on his plan to participate in Tezos' token offering.

"Over time, I actually feel that some of these tokens are going to improve the world, and I want to make sure those tokens get promoted as well. I think Tezos is one of those tokens." Most traditional venture capital firms are prohibited by agreements with investors from deploying cash into such high-risk assets as digital currencies. But Draper said the contract terms with his investors allow investing in pretty much any vehicle. "I think most investor contracts did not anticipate something like an ICO," said Draper. "But we did anticipate that certain things are going to happen and finance is going to be transformed."

Draper said his firm has specifically carved out money for non-traditional investments. Tezos is similar to bitcoin and other blockchain platforms, but its design allows for decentralized and automated upgrades. Most software platforms provide for automated updates, but blockchains remain notable exceptions because update procedures are typically centralized. Tezos touts itself as the first blockchain platform to overcome that hurdle.

Tezos was created over a span of three years by Kathleen and Arthur Breitman. Arthur Breitman had worked at the high-frequency trading desk at Goldman Sachs and was an Options Market maker at Morgan Stanley, while Kathleen Breitman is a former management associate at Bridgewater Associates, the world's largest hedge fund. Unlike previous ICOs, Kathleen Breitman said, Tezos' deal would not be capped by a set number of tokens to be created. "What we're going to do is allow as many people who want to buy into the crowd sale over a two-week period," she said.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Bitcoin Is Advancing Rapidly Like In Early Days Of Internet

Bitcoin Is Advancing Rapidly Like In Early Days Of Internet

Bitcoin Is Advancing Rapidly Like In Early Days Of Internet: Experts

Mainstream adoption of Bitcoin

Bob Wood of Nexxus University says:

“Cryptocurrency is advancing rapidly with technology solutions that are far outpacing the marketplace development of the mainstream public.”

Mainstream adoption of Bitcoin goes hand in hand with an increase in market capitalization as well as the price of Bitcoin and top altcoins. Still, in the very early stages of development with a consistently growing density of adoption, certain factors are considered of utmost importance and fundamental to the development of the crypto industry in general.

Elements of adoption

Wood explains that the most important elements for mainstream adoption mirror those of previous new technologies like the personal computer and the Internet. They include public awareness and knowledge, a perceived user benefit sometimes referred to as the "killer app," convenience and ease of use, safety, and security.

According to Wood, very little is currently being done to advance the benefits of cryptocurrency from the tech world to the mainstream public. As more business-oriented entrepreneurs develop cryptocurrency solutions, more thought will go into meeting the needs for mainstream adoption. He notes that the prevailing rate of growth for mainstream adoption of cryptocurrency will need to be accelerated to see acceptance rates similar to previous new technologies.

Wood says:

“The personal computer was invented around 1975 but didn't see mainstream adoption until 1990 with the prevalence of the graphical user interface for usability. The Internet was commercially available around 1990 but didn't see mainstream adoption until after the turn of the century. Cryptocurrency is in the early stages of only eight years since its invention and is currently comparable to green screens and floppy drives of the personal computer era in the early 1980s. Based on these previous new technologies, cryptocurrency may not reach full mainstream adoption until after 2025.”

Nexxus is assisting non-tech mainstream public users in learning what cryptocurrency is and how it can benefit them. Wood says Nexxus is taking the technology to the people rather than trying to take the people to the technology:

“We need to meet people where they are most comfortable and lead them to the virtues of cryptocurrency.”

Adoption is subjective

The CEO of Netcoins, Michael Vogel, thinks that the idea of mainstream adoption of cryptocurrency is subjective:

“Personally, I've never seen Bitcoin as something that needs to be accepted by brick and mortar retailers in order to be considered mainstream.”

He continues by explaining that Bitcoin is a valuable tool for e-commerce, remittance, micropayments, peer to peer lending, store of value and many other applications. The use cases continue to grow and Bitcoin is already being used in ways that cash, credit cards, and gold simply cannot function. Vogel also notes that there are major league American sports teams that accept Bitcoin as a form of payment. “I would absolutely consider that mainstream adoption,” he says.

Internet comparison

Also making particular reference to the early days of the Internet, Vogel notes that even though a lot of users were actively online by the late 1990s, the majority of the population simply had no Internet access (or perceived need for access), while some even shunned the idea of owning a computer. Vogel explains that the Internet was not doomed to fail because it wasn't being used by everyone at that point in time. He concludes by noting that he expects a similar trajectory with Bitcoin, except with Bitcoin serving as a behind the scenes backbone for consumers accustomed to fiat currency.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Bitcoin Needs More Politics, Not Less

Bitcoin Needs More Politics, Not Less

Jim Harper is a vice president at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. A former counsel to committees in both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate, he served as Global Policy Counsel for the Bitcoin Foundation in 2014. In this opinion piece, Harper discusses the longstanding developer conflicts that have come to define bitcoin's governance, arguing that just because there haven't been any results yet, doesn't mean there won't be.

  
Two years ago today, politics invaded the world of bitcoin development.

It's been non-stop controversy ever since. But Gavin Andresen's essay series, "Time to Roll Out Bigger Blocks," didn't introduce politics to bitcoin. And the cure for what ails its highly controversial development ecosystem isn't getting rid of politics. Bitcoin actually needs more and better politics. How bitcoin politics are practiced is up to the community, which might take some lessons from principles of good government.

When Andresen 'went public' with his arguments for bigger blocks, that was the result of political failings on all sides that long predated his writing. Put simply, there are many competing visions for bitcoin's optimal uses, its future, the risks it faces and how to manage them. While minor improvements to the code continue, nobody so far has been a good enough politician to get their broader vision for bitcoin widely adopted. So, what gets people to abide by difficult group decisions, even when the decisions go against them?

Lessons from government

The US Constitution requires 'due process' in both the Fifth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment. That means that US citizens and residents are supposed to get fairness of two types from their governments:

  1. Systems designed to produce correct answers
  2. The right to participate in decisions that affect them.

Elections operate along the same lines, giving everyone, including the losers, a say in who will operate the government. Bitcoin is meant, in part, to help people escape the grasps of hugely fallible governments, of course. But, you might ask, isn't bitcoin an apolitical system that resists governance? Governance and government are not the same. Every human system, including bitcoin, has governance. Bitcoin governance is whatever influences or directs the community's decision-making and the software's many encoded policies.

Bitcoin is also inherently political. Politics is essentially human relations at scale. When politics are practiced well, we don't notice it. It's politics done poorly, or running against our interests, that we speak ill of, along with the politicians who practice it. With a few noisy exceptions on the social media margins, everyone involved in bitcoin protocol and software development is a good faith actor. So, why are their efforts to move forward drawing heaps of derision and failing to advance their visions? It may be the failure to respond to the demand for due process.

Theory of open-source

Bitcoin is a category buster, so let's talk about the due process in terms of economics. In theory, markets work because a large number of buyers and sellers have perfect information, products are homogeneous, transaction costs are low or non-existent and everyone is rational. In practice, buyers and sellers are under-informed, transaction costs are often high and the decision-making of humans is driven away from correct choices by psychological, social, cognitive and emotional factors.

There's a 'perfect markets' theory for open-source software development, too, and it especially fails with respect to bitcoin. It holds that developers will perfectly perceive the needs of the community and respond to them, that miners will clearly recognize their economic interests and act in accordance with them, that bitcoin users will all oversee this process well, guiding the other sectors of the bitcoin ecosystem toward its highest and best use. It turns out that everyone isn't an expert in coding, in economics and in perceiving their own interests in an uncertain cryptocurrency future.

Miners and users don't follow the 'perfect governance' script very well themselves, but bitcoin development seems to diverge from theory the most. Developers, it turns out, are humans, who have limited time, information and capacity for cognition. Nobody could incorporate the information necessary to advance the bitcoin project consistent with all the goals held for it across the ecosystem. These fascinating 'developer-humans' exhibit human behaviors like trusting people they know and discounting information from people they don't know.

That's no basis for criticizing any developer, of course, but the leading development team, Bitcoin 'Core' sometimes seems to speak with a unified voice, and sometimes seems to vanish behind the theory that open-source development is just uncoordinated people from which coding decisions emerge.

The solution

In a system with worldwide usage and strong network effects, that makes a lot of people feel they are being denied due process. A lot of people feel they aren't getting a say in a project they feel passionate about. It's easy, despite the fact of good faith all around, to fall into thinking that the process is not designed to produce a correct outcome.

As a congressional staffer in the 1990s, I participated in a meeting where some academics suggested what the future of telecommunications regulation would look like. "Bits – everything will be bits," they said. The direction of communications technology was obvious already, and perpetuating its regulation was not my preferred goal. But, the meeting was bemusing because in Congress, knowing the right answer is 10% of the problem or less. Getting people convinced of the right answer is the other 90%. There are many right answers for bitcoin's future. Perhaps, if there were more bitcoin politics, more people could be brought on board with one or more of them.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Bitcoin surges above $1,500 to record as more investors bet on ‘digital gold’

Bitcoin surges above $1,500 to record as more investors bet on 'digital gold'

  • Bitcoin rose more than 4 percent to hit a record price of $1,553.18, according to CoinDesk.
  • Gold futures traded more than 1 percent lower to near $1,232 an ounce and haven't been above $1,500 for about four years.
  • Speculation of a bitcoin ETF in the U.S. and increased interest from Japanese investors also supported bitcoin prices.
  •  
  • Bitcoin on the rise Bitcoin on the rise  

Bitcoin surged further into all-time high territory Thursday as investors bet the digital currency will gain even greater acceptance globally as a store of value and an investment vehicle. At one point, bitcoin rose more than 5 percent to a record $1,568.59 before retreating slightly, according to CoinDesk. Data from TradeBlock showed some other exchanges had bitcoin above $1,600. New interest in the currency out of Japan was the cause of the latest short-term upward move, traders said.

"Bitcoin can be thought of as digital gold," said Brian Kelly, founder of BKCM LLC and manager of a digital assets hedge fund. "The upside for bitcoin is so much higher than upside for gold, in my view." Gold futures for June delivery fell to $1,225.70 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its lowest level since March 17. The precious metal had topped $1,500 for about two years, even running above $1,800 at one point, but since early 2013 has not been able to recover back to the $1,500 level.

Bitcoin 12-month performance

Over the last two weeks,

bitcoin has climbed about 25 percent into record territory on increased investor interest. The cryptocurrency got a boost last week from news that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said it plans to review its listing rejection for what would have been the first U.S. exchange-traded fund that tracks bitcoin.  Since the April 24 filing, the digital, currency has only once traded lower on the day, according to CoinDesk.  "Right now it's speculation over the ETF. That's been the biggest thing," said Kelly, a CNBC contributor who launched the digital assets fund for outside investors this year.

Gold 12-month performance

Increased interest from Japanese investors has also contributed to bitcoin's gains. More than 10 Japanese companies are launching digital currency exchanges given increased legal recognition of the currencies and a scheduled elimination of a tax on digital currency purchases, the Nikkei Asian Review reported Tuesday. Bitcoin plunged more than 25 percent from record levels last month after the SEC denied the listing of the Winklevoss Bitcoin ETF, and subsequently the SolidX Bitcoin Trust exchange-traded product. A heated debate among bitcoin users about the technological future of the currency also hit prices.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Bitcoin surpasses $1,500 milestone

  

Bitcoin sailed past the $1,500 mark on Thursday,

pushing the total value of the digital-currency market above $40 billion for the first time. Litecoin, another prominent bitcoin rival, advanced 22% to $25, its highest level in more than three years, after Coinbase, one of the most popular digital-currency exchanges in the U.S., enabled trading in the cryptocurrency. The top 14 most heavily traded digital currencies have all realized astounding gains over the past month as investors who have booked large profits trading bitcoin and rival Ethereum have sought to diversify and increase their chances of cashing in on the next big cryptocurrency rally, according to Chris Dannen, founder of Iterative Instinct a New York-based cryptocurrency venture fund.

“Not only are the smaller coins obscure and cheap, but they represent a chance to get those huge returns all over again,” Dannen said. The price of a single bitcoin BTCUSD, +2.25%  has more than tripled since the beginning of 2016, when it traded around $450. It peaked at $1,589 on Thursday, according to the CoinDesk bitcoin price index. One ether token traded at $90.95. Dash, the fifth most popular token, traded at $96. Bitcoin’s advance has coincided with its growing acceptance by regulators. A law passed by Japanese lawmakers earlier this year that allows financial institutions to participate in the digital-currency market took effect in April.

Also, regulators in Russia and India have signaled their willingness to legalize bitcoin and its peers. However, bitcoin trading volume in China, once its largest market, plunged after authorities forced the largest exchanges in the country to institute transaction fees and halt withdrawals until they could upgrade their anti-money-laundering systems. New rules require exchanges based in China to verify customers’ identities. In March, the Securities and Exchange Commission rejected two proposals that would have led to the creation of bitcoin-focused exchange-traded funds. But the decision elicited only a brief dip in the bitcoin price.

The SEC has since said it would review its March 10 decision that effectively killed the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust. Grayscale’s proposal to allow its Grayscale Bitcoin Investment Trust to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange’s ETF platform is currently being reviewed, but a decision isn’t imminent. The value of cryptocurrencies, however, have varied dramatically between exchanges, prompting Charles Hayter, the chief executive officer and founder of Cryptocompare, to worry about a possible pullback.

On Bitfinex, one of the largest digital currency exchanges in the world, customers paid a $100 premium as they scrambled to move their assets off its platform. The exchange announced two weeks ago that it would temporarily suspend dollar withdrawals after it was effectively cut off from the financial system. “Cryptos have hit a period of volatility as the markets have become dislocated. Prices on exchanges are showing huge discrepancies in terms of pricing and arbitrage is rife,” Hayter said.

Bitcoin’s advance has coincided with its growing acceptance by regulators. A law passed by Japanese lawmakers earlier this year that allows financial institutions to participate in the digital-currency market took effect in April.Also, regulators in Russia and India have signaled their willingness to legalize bitcoin and its peers.However, bitcoin trading volume in China, once its largest market, plunged after authorities forced the largest exchanges in the country to institute transaction fees and halt withdrawals until they could upgrade their anti-money-laundering systems. New rules require exchanges based in China to verify customers’ identities.

In March, the Securities and Exchange Commission rejected two proposals that would have led to the creation of bitcoin-focused exchange-traded funds. But the decision elicited only a brief dip in the bitcoin price. The SEC has since said it would review its March 10 decision that effectively killed the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust. Grayscale’s proposal to allow its Grayscale Bitcoin Investment Trust to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange’s ETF platform is currently being reviewed, but a decision isn’t imminent.

The value of cryptocurrencies, however, have varied dramatically between exchanges, prompting Charles Hayter, the chief executive officer and founder of Cryptocompare, to worry about a possible pullback. On Bitfinex, one of the largest digital currency exchanges in the world, customers paid a $100 premium as they scrambled to move their assets off its platform. The exchange announced two weeks ago that it would temporarily suspend dollar withdrawals after it was effectively cut off from the financial system. “Cryptos have hit a period of volatility as the markets have become dislocated. Prices on exchanges are showing huge discrepancies in terms of pricing and arbitrage is rife,” Hayter said.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Gold and Silver vs Bitcoin and Litecoin

Gold and Silver vs Bitcoin and Litecoin

A lot of financial experts tend to think of Bitcoin and Litecoin

as the digital counterparts of gold and silver. All four assets have seen significant value changes over the past few years. One thing that stands out right now is how Bitcoin is worth more than 1 Oz of gold, and Litecoin is worth more than 1 Oz of silver. Perhaps there is some truth to this comparison after all.

Gold and Silver

It is evident these two precious metals have always had a bit of an interesting relationship. Silver has always been considered to be the “little brother” of gold, which also explains why it has a much lower value. However, silver is still a precious metal, and only second in most people’s minds to gold. From a collector’s and an investor’s point of view, diversifying precious metal holdings into both gold and silver has been a popular decision over the past few years. The value of silver has gone through some interesting highs and lows over the past few years as well. Right now, one Oz of silver is valued at US$16.59, whereas it hit over US$40 in late 2011.

One of the downsides of precious metals is how they seem to only gain value during times of financial distress. The same can be said about gold, as it is a somewhat volatile asset these days. Right now, one Oz of gold is worth US$1,237.92, compared to over US$1,700 at the end of 2011. Despite these declines, both gold and silver are still popular assets, even though they may not necessarily generate a lot of profit.

Bitcoin and Litecoin

Although comparing gold and silver to Bitcoin and Litecoin is the same as comparing sea shells to diamonds, there are some interesting correlations. Litecoin is the “little brother” to Bitcoin and is highly regarded among cryptocurrency enthusiasts. In this regard, the value of Litecoin often represents a fraction of Bitcoin’s, similar to how gold and silver relate to one another.

Looking at the current prices, it is not hard to see why this comparison still holds up. Bitcoin is valued at US$1,550 right now, whereas Litecoin has surpassed the US$20 mark at the time of writing. In this regard, both popular cryptocurrencies have successfully surpassed the value of gold and silver when measuring both in ounces. An interesting development, that much is evident. In the end, comparing Bitcoin and Litecoin to gold and silver is somewhat understandable, albeit it is not the best metric by any means. It is true Bitcoin is still the “king of crypto” whereas Litecoin is its loyal right-hand man. However, they are not the only contenders right now, Comparisons like these only carry so much weight, yet it provides an interesting way to look at popular cryptocurrencies.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Can Blockchain, A Swiftly Evolving Technology, Be Controlled?

Can Blockchain, A Swiftly Evolving Technology, Be Controlled?

   Blockchain is an exciting technology,

but for it to go mainstream governments must be able to regulate it.The headlong pace of technological change produces giant leaps forward in knowledge, innovation, new possibilities and, almost inevitably, legal problems. That’s now the case with blockchain, today’s buzziest new tech tool. The ConversationIntroduced in 2008 as the technology underpinning Bitcoin, a digital currency that is created and held electronically without any central authority, blockchain is a secure digital ledger for any kind of data. It simplifies record keeping and reduces transaction costs.Its range of applications in commerce, finance and potentially politics continues to widen, and that has triggered a debate around how to regulate the tool.

Goodbye middleman

Because it does not require a centralised authority to verify and validate transactions, blockchain enables people who may not trust each other to interact and coordinate directly.With blockchain, there is no middleman in peer-to-peer exchanges; instead, users rely on a decentralised network of computers that interact through a cryptographic, secure protocol.Blockchain has the ability to “codify” transactions by deploying small snippets of code directly onto the blockchain. This code, generally referred to as a “smart contract”, executes automatically when certain conditions are met.

An early example of smart contracts are the corporate-oriented digital rights management (DRM) systems limiting uses of digital files. Having DRM on your ebook may restrict access to copying, editing, and printing content.With blockchain, smart contracts have become more complex and, arguably, more secure. In theory, they will always be executed exactly as planned, since no one party has the power to alter the code binding a given transaction.In practice, however, eliminating trusted brokers from a transaction can create some kinks.

One high-profile smart-contract failure happened to the DAO, a decentralised autonomous organisation for venture capital funding.Launched in April 2016, the DAO quickly raised over US$150 million via crowdfunding. Three weeks later, someone managed to exploit a vulnerability in the DAO’s code, draining approximately US$50 million worth of digital currency from the fund.

The security problem originated not in the blockchain itself but rather from issues with the smart-contract code used to administer the DAO.Questions arose about the legality of the act, with some people arguing that since the hack was actually permitted by the smart-contract code, it was a perfectly legitimate action. After all, in cyberspace, “code is law”.The DAO debate raised this key question: should the intention of the code prevail over the wording of the code?

A new legal realm

Blockchain proponents envision a future in which entire companies and governments operate in a distributed and automated fashion.But smart contracts pose a series of enforceability issues, which are outlined in a recent white paper by the London law firm Norton Rose Fulbright.How can we resolve disputes arising over a self-executing smart contract? How do we identify what types of contractual terms can be properly translated into code, and which ones should instead be left to natural language? And is there a way combine the two?

It is not yet clear that code can address the necessary levels of complexity to replace legal language. After all, the vagueness inherent in the language of law is a feature, not a bug: it compensates for unforeseeable cases that must be assessed on a case-by-case basis in a court of law.

Traditional contracts acknowledge that no law can index the entire complexity of life as it is, let alone predict its future development. They also precisely define terms that can be enforced by law.Smart contracts, by contrast, are simply snippets of code both defined and enforced by the code underpinning the blockchain infrastructure. Currently, they do not have any legal recognition. This means that when something goes wrong in a smart contract, parties have no legal recourse.The DAO’s founders painfully learned this lesson last year.

The creative friction of the law

If blockchain technologies are ever to go mainstream, governments will have to set up new legal frameworks to accommodate such complexities.Positive law prescribes behaviour and penalises non-compliance. It can encapsulate the normative ideal that a respective government seeks to achieve, demonstrate an ethical vision for society or reify the power structure of the current regime.Technological developments, on the other hand, are often oriented toward profit and change.There’s an inherent tension here. Laws may delay the development of technology and hence hurt the competitive advantage of an entrepreneur or even a state.

Take the case of nanotechnology regulation in the European Union versus in the United States. European law so mitigates risks that it may end up limiting the technology’s potential, losing its competitive edge against the US.That’s another fact about the law: slow and reactive, it can be a gross annoyance.But ever since technological advances began speeding along on an exponential curve last century, the law has played a critical role in helping societies maintain certain previously negotiated standards for cohabitation.Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig on the law and blockchain technologies.

Our legal system may sometimes seem antiquated in today’s fast-moving world. But before changing our laws to accommodate new technologies that may (re)define our lives, it is important to have room for debate and time for social struggles to take place.The law serves this function of creative friction. It can restore human agency against fierce technological development.Given all the excitement over blockchain technologies, it is probable that interested parties will soon enough seek legal recognition and state-sanctioned enforceability of smart contracts.

These emerging technologies are still too new to have been subjected to a sufficiently thorough analysis of their social, economic and political implications. More time is also needed to assess how blockchain could be deployed in a socially beneficial way.Blockchain technology seems poised to constitute an important component of tomorrow’s society. The legal system — slow-paced as it is — might be just what we need at this juncture to ensure that this new tool is deployed in a way consistent with established principles and values, with the common good at its core.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member