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Tag: markethive

Does Your Company Really Need to Focus on SEO?

Does Your Company Really Need to Focus on SEO?

  

Q: Is search engine optimioptimisation important to your digital marketing strategy?
A: Yes and no
.

Firstly, let’s break down SEO as I think businesses and marketers have a tendency to overcomplicate it, which results in an overwhelming feeling of "this isn’t for us" or "we don’t have the expertise/time for this." Actually, SEO is quite simple when you dispel the SEO myths and break it down to its core fundamentals: on-site (changes you make to your actual website) and offsite (things you do outside of your own website). On-site SEO is simply the process of making your website search-engine friendly. This includes tactics like optimising your title tags, publishing great content and being strategic about your website’s structure.

Offsite SEO is the process of getting validation from other websites that your website is useful to searchers. The best way to do this is by earning backlinks — in other words, having other websites link to your website (Note: it’s very important that you don’t try to earn what Google calls "unnatural" links — this could result in a penalty if done at scale!)

If that doesn’t make sense, perhaps my blind date analogy will work. Let’s say you’re at work and you see a cute guy or girl that you like. They showered, combed their hair, put on good clothes and perfume, and you like the look of them. What they’ve done is nail their on-site SEO. In other words, how they look on face value to the searcher — or in my analogy, the person looking for love. Naturally, you ask another colleague what the deal is about this mystical human. You learn that they completed their MBA at Harvard, are on the lacrosse team, and they volunteer every summer for a charity you support. What they’ve done is nail their off-page SEO — meaning, other people are telling you they’re great meaning your opinion of them is validated.

In my opinion, the most important component of SEO is on-site SEO. These are things that you can control, and on-site SEO factors quite literally tell Google what your website is about so that they know where to rank it in its search results. As for off-site SEO, it should always be secondary to nailing your on-site SEO. You have control of what’s on your website, so it’s much easier to focus on getting this right first, evaluating the results, and then look into whether off-site SEO is something you should think about doing. When it comes to improving your on-site SEO, the best place to start is by optimising your content for both users and search engines.

Content is important for a few reasons. First, if you don’t have great content, then you have nothing to share on social media, via email marketing, on your website, in ads or on affiliate sites to grow your marketing funnel. These are all core components of digital marketing and are the primary reasons you should be investing in creating content. It benefits your business on so many levels; it’s not just for SEO. When publishing content, the secret to maximising any on-site SEO benefit is being strategic with the keywords you’re using and the way you’re optimising for them on the page itself. Learn how to select the best keywords to drive more traffic, and then make sure you optimise your web page for those keywords to make sure you’re capitalising on all your hard work from an organic search perspective.

But most importantly, creating great content is actually what causes other websites to link to you. Consequently, this improves your off-site SEO metrics because people are more likely to link to your content as a useful resource or reference it as point of discussion. So focusing on great content kills two birds with one stone: it improves your on-site SEO and your off-site SEO. However, there’s a problem: Most people don’t really know what good content is. You may be thinking, “Oh, those people… I’m not one of them.” I’m sorry to break it to you, but you probably are. Head over to your company’s blog or Facebook page now. Do you see any posts that talk about the product or service that you sell? If you do, then you’re probably not doing content right to attract more traffic at the top of the funnel.

Here's one example. I wear glasses. If you’re an online glasses retailer, you most likely create content around new trends or top styles. For example, you might have a blog post titled: “10 Best Glasses Frames for Oval Faces.”Now, this may work for attracting people like me to your website, because I’m already aware of my problem (that I’m short-sighted), and I’m considering my options for solving that problem (I’m thinking about purchasing the solution). However, the largest opportunity for most businesses to scale their traffic and database is to use content to also attract people that don’t know they need your product yet. So, using the same glasses example: what would people that need glasses, but are not aware of this need, search for online?

They may search for things like:

  • Why do I keep getting headaches at work?
  • How to stop squinting at work?
  • Why are my eyes blurry?
  • What are those black dots I see on my eye?

An online glasses retailer that creates great content would already know this after doing buyer persona research and identifying their persona’s challenges. If you’ve not done so already, here’s a great free tool to create buyer personas for your business. They may create a blog post that has a few reasons why you may get headaches at work. Some advice they could give to appeal to this persona at the start of their buyer’s journey could be:

  • Leave your desk every 30 minutes and go for a walk
  • Turn your computer brightness down
  • Look at something in the distance every 10 minutes
  • Get an eye test to check on the health of your eyes

This gives the target buyer the option to solve the problem for themselves, without directly trying to sell to them too early. And in the event that walking, turning the brightness down, and looking in the distance doesn’t work, they may very well get an eye test and then buy some glasses from you after remembering how helpful your content was.

Now this is an exaggerated and accelerated example of someone moving through the three stages of the buyer’s journey: awareness (of problem), consideration (of options) and decision (on which product/service to use). However, the point is, when you create content that helps people and is great quality, they’re much more likely to share it on social media, link to it from their personal blog and tell their colleagues about it. If you can pair that with thorough keyword research and a solid on-site SEO strategy, then you have a much better chance of ranking well in Google’ search results.

So, while SEO is an important part of digital marketing for attracting traffic at the top of the funnel, it’s by no means the most important — SEO works best when you implement it as part of a wider content-led marketing strategy. Focus on creating great content and you’ll see benefits not only on the SEO front, but across all of your digital marketing activities.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Cryptocurrency Exchange Poloniex Set to Delist 17 Altcoins

Cryptocurrency Exchange Poloniex
Set to Delist 17 Altcoins

Cryptocurrency exchange Poloniex

recently announced that it will be delisting 17 altcoins, effective May 2, which saw the price of the coins drop significantly.

On Twitter, the U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange said:

On May 2, 2017, the following will be delisted: BBR, BITS, C2, CURE, HZ, IOC, MYR, NOBL, NSR, QBK, QORA, OTL, RBY, SDC, UNITY, VOX [and] XMG.

Since Poloniex’s tweet, the prices of the listed currencies have dropped in value by between 31 percent and 92 percent over the past seven days. The biggest drop in value was C2, which is currently ranked 323rd on CoinMarketCap. Over the last seven days, it fell by 91.08 percent. Boolberry, who was one of the altcoins mentioned to be delisted, and who has had a 64 percent price drop over the past seven days, responded to Poloniex’s tweet., and asked:

“Hey Poloniex, anything we can do to avoid delisting?”

Coin Magi XMG, which suffered a 58 percent drop following the announcement, also reached out to Poloniex via Twitter, stating:

Poloniex Magi is with you for a long time. Last months volume is growing, new developments are in progress. Pls reconsider!!

Many, however, have taken to Twitter to either voice their support in the expected removal of the announced altcoins while others have voiced their anger in how Poloniex have handled the situation.

One person responded by saying:

They opened a company to make money … @Poloniex in the same breathe [sic] screw people over …

While another said:

Lol our hedge group only lost like $250000 in earnings in like 20 minutes … 11 failed transactions trying to close positions!!! All gone.

A third said:

@Poloniex who the F%^& makes these decisions? I see at least 4 with active develop, solid community & solid project that should remain.

Criticisms of Poloniex

In the past, the cryptocurrency exchange has received its critics about its security procedures. Last October, an anonymous security review undertaken by Xavier59, revealed three vulnerabilities after alleging that Poloniex had failed to reply to his emails with information relating to security bugs. Furthermore, last year, the exchange announced that it was suspending its services in New Hampshire due to that state’s digital currency regulations. It added the same suspension to the state of Washington earlier this month for the same reasons.

Of course, while the cryptocurrency exchange is considered one of the biggest, this latest news from Poloniex and its planned delisting of 17 altcoins is not going to do any favours for the exchange. It begs the question, then: is this the start of more delistings from the exchange?

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Bitcoin breakthrough? Russia moots cryptocurrency green light

Bitcoin breakthrough?
Russia
moots cryptocurrency green light

  

Cryptocurrencies may be recognized in Russia by 2018,
according to Deputy Finance Minister Aleksey Moiseev.Moiseev says monitoring cryptocurrencies could be an instrumental tool against money laundering, and Bitcoin and other digital currencies could be recognized by next year as the central bank works with the government to develop rules against illegal transfers.

The state needs to know who at every moment of time stands on both sides of the financial chain,” Moiseev said in an interview, as cited Bloomberg. “If there’s a transaction, the people who facilitate it should understand from whom they bought and to whom they were selling, just like with bank operations.”

Last year the idea of a national cryptocurrency had been considered by the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank, which would see the banning of all other virtual currencies in Russia. The idea had not been discussed by the Kremlin, however, according to Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov at the time. Russian officials had been opposing all virtual currencies, arguing their cross-border nature, transaction anonymity and lack of a supervisory body makes them the perfect vehicle for illegal transactions. In 2014, Moiseev suggested a ban on cryptocurrencies could be introduced because of their use to fund illegal activities such as money laundering, the buying of illicit goods, rendering illegal services or funding terrorism.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

The rise of cryptocurrency (and what the heck it even is)

The rise of cryptocurrency
(and what the heck it even is)

  

Cryptocurrency is making its entrance

and even though a lot of people don’t want anything to do with it, venture capitalist need to pay attention.

Coins unlike the ones you find in your couch

What’s an Initial Coin Offering? While it sounds like the beginning of an intrepid relationship with a metal-loving deity, turns out ICOs have nothing to do with actual coins.

No parents, no rules

ICOs, aka “token sales,” are part of blockchain technology fundraising. An ICO is essentially a crowdfunded cryptocurrency.

Tokens for new cryptocurrency are sold as a fundraising effort for technical development.

Whenever a new cryptocurrency is born, its startup parents arbitrarily decide its worth. After supply and demand smack it around for a bit, participants in the price dynamic testing then settle on a value.

Instead of a central government, the network of participants determines how much the cryptocurrency is worth.

Unlike Initial Public Offerings, acquiring a token does not mean owning stakes in the company.

Why VC firms care now

Although venture capitalists have been giving ICO the cold shoulder, things are starting to look up.

Cryptocurrency investors made bank last year, with some doubling their investments.

Investors see returns more quickly with ICOs due to the liquidity of cryptocurrencies.

Instead of waiting for a startup to playout via an IPO or acquisition, investors can bail if things aren’t going well.

It’s easy to pull funds—or profits if things did work out. All investors have to do is use a cryptocurrency exchange to pull their profits, then use an online service to convert this to real people money.

Who’s afraid of the dark(web)?

If this sounds sketchy, you’re not alone. Traditional investors aren’t really fans of the regulatory uncertainty.

The world of ICO can be full of scams and schemes, with little control over financials and strategy.

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and friends are still investigating ICOs. But technically ICOs fall outside legal frameworks.

ICOs don’t offer equity in startups, and only give cryptocurrency discounts before they release them to the exchanges.

Additionally, ICOs are global, not national. Theoretically, anyone can invest on a semi-anonymous level. Oh, and they’re not funded by central authorities or banks either.

Reform and re-adjustment

Criminal activity is now mostly self-regulated within the community via crowdsourcing and external groups.

Some companies are even working to establish Know Your Customer frameworks and make ICOs Anti-Money Laundering compliant.

Those who support ICOs argue traditional methods of investing only benefit those already dominating the system.

Investing outside of the system provides more freedom, especially for startups.

ICOs mean startups can raise funds without worrying too much about looming stakeholders. Non-profits can also benefit if they want to build open source software to raise capital.

Call me ICO-shmael

From their humble beginnings, bitcoins are now worth around $1,120. Bitcoin’s market cap is around twenty billion.

Allegedly, half of that is owned by “bitcoin whales,” a group of less than one thousand people who bought into bitcoin early.

Bitcoin whales have a huge impact on most ICOs. Most live in China, but some investment and hedge funds also have huge stakes in bitcoin. Fortunately, some of the bitcoin whale’s profits are reinvested in innovation. Since 2013, over $270 million has been raised in ICOs. Overall, ICOs are dominating in crowdfunding, with most top raises coming in as cryptocurrency.

Though it’s still kind of murky and mysterious, blockchain technology is starting to be seen as more legitimate. Initial Coin Offerings demonstrate the success of an industry. As more investors become comfortable with ICOs, blockchain innovation will continue creating new possibilities.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Top Altcoins: All You Wanted to Know About Bitcoin’s Contenders

Top Altcoins:
All You Wanted to Know
About Bitcoin’s Contenders

  

Blockchain currency is revolutionising.

Since Satoshi Nakamoto unveiled his cryptocurrency in 2008, we’ve witnessed a proliferation of digital cash companies and codebases. Utilizing his public, distributed ledger, dozens of promising currencies have emerged. Only a select few have proven themselves as true contenders to Bitcoin, however. Here are the top 10 altcoins on CoinMarketCap (note that the list is changing constantly, especially in the tail part, with other altcoins like MaidSafeCoin, Golem and Augur playing musical chairs with others):

Ethereum

J.P Morgan Chase, Microsoft and Intel allied in order to create the fiercest rival to Bitcoin in circulation today: Ethereum. The main purpose of the endeavour was to program binding agreements into the Blockchain itself. This incarnated into the now-popular smart contract feature. Interestingly, Ethereum is not just a currency. It’s a Blockchain platform powered by the Ether cryptocurrency. The New York Times describes the technology as “a single shared computer that is run by the network of users and on which resources are parceled out and paid for by Ether.”

Ripple

Ripple attracted a great deal of venture capital during its inception. The Google-backed altcoin startup managed to pull in upwards of $50 mln from banking institutions, gathering an impressive $90 mln in total funding. Ripple is unique in that it allows for transacting with any unit of value, from fiat currency to frequent flier miles.

“Ripple provides global financial settlement solutions to enable the world to exchange value like it already exchanges information giving rise to an Internet of Value (IoV). Ripple solutions lower the total cost of settlement by enabling banks to transact directly, instantly and with a certainty of a settlement,” reads the company’s copy on their official website. Initially a middling contender, Ripple has gained momentum in the cryptocurrency market, seeing a marked surge earlier this year. In fact, Ripple experienced a 100 percent increase in value within a 24-hour period in late March.

Litecoin

Former Google engineer Charles Lee created this altcoin in an effort to improve upon Bitcoin. Namely, the speed to generate a new block is improved dramatically. Transactions are much faster. By the same token, however, this speed makes Litecoin’s Blockchain larger and more prone to producing orphaned blocks.

Dash

Dash, a combination of the words “digital” and “cash,” is the Internet’s cash-in-hand. Dash is quick. Its transactions are instant. “Your time is valuable. InstantSend payments confirm in less than a second,” Dash claims. By comparison, Bitcoin’s transactions can take up to an hour to process. GPU/CPU mining is no longer cost effective. In order to mine, you’ll need specific hardware, computers known as ASICs to complete Dash’s proof-of-work puzzles.

NEM

NEM is written in Java; built on an entirely new codebase separate and apart from Bitcoin’s open-source code. There are a few other intriguing differences from Bitcoin as well. In NEM, you harvest rather than mine. It’s essentially the same as mining in Bitcoin, only that multiple people profit — albeit in much smaller quantities — from a generated block. NEM introduced the proof-of-importance algorithm to the digital ledger. A user’s wealth and number of transactions are used to timestamp transactions. NEM has seen rapid growth in its valuation since the beginning of 2017 as the altcoin is currently being embraced in Japan.

Ethereum Classic

A parallel Ethereum platform exists and sustains a sizeable usership with a market cap hovering just below $430 mln. Why do two versions of the same platform exist? The Ethereum community fractured when a disagreement over how a technically legal theft of funds should be handled. The majority of users wished to change Ethereum’s code in order to get the lost funds back. A minority believed that Ethereum should not be tampered with or altered by third parties. Even in cases of users exploiting the smart contract feature to trick others, the Blockchain must remain “immutable.” Thus, the minority created the Classic version of Ethereum, which still survives and thrives.

Monero

Monero is geared toward those who desire greater anonymity. The cryptocurrency allows you to “send and receive funds without your transactions being publically visible on the Blockchain.” Transactions are completely untraceable due to Monero’s leveraging of ring signatures. Unfortunately, because of Monero’s emphasis on privacy, it has seen adoption by the darknet and other criminal organisations.

Zcash

Zcash, like Monero, offers greater privacy to users. Unlike Monero, transactions are shielded rather than made completely private. Meaning, the details of the transaction itself, such as the users involved and the amount traded, are hidden. Zcash does this by using a “zero-knowledge” proof that allows for parties to exchange funds without revealing each other’s identity.

Decred

Decred’s primary aim is to focus on “community input, open governance and sustainable funding and development.” The currency melds proof-of-work and proof-of-stake mining algorithms to ensure a minority of users do not own the majority of the funds and that decisions are led by the community rather than a handful of developers or early investors.

PIVX

PIVX stands for Private Instant Verified Transactions. Another open-source decentralised Blockchain currency, it is built upon Bitcoin Core. Like Zcash and Monero, PIVX boasts its heightened privacy and security. “[W]e believe that you have the right to exchange privately and securely, without interference from corporatocracy pressures, governmental influences, prying eyes, and nefarious individuals and movements,” PIVX contends.PIVX is highly volatile, experiencing massive spikes in trading volume and valuation as of March of this year. Again, because of the currency’s emphasis on privacy, PIVX is susceptible to criminal activity.

Cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin and the altcoins it has spawned, may bring about a new global economy. They allow us to transact in a peer-to-peer fashion, without third-party bodies governing us. Bitcoin introduced the Blockchain, but other developers are quickly improving upon Nakamoto’s idea. Some currencies have focused on speed, as is the case with both Ripple and Litecoin. Others have honed in on privacy, currencies like Zcash going so far as making all transactions private and untraceable. Each altcoin comes with its own strengths and weakness. Surely, we’ll discover more as time goes on. For now, these 10 currencies are at the top. Their fate could turn, however, at a flip of a coin.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Botswana Clinic Now Accepts Bitcoin As Cryptocurrency Takes Root in Africa

Botswana Clinic Now Accepts Bitcoin As Cryptocurrency Takes Root in Africa

  

Bitcoin is gradually taking roots in Africa,

although painfully slow. Nevertheless, there is refreshing news on a daily basis that makes the drive to push Bitcoin penetration in the so-called “hopeless continent” promising. From brave women promoting adoption to startups using Bitcoin and the Blockchain to provide financial inclusion and prevent piracy, the number is endless. It is a great inspiration to the ecosystem and Africa stands to gain a lot from the spread of the crypto revolution.

Meanwhile, in the Southern African city of Gaborone in Botswana, a private clinic known as Sharada Clinic receives Bitcoin as a form of payment for treatment. Run by Dr. Donald Ariisa, it is the only health facility in the whole country that accepts Satoshis.

Cointelegraph couldn't resist talking to Dr. Ariisa and sharing his story with our copious readers. When asked where and how he heard about Bitcoin, he explained that he quite honestly couldn’t remember. "I enjoy watching technology shows, and I guess it was from there," he recalled.

Inspiration

The medical doctor pointed out that what attracted and inspired him to accept Bitcoin as a payment for treatment was the fact that his clinic is focused on adopting technologies that allow for sustainability in offering accessible services. He, therefore, felt Bitcoin was a technology being embraced by the world and the youth, in particular, who may not have fiat money but may be involved in mining Bitcoin or working online for it. It is in that direction that his clinic is striving to give access to those type of users, or anyone who would like to try out his/her Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is freedom

Dr. Ariisa confidently insisted he is not fazed at all by Bitcoin's volatility. "All new technology is volatile, and there will always be early adopters that will prove the technology viable," he remarked. He adds:

"I wish to be part of the birth of a new currency that creates so much freedom for humanity."

The Southern African physician also maintains that very soon he will not be alone in the steps he has taken. It is in his opinion that Bitcoin will become more popular in his country, and more businesses and entities will accept it as a form of payment. "I'm always happy to see the satisfaction when patients pay for their healthcare with Bitcoin," he said excitedly. “My challenge is fully understanding the currency, but then again, we don't even understand the currencies we have been using for years.”

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Suddenly, Europe is Starting to Become Bitcoin Haven

Suddenly, Europe is Starting to
Become Bitcoin Haven

  

Suddenly, Europe is Starting to Become Bitcoin Haven

Countries like France, Germany and the UK have already established regulatory frameworks for Bitcoin companies, users and traders. Other European countries have offered their unique regulatory frameworks with clarity, to ensure there exists no conflict between local businesses and regulators due to ambiguous regulations and policies like India. Smaller countries such as Malta, an archipelago in the central Mediterranean between Sicily and the North African coast, have begun to consider Bitcoin as a legitimate currency and revolutionary technology.

Bitcoin and Blockchain included in national strategy

In particular, local publications including Malta Today reported that the country’s prime minister Joseph Muscat announced the approval of a national strategy to promote Bitcoin and Blockchain technology. Muscat said at a conference organized by the financial affairs parliamentary committee:

“This is not just about Bitcoin and I also look forward to seeing Blockchain technology implemented in the Lands Registry and the national health registries. Malta can be a global trail-blazer in this regard. I understand that regulators are wary of this technology but the fact is that it’s coming. We must be on the frontline in embracing this crucial innovation and we cannot just wait for others to take action and copy them. We must be the ones that others copy.”

Although Muscat raised several positive use cases of Bitcoin and Blockchain technology, Muscat specifically addressed the Bitcoin Blockchain’s ability to handle, store and process sensitive data such as lands registry in a secure, immutable and decentralized ecosystem.

Land records

Most recently, Ubitquity, a US-based Blockchain startup, partnered with one of the land records bureaus of Brazil to utilize the Bitcoin Blockchain technology to integrate land records to the public Blockchain of Bitcoin. Such method enables land bureaus and other government organizations to store data within an unalterable ledger. “We are incredibly excited to announce our partnership with the land records bureau, a Cartório de Registro de Imóveis [Real Estate Registry Office] in Brazil. This partnership will help to demonstrate to government municipalities the power and benefits of using Blockchain-powered recordkeeping,” said Ubitquity founder and president Nathan Wosnack.

Malta to become the Silicon Valley of Europe?

The rest of the government, including Labor Minister of Parliament Silvio Schembri, revealed the government’s vision to transform Malta into the Silicon Valley of Europe. The country will focus on the development of innovative technologies such as Bitcoin and Blockchain technology to stay at the forefront of European technological innovation.

Schembri stated:

“We should aim to have the world’s best environment for the development and commercialization of fintech models and disruptive innovation. The government should ensure that Malta has the appropriate regulatory framework, the right tax system and the best infrastructure to support this ambition. With our geographical position and weather conditions, strong financial system, skills base, entrepreneurial spirit and can-do approach, Malta can truly serve as a test-bed for new sectors and foreign firms to test their new technology and products locally.”

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Items We Bought With Bitcoin

Items We Bought With Bitcoin

  

You’ve got to admit that everyone likes to go shopping

once in a while, whether it’s to buy that designer shirt you’ve been eyeing or those nifty gadgets you saw in a catalog the other day. To do this you’ve got to spend money. But what happens if you want to shop with cryptocurrency?Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency that has gained popularity over the years. Here are 9 things you can buy with bitcoin:

Shoes from Iran

Time to go out again. We still have our socks, but maybe we need new shoes? Normally having leather shoes handcrafted for your foot size and shape cost a fortune, but in Iran, with its fine leather and shoe industry, these high quality products are affordable.Interestingly the sanctions against Iran don’t make it illegal to import shoes (unless you are American, maybe). But it does make it impossible to send payments. In this case, we literally have no other option than to pay with Bitcoin.

A trip to North Korea

Ever wanted to visit North Korea? The China-based travel agency Young Pioneer Tours has 9 years of experience of organizing tours to North Korea, and can help you with flights, hotels, visa and a tour guide. It’s difficult to make a wire transfer to China, so Bitcoin is our natural choice of payment.

Kimchi socks

Okay, we get it, Bitcoin is awesome. We constantly want to talk about it, tell others about our trip to North Korea, and how we were able to tweet pictures the entire trip from one of the most heavily locked down countries on earth.But doing so would make us a bit annoying. We head over to South Korean company Kimchi Socks to buy their Bitcoin branded socks. That way, maybe people will notice and ask about Bitcoin themselves? Bitcoin socks, paid with Bitcoin. We are so much fun at parties!

Office Gadgets

So now we have shoes from Iran, been to North Korea and have these stylish new socks. Why put shoes on again? Why not just make your work life a whole lot better with some awesome office gadgets?Gadgets and toys are enjoyed all around the world by people of all age, color and gender. But not everyone has a credit card to pay for it. Bitcoin to the rescue.

A monitor

Quickly after the first game, we realize, we might need a better monitor. There are tons of places online that sell monitors for Bitcoins. Rakuten, Overstock, Dell, Tiger Direct and others.

Tea from Taiwan

Do you know that feeling when you make yourself a coffee while playing a video game, and then you forget you made it and now it’s cold? That happens with tea as well, but cold tea is still delicious. Just put some Ice cubes inside! No idea how to combine ice cubes and Bitcoin, but for the tea, head to Beautiful Taiwan Tea.

An ExpressVPN Subscription

VPNs are meant to protect our privacy and data when we browse the web from a coffee shop or airport Wi-Fi. Many of us live in countries that actively monitor and censor the internet, and a logless VPN protects us.For more privacy, it makes perfect sense to not use your credit card (which is connected to your real name), but instead the pseudonymous currency Bitcoin.

Jewelry

No matter if you want jewelry for yourself or as a gift, Reeds takes Bitcoins and ships to wherever you are.

Karma

At the end of the day, why not donate your Bitcoins to one of over 10,000 charities in the United Kingdom? With Proof of Donation, you'er issued a cryptographic receipt that irrefutably proves you did good. With Bitcoin.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Antbleed: Bitcoin’s Newest New Controversy Explained

Antbleed:
Bitcoin's Newest New
Controversy Explained

A mining chip vulnerability

that could potentially be used to remotely shut off bitcoin mining machines was revealed yesterday — with a fix from the manufacturer following shortly after. Involving controversial mining chip manufacturer Bitmain, the issue is what some are calling a "backdoor" in the code that controls its hardware, offering the company a way to remotely shut off the miners. Since the code, released anonymously last evening, is vulnerable to attackers, the main concern is whether, in a worst-case scenario, it could be misused.

The fear is that bad actors could exploit the vulnerability to switch off bitcoin mining equipment in bulk, and with Bitmain supplying such a large number of machines to the market, the impact could have catastrophic implications for the bitcoin ecosystem. Known as Antbleed (a title bestowed by the website that dramatized its release), the vulnerability is open-source, making it easy to verify. Leading up to the reveal, a group was told about the code feature, with some developers, such as Satoshi Labs CEO Marek Palatinus independently verifying that the backdoor exists and that it can be used to stop Bitmain miners on trigger.

Bitmain quickly responded with a fix that erases this part of its mining firmware. Further, its team claimed that the feature was never finished and that it was intended to help customers recover stolen miners, a past problem for industry firms.

The statement reads:

"We never intended to use this feature on any Antminer without authorization from its owner. This is similar to the remote erase or shutdown feature provided by most famous smartphone manufacturers."

Much of the recent buzz in the community is around whether the so-described "backdoor" could have been used for malicious purposes, for example, to shut off a miner if it wasn’t complying with rules set by Bitmain.

Adding to the confusion is that bitcoin developments have been highly politicized lately, with Bitmain often sitting at the center of bitcoin’s long-standing scaling debate, opposing proposals authored by members of the Bitcoin Core community. For example, the vulnerability reveal follows allegations that the manufacturer was using a secret mining advantage to boost its profits.

In conversation with CoinDesk, Bitcoin Unlimited chief scientist Peter Rizun might have summed up the issue and surrounding atmosphere the best:

"The drama in social media today surrounds the question of whether there exists a security hole that would allow this remote-control feature to be exploited for nefarious purposes."

Code details

Still, it seems that there are other reasons to be concerned about the backdoor. Since it can be exploited by bad actors from outside the company, the mining chips are now viewed as a security risk to the network. Everyone to 11 minutes, according to the open-source patch introduced on July 12th, 2016, the machines send calls back to a Bitmain server.

The idea is that the mining manufacturer can scan for identifying information about the mining chip, including its serial number and IP address. But, arguably the biggest concern is that the code isn't limited to use by certain people or companies, so it can be exploited by any man-in-the-middle or attacks coming from the same DNS server. "Even without Bitmain being malicious, the API is unauthenticated and would allow any MITM, DNS or domain hijack to shut down Antminers globally," the Antbleed website reads, further outlining concerns about the potential for technical or political misuse.

Vulnerability or 'malicious' backdoor?

Whether or not it was intended to be malicious seems to make up the bulk of the surrounding debate, and so far, it seems that sentiment has broken along the lines of the scaling debate. Still, some broke away from so-called party lines. "This was reckless of them to leave the unfinished feature in the code since this represents a major security issue," said Henry Brade, CEO of bitcoin service provider Prasos, a past defender of Bitcoin Core’s scaling proposals.

"However, based on the statement it is not accurate to call 'Antbleed' malicious in nature. It's simply a serious security issue."

F2pool operator Wang Chun further noted that he isn’t particularly worried about miners within his pool falling victim to manipulation by Bitmain. He noted, in conversation with CoinDesk, that it doesn’t seem like the company ever used it to shut down miners. "They have been able to do that for a long time, but they didn't," he said. Guy Corem, former CEO of Israeli mining chip maker Spondoolies-Tech, chalked up the controversy to "incompetence” and "negligence", rather than malicious intent.

"It make sense they wanted to develop such feature and it also make sense they didn't complete it and abandon it," he added. Further, he cited Spondoolies-Tech’s own past issues with stolen mining equipment. Still, some in the community are skeptical of Bitmain’s response. "Denial of many people is unbelievable. 'Antbleed' is not bug or mistake. The purpose of the code is clear; shut down miner on remote flag," Palatinus tweeted.

Public info?

Others have raised concerns about this vulnerability being made public since outsiders can then take advantage of the attack vector. Bitcoin Core contributor Matt Corallo argued that owners of these bitcoin miners needed to know about the potential vulnerability in order to fix it. "The issue is, it's already integrated in a ton of deployed hardware," he said, adding:

"It was reported to Bitmain via that bug report months ago, and their customers need to know to protect their operations from potential [man-in-the-middle attacks]."

The issue was first reported to Bitmain on Github in September 2016. One question is how prevalent the practice is in bitcoin. Secret backdoors seem to be par for the course in the technology world, often drawing security-minded critics as they're uncovered. Do other hardware manufacturers have the same vulnerability? Two mining manufacturers, at least, claim that they don’t.

"Our hardware doesn't [have] such issues, we [don’t] offer remote updates for firmware — it's the customer's decision update them or not,” said blockchain startup Bitfury Group CIO Alex Petrov. "My miner has no ASICBoost or backdoor," Jack Liao, CEO of mining LightningAsic, told CoinDesk. Along with the details about the backdoor, those who detected it released a patch that closes it up with a single line of code.

Mining centralization

Still, there are lingering worries that the vulnerability betrays a weakness in the bitcoin network — namely, it's lack of mining chip makers. No clear data is available about how many miners are running this software, but Bitmain is one the largest chip manufacturers in the space, with bolder estimates suggesting it produces 70% of all mining chips. That the backdoor could be used to impact any of those chips is unsurprisingly alarming to advocates that the network be "decentralized" and open to competition that enables different actors to engage it.

For now, the impact seems to be that Bitmain will take action to look at the rest of its codebase in order to spot other vulnerabilities. "The controversy around this code has brought our attention to improve the design in order to address vulnerabilities that were pointed out by the community recently," its statement reads. Still, others are lamenting the state of the drama and conversation around the issue, noting how quickly it became politicized.

Rizun concluded:

"All-in-all just another day in bitcoin."

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Ripple Signs Up Another 10 Banks As Blockchain-Based Payments Grow

Ripple Signs Up Another 10 Banks As Blockchain-Based Payments Grow

  

Ripple signed up another 10 banks,

including BBVA, penetrating the traditional banking sector in a way other digital currencies have yet to do. Ripple Labs continues to grow its client list with small and more substantial banks, engaging clients in the payment service provider market. In its press release, Ripple lists the banks: MUFG, BBVA, SEB, Akbank, Axis Bank, YES BANK, SBI Remit, Cambridge Global Payments, Star One Credit Union and eZforex.com.

An interesting trend shown in the current list of clients is the addition of new payment service providers (PSPs). It shows that Blockchain related payments are efficiently entering the remittance market. The press release describes the list of newcomers as “…some of the world’s largest banks, innovative payment service providers… More and more customers are turning to Ripple for cross-border payments.”

Adoption Scaling

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse is confident in the technology and views the customer base acceleration logical, stating:

“People know Ripple is the only Blockchain solution for payments that is proven in the real world and it’s driving demand from financial institutions of all kinds and sizes because they want to stay ahead of the curve.”

Certain members are already aiming at commercial implementation, although no timeline has been indicated. “We are very pleased to be working with Ripple to provide new types of payment services to change our customers’ experience using the power of Blockchain technology. To demonstrate our commitment, we are joining the Japan Bank Consortium to collaborate with other Japanese banks to move to the commercial use of Ripple’s global network.” — Hirofumi Aihara, General Manager of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ

XRP outlook positive

The majority of transactions are cross-border but within the same bank. An expected milestone will be when the banks start making Blockchain transactions happen between themselves and counterparties. XRP experienced a large surge in price and market capitalization as 2017 has brought nothing but good news. Despite a rocky 2016 Ripple Labs seems to be back on track to growth and prosperity, having grown its staff to over 150 and counting. The efficiency in both time and fees means that large scale adoption is a real possibility, while companies like SWIFT are finally taking this seriously.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member