Dont let bitcoin greed blind you to the potential of blockchain technology | John Naughton

The mechanism that underpins cryptocurrencies could help to provide secure public records in countries susceptible to corruption

Because I write about technology I am regularly assailed by people who are exercised about so-called ” cryptocurrencies” like bitcoin, which most of them regard as a scam. But when I respond that while bitcoin might be newsworthy, the really important narrative concerns the blockchain technology that underpins it, their eyes glaze over and they start looking for the nearest exit as they conclude that they are in the grip of Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner.

And, in a sense, the objective is. Blockchain technology is indeed important, but it seems largely incomprehensible to ordinary mortals, even though the web teems with attempts to explain it. This is partly because cryptography lies at its core, and since crypto involves complex maths it was thus lies beyond the ken of most people. But if one is prepared to take the maths as given, then actually the basic idea is simple. As Don and Alex Tapscott put it in their volume, Blockchain Revolution , a blockchain” is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not only financial transactions but virtually everything of value “.

Until recently, the banking establishment was unremittingly hostile to cryptocurrencies. Jamie Dimon, the boss of JPMorgan Chase, for example, famously described bitcoin as a “fraud”. But recently, the wind seems to have changed. Last December, two big exchanges- the CME Group and Cboe Global Markets- launched bitcoin futures trading operations. This week Goldman Sachs announced that it would follow suit and is looking into the direct trading of bitcoin. And now- according to Wednesday’s Financial Times – even the New York Stock Exchange is” setting up an online platform for buying and holding bitcoin “.

So what’s going on? To interpret it you need to understand that the cryptocurrency story has two interwoven strands: human avarice on the one hand and utopian idealism on the other. It’s no accident that bitcoin emerged just after the 2008 banking crisis as people realised that we had been taken for an epic ride by the financial services industry. In a world where nobody- even the biggest banks- could be trusted, an unknown genius going by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto published a paper arguing that cryptography could be harnessed to enable trustworthy transactions without having to rely on fallible or corrupted human institutions. A new digital currency- bitcoin- was the working example he proposed. And underpinning it was the cryptographic tool- the blockchain- which ensured that all transactions in the new currency could be validated without requiring an institution to guarantee or underwrite them.

Because the total number of bitcoins that can exist is limited by the design of the system to 21 m, the currency was rapidly perceived as an asset or a store of value- like gold. Accordingly greed kicked in, triggering waves of speculative mania that are still continuing. And it is this speculative wave that Goldman Sachs and co now- belatedly- wish to surf.

No surprise there, then. But implicit in the blockchain notion is an endearing strain of technocratic utopianism, a hope that technology can overcome some aspects of human frailty and corruption. The key to that lies in the latter half of the Tapscott definition quoted earlier- the idea that a blockchain can record” not only financial transactions but virtually everything of value” in a ledger that cannot be falsified.

This is a really big idea, because well-governed societies depend on maintaining certain kinds of documentation- birth and death credentials, title deeds, wills and so on- in ledgers that are both public and secure. In industrialised societies we have achieved this by having trustworthy organizations( registrars, solicitors, local authorities, etc ), which have legal responsibilities and democratic oversight. But other societies are not so fortunate. In developing or authoritarian countries, for example, registries of land titles are critically vulnerable to tampering by corrupted officials. Use a blockchain to hold such titles could offer a style of ensuring that credible records endure, which is why countries such as the Republic of Georgia are beginning to do it.

None of this is easy to do, and there are lots of practical difficulties ahead. But in the greed and cynicism surrounding bitcoin and its peers, we shouldn’t lose sight of the great potential of blockchain technology. Many years ago, an technologist called Paul Baran had a Big Idea- that we could make a great communications network by using digital data packets rather than analogue phone lines. He was giggled out of tribunal by AT& T. But it turned out that Baran’s idea was what gave us the internet.

What I’m reading

Gone- and forgotten
Honestly! Kids these days! Opinion pollster YouGov did a survey to discover how much today’s schoolchildren know about the communications technologies of the past. They were proven 12 pictures of relevant objects from the past- typewriter, Nokia mobile phone, overhead projector, floppy disk, cassette, pager etc. Two-thirds didn’t know what a floppy disk was( though some recognised it as the icon for “Save” ), 27% didn’t recognise a typewriter and 40% didn’t know what an audio cassette was.( On the other hand, analogue nostalgists can take comfort that only a one-quarter of the kids couldn’t recognise a record player. So vinyl may not be a lost cause with future generations. Biggest surprise: 23% didn’t recognise a postcard.

Scandal you say ?
Facebook users occupy an ethics-free zone. A Reuters survey has found that the Cambridge Analytica scandal has had no real impact on the individuals who use the service. Three-quarters of US users say they’re using Facebook as much as or more than before the revelations.

Take back control
MIT researchers have constructed a tool that enables you to control what you see in your social media feeds. It’s called Gobo and it’s free.

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Meet the quantum blockchain that works like a time machine

A new — and theoretical — system for blockchain-based data storage could ensure that hackers will not be able to fissure cryptocurrencies once the quantum era starts. The idea, proposed by researchers at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, would procure cryptocurrency futures for decades employing a blockchain technology that is like a time machine.

You can check out their findings here.

To understand what’s going on here we have to define some words. A blockchain stores every transaction in a system on what amounts to an immutable record of events. The work necessary for maintaining and confirming this immutable record is what is commonly known as mining. But this technology — which the paper’s co-author Del Rajan claims will make up” 10 percent of global GDP … by 2027″ — will become insecure in an era of quantum computers.

Therefore the solution to store a blockchain in a quantum era requires a quantum blockchain using a series of entangled photons. Further, Spectrum writes:” Essentially, current records in a quantum blockchain are not merely links between a record of the past, but instead a record in the past, one that does not exist anymore .”

Yeah, it’s weird.

From the paper intro 😛 TAGEND

Our method involves encoding the blockchain into a temporal GHZ( Greenberger-Horne-Zeilinger) nation of photons that do not simultaneously coexist. It is shown that the entanglement in time, as opposed to an entanglement in space, provides the crucial quantum advantage. All the subcomponents of this system have already been shown to be experimentally realise. Perhaps more shockingly, our encoding procedure can be interpreted as non-classically influencing the past; hence this decentralized quantum blockchain can be viewed as a quantum networked hour machine.

In short, the quantum blockchain is immutable because the photons that it contains do not exist at the current day but are still extant and readable. This means the entire blockchain is visible but cannot be “touched” and the only entry you would be able to try to tamper with is the most recent one. In fact, the researchers write,” In this spatial entanglement example, if an attacker tries to tamper with any photon, the full blockchain would be invalidated instantly .”

Is this possible? The researchers note that the technology already exists.

” Our novel methodology encodes a blockchain into these temporally entangled countries, which can then be integrated into a quantum network for further useful operations. We will also show that entanglement in time, as opposed to entanglement in space, plays the pivotal role for the quantum benefit over a classical blockchain ,” the authors write.” As discussed below, all the subsystems of this design have already been shown to be experimentally realise. Furthermore, if such a quantum blockchain were to be constructed, we will show that it could be viewed as a quantum networked day machine .”

Don’t worry about having to update your Bitcoin wallet, though. This process is still theoretical and not at all available to mere mortals. That told, it’s nice to know someone is looking out for our quantum future, however weird it may be.

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Someone made a game where you ride the rapidly changing prices of cryptocurrencies

The cryptocurrency world is a strange one, but at the least it has a sense of humor. A new game has you riding a little crypto-car along the wildly fluctuating costs of major and minor currencies. It’s quite ridiculous, and it isn’t even a bad game!

It’s called Crypto Rider, predictably, and is very much a spawn of the popular Line Rider type of game, though( hopefully) different enough that there won’t be any discontinue and desists forthcoming.

You select your car, then pick a chart to ride — most are a ride from a coin’s humble start to its highest value. But there’s a mountain-like” total marketplace cap” track, a “drag race” where you need to clear a valuation gap and one that must be depressing for BTC holders: a bumpy downhill ride from $20 K to $7,850. New tracks should appear in time, as new cryptocurrencies rise and fall.

The game is cute — there are fun messages along the track, and the exhaust gases is tiny coins — and you collect coins toward unlocking new autoes. I’m pretty sure they’re just aesthetic changes, but I’m gunning for a Dogecar anyway.

” The game was a side project in order to be allowed to do in my own time ,” wrote back Daniel Fahey, founder of the developer, SuperFly Games.” So the first original 10 ways were what I felt were needed to give the game some replayability. But after the reception video games has received during its launch day, I will certainly be adding more tracks .”

It’s free, it’s dumb and it’s a fun style to waste a few minutes while you inadvertently satirize the hubris of this rushed attempt to overthrow existing financial systems.

” I hope people find video games funny because it certainly wasn’t meant to be serious ,” Fahey wrote.” It’s a bit of light-hearted fun in a somewhat serious space .”

Blockchain stuff is promising and we’ll get there eventually. But as the game seems to emphasize, it’ll likely be quite a ride.

You can download Crypto Rider for iOS or Android.

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Google is banning all cryptomining extensions from its Chrome Web Store

Google today announced that it will ban from its Chrome Web Store any and all browser extensions that mine crypto.

Mining cryptocurrencies in the browser isn’t the most efficient way for individuals to get rich, but if you are a developer and you get thousands of machines to mine for you, that equation changes in your favor. For the longest period, Google’s Chrome Web Store allowed for single-purpose mining extensions. That is, developers could publish extensions in the store that clearly stated their purpose and that had no other purpose than to mine.

As it turns out, 90 percentage of extensions that mine crypto don’t comply with those rules. The enticement of cheap Monero is simply too great for some developers, so they try to smuggle their mining scripts into what look like legitimate extensions. Some of those gets detected and removed outright and some actually make it into the store and have to be removed. Google is patently not happy with that, as it’s not a great user experience. Those extensions tend to use a good amount of processing power, after all.

So starting today, Google won’t allow into the Chrome Web Store any extension that mines cryptocurrencies, and starting in late June, all of the existing extensions will be removed. It’s worth noting that Google will still allow for blockchain-related extensions that don’t mine.

” The extensions platform offer powerful capabilities that have enabled our developer community to build a vibrant catalog of extensions that help users get the most out of Chrome ,” writes James Wagner, Google’s product manager for its extensions platform.” Regrettably, these same abilities have attracted malicious software developers who attempt to abuse the platform at the expense of users. This policy is another step forward in making sure that Chrome users can enjoy the added benefit of extensions without exposing themselves to conceal hazards .”

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Visa confirms Coinbase wasnt at fault for overcharging users

Yesterday, we wrote that Coinbase clients were being charged multiple times for past transactions.

While some speculated that the erroneous recedes were down to a Coinbase engineering issue, Coinbase issued a statement saying it wasn’t liable for the duplication charges. The blame, instead, rested with Visa for the route it handled a migration of merchant categories for cryptocurrencies, Coinbase said.

While you can read my post yesterday for an in-depth description of what happened, the basic gist is that about a month of old transactions were refunded and recharged under a different merchant category. Many users saw the recharge come through before the rebate processed, making it definitely sounds like the latter are double charged. Honestly, the questions was likely exacerbated by existing payment rails — it’s normal for refunds to take multiple days to show up on credit and debit statements.

But here’s where it gets weird — this morning Visa issued a statement to some publications , which sounded to us( and others) like the latter are blaming Coinbase, telling TNW that “Visa has not made any systems changes that would result in the replicate transactions cardholders are reporting.” We are also not well informed any other merchants who are experiencing this issue.”

But now the payment giant has issued a second statement inducing it crystal clear that it wasn’t Coinbase’s fault.

The following is a joint statement from Visa and Worldpay, which is Coinbase’s payment processor partner. While Coinbase initially distributed the statement on its own blog, we’ve also received the statement immediately from Visa.

Over the last two days, some customers who used a credit or debit card at Coinbase may have considered duplicate transactions posted to their cardholder accounts.

This issue was not caused by Coinbase .

Worldpay and Coinbase have been working with Visa and Visa issuing banks to ensure that the duplication transactions have been reversed and appropriate credits have been posted to cardholder accounts. All reversal transactions have now been issued, and should appear on customers’ credit card and debit card accounts within the next few days. We believe the majority of these reversals have already posted to accounts. If you continue to have problems with your credit or debit card account after this reversal period, including issues relating to card fees or charges, we encourage you to contact your card issuing bank.

We deep regret any inconvenience this may have caused customers.

While the statement doesn’t give a ton of lucidity on the issue, it seems to absolve Coinbase of any blame, which is a win for the startup considering it’s been trying to prove to the world that its engineering and customer service squads can stand up to the challenge of maintaining a dependable financial platform.

Indeed, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong hit out at media reports that initially placed the blame for the snafu on Coinbase.

The startup — is valued at $1.6 billion after raising $100 million last year — has suffered some challenging periods as it continues to scale its services to accommodate its 10 million-plus registered customers.

Issues over the past year have included muddling prices on Overstock.com, a flash accident, and a general struggle to keep up as cryptocurrencies boomed in 2017. In December, Coinbase launched an internal investigation into suggestions that company insiders profited from knowledge of impending support for Bitcoin Cash.

This post was updated to clarify that Visa itself didn’t initiate the new batch transactions.

Note: The writer owns a small amount of cryptocurrency .

Jon Russell contributed to this story. He also owns a small amount of cryptocurrency .

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Why investor Jalak Jobanputra is betting big on crypto

When investor and entrepreneur Jalak Jobanputra first visited a blockchain conference five years ago she got goosebumps. The experienced investor had heard of cryptocurrencies but now that they had genuinely come into maturity she was aroused. Now, five years later, she’s constructing her entire VC practice around blockchain and ensures bright days ahead for the technology.

Join us Jobanputra, the founder of FuturePerfect Ventures, as we talk about her take on crypto, the future of investment, and the direction she’s headed in terms of investment and startup innovation.

Bitcoin price drops 10% as hackers exploit Binances API keys

UPDATE 6:27 P.M. EST: Kourt’s Insta is back up, and so is Younes’ page — both public , not private! Hmm…

HTAG 1 TT

BTAG 1 TT Kourtney Kardashian … you good, bb?

As we reported earlier, the KUWTK starlet’s beau Younes Bendjima seemingly deleted his Instagram account after Kourt suggested on her own page that she has LOADS of tea on someone. Now … the momma of three has followed his result and scrapped her account, too!

Related: Kourtney& Younes — A Timeline Of Their Relationship !

WTF! We need to know what the deal is ASAP !!

Stay tuned alert…

[ Image via SPTAG 1 TTATAG 7 TTInstagram/ ATAG 8 TTWENN .]

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Robinhood rolls out zero-fee crypto trading as it hits 4M users

Coinbase has some serious rivalry. Today, Robinhood starts rolling out its no-commission cryptocurrency trading feature in California, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana and New Hampshire. Users there can buy and sell Bitcoin and Ethereum with no extra fees, and everyone can track those and 14 other coins in its sleek app. That’s compared to paying 1.5 to 4 percent fees in the U.S. on Coinbase. Users can sign up on the Robinhood Crypto site to waitlist for access.

Robinhood has a chance to usurp Coinbase as the de facto crypto trading site app by vastly undercutting its fees. When people are buying thousands of dollars of cryptocurrencies at a time, Coinbase’s 1.5 to 4 percent fees in the U.S. are to be able to add up.

But Robinhood considers giving away the service for free as a powerful play to gain users for its existing service that lets people trade stocks, ETFs and alternatives without additional charges. Its stylish, retro-future Tron interface is also a super easy way to check on pricing and news about 16 coins: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, Ripple, Ethereum Classic, Zcash, Monero, Dash, Stellar, Qtum, Bitcoin Gold, OmiseGo, NEO, Lisk and Dogecoin. Tracking is now available for everyone, with trading coming to waitlisted users and more states soon.

Robinhood Crypto first announced the feature last month , with one million people signing up in simply the first four days. That interest has driven Robinhood’s total registered user count to more than 4 million, up from 3 million in November. Those users have transacted more than $100 billion to date, saving$ 1 billion in commission fees.

On most stock trading services like E* Trade and Scottrade, customers pay around$ 7 per trade to encompas these companies’ marketing, physical branches and sales reps. Founded in 2013, Robinhood trenches those fees by operating a lean operation centered around engineers and its app. It stimulates money on the interest of money its clients maintain with it, or by selling monthly Robinhood Gold subscriptions that let users borrow money to trade with.

That business has allowed the startup to raise $176 million, most recently at a $1.3 billion valuation. And with its free crypto trading, it may have found a way to luring in a fresh class of amateur investors. Maintaining security locked tight will be critical, especially given disastrous violates at other crypto companies. But as crypto draws a new generation into the world of finance, Robinhood wants to help them play the market, day or night.

For more, read our full narrative on the debut of R obinhood Crypto .

[ Revealing: The author of this story owns small positions in Bitcoin and Ethereum ]

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50 Cent admits he has never owned, and does not now own any bitcoin

Reports last month that rapper 50 Penny had forgotten about$ 7 million or so in bitcoin he owned have been given the lie by the man himself, who proclaims in court documents that he “has never owned, and does not now own, a bitcoin account or any bitcoin, ” nor did any of his companies.

The court documents were first obtained by The Blast, but I tracked them down as well. Curtis James Jackson III( 50 Cent’s legal name) filed the “Declaration on bitcoins” last week, well after research reports had circulated that he had rediscovered the trove of cryptocurrency. He said at the time: “I’m a keep it real I forgot I did that shit. Lol.”

Turns out, however, he never touched bitcoin himself. As he states in the declaration 😛 TAGEND

All online transactions involving my brand were handled by an independently owned and operated third part, Central Nervous LLC .. the limited bitcoin transactions that occurred online were processed and converted to U.S. Dollars contemporaneously, based upon the then-existing exchange rate…

He provided a few screenshots of his BitPay account proving a couple hundred transactions, the majority of members of which were for $5.50 or $8.90. It doesn’t definitely sounds like bitcoin purchases contributed much to the 200,000 copies of Animal Ambition that eventually sold.

It isn’t anywhere near the 700 bitcoins reports suggested he’d raked in; holding a bitcoin was worth $657 at the time, the total haul is by my rough estimation likely closer to 6 or 7 of them, a few thousand dollars’ worth.

Why, then, did he not deny research reports at the time, if he knew they were not true? Subsequently in the same document he explains a well-understood rule of show business 😛 TAGEND

As a general matter, so long as a press narrative is not irreparably damaging to my image or brand, I usually do not feel the need to publicly deny the reporting. This is particularly true when I feel the press report in question is favorable to my image or brand, even if the report is based on a misunderstanding of the facts or contains outright falsehoods.

When I first became aware of the press reports on this matter, I built social media posts stating that “I forgot I did that” because I had in fact forgotten I was one of the first recording artists to accept bitcoin for online transactions. I did not publicly deny the reports that I held bitcoins because the press coverage was favorable and suggested that I had made millions of dollars as a result of my good business decision to accept bitcoin payments.

All quite true. It’s hard to say it was not a good decision( being as it was good publicity at the time as well ), although in retrospect it might have been wiser to hold onto the coins instead of cashing them in. But with insolvency looming, the promise of later riches( which he might simply have to surrender) likely held little temptation for the rapper.

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Blockchain engineers are in demand

Demand is off the charts for blockchain talent, and the capital is waiting to back it up. More than $3.7 billion has been raised through ICOs in the United States alone. Blockchain-related chores are the second-fastest growing in today’s labor market; there are now 14 job openings for every one blockchain developer. And as Nick Szabo, the developer who coined “smart contracts, ” pointed out, there is an extreme “ $/ knowledge” ratio in the blockchain space, where capital by far outpaces talent.

Today, Toptal, a marketplace for on-demand tech talent, is publicly launching their blockchain engineering talent vertical out of private beta. In today’s software development scenery, Toptal represents about 50 percentage of on-demand engineering labor by revenue.

Requests for on-demand blockchain talent are skyrocketing. Last year, freelance talent marketplace Upwork assured blockchain rise to the fastest-growing skill out of more than 5,000 skills to its implementation of freelancer billings — a year-over-year increase of more than 35,000 percent. These petitions span ICO advisory services, engineering projects and overall blockchain consultancy.

Since January 2017, the demand for blockchain engineering talent on Toptal has grown 700 percentage, and 40 percentage of the fully managed software development projects requested in the last month necessitate blockchain skills. By diving into the requests Toptal ensures, we can start to paint a better picture of the blockchain development languages and knowledge areas increasing in demand.

The first is Hyperledger Fabric implementation, an open-source enterprise blockchain framework. The second is Ripple development, a payment protocol used for distributed processes for remittances, payments and exchanges. The third is smart contract development with a concentration around Solidity, a smart-contract programming language for Ethereum Virtual Machine.

Taso Du Val, Toptal’s founder and CEO, thinks this sheds some predictions on blockchain development at-large.

“Different types of contracts are going to be disrupted first, ” he said. “Disruption will be in places like asset management, or deals being made that require complex contracting. Pays are so complex, and to work at scale, necessitate the sign-off of not just central banks, but also governments. Payments won’t come first. Contracts don’t need such a sign-off, since they are a lower roadblock to entry. There are less regulatory obstacles, so we will see the contract space get disrupted first.”

Toptal’s launch of blockchain engineering talent in its freelance talent marketplace could be a doubled win. On the one hand, it could help with blockchain ecosystem development overall by cross-pollinating blockchain development projects as on-demand technologists take knowledge from one project to another. Moreover, it is unable to grow the blockchain talent pool overall through Toptal’s engineering skill development program, which helps their existing engineering pool get up to snuff on blockchain.

Toptal’s blockchain engineers are working on projects like the Hashgraph, which addresses scalability issues, and with big public companies like SinglePoint on blockchain consolidations. The variety of clients utilizing Toptal for their projects, and their completely remote workforce spanning 100 countries, signals the further development of blockchain technologists with actual applied experience — Toptal even lets their clients hire them for a contract-to-hire fee.

Toptal’s talent structure aims to also grow the network of skilled blockchain engineers over hour. They co-designed a test and training curriculum with top technologists in blockchain that they use to develop their existing network of technologists. In fact, Toptal find growing the talent force in blockchain as integral to their business today and the only style to meet growing demand. They screen and accept to their talent network the top three percent of technologists, and are looking forward to developing their existing network to be skilled with blockchain.

The founder of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin, thinks “core developers and researchers should be employed by multiple companies or organizations …[ and ]… the knowledge of the technical considerations behind protocol upgrades must be democratized, so that more people can feel comfortable participating in research discussions and blaming protocol changes.”

Vitalik’s vision of the market is a reality reinforced by more projects, implementations and companies demanding blockchain than there are engineers available to work on them.

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