Wikileaks Shutdown by Coinbase

Apparently Julian Assange’s Wikileaks merchant account on Coinbase was shutdown.  This is not at all surprising since PayPal, VISA, Mastercard and the banks did the same thing to him/them in the past.  In all fairness I don’t think Coinbase is to blame, aside from the fact they are a US based company and under the jurisdiction of the US of course.

PayPal came out and admitted they were forced to close down Wikileaks account, and I am certain the same thing has happened with Coinbase.

They have no say in the matter when the US government comes knocking.  Coinbase even recently had to give out information to the US tax department (IRS).

Of course users can still directly pay and donate to any wallets that Wikileaks controls.  As of now he lists addresses for Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, ZCash and Monero.  This is where things will heat up if he were to have a centralized currency like Ripple or Stellar Lumens.  The US government could possibly have those accounts in XRP/XLM frozen since they are a US based company.

This comes down to the wider issue of privacy, rights and freedom online and how cryptocurrency can prevent persecution for political reasons.  It also stands to reason that entities based in the US have very little say when the government comes knocking.  Coinbase and PayPal couldn’t have said no to the US government or by doing so they would be in seriously hot water.

I always advocate having some IT resources out of the reach of PRISM countries for reasons of privacy and freedom.  One of my current favorites are Singapore and Hong Kong in Asia.  Hong Kong I place particularly high value on because it has the British based system, yet it is under the protection of China.  Hong Kong is less likely to be influenced by a foreign entity than a smaller country like Singapore.  A good example of this is how Edward Snowden miraculously made it out of Hong Kong as a wanted fugitive.  Surely, Hong Kong was pressured and asked to hand him over, but somehow it never happened.

There are positives here, it looks like some brave entities in Europe have stood up for Wikileaks and at least for now, in France, Germany and Iceland there are some banks, foundations and even a University who are providing him access to the fiat system.

Swiss Researchers Forecast Sideways Trading and Downward Pressure on Bitcoin for 2018

They have based it on Metcalfe’s law which says at this point that Bitcoin could lose another 27%.  The group also cites the part I agree with, in that so far cryptocurrency prices are mainly driven by Bitcoin which means Altcoins (other than Bitcoin) have risen and fallen in direct correlation.

Where I am not sure if I agree or disagree is their theory that a lot of this is driven by fear in the news.  While I am sure it is, if the fear is unfounded why should bad news reflect on the long-term valuation?

A sensible market would be wise to react to say the hacks that have happened to Ethereum or the fact that illegal content has been inserted into the Bitcoin Blockchain.  That is bad news that has relevance since these issues potentially threaten the integrity of the entire blockchain.

While we’re on the topic of Metcalfe’s law, since cryptocurrency is a completely new and largely irrational market can we trust this is a valid predictor?  I am not aware that any other traditional models have successfully called any of the major events in cryptocurrency.

I do agree it was time for a significant correction but the same has happened in commodities and stocks before, yet the stock markets keep moving (albeit with a lot of money printing and manipulation-is that what regulators mean by regulation for cryptocurrency? :) ).

Only time will tell where things head but I do think that currencies that are efficient, secure and easy to use will stand the test of time (which admittedly are very few and I cannot think of a single one that solves all of the issues just yet).

ICOs Still Going Strong in 2018

Despite the slow start and bearish sentiment of the cryptocurrency market this year, apparently ICOs have been going strong.  Various reasons are plentiful for why the ICO market remains this strong and it has me scratching my head.

Some say that serial investors are cashing out and then reinvesting into new ICOs.  Others say new investors from outside the traditional cryptocurrency world are coming into the market.

I am not sure what to think, as someone like myself is shying aware from most ICOs based on my experience that I feel 99% of these are scams and won’t ever deliver anything.  I think most of them are the next dot bombs and it is absolutely right to panic and sell these worthless Ethereum ERC20 tokens.

In ICOs the traditional due diligence is simply not enough.  It is easy to weed out people without IT or business experience.  And from that you have to weed out who has valid experience and qualifications?  Working for big name companies does not make you qualified to deliver on an overly ambitious project, but it does of course help attract investors.  I’ve seen enough big names including the Telegram ICO to be unimpressed (the Telegram ICO tells you to send money and then e-mail them to confirm the transaction……..how on earth will they build a proper blockchain if they can’t make their own API for transactions?).

Sorry for the rant but seriously what is driving the ICO market despite all the bad news?  I suspect it is people in the cryptocurrency world and I suspect they are miners who are thinking “my coins aren’t worth that much at the moment why not invest some of my spare ones into ABC scam ICO in the hopes that it grows and acts as a hedge to my underperforming cryptocurrency”.

That’s the best I can do and I suspect that is what is happening.  There are of course the institutional and whale investors who play a role but it’s unclear to what extent.

Ethereum Developers Consider Bricking Bitmain’s Antminer ETHash Based ASIC

ETHash has always been considered “ASIC resistant” which is that the made algorithm so it wouldn’t be easy to make an ASIC for it like SHA-256 for Bitcoin, Scrypt for Litecoin and others.  This has been a very controversial issue especially since Bitmain announced they have Cryptonight miners for Monero and ETHash miners for Ethereum to be released soon.

At first I thought the developers had a plan to inject some malicious code that would literally brick the miners firmware or something similar, but the idea of hardforking is much more tame and harmless to everyone but Bitmain and their clients.  There’s also a lot at stake for Bitmain who could be in serious trouble from its buyers if they ship miners that are completely useless.  It remains unseen to know if they could update their firmware to compensate or if completely new ASIC hardware would be required for the update in algorithms.  Either way if Bitmain cannot deliver, it could push them to the brink or at least serious financial damage.  It does cost a lot to R&D and manufacture these ASICs and I could see this pushing them out of business or close to it.

Monero is hardforking in less than 5 days to combat this issue but the Ethereum team is still debating what to do.

Monero-Hardforks-Response-To-Bitmain-ASIC

This is a very interesting situation with competing interests and warring camps involved.  But to me this really outlines serious security flaws with Monero, Ethereum and all other Public, Permissionless Blockchain cryptocurrencies (the vast majority including Bitcoin, Litecoin etc..).

Hardforks are usually done for bad reasons, to counterfeit and copy an existing coin as an easy cashgrab (eg. Bitcoin Gold, Bitcoin Cash etc.. Litecoin Cash).  That is one serious integrity and security issue there.  Why is it even possible to literally copy, counterfeit almost any coin?  It devalues the original coin and is essentially stealing from the original coin holders and developers.

But in this case Monero and Ethereum would be doing hardforks for a “good reason” but it’s still a pain.   Would you accept it if your bank did a hardfork and your account stopped working or by not upgrading on time your currency could be lost or converted to another?  I understand why they want to stop ASICs but to me Bitmain is not the problem itself, they are simply exploiting, for profit the weakness that all cryptocurrencies have.  This weakness of PoW or mining is supposed to secure the network but in its absurdity it just makes things slow, insecure and ensures “whoever has the most money to buy more hashing power will control the currency”.  Making it even worse, mining pools and large farms could wreak havoc by broadcasting false transactions, causing others to lose money where they think they’ve received money they haven’t.

Going back to the purpose of mining, in reality today it guarantees two things.  0 security, slow transactions and centralization.  It creates a virtual arms race of whoever can buy enough hashing power is the winner and owner.  This was never the intention of Satoshi or cryptocurrencies.  There’s no way a small, average person will ever be an equal stakeholder in cryptocurrency.  Whether everyone uses an ASIC, CPU or GPU the issue remains the same.  It is a flaw and weakeness in how cryptocurrencies work.

The solution in my view is to make a community-based coin that works off PoS (Proof of State).  Typically these kinds of currencies will be faster and they can be more secure if they are not permissionless (a nice way of saying no security at all and EVERYONE can access the network and broadcast any transaction whether valid or fraudulent).  The whole world shouldn’t be involved in processing my payment for a coffee and they definitely shouldn’t know about it!

So to me when I see people say “mining secures the network”, that was the intention but in practice it’s not the case.

Some serious rewrites in the architecture of all currencies need to be rewritten and the permissionless design and PoW must come to an end for cryptocurrencies to be actually be usable, functional and sustainable for both personal and business use.

The fact that hardforks are even possible or even worse, necessary to stop others from obtaining too much hashing power is proof of concept that mining just doesn’t work.

 

 

300Billion in Market Cap Lost in Cryptocurrency in 2018

Now before we either all panic of HODL our funds I think it’s time to take a step back.  I don’t think cryptocurrency is going anywhere regardless of the bad news and government threats.

But with that said let’s take an even further step back and ask what has worked, what hasn’t worked and why has this happened to the market?

There are a lot of factors but I’ll speak about the ones that I think are most significant.

Bad News

The news is key here because a lot of family and friends are worried that all of us crypto holders have lost all of our money.  Even with Bitcoin around the $7-$10K mark, unless you bought in at the end of last year you’re still probably doing very well.  In general the market for most major currencies is up well over what it was in the first 3 quarters of 2017.  However, there is no denying that the charts look a little bearish but I think there will be a breakout in the coming months.

Government/Finance Manipulation

Much like the news, government and big financiers are having a big impact.  We know hedgefund investors have poured in billions.  Whether by intention or not a lot of them could be pulling money out of certain currencies to create an artificial crash and panic selling.

Too Many ICO Scams

I used to feel the word scam was used too liberally in the digital age of many honest IT companies.   However, in terms of ICO even the Ethereum Founder, Vitaly Buterik says 90% of tokens on his network are scams.  This is a very rational reason that will have a huge chill on investment. I would say blame a good portion of these problems on Ethereum honestly.  The unregulated and wild wild west of ICOs have brought government wrath and regulators banging on the door of all crypto stakeholders.

Lack of Common Sense and Proper Business and IT Practices

It is very clear to me in looking at how a lot of teams and ICOs operate that a good portion of people holding power in the cryptoworld have no clue.  If they did a lot of common sense things would be happening and they simply aren’t.

Such as Coinbase’s decision to open itself and its investors for huge losses and liability by selling Ethereum ERC20 Tokens.

The very idea of “free for all” in the cryptoworld reminds of the 90’s of the wild wild west of the World Wide Web and the lessons I thought we all learned.  Admittedly, and clearly, a lot of people have forgotten or were not old enough to be around for that.

I could say more but it’s so clear that essential business and IT practices have been thrown to the wind.  This is a huge impact on a lot of the issues the cryptoworld has been facing.

The Coming

I am still very optimistic about the long-term crypto outcome, but there are a lot of self-created and external factors at this moment.  I do think it is temporary but a dot bomb in crypto will certainly be repeated and appear.  The currencies and teams who didn’t learn from the 90’s will likely be the first ones swept away, leaving way for the next generation of cryptocurrency that simply just works for people and business.

Coinbase To Support Ethereum ERC20 Tokens

Coinbase just announced it will be supporting the trade of ERC20 tokens.  A lot of times in the crypto world I look and shake my head and I just can’t stop with this one.  I could see if Coinbase wanted to support actual currencies like Ripple, Lumens, Monero etc… those are reasonably safe currencies to invest in.

ICOs which are essentially crowdfunding/pseudo-stocks (depending on who you ask) are extremely risk and I would say about 90% of those are fraudulent in that they collect your coins and never intended to deliver anything.  I think we can all agree at any rate that ICOs are extremely risky and HODLING may be as useful with those tokens as holding RIM stock.

Coinbase has a huge client base and is one of the easiest ways for people to get into cryptocurrency.  However, they risk bringing regulatory wrath and also dampening new investors from coming in when they get burnt on these ICO scams.

It’s recently come to my attention that some people weren’t aware that Ethereum Smart Contracts or ERC20 tokens are not vetted, supported or approved by the Ethereum team in any way.  This is  huge issue of course and why I am so against smart contracts at the moment.  Let’s get cryptocurrency as an infrastructure in terms of B2B,B2C,C2C etc… working fast, efficiently, securely and easily before biting off more than we can chew!

I am also at a loss as to how the Coinbase legal team approved this one?  Did they run it by any counsel at all?  I think if and when people lose massive amounts that Coinbase could be held liable regardless of waivers and disclaimers for losses in some of the huge ICO busts and scams to come.  Especially when there are so many other avenues and stable currencies they could have directed their customers to.

I am fearful for the investors, for Coinbase and the cryptocurrency market as a whole but should these warnings go unheeded and “things go terribly wrong” then it would be a good, fresh start for the industry.  Investors also need to do their diligence and exercise good understanding and judgement before making investment decisions.

It will be interesting to see where this leads but I would never recommend any friend or family member to invest in any Ethereum Based Token ICO and to stick with solid and real cryptocurrencies that solve the problems of today.

We Need A Better Coin Now!

Cryptocurrency today as of the time of this writing is in a bit of a flux and identity crisis.  Part of this is due to a well directed campaign in the news via government and banking entities.  However, I will always give credit where it is due and many of the flaws that have been pointed out by these entities are completely true.  In fact, from a business, security and IT standpoint I find that most cryptocurrencies are almost impossible to use.  There are coins that individually address “some of the issues” but I have never seen a coin or team that “just seems to get it”.

Whether it’s how an ICO is run, basic functionality, security, privacy, getting out information it seems apparent to me that the vast majority of teams and coins do not sufficient combined IT and Business Knowledge to make things work.

There are just so many issues with a lot of the top coins that could kill them, let me name a few in no particular order.

Speed – 99% of cryptocurrencies are extremely slow taking minutes, hours or several days to complete a transaction!

Expensive – A lot of times you can spend a small fortune just sending a small amount of coin to someone (you could spend $100 to send $5 of coins with some Ethereum tokens for example)!

Security – Most coins are by default completely insecure.  Any coin that has a public ledger is insecure and has 0 privacy.  This allows for replay attacks and all kinds of nasty things.  It also means your activities are easily tracked and traced.  Imagine if your competitors can see exactly who is paying and who you are paying including the full amounts?  It would put your business at a huge disadvantage.  Having “public, permissionless blockchain” such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin etc..  will mean the coins can never be secure when the whole public is involved.

Hardforks – Most coins are easily counterfeited, hard or softforked where basically anyone can copy an entire coin and just rename it and call it their own, while confusing and devaluing the original coin holders.  This should never be able to happen just for the reason of sanity, continuity and integrity.  There have already been scams like the BTG Scam and replay attacks.

PoW/Mining – It is absolutely crazy that mining still exists, as cool as it originally was, mining is now a hindrance in many ways to the cryptocurrency community.  Not only is it wasteful in terms of energy resources, it is unsustainable in both environmental, monetary and functional terms.  Returns are so slow with most major coins that it is almost not worth it unless your power is cheap or free.

To top it off why on earth should we let transactions be controlled by “miners finding the next block”.  It doesn’t secure the network anymore and that is because coins like Bitcoin were created before ASICs and assumed “no one would party would hold more than 10% hashing power”.  Of course single pools in China have way more than 10% power and so do some mining farms possibly.  This means that pools and large farms could work together to defraud people by sending false transactions and confirming it among themselves.  By the time the scam is realized the parties who initiated the scam would already have escaped with the money.

Mining also leads to centralization, the very thing that cryptocurrency was meant to avoid.  This inevitable because as difficulty increases, only large corporate or government players with deep pockets can continue.

The same applies with running full nodes, large organizations will be the one running them.

Usability – Most coins are unusable because they are slow and insecure but to make it worse there’s more.  The current coins are not easily integrated in a secure way.  You shouldn’t have to run a full Litecoin, Bitcoin or Ethereum node on a huge mega server with tons of RAM and HDD just to create receiving addresses and receive payments.  This not only inefficient, it is insecure because the same computer that generates the receiving addresses is usually the one that holds the wallet/funds.

To top it off you can send to a wrong or non-existent address and lose your money forever with virtually all currencies.  Blockchain is just a big database, couldn’t some query be done to make sure the address actually exists?!  On top of that there is no feedback, send by e-mail or notifications by e-mail you always need to keep your wallet open to notice.  It would be much easier if these different functions are kept separate.  However this is a problem too because most cryptocurrencies are admittedly not secure if you don’t sync the entire chain.  And that’s another issue, syncing is a huge issue with coins like Ethereum it is extremely slow and takes a ridiculous amount of CPU cycles.  Imagine paying someone from Craigslist in person  and one of you says “hold on mate sorry I have to wait for my wallet to sync for hours or days!”.

 

Ripple Performance Beats Bitcoin and Ethereum!

Despite so much turbulence in the markets Ripple has returned 4.8% vs Bitcoin’s 2.64% in the last 24 hours or Ethereum’s -.75%.  Ripple is proving itself to be able to withstand strong headwinds after nearly hitting the $5 mark last year.  Of course $.70 is a far cry from its all time high but considering the market as of lately this is impressive.  I think despite the concerns over XRP’s future in terms of it being associated with large and central banking clients, there is value in it being a hedge.  This is one of the reasons I invested in Ripple as I feel with increasing government scrutiny, regulation, threats, bad news etc.. that this would all cause Ripple to return much better in the long-term.  However as I’ve said in past posts, there appears to be the very real fear and possibility that Ripple may just dump XRP if the banks tell or pay them to.  In fact I even e-mailed them with detailed concerns from another blog and they had no comment other than asking me to check their news, blog and website so at this point I feel it is very plausible.  Ripple’s affiliation with banks and government will either help it right to the top or it could weight down Ripple.  Besides that I feel Ripple is a fairly good currency but does suffer from a few other flaws that I won’t get into here.

 

CoinmarketCap-2018-03-20

The Future Of Blockchain Currencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin belong to governments, banks and large corporate players.

One aspect of cryptocurrencies that some users aren’t aware of is that decentralized blockchain based currencies are in their own ways their own worst enemy.  The blockchain is the problem, as currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum keep getting slower due to their limited transactions per second, and the blockchain gets large this has started the end game.   The end game is clearly spelled out in Ethereum’s current white paper and it’s that essentially the blockchain will get so large no small players (individuals) will be able to participate.   This is because all transactions are stored in the blockchain ledger, and the more transactions the larger it gets.  Eventually the blockchains will grow to several terabytes and require more memory.  This will mean that only big corporate, government and banking players will have the resources to control these so-called decentralized currencies.  It is really inevitable unless a mechanism is adopted for off-loading this storage to trusted third parties.

I may not be a huge Microsoft fan but I think Ankur Patel has stated what many in the cryptocurrency already understand to be correct.

Patel said that blockchains that increase network capacity through on-chain scaling, which involves raising the blocksize, will eventually experience degraded centralization and will not be able to function on a “world-scale.”

https://www.ccn.com/public-blockchain-chain-scaling-degrades-decentralization-microsoft-researcher/

This is something that Stellar Lumens and Ripple essentially do.  They are a centralized blockchain that are generally faster than the competitors but are centralized and literally supported by big corporate players and banks.  These have pros and cons.  As an investment they are an excellent hedge against threatened regulations that people fear for the decentralized currencies and they also provide real value and work very well.

Is this all bad?  It’s hard to say because public blockchains can be attacked literally with DDOS/SPAM/bad blocks and this has happened with all the major currencies.  On top of that you are still giving up trust to unknown people and the value and stability of these currencies are at risk for other reasons such as hardfork cash grabs like Bitcoin Cash and the Bitcoin Gold Group.

The future is bright for crypto but these uncertainties need to be accounted for and sorted out.  It may be that the future is going to involve a combination of foundations and semi-decentralized currencies.

Neo, the Ethereum Competitor from China. How does it stack up?

Some friends have asked me for my thoughts, I admit I haven’t paid much attention to Neo myself but I am happier with this project, the team, architecture, planning and thought that has gone into it.

First of all, Neo, in my opinion has the technical superiority and is the better and faster coin to use everyday.  It has similar features such as the digital asset/smart contract option and API.   Neo is based on C# basically the fastest and most efficient programming language.  Ethereum is based on my arch nemesis, Java which I’ve always found to be efficient, slow, buggy and riddled with security issues (which is one thing that makes me very nervous about major bugs or hacks impacting the Ethereum network and blockchain in the future).

My belief is that because Neo is seen as Chinese based that it has scared away investors and this is the only reason why we see Ethereum as #2 or #3 in terms of market cap.  Neo is not far behind and if more attention and awareness shifts towards it I believe it’s only a matter of time before it overtakes Ethereum.

I’ve also seen much more evidence that the Neo team cares about the community by actively participating in discussions.  By comparison I can see endless complaints about issues that the ETH community has on their own forums with seemingly no response from the team.  Another factor is that the NEO team seems to be a professional and experienced team.  The ETH founder is only 18-years old and originally from Russia (nothing against Russia I am long there and we have many wonderful clients from there and around the world!).  I am highlighting that both teams are overseas but the fact that Neo is entirely Chinese and based inside China is probably the stumbling block for its growth.

What is wrong with Neo?

One big issue that I believe will be a huge problem is the fact that Neo is not divisible.  You cannot buy a fraction of a Neo.  This will be a huge problem even at it’s current value of $108 USD.  What if you want to buy a bag of chips or a USB stick?  It completely fails as a currency even though it’s otherwise superior to Ethereum.  How about if you want to invest in an ICO and you want to send .5 Neo?  No, not going to happen so Neo has set itself on the path to self-destruction in my opinion.  I’m very disappointed as otherwise it has done everything much better than Ethereum but shoots itself in the foot over the inability to ever be a real currency or used in daily transactions and this will only worse as the value increases.   This in itself almost makes the currency fail and is major stumbling block.  I also take issue with Neo’s GAS which will become another huge issue just like Ethereum, it is confusing and annoying.  See my blog post about how a $5 transaction in ETH cost me over $105 in gas fees!

Don’t get me wrong on this issue, I am long China, but with all the news coming out of China I believe it scares people away from this currency.  This aspects actually draws me towards it, in China there is such high regulation that the kind of scams I see many other developers pull is much harder to do even compared to Japan.

I would be all over Neo if the coin was divisible.

Would I invest in Neo?

Not at these levels, but I also won’t buy more Ethereum for similar reasons.  I do think Neo is a much better implementation of the Ethereum concept minus one huge issue with the currency division not being possible.

The hype on this digital asset/smart contract sounds great but in practice I am strongly against directly mixing currency and other assets in the same technology especially after Ethereum’s parity issue (we’ve seen nothing yet and I believe most of these smart assets will experience huge issues in the future).

Neo could still very well be an Ethereum killer but suffers from GAS and non-divisible currency.