Is Decentralized Centralized?

Vitalik Buterin VS Changpeng Zhao

I always found it strange when people refer to decentralized as completely decentralized when it comes to cryptocurrency. Because, there is never truly such a thing as decentralized. It is always run by someone (some people).

Vitalik Buterin said during an interview at the Tech Crunch sessions: Blockchain 2018, that he hoped, “centralized exchanges burn in hell as much as possible”.

He continued, stating that centralized exchanges wield “stupid king-like power”,  since they have the ‘power’ to chose which cryptocurrencies “become big” after making projects pay extortionate $10 to $15 million in exchange listing fee’s.

Many people, even cryptocurrency users might not have known that. Yes, you’re favorite coin has to pay up if they are going to be listed. And Buterin’s not wrong to say this.

However, there is a lot of hypocrisy in Vitalik’s statement.  He has the resources to make his own decentralized exchange if he wanted to but has not.  And further, it is his Ethereum honestly that enabled most of the ICO scams out there and is one of the worst and most vulnerable currencies in my opinion.  His idea of decentralized is the wild-wild west of the internet full of scams and fraud.  Let’s look at a popular decentralized exchange like “Etherdelta”.  It is widely known as a scam where people have lost money.  And it’s no wonder since almost all of the decentralized exchanges I’ve seen A.) don’t work right, and B.) force you to create a wallet where they hold and control the private keys (you cannot use your own wallet at least with ones like Etherdelta).

Considering Ethereum is essentially also a centralized currency which is first and foremost controlled by Vitalik.  Some of you are probably saying ‘how’, it’s a decentralized cryptocurrency. And some of you Tech nerds already know the back end side of all cryptocurrencies, and that it’s controlled essentially by someone. Even Bitcoin is being handled and maintained by people, it might not be “Satoshi Nakamoto” but it’s got people working and controlling it.

This verbal trashing of exchange, caused Binance Founder, Changpeng ‘CZ’ Zhao to respond on Twitter.

Zhao pointed out several flaws in Buterin’s argument.

“There is no absolute decentralization. Projects with core teams still have centralization. Today, Vitalik probably has more king-like powers than anyone else in this industry, and has used it, by serving as advisors to projects, therefore helped to decide their fate, at least fate of their ICOs to a large extent.”

He went on to say that “decentralization is not safer by default” and this was clearly supported by recent hack of decentralized exchange Bancor. Which saw $12 million worth of Ether as well as EtherDelta falling victim to a phishing attack late last year.

Zhou isn’t wrong, but he’s not right either.

Buterin chose not to reply publicly instead opting to respond to a cheeky Tweet from a new French cryptocurrency exchange Blockchain.io that asked whether their “decentralized settlement feature” would send them to purgatory.

Buterin  responded in French saying:

“It’s much better than a fully centralized exchange, but it doesn’t solve the other problem, as centralized exchanges have a lot of control over the market and can choose which currencies become the most popular etc etc. In all, I think this is a very good idea and I hope that more cryptocurrency exchanges will use this semi-centralized method.”

IDEX, is pretty much one of the most popular semi-centralized crypto exchanges as they offer features from both centralized and decentralized exchanges is currently ranked #91 in terms of total trading volume for all crypto exchanges in a 24 hour time frame.  I attempted to use it when it first came out and had nothing but problems and their support chat and twitter were full of complaints about scams and lost money and balances.

Apart from IDEX, there are several other decentralized exchanges ranking within the top 100 overall trading volume for crypto exchanges. But still, majority of the volume is held dominate by centralized exchanges.

The reason why it’s dominated over decentralized exchanges, is because of the scams, and no accountability. People naturally choose whats more ‘safe’ when it comes to their money. And in this case, centralized exchanges are safer.

But both Zhou and Buterin agree, that decentralized exchanges are the best option moving foward. I disagree with both.

In March, Binance announced their intentions to launch a decentralized exchange along with a public blockchain:

“Centralized and Decentralized exchanges will co-exist in the near future, complementing each other, while also having interdependence.” — Binance

There are hybrid exchanges already like the Binance is proposing. Blockchain.io and IDEX are two good examples.  Blockchain.io is still in the process of doing it though.

Although I understand the thought process behind this, as a IT professional and investor, this decentralized exchange is a open door to insanity. Nothing, not even cryptocurrency is 100% decentralized, that’s impossible and incredibly unsafe. Cryptocurrency is already filled with a lot of fraud, scams and hacks (but still not as much as Fiat currency by the way), but having decentralized exchanges is just asking for double the trouble.

At the end of the day, we just need a better coin and a better exchange, otherwise we’ll fall into the same traps as Fiat, and reguritate the same ol’ system again.

What do you think?
Cheers,
A.Yasir

Kin plans to fork Stellar Lumens instead of using ERC20 Ethereum Coins

The first thing I remember about Kin is that they are Canadian and they raised a lot of money in their ICO.  The last thing I remember is that I tried to buy it and couldn’t find any proper safe exchange to buy it on (they were on what I consider essentially scam exchanges).  I also wasn’t able to gain access to their website (it was broken) so on that basis I will give my thoughts about the project and ideas behind it.

First of all I agree with their assessment of Ethereum  as being like dial-up internet.  But this raises the question of planning and management.  Slow transactions, lack of security and fraud have been synonymous with Ethereum since it debuted.  What I am getting is this choice is rather rush and sudden.  With such a big team why did no one think of the implications before doing ERC20 tokens or was it just a crash grab first and project as an afterthought?  What happens to the value of those ERC20 tokens that so many people bought?  They will become worthless and they are now a megacorporation who is going to make their own private blockchain for payments.  I resent the fact that they could contribute to the downfall of good ICOs and the few real tokens out there.

With that said I think KIN/KIK could kill it in a good way.  Yes they are centralized but if they do it right and are trustworthy in the end (maybe like a PayPal). The good news is that I do believe Stellar/Ripple are a good base for things, it is a fast and relatively secure network, albeit without privacy and first party wallets.  I think Kin has the right idea but possibly wrong execution based on their initial entry.  I have a  high standard of trust or ICOs a good part of that is the team, their decisions and how they treat their investors.  Time will tell how well they execute this one but I hope it works out and that investors do not lose their money.  I, for one am glad that I wasn’t able to buy KIN as they are now about to dump it and make it worthless.

Here’s my experience with the KIK/KIN team (nothing working and no response after they collected millions of dollars):

Kin-Kik-NoReply

Kin gave me the inspiration to realize how bad Ethereum was when trying to buy their tokens and they wanted to charge me about $100 in fees!

Kin-Kik-NoReply1

$98 in fees to buy KIN:

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.

How Governments Should Handle Crypto and ICOs

First of all after seeing so much confusion, panic and misinformation in the news, it is about time each country made a dedicated website for cryptocurrency.  The winners will be the countries who clearly communicate their policy, laws and intentions on handling cryptocurrencies.

Now in all fairness things are moving so fast, governments have genuine reason to fear cryptocurrency (aside from illegitimate reasons…) with most ICOs being absolute scams.  The real reason is of course is that governments can no longer vote or control who can fund themselves, the internet and public will judge.  However, there are still good reasons to have regulation or at least accountability so ICO fraudsters cannot hide overseas and disappear with the coins they collect.  This is my position where I feel the majority of token ICOs have no intention of completing their projects.

Getting back to what government should do, it’s not only ICOs but also the laws surrounding the purchase, use and trade around cryptocurrency.

The first country(s) to make fair, easy and favorable laws surrounding ICOs and cryptocurrency may find itself literally walking into digital gold and could be the next Hong Kong or Singapore of the crypto-finance world.  It’s up for grabs until countries clarify and cement their policies with crypto.

The first step if I were a regulator would be to hold public consultation and establish a staterun/government website domain to encourage discussion.  I also imagine it will be a hard case for government going after their citizens or businesses because they could simply leave the country with their crypto.  I think this is one element that business and government doesn’t like, that they can no longer control what people do with their money.  Typically governments and banks work hand in hand to achieve specific goals but with cryptocurrency, much like the world-wide web (initially) they are trying to find a balance and also ways to reign in control.

This time is very different, there is a lot at stake for governments, banks, people and business.  If a government moves too aggressively against the crypto world it could find itself sidelined and in financial ruin while their citizens and businesses will flock to countries that treat them better.

One of the first known examples of staterun conspiracy to harm cryptocurrency is Poland’s recent Youtube campaign: https://cryptoslate.com/polish-central-bank-caught-funding-anti-cryptocurrency-youtube-campaign/. They can’t be the only one and we know because of the well-timed press-conferences from various countries that threaten to ban ICOs or the currency outright.  On that note, as an investor this gives me more confidence than ever.  If crypto isn’t a big thing, then governments wouldn’t be talking about it.  The fact they warn so much about crypto suggests that governments and banks are well aware it is here to stay.

It could be that some governments are just playing games and waiting to see how things play out.  Perhaps internally if they see their attacks on crypto don’t kill it then they’ve already accepted that they will stop the fight against crypto.  Personally I think they are well aware that they cannot stop it and are maybe buying time so they can launch their own like Japan, Russia and China have announced.

I don’t think there’s a direct comparison but this standoff reminds me of the anti-piracy fight.  It used to be a fringe and underground element, but with crackdowns it actually has become more prevalent and easy for people to engage in piracy. Don’t get me wrong, crypto is not at all illegal or wrong (as compared to piracy) but the governments are essentially treating the crypto world the same way.  Much like the rule of investment after your strategy fails, trying again “won’t be different this time” I believe.

What do you think, how can governments handle crypto better and how would you react to bans and other aggressive action against crypto and related businesses?

Countries where cryptocurrency, coins, tokens and ICOs are banned

There has been a lot of activity lately in the world with governments banning cryptocurrency and ICOs but this should come as no surprise as there has been strongly worded messaging about this for some time.

China bans ICOs and shuts down Exchanges
This had a massive impact on the valuations of coins such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, Etherum, Dash etc.. but things have since recovered since the 2017/09/04 law passed in China but serves as a warning and example of what government intervention can and cannot do.

http://en.people.cn/n3/2017/0904/c90000-9264331.html

Chinese authorities on Monday ordered a ban on Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), a nascent form of fundraising in which technology start-ups issue their own digital coins, or “tokens”, to investors to access funds as the rapidly expanding market spawned concerns over financial risks.

Starting Monday, ICO activities should be halted, and ICO platforms should not engage in exchange services between fiat currencies, virtual coins and tokens, said a statement from the People’s Bank of China.

South Korea Bans ICOs

The good news is that while ICOs are banned it does not appear that trading in the currencies themselves is banned.
http://www.nasdaq.com/article/south-koreas-ico-ban-a-reaction-to-serious-concerns-over-cryptocurrency-investment-practices-cm854236

In fact it appears South Korea plans to allow trading but wants more regulation and safeguards:

South Korea Makes it Legal to Transfer Cryptocurrencies Internationally

Singapore

Although not by law, many companies in Singapore dealing in cryptocurrency have had their accounts closed:

https://www.out-law.com/en/articles/2017/september/singapore-banks-closing-accounts-of-cryptocurrency-firms/

Countries subject to strict or promising strict regulations

Nearly every country has taken a similar line where they are making a legal framework and claiming that ICOs are subject to the same laws and rules as IPOs. However this doesn’t appear to have been translated into law. It also doesn’t address the question of how holders on the coins will be impacted but one would guess that in the future they may be subject to capital gains tax and treated like traditional stock investments.

This list of countries includes:
EU, Hong Kong, Canada, Singapore and many other countries around the world.

Hong Kong Regulators Warn ICO Tokens May be Securities Under the Law

SEC: ICO Tokens Like Those of The DAO are Securities Subject to Regulations

Canadian Regulators Say Cryptocurrency ICO/ITO May be Subject to Securities Law

Is the regulation valid, practical and legal?

This is a hard call for me to understand in the sense that these cryptocurrencies are just that, digital currency and currently people are not taxed or penalized for simply exchanging, buying and/or holding different currencies.

It may also be interesting to see what the large exchanges, businesses and users do in response such as unprecedented regulation and laws. It may be that some of the regulations and laws imposed around the world may be found invalid or unenforceable in the end.

What are your thoughts and as always please let me know if I’ve missed any new developments around the laws of cryptocurrency.