The former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has characterized Bitcoin (BTC) as “a lottery ticket,” in an article for major United Kingdom daily broadsheet The Guardian Dec. 10.
Writing in the midst of the recent crypto market price collapse, current Harvard University Professor of Economics and Public Policy Kenneth Rogoff suggested that the “overwhelming sentiment” among crypto advocates is that the total “market capitalisation of cryptocurrencies could explode over the next five years, rising to $5-10 [trillion].”
The historic volatility of the emerging asset class, he conceded, indeed indicates that Bitcoin’s decline from its all-time highs of $20,000 to under $3,500 earlier today is “no reason to panic.”
Nonetheless, the economist dismissed the “crypto evangelist” view of Bitcoin as digital gold, calling it “nutty,” stating its long-term value is “more likely to be $100 than $100,000.” Rogoff argued that unlike physical gold, Bitcoin’s use is limited to transactions – making it purportedly more vulnerable to a bubble-like collapse. Additionally, the cryptocurrency’s energy-intensive verification process is “vastly less efficient” than systems that rely on “a trusted central authority like a central bank.”
Even if Bitcoin should not necessarily be “worth zero,” Rogoff argued that national governments and “regulators are gradually waking up to the fact that they cannot countenance large expensive-to-trace transaction technologies that facilitate tax evasion and criminal activity.”
This, in his view, places Bitcoin in a double bind, with implications for its future value: “take away near-anonymity and no one will want to use it; keep it and advanced-economy governments will not tolerate it.”
While the economist noted that governments worldwide may in due time “regulate and appropriate” the innovations of the new asset class –– as shown by the interest of multiple central banks in digital currency issuance –– he argued that coordinatinated global regulation would eventually seek to “stamp out privately constructed systems,” with only certain geopolitical outliers as a possible exception:
“The right way to think about cryptocurrency coins is as lottery tickets that pay off in a dystopian future where they are used in rogue and failed states, or perhaps in countries where citizens have already lost all semblance of privacy. It is no coincidence that dysfunctional Venezuela is the first issuer of a state-backed cryptocurrency (the “petro”).”
Rogoff’s argument that “disgruntled” nation states –– Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Russia –– are turning to cryptocurrencies under the burden of sanctions has been raised by multiple analysts previously. A report earlier this fall indicated that the government of North Koreawas “laundering” crypto into fiat to evade U.S. sanctions. Iran is going one step further, exploring the creation of its own national cryptocurrency, according to a report this summer.
Decentralized browser Brave is now the default browser on a phone from major smartphone manufacturer HTC, technology news outlet CNET reported Dec. 10.
Founded in 1997, HTC is a Taiwanese consumer electronics manufacturer, which was the leading smartphone vendor in the U.S. at the end of 2010, according to TechCrunch. The company’s market share began decreasing, when it trailed Apple, Samsung, and LG with a roughly six percent market share in the U.S. in 2014. In 2017, HTC held 2.3 percent of the smartphones market share, while in 2018 it purportedly controlled less than a half percent.
Brave — an open-source blockchain-powered browser, which blocks ads and website trackers — will reportedly be pre-installed on the HTC Exodus 1, “the first native blockchain phone” with support for multiple blockchains, including Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) networks. The forthcoming project of HTC Exodus 1 was initially announced in May 2018.
Brendan Eich, co-founder of Brave and previously Mozilla, announced the partnership with HTC in a tweet on Dec. 8, saying that “we are very happy to have @Brave as default browser and to be working with HTC on their Exodus phone.”
Brave browser uses Basic Attention Tokens (BAT), that send advertisers’ payments to Brave and its users, and subsequently can be used to pay for premium content. In June 2017, Eich raised $35 million in 30 seconds during the BAT Initial Coin Offering (ICO).
Last month, blockchain-focused electronics supplier SIRIN Labs launched its first blockchain-based smartphone called FINNEY. Based on both Android and SIRIN’s open-source operating system, SIRIN OS, the FINNEY phone offers a cold-storage crypto wallet and provides encrypted communications.
Also this summer, the Opera browser for Android announced the launch of a private beta version that will include a built-in crypto wallet. Opera’s crypto wallet will support Ethereum Web3 application programming interface (API) and will be integrated with a “default WebView” on top.
Chinese crypto mining giant Bitmain is closing its development center in Israel and firing local employees, Israeli business news outlet Globes has learned Monday, Dec. 10.
Bitmaintech Israel — founded in 2016 to explore the use of blockchain technology, work on the Connect BTC mining pool, and develop the infrastructure behind Bitmain’s artificial intelligence (AI) project Sophon — will close this week. All 23 employees will be fired, the Globes reports.
Gadi Glikberg, head of the Israeli branch as well as Bitmain vice president of international sales and marketing, is also leaving. Globes reports that Glikberg linked the closure to the recent crypto market collapse:
“The crypto market has undergone a shake-up in the past few months, which has forced Bitmain to examine its various activities around the globe and to refocus its business in accordance with the current situation.”
Bitmaintech Israel has not responded to a request for comment by press time.
Bitmain is also currently facing two lawsuits. The first one, a class action lawsuit of $5 million focused on unauthorized mining, was filed in the North District Court of California against Bitmain’s United States- and China-based entities.
The second suit was purportedly filed against Bitmain, Bitcoin.com, Roger Ver and the Kraken Bitcoin Exchange. The case alleges that the defendants jointly used unfair methods and practices to manipulate the BCH network for their benefit.
In early December, Israel has seen a crackdown on unreported crypto earnings. According to local business newspaper Calcalist, Israeli tax authorities opened tax accounts for hundreds of Israelis who allegedly concealed cryptocurrency-related revenues. As cryptocurrencies are treated as a financial asset in Israel, they are subject to a 25 percent tax for private investors.
Decentralized internet protocol TRON CEO Justin Sun has said the company will build a fund to “rescue” Ethereum (ETH) and EOS developers from “the collapse” of their platforms, in a tweet, Dec. 6.
Sun made his offer with the precondition that the developers “migrate” their decentralized applications (dApps) to the Tron Foundation network. In the heat of the blistering crypto market crash, one aggrieved commentator immediately quipped, “So… we jump from sinking ship to another sinking ship? Sh**, I’m in. When jump, sir?”
EOS New York, purportedly the twitter account for one of the EOS network block producers, responded directly:
“We think we will be just fine given the billion dollars in VC funding for #EOS and #EOSIO projects that is locked and loaded around the world at Galaxy, SVK Crypto, Tomorrow, etc. Appreciate the offer, though. Best of luck, Justin.”
Other responses spanned the gamut of affirmation, ridicule, or tempered calls for unity in the industry. One user — referring to the divisions over the recent Bitcoin Cash (BCH) hard fork — apprehensively said, it “looks like after the #hashwar we now have a #dapp war.”
This is not the first time Justin Sun has weighed in on his competitors in the industry on social media; in early October, the CEO claimed the Tron network’s latest version, Odyssey 3.1, could beat Ethereum on speed and EOS on cost. Sun’s claims at the time prompted a surge of eight percent in the TRX token’s value.
In recent weeks, TRX — as ETH and EOS — has shed significant value amid volatile markets; the token, ranked 10th largest crypto on CoinMarketCap, is down 4.5 percent on the day, and 44 percent on the month, to trade at $0.013 at press time.
ETH, ranked 3rd, is meanwhile down 14.5 percent on the day and 59 percent on its monthly chart, currently trading at $85. EOS, trading at $1.71 at press time, is down 21.2 percent on the day, 69 percent on the month.
In mid-November, TRON launched a $1 million accelerator program to support developers building DApps and products on the TRON protocol.
In early November, decentralized liquidity network Bancor announced it had added support for EOS within its dApp for cross-blockchain token swaps. The dApp, BancorX, allows users to convert between the ETH- and EOS- based tokens without exchanges, in a bid to bridge infrastructures and bring greater interoperability to the industry.
Mastercard has filed a patent for a method of anonymizing transactions on a blockchain, according to an application published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Dec. 9.
The filing outlines that “the use of one or more intermediary addresses to obscure the source and destination of funds in a blockchain transaction” can be used in order to “increase anonymity of entities associated with blockchain addresses.” The proposed technical solution would entail a series of “anonymization request[s]” designed to anonymize the transactions themselves, rather than just the user behind any individual wallet.
This would “result in showing the user only transferring funds to and receiving funds from a small number of addresses that are also involved in a significantly large volume of transactions with various other users, thereby rendering the data innocuous.” Analysis of the wallet, Mastercard suggests, would thus yield “little to no information” about the user behind the wallet.
As context, Mastercard notes that while many “are flocking” to various blockchain-based cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin (BTC), for the perceived “high level” of anonymity they can provide, “the nature of the blockchain as an immutable ledger is such that every transaction can” – ultimately – “be traced and followed back to the genesis block.”
This fact, Mastercard suggests “run[s] counter to the the primary aim of many users in using a blockchain: anonymity.” Blockchain data can, once accumulated and analyzed, “eventually reveal the user behind a wallet or at least provide information about them, such as geographic location, interests, spending habits, etc.” The filing continues to suggest that:
“The existing communications and attribution structure of blockchain technology such as Bitcoin require identification of where the transactions are emanating and terminating, in order to maintain the ledger. This creates a technical problem of competing interests within the technology.”
Mastercard is by no means the first to tackle the limitations of anonymity within blockchain systems; two high profile privacy-focused altcoins, Zcash (ZEC) and Monero (XMR), are both designed with similar concerns in mind.
ZEC uses Zero-knowledge proofs (ZKP) technology, an alternative algorithm for authenticating distributed ledger entries, in which transacting parties provide proof of validity, but all other information remains encrypted, including their identities. Monero, meanwhile, uses stealth addresses to mask identities by enabling a sender to create a random one-time address that is based on the transaction receiver’s published address.