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.
Cryptocurrency-focused merchant bank Galaxy Digital and Block.One have led a $30 million Series A investment round in U.S. neo-banking platform Good Money. The news was confirmed by a press release Dec. 10.
Aiming to balance user ownership with part donation of profits and equity, Good Money provides banking services and a handful of associated financial instruments to U.S. account holders.
The investment came mostly via Galaxy and Block.One’s joint Galaxy EOS VC fund, one of several funds under the Block.One umbrella.
“Modern banking is a primary driver of so many issues we face as a society – from economic inequality, institutional racism, environmental destruction to political corruption,” Good Money founder Gunnar Lovelace commented in the press release.
The neo-banking market is quickly gaining ground over traditional providers both within and outside the U.S.
Good Money follows a similar ethos, abandoning ATM fees and offering each user equity in the company. Ahead of its launch, it remains unknown whether the latest funding input creates room for cryptocurrency support.
Galaxy itself meanwhile has faced a tough year. It has emerged that the company lost $136 millionthrough Q3 as the drop in cryptocurrency prices took its toll. CEO Michael Novogratz remains buoyant on Bitcoin (BTC) making a comeback, telling mainstream media an institutional investor influx should produce results by Q2, 2019.
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.
An Indian government panel has reportedly suggested a new legal framework within the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) that completely bans cryptocurrencies in the country. English-language Indian media outlet CNBC TV18 reported on the framework on Dec. 6.
The article cites an unnamed source as noting that “the panel has categorically said that all such currencies should be treated as illegal” and that “any kind of dealing in such currencies should be treated as [such].”
CNBC TV18 notes that the Indian government had created a panel to create “norms” for digital currencies — headed by Secretary of the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) Subhash Chandra Garg — which submitted its report to Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
The debate over crypto’s legality began in April of this year, when the RBI stated it would no longer provide services to persons or legal entities involved with crypto. In response to the ban, eleven crypto-related businesses filed a suit against the bank in the country’s Supreme Court, with the legal outcome still unclear.
The current climate isn’t friendly overall to crypto enthusiasts in India. Also in November, the developers of India’s first Bitcoin “ATM” were arrested on criminal charges.
While the charges haven’t been disclosed, local mainstream media reported that they include criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery. The developers were also the co-founders of the country’s first crypto exchange, Unocoin.
At the same time, one of the leading global auditing companies, Ernst & Young (EY), announced that they are looking to hire 2,000 employees in India. The objective is to expand its digital services, including artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain applications.
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.
South Korea’s second-largest commercial bank, Shinhan Bank, has embarked on a project to implement blockchain in internal processes to decrease human error. The initiative was reported by English-language daily news outlet The Korea Times on Dec. 10.
Shinhan, which has sought integration with both the blockchain and cryptocurrency spheres over the past eighteen months, also completed a staff training program to increase knowledge of blockchain for various applications.
According to The Korea Times, the bank implemented interest rate swap transactions using the technology on Nov. 30 in what it called a “first” for a South Korean lender.
Now, operations such as financial record-keeping are set to become automated, removing the chances of human-based mistakes and enhancing overall efficiency.
“Prior to the blockchain-based process, there had been no standardized rules governing keeping and managing financial records, a reason why market participants had to rely on their own records which often times led to errors despite the cross-checking process requirement,” the publication quotes an unnamed official as saying, adding:
“The new system helps remove such human errors and helps improve work efficiency through clearer, task-related communications rather than wasting time on correcting mistakes.”
Shinhan caused a stir in November 2017 when it announced it was working on offering its clients cryptocurrency wallets.
Since then, several partnerships and trials have seen blockchain technology specifically make its way to the forefront of the business.
In August, Shinhan signed a deal with South Korea’s largest telecoms provider KT Corporation in a move centered around provision of blockchain-based financial services.
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.
Two new bills focusing on cryptocurrency market manipulation aim to “position the United States to be a leader in the cryptocurrency industry,” their sponsors claimed Dec. 6.
The bills, dubbed “The Virtual Currency Consumer Protection Act of 2018” and “The U.S. Virtual Currency Market and Regulatory Competitiveness Act of 2018” will go before the House of Representatives having been compiled in mid-November.
A bipartisan effort, their authors, congressmen Darren Soto and Ted Budd, said they wish to “provide data on how Congress can best mitigate these risks while propelling development that benefits our economy.”
“Virtual currencies and the underlying blockchain technology has a profound potential to be a driver of economic growth,” they said in a joint statement.
“That’s why we must ensure that the United States is at the forefront of protecting consumers and the financial well-being of virtual currency investors, while also promoting an environment of innovation to maximize the potential of these technological advances.”
The plans come as the U.S. sees continued growing pains in its journey to regulate cryptocurrency markets.
Cryptocurrency exchanges in particular have taken specific action to protect themselves from exposure by setting up offshore operations.
Soto and Budd correspondingly seek to broaden the basis for domestic regulation by looking beyond borders, their second bill advocating a “comparative study of the regulation of virtual currency in other countries” in order to “make recommendations for regulatory changes to promote competitiveness.”
Wall Street has already focused on market manipulation control meanwhile, Nasdaq in October claiming its financial instruments could help mitigate the practice.
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.
Major crypto exchange Coinbase is seeking the trademark for the crypto-industry term “BUIDL,” according to an application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on Oct. 2
The word is the intentional misspelling of “build” and is analogous with the word “hodl,” the crypto community’s misspelling-turned-term that indicates holding cryptocurrencies, instead of selling them. In the crypto space, the “BUIDL” moniker refers to focusing on building products as a way to support the industry, as opposed to only holding crypto assets as an investor.
According to the application document, the company seeks to trademark the mark “BUIDL” itself, which it clarifies “consists of standard characters, without claim to any particular font style, size, or color.”
The mark’s identification in the filing states that the term relates to software as a service (SaaS) “featuring software for transactions using virtual currency.” Specifically, “BUIDL” SaaS services would include “software for managing, buying, selling, storing, transacting, exchanging, sending and receiving virtual currency.”
In September, crypto industry investors Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss’ firm filed a patent with the USPTO for “securely storing digital assets.”