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Reminder from previous bull markets
Usually, bull markets attract a lot of new investors - although speculators should be the right word here - and as usual, a lot of them are going to be crushed a way or another. First, before putting a single dollar, euro or whatever in the market, you should read a lot to know exactly what you're looking for. Are you here for the tech and/or the cypherpunk ethos ? Great, there's lot of resources out there (my links are cleaned but as always, do your due diligence) :
The Bitcoin Whitepaper, the one and only : bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf Since I'm linking to bitcoin.org, friendly reminder to avoid bitcoin.com, owned by a former supporter now con-artist Roger Ver.
Andreas Antonopoulos website : https://aantonop.com Andreas is one of best guys able to educate on bitcoin and its properties, for free, which helps.
Jameson Lopp website : lopp.net Jameson is a member of Bitcoin Core, cypherpunk, also able to educate a lot. His website is full of free resources and other links. You'll have a lot to read.
Hal Finney : he's unfortunately dead but I would advise to read about Hal Finney, the first to receive bitcoin Satoshi. A great cryptographer, the inventor of the first reusable PoW and one of the first bitcoin supporters. You'll be able to find his messages on this old forum Bitcoin Talk, by the way you'll be able to find the first chats about bitcoin on this forum bitcointalk.org
Monero website : getmonero.org Yep, I know it's gonna be controversial to post an altcoin link but personally, I think that Monero (aka XMR) is the only other coin with a big cypherpunk community, decentralized, and able to help newcomers with a great sense of responsibility, since the ethos here is to save privacy.
What Bitcoin Did : of course, Peter is controversial but I love him and I find his former blog and his podcasts very needed because he doesn't oversell himself. Pete knows that he's not a tech guy (like many of us) and just wants to spread the word, I think he does a good job with this.
Now, you've read and you want to put some skin in the game. Several exchanges are acceptable, a lot of aren't, be careful and assume that none really are (know that I won't post any ref links) :
to me, the best, although it's UI is quite old : Kraken €/$/pound/swiss franc on-off ramp
Coinbase and Coinbase Pro Difficult not to mention Coinbase, although I can't stand Brian Armstrong and the way they are doing their best to support scams currently. You should rather use Coinbase Pro if you have to since the fees are much lower.
Binance Binance came later than the previous ones but has managed to take most of the market. Now, you should remember what I said about being careful.
Huobi The biggest chinese exchange and they work closely with chinese official. Again, careful.
Bittrex Once at the top, now somewhere in the limbs.
A lot of new comers came recently like btse, ftx, feel free to try them while always keeping in mind that once your money is on exchanges, it's not yours anymore.
This was for centralized exchanges aka CEX. Talking about custodial, you'll need wallets to store your (bit)coins. Always try to use non-custodial wallets, which means wallets that give you your private keys. This way, if the software goes down, you can always retreive your money. Now, I won't link to all the existing wallets but will advise you to buy hardware wallets (trezor or ledger but there are others) or to create (on off-gap computers) paper wallets you're able to store safely (against all risks, not only robbery but housefire). You also could use your memory with brain wallets but, my gosh, I wouldn't trust myself. For Bitcoin (or even Litecoin), Electrum software can do a good job (but save your keys). AGAIN, DON'T KEEP YOUR SAVINGS ON AN EXCHANGE Now, about trading : it's been repeated and repeated but don't chase pumps and altcoins. Yep, it's probably the fastest way to make money. It's also the fastest to lose it. I won't lie : I made good money during the 2017-bullrun and I took profits but I also forgot to sell some shitcoins thinking it would keep going up, now I'm still holding these bags (although I don't really care). I know that a lot forgot to take profits. Take profits, always take profits, whatever your strategy is. Don't fall for people trying to sell you their bags, for ICOs trying to sell you a product which isn't released yet and obviously, don't fall for people asking for your private key. Also, know that there's two endgames : accumulating bitcoin or fiat. I'm rather in the first team but whatever your strategy is, take profits. (Yes, I know, some will say accumulating ethereum or something else). It's true that a lot of ethereum holders made a lot of money during the last bullrun (ethereum helped me make money too) but I'm really biased in favor of bitcoin (and monero). So, pick your coin but again, do your due diligence. A lot of people here or there will talk about the best tech, the fact that bitcoin is old and slow. I would need another post to go further on this point but know that a lof of air flight systems are old too but reliable. Trustless and reliable is the point here. This is the post from someone who bought bitcoin seven or six years ago, who lost part of them, who spent part of them (but don't regret this at all), who is still learning and I hope it will help others, although it would need a book to be complete.
A whole new kind of lightning & fiat interface through debit cards? Announcing lastbit
Soon after Satoshi made his big announcement more than a decade ago, a lot of concerns emerged pointing towards a crucial problem on his solution: scalability. Particularly since Mt. Gox, a lot started to change for Bitcoin. Out in the open, a multitude of crypto exchanges started popping up making Bitcoin and other coins easily accessible to pretty much anyone. Nevertheless, the original concerns on Satoshi’s proposal remained. In parallel and away from the spotlight, a group of passionate developers started crafting the solution to Bitcoin’s scalability problem. Today the solution is here and it’s name is the Lightning Network. Currently, users can access for free a wide range of Bitcoin Lightning wallets. Nevertheless, instant Bitcoin payments are still far from mainstream. Most of these wallets are extremely hard to use and as such are only catered to the most experienced of users. Despite that, the future of Lightning looks bright. As of today, there are over 11K Lightning nodes out there and this number is steadily growing. Lightning’s case of becoming the solution to Bitcoin’s woes looks strong. Holding that as a North star, we started building a solution to combine hardware level security with Lightning to enable instant Bitcoin to fiat transactions on hardware at a POS through debit card emulation.This project was overly ambitious and we quickly realized not enough people cared enough about hardware level security for payments. But the ground we covered was not in vain. During the process of building our hardware solution and talking to our beta users we came across a powerful discovery: enabling small and instant Bitcoin payments with zero fees to mainstream users via Lightning could be the way to finally make Bitcoin a widely and globally used means of payment. During the last few years, we’ve seen titans, such as Coinbase and Binance, emerge. Undeniably, these projects have helped Bitcoin tremendously by raising awareness and making onboarding to the cryptocurrency easy and intuitive globally. Nevertheless, an equivalent figure to position Bitcoin as a globally usable currency via Lightning is yet to come. With this in mind, we built an interoperable payments layer between Bitcoin (Lightning & On-Chain) and Euros (to start with), using payment instruments familiar to mainstream consumers, namely IBAN’s and debit cards. This means, users can move between Bitcoin and Euros in either direction, with a single interface. This will allow users to: -(i) Send and receive Bitcoin payments both form and to Lightning wallets and Bitcoin on-chain wallets; -(ii) Send and receive Euro payments both from and to IBAN’s and debit cards; -(iii) Make Bitcoin payments, both Lightning and on-chain, directly from Euro denominated IBAN’s and/or a debit cards; and -(iv)Top-up Euro denominated debit cards directly with Bitcoin. All of this was carefully built in response to what we heard from the community and as we mention throughout our story. We’ve dedicated the last few years of our lives and the foreseeable future to make this happen and we simply want to make it possible for more people to do things with Bitcoin. TLDR: Lastbit is putting out a beta application that contains a single interface to Bitcoin, Lightning, Euros and debit cards. This app will allow users to move between these payment instruments in any direction they like. Get paid in Euros from a Lightning invoice? Sure. Pay Euros to a Lightning invoice? Sure. Swipe a debit card and pay for your purchase with a Lightning invoice? Sure. And more. *We are still in beta and will soon start to roll-out in Europe
Summary: Everyone knows that when you give your assets to someone else, they always keep them safe. If this is true for individuals, it is certainly true for businesses. Custodians always tell the truth and manage funds properly. They won't have any interest in taking the assets as an exchange operator would. Auditors tell the truth and can't be misled. That's because organizations that are regulated are incapable of lying and don't make mistakes. First, some background. Here is a summary of how custodians make us more secure: Previously, we might give Alice our crypto assets to hold. There were risks:
Alice might take the assets and disappear.
Alice might spend the assets and pretend that she still has them (fractional model).
Alice might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Alice might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Alice might lose access to the assets.
But "no worries", Alice has a custodian named Bob. Bob is dressed in a nice suit. He knows some politicians. And he drives a Porsche. "So you have nothing to worry about!". And look at all the benefits we get:
Alice can't take the assets and disappear (unless she asks Bob or never gives them to Bob).
Alice can't spend the assets and pretend that she still has them. (Unless she didn't give them to Bob or asks him for them.)
Alice can't store the assets insecurely so they get stolen. (After all - she doesn't have any control over the withdrawal process from any of Bob's systems, right?)
Alice can't give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force. (Bob will stop her, right Bob?)
Alice can't lose access to the funds. (She'll always be present, sane, and remember all secrets, right?)
See - all problems are solved! All we have to worry about now is:
Bob might take the assets and disappear.
Bob might spend the assets and pretend that he still has them (fractional model).
Bob might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Bob might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Bob might lose access to the assets.
It's pretty simple. Before we had to trust Alice. Now we only have to trust Alice, Bob, and all the ways in which they communicate. Just think of how much more secure we are! "On top of that", Bob assures us, "we're using a special wallet structure". Bob shows Alice a diagram. "We've broken the balance up and store it in lots of smaller wallets. That way", he assures her, "a thief can't take it all at once". And he points to a historic case where a large sum was taken "because it was stored in a single wallet... how stupid". "Very early on, we used to have all the crypto in one wallet", he said, "and then one Christmas a hacker came and took it all. We call him the Grinch. Now we individually wrap each crypto and stick it under a binary search tree. The Grinch has never been back since." "As well", Bob continues, "even if someone were to get in, we've got insurance. It covers all thefts and even coercion, collusion, and misplaced keys - only subject to the policy terms and conditions." And with that, he pulls out a phone-book sized contract and slams it on the desk with a thud. "Yep", he continues, "we're paying top dollar for one of the best policies in the country!" "Can I read it?' Alice asks. "Sure," Bob says, "just as soon as our legal team is done with it. They're almost through the first chapter." He pauses, then continues. "And can you believe that sales guy Mike? He has the same year Porsche as me. I mean, what are the odds?" "Do you use multi-sig?", Alice asks. "Absolutely!" Bob replies. "All our engineers are fully trained in multi-sig. Whenever we want to set up a new wallet, we generate 2 separate keys in an air-gapped process and store them in this proprietary system here. Look, it even requires the biometric signature from one of our team members to initiate any withdrawal." He demonstrates by pressing his thumb into the display. "We use a third-party cloud validation API to match the thumbprint and authorize each withdrawal. The keys are also backed up daily to an off-site third-party." "Wow that's really impressive," Alice says, "but what if we need access for a withdrawal outside of office hours?" "Well that's no issue", Bob says, "just send us an email, call, or text message and we always have someone on staff to help out. Just another part of our strong commitment to all our customers!" "What about Proof of Reserve?", Alice asks. "Of course", Bob replies, "though rather than publish any blockchain addresses or signed transaction, for privacy we just do a SHA256 refactoring of the inverse hash modulus for each UTXO nonce and combine the smart contract coefficient consensus in our hyperledger lightning node. But it's really simple to use." He pushes a button and a large green checkmark appears on a screen. "See - the algorithm ran through and reserves are proven." "Wow", Alice says, "you really know your stuff! And that is easy to use! What about fiat balances?" "Yeah, we have an auditor too", Bob replies, "Been using him for a long time so we have quite a strong relationship going! We have special books we give him every year and he's very efficient! Checks the fiat, crypto, and everything all at once!" "We used to have a nice offline multi-sig setup we've been using without issue for the past 5 years, but I think we'll move all our funds over to your facility," Alice says. "Awesome", Bob replies, "Thanks so much! This is perfect timing too - my Porsche got a dent on it this morning. We have the paperwork right over here." "Great!", Alice replies. And with that, Alice gets out her pen and Bob gets the contract. "Don't worry", he says, "you can take your crypto-assets back anytime you like - just subject to our cancellation policy. Our annual management fees are also super low and we don't adjust them often". How many holes have to exist for your funds to get stolen? Just one. Why are we taking a powerful offline multi-sig setup, widely used globally in hundreds of different/lacking regulatory environments with 0 breaches to date, and circumventing it by a demonstrably weak third party layer? And paying a great expense to do so? If you go through the list of breaches in the past 2 years to highly credible organizations, you go through the list of major corporate frauds (only the ones we know about), you go through the list of all the times platforms have lost funds, you go through the list of times and ways that people have lost their crypto from identity theft, hot wallet exploits, extortion, etc... and then you go through this custodian with a fine-tooth comb and truly believe they have value to add far beyond what you could, sticking your funds in a wallet (or set of wallets) they control exclusively is the absolute worst possible way to take advantage of that security. The best way to add security for crypto-assets is to make a stronger multi-sig. With one custodian, what you are doing is giving them your cryptocurrency and hoping they're honest, competent, and flawlessly secure. It's no different than storing it on a really secure exchange. Maybe the insurance will cover you. Didn't work for Bitpay in 2015. Didn't work for Yapizon in 2017. Insurance has never paid a claim in the entire history of cryptocurrency. But maybe you'll get lucky. Maybe your exact scenario will buck the trend and be what they're willing to cover. After the large deductible and hopefully without a long and expensive court battle. And you want to advertise this increase in risk, the lapse of judgement, an accident waiting to happen, as though it's some kind of benefit to customers ("Free institutional-grade storage for your digital assets.")? And then some people are writing to the OSC that custodians should be mandatory for all funds on every exchange platform? That this somehow will make Canadians as a whole more secure or better protected compared with standard air-gapped multi-sig? On what planet? Most of the problems in Canada stemmed from one thing - a lack of transparency. If Canadians had known what a joke Quadriga was - it wouldn't have grown to lose $400m from hard-working Canadians from coast to coast to coast. And Gerald Cotten would be in jail, not wherever he is now (at best, rotting peacefully). EZ-BTC and mister Dave Smilie would have been a tiny little scam to his friends, not a multi-million dollar fraud. Einstein would have got their act together or been shut down BEFORE losing millions and millions more in people's funds generously donated to criminals. MapleChange wouldn't have even been a thing. And maybe we'd know a little more about CoinTradeNewNote - like how much was lost in there. Almost all of the major losses with cryptocurrency exchanges involve deception with unbacked funds. So it's great to see transparency reports from BitBuy and ShakePay where someone independently verified the backing. The only thing we don't have is:
ANY CERTAINTY BALANCES WEREN'T EXCLUDED. Quadriga's largest account was $70m. 80% of funds are in 20% of accounts (Pareto principle). All it takes is excluding a few really large accounts - and nobody's the wiser. A fractional platform can easily pass any audit this way.
ANY VISIBILITY WHATSOEVER INTO THE CUSTODIANS. BitBuy put out their report before moving all the funds to their custodian and ShakePay apparently can't even tell us who the custodian is. That's pretty important considering that basically all of the funds are now stored there.
ANY IDEA ABOUT THE OTHER EXCHANGES. In order for this to be effective, it has to be the norm. It needs to be "unusual" not to know. If obscurity is the norm, then it's super easy for people like Gerald Cotten and Dave Smilie to blend right in.
It's not complicated to validate cryptocurrency assets. They need to exist, they need to be spendable, and they need to cover the total balances. There are plenty of credible people and firms across the country that have the capacity to reasonably perform this validation. Having more frequent checks by different, independent, parties who publish transparent reports is far more valuable than an annual check by a single "more credible/official" party who does the exact same basic checks and may or may not publish anything. Here's an example set of requirements that could be mandated:
First report within 1 month of launching, another within 3 months, and further reports at minimum every 6 months thereafter.
No auditor can be repeated within a 12 month period.
All reports must be public, identifying the auditor and the full methodology used.
All auditors must be independent of the firm being audited with no conflict of interest.
Reports must include the percentage of each asset backed, and how it's backed.
The auditor publishes a hash list, which lists a hash of each customer's information and balances that were included. Hash is one-way encryption so privacy is fully preserved. Every customer can use this to have 100% confidence they were included.
If we want more extensive requirements on audits, these should scale upward based on the total assets at risk on the platform, and whether the platform has loaned their assets out.
There are ways to structure audits such that neither crypto assets nor customer information are ever put at risk, and both can still be properly validated and publicly verifiable. There are also ways to structure audits such that they are completely reasonable for small platforms and don't inhibit innovation in any way. By making the process as reasonable as possible, we can completely eliminate any reason/excuse that an honest platform would have for not being audited. That is arguable far more important than any incremental improvement we might get from mandating "the best of the best" accountants. Right now we have nothing mandated and tons of Canadians using offshore exchanges with no oversight whatsoever. Transparency does not prove crypto assets are safe. CoinTradeNewNote, Flexcoin ($600k), and Canadian Bitcoins ($100k) are examples where crypto-assets were breached from platforms in Canada. All of them were online wallets and used no multi-sig as far as any records show. This is consistent with what we see globally - air-gapped multi-sig wallets have an impeccable record, while other schemes tend to suffer breach after breach. We don't actually know how much CoinTrader lost because there was no visibility. Rather than publishing details of what happened, the co-founder of CoinTrader silently moved on to found another platform - the "most trusted way to buy and sell crypto" - a site that has no information whatsoever (that I could find) on the storage practices and a FAQ advising that “[t]rading cryptocurrency is completely safe” and that having your own wallet is “entirely up to you! You can certainly keep cryptocurrency, or fiat, or both, on the app.” Doesn't sound like much was learned here, which is really sad to see. It's not that complicated or unreasonable to set up a proper hardware wallet. Multi-sig can be learned in a single course. Something the equivalent complexity of a driver's license test could prevent all the cold storage exploits we've seen to date - even globally. Platform operators have a key advantage in detecting and preventing fraud - they know their customers far better than any custodian ever would. The best job that custodians can do is to find high integrity individuals and train them to form even better wallet signatories. Rather than mandating that all platforms expose themselves to arbitrary third party risks, regulations should center around ensuring that all signatories are background-checked, properly trained, and using proper procedures. We also need to make sure that signatories are empowered with rights and responsibilities to reject and report fraud. They need to know that they can safely challenge and delay a transaction - even if it turns out they made a mistake. We need to have an environment where mistakes are brought to the surface and dealt with. Not one where firms and people feel the need to hide what happened. In addition to a knowledge-based test, an auditor can privately interview each signatory to make sure they're not in coercive situations, and we should make sure they can freely and anonymously report any issues without threat of retaliation. A proper multi-sig has each signature held by a separate person and is governed by policies and mutual decisions instead of a hierarchy. It includes at least one redundant signature. For best results, 3of4, 3of5, 3of6, 4of5, 4of6, 4of7, 5of6, or 5of7. History has demonstrated over and over again the risk of hot wallets even to highly credible organizations. Nonetheless, many platforms have hot wallets for convenience. While such losses are generally compensated by platforms without issue (for example Poloniex, Bitstamp, Bitfinex, Gatecoin, Coincheck, Bithumb, Zaif, CoinBene, Binance, Bitrue, Bitpoint, Upbit, VinDAX, and now KuCoin), the public tends to focus more on cases that didn't end well. Regardless of what systems are employed, there is always some level of risk. For that reason, most members of the public would prefer to see third party insurance. Rather than trying to convince third party profit-seekers to provide comprehensive insurance and then relying on an expensive and slow legal system to enforce against whatever legal loopholes they manage to find each and every time something goes wrong, insurance could be run through multiple exchange operators and regulators, with the shared interest of having a reputable industry, keeping costs down, and taking care of Canadians. For example, a 4 of 7 multi-sig insurance fund held between 5 independent exchange operators and 2 regulatory bodies. All Canadian exchanges could pay premiums at a set rate based on their needed coverage, with a higher price paid for hot wallet coverage (anything not an air-gapped multi-sig cold wallet). Such a model would be much cheaper to manage, offer better coverage, and be much more reliable to payout when needed. The kind of coverage you could have under this model is unheard of. You could even create something like the CDIC to protect Canadians who get their trading accounts hacked if they can sufficiently prove the loss is legitimate. In cases of fraud, gross negligence, or insolvency, the fund can be used to pay affected users directly (utilizing the last transparent balance report in the worst case), something which private insurance would never touch. While it's recommended to have official policies for coverage, a model where members vote would fully cover edge cases. (Could be similar to the Supreme Court where justices vote based on case law.) Such a model could fully protect all Canadians across all platforms. You can have a fiat coverage governed by legal agreements, and crypto-asset coverage governed by both multi-sig and legal agreements. It could be practical, affordable, and inclusive. Now, we are at a crossroads. We can happily give up our freedom, our innovation, and our money. We can pay hefty expenses to auditors, lawyers, and regulators year after year (and make no mistake - this cost will grow to many millions or even billions as the industry grows - and it will be borne by all Canadians on every platform because platforms are not going to eat up these costs at a loss). We can make it nearly impossible for any new platform to enter the marketplace, forcing Canadians to use the same stagnant platforms year after year. We can centralize and consolidate the entire industry into 2 or 3 big players and have everyone else fail (possibly to heavy losses of users of those platforms). And when a flawed security model doesn't work and gets breached, we can make it even more complicated with even more people in suits making big money doing the job that blockchain was supposed to do in the first place. We can build a system which is so intertwined and dependent on big government, traditional finance, and central bankers that it's future depends entirely on that of the fiat system, of fractional banking, and of government bail-outs. If we choose this path, as history has shown us over and over again, we can not go back, save for revolution. Our children and grandchildren will still be paying the consequences of what we decided today. Or, we can find solutions that work. We can maintain an open and innovative environment while making the adjustments we need to make to fully protect Canadian investors and cryptocurrency users, giving easy and affordable access to cryptocurrency for all Canadians on the platform of their choice, and creating an environment in which entrepreneurs and problem solvers can bring those solutions forward easily. None of the above precludes innovation in any way, or adds any unreasonable cost - and these three policies would demonstrably eliminate or resolve all 109 historic cases as studied here - that's every single case researched so far going back to 2011. It includes every loss that was studied so far not just in Canada but globally as well. Unfortunately, finding answers is the least challenging part. Far more challenging is to get platform operators and regulators to agree on anything. My last post got no response whatsoever, and while the OSC has told me they're happy for industry feedback, I believe my opinion alone is fairly meaningless. This takes the whole community working together to solve. So please let me know your thoughts. Please take the time to upvote and share this with people. Please - let's get this solved and not leave it up to other people to do. Facts/background/sources (skip if you like):
The inspiration for the paragraph about splitting wallets was an actual quote from a Canadian company providing custodial services in response to the OSC consultation paper: "We believe that it will be in the in best interests of investors to prohibit pooled crypto assets or ‘floats’. Most Platforms pool assets, citing reasons of practicality and expense. The recent hack of the world’s largest Platform – Binance – demonstrates the vulnerability of participants’ assets when such concessions are made. In this instance, the Platform’s entire hot wallet of Bitcoins, worth over $40 million, was stolen, facilitated in part by the pooling of client crypto assets." "the maintenance of participants (and Platform) crypto assets across multiple wallets distributes the related risk and responsibility of security - reducing the amount of insurance coverage required and making insurance coverage more readily obtainable". For the record, their reply also said nothing whatsoever about multi-sig or offline storage.
In addition to the fact that the $40m hack represented only one "hot wallet" of Binance, and they actually had the vast majority of assets in other wallets (including mostly cold wallets), multiple real cases have clearly demonstrated that risk is still present with multiple wallets. Bitfinex, VinDAX, Bithumb, Altsbit, BitPoint, Cryptopia, and just recently KuCoin all had multiple wallets breached all at the same time, and may represent a significantly larger impact on customers than the Binance breach which was fully covered by Binance. To represent that simply having multiple separate wallets under the same security scheme is a comprehensive way to reduce risk is just not true.
Private insurance has historically never covered a single loss in the cryptocurrency space (at least, not one that I was able to find), and there are notable cases where massive losses were not covered by insurance. Bitpay in 2015 and Yapizon in 2017 both had insurance policies that didn't pay out during the breach, even after a lengthly court process. The same insurance that ShakePay is presently using (and announced to much fanfare) was describe by their CEO himself as covering “physical theft of the media where the private keys are held,” which is something that has never historically happened. As was said with regard to the same policy in 2018 - “I don’t find it surprising that Lloyd’s is in this space,” said Johnson, adding that to his mind the challenge for everybody is figuring out how to structure these policies so that they are actually protective. “You can create an insurance policy that protects no one – you know there are so many caveats to the policy that it’s not super protective.”
The most profitable policy for a private insurance company is one with the most expensive premiums that they never have to pay a claim on. They have no inherent incentive to take care of people who lost funds. It's "cheaper" to take the reputational hit and fight the claim in court. The more money at stake, the more the insurance provider is incentivized to avoid payout. They're not going to insure the assets unless they have reasonable certainty to make a profit by doing so, and they're not going to pay out a massive sum unless it's legally forced. Private insurance is always structured to be maximally profitable to the insurance provider.
The circumvention of multi-sig was a key factor in the massive Bitfinex hack of over $60m of bitcoin, which today still sits being slowly used and is worth over $3b. While Bitfinex used a qualified custodian Bitgo, which was and still is active and one of the industry leaders of custodians, and they set up 2 of 3 multi-sig wallets, the entire system was routed through Bitfinex, such that Bitfinex customers could initiate the withdrawals in a "hot" fashion. This feature was also a hit with the hacker. The multi-sig was fully circumvented.
Bitpay in 2015 was another example of a breach that stole 5,000 bitcoins. This happened not through the exploit of any system in Bitpay, but because the CEO of a company they worked with got their computer hacked and the hackers were able to request multiple bitcoin purchases, which Bitpay honoured because they came from the customer's computer legitimately. Impersonation is a very common tactic used by fraudsters, and methods get more extreme all the time.
A notable case in Canada was the Canadian Bitcoins exploit. Funds were stored on a server in a Rogers Data Center, and the attendee was successfully convinced to reboot the server "in safe mode" with a simple phone call, thus bypassing the extensive security and enabling the theft.
The very nature of custodians circumvents multi-sig. This is because custodians are not just having to secure the assets against some sort of physical breach but against any form of social engineering, modification of orders, fraudulent withdrawal attempts, etc... If the security practices of signatories in a multi-sig arrangement are such that the breach risk of one signatory is 1 in 100, the requirement of 3 independent signatures makes the risk of theft 1 in 1,000,000. Since hackers tend to exploit the weakest link, a comparable custodian has to make the entry and exit points of their platform 10,000 times more secure than one of those signatories to provide equivalent protection. And if the signatories beef up their security by only 10x, the risk is now 1 in 1,000,000,000. The custodian has to be 1,000,000 times more secure. The larger and more complex a system is, the more potential vulnerabilities exist in it, and the fewer people can understand how the system works when performing upgrades. Even if a system is completely secure today, one has to also consider how that system might evolve over time or work with different members.
By contrast, offline multi-signature solutions have an extremely solid record, and in the entire history of cryptocurrency exchange incidents which I've studied (listed here), there has only been one incident (796 exchange in 2015) involving an offline multi-signature wallet. It happened because the customer's bitcoin address was modified by hackers, and the amount that was stolen ($230k) was immediately covered by the exchange operators. Basically, the platform operators were tricked into sending a legitimate withdrawal request to the wrong address because hackers exploited their platform to change that address. Such an issue would not be prevented in any way by the use of a custodian, as that custodian has no oversight whatsoever to the exchange platform. It's practical for all exchange operators to test large withdrawal transactions as a general policy, regardless of what model is used, and general best practice is to diagnose and fix such an exploit as soon as it occurs.
False promises on the backing of funds played a huge role in the downfall of Quadriga, and it's been exposed over and over again (MyCoin, PlusToken, Bitsane, Bitmarket, EZBTC, IDAX). Even today, customers have extremely limited certainty on whether their funds in exchanges are actually being backed or how they're being backed. While this issue is not unique to cryptocurrency exchanges, the complexity of the technology and the lack of any regulation or standards makes problems more widespread, and there is no "central bank" to come to the rescue as in the 2008 financial crisis or during the great depression when "9,000 banks failed".
In addition to fraudulent operations, the industry is full of cases where operators have suffered breaches and not reported them. Most recently, Einstein was the largest case in Canada, where ongoing breaches and fraud were perpetrated against the platform for multiple years and nobody found out until the platform collapsed completely. While fraud and breaches suck to deal with, they suck even more when not dealt with. Lack of visibility played a role in the largest downfalls of Mt. Gox, Cryptsy, and Bitgrail. In some cases, platforms are alleged to have suffered a hack and keep operating without admitting it at all, such as CoinBene.
It surprises some to learn that a cryptographic solution has already existed since 2013, and gained widespread support in 2014 after Mt. Gox. Proof of Reserves is a full cryptographic proof that allows any customer using an exchange to have complete certainty that their crypto-assets are fully backed by the platform in real-time. This is accomplished by proving that assets exist on the blockchain, are spendable, and fully cover customer deposits. It does not prove safety of assets or backing of fiat assets.
If we didn't care about privacy at all, a platform could publish their wallet addresses, sign a partial transaction, and put the full list of customer information and balances out publicly. Customers can each check that they are on the list, that the balances are accurate, that the total adds up, and that it's backed and spendable on the blockchain. Platforms who exclude any customer take a risk because that customer can easily check and see they were excluded. So together with all customers checking, this forms a full proof of backing of all crypto assets.
However, obviously customers care about their private information being published. Therefore, a hash of the information can be provided instead. Hash is one-way encryption. The hash allows the customer to validate inclusion (by hashing their own known information), while anyone looking at the list of hashes cannot determine the private information of any other user. All other parts of the scheme remain fully intact. A model like this is in use on the exchange CoinFloor in the UK.
A Merkle tree can provide even greater privacy. Instead of a list of balances, the balances are arranged into a binary tree. A customer starts from their node, and works their way to the top of the tree. For example, they know they have 5 BTC, they plus 1 other customer hold 7 BTC, they plus 2-3 other customers hold 17 BTC, etc... until they reach the root where all the BTC are represented. Thus, there is no way to find the balances of other individual customers aside from one unidentified customer in this case.
Proposals such as this had the backing of leaders in the community including Nic Carter, Greg Maxwell, and Zak Wilcox. Substantial and significant effort started back in 2013, with massive popularity in 2014. But what became of that effort? Very little. Exchange operators continue to refuse to give visibility. Despite the fact this information can often be obtained through trivial blockchain analysis, no Canadian platform has ever provided any wallet addresses publicly. As described by the CEO of Newton "For us to implement some kind of realtime Proof of Reserves solution, which I'm not opposed to, it would have to ... Preserve our users' privacy, as well as our own. Some kind of zero-knowledge proof". Kraken describes here in more detail why they haven't implemented such a scheme. According to professor Eli Ben-Sasson, when he spoke with exchanges, none were interested in implementing Proof of Reserves.
And yet, Kraken's places their reasoning on a page called "Proof of Reserves". More recently, both BitBuy and ShakePay have released reports titled "Proof of Reserves and Security Audit". Both reports contain disclaimers against being audits. Both reports trust the customer list provided by the platform, leaving the open possibility that multiple large accounts could have been excluded from the process. Proof of Reserves is a blockchain validation where customers see the wallets on the blockchain. The report from Kraken is 5 years old, but they leave it described as though it was just done a few weeks ago. And look at what they expect customers to do for validation. When firms represent something being "Proof of Reserve" when it's not, this is like a farmer growing fruit with pesticides and selling it in a farmers market as organic produce - except that these are people's hard-earned life savings at risk here. Platforms are misrepresenting the level of visibility in place and deceiving the public by their misuse of this term. They haven't proven anything.
Fraud isn't a problem that is unique to cryptocurrency. Fraud happens all the time. Enron, WorldCom, Nortel, Bear Stearns, Wells Fargo, Moser Baer, Wirecard, Bre-X, and Nicola are just some of the cases where frauds became large enough to become a big deal (and there are so many countless others). These all happened on 100% reversible assets despite regulations being in place. In many of these cases, the problems happened due to the over-complexity of the financial instruments. For example, Enron had "complex financial statements [which] were confusing to shareholders and analysts", creating "off-balance-sheet vehicles, complex financing structures, and deals so bewildering that few people could understand them". In cryptocurrency, we are often combining complex financial products with complex technologies and verification processes. We are naïve if we think problems like this won't happen. It is awkward and uncomfortable for many people to admit that they don't know how something works. If we want "money of the people" to work, the solutions have to be simple enough that "the people" can understand them, not so confusing that financial professionals and technology experts struggle to use or understand them.
For those who question the extent to which an organization can fool their way into a security consultancy role, HB Gary should be a great example to look at. Prior to trying to out anonymous, HB Gary was being actively hired by multiple US government agencies and others in the private sector (with glowing testimonials). The published articles and hosted professional security conferences. One should also look at this list of data breaches from the past 2 years. Many of them are large corporations, government entities, and technology companies. These are the ones we know about. Undoubtedly, there are many more that we do not know about. If HB Gary hadn't been "outted" by anonymous, would we have known they were insecure? If the same breach had happened outside of the public spotlight, would it even have been reported? Or would HB Gary have just deleted the Twitter posts, brought their site back up, done a couple patches, and kept on operating as though nothing had happened?
In the case of Quadriga, the facts are clear. Despite past experience with platforms such as MapleChange in Canada and others around the world, no guidance or even the most basic of a framework was put in place by regulators. By not clarifying any sort of legal framework, regulators enabled a situation where a platform could be run by former criminal Mike Dhanini/Omar Patryn, and where funds could be held fully unchecked by one person. At the same time, the lack of regulation deterred legitimate entities from running competing platforms and Quadriga was granted a money services business license for multiple years of operation, which gave the firm the appearance of legitimacy. Regulators did little to protect Canadians despite Quadriga failing to file taxes from 2016 onward. The entire administrative team had resigned and this was public knowledge. Many people had suspicions of what was going on, including Ryan Mueller, who forwarded complaints to the authorities. These were ignored, giving Gerald Cotten the opportunity to escape without justice.
There are multiple issues with the SOC II model including the prohibitive cost (you have to find a third party accounting firm and the prices are not even listed publicly on any sites), the requirement of operating for a year (impossible for new platforms), and lack of any public visibility (SOC II are private reports that aren't shared outside the people in suits).
Securities frameworks are expensive. Sarbanes-Oxley is estimated to cost $5.1 million USD/yr for the average Fortune 500 company in the United States. Since "Fortune 500" represents the top 500 companies, that means well over $2.55 billion USD (~$3.4 billion CAD) is going to people in suits. Isn't the problem of trust and verification the exact problem that the blockchain is supposed to solve?
To use Quadriga as justification for why custodians or SOC II or other advanced schemes are needed for platforms is rather silly, when any framework or visibility at all, or even the most basic of storage policies, would have prevented the whole thing. It's just an embarrassment.
We are now seeing regulators take strong action. CoinSquare in Canada with multi-million dollar fines. BitMex from the US, criminal charges and arrests. OkEx, with full disregard of withdrawals and no communication. Who's next?
We have a unique window today where we can solve these problems, and not permanently destroy innovation with unreasonable expectations, but we need to act quickly. This is a unique historic time that will never come again.
For us who use Decentralized Finance (DeFi) as a common term, we know it represents an enormous shift in how we transact with one another: borrowing money, exchanging currencies, how we view insurance, etc. While total assets involved in DeFi still seem to be increasing right now, there are various factors that will prevent us from growing further. DeFi’s largest barriers for adoption Interoperability — Right now Ethereum gas fees seem like they are always increasing and ETH 2.0 may still be 6 months or more away. We need the ability to make DeFi more accessible to individuals who can’t afford high gas prices per transaction and start including native blockchain assets that are stranded on other platforms. Trust — Unfortunately our biggest issue is still trust. While none of us in crypto expect to know the identity of the other party, many of us just send funds to people we don’t know for vague promises of more wealth. In fact, the biggest type of fraud is still the “giveaway scam” which asks offer to send something back — but its only an offer, there is no guarantee. This is totally unsustainable. What about doing business outside of crypto? Ultimately, DeFi doesn’t keep going unless we create methods for non-crypto native businesses to integrate. While the community might approve sending crypto to each other without a safety in place, this will never work for 99% of online marketplaces. So we need:
DeFi options on lower cost platforms
Trading across blockchains
More flexibility for peer to peer transactions
Easier methods for online marketplaces to integrate and use crypto
Bondly is a trusted, transparent and portable swap protocol designed to make you into a marketplace. Our family of trust-enabling, DeFi products are designed to be a part of your everyday buying and selling activities, giving you piece of mind for your next swap or online purchase.
Similar to Binance OTC Trading Portal but directly on-chain and can be sent via any chat app using different blockchains Wallet to Wallet trustless Over the Counter (OTC) trades that are performed by signing a smart contract. Completely portable smart link can be sent via a chat app or on your favorite social media. It will first support all ERC-20 tokens and NFT (Ethereum) then eventually With BSWAP you can:
Sell a large order of a low liquidity token with no risk of slippage
Become your own NFT marketplace by minting the token, setting your own price, then post to your social media for your audience to buy
Buy assets using Debit/Credit card (using our third party partner onramp)
Send smart link in Telegram to someone you know or your favorite group
Similar to Mooniswap but includes rewards token provided to Liquidity Providers on top of fee share Interoperable Decentralized Exchange (DEX) thats easy to use and blockchain agnostic. Requires liquidity provider (LP) participants to pool assets for a portion of transaction fees along with rewards APY rewards. Our pricing engine will compare major cross chain swap options and will let you know the best one to use (even if its not us). Validation is done directly within your Web3 browser (with Metamask) or polkadot.js based Native Wallet. With BOND DEX you can:
Trade native assets on Polkadot with USDC on Ethereum
Get recommendations on the cheapest bridge transaction path
Create your own asset pairs that otherwise might not exist
BOND PROTECT (BPROTECT)
Similar to Paypal/AliPay Express Buyer Protection combined with Escrow.com with a simple UX like Zapper.fi or Zircon This is our most revolutionary product that we feel will have the largest impact to the eCommerce market. PROTECT is decentralized escrow and buyer protection for customers of crypto friendly marketplaces.
Designed to replace all site specific crypto escrow products with an easy to use API and completely smart contract driven product. Marketplaces may still be in a ‘validator’ role for the marketplace transaction but now they don’t have direct access to funds. This mitigates misappropriation by the marketplace along with exit scamming
By participating in the Bondly network, marketplace vendors can represent themselves as BPROTECT ready and show their on-chain transaction history and successful Bondly enabled deals
BPROTECT will have a similar UX to Zapper.Fi that will pull this vendors on chain activity and history into one place across ethereum and our native substrate chain so you can see their status and history
Functions as a ‘Buyer Protection’ similar to most major marketplaces, where customers are protected by collateral within Bondly
First customers will be marketplaces that sell digital goods like Domain Names and In-Game items and that support crypto payments already. Existing domain name credentials and ownership will be wrapped in an NFT and swapped for requested crypto directly
Requires that the marketplace itself stakes Bondly collateral as well as each individual marketplace vendor
COMPLETELY UNDERCUTS the whole ‘fake review’ industry which is prominently used to inflate value on sites like Amazon.com
With BPROTECT you can
Give more trust to your buyers that you will provide the purchased asset in a timely fashion
As a buyer you can request sellers to use this method so you have more trust
Sell an asset via OTC that you do not have yet (e.g. waiting for vesting) by staking collateral in the Bondly network
Set up recurring payments from individuals to vendors that can deduct from your account every month, similar to a Netflix subscription completely crypto enabled
How does BOND PROTECT work?
For individual OTC Trades:
Seller stakes collateral and ensures the buyer will receive asset by a specified date or with a specific condition
If agreement is violated, collateral is forfeited and transferred to the buyer
For Marketplace Vendors:
Vendors stake collateral (earning staking rewards for doing so)
Should a vendor violate a sale condition (e.g. not deliver a good on time), BOND collateral is provided to buyers as compensation
Each sale is recorded on-chain for transparency
Vendors who provide extended positive service with a long term history are rewarded through our staking/LP rewards program
As our ‘sibling’ projects Darwinia and Bifrost have realized, Polkadot and using Substrate represents a phenomenal step forward in interoperability. It offers:
Total flexibility for building a cross asset non-custodial token bridge
Seamless integration of our partners/peer bridges between infrastructure
Built in network security
Efficient token standard indexing for every type of asset in every type of blockchain
We don’t have Digital Money without Bitcoin; We don’t have Smart Contracts and DeFi without Ethereum; We don’t have true interoperability without Polkadot and Substrate. In a future article we will talk more about our Kusama testnet release.
Whats next for BONDLY?
BONDSWAP for Ethereum, the first formal product release, will be available soon (so hold off on your OTC transaction until then). This will include support for the Bondly staking program. Detailed roadmaps for the other products will be announced soon! In the meantime we will be making additional articles (but not limited to) the following topics:
Best places to trade your Ripple/XRP (longer read)
In the past when you heard the word ‘cryptocurrency’, the first thing that came to everyone’s minds was Bitcoin. To some, this is still the case; they believe that Bitcoin is the cryptocurrency and the vice versa to also be true. Of course, the statement is correct in one way; Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, but cryptocurrency is not made up of only Bitcoin but a host of other currencies. One of these currencies is Ripple. When it comes to the top five cryptocurrencies with the highest capitalization, Ripple needs no introduction as it has managed to secure a position of being the third most traded cryptocurrency around the world. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Ripple is the only cryptocurrency with a backing from traditional legacy financial institutions. In addition, the coin has been integrated into the operation of thousands of small businesses around the world. At this juncture, it is only fair that you learn how to be a part of this great innovation. Thankfully, that is what this guide is all about, showing you some of the best trading platforms for Ripple. There are numerous exchanges that offer decent exchange rates and well-matched trading pairs, but I’ll only narrow down to some of our best picks to help you get started fast.
What is Ripple (XRP)?
Ripple is a cryptocurrency, a currency exchange, a real-time gross settlement payment system, and a remittance network powered by Ripple. As I mentioned before, this is the third most capitalized cryptocurrency asset after Bitcoin and Ethereum. XRP allows enterprises such as banks and other financial service providers to offer their clients a reliable option to source for liquidity for cross-border currency transactions. Ripple is a distributed, open-source platform that seeks to capitalize on the weaknesses of the conventional money payment systems such as credit and debit cards, PayPal, bank transfers, among others. According to Ripple, these payment systems expose users to a lot of transaction delays and restrict the fluidity of currencies. The platform aims at replacing traditional payment systems through offering a faster, safer, and more convenient alternative for making payments. Both the platform’s exchange and tokens are called Ripple, and their mantra states one frictionless experience to send money globally.
Where Can I Trade XRP?
Most exchanges that trade Ripple are limited to crypto-to-crypto transactions. This means that you can only trade Ripple with another cryptocurrency and not fiat currencies such as the euro or the dollar. You’ll need to acquire the currency you wish to trade with XRP on a platform that accepts fiat, and once that happens, you can proceed to trade the two currencies. There are several great platforms that offer XRP trading; below are just a few:
Buying XRP on Binance
Buying XRP on Bittrex
Just like on Binance, you’ll need to create an account on Bittrex to get started. The process is pretty much straightforward, only requiring you to sign up using your email address and password. Once you’re done signing up, click on the wallet tab. You will be taken to a page where you can view all the deposit addresses of the cryptocurrencies on the Bittrex platform. You can then choose the currency to use to purchase XRP, after which, you will be required to type in the code of the currency you will be using to purchase Ripple. If you’re using Ethereum, you can type in the search bar “ETH” and then click on the green arrow to reveal the deposit address. In case you will be sending the funds from a different exchange, you’ll need to paste the address to that platform. Next, you’ll need to send funds to your Bittrex account. Bittrex permits payments using both fiat and cryptocurrencies. So, depending on what you will be using, send money to your online wallet and proceed to trade it with Ripple.
Buying XRP on Changelly
Changelly is another Ripple exchange that requires you to use either Bitcoin or Ethereum to acquire XRP. The exchange doesn’t have an inbuilt wallet, so you’ll need to store your funds on a separate hardware or software wallet. You can pretty much use any type of wallet, but the most secure ones are the hardware ones as they store your coins in an offline cold storage area. Ripple prefers not to have many unutilized accounts being set up on its platform; this is why you’ll need to have a minimum of 20 XRP in your account for you to get started. However, if your first transaction will be more than 20 XRP, then you’re all set. Once you have a wallet ready for your Ripple, head to the Changelly site and click on “input currency”. Here, you will be able to enter the currency you wish to trade for Ripple. You can basically pick and use any coin listed on the site, but it is highly recommended that you use either Bitcoin or Ethereum due to their high liquidity. The output section will have Ripple, which is the currency you wish to receive. The next step will require you to key in your XRP address, which is your Ripple address and the destination tag, which is a description of the transaction. You can now proceed to trade your chosen coins for Ripple. The transaction shouldn’t take long, and you will be able to receive the coins in your Ripple wallet.
Cryptmixer is a platform that assists users to swap XRP with 5 other assets freely. The interface lets users convert assets directly from one’s wallet, without having to create an account or register. Besides, the service helps to compare different providers and find a suitable deal for handling Ripple transactions securely, rapidly, and at the best rate. The process of using Cryptmixer is quite simple:
Go to the main page, choose the currency you’d like to swap, and enter the amount.
Choose XRP to receive.
Review the amount to see how much you will receive. Cryptmixer will automatically find the best rates for your trade.
Then, enter the wallet address that you wish to use.
Send in the deposit to the generated wallet address and wait for the transaction to be processed.
What makes Cryptmixer a great fit is that it provides a very simple layout and quick process so it’s not chore when you trade your crypto. The support line also takes on the job of solving the cases by cooperating with users with top priority. To learn more on how to exchange XRP at the best rate check https://cryptmixer.com
Buying XRP on Coinmama
Coinmama is a cryptocurrency exchange that has been around for quite a while now. The Coinmama team has been adding more coins on their platform over time to be able to provide its users with a wider variety of trading pairs. More recently, the platform included Ripple on its platform. However, Coinmama does not allow US-based users to purchase Ripple due to some stringent laws and regulations surrounding the coin. But for non-US users, you can proceed to create your account on the platform and locate Ripple among the listed assets. Once you’ve created your account, navigate your way to the area with the list of assets. Select one of the provided packages and proceed. You’re required to have a crypto wallet prior to making any purchase on the platform, so be sure to have a valid wallet address before completing the purchase. Once that’s done, purchase your Ripple coins and they will be delivered to your wallet.
Storing Your Ripple Coins
Online storages are never safe for cryptocurrency assets. Individuals have woken up to all sort of horrific sceneries on their accounts that left them bankrupt with no one to turn to. One of the most important concepts you need to grasp about online businesses is the security of your transactions. Cryptocurrency burglars are everywhere and are getting smarter by the day; this means that traditional ways of guaranteeing the security of your online assets are no longer effective. Most exchanges have top-notch security standards, but the safety of your cryptos begins with you. A great way of ensuring that your funds are secure is by getting an offline storage device for your coins. I’ve seen great reviews on two hardware wallets that I highly recommend; these are the Ledger Nano S and Trezor wallets. After getting the wallet of your choice, keep your personal data such as passwords and secret words private; this will ensure that no one else gains access to your wallet even if you misplace it. Writing your password or PIN on open places or somewhere in your phone might not be a good idea; yes, it may be convenient for you, but it will be for the burglar too.
What method of purchasing XRP is considered to be the best?
The most secure and common way of acquiring Ripple is through buying Ethereum or Bitcoin from Coinbase or Coinmama, then transferring the same to Cryptmixer to use to exchange with Ripple. This is because Ripple is currently not available for purchase by using fiat currencies.
What is the best trading platform for Ripple?
Ripple is available on a decent number of exchanges including Binance, Coinmama, Coinbase, Bittrex, Cryptmixer, and more. However, among the stated ones, I have found Cryptmixer to be more secure and easier to use while it also offers the best trading rates and fees.
The Bottom Line
As we conclude, you now have some of the best choices when it comes to the exchange to acquire Ripple coins. After buying your XRP coins, store them offline on a secure device due to the risk of being faced by threats such as hacking or system failures. If you’re serious about making cryptocurrency your investment vehicle in the long run, consider investing in a more lasting security solution such as a hardware storage device. You may not get them for a few pennies, but trust me when I say they are worth every last dime you spend on them.
If you leave your coins on a Chinese exchange, the Chinese state may seize them
I know OKEX is incorporated in Malta/Europe, but the exchange's execs are in China. Even the one(!) guy apparently holding the key to sign withdrawals is in China, and under investigation there. Has he been forced to disclose his key to state actors by now? Consider OKEX compromised. That means: get everything you own off there, now. Though the majority of BTC miners may be Chinese, mind you that most buyers of crypto assets are--obviously--rich Westerners. An exchange like OKEX is worth many, many billions of USD$. In a financial war between the US and China, China could easily seize Binance/Huobi/OKEX and other exchanges under their territorial control, even ones incorporated in Malta if the execs are in Beijing. Get a real wallet, like Wasabi or even Bitcoin core or even Coinbase's dedicated wallet app, but ffs, get your coins off the exchanges. Exchanges can be seized by state powers, execs can be imprisoned, HQ's can be robbed, key holders can be abducted by terrorists, etc. etc. Not your keys, not your coins.
Tether To Replace Ethereum As The Second Largest Market Capitalization. According to Bloomberg analysts, the Tether (USDT) stablecoin may take the second place in the rating of the largest digital currencies in 2021. Thus, Tether will displace Ether (ETH) at this position. At the moment, the capitalization of ETH and Tether is about $42.066 billion and $15.737 billion, respectively. Recently, stablecoin knocked the XRP token from the third place in the ranking of the most popular cryptocurrencies. DeFi Token Maker Sets New TVL All-Time High As Crypto Market Takes Pause. Maker, one of the first tokens, continues to grow, setting new all-highs in total locked away value, which indicates the core stability of the DeFi markets. Bitcoin SV Will Sponsor The Cambridge University Metanet Society. Bitcoin Association, a Swiss-based organization, working to advance business with the Bitcoin SV blockchain, has announced its intention to sponsor the Cambridge University Metanet Society for the second year in a row. The company hopes that this will help nurture a new generation of Digital Finance professionals and bring together the brightest minds in developing new projects.
Projects And Updates
Ethereum Foundation Introduces New Smart Contract Language ‘Fe’ For The Ecosystem. The Ethereum ecosystem has introduced a new language for writing smart contracts named Fe, which was announced by the software engineer of the Ethereum Foundation Christoph Burgdorf. Today, most applications on Ethereum are written in the Solidity language. The company believes that having additional programming options will have a positive impact on the development of the ecosystem. Gate.io Unveils Hardware Crypto Wallet With Fingerprint Authorization. Gate.io Exchange announces a new hardware Wallet S1 with fingerprint recognition technology. Using biometrics will both better protect the user's keys and make it easier to work with them. Initially, for the China market, it will be available in other countries in the following months. Ethereum 2.0 Gets Closer: Zinken Testnet Successfully Launched. The developers of Ethereum started up the final test network Zinken before moving to the actual launching main ETH 2.0 network. According to Danny Ryan, lead coordinator for Etherium 2.0, the test genesis process went successfully. The previous "dress rehearsal" in the Spadina testnet failed primarily due to incorrect support for the latest version of the Prysm client. Nervos Integrates With HedgeTrade To Enable Community Trading Predictions. HedgeTrade’s community-driven predictions platform now supports CKB, the native token of an open-source public blockchain project Nervos. The collaboration will provide Nervos with unique analytical tools and will allow HedgeTrade to attract a new audience. Binance Announces Adding Support For MetaMask Wallet On Its Panama Bridge Service. Binance's Panama Bridge Service, designed to organize compatibility with other blockchains, added support for MetaMask, Ethereum browser wallet. Solana Announces Ethereum Cross-Chain Bridge ‘Wormhole’. The Solana smart contract platform has announced the upcoming launch of a bridge for Ethereum ERC-20 tokens called Wormhole. The bridge will allow users to transfer funds between blockchains, directly converting ERC-20 tokens to the corresponding SPL Solana standard.
New Zealand Man Charged With Money Laundering Via Crypto And Luxury Cars. A 40-year-old man from Auckland, New Zealand, is accused of money laundering through the purchase of cryptocurrencies and expensive cars, reports NZHerald. The man, whose identity is not disclosed, faces 30 charges. It is alleged that he received New Zealand dollars (NZD) to buy cryptocurrencies "as part of transactions that involve money laundering".
Coinbase CCO, Jeff Horowitz Is About To Exit The Crypto Exchange. CCO of Coinbase exchange, Jeff Horowitz, is leaving his post. The exact reasons weren't revealed, but Horowitz's colleagues pointed out that his retirement from Coinbase is not related to the recent statement of the exchange's CEO, Brian Armstrong. According to the new mission of Coinbase, the workers can't make political and social discussions if they are not related to the cryptocurrency industry. About 5% of employees who disagree with the new company policy chose to leave their workplace and receive compensation. Jack Dorsey’s Square Inc Invests $50 Million In Bitcoin. Jack Dorsey's Square payment company announced the purchase of $50 million worth of Bitcoins. Having made such a massive investment, Dorcey continues to place big bets on the digital currency, which he says will become commonly used over the next decade. That’s all for now! For more details follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our YouTube channel, join our Telegram.
You have probably read dozens of articles dedicated to this subject before, and likely skipped even more. So why write another one, let alone read it? The short answer is times have changed. Well, times always change. Still, the point is that we may be amidst a paradigm shift in the cryptocurrency space right now even if we don’t feel it yet. by stealthEX Such a fundamental change is possible due to a confluence of several factors. Some of these factors are external and therefore not related to crypto. Others are internal and represent the value-oriented nature of cryptocurrencies. It just happened that all of them got activated under specific conditions at a certain point in time, which is today, give or take.
Economic woes in a post-Covid-19 World
You wouldn’t be far from the truth if you claimed that we haven’t yet pulled through the pandemic, to begin with. Unfortunately, it only makes matters worse unless you are a cryptocurrency investor and don’t care for the rest of humanity. Anyway, the damage has been done, and nothing can change that. We are now entering the phase that is technically called “competitive devaluations” and colloquially known as currency wars. You could also argue that if it didn’t happen at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, it is not going to happen now. The sad truth is that we are only starting to feel the real pain. Even the deadly coronavirus doesn’t take over the body instantly, while it takes some time on the scale of a few months up to a couple years for the economic disease to spread through the fabric of society, evolve, and then erupt with inflation rates shooting through the roof, among many other nasty things. Please take your seat. The world reserve fiat, the American dollar, is sinking like Titanic, slowly but surely. We can’t say the same about less lucky currencies, though. We won’t dwell on the Venezuelan bolivar and Zimbabwean dollar as they are altogether beyond redemption, but fiats like the Brazilian real and Russian ruble are also balancing on the brink of another landslide devaluation, which they have seen many in the past. Sharp minds in the cryptocurrency space have been telling us about this development for ages. It all looked like a remote possibility in some distant future that as we felt deep down wouldn’t have a chance to come up in our lifetime. As it stands, we were wrong, and the events described are now starting to unfold right before our own eyes. In a strange twist of fate, large-scale cryptocurrency adoption is about to occur along with them, but not through some technical breakthroughs and innovation, or even the much-hyped DeFi, but primarily through the failure of conventional financial systems based on fiat currencies. Rest assured, the top dogs in the cryptocurrency pit are well aware of this dynamic, and they are not going to wait any longer. Grayscale Investments, a multi-billion dollar company behind a host of cryptocurrency trust funds, started to frenziedly buy up bitcoins a couple weeks ago. All in all, it acquired over 17,000 BTC adding to its already quite impressive stash of Bitcoin, now totalling almost 450,000 coins under its management. Love it or leave it, but it amounts to 2.4% of all bitcoins mined to date, including lost, burned, or left for dead as dust in Bitcoin wallets. In essence, it means that their effective share is way higher. But while Grayscale definitely sits at the top of the cryptocurrency investment chain, it is not the only company that went on a buying spree lately. MicroStrategy, a company largely unknown to the wider public, suddenly got religion and swapped over $400 million of its capital into 38,250 BTC. Even Barry Silbert, CEO of Grayscale, commented on this feat in his tweet. Twitter, by StealthEX So whenever there is a hint at price correction, someone comes out of the shadows and picks up a handful of bitcoins from the market propping up the price. Why are they doing this? You already know the answer.
In different words, all that cryptocurrencies had to do was to last long enough until fiat started to fall apart. It does now, and paradoxically such times are also times of great opportunity, Baron Rothschild’s way. The world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, Binance, has been pushing its cryptocurrency payment card since April when it acquired Swipe, a firm focused on crypto-to-fiat payment cards. At the time of the acquisition Swipe already supported 20 cryptocurrencies and fiat transactions in major currencies. Binance.com, by StaelthEX For European users the Binance card was officially made available in August, and the exchange plans to enter the US market soon. Given its dominance in the crypto arena, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect the surge in the cryptocurrency use as a means of payment thanks to this. It is unlikely that people would spend their precious bitcoins, but the packmaster is not the only member of the pack that Binance handles. Cryptos like Litecoin or Bitcoin Cash can easily become currencies of choice to use with Binance debit cards. But what truly makes it a game-changer is the current turmoil in the global economic affairs which may turn out to be a once-in-a-lifetime chance for crypto to pick up where fiat currencies leave, or fail, to be exact. On the other hand, it may be a natural development after all, set in stone by the very first Bitcoin transaction and cemented for good when it got confirmed. Now things start to arrange themselves to fit their preordained layout. We have taken our time. As cryptocurrencies are not internally linked to, or tied by, the lunatic policies of monetary authorities, that is to say, no central bank can ask or force miners to mine more bitcoins, we have the first element in place in the layout for the cryptocurrency mass adoption to occur at the most basic level. In fact, it has always been there, so we just had to wait until the two other elements arrived, even though it took longer than most of us were ready to wait. The second required element in the grand picture of cryptocurrency adoption is the change in attitude toward wealth evaluation. So far the vast majority of people involved in crypto, including its most die-hard supporters, valued their cryptocurrency holdings in fiat terms. Without doubt, it was the US dollar, regardless of your home currency. But when fiat collapses or enters a long period of runaway inflation, people will be ready for a dramatic change in their approaches toward capital assessment as well as spending habits. And here comes the most important part where Binance hits the nail on the head. If you are unable to effortlessly spend crypto in your everyday life, the first two components cannot trigger this change in attitude on their own. We need this third element to make use of what has existed and take advantage of what has come around. In a way, what Binance did, and what its competitors are no doubt going to do as well if they don’t want to miss out on the opportunity, appears to be the part that snugly snaps into place when we finally get there. With Binance payment card, you can “buy the things you love with crypto”. So now the ball is in your court to support the full-scale cryptocurrency adoption coming up. Kidding aside, with fiat turning into trash by leaps and bounds all over the globe, this looks like a very enticing payment option for both the crypto purists and the unbanked. We have seen quite a few such cards in the past, but Binance seems to be adamant on making its variety really popular and actually usable. And then you can ride volatility waves to your financial benefit. If Binance succeeds, that may herald a new era of cryptocurrency adoption, a breakthrough of sorts after so many years of stagnation in this department.
Repercussions and ramifications
It is not like only we, traders and investors alike, see these trends. Governments are also taking notice and paying close attention. They can’t remove cryptocurrencies and they can’t help inflating their national currencies. However, they can still crack down massively on this and similar endeavors, trying to nip them in the bud. We don’t know yet what Uncle Sam is going to say but some muslim countries have been quite vocal in this regard. For example, Egypt has issued a fetva which prohibits bitcoin transactions as being against Sharia, an Islamic religious law. Another mostly Islamic country, Indonesia, has banned the use of cryptocurrencies as a means of payment. Russia, although not Islamic yet, is hellbent on effectively outlawing most cryptocurrency operations despite passing earlier a law on digital assets which is essentially neutral to crypto. To conclude, we must be aware that once things get serious and governments see that their monetary supremacy is being threatened, that they can no longer play their favorite game of inflation tax, they will leave no stone unturned to prevent mass use of crypto as an alternative means of payment. And cryptocurrency payment cards are hands down one of the best tools available for this use on a down-to-earth level, groceries and whatnot. Now you know what their target will be. And don’t forget if you need to exchange your coins StealthEX is here for you. We provide a selection of more than 300 coins and constantly updating the cryptocurrency list so that our customers will find a suitable option. Our service does not require registration and allows you to remain anonymous. Why don’t you check it out? Just go to StealthEX and follow these easy steps: ✔ Choose the pair and the amount for your exchange. For example BTC to ETH. ✔ Press the “Start exchange” button. ✔ Provide the recipient address to which the coins will be transferred. ✔ Move your cryptocurrency for the exchange. ✔ Receive your coins. Follow us on Medium, Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit to get StealthEX.io updates and the latest news about the crypto world. For all requests message us via [email protected]. The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author. Every investment and trading move involves risk. You should conduct your own research when making a decision. Original article was posted onhttps://stealthex.io/blog/2020/10/06/cryptocurrency-adoption-a-breakthrough/
Everyone and his grandma know what cryptocurrency mining is. Well, they may not indeed know what it actually is, in technical terms, but they have definitely heard the phrase as it is hard to miss the news about mining sucking in energy like a black hole gobbles up matter. On the other hand, staking, its little bro, has mostly been hiding in the shadows until recently. by StealthEX Today, with DeFi making breaking news across the cryptoverse, staking has become a new buzzword in the blockchain space and beyond, along with the fresh entries to the crypto asset investor’s vocabulary such as “yield farming”, “rug pull”, “total value locked”, and similar arcane stuff. If you are not scared off yet, then read on. Though we can’t promise you won’t be.
Cryptocurrency staking, little brother of crypto mining
There are two conceptually different approaches to achieving consensus in a distributed network, which comes down to transaction validation in the case of a cryptocurrency blockchain. You are most certainly aware of cryptocurrency mining, which is used with cryptocurrencies based on the Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus algorithm such as Bitcoin and Ether (so far). Here miners compete against each other with their computational resources for finding the next block on the blockchain and getting a reward. Another approach, known as the Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus mechanism, is based not on the race among computational resources as is the case with PoW, but on the competition of balances, or stakes. In simple words, every holder of at least one stake, a minimally sufficient amount of crypto, can actively participate in creating blocks and thus also earn rewards under such network consensus model. This process came to be known as staking, and it can be loosely thought of as mining in the PoS environment. With that established, let’s now see why, after so many years of what comes pretty close to oblivion, it has turned into such a big thing.
Why has staking become so popular, all of a sudden?
The renewed popularity of staking came with the explosive expansion of decentralized finance, or DeFi for short. Essentially, staking is one of the ways to tap into the booming DeFi market, allowing users to earn staking rewards on a class of digital assets that DeFi provides easy access to. Technically, it is more correct to speak of DeFi staking as a new development of an old concept that enjoys its second coming today, or new birth if you please. So what’s the point? With old-school cryptocurrency staking, you would have to manually set up and run a validating node on a cryptocurrency network that uses a PoS consensus algo, having to keep in mind all the gory details of a specific protocol so as not to shoot yourself in the foot. This is where you should have already started to enjoy jitters if you were to take this avenu entirely on your own. Just think of it as having to run a Bitcoin mining rig for some pocket money. Put simply, DeFi staking frees you from all that hassle. At this point, let’s recall what decentralized finance is and what it strives to achieve. In broad terms, DeFi aims at offering the same products and services available today in the traditional financial world, but in a trutless and decentralized way. From this perspective, DeFi staking reseblems conventional banking where people put their money in savings accounts to earn interest. Indeed, you could try to lend out your shekels all by yourself, with varying degrees of success, but banks make it far more convenient and secure. The maturation of the DeFi space advanced the emergence of staking pools and Staking-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers that run nodes for PoS cryptocurrencies on your behalf, allowing you to stake your coins and receive staking rewards. In today’s world, interest rates on traditional savings accounts are ridiculous, while government spending, a handy euphemism for relentless money printing aka fiscal stimulus, is already translating into runaway inflation. Against this backdrop, it is easy to see why staking has been on the rise.
Okay, what are my investment options?
Now that we have gone through the basics of the state-of-the-art cryptocurrency staking, you may ask what are the options actually available for a common crypto enthusiast to earn from it? Many high-caliber exchanges like Binance or Bitfinex as well as online wallets such as Coinbase offer staking of PoS coins. In most cases, you don’t even need to do anything aside from simply holding your coins there to start receiving rewards as long as you are eligible and meet the requirements. This is called exchange staking. Further, there are platforms that specialize in staking digital assets. These are known as Staking-as-a-Service providers, while this form of staking is often referred to as soft staking. They enable even non-tech savvy customers to stake their PoS assets through a third party service, with all the technical stuff handled by the service provider. Most of these services are custodial, with the implication being that you no longer control your coins after you stake them. Figment Networks, MyContainer, Stake Capital are easily the most recognized among SaaS providers. However, while exchange staking and soft staking have everything to do with finance, they have little to nothing to do with the decentralized part of it, which is, for the record, the primary value proposition of the entire DeFi ecosystem. The point is, you have to deposit the stakable coins into your wallet with these services. And how can it then be considered decentralized? Nah, because DeFi is all about going trustless, no third parties, and, in a narrow sense, no staking that entails the transfer of private keys. This form of staking is called non-custodial, and it is of particular interest from the DeFi point of view. If you read our article about DeFi, you already know how it is possible, so we won’t dwell on this (if, on the off chance, you didn’t, it’s time to catch up). As DeFi continues to evolve, platforms that allow trustless staking with which you maintain full custody of your coins are set to emerge as well. The space is relatively new, with Staked being probably the first in the field. This type of staking allows you to remain in complete control of your funds, and it perfectly matches DeFi’s ethos, goals and ideals. Still, our story wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t mention utility tokens where staking may serve a whole range of purposes other than supporting the token network or obtaining passive income. For example, with platforms that deploy blockchain oracles such as Nexus Mutual, a decentralized insurance platform, staking tokens is necessary for encouraging correct reporting on certain events or reaching a consensus on a specific claim. In the case of Nexus Mutual, its membership token NXM is used by the token holders, the so-called assessors, for validating insurance claims. If they fail to assess claims correctly, their stakes are burned. Another example is Particl Marketplace, a decentralized eCommerce platform, which designed a standalone cryptocurrency dubbed PART. It can be used both as a cryptocurrency in its own right outside the marketplace and as a stakable utility token giving stakers voting rights facilitating the decentralized governance of the entire platform. Yet another example is the instant non-custodial cryptocurrency exchange service, ChangeNOW, that also recently came up with its stakable token, NOW Token, to be used as an internal currency and a means of earning passive income.
Nowadays, with most economies on pause or going downhill, staking has become a new avenue for generating passive income outside the traditional financial system. As DeFi continues to eat away at services previously being exclusively provided by conventional financial and banking sectors, we should expect more people to get involved in this activity along with more businesses dipping their toes into these uncharted waters. Achieving network consensus, establishing decentralized governance, and earning passive income are only three use cases for cryptocurrency staking. No matter how important they are, and they certainly are, there are many other uses along different dimensions that staking can be quite helpful and instrumental for. Again, we are mostly in uncharted waters here, and we can’t reliably say what the future holds for us. On the other hand, we can go and invent it. This should count as next. And remember if you need to exchange your coins StealthEX is here for you. We provide a selection of more than 250 coins and constantly updating the list so that our customers will find a suitable option. Our service does not require registration and allows you to remain anonymous. Why don’t you check it out? Just go to StealthEX and follow these easy steps: ✔ Choose the pair and the amount for your exchange. For example ETH to BTC. ✔ Press the “Start exchange” button. ✔ Provide the recipient address to which the coins will be transferred. ✔ Move your cryptocurrency for the exchange. ✔ Receive your coins! The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author. Every investment and trading move involves risk. You should conduct your own research when making a decision. Original article was posted onhttps://stealthex.io/blog/2020/09/08/cryptocurrency-staking-as-it-stands-today/
Hey all, I've been researching coins since 2017 and have gone through 100s of them in the last 3 years. I got introduced to blockchain via Bitcoin of course, analyzed Ethereum thereafter and from that moment I have a keen interest in smart contact platforms. I’m passionate about Ethereum but I find Zilliqa to have a better risk-reward ratio. Especially because Zilliqa has found an elegant balance between being secure, decentralized and scalable in my opinion.
Below I post my analysis of why from all the coins I went through I’m most bullish on Zilliqa (yes I went through Tezos, EOS, NEO, VeChain, Harmony, Algorand, Cardano etc.). Note that this is not investment advice and although it's a thorough analysis there is obviously some bias involved. Looking forward to what you all think!
Fun fact: the name Zilliqa is a play on ‘silica’ silicon dioxide which means “Silicon for the high-throughput consensus computer.”
This post is divided into (i) Technology, (ii) Business & Partnerships, and (iii) Marketing & Community. I’ve tried to make the technology part readable for a broad audience. If you’ve ever tried understanding the inner workings of Bitcoin and Ethereum you should be able to grasp most parts. Otherwise, just skim through and once you are zoning out head to the next part.
Technology and some more:
The technology is one of the main reasons why I’m so bullish on Zilliqa. First thing you see on their website is: “Zilliqa is a high-performance, high-security blockchain platform for enterprises and next-generation applications.” These are some bold statements.
Before we deep dive into the technology let’s take a step back in time first as they have quite the history. The initial research paper from which Zilliqa originated dates back to August 2016: Elastico: A Secure Sharding Protocol For Open Blockchains where Loi Luu (Kyber Network) is one of the co-authors. Other ideas that led to the development of what Zilliqa has become today are: Bitcoin-NG, collective signing CoSi, ByzCoin and Omniledger.
The technical white paper was made public in August 2017 and since then they have achieved everything stated in the white paper and also created their own open source intermediate level smart contract language called Scilla (functional programming language similar to OCaml) too.
Mainnet is live since the end of January 2019 with daily transaction rates growing continuously. About a week ago mainnet reached 5 million transactions, 500.000+ addresses in total along with 2400 nodes keeping the network decentralized and secure. Circulating supply is nearing 11 billion and currently only mining rewards are left. The maximum supply is 21 billion with annual inflation being 7.13% currently and will only decrease with time.
Zilliqa realized early on that the usage of public cryptocurrencies and smart contracts were increasing but decentralized, secure, and scalable alternatives were lacking in the crypto space. They proposed to apply sharding onto a public smart contract blockchain where the transaction rate increases almost linear with the increase in the amount of nodes. More nodes = higher transaction throughput and increased decentralization. Sharding comes in many forms and Zilliqa uses network-, transaction- and computational sharding. Network sharding opens up the possibility of using transaction- and computational sharding on top. Zilliqa does not use state sharding for now. We’ll come back to this later.
Before we continue dissecting how Zilliqa achieves such from a technological standpoint it’s good to keep in mind that a blockchain being decentralised and secure and scalable is still one of the main hurdles in allowing widespread usage of decentralised networks. In my opinion this needs to be solved first before blockchains can get to the point where they can create and add large scale value. So I invite you to read the next section to grasp the underlying fundamentals. Because after all these premises need to be true otherwise there isn’t a fundamental case to be bullish on Zilliqa, right?
Down the rabbit hole
How have they achieved this? Let’s define the basics first: key players on Zilliqa are the users and the miners. A user is anybody who uses the blockchain to transfer funds or run smart contracts. Miners are the (shard) nodes in the network who run the consensus protocol and get rewarded for their service in Zillings (ZIL). The mining network is divided into several smaller networks called shards, which is also referred to as ‘network sharding’. Miners subsequently are randomly assigned to a shard by another set of miners called DS (Directory Service) nodes. The regular shards process transactions and the outputs of these shards are eventually combined by the DS shard as they reach consensus on the final state. More on how these DS shards reach consensus (via pBFT) will be explained later on.
The Zilliqa network produces two types of blocks: DS blocks and Tx blocks. One DS Block consists of 100 Tx Blocks. And as previously mentioned there are two types of nodes concerned with reaching consensus: shard nodes and DS nodes. Becoming a shard node or DS node is being defined by the result of a PoW cycle (Ethash) at the beginning of the DS Block. All candidate mining nodes compete with each other and run the PoW (Proof-of-Work) cycle for 60 seconds and the submissions achieving the highest difficulty will be allowed on the network. And to put it in perspective: the average difficulty for one DS node is ~ 2 Th/s equaling 2.000.000 Mh/s or 55 thousand+ GeForce GTX 1070 / 8 GB GPUs at 35.4 Mh/s. Each DS Block 10 new DS nodes are allowed. And a shard node needs to provide around 8.53 GH/s currently (around 240 GTX 1070s). Dual mining ETH/ETC and ZIL is possible and can be done via mining software such as Phoenix and Claymore. There are pools and if you have large amounts of hashing power (Ethash) available you could mine solo.
The PoW cycle of 60 seconds is a peak performance and acts as an entry ticket to the network. The entry ticket is called a sybil resistance mechanism and makes it incredibly hard for adversaries to spawn lots of identities and manipulate the network with these identities. And after every 100 Tx Blocks which corresponds to roughly 1,5 hour this PoW process repeats. In between these 1,5 hour, no PoW needs to be done meaning Zilliqa’s energy consumption to keep the network secure is low. For more detailed information on how mining works click here. Okay, hats off to you. You have made it this far. Before we go any deeper down the rabbit hole we first must understand why Zilliqa goes through all of the above technicalities and understand a bit more what a blockchain on a more fundamental level is. Because the core of Zilliqa’s consensus protocol relies on the usage of pBFT (practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance) we need to know more about state machines and their function. Navigate to Viewblock, a Zilliqa block explorer, and just come back to this article. We will use this site to navigate through a few concepts.
We have established that Zilliqa is a public and distributed blockchain. Meaning that everyone with an internet connection can send ZILs, trigger smart contracts, etc. and there is no central authority who fully controls the network. Zilliqa and other public and distributed blockchains (like Bitcoin and Ethereum) can also be defined as state machines.
Taking the liberty of paraphrasing examples and definitions given by Samuel Brooks’ medium article, he describes the definition of a blockchain (like Zilliqa) as: “A peer-to-peer, append-only datastore that uses consensus to synchronize cryptographically-secure data”.
Next, he states that: "blockchains are fundamentally systems for managing valid state transitions”. For some more context, I recommend reading the whole medium article to get a better grasp of the definitions and understanding of state machines. Nevertheless, let’s try to simplify and compile it into a single paragraph. Take traffic lights as an example: all its states (red, amber, and green) are predefined, all possible outcomes are known and it doesn’t matter if you encounter the traffic light today or tomorrow. It will still behave the same. Managing the states of a traffic light can be done by triggering a sensor on the road or pushing a button resulting in one traffic lights’ state going from green to red (via amber) and another light from red to green.
With public blockchains like Zilliqa, this isn’t so straightforward and simple. It started with block #1 almost 1,5 years ago and every 45 seconds or so a new block linked to the previous block is being added. Resulting in a chain of blocks with transactions in it that everyone can verify from block #1 to the current #647.000+ block. The state is ever changing and the states it can find itself in are infinite. And while the traffic light might work together in tandem with various other traffic lights, it’s rather insignificant comparing it to a public blockchain. Because Zilliqa consists of 2400 nodes who need to work together to achieve consensus on what the latest valid state is while some of these nodes may have latency or broadcast issues, drop offline or are deliberately trying to attack the network, etc.
Now go back to the Viewblock page take a look at the amount of transaction, addresses, block and DS height and then hit refresh. Obviously as expected you see new incremented values on one or all parameters. And how did the Zilliqa blockchain manage to transition from a previous valid state to the latest valid state? By using pBFT to reach consensus on the latest valid state.
After having obtained the entry ticket, miners execute pBFT to reach consensus on the ever-changing state of the blockchain. pBFT requires a series of network communication between nodes, and as such there is no GPU involved (but CPU). Resulting in the total energy consumed to keep the blockchain secure, decentralized and scalable being low.
pBFT stands for practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance and is an optimization on the Byzantine Fault Tolerant algorithm. To quote Blockonomi: “In the context of distributed systems, Byzantine Fault Tolerance is the ability of a distributed computer network to function as desired and correctly reach a sufficient consensus despite malicious components (nodes) of the system failing or propagating incorrect information to other peers.” Zilliqa is such a distributed computer network and depends on the honesty of the nodes (shard and DS) to reach consensus and to continuously update the state with the latest block. If pBFT is a new term for you I can highly recommend the Blockonomi article.
The idea of pBFT was introduced in 1999 - one of the authors even won a Turing award for it - and it is well researched and applied in various blockchains and distributed systems nowadays. If you want more advanced information than the Blockonomi link provides click here. And if you’re in between Blockonomi and the University of Singapore read the Zilliqa Design Story Part 2 dating from October 2017. Quoting from the Zilliqa tech whitepaper: “pBFT relies upon a correct leader (which is randomly selected) to begin each phase and proceed when the sufficient majority exists. In case the leader is byzantine it can stall the entire consensus protocol. To address this challenge, pBFT offers a view change protocol to replace the byzantine leader with another one.”
pBFT can tolerate ⅓ of the nodes being dishonest (offline counts as Byzantine = dishonest) and the consensus protocol will function without stalling or hiccups. Once there are more than ⅓ of dishonest nodes but no more than ⅔ the network will be stalled and a view change will be triggered to elect a new DS leader. Only when more than ⅔ of the nodes are dishonest (66%) double-spend attacks become possible.
If the network stalls no transactions can be processed and one has to wait until a new honest leader has been elected. When the mainnet was just launched and in its early phases, view changes happened regularly. As of today the last stalling of the network - and view change being triggered - was at the end of October 2019.
Another benefit of using pBFT for consensus besides low energy is the immediate finality it provides. Once your transaction is included in a block and the block is added to the chain it’s done. Lastly, take a look at this article where three types of finality are being defined: probabilistic, absolute and economic finality. Zilliqa falls under the absolute finality (just like Tendermint for example). Although lengthy already we skipped through some of the inner workings from Zilliqa’s consensus: read the Zilliqa Design Story Part 3 and you will be close to having a complete picture on it. Enough about PoW, sybil resistance mechanism, pBFT, etc. Another thing we haven’t looked at yet is the amount of decentralization.
Currently, there are four shards, each one of them consisting of 600 nodes. 1 shard with 600 so-called DS nodes (Directory Service - they need to achieve a higher difficulty than shard nodes) and 1800 shard nodes of which 250 are shard guards (centralized nodes controlled by the team). The amount of shard guards has been steadily declining from 1200 in January 2019 to 250 as of May 2020. On the Viewblock statistics, you can see that many of the nodes are being located in the US but those are only the (CPU parts of the) shard nodes who perform pBFT. There is no data from where the PoW sources are coming. And when the Zilliqa blockchain starts reaching its transaction capacity limit, a network upgrade needs to be executed to lift the current cap of maximum 2400 nodes to allow more nodes and formation of more shards which will allow to network to keep on scaling according to demand. Besides shard nodes there are also seed nodes. The main role of seed nodes is to serve as direct access points (for end-users and clients) to the core Zilliqa network that validates transactions. Seed nodes consolidate transaction requests and forward these to the lookup nodes (another type of nodes) for distribution to the shards in the network. Seed nodes also maintain the entire transaction history and the global state of the blockchain which is needed to provide services such as block explorers. Seed nodes in the Zilliqa network are comparable to Infura on Ethereum.
The seed nodes were first only operated by Zilliqa themselves, exchanges and Viewblock. Operators of seed nodes like exchanges had no incentive to open them for the greater public. They were centralised at first. Decentralisation at the seed nodes level has been steadily rolled out since March 2020 ( Zilliqa Improvement Proposal 3 ). Currently the amount of seed nodes is being increased, they are public-facing and at the same time PoS is applied to incentivize seed node operators and make it possible for ZIL holders to stake and earn passive yields. Important distinction: seed nodes are not involved with consensus! That is still PoW as entry ticket and pBFT for the actual consensus.
5% of the block rewards are being assigned to seed nodes (from the beginning in 2019) and those are being used to pay out ZIL stakers. The 5% block rewards with an annual yield of 10.03% translate to roughly 610 MM ZILs in total that can be staked. Exchanges use the custodial variant of staking and wallets like Moonlet will use the non-custodial version (starting in Q3 2020). Staking is being done by sending ZILs to a smart contract created by Zilliqa and audited by Quantstamp.
With a high amount of DS; shard nodes and seed nodes becoming more decentralized too, Zilliqa qualifies for the label of decentralized in my opinion.
Generalized: programming languages can be divided into being ‘object-oriented’ or ‘functional’. Here is an ELI5 given by software development academy: * “all programs have two basic components, data – what the program knows – and behavior – what the program can do with that data. So object-oriented programming states that combining data and related behaviors in one place, is called “object”, which makes it easier to understand how a particular program works. On the other hand, functional programming argues that data and behavior are different things and should be separated to ensure their clarity.” *
Scilla is on the functional side and shares similarities with OCaml: OCaml is a general-purpose programming language with an emphasis on expressiveness and safety. It has an advanced type system that helps catch your mistakes without getting in your way. It's used in environments where a single mistake can cost millions and speed matters, is supported by an active community, and has a rich set of libraries and development tools. For all its power, OCaml is also pretty simple, which is one reason it's often used as a teaching language.
Scilla is blockchain agnostic, can be implemented onto other blockchains as well, is recognized by academics and won a so-called Distinguished Artifact Award award at the end of last year.
One of the reasons why the Zilliqa team decided to create their own programming language focused on preventing smart contract vulnerabilities is that adding logic on a blockchain, programming, means that you cannot afford to make mistakes. Otherwise, it could cost you. It’s all great and fun blockchains being immutable but updating your code because you found a bug isn’t the same as with a regular web application for example. And with smart contracts, it inherently involves cryptocurrencies in some form thus value.
Another difference with programming languages on a blockchain is gas. Every transaction you do on a smart contract platform like Zilliqa or Ethereum costs gas. With gas you basically pay for computational costs. Sending a ZIL from address A to address B costs 0.001 ZIL currently. Smart contracts are more complex, often involve various functions and require more gas (if gas is a new concept click here ).
So with Scilla, similar to Solidity, you need to make sure that “every function in your smart contract will run as expected without hitting gas limits. An improper resource analysis may lead to situations where funds may get stuck simply because a part of the smart contract code cannot be executed due to gas limits. Such constraints are not present in traditional software systems”.Scilla design story part 1
Some examples of smart contract issues you’d want to avoid are: leaking funds, ‘unexpected changes to critical state variables’ (example: someone other than you setting his or her address as the owner of the smart contract after creation) or simply killing a contract.
Scilla also allows for formal verification. Wikipedia to the rescue: In the context of hardware and software systems, formal verification is the act of proving or disproving the correctness of intended algorithms underlying a system with respect to a certain formal specification or property, using formal methods of mathematics.
Formal verification can be helpful in proving the correctness of systems such as: cryptographic protocols, combinational circuits, digital circuits with internal memory, and software expressed as source code.
“Scilla is being developed hand-in-hand with formalization of its semantics and its embedding into the Coq proof assistant — a state-of-the art tool for mechanized proofs about properties of programs.”
Simply put, with Scilla and accompanying tooling developers can be mathematically sure and proof that the smart contract they’ve written does what he or she intends it to do.
Smart contract on a sharded environment and state sharding
There is one more topic I’d like to touch on: smart contract execution in a sharded environment (and what is the effect of state sharding). This is a complex topic. I’m not able to explain it any easier than what is posted here. But I will try to compress the post into something easy to digest.
Earlier on we have established that Zilliqa can process transactions in parallel due to network sharding. This is where the linear scalability comes from. We can define simple transactions: a transaction from address A to B (Category 1), a transaction where a user interacts with one smart contract (Category 2) and the most complex ones where triggering a transaction results in multiple smart contracts being involved (Category 3). The shards are able to process transactions on their own without interference of the other shards. With Category 1 transactions that is doable, with Category 2 transactions sometimes if that address is in the same shard as the smart contract but with Category 3 you definitely need communication between the shards. Solving that requires to make a set of communication rules the protocol needs to follow in order to process all transactions in a generalised fashion.
There is no strict defined roadmap but here are topics being worked on. And via the Zilliqa website there is also more information on the projects they are working on.
Business & Partnerships
It’s not only technology in which Zilliqa seems to be excelling as their ecosystem has been expanding and starting to grow rapidly. The project is on a mission to provide OpenFinance (OpFi) to the world and Singapore is the right place to be due to its progressive regulations and futuristic thinking. Singapore has taken a proactive approach towards cryptocurrencies by introducing the Payment Services Act 2019 (PS Act). Among other things, the PS Act will regulate intermediaries dealing with certain cryptocurrencies, with a particular focus on consumer protection and anti-money laundering. It will also provide a stable regulatory licensing and operating framework for cryptocurrency entities, effectively covering all crypto businesses and exchanges based in Singapore. According to PWC 82% of the surveyed executives in Singapore reported blockchain initiatives underway and 13% of them have already brought the initiatives live to the market. There is also an increasing list of organizations that are starting to provide digital payment services. Moreover, Singaporean blockchain developers Building Cities Beyond has recently created an innovation $15 million grant to encourage development on its ecosystem. This all suggests that Singapore tries to position itself as (one of) the leading blockchain hubs in the world.
Zilliqa seems to already take advantage of this and recently helped launch Hg Exchange on their platform, together with financial institutions PhillipCapital, PrimePartners and Fundnel. Hg Exchange, which is now approved by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), uses smart contracts to represent digital assets. Through Hg Exchange financial institutions worldwide can use Zilliqa's safe-by-design smart contracts to enable the trading of private equities. For example, think of companies such as Grab, Airbnb, SpaceX that are not available for public trading right now. Hg Exchange will allow investors to buy shares of private companies & unicorns and capture their value before an IPO. Anquan, the main company behind Zilliqa, has also recently announced that they became a partner and shareholder in TEN31 Bank, which is a fully regulated bank allowing for tokenization of assets and is aiming to bridge the gap between conventional banking and the blockchain world. If STOs, the tokenization of assets, and equity trading will continue to increase, then Zilliqa’s public blockchain would be the ideal candidate due to its strategic positioning, partnerships, regulatory compliance and the technology that is being built on top of it.
What is also very encouraging is their focus on banking the un(der)banked. They are launching a stablecoin basket starting with XSGD. As many of you know, stablecoins are currently mostly used for trading. However, Zilliqa is actively trying to broaden the use case of stablecoins. I recommend everybody to read this text that Amrit Kumar wrote (one of the co-founders). These stablecoins will be integrated in the traditional markets and bridge the gap between the crypto world and the traditional world. This could potentially revolutionize and legitimise the crypto space if retailers and companies will for example start to use stablecoins for payments or remittances, instead of it solely being used for trading.
Zilliqa also released their DeFi strategic roadmap (dating November 2019) which seems to be aligning well with their OpFi strategy. A non-custodial DEX is coming to Zilliqa made by Switcheo which allows cross-chain trading (atomic swaps) between ETH, EOS and ZIL based tokens. They also signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a (soon to be announced) USD stablecoin. And as Zilliqa is all about regulations and being compliant, I’m speculating on it to be a regulated USD stablecoin. Furthermore, XSGD is already created and visible on block explorer and XIDR (Indonesian Stablecoin) is also coming soon via StraitsX. Here also an overview of the Tech Stack for Financial Applications from September 2019. Further quoting Amrit Kumar on this:
There are two basic building blocks in DeFi/OpFi though: 1) stablecoins as you need a non-volatile currency to get access to this market and 2) a dex to be able to trade all these financial assets. The rest are built on top of these blocks.
So far, together with our partners and community, we have worked on developing these building blocks with XSGD as a stablecoin. We are working on bringing a USD-backed stablecoin as well. We will soon have a decentralised exchange developed by Switcheo. And with HGX going live, we are also venturing into the tokenization space. More to come in the future.”
Additionally, they also have this ZILHive initiative that injects capital into projects. There have been already 6 waves of various teams working on infrastructure, innovation and research, and they are not from ASEAN or Singapore only but global: see Grantees breakdown by country. Over 60 project teams from over 20 countries have contributed to Zilliqa's ecosystem. This includes individuals and teams developing wallets, explorers, developer toolkits, smart contract testing frameworks, dapps, etc. As some of you may know, Unstoppable Domains (UD) blew up when they launched on Zilliqa. UD aims to replace cryptocurrency addresses with a human-readable name and allows for uncensorable websites. Zilliqa will probably be the only one able to handle all these transactions onchain due to ability to scale and its resulting low fees which is why the UD team launched this on Zilliqa in the first place. Furthermore, Zilliqa also has a strong emphasis on security, compliance, and privacy, which is why they partnered with companies like Elliptic, ChainSecurity (part of PwC Switzerland), and Incognito. Their sister company Aqilliz (Zilliqa spelled backwards) focuses on revolutionizing the digital advertising space and is doing interesting things like using Zilliqa to track outdoor digital ads with companies like Foodpanda.
Zilliqa is listed on nearly all major exchanges, having several different fiat-gateways and recently have been added to Binance’s margin trading and futures trading with really good volume. They also have a very impressive team with good credentials and experience. They don't just have “tech people”. They have a mix of tech people, business people, marketeers, scientists, and more. Naturally, it's good to have a mix of people with different skill sets if you work in the crypto space.
Marketing & Community
Zilliqa has a very strong community. If you just follow their Twitter their engagement is much higher for a coin that has approximately 80k followers. They also have been ‘coin of the day’ by LunarCrush many times. LunarCrush tracks real-time cryptocurrency value and social data. According to their data, it seems Zilliqa has a more fundamental and deeper understanding of marketing and community engagement than almost all other coins. While almost all coins have been a bit frozen in the last months, Zilliqa seems to be on its own bull run. It was somewhere in the 100s a few months ago and is currently ranked #46 on CoinGecko. Their official Telegram also has over 20k people and is very active, and their community channel which is over 7k now is more active and larger than many other official channels. Their local communities also seem to be growing.
Moreover, their community started ‘Zillacracy’ together with the Zilliqa core team ( see www.zillacracy.com ). It’s a community-run initiative where people from all over the world are now helping with marketing and development on Zilliqa. Since its launch in February 2020 they have been doing a lot and will also run their own non-custodial seed node for staking. This seed node will also allow them to start generating revenue for them to become a self sustaining entity that could potentially scale up to become a decentralized company working in parallel with the Zilliqa core team. Comparing it to all the other smart contract platforms (e.g. Cardano, EOS, Tezos etc.) they don't seem to have started a similar initiative (correct me if I’m wrong though). This suggests in my opinion that these other smart contract platforms do not fully understand how to utilize the ‘power of the community’. This is something you cannot ‘buy with money’ and gives many projects in the space a disadvantage.
Zilliqa also released two social products called SocialPay and Zeeves. SocialPay allows users to earn ZILs while tweeting with a specific hashtag. They have recently used it in partnership with the Singapore Red Cross for a marketing campaign after their initial pilot program. It seems like a very valuable social product with a good use case. I can see a lot of traditional companies entering the space through this product, which they seem to suggest will happen. Tokenizing hashtags with smart contracts to get network effect is a very smart and innovative idea.
Regarding Zeeves, this is a tipping bot for Telegram. They already have 1000s of signups and they plan to keep upgrading it for more and more people to use it (e.g. they recently have added a quiz features). They also use it during AMAs to reward people in real-time. It’s a very smart approach to grow their communities and get familiar with ZIL. I can see this becoming very big on Telegram. This tool suggests, again, that the Zilliqa team has a deeper understanding of what the crypto space and community needs and is good at finding the right innovative tools to grow and scale.
To be honest, I haven’t covered everything (i’m also reaching the character limited haha). So many updates happening lately that it's hard to keep up, such as the International Monetary Fund mentioning Zilliqa in their report, custodial and non-custodial Staking, Binance Margin, Futures, Widget, entering the Indian market, and more. The Head of Marketing Colin Miles has also released this as an overview of what is coming next. And last but not least, Vitalik Buterin has been mentioning Zilliqa lately acknowledging Zilliqa and mentioning that both projects have a lot of room to grow. There is much more info of course and a good part of it has been served to you on a silver platter. I invite you to continue researching by yourself :-) And if you have any comments or questions please post here!
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