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.
The next XVG? Microcap 100x potential actually supported by fundamentals!
What’s up team? I have a hot one for you. XVG returned 12 million percent in 2017 and this one reminds me a lot of it. Here’s why: Mimblewimble is like Blu-Ray compared to CD-ROM in terms of its ability to compress data on a blockchain. The current BTC chain is 277gb and its capacity is limited because every time you spend a coin, each node needs to validate its history back to when it was mined (this is how double spending is prevented). Mimblewimble is different - all transactions in a block are aggregated and netted out in one giant CoinJoin, and only the current spending needs to be verified. This means that dramatically more transactions can fit into a smaller space, increasing throughput and lowering fees while still retaining the full proof of work game theory of Bitcoin. These blockchains are small enough to run a full node on a cheap smartphone, which enhances the decentralization and censorship resistance of the network. The biggest benefit, though, is that all transactions are private - the blockchain doesn’t reveal amounts or addresses except to the actual wallet owner. Unlike earlier decoy-based approaches that bloat the chain and can still be data mined (XMR), Mimblewimble leaves no trace in the blockchain, instead storing only the present state of coin ownership. The first two Mimblewimble coins, Grin and Beam, launched to great fanfare in 2019, quickly reaching over $100m in market cap (since settled down to $22m and $26m respectively). They are good projects but grin has infinite supply and huge never-decreasing emission, and Beam is a corporate moneygrab whose founding investors are counting on you buying for their ROI. ZEC is valued at $568m today, despite the facts that only 1% of transactions are actually shielded, it has a trusted setup, and generating a confidential transaction takes ~60 seconds on a powerful PC. XMR is a great project but it’s valued at $1.2b (so no 100x) and it uses CryptoNote, which is 2014 tech that relies on a decoy-based approach that could be vulnerable to more powerful computers in the future. Mimblewimble is just a better way to approach privacy because there is simply no data recorded in the blockchain for companies to surveil. Privacy is not just for darknet markets, porn, money launderers and terrorists. In many countries it’s dangerous to be wealthy, and there are all kinds of problems with having your spending data be out there publicly and permanently for all to see. Namely, companies like Amazon are patenting approaches to identify people with their crypto addresses, “for law enforcement” but also so that, just like credit cards, your spending data can be used to target ads. (A) Coinbase is selling user data to the DEA, IRS, FBI, Secret Service, and who knows who else? (B) What about insurance companies raising your premiums or canceling your policy because they see you buying (legal) cannabis? If your business operates using transparent cryptocurrency, competitors can data mine your customer and supply chain data, and employees can see how much everyone else gets paid. I could go on, but the idea of “I have nothing to hide, so what do I care about privacy?” will increasingly ring hollow as people realize that this money printing will have to be paid by massive tax increases AND that those taxes will be directly debited from their “Central Bank Digital Currency” wallets. 100% privacy for all transactions also eliminates one HUGE problem that people aren’t aware of yet, but they will be: fungibility. Fungibility means that each coin is indistinguishable from any other, just like paper cash. Why is this important? Because of the ever-expanding reach of AML/KYC/KYT (Anti-Money Laundering / Know Your Customer / Know Your Transaction) as regulators cramp down on crypto and banks take over, increasingly coins become “tainted” in various ways. For example, if you withdraw coins to a mixing service like Wasabi or Samourai, you may find your account blocked. (C) The next obvious step is that if you receive coins that these chainalysis services don’t like for whatever reason, you will be completely innocent yet forced to prove that you didn’t know that the coins you bought were up to no good in a past life. 3 days ago, $100k of USDC was frozen. (D) Even smaller coins like LTC now have this problem, because “Chinese Drug Kingpins” used them. (E) I believe that censorable money that can be blocked/frozen isn’t really “your money”. Epic Cash is a 100% volunteer community project (like XVG and XMR) that had a fair launch in September last year with no ICO and no premine. There are very few projects like this, and it’s a key ingredient in Verge’s success (still at $110m market cap today despite being down 97% since the bubble peak) and why it’s still around. It has a small but super passionate community of “Freemen” who are united by a belief in the sound money economics of Bitcoin Standard emission (21m supply limit and ever-decreasing inflation) and the importance of privacy. I am super bullish on this coin for the following reasons:
Only $400k market cap
Supply started at zero, so there are no VC’s and team to dump on you into the pumps - all coins are mined into existence, just like Bitcoin.
It just had its first halving, reducing emission from 16 to 8 per block. Between now and 2028 there are FOUR (!) more halvings, from 4 to 2 to 1 and then finally 0.15 (I guess that would be an 85%-ing :p) and at this point the supply is the same as BTC and stays in sync forever until the last coin is mined in 2140. This simple supply curve is already accepted by the market as a winner, so why mess with success? (I)
Meets Andreas Antonopolous’ 5 pillars of open blockchains test: Public, Open, Borderless, Neutral, and Censorship Resistant. (How many coins can say this?)
Unlike Bitcoin, Epic created a multi-algorithm approach that enables people to mine on ordinary computers - 60% for CPU on RandomX, 38% for GPU on ProgPow, and 2% for ASIC’s on Cuckoo31+. The algorithms don’t compete with one another. This is essential for leveling the playing field and preventing massive farms from dominating. These percentages can change over time and new algorithms can be easily dropped in. You can mine today using an old laptop and in 5 years you will still be able to. Incidentally, there is nothing standing in the way of adding mobile phone-based mining, which ETN showed there’s a huge demand for.
Based off the excellent Grin codebase, which means they continue to pull in ongoing core code enhancements and focus on ease of use and market penetration instead. (Smart!)
Litecoin’s Charlie Lee is out there daily talking about their move to Mimblewimble, which provides free publicity. What people don’t realize is that you can’t just bolt on Mimblewimble to a legacy blockchain, that’s like putting a Ferrari engine into a school bus - it’s still a school bus, not a race car! LTC is doing it as an optional soft fork via “extension blocks” which will not be supported by all wallets and exchanges. Also, anyone using “optional” privacy features is declaring themselves to be suspicious, which kind of defeats the point for people who care about privacy.
The community is friendly and welcoming to new people coming in, with lots of helpful (independently created) tutorials and guides. (F)
It’s already a global phenomenon, with the whitepaper in 20+ languages (G) and (not bot-infested) active local-language communities on not only Telegram but also Wechat, LINE, QQ and other messenger platforms.
It’s only on two random little exchanges currently, Citex and Vitex. Vitex is actually a pretty good DEX with no KYC and a great mobile wallet.
They are very creative - since centralized exchanges want huge money to list, they created a non-inflationary ERC20 tracker token that’s exchangeable 1:1 for coins so that Uniswap trading is possible (H)
Because it doesn’t have a huge marketing budget in a sea of VC-funded shitcoins, it is as-yet undiscovered, which is why it’s so cheap. There are only 4 Mimblewimble-based currencies on the market: MWC at $162m, BEAM at $26m, GRIN at $22m, and EPIC at $0.4m. This is not financial advice and as always, do your own research, but I’ve been buying this gem for months and will continue to. This one ticks all the boxes for me, the only real problem is that it’s hard to buy much without causing a huge green candle. Alt season is coming, and coins like this are how your neighbor Chad got his Lambo back in 2017. For 2021, McLaren is a better choice and be sure to pay cash so that it doesn’t get repossessed like Chad!
The Next Crypto Wave: The Rise of Stablecoins and its Entry to the U.S. Dollar Market
Author: Christian Hsieh, CEO of Tokenomy This paper examines some explanations for the continual global market demand for the U.S. dollar, the rise of stablecoins, and the utility and opportunities that crypto dollars can offer to both the cryptocurrency and traditional markets. The U.S. dollar, dominant in world trade since the establishment of the 1944 Bretton Woods System, is unequivocally the world’s most demanded reserve currency. Today, more than 61% of foreign bank reserves and nearly 40% of the entire world’s debt is denominated in U.S. dollars1. However, there is a massive supply and demand imbalance in the U.S. dollar market. On the supply side, central banks throughout the world have implemented more than a decade-long accommodative monetary policy since the 2008 global financial crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the need for central banks to provide necessary liquidity and keep staggering economies moving. While the Federal Reserve leads the effort of “money printing” and stimulus programs, the current money supply still cannot meet the constant high demand for the U.S. dollar2. Let us review some of the reasons for this constant dollar demand from a few economic fundamentals.
Demand for U.S. Dollars
Firstly, most of the world’s trade is denominated in U.S. dollars. Chief Economist of the IMF, Gita Gopinath, has compiled data reflecting that the U.S. dollar’s share of invoicing was 4.7 times larger than America’s share of the value of imports, and 3.1 times its share of world exports3. The U.S. dollar is the dominant “invoicing currency” in most developing countries4. https://preview.redd.it/d4xalwdyz8p51.png?width=535&format=png&auto=webp&s=9f0556c6aa6b29016c9b135f3279e8337dfee2a6 https://preview.redd.it/wucg40kzz8p51.png?width=653&format=png&auto=webp&s=71257fec29b43e0fc0df1bf04363717e3b52478f This U.S. dollar preference also directly impacts the world’s debt. According to the Bank of International Settlements, there is over $67 trillion in U.S. dollar denominated debt globally, and borrowing outside of the U.S. accounted for $12.5 trillion in Q1 20205. There is an immense demand for U.S. dollars every year just to service these dollar debts. The annual U.S. dollar buying demand is easily over $1 trillion assuming the borrowing cost is at 1.5% (1 year LIBOR + 1%) per year, a conservative estimate. https://preview.redd.it/6956j6f109p51.png?width=487&format=png&auto=webp&s=ccea257a4e9524c11df25737cac961308b542b69 Secondly, since the U.S. has a much stronger economy compared to its global peers, a higher return on investments draws U.S. dollar demand from everywhere in the world, to invest in companies both in the public and private markets. The U.S. hosts the largest stock markets in the world with more than $33 trillion in public market capitalization (combined both NYSE and NASDAQ)6. For the private market, North America’s total share is well over 60% of the $6.5 trillion global assets under management across private equity, real assets, and private debt investments7. The demand for higher quality investments extends to the fixed income market as well. As countries like Japan and Switzerland currently have negative-yielding interest rates8, fixed income investors’ quest for yield in the developed economies leads them back to the U.S. debt market. As of July 2020, there are $15 trillion worth of negative-yielding debt securities globally (see chart). In comparison, the positive, low-yielding U.S. debt remains a sound fixed income strategy for conservative investors in uncertain market conditions. Source: Bloomberg Last, but not least, there are many developing economies experiencing failing monetary policies, where hyperinflation has become a real national disaster. A classic example is Venezuela, where the currency Bolivar became practically worthless as the inflation rate skyrocketed to 10,000,000% in 20199. The recent Beirut port explosion in Lebanon caused a sudden economic meltdown and compounded its already troubled financial market, where inflation has soared to over 112% year on year10. For citizens living in unstable regions such as these, the only reliable store of value is the U.S. dollar. According to the Chainalysis 2020 Geography of Cryptocurrency Report, Venezuela has become one of the most active cryptocurrency trading countries11. The demand for cryptocurrency surges as a flight to safety mentality drives Venezuelans to acquire U.S. dollars to preserve savings that they might otherwise lose. The growth for cryptocurrency activities in those regions is fueled by these desperate citizens using cryptocurrencies as rails to access the U.S. dollar, on top of acquiring actual Bitcoin or other underlying crypto assets.
The Rise of Crypto Dollars
Due to the highly volatile nature of cryptocurrencies, USD stablecoin, a crypto-powered blockchain token that pegs its value to the U.S. dollar, was introduced to provide stable dollar exposure in the crypto trading sphere. Tether is the first of its kind. Issued in 2014 on the bitcoin blockchain (Omni layer protocol), under the token symbol USDT, it attempts to provide crypto traders with a stable settlement currency while they trade in and out of various crypto assets. The reason behind the stablecoin creation was to address the inefficient and burdensome aspects of having to move fiat U.S. dollars between the legacy banking system and crypto exchanges. Because one USDT is theoretically backed by one U.S. dollar, traders can use USDT to trade and settle to fiat dollars. It was not until 2017 that the majority of traders seemed to realize Tether’s intended utility and started using it widely. As of April 2019, USDT trading volume started exceeding the trading volume of bitcoina12, and it now dominates the crypto trading sphere with over $50 billion average daily trading volume13. https://preview.redd.it/3vq7v1jg09p51.png?width=700&format=png&auto=webp&s=46f11b5f5245a8c335ccc60432873e9bad2eb1e1 An interesting aspect of USDT is that although the claimed 1:1 backing with U.S. dollar collateral is in question, and the Tether company is in reality running fractional reserves through a loose offshore corporate structure, Tether’s trading volume and adoption continues to grow rapidly14. Perhaps in comparison to fiat U.S. dollars, which is not really backed by anything, Tether still has cash equivalents in reserves and crypto traders favor its liquidity and convenience over its lack of legitimacy. For those who are concerned about Tether’s solvency, they can now purchase credit default swaps for downside protection15. On the other hand, USDC, the more compliant contender, takes a distant second spot with total coin circulation of $1.8 billion, versus USDT at $14.5 billion (at the time of publication). It is still too early to tell who is the ultimate leader in the stablecoin arena, as more and more stablecoins are launching to offer various functions and supporting mechanisms. There are three main categories of stablecoin: fiat-backed, crypto-collateralized, and non-collateralized algorithm based stablecoins. Most of these are still at an experimental phase, and readers can learn more about them here. With the continuous innovation of stablecoin development, the utility stablecoins provide in the overall crypto market will become more apparent.
In addition to trade settlement, stablecoins can be applied in many other areas. Cross-border payments and remittances is an inefficient market that desperately needs innovation. In 2020, the average cost of sending money across the world is around 7%16, and it takes days to settle. The World Bank aims to reduce remittance fees to 3% by 2030. With the implementation of blockchain technology, this cost could be further reduced close to zero. J.P. Morgan, the largest bank in the U.S., has created an Interbank Information Network (IIN) with 416 global Institutions to transform the speed of payment flows through its own JPM Coin, another type of crypto dollar17. Although people argue that JPM Coin is not considered a cryptocurrency as it cannot trade openly on a public blockchain, it is by far the largest scale experiment with all the institutional participants trading within the “permissioned” blockchain. It might be more accurate to refer to it as the use of distributed ledger technology (DLT) instead of “blockchain” in this context. Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that as J.P. Morgan currently moves $6 trillion U.S. dollars per day18, the scale of this experiment would create a considerable impact in the international payment and remittance market if it were successful. Potentially the day will come when regulated crypto exchanges become participants of IIN, and the link between public and private crypto assets can be instantly connected, unlocking greater possibilities in blockchain applications. Many central banks are also in talks about developing their own central bank digital currency (CBDC). Although this idea was not new, the discussion was brought to the forefront due to Facebook’s aggressive Libra project announcement in June 2019 and the public attention that followed. As of July 2020, at least 36 central banks have published some sort of CBDC framework. While each nation has a slightly different motivation behind its currency digitization initiative, ranging from payment safety, transaction efficiency, easy monetary implementation, or financial inclusion, these central banks are committed to deploying a new digital payment infrastructure. When it comes to the technical architectures, research from BIS indicates that most of the current proofs-of-concept tend to be based upon distributed ledger technology (permissioned blockchain)19. https://preview.redd.it/lgb1f2rw19p51.png?width=700&format=png&auto=webp&s=040bb0deed0499df6bf08a072fd7c4a442a826a0 These institutional experiments are laying an essential foundation for an improved global payment infrastructure, where instant and frictionless cross-border settlements can take place with minimal costs. Of course, the interoperability of private DLT tokens and public blockchain stablecoins has yet to be explored, but the innovation with both public and private blockchain efforts could eventually merge. This was highlighted recently by the Governor of the Bank of England who stated that “stablecoins and CBDC could sit alongside each other20”. One thing for certain is that crypto dollars (or other fiat-linked digital currencies) are going to play a significant role in our future economy.
There is never a dull moment in the crypto sector. The industry narratives constantly shift as innovation continues to evolve. Twelve years since its inception, Bitcoin has evolved from an abstract subject to a familiar concept. Its role as a secured, scarce, decentralized digital store of value has continued to gain acceptance, and it is well on its way to becoming an investable asset class as a portfolio hedge against asset price inflation and fiat currency depreciation.Stablecoins have proven to be useful as proxy dollars in the crypto world, similar to how dollars are essential in the traditional world. It is only a matter of time before stablecoins or private digital tokens dominate the cross-border payments and global remittances industry. There are no shortages of hypes and experiments that draw new participants into the crypto space, such as smart contracts, new blockchains, ICOs, tokenization of things, or the most recent trends on DeFi tokens. These projects highlight the possibilities for a much more robust digital future, but the market also needs time to test and adopt. A reliable digital payment infrastructure must be built first in order to allow these experiments to flourish. In this paper we examined the historical background and economic reasons for the U.S. dollar’s dominance in the world, and the probable conclusion is that the demand for U.S. dollars will likely continue, especially in the middle of a global pandemic, accompanied by a worldwide economic slowdown. The current monetary system is far from perfect, but there are no better alternatives for replacement at least in the near term. Incremental improvements are being made in both the public and private sectors, and stablecoins have a definite role to play in both the traditional and the new crypto world. Thank you. Reference:  How the US dollar became the world’s reserve currency, Investopedia  The dollar is in high demand, prone to dangerous appreciation, The Economist  Dollar dominance in trade and finance, Gita Gopinath  Global trades dependence on dollars, The Economist & IMF working papers  Total credit to non-bank borrowers by currency of denomination, BIS  Biggest stock exchanges in the world, Business Insider  McKinsey Global Private Market Review 2020, McKinsey & Company  Central banks current interest rates, Global Rates  Venezuela hyperinflation hits 10 million percent, CNBC  Lebanon inflation crisis, Reuters  Venezuela cryptocurrency market, Chainalysis  The most used cryptocurrency isn’t Bitcoin, Bloomberg  Trading volume of all crypto assets, coinmarketcap.com  Tether US dollar peg is no longer credible, Forbes  New crypto derivatives let you bet on (or against) Tether’s solvency, Coindesk  Remittance Price Worldwide, The World Bank  Interbank Information Network, J.P. Morgan  Jamie Dimon interview, CBS News  Rise of the central bank digital currency, BIS  Speech by Andrew Bailey, 3 September 2020, Bank of England
Crypto-Powered: Understanding Bitcoin, Ethereum, and DeFi
Until one understands the basics of this tech, they won’t be able to grasp or appreciate the impact it has on our digital bank, Genesis Block. https://reddit.com/link/ho4bif/video/n0euarkifu951/player This is the second post ofCrypto-Powered— a new series that examines what it means forGenesis Blockto be a digital bank that’s powered by crypto, blockchain, and decentralized protocols. --- Our previous post set the stage for this series. We discussed the state of consumer finance and how the success of today’s high-flying fintech unicorns will be short-lived as long as they’re building on legacy finance — a weak foundation that is ripe for massive disruption. Instead, the future of consumer finance belongs to those who are deeply familiar with blockchain tech & decentralized protocols, build on it as the foundation, and know how to take it to the world. Like Genesis Block. Today we begin our journey down the crypto rabbit hole. This post will be an important introduction for those still learning about Bitcoin, Ethereum, or DeFi (Decentralized Finance). This post (and the next few) will go into greater detail about how this technology gives Genesis Block an edge, a superpower, and an unfair advantage. Let’s dive in… https://preview.redd.it/1ugdxoqjfu951.jpg?width=650&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=36edde1079c3cff5f6b15b8cd30e6c436626d5d8
Bitcoin: The First Cryptocurrency
There are plenty of online resources to learn about Bitcoin (Coinbase, Binance, Gemini, Naval, Alex Gladstein, Marc Andreessen, Chris Dixon). I don’t wanna spend a lot of time on that here, but let’s do a quick overview for those still getting ramped up. Cryptocurrency is the most popular use-case of blockchain technology today. And Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency to be invented.
Bitcoin is the most decentralized of all crypto assets today — no government, company, or third party can control or censor it.
Bitcoin has two primary features (as do most other cryptocurrencies):
Send Value You can send value to anyone, anywhere in the world. Nobody can intercept, delay or stop it — not even governments or financial institutions. Unlike with traditional money transfers or bank wires, there are no layers of middlemen. This results in a process that is much more cost-efficient. Some popular use-cases include remittances and cross-border payments.
A few negative moments in Bitcoin’s history include the collapse of Mt. Gox — which resulted in hundreds of millions of customer funds being stolen — as well as Bitcoin’s role in dark markets like Silk Road — where Bitcoin arguably found its initial userbase. However, like most breakthrough technology, Bitcoin is neither good nor bad. It’s neutral. People can use it for good or they can use it for evil. Thankfully, it’s being used less and less for illicit activity. Criminals are starting to understand that transactions on a blockchain are public and traceable — it’s exactly the type of system they usually try to avoid. And it’s true, at this point “a lot more” crimes are actually committed with fiat than crypto. As a result, the perception of bitcoin and cryptocurrency has been changing over the years to a more positive light. Bitcoin has even started to enter the world of media & entertainment. It’s been mentioned in Hollywood films like Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse and in songs from major artists like Eminem. It’s been mentioned in countless TV shows like Billions, The Simpsons, Big Bang Theory, Gray’s Anatomy, Family Guy, and more. As covid19 has ravaged economies and central banks have been printing money, Bitcoin has caught the attention of many legendary Wall Street investors like Paul Tudor Jones, saying that Bitcoin is a great bet against inflation (reminding him of Gold in the 1970s). Cash App already lets their 25M users buy Bitcoin. It’s rumored that PayPal and Venmo will soon let their 325M users start buying Bitcoin. Bitcoin is by far the most dominant cryptocurrency and is showing no signs of slowing down. For more than a decade it has delivered on its core use-cases — being able to send or store value.
At this point, Bitcoin has very much entered the zeitgeist of modern pop culture — at least in the West.
When Ethereum launched in 2015, it opened up a world of new possibilities and use-cases for crypto. With Ethereum Smart Contracts (i.e. applications), this exciting new digital money (cryptocurrency) became a lot less dumb. Developers could now build applications that go beyond the simple use-cases of “send value” & “store value.” They could program cryptocurrency to have rules, behavior, and logic to respond to different inputs. And always enforced by code. Additional reading on Ethereum fromLinda XieorVitalik Buterin.
Because these applications are built on blockchain technology (Ethereum), they preserve many of the same characteristics as Bitcoin: no one can stop, censor or shut down these apps because they are decentralized.
Just as tokens grew in popularity in 2017–2018, so did online marketplaces where these tokens could be bought, sold, and traded. This was a fledgling asset class — the merchants selling picks, axes, and shovels were finally starting to emerge.
I had a front-row seat — both as an investor and token creator. This was the Wild West with all the frontier drama & scandal that you’d expect.
Binance — now the world’s largest crypto exchange —was launched during this time. They along with many others (especially from Asia) made it really easy for speculators, traders, and degenerate gamblers to participate in these markets. Similar to other financial markets, the goal was straightforward: buy low and sell high. https://preview.redd.it/tytsu5jnfu951.jpg?width=600&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=fe3425b7e4a71fa953b953f0c7f6eaff6504a0d1 That period left an embarrassing stain on our industry that we’ve still been trying to recover from. It was a period rampant with market manipulation, pump-and-dumps, and scams. To some extent, the crypto industry still suffers from that today, but it’s nothing compared to what it was then.
While the potential of getting filthy rich brought a lot of fly-by-nighters and charlatans into the industry, it also brought a lot of innovators, entrepreneurs, and builders.
The launch and growth of Ethereum has been an incredible technological breakthrough. As with past tech breakthroughs, it has led to a wave of innovation, experimentation, and development. The creativity around tokens, smart contracts, and decentralized applications has been fascinating to witness. Now a few years later, the fruits of those labors are starting to be realized.
I know that for the hardcore crypto people, what we covered today is nothing new. But for those who are still getting up to speed, welcome! I hope this was helpful and that it fuels your interest to learn more. Until you understand the basics of this technology, you won’t be able to fully appreciate the impact that it has on our new digital bank, Genesis Block. You won’t be able to understand the implications, how it relates, or how it helps. After today’s post, some of you probably have a lot more questions. What are specific examples or use-cases of DeFi? Why does it need to be on a blockchain? What benefits does it bring to Genesis Block and our users? In upcoming posts, we answer these questions. Today’s post was just Level 1. It set the foundation for where we’re headed next: even deeper down the crypto rabbit hole. --- Other Ways to Consume Today's Episode:
We have a lot more content coming. Be sure to follow our channels: https://genesisblock.com/follow/ Have you already downloaded the app? We're Genesis Block, a new digital bank that's powered by crypto & decentralized protocols. The app is live in the App Store (iOS & Android). Get the link to download at https://genesisblock.com/download
Is Bill Gates trying to create a digital currency with ID attribution?
Bill Gates Calls for a “Digital Certificate” to Identify Who Received COVID-19 Vaccine Bill Gates recently stated on Reddit that “digital certificates” will be used to identify who received the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine. And these certificates will also be used to identify who can conduct business or not. Here’s how this plan is already backed by a massive organization called ID2020.
"The customers we're talking about aren't trying to be anonymous. They're willing to be known ... so you know... The bitcoin technology's key, and you could add to it or build a similar technology where there's enough attribution that people feel comfortable ... this is nothing to do with ... arr ... terrorism or any type of money laundering"
Ricks told CoinDesk in a phone call Wednesday that he had been working with staffers since around March 17. Ricks refused to specify which House staffers he had worked with. “A digital wallet with the Fed would be a ... relatively easy way of [distributing funds],” Ricks said. Still, while the bills painted the initiative as an urgent one targeted at providing immediate relief to U.S. residents, Ricks said the process might take some time.
The Intellectual Foundation of Bitcoin比特幣的智識基礎. By Chapman Chen, HKBNews
https://preview.redd.it/w6v3l8n3zxu41.jpg?width=2551&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=fb0338a36a1a321d3781f43ff5eb6929d8b92edc Summary: Bitcoin was invented by the anonymous Satoshi Nakamoto as recently as 2008, but it is backed up by a rich intellectual foundation. For instance, The 1776 First Amendment separates church and state, and contemporary American liberation psychologist Nozomi Hayase (2020) argues that money and state should similarly be separated. Just as Isaac Newton’s study of alchemy gave rise to the international gold standard, so has the anonymous creator Satoshi Nakamoto's desire for a “modernized gold standard” given rise to Bitcoin. Indeed, Bloomberg's 2020 report confirms Bitcoin to be gold 2.0. Montesquieu (1774) asserted that laws that secure inalienable rights can only be found in Nature, and the natural laws employed in Bitcoin include its consensus algorithm and the three natural laws of economics (self-interest, competition, and supply and demand). J.S. Mill (1859) preferred free markets to those controlled by governments. Ludwig von Mises (1951) argued against the hazards of fiat currency, urging for a return to the gold standard. Friedrich Hayek (1984) suggested people to invent a sly way to take money back from the hands of the government. Milton Friedman (1994) called for FED to be replaced by an automatic system and predicted the coming of a reliable e-cash. James Buchanan (1988) advocated a monetary constitution to constrain the governmental power of money creation. Tim May (1997) the cypherpunk proclaimed that restricting digital cash impinges on free speech, and envisioned a stateless digital form of money that is uncensorable. The Tofflers (2006) pictured a non-monetary economy. In 2016, UCLA Professor of Finance Bhagwan Chowdhry even nominated Satoshi for a Nobel Prize. Full Text: Separation between money and state The 1791 First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution enshrines free speech and separates church and state, but not money and state. "Under the First Amendment, individuals’ right to create, choose their own money and transact freely was not recognized as a part of freedom of expression that needs to be protected," Japanese-American liberation psychologist Nozomi Hayase (2020) points out (1). The government, banks and corporations collude together to encroach upon people's liberties by metamorphosing their inalienable rights into a permissioned from of legal rights. Fiat currencies function as a medium of manipulation, indulging big business to generate market monopolies. "Freedom of expression has become further stifled through economic censorship and financial blockage enacted by payment processing companies like Visa and MasterCard," to borrow Hayase's (2020) words. Satoshi is a Modern Newton Although most famous for discovering the law of gravity, Isaac Newton was also a practising alchemist. He never managed to turn lead into gold, but he did find a way to transmute silver into gold. In 1717, Newton announced in a report that, based on his studies, one gold guinea coin weighed 21 shillings. Just as Isaac Newton’s study of alchemy gave rise to the international gold standard, so has the desire for a “modernized gold standard” given rise to Bitcoin. "In a way, Satoshi is a modern Newton. They both believed trust is best placed in the unchangeable facets of our economy. Beneath this belief is the assumption that each individual is their own best master," as put by Jon Creasy (2019) (2). J.S. Mill: free markets preferable to those controlled by governments John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) the great English philosopher would be a Bitcoiner were he still around today. In On Liberty (1859), Mill concludes that free markets are preferable to those controlled by governments. He argues that economies function best when left to their own devices. Therefore, government intervention, though theoretically permissible, would be counterproductive. Bitcoin is precisely decentralized or uncontrolled by the government, unconfiscatable, permissonless, and disinflationary. Bitcoin regulates itself spontaneously via the ordinary operations of the system. "Rules are enforced without applying any external pressure," in Hayase's (2020) words. Ludwig von Mises (1958): Liberty is always Freedom from the Government In The Free Market and its Enemies, theoretical Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises (1951) argues against the hazards of fiat currency, urging for a return to the gold standard. “A fiat money system cannot go on forever and must one day come to an end,” Von Mises states. The solution is a return to the gold standard, "the only standard which makes the determination of the purchasing power of money independent of the changing ideas of political parties, governments, and pressure groups" under present conditions. Interestingly, this is also one of the key structural attributes of Bitcoin, the world’s first, global, peer-to-peer, decentralized value transfer network. Actually, Bloomberg's 2020 report on Bitcoin confirms that it is gold 2.0. (3) Von Mises prefers the price of gold to be determined according to the contemporaneous market conditions. The bitcoin price is, of course, determined across the various global online exchanges, in real-time. There is no central authority setting a spot price for gold after the which the market value is settled on among the traders during the day. Hayek: Monopoly on Currency should End Austrian-British Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek’s theory in his 1976 work, Denationalization of Money, was that not only would the currency monopoly be taken away from the government, but that the monopoly on currency itself should end with multiple alternative currencies competing for acceptance by consumers, in order "to prevent the bouts of acute inflation and deflation which have played the world for the past 60 years." He forcefully argues that if there is no free competition between different currencies within any nation, then there will be no free market. Bitcoin is, again, decentralized, and many other cryptocurrencies have tried to compete with it, though in vain. In a recently rediscovered video clip from 1984, Hayek actually suggested people to invent a cunning way to take money out of the hands of the government:- “I don’t believe we shall ever have a good money again before we take the thing out of the hands of government, that is, we can’t take them violently out of the hands of government, all we can do is by some sly roundabout way introduce something they can’t stop” (4). Reviewing those words 36 years hence and it is difficult not to interpret them in the light of Bitcoin. Milton Friedman Called for FED to be Replaced by an Automatic System Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman (1994) was critical of the Federal Reserve due to its poor performance and felt it should be abolished (5). Friedman (1999) believed that the Federal Reserve System should ultimately be replaced with a computer program, which makes us think of the computer code governing Bitcoin (6).[\](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_the_Federal_Reserve#cite_note-:2-12) He (1970) favored a system that would automatically buy and sell securities in response to changes in the money supply. This, he argued, would put a lid on inflation, setting spending and investment decisions on a surer footing (7). Bitcoin is exactly disflationary as its maximum possible supply is 21 million and its block reward or production rate is halved every four years. Friedman passed away before the coming of bitcoin, but he lived long enough to see the Internet’s spectacular rise throughout the 1990s. “I think that the Internet is going to be one of the major forces for reducing the role of government," said Friedman in a 1999 interview with NTU/F. On the same occasion, he sort of predicted the emergence of Bitcoin, "The one thing that’s missing, but that will soon be developed, is a reliable e-cash, a method whereby on the Internet you can transfer funds from A to B, without A knowing B or B knowing A." (8) “Of course, Friedman didn’t predict the block chain,” summed up American libertarian economist Jeffery Tucker (2014). “But he was hoping for a trustless system. He saw the need.” (9). Bitcoin Computer Code as Constitution in the Buchananian Sense American economist cum Nobel laureate James Buchanan (1988) advocates constitutional constraints on the governmental power to create money (10). Buchanan distinguishes a managed monetary system—a system “that embodies the instrumental use of price-level predictability as a norm of policy”—from an automatic monetary system, “which does not, at any stage, involve the absolute price level” (Buchanan 1962, 164–65). Leaning toward the latter, Buchanan argues that automatic systems are characterized by an organization “of the institutions of private decision-making in such a way that the desired monetary predictability will emerge spontaneously from the ordinary operations of the system” (Buchanan 1962, 164). Again, "Bitcoin regulates itself through the spontaneous force of nature, flourishing healthy price discovery and competition in the best interest of everyone" (Hayase 2020). Shruti Rajagopalan (2018) argues that the computer code governing how the sundry nodes/computers within the Bitcoin network interact with one another is a kind of monetary constitution in the Buchananian sense. One of Buchanan's greatest inputs is to differentiate the choice of rules from the choice within rule (Buchanan 1990). One may regard the Bitcoin code as a sort of constitution and "the Bitcoin network engaging in both the choice of rules and choice within rules" (Rajagopalan 2018) (11). Tim May: Restricting Digital Cash may Impinge on Free Speech Cypherpunks are activists who since the 1980s have advocated global use of strong cryptography and privacy-enhancing technologies as a route to social and political liberation. Tim May (Timothy C. May [1951-2018]), one of the influential cypherpunks published The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto in September 1992, which foretold the coming of Bitcoin (12). Cypherpunks began envisioning a stateless digital form of money that cannot be censored and their collaborative pursuit created a movement akin to the 18th Enlightenment. At The 7th Conference on Computers, Freedom, and Privacy, Burlingame, CA. in 1997, Tim May equated money with speech, and argued that restricting digital cash may impinge on free speech, for spending money is often a matter of communicating orders to others, to transfer funds, to release funds, etc. In fact, most financial instruments are contracts or orders, instead of physical specie or banknotes (13). Montesquieu: Laws that secure inalienable rightscan only be found in Nature In his influential work The Spirit of Laws (1748), Montesquieu wrote, “Laws ... are derived from the nature of things … Law, like mathematics, has its objective structure, which no arbitrary whim can alter". Similarly, once a block is added to the end of the Bitcoin blockchain, it is almost impossible to go back and alter the contents of the block, unless every single block after it on the blockchain is altered, too. Cypherpunks knew that whereas alienable rights that are bestowed by law can be deprived by legislation, inalienable rights are not to be created but can be discovered by reason. Thus, laws that secure inalienable rights cannot be created by humankind but can be found in nature. The natural laws employed in Bitcoin to enshrine the inalienable monetary right of every human being include its consensus algorithm, and the three natural laws of economics (self-interest, competition, and supply and demand) as identified by Adam Smith, father of modern economics. Regarding mathematics, bitcoin mining is performed by high-powered computers that solve complex computational math problems. When computers solve these complex math problems on the Bitcoin network, they produce new bitcoin. And by solving computational math problems, bitcoin miners make the Bitcoin payment network trustworthy and secure, by verifying its transaction information. Regarding economic laws, in accordance with the principle of game theory to generate fairness, miners take part in an open competition. Lining up self-interests of all in a network, with a vigilant balance of risk and rewards, rules are put in force sans the application of any exterior pressure. "Bitcoin regulates itself through the spontaneous force of nature, flourishing healthy price discovery and competition in the best interest of everyone," to borrow the words of Hayase (2020). A Non-monetary Economy as Visualized by the Tofflers In their book, Revolutionary Wealth (2006), futurists Alvin Toffler and his wife Heidi Toffler toy with the concept of a world sans money, raising a third kind of economic transaction that is neither one-on-one barter nor monetary exchange. In the end, they settle on the idea that the newer non-monetary economy will exist shoulder-to-shoulder with the monetary sector in the short term, although the latter may eventually be eclipsed by the former in the long run. What both the Tofflers' The Third Wave (1980) and Revolutionary Wealth bring into question is the very premise of monetary exchange. The vacuum left over by cash in such a non-monetary economy may be filled up by Bitcoin as a cryptocurrency. Satoshi Nakamoto Nominated for Nobel Prize by UCLA Finance Prof. UCLA Anderson School Professor of Finance Bhagwan Chowdhry nominated Satoshi Nakamoto for the 2016 Nobel Prize in Economics on the following grounds:- It is secure, relying on almost unbreakable cryptographic code, can be divided into millions of smaller sub-units, and can be transferred securely and nearly instantaneously from one person to any other person in the world with access to internet bypassing governments, central banks and financial intermediaries such as Visa, Mastercard, Paypal or commercial banks eliminating time delays and transactions costs.... Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin Protocol has spawned exciting innovations in the FinTech space by showing how many financial contracts — not just currencies — can be digitized, securely verified and stored, and transferred instantaneously from one party to another (14). Fb link: https://www.facebook.com/hongkongbilingualnews/posts/947121432392288?__tn__=-R Web link: https://www.hkbnews.net/post/the-intellectual-foundation-of-bitcoin%E6%AF%94%E7%89%B9%E5%B9%A3%E7%9A%84%E6%99%BA%E8%AD%98%E5%9F%BA%E7%A4%8E-by-chapman-chen-hkbnews Disclaimer: This article is neither an advertisement nor professional financial advice. End-notes
STATUS: Majority of questions have been answered. If yours got missed, please feel free to post it again. Introduction All, Based on the rapid increase in popularity and price of bitcoin and other crypto currencies (particularly over the past year), I expect that lots of people have questions about how crypto currency will impact their taxes. This thread attempts to address several common issues. I'm posting similar versions of it here, in several major crypto subs, and eventually in the weekly "tax help" threads personalfinance runs. I'd like to thank the /personalfinance mod team and the /tax community for their help with this thread and especially for reading earlier versions and offering several valuable suggestions/corrections. This thread is NOT an endorsement of crypto currency as an investing strategy. There is a time and a place to debate the appropriateness of crypto as part of a diversified portfolio - but that time is not now and that place is not here. If you are interested in the general consensus of this sub on investing, I would urge you to consult the wiki while keeping in mind the general flowchart outlining basic steps to get your finances in order. Finally, please note that this thread attempts to provide information about your tax obligations as defined by United States law (and interpreted by the IRS under the direction of the Treasury Department). I understand that a certain portion of the crypto community tends to view crypto as "tax free" due to the (actual and perceived) difficulty for the IRS to "know" about the transactions involved. I will not discuss unlawfully concealing crypto gains here nor will I suggest illegal tax avoidance activities. The Basics This section is best for people that don't understand much about taxes. It covers some very basic tax principles. It also assumes that all you did during the year was buy/sell a single crypto currency. Fundamentally, the IRS treats crypto not as money, but as an asset (investment). While there are a few specific "twists" when it comes to crypto, when in doubt replace the word "crypto" with the word "stock" and you will get a pretty good idea how you should report and pay tax on crypto. The first thing you should know is that the majority of this discussion applies to the taxes you are currently working on (2017 taxes). The tax bill that just passed applies to 2018 taxes (with a few very tiny exceptions), which most people will file in early 2019. In general, you don't have to report or pay taxes on crypto currency holdings until you "cash out" all or part of your holdings. For now, I'm going to assume that you cash out by selling them for USD; however, other forms of cashing out will be covered later. When you sell crypto, you report the difference between your basis (purchase price) and proceeds (sale price) on Schedule D. Your purchase price is commonly referred to as your basis; while the two terms don't mean exactly the same thing, they are pretty close to one another (in particular, there are three two ways to calculate your basis - your average cost, a first-in, first-out method, and a "specific identification" method. See more about these here and here). EDIT - you may not use average cost method with crypto - see here. If you sell at a gain, this gain increases your tax liability; if you sell at a loss, this loss decreases your tax liability (in most cases). If you sell multiple times during the year, you report each transaction separately (bad news if you trade often) but get to lump all your gains/losses together when determining how the trades impact your income. One important thing to remember is that there are two different types of gains/losses from investments - short term gains (if you held an asset for one year or less) and long term gains (over one year; i.e. one year and one day). Short term gains are taxed at your marginal income rate (basically, just like if you had earned that money at a job) while long term gains are taxed at lower rates. For most people, long term capital gains are taxed at 15%. However, if you are in the 10% or 15% tax bracket, congrats - your gains (up to the maximum amount of "unused space" in your bracket) are tax free! If you are in the 25%, 28%, 33%, or 35% bracket, long term gains are taxed at 15%. If you are in the 39.6% bracket, long term gains are taxed at 20%. Additionally, there is an "extra" 3.8% tax that applies to gains for those above $200,000/$250,000 (single/married). The exact computation of this tax is a little complicated, but if you are close to the $200,000 level, just know that it exists. Finally, you should know that I'm assuming that you should treat your crypto gains/losses as investment gains/losses. I'm sure some people will try and argue that they are really "day traders" of crypto and trade as a full time job. While this is possible, the vast majority of people don't qualify for this status and you should really think several times before deciding you want to try that approach on the IRS. "Cashing Out" - Trading Crypto for Goods/Services I realize that not everyone that "cashes out" of crypto does so by selling it for USD. In fact, I understand that some in the crypto community view the necessity of cashing out itself as a type of myth. In this section, I discuss what happens if you trade your crypto for basically anything that isn't cash (minor sidenote - see next section for a special discussion on trading crypto for crypto; i.e. buying altcoins with crypto). The IRS views trading crypto for something of value as a type of bartering that must be included in income. From the IRS's perspective, it doesn't matter if you sold crypto for cash and bought a car with that cash or if you just traded crypto directly for the car - in both cases, the IRS views you as having sold your crypto. This approach isn't unique to crypto - it works the same way if you trade stock for something. This means that if you do trade your crypto for "stuff", you have to report every exchange as a sale of your crypto and calculate the gain/loss on that sale, just as if you had sold the crypto for cash. Finally, there is one important exception to this rule. If you give your crypto away to charity (one recognized by the IRS; like a 501(c)(3) organization), the IRS doesn't make you report/pay any capital gains on the transaction. Additionally, you still get to deduct the value of your donation on the date it was made. Now, from a "selfish" point of view, you will always end up with more money if you sell the crypto, pay the tax, and keep the rest. But, if you are going to make a donation anyway, especially a large one, giving crypto where you have a big unrealized/untaxed gain is a very efficient way of doing so. "Alt Coins" - Buying Crypto with Crypto The previous section discusses what happens when you trade crypto for stuff. However, one thing that surprises many people is that trading crypto for crypto is also a taxable event, just like trading crypto for a car. Whether you agree with this position or not, it makes a lot of sense once you realize that the IRS doesn't view crypto as money, but instead as an asset. So to the IRS, trading bitcoin for ripple isn't like trading dollars for euros, but it is instead like trading shares of Apple stock for shares of Tesla stock. Practically, what this means is that if you trade one crypto for another crypto (say BTC for XRP just to illustrate the point), the IRS views you as doing the following:
Selling for cash the amount of BTC you actually traded for XRP.
Owing capital gains/losses on the BTC based on its selling price (the fair market value at the moment of the exchange) and your purchase price (basis).
Buying a new investment (XRP) with a cost basis equal to the amount the BTC was worth when you exchanged them.
This means that if you "time" your trade wrong and the value of XRP goes down after you make the exchange, you still owe tax on your BTC gain even though you subsequently lost money. The one good piece of news in this is that when/if you sell your XRP (or change it back to BTC), you will get a capital loss for the value that XRP dropped. There is one final point worth discussing in this section - the so called "like kind exchange" rules (aka section 1031 exchange). At a high level, these rules say that you can "swap" property with someone else without having to pay taxes on the exchange as long as you get property in return that is "like kind". Typically, these rules are used in real estate transactions. However, they can also apply to other types of transactions as well. While the idea is simple (and makes it sound like crypto for crypto should qualify), the exact rules/details of this exception are very fact specific. Most experts (including myself, but certainly not calling myself an expert) believe that a crypto for crypto swap is not a like kind exchange. The recently passed tax bill also explicitly clarifies this issue - starting in 2018, only real estate qualifies for like kind exchange treatment. So, basically, the vast majority of evidence suggests that you can't use this "loophole" for 2017; however, there is a small minority view/some small amount of belief that this treatment would work for 2017 taxes and it is worth noting that I'm unaware of any court cases directly testing this approach. Dealing with "Forks" Perhaps another unpleasant surprise for crypto holders is that "forks" to create a new crypto also very likely generate a taxable event. The IRS has long (since at least the 1960s) held that "found" money is a taxable event. This approach has been litigated in court and courts have consistently upheld this position; it even has its own cool nerdy tax name - the "treasure trove" doctrine. Practically, what this means is that if you owned BTC and it "forked" to create BCH, then the fair market value of the BCH you received is considered a "treasure trove" that must be reported as income (ordinary income - no capital gain rates). This is true whether or not you sold your BCH; if you got BCH from a fork, that is a taxable event (note - I'll continue using BTC forking to BCH in this section as an example, but the logic applies to all forks). While everything I've discussed up to this point is pretty clearly established tax law, forks are really where things get messy with taxes. Thus, the remainder of this section contains more speculation than elsewhere in this post - the truth is that while the idea is simple (fork = free money = taxable), the details are messy and other kinds of tax treatment might apply to forks. One basic practical problem with forks is that the new currency doesn't necessarily start trading immediately. Thus, you may have received BCH before there was a clear price or market for it. Basically, you owe tax on the value of BCH when you received it, but it isn't completely clear what that value was. There are several ways you can handle this; I'll list them in order from most accurate to least accurate (but note that this is just my personal view and there is ongoing disagreement on this issue with little/no authoritative guidance).
Use a futures market to determine the value of the BCH - if reliable sources published realistic estimates of what BCH will trade for in the future once trading begins, use this estimate as the value of your BCH. Pros/cons - futures markets are, in theory, pretty accurate. However, if they are volatile/subject to manipulation, they may provide an incorrect estimate of the true value of BCH. It would suck to use the first futures value published only to have that value plummet shortly thereafter, leaving you to pay ordinary income tax but only have an unrealized capital loss.
Wait until an exchange starts trading BCH; use the actual ("spot" price) as the value. Pros/cons - spot prices certainly reflect what you could have sold BCH for; however, it is possible that the true value of the coin was highelower when you received it as compared to when it started trading on the exchange. Thus this method seems less accurate to me than a futures based approach, but it is still certainly fairly reasonable.
Assume that the value is $0. This is my least preferred option, but there is still a case to be made for it. If you receive something that you didn't want, can't access, can't sell, and might fail, does it have any value? I believe the answer is yes (maybe not value it perfectly, but value it somewhat accurately), but if you honestly think the answer is no, then the correct tax answer would be to report $0 in income from the fork. The IRS would be most likely to disagree with this approach, especially since it results in the least amount of income reported for the current year (and the most favorable rates going forward). Accordingly, if you go this route, make extra sure you understand what it entails.
Note, once you've decided what to report as taxable income, this amount also becomes your cost basis in the new crypto (BCH). Thus, when you ultimately sell your BCH (or trade it for something else as described above), you calculate your gain/loss based on what you included in taxable income from the fork. Finally, there is one more approach to dealing with forks worth mentioning. A fork "feels" a lot like a dividend - because you held BTC, you get BCH. In a stock world, if I get a cash dividend because I own the stock, that money is not treated as a "treasure trove" and subject to ordinary income rates - in most cases, it is a qualified dividend and subject to capital gain rates; in some cases, some types of stock dividends are completely non taxable. This article discusses this idea in slightly more detail and generally concludes that forks should not be treated as a dividend. Still, I would note that I'm unaware of any court cases directly testing this theory. Ultimately, this post is supposed to be practical, so let me make sure to leave you with two key thoughts about the taxation of forks. First, I believe that the majority of evidence suggests that forks should be treated as a "treasure trove" and reported as ordinary income based on their value at creation and that this is certainly the "safest" option. Second, out of everything discussed in this post, I also believe that the correct taxation of forks is the murkiest and most "up for debate" area. If you are interested in a more detailed discussion of forks, see this thread for a previous version of this post discussing it at even more length and the comments for a discussion of this with the tax community. Mining Crypto Successfully mining crypto coins is a taxable event. Depending on the amount of effort you put into mining, it is either considered a hobby or a self-employment (business) activity. The IRS provides the following list of questions to help decide the correct classification:
The manner in which the taxpayer carries on the activity.
The expertise of the taxpayer or his advisors.
The time and effort expended by the taxpayer in carrying on the activity.
Expectation that assets used in activity may appreciate in value.
The success of the taxpayer in carrying on other similar or dissimilar activities.
The taxpayer’s history of income or losses with respect to the activity.
The amount of occasional profits, if any, which are earned.
If this still sounds complicated, that's because the distinction is subject to some amount of interpretation. As a rule of thumb, randomly mining crypto on an old computer is probably a hobby; mining full time on a custom rig is probably a business. In either event, you must include in income the fair market value of any coins you successfully mine. These are ordinary income and your basis in these coins is their fair market value on the date they were mined. If your mining is a hobby, they go on line 21 (other income) and any expenses directly associated with mining go on schedule A (miscellaneous subject to 2% of AGI limitation). If your mining is a business, income and expenses go on schedule C. Both approaches have pros and cons - hobby income isn't subject to the 15.3% self-employment tax, only normal income tax, but you get fewer deductions against your income and the deductions you get are less valuable. Business income has more deductions available, but you have to pay payroll (self-employment) tax of about 15.3% in addition to normal income tax. What if I didn't keep good records? Do I really have to report every transaction? One nice thing about the IRS treating crypto as an asset is that we can look at how the IRS treats people that "day trade" stock and often don't keep great records/have lots of transactions. While you need to be as accurate as possible, it is ok to estimate a little bit if you don't have exact records (especially concerning your cost basis). You need to put in some effort (research historical prices, etc...) and be reasonable, but the IRS would much rather you do a little bit of reasonable estimation as opposed to just not reporting anything. Sure, they might decide to audit you/disagree with some specifics, but you earn yourself a lot of credit if you can show that you honestly did the best you reasonably could and are making efforts to improve going forward. However, concerning reporting every transaction - yes, sorry, it is clear that you have to do this, even if you made hundreds or thousands of them. Stock traders have had to go through this for many decades, and there is absolutely no reason to believe that the IRS would accept anything less from the crypto community. If you have the records or have any reasonable way of obtaining records/estimating them, you must report every transaction. What if I don't trust you? Well, first let me say that I can't believe you made it all the way down here to this section. Thanks for giving me an honest hearing. I would strongly encourage you to go read other well-written, honest guides. I'll link to some I like (both more technical IRS type guides and more crypto community driven guides). While a certain portion of the crypto community seems to view one of the benefits of crypto as avoiding all government regulation (including taxes), I've been pleasantly surprised to find that many crypto forums contain well reasoned, accurate tax guides. While I may not agree with 100% of their conclusions, that likely reflects true uncertainty around tax law that is fundamentally complex rather than an attempt on either end to help individuals unlawfully avoid taxes. IRS guides
Chico Crypto from Youtube has been exposing truths behind Bakkt as Bakkt has been reluctant to provide a public custodian address where the funds will be held. A notable name Chico Crypto mentioned was Glenn Hutchins, a Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, former adviser to President Clinton, and one of the biggest drivers behind the Lightning Network. Glenn is also in the Board of Directors at AT&T. This inspired me to research into what the future may HODL for us. Glenn Hutchins' connections to Bakkt comes through ICE's partnership with Blockstream. Blockstream is the developer of The Lightning Network. Glenn Hutchins made a speech at Coindesk in 2016 "Why Bitcoin Still Matters" I was shocked Glenn even spoke publicly on Bitcoin. He addresses the Lightning Network in this speech as fast, cheap, and transformative. The most notable points he made was: "1. Providing the consumer or enterprise with a very simple technology that doesn't require them to figure out Bitcoin technologies.
Giving consumers or enterprises something that works very quickly at very low cost and will have a massive opportunity in terms of profit pools that are available.
It is really important for this industry to embrace regulation for two reasons:
Banks, deposit-taking institutions, and other parts of the financial services infrastructure will continue to be for a very long time period necessary for the Bitcoin ecosystem to work.
Being able to work inside the framework of the legal and regulatory systems and the countries is going to be critical to being successful. The technology needs to work within the know your customer anti-money laundering anti-terrorism OFAT kind of control system, and if we get that right the consumers benefit right. And if we get the regulatory environment right and also embrace Bitcoin technology for what it can do this is an industry that can be transformative in our lives both commercially and personally."
Glenn also claims to own a lot of bitcoin. Moving onto Bakkt, the following is a breakdown of their investors: Boston Consulting Group, Horizons Ventures Limited, Microsoft, and Naspers The current CEO of Boston Consulting Group is Rich Lesser. In December 2016, Lesser joined a business forum assembled by then president-elect Donald Trump to provide strategic and policy advice on economic issues. Horizons Ventures Limited includes early investors in Google Deep Mind, Dollar Shave Club, and Siri Microsoft has been developing blockchain solutions through Azure. Microsoft is a member of the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance and also chairs the Token Taxonomy Initiative that created the token framework. Microsoft and Enjin have collaborated in a local pilot to create a blockchain based recognition programme on the Ethereum public blockchain. Pantera Capital - investments include Bakkt, Bitstamp, Brave, Ripple, Shapeshift, Zcash, 0x Protocol, Enigma, Kyber, OmiseGo, etc. Naspers - owner of PayU and largest owner of Tencent Holdings Limited, the parent company of WeChat ICE (Intercontinental Exchange) - CEO is Jeffrey Sprecher, husband of Bakkt CEO - Jeffrey Sprecher is the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange Kelly Loeffler is the CEO of Bakkt - new Republican Senator of Georgia 2019, been seeking the Republican nomination since 2014 US Senate election in Georgia. Johnnny Isakson preceded Kelly Loeffler as the Georgia Senator for 15 years. Johnny Isakson's political stance about the Environment, Healthcare, and Immigration is as follows: In a series of roll call votes attached to debate about the Keystone Pipeline on January 21, 2015, he voted against Amendment 87 by Senator John Hoeven that climate change is real and human activity contributes to climate change, and against Amendment 58 by Senator Brian Schatz, that human activity "significantly" contributes to climate change. In 2015, he voted against the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. Isakson voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and has since voted over 60 times in favor of ending it. Isakson favors tougher border security to address the immigration issue. In 2019, he voted to support President Trump's national emergency declaration. Trump's public views on Bitcoin are also commonly known from his tweets "I am not a fan of Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrencies, which are not money, and whose value is highly volatile and based on thin air. Unregulated Crypto Assets can facilitate unlawful behavior, including drug trade and other illegal activity... We have only one real currency in the USA, and it is stronger than ever, both dependable and reliable. It is by far the most dominant currency anywhere in the World, and it will always stay that way. It is called the United States Dollar! " My key takeaways, thoughts, and questions are as follows: 1) Bakkt will introduce regulated retail payment solution for cryptocurrency. They will advertise that you can spend your cryptocurrency at Starbucks however they will conduct this to collect Bitcoin on a large scale. This will be facilitated by a closed system where you will not be able to use your cryptocurrency outside the Bakkt system. 2) The main driver behind The Lightning Network is an advocate for KYC. If no KYC can you not participate in The LN? 3) Why is there such a strong connection between Bitcoin, the Republican party, and the Trump administration? 4) Why is the largest investor in WeChat investing in Bakkt? Please let me know your thoughts below and whether you have more information you can add to this, especially Naspers' involvement. As I was about to post this I alsojust found a post that was dismissed from 1 year ago describing just this, and it's happening.
Canaan's new ASIC is a Pipe Dream, not an Ethereum Threat
So, yesterday Kristy-Leigh Minehan posted on Twitter that a company named Canaan announced an ASIC that is capable of 0.68W/Mhs That's 2200Mh/s running at 1500w https://twitter.com/OhGodAGirl/status/1176938519866089473 Here is a list of how it compares to other ASICs and GPUs. https://blog.miningstore.com/blog/ethereum-mining-hardware-for-2019 She used this tweet to promote the need for ProgPoW Today, I am attempting to explain that Canaan is not a threat to centralize Ethereum mining with their ASICs. First, I cannot find any information regarding Canaan announcing an Ethereum ASIC other than Kristy's twitter post There is only one article written about it and it uses Kristy's twitter post as their source. https://cryptoslate.com/ethereum-asic-dominates-gpu-performance/ Nothing on Canaan's website talks about this miner Nor does Canaan's twitter account mention anything like this. If we look closely at Kristy's twitter picture, you can see the Canaan Ethereum miner will be called the V10. I cannot find any info anywhere on this miner. You would think that if Canaan is unveiling a new product, they would be talking about it more to spread awareness and raise hype, but they aren't. I mean, they made a big to-do when they announced the A10 bitcoin miner in March, so why are they posting nothing about the V10 ethereum miner. https://twitter.com/canaanio/status/1111513725733724160 And a google search will show many many more articles written about the bitcoin A10 after its announcement. I'm not saying the announcement isn't real, just that I find it odd that the company isn't talking about it themselves. Canaan did respond to a tweet from “cryptoState”, the writer's of the article based on Kristy's tweet. Canaan replied that the v10 is not an official worldwide Canaan product. https://twitter.com/canaanio/status/1177088253431668736 and further in the cryptostate article, Canaan says “It is a little hard to explain, but those are not products designed and built by Canaan engineering. They are products sold by the domestic sales team and are not an official worldwide Canaan product,” I do not know what that means exactly. If it means it's not an official Canaan product, or that it won't be available worldwide, or what. But this is the first clue to me that it isn't anything to worry about. If it's not an official Canaan product, then it doesn't seem like it will have support from Canaan to bring it to market. It won't be marketed by Canaan, use it's supply chain, it's business resources and contacts, use it's support system, or be built by Canaan. Next, yes 0.68W/Mhs is more efficient than GPUs, but that isn't all that matters when miners choose the devices to use. What matters also is how much the machine costs. If the V10 is price too high, then it's not something to worry about. Without a price, Kristy can't claim in good faith that the V10 is something Ethereum needs to worry about and a reason ProgPoW needs to be adopted. I'm not sure how to price the thing, myself, but at current ETH prices and hashrate, it would make $2200 in 4 months. I think generally ASIC mfgs price their machines to break even in 3-4 months. So that would be the machine will cost around $2200. BUT, that's only if ONE machine is running on the network. The more machines on the network, the less profitable they are. If we look at the Avalon A1066, it's november batch costs $1390, and has a break-even time of 464 months at current bitcoin prices. So it seems to me the Canaan V10 will be quite a bit more expensive than $2200. Which doesn't make it feasible for that many people to buy. Next, there was no product on display at the New Era Mining Summit, where this product was announced. Only some graphics of numbers they claim. Nor can I find any technical documentation talking about how they plan to achieve the advertised hashrate I tweeted Kristy telling her that this seems, at best, like just an idea to me, to help them raise money and that it takes more than an idea to bring an ASIC to market. https://twitter.com/AltcoinXP/status/1177290387205054464 Kristy then blocked me on Twitter and told me to stop spreading misinformation. https://imgur.com/lWEAWbd So, now let's talk about the article I replied to her with, claiming that Canaan doesn't have enough funding for this. Granted, I said this without doing as much research as I could've, but let's see if what I said holds true. Here is the article I linked in the tweet. https://www.coindesk.com/avalon-bitcoin-miner-maker-canaan-is-plotting-another-ipo-attempt Notice the date this article was published. March 27th 2019. Notice that Avalon announce their Bitcoin A10 miner the next day. https://twitter.com/canaanio/status/1111513725733724160 Perhaps to help attract funding from new investors, which the Coindesk article says they haven't been able to bring on any new investors in a long time. I'm not going to cite the whole article here, read it for yourself, but it generally explains that Canaan is unable to attract new funding. Also, Xianfu Lui, a 17.2% shareholder in Canaan left the company in February, so I doubt he invested money into Canaan. https://www.coindesk.com/co-founder-quits-avalon-mining-chip-maker-canaan-over-differences Here are some more Coindesk articles speaking about Canaan trying to raise money. https://www.coindesk.com/huobi-plans-backdoor-ipo-attempt-in-hong-kong-document-suggests “After mining giant Bitmain’s IPO attempt in Hong Kong was allowed to expire, apparently due to reluctance from HKEX, it’s reportedly now planning to list in the U.S. Another miner manufacturer, Canaan Creative, is also reported to have already confidentially filed in the U.S. after a failed HKEX attempt. “ https://www.coindesk.com/bitcoin-miner-maker-canaan-confidentially-files-for-ipo-in-us-report https://www.coindesk.com/bitcoin-miner-canaans-ipo-likely-delayed-after-hong-kong-filing-expires “The Reuters report, citing anonymous sources, further said the HKEX and financial regulators in Hong Kong have raised questions over Canaan’s business model, given the volatile nature of cryptocurrencies. As such, the news agency said the IPO might not go ahead this year, since there have been no updates from a listing hearing with the HKEX. “ So seems to be Caanan is having a hard time finding funding for their endeavors. Pretty much every single article on Coindesk about them is about them trying to get funding and failing at it. So do they have enough money to bring the V10 to market AND bring enough V10s to be a problem? They would need to produce 45,000 units to get 50% of the Ethereum mining power. Current network is 197TH/s https://bitinfocharts.com/ethereum/ Currently Bitmain is estimated to have produced less than 20,000 units since the Antminer E3's announcement in April 2018. https://www.reddit.com/ethereum/comments/d8fuvj/an_argument_against_progpow_a_day_part_1/f1axc2c/ https://www.coindesk.com/bitmain-confirms-release-first-ever-ethereum-asic-miners Bitmain being a much larger company than Canaan, it seems unlikely they will produce 45,000 units quick enough to become a problem. Anyway, For those of you that don't know, Canaan manages the Avalon bitcoin ASICs and have done so since 2014. Canaan is fulling in charge of Avalon. https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Avalon Maybe I should've said that sooner, I don't know. I'm just typing as I come up with stuff. But we can look at Avalon's bitcoin past to determine what the future ethereum miner supply might look like. Keep in mind though, this was also during a time when they were well-funded. I'm not sure what their bank account looks like now, but they have been in the red every year since their existance, so I have to assume they have less money now than when they were releasing bitcoin miners Avalon announce the A10 March 2019, and started shipping pre-orders in October 2019. If the V10 follows suit, we won't see a V10 in the hands of miners until April 2020 https://www.coindesk.com/demand-for-new-bitcoin-miners-is-again-outstripping-supply Ok, I'm done. That's all I put together and why I don't believe the Canaan ASIC that was announced is a concern warranting the immediate adoption of ProgPoW Thanks for reading.
Hello again. It's been a while. People have been emailing me about once a week or so for the last year to ask if I'm coming back to Bitcoin now that Bitcoin Cash exists. And a couple of weeks ago I was summoned on a thread called "Ask Mike Hearn Anything", but that was nothing to do with me and I was on holiday in Japan at the time. So I figured I should just answer all the different questions and answers in one place rather than keep doing it individually over email. Firstly, thanks for the kind words on this sub. I don't take part anymore but I still visit occasionally to see what people are talking about, and the people posting nice messages is a pleasant change from three years ago. Secondly, who am I? Some new Bitcoiners might not know. I am Satoshi. Just kidding. I'm not Satoshi. I was a Bitcoin developer for about five years, from 2010-2015. I was also one of the first Bitcoin users, sending my first coins in April 2009 (to SN), about 4 months after the genesis block. I worked on various things:
My main effort was an implementation of a Java library called bitcoinj. This was the engine used in the first p2p mobile wallet ("Bitcoin Wallet for Android"), and the first p2p desktop wallet that was faster to run than Bitcoin [Core] itself (MultiBit). These together were responsible for around 2.5 million user installs at a time when downloading the full block chain was becoming too slow for normal users to tolerate and the only alternative was a "bitbank" or cloud-hosted wallet. It was used in the first trustless gambling site (SatoshiDice), over 100 products and projects, and many academic research papers.
With Gavin Andresen and others I designed some upgrades to the Bitcoin protocol like Bloom filtering and BIP70.
With Matt Corrallo I implemented and demonstrated the first version of (micro)payment channels. I put together a demo of a file server that charged micropayments using a GUI called Payfile (mentioned in New Scientist here). I used to have a video of this but unfortunately it no longer seems to be on YouTube. Payment channels went on to be used in the design of the Lightning Network.
You can see a trend here - I was always interested in developing peer to peer decentralised applications that used Bitcoin. But what I'm best known for is my role in the block size debate/civil war, documented by Nathaniel Popper in the New York Times. I spent most of 2015 writing extensively about why various proposals from the small-block/Blockstream faction weren't going to work (e.g. on replace by fee, lightning network, what would occur if no hard fork happened, soft forks, scaling conferences etc). After Blockstream successfully took over Bitcoin Core and expelled anyone who opposed them, Gavin and I forked Bitcoin Core to create Bitcoin XT, the first alternative node implementation to gain any serious usage. The creation of XT led to the imposition of censorship across all Bitcoin discussion forums and news outlets, resulted in the creation of this sub, and Core supporters paid a botnet operator to force XT nodes offline with DDoS attacks. They also convinced the miners and wider community to do nothing for years, resulting in the eventual overload of the main network. I left the project at the start of 2016, documenting my reasons and what I expected to happen in my final essay on Bitcoin in which I said I considered it a failed experiment. Along with the article in the New York Times this pierced the censorship, made the wider world aware of what was going on, and thus my last gift to the community was a 20% drop in price (it soon recovered).
The last two years
Left Bitcoin ... but not decentralisation. After all that went down I started a new project called Corda. You can think of Corda as Bitcoin++, but modified for industrial use cases where a decentralised p2p database is more immediately useful than a new coin. Corda incorporates many ideas I had back when I was working on Bitcoin but couldn't implement due to lack of time, resources, because of ideological wars or because they were too technically radical for the community. So even though it's doesn't provide a new cryptocurrency out of the box, it might be interesting for the Bitcoin Cash community to study anyway. By resigning myself to Bitcoin's fate and joining R3 I could go back to the drawing board and design with a lot more freedom, creating something inspired by Bitcoin's protocol but incorporating all the experience we gained writing Bitcoin apps over the years. The most common question I'm asked is whether I'd come back and work on Bitcoin again. The obvious followup question is - come back and work on what? If you want to see some of the ideas I'd have been exploring if things had worked out differently, go read the Corda tech white paper. Here's a few of the things it might be worth asking about:
Corda's data model is a UTXO ledger, like Bitcoin. Outputs in Corda (called "states") can be arbitrary data structures instead of just coin amounts, so you don't need hacks like coloured coins anymore. You can track arbitrary fungible assets, but you can also model things like the state of a loan, deal, purchase order, crate of cargo etc.
Transactions are structured as Merkle trees.
Corda has a compound key format that can represent more flexible conditions than CHECKMULTISIG can.
Smart contracts are stateless predicates like in Bitcoin, but you can loop like in Ethereum. Unlike Bitcoin and Ethereum we do not invent our own VM or languages.
Transactions can have files attached to them. Smart contracts in Corda are stored in attachments and referenced by hash, so large programs aren't duplicated inside every transaction.
The P2P network is encrypted.
Back in 2014 I wrote that Bitcoin needed a store and forward network, to make app dev easier, and to improve privacy. Corda doesn't have a store and forward network - Corda is a store and forward network.
It has a "flow framework" that makes structured back-and-forth conversations very easy to program. This makes protocols like payment channelss a lot quicker and easier to implement, and would have made Lighthouse much more straightforward. A big part of my goal with Corda was to simplify the act of building complicated decentralised applications, based on those Bitcoin experiences. Lighthouse took about 8 months of full time work to build, but it's pretty spartan anyway. That's because Bitcoin offers almost nothing to developers who want to build P2P apps that go beyond simple payments. Corda does.
The flow framework lets you do hard things quickly. For example, we took part in a competition called Project Ubin, the goal of which was to develop something vaguely analogous in complexity to the Lightning Network or original Ripple (decentralised net-out of debts). But we had about six weeks and one developer. We successfully did that in the time allowed. Compare that to dev time for the Lightning Network.
Corda scales a lot better than Bitcoin, even though Bitcoin could have scaled to the levels needed for large payment networks with enough work and time. It has something similar to what Ethereum calls "sharding". This is possible partly because Corda doesn't use proof of work.
It has a mechanism for signalling the equivalent of hard forks.
It provides much better privacy. Whilst it supports techniques like address randomisation, it also doesn't use global broadcast and we are working on encrypting the entire ledger using Intel SGX, such that no human has access to the raw unencrypted data and such that it's transparent to application developers (i.e. no need to design custom zero knowledge proofs)
I interlaced everything between Vitalik and Tuur to make it easier to read.
1/ People often ask me why I’m so “against” Ethereum. Why do I go out of my way to point out flaws or make analogies that put it in a bad light?
2/ First, ETH’s architecture & culture is opposite that of Bitcoin, and yet claims to offer same solutions: decentralization, immutability, SoV, asset issuance, smart contracts, … Second, ETH is considered a crypto ‘blue chip’, thus colors perception of uninformed newcomers.
Agree! I personally find Ethereum culture far saner, though I am a bit biased :)
3/ I've followed Ethereum since 2014 & feel a responsibility to share my concerns. IMO contrary to its marketing, ETH is at best a science experiment. It’s now valued at $13B, which I think is still too high.
Not an argument
4/ I agree with Ethereum developer Vlad Zamfir that it’s not money, not safe, and not scalable. https://twitter.com/VladZamfistatus/838006311598030848 … @VladZamfir Eth isn't money, so there is no monetary policy. There is currently fixed block issuance with an exponential difficulty increase (the bomb).
I'm pretty sure Vlad would say the exact same thing about Bitcoin
5/ To me the first red flag came up when in our weekly hangout we asked the ETH founders about to how they were going to scale the network. (We’re now 4.5 years later, and sharding is still a pipe dream.)
The core principles have been known for years, the core design for nearly a year, and details for months, with implementations on the way. So sharding is definitely not at the pipe dream stage at this point.
6/ Despite strong optimism that on-chain scaling of Ethereum was around the corner (just another engineering job), this promise hasn’t been delivered on to date.
Sure, sharding is not yet finished. Though more incremental stuff has been going well, eg. uncle rates are at near record lows despite very high chain usage.
7/ Recently, a team of reputable developers decided to peer review a widely anticipated Casper / sharding white paper, concluding that it does not live up to its own claims.
Unmerciful peer review of Vlad Zamfir & co's white paper to scale Ethereum: "the authors do NOT prove that the CBC Casper family of protocols is Byzantine fault tolerant in either practice or theory".
8/ On the 2nd layer front, devs are now trying to scale Ethereum via scale via state channels (ETH’s version of Lightning), but it is unclear whether main-chain issued ERC20 type tokens will be portable to this environment.
Umm... you can definitely use Raiden with arbitrary ERC20s. That's why the interface currently uses WETH (the ERC20-fied version of ether) and not ETH
9/ Compare this to how the Bitcoin Lightning Network project evolved:
elizabeth stark @starkness: For lnd: First public code released: January 2016 Alpha: January 2017 Beta: March 2018…
10/ Bitcoin’s Lightning Network is now live, and is growing at rapid clip.
Jameson Lopp @lopp: Lightning Network: January 2018 vs December 2018
Sure, though as far as I understand there's still a low probability of finding routes for nontrivial amounts, and there's capital lockup griefing vectors, and privacy issues.... FWIW I personally never thought lightning is unworkable, it's just a design that inherently runs into ten thousand small issues that will likely take a very long time to get past.
11/ In 2017, more Ethereum scaling buzz was created, this time the panacea was “Plasma”.
12/ However, upon closer examination it was the recycling of some stale ideas, and the project went nowhere:
Peter Todd @peterktodd These ideas were all considered in the Treechains design process, and ultimately rejected as insecure.
Just because Peter Todd rejected something as "insecure" doesn't mean that it is. In general, the ethereum research community is quite convinced that the fundamental Plasma design is fine, and as far as I understand there are formal proofs on the way. The only insecurity that can't be avoided is mass exit vulns, and channel-based systems have those too.
13/ The elephant in the room is the transition to proof-of-stake, an “environmentally friendly” way to secure the chain. (If this was the plan all along, why create a proof-of-work chain first?)
@TuurDemeester "Changing from proof of work to proof of stake changes the economics of the system, all the rules change and it will impact everything."
Umm... we created a proof of work chain first because we did not have a satisfactory proof of stake algo initially?
14/ For the uninitiated, here’s a good write-up that highlights some of the fundamental design problems of proof-of-stake. Like I said, this is science experiment territory.
Yes, we know about weak subjectivity, see https://blog.ethereum.org/2014/11/25/proof-stake-learned-love-weak-subjectivity/. It's really not that bad, especially given that users need to update their clients once in a while anyway, oh and by the way even if the weak subjectivity assumption is broken an attacker still needs to gather up that pile of old keys making up 51% of the stake. And also to defend against that there's Universal Hash Time.
16/ Keep in mind that Proof of Stake (PoS) is not a new concept at all. Proof-of-Work actually was one of the big innovations that made Bitcoin possible, after PoS was deemed impractical because of censorship vulnerability.
Oh I definitely agree that proof of work was superior for bootstrap, and I liked it back then especially because it actually managed to be reasonably egalitarian around 2009-2012 before ASICs fully took over. But at the present time it doesn't really have that nice attribute.
17/ Over the years, this has become a pattern in Ethereum’s culture: recycling old ideas while not properly referring to past research and having poor peer review standards. This is not how science progresses.Tuur Demeester added,
I try to credit people whenever I can; half my blog and ethresear.ch posts have a "special thanks" section right at the top. Sometimes we end up re-inventing stuff, and sometimes we end up hearing about stuff, forgetting it, and later re-inventing it; that's life as an autodidact. And if you feel you've been unfairly not credited for something, always feel free to comment, people have done this and I've edited.
18/ One of my big concerns is that sophistry and marketing hype is a serious part of Ethereum’s success so far, and that overly inflated expectations have lead to an inflated market cap.
Ok, go on.
19/ Let’s illustrate with an example.
20/ A few days ago, I shared a critical tweet that made the argument that Ethereum’s value proposition is in essence utopian.
@TuurDemeester Ethereum-ism sounds a bit like Marxism to me:
What works today (PoW) is 'just a phase', the ideal & unproven future is to come: Proof-of-Stake.…
22/ My first point, about Ethereum developers rejecting Proof-of-Work, has been illustrated many times over By Vitalik and others. (See earlier in this tweetstorm for more about how PoS is unproven.)
Vitalik Non-giver of Ether @VitalikButerin: I don't believe in proof of work!
See above for links as to why I think proof of stake is great.
23/ My second point addresses Ethereum’s romance with the vague and dangerous notion of ‘social consensus’, where disruptive hard-forks are used to ‘upgrade’ or ‘optimize’ the system, which inevitably leads to increased centralization. More here:
See my rebuttal to Tuur's rebuttal :)
24/ My third point addresses PoS’ promise of perpetual income to ETHizens. Vitalik is no stranger to embracing free lunch ideas, e.g. during his 2014 ETH announcement speech, where he described a coin with a 20% inflation tax as having “no cost” to users.
Yeah, I haven't really emphasized perpetual income to stakers as a selling point in years. I actually favor rewards being as low as possible while still being high enough for security.
25/ In his response to my tweet, Vitalik adopted my format to “play the same game” in criticizing Bitcoin. My criticisms weren't addressed, and his response was riddled with errors. Yet his followers gave it +1,000 upvotes!
Vitalik Non-giver of Ether @VitalikButerin: - What works today (L1) is just a phase, ideal and unproven future (usable L2) is to come - Utopian concept of progress: we're already so confident we're finished we ain't needin no hard forks…
Ok, let's hear about what the errors are...
26/ Rebuttal: - BTC layer 1 is not “just a phase”, it always will be its definitive bedrock for transaction settlement. - Soft forking digital protocols has been the norm for over 3 decades—hard-forks are the deviation! - Satoshi never suggested hyperbitcoinization as a goal.
Sure, but (i) the use of layer 1 for consumer payments is definitely, in bitcoin ideology, "just a phase", (ii) I don't think you can make analogies between consensus protocols and other kinds of protocols, and between soft forking consensus protocols and protocol changes in other protocols, that easily, (iii) plenty of people do believe that hyperbitcoinization as a goal. Oh by the way: https://twitter.com/tuurdemeestestatus/545993119599460353
27/ This kind of sophistry is exhausting and completely counter-productive, but it can be very convincing for an uninformed retail public.
Ok, go on.
28/ Let me share a few more inconvenient truths.
29/ In order to “guarantee” the transition to PoS’ utopia of perpetual income (staking coins earns interest), a “difficulty bomb” was embedded in the protocol, which supposedly would force miners to accept the transition.
The intended goal of the difficulty bomb was to prevent the protocol from ossifying, by ensuring that it has to hard fork eventually to reset the difficulty bomb, at which point the status quo bias in favor of not changing other protocol rules at the same time would be weaker. Though forcing a switch to PoS was definitely a key goal.
30/ Of course, nothing came of this, because anything in the ETH protocol can be hard-forked away. Another broken promise.
33/ The modular approach to Bitcoin seems to be much better at compartmentalizing risk, and thus reducing attack surfaces. I’ve written about modular scaling here...
To be fair, risk is reduced because Bitcoin does less.
34/ Another huge issue that Ethereum has is with scaling. By putting “everything on the blockchain” (which stores everything forever) and dubbing it “the world computer”, you are going to end up with a very slow and clogged up system.
We never advocated "putting everything on the blockchain". The phrase "world computer" was never meant to be interpreted as "everyone's personal desktop", but rather as a common platform specifically for the parts of applications that require consensus on shared state. As evidence of this, notice how Whisper and Swarm were part of the vision as complements to Ethereum right from the start.
35/ By now the Ethereum bloat is so bad that cheaply running an individual node is practically impossible for a lay person. ETH developers are also imploring people to not deploy more smart contract apps on its blockchain.
Tuur Demeester @TuurDemeester: But... deploying d-apps on the "Ethereum Virtual Machine" is exactly what everyone was encouraged to do for the past 4 years. Looks like on-chain scaling wasn't such a great idea after all.
Umm.... I just spun up a node from scratch last week. On a consumer laptop.
36/ As a result, and despite the claims that running a node in “warp” mode is easy and as good as a full node, Ethereum is becoming increasingly centralized.
37/ Another hollow claim: in 2016, Ethereum was promoted as being censorship resistant…
Tuur Demeester @TuurDemeester: Pre TheDAO #Ethereum presentation: "uncensorable, code is law, bottom up". http://ow.ly/qW49302Pp92
Yes, the DAO fork did violate the notion of absolute immutability. However, the "forking the DAO will lead to doom and gloom" crowd was very wrong in one key way: it did NOT work as a precedent justifying all sorts of further state interventions. The community clearly drew a line in the sand by firmly rejecting EIP 867, and EIP 999 seems to now also be going nowhere. So it seems like there's some evidence that the social contract of "moderately but not infinitely strong immutability" actually can be stable.
38/ Yet later that year, after only 6% of ETH holders had cast a vote, ETH core devs decided to endorse a hard-fork that clawed back the funds from a smart contract that held 4.5% of all ETH in circulation. More here: ...
Hudson Jameson @hudsonjameson: The "semi-closed" Ethereum 1.x meeting from last Friday was an experiment. The All Core Dev meeting this Friday will be recorded as usual.
Suppose I were to tomorrow sign up to work directly for Kim Jong Un. What concretely would happen to the Ethereum protocol? I suspect very little; I am mostly involved in the Serenity work, and the other researchers have proven very capable of both pushing the spec forward even without me and catching any mistakes with my work. So I don't think any argument involving me applies. And we ended up deciding not to do more semi-closed meetings.
40/ Another red flag to me is the apparent lack of relevant expertise in the ETH development community. (Check the responses…)
I personally am confident in the talents of our core researchers, and our community of academic partners. Most recently the latter group includes people from Starkware, Stanford CBR, IC3, and other groups.
I have no idea who described Lucius Meredith's work as being important for the Serenity roadmap.... oh and by the way, RChain is NOT an "Ethereum scaling company"
42/ Perhaps the recently added Gandalf of Ethereum, with his “Fellowship of Ethereum Magicians” [sic] can save the day, but imo that seems unlikely...
Honestly, I don't see why Ethereum Gandalf needs to save the day, because I don't see what is in danger and needs to be saved...
43/ This is becoming a long tweetstorm, so let’s wrap up with a few closing comments.
44/ Do I have a conflict of interest? ETH is a publicly available asset with no real barriers to entry, so I could easily get a stake. Also, having met Vitalik & other ETH founders several times in 2013-’14, it would have been doable for me to become part of the in-crowd.
Agree there. And BTW I generally think financial conflicts of interest are somewhat overrated; social conflicts/tribal biases are the bigger problem much of the time. Though those two kinds of misalignments do frequently overlap and reinforce each other so they're difficult to fully disentangle.
45/ Actually, I was initially excited about Ethereum’s smart contract work - this was before one of its many pivots.
Tuur Demeester @TuurDemeester: Ethereum is probably the first programming language I will teach myself - who wouldn't want the ability to program smart BTC contracts?
Ethereum was never about "smart BTC contracts"..... even "Ethereum as a Mastercoin-style meta-protocol" was intended to be built on top of Primecoin.
46/ Also, I have done my share of soul searching about whether I could be suffering from survivor’s bias.
47/ Here’s why Ethereum is dubious to me: rather than creating an open source project & testnet to work on these interesting computer science problems, its founders instead did a securities offering, involving many thousands of clueless retail investors.
48/ Investing in the Ethereum ICO was akin to buying shares in a startup that had “invent time travel” as part of its business plan. Imo it was a reckless security offering, and it set the tone for the terrible capital misallocation of the 2017 ICO boom.
Nothing in the ethereum roadmap requires time-travel-like technical advancements or anything remotely close to that. Proof: we basically have all the fundamental technical advancements we need at this point.
49/ In my view, Ethereum is the Yahoo of our day - an unscalable “blue chip” cryptocurrency:
Tuur Demeester @TuurDemeester: 1/ The DotCom bubble shows that the market isn't very good at valuing early stage technology. I'll use Google vs. Yahoo to illustrate.
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