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How To End The Cryptocurrency Exchange "Wild West" Without Crippling Innovation
In case you haven't noticed the consultation paper, staff notice, and report on Quadriga, regulators are now clamping down on Canadian cryptocurrency exchanges. The OSC and other regulatory bodies are still interested in industry feedback. They have not put forward any official regulation yet. Below are some ideas/insights and a proposed framework.
Typical securities frameworks will cost Canadians millions of dollars (ie Sarbanes-Oxley estimated at $5m USD/yr per firm). Implementation costs of this proposal are significantly cheaper.
Canadians can maintain a diverse set of exchanges, multiple viable business models are still fully supported, and innovation is encouraged while keeping Canadians safe.
Many of you have limited time to read the full proposal, so here are the highlights:
Effective standards to prevent both internal and external theft. Exchange operators are trained and certified, and have a legal responsibility to users.
Regular Transparent Audits
Provides visibility to Canadians that their funds are fully backed on the exchange, while protecting privacy and sensitive platform information.
Establishment of basic insurance standards/strategy, to expand over time. Removing risk to exchange users of any hot wallet theft.
Background and Justifications
Cold Storage Custody/Management After reviewing close to 100 cases, all thefts tend to break down into more or less the same set of problems: • Funds stored online or in a smart contract, • Access controlled by one person or one system, • 51% attacks (rare), • Funds sent to the wrong address (also rare), or • Some combination of the above. For the first two cases, practical solutions exist and are widely implemented on exchanges already. Offline multi-signature solutions are already industry standard. No cases studied found an external theft or exit scam involving an offline multi-signature wallet implementation. Security can be further improved through minimum numbers of signatories, background checks, providing autonomy and legal protections to each signatory, establishing best practices, and a training/certification program. The last two transaction risks occur more rarely, and have never resulted in a loss affecting the actual users of the exchange. In all cases to date where operators made the mistake, they've been fully covered by the exchange platforms. • 51% attacks generally only occur on blockchains with less security. The most prominent cases have been Bitcoin Gold and Ethereum Classic. The simple solution is to enforce deposit limits and block delays such that a 51% attack is not cost-effective. • The risk of transactions to incorrect addresses can be eliminated by a simple test transaction policy on large transactions. By sending a small amount of funds prior to any large withdrawals/transfers as a standard practice, the accuracy of the wallet address can be validated. The proposal covers all loss cases and goes beyond, while avoiding significant additional costs, risks, and limitations which may be associated with other frameworks like SOC II. On The Subject of Third Party Custodians Many Canadian platforms are currently experimenting with third party custody. From the standpoint of the exchange operator, they can liberate themselves from some responsibility of custody, passing that off to someone else. For regulators, it puts crypto in similar categorization to oil, gold, and other commodities, with some common standards. Platform users would likely feel greater confidence if the custodian was a brand they recognized. If the custodian was knowledgeable and had a decent team that employed multi-sig, they could keep assets safe from internal theft. With the right protections in place, this could be a great solution for many exchanges, particularly those that lack the relevant experience or human resources for their own custody systems. However, this system is vulnerable to anyone able to impersonate the exchange operators. You may have a situation where different employees who don't know each other that well are interacting between different companies (both the custodian and all their customers which presumably isn't just one exchange). A case study of what can go wrong in this type of environment might be Bitpay, where the CEO was tricked out of 5000 bitcoins over 3 separate payments by a series of emails sent legitimately from a breached computer of another company CEO. It's also still vulnerable to the platform being compromised, as in the really large $70M Bitfinex hack, where the third party Bitgo held one key in a multi-sig wallet. The hacker simply authorized the withdrawal using the same credentials as Bitfinex (requesting Bitgo to sign multiple withdrawal transactions). This succeeded even with the use of multi-sig and two heavily security-focused companies, due to the lack of human oversight (basically, hot wallet). Of course, you can learn from these cases and improve the security, but so can hackers improve their deception and at the end of the day, both of these would have been stopped by the much simpler solution of a qualified team who knew each other and employed multi-sig with properly protected keys. It's pretty hard to beat a human being who knows the business and the typical customer behaviour (or even knows their customers personally) at spotting fraud, and the proposed multi-sig means any hacker has to get through the scrutiny of 3 (or more) separate people, all of whom would have proper training including historical case studies. There are strong arguments both for and against using use of third party custodians. The proposal sets mandatory minimum custody standards would apply regardless if the cold wallet signatories are exchange operators, independent custodians, or a mix of both. On The Subject Of Insurance ShakePay has taken the first steps into this new realm (congratulations). There is no question that crypto users could be better protected by the right insurance policies, and it certainly feels better to transact with insured platforms. The steps required to obtain insurance generally place attention in valuable security areas, and in this case included a review from CipherTrace. One of the key solutions in traditional finance comes from insurance from entities such as the CDIC. However, historically, there wasn't found any actual insurance payout to any cryptocurrency exchange, and there are notable cases where insurance has not paid. With Bitpay, for example, the insurance agent refused because the issue happened to the third party CEO's computer instead of anything to do with Bitpay itself. With the Youbit exchange in South Korea, their insurance claim was denied, and the exchange ultimately ended up instead going bankrupt with all user's funds lost. To quote Matt Johnson in the original Lloyd's article: “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.” ShakePay's insurance was only reported to cover their cold storage, and “physical theft of the media where the private keys are held”. Physical theft has never, in the history of cryptocurrency exchange cases reviewed, been reported as the cause of loss. From the limited information of the article, ShakePay made it clear their funds are in the hands of a single US custodian, and at least part of their security strategy is to "decline to confirm the custodian’s name on the record". While this prevents scrutiny of the custodian, it's pretty silly to speculate that a reasonably competent hacking group couldn't determine who the custodian is. A far more common infiltration strategy historically would be social engineering, which has succeeded repeatedly. A hacker could trick their way into ShakePay's systems and request a fraudulent withdrawal, impersonate ShakePay and request the custodian to move funds, or socially engineer their way into the custodian to initiate the withdrawal of multiple accounts (a payout much larger than ShakePay) exploiting the standard procedures (for example, fraudulently initiating or override the wallet addresses of a real transfer). In each case, nothing was physically stolen and the loss is therefore not covered by insurance. In order for any insurance to be effective, clear policies have to be established about what needs to be covered. Anything short of that gives Canadians false confidence that they are protected when they aren't in any meaningful way. At this time, the third party insurance market does not appear to provide adequate options or coverage, and effort is necessary to standardize custody standards, which is a likely first step in ultimately setting up an insurance framework. A better solution compared to third party insurance providers might be for Canadian exchange operators to create their own collective insurance fund, or a specific federal organization similar to the CDIC. Such an organization would have a greater interest or obligation in paying out actual cases, and that would be it's purpose rather than maximizing it's own profit. This would be similar to the SAFU which Binance has launched, except it would cover multiple exchanges. There is little question whether the SAFU would pay out given a breach of Binance, and a similar argument could be made for a insurance fund managed by a collective of exchange operators or a government organization. While a third party insurance provider has the strong market incentive to provide the absolute minimum coverage and no market incentive to payout, an entity managed by exchange operators would have incentive to protect the reputation of exchange operators/the industry, and the government should have the interest of protecting Canadians. On The Subject of Fractional Reserve There is a long history of fractional reserve failures, from the first banks in ancient times, through the great depression (where hundreds of fractional reserve banks failed), right through to the 2008 banking collapse referenced in the first bitcoin block. The fractional reserve system allows banks to multiply the money supply far beyond the actual cash (or other assets) in existence, backed only by a system of debt obligations of others. Safely supporting a fractional reserve system is a topic of far greater complexity than can be addressed by a simple policy, and when it comes to cryptocurrency, there is presently no entity reasonably able to bail anyone out in the event of failure. Therefore, this framework is addressed around entities that aim to maintain 100% backing of funds. There may be some firms that desire but have failed to maintain 100% backing. In this case, there are multiple solutions, including outside investment, merging with other exchanges, or enforcing a gradual restoration plan. All of these solutions are typically far better than shutting down the exchange, and there are multiple cases where they've been used successfully in the past. Proof of Reserves/Transparency/Accountability Canadians need to have visibility into the backing on an ongoing basis. The best solution for crypto-assets is a Proof of Reserve. Such ideas go back all the way to 2013, before even Mt. Gox. However, no Canadian exchange has yet implemented such a system, and only a few international exchanges (CoinFloor in the UK being an example) have. Many firms like Kraken, BitBuy, and now ShakePay use the Proof of Reserve term to refer to lesser proofs which do not actually cryptographically prove the full backing of all user assets on the blockchain. In order for a Proof of Reserve to be effective, it must actually be a complete proof, and it needs to be understood by the public that is expected to use it. Many firms have expressed reservations about the level of transparency required in a complete Proof of Reserve (for example Kraken here). While a complete Proof of Reserves should be encouraged, and there are some solutions in the works (ie TxQuick), this is unlikely to be suitable universally for all exchange operators and users. Given the limitations, and that firms also manage fiat assets, a more traditional audit process makes more sense. Some Canadian exchanges (CoinSquare, CoinBerry) have already subjected themselves to annual audits. However, these results are not presently shared publicly, and there is no guarantee over the process including all user assets or the integrity and independence of the auditor. The auditor has been typically not known, and in some cases, the identity of the auditor is protected by a NDA. Only in one case (BitBuy) was an actual report generated and publicly shared. There has been no attempt made to validate that user accounts provided during these audits have been complete or accurate. A fraudulent fractional exchange, or one which had suffered a breach they were unwilling to publicly accept (see CoinBene), could easily maintain a second set of books for auditors or simply exclude key accounts to pass an individual audit. The proposed solution would see a reporting standard which includes at a minimum - percentage of backing for each asset relative to account balances and the nature of how those assets are stored, with ownership proven by the auditor. The auditor would also publicly provide a "hash list", which they independently generate from the accounts provided by the exchange. Every exchange user can then check their information against this public "hash list". A hash is a one-way form of encryption, which fully protects the private information, yet allows anyone who knows that information already to validate that it was included. Less experienced users can take advantage of public tools to calculate the hash from their information (provided by the exchange), and thus have certainty that the auditor received their full balance information. Easy instructions can be provided. Auditors should be impartial, their identities and process public, and they should be rotated so that the same auditor is never used twice in a row. Balancing the cost of auditing against the needs for regular updates, a 6 month cycle likely makes the most sense. Hot Wallet Management The best solution for hot wallets is not to use them. CoinBerry reportedly uses multi-sig on all withdrawals, and Bitmex is an international example known for their structure devoid of hot wallets. However, many platforms and customers desire fast withdrawal processes, and human validation has a cost of time and delay in this process. A model of self-insurance or separate funds for hot wallets may be used in these cases. Under this model, a platform still has 100% of their client balance in cold storage and holds additional funds in hot wallets for quick withdrawal. Thus, the risk of those hot wallets is 100% on exchange operators and not affecting the exchange users. Since most platforms typically only have 1%-5% in hot wallets at any given time, it shouldn't be unreasonable to build/maintain these additional reserves over time using exchange fees or additional investment. Larger withdrawals would still be handled at regular intervals from the cold storage. Hot wallet risks have historically posed a large risk and there is no established standard to guarantee secure hot wallets. When the government of South Korea dispatched security inspections to multiple exchanges, the results were still that 3 of them got hacked after the inspections. If standards develop such that an organization in the market is willing to insure the hot wallets, this could provide an acceptable alternative. Another option may be for multiple exchange operators to pool funds aside for a hot wallet insurance fund. Comprehensive coverage standards must be established and maintained for all hot wallet balances to make sure Canadians are adequately protected.
Current Draft Proposal
(1) Proper multi-signature cold wallet storage. (a) Each private key is the personal and legal responsibility of one person - the “signatory”. Signatories have special rights and responsibilities to protect user assets. Signatories are trained and certified through a course covering (1) past hacking and fraud cases, (2) proper and secure key generation, and (3) proper safekeeping of private keys. All private keys must be generated and stored 100% offline by the signatory. If even one private keys is ever breached or suspected to be breached, the wallet must be regenerated and all funds relocated to a new wallet. (b) All signatories must be separate background-checked individuals free of past criminal conviction. Canadians should have a right to know who holds their funds. All signing of transactions must take place with all signatories on Canadian soil or on the soil of a country with a solid legal system which agrees to uphold and support these rules (from an established white-list of countries which expands over time). (c) 3-5 independent signatures are required for any withdrawal. There must be 1-3 spare signatories, and a maximum of 7 total signatories. The following are all valid combinations: 3of4, 3of5, 3of6, 4of5, 4of6, 4of7, 5of6, or 5of7. (d) A security audit should be conducted to validate the cold wallet is set up correctly and provide any additional pertinent information. The primary purpose is to ensure that all signatories are acting independently and using best practices for private key storage. A report summarizing all steps taken and who did the audit will be made public. Canadians must be able to validate the right measures are in place to protect their funds. (e) There is a simple approval process if signatories wish to visit any country outside Canada, with a potential whitelist of exempt countries. At most 2 signatories can be outside of aligned jurisdiction at any given time. All exchanges would be required to keep a compliant cold wallet for Canadian funds and have a Canadian office if they wish to serve Canadian customers. (2) Regular and transparent solvency audits. (a) An audit must be conducted at founding, after 3 months of operation, and at least once every 6 months to compare customer balances against all stored cryptocurrency and fiat balances. The auditor must be known, independent, and never the same twice in a row. (b) An audit report will be published featuring the steps conducted in a readable format. This should be made available to all Canadians on the exchange website and on a government website. The report must include what percentage of each customer asset is backed on the exchange, and how those funds are stored. (c) The auditor will independently produce a hash of each customer's identifying information and balance as they perform the audit. This will be made publicly available on the exchange and government website, along with simplified instructions that each customer can use to verify that their balance was included in the audit process. (d) The audit needs to include a proof of ownership for any cryptocurrency wallets included. A satoshi test (spending a small amount) or partially signed transaction both qualify. (e) Any platform without 100% reserves should be assessed on a regular basis by a government or industry watchdog. This entity should work to prevent any further drop, support any private investor to come in, or facilitate a merger so that 100% backing can be obtained as soon as possible. (3) Protections for hot wallets and transactions. (a) A standardized list of approved coins and procedures will be established to constitute valid cold storage wallets. Where a multi-sig process is not natively available, efforts will be undertaken to establish a suitable and stable smart contract standard. This list will be expanded and improved over time. Coins and procedures not on the list are considered hot wallets. (b) Hot wallets can be backed by additional funds in cold storage or an acceptable third-party insurance provider with a comprehensive coverage policy. (c) Exchanges are required to cover the full balance of all user funds as denominated in the same currency, or double the balance as denominated in bitcoin or CAD using an established trading rate. If the balance is ever insufficient due to market movements, the firm must rectify this within 24 hours by moving assets to cold storage or increasing insurance coverage. (d) Any large transactions (above a set threshold) from cold storage to any new wallet addresses (not previously transacted with) must be tested with a smaller transaction first. Deposits of cryptocurrency must be limited to prevent economic 51% attacks. Any issues are to be covered by the exchange. (e) Exchange platforms must provide suitable authentication for users, including making available approved forms of two-factor authentication. SMS-based authentication is not to be supported. Withdrawals must be blocked for 48 hours in the event of any account password change. Disputes on the negligence of exchanges should be governed by case law.
Continued review of existing OSC feedback is still underway. More feedback and opinions on the framework and ideas as presented here are extremely valuable. The above is a draft and not finalized. The process of further developing and bringing a suitable framework to protect Canadians will require the support of exchange operators, legal experts, and many others in the community. The costs of not doing such are tremendous. A large and convoluted framework, one based on flawed ideas or implementation, or one which fails to properly safeguard Canadians is not just extremely expensive and risky for all Canadians, severely limiting to the credibility and reputation of the industry, but an existential risk to many exchanges. The responsibility falls to all of us to provide our insight and make our opinions heard on this critical matter. Please take the time to give your thoughts.
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
Bitcoin (BTC) is a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency that aims to function as a means of exchange that is independent of any central authority. BTC can be transferred electronically in a secure, verifiable, and immutable way.
Launched in 2009, BTC is the first virtual currency to solve the double-spending issue by timestamping transactions before broadcasting them to all of the nodes in the Bitcoin network. The Bitcoin Protocol offered a solution to the Byzantine Generals’ Problem with ablockchainnetwork structure, a notion first created byStuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta in 1991.
Bitcoin’s whitepaper was published pseudonymously in 2008 by an individual, or a group, with the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto”, whose underlying identity has still not been verified.
The Bitcoin protocol uses an SHA-256d-based Proof-of-Work (PoW) algorithm to reach network consensus. Its network has a target block time of 10 minutes and a maximum supply of 21 million tokens, with a decaying token emission rate. To prevent fluctuation of the block time, the network’s block difficulty is re-adjusted through an algorithm based on the past 2016 block times.
With a block size limit capped at 1 megabyte, the Bitcoin Protocol has supported both the Lightning Network, a second-layer infrastructure for payment channels, and Segregated Witness, a soft-fork to increase the number of transactions on a block, as solutions to network scalability.
Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency that aims to function as a means of exchange and is independent of any central authority. Bitcoins are transferred electronically in a secure, verifiable, and immutable way.
Network validators, whom are often referred to as miners, participate in the SHA-256d-based Proof-of-Work consensus mechanism to determine the next global state of the blockchain.
The Bitcoin protocol has a target block time of 10 minutes, and a maximum supply of 21 million tokens. The only way new bitcoins can be produced is when a block producer generates a new valid block.
The protocol has a token emission rate that halves every 210,000 blocks, or approximately every 4 years.
Unlike public blockchain infrastructures supporting the development of decentralized applications (Ethereum), the Bitcoin protocol is primarily used only for payments, and has only very limited support for smart contract-like functionalities (Bitcoin “Script” is mostly used to create certain conditions before bitcoins are used to be spent).
In the Bitcoin network, anyone can join the network and become a bookkeeping service provider i.e., a validator. All validators are allowed in the race to become the block producer for the next block, yet only the first to complete a computationally heavy task will win. This feature is called Proof of Work (PoW). The probability of any single validator to finish the task first is equal to the percentage of the total network computation power, or hash power, the validator has. For instance, a validator with 5% of the total network computation power will have a 5% chance of completing the task first, and therefore becoming the next block producer. Since anyone can join the race, competition is prone to increase. In the early days, Bitcoin mining was mostly done by personal computer CPUs. As of today, Bitcoin validators, or miners, have opted for dedicated and more powerful devices such as machines based on Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (“ASIC”). Proof of Work secures the network as block producers must have spent resources external to the network (i.e., money to pay electricity), and can provide proof to other participants that they did so. With various miners competing for block rewards, it becomes difficult for one single malicious party to gain network majority (defined as more than 51% of the network’s hash power in the Nakamoto consensus mechanism). The ability to rearrange transactions via 51% attacks indicates another feature of the Nakamoto consensus: the finality of transactions is only probabilistic. Once a block is produced, it is then propagated by the block producer to all other validators to check on the validity of all transactions in that block. The block producer will receive rewards in the network’s native currency (i.e., bitcoin) as all validators approve the block and update their ledgers.
The Bitcoin protocol utilizes the Merkle tree data structure in order to organize hashes of numerous individual transactions into each block. This concept is named after Ralph Merkle, who patented it in 1979. With the use of a Merkle tree, though each block might contain thousands of transactions, it will have the ability to combine all of their hashes and condense them into one, allowing efficient and secure verification of this group of transactions. This single hash called is a Merkle root, which is stored in the Block Header of a block. The Block Header also stores other meta information of a block, such as a hash of the previous Block Header, which enables blocks to be associated in a chain-like structure (hence the name “blockchain”). An illustration of block production in the Bitcoin Protocol is demonstrated below. https://preview.redd.it/m6texxicf3151.png?width=1591&format=png&auto=webp&s=f4253304912ed8370948b9c524e08fef28f1c78d
Block time and mining difficulty
Block time is the period required to create the next block in a network. As mentioned above, the node who solves the computationally intensive task will be allowed to produce the next block. Therefore, block time is directly correlated to the amount of time it takes for a node to find a solution to the task. The Bitcoin protocol sets a target block time of 10 minutes, and attempts to achieve this by introducing a variable named mining difficulty. Mining difficulty refers to how difficult it is for the node to solve the computationally intensive task. If the network sets a high difficulty for the task, while miners have low computational power, which is often referred to as “hashrate”, it would statistically take longer for the nodes to get an answer for the task. If the difficulty is low, but miners have rather strong computational power, statistically, some nodes will be able to solve the task quickly. Therefore, the 10 minute target block time is achieved by constantly and automatically adjusting the mining difficulty according to how much computational power there is amongst the nodes. The average block time of the network is evaluated after a certain number of blocks, and if it is greater than the expected block time, the difficulty level will decrease; if it is less than the expected block time, the difficulty level will increase.
What are orphan blocks?
In a PoW blockchain network, if the block time is too low, it would increase the likelihood of nodes producingorphan blocks, for which they would receive no reward. Orphan blocks are produced by nodes who solved the task but did not broadcast their results to the whole network the quickest due to network latency. It takes time for a message to travel through a network, and it is entirely possible for 2 nodes to complete the task and start to broadcast their results to the network at roughly the same time, while one’s messages are received by all other nodes earlier as the node has low latency. Imagine there is a network latency of 1 minute and a target block time of 2 minutes. A node could solve the task in around 1 minute but his message would take 1 minute to reach the rest of the nodes that are still working on the solution. While his message travels through the network, all the work done by all other nodes during that 1 minute, even if these nodes also complete the task, would go to waste. In this case, 50% of the computational power contributed to the network is wasted. The percentage of wasted computational power would proportionally decrease if the mining difficulty were higher, as it would statistically take longer for miners to complete the task. In other words, if the mining difficulty, and therefore targeted block time is low, miners with powerful and often centralized mining facilities would get a higher chance of becoming the block producer, while the participation of weaker miners would become in vain. This introduces possible centralization and weakens the overall security of the network. However, given a limited amount of transactions that can be stored in a block, making the block time too longwould decrease the number of transactions the network can process per second, negatively affecting network scalability.
3. Bitcoin’s additional features
Segregated Witness (SegWit)
Segregated Witness, often abbreviated as SegWit, is a protocol upgrade proposal that went live in August 2017. SegWit separates witness signatures from transaction-related data. Witness signatures in legacy Bitcoin blocks often take more than 50% of the block size. By removing witness signatures from the transaction block, this protocol upgrade effectively increases the number of transactions that can be stored in a single block, enabling the network to handle more transactions per second. As a result, SegWit increases the scalability of Nakamoto consensus-based blockchain networks like Bitcoin and Litecoin. SegWit also makes transactions cheaper. Since transaction fees are derived from how much data is being processed by the block producer, the more transactions that can be stored in a 1MB block, the cheaper individual transactions become. https://preview.redd.it/depya70mf3151.png?width=1601&format=png&auto=webp&s=a6499aa2131fbf347f8ffd812930b2f7d66be48e The legacy Bitcoin block has a block size limit of 1 megabyte, and any change on the block size would require a network hard-fork. On August 1st 2017, the first hard-fork occurred, leading to the creation of Bitcoin Cash (“BCH”), which introduced an 8 megabyte block size limit. Conversely, Segregated Witness was a soft-fork: it never changed the transaction block size limit of the network. Instead, it added an extended block with an upper limit of 3 megabytes, which contains solely witness signatures, to the 1 megabyte block that contains only transaction data. This new block type can be processed even by nodes that have not completed the SegWit protocol upgrade. Furthermore, the separation of witness signatures from transaction data solves the malleability issue with the original Bitcoin protocol. Without Segregated Witness, these signatures could be altered before the block is validated by miners. Indeed, alterations can be done in such a way that if the system does a mathematical check, the signature would still be valid. However, since the values in the signature are changed, the two signatures would create vastly different hash values. For instance, if a witness signature states “6,” it has a mathematical value of 6, and would create a hash value of 12345. However, if the witness signature were changed to “06”, it would maintain a mathematical value of 6 while creating a (faulty) hash value of 67890. Since the mathematical values are the same, the altered signature remains a valid signature. This would create a bookkeeping issue, as transactions in Nakamoto consensus-based blockchain networks are documented with these hash values, or transaction IDs. Effectively, one can alter a transaction ID to a new one, and the new ID can still be valid. This can create many issues, as illustrated in the below example:
Alice sends Bob 1 BTC, and Bob sends Merchant Carol this 1 BTC for some goods.
Bob sends Carols this 1 BTC, while the transaction from Alice to Bob is not yet validated. Carol sees this incoming transaction of 1 BTC to him, and immediately ships goods to B.
At the moment, the transaction from Alice to Bob is still not confirmed by the network, and Bob can change the witness signature, therefore changing this transaction ID from 12345 to 67890.
Now Carol will not receive his 1 BTC, as the network looks for transaction 12345 to ensure that Bob’s wallet balance is valid.
As this particular transaction ID changed from 12345 to 67890, the transaction from Bob to Carol will fail, and Bob will get his goods while still holding his BTC.
With the Segregated Witness upgrade, such instances can not happen again. This is because the witness signatures are moved outside of the transaction block into an extended block, and altering the witness signature won’t affect the transaction ID. Since the transaction malleability issue is fixed, Segregated Witness also enables the proper functioning of second-layer scalability solutions on the Bitcoin protocol, such as the Lightning Network.
Lightning Network is a second-layer micropayment solution for scalability. Specifically, Lightning Network aims to enable near-instant and low-cost payments between merchants and customers that wish to use bitcoins. Lightning Network was conceptualized in a whitepaper by Joseph Poon and Thaddeus Dryja in 2015. Since then, it has been implemented by multiple companies. The most prominent of them include Blockstream, Lightning Labs, and ACINQ. A list of curated resources relevant to Lightning Network can be found here. In the Lightning Network, if a customer wishes to transact with a merchant, both of them need to open a payment channel, which operates off the Bitcoin blockchain (i.e., off-chain vs. on-chain). None of the transaction details from this payment channel are recorded on the blockchain, and only when the channel is closed will the end result of both party’s wallet balances be updated to the blockchain. The blockchain only serves as a settlement layer for Lightning transactions. Since all transactions done via the payment channel are conducted independently of the Nakamoto consensus, both parties involved in transactions do not need to wait for network confirmation on transactions. Instead, transacting parties would pay transaction fees to Bitcoin miners only when they decide to close the channel. https://preview.redd.it/cy56icarf3151.png?width=1601&format=png&auto=webp&s=b239a63c6a87ec6cc1b18ce2cbd0355f8831c3a8 One limitation to the Lightning Network is that it requires a person to be online to receive transactions attributing towards him. Another limitation in user experience could be that one needs to lock up some funds every time he wishes to open a payment channel, and is only able to use that fund within the channel. However, this does not mean he needs to create new channels every time he wishes to transact with a different person on the Lightning Network. If Alice wants to send money to Carol, but they do not have a payment channel open, they can ask Bob, who has payment channels open to both Alice and Carol, to help make that transaction. Alice will be able to send funds to Bob, and Bob to Carol. Hence, the number of “payment hubs” (i.e., Bob in the previous example) correlates with both the convenience and the usability of the Lightning Network for real-world applications.
Schnorr Signature upgrade proposal
Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (“ECDSA”) signatures are used to sign transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain. https://preview.redd.it/hjeqe4l7g3151.png?width=1601&format=png&auto=webp&s=8014fb08fe62ac4d91645499bc0c7e1c04c5d7c4 However, many developers now advocate for replacing ECDSA with Schnorr Signature. Once Schnorr Signatures are implemented, multiple parties can collaborate in producing a signature that is valid for the sum of their public keys. This would primarily be beneficial for network scalability. When multiple addresses were to conduct transactions to a single address, each transaction would require their own signature. With Schnorr Signature, all these signatures would be combined into one. As a result, the network would be able to store more transactions in a single block. https://preview.redd.it/axg3wayag3151.png?width=1601&format=png&auto=webp&s=93d958fa6b0e623caa82ca71fe457b4daa88c71e The reduced size in signatures implies a reduced cost on transaction fees. The group of senders can split the transaction fees for that one group signature, instead of paying for one personal signature individually. Schnorr Signature also improves network privacy and token fungibility. A third-party observer will not be able to detect if a user is sending a multi-signature transaction, since the signature will be in the same format as a single-signature transaction.
4. Economics and supply distribution
The Bitcoin protocol utilizes the Nakamoto consensus, and nodes validate blocks via Proof-of-Work mining. The bitcoin token was not pre-mined, and has a maximum supply of 21 million. The initial reward for a block was 50 BTC per block. Block mining rewards halve every 210,000 blocks. Since the average time for block production on the blockchain is 10 minutes, it implies that the block reward halving events will approximately take place every 4 years. As of May 12th 2020, the block mining rewards are 6.25 BTC per block. Transaction fees also represent a minor revenue stream for miners.
A Beginners Guide to Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency
As cryptocurrency, and blockchain technology become more abundant throughout our society, it’s important to understand the inner workings of this technology, especially if you plan to use cryptocurrency as an investment vehicle. If you’re new to the crypto-sphere, learning about Bitcoin makes it much easier to understand other cryptocurrencies as many other altcoins' technologies are borrowed directly from Bitcoin. Bitcoin is one of those things that you look into only to discover you have more questions than answers, and right as you’re starting to wrap your head around the technology; you discover the fact that Bitcoin has six other variants (forks), the amount of politics at hand, or that there are over a thousand different cryptocurrencies just as complex if not even more complex than Bitcoin. We are currently in the infancy of blockchain technology and the effects of this technology will be as profound as the internet. This isn’t something that’s just going to fade away into history as you may have been led to believe. I believe this is something that will become an integral part of our society, eventually embedded within our technology. If you’re a crypto-newbie, be glad that you're relatively early to the industry. I hope this post will put you on the fast-track to understanding Bitcoin, blockchain, and how a large percentage of cryptocurrencies work.
Altcoin: Short for alternative coin. There are over 1,000 different cryptocurrencies. You’re probably most familiar with Bitcoin. Anything that isn’t Bitcoin is generally referred to as an altcoin. HODL: Misspelling of hold. Dank meme accidentally started by this dude. Hodlers are much more interested in long term gains rather than playing the risky game of trying to time the market. TO THE MOON: When a cryptocurrency’s price rapidly increases. A major price spike of over 1,000% can look like it’s blasting off to the moon. Just be sure you’re wearing your seatbelt when it comes crashing down. FUD: Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt. FOMO: Fear of missing out. Bull Run: Financial term used to describe a rising market. Bear Run: Financial term used to describe a falling market.
What Is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin (BTC) is a decentralized digital currency that uses cryptography to secure and ensure validity of transactions within the network. Hence the term crypto-currency. Decentralization is a key aspect of Bitcoin. There is no CEO of Bitcoin or central authoritative government in control of the currency. The currency is ran and operated by the people, for the people. One of the main development teams behind Bitcoin is blockstream. Bitcoin is a product of blockchain technology. Blockchain is what allows for the security and decentralization of Bitcoin. To understand Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, you must understand to some degree, blockchain. This can get extremely technical the further down the rabbit hole you go, and because this is technically a beginners guide, I’m going to try and simplify to the best of my ability and provide resources for further technical reading.
A Brief History
Bitcoin was created by Satoshi Nakamoto. The identity of Nakamoto is unknown. The idea of Bitcoin was first introduced in 2008 when Nakamoto released the Bitcoin white paper - Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System. Later, in January 2009, Nakamoto announced the Bitcoin software and the Bitcoin network officially began. I should also mention that the smallest unit of a Bitcoin is called a Satoshi. 1 BTC = 100,000,000 Satoshis. When purchasing Bitcoin, you don’t actually need to purchase an entire coin. Bitcoin is divisible, so you can purchase any amount greater than 1 Satoshi (0.00000001 BTC).
What Is Blockchain?
Blockchain is a distributed ledger, a distributed collection of accounts. What is being accounted for depends on the use-case of the blockchain itself. In the case of Bitcoin, what is being accounted for is financial transactions. The first block in a blockchain is referred to as the genesis block. A block is an aggregate of data. Blocks are also discovered through a process known as mining (more on this later). Each block is cryptographically signed by the previous block in the chain and visualizing this would look something akin to a chain of blocks, hence the term, blockchain. For more information regarding blockchain I’ve provided more resouces below:
Bitcoin mining is one solution to the double spend problem. Bitcoin mining is how transactions are placed into blocks and added onto the blockchain. This is done to ensure proof of work, where computational power is staked in order to solve what is essentially a puzzle. If you solve the puzzle correctly, you are rewarded Bitcoin in the form of transaction fees, and the predetermined block reward. The Bitcoin given during a block reward is also the only way new Bitcoin can be introduced into the economy. With a halving event occurring roughly every 4 years, it is estimated that the last Bitcoin block will be mined in the year 2,140. (See What is Block Reward below for more info). Mining is one of those aspects of Bitcoin that can get extremely technical and more complicated the further down the rabbit hole you go. An entire website could be created (and many have) dedicated solely to information regarding Bitcoin mining. The small paragraph above is meant to briefly expose you to the function of mining and the role it plays within the ecosystem. It doesn’t even scratch the surface regarding the topic.
How do you Purchase Bitcoin?
The most popular way to purchase Bitcoin through is through an online exchange where you trade fiat (your national currency) for Bitcoin. Popular exchanges include:
There’s tons of different exchanges. Just make sure you find one that supports your national currency.
Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are EXTREMELY volatile. Swings of 30% or more within a few days is not unheard of. Understand that there is always inherent risks with any investment. Cryptocurrencies especially. Only invest what you’re willing to lose.
Transaction & Network Fees
Transacting on the Bitcoin network is not free. Every purchase or transfer of Bitcoin will cost X amount of BTC depending on how congested the network is. These fees are given to miners as apart of the block reward. Late 2017 when Bitcoin got up to $20,000USD, the average network fee was ~$50. Currently, at the time of writing this, the average network fee is $1.46. This data is available in real-time on BitInfoCharts.
In this new era of money, there is no central bank or government you can go to in need of assistance. This means the responsibility of your money falls 100% into your hands. That being said, the security regarding your cryptocurrency should be impeccable. The anonymity provided by cryptocurrencies alone makes you a valuable target to hackers and scammers. Below I’ve detailed out best practices regarding securing your cryptocurrency.
Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
Two-factor authentication is a second way of authenticating your identity upon signing in to an account. Most cryptocurrency related software/websites will offer or require some form of 2FA. Upon creation of any crypto-related account find the Security section and enable 2FA.
The most basic form of 2FA which you are probably most familiar with. This form of authentication sends a text message to your smartphone with a special code that will allow access to your account upon entry. Note that this is not the safest form of 2FA as you may still be vulnerable to what is known as a SIM swap attack. SIM swapping is a social engineering method in which an attacker will call up your phone carrier, impersonating you, in attempt to re-activate your SIM card on his/her device. Once the attacker has access to your SIM card he/she now has access to your text messages which can then be used to access your online accounts. You can prevent this by using an authenticator such as Google Authenticator.
The use of an authenticator is the safest form of 2FA. An authenticator is installed on a seperate device and enabling it requires you input an ever changing six digit code in order to access your account. I recommend using Google Authenticator. If a website has the option to enable an authenticator, it will give you a QR code and secret key. Use Google Authenticator to scan the QR code. The secret key consists of a random string of numbers and letters. Write this down on a seperate sheet of paper and do not store it on a digital device. Once Google Authenticator has been enabled, every time you sign into your account, you will have to input a six-digit code that looks similar to this. If you happen to lose or damage the device you have Google Authenticator installed on, you will be locked out of your account UNLESS you have access to the secret key (which you should have written down).
A wallet is what you store Bitcoin and cryptocurrency on. I’ll provide resources on the different type of wallets later but I want to emphasize the use of a hardware wallet (aka cold storage). Hardware wallets are the safest way of storing cryptocurrency because it allows for your crypto to be kept offline in a physical device. After purchasing crypto via an exchange, I recommend transferring it to cold storage. The most popular hardware wallets include the Ledger Nano S, and Trezor. Hardware wallets come with a special key so that if it gets lost or damaged, you can recover your crypto. I recommend keeping your recovery key as well as any other sensitive information in a safety deposit box. I know this all may seem a bit manic, but it is important you take the necessary security precautions in order to ensure the safety & longevity of your cryptocurrency.
Technical Aspects of Bitcoin
Address: What you send Bitcoin to.
Wallet: Where you store your Bitcoin
Max Supply: 21 million
Block Time: ~10 minutes
Block Size: 1-2 MB
Block Reward: BTC reward received from mining.
What is a Bitcoin Address?
A Bitcoin address is what you send Bitcoin to. If you want to receive Bitcoin you’d give someone your Bitcoin address. Think of a Bitcoin address as an email address for money.
What is a Bitcoin Wallet?
As the title implies, a Bitcoin wallet is anything that can store Bitcoin. There are many different types of wallets including paper wallets, software wallets and hardware wallets. It is generally advised NOT to keep cryptocurrency on an exchange, as exchanges are prone to hacks (see Mt. Gox hack). My preferred method of storing cryptocurrency is using a hardware wallet such as the Ledger Nano S or Trezor. These allow you to keep your crypto offline in physical form and as a result, much more safe from hacks. Paper wallets also allow for this but have less functionality in my opinion. After I make crypto purchases, I transfer it to my Ledger Nano S and keep that in a safe at home. Hardware wallets also come with a special key so that if it gets lost or damaged, you can recover your crypto. I recommend keeping your recovery key in a safety deposit box.
What is Bitcoins Max Supply?
The max supply of Bitcoin is 21 million. The only way new Bitcoins can be introduced into the economy are through block rewards which are given after successfully mining a block (more on this later).
What is Bitcoins Block Time?
The average time in which blocks are created is called block time. For Bitcoin, the block time is ~10 minutes, meaning, 10 minutes is the minimum amount of time it will take for a Bitcoin transaction to be processed. Note that transactions on the Bitcoin network can take much longer depending on how congested the network is. Having to wait a few hours or even a few days in some instances for a transaction to clear is not unheard of. Other cryptocurrencies will have different block times. For example, Ethereum has a block time of ~15 seconds. For more information on how block time works, Prabath Siriwardena has a good block post on this subject which can be found here.
What is Bitcoins Block Size?
There is a limit to how large blocks can be. In the early days of Bitcoin, the block size was 36MB, but in 2010 this was reduced to 1 MB in order to prevent distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS), spam, and other malicious use on the blockchain. Nowadays, blocks are routinely in excess of 1MB, with the largest to date being somewhere around 2.1 MB. There is much debate amongst the community on whether or not to increase Bitcoin’s block size limit to account for ever-increasing network demand. A larger block size would allow for more transactions to be processed. The con argument to this is that decentralization would be at risk as mining would become more centralized. As a result of this debate, on August 1, 2017, Bitcoin underwent a hard-fork and Bitcoin Cash was created which has a block size limit of 8 MB. Note that these are two completely different blockchains and sending Bitcoin to a Bitcoin Cash wallet (or vice versa) will result in a failed transaction. Update: As of May 15th, 2018 Bitcoin Cash underwent another hard fork and the block size has increased to 32 MB. On the topic of Bitcoin vs Bitcoin Cash and which cryptocurrency is better, I’ll let you do your own research and make that decision for yourself. It is good to know that this is a debated topic within the community and example of the politics that manifest within the space. Now if you see community members arguing about this topic, you’ll at least have a bit of background to the issue.
What is Block Reward?
Block reward is the BTC you receive after discovering a block. Blocks are discovered through a process called mining. The only way new BTC can be added to the economy is through block rewards and the block reward is halved every 210,000 blocks (approximately every 4 years). Halving events are done to limit the supply of Bitcoin. At the inception of Bitcoin, the block reward was 50BTC. At the time of writing this, the block reward is 12.5BTC. Halving events will continue to occur until the amount of new Bitcoin introduced into the economy becomes less than 1 Satoshi. This is expected to happen around the year 2,140. All 21 million Bitcoins will have been mined. Once all Bitcoins have been mined, the block reward will only consist of transaction fees.
Any computer that connects to the Bitcoin network is called a node. Nodes that fully verify all of the rules of Bitcoin are called full nodes.
In other words, full nodes are what verify the Bitcoin blockchain and they play a crucial role in maintaining the decentralized network. Full nodes store the entirety of the blockchain and validate transactions. Anyone can participate in the Bitcoin network and run a full node. Bitcoin.org has information on how to set up a full node. Running a full node also gives you wallet capabilities and the ability to query the blockchain. For more information on Bitcoin nodes, see Andreas Antonopoulos’s Q&A on the role of nodes.
What is a Fork?
A fork is a divergence in a blockchain. Since Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer network, there’s an overall set of rules (protocol) in which participants within the network must abide by. These rules are put in place to form network consensus. Forks occur when implementations must be made to the blockchain or if there is disagreement amongst the network on how consensus should be achieved.
Soft Fork vs Hard Fork
The difference between soft and hard forks lies in compatibility. Soft forks are backwards compatible, hard forks are not. Think of soft forks as software upgrades to the blockchain, whereas hard forks are a software upgrade that warrant a completely new blockchain. During a soft fork, miners and nodes upgrade their software to support new consensus rules. Nodes that do not upgrade will still accept the new blockchain. Examples of Bitcoin soft forks include:
A hard fork can be thought of as the creation of a new blockchain that X percentage of the community decides to migrate too. During a hard fork, miners and nodes upgrade their software to support new consensus rules, Nodes that do not upgrade are invalid and cannot accept the new blockchain. Examples of Bitcoin hard forks include:
Note that these are completely different blockchains and independent from the Bitcoin blockchain. If you try to send Bitcoin to one of these blockchains, the transaction will fail.
A Case For Bitcoin in a World of Centralization
Our current financial system is centralized, which means the ledger(s) that operate within this centralized system are subjugated to control, manipulation, fraud, and many other negative aspects that come with this system. There are also pros that come with a centralized system, such as the ability to swiftly make decisions. However, at some point, the cons outweigh the pros, and change is needed. What makes Bitcoin so special as opposed to our current financial system is that Bitcoin allows for the decentralized transfer of money. Not one person owns the Bitcoin network, everybody does. Not one person controls Bitcoin, everybody does. A decentralized system in theory removes much of the baggage that comes with a centralized system. Not to say the Bitcoin network doesn’t have its problems (wink wink it does), and there’s much debate amongst the community as to how to go about solving these issues. But even tiny steps are significant steps in the world of blockchain, and I believe Bitcoin will ultimately help to democratize our financial system, whether or not you believe it is here to stay for good.
Well that was a lot of words… Anyways I hope this guide was beneficial, especially to you crypto newbies out there. You may have come into this realm not expecting there to be an abundance of information to learn about. I know I didn’t. Bitcoin is only the tip of the iceberg, but now that you have a fundamental understanding of Bitcoin, learning about other cryptocurrencies such as Litecoin, and Ethereum will come more naturally. Feel free to ask questions below! I’m sure either the community or myself would be happy to answer your questions. Thanks for reading!
Hashrate: went from 54 to 76 PH/s, the low was 50 and the new all-time high is 100 PH/s. BeePool share rose to ~50% while F2Pool shrank to 30%, followed by coinmine.pl at 5% and Luxor at 3%. Staking: 30-day average ticket price is 95.6 DCR (+3.0) as of Sep 3. During the month, ticket price fluctuated between a low of 92.2 and high of 100.5 DCR. Locked DCR represented between 3.8 and 3.9 million or 46.3-46.9% of the supply. Nodes: there are 217 public listening and 281 normal nodes per dcred.eu. Version distribution: 2% at v1.4.0(pre) (dev builds), 5% on v1.3.0 (RC1), 62% on v1.2.0 (-5%), 22% on v1.1.2 (-2%), 6% on v1.1.0 (-1%). Almost 69% of nodes are v.1.2.0 and higher and support client filters. Data snapshot of Aug 31.
Obelisk posted 3 email updates in August. DCR1 units are reportedly shipping with 1 TH/s hashrate and will be upgraded with firmware to 1.5 TH/s. Batch 1 customers will receive compensation for missed shipment dates, but only after Batch 5 ships. Batch 2-5 customers will be receiving the updated slim design. Innosilicon announced the new D9+ DecredMaster: 2.8 TH/s at 1,230 W priced $1,499. Specified shipping date was Aug 10-15. FFMiner DS19 claims 3.1 TH/s for Blake256R14 at 680 W and simultaneously 1.55 TH/s for Blake2B at 410 W, the price is $1,299. Shipping Aug 20-25. Another newly noticed miner offer is this unit that does 46 TH/s at 2,150 W at the price of $4,720. It is shipping Nov 2018 and the stats look very close to Pangolin Whatsminer DCR (which has now a page on asicminervalue).
www.d1pool.com joined the list of stakepools for a total of 16. Australian CoinTreeadded DCR trading. The platform supports fiat, there are some limitations during the upgrade to a new system but also no fees in the "Early access mode". On a related note, CoinTree is working on a feature to pay household bills with cryptocurrencies it supports. Three new OTC desks were added to exchanges page at decred.org. Two mobile wallets integrated Decred:
Coinomiadded Decred to their Android and iOS wallets. In addition to the Apple App Store and Google Play you can download the APK directly. Coinomi features an integrated cryptocurrency exchange and is the first company to offer a mobile Decred wallet.
Reminder: do your best to understand the security and privacy model before using any wallet software. Points to consider: who controls the seed, does the wallet talk to the nodes directly or via middlemen, is it open source or not?
Bit Dialsannounced DCR support via GloBee at their bitdials.eu luxury boutique. Their separate supercar and classic car shop bitcars.eu also accepts DCR, either via GloBee or with manual invoicing in case of privacy concerns.
Targeted advertising report for August was posted by @timhebel. Facebook appeal is pending, some Google and Twitter campaigns were paused and some updated. Read more here. Contribution to the @decredproject Twitter account has evolved over the past few months. A #twitter_ops channel is being used on Matrix to collaboratively draft and execute project account tweets (including retweets). Anyone with an interest in contributing to the Twitter account can ask for an invitation to the channel and can start contributing content and ideas there for evaluation by the Twitter group. As a result, no minority or unilateral veto over tweets is possible. (from GitHub)
Meetup in Puebla City, Mexico, organized by @elian. (photo, slides, missed in July issue)
@joshuam discussed Decred and decentralized organizations with Craig Laundy, Federal Minister for Small Business, the Workplace, and Deregulation with the Australian Government, at @YBFVentures. (photos)
Meetup at @TheBlockCafe in Lisbon, Portugal. @mm presented "Decred 101 - Governance with Skin in the Game" and @moo31337 talked about Decred's 2018 roadmap. (photos: 123)
Meetup in Taipei, Taiwan. @morphymore made a short intro of Decred and noted: "After the talk, many have approached to tell me that they literally don’t hear of Decred until today, and are interested in finding out more about the merit of a hybrid consensus system.". Longer report here, some photos and a video are here.
@eSizeDave introduced Decred to the SILC Undergraduate Program students at @YBFVentures. (photo)
OKEx Global Meetup Tour in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. @joshuam gave a brief presentation covering the history of Decred, how the project functions, and the importance of governance. Afterwards he joined a panel discussion and spoke about Decred's incentives for long term viability. (video, video, photo)
Blockchain Futurist Conference in Toronto, Canada. @zubairzia0 noted: "Devs and the community were held in high regard for the people who knew about decred ... one positive thing I remember was someone defending us saying 'Decred does not need a booth', I believe that comment was reflective of the quality of projects being showcased at the conference.". (photo)
Meetup at @YBFVentures in Melbourne, Australia. @joshuam discussed Decred with Graham Stuart, U.K. Minister for International Trade. (news, photos)
Small meetup with Jackson Palmer in Melbourne, Australia. (photo)
Hawthorne Street Fair in Portland, USA. Raedah Group was out answering questions about crypto and Decred. (photos)
Blockchain APAC in Melbourne, Australia. @joshuam joined a panel discussion with reps from banking, university and ISO/TC 307. @eSizeDave reports: "This enterprise conference was indeed a whole lot better than I expected. The presentations were actually full of very worthwhile information from credible people, articulated aptly to a very government, academic, and corporate crowd, who genuinely took on board valuable insights. Good to know some of these key people are Decred holders and stakers as well. I got to use the entire day to speak directly with some of the most pivotal personalities in this particular populace. Ongoing relationships have been built and strengthened.". (photos: 123)
For those willing to help with the events:
BAB: Hey all, we are gearing up for conference season. I have a list of places we hope to attend but need to know who besides @joshuam and @Haon are willing to do public speaking, willing to work booths, or help out at them? You will need to be well versed on not just what is Decred, but the history of Decred etc... DM me if you are interested. (#event_planning) The Decred project is looking for ambassadors. If you are looking for a fun cryptocurrency to get involved in send me a DM or come talk to me on Decred slack. (@marco_peereboom, longer version here)
One private work channel was successfully migrated to Matrix.
Stylish room avatars were set.
@Haon has prepared a short guide to help new Matrix users get started and join the Decred rooms.
A thread was started to discuss changes to Decred jargon with the intent to make it more consistent and accessible to newcomers. The question whether changing "official" terminology requires stakeholder approval was touched in this thread and in #documentation.
Project fund transparency and constitution were extensively discussed on Reddit and in #general.
Pre-proposal to use Politeia to approve Politeia as a legitimate decision-making tool for Decred.
Reddit: substantive discussion about Decred cons; ecosystem fund; a thread about voter engagement, Politeia UX and trolling; idea of a social media system for Decred by @michae2xl; how profitable is the Obelisk DCR1. Chats: cross-chain trading via LN; plans for contractor management system, lower-level decision making and contractor privacy vs transparency for stakeholders; measuring dev activity; what if the network stalls, multiple implementations of Decred for more resilience, long term vision behind those extensive tests and accurate comments in the codebase; ideas for process for policy documents, hosting them in Pi and approving with ticket voting; about SPV wallet disk size, how compact filters work; odds of a wallet fetching a wrong block in SPV; new module system in Go; security of allowing Android app backups; why PoW algo change proposal must be specified in great detail; thoughts about NIPoPoWs and SPV; prerequisites for shipping SPV by default (continued); Decred vs Dash treasury and marketing expenses, spending other people's money; why Decred should not invade a country, DAO and nation states, entangling with nation state is poor resource allocation; how winning tickets are determined and attack vectors; Politeia proposal moderation, contractor clearance, the scale of proposals and decision delegation, initial Politeia vote to approve Politeia itself; chat systems, Matrix/Slack/Discord/RocketChat/Keybase (continued); overview of Korean exchanges; no breaking changes in vgo; why project fund burn rate must keep low; asymptotic behavior of Decred and other ccs, tail emission; count of full nodes and incentives to run them; Politeia proposal translations and multilingual environment. An unusual event was the chat about double negatives and other oddities in languages in #trading.
DCR started the month at USD 56 / BTC 0.0073 and had a two week decline. On Aug 14 the whole market took a huge drop and briefly went below USD 200 billion. Bitcoin went below USD 6,000 and top 100 cryptos lost 5-30%. The lowest point coincided with Bitcoin dominance peak at 54.5%. On that day Decred dived -17% and reached the bottom of USD 32 / BTC 0.00537. Since then it went sideways in the USD 35-45 / BTC 0.0054-0.0064 range. Around Aug 24, Huobi showed DCR trading volume above USD 5M and this coincided with a minor recovery. @ImacallyouJawdy posted some creative analysis based on ticket data.
StopAndDecrypt published an extensive article "ASIC Resistance is Nothing but a Blockchain Buzzword" that is much in line with Decred's stance on ASICs. The ongoing debates about the possible Sia fork yet again demonstrate the importance of a robust dispute resolution mechanism. Also, we are lucky to have the treasury. Mark B Lundeberg, who found a vulnerability in atomicswap earlier, published a concept of more private peer-to-peer atomic swaps. (missed in July issue) Medium took a cautious stance on cryptocurrencies and triggered at least one project to migrate to Ghost (that same project previously migrated away from Slack). Regulation: Vietnam bans mining equipment imports, China halts crypto events and tightens control of crypto chat groups. Reddit was hacked by intercepting 2FA codes sent via SMS. The announcement explains the impact. Yet another data breach suggests to think twice before sharing any data with any company and shift to more secure authentication systems. Intel and x86 dumpsterfire keeps burning brighter. Seek more secure hardware and operating systems for your coins. Finally, unrelated to Decred but good for a laugh: yetanotherico.com.
About This Issue
This is the 5th issue of Decred Journal. It is mirrored on GitHub, Medium and Reddit. Past issues are available here. Most information from third parties is relayed directly from source after a minimal sanity check. The authors of Decred Journal have no ability to verify all claims. Please beware of scams and do your own research. Feedback is appreciated: please comment on Reddit, GitHub or #writers_room on Matrix or Slack. Contributions are welcome too. Some areas are collecting content, pre-release review or translations to other languages. Check out @Richard-Red's guide how to contribute to Decred using GitHub without writing code. Credits (Slack names, alphabetical order): bee, Haon, jazzah, Richard-Red and thedecreddigest.
4 Sub-$10 Million Market Cap Coins Worth Keeping An Eye On
1. Spectrecoin ($XSPEC) – $8.6 Million
What is Spectrecoin?
Utilizing a “range of proven cryptographic techniques” to achieve anonymous, untraceable, and un-linkable transactions, Spectrecoin is a secure Proof-of-Stake cryptocurrency enabling rapid P2P transactions and network privacy. Specifically, Spectrecoin is pulling out all the stops in order to protect user identity through their integration of:
Built-in Tor: Derived from the original software project moniker—The Onion Router—Spectrecoin is fully integrated with Tor, protecting real IP addresses at all times through the directing of traffic through a worldwide (and free) overlay network of more than 7,000 relays.
Anonymous coin creation: Deploying dual key stealth technology (a dual coin system), Spectre authorizes users to generate ‘anonymous coins’ known as SPECTRE for private and anonymous transactions as an alternative to their normal, everyday coin—XSPEC—for traditional transactions (most similar to Bitcoin).
Ring signatures: Through the execution and implementation of ring signatures, Spectrecoin user transaction history is wiped altogether, allowing users to exchange and transfer public coins, XSPEC, and SPECTRE.
At its core, Spectre’s dual coin system sanctions four fundamental types of privacy and anonymity transactions, XSPEC > XSPEC, XSPEC > SPECTRE, SPECTRE > SPECTRE, and SPECTRE > XSPEC, providing a plethora of transaction options for every type of user. And finally, if you’re looking for the TLDR (too long, didn’t read), Spectrecoin notes the best way to understand SPECTRE is to think of Bitcoin + Proof-of-Stake.v3 + anonymous transactions (similar to Monero) + Tor (for IP obfuscation).
Why You Should Keep an Eye On XSPEC
Unlike several other privacy coins which merely provide a Tor proxy—availing users to potential malicious exit nodes—Spectrecoin is fully integrated with Tor, a reliable and tested network providing one of the largest pools of IP addresses for confidentiality and untraceability. Coupled with staking, set at a 5% minimum per year, Spectrecoin offers a unique proposition (the only one in blockchain) for users looking to earn rewards while remaining anonymous by staking anonymous coins while generating more, fresh anonymous ones. Furthermore, for those looking for affirmation of Spectrecoin’s commitment to anonymity, not even the developers know each other’s real names—something that would have made walking away from a lacklustre ICO (which only raised 16 BTC at $600/700 per BTC) all too easy. Spectre has emphasized organic growth without an excessive and aggressive marketing push, opting instead for a working product and timely improvements to meet the ever-changing privacy arms race. And, with their funding gap set around £19,000, users can take solace in knowing the project isn’t an outright cash grab asking for millions to further tenuous goodwill—like far too many projects in the cryptosphere. At time of writing, XSPEC is listed on CoinMarketcap at US$0.41 or 5,970 Satoshis. Finally, if you’re wondering how Spectrecoin stacks up to other privacy coins, such as Monero, PIVX, and Zcash, check out this comparison chart.
2. FundRequest ($FND) – $1 Million
What is FundRequest?
In an age where open source software is an integral component for institutional, government, and nonprofit function and growth, there unfortunately remains a hindering factor—a cohesive, transparent, and styled request and transaction flow. Cue FundRequest, a decentralized marketplace for open source collaboration and catalyst for global open source sharing and circulation, empowering organizations, government, and other entities to:
Trustlessly transact via the blockchain and smart contracts to ensure all contracts created are self-resolving, tracked, and validated in a fair manner,
Incentivize organizations and developers to act in good faith through governance protocols and crypto economics,
Lower costsfor upkeep, while reducing friction for large-scale usage and adoption of open source technology,
Boost transparency for organizations looking to better understand average development and issue costs (ultimately resulting in a more efficient market), and
Integrate with third-party platforms (and vice versa), who are looking to benefit from already completed works.
Need to brush up on what exactly ‘open source’ means? The Open Source Initiative describes the concept of ‘open source’ as a tool which “enables a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process.” For example, a requesting organization (referred to as the funder) will allot set funds—stored in a smart contract (i.e., escrow)—in order to tackle an open source issue, which is then picked up and solved by a developer (the solver). In order to eliminate malicious behavior, FundRequest requires solvers to “have skin in the game,” by staking proportional valued funds, all released and claimed once the issue is solved. Simply put, FundRequest is the go-to facilitating and incentivization platform (similar to Airbnb and Uber) for funding, claiming, and rewarding open source commits and contributions, leading to an enriched and more collaborative open source ecosystem.
Why You Should Keep an Eye On FND
With an estimated US$60 billion-plus in savings per year for organizations and institutions, thanks to open-source software and technology adoption, FundRequest is set to act as the glue which connects all dispersed and integral parts and actors. Traditional software, prohibitive costs, and predatory vendor practices are proving not to be conducive towards maximal technological growth and development, as most people and organizations just simply can’t afford or maintain it. Plus, with a clear push by both private and public sectors to leverage community-based software for development and distribution over the last decade, it’s expanding at rapid pace. In 2018, it’s approximated over 50% of European and North American companies utilize open source software for “crucial applications,” along with over 50% of American government organizations. This is no small industry. GitHub alone boasts over 24 million users (more than 8 times their user base five years ago), and it’s estimated that in the EU and United States combined, there’s over 160 million persons working as freelancers and independent contractors in what’s known as the “gig economy.” And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, with over 60% of online gig economy workers accounted for in Asia. As of August 1st, FND’s price sits at right around US$0.03 or 472 Satoshis. Finally, for open source projects and ERC-20 token projects looking to increase development capacity, consider checking out FundRequest for potential partnerships. Already in their short tenure, FundRequest has partnered with:
Redefining convenience, simplicity, and compatibility, and short for the “Crypto One-Stop Solution’ exchange and platform, COSS is the native token and liquidity attraction tool of the Singapore-based exchange, boasting some of the most popular altcoins on the market while enabling users to receive weekly payouts in “dust” for all traded tokens. Specifically, COSS is looking to provide more than just a simple, fast, and secure cryptocurrency trading exchange—they’re building a borderless, digital economical system to bring cryptocurrencies to the masses via:
Digital wallet with integrated cash flow: allowing users to seamlessly transfer and store crypto funds between the exchange and wallet within a single application.
ICO platform: enabling projects to fund and their ICO on the COSS exchange to increase popularity, volume, and trading value.
Ultimately, COSS is looking to shake up the cryptocurrency exchange ecosystem through improved user experience, heightened product and feature functions, and a comprehensive foundation for employers, startups, companies, and traders to build towards a more accessible and mainstream cooperative blockchain community.
Why You Should Keep an Eye on COSS
With the rapid and gargantuan successes enjoyed by both Kucoin and Binance in 2018, crypto exchanges employing user-friendly token incentivization models are becoming a go-to for users looking to generate passive income while diversifying their crypto portfolio. However, unlike other cryptocurrency exchanges which have lowered their daily fee splits to nominal amounts, COSS has stayed true towards user rewards, keeping their daily percentage at 50%—paying out the respective dividends via a decentralized autonomous organization, ultimately guaranteeing an immutable percentage. In order to stay competitive in the present-day blockchain ecosystem, COSS’s whitepaper notes a minimum of 3-5 new features implemented per quarter. In the past several months, below are just several of their most notable achievements:
Partnership with Blockchain Terminal (BCT): Easing the transition for institutional investors to trade and transact on crypto exchanges.
NEO Listing: Trading pairs for NEO/BTC, NEO/ETH, NEO/USD, and NEO/COSS.
Preparation for COSS 2.0: The hiring of a team of over thirty developers in preparation of COSS 2.0, which is set to roll out dynamic withdrawal fees, sophisticated trading tools, dust conversion, public and private APIs, new wallet, institutional accounts, and more.
And, if you’re looking to know what COSS’s endgame here is, their goal is to shift completely towards a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) in the future, where governance and decision making is outlined in code and run by a peer-to-peer network. Currently, COSS’s price is listed at US$0.06 or 935 Satoshis on Coinmarketcap. Finally, if you’re curious about COSS’s fee sharing, check out the COSS fee share calculator, which provides an accurate picture of your monthly exchange fee earnings relative to the amount of COSS owned. One Reddit user recently posted, and provided a screenshot, showing the COSS annual dividends to be at nearly 10% per year.
4. Lamden ($TAU) – $6.9 Million
What is Lamden?
Named after the Sherpa language word meaning “to guide,” Lamden is staying true to its name by easing the creation and deployment of dapps and custom blockchains. At its core, Lamden is providing a suite of developer tools mimicking “modern development processes in such tech stacks as Node.js or Python.” Simply put, Lamden is supplying the building blocks for experienced and amateur blockchain developers alike, enabling organizations and enterprise to skirt the energy and time costs of hiring and training expensive blockchain developers—ultimately speeding up efficiency and reducing overhead costs. Lamden is broken up into three fundamental sections, which all are in furtherance of project depth and the deployment of hyperfast blockchains for developers to not only experiment with, but test and deploy across other blockchain systems and platforms:
Saffron: a general tool sanctioning the deployment of private chains on an internal network, partitioning blockchains into individual use cases (e.g., an enterprise having their own web app), and bringing them together to interact when needed. Lamden CEO Stuart Farmer noted that from blockchain generation, to installment, all the way to deployment, an entire deployment cycle can be completed within a frame of just ten minutes!
Flora: a central repository for smart contract templates and packages, blockchain discovery tool, and private chain naming services, where developers are able to engage with one another, feed off one another’s innovations, and rapidly deploy and distribute smart contracts.
Clove: a payment network trustlessly facilitating communication between blockchain apps while handling payment channel swap processes, avoiding blockchain bloat and acting similarly to a telephone network.
Furthermore, Lamden supports the Ethereum network and Bitcoin-based blockchains at present, and boasts zero transaction fees and free chain-to-chain payments in exchange for chain allocation a specific amount of bandwidth for confirming payment channel transactions—meaning that its users are able to transact for free as a result of corporate entities bearing the network load and processing.
Why You Should Keep an Eye On TAU
Having released their ‘Cilantro’ testnet alpha in February 2018, Lamden has since hit the ground running, rolling out their first version of Clove soon after and tackling the necessary tune-ups and improvements in preparation of their mainnet launch in Q4 2018. Lamden’s mainnet is set to utilize a unique combination of Delegated Proof-of-Stake (DPoS) and the BFT Protocol, and will scale to process nearly 10,000 transactions per second. Moreover, in April 2018, Lamden announced the creation of LamDEX, their own decentralized cryptocurrency exchange and platform, where users will be able to stake their TAU—the native token of the Lamden platform—to act as a market maker, allowing for a cohesive back and forth across the TAU pair at prices faintly above and below market cost, ultimately generating rewards. With a rather daunting and tedious task ahead for anyone looking to utilize and incorporate existing smart contracts—which involves the manual searching for such on GitHub (a general repository website)—Lamden is truly adding value to blockchain and application development through their smart contract repository. Unlike GitHub, Lamden supports dependencies, versioning, and security, all essential elements for a quality package manager. Doing so adds not only convenience, but practicality to smart contract packages and implementation, and stands to save enterprise and organizations both exorbitant developer costs and time. If you’d like to learn more about Lamden’s developer tool suite, check out this complete overview from their blog. At the time of writing, Lamden’s price according to Coinmarketcap is US$0.04 or 699 Satoshis. To get a better picture of Lamden and their blockchain development tools ecosystem, check out this explanatory YouTube video from their channel. Final Thoughts Risk is inevitable when investing in crypto and blockchain projects. However, as long as you are cognizantly defining parameters for absorbing such risk, then diversifying your portfolio with smaller capped projects can be an effective way to realize value. Whether you’re looking for a user-friendly exchange to purchase crypto directly with fiat from (and earn dividends for loyalty) or wanting to execute anonymous and secure transactions with a P2P coin, the aforementioned projects are all bringing value to the crypto sphere through their overhaul of ineffective traditional mechanisms and institutions. Make sure to stay calm and collected during this bear market, associate yourself with quality projects that you think are bringing actual value to severely flawed industries, and remember, having a little gamble in you never hurts (as long as it’s properly accounted for). Source: https://www.investinblockchain.com/sub-10-million-coins/ B0x: Gustafio
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