Cryptocurrencies and their Characteristics

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Get familiar with Ethereum, its founding principles and major improvements/limitations upon the initial Bitcoin Blockchain!

Did you know that due to the nature of the cryptographic community from which cryptocurrencies have been developed, it is only natural that the adoption of cryptocurrencies in the digital sphere has dwarfed that in the traditional business world? Cryptocurrency adoption has firmly permeated the online gaming sphere with offerings such as Experience points (XP) for purchasing incentives in games and educational content, as well as GameCredits (GAME), which aims to be a universal currency for gamers worldwide and STORM, a kind of Blockchain Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourcing Internet marketplace. In the online gambling space, Funfair (FUN) aims to be the go-to currency for all online gaming, and Edgeless (EDG) supposedly offers a gambling experience with no edge for the house, a project all gamblers would surely welcome and support.

Cryptocurrency projects have already provided use cases for conventional businesses and enabled existing commercial operations to improve their performance with the implementation of Blockchain technology. Thus far, Bitcoin is the cryptocurrency that has most readily made inroads into the public consciousness. Microsoft, for example, has begun to accept Bitcoin payments in Windows and XBox stores, and Expedia has teamed up with Coinbase to allow Bitcoin to be used to book hotel rooms. Much like Iconomy in the crypto asset management sphere, NapoleonX (NPX), is allowing crypto investors to buy into Decentralized autonomous funds which focus on conventional markets. As we have already covered, one of the main reasons that Blockchain technology is causing so much excitement is because of the great number of ways the technology might be developed and applied in business.

The Canadian-Russian boy genius named Vitalik Buterin first envisaged the next stage in Blockchain technology as a scripting language for Bitcoin. But this particular idea failed to reach a consensus with the community. That is what stimulated development of a totally new platform with a more general type of language. Initial development on the Ethereum project began in Spring 2014 with the core team of Vitalik Buterin, Mihai Alisie, Anthony DiIorio, and Charles Hoskinson, working through the Swiss company EthSuisse. Subsequently, the Ethereum Foundation was created in the run up to the July 2014 crowd sale. Then, the Ethereum project’s currency Ether was distributed to participants who purchased the token with Bitcoin.

The initial questions about the security of the project were proven to be warranted after an infamous entity called the DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) led to the loss of $50 million of the $150 million dollars raised in the Ethereum crowdsale. The Ethereum Blockchain then underwent a very contentious hard fork resulting in the Ethereum, ETH, we know today being separated from its parent chain, Ethereum Classic, ETC. By the end of 2016, the Ethereum Blockchain had forked twice more resulting in increased DDoS protection, that de-bloated its Blockchain, and thwarted further spam attacks by hackers.

The true cost of the financial crisis for the world economy is still being calculated and may never actually be known, but conservative estimates put the cost at approximately $20,000 per America citizen. Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous creator of the most famous and infamous digital currency, sought to create a means of transmitting value that did not require a trusted third party to oversee the transaction or guarantee the value. By using distributed ledger technology on the Blockchain he laid the foundation for a trustless decentralized financial system that did not rely on central banks to mediate transactions. This is a “peer-to-peer version of electronic cash…. sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution”. With no trusted third party, each individual becomes a self-sovereign, one-person-bank, responsible for his or her own transactions and security.

The Ether token’s authenticity is guaranteed by its Blockchain, which is a continuously growing list of records connected and secured using cryptography. Like Bitcoin, the Ethereum Network is an open and distributed ledger that records transactions between two people in a confirmable and permanent way. The Ether token is superior to bitcoin in that its blocktime is approximately 15 seconds compared to 10 minutes with Bitcoin. Mining generates new coins at a usually consistent rate, and the average transaction cost in December 2017 was $0.33 compared to $23 for Bitcoin. As alluded to above, Ethereum initially aimed to become both a decentralized internet and a decentralized app store supporting a new kind of app (dapp). In order for the network to function correctly, a novel piece of code “ether” was created in order to pay for the computational power needed to run an application on the Ethereum network. Ether is a digital bearer asset like BTC, and does not need a third party to verify or mediate transactions. “ERC-20 Token: The Ethereum Request for Comment -20 token is standard set of rules used for smart contracts on the Ethereum Blockchain for executing new tokens. It defines a uniform set of rules on how a new token will function within the Ethereum Blockchain. The creation of this token has made it very easy for start-up companies to create their own token within the Ether ecosystem. That was a very significant advancement that caused the 2017 ICO boom in newly issued tokens.

Monero: This fork of Bitcoin is focused on privacy and decentralization. It obfuscates the sender and recipient’s addresses, as well as the amount of the transaction. The original Monero (the name is Esperanto for “coin”) author, Nicolas van Saberhagen, sought to make mining rewards more egalitarian as an additional benefit of being part of the Monero ecosystem. The very private nature of the Monero architecture, which mixes sender “ring signatures” with many others, makes the deciphering of the destination and recipient address increasingly difficult. This has made the Monero cryptocurrency the go-to coin for illicit transactions on the Dark web. There is, however, another way to look at this. Although Monero’s intensely private nature and deliberate obfuscation of transaction destinations and sources is undoubtedly used for criminal and corrupt purposes, the exact opposite effect may occur if its privacy characteristics are placed within the context of third world countries where corruption is already rife. In developing countries, it has proven much easier for people to obtain devices with an internet connection than it is for them to open a bank account. With 2 billion people worldwide without a bank account, much of them in Sub-Saharan Africa, privacy coins like Monero could play a key role in distributing aid to the needy without having to deal with any potentially corrupt and inefficient organizations or state institutions standing in between.

Ripple: Ripple is well-known as one of the very first big Blockchain projects. In fact, its predecessor, RipplePay dates all the way back to 2004. The modern version of the Ripple payment protocol (conceived by Jared McCaleb and built by Arthur Britto and David Schwartz) enables instant peer-to-peer transfer of money. The protocol and the facility to avoid the banking system, results in drastically reduced fees and transaction times compared to international transfers by conventional banking methods. Ripple is currently known as the cryptocurrency of the financial services industry, with major involvement by Santander, American Express and RBS, amongst many others. Ripple has also teamed up with Moneygram to speed up the process of cross-border payments. Ripple is aiming to send money across national lines “as quickly as information” in the words of its CEO Brad Garlinghouse. The almost laughable inefficiencies and delays in sending money to friends or loved ones in foreign countries is a major pain point for banking customers the world over. Now, with the implementation of Blockchain technology through Ripple’s XRapid initiative in partnership with Moneygram, international transfer times will go from being measured in days to being measured in seconds.

NEO: This is often described as the “Chinese Ethereum”. NEO is similar to Ethereum in that it is a Blockchain platform that is designed to be a scalable platform for the construction of decentralized applications. The NEO Blockchain project was founded by Da Hongfei in 2014. Like Ether (ETH) in the Ethereum network, the NEO token is the base asset of the NEO Blockchain. But unlike Ether, it is indivisible, and it accrues a GAS token when stored in a wallet. The GAS token can be used to pay transaction fees on the NEO Blockchain. The NEO cryptocurrency was rebranded from Antshares in 2017, and has started to produce highly successful ICOs on its platform, most notably Ontology (ONT) and RPX which will make use of the NEP-5 token. In the immediate aftermath of rebrand from Antshares, the all-encompassing vision of NEO 2.0 was laid out as follows: “We hope the platform can be used for different front-end scenarios, such as the Digital asset wallet, Forum, Voting, Profile management and Mobile applications. The platform also features an open API that can be used for integration with other systems.” One of the main alterations made to the NEO project was the addition of more up-to-date digital identity management protocols which employed Public Key Infrastructure(PKI)X.509 digital identity standards. NEO’s verification of identity when issuing digital identities includes fingerprint, voice and facial feature authentication methods.

IOTA’s code architecture is not in the same mold of Bitcoin or Ethereum, both of which could be described as existing on and making use of a Blockchain to order their transaction history. IOTA, and its token, the MIOTA, are embedded in a code structure called “The Tangle” which is a form of Direct Acyclic Graph data architecture. This particular architecture enables the code to function with no fixed block and each transaction carries its own proof of work. These types of transactions are enabled by “storing the most recent transactions in a fast cache, and by using checkpoints such that older transactions cannot be references. Thus, the system can be made as fast as Bitcoin, or faster”. IOTA’s main use case is for the transmission of information and value between Internet of Things enabled devices, in an automated manner. This project is truly one oriented toward the future, when many more IoT devices will be online, and there is a great need for such devices to communicate and transact without any human intervention. One weak point in DAG code architecture is that much less than a 51% attack is sufficient to compromise the network. It would be theoretically possible to bring about double spending on a DAG network with a 34% attack.

TenX (PAY) TenX was founded in 2014 as part of a PayPal incubator program. It sought to bridge the gap between Blockchain assets and everyday commerce, providing an efficient solution for the liquidity problems of many cryptocurrencies. The project will eventually be centered around a debit card that makes use of the COMIT protocol that enables many different Blockchains to interact with one another without having to issue a different token. That could be another milestone event in the crypto ecosystem. The project roadmap presented to investors began with the ICO in July 2017. They famously raised $34 Million in the first 7 minutes. The roadmap will conclude when they obtain their banking license in the middle of 2020. At that point they also aim to issue FIAT tokens fully backed and issued by a government. So far, the TenX project is on course to meet its stated targets. They brought out their highly rated IOS and web apps at the end of 2017. This serves as a fantastic example of how a well-run ICO can help both the investors and the startup streamline the capitalization process to the benefit of all parties involved.

Influence upon Traditional Merchants around the world. Due to the inherent volatility of cryptocurrency, the adoption of crypto payment methods by traditional businesses has generally been slower than in the online sphere. Although some major companies have in fact begun to come around to the idea of integrating digital currencies into their methods of accepting payments, the volatility of crypto is still a serious impediment for most. Microsoft has led the way by incorporating Bitcoin payment systems into the Window Store, as well as adding the ability for game players to purchase credit on the Xbox live network with Bitcoin. Overstock began accepting Bitcoin payments on January 9th, 2014, and saw a significant uptick in orders immediately. They received 900 new orders for $126,000 worth of BTC. Electronic retailer NewEgg, and online gaming site Zynga, also now take Bitcoin payments. There are even certain Subway outlets in South America that have started to accept Bitcoin as a method of payment too. On a far smaller scale, Coingate has partnered with Prestashop, to take Europe to the verge of a widescale cryptocurrency payment method. Merchants of any size need only apply for a Coingate account, and then have a crypto payment module installed, in order to accept payment in Bitcoin, BCash, Ether, Litecoin and nearly 50 other cryptocurrencies. The price is locked in immediately at the time of the transaction, which solves the volatility issue, and the whole process can be completed without the merchant having to deal in anything other than Euros. CryptoCredit card projects Monaco and TenX help to bridge the gap between the worlds of fiat and crypto, allowing a card holder to spend their cryptocurrency anywhere in the world.

Decentralization & Our Financial World In the Financial World, decentralization would radically alter the roles of, and creation of value by, our modern day ‘too-big-to-fail’ financial institutions. The capping of the supply of most major cryptocurrencies is itself an idea nothing short of revolutionary, in the truest sense of the word. All developed economies are oriented around a Central Bank that, through the system of fractional reserve banking, has power to create loans or investments and accept deposits, but is only required to hold reserves equal to 10% of its total liabilities. This in effect empowers central banks to print money as they see fit, a mechanism which gives central banks massive power in contemporary society. Any move toward decentralized ledgers, and any number of finite decentralized currencies, would upset the balance of power between central banks and the individual in a way that has never occurred before. The role of central banks in the economy, and the traditional means of solving common financial problems by having the central bank manipulate the money supply, for example, would need to be radically rethought. Consider the recently used machinations such as quantitative easing, negative interest rates, etc. These are present-day “solutions” that would no longer be able to be applied to the economic and financial problems they are attempting to solve.

If Blockchain technology was meaningfully deployed in the political arena it is conceivable that political corruption and vote-rigging could be severely curtailed or even eradicated. By providing a clear, transparent and incorruptible method of vote recording and counting, voter fraud and election rigging could be eliminated. The political climate could be detoxified and faith could be restored in both fledgling and established democracies. The idea of being able to present a publicly available digital ledger would allow journalists to maintain lists of sources that would be able to be shared between peers without compromising the source’s identity. The possibilities for the application of the Blockchain founding principles are truly revolutionary and just may be the largest leap forward for society since the computerization of the work force or the globalization of trade. The Cryptocurrency Ecosystem Overstock is a large e-commerce company that has successfully adopted a Blockchain solution for its business needs. The Silk Road was one of the most widely known early beneficiaries of the mass adoption of cryptocurrencies. Purpose of Cryptocurrencies -Ethereum was developed after the original creator’s suggested changes to Bitcoin were not implemented by the community. -Ethereum is a completely separate cryptocurrency. -DAO Hack & the Ether Token. -Monero, Ripple, NEO, Stellar & Iota. -Microsoft has begun to accept Bitcoin on the Xbox live network store.

If there is a wide-scale expansion of the mechanism of asset-tokenization we could see stocks, bonds, synthetic instruments and commodities being brought on-chain in the future. This would allow traditional assets to be easily integrated with smart contracts, and facilitate their interaction. This would cut down transaction times, and even more importantly, dramatically slash legal fees to a fraction of what they are today. It can cost up to $1,000 an hour or more to hire corporate lawyers to preside over a deal, draft contracts, or give advice on the intricacies of high finance. So, the potential savings involved for big businesses, if smart contracts and asset tokenization became the norm, is an amazing thing to think about at this time. The ASX is the first exchange in the world to implement a solution that would change the settlement of equities transactions from two days, to mere minutes. This radically changes how traders on both the buy and sell side, as well as companies, would be able to trade their securities, manage their risk and leverage their positions.

Learn more on the role ICO tokens play as a part of Blockchain backed solutions. What is a crypto token? How do security tokens work? How to market an ICO?

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