A Crying Foul Coinbase Withdrawal Delays Leave Users Frustrated

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) received yet another request to approve Wall Street bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs). This time, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) wishes to list five new ETFs, so-called leveraged and inverse funds which increase risk and reward.

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Wall Street Wants Bitcoin ETFs with Twice the Risk/Reward

Wall Street Goes Short, Gets Bear, with Proposed Risky Bitcoin ETFs

The trope for years has been bitcoin’s volatility, risk, is too great for the sober adults of professional finance to be bothered. That myth was thoroughly smashed on 4 January 2018 when the NYSE Arca filed a fifty page request with the SEC. Wall Street wants Direxion Asset Management’s five ETFs, known as leveraged or inverse funds. The proposed funds up the risk level by twice, in either direction, and are short term investments. They’re easily some of the riskiest funds put forward.

ETFs are prized because they’re traded like stocks with the muscle of mutual funds. The SEC has yet to approve bitcoin ETFs, and applications for rule-changes are stacking up. Some estimates have requests for the cryptocurrency to be formally listed at nearly a dozen. This year enthusiasts will learn the financial product’s fate, most experts believe.

Direxion is presently asking five funds be listed: Direxion Daily Bitcoin Bear 1X Shares, Direxion Daily Bitcoin 1.25X Bull Shares, Direxion Daily Bitcoin 1.5X Bull Shares, Direxion Daily Bitcoin 2X Bull Shares, and Direxion Daily Bitcoin 2X Bear Shares. If approved they’d trade on the NYSE’s Arca market. Investors could see their returns as much as double; they could also see losses compound in the other direction just as fast.

Wall Street Wants Bitcoin ETFs with Twice the Risk

Twice as Fast in Either Direction

The funds aren’t necessarily tethered to bitcoin’s spot price, but are instead a way to track bitcoin futures on markets such as those created by NYSE rivals Cboe and CME, with “investment results (before fees and expenses) that correlate positively to either 125%, 150%, or 200% the daily return of the target benchmark,” according to the filing.Wall Street Wants Bitcoin ETFs with Twice the Risk

That assumes a bull market, but, again, losses are multiplied as well which logically means these are for short term investing (longer options are available). ETFs would bring even more mainstreaming to bitcoin with regard to the broader investment community.

It’s a curious move, but the risks are sure to attract investment. One would assume the natural bitcoin price spikes would be enough for adrenaline junkies. But there is still widespread skepticism and worry about actually owning and holding bitcoin among Wall Street types. Nevertheless, such short-term volatility is something many traders value. Indeed the filing insists the Direxion ETFs “enhance competition among market participants, to the benefit of investors and the marketplace.”

What do you think of bitcoin ETFs? Let us know in the comments section below

Ripple Gateways Can Freeze Users’ Funds at Any Time

Ripple has been the talk of the town lately thanks to its rocketing value and growing market capitalization that’s making eyes at bitcoin. $1,000 of XRP bought a year ago would be worth half a million dollars today. But away from the price action, there’s an issue bugging ripple that just won’t go away. It’s been alleged for years that Ripple Labs has the power to freeze the balances of account holders. If true, it would be a major cause for concern, especially for proponents of decentralized currency.

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The Big Freeze

The origins of the Ripple freeze go as follows: In August 2014, Ripple quietly introduced a feature called Freeze. It was put to the test a few months later when Ripple cofounder Jed McCaleb tried to cash out some of his billions in XRP after leaving the company. He’d previously signed an agreement to sell no more than $10,000 of XRP a week, only to attempt to clear $1 million worth through Bitstamp in one go.

Ripple Gateways Can Freeze Users’ Funds at Any TimeUpon learning of McCaleb’s actions, Ripple intervened and prevented him from doing so, utilizing its Balance Freeze feature. Built into Ripple gateways such as Bitstamp by default, it enables the company to stop the movement of XRP. During the brouhaha that followed, Bitstamp, caught in the middle, filed a lawsuit to settle the dispute between McCaleb and Ripple Labs.

2015 was a lifetime ago in cryptocurrency, and a lot has happened since then to all of the players caught up in the spat, and to the industry as a whole. Bitstamp, Ripple, and McCaleb would all aver that they’ve moved on to bigger and better things: the former reporting record turnover and trading volume, and McCaleb launching Stellar, whose market cap has quadrupled in a matter of days, catapulting it into the top 10. And then there’s Ripple, which is going great guns.

The Case for the Defense

Ripple’s transformation from sluggish cryptocurrency into the hottest ticket in town has been rapid: three months ago, no one wanted to know. Now, traders of all genders, demographics, and territories are invested in ripple, and not just financially, but emotionally too. Anyone who buys an unfancied coin and then watches it moon can’t help but feel a sense of vindication, and a newfound appreciation for the project. At this stage, anything that threatens the coin’s upward trajectory – such as negative news – risks being shot down.

Ripple Gateways Can Freeze Users’ Funds at Any Time

In a report on ripple’s meteoric rise this week, news.Bitcoin.com mentioned the “big freeze”, linking to another recent article on the site which explains this in more detail. Ripple’s defenders hotly dispute the facts of the matter, though, highlighting a sentence on Ripple’s Freeze page which states: “No one can freeze XRP”.

So what’s the truth of the matter? Can Ripple freeze users’ funds or not?

An Uncomfortable Half-Truth

The answer to Ripple’s capabilities lies in a document the company released in 2014 introducing Balance Freeze and stating:

The freeze protocol extension gives gateways the ability to…freeze funds issued to a particular user. Frozen funds may only be sent back to the gateway who issued them. The global freeze feature allows a gateway to freeze all balances issued by it.

When you purchase cryptocurrency on an exchange, your account is assigned a virtual balance – a token essentially – correlating to your holdings. Buy 1 BTC, for example, and nothing moves on the blockchain. All that happens is that your USD and BTC account balances are updated. It’s only once a user makes a withdrawal request that an on-chain transaction takes place.

Ripple uses a distributed ledger called the Ripple protocol which each Ripple gateway – essentially a bank – keeps a record of. Bitstamp, Gatehub, and The Rock Trading are some of the major gateways partnered with Ripple. Purchase ripple on Bitstamp, for example, and the transaction won’t show up on the Ripple protocol. The ledger will only record the movement of funds when they are withdrawn from the Bitstamp wallet to the customer’s XRP wallet.

Ripple Gateways Can Freeze Users’ Funds at Any Time

The phrase “No one can freeze XRP” is thus a half-truth. Ripple does not possess the power to magically remove the funds from a customer’s personal XRP wallet. For example, it can’t plunder the funds that a holder has stored on their Nano S. If those funds are stored with a Ripple gateway that hasn’t opted out of Freeze, however, they can be locked up. Not only can the XRP be frozen, but so can the account balances associated with its sale, such as USD.

Ripple Gateways Can Freeze Users’ Funds at Any TimeRipple’s defenders claim that in this respect, ripple is no different from any other cryptocurrency. If Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin had 10,000 ETH stolen from him and sent to Bitstamp, for example, he could probably pressure the exchange into freezing that ether while the matter was investigated. The difference with Ripple is that the company has developed a special relationship with its gateways which gives these “banks” unprecedented powers to freeze individual counts on a whim, or on the say-so of Ripple, law enforcement, or regulators.

Not only does Ripple encourage the XRP of suspicious accounts to be frozen, but “The financial institution should also freeze the counterparty in any other systems the financial institution operates that are connected to the XRP Ledger”. Your bitcoin; your litecoin; your euros; anything connected to a Ripple gateway can be locked down. No other cryptocurrency has a similar framework in place, which grants exchanges unprecedented powers to lock up funds at the drop of a hat.

A Frosty Reception for Centralized Currencies

No one is suggesting that Ripple Labs has a desire to freeze anyone’s funds. That’s not good for business. Nevertheless, a cryptocurrency which enables a centralized authority to freeze funds at the touch of a button defeats the entire purpose of cryptocurrency. Most people have no objection to stemming the funding of terrorists and money launderers. Once a kill switch is created, however, it leads to a slippery slope in which anyone suspected of misbehavior can have their funds seized.

Ripple Gateways Can Freeze Users’ Funds at Any TimeAs Ripple explains, the feature provides the ability “to freeze individual accounts issuances in order to investigate suspicious activity”. Owning XRP in a country that is hostile to cryptocurrency; possessing an unusually large amount of XRP; signing up to a Ripple gateway exchange from a banned country: all could be grounds for freezing your account.

If law enforcement suspected a cryptocurrency holder was engaged in criminal behavior, they could try to obtain a subpoena granting permission to seize that individual’s exchange balance – and would be required to submit evidence to show there was probable cause for doing so. But if that exchange happened to be a Ripple gateway, they could simply pick up the phone and ask for the Big Button of Freeze to be pressed. And that’s the difference between ripple and other cryptocurrencies.

Keeping so much as 1 XRP on a gateway exchange would technically be enough to see all of your fiat and crypto balances frozen. There are ways to obtain and transact XRP without going near a gateway that possesses special powers. In a world of decentralized cryptocurrencies, however, purveyors of financial freedom may prefer to look elsewhere.

Do you think Ripple’s freeze function is a cause for concern? Let us know in the comments section below.ripple-freeze-1068x1068

Ethereum Over $1000 and $100B Market Cap, BTC Dominance at 32% Record Low

This day might be remembered in the history books as a major milestone for cryptocurrency diversification or as another colossal indicator of the altcoin bubble. There are now three cryptocurrencies with over a $100 billion market cap each. Bitcoin, ethereum (ETH) and ripple (XRP) are worth today a combined total of about half a trillion USD.

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$100 Billion Club

Ethereum long term investors and short term speculators are celebrating alike today as the smart contracts altcoin has broken through the $1,000 per coin psychological barrier. Standing at about $1,040 at the time of writing, the overall value of all ETH in circulation is now over $100 billion. It is the third cryptocurrency in this exclusive club, behind only bitcoin and ripple.

And despite all the warnings about ripple being centralized and freezable speculators keep pouring in to XRP. After rising about 160% from just a week ago and 28% in the last 24 hours alone, its market cap is now well over $140 billion. With a price of just under $4 per coin, part of this movement has to be due to penny stock mentality of new traders seeking a “cheap bitcoin” to bet on.

Ethereum Over $1000 and $100B Market Cap, BTC Dominance at 32% Record Low Altogether, with bitcoin over $250 billion market cap, the three top cryptocurrencies are now worth just shy of $500 billion. Putting this mind boggling number into perspective, its just about 10% below the combined stock value of Visa (NYSE:V $265 billion), Mastercard (NYSE: MA $166 billion), American (NYSE: AXP $87 billion), and Discover (NYSE: DFS $28 billion).

Entering a Multi-Polar World?

Bitcoin has been able to maintain an impressive price level at $15,000 and a quarter trillion USD market cap in the face of this altcoin onslaught, but its market share has suffered. The BTC Dominance Index is now just above 32%, a new all time low, which means that bitcoin is for first time worth less than a third of the crypto market.

While some of ripple’s staunch supporters, as well as fans that heard about it a week ago, are cheering on for “The Rippening” maybe its time to forget about the term and any other Flippening. It is possible that we are simply seeing a paradigm shift in the market, from one leading cryptocurrency and a thousand copy cats to a top heavy, multi-polar landscape. This can probably only be validated in the next big correction, when all the short term speculators will scatter away and either bitcoin will remain alone at the top or not.

Ethereum Over $1000 and $100B Market Cap, BTC Dominance at 32% Record Low

Do you think that bitcoin will continue to lose its market dominance to altcoins in 2018? Share your predictions in the comments section below!

Bitcoin Cash Markets Remain Resilient As the Network’s Upgrade Approaches

It’s been a crazy week for cryptocurrency enthusiasts as the digital asset ecosystem is still reeling over the canceled Segwit2x fork that was expected to take place on the Bitcoin network next week. Over the course of the past few weeks leading up to the planned 2MB Segwit2x hard fork, Bitcoin Cash (BCH) markets have doubled in value after hovering around $300 per BCH for weeks. Now the market has stabilized around the $625 region as the BCH network participants prepare for their own fork that’s just four days away.

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Bitcoin Cash Network and Markets Remain Vigilant After the Canceled BTC Fork Event

Bitcoin Cash Markets Remain Resilient As the Network's Upgrade ApproachesThe Bitcoin Cash network is thriving as the decentralized currency’s value has spiked quite a bit over the past few weeks. At the moment the price per BCH is hovering around $625 as markets currently command roughly $830M worth of daily trade volume. The price of BCH has allowed it to hold the third highest market capitalization at $10.4B just below the ethereum market cap. BCH markets are still seeing lots of trade volume from the South Korean won, as the currency typically captures around 49 percent or more of the daily volumes. The exchange rate stemming from BCH currently makes it the third highest digital asset trade volume within the cryptocurrency landscape. The exchanges trading the most BCH include Bithumb, Hitbtc, Bitfinex, Bittrex, and Korbit.

Bitcoin Cash Markets Remain Resilient As the Network's Upgrade Approaches
Bitcoin Cash (BCH) markets are holding above $600 per token at the time of writing.

Miners Have Started to Signal Intent to Fork the BCH Network

As the currency’s network hard fork approaches, the BCH chain is 8100 blocks ahead of the BTC chain. BCH this week is operating at 8 percent of the current BTC difficulty, and it’s 3.4 percent more profitable to mine BTC. Mining profitability and its fluctuations may change after the BCH network reconfigures the Difficulty-Adjustment-Algorithm (DAA). BCH miners are now signaling their intent to activate the fork and the change is estimated to occur around 2 pm EDT depending on hashrate speed.

Bitcoin Cash Markets Remain Resilient As the Network's Upgrade Approaches

Bitpay Prepares Users for the Bitcoin Cash Consensus Change

Because the fork is drawing closer the Atlanta-based company, Bitpay, has announced to its wallet users its plans for the BCH hard fork. The firm explains that with any blockchain protocol change it must always ensure that customer funds will be safe.

“For the November Bitcoin Cash protocol change, Bitpay and Copay wallets will follow the bitcoin cash chain with the most accumulated difficulty — With current miner signaling, this means that our wallets will be compatible with the new rules activated by the bitcoin cash mining majority,” explains Bitpay.

We don’t currently have any reason to think that this hard fork will be contentious or will result in a blockchain split for bitcoin cash. Users can continue to receive and send bitcoin cash transactions from their wallets up to, during, and after the hard fork protocol change.

Kim Dotcom Asks His Fans Which Cryptocurrency Will Dominate — BTC or BCH?

Also this week the notorious Kim Dotcom started talking about bitcoin cash with his 671,000 followers. Dotcom asks his fans, “By 2021 which of these two is going to carry the larger volume of Internet payments?” With just 11 hours left remaining for the poll bitcoin (BTC) is leading by 64 percent and bitcoin cash (BCH) has 36 percent.

Overall the BCH community seems pleased with the currency’s growing ecosystem and many supporters believe next week’s fork will be smooth. With Segwit2x gone and the rest of the cryptocurrency competition constantly nipping at BTC’s heels many spectators will be focused on bitcoin cash.

What’s your thoughts on bitcoin cash at the moment? Do you think the hard fork approaching will be smooth? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

This Developer is Bringing Atomic Swaps to the Bitcoin Cash Network

Atomic swaps between blockchains have become a hot topic that has sparked a lot of interest due to the decentralized nature of the exchange process. This week a developer that goes by the name of “Deswurstes” or “MCCCS” has accomplished a successful bitcoin cash atomic swap test.

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Introducing Bitcoin Cash to the Atomic Swap Protocol

This Developer is Bringing Atomic Swaps to the Bitcoin Cash NetworkOn November 4, bitcoin cash (BCC) was tested using the Decred/atomic swap protocol by a developer named Deswurstes. The atomic swap Github pull request #37 states, “the first Bitcoin Cash atomic swap has been made! — Proof at the end of this pull request.” Deswurstes says he’s been interested in the scaling debate since mid-2016 and has been a bitcoin fanatic (as a small scale miner/holder, not a developer) since then. The test is one of the developer’s first contributions using the bitcoin cash code, and he plans to design friendlier-looking software to allow users to use it more efficiently.

“Atomic swaps are interesting topics, and there are many alt-to-alt exchanges, but none of them are safe; there’s nothing that prevents the exchange from stealing your money,” Deswurstes explains to news.Bitcoin.com.

When I found atomic swaps, it looked like magic to me. I thought it’d be cool if bitcoin cash had this feature. First I asked its developers if they were going to implement bitcoin cash support, but they were busy. One or two weeks later, I tried and succeeded in coding my atomic swap dream.

‘In the Future, All Altcoin-to-Altcoin Atomic Swaps Will be Instant’

The developer’s first test was a bitcoin cash-to-bitcoin cash atomic swap contract. He tested it like this because it enabled him to debug both initiate and participate commands at the same time, and each time he got closer to the working software. “Currently the software works awesome, however, it doesn’t have dynamic fee support,” Deswurstes explains to news.Bitcoin.com. “The command that makes the node software choose inputs for the transaction (fundrawtransaction) has different syntaxes in different node software.”

Deswurstes says now, people can make trustless bitcoin cash payments, but the process of compiling the software and typing commands in the command prompt is complicated for average users. “When trustless, decentralized exchanges that have order matching come with good UIs, the atomic swap will replace the current exchanges — Especially BCC-BTC will have high volume,” the programmer explains.

In the future, all alt-to-alt atomic swaps will be instant — People will be trading BTC and BCC, which’ll be the highest volume trade, in a few seconds.

This Developer Aims to Bring Atomic Swaps to the Bitcoin Cash Network

Cryptocurrency Exchanges Will Have to Utilize Atomic Swaps, or No One Will Use Them

Deswurstes believes atomic swaps just need a good user interface (UI), and after a nice looking and easy to use UI is implemented there’s nothing that can prevent everyone from using atomic swaps, the developer explains. At the moment Deswurstes notes there are two startups working on friendlier atomic swap UI’s including Barterdex, and Altcoin.io.

“One day, all of the alt-to-alt exchanges will use atomic swaps, because of its safeness and it will be as convenient as the old style trades. There’s no reason for them not to use atomic swaps If they won’t, their users will no longer use them,” Deswurstes concludes.

What do you think about implementing atomic swap processes with bitcoin cash? Let us know what you think in the comments below.


Bitcoin ATMs On the Rise in Russia

The number of bitcoin ATMs is on the rise in Russia. Ten of them were recently installed in five districts of Novosibirsk by a local startup. Last week, a different company announced their plans to install a hundred cryptocurrency ATMs in Moscow hotels and airport terminals starting this month. Meanwhile, the regulators have said that they will not legalize cryptocurrencies anytime soon.

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Novosibirsk’s Ten Bitcoin ATMs

Bitcoin ATMs On the Rise in Russia
A BBFpro Bitcoin ATM.

In Russia’s third most populous city, Novosibirsk, ten one-way bitcoin ATMs were recently installed by a local startup BBFpro, according to RBC. The machines were placed in five districts of the city; Kalininsky, Zheleznodorozhny, Oktyabrsky, Leninsky and Kirovsky districts, detailed the company’s director, Anton Friedel.

Most of the terminals are located in stores selling bottled beverages, he told the publication. “All ten devices are located in such a way that each resident of the city has the opportunity to quickly and easily reach the point of sale of bitcoins,” he was quoted. His team originally wanted to place them in the city’s large shopping centers, but the rent is too high, he elaborated, noting that:

Large shopping centers requested a rent which is almost impossible for us as a startup. The amount for one place reached 15-20,000 rubles, while in beer shops we pay 2,000 rubles for each place.

Bitcoin ATMs On the Rise in Russia
Another BBFpro Bitcoin ATM.

He also revealed that it took his team about three months to develop software and install the terminals, adding that the project cost about two million rubles. The machines charge a commission of 6%. “We made such a small percentage because we are counting on a large flow of customers,” RBC quoted him saying. According to him, BBFpro currently has no competitors in Novosibirsk.

In the near future, Friedel said he plans to expand his network of cryptocurrency ATMs in Novosibirsk as well as to neighboring areas. He specifically named Kemerovo, Krasnoyarsk, Barnaul, and Irkutsk. In addition, “we are developing a terminal that will not only sell but also buy cryptocurrency,” he explained, adding that they also plan to start selling other cryptocurrencies.

100 Crypto ATMs Coming to Moscow

Last week, Rambler News reported that approximately 100 one-way cryptocurrency ATMs will be coming to Moscow between this month and the year’s end. They will be installed by Investcoin24 throughout the city center such as in hotels, according to the company’s co-owner, Pavel Panova. In addition, he added that negotiations are currently underway with airport owners for some units to be installed in their departure and arrival areas.

Bitcoin ATMs On the Rise in Russia
Investcoin24’s Bitcoin ATM at Vintage77.

The machines can be programmed to sell four cryptocurrencies, Panova explained, adding that they can also sell Initial Coin Offering (ICO) tokens. Initially, the commission will be 4%, he told Innov publication.

Last month, Investcoin24 installed a one-way bitcoin ATM at the Moscow restaurant “Vintage77,” according to an Instagram post by the founder of Iventurer Foundation, Alexey Olin.

Another restaurant in Moscow, Valenok, which started accepting bitcoin payments in June also said that they have plans to install a bitcoin ATM if there is demand from customers, according to RIA Novosti.

Regulatory Uncertainties

The number of cryptocurrency ATMs is growing in Russia despite the government saying that they will not legalize cryptocurrencies anytime soon. The Deputy Finance Minister Alexei Moiseev said last month that “bitcoin settlements in Russia will not be legalized.” His statement followed a meeting where the regulators could not agree on how to regulate cryptocurrencies and decided to postpone their plans to draft a regulatory framework for them to next year. The central bank, however, is adamant that these instruments cannot be treated as money substitutes.

Friedel told RBC that he hopes to advertise his bitcoin ATMs to attract more customers. However, since cryptocurrencies are currently unregulated, many large platforms refuse to advertise them, he explained. In addition, he is uncertain how his cryptocurrency business will be taxed. “We will provide the tax authorities with documents, but we do not know whether they will accept them,” he elaborated.

Do you think Russia will allow bitcoin ATMs to flourish across the country? Let us know in the comments section below

 

Markets Update: Bitcoin Price Dives Deeper in the Midst of ICO Shakedown

dip-1068x1068The price of bitcoin dropping over 8 percent immediately after the digital currency’s all time high of $4,980. On September 4, bitcoin dropped to a low of $4,140. Speculators now believe the price drop today may be due to the recent announcement from the People’s Bank of China banning Initial Coin Offerings (ICO).

 

Bitcoin Markets Shave a Few Billion Again

There’s a bearish sentiment throughout bitcoin markets, just as we predicted would happen two days ago in our last price analysis. At press time, bitcoin’s price is trying to hold above the $4,150 territory as the currency’s value dropped another six legs down on Monday, September 4. Volume is still pretty decent with over $2.4B traded over the past 24-hours, but most of the action is stemming from this morning’s huge sell off. Bitcoin’s price dip caused the entire top eighteen cryptocurrency market capitalizations to drop, slashing prices from 5 to 34 percent, as most altcoins right now are in the red. This past week’s sell off has been the largest to date since mid-July, and we are seeing a similar 25-30 percent total correction during the bearish cycle.

Markets Update: Bitcoin Price Dives Deeper in the Midst of ICO Shakedown

Bitcoin price 11:30 am EDT September 4, 2017. Prices are now below the sub-$4,300 range.

Technical Indicators

Right now technical indicators show the Relative Strength Index (RSI) continues to head downwards, confirming that sellers right now have the upper hand. Of course, over the past three days, the two Simple Moving Averages (SMA) crossed hairs, and the long term 200 SMA is well above the short term 100 SMA. This again assures traders the storm is not yet over, and there is great resistance down the road. Looking at order books on some of the most popular exchanges, there are monstrous walls between the $4,600-5,000 positions. If support holds steady in the $4,160-4,200 area, bulls will have some work to do to eat through the next wave of resistance levels.

Markets Update: Bitcoin Price Dives Deeper in the Midst of ICO Shakedown

Bitcoin price, September 4, 2017. 200 SMA (white trendline) is well above the 100 SMA (green).

PBOC: ‘No ICOs For You’

Market sentiment seems to be geared towards the recent announcement from China’s central bank concerning ICOs. Cryptocurrency markets were already battling through a significant correction after bitcoin reached new price highs. So speculators think the recent banning of ICOs in China adds uncertainty to these types of markets. Otherwise, bitcoin is running its course through a typical 25-30 percent correction, after rocketing close to the $5K levels. Other spectators believe banks are spreading ‘fake news’ about bitcoin right now, because cryptocurrency popularity has risen exponentially. The UK publication the Mirror reports that certain banks are spreading these phony news stories to “restore the status quo.”

Bitcoin’s dip redlines the top eighteen altcoins below bitcoin’s market cap.

The Verdict

Right now bitcoin is holding above $4,150, so it may consolidate in this territory and push higher this week with some bounce back. Most of the top ten altcoins below bitcoin’s market cap lost larger percentages than bitcoin, which is likely tethered to the ICO news. This has pushed bitcoin’s market dominance up to 48.5 percent among the hundreds of altcoin market caps in existence. After the lull, bitcoin could follow its typical trend of moving up higher than before after a deep correction. So far this has been a consistent trend this year for bitcoin’s price, but we should never place all of our bets on this trend, because it may not be the case going forward.

Bear Scenario: Bitcoin markets could drop lower if the $4,100 floor collapses, bringing the price into the $4,000-3,900 territory. Right now big players have stepped off to the sidelines to catch more satoshis from weak hands and wait to choose a better entry point. Most technical indicators like the Stochastic, RSI, SMA, and order books are showing a strong negative sentiment at press time.

Bull Scenario: Right now, we are either going to consolidate in the $4,125-4,200 range, or we are seeing a short term bull trap at the moment. Bitcoin needs to break upper-level resistance past the $4,600 territory, but right now walls are considerably high. Of course topping the $5K range again is not out of the question, but it’s going to take some significant time to get there again.

Where do you see the price of bitcoin heading from here? Let us know in the comments below.

August 1 Will Be the Potential Disruption of the Bitcoin Network

If you’ve been listening to the bitcoin ‘community,’ you’d know in about two weeks the bitcoin network may face some protocol changes. Due to the possible user-activated soft fork (UASF) planned and the chance some groups may counter this plan, this has created thousands of discussions concerning August 1. Now the bitcoin-focused web portal Bitcoin.org has issued a warning on the site that informs users of a “potential network disruption.”

 

August 1st and the Potential Network Disruption

Bitcoin users everywhere are getting prepared and heavily discussing the possibility of a blockchain split. The subject was discussed a lot this past March when bitcoin proponents and cryptocurrency businesses feared a potential split when the Bitcoin Unlimited implementation was seeing strong support. Now the conversation has resurfaced, but the topic of UASF or BIP148 is an entirely different scenario.

August 1 and The Potential Disruption of the Bitcoin Network

UASF (BIP148) is a mechanism designed to start on August 1st, at 00:00 UTC that activates a soft fork enforced by full nodes. After this point, full nodes participating in this plan will reject blocks that have not upgraded to BIP141 otherwise known as Segregated Witness (Segwit). At press time there are 1095 total UASF nodes out of 7896 reachable bitcoin nodes globally according to Bitnodes. UASF requires a lot of industry support and miners to activate Segwit, by this point if they do not support the activation the chain could diverge into two.

August 1 and The Potential Disruption of the Bitcoin Network

Currently, there are businesses that have announced initial support for BIP148 such as Abra, Trezor, Samourai Wallet, Electrum, Coinomi, Mycelium and roughly 37 other organizations. However, there are many wallets and a vast majority of exchanges that have not announced any support or issued warnings about the upcoming August 1st Segwit enforcement. This includes a significant amount of wallet providers and exchanges including Bitstamp, Kraken, Bitfinex, Gemini, BTCC, Poloniex, and many more. One relatively small exchange in Switzerland called Bity has warned its customers the platform will be halting trading on August 1st.

Bitcoin.org’s Warning

On Wednesday, July 12, 2017, 08:00:00 GMT Bitcoin.org issued a warning in regards to the potential network disruption that may take place on July 31, 20:00:00 GMT/August 1st, 00:00 UTC.

“Bitcoin confirmation scores may become unreliable for an unknown length of time,” explains the network disruption warning. “This means that any bitcoins you receive after that time may later disappear from your wallet or be a type of bitcoin that other people will not accept as payment.”

Once the situation is resolved, confirmation scores will either automatically return to their normal reliability, or there will be two (or more) competing versions of Bitcoin. In the former case, you may return to using Bitcoin normally; in the later case, you will need to take extra steps in order to begin safely receiving bitcoins again.

August 1 and The Potential Disruption of the Bitcoin Network

The warning gives users some preparation guidelines and possible outcomes for during and after the UASF event. This includes not trusting payments during this time, and not sending payments until after the dust has settled. Even the maintainer of the website Bitcoinuptime.com says that there may be “potential bitcoin downtime from the upcoming BIP148 fork” and the network’s 99.991523267% uptime will have to be updated. Further, there was an issue concerning the Bitcoin.org alert over the wording “Bitcoin may be unsafe to use starting July 31st” in contrast to saying “potential network disruption.” The developer who made the change writes;

Note: I object to this change, which I think makes the alert less clear, less forceful, and degrades alert usability.  I make this change only because the Bitcoin.org site maintainer insists upon it.

GDAX Issues a Statement Concerning UASF

Following Bitcoin.org’s disruption alert one large bitcoin exchange has come forward issuing a warning and how the company will handle the August 1 situation. The cryptocurrency trading platform GDAX, a subset of Coinbase announced there will be a temporary suspension of deposits, withdrawals, and possibly trading on August 1. GDAX executive Adam White says, “the activation of UASF may create two blockchains,” and outlines how the company plans on handling the possible fork. If August 1 results in two chains, GDAX states;

  1. One blockchain becomes dominant, resulting in the other blockchain having low community adoption and value.
  2. Both blockchains are adopted, co-existing and operating independently of one another with roughly equal community adoption and value.

In either scenario, we will implement safeguards to ensure the safety of our customers’ funds. For example, we will temporarily suspend the deposit and withdrawal of bitcoin on GDAX and may pause the trading of bitcoin as well. This decision will be based on our assessment of the technical risks posed by the fork, such as replay attacks and other factors that could create network instability.

Bitcoin ABC

Another possible scenario to think about is the “Bitcoin ABC” (Adjustable Blocksize Cap) implementation that was revealed by the software engineer, Amaury Séchet at The Future of Bitcoin event in Arnhem. The project has released its latest client Bitcoin ABC 0.14.2 and says it’s a full node implementation of Bitcoin that removes Segwit code and replaces it with an adjustable block size cap. During the initial announcement, Séchet detailed that Bitcoin ABC is part of the user-activated hard fork contingency plan against BIP148.

August 1 and The Potential Disruption of the Bitcoin Network

In essence, the ABC protocol prepares for any disruptive risks associated with UASF activation and could also activate during the August 1st “Flag Day” as well. Besides being a contingency plan, the UAHF protocol will move the block size cap towards the activation of emergent consensus where users can decide block size themselves. Bitcoin ABC could counter the BIP148 soft fork which could cause network disruption, and a possible blockchain split as well.

Meanwhile, the Segwit2x Plan Moves Forward In the Midst of Egos and Constant Bickering

Alongside these two alternative plans, the Segwit2x working group has also been steadily preparing the compromise idea announced called the “New York Agreement.” The group released beta code and have been experimenting with the Segwit protocol and a 2MB hard fork on a Bitcoin testnet. So far there has been a lot of bickering about Segwit2x between the project’s lead developer Jeff Garzik, Bitcoin core developers, and the Blockstream CEO Adam Back. Many core supporters refuse to compromise on Segwit2x calling it “Franken-segwit” and a great majority of core developers have rejected supporting the idea. However, some core maintainers have been making comments on Segwit2x’s Github and the working group’s Slack channel. There is still uncertainty concerning the New York Agreement plan, but the working group is still moving along as August 1st gets closer.

As far as August 1st is concerned users should make sure they hold their private keys. There is a possibility of network disruption and Bitcoin.com will inform our readers of everything people need to know, including exchange updates, trading, withdrawal and deposit suspensions, and any other important information that arises in regards to this specific date.

What do you think about August 1st? Do you think there will be any potential network disruption or do you think nothing will happen at all? Let us know what you think in the comments below

European Commission Launches Digital Currency and Dark Web Consortium

A recent announcement from the European Commission details the formation of a new consortium dedicated to preventing illegal activities tied to virtual currencies and the dark web. The group consists of fifteen members from seven European countries that will develop technical solutions for investigating and mitigating this types of illicit activities.

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Virtual Currencies and Darknet Markets Evolve Quickly Says Project Coordinator

European Commission Launches Digital Currency and Dark Web ConsortiumThe European Commission’s Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) has created a consortium and project called ‘Titanium’ (Tools for the Investigation of Transactions in Underground Markets). According to the announcement, the Titanium Project researchers will begin undertaking a three-year, €5 million project, that aims to curb this criminal activity and will be subsidized by the European Union.

“Criminal and terrorist activities related to virtual currencies and darknet markets evolve quickly and vary in technical sophistication, resilience and intended targets,” details the Titanium Project coordinator Ross King, a senior scientist at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology.

Titanium Is Backed by European Law Enforcement and Interpol

The announcement says that blockchain technology used in virtual currencies like bitcoin can allow organizations and individuals to “evade traditional investigative measures.” King believes it is “necessary” to develop forensic tools and have the ability to acquire data from “virtual currency ledgers, online forums, peer-to-peer networks of underground markets, and seized devices.”

The group explains the consortium is backed by European law enforcement agencies and Interpol. Other members of the Titanium Project organization include Bundeskriminalamt (Germany), Coblue Cybersecurity (Netherlands), Universität Innsbruck (Austria) Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization), Ministry of the Interior (Austria), Ministry of the Interior (Spain) and the National Bureau of Investigation (Finland).

Organizers Say Titanium Tools Won’t Compromise Individual Privacy and Fundamental Rights

Titanium Project organizers say that Bitcoin does have many legitimate use cases. However, the consortium explains that is still used by criminals and is very popular on the dark web. Furthermore, the consortium notes the latest ransomware attack on May 12 where the attackers froze computers throughout 150 countries and demanded bitcoin payments.

King also details the consortium wants the public to know that Titanium Project tools will also respect people’s privacy and other sovereign rights.

“The consortium will analyse legal and ethical requirements and define guidelines for storing and processing data, information, and knowledge involved in criminal investigations without compromising citizen privacy,” King concludes in the European Commission announcement.

What do you think about the European Commission’s Titanium Project? Let us know in the comments below.

Japan’s Near-Zero Savings Rates and Pension Problems Drive Retail Investors to Bitcoin

The Japanese have long put up with near-zero interest rates on their personal savings accounts. At the same time, they are worried about a serious shortfall in the national pension program. These problems have pushed retail investors to consider investing in bitcoin.

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Low Savings Rates Pushing “Mrs Watanabe” to Bitcoin

Japan’s Near-Zero Savings Rates and Pension Problems Drive Retail Investors to BitcoinBitcoin is attracting “Mrs Watanabe“, or retail investors who were originally Japanese housewives. Retail interest has jumped, bitcoin exchanges told Reuters on Friday. Investors are “trying to escape rock-bottom savings rates by investing in the cryptocurrency,” the publication wrote.

The world’s third-largest economy has been “under a mounting debt burden that successive governments have failed to address,” the BBC described in May. Japan’s government debts have almost quintupled from 50% of the country’s GDP in 1980 to 239% of GDP today.

Accompanying rising government debts is the falling of the Japanese household savings rate. From its peak of more than 23 percent, it turned negative in 2013.

Japan’s Near-Zero Savings Rates and Pension Problems Drive Retail Investors to BitcoinToday, savings rates at Japanese banks are near zero. One of Japan’s largest banks, Mizuho Bank, offers a 0.001% interest rate on savings accounts. Competing bank MUFG offers the same 0.001% rate whereas Nomura offers 0.02%.

Mutsuko Higo, a 55-year-old social insurance and labor consultant, is among the Japanese retail investors drawn to bitcoin. She bought $1,800 worth of the digital currency to increase her retirement savings in March. “After I first heard about the bitcoin scheme, I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. It’s like buying a dream,” she told Reuters.

Japan’s Pension Problems

Japan’s Near-Zero Savings Rates and Pension Problems Drive Retail Investors to BitcoinAbout 26 percent of the population is over sixty-five years old in Japan, which is the age they can start receiving pensions. Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) showed that country’s life expectancy at birth is 83.7 years of age. For more than 20 years, Japan has been ranked number one in this metric.

Meanwhile, the Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), which is the world’s largest public pension fund, has been paying out to this growing retiree pool more than it takes in. The fund has also been suffering from poor performance. In 2015, its investment return was -3.81 percent, and in the first quarter of 2016, it suffered a loss of $51.8 billion.

Higo’s personal response to the situation:

Everyone says we can’t rely on Japanese pensions anymore…This worries me, so I started [investing in] bitcoins.

According to Reuters, Japan’s moms and pops are drawn to bitcoin’s gains, now that the digital currency is regulated and readily available to the public. They have been investing in stocks and futures but the broader Asian stock market benchmark has only gained 17 percent year-to-date. Bitcoin, on the other hand, has seen a rise of almost 140 percent against the yen at press time, even with the recent correction. At its peak price, bitcoin gained over 180 percent, according to the country’s largest bitcoin exchange by volume, Bitflyer.

Japan’s Near-Zero Savings Rates and Pension Problems Drive Retail Investors to Bitcoin

Do you think more Japanese retail investors will turn to bitcoin because of low-interest rates and pension problems? Let us know in the comments section below.