Thousands of Crypto Coins Dead: These Are Top 5

Although digital currencies have shown a substantial amount of progress over the past few years, recent volatility in the crypto world is giving skeptics more reason to stay doubtful.

While we have seen a consistent stream of innovation with new currencies, particularly in the past 18 months, there are now more than 800 of them that have been pronounced dead. This means that the coins have no value, trading at less than 1 cent. Most commonly the failure of these coins is due to their lack of integrity — being a scam or a joke — or because the product did not materialize. Many of the obsolete cryptocurrencies are listed on the website Dead Coins, which describes itself as a “strategic partnership to clean up crypto.” Coinopsy is another site that has reported dead coins. When considering reports from both sources, the number of dead projects accumulates into the thousands, with reasons ranging from true abandonment to outright scams.

Thousands of Crypto Coins Dead: These Are Top 5

Creating New Tokens: Risky by Nature 

A process called an initial coin offering (ICO) can create new digital tokens. In this process, a start-up can issue a new currency that is available for purchase by investors. While the investor does not obtain an equity stake in the company, the purchased cryptocurrency can be used on the product of the company. Since the coins are cheap while holding potential for substantial returns down the line, people often buy into an ICO.

By their very nature, ICOs are highly risky. Moreover, these kinds of investments have been riddled with fraud. Just in 2018, a scam ICO called Giza was reported by CNBC. It was a fake startup that ran off with $2 million in investor money, giving plenty of fuel to skeptics to continue to doubt the legitimacy of this industry.

It is important to keep in mind that everyone expects the startups to fail. The problem is the massive amount of cash that floods into these projects before they are ready — this is the primary cause for concern. When startups receive more fuel than they can keep up with, the resulting conflagration ultimately consumes both the company and the founders, which is not helpful to the investors in return.

The conflagrations are, unfortunately, a global phenomenon. In 2017 alone, dead ICOs and scams raised $1 billion, and nearly 300 startups had been marked as questionable. The lock-ups and pricing scams within the ICO market are using greed rather than rational thinking, and are hurting the industry more than helping it. In the end, it is crucial to invest only what you can afford to lose and expect any token that you invest in to fail. Then if it succeeds, you will be pleasantly surprised, and if it fails, you will avoid devastation.

Even Bitcoin, the biggest cryptocurrency by market capitalization or value, has had a tough year.

Although it hit a record high of nearly $20,000 last year, it has since decreased by nearly 70%, according to data from CoinDesk. While Bitcoin is still among the stronger of coins, many others have not been as fortunate. To note are five of the greatest failures in cryptocurrency history thus far.

The Biggest Crypto Token Failures 

Spacebit

SpaceBit has long held the status of one of the most ambitious cryptocurrency projects thus far. And perhaps rightly so, as this is the company that wanted to launch several “nano-satellites” into orbit to provide a globally-accessible blockchain, which would be used for the storage of Bitcoin as well as helping unbanked regions access financial services. This announcement attracted much attention and enthusiasm from the public, gaining massive support behind them. However, the project ultimately disappeared. There was never any prototype or proof-of-concept, and eventually, all talk about SpaceBIT faded out completely. Supposedly the team behind SpaceBIT is now completely focused on a new project called BlockVerify, so SpaceBIT has been put on the shelf for good.

GEMS

Originally branded as “Gems” but now named “GetGems,” this was a social networking platform that uses cryptocurrency to pay members that view advertisements within the app. Having made grand claims in 2014 about disrupting social media, the result was somewhat disappointing with an underwhelmingly low crowdsale that year. Since then, GetGems has been overtaken by competitors, but they are still running; they have seen the most success in the country of Uzbekistan, ranking in 63rd place among apps.

Dogecoin

Although this cryptocurrency began as a joke, it quickly evolved into a success with a passionate community behind it that became known for donating to charity with DOGE. After a successful streak, the Dogecoin collapsed. To make matters worse, founder Alex Green had disappeared with everyone’s money, shutting down the exchange. This led to the crashing of DOGE and disbandment of its community.

PayCoin

Launched in 2014, PayCoin grew to be one of the largest cryptocurrencies worldwide by market capitalization. The coin’s white paper presented a vision for new variations of blockchain technology that would produce a new breed of cryptocurrency. However, it quickly became evident that the coin would not live up to this vision when its founder converted PayCoin into a generic altcoin clone, which made it easier to push onto the market faster. As it lacked follow-through, people ultimately lost faith in the coin. By 2015, GAW shut down entirely and faced a federal investigation, with its founder fleeing the United States.

DAO

Taking first place in cryptocurrency failure is the Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), an Ethereum-based coin. While its beginnings were met with great enthusiasm, including large purchases of the token, one incident had changed the entire course of this currency transactions. When an attacker exploited a vulnerability in the DAO smart contract, this led to a loss of more than $50 million. After information about the attack became well known, the token became abandoned by traders, throwing it into a downward spiral.

Final Thoughts

There has been intense pressure and skepticism placed on the crypto world, perpetuated by consistent news of novel scams or unsuccessful coins. However, optimism for the industry remains strong. Proponents of crypto expect regulators to learn to be more favorable towards the field, which could boost participation in the market. Similarly, there is a lot of optimism for the future of ICOs as an alternative to initial public offerings and venture capital funding. It is true that many coins have not survived, but there are also many coins that have. Every impactful innovation has its trials and tribulations, but that does not mean that it cannot evolve into a success that improves the way we live our lives.

Article originally appeared on MintDice.

5 Signs of Booming Blockchain Innovation in Australia

By 

5 Signs of Booming Blockchain Innovation in Australia

Australia. Plenty of images come to mind when we think of the land down under. Sun-bleached surfers, wallabies, the Sydney Opera House. But, Australia, despite its modest population of 23 million, is more than just a faraway tourist destination. The home of kangaroos, koalas, AC/DC, and vegemite is well on its way to becoming a world leader in the blockchain space. Here are at least five signs of blockchain innovation in Australia right now.

1. Australia Is a World Innovation Center

You might not know it, but Australia is actually the 11th largest economy in the world. And it’s one that’s in a state of transition–fast. With an economy traditionally based on manufacturing, the government’s focus for the future is firmly fixed on technology. And, more specifically, on blockchain innovation in Australia.

They’ve been paving the pathways for this for some time now. In 2016, the government of Southern Australia allocated $80 million to creating jobs of the future and modernizing the economy. In that same year, three of the world’s most disruptive startups on the Disrupt 100 list (curated by the likes of Microsoft Ventures, IBM curate, and Sky News) came from Australia, recognized as having the power to “influence, change or create new global markets.”

There are also plenty of international companies with a foothold down-under. The likes of HP and Microsoft both with innovation centers here. Australia has already made a splash on the world scene with its homegrown telecom company Myriota. The company won best industrial startup at the Internet of Things Summit, Silicon Valley, for their low-cost, low-power IoT transceiver.

And when it comes to blockchain innovation in Australia, their talent pool is quickly deepening, with an entire innovation district Tonsley already blooming in South Australia. With its driverless buses, open spaces, restaurants, and meetup centers, Tonsley is Australia’s answer to Silicon Valley. A place to foster creative thinking, innovation, incubation, skills, connections, and conditions needed for new technology like blockchain to thrive.

TechStars’ first accelerator program in the Asia-Pacific region is based in Adelaide and the entrepreneur scene is thriving in this Australian city. As the US continues to forge its path to regulating cryptocurrencies, smaller countries, it seems, are steaming ahead. Well, smaller population countries anyway.

2. A Pioneering Stock Exchange

Despite recent announcements from NYSE parent company ICE and Switzerland’s SIX, Australia’s largest stock exchange is already light years ahead. Not only has The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) already been listing cryptocurrency exchanges and blockchain companies since 2014, but they’re actually migrating their entire infrastructure to blockchain by 2020.

We’re not just talking about listing Bitcoin or other digital assets here. The country’s main stock exchange will embrace blockchain technology entirely. The plan is to implement a post-trade system that is blockchain-based. This will replace their existing Clearing House Electronic Subregister System.

ASX estimates that by moving over to blockchain technology to administer the Australian financial market, they can add as many as 50 new features for traders, at the same time as making significant cost savings. The plan is already underway and will make the ASX the world’s first major stock exchange to migrate to blockchain technology.

3. Government Funding for Blockchain Research and Development

In May, the Australian government announced they would allocate $700,000 AUD ($500,000 US) to “blockchain research,” and how to use it to deliver more reliable and secure government services. Part of the money will also go towards funding a Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) to evaluate using blockchain for government payments.

The goal is to understand how blockchain innovation in Australia can help improve efficiencies and modernize the country’s economy. They also aim to assess the level of maturity of the technology and the problems it may solve. This appears to be taking a leaf out of Malta’s book with the establishment of a digital innovation authority to regulate and assess blockchain initiatives.

While this is not necessarily a huge sum, it’s not the only funding allocated for blockchain projects. The Australian Department of Home Affairs (DHA) also announced tentative plans and a proposal to use blockchain alongside AI and IoT to manage international trade and supply chain.

Then just last month, the Australian government awarded IBM a cool $1 billion AUD ($750 million US) to develop blockchain innovation in Australia over the next five years. This will be specifically geared towards developing AI, blockchain, and quantum technology solutions for cybersecurity, research, and data management.

Some critics have questioned the Australian government’s seemingly blind faith in IBM after their disastrous attempts at managing the country’s 2016 census (which suffered incessant DDoS attacks). Others suggest that a long-term commitment with just one provider may not be a good move. This could mean repeating the mistakes made in the dotcom boom at the turn of the century.

Either way, the five-year IBM agreement is an indicator that neither the tech giant nor the Australian government believes that blockchain technology is going away any time soon.

4. Academic Centers of Excellence

Australia is also earning a reputation for leading academic centers of excellence in blockchain technology. The RMIT University, for example, has a long-established blockchain innovation hub and has already committed just shy of $3 million of funding in blockchain innovation in Australia. The institution claims to be the “world’s leading social science research institute in blockchain.”

There is also no shortage of blockchain meetup centers around the country including the Blockchain Centre in Melbourne, regular meetups in Sydney, and of course, Southern Australia’s Tonsley.

5. Major Blockchain Companies

Finally, some major blockchain projects are coming out of Australia as well, including Perth-based blockchain technology company DigitalX that was listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) in June 2014. As an innovative blockchain company, they offer ICO consulting, blockchain software development, and other consulting services.

Power Ledger from Western Australia is an energy blockchain startup that enables peer-to-peer (P2P) electricity sharing. Raising a massive $34 million in its ICO, Power Ledger also received a further $8 million from the Australian government. This is meant to help develop its incentivizing marketplace for renewable energy.

Block8 is an Australian blockchain incubator aiming to help other companies accelerate their projects by giving them access to their network, expertise, and funding opportunities. And startups Havven and CanYa are also starting to find success, raising millions of dollars of ICO funding and developing solutions for volatility and an online work marketplace respectively.

Blockchain Innovation in Australia Is Booming

With a government committed to fostering innovation and technology, and conditions ripe for it, it will be interesting to watch developments in Australia. We’ll see if IBM can get it right this time, and how the ASX blockchain-based system works. So, instead of looking around for innovative companies, next time, it may pay to look down under.

Original article on CoinCentral.

Everything You Need to Know About Cryptocurrency Regulation (Right Now)

By UpCounsel Corporate & Securities Attorney Gary Ross

The meteoric rise of cryptocurrencies has taken the world by storm. Innovators, investors, users, and governments are scrambling to wrap their heads around cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology that they rely upon. The emergence of a new market and business model has created great opportunities for participants, but it also carries significant risk.

Cryptocurrencies present an inherently unique challenge to governments because of their new technology, cross-jurisdictional nature, and frequent lack of transparency. Governments are struggling to develop new ways to regulate cryptocurrencies, adapt existing regulations, and identify fraudulent schemes. Cryptocurrencies and their regulations are evolving before our eyes, and this article will provide a brief background on cryptocurrencies and an overview of where cryptocurrency regulations currently stand.

What are cryptocurrencies?

Cryptocurrency is, by any other name, a currency—a medium of exchange used to purchase goods and services. Or, as some have suggested, cryptocurrency is a “peer-to-peer version of electronic cash.” However, this currency has two qualities that distinguish it from traditional bills and coins.

First, cryptocurrency is a virtual currency that is created through cryptography (i.e. coding) and developed by mathematical formulas through a process called hashing. Second, unlike traditional bills and coins that are printed and minted by governments around the world, cryptocurrency is not tied to any one government, and thus is not secured by any government entity. The fact that cryptocurrencies are not secured by a government authority has led to concerns from critics that this is the second coming of Tulipmania, because we are ascribing value to an otherwise valueless item. However, the potential for cryptocurrencies as a medium of exchange remains enormous.

What is blockchain?

Blockchain is the technology at the heart of most cryptocurrencies, and explaining the technology in detail would require a blog post of its own. What is important to know is that blockchain is a record of peer-to-peer transactions categorized into blocks on a distributed ledger. Despite the obtuse terminology, blockchain functions similarly to a local bank authorizing and recording a transaction, but instead of only one party holding the entire ledger book, the transactions are recorded communally by member nodes, with each node being a computer in a peer-to-peer distributed network.

The blockchain can confirm a transaction within minutes, removing errors that exist when trying to reconcile and audit separate ledgers and transactions. Whenever a transaction takes place, the miners on the blockchain develop a new hash and digital signature to update the ledger and create a new “block.” This block, or recorded transaction, is time-stamped and encrypted and will remain on the blockchain for life.

Regulation in the US – Utility Tokens v. Investment Tokens

In the United States, there has been no federal regulation of cryptocurrencies. Instead, cryptocurrencies are often grouped into two non-binding categories: (1) investment tokens that fall under the purview of already existing U.S. securities laws like the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and (2) utility tokens, which remain largely unregulated (for now).

Security Tokens

Whether the tokens being offered in connection with a particular cryptocurrency are security tokens is decided on a case-by-case basis that even experienced securities lawyers can disagree upon. Tokens are usually analyzed under the four-part Howey Test below to see if the token is in fact a security. Securities must meet the following criteria:

  1. An ​investment of money
  2. in a ​common enterprise
  3. with an ​expectation of profits
  4. predominantly from the efforts of others

Each characteristic of the token is analyzed against this framework to see if the cryptocurrency is in reality functioning as a new-age security. If it is, then regulators treat it as such, and cryptocurrencies must then be registered and handled with all of the same disclosures and precautions as any other security sold in the United States or to U.S. investors.

Utility Tokens

Cryptocurrencies can also be categorized as non-security utility tokens. These tokens purport to offer intrinsic utility and value, and are typically instrumental in powering the blockchain technology. These tokens function more like commodities than securities, and while they may act like currency in a fully functional network, they also have other values.

However, having a utility token with a properly formed and functioning network does not preclude said token from being labeled a security by the SEC. In In the Matter of Munchee, Inc., a purported utility token with a non-functioning network was labeled a security by the SEC. While labeling a token without a functioning network as a security – as it has no present utility – is not unexpected, the SEC also concluded that: “even if [Munchee] tokens had a practical use at the time of the offering, it would not preclude the token from being a security.”

After analyzing the Munchee Tokens under the Howey test, the SEC concluded that they were investment contracts because purchasers of the tokens had an expectation of profits predominantly from the efforts of Munchee and its staff. The SEC further concluded that Munchee had primed such expectations through its marketing efforts.

While this new case does not eliminate the distinction between utility and security tokens, it does caution that, when deciding whether a given token is a security, the SEC will look beyond utility at the character of the instrument, and base their conclusion based on the terms of the offer, the plan of distribution, and the economic inducements held out by the token issuer.

State Regulation

So far only the state of New York has issued any kind of regulation specifically regarding cryptocurrencies: the BitLicense. The BitLicense is New York’s attempt to control cryptocurrencies within its borders by requiring cryptocurrency businesses to register and comply with several different disclosure and financial obligations. The regulation has been divisive, and many businesses have rallied against its high costs. While a few companies have applied for and received the license, most other companies have simply left the state or stopped offering services to its residents.

Regulation Abroad – The Ever-Shifting Jurisdictional Question

The United States is not the only country grappling with how best to regulate cryptocurrencies. Many cryptocurrency businesses face daunting questions regarding in which jurisdictions to form and to do business in. In the end, the question is quite difficult and fact-specific, requiring communication between legal counsel in different jurisdictions and taking into account nebulous and piecemeal country-by-country regulations. It is impossible to do a detailed analysis without knowing how a country’s existing securities laws, financial regulations, and banking regulations will operate (or will be adapted to operate) with cryptocurrencies. The fact that cryptocurrency-specific regulations are still developing does little to add clarity, and makes the analysis even more challenging. Yet a few global trends are noticeable:

Suspending Cryptocurrencies

Some notable countries, like China, and South Korea, have suspended cryptocurrencies. These countries have cited the risk of fraud and the lack of adequate oversight in suspending cryptocurrencies and their exchanges, forcing cryptocurrency companies and exchanges to relocate.

Regulating Cryptocurrencies

Other countries, like Japan and Australia, have adopted disclosure and regulatory measures, or have companies register with the applicable government authority. Several countries have also tried to implement disclosure or registration regulatory regimes when it comes to cryptocurrencies, but such regimes are cumbersome and expensive to fledging companies.

Cryptocurrencies as Commodities

On the other hand, Switzerland and Singapore, two of the countries at the forefront of the cryptocurrency market, have simply stated that cryptocurrencies are assets not currency, and that they will treat them as such under existing regulations.

Conclusion

Ultimately, cryptocurrency regulation remains in its infancy. Piecemeal regulation has already begun around the world as governments enact new regulations to control and legitimize cryptocurrencies, fold cryptocurrencies into existing regulations, or ban them outright. These splintered attempts at controlling a global phenomenon will keep the cryptocurrency market volatile, and pose a challenge to innovators, investors, and users. They will continue to work in the cryptocurrency space while pushing for legislation and regulation that will remove ambiguity and legitimize cryptocurrencies. At the same time, they must grapple with the possibility that new regulations may be confusing, detrimental, or have negative inadvertent effects.

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About the author

Gary Ross

Gary Ross

Experienced corporate & securities attorney eager to help you and your business reach its goals. My services range from fund formation and capital raising (e.g. Reg D offerings, crowdfunding) to contract negotiation and compliance with securities and other regulations. I have extensive experience with cryptocurrency and non-U.S. companies.

Prior to co-founding my firm, I worked in the law firms of Sidley Austin, Alston & Bird, and Holland & Knight. From 2009 to 2012, I served in the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where I oversaw financial agents engaged by Treasury to provide asset management and other services relating to the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

This article was originally published on UpCounsel.”

Don’t Fall For These Cryptocurrency Scams

While the cryptocurrency market can be a good way to make money, it is also a prime target market for scammers. In this article, we’ll look at some of the most common bitcoin schemes and how to protect yourself from falling for them.

Don’t Fall For These Cryptocurrency Scams

Be Weary of Cryptocurrency Giveaways

Amongst the various types of bitcoin schemes, many of the top people and projects in the industry are concerned with the prevalence of giveaway scams. These scams often take place on popular social media platforms, especially Twitter. Big names like Vitalik Buterin even list “Not giving away ETH” in their profiles to make the cryptocurrency community aware of this issue.

Typically, these scams will tell people to send ETH or BTC to a given address. The scammer promises to give that person more ETH or BTC in return. While this might seem like an obvious scam, the number of profiles that include “Not giving away ETH” make it apparent that this type of scam is quite rampant.

Even in the case of legitimate airdrops or bounty programs, the amount of funds given away are typically much lower. Most importantly, legitimate giveaways would never ask a user to send funds first and then give funds in the same cryptocurrency back.

“Guaranteed Returns” on ICOs

In some financial markets (i.e. bonds, CDs, etc.), banks guarantee returns of a certain amount. However, this is not the case in other financial markets. Much like in the stock market, the cryptocurrency market has no profit guarantees. Any cryptocurrency ICO that guarantees that the price of its token will rise to a certain percentage is likely to be a scam. ICO scams continue to be a problem for the cryptocurrency market, especially due to the lack of regulatory frameworks throughout the world.

Even if it is very possible that a given cryptocurrency will rise in value over time, scams are likely to use precise numbers and phrases like “guaranteed returns”. Similar to the giveaway scam, these ICOs will ask investors to send BTC, ETH, or other popular cryptocurrencies to the scammer’s wallet address.

The problem is that almost every cryptocurrency project (legitimate or not) relies upon this type of exchange of funds. The only major difference, in the end, is that a scam doesn’t send tokens in return.

So what separates ICO scams from legitimate ICOs?

While some fake projects guarantee returns, legitimate ones do not. Legitimate ICOs typically have several positive reviews, verified team members with KYC and AML checks, established strategic partnerships, and other factors.

Cloud Mining Scams

Cloud mining continues to be another popular option for bitcoin schemes.  The above-mentioned cryptocurrency scams might appear to be more obvious. In contrast, cloud mining scams often seemingly appear more legitimate. In some cases, cloud mining companies guarantee returns. Again, this is an obvious scam, especially since it’s very difficult to predict cryptocurrency price fluctuation.

Sometimes, fake cloud mining companies are disguised much better and don’t include guarantees on returns. They merely charge users a subscription fee upfront without any real chance of profitability. It’s also worth noting that even the most popular and legitimate cloud mining companies do not offer a good return on investment.

Even if you are thinking about going with a legitimate cloud mining service, it’s important to consider how long it will take you to get a return on investment. Most of the time, it’s easier to make profits via mining rigs or cryptocurrency trading. In any case, always thoroughly read reviews on any cloud mining service.

Don’t Go Phishing

There are few different types of crypto-related phishing scams that anyone should be aware of. First, emails that attempt to fool users into thinking that they are a popular service are commonly scams. For example, a scammer might send a fake security alert saying that someone has just tried to log in to a user’s account. This type of email generally asks a user to click on the link to verify that everything is fine. A scammer can even ask a user to participate in a survey or giveaway by clicking on the link.

Once a user provides the scammer with sensitive data (i.e. login credentials, private key, etc.), the scammer then has the information needed to hack the user’s account. In some cases, scammers have created Facebook pages and other social media accounts in order to pretend to be a legitimate exchange. Sometimes, scammers even create Google ad campaigns. Always be careful of the outbound links and try to verify that you are going to a legitimate website.

There are a few ways to prevent against phishing attacks. First, it’s always important to make sure that you are going to the correct website. Sometimes, the URL can be similar enough to make you think it is a crypto-site that you use on a regular basis. By verifying that you visit the correct URL every time when entering login credentials, you can keep your funds safe.

Another way to prevent scams is through increased security measures. For example, by enabling two-factor authentication (2FA), you can make it a bit more difficult for hackers to access your actual accounts in case you accidentally fall for a phishing attack. Hopefully, by setting up 2FA, you will be able to increase the security of your funds.

Conclusion

In an age where it is actually possible to become a ‘crypto millionaire’, it’s also important not to think that doing so is easy to accomplish. It should be a top priority for any investor to understand how to prevent from falling for bitcoin schemes. The types of cryptocurrency scams mentioned in this article provide just a few examples of what to watch out for.  By using these strategies to detect various scams, it will be simpler to mitigate potential risks and sort out the real opportunities from the fake.

Article originally appeared on Coincentral.

Bitcoin vs. Ethereum vs. Litecoin

While cryptocurrency has only recently become a popular term in finance, it has been around for a long time. Before names like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin even existed, there were attempts to create a decentralized currency.

David Chaum, a respected cryptographer, launched ECash, an anonymous system in the 1990s but it failed. Chaum built the system on currently existing government financial principles and infrastructure like credit cards. RPOW, BitGold, B-Money were also created but failed.

Cryptographers could not get past specific challenges that they faced at the time. The first challenge was how to achieve true decentralization and the second was the issue of double spending. The prevention of double spending meant the use of a third-party clearing house. This wasn’t acceptable because to achieve the type of innovative digital finance they wanted; the system had to be independent of any institution.

Bitcoin vs. Ethereum vs. Litecoin

In 2008, cryptographers finally stumbled on the information they had been searching for when an anonymous contender released the blueprint for a digital currency known as Bitcoin. It showed the technical specifications of the blockchain — a decentralized technology that creates a trustless, permissionless system and eliminates the problem of double spending. This new technology took the world by storm, later leading to changes in the financial industry as well as other industries such as real estate. With the cryptocurrency revolution, came many coins, tokens, and altcoins. Here, we take a deep dive into the similarities and differences between some of the most popular and valued ones: Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin.

Bitcoin Explained

Bitcoin is a digital currency, created as a store of value for the anonymous exchange of goods and services online. It typically has all the properties of a more traditional currency and can be broken down into smaller parts, up to eight decimal places. It’s also the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization.

A Brief History of Bitcoin

Bitcoin first originated in 2008 when an anonymous programmer under the pseudonym of Satoshi Nakamoto released a paper in a cryptography mailing list. This paper detailed the workings of a new digital currency, built on blockchain technology. The virtual currency was designed to imitate key qualities of traditional money while providing anonymity, transparency and eliminating the need for a third party.

Researchers tried to find out the identity of this anonymous programmer, all to no avail. It became a mystery to the cryptography community who could not ignore this act of charity, containing a brilliant solution that had eluded them for so long.

The technology behind Bitcoin is open source, meaning that developers can modify it according to guidelines in the paper. Nakamoto aimed to create a currency that would be uniform, scarce, portable, durable and valuable, without the risk of double spending. This was achieved by creating a mathematical problem that would only ever have 21 million possible solutions. These solutions would represent Bitcoins, ensuring that only a finite amount of the currency would ever exist. This solution created scarcity, an essential property of any valuable item.

When Bitcoin was first released, it wasn’t well-known or widely accepted by the general public, and for up to eight months, it had no value. Critics laughed at the idea of a random digital currency that would be able to up-end the use of paper money as a means of exchange. However, software programmers continued to adjust the technology.

In October 2009, Bitcoin was valued for the first time when the New Liberty Standard published its exchange rate, listing the value of 1 USD to 1309.03 BTC. Soon after, in December, the second version of Bitcoin was released, and more people started spending the currency.

By the following year, exchanges had begun to pop up and, July 2010 saw the launch of MtGox, one of the largest Bitcoin exchanges. The Infamous Pizza cryptocurrency exchange also occurred in 2010, setting the precedence for other Bitcoin purchases for everyday items. It was allegedly also used to purchase illegal items and substances on the Dark web because the transactions were untraceable. The use of Bitcoin had become so popular that on February 9th, 2011, its value became equivalent to that of the US dollar.

By July 2011, 1 BTC was trading at almost 10 USD, and it continued to increase in value. As with any valuable commodity, Bitcoin began to attract theft. In March 2012, due to a security breach at Linode, almost 50,000 BTC was stolen. It was the first recorded Bitcoin crime in history. The theft would later get much worse with the loss of about 850,000 BTC from MtGox in February 2014.

Theft of Bitcoin reinforced its value in the eyes of the public, and price of Bitcoin continued to rise. Soon, several new exchanges started operating to cater to the needs of the growing horde of cryptocurrency users. It wasn’t long before groups running Ponzi schemes, pyramid schemes and different scams also began to emerge. In September 2012, a group charged with the promotion and protection of Bitcoin known as the Bitcoin Foundation was launched and since then, Bitcoin has hit many major milestones including a record value of almost $20,000 in December 2017.

How does Bitcoin work?

Bitcoin transactions are conducted on a public ledger known as a  “blockchain.” When a user exchanges another currency for Bitcoin, the balance is kept in a Bitcoin wallet.

Transactions

Transactions are records of value exchanges between two parties. They occur whenever a payment has been made and typically consist of four main parts:

  1. Output
  2. Input
  3. Hash
  4. Type

The output of a transaction contains information vital to the outgoing payment, usually the address that BTC is being sent to and the number of tokens being sent. The input, on the other hand, contains relevant information on where the payment is coming from, i.e., the sender’s details. The information contained in the input are:

  • The hash of the incoming value (to identify the transaction)
  • Incoming amount of coins
  • Output index
  • Sender’s address and signature.

Just like the process of sending money from one bank account to another, the output is similar to entering the account details of the receiver. The receiver would be able to view the amount sent, the transaction number, and the sender’s details. Transactions also come in various types, usually regular, reward, and fee transactions. Regular transactions are the normal exchanges that occur between two parties sending and receiving Bitcoins.

When users send coins, they pay a fee that allows that transaction to be added to the blockchain which acts as proof that the transaction indeed occurred. The process of adding transactions to the blockchain is done by a select group of people called miners.

When miners confirm new transactions by adding them to the blockchain, they’re awarded a preset amount of coins in the form of a reward transaction. This confirmation usually takes about 10 minutes for Bitcoin and attracts a fee of about $2.

Bitcoin Wallets

Just like traditional money needs to be held in physical wallets and bank accounts to keep it safe and create accountability, Bitcoin is held in wallets. Technically, a wallet gives user ownership of a certain balance and facilitates the retrieval and transfer of coins from one address to another.

When a user exchanges fiat currency like the US dollar for BTC, it can be transferred to a wallet at a particular Bitcoin address. From this wallet, users can decide also to spend their BTC tokens which are transferred to a destination address. While wallets are commonly web-based, there are other forms of wallets which include mobile wallets, desktop wallets, and hardware wallets.

Web-based Wallets

Web wallets can be accessed from anywhere as long as a user is online via a browser. These wallets store a user’s private key online and are susceptible to hackers. It’s essential to ensure that online wallets are backed up and encrypted. This ensures that it can still be accessed by its owner even when compromised. Some notable web-based wallet providers are Coinbase, Electrum, and Blockchain.info.

Desktop Wallets

Desktop wallets are better for users who prefer their wallets in a more controlled environment, rather than online. Desktop wallets store information concerning Bitcoin transactions and can be downloaded and stored on a user’s desktop. This type of wallet also allows a user to create an address as well as a private key which will be used to send and receive Bitcoin.

While desktop wallets are a good option, they have the disadvantage of being fixed in just one place. If users want to access their wallets, it can only be done on the desktop of the computer it was installed on. This dramatically limits use and can be inconvenient for users who travel or have to be away from their desktops for other reasons. Some notable desktop wallets are Armory, Multibit and Bitcoin Core.

Mobile Wallets

This type of wallet is usually in the form of a mobile application which can be accessed on any mobile device. Just like traditional banking apps, the owner of the mobile wallet can carry out Bitcoin transactions at any time. This is a better option for mobile users who need to make quick purchases frequently. Some mobile wallets are Bitcoin wallet and Mycelium wallet.

Hardware Wallets

These wallets provide more security than any other type because they’re separated from a user’s computer, ensuring that they can’t be hacked unless they’re physically stolen. They’re usually in the form of devices which can be plugged into the USB port of a computer. Some hardware wallets like the Ledger Nano S can sign off on users’ Bitcoin transactions with their private key. They generally cost between $100 to $300 and are a better option for storing a significant amount of Bitcoins.

Bitcoin Exchanges

An exchange is an online destination where users trade cryptocurrency, in this case, Bitcoin. For example, if one user would like to exchange USD for BTC from another user, an exchange may be necessary to facilitate the payment. In regular exchanges, sellers usually set a minimum trade price, relative to the current BTC price against the currency they would like to trade.

This minimum price is called an ‘order’ and is entered into the exchange’s order ledger. Buyers may also set orders containing the minimum price they wish to buy BTC at. After orders have been set, the exchange matches both parties and carries out the transaction. Although Bitcoin transaction confirmation takes up to 10 minutes, the exchange instantaneously carries out the transaction.

In peer-to-peer exchanges, buyers and sellers are matched using software which allows them to carry out transactions on their own, without an intermediary to facilitate the transaction. The system is completely decentralized just like the technology, which Bitcoin itself is built on. Unfortunately, because the users on peer-to-peer exchanges are left to do their trades independently, they bear the full risk of fraud and theft.

Bitcoin Blockchain Explained

While Bitcoin has been recognized as a modern technological advancement in the world of finance, recently, more attention has been paid to the technology behind it. This technology is known as blockchain, a ledger or record of facts. These facts can stem from terms of a contract to monetary transactions and other verification records.

The blockchain consists of several computers (nodes) in a peer-to-peer network. At every point in time, the members of this network hold the exact same copy of the blockchain which is constantly updated. Decentralized, peer-to-peer networks are not new and have been in existence for a long time. One prominent example is BitTorrent, a system that allows users to share files between each other.

How Does Blockchain Technology Work?

Each block on a blockchain consists of several transactions in cryptocurrency, carried out by several users. They serve as batches of processed information, tied together chronologically. A group of people commonly referred to as miners, listen for transactions and collect them.

After collecting them, they solve a complex cryptographic puzzle to find a solution known as a proof of work. The first miner to solve the puzzle broadcasts the new block bearing the proof of work to the network which verifies the validity of that block and adds it to the blockchain. The entire process takes about 10 minutes, and whenever a block is added to the Bitcoin blockchain, a fixed reward is paid out to the miner.

Once a block has been added to the blockchain, it cannot be edited, and any changes have to be re-written in a separate block. To illustrate this point, with the use of a physical ledger, if a transaction is recorded and something about the transaction has changed, it would be a better option to write a new entry in the ledger, instead of canceling the transaction.

Blockchain Forks

Just as software applications get system updates, it’s possible to update a blockchain to include changes to the way it operates. Bitcoin usage is guided by software known as the Bitcoin protocol. It specifies vital principles of blockchain operation such as the size of blocks, mining process, and other technical information.

In some cases, Bitcoin developers along with miners decide to make changes to the way the blockchain is operated. Unfortunately, these changes are not always agreed upon by everyone. The result is that a group of users and miners form a new blockchain branch known as a fork. A fork can either be ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ and maintains the history of the original blockchain up until the block on which the fork occurred.

Hard Fork vs. Soft Fork

In the case of a soft fork, the new branch is backward compatible with the old one, just like the way a Microsoft Word 2016 document can be opened in Microsoft Word 2009 application because it’s backward compatible. However, there are features of the soft fork that won’t work on the original blockchain. Hard forks, on the other hand, are not compatible with the original blockchain. Users on the old blockchain will no longer be able to interact with users on the new one.

Due to several issues, especially the size of blocks, several Bitcoin hard forks have been made. The most notable one— Bitcoin Cash— was forked on August 1, 2017. While the size of blocks in the original Bitcoin blockchain is 1MB, Bitcoin Cash has blocks the size of 8MB. Some miners argue against the move, citing reduced fees per transactions since users no longer have to pay high fees for priority mining. Other miners support the move saying that miners can now earn more in fees since there will be eight times more transactions on each block.

Users who had BTC were given the same number of Bitcoin cash tokens as long as their coins were not held on exchanges and their keys were available. So, if a user had 50 Bitcoins on the original blockchain, then they would also have 50 Bitcoin Cash after the split. Forks have since become a way to implement new properties and functions to the initial open-source Bitcoin blockchain design. Other notable Bitcoin forks are Bitcoin Gold and Bitcoin Unlimited.

Limitations of Bitcoin Blockchain Technology

While blockchain technology may inspire awe and excitement in the minds of the public, it has its flaws and complications which make its mainstream adoption for payment difficult. The following are limitations of the Bitcoin blockchain explained in detail.

Transaction Speed

It takes roughly 10 minutes to confirm a single transaction on the Bitcoin blockchain. As the user base continues to grow, it may take longer to carry out simple transactions. For example, it would not be feasible to pay for a coffee using Bitcoins as it would take 10 minutes to confirm a single payment and even more time if there are network problems or confirmation errors.

Scalability

Another limitation of blockchain is the issue of scalability. The slow confirmation speeds and current technological structure of blockchain would make scalability a herculean task. This is especially problematic because the number of Bitcoin users is estimated to reach 200 million by 2024.

Each of those users may have several transactions to confirm at different times or simultaneously, and each block only takes approximately 2,400 transactions. At 2,400 transactions in 10 minutes, there is a possibility that transaction queues will pile up, making the process tiresome. Such numbers may completely overwhelm the system.

Mining

Transaction fees act as incentives for miners to add a user’s transaction to the block they’re currently mining. The fee is usually a token amount, but in some cases, problems can arise. Since Bitcoin can be broken into eight decimal places, it’s possible to make micropayments using the cryptocurrency. These micropayments can be less than the mining fee, and this constitutes a loss to users who have to make several micropayments in a short period.

Also, while mining is open to anyone, only a few people can afford the time and equipment it takes to mine Bitcoin. As a result, small groups often merge to form mining pools. The most dominant pools are based in China, and most of the computation power necessary for adding new blocks is concentrated between just two mining pools. This has somewhat made mining a centralized process.

Security

Although blockchain has been proven to be secure for conducting transactions, there is speculation of its vulnerability in the face of a 51% attack. Simply put, blockchain works on the principle that if there are several conflicting versions of a blockchain being broadcast by miners, the most valid one is the longest, i.e., the one with the most work done.

If a user decides to include a double spending transaction (spending a digital token more than once), they would need to have control over 51% of the total mining computational power. This way, such a user can overpower other miners and have their version of the blockchain added to the network. For now, that problem hasn’t arisen, but theoretically, a quantum computer would be able to provide enough power to achieve this deed.  Double spending can cause inflation and destroy the integrity of the blockchain.

Why invest in Bitcoin?

Since the rise in the price of Bitcoin, more investors have trooped in from all over the world to take their profitable spots in the cryptocurrency market. In fact, in March 2017, the currency already had up to 5 million unique users. This figure has continued to grow, and in December 2017 when Bitcoin hit an all-time high of almost $20,000, the number of unique users grew to over 13 million in a buying frenzy that experts have likened to the California Gold Rush of 1848.

Despite the rush to acquire Bitcoins, the general opinion is tied between viewing Bitcoin investment as a smart move and viewing it as a foolish one. On the one hand, Bitcoin is celebrated as a commodity that will continue to rise in price as the influx of new users causes increased demand. On the other hand, speculators adamantly argue that Bitcoin has no intrinsic value and therefore is not a good investment.

It’s also believed that for the currency to become mainstream, it would have to be backed by government policies, and this would bring a sense of centralization to the system. The currency and blockchain system has also been compared to a Ponzi scheme and boiler room scheme in which worthless stock was hyped to investors who eventually lost their money.

How to Invest in Bitcoin

Despite varying public opinions, several people have made millions from investing in Bitcoin. Popular hype surrounds the favorable volatility of cryptocurrency, leading to some general confusion about how to make any money from it. There are several ways to maximize ownership of Bitcoin.

1. Market Trading

Traditional “buy low and sell high” methods have been proven to work well with the cryptocurrency. Another way to invest without playing the markets is by funding Bitcoin startups through Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs).

2. Investing in Startups

Although the rewards can be great, it’s also extremely risky. ICO whitepapers can be immensely deceptive, and some startups end up disappearing with investors coins and leaving them with worthless products and tokens.

One recent example is the case of Modern Tech, a Vietnamese startup that raised $660 million from 32,000 investors after promising returns of 48% per month. Shortly after a series of dubious activities, the company disappeared, leaving investors confused. More scams have occurred, but none of them negate the fact that many investors have made good money from funding ICOs. It’s just important to be careful when selecting which ones to pour money into.

3. Bitcoin Lending

Lending Bitcoin to margin traders and individuals who wish to spend their coins without touching their wallet savings can have profitable results. On average, peer-to-peer lending services yield better returns than traditional bank lending. An added advantage of partaking in this venture is that price increase of Bitcoin leads to higher returns.

Bitfinex and Poloniex are reputable exchanges with secure lending platforms. Any of these platforms can be used once an investor has created a wallet on them. Users should be careful when choosing who to lend Bitcoins to as they’re more difficult to recover when a debtor defaults on a payment.

Who Accepts Bitcoin?

The first recorded Bitcoin exchange was from a user who paid 10,000 Bitcoins for two boxes of pizza. After that, the currency was used by mostly software developers who knew how it worked.

Subsequently, it was known as a medium of exchange in illegal businesses such as drug dealing, illegally obtained ammunition, dangerous software and even child trafficking. Due to the need for anonymous, untraceable transactions by these illegal traders, a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin was a perfect choice.

However, as its popularity and user-base increase, a new wave of businesses have begun accepting the cryptocurrency as a medium of exchange.

Restaurants, Cafes, and Bars

  • Bitcoin Coffee, Haydenville, MA
  • Coupa Café, Palo Alto
  • Curryupnow.com – 12 restaurants in San Francisco Bay Area on this platform accept Bitcoins
  • Foodler – A restaurant delivery company in North America
  • KFC Canada
  • Old Fitzroy Pub, Sydney, Australia
  • Pembury Tavern, London, England
  • PizzaForCoins.com – Domino’s Pizza can be bought on the platform using Bitcoins
  • Subway
  • Whole Foods

Internet and Software

  • ExpressVPN.com
  • Grooveshark
  • Intuit
  • Lumfile
  • Microsoft
  • Namecheap
  • PureVPN
  • Reddit
  • The Internet Archive

Donations

  • Canada State Republican Party
  • Crowdtilt.com
  • Fight for the Future
  • Museum of the Coastal Bend, Texas
  • San Jose Earthquakes (San Jose California Professional Soccer Team (MLS))
  • Save the Children
  • The Libertarian Party, United States
  • Wikipedia

Publications

  • Bloomberg.com
  • Playboy
  • Suntimes.com
  • WordPress.com

Dating

  • Badoo
  • OkCupid
  • Dream Lover

Education

  • MIT Coop Store – Massachusetts Institute of Technology student bookstore

Gaming Services

  • BigFishGames.com
  • GameStop
  • Gap
  • Green Man Gaming
  • Humblebundle.com
  • JCPenney
  • Zynga

Payment Services

  • Braintree
  • Mint.com
  • NCR Silver
  • PSP Mollie
  • SimplePay
  • Stripe

Travel, Tourism, and Hospitality

  • CheapAir.com
  • Expedia.com
  • LOT Polish Airlines, Poland
  • One Shot hotel chain, Spain
  • Travel.com
  • Virgin Galactic
  • WebJet

Ticketing and Gift Cards

  • Gyft
  • MovieTickets.com
  • Overstock

Wholesale and Retail Outlets

  • Alza – Largest Czech online retailer
  • Etsy – An online craft purchase center
  • Famsa – The largest retailer in Mexico
  • i-Pmart  – A Malaysian electronics online retailer
  • Jeffersons Store – A streetwear retailer
  • mspinc.com – A medical equipment supply retailer
  • Newegg.com – Online electronics retailer
  • Rakuten – A Japanese e-commerce company
  • Shopify.com – An e-commerce center for multiple sellers
  • ShopJoy – An Australian online gift retailer

Bitcoin supply

Miners are rewarded with 12.5 BTC for each block they add to the blockchain. The reward is halved every 210,000 blocks (roughly every four years) to ensure that supply is controlled. This allows for a gradual introduction of new coins into the system, creating balance.

When the first block was mined, the reward paid to the miner was 50 BTC, a figure that has been halved twice already. As specified by Nakamoto in the original paper, there will only ever be 21 million Bitcoins in existence. Currently, in June 2018, over 17 million of those coins have already been mined.

After all 21 million BTC are mined, miners may no longer be incentivized to mine additional blocks. This may threaten the structure of the blockchain because if miners reduce, confirmation speeds will slow down significantly while transaction fees will most likely increase. Individuals may also hold on tightly to their Bitcoins, making it difficult for new users to get them. This will inevitably result in a BTC price increase.

Bitcoin News

As the largest cryptocurrency, there has been a lot of Bitcoin news and its blockchain. A  good portion of that news centers around regulations and the mainstream acceptance of BTC as a means of payment. Here are some notable Bitcoin blockchain news headlines.

  • June 2018 – Bithumb, the 6th largest Bitcoin exchange was hacked with $3 million  worth of cryptocurrency stolen.
  • June 2018 – Bitcoin released its core version 0.16.1

What is Ethereum?

Ethereum is a peer-to-peer based platform on which decentralized applications can be built. Since its release in July 2015, Ethereum has risen to the top as the second largest cryptocurrency with a market cap of approximately $50 billion.

In a market flowing with thousands of cryptocurrencies, it has quickly become the topic of many debates, not just for its similarities to Bitcoin, but its differences as well. So what makes it so unique?

Bitcoin vs. Ethereum vs. Litecoin
Ethereum was proposed in 2013 by Vitalik Buterin, a Canadian-born cryptocurrency developer. Later in 2014, it was funded via a crowd sale event in which there were 11.9 million pre-mined ETH. It was fully released in 2015 and has quickly risen since then. Ethereum tokens, known as “Ether” have become a conventional means of exchange on various blockchain-based applications and continue to grow in value.

On the surface, Ethereum works just like any other cryptocurrency. The common conception is that ETH is just like BTC— a store of value, especially for payments. It can be exchanged for fiat currency and just like Bitcoin, the transactions are confirmed on a blockchain. It’s also completely decentralized with no need for third-party validation.

Just like Bitcoin’s blockchain, Ethereum once had miners who also ran complex computational algorithms to get mining rewards. While these similarities exist, the currency is quite different from Bitcoin in a lot of significant ways.

How Does Ethereum Work?

Unlike Bitcoin, the Ethereum platform was designed in a way that allows decentralized applications (DApps) to be built on it. In fact, 1,629 applications have currently been built on its blockchain.

According to the Ethereum website, its platform is a decentralized foundation for applications that run precisely as they’re programmed. They also claim that the platform erases third parties as well as any chance of fraud or censorship. This means that ultimately, code written on its blockchain is immutable due to cryptographic technology.

Ethereum allows users to create and execute smart contracts on its platform, which form the basis of DApps. Solidity, the platform’s inbuilt programming language is used to develop these smart contracts and DApps. Ether, the ETH token, acts as their primary facilitator. For this reason, Ethereum is commonly called programmable money.

Ethereum Blockchain Explained

The Ethereum blockchain consists of interlinked blocks that can hold and execute code snippets. These code snippets can be bundled together to build applications. This single quality differentiates it from Bitcoin, its immediate counterpart. Traditional applications are built to give certain outcomes when specific conditions are met, and Ethereum smart contracts do the same thing.

Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM)

The EVM is a decentralized Turing-complete machine, built to run code scripts on the Ethereum platform. It’s the particular site where all smart contracts are executed and are run by every node in the network. The virtual machine is isolated from the host computer system and makes the creation and deployment of applications possible.

Decentralized Applications (DApps)

DApps are a new type of application that is not owned by a central party. They run on a peer-based network and cannot be shut down. For an application to be classed as a DApp, it must meet the following requirements:

  • It must be decentralized.
  • The app must have a consensus protocol in place.
  • It must be open source, allowing anyone to view and contribute to its code.
  • It must have digital assets to fuel its operations.

The basic structure of a DApp consists of 4 main parts:

  • The blockchain
  • A storage layer
  • Smart contract
  • Social layer

Ethereum Blockchain Based

For a decentralized application to work on Ethereum, it must be based on the blockchain. This is because peer-to-peer consensus is necessary for the validation of certain application constructs. Every node has to confirm parameters like usernames and other relevant information.

Storage Layer

Currently, there are several cloud storage service providers, like AWS, that users can outsource their file storage too. Unfortunately, most of them have centralized servers and control the way that information is stored. This goes against the principles of decentralization. However, like traditional software applications, DApps need storage facilities, and for this purpose, there are decentralized storage systems like the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS).

The IPFS is a file transport protocol that can be stacked directly on the blockchain. Its working mechanism is similar to that of BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer file sharing service. IPFS is an excellent option for blockchain-based storage because instead of storing whole content, it generates a hash for each file. A hash consists of a unique combination of letters and numbers which act as a unique identifier for the file.

Files on Ethereum’s blockchain can easily be searched for on IPFS or through the use of the Ethereum blockchain explorer. To retrieve a file, a user can search for the hash of that file. To share the file with another party, a user would merely have to share that hash with the party, similar to how links to a Google document can be shared. The amount of storage space needed by DApps varies, and it would be impractical to leave the data in blocks due to the amount of space it would take.

Smart Contract

A smart contract is a type of virtual contract containing written code and uploaded to the blockchain. It lives on the blockchain, usually in the form of an “if-then” statement and self-executes when the conditions specified within the contract are met. This execution is run across every node in the blockchain for confirmation.

For example, a user may want to buy in-app tokens on a game app using Ethereum. For this purchase, a smart contract is set up, specifying that if such a user pays a certain amount of Ethereum, then the game will award them a certain amount of in-app tokens.

The entire process is carried out on the blockchain and can be validated by anyone. Due to this transparency, it’s difficult to tamper with transactions on the Ethereum blockchain. One great advantage of smart contracts is that they eliminate the need for third parties. Transactions can be finalized without filling out papers, dealing with lawyers, or paying expensive processing fees.

Automation as an advantage only constitutes one side of the coin because this quality can be a huge disadvantage, too. Software programs are prone to bugs, and that’s why updated versions usually come with bug fixes. In the event of a bug occurring in a smart contract, the contract will still execute on the blockchain, and the results can be disastrous.

A recent example is the case of The DAO, a  decentralized autonomous organization which served as an investment fund. Members of the organization invested Ether which bought them tokens and the right to vote on what the fund would be used for. The entire system was facilitated by a series of smart contracts, from the donation of Ether to voting and final investment.

The DAO, slated for a 28-day crowd sale, went live in April 2016 and, by the end of the funding window, it had raised $150 million from about 11,000 investors. While the Ethereum blockchain itself securely runs smart contracts, the onus lies on the independent developers of these contracts to fix all bugs.

Unfortunately, a weakness in the code was discovered by a hacker and used to drain over 3.6 million ETH into a new DAO. Since the contract merely acted as it was supposed to, the actions of the hacker were technically not illegal.

As far as traditional contracts go, context and intention are considered in a court in the event of any similar misconduct. Smart contracts, on the other hand, are made up of written code and will follow that code no matter the situation. This often strikes the question of whether the reward of smart contracts is worth the risk after all.

Functions of Smart Contracts

There are four primary functions of Smart Contracts:

  1. They act as software libraries by providing certain functions to other contracts.
  2. Smart contracts manage ongoing contract relationships between several users. Some examples are insurance, escrow, subscriptions and other financial contracts.
  3. They hold and maintain data that other contracts or members of the outside world can use. For example, a smart contract may hold the protocol for a currency, membership data for certain organizations, and updated company lists.
  4. They act as forwarding contracts which make an access procedure more complicated by introducing additional measures. These measures usually involve sending an incoming message to a specific destination after preset conditions are met.

One example is the case of multiple ownership of a particular asset. A contract may wait until a certain number of owners have signed a message with their private keys before sending the message to others. Another example is an extra account authentication process or a contract that allows users to override a transaction limit by presenting a complicated procedure.

Gas

Each program run on the nodes of the Ethereum blockchain uses an exact amount of processing power. To conserve power and maintain the integrity of the system, it’s imperative to avoid any unnecessary activity. To regulate activity, all Ethereum programs are given a cost in gas for them to run. Gas is a measure of processing power per program in Ether. As the processing power increases, so will the amount of Ether needed to keep its contracts running.

Social Layer

After implementing a data storage layer, and smart contract, application social constructs can be stacked on them. This is the area that users directly interact with. It contains content such as usernames, payment information, and subscription history. Depending on the application, decentralized payment platforms such as OPEN API can be added to the mix.

Together, these layers comprise the backbone of DApps. Currently, several applications exist, stretching across different industries. Some notable DApps are OmiseGo, a payment platform that uses smart contracts to offer global banking services without the need for a bank account. Another is Cryptokitties, a collectibles app making waves, especially in the art industry.

How to Use Ethereum

To a beginner, the idea of using Ethereum and its associated applications may seem intimidating. However, it’s quite straightforward once the system becomes familiar. Ethereum has proven to be versatile, and there are different ways in which it can be used.

Ethereum Exchange and Storage

Like other cryptocurrencies including BTC, ETH has an exchange rate against other digital currencies and fiat currencies including the US dollar. This means that it’s set at a constantly fluctuating price that is affected by market forces of supply and demand.

Due to this property, Ether can be used as a store of value which can either increase and yield profits or decrease and lead to losses. Although ETH is the second largest cryptocurrency, the ETH price (currently trading at $500) is nowhere near that of BTC ($6,500). Despite this price gap, it’s possible to make a profit by buying Ethereum when the price is low and selling when high.

To store and exchange Ethereum, users must have a secure ETH wallet. Apart from storing a user’s balance, it will store private keys as well. These wallets come in the same form as Bitcoin wallets – web-based, mobile, desktop, and hardware.

It’s important to note that while the use of a wallet conveniently eliminates third-party exchanges, there is also a huge disadvantage. In the event of the loss of a private key, there is no chance of recovery and all the Ether in that wallet will be lost. Depending on the amount of Ether in a wallet, this incident can be disastrous to the user.

How to Buy Ether

To buy Ether, users can either physically locate people willing to trade or use exchanges. Exchanges help users buy ETH by matching them with other users willing to sell. Typically, on these exchanges, a user will be expected to sign up and enter any relevant details. Users may also have to exchange their traditional currency for BTC then exchange BTC for ETH because Bitcoin is more popular and it’s easier to find people willing to sell.

Why invest in Ethereum?

Considering the size, popularity and myriad use cases of Ethereum, there are several good reasons to invest in the cryptocurrency and a couple of solid reasons not to. 1 ETH is currently worth about $500, a considerable drop from $1,200 in January 2017. In investing, six months is enough for drastic changes to occur. If the price can fall to this level due to market volatility, a user may ask: so why should I invest in Ethereum?

The answer is simple: there is profit to be made as well. Before ETH price tanked to what it is now, it experienced a steady rise from a mere $7 in January 2017 to over $1,400 in December. So if a user had 100 ETH valued at $700 in January, the same amount of ETH would have been worth $140,000, a jaw-dropping 10,000% increase. When compared to Bitcoin which despite a peak price of almost $20,000 in the same year only saw a 1,500% increase, Ethereum is the more profitable option.

Factors That Influence ETH Price Increase

While the cryptocurrency market may seem random in its fluctuations, there are underlying factors that cause these price changes. Some of these factors have been cited continuously by various industry experts and enthusiasts in their predictions for the future of Ethereum

1. Increased Creation and Investment in Decentralized Applications

A good reason to invest in Ethereum is the predicted popularity of the DApps that run on it. Depending on how useful and mainstream DApps become, the price of ETH could skyrocket. This is because although each application has its crypto token associated with it, users have to exchange Ether for these tokens. All it may take is an app with the decentralized functionality of PayPal, DHL or even Pokémon Go to set a price rise in motion.

This is backed by Steven Nerayoff, the co-founder of Ethereum. On the talk show “Fast Money,” he commented that because of the amount of money being poured into the ecosystem and the apps being built, Ethereum might well surpass Bitcoin. According to him, Ethereum is currently seeing exponential growth in application projects with billions of dollars being poured into them. There are currently ten times more projects on Ethereum than there was last year and this may lead to a 2x or 3x ETH price increase by December.

In a recent Fortune interview, Alex Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit, predicted that the price of Ether would skyrocket to $1,500 before the end of the year. He owed this prediction to the current applications on the platform and the popularity of DApps like Cryptokitties, an app which lets users buy and breed digital cats. The application recently raised $12 million in funding and has paved the way for several huge investments into other applications.

2. Mainstream Use of Smart Contracts

Increased use of smart contracts built on the Ethereum platform can also influence the ETH price positively. The more users adopt smart contracts for everyday transactions including subscriptions, escrow, and even insurance, the more Ether will be spent. As smart contract usage becomes more popular, there will be more need to buy ETH to fund more smart contracts and pay “Gas.”

3. Increased Public Adoption

Ethereum usership continues to grow as there are currently 36.5 million unique addresses with about 65,000 new addresses added each day. While this may not outrightly prove that the ETH price will rise, it presents a possibility. There have also been several predictions flying about from anywhere between ETH hitting $1,000 to $20,000 in 2018.

Nigel Green, the CEO of deVere Group, made an Ethereum prediction in an interview for Marketwatch, published on April 27, 2018. Green predicts that the price of ETH may reach $2,500 by December 2018 and continue its rise through 2019 and 2020.

Olaf Wee-Carlson, the CEO of Polychain Capital, stated recently that the applications of Ethereum could be likened to Sci-fi. According to Carlson, Ethereum and its interesting applications are beyond reasonable imagination, and he would like to see how the technology progresses.

4. Adoption of Decentralized File Storage by Large Corporations

The creation of data globally continues to increase, prompting the need for reliable data storage methods. Humans are currently creating data at an alarming rate. According to a recent report by the International Data Center, digital data will have a compound annual growth rate of 42% through to 2020. In fact, data growth between 2010-2020 will be 50 times what it was before 2010. IBM has also reported that every day, about 2.5 exabytes (quintillion or 2.5 x 10^21 bytes) of data is created by humans.

These are mind-boggling figures that present a need to store data in a way that it cannot be taken down or lost by a single centralized server. This was the case of the popular Geocities sites taken down by Yahoo. If the data from the sites had been stored on a decentralized platform, it would have been preserved. This is where decentralized file storage clients like Storj and IPFS come in.

These storage clients are slowly being adopted by individuals and corporations and may soon become mainstream. Storj reported that the platform already has about 20,000 users. SIA, another storage platform was valued at $250 million in 2017. When large corporations adopt the use of applications like these, the influx of Ether into the system can immensely impact its price. The more people buy ETH, the more its price will increase.

Factors That Influence ETH Price Decrease

Just as there are factors that increase the price of ETH, they’re other negative factors that any Ethereum investor should be wary of. The damage done by these factors will largely depend on their frequency and progression. It’s important to consider a group of probabilistic outcomes of these events along with combinations of the good and bad factors to aid decision-making.

1. Mining

Mining profitability is a huge contributor to the rise and especially the fall of the ETH price. The higher the price of ETH, the more miners are attracted to mine it. The more they mine, the more transactions can occur. For a miner to be incentivized, the profit obtained from mining Ethereum would have to offset the cost of mining by far.

When the price of ETH is high, compared to what it once was, mining profitability increases and miners sell their Ether. When the price is low, it’s the other way around, miners hold onto their Ether, increasing the demand and in turn the price.

2. Regulations

The cryptocurrency market has gone wildly unregulated for a long time. This lack of regulation has caused the occurrence of several incidents, which would be illegal in any other markets to occur. Incidents like the case of BitConnect, pump and dump schemes, the case of MtGox and the Modern Tech ICO are some examples.

However, some countries have decided to crack down on cryptocurrency trade by putting several regulations in place to limit and even ban some aspects of cryptocurrency trading. One example is the ICO ban by China. While these regulations serve to limit scams and money loss, some of them have negatively affected the prices of certain cryptocurrencies including Ethereum.

It’s no surprise that the platform may stand to lose the most from regulations due to its unique functionality of having applications built on it. These regulations stand to limit the way users interact with DApps, smart contracts, and Ether as a whole.

In May 2018, Ethereum experienced a 6% decline when the Wall Street Journal announced that it had come under the SEC’s regulatory scrutiny. When the SEC declared both Ethereum and Bitcoin as non-securities in June 2018, the market saw a huge boost. One appeal of cryptocurrency is that it’s not policed by any government. If that changes, there’s no telling what disastrous effects it will have on the value of the coin.

Who Accepts Ethereum?

Currently, Ethereum is accepted by a few businesses to fund their decentralized applications. It’s also accepted on most major exchanges because users constantly buy and sell their Ether. As the platform expands and more individuals and businesses create and use DApps and smart contracts, acceptance of ETH will become more mainstream. Here is a list of some small businesses that currently accept Ethereum.

  • Cryptopets- A pet supply service that allows users to pay for supply and delivery using ETH
  • Overstock- A home improvement retailer
  • Flokinet- A Scandinavian web hosting company
  • Tapjets- One of the largest private jet rentals in the U.S
  • Snel- A popular VPS hosting service

Larger businesses can be found in the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance. The alliance consists of large companies that have decided to embrace Ethereum for different applications. Some members include Mastercard, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, and J.P.Morgan.

Ethereum Supply

The annual supply of ETH through minting (formerly mining) is capped at 18 million independent of the Ethereum exchange rate. While this may seem like an inflation problem waiting to happen, the Ethereum team has worked out why that’s not the case.

A certain percentage of Ether is lost annually through theft, lost private keys or even death. As Ethereum scales and becomes more economically acceptable, 18 million ETH will no longer seem like such a huge annual cap.

Eventually, the amount of Ether lost per year will match the amount minted and the system will remain balanced. When new blocks are minted, block rewards are paid out to the nodes responsible for minting. Those who receive the rewards sell them, depending on the ETH price, allowing more Ether to circulate. This influences the Ethereum exchange rate.

Ethereum News

Ethereum has constantly been in the news since its release for several reasons, including updates and significant changes. Here are some relevant stories from current Ethereum blockchain news.

  • In May 2018 – Vitalik Buterin Endorsed Liquidity network, a trustless payment service that will operate like PayPal. The project seeks to solve the scalability issues of blockchain starting with Ethereum.
  • In June 2018 – Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Ethereum stated that the platform would soon be able to process up to 1 million transactions every second. The Ethereum community is looking into different solutions, including sharding, to combat the problem of transaction speed.

What is Litecoin?

Litecoin is a peer-based cryptocurrency that was created to address some of the issues associated with the Bitcoin blockchain. These issues include transaction confirmation speed, scalability, mining process, and transaction fees. It was created by Charlie Lee, a Google developer at the time.

Lee was unimpressed with the wait time of 10 minutes or more that users have to endure when using Bitcoin. He set about working on his cryptocurrency by copying the Bitcoin open source software and making changes to it. In October 2011, Litecoin was released, and by November 2013, it had reached a market cap of $1 billion.

Litecoin is currently the sixth largest cryptocurrency by market cap after Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Bitcoin cash, and EOS. The value of its market cap currently lies at approximately $5.7 billion and its price is currently about $100, with a peak price of $375.29 in December 2017.

How does Litecoin Work?

Litecoin operates using blockchain technology, just like Bitcoin. While Litecoin is a separate entity from Bitcoin, the two cryptocurrencies work in very similar ways. However, their differences also play a significant role in the progression of Litecoin.

Differences between Bitcoin and Litecoin explained

Initially, Litecoin was mainly created to solve the problem of transaction speed. On the Bitcoin blockchain, it takes roughly 10 minutes for miners to add a new block to the blockchain. Transactions on the platform cannot be confirmed without this mining process and in cases where there are any mining problems, users may have to endure an even longer wait time.

Litecoin, on the other hand, has a transaction speed of 2.5 minutes, which is better for several reasons. Firstly, merchants can now transact freely in four times the amount of time it would take with Bitcoin. Frequent micropayments can also be achieved using Litecoin because if one transaction takes 2.5 minutes then, theoretically, each person would be able to carry out over 500 transactions each day.

The transaction speed is also great for miners. Where Bitcoin mining power is controlled by a concentrated batch of people, Litecoin mining is more decentralized. Theoretically, the fast block confirmation time allows more miners to mine blocks and receive rewards. This leads to a better distribution of rewards.

Another difference between Bitcoin vs Litecoin is that while the former will only have 21 million tokens in existence, the latter will have 84 million. Due to the transaction confirmation time of 2.5 minutes, Litecoin blocks get mined four times faster than Bitcoin.

To make up for the speed and ensure the gradual progression of the system, the total supply of LTC is capped at four times that of BTC. Litecoin also has lower transaction fees than Bitcoin, making it easier to carry out several transactions on its blockchain. The average transaction fee is $0.108 with a median fee of $0.036.

Litecoin Blockchain

The Litecoin blockchain is a decentralized ledger just like that of Bitcoin and uses the proof-of-work system for mining new blocks. However, there are some fundamental differences in the Litecoin block explorer as well as the block mining process. First of all, while Bitcoin uses the SHA-256 hashing algorithm in its mining process, Litecoin uses Scrypt. This was an intentional move by Lee to make LTC mining a more decentralized process.

In Bitcoin mining, large devices known as ASIC can run code that solves mathematical puzzles at the same time. While ASIC provides immense computational power, it can be expensive, and for this reason, average individuals cannot mine BTC. Scrypt, on the other hand, is more serialized than SHA-256.

Running parallel operations will take up a vast amount of memory, so miners run them one after the other. This means that anyone with access to memory in the form of a memory card can mine LTC, ultimately making the process more decentralized.

The first mined block on Litecoin had a block reward of 50 LTC. This mining reward will be halved every 840,000 blocks. Transactions on the blockchain can be viewed using Blockcypher, the Litecoin blockchain explorer.

Why Invest in Litecoin?

The growth pattern of LTC has shown that investment in the cryptocurrency is better over a long-term period. While there is no assurance of a fast increase in LTC price any time soon, its community remains unfazed. LTC price predictions continue to flood the internet with varying opinions. In January 2017, 1 LTC had a value of $4, and by December of the same year, it had risen by more than 9,000% to a peak price of $375.29.

If a user had invested $5,000 in Litecoin in January 2017, then by December 2017, it would have increased to $469,112 at peak price. While this may sound like enough reason to pour money into Litecoin, it should be kept in mind that losses can occur as well. Users who bought LTC at a triple-digit price are currently facing those losses as LTC drops below $100 in what has been termed a “market correction.”

According to analysts and blockchain enthusiasts, the rapid drop in Litecoin price may signify an impending price explosion. If that is the case, then it would be reasonable to buy low and hold for a long time (maybe years). Even though the cryptocurrency is nowhere near Bitcoin in price, it continues to be a boon to investors.

Who accepts Litecoin

Litecoin isn’t as big as Bitcoin and Ethereum, so its adoption has been happening at a much slower pace. As the cryptocurrency gains more traction, its adoption as a means of payment is expected to grow as well. There are currently a few places that accept LTC.

  • Benz and Beemer- An auto dealership
  • eGifter- A New York-based gifting service
  • Alza.cz- An online retailer

Litecoin Supply

Litecoin supply is received from the continuous release of LTC in the same way as Bitcoin. The currency has a current block reward of 25 LTC plus transaction fees which miners may choose to sell on the market. An increased Litecoin supply always pushes its price down and vice versa.

Litecoin News

Litecoin has also continued to make news headlines with its key updates. Here are a few relevant Litecoin blockchain news snippets.

  • Dark web users have decided to drop Bitcoin as a form of payment because of the slow transaction speeds and other issues they’ve had to endure.
  • December 2017- Charlie Lee, Litecoin founder, sells all his LTC in what many are calling a conflict of interest.

Now let’s compare the basics of all three cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin vs Ethereum vs Litecoin: Basics

Property Bitcoin Ethereum Litecoin
Market Cap $115.4 billion $53.7 billion $5.6 billion
Release Year 2008 2015 2011
Peak Price ≅ $20,000 ≅ $1,400 ≅ $375
Mining Process Proof-of-Work with SHA-256 Proof-of-Stake Proof-of-Work with Scrypt
Block Explorer blockchain.info, blockcypher.com, blockchair.com Etherscan.io, ethplorer.io Etherchain.org, explorer.Litecoin.net, chainz.cryptoid.info, blockcypher
Total Coin Supply 21 million BTC 18 million ETH per year 84 million LTC
Transaction Fee $1 $2-$4 $0.18
Confirmation Time 10 minutes 20 seconds 2.5 minutes


Bitcoin vs. Ethereum vs. Litecoin: Pricing

Whether a user is new to cryptocurrency or not, the whole exchange process can be very confusing. There are a lot of questions, such as Ethereum pass Bitcoin? Is Ethereum better than Bitcoin? How do you even go about exchanges? And, can you exchange one cryptocurrency for another like maybe Bitcoin for Litecoin and vice versa? Apart from questions like these, there are other technicalities like market analysis and coin-watching.

The best way to go about unbundling blockchain is by studying the facts and taking little steps. For pricing, the facts are simple when comparing Bitcoin vs Ethereum. The former had a price growth of about 1,000% while the latter grew by about 10,000%. Despite having a higher overall price, the figures show that Bitcoin may not be as good for investment as Ethereum. As for Bitcoin vs Litecoin, the same trend appears where the smaller cryptocurrency had a better price growth than Bitcoin.

Figuring out which of the cryptocurrencies is better will depend on the user’s preference. All three coins have shown potential to revolutionize investing in their different ways. However, one thing is clear: they all seem to yield better results from long-term investment. These days, anyone can make a Litecoin, Bitcoin or Ethereum price prediction. It’s important to weed out the ones that don’t show any true logic behind them before using them as an investment guideline.

Price-monitoring can be done on sites like Coinmarketcap to see the rise and fall of both the prices and a market cap of different coins. Exchanges like Binance also show current prices and allow users to exchange one cryptocurrency for another. It’s possible to exchange Bitcoin for Ethereum, Bitcoin for Litecoin and so on.

Bitcoin vs. Ethereum vs. Litecoin: Wallets

All three cryptocurrencies use similar wallets. Mobile, desktop, web and hardware wallets are acceptable on their platforms. The safest option is hardware wallets because they’re offline and can’t be hacked. Such wallets can be stored in a safety deposit box or even a vault at home depending on the value of their contents.

Bitcoin vs. Ethereum vs. Litecoin: Mining

For those looking to understand and perform cryptocurrency mining, there are significant differences between the way Bitcoin, Ether and Litecoin are mined. Bitcoin mining uses the SHA-256 hashing method to ensure that miners solve a challenging puzzle. They show a solution known as the proof-of-work and add new blocks to the blockchain after. The current block reward is about 12.5 BTC valued at almost $83,000.

Ethereum, on the other hand, switched from the proof-of-work to the proof-of-stake method in which new blocks are minted, not mined. In proof-of-stake, a node puts up an amount of its personal Ether as a stake. The node with the highest stake is chosen to validate the next block. Validators bet on blocks to show that they don’t have any malicious transactions on them. If a malicious block is validated, the validators lose their stake. However, if the block isn’t malicious, then the validator gets a reward proportional to their bet.

Litecoin mining also involves the proof-of-work protocol like Bitcoin. However, Scrypt is used in place of SHA-256 to mitigate the problems associated with mining centralization and energy use. Scrypt allows any user with access to extra memory to become a miner without buying expensive ASIC devices like Bitcoin miners. The current Litecoin block reward is 25 LTC valued at about $2,500 at the time of writing.

Final Thoughts

Cryptocurrency is relatively new and is still being studied and continuously improved upon. Market experiments are still occurring, and businesses continue to find new ways to accept blockchain technology. This is evident in the fast growth of platforms like Ethereum, the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance and recent partnerships like that of sites like Pornhub and Verge cryptocurrency.

While this may sound exciting, investors should not get too carried away as there are many ways to lose money in crypto investing. Research the market and how it constantly changes while leaving room for unpredictable outcomes. Although the field of cryptocurrency is still quite young, Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin have earned their places as giants that continue to drive innovation in one way or the other.

This article originally was written for MintDice