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Bitcoin is a digital crypto-currency with no single point of failure due to its decentralized peer-to-peer architecture. The source code is publicly available and changes to the reference Bitcoin client are made via concensus within the community. Advantages of Bitcoin include irreversible transactions (i.e. no possibility of chargebacks as with credit cards), pseudo-anonymous, limited and fixed inflation, near instant transactions, multi-platform, no double-spend and little to no barriers to entry and more. It was created by an anonymous person known as Satoshi Nakamoto. Find out more at WeUseCoins.com.

Bitcoin Latest News

SegWit is Coming to Coinbase and Bitfinex’s Bitcoin Exchanges

SegWit is Coming to Coinbase and Bitfinex’s Bitcoin Exchanges

Today, two of the world’s largest cryptocurrency investment platforms, Coinbase and Bitfinex, both announced that they were adopting support for Segregated Witness (SegWit) protocols for bitcoin (BTC) traded on their exchanges.

In its announcement, Bitfinex stated, “The SegWit implementation means Bitfinex users can benefit from lower BTC withdrawal fees (approximately 15 percent) and improved processing times on transactions across the Bitcoin network.” The exchange did make clear that the support for bitcoin deposits and withdrawals using pay-to-script-hash (P2SH) SegWit addresses were the only ones thus far slated for bitcoin and not applicable to bitcoin cash (BCH).

Coinbase, on the other hand, tweeted that it had finished testing for SegWit for Bitcoin. It will phase in the launch, with the goal of “targeting a 100% launch to all customers by mid next week.” Coinbase affirmed its plan for a 2018 SegWit implementation on December 15, 2017 and seemingly delivered on the SegWit statements it made on February 13, 2018.

Reasons for the support of using SegWit addresses are clear.  Prior to the activation of the Segregated Witness soft fork in August 2017, there were concerns about the scalability and malleability of Bitcoin due to the size limit of the blocks and a potential manipulation of the transaction ID. These concerns had been a source of debate for years until the “soft fork” allowed for protocol upgrades to the software.

While many hard and soft wallets already adopted support for SegWit protocols, the move by both companies is huge given the volume of bitcoin traded on each platform. At the time of this writing, both Bitfinex and Coinbase’s exchange, GDAX, accounted for nearly one tenth of global bitcoin trades over the previous 24 hours. This number underestimates the impact on BTC trading volume as it does not include Coinbase’s wallet platform. Both Bitfinex and GDAX are ranked as top 10 exchanges in the world by trading volume, at 5th and 8th, respectively.

The positive news for both exchanges comes at a time of mounting pressure from the public. Coinbase has faced community backlash on higher Bitcoin transaction fees, customers’ inability to withdraw funds to PayPal accounts and credit cards being disabled as a payment method for U.S. customers.

Bitfinex’s announcement comes on the heels of a tumultuous end to 2017 and a rough start to 2018, inclusive of new account registration issues, a CFTC subpoena and firing of auditor Friedman LLP.

With the announcements of SegWit adoption for Bitcoin, it seems that Coinbase has addressed a major issue for its consumer base, and Bitfinex has been able to release some much-needed positive news for its customers amidst its recent controversies.

For more information on Segregated Witness, check out our earlier articles on Bitcoin Magazine.


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 20 February 2018 | 3:26 pm

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Posted on 20 February 2018 | 3:19 pm

Bitcoin prices are back up 30 percent over the last week - Recode


Recode

Bitcoin prices are back up 30 percent over the last week
Recode
Bitcoin prices are back up to more than $11,600 today after South Korea's finance regulator said the country would support “normal” cryptocurrency trading. That's the highest it's been since the country's regulators said they would ban cryptocurrency ...

Posted on 20 February 2018 | 1:40 pm

Bitcoin's bouncing back, here are the next big catalysts for the cryptocurrency - CNBC


CNBC

Bitcoin's bouncing back, here are the next big catalysts for the cryptocurrency
CNBC
The cryptocurrency surged Tuesday, closing in on the $12,000 level. One bitcoin bull says progress on the regulatory front could send it even higher. According to CNBC "Fast Money" trader Brian Kelly, Tuesday's rally is the result of more crypto ...

and more »

Posted on 20 February 2018 | 1:19 pm

Bitcoin nearly doubles in value from year's low hit in early February - Reuters


Reuters

Bitcoin nearly doubles in value from year's low hit in early February
Reuters
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo. On the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange, bitcoin hit a three-week high of $11,722.58 BTC=BTSP on Tuesday. It was last up 3.4 percent at $11,555. From this year's low of $5,920 in early February, bitcoin has surged ...
Bitcoin Price Ticks Higher Amid Strong Korean DemandCoinDesk
Police in South Korea Are Investigating the Death of a Bitcoin Policy CoordinatorFortune
Bitcoin marches toward $12000 in spite of new regulation chatter from the USBGR
Big Think (blog) -Metro -Westchester Magazine -CoinDesk
all 142 news articles »

Posted on 20 February 2018 | 1:10 pm

Report: Japanese Crypto Exchanges Unite to Form Self-Regulatory Group

A group of Japanese cryptocurrency exchanges is reportedly uniting to form a new self-regulatory body in the wake of the recent Coincheck hack.

Posted on 20 February 2018 | 12:45 pm

EU Regulators to Discuss Crypto Regulation Next Week

A group of European Union regulators will meet next week to discuss the regulation of cryptocurrencies.

Posted on 20 February 2018 | 11:00 am

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It's not too late to invest everything in Steven Seagal's new Bitcoin - AV Club


AV Club

It's not too late to invest everything in Steven Seagal's new Bitcoin
AV Club
Breathe deeply and allow this B-movie Buddha to open your Third “I” to the boundless possibilities that can be unlocked once you achieve full enlightenment and ignore the fact that Bitcoiin's white paper fails to explain specifically how it will ...
'Zen Master' Steven Seagal is the face of a new Bitcoin competitorNew York Daily News

all 23 news articles »

Posted on 20 February 2018 | 10:07 am

Game Over: Crypto Vigilante Shuts Down Twitter's Favorite Dapp

Only a week. That's how long Crypto All Stars, an ethereum-based collectable game modeled off CryptoKitties, lasted once founder in-fighting started.

Posted on 20 February 2018 | 10:00 am

NASA, ESA Considering Innovative Applications of Blockchain Technology

NASA, ESA Considering Innovative Applications of Blockchain Technology

NASA and other space agencies, such as the European Space Agency (ESA), are considering potential applications of blockchain technology to space missions and internal operations.

According to a NASA presentation titled “Bitcoin, Blockchains and Efficient Distributed Spacecraft Mission Control,” blockchain technology could have useful applications in distributed spacecraft missions involving multiple elements. Artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technologies could be further integrated to make space-based sensor networks more efficient and responsive.

In September 2017, NASA awarded a $333,000 grant to University of Akron (UA) Assistant Professor Jin Wei to research how to make space hardware smarter and more autonomous. The research program, titled “RNCP: A Resilient Networking and Computing Paradigm for NASA Space Exploration,” wants to improve the automation, environment awareness and intelligence of NASA space probes, which is an important requirement for deep space missions.

“The objective here is the application of blockchain and distributed intelligence to our space and ground network communication assets,” said Thomas Kacpura, advanced communications program manager at NASA’s Glenn Research Center. “If successful, the overall objective will be to incorporate Dr. Wei’s research in our overall portfolio to ultimately optimize our communication networks."

ESA is also quietly researching innovative blockchain-powered solutions. Recently, the Agency has been investigating the applicability of blockchain technologies to key challenges for ESA’s space activities and administrative areas. A position paper titled “Distributed Ledger Technology: Leveraging Blockchain for ESA's Success,” authored by trainee Torben David and senior coordinator Gianluigi Baldesi, offers a concise summary of blockchain technology and its main applications, and then goes on to list several potential applications to the Agency’s mission.

In particular, the paper mentions faster and more accurate payments, blockchain-based smart contracts applications to streamlining procurement, audit processes and record-keeping, data traceability and access rights, and voting and direct democracy.

It’s worth noting that the ESA paper focuses on blockchain technology applications to administrative processes but doesn’t address embedded blockchain technology for space hardware and software, which is covered by NASA’s RNCP. However, since ESA’s exploration of blockchain technology is just beginning, it seems likely that applications to space missions will be considered in due course.

In conversation with Bitcoin Magazine, Baldesi confirmed that the Agency is considering potential applications of blockchain technology with keen interest and a forward-looking approach. In the framework of “the Space 4.0 era” with diverse space actors around the world, including emerging private companies and citizen groups empowered by digital technologies, ESA launched the “Exploring Threats and Opportunities through Mega Trends in the Space 4.0 Era” initiative with the support of consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, and hosted a related workshop at the ESTEC technical centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, on October 23, 2017.

“In the era of Space 4.0 — as in our own lives — we have to be adaptive to change and nurture a culture of pro-activeness and open-mindedness to both disruption and opportunity,” said Baldesi.

The workshop was live-streamed and is now available for public viewing. Several presentations discuss blockchain technology as a key enabler of disruptive innovation in a wide range of industries, including space. Potential space applications of blockchain technology include  mission data; smart contracts and smart procurement to optimize the supply chain; and information management where applications may include virtual spacecraft (traceability and configuration consistency) and configuration control (hardware and documentation).

Baldesi explained that the Agency is awarding exploratory research contracts related to blockchain technology, such as a Satcom Maker Space initiative that includes Internet of Things (IoT) solutions for satellite telecommunications and a “Testbed for Blockchain supporting satellite M2M/IoT,” as well as an intended “Blockchain for Space Activities” study and an intended “fintech” initiative for innovative fintech-related applications and services based on the integration of space and non-space technology.

The governance and “direct democracy” applications mentioned in the position paper are especially interesting. Baldesi explained that the current Director General of the Agency, Johann-Dietrich Wörner, known for his vigorous support of bold, visionary initiatives such as the “Moon Village,” is determined to systematically use tools such as Kahoot for crowdsourced decision making and has launched several pilot e-voting initiatives, not only internally but also with the participation of external actors.

Blockchain-based e-voting platforms are, according to Baldesi, especially promising and in line with the desired openness and inclusiveness of Space 4.0.

These sorts of Space 4.0 citizen initiatives are growing in popularity; projects like Space Decentral project are moving in a similar direction.


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 20 February 2018 | 9:33 am

500 Startups, Huobi Labs Team Up to Incubate Blockchain Projects

Silicon Valley accelerator 500 Startups is partnering with Huobi Labs to help new blockchain companies get off to a good start.

Posted on 20 February 2018 | 9:30 am

Vitalik Has a New Idea for ICOs – And It's Being Tested

A month after ethereum creator Vitalik Buerin proposed a new twist on the ICO funding model, a Russian video game firm is putting it into practice.

Posted on 20 February 2018 | 7:00 am

Bitcoin Price Ticks Higher Amid Strong Korean Demand

Bitcoin prices passed $11,600 in the morning's session, seemingly buoyed by enthusiastic trading in South Korea.

Posted on 20 February 2018 | 6:00 am

Jihadists See a Funding Boon in Bitcoin - Wall Street Journal


Wall Street Journal

Jihadists See a Funding Boon in Bitcoin
Wall Street Journal
When a group that says it provides financial assistance “relating to the jihad” sought to improve conditions for fighters in a squalid, sandbag-fortified trench in Syria late last year, it turned to a new funding conduit: bitcoin. “There is currently ...

Posted on 20 February 2018 | 6:00 am

Bitcoin's transaction fee crisis is over—for now - Ars Technica


Ars Technica

Bitcoin's transaction fee crisis is over—for now
Ars Technica
The median daily transaction fee on the bitcoin network fell to $0.79 on Sunday, a six-month low. That represents a dramatic 97-percent decline from the peak of $34 reached on December 23. The median daily bitcoin transaction fee was more than $10 from ...

Posted on 20 February 2018 | 5:15 am

South Korea to Support 'Normal' Crypto Trading, Says Finance Watchdog

South Korea's Financial Supervisory Service has reportedly said that the government will support "normal" cryptocurrency trading transactions.

Posted on 20 February 2018 | 5:10 am

Venezuela's 'Petro' Token Launches in Pre-Sale

Venezuela's government has reportedly launched the pre-sale of its controversial "petro" cryptocurrency, saying 82.4 million tokens are now available.

Posted on 20 February 2018 | 3:20 am

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Regional Government in Russia to Test Blockchain Payments

Russian development bank Vnesheconombank has partnered with Kaliningrad's regions government to pilot blockchain-based payment solutions.

Posted on 20 February 2018 | 12:00 am

New Bitcoin Code Will Finally Boast Full SegWit Support

An upcoming Bitcoin Core software release is finally making it easier to use a code change called SegWit in the software's standard wallet.

Posted on 19 February 2018 | 9:05 pm

California Bill Would Legally Recognize Blockchain Data

A new bill introduced to the California Assembly seeks the legal recognition of blockchain data and smart contracts.

Posted on 19 February 2018 | 7:50 pm

Actor Steven Seagal Endorses Questionable 'Bitcoiin' ICO

Action film star Steven Seagal has become the brand ambassador for a controversial cryptocurrency ahead of an initial coin offering (ICO).

Posted on 19 February 2018 | 3:20 pm

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Bitcoiner Faces Charges After Selling BTC to an Undercover Cop

Bitcoiner Faces Charges After Selling BTC to an Undercover Cop

On February 9, 2018, officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, arrested Morgan Rockcoons (aka “Morgan Rockwell” or “Metaballo”), CEO at Bitcoin, Inc. and an entrepreneur behind several other bitcoin startups, at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Rockcoons was charged with money laundering and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, according to court records.

According to those same records, in Southern California, between December 30, 2016 and January 8, 2017, Rockcoons allegedly exchanged around 10 bitcoin (worth around $9,200, at the time) for $14,500 in cash with an undercover law officer. That officer allegedly told Rockcoons in advance that the cash came from the manufacture and distribution of “hash oil,” which contains tetrahydrocannabinol, a controlled substance at the federal level.

Money laundering happens when a person takes ill-gotten money and turns it into “clean” money that cannot easily be tracked back to its source. Thus, if Rockcoons knew the cash was dirty, but traded it for bitcoin anyway, that would constitute money laundering.

Rockcoons was also allegedly operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business in Southern  California “from a date unknown” through August 30, 2017. Money transmitters are required to register with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

The warrant for the arrest was issued by the Chief Magistrate for the Southern District of California on November 8, 2017, which indicates it may have taken authorities three months to track down Rockcoons, possibly because he moved out of the original jurisdiction.  

A Different Story

In private messages with Bitcoin Magazine and a series of public tweets, Rockcoons, who is actively seeking donations to pay for his legal fees, which he expects to be between $150,000 - $300,000, tells a different story than what is reflected in court records.

Where the court document says that the the cash given to him was already dirty, he claims that bitcoin he sold to the buyer became dirty after it left his hands.

“Someone bought a machine that makes cannabis oil with the BTC they purchased from me,” he said to Bitcoin Magazine. “I guess I'm not allowed to sell Bitcoin as a U.S. citizen for cash especially if [responsibility for] what people do with that money lies on me.”

In communication with Bitcoin Magazine, Rockcoons said that the buyer told him via text message that the bitcoins would be used to buy a “medical hash machine.”

He added, “Buying equipment in California is not illegal especially medical equipment in a medical State that's been a medical state for 25 years. [A] controlled substance does not have anything to do with the equipment because CBD oil can be extracted from Cannabis and that doesn't have anything to do with Tetra Hydro cannabinol.”

Both Rockcoons’ tweets and his subsequent communication with Bitcoin Magazine seemed to imply, initially, that he had no idea he was selling bitcoin to a law enforcement officer.

On Friday Feb 9, I was arrested in my home by Department Of Homeland Security over a #Bitcoin transaction from nov 2016 and am released under a personal recognizance bond. I am being charged with:

18 USC 1956 - Money Laundering Instrumenthttps://t.co/4w7NJIi4jw

Asset Forfeit pic.twitter.com/5kINtbxH17

— Morgan (@NODEfather) February 14, 2018

According to Rockcoons, the exchange took place in November 2016 (not the first week of January, as listed in court records) while he was living in Northern California (not Southern California, as the records state).

Rockcoons said the buyer found him through LocalBitcoins, an online platform that facilitates direct selling of bitcoin. A user can register as a seller on the platform and be contacted by interested parties. Transactions are done in person or via online banking.

Rockcoons claimed on Twitter that he received $9,200 for the bitcoin, though court records allege the law officer gave him $14,500. Rockoons later told Bitcoin Magazine that he specified to the buyer he wanted less than $10,000, but the buyer insisted on sending him $14,500.

“They tried to entrap me,” Rockcoons told Bitcoin Magazine. “I asked for only less than $10,000, they sent me $14500 [or] refused to send anything and then I sent under $10,000 [worth of bitcoin] to follow the law.”


After agreeing to the terms of the sale online, Rockcoons claims he received a cash payment. He described this payment, in his communication with Bitcoin Magazine, as being received in an envelope sent through the mail. He has not replied to requests for clarification as to whether or not he met with the buyer in person, though he did say that he and the buyer communicated via text messages.


At the time of the exchange, he was camping in the Mendocino National Forest, where he was living in a tent and working on a new project, a voice-operated Bitcoin wallet. Rockcoons said he had been living in the Northern California wilderness since 2015; however, fire and floods were making it increasingly difficult to survive in the area. After another fire ravaged the land, he said he needed cash for evacuation emergencies.

“I was living like a mountain man, so I didn’t really need money but eventually I needed to buy food so I decided to sell some coin; when someone asked me to buy some I usually just always turn it down but I needed cash to eat,” he told Bitcoin Magazine.

He claims the fires were what eventually forced him to move back to Nevada.

Time in Jail

After his arrest in Las Vegas on Friday, February 9, 2018, Rockcoons was locked up over the weekend in Henderson Detention Center in Clark County, Nevada, for three days. He pled not guilty at a Federal Court hearing on February 12, 2018, and was then sent to Clark County Detention Center for two more days for an unrelated charge of failure to appear on a traffic ticket.

“I was in jail for five days with some of the scariest humans on Earth,” he said. “But I [taught] most of them how Bitcoin works, so it was worth it.”   

In his series of ongoing tweets since his release from jail on February 14, 2018, Rockcoons has been portraying the charges against him as an attack on Bitcoin.

It's not my mess, it's everyone on Earths [sic] battle now or you can kiss your access to BTC goodbye,” he wrote in one tweet.

This is a attempt to redefine the regulation and the law,” he told Bitcoin Magazine.

“Bitcoin is my religion,” he wrote in another tweet. “God says I can use bitcoin everyday.”

Rockcoons is also claiming he was targeted due to his relationship with the state and the federal government and his Bitcoin-related startups.

Because of my relationship with the State & Federal Government as well as my relationship with the US military, because of my involvement in creating @BitSwitchIO at @BitcoinKinetics and possibly the opportunity to pull a @CharlieShrem case in California to get the west coast.

— Morgan (@NODEfather) February 14, 2018

He is looking to others to join the “battle” with him, and he is even asking the the Bitcoin Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports Bitcoin adoption and education, to cover 15 bitcoin (worth around $150,000) of his legal costs.

“It seems to me the Bitcoin Foundation has been absent from the Bitcoin Community during troubling times, this would be a good opportunity to show face and show the community that you're here for all of us," he tweeted.


Rockcoons’ arraignment is on February 22, 2018 at the San Diego Superior Court in California. He has hired Las Vegas criminal attorneys David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld to represent him. He says he plans to pay them in bitcoin.


(Note: Shortly before publishing this article, Rockcoons blocked the writer from viewing his Twitter account.)

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 19 February 2018 | 3:04 pm

Who's Said What About the Coinbase-Visa Dispute

A Visa spokesperson claimed that neither it nor Coinbase were responsible for last week's charging issue seen by the crypto-exchange's customers.

Posted on 19 February 2018 | 2:00 pm

Israel Confirms It Will Tax Bitcoin as Property

Israel has confirmed that it will treat cryptocurrencies as taxable assets in a new circular published on Monday.

Posted on 19 February 2018 | 12:40 pm

HashChain Technology Acquires Blockchain Company NODE40

HashChain Mining Operation Acquires NODE40 Blockchain Technology Company

HashChain Technology Inc. (HashChain) has acquired the blockchain technology company NODE40 for $8 million USD and 3,144,134 common shares of stock in HashChain (TSXV: KASH) (OTCQB: HSSHF).

HashChain is a Canadian-based crypto-mining company that currently operates 100 Dash mining rigs and is in the process of setting up nearly 4,000 more to mine bitcoin. By locating in Canada, they are able to take advantage of both the very low electrical rates for power and the cool climate for data center cooling.

Having recently gone public on the TSX Venture Exchange, the company was looking to diversify their business beyond crypto-mining and have now acquired NODE40, a company that develops Software as a Service (SaaS) products related to cryptocurrency.

HashChain CEO and Founder Patrick Gray said, “The acquisition of the NODE40 Business is an important next step of creating a global blockchain technology company."

On the hardware and mining side, NODE40 runs a managed service for running your own Dash masternode. Masternodes get paid 45 percent of the monthly block reward as incentive for providing services to the network.

On the software side, NODE40 provides the SaaS product NODE40 Balance (Balance), which determines accurate valuations for each input/output involved in a user’s transaction by using cryptocurrency transaction history and analyzing the blockchain. Once a value is assigned to each transaction, then Balance will report the users’ current total asset value, income and any realized gains or loses.

"Cryptocurrency accounting and reporting for tax purposes is a major concern in the industry at the moment,” said Gray. “The recent Coinbase subpoena from the IRS highlights the significant need for the software developed by NODE40."

The acquisition was finalized on February 15, 2018.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 19 February 2018 | 11:21 am

Long Blockchain Is At Risk for Exchange Removal Again

Long Blockchain announced it would appeal a notice by Nasdaq informing it that its stock was at risk of being delisted.

Posted on 19 February 2018 | 11:20 am

Banks Buy Stakes in Blockchain Startup SETL

Citi joined Credit Agricole, Computershare, S2iEM and Deloitte as shareholders in the blockchain-based payment and settlements startup SETL.

Posted on 19 February 2018 | 10:20 am

Sidechains: Why These Researchers Think They Solved a Key Piece of the Puzzle

Sidechains and Why These Researchers Think They Solved a Key Piece of the Puzzle

New blockchains are born all the time. Bitcoin was the lone blockchain for years, but now there are hundreds. The problem is, if you want to use the features offered on another blockchain, you have to buy the tokens for that other blockchain.

But all that may soon change. One developing technology called sidechains promises to make it easier to move tokens across blockchains and, as a result, open the doors to a world of possibilities, including building bridges to the legacy financial systems of banks.

In October 2017, Aggelos Kiayias, professor at the University of Edinburgh and chief scientist at blockchain research and development company IOHK; Andrew Miller, professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Dionysis Zindros, researcher at the University of Athens, released the paper “Non-Interactive Proofs of Proof-of-Work” (NiPoPoW), introducing a critical piece to the sidechains puzzle that had been missing for three years. This is the story of how they got there.

But, first, what exactly is a sidechain?    

Same Coin, Different Blockchain

A sidechain is a technology that allows you to move your tokens from one blockchain to another, use them on that other blockchain and then move them back at a later point in time, without the need for a third party.  

In the past, the parent blockchain has typically been Bitcoin, but a parent chain could be any blockchain. Also, when a token moves to another blockchain, it should maintain its same value. In other words, a bitcoin on an Ethereum sidechain would remain a bitcoin.  

The biggest advantage of sidechains is that they would allow users to access a host of new services. For instance, you could move bitcoin to another blockchain to take advantage of privacy features, faster transaction speeds and smart contracts.  

Sidechains have other uses, too. A sidechain could offer a more secure way to upgrade a protocol, or it could serve as a type of security firewall, so that in the event of a catastrophic disaster on a sidechain, the main chain would remain unaffected. “It is a kind of limited liability,” said Zindros in a video explaining how the technology works.

Finally, if banks were to create their own private blockchain networks, sidechains could enable communications with those networks, allowing users to issue and track shares, bonds and other assets.

Early Conversations

Early dialogue about sidechains first appeared in Bitcoin chat rooms around 2012, when Bitcoin Core developers were thinking of ways to safely upgrade the Bitcoin protocol.

One idea was for a “one-way peg,” where users could move bitcoin to a separate blockchain to test out a new client; however, once those assets were moved, they could not be moved back to the main chain.  

“I was thinking of this as a software engineering tool that could be used to make widespread changes,” Adam Back, now CEO at blockchain development company Blockstream, said in an interview with Bitcoin Magazine. “You could say, we are going to make a new version [of Bitcoin], and we think it will be ready in a year, but in the meantime, you can opt in early and test it.”

According to Back, sometime in the following year, on the Bitcoin IRC channel, Bitcoin Core developer Greg Maxwell suggested an idea for a “two-way peg,” where value could be transferred to the alternative chain and then back to Bitcoin at a later point.

A two-way peg addressed another growing concern at the time. Alternative coins, like Litecoin and Namecoin, were becoming increasingly popular. The fear was these “altcoins” would dilute the value of bitcoin. It made sense, Bitcoin Core developers thought, to keep bitcoin as a type of reserve currency, and relegate new features to sidechains. That way, “if you wanted to use a different feature, you wouldn’t have to buy a speculative asset,” said Back.

To turn the concept of sidechains into a reality, Back along with Maxwell and a few other Bitcoin Core developers formed Blockstream in 2014. In October that year, the group released “Enabling Blockchain Innovations with Pegged Sidechains,” a paper describing sidechains at a high level. Miller appears as a co-author on that paper as well.

How Sidechains Work

One important component of sidechains is a simplified payment verification (SPV) proof that shows that tokens have been locked up on one chain so validators can safely unlock an equivalent value on the alternative chain. But to work for sidechains, an SPV proof has to be small enough to fit into a single coinbase transaction, the transaction that rewards a miner with new coins. (Not to be confused with the company Coinbase.)

At the time the Blockstream researchers released their paper, they knew they needed a compressed SPV proof to get sidechains to work, but they had not yet developed the cryptography behind it. So they outlined general, high-level ideas.

The Blockstream paper describes two types of two-way pegs: a symmetric two-way peg, where both chains are independent with their own mining; and an asymmetric two-way peg, where sidechain miners are full validators of the parent chain.

In a symmetric two-way peg, a user sends her bitcoins to a special address. Doing so locks up the funds on the Bitcoin blockchain. That output remains locked for a contest period of maybe six blocks (one hour) to confirm the transaction has gone through, and then an SPV proof is created to send to the sidechain.

At that point, a corresponding transaction appears on the sidechain with the SPV proof, verifying that money has been locked up on the Bitcoin blockchain, and then coins with the same value of account are unlocked on the sidechain.

Coins are spent and change hands and, at a later point, are sent back to the main chain. When the coins are returned to the main chain, the process repeats. They are sent to a locked output on the sidechain, a waiting period goes by, and an SPV proof is created and sent back to the main blockchain to unlock coins on the main chain.  

In an asymmetric two-way peg, the process is slightly different. The transfer from the parent chain to the sidechain does not require an SPV proof, because validators on the sidechain are also aware of the state of the parent chain. An SPV proof is still needed, however, when the coins are returned to the parent chain.

Search for a Compact Proof

In a sidechain, a compact SPV proof needs to contain a compressed version of all the block headers in the chain where funds are locked up from the genesis block through the contest period, as well as transaction data and some other data. In this way, an SPV proof can also be thought of as a “proof of proof-of-work” for a particular output.

Inspiration for the compact SPV proof comes from a linked-list-like structure known as a “skip list” developed 25 years ago. In applying this structure to a compact SPV proof, the trick was in finding a way to skip block headers while still maintaining a high level of security so that an adversary would not be able to fake a proof.

In working through the problem, Blockstream showed an early draft of its sidechains paper to Miller, who had been mulling over compact SPVs for a few years already.

In August 2012, in a post on a BitcoinTalk forum titled “The High-Value-Hash Highway,” Miller described an idea for a “merkle skip list” that a Bitcoin light client could use to quickly determine the longest chain and begin using it. In that post, he described the significance of the data structure as “absolutely staggering.”

When Miller read through the Blockstream draft, he spotted a vulnerability in the compact SPV proof described in the paper. Discussions ensued, but they “couldn’t find a way to solve that problem without compromising efficiency,” Miller said.

Miller’s non-trivial contributions to the Blockstream paper ended up being a few paragraphs in Appendix B that describe the challenges in creating a compact SPV proof.

It should “be possible to greatly compress a list of headers while still proving the same amount of work,” the section reads, but “optimising these tradeoffs and formalising the security guarantees is out of scope for this paper and the topic of ongoing work.”

That ongoing work remained stuck for three years.

Making It Non-interactive

During that ensuing time, researchers at IOHK began taking a more serious interest in sidechains. Plans were taking shape for Cardano, a new proof-of-stake blockchain that IOHK had been contracted to build.

Cardano would consist of two layers: a settlement layer, launched in September 2017, where the money supply would be kept, and a smart contract layer. Those two layers would be two sidechain-enabled blockchains. In this way, the settlement could remain simple and secure from any attacks that might occur on the smart contract layer. But if IOHK was to get Cardano to work as intended, it needed to solve sidechains.

In February 2016, Kiayias, then a professor at the University of Athens, and two of his students, Nikolaos Lamprou and Aikaterini-Panagiota Stouka, released “Proofs of Proofs of Work with Sublinear Complexity” (PoPoW).

The paper was the first to formally address a compact SPV proof. Only, the proof described in the paper was interactive; whereas, to work for sidechains, it needed to be non-interactive.

In an interactive proof, the prover and the verifier enter into a back-and-forth conversation, meaning there could be more than one round of messaging. In contrast, a non-interactive proof would be a simple, short string of text that would fit neatly into a single transaction on the blockchain.

The PoPoW paper was presented at BITCOIN’16, a workshop affiliated with the International Financial Cryptography Association’s (IFCA) Financial Cryptography and Data Security conference. Miller, who was at the conference, approached Kiayias and shared an idea for making the protocol non-interactive.

It was a “nice observation,” Kiayias told Bitcoin Magazine, but making the proof secure was “not obvious at all” and would require significant work.

Zindros, who had just started working on his PhD under Kiayias, was also at the conference, and he needed a topic for his thesis. Kiayias saw a good fit, “so we pressed on, the three of us, and adapted the PoPoW protocol and its proof of security to the non-interactive setting,” Kiayias said.

In October 2016, Kiayias officially joined IOHK, and a year later, Kiayias, Miller and Zindros released “Non-Interactive Proofs of Proof-of-Work,” introducing a compact SPV proof five years after sidechains had first been talked about on Bitcoin forums.

“If it were interactive, I don’t know if it would have worked; with a non-interactive proof, it is really smooth,” Zindros told Bitcoin Magazine.

More Work to Be Done

Even with NiPoPoW, sidechains are still not fully specified. Several questions remain, including, how small can the proofs be made? After a transaction is locked up on one chain, how much time needs to pass before it can be spent on the other? And, will it be possible to move a token from a sidechain directly to another sidechain?

“A lot of theory still needs to be defined,” IOHK CEO Charles Hoskinson said in speaking to Bitcoin Magazine.

Also, while NiPoPoW is designed to work for proof-of-work blockchains, some believe that if blockchains are to take their place in the world on a grand scale, the future rests in proof-of-stake protocols like Ouroboros, Algorand or Snow White, which promise to be more energy-efficient than Bitcoin.

In particular, if Cardano, which is based on Ouroboros, is to work according to plan, IOHK researchers still need to discover a non-interactive proof of proof-of-stake (NiPoPoS).

Hoskinson is confident. “We can definitely do that,” he said. “We can definitely have a NiPoPoS. The question is how many megabytes or kilobytes is it going to be? Can we bring it down to 100 KB? That is really the question.”

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 19 February 2018 | 7:12 am

Swiss Regulator Gives Clear Guidelines for Launching ICOs

Swiss Regulator Gives Clear Guidelines for Launching ICOs

On February 16, 2018, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority FINMA put the world on notice by being the first major economy to set out clear guidelines on initial coin offerings (ICOs). In an announcement, the Swiss regulator addressed plans to apply financial market legislation to different tokens as well as lay out how ICO organizers can get proper input from FINMA when planning or launching their initial coin offerings.


The guidelines, offered as a downloadable PDF, show market participants what information is needed to help the Swiss regulator adequately address all issues presented in inquiries to the regulator, as well as how FINMA intends for current financial market legislation to be applied to ICOs. The published guidelines are intended to complement FINMA Guidance 04/2017, which in September 2017 addressed regulatory treatment of initial coin offerings.  

Important to note is FINMA’s concern over creating transparency. According to the regulator, “Creating transparency at this time is important given the dynamic market and high level of demand.”

FINMA also cited an increase in the number of inquiries corresponding with a sharp increase in the quantity of planned and executed ICOs in the country as a motivating factor for the move.

The regulator’s concern over transparency is clearly illustrated when they state in the guidelines that “ICOs raise a variety of legal issues for which there is no relevant case law and no consistent legal doctrine. Given the wide variety of types of token and ICO set-ups, it is not possible to generalise. Circumstances must be considered holistically in each individual case.”

The press release on the guidelines also provides useful information. The Swiss regulator highlighted that they would focus “on the underlying purpose of the tokens” and that the tokens were “tradeable and transferable.”

The release also showed how FINMA categorizes the tokens into three types — payment tokens, utility tokens and asset tokens (allowing for tokens to possibly take on aspects of more than one group) — and ascribes definitions for organizers to better understand their tokens’ potential assessment.  

Another major emphasis in the press release was on the guidelines’ role in displaying how FINMA will handle ICO inquiries regarding Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and securities regulations compliance. In the release, they referred market participants to the diagram on page 8 of the guidelines (as shown below), which distinguishes the regulator’s stance based on which of the three categories the tokens are put in.

Swiss Regulator Gives Clear Guidelines for Launching ICOs chart

While the press release does finish with a note to investors about the risks associated with investing in ICOs, the most important part of the announcement is the portion where FINMA highlights the “innovative potential” of blockchain technology. In it, FINMA CEO Mark Branson stated:

The application of blockchain technology has innovative potential within and far beyond the financial markets. However, blockchain-based projects conducted analogously to regulated activities cannot simply circumvent the tried and tested regulatory framework. Our balanced approach to handling ICO projects and enquiries allows legitimate innovators to navigate the regulatory landscape and so launch their projects in a way consistent with our laws protecting investors and the integrity of the financial system.

While regulations on ICOs are either ambiguously evolving or demonstrating outright hostility in other countries, FINMA has given a clear signal that it wants to provide transparency, open communication and certainty (where possible) to those launching ICO projects within the Swiss Confederation.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 16 February 2018 | 4:20 pm

Decentralized Exchanges Stake Their Claim in the Cryptocurrency Ecosystem

Decentralized Exchanges Stake Their Claim in the Cryptocurrency Ecosystem

The cryptocurrency ecosystem has continued to take some major hits lately, causing many investors and holders to rethink the way they trade their crypto assets. Several high profile cryptocurrency hacks have made the news in the past few years. In one of the most recent hacks, the Japanese cryptocurrency exchange, Coincheck lost more than $500 million dollars worth of digital coins, adding to a growing perception that cryptocurrencies are particularly vulnerable to hackers.

Yet, as the total market capitalization of cryptocurrencies continues to increase (now above $4 billion), the most recent Coincheck hack may finally be a wake up call for crypto investors and holders.

As the vulnerability of centralized cryptocurrency exchanges is becoming more and more apparent to the cryptocurrency community, some are looking to alternatives in the form of decentralized exchanges.

Unlike a centralized exchange system that handles the trading of cryptocurrencies for its users, decentralized exchanges allow users to control their own funds within their own wallets. Decentralized exchanges do not rely on a third party service to hold a user’s funds, making them less vulnerable to large hacks. This also means that trades on a decentralized exchange happen directly between users in a peer-to-peer manner. These features make decentralized exchanges less vulnerable and much more transparent than centralized exchanges.

Decentralized exchanges such as AirSwap, Bisq, EtherDelta and Hodl Hodl — the newest player to enter the scene — have sparked the interest for crypto enthusiasts looking to control their own assets with little hand holding involved. Users on these decentralized exchanges keep their own private keys and transact directly with each other, demonstrating a truly decentralized form of trading crypto assets.

“We believe that there will be a huge liquidity migration from centralized exchanges to decentralized exchanges when it comes to token-to-token trading,” AirSwap strategist, Sam Tabar, told Bitcoin Magazine. “AirSwap’s mission is to let people trade crypto assets without a middleman involved and blockchain technology allows for just this.”

He pointed out that AirSwap doesn’t hold any user assets. The platform uses the Ethereum blockchain and atomic swaps based on smart contracts to make sure assets cannot be traded without another asset coming to a user.  

“In a way, centralized exchanges act as a bank, broker and clearing house because they hold all your money and charge fees. This is problematic though, and hacks are happening quite often because of this model,” said Tabar.

What About Crypto to Fiat Trades?

Most decentralized exchanges allow for crypto-to-crypto trading. While this model is common, Bisq is one of the few decentralized exchanges that lets users buy and sell bitcoins in exchange for national fiat currencies as well as alternative cryptocurrencies.

“Crypto-to-fiat exchange transactions are inherently difficult to decentralize, because fiat itself is under the centralized control of banks and governments,” Bisq co-founder, Chris Beams, told Bitcoin Magazine. “This means that any system designed to automate the process of trading crypto for fiat must get permission from these gatekeepers, and all too often they choose to close their gates to Bitcoin and cryptocurrency-related transactions — just as we saw last month with Visa shutting down all Bitcoin-based debit cards on its network.”

Bisq, however, solves this problem by coordinating out-of-band, manual fiat payments. It’s important to note that Bisq does not directly integrate with banks or other national currency payment systems in any way. Rather, Bisq’s trading protocol orchestrates the process of buyer and seller working together to settle fiat payments outside of the Bisq application — for example, via normal person-to-person SEPA payments in Europe or via a person-to-person payment system like Zelle in the U.S.

Bisq is also impressive in that their peer-to-peer network ensures a high level of user security.

“Centralized exchanges require users to ‘deposit’ cryptocurrency and fiat funds, putting them in the control — or custody — of the centralized exchange. Bisq is entirely non-custodial, meaning that you, the user, stay in control. You never hand over your private keys to a third party, meaning that they cannot be lost or stolen by that third party. This makes Bisq a fundamentally more secure way to exchange,” said Beam.

Most recently, the beta version of Hodl Hodl was launched. Hodl Hodl is another peer-to-peer crypto exchange that allows users to trade directly with each other, without holding user funds.

Instead, funds on Hodl Hodl are locked in multisig escrow.

Each time a contract is created between two parties, a multisig escrow cryptocurrency address is generated. The seller sends cryptocurrency from his wallet to this account and when the cryptocurrency is locked in escrow, the buyer sends fiat to the seller. The seller then releases the locked cryptocurrency from escrow and the buyer receives it directly in their wallet.

Enhanced Privacy

Furthermore, because decentralized exchanges do not hold funds and because the exchanges are all peer-to-peer, there are no AML/KYC requirements for users to set up accounts.

“AML/KYC type of compliance, in combination with the transparent nature of Bitcoin's blockchain, represents a significant loss of privacy,” said Manfred Karrer, founder of Bisq, when it first launched as Bitsquare.

“By piecing together the data collected by these exchanges, it can become trivial to figure out how much someone earns, or saves, or spends, and often even what the money is spent on. That’s not just inconvenient; it really makes Bitcoin unsuitable for all sorts of transactions ‒ including perfectly legal ones.”



This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 16 February 2018 | 3:11 pm

Bitcoin price climbs over $4,000

Posted on 14 August 2017 | 1:16 am

CRYENGINE now accepts Bitcoin

Posted on 29 March 2017 | 1:24 am

Consulting firm EY Switzerland accepts Bitcoin

Posted on 26 November 2016 | 12:47 am

Bitcoin Trading Bots

There have been a wide variety of situations in which algorithmic trading programs have proven to be beneficial for investors. However, investors who only trade a cryptocurrency can also take advantage of bitcoin trading bots. Through bitcoin bot trading, traders can become more flexible and prompt, minimize errors and process information more rapidly. At this… Read More »

Posted on 8 November 2016 | 6:20 pm

Steam accepts Bitcoin

Posted on 29 April 2016 | 1:09 am

Major Magazine Publisher to Accept Bitcoin Payments

Posted on 18 December 2014 | 12:43 pm

Mozilla accepting Bitcoin

Posted on 20 November 2014 | 1:55 pm

PayPal and Virtual Currency

Posted on 23 September 2014 | 9:52 pm

Wikimedia Foundation Now Accepts Bitcoin

Posted on 30 July 2014 | 3:14 pm

airBaltic - World’s First Airline To Accept Bitcoin

Posted on 22 July 2014 | 11:03 am

February 20, 2018 -
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