Fintech Friday #3
New week, new FintechFriday.
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A lot of news in regards to mass adoption this week as well. While the list of crypto-friendly countries to launch projects in is growing daily, there was a lot of activity in China this week.
Paying salaries in crypto
There's more and more options to accept cryptocurrency for work popping up. WorkingForBitcoins.com is a freelance portal with jobs placed for cryptocurrency payments, supporting BTC, BCH, LTC, Eth and even XP.
In a similar vein, there's Gitcoin.co which also lists freelance tasks and enables payments in stablecoins like DAI or TUSD or even ether (a super interesting visualization of Gitcoin's network of users can be seen here).
We've also seen the recent launch of OmniBazaar's beta - a decentralized marketplace for buying and selling goods and services for cryptocurrency.
All this is further improved by the fact that MakerDao and Wyre have joined forces to offer direct fiat to stablecoin conversion in 30 countries.
Worth noting is also that Skrill added ETC and as such this global payment service now offers interaction with ETC, BTC, BCH, ETH, and LTC.
In USA, the AAIS (American Association of Insurance Services) - a privately held insurance advisory company - launched OpenIDL, their own version of a private blockchain based on IBM's Hyperledger Fabric. The purpose of the system is data synchronization between insurance providers and other interested parties and it offers automated data uploads, smart contracts for automatic transactions, and permissioned data access so data can be read as easily as from the Ethereum blockchain.
We need to debunk some traditionally horrible reporting this week too.
Volkswagen recently announced their intention to start looking into blockchain technology for their internal systems, and mentioned IOTA, Bitcoin and Ethereum in their official post and in their tweet about it. The "journalists" from Bitguru republished this without thinking and concluded that VW would now offer refueling, services and everything else for cryptocurrency, which could not be further from the truth. VW merely wanted to announce their entry into the field of private blockchain research, and they mentioned the open blockchains purely because of the social media reach of their hashtags.
Business insider, mistakenly considered by many a legit news source, published news about Facebook being in talks with Stellar about building something on their platform. This was, of course, completely false.
UEFA published an announcement about successfully completing a blockchain trial for sending match tickets to mobile phones via a "blockchain based mobile app". There are no details about which blockchain or why this would even be attempted - UEFA is a private company with full control over everything it's selling, so a blockchain is completely unnecessary there. The announcement should be looked at skeptically.
There are some true news about Facebook and blockchain, too. Earlier this week, David Marcus - Facebook's chief of blockchain - resigned from the position of board member at Coinbase to avoid a possible conflict of interest. This is indicative of Facebook gearing up to launch a crypto wallet or some kind or Facecoin of its own which could be used on the network for various payment scenarios. TechCrunch did a nice analysis of what Facebook could build with the blockchain, and none of it is far-fetched, including but not limited to micropayments through Messenger, identity management, bill payments through Facebook, and more.
Coinbase bought Toshi Wallet - an independent mobile crypto wallet which supported various tokens and cryptocurrencies in an attempt to make its service more easy to use and approachable. Toshi is now Coinbase Wallet and it'll be the onboarding ramp for people who want to enter the world of cryptocurrency easily, offering a safe approach to both cryptocurrencies and collectible tokens like Cryptokitties. Coinbase also purchased Distributed Systems, a startup dealing with decentralized identities on the blockchain. Whether or not they'll implement an identity system and how remains to be seen, but this is very likely the conflict of interest which may have prompted David Marcus to leave Coinbase (see above, Facebook).
Binance launched the beta version of their Blockchain Academy at Binance.Vision. The goal of the project is community-oriented blockchain education similar to what Bitfalls.com is doing, with emphasis on animations and video: content that's easily digestible by all. We wish them luck!
Malta now recognizes DAOs as human-less legal entities. You can effectively register an autonomous company as a real one. This is likely to foster innovation in the field of governance and management, especially in branches which need to avoid human responsibility. The article behind the link above is quite extensive but a worthwhile read for anyone considering a DAO model.
South Korea openly accepts blockchain as the fourth industrial revolution and dedicates several courses announced in the Ministry of ICT to blockchain technology. One of the biggest crypto influences in Korea is Waltonchain whose president, Kong Jongryul, formed a non-profit Walton Blockchain Institute for teaching youth how to master this new and revolutionary technology.
Tech giant and owner of WeChat, Tencent Holdings, is testing a blockchain-based corporate expense refund model, a blog post by the company said. Of course, this will all be happening on Tencent's private blockchain, but any adoption is good adoption.
The Communist Party of China published a blockchain 101 guide for officials. Whereas many see this as a positive move, others quote Sun Tzu's Art of War: to defeat the enemy, you must know the enemy.
The local Chinese web portal The Paper published an article about the Bank of China planning to increase investments into fintech and blockchain technology, and that they already have 12 blockchain pilot projects. The new investments, according to BoC's CIO Liu Quiwan will not be under 1% of the total annual income.
Another local Chinese portal Xinhuanet announced that the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Informatics is looking for ways to increase blockchain adoption. China News also reported that Hong Kong's University of Science and Technology Business School got a cash injection of 20 million USD for electronic payment security and quality research, which includes blockchain tech. The Chinese NASA, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation Ltd., has also transitioned to blockchain technology for managing their invoices of which there are 1.31 billion right now, and they're expecting that number to be over 54 billion by the year 2020 - every taxman's nightmare. They developed a blockchain solution for automated audits and selective transparency, reports Cointelegraph.
On the technical front, the retail giant JD has announced the launch of their blockchain-as-a-service platform. This is a service very similar to Microsoft's Azure offering or IBM's Bluemix.
Finally, something tasty: Hash House is open for business. The city of Xi'an is now host to a crypto friendly coffee house and coworking space which also serves as a shop and an old mining rig museum. The place accepts cryptocurrency for purchases of food, drinks, and other stuff on offer like hardware wallets.
One of the most notable launches this week was actually Wormhole Cash: an upgrade for Bitcoin Cash which lets developers create tokens and ICOs on the Bitcoin Cash blockchain. You can see a basic getting started guide here. At the time of this writing, there are already 182 tokens.
Everipedia, Wikipedia's blockchain version, has launched on the EOS protocol. The founder of the project is the recently disgraced Mahbod Moghadam whom Sascha Baron Cohen embarrassed in a fake photo shoot on the Who Is America show, making him look like a racist cretin. Users need an EOS account to interact with Everipedia.
Doges on Trial is a proof of concept application of Kleros, a blockchain dispute resoultion layer. The Kleros protocol is testing its game theory with this project and so far it's been going as planned. This system can be tacked onto every other blockchain project, so now projects like sharing and renting startups can have dispute resolution built in.
OWallet is Ontology's official wallet.
Aphelion is a mobile web wallet for NEO.
Lite.im makes payments via SMS possible, but only with Litecoin. It remains to be seen whether Intuit will have a problem with this, given that they were granted a patent for SMS-based cryptocurrency processing last week.
Another in a long line of CryptoKitties clones, CrypoMonsters is the first of this type to run on the Litecoin blockchain. Monsters evolve and die as the LTC blockchain ages (gets new blocks). It's important to note that because LTC's blockchain does not support tokens, this is essentially a centralized copy of CryptoKitties - everything happens on their servers, it's just a game in which you can pay with Litecoin, made to look like a Kitties clone.
Zethr is a new casino on the Ethereum network which is governed by the community (which shares the profits).
The Ocean is a new decentralized exchange (DEX) built on the 0x protocol. Now you can trade your Ethereum assets in yet another location - the more the merrier!
DTube released version 0.8 and open sourced everything. They added chat, streaming, a VIP system and more in hopes of really giving Youtube a run for its money.
Grid+ Lattice1 is a device which lets mere mortals use blockchain technology without even knowing it. It offers a PIN card that people are used to and lets users generate many wallets per user or for different users of different types and access levels.
As usual, we'll let you decide whether patenting in the blockchain space is a good or bad thing. Through 2017, over 1200 blockchain patents were submitted to the US patent office. According to nulltx this number is growing and different corporations are competing to get as many as possible in this new industry. While some might successfully use this method to stop competition, none of them will be able to stop blockchain as a technology - patented or not - because of the decentralized nature of the blockchain itself. Here are this week's patents:
- IBM applied for a patent to manage databases with blockchain (RDBMS). This patent was originally written and submitted last year, and resubmitted now. It is being hurried through the process.
- Microsoft is attempting to patent TEEs (Trusted Execution Environments) which can generally only be applied to closed environments like Microsoft's new Ethereum Proof of Authority offering on Azure.
Tech and Tools
Hackernoon published a new interesting article about scalability problems in modern blockchains. The article is slightly promotional towards IOST, a blockchain which uses PoB (proof of believability) for consensus, but still decently outlines the problems other blockchains are grappling with.
Multi-token payment channels
The team behind Stack Token, a project dealing with implementing STK-based payment channels in merchant endpoints for instant offline payment verifications is developing a new type of payment channel for multi-token payments. This lets people use tokens other than STK in the stores.
Vitalik suggested a new consensus mechanism in which certain nodes (observers) constantly monitor the network for attacks and inform other nodes about the honesty of other nodes. The paper is a bit complicated to read, but in essence this would make 51% attacks impossible and would require attacks to be issued by 99% of the participating nodes instead. The discussion is on Reddit.
A new set of tools for building smart contracts and Solidity applications.
Not only did they launch a marketplace, OpenBazaar also published their smart contracts so that you can run your own copy or integrate OpenBazaar into your own dapp. The contracts are all on Github.
A new version of OpenZeppelin is out. Download the most recent release and read about the changes here.
A list of diverse tools to read data from the Ethereum blockchain.
A Scala / Akka version of an Ethereum client is under development. It's not recommended to use it just yet, it's very early alpha.
DMarket makes it possible to integrate collectibles and virtual objects into Unity games.
Want to build your own cryptocurrency exchange? RubyKube can help with that - it offers the full source code needed to pull it off, all written in Ruby.
Vizor is a cute blockchain visualization.
AlphaWallet is an open source iOS and Android wallet.
Crime and Punishment
From John McAfee to institutional fraud, this week's crime wasn't lagging behind. Exhaustive reports about marketplaces of liars like ICOBench aside, there were also some amazing exit scams totaling over 150 million USD of stolen money.
Naturally, we have to give John McAfee the spotlight. Other than still denying the hacking of his "unhackable" Bitfi wallet, McAfee recently became CEO of Luxcore, a new blockchain project. Of course, the project is a complete fraud and McAfee himself has thus become a warning label: we now know that every project he adds his name to needs to be avoided. Thanks John!
Akoin and Wacoinda
Similarly, the singer Akon seems to have been convinced by someone to create a "cryptocurrency" of his own. Akon plans to open his own futuristic city in Africa (Wakanda?) which, according to the landing page of the project, will mainly help Africans open bakeries. Of course, the project is an obvious fraud or vaporware and Akon is being used by someone who wants to collect ether in the ICO and disappear. Just like the slogan of CryptoGang, the web agency who did their website says: strike gold or die trying. We eagerly await the day when Akon will get served a subpoena by the SEC.
In a similarly racist move, the team behind the Wacoinda project tried to submit several patents. Their goal is, of course, education and empowerment of the black community. This scam, however, was stopped in its tracks by Marvel Characters who deemed the name a little too tongue-in-cheek, a tad bit too trademark-infringey. Whether or not this scam will continue in the same format remains to be seen.
ACChain and MeCoin
One of the biggest scams this month was ACChain whose employees ran off with around 60 million USD. A thread showed up on Reddit with photos of an empty office and other proof. This is one of the biggest Chinese scams to date, and various redditors came together to collect and publish personal information on the perpetrators in hopes of finding them and being refunded.
On the other side of the world in Colombia, MeCoin - a classical investment pyramid scheme like OneCoin, BitConnect, or the new AI Trade which promised returns of 50% per month on Bitcoin investments has disappeared along with its founders and 60 million USD in value.
The Japanese company Trend Micro found, for the humble price of $25000, a downloadable version of Bitcoin ATM malware on the darknet. It's ready to use and deploy on download, and allegedly effective. In this day and age when every third company claims to have been hit by a cryptojacking malware attack (even the PGA tournament), the young blockchain industry seems effectively diseased with evil.
While we're on the topic of malware - a new application called EtherScanner showed up on Reddit and other social networks, advertising as a portfolio tracker. The app will ask you for private keys to wallets and secretly steal your coins while you're admiring your portfolio - be careful!
More stars were convinced to advertise scam projects, apparently having learned nothing from SEC warnings issued to Paris Hilton, Floyd Mayweather, Steven Seagal, and others. Now, the "green cryptocurrency" startup GEAR enlisted Larry King while SmartCompany poached Michael Clarke, Australian baseball player. Neither startup offers anything new or useful.
We repeat: all cloud mining is a scam. Any company offering cloud mining will, within 6 months, either disappear or be "hacked" like the Slovenian NiceHash was.
That said, a new cloud mining provider showed up: Splitt. Avoid at all costs.
Status Quo, banks, and regulation
From the regulatory side, there were major movements in both directions - even in the shape of a blockchain-oriented hackathon organized by the European Investment Bank.
While the ruling financial elite is, according to a report by FinewsAsia, changing their mind about their customers' contact with Bitcoin (maybe because all of them are privately funding Axoni blockchain which they might be hoping will save them from the Bitcoin plague), and Europe is drafting new ICO regulation proposals, the political side of USA is attacking cryptocurrencies with odd fervor.
First of all, a US Senate hearing is planned for August 21st on the energy demands of blockchain technology. The aim is to find out how much of an electricity price spike and demand spike they can expect in the coming years and what to do about it.
Secondly, the director of FinCen (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network) Kenneth Blanco said in his speech at the US Treasury that all ICOs and mixers / tumblers are actually providers of money transmitting functions and as such need to declare themselves to FinCen for oversight. He also said that the USA would aggressively pursue such services - globally. We know from history that the USA has no qualms about overreaching and stepping outside its borders when it wants something, so it's of utmost importance to make sure mixers and tumblers can be automated with smart contracts so individuals cannot be held accountable.
At the same time, all cryptocurrency trading has been banned in Saudi Arabia, while Vietnam is fighting it in its own way: banning mining equipment and drafting legislations to delegalize cryptocurrencies in general. The city of Salamanca in New York is also fighting crypto by banning mining, quoting high energy demands, joining Pittsburgh - another US town who pulled the same stunt in March of this year.
The SEC has not rested this week either. First they went after Riot blockchain again, a company which pivoted from Biotech to mining. Then they slapped David Laurence with a $30000 fine and a lifetime ban from serving as CEO and board member of anything due to a fake ICO he tried to pull off. Finally, they issued a warning against investing in IRAs which have something to do with cryptocurrencies because of their volatility and the fact that the tokens are often scams, like BitConnect.
Here's how to write a Dollar Auction Contract, a smart contract for auctions.
Here's how to use Hashicorp's Vault to build an Ethereum wallet. Vault is software for storing passwords and environment variable but obviously it has many other uses.
- Everything you need to know about IBM's HyperLedger Fabric "blockchain"
- An exhaustive review of the MakerDAO protocol and matching stablecoin DAI
- Transaction Agnosticism - a path to cryptocurrency mass adoption
- Dapps are more important than cryptocurrencies
- A detailed comparison of 5 blockchain storage techniques
- The man who solved Bitcoin's most notorious heist
- How to prevent yourself from badly designing ERC721 tokens
- Evolution of Airdrop: From Common Spam to the Merkle Tree
- Participatory Design for Cryptoeconomic Systems
- Estimating Bitcoin's Annual Carbon Footprint
- Vitalik Buterin and Charles Hoskinson continue their Reddit battle over which protocol is best: Casper or Ouroboros
- Formal verification of ERC20 tokens
- The Smart Contract War and Why Ethereum Will Win it
That's it for this round. Remember, an upvote helps us A LOT!