The Top Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Projects in 2018

There’s been a change in the outlook for cryptocurrency during the past few months. People seldom talk about the markets or the price of Bitcoin. Volatility has been causing a lot of uncertainty, and mainstream adoption came to a virtual standstill.

Nonetheless, the cryptocurrency space showed remarkable resilience as blockchain projects continue to expand its borders with more lateral thinking and “out-of-the-box” blockchain solutions. We’ll explore some of their use-cases and find out whether these currencies and platforms are the next big thing.

 

Why People Invest in These Projects

Despite the recent lull in cryptocurrency trading and mining, blockchain projects and ICOs are very much in the business for 2018. Investors and tech companies remain optimistic about the future of the cryptocurrency space amidst tightening restrictions and negativity. In fact, according to Coindesk, the amount of money raised in ICOs in the first quarter alone exceeded the total amount last year.

Most ICOs and blockchain projects didn’t end up well for a lot of investors (more than 90% failed to deliver). However, there are a few examples like Binance and EOS which turned out as good investments. Binance became one of the leading cryptocurrency exchanges with a BNB market cap of over $1 billion – the second most valuable token on Coinmarketcap. EOS, on the other hand had a successful, albeit controversial mainnet launch, and is now a full-fledged decentralized application platform second only to Ethereum.

Smart investors consider the current state of affairs as a golden opportunity to hunt for new projects with the greatest potential, particularly in their early stages when they are mostly undervalued. Investing early on has the advantage of maximum gains with the least amount of exposure. For instance, a hundred dollars’ worth of investments at ten cents per token won’t break the bank if things go south. But if it turns out to be a real investment, gains will be exponential (e.g., BNB and EOS tokens are worth a hundred times more than their initial price in 2017)

 

 

Blockchain Projects to Watch for in 2018

Finding a good investment can be a real challenge since we’re dealing with dozens of new blockchain projects and ICOs every month. If you’re lucky enough, you might be able to land on some big winners from a list of projects. But before anything else, please bear in mind that this is not investment advice, and you are solely responsible for any gains or losses. That said, here are five of the most talked-about blockchain projects in 2018.

 

Zilliqa (ZIL). Launched in January, the project puts a lot of work in building a highly scalable decentralized platform using a method known as “sharding.” Unlike in Bitcoin, each node will be working in parallel within a group of nodes called “shard,” verifying a subset of all the transactions occurring at the same time (also called parallel processing). Sharding works perfectly in many centralized systems (Ultima Online, Google, etc.). However, it presents an immense technical challenge when applied on a decentralized environment. Ethereum has been working hard on it as part of its on-chain scaling solution in hopes of solving the security/scalability/decentralization trilemma. Zilliqa’s entry into the whole sharding scene threatens to steal the thunder from Ethereum by becoming the first to come up with a workable solution. Some estimates it to be around January 2019. Key features include:

  • faster transaction throughputs (speed improves as the network grows)
  • employs practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance as a consensus mechanism
  • reduced energy consumption (mining is spaced a hundred blocks apart)
  • maintains a decentralized network structure (a new shard is created for every 600 nodes)

Basic Attention Token (BAT). Cutting the middleman goes beyond peer-to-peer transactions to include decentralized, blockchain-based digital advertising in the form of an open-source, ad-free browser with its own currency. Brave Browser is one of today’s hottest Internet browsing software because it allows users to block ads and trackers completely free. In fact, as many as 3 million people have already been using Brave, becoming one of Google Play’s top ten in the Android browser category. The project is moving towards the creation a decentralized advertising platform using its own currency – Basic Attention Token – to incentivize both content creation and user attention. It works in some ways like Google Ads but in a more transparent and decentralized manner. The key advantages of BAT from an investor’s point of view include:

  • good potential for adoption (sold out BAT worth $35 million in 30 seconds)
  • strong support from the community (Brave browsing experience receive a lot of positive feedback from users)
  • a solid team of experienced developers (founded by no less than the co-founder of Mozilla, Firefox, and creator of JavaScript)

Kin (KIN). Canadian messaging app company Kik Interactive is making headway into cryptocurrency adoption with the launching of Kinecosystem. The company hopes to build a community of users and developers sharing resources, and making digital goods and services. However, unlike most blockchain startups with no real users, Kin’s integration into the Kik Messenger meant its value could potentially rise with over 300 million active users.  The company is now moving towards the next phase, inviting all developers and content creators in building the ecosystem for large KIN payouts. Gains will take time, but you might want to consider its advantages, namely:

  • KIN’s practical use-case as a digital currency on an existing application (Kik has been in use since 2010)
  • user base is mostly made up of digital-natives (teens, millennials, and active mobile users)
  • Kik’s emphasis on anonymity

DeepBrain Chain (DBC). Blockchain companies like DeepBrain Chain sees decentralization as the future of the AI industry. Development of AI applications use up a huge amount of computing power. DeepBrain Chain works by utilizing computational resources across millions of nodes on the neural network in building AI applications which are then published onto the blockchain. Nodes that successfully deploy mirror images will receive payouts in DBC. It plans on migrating out of NEO to its own mainnet in Q4, with its own consensus algorithm (proof of importance and delegated proof of stake). The goal is to become the deep learning machine for the AI industry. Successful adoption is achievable through:

  • growth in people’s interest in the AI industry
  • reduced computational cost of AI companies through resource-sharing
  • secure, decentralized method of storing AI information.

Wormhole. Bitcoin Cash might soon be able to run smart contracts through its proposed protocol layer known as Wormhole. Developers plan on forking the Omni Layer to create a platform for smart contracts on top of Bitcoin Cash. Much of it is still in the works as of this moment, but news is, they’re going to issue a token named “Wormhole Cash.” Investors and crypto-enthusiasts are keeping track of its progress since it is expected to have a very high demand upon release.

 

Conclusion

The cryptocurrency space has been constantly evolving even as the noise and the hype surrounding cryptocurrency have mostly faded. Cryptocurrency is here to stay, and we’ll be seeing more projects in the near future that will bridge the gap between the average user and blockchain technology.

Facebook’s Update on Crypto-related Ads – Why Should It Matter?

Facebook hit the news when it back peddled on its decision to ban cryptocurrency ads outright from the social media platform. This has now made technology companies, cryptocurrency and blockchain communities optimistic this move will set off a precedent for other advertisers to follow, particularly Google and Twitter, who earlier warned of a similar ban on cryptocurrency ads.

What are the implications of Facebook’s reversing its view on cryptocurrency, and what are we to expect about the future of blockchain technology?

 

What Changed After the Update?

Facebook now accepts cryptocurrency ads, but only from pre-approved advertisers who filed their cryptocurrency products and services onboarding request. ICOs and promotions associated with deceptive high-yield investment programs are still banned from advertising.

The update took effect after a six-month hiatus in cryptocurrency ads on Facebook. Apparently, the tech giant have found compelling reasons for reversing some of its decision after being dismissive on anything crypto-related. (uhhh… money of course!) There are also some rumblings Facebook plans on stepping into the cryptocurrency space with their own initial coin offering.

So far, legitimate cryptocurrency businesses like Cointelegraph.com have not been able to boost their posts a day after the ban was lifted. It’s very likely that Facebook is implementing more stringent rules and are, indeed, checking on the advertiser’s credentials with painstaking effort. We’ll learn more about the specific details of the screening process as they unfold.

 

Not a Complete Turnabout

Facebook didn’t go all the way, and instead chose to “loosen” some its policy on cryptocurrency advertising. A recent post from the product management director indicates an eligibility check, which takes into account licenses and pertinent documents submitted by each applicant. Facebook wants to avoid another Bitconnect incident or turn it a breeding ground for ICO scams (70% of advertised ICOs failed to materialize).

There’s no guarantee that every cryptocurrency and blockchain businesses would receive their stamp of approval. The least they can do for now is hope they don’t get screened out or send the wrong signal to the management and mistake them for ICOs or HYIPs. Facebook is open to the idea of revising this policy as they see fit and encourages everyone to give their feedback.

 

More KYCs and Background Checks on Advertisers

All advertisers in cryptocurrency must be “pre-approved” before posting ads on Facebook. To do so, they have to disclose information about their company such as:

 

  • purpose and nature of their business
  • Facebook ad account ID
  • website domain
  • licenses and credentials
  • company name
  • business address

You can apply for your pre-approval HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facebook, basically, performs due diligence on advertisers on behalf of its users, which is a good thing for cryptocurrency. Done right, this might actually boost investor confidence. With stricter regulation in place, Facebook hopes to open more opportunities which could further mass adoption for cryptocurrency, and significantly increase ad revenue to the company.

Meanwhile, cryptocurrency and ICO scams might have a hard time after the update, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Facebook won’t have any of those. In fact several cryptocurrency and ICO scams were still able to get through, ironically, even after the ban on cryptocurrency ads.

 

What Changed Their Mind?

Facebook wasn’t so clear about the reason for partially lifting the ban on crypto-related ads. People have their own views and offer some explanation as to why this is the case.

Missing Out On Revenue. At times, Facebook is more worried about optics then revenue. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but when it comes to crypto, Facebook has constantly missed the boat. This is evident when Facebook took a massive hit in market value recently. One of the main reasons for the price dip is the lack of awareness in its underlying technology; censoring out everything crypto-related from their platform could only serve to aggravate the situation. By encouraging users to learn more about the cryptocurrency through ads and meaningful social interaction, they might as well rack up huge profits along the way.

Facebook’s Launching Its Exploratory Blockchain Group. For a tech company this huge, it’s not difficult to imagine Facebook having its own native currency in the near future. Their announcement about the launching of an exploratory blockchain group has led to some rumours about their future involvement in the cryptocurrency space. If true, then this could mean adoption on a massive scale with its two billion plus users worldwide.

 

Conclusion

Facebook’s decision to lift the ban on crypto-related ads is a statement on cryptocurrency’s future utility as a store of value, or even as a medium of exchange. There’s no denying that cryptocurrency and blockchain technology has become a major force in shaping our current financial system. They might, as well, be a part of it instead of closing doors on an opportunity which could probably give them a decisive edge along the way.

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What’s Next? Pushing the Boundaries of Blockchain Technology

Cryptocurrency could be running on a “different” blockchain, far better than its predecessors. Ethereum, became the first to have a “programmable” blockchain which made the currency in a class of its own. Today, we are entering into a new era of blockchain technology which promises scalability, interoperability, and sustainability with a first-of-its-kind third generation decentralized currency, Cardano.

We’ll explore the possibilities as well as the challenges in this new development in blockchain technology – what can it do to solve the prevailing issue of scalability and how far can it push the boundaries.

 

Blockchain Scaling and Its Challenges

Blockchain redefined the meaning of currency as a “trust-less” and “decentralized” medium of exchange allowing people to exchange value on a peer-to-peer network without a third party. It also solved the problem of double spending and fraud when dealing with digital assets in a virtual space with the combined strength of cryptographic functions and distributed consensus. But having such a high level of security also comes at the expense of speed and computing power.

Blockchain is difficult to scale because the exponential growth of the ever-increasing size, the necessary bandwidth to update all the ledgers across the network, and the proof of work algorithm which is self-limiting in terms of the number of transactions it can accommodate at a given time.

Some of the proposed solutions are, to take mining out of the picture, and use an alternative method of confirmation such as proof of stake and consensus protocol. Unfortunately, any attempt to improve scalability which takes mining and proof of work out of the way also tends to become convoluted and unsecure. There seems there is no way to create a blockchain that is both scalable, secure, and decentralized without losing some of its properties, one way or the other, or, writing a blockchain protocol from the ground up using an entirely different programming language.

Tinkering with the block size could only worsen the situation as bigger blocks would increase the blockchain size exponentially, thus consuming more bandwith and slowing down the network even more. The Bitcoin Cash hard fork of August 2017 attempts to solve Bitcoin’s scalability problem by following this route. However, it is doubtful that such measure could sustain the impact of mass adoption.

Some developers are now taking a different approach in their efforts to make a scalable, interoperable (communicates with other blockchains), and sustainable blockchain.

 

Making Blockchain a Lot “Smarter”

The simplicity of Bitcoin’s algorithm proved to be its greatest strength in terms of security. It is less prone to have errors and is more secure compared to other complex systems. Consequently, this would also mean less room for innovation within the blockchain itself (scripting used in Bitcoin is not “Turing-complete”). Moreover, developers couldn’t make drastic changes to the code without causing a fork in the blockchain. In such a case, the best scalability solution is to have a second layer for micro-transactions which “clears” each time these bundled transactions are broadcasted as one to the first layer, i.e. the blockchain. This is the idea behind Lightning Network.

However, to make this work, it should remain “trust-less,” secure, and shouldn’t involve a third party by adding a set of rules on top of the Bitcoin network to ensure that every transaction between two parties is settled upon meeting the conditions, or they can be rolled back if one of them refused to cooperate. Some of these rules include opening and pre-funding off-chain payment channels (or side-chains), “time-locks,” and having a “refund addresses” in case it fails to execute the agreement.

Ethereum accomplished the task with the idea of a “smart contract” between two or more people. After mining, the contract comes into force and becomes an immutable part of the blockchain. It uses a proprietary programming language (Solidity) which is more flexible than the script used by Bitcoin, and is primarily used for ICOs to fund projects and issue tokens to contributors. Some developers can make some interesting use of smart contracts such as the popular online blockchain game, Cryptokitties, where people can buy, sell, or breed virtual kittens on the Ethereum blockchain for profit.

Ethereum is regarded by developers as the second generation of blockchain technology for making such remarkable achievement. Blockchain technology is no longer just a method of making secure payments and storing value like Bitcoin, but also a more secure way of creating immutable, automated contracts without requiring a mediator in a physical sense. This opens up a world of possibilities for blockchain as a versatile platform for business and everyday use.

 

 

The Third Generation of Blockchain Technology

Cardano is considered by some as the third generation of blockchain technology for several reasons. First of all, it has a blockchain built with scalability in mind and uses a programming language known only to a few developers (Haskell and Plutus). Unlike the programming languages used in second generation blockchain which goes through a number loops and procedures one string at a time, it deals with the process of creating smart contracts and verification using a functional language which is more efficient. In other words, instead of commands, it uses mathematical formulas, i.e. functions.

An Ethereum smart contract, for instance, can go through a hundred iterations and procedures before coming up with a single output. This results in higher computational cost and could easily overload the network without some sort of regulatory mechanism that limits the number of loops or strings on a given contract. Ethereum came up with the idea of “gas”, which is the equivalent of mining fees for Bitcoin. This way, users cannot arbitrarily overload the network with excessive number of iterations. However, like Bitcoin, it also brings up the issue of scalability, computational cost, and sustainability

Cardano seeks to address this problem by revising the way blockchains should work. However, nothing is set in stone as of the moment and we couldn’t know for certain whether such proposal will have enough support from developers and the cryptocurrency community. Haskell and Plutus programming language is not so popular but can be extremely useful when applied to blockchains because it offers more flexibility.

There’s also a learning curve, should developers choose to support Cardano’s vision of a scalable blockchain, and it would have to compete with the developers’ attention who are fully engrossed in perfecting Lightning Network for Bitcoin, and the proof of stake scalability solution for Ethereum. One possible scenario is that all three of them will come to fruition about the same time, and by then we would have three or more fully scalable currencies which use different methods in achieving the same goal. Or, we may come up with just one solution that would annihilate other currencies and become the gold standard of future blockchain-based currencies. Could it be Cardano, Ethereum’s updated proof of stake version, or Bitcoin running on Lightning Network? The world watches as the story continues to unfold.

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The End of Currency as We Know It?

The growing optimism of financial institutions with blockchain technology has spurred a lot of interest within the cryptocurrency community. They’re now exploring the possibility of using cryptocurrency as a global currency, much like its real-world counterpart, but without the need for governmental intermediaries.

This, however, requires nothing short of a compromise since the technology used in cryptocurrencies, which were meant to cut off intermediaries, will now be used in the interest of banks and financial institutions they initially sought to eliminate.

 

Financial Institutions on the Use Blockchain Technology

The challenge with decentralized currency is the way which central banks create money. Cryptocurrency protocols which gave birth to Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin uses “proof of work”, hashpower/electricity to mine currencies until they reach a fixed limit. And, unlike central banks, anyone with adequate resource and hashpower can participate in the process of increasing money supply.

But not all cryptocurrencies follow this convention. Some currencies are neither mineable nor obtainable by any other means except through exchanges. Ripple (XRP), for instance, is one of those few currencies with such peculiar characteristics.

First, it has no need of miners to keep the system stable and secure, and does the exact opposite each time transactions are made: a specific unit of XRP is “destroyed” (around 0.00001 XRP or 10 “drops”) per transaction. Accordingly, this would discourage people from spamming the system. Maximum supply is programmed at 100 billion XRP, 55% of which is held in escrow.

Although “decentralized,” Ripple is backed by big institutions primarily Google (Google Ventures), and other venture capitalists such as Standard Chartered, Siam Commercial (SCB Digital Ventures), Japan’s SBI Holdings, CME Group, Seagate Technology, and Venture 51. The focus of blockchain adoption was not so much on creating a global decentralized currency envisioned by Bitcoin, but in making transactions “frictionless” and resistant to hacking.

Banks and financial institutions loved the concept and saw in Ripple the potential of using blockchain technology to make money transfers many times faster, a lot cheaper, and more secure than conventional banking and money service business. In fact, Ripple protocol is already supported by hundreds of banks and financial businesses across the globe, including American Express and SBI Holdings.

 

Use Cases of Blockchain Technology in Business

 

Banking & Money Service

Blockchain technology is the key to solving the age-old “Byzantine General’s Problem” when it comes to trust-based peer-to-peer transactions, one of which is the problem of “double spending.” In a traditional banking system, transactions between accounts and different banks have to be cleared to preclude the possibility of fraudulent transactions going through, especially now that most transactions involve digital cash and electronic money transfers over the Internet.

Although quite secure, they’re not essentially 100% hack-proof. The Bangladesh Bank Heist of February 2016 proves the vulnerability of a centralized method of transaction over the Internet (hackers employed the Dridex malware to send instructions to the Bangladesh Bank at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York through the SWIFT network.)

Banks and financial institutions are now looking to adopt a decentralized, consensual way of confirming transactions – one of the defining features of cryptocurrencies and distributed ledgers – to make cross-border, bank-to-bank transactions that are virtually hack-proof. To address the issue of congestion due to slow rate of confirmations, they’ve opted for cryptocurrency protocols which take mining out of the equation, i.e. pre-mined currencies.

 

Payment methods

The fact that tech giants, like Google, have invested in blockchain technology could be a strong indication that we are, indeed, looking into the future of cashless transactions. IBM also works with a pre-mined cryptocurrency, Stellar (XLM), to make cross-border payments more efficient and secure. Using this platform, they hope to eliminate the “costly, laborious, and error-prone process of making global payments.”

Microsoft retracted in their previous decision to stop accepting Bitcoin payments. Volatility and high transaction fees during peak hours can make Bitcoin payments troublesome for most businesses. But because of its high-yield potential for long-term investment, some businesses prefer Bitcoin over much stable but dormant pre-mined cryptocurrencies like Ripple and Stellar.

Several countries in North America, Europe, and Asia have brick-and-mortar businesses that accept Bitcoin payments with the same goal in mind. Since Bitcoin is regarded as a rare, highly-prized commodity, accepting them as payments is a viable way to make long-term cryptocurrency investments.

Some people went as far as using Bitcoin to acquire properties like one of Malaysia’s top entrepreneur who bought a piece of land for half a Bitcoin, and a property developer in the UK who sold two luxury homes for Bitcoin.

 

Internet Sites & Social Media

Blockchain technology can also have a positive impact on Internet sites and social media because of the massive traffic they generate. Having a cryptocurrency for users and subscribers seems to be the way forward. Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg recognized the potential of having a cryptocurrency for its 2 billion users and subscribers.

Online stores and online services would also benefit from cryptocurrency payments for the very same reason banks and money service business are using it with the Ripple currency/protocol.

 

Implications of Institutionalizing Cryptocurrencies – Two Sides of the Story

Based on these observations, two possible scenarios are starting to emerge. Blockchain technology is undoubtedly the next generation of secure, peer-to-peer transactions. But as to the control of money supply and the ability of users to store value outside the realm of government regulation, the issue of decentralization could reach a stalemate between institutionalized cryptocurrency like Ripple, and a truly decentralized cryptocurrency like Bitcoin.

In such a case, we might be seeing two types of cryptocurrencies serving two different purposes – one as a fast and secure method of payment and money transfer (akin to fiat currency), and another as a store of value. Ripple has its merits as a payment method because of its liquidity, stability, and abundant supply. Bitcoin could also be used for the same purpose, but until it creates a permanent solution to scalability issues, transaction fees, and slow transactions, it might be best to keep it as a store of value or as an investment option.

Another possibility would be one of them prevails over the other. In the case of Ripple taking the lead as the dominant cryptocurrency, we might see a resurgence of centralized money in the form of a peer-to-peer currency based on trust. If Bitcoin, however, stays on top and manages to solve the issue, the other type of cryptocurrency could weaken or fall into disuse.

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