Decentralization Is the Way Forward for Cryptocurrency Mining – Here’s Why

Cryptocurrency mining – the power behind our decentralized currencies – has reached a fork in the road of its young life. Giga Watt filed for bankruptcy in late November this year, Genesis Mining is facing hard times, and Bitmain’s future is in limbo.

But despite massive depreciation, and miners leaving the cryptocurrency space en masse, it’s not all doom and gloom for cryptocurrency as a whole. Institutional investors are coming into the crypto space, and the recent decline in mining could be good for persistent miners, mining farms and pools worldwide.

 

How Centralized Mining Failed

If there’s one lesson for miners to learn from in this bear market, it is keeping down the cost of mining, with emphasis on efficiency over scaling up. Over the course of the year, mining has been increasingly unprofitable even for some enterprise miners. There are a number of compounding factors for the dry spell such as:

  • recent decline in the cryptocurrency market
  • strict regulations and increased power rates for cryptocurrency mining
  • rapid increase in mining difficulty – faster than market demand and cryptocurrency adoption
  • cost of outlays in running the business increase with size (e.g. bigger facilities, cooling systems, power consumption, hiring more employees for maintenance and upkeep)

Diminishing returns over a period of time (e.g., Bitcoin rewards halve every four years) coupled with volatility in the cryptocurrency markets makes it very risky for miners to scale up beyond a certain threshold. In many cases, mining profitability is only as good as the market conditions. The recent turn of events with the price of cryptocurrency, and the equivalent of approximately 1.3 million Antminer S9 units turning off as of late proves how large-scale miners have become so dependent on cryptocurrency markets in terms of mining profitability.

The arms race towards bigger mining facilities and acquiring more efficient but expensive mining hardware also tends to backfire for some mining businesses who are now struggling to pay off their debts. State regulations have also put a lot of strain to the mining industry by imposing higher rates for cryptocurrency mining. This, along with rapid increase in network hash rate/difficulty, and a long drawn-out bear market spells disaster for many businesses in the cryptocurrency mining industry, particularly those who have overspent with expectation of higher returns through market demand and cryptocurrency adoption.

Enterprise-level miners might have increased their mining power with a large share of the network hash rate which might have previously worked but because of the way proof-of-work cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are built large-scale miners are running into difficulties. Miners are finding with increased network hash rate there will come a point where mining and maintenance costs start to eat up their gains unless they find access to abundant or much cheaper energy source as soon as possible, or if cryptocurrency continues to gain widespread adoption. (Imagine if every miner in the world does the same thing and Bitcoin suddenly drops to $1,000. How long can these enterprise miners hold on until Bitcoin goes back up again to $20,000 or until mining difficulty drops significantly lower?)

Lastly, centralized mining puts a lot of strain to the power grid that governments won’t have much of a choice but impose exorbitant rates for mining operations in order to “force” miners to slow down, or run the risk of overloading the grid, severely affecting all other industries in the country. The only option for large-scale miners at this point is scaling down and help redistribute hash power to the cryptocurrency network, e.g. shipping their mining rigs to places with abundant and more affordable energy source. (In Venezuela, it only costs $531 to mine Bitcoin).

 

Why Decentralized Mining Is Crucial for the Cryptocurrency Space

More secure compared to centralized mining. Centralization of mining power misses the whole point of having a decentralized cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. Cryptocurrency mining was never meant to be a centralized endeavor, but a shared obligation to secure the network where one’s willingness to share computing power to mine transactions and prevent double spend attacks is rewarded with cryptocurrency. Centralization creates weaknesses to an inherently secure decentralized network by establishing a single point of failure and opens up the possibility of double spends and censoring transactions. (This inevitably results in weaker adoption and/or the cryptocurrency’s demise.)

Distributes risks and rewards to miners. Higher hash rates do make a difference who gets the mining reward. But at the end of the day, it all boils down to probability. Suppose every miner in the world mines at exactly the same hash rate. The way Bitcoin’s algorithm was designed meant that there is no particular way to tell who will be the first to find the next hash since they would all be making random guesses at a given rate. Higher hash rates increases the likelihood of being the first to make the right guess, but so is the risk (power consumption = money lost). A better alternative to mining centralization is by using mining pools or by having small mining farms spread out to places where cost of running the mining the business is much cheaper.

 Distributes power consumption. With less centralization in mining power, miners will be able to utilize cheaper electricity instead of relying solely on the power grid. It would also encourage miners to be more creative and explore ways to make cryptocurrency mining a lot greener, or, as mentioned earlier, find places with abundant supply of energy source (e.g. hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, etc.)

 

Final Thoughts

The 2018 bear market has been an eye-opener for all of us, not only in terms of volatility and value of cryptocurrency, but also the dangers and consequences of going beyond what is intended for in cryptocurrency mining – decentralized and cost-effective. Bitcoin was just as secure back when people mined them in their PCs and laptops as it is today with more powerful ASIC miners and GPUs. It’s just a matter of perspective. Hopefully, this year has brought us some important lessons to help us with our journey in cryptocurrency for the year 2019.

Should You Be Worried About The State of Cryptocurrency?

Markets crash every so often, whether it’s stock, commodity, or cryptocurrency. Just recently, Amazon stock has lost 25% of its value in a span of 3 months. Nearly 40% of Facebook’s share value has been wiped out since July; Google lost 19%. Apple is down by 26% since October. By and large, 2018 has been particularly bearish, not just for cryptocurrencies, but tech stocks as well – quite the opposite of what we’ve seen last year.

 

“What Goes Up Must Come Down” 

Market cycles are normal with any type of investment vehicle. The price crash on both cryptocurrency and stock in Q4 strongly suggests that we are indeed going through a market downturn or a bear market. In other words, the fact that both cryptocurrency and investment funds are down suggests there isn’t anything wrong with cryptocurrency but instead it’s just a natural market fluctuation.

Bitcoin, has lost around 75% of its market price from its all-time high of $19,309 in December 2017. Speculation for Bitcoin’s price is considered as one of the main reasons for the run-up resulting in a price crash after further gains became unattainable.

 

Making the Most from a Price Crash

Market volatile in cryptocurrency is something experienced traders and investors have all been accustomed to. Truth is, what we’re seeing right now with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is just one of the many examples of a price downturn in recent years. Here are some ways we can get by in a cryptocurrency bear market. As always, please note that this is not investment advice and is written solely for informative purposes.

HODL. Hodling is another one of those internet sensations that came about because of the immediacy of Twitter. For the unaware, it is essentially a “buy and hold” strategy used by cryptocurrency users and investors. Hodling can take a lot of patience, and mental resolve, with an almost stoical attitude towards cryptocurrency investment. In other words, they’re not into crypto just for the short-term gain, but look forward to using it more as it slowly reaches worldwide adoption.

Dollar Cost Averaging (DCA). Regarded as one of the most conservative and safer approach to cryptocurrency investing, which allows investors to accumulate crypto-assets over time. Similar to hodling, DCA requires discipline, and the ability to stick to the plan regardless of price actions in the market. It usually involves a fixed amount spread over a period of weeks or months. DCA can be considered as a “contrarian” approach to investing because investors can have more during a bear market and buy less during a bull market – the opposite of what most people tend to do which is giving in to fear of missing out (FOMO) and herd mentality.

Entry and Exit Strategies. A lot of cryptocurrency traders have an exit strategy such as placing stop loss orders below their entry points in order to minimize potential losses. Here’s an example of how an entry and exit strategy can be used during a bear market. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that investors would be able to recoup their losses since it would all depend on future price actions. We’ll be using Bitcoin in this particular scenario.

From this hypothetical situation, it is entirely possible for traders and investors to recoup or even take some profit off of the bear market. However, it’s also possible for Bitcoin markets to go much deeper, exacerbating one’s losses and making it more difficult to recover. We don’t recommend this method unless you truly understand the cryptocurrency market and are quite familiar working with exchanges. Also, please bear in mind that selling cryptocurrencies for profit is a taxable event under state laws regarding cryptocurrencies.

Educate Yourself about Cryptocurrency. Spending some time learning about this emerging technology could be one of your most valuable investments in this day and age. Cryptocurrency will continue to evolve and will be more accessible to millions of users in years to come. Read books about cryptocurrency, enroll in blockchain and cryptocurrency courses, and steer clear from get-rich-quick schemes and cryptocurrency scams. Having a better grasp of cryptocurrency and its underlying technology (blockchain) helps clear out all the noise and drama surrounding cryptocurrency and allows you to make wise investment decisions.

 

 

**Please note that this is not investment advice and should no way be treated as such. It is for informational purposes only. Before you make any trade or investment you should consult a licensed financial advisor who is familiar with your current situation.

Banks and Blockchain Transactions – Which Is Better?

Many cryptocurrency critics believe that blockchain transactions are far too slow to be ever applicable for mass adoption within banking and financial institutions, failing to understand blockchain and cryptocurrency technology is still in its infancy.  In this post, we’re going to look at the pros and cons of each system and explore the future of payment systems.

Banks and payment systems look in some ways more efficient than blockchain transactions, but in many cases, they’re actually more involved. In fact, as soon as they’re being used to make cross-border payments and settlements, they start to reveal some flaws. They, too, can become slow, expensive, or worse – they can lock people out through no fault of their own, and for no apparent reason.

Bank-to-bank transactions through SWIFT network take three to five working days to reach its destination, which is extremely slow by cryptocurrency standards. In contrast, an average person with no connection to a bank or money transfer service can securely send and receive Bitcoin anywhere around the world with just a smartphone and a stable Internet connection in as short as ten to fifteen minutes without the risk of being censored out by the system.

Wire transfers cost somewhere between $10 to $30, plus 6% spread on foreign exchanges. In other words, if you’re sending $5,000 from Australia to Canada, you’ll pay as much as $330 on that single transaction. This doesn’t account for differences in rates from country to country (fees for sending money from US to Africa can be as high as 15%).

Bitcoin’s transaction fees peak at around $55 in December 2017 during a massive buying spree. But most of the time, sending Bitcoin to someone anywhere around the world will only cost a fraction of a dollar, to as high as $10 depending on priority and network load. And since it’s considered a borderless, global currency, users can forget about foreign exchange rates.

Companies like Abra have been using Bitcoin as a cheaper alternative to international settlement systems. Interestingly, certain banks like the ones in the Philippines allow remittances using Bitcoin, and recipients can take their pesos straight out of the ATM without an ATM card or a bank account.

Within the cryptocurrency ecosystem, on-chain and off-chain implementations can have a significant impact both on energy consumption and transaction throughputs. As a general rule, the more it shifts toward decentralization, the more challenges it needs to deal with scaling; but as more features become centralized, the more scalable it becomes. How these challenges will be overcome in the next couple of decades is anybody’s guess.

Some of the proposed on-chain solutions is the move towards proof-of-stake consensus algorithm (e.g., Ethereum Casper), and delegated proof-of-stake (e.g. EOS and Cardano). Off-chain solution include Lightning Network (e.g. Bitcoin), and side-chains. Improving the blockchain’s inner workings not only helps with efficiency, but also makes energy consumption more manageable.

 

Conclusion

Cryptocurrency might not be as nimble as people would expect from banks when it comes to local micro-transactions. However, we’ve seen some progress lately, with SegWit adoption being used in 40% of all Bitcoin transactions, enabling shorter confirmation times, significantly lower fees, and Lightning Network integration. Users can start experimenting with Lightning wallets in their beta version (Eclair, Zap, RawTX, etc.), and buy small stuff from online stores like the ones made by Blockstream specifically for that purpose.

Cryptocurrency will only get better as time goes by, and we’ve already seen some progress from greener solutions, to mining hardware, and software development. There’s no limit to the number of ways cryptocurrency can solve many of its challenges. All it takes is an open mind and a little bit of creativity.

 

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.

If you’d like to know more about cryptocurrency, blockchain and minning, you can pick up the Living Book HERE

How You Should Look At Cryptocurrencies When It Comes To Your Financial Goals

Cryptocurrency can have a lot of potential as an investment if you have an informed and disciplined approach. You could invest in the long term, or as a one-time goal. Whatever the reason for investing in cryptocurrency, you should always have the reason why you’re investment top of mind. Maybe it’s a holiday tour in Europe, a luxury cruise in the Caribbean, or perhaps that amazing sports car, or home theatre system you’ve always wanted.

Perhaps you want to start out your own business when you retire, or create multiple streams of income with your cryptocurrency investments. Whatever your reason why is, cryptocurrency seems to be a very promising investment proposition. Your “why” will help you stay focused and committed to the task at hand. If you stay connected to your goals, you’re less likely sell because of panic or over-extend yourself.

The Internet has no shortage of success stories about Bitcoin, from the legendary pizza shop in UK selling two boxes of pizza for 10,000 BTC, the college dropout from Brooklyn who made the first dedicated ASIC miner, the teenage-school-boy-turned-Bitcoin investor from Idaho, to the Bitcoin millionaires and entrepreneurs the likes of Jered Kenna, and the Winklevoss Twins. But don’t pay attention to the hype. You’re not likely to become an overnight success story. You’ll have to do your homework and make smart decisions, otherwise you’ll run the risk of losing out big.

 

It’s Never Too Late

When talking about investing in cryptocurrencies at this point in time, people often speak of “missing the boat.”

“Bitcoin went insanely high in 2017, and I missed the boat.”

“If only I have bought Bitcoin and Ethereum back when they’re still pretty cheap. Now, it’s too late.”

Truth is, cryptocurrency is a relatively young industry. It entered the scene in 2009 and it’s continuously growing and improving for the last nine years. Sir Richard Branson is only one among many influencers who believe there might be currencies in the future that would match or even surpass Bitcoin as a digital asset and as a medium of exchange.

Just think back to the beginnings of Myspace. A lot of investors thought it was too late to invest in or create a new social media because Myspace was dominating the internet. Now Facebook is dominating and looks to rain supreme in the foreseeable future.

Vitalik Buterin proved cryptocurrency can be more than just a medium of exchange when he created the first platform and currency with a programmable blockchain – Ethereum.

Soon, Bitcoin will be more accessible to millions of everyday users, commercial establishments, and businesses worldwide through a second layer, known as the Lightning Network, which could render transaction speeds ten times or even a hundred times faster.

These are cryptocurrency’s first wobbly steps in creating a better way to transact and store value in a completely decentralized financial system.

In comparison, many of our industries today are decades-old and have already produced some of the world’s technological breakthroughs; things we often take for granted like the cars we drive at work, the phones we take our pictures with, or the Internet we use every single day.

These industries just keep getting better with each passing year. The automotive industry didn’t stop with Ford’s “Model T” or Mercedes-Benz’s “Motorwagen”; today we have hybrid, electronic and self-driving prototypes by Tesla and Google.

The Internet didn’t stop with email, TCP/IP and packet-switching; now, there’s Worldwide Web, HTTPS, cloud computing, streaming media, free Internet calls, video conferencing, mobile apps, and a host of other features people thought were not possible with the Internet (back then, it took several hours to upload/download a single jpeg image).

And let’s not forget our mobile phones which started out as clunky, metal-and-plastic bricks with large keypads and small monochrome backlit screens. Today, we have Apple and Android Phones which crosses between mobiles phones and mini-computers with HD cameras, internet and browsing capability.

People still invest in these technologies despite some of them being half a centuries-old. Cryptocurrency isn’t even half as old as many of our industries. Much of our cryptocurrency and blockchain space is uncharted territory, waiting to be explored, and harnessed to its full potential.

So, is it too late to invest in cryptocurrencies? Of course, not. In fact, we’re just getting started.

 

Knowing Your Investment Goal

Generally, we want to invest our discretionary income (disposable income minus living expenses) into something we want to enjoy much later. It’s the kind of money we can part with or set aside, and won’t have any hard feelings if everything goes south.

We don’t want to use money we pay our bills and mortgages, or buy groceries with. Or, heaven forbid, owe huge sums of money from banks at interest just to buy cryptocurrencies and ICOs. More often than not, this attitude of chasing the hype and FOMO will get people crushed.

People often invest in cryptocurrencies as a retirement option. This is not a good idea. Cryptocurrencies are highly volatile and should not be relied upon to retire with.  A safe and conservative approach is to set a small amount of discretionary income, say fifty to a hundred dollars a month, (depending on your income) to buy Bitcoin and other large-cap currencies – also known as dollar-cost averaging. Investors stick with that amount regardless of how often or how much the markets turn. It’s like a savings account, in a way, but in cryptocurrency.

Some people don’t wait for retirement and want to get out as soon as they have the opportunity. They want to store up some money as an employee so they can start out on their own. Maybe a small business, an S-corp, or an LLC. And what better way to grow capital than to invest?

Cryptocurrency exchanges are a good place to start when studying markets that would potentially grow in value. You can take short courses in financial literacy on how to invest in stocks and apply those concepts in cryptocurrencies such as asset allocation and portfolio management. Or, you can take it to the next level by learning some codes and understanding how cryptocurrencies work under the hood.

Some investors become full-time cryptocurrency traders and investors over time. These are usually angel investors, and venture capitalists – people who make risky financial decisions in order to make a lot of money. Returns can vary widely from zero to ten times the initial capital. Investment options include ICOs and new or emerging cryptocurrencies. The goal is to maximize returns while minimizing risk exposure.

Other reasons for investing in cryptocurrencies is simply to gain first-hand experience. Few people were lucky enough to have hit the jackpot, or bought in just before the big breakout out of sheer luck. However, these are just rare occurrences, and we need to be aware of “survivor bias” when it comes to personal stories and testimonials about people who got rich trading or investing in cryptocurrencies. Most people hear about 1% of the population who actually made it, but forget the 99% who failed.

 

A Smart Way to Invest

Your investment capital will depend on your age, income, priorities, and investment goals. Tax laws can also impact your ROI. You can check the legal status of cryptocurrency in your country from Coin.dance’s site (https://coin.dance/poli), or seek competent legal advice about the possible implications of investing in cryptocurrencies.

That said, here’s a sample of how you might want to structure your cryptocurrency investment. Let’s look at it from the perspective of a middle-class employee earning a net income of $3,500 a month.

The first step is to subtract the living expenses from the net income. What you’re left with is your discretionary income which you can freely use to plan for your future or hedge against financial losses. (Note: Do not invest all of your discretionary income. You should put it aside for entertainment, holidays, emergencies, and donations to good causes.)

 

$ 3,500.00               net/disposable income (after-tax)

2,500.00                    living expenses


= $ 1,000.00               discretionary income

 

Another option is to have multiple income streams, or side jobs aside from your typical 9-5. From here we’ll set up an account and possibly allocate our resources, thus:

20% emergency account
40% freedom/savings account
30% capital investment
10% trading/speculating

 

Here is a good way to look at our income. The first two (emergency and freedom/savings) are considered a necessity because of the fact that life is unpredictable. Anything can happen, so it’s always best to prepare for the unexpected. Remember Murphy’s Law: “If something can go wrong, it probably will.”

Your emergency and freedom account act as your “safety net” against life’s unpleasant surprises. An emergency account is used to cover your expenses like medical bills, repairs, etc. Others may spend them on health, car, and home insurances, which is also a viable option.

Freedom/savings account will cover your living expenses for six to twelve months in case you get laid off or choose to leave the company (some companies may offer a severance package, but not always).

The last two (capital investment and trading/speculating) is where you make crucial financial decisions that could potentially change your life or move yourself upward in today’s economy. You can have a choice between entrepreneurship and becoming a full-time trader/investor.

Being an entrepreneur gives you greater control over your finances. In the context of a cryptocurrency or blockchain-based business, you could run a cloud mining rental service, pool mining website, or cryptocurrency exchange. Once your company gains traction, you can start growing your business by raising capital through crowd-sales (check the legal status of ICOs in your country). Some start-ups may go with crowd-sales straightaway.

You can become a full-time cryptocurrency trader and invest heavily in cryptocurrencies where you’re constantly on the lookout for trading and investing opportunities, such as breakouts, funding blockchain start-ups, and ICOs. Beginners are often discouraged from getting involved in cryptocurrency trading and investing particularly those with very little or no background in dealing with financial markets. We don’t recommend this option unless you have an entire backup plan. Full-time cryptocurrency traders should have millions of dollars in fiat currency just in case they lose everything.

Some look at investing as the polar opposite of entrepreneurship, requiring a different strategy and mental disposition. For one thing, investing is market-dependent and may not necessarily have a steady cash flow, whereas in an entrepreneurship, cash flow is the difference between growth and going out of business.

Finally, the last 10% of your investment might be used for trading in a speculative market, particularly new, or small to medium cap currencies, tokens, and altcoins. Bitcoin and Ethereum are worth less than a dollar at launch; today, they’re valued by the hundreds and thousands. Although we can’t compare them with new, emerging currencies, we can’t discount the possibility of such a currency taking the same path in the near future (think EOS, Monero, and Dash)

Stock Exchanges Vs. Cryptocurrency Exchanges: What’s the Difference?

In the traditional sense, exchanges are marketplaces where securities, commodities, and financial instruments are traded. Stocks and foreign exchange markets are traded in exchanges such as NYSE, or in the case of Forex, international banks and dealers working with exchange rates.

Cryptocurrency exchanges borrowed the idea from traditional exchanges. But instead of securities like stocks and bonds, traders deal with fiat and virtual currencies over the Internet. To have a better understanding of how cryptocurrency exchanges work, we will give some examples from real-world exchanges.

Exchanges are an essential part of the whole cryptocurrency ecosystem. They provide easy access to anyone who wants to trade digital assets apart from cryptocurrency mining. You’ve probably came across some of them, the most popular ones being GDAX (via Coinbase), Bittrex, and Poloniex.

At the moment, there are more than a hundred exchanges operating in many countries across the world today. We will take a closer look at how cryptocurrency exchanges work, and some basic information on how to use them.

 

How Exchanges Have Evolved

Savvy business owners and investors are always looking at markets for opportunities to further their business and financial goals. To a business owner, they can be used to raise capital by issuing bonds and shares to investors. Think of publically traded companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft. An investor sees exchanges as opportunities to make more money by purchasing stocks that would eventually grow in value.

However, there’s a certain limit to the number of shares a company could issue based on its total market value, and companies may choose to hold some of them for future use. Once it goes public, these stocks are traded in exchanges and investors can start buying and selling them through brokerages. (Chapter 3 explains how ICOs work in many ways like IPOs)

The first stock to trade on the NYSE was The Bank of New York in 1792 and still operates in Manhattan under the name Bank of New York Mellon.

For decades, trading floors were the center of activity for many traders and investors. Over time, traditional exchanges have evolved and most trading floors are now replaced by online trading platforms and automated trading software. The NASDAQ Exchange, which started out as an electronic price quoting service, was the first to implement automation to an exchange without the need for physical trading floors.

This transition provided the right environment for cryptocurrency exchanges to thrive in the outer reaches of the cyberspace. Cryptocurrency exchanges don’t have physical trading floors like NASDAQ or NYSE, but they provide greater access to millions of people across the world to buy, sell, and trade cryptocurrencies at a much cheaper cost.

Cryptocurrency exchanges also don’t require a sizeable amount of money to start trading, and fees are way much lower compared to traditional exchanges. In traditional exchanges, you usually need at least $1,000 to open and maintain a brokerage account, and you’ll have to pay commissions on each trade, maintenance fees, and low-balance penalties.

In contrast, cryptocurrency exchanges can be accessed directly on a person’s PC or smartphone without going through these brokerages. Anyone with access to the Internet can set up their own cryptocurrency exchange account at no cost and with no minimum deposit.

However, you need to familiarize yourself with exchanges since you’re basically doing all the research and hands-on trading all by yourself. Moreover, cryptocurrency exchanges don’t have the same level of government regulation as do traditional exchanges, and thus involve some risk.

There’s also a limit to certain privileges on most regulated exchanges depending on your account verification level. Typically, the longer you stay or trade on your exchange account, and the more information you give about yourself, the better your chances are at getting verified and increase your trading limits and withdrawals.

 

Familiarizing Yourself with Exchanges

Cryptocurrency exchanges borrowed many terminologies from traditional exchanges. Experienced traders know these terms by heart, but for those who are just learning the ropes, some words and phrases are a bit baffling. We’ll explain them here in layman’s term and provide some examples as needed.

Order Book – A list of all the buy and sell orders of traders in a market. It specifies the total number of bids and asks on a trading pair (e.g. BTC/USD), their quantity (size) and price, and presents them in graphical form. Order books play an important role in “price discovery” where the majority of traders agree on a certain price, thereby filling those orders and setting the current price of a given asset. Order books are now fully automated, capable of handling millions of buy and sell orders instantaneously. The process can be observed in real time in exchanges like GDAX, Bittrex, and Poloniex.

 

Trading Pair – Two different currencies traded on a market. With ETH/BTC trading pair, people are either buying Ethereum with Bitcoin, or selling them for Bitcoin. Traders set the bid and ask price of the currency they want to trade with using another currency. To put into perspective, in an ETH/BTC trading pair, ETH is the “commodity” being bought and sold, and BTC is the “currency” used to pay for them. Although, not an exact analogy, people who are new to cryptocurrencies and trading might be able to understand better using a more simplistic approach (both ETH and BTC are digital assets, and thus, barter transaction would be more appropriate). In a BTC/USD pair, it’s a lot easier to grasp since we’re talking here of a digital asset and a real-world currency (fiat). Also, in a trading pair, a currency can increase or decrease in value relative to its pair – much like Forex in a sense. In an ETH/BTC pair, if more ETH orders are being filled and greater quantities are sold at a higher price, it will be valued higher in BTC, and vice versa. In the grand scheme of things, a currency’s value is summed up based on how it performed across all online exchanges where it’s listed. (See https://coinmarketcap.com/ for a list of all exchanges.)

 

Bid/Ask  – Bids specifies the price traders are willing to pay on a trading pair for a given quantity of cryptocurrency. Asks, on the other hand, specifies the price traders are willing to sell their cryptocurrencies for. Bids and asks are usually shown in graphical form in order books as the “bid and ask wall” juxtaposed against each other, often resembling a valley – also called “market depth.” The lowest point is where traders agree on a certain price. Orders placed somewhere near the current price (“market orders”) are often filled almost immediately, while those placed further away (“limit orders”) may take some time. Traders may cancel their orders and move them elsewhere if it takes them too long, or if they want to take advantage of a major price action days or weeks ahead.

 

Bid-Ask Spread – A gap formed when both sides of the market don’t agree on a common price and no orders are being filled. It is the difference between the lowest bid and ask price on a trading pair. For instance, a trader wants 0.1 BTC for $1000, and another wants to sell his at $1,010. We have a price spread of $10. The bigger the difference, the wider the bid-ask spread. Too wide of a bid-ask spread will have an impact to a market’s liquidity.

 

Trading Volume – The total amount of cryptocurrency traded in the market at any given time. For instance, in a BTC/USD trading pair, the trading volume for an hour of trading could be $35,000,000, closing at $10,000 per BTC. They’re usually shown as multi-coloured or monochrome bars at the base of a price chart. In a multi-coloured price chart, green-coloured bars meant the closing price is higher than the previous one; for red-coloured bars, it’s the other way around. A dark-coloured bar meant the closing price is equal to the previous one. In most cryptocurrency exchanges, viewers can change the duration from a 1-minute, 5-minute, 30 mintue, 1-hour trading volume, and so on. Markets with high trading volumes are considered to have high levels of liquidity.

 

Price Chart – A graphical representation of the price actions with respect to time. Price charts reveal whether a currency’s value is on an uptrend (“bullish”), downtrend (“bearish”), or has undergone periods of stagnation, high volatility, parabolic moves (market bubble), and sell-offs. They can be shown in candlestick or line format. Candlestick charts also have a colour scheme (green for “bullish” and red for “bearish”) that matches the trading volume. Sometimes bearish candles will close at a higher position relative to the previous one resulting in colours which are opposite to the trading volume. In a line format, each point represent the closing prices. Viewers can also change the duration from a 1-minute, 5-minute, 30-minute, 1-hour price chart, and so on.

 

Circulating supply – The best approximation of the number of coins circulating in the market and in the general public’s hands (https://coinmarketcap.com/faq). In traditional exchanges, these are the total number of publicly traded stocks as opposed to locked-in stocks withheld by the company or shareholders. Circulating supply helps determine the total market value (market capitalization) of a cryptocurrency.

 

Maximum Supply – the total supply of cryptocurrency that will ever be produced. Most cryptocurrencies are deflationary in nature, i.e., they have a fixed supply. Bitcoin is set at 21 million BTC, while some premined coins such as Ripple has a maximum supply of 100 billion XRP, 55% of which is being held in escrow by the company.

 

Market Capitalization – The total market value of a cryptocurrency, determined by multiplying the circulating supply with the current market price of each coin or token. It’s the equivalent of a company’s total market value in a public exchange, which is also determined by multiplying the total number of outstanding shares with the market price of each share.

The Taxman Is Catching Up On Cryptocurrency

Revenue agencies around the world are scrambling to figure out a way to tax cryptocurrency as governments are beginning to realize they are losing out on a vast source of revenue.

We’re now seeing how cryptocurrency would fit into our economy, and more people from institutions and the mainstream society starting to acknowledge them as a store of value and as a medium of exchange. Consequently, this would also mean tax obligations for miners, buyers, traders, merchants, and everyday users.

Here are things we need to know to prepare ourselves for the tax season. We’ll cover some important issues, fundamentals of taxation and how they would apply to our cryptocurrencies. But before we start, here at CryptMin and CryptEdu, we encourage you to always pay your taxes and report your capital gains to the government. It’s never fun having the taxman after you.

 

Tax Laws Are after It

Despite what people tell us in social media and cryptocurrency websites about privacy and anonymity, dealing with cryptocurrencies can leave behind footprints for the CRA or the IRS. Blockchain transactions are public records – everybody sees it, including your taxman.

The truth is blockchain transactions are more transparent than our traditional banking system. The key difference is the use of public keys instead of real names, which makes every transaction pseudonymous. However, since no two public keys are alike, once it gets tied to a real person’s name or company, authorities can easily track every transaction that was ever made with that public key. (Note: some “underground” cryptocurrencies encrypt their true addresses on the blockchain ledgers like Monero and Zcash, and thus more difficult to track.)

Some places where the CRA or the IRS can get a hold of your identity are cryptocurrency exchanges, online wallets, cloud mining sites, mining pools, and the social media. Although gateways are largely unregulated these days, it’s only a matter of time before governments and regulators will require each one of them to disclose information they have about their customers upon request.

Coinbase, for instance, are required to conduct KYC on their customers before they can start buying, selling, or trading on GDAX. Same is true with cloud mining sites when accepting payments from customers using their credit card or bank account. Genesis Mining does so whenever customers buy their mining contracts. They’ll have their customers’ public keys as well for payouts.

From the governments’ perspective, these are all treasure troves when looking for information about people who owes them money. Depending on the exchange, cloud mining company or the country they’re in, government agencies can have access to these customer data.

They could also set their sights on social media, particularly content creators in YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter who display their public keys for accepting donations, or even online stores who take cryptocurrency as payment for goods and services. And while customers and everyday users might get away with it by putting them in cold storage (mobile, hardware, or paper wallet), sooner or later, regulators will find a way to catch up on them as well.

 

Conflicting Views on Cryptocurrency

The IRA and CRA treats cryptocurrencies just like any asset. Their value may fluctuate from time to time, but until they go out and are sold in exchanges for fiat, holding these currencies is not a taxable event. A Capital gain tax will apply when selling cryptocurrencies in exchanges. However, determining the exact price on the date of acquisition is necessary to properly assess how much capital gain the seller is obliged to pay taxes for during the re-sell.

As you might expect, getting the numbers right on a person’s capital gain is going to take a lot of work and making sure every transaction in cryptocurrency exchanges are properly documented. It’s possible, for instance, that Coinbase would be asked to disclose their records for taxing purposes on each buy and sell and the dollar valuation on each individual transaction to see how much capital gain a customer has.

When using it to buy goods and services, or trading them with other cryptocurrencies, bartering laws will apply. This is where it gets a little tricky when you consider capital gains on your cryptocurrency for every purchase. For instance, you bought a thousand dollars’ worth of Bitcoin and decided to buy furniture with it when the value goes up by 50%.  The next month, you buy your furniture with Bitcoin which is currently priced at 1,500 USD. According to law, you’ll also have to pay for the gain tax as it is with bartering goods. In essence, you’re paying tax twice for buying furniture with Bitcoin – gain tax on Bitcoin and GST/HST on the furniture. And since you’re exchanging your digital asset on a short-term gain, it will be taxed just like a regular income which is the highest for capital gain tax.

Businesses will have to deal with the same problem when accepting cryptocurrency payments. If clients chose to pay with Bitcoin, which by definition is property/digital asset, they’ll have to report it as income (see the confusion?). This carries a lot of risk for business owners due to the volatility of cryptocurrencies. They might end up paying taxes on the sale despite the fact that the value of cryptocurrencies have already gone down.

 

Tax Implications for Miners, Traders, and Buyers

Regulators are catching up on cryptocurrencies fast. There will probably come a time when every cloud mining company, exchange, and wallet service in every country will be required to keep records about their customers in order to run their business. In this case, we need to prepare ourselves to avoid getting burned when the tax bill arrives.

Cloud mining companies can take advantage of tax deductions by writing off electrical and maintenance expenses in running their cloud mining facilities. This is a lot better than dodging regulations and taking a lot of risk of being caught and paying huge penalties or even losing the whole business. Technically speaking, cloud mining companies don’t pay out their customers – it’s a rental service. Whatever payout their customer receives depends on the mining pools they choose to join in and the currencies they want to mine with the hash power they bought from the cloud mining service. They might also take a cut from the mining rewards as a service charge on top of the rental fee or contract price (all depends on the cloud mining company). This is considered a taxable event, and laws regarding cryptocurrency transactions will apply.

Mining pools also take their share of the mining rewards as their service fee, usually around 1-4%, and hence, it is a taxable event according to laws on bartering, i.e. cryptocurrency for mining service. Exchanges and traders will be hit the hardest, especially day traders and swing traders. Under existing tax laws, short-term capital gains (assets acquired below one year) will be taxed as regular income. This applies, not only when cashing out and locking in their profits with fiat, but when buying other cryptocurrencies with it, e.g. buying Bitcoin with Ethereum.

Everyday users might also have to deal with this when buying or using cryptocurrencies for everyday transactions. Some complications may arise for buyers and business owners as mentioned earlier in this article.

Tax laws regarding cryptocurrencies still needs a lot of refinement; implementing it at its current state can be problematic and cause a lot of confusion. Sooner or later, our governments might come up with better tax laws regarding cryptocurrencies and begin the process of pursuing anyone who gets their hands on them. When the time arrives, we would have already prepared for such eventuality.

Interested in mining? Learn the basics of cryptocurrency mining at CryptEdu.com or start  hassle-free cloud mining at Cryptmin.com today.

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.

Interested in mining? Learn the basics of cryptocurrency mining at CryptEdu.com or start  hassle-free cloud mining at Cryptmin.com today.

Solving the Cryptocurrency Puzzle

Cryptocurrency gives people a glimpse of what our financial system could look like in the next five to ten years. From its infancy, we’ve already seen the potential of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum to revolutionize traditional banking through a system of payment which doesn’t require intermediaries.

This method is proving itself as a fast, reliable, and cost-effective means of communicating value, touted by enthusiasts as the Internet of money, far better than our centuries-old banking system with its painfully slow and costly transactions. However, in recent years, we’re starting to see some of its growing pains as it goes through the slow process of mass adoption.

Developers are now looking into these problems with a renewed sense of urgency as cryptocurrencies gear towards mainstream integration. It is expected for the next couple of years to be the most turbulent in all of cryptocurrency history, and one which will decide the fate of our status quo.

 

In Search of the Missing Piece

Blockchain protocols lend to the blockchain’s immutability and varying degrees of decentralization. Like any software, they are far from being perfect. There are over a thousand cryptocurrencies in circulation today, and all of them will have to somehow deal with their own issues one way or the other.

Bitcoin has had a number of BIPs to solve this lingering problem of slow confirmations. By mid-2017, they managed to increase the block’s capacity by almost double without causing compatibility issues with old, existing wallets. With the adoption of Segwit, Bitcoin accomplished two things at once: fixed a software glitch (transaction malleability), and reduced confirmation times.

However, such measure won’t guarantee a long-term, let alone permanent solution, to Bitcoin’s transaction woes. At the time of writing, there are over **50,000 pending transactions in Bitcoin’s blockchain mempool, waiting to be confirmed, and they’re constantly piling up at a rate of 2-3 unconfirmed transactions per second. Developers have been working round the clock testing and finalizing Lightning Network for Bitcoin, the success of which will enable Bitcoin to break the sound barrier and bring this whole debate of scalability into a close.

(**That number went down to <2,000 unconfirmed transactions, probably due to increased Segwit adoption by wallet users and providers, or to some early adopters of the Lightning Network.)

Ethereum has had its own share of problems and fixes, most notably the Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) attack of June 2016 and the hard fork that ensued to prevent further loss of funds. Smart contracts is one of Ethereum’s major selling point which enabled contracting parties to make an agreement that executes after satisfying certain conditions, or rolls back if it hasn’t.

Ethereum’s biggest hurdle is the ominous “difficulty bomb” built into the system which makes it nearly impossible to mine without incurring losses to miners after a certain point in time. Hence, the only solution is to migrate from a “proof of work” to a “proof of stake” method of confirming transactions. With the release of the Casper update for Ethereum, they hope to achieve exponential rate of confirmations and scalability in preparation for worldwide adoption.

 

The Proof of Work Concept

Proof of work had its roots in the early 90s to deter users from launching denial of service (DoS) attacks performed by spamming websites and establishments with superfluous requests. Interestingly, proof of work was also coined from the standpoint of giving value to a currency like the shell money used by inhabitants of the Solomon Islands.

Proof of work underpins major currencies such as Bitcoin, Etherium, Bitcoin Cash, and Litecoin in confirming transactions on a blockchain, which can only be achieved through mining. Proof of work helps create a system which is resistant to fraud and hacking since there are no viable means to circumvent the process except by brute-forcing through an inordinate number of trial-and-error.

In proof of work, only truth matters, in this case, the correct nonce and the corresponding hash which would allow transactions to be confirmed. In return, miners are rewarded for their efforts and new units of currencies are created and added into their accounts (hence the idea of mining).

Such method opens up the possibility of individuals with the most powerful mining hardware taking control, and in effect centralizing all the hash power to an elite few. Thus, a self-regulating mechanism was put in place to assure that only a specific number of confirmations can be done at a given time (difficulty increases/decreases with the network’s hashing capability).

Bitcoin also has several BIPs to increase network efficiency, such as the inclusion of mining fees. With this, they hope to alleviate congestion by putting a premium on higher transaction fees and eliminating the possibility of saboteurs spamming the network with high volumes of worthless micro-transactions.

As it turns out, some solutions can also have unforeseen consequences down the line, namely, difficulties with scaling. The first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, was not really intended for everyday use but only as an alternative means of exchanging value outside the realm of government regulations. Scaling would not have been an issue back then. However, much has changed, and more countries and businesses are looking towards cryptocurrency as the way forward to their old and antiquated monetary system.

 

Proof of Stake and Its Potential Risks

Proof of stake adds another twist to the way transactions are confirmed. Similar to mining, participants validate and confirm transactions which are added on top of the blockchain. However, instead of using hash power, they would stake their currencies and lock them up for each round of staking. It also requires continuous uptime in order to be chosen by the algorithm, and, by being chosen, confirm transactions, and receive their rewards.

There are many nuances on how proof of stake are implemented in various cryptocurrencies based on how they try to mitigate the risks associated with staking, e.g. monopolozing, inflation rates, and network stability. Most prominent among cryptocurrencies which use proof of stake includes Peercoin, Blackcoin, Nextcoin, Bitcoin Plus, Cardano (premined) and soon to be Ethereum Casper update.

Staking is touted by several crypto-enthusiasts as the only road to scalability and worldwide adoption because it solves a lot of issues with associated with mining which uses proof of work such as power consumption and confirmation times. Although plausible with proof of stake being cost-effective and faster than proof of work, it could quickly turn into a can of worms if not implemented correctly.

Proof of stake tend to favour “stakers” (the equivalent of “miners” using proof of work) with huge quantities of currencies in reserve as they could handily beat small-time stakers with the increasing level of difficulty. Stakers can do the same thing as did every miner, creating a pool of stakers or the so-called master nodes to consolidate all their assets and have a fighting (or “winning”) chance of being randomly selected by the algorithm to confirm transactions.

Some proof of stake implementation prevents monopoly by capping the amount of currency that could be staked, “coin age,” and ticket waiting times. Putting a limit to staked currencies is intended to level the playing field for everybody and encourage more people to participate in staking. On the other hand, coin age and ticket waiting times regulate the frequency participants can stake, Peercoin, for instance, is set to a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of 90 days.

Inflation and network stability are some of the common issues with a proof of stake protocol. Developers are careful enough not to overdo one aspect over the other and seal off potential gaps and loopholes that can cause instability or discourage people from participating. Most proof of stake protocols and algorithms are still in the process of development and rigorous testing. The much anticipated Casper update for Ethereum could be released anytime this year, effectively moving to proof of stake through a hard fork.

 

Ripple and the Consensus Protocol

Consensus seems to be the antithesis of a decentralized method of confirming transactions which rely on proof of work or proof of stake. At its core, it is a trust-based method whereby transactions or any form of agreement between two parties are validated and confirmed by way of consensus. The result is almost instantaneous confirmations, averaging at a rate of 1500 transactions per second.

Ripple breaks the mould by being the first to implement the cryptocurrency version of the “hawala” system, allowing it to deliver lightning fast transactions outputs consistently at only fractions of a penny. However, there is an obvious downside with this kind of method. Despite having the trappings of decentralization as one of the cryptocurrencies listed in exchanges, it is, by all accounts, a centralized currency backed by tech giants and financial institutions.

Unlike mining and staking, there are no incentives as a “validator,” except that fact you earn more trust and contribute to the stability of the whole network. Validators are usually large entities like banks and commercial establishments which might benefit from it through cross-border transactions. However, since all the currencies that will ever exist are already pre-mined, the currency’s value and every asset tied to it are at the mercy of whoever holds the majority of it (hint: 55% is held in escrow by Ripple).

 

The Lightning Network and the New Bitcoin

The proposed Lightning Network solution for Bitcoin, Ethereum’s plan on moving to proof of stake, and Ripple’s meteoric rise towards the end of 2017 sends a strong signal to the cryptocurrency community and to the world that a major change in the current financial system is forthcoming.

Lightning Network, if successful, will usher the golden age of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general. In so doing, we might also have a slightly different view about the new Bitcoin, particularly with its strong stance for decentralization. We might have to welcome the possibility of having off-chain payment channels and smart contracts to communicate with the blockchain instead of having every wallet users transmit countless numbers of micro-transactions to the blockchain every single time. The result would be a dramatic increase in transaction outputs, and the ability to scale with a fast-growing number of users.

Lightning Network could be the missing piece of the puzzle, the final solution to Bitcoin’s scalability issues, and the last hurdle towards worldwide adoption. But it is, by no means, the only way. If, for some reason, Lightning Network failed to materialize, it would not be the end of the road for Bitcoin. It would just be the beginning of a long journey towards perfection and worldwide adoption.

 

Interested in mining? Learn the basics of cryptocurrency mining at CryptEdu.com or start  hassle-free cloud mining at Cryptmin.com today.