Should You Use Libra? – Understanding the True Intentions behind Facebook’s Cryptocurrency

Facebook Libra

Facebook has made it official, confirming suspicions about a blockchain project they’ve been working on for more than a year. Libra is Facebook’s next step to becoming a dominant force in FinTech sector.

Crypto-users saw this as a nod to cryptocurrency as an established payment option, but for some, it’s just a way to lure people away from traditional banks and payment services.

One Currency for Everyone

Throughout history world currencies has been associated with the most powerful countries like the British pound sterling and the US dollar. Whoever has control of the globally accepted currency has the potential of affecting the world’s economy.

Facebook’s announcement cannot be taken lightly. With roughly 30% of the world’s population currently on Facebook, it’s not hard to see why Libra can cause massive disruption in the financial sector. Crypto users estimated to be around 25 million pales in comparison to the sheer volume of would-be Libra users including the unbanked and the underserved.

This could lead to the rise of a “supercurrency” where only one currency exists for cashless, online, and cross-border transactions. As technology improves and more people gain access to free internet, digital currency and cashless transactions will become the norm, and fiat currency as we know it will cease to exist.

How Libra Works in a Nutshell

We’ve seen some attempts to create a borderless currency in the late 20th century like the gold-backed dollar, or more recently cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Facebook decides to do things differently.

Libra aims to be the first borderless currency with the stability of state-backed fiat and the security features of blockchain technology. It’s a stable coin like Tether and TrueUSD, but with some level of decentralization that employs validator nodes (a total of 100 nodes) to process transactions. There are currently 28 which includes Visa, Mastercard, Coinbase, Paypal, Ebay, and Facebook.

Libra will also address the problem of slow transaction throughputs encountered by decentralized currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Whereas Bitcoin could only make seven transactions per second (TPS), Libra can process up to a thousand. That’s five times faster than PayPal, although much slower compared to Visa’s 1700 to 4000 TPS. Still, Libra is a significant improvement to many large cap cryptocurrencies in terms of transaction speed.

Unlike most coins listed on Coinmarketcap, Libra isn’t meant to be traded but is a way to store wealth outside of banks and financial institutions and making cashless transactions. Facebook, along with Libra’s founding members will put together a “Libra reserve” where all of people’s money will be pooled together creating an immense repository of all the world’s currencies. It’s like Facebook having its own “superbank.” This can have severe consequences on traditional banking and, if successful, could lead to closures.

Calibra – Facebook’s Wallet &Payment Processor

Facebook will have its own wallet and payment processing app known as “Calibra” which is distinct from the social media platform and the messaging app. Hence, all transactions made by users on the app are not mingled with user activity on social media. Facebook assures data will be stored anonymously for research purposes and will not be used to market goods and services to people on social media. Thus, if you buy a new pair of sports shoes with Libra through your Calibra wallet, you won’t be bombarded with ads of sports items on social media. Whatever shows up on your newsfeed still depends on your browsing activity.

This, in a way, prevents another Cambridge Analytica type of situation where tech giants and corporations could take advantage of user information for their own good. Meanwhile, this would encourage a lot of businesses to advertise on Facebook as more people get attracted to the idea of using instant,cashless, borderless transactions much cheaper than traditional bank transfers and payment services. Question is, can we trust Facebook with our money and spending habits?

A Friend or Foe of the Government

By allowing Facebook to gain access to the financial sector, governments can achieve what it failed to do with permission-less, decentralized, censorship-resistant currencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, or the untraceable privacy coin like Monero. Unlike Bitcoin, Libra is a “permissioned” coin in which validator nodes (the founding members of Libra Association), have been selected based on a given criteria. These are usually multinational companies with at least $10 million staked on the Libra project.

This puts every node under the radar, and governments could very easily knock on their doors and make demands of them. Think of what this could mean to your privacy. Would it be worth the risk in exchange for a much cheaper and faster way to use money? For the 1.7 billion unbanked, and the rest of the world’s population suffering from high fees, it is a much better alternative to being denied from or being constantly ripped off with fees that are considered discriminatory. They just want to use money the way it supposed to work.

On the other hand, Facebook Libra could turn into a “mono-bank” where all of the world’s currency is sucked into. Facebook can turn the table on traditional financial institutions by depriving them of customers on the payments side. Furthermore, if Facebook succeeds in holding the majority of people’s wealth in Libra reserve, banks will slowly lose their ability as informed lenders while Libra gains the upper hand by becoming a lender itself.

Conclusion

Facebook is playing the long game in its bid to become the most dominant force in cashless, borderless transactions and online advertising. This is a crucial moment which will decide the fate of many traditional financial institutions. They can either make concessions or slug it out to the bitter end. But ultimately, it will depend on us, users, from all countries across the globe whether Facebook’s vision of putting us all under one currency will come to fruition.

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.

Why Airdrops Might Be the Next Big Thing for Cryptocurrency

A lot of governments are trying to regulate or censor cryptocurrency but closing doors on them only leads to new and innovative pathways to get around these obstacles. In fact, people can fly over these obstacles and drop them out of the sky – an airdrop.

Airdrops are free cryptocurrencies and tokens waiting to be claimed. As part of their initiative to spread the word, blockchain companies and startups have set aside a portion of their crypto-assets to do several of those –basically free coins for the taking.

 

Airdrops as an Effective Marketing Tool

Businesses use different strategies to get customers, but there is one particular method which always seems to make an impact regardless of the industry they’re in. Giving something valuable for free would almost always elicit a positive response from potential customers.

In the context of blockchain businesses, an airdrop is the equivalent of giving away product samples or gift cards to encourage buyers and users to take the next step. It might be as simple as coming back to learn more about the cryptocurrency or ICO (creating traffic to the website) or spreading the news about an airdrop. If the project seemed very promising, they might choose to join the ICO or buy more tokens to qualify for upcoming airdrops.

Airdrops have already been used for quite some time to raise awareness about a blockchain project or startup. They’re becoming more widespread as blockchain businesses move away from online and social media advertising and adopt censorship-free promotions. People can get information about airdrops from airdrop hosting sites like Airdropalert.com, Airdrops.io, ICOdrops.com, and forum sites like Bitcointalk.

 

Airdrops Target Specific Users

Despite recent advances in A.I., paid advertising is essentially a hit-and-miss strategy. Airdrops increase the likelihood of user engagement because they only target specific users. People who come to airdrop hosting sites might have learned about them through word-of-mouth, or they might have stumbled upon airdrops out of their own curiosity.

The target audience are most likely users with some experience dealing with cryptocurrencies. They’ll have their own Bitcoin, Ethereum, or wallets that support multiple currencies, and have already used them for quite some time. The other part are newcomers who wants to learn more about cryptocurrencies and get some free coins.

The chance of having successful adoption for every airdropped cryptocurrency or token is a lot better than if they were spent on paid advertisements which are a lot more expensive and don’t guarantee success. Think of it in terms of how Costco built their business. They didn’t (and still don’t) spend a lot of money on commercials or advertising. This ensures they keep their prices competitive with other large bulk discount stores. Instead, they use free samples of cheese, condiments, salad dressing etc as an incentive to increase sales and transactions in the store. Essentially airdrops allow crypto companies to become the next Costco.

 

How Airdrops Work

Airdrops use a different cryptocurrency or token (usually Bitcoin, Ethereum, or ERC20 tokens like EOS) as giveaways to promote their own. Blockchain startups and ICOs rarely publish airdrops on Google or Facebook, if at all. They’re usually listed in airdrop hosting sites where users can check the status of the airdrop and provide links to these sites.

There are basically three ways to airdrop.

Taking snapshots of the blockchain. Blockchain projects will set a date for taking snapshots of the blockchain. If you happened to make a Bitcoin or Ethereum transaction during the snapshot, you might soon find some free cryptocurrencies or tokens sitting in your wallet. In most cases, people are aware about the airdrop and learned them through airdrop hosting sites.

Requiring users to sign up for the airdrop. Some airdrops will require information about the recipients, especially their wallet addresses, emails, telegram, or twitter accounts. It’s basically a marketing strategy to get more users onboard and start a community. Unfortunately, not all airdrops are real or have value; some are used as a ploy to get information from users. Steer clear from airdrops asking for sensitive personal information or private keys.

During a hard fork. Blockchain projects can create free coins by forking an already existing blockchain. They usually have a community working on a blockchain project based on the original. Users get an equivalent amount of “free coins” depending on how much they own prior to the fork. They’ll get free cryptocurrencies tradable for fiat every time the blockchain forks. Bitcoin has had three forks since 2017: Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Gold, and Bitcoin Private.

Some airdrops will incorporate a referral system where users get additional coins free for every successful invite. Others require users to have a specific amount of cryptocurrencies or tokens to become eligible for the airdrop. Dapps which are set to launch on the EOS blockchain once EOS migrates from the Ethereum blockchain will give away tokens based on the amount of EOS tokens users have.

 

Conclusion

Cryptocurrency companies will always have a plethora of ways to market and promote themselves. But whatever strategy a company chooses, airdrops should like be included in that strategy, especially with the constant updates to advertising rules on Facebook and Google.  In fact, online and social media advertising might no longer be a huge traffic driver even if these companies choose to lift the restrictions on cryptocurrency. Try as they may, there seems to be no limit on the number of ways cryptocurrency communities can innovate and stay censorship-free.

Gone Hunting – How Bounty Hunters Are Pushing Borders for Cryptocurrency

Bounty hunters conjure up images of the Wild West where people search for outlaws to get rewards. (Blame Hollywood for that.) In a decentralized world of cryptocurrencies, bounties are given to anyone who fulfils a given task or solve a particular problem, not with cash but with cryptocurrencies and tokens.

So why talk about bounties when people could just get them through mining contracts or buying from exchanges? We’ll look at the implications of bounty hunting for cryptocurrency and why this could help solve specific problems the industry is currently facing.

 

Bounty Systems in the Cryptocurrency Space

Cryptocurrency goes beyond cashless, decentralized peer-to-peer payment systems by adding a new sector of the cryptocurrency economy. Primarily a mining industry, it quickly grew to include trading, investing, blockchain startups, ICOs, and now, a system of rewarding people for offering their work to the community.

With the arrival of bounty systems in the cryptocurrency space, we might well be seeing a revival of interest in rebuilding a decentralized economy. Bounty hunting invites everyone to participate without spending a dime on expensive mining equipment, or putting investor’s money on the line. All it takes is a range of skills in online marketing, coding, and a little bit of “hunting.”

Bounty hunting programs come in many forms. The most popular ones include signature campaigns, content creation, social media likes and/or posts, debugging, and coding. There are even bounties for tracking down hackers, fraudsters, and cyber-criminals; almost like a bounty hunter in a real sense.

 

 

Building Stronger Communities with Bounties

More people are taking interests in bounty hunting as barriers to entry in the crypto-space become more challenging during the past few months (crackdown on ICOs, mining farms, and cryptocurrency exchanges). Bounty systems provide a clever solution to get around excessive prohibitions and create an environment which could benefit all members of the community using their own resources.

Development teams and startups have benefitted a lot from bounty hunting programs. It accelerated the process of building new applications for blockchain and raising awareness about cryptocurrency by outsourcing some of the best talents in the cryptocurrency community. In return “hunters” are given cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, or ICO tokens as bounties.

ICOs have saved a lot on marketing campaigns by using their own tokens as rewards. Bancor (BNT), and Iconomi (ICN), are just a few examples of successful ICOs that used bounty system as part of their marketing strategy. Some bounties were also offered for bug fixes. Status (SNT), had been giving away $1 million worth of tokens to anyone who can submit potential solutions to bugs in their software.

 

 

Bounty Hunters Reshaping the Online Industry

Global freelancing sites were among the first to “decentralize” the jobs market, allowing both sides to find the right people for the job, and the most rewarding work aside from the usual 9-5 jobs. Competitive industries such as online marketing, advertising, and software development come to these sites to fill the gaps in their workforce or hire additional personnel on a shoestring budget.

Bounty hunting sites might well become the future of decentralized freelancing for blockchain businesses. Bitcointalk.org, Bounty0x.io are among the few sites which offer bounty hunting programs for tasks like:

 

  • Signature Campaign
  • Content Creation
  • Social Media Posts/Tweets
  • Coding and Debugging Software
  • Translating into Different Languages

 

Majority of bounty hunting programs aims at increasing people’s awareness about a new blockchain project and cryptocurrencies as a whole. Cryptocurrency is pretty much uncharted territory as a niche topic for most content creators. Hence, competition for writers and YouTube creators in the cryptocurrency industry may not be as tough as popular ones. Likewise, bounty hunting can also be an alternative source of income for coders with some background in distributed systems. Finally, people can work as translators for their ICO company’s whitepaper, any cryptocurrency for that matter.

For blockchain companies who bank on Google and Facebook for advertising, this seems to be the best, if not the only recourse, to circumvent their decision to ban cryptocurrency-related advertising on their platforms. But this might only be just the beginning, and cryptocurrency community could come up with more creative ways to grow without them. (Hint: the Internet, by design, is a decentralized network and has no single point of failure).

On the bright side of things, blockchain companies won’t be spending much on paid Google and Facebook ads. Instead, they can allocate their resources as bounties to spread the word about cryptocurrency or about a new startup company.

 

Some Potential Drawbacks to Keep in Mind

Bounty systems are also a potential for misuse, especially ICOs and promoters of cryptocurrencies who might use them for their pump-and-dump schemes. Bounty hunters might not realize they had a hand in spreading FOMO on an ICO or worthless cryptocurrency until it’s too late.

Bounty hunters might also end up with nothing after spending hours fulfilling the bounty task, or their tokens turn out to have very little value after the ICO. Not all bounty hunting programs are legit or turn out as expected. We still have to do our research and due diligence to have a high chance of success.

 

Conclusion

Bounty hunting as a two-way process helps build our cryptocurrency community. It calls on everyone, from every part of the world to participate in a global effort to bring cryptocurrency and blockchain technology into perfection. By doing so, we’re also sharing with everyone the very thing that runs our cryptocurrency economy.

How to Spot a Cryptocurrency Scam

Whenever you see red flags, it’s best to stay away and not get involved. How do you detect so-called red flags? Most often than not, it’s a gut feeling that something is not right or something is off. That’s all great, you might say, but what if you don’t have very good intuition. If that’s the case we’ve put together a list of signs you can watch out for. 

Exaggerated claims or guaranteed payouts. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a “guaranteed” payout in most kinds of investments. There’s always the risk of losing. In fact, out of every 10 trades, only one or two of them turn out to be winners. Some investors do get lucky, but they account for less than 1% of the population. To put into perspective, if someone assures you of winning the lottery, you’re pretty sure the game is rigged or the person is a scammer.

Nonexistent businesses or fake photos of their premises. Investment scams are easily caught when doing a fact-check on their base of operations and business offices – you won’t find any. That alone tells you they don’t want to be found by people asking for their money when the scam blows up.

A lot of unverified facts and/or shady past:. Doing a fact-check on these people behind the scams can also raise a red flag. It’s either they don’t exist or they have a previous history of scamming other people and being involved in one of their elaborate displays of opulence and extravaganzas. Remember their names and steer clear from anything that has to do with them.

You see a lot of complaints when you Google search. Scammers are cleverer these days, using the word “scam” as one of their SEO keywords to trick people into clicking these links to know if they really are. Instead, they end up going to one of their landing pages or paid reviews and articles promoting their company or explaining why they are not a scam. This might not always be true with all companies and cryptocurrencies that has the word “scam” in search suggestions, but suffice to say, scammers are using this tactic to get people involved.

Tech-savvy investors can turn the tables on these scammers by using the same tool they trick people with – the Internet. Research and cryptocurrency education are your best allies to thrive in today’s technology-driven world.

That said, we’ll end this blog post with a cryptocurrency investment “hall of shame.” These are companies that have unfortunately scammed people of their money and disappear with the profits.

The Hall of Shame

Gladiacoin – founded in November 26, 2016, this ponzi scheme promised to double Bitcoin in 90 days, which include 2.2% payout dividend. It folded on June 2017 with investors losing millions of dollars. Gladiacoin can no longer be reached in their now-defunct website https://www.gladiacoin.com/. Their coin was never listed in Coinmarketcap.

Onecoin a ponzi scheme which promoted a cryptocurrency with a “private blockchain” and run by people who have been previously involved in these shady investment scams. Authorities began shutting down Onecoin’s offshore offices in 2017 and have people arrested and filed appropriate charges to perpetrators, including the CEO.

Bitconnect generally regarded as a pump-and-dump and ponzi scheme for its high-yield investment program. It reached an all-time high when it was listed as one of the top 20 cryptocurrencies in Coinmarketcap at $460 apiece, and folded in January 2018 at only $5.92. Thousands have lost their savings, retirements, and are now in huge debts for buying cryptocurrencies which is now a little more (or less) than a dollar. It is now ranked 554 in Coinmarketcap at $0.9 apiece.

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)

Should I Invest In Initial Coin Offerings?

Blockchain projects and start-ups open up a new world of opportunities for many cryptocurrency investors and venture capitalists. Initial coin offering allows investors to gain a decisive edge as pioneers and early adopters of new cryptocurrencies, and the latest applications and innovations in blockchain technology.

There’s a lot of success in recent Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) of 2017, raising more than 3 billion USD in capital investments and token sales. (More about this later.) It became the latest buzz since Ethereum, and today we have more than 600 tokens created through these events – and counting.

However, ICOs recently came under fire and had been thoroughly scrutinized, or banned outright in some countries, due to their mostly unregulated status and reports of unsuspecting investors losing thousands, or even millions of dollars in ICO scams. In fact according to a report by the Wall Street Journal, around $300 million was money raised by coin offerings has gone to fraud or scams.

In this chapter, we’ll look at ICOs from a well-founded, and unbiased point of view, considering both pros and cons to help us come up with our own financial decisions whether or not to invest in them.

 

What are Initial Coin Offerings?

An initial coin offering is the stage or period in the development of a blockchain project where start-up companies or a group of people generate funds through crowdselling – a form of crowdfunding that issues tokens to contributors. Upon completion, creators and organizers of an ICO would launch the project (cryptocurrency, blockchain app, platform, etc.) and distribute tokens to all its participants. Some ICOs have their tokens already listed and traded in exchanges before the network launch to stimulate hype and move its value up through market price actions (e.g., EOS).

Some investors and regulators compare ICOs to initial public offerings (IPOs) because they’re both used to generate funds by issuing financial instruments tradable in a public exchange. However, such reference is made irrespective of the time of their execution.

Unlike IPOS, most ICOs are done when start-up companies have yet to prove themselves, and there’s nothing to back their claims except for several pages of whitepaper outlining their business model or concept. Participants usually buy indirectly through the ICO’s website and receive their tokens at a specified distribution date.

IPOs, on the other hand, are done on a public exchange, after companies have long been established and have already proven their worth. The main goal of an IPO is to raise capital to support its operations and to grow the company on a massive scale.

The financial instruments issued by ICOs and IPOs may also be classified as securities, but they may not exactly be of the same type. Tokens sold prior to, or within an ICO period are considered IOUs or (loosely) bonds with a set face value. After a successful launch, tokens are issued to all the participants, at which point, they may no longer be considered IOUs or bonds, but more like shares in an IPO where their value is determined by the market. But the main purpose of ICOs and IPOs from an investor’s point of view is essentially the same.

Currently, there are no fixed regulations about ICOs. However, there are a few who perform KYC on their contributors. It’s the mostly unregulated status of ICOs that make investing in these blockchain-based ventures extremely high-risk. But on a positive note, they can also be extremely profitable by as much as tenfold compared to other markets. In contrast, IPOs are highly regulated and closely monitored by authorities to protect the rights of investors. Certified investors in an IPO must also meet certain qualifications before they can be allowed to invest on a stock.

ICOs typically last for several weeks and may consist of token sale “rounds.” Prices of tokens increase in value with every round. Some ICOs run for months and had their tokens already listed on exchanges before the project launches. There’s also a pre-sale or pre-ICO where tokens are sold at wholesale prices to institutional investors and some small investors to jumpstart the project. Some pre-ICOs offer perks and exclusive bonuses to early adopters.

ICOs can be a great way to raise funds, and not just for companies looking to create a new cryptocurrency. Anybody from traditional companies, tech companies, and even Venezuela is getting in on the act. However, the United States is trying to block American citizens from purchasing the digital currency issued by Venezuela which, according to President Nicolas Maduro, raised $5 Billion.

In fact, ICOs have become a new mode of crowdfunding, blending investment returns with the possibility of an actual physical product.  Indiegogo, the crowdfunding platform is testing out a new product where you can invest in ICOs and blockchain. The first ICO they helped sell tokens for was called The Fan-Controlled Football League, a fantasy-style league which lets the football audience decide everything in real time. They are selling up to $5 million worth of tokens.

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.

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.