Argentinian Bank Drops Out of SWIFT, Favors Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency

According to Toshi Times, Jose Dakak, the principal shareholder of Argentinian bank Banco Masventas, has stated that the bank will drop out from the global financial network SWIFT and begin utilizing the Bitcoin blockchain network to settle international payments.

Can Bitcoin Replace SWIFT?

Through a strategic partnership with Bitex, a cryptocurrency payment service provider based in South America, Dakak explained that the bank will outsource the conversion process of bitcoin to fiat currencies to Bitex, which will then send bitcoin to the recipient. The end cost would be the bitcoin transaction fee that is sent to the miners that verify transactions on the blockchain and the fee charged by Bitex.

“The service allows you to reduce costs associated with international transfers as there are no international banks as intermediaries,” said Banco Masventas.

Dakak noted that one of the initial actions the bank took to streamline the implementation process of bitcoin was to cooperate with the Bitex development team to ensure recipients of bitcoin payments can seamlessly receive cryptocurrency transactions without boundaries. Dakak stated:

“One of the actions was to contract Bitex as a strategic partner in the implementation of the Bitex platform for payments and collections operations for our clients abroad.”

The SWIFT network, which is utilized by the world’s biggest banks and financial institutions, is essentially a messaging network that enables banks to share information. Sending a payment from one bank to another requires a message to be sent on the SWIFT network, which has to be verified manually.

Sending international payments and remittance transactions on the SWIFT network can take at least five business days to three weeks, depending on the size of the payment. Because most international payments processed by banks are large, it often takes more than a week for the payment to be cleared.

argentina bitcoin
Source: Shutterstock

Bitcoin is not the most flexible blockchain network and it does not have the biggest capacity. But, it is the most robust blockchain protocol with the longest track record, equipped with one of the most active open-source development groups in the industry. Its transparency and security allow the Bitcoin network to operate as a reliable financial network for international payments.

Moreover, most international payments sent by banks, as stated above, are often large transactions that cannot be processed by remittance outlets. Although bitcoin transaction fees could be an issue for $1 to $10 payments, for payments above $1,000, the bitcoin transaction fee is a non-issue.

Why is SWIFT Still Used?

The SWIFT network is not only operated by leading banks by owned by the world’s biggest financial institutions. As such, even though the SWIFT network is outdated and utilizes an inferior technology, banks have the obligation to use it. That is, until minor banks like Bank Masventas opt out of the SWIFT network and begin to leverage public financial networks like bitcoin, which are completely decentralized and peer-to-peer.

Other banks have started to pilot blockchain protocols like Ripple and Ethereum to process international payments, which could be crucial in demonstrating the potential of cryptocurrency as an alternative to the global finance sector in the long-term.

China Ranks Ethereum as the World’s Best Blockchain Network, Bitcoin at #13

On May 17, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released its public blockchain ratings, ranking various blockchain projects like Ethereum in the global cryptocurrency sector based on three criteria: technology, application, and innovation.

Bitcoin at #13

As shown in the chart below, the Chinese government ranked Ethereum as the world’s best blockchain network at number 1. The top five included Ethereum, Steem, Lisk, NEO, and Komodo, all of which utilize smart contracts to efficiently and securely process information in a decentralized manner.

cnLedger@cnLedger
Replying to @cnLedger

3/ Full list:
1-5: #ETH, #STEEM, #LSK, #NEO, #KMD
6-10: #XLM, #ADA, #IOTA, #XMR, #STRAT
11-15: #QTUM, #BTS, #BTC, #XVG, #WAVES
16-20: #ETC, #XRP, #DASH, #SC, #BCN
21-25:#LTC, #ARK, #ZEC, #NANO, #BCH
26-28: #DCR, #HSR, #XEM

cnLedger@cnLedger

4/ Detailed scores of the first crypto ratings by CCID Research, China’s Ministry of Industry & Information Technology pic.twitter.com/7LiJIWokge

View image on Twitter

The addition of Steem in the top five rankings of the Chinese government’s blockchain network was unexpected by the community because unlike Lisk and NEO, Steem is not a base layer blockchain technology that can be used to create decentralized applications. Steem is a content distribution platform based on the blockchain with a primary purpose of distributing content. Essentially, Steem is like Reddit based on the decentralized blockchain.

Another surprising addition to its top 10 rankings was Monero at number 9, given that several governments including the Japanese government and its financial services agency (FSA) have expressed their concerns towards cryptocurrencies like Monero and Zcash that are capable of processing anonymous payments that could be associated with money laundering and criminal activities.

The cryptocurrency community was taken aback by the ranking of bitcoin at 13, which was co-ranked with privacy-focused cryptocurrency Verge. The bitcoin community was understandably outraged by the ranking of bitcoin at 13, considering that bitcoin has the longest track record as the most secure and dominant cryptocurrency in the global market.

The argument that bitcoin’s application is limited to a form of money and payment is illogical, as the Chinese government ranked Steem, which has a single application on its blockchain network that is a content distribution platform, as the 2nd best blockchain network behind Steem.

More importantly, bitcoin has one of the most active open source development communities in the global cryptocurrency sector and it has developed innovative technologies like Confidential Transactions (CT), Bulletproofs, and Lightning Network, which allows developers to enable private transactions, process micro-payments, and with solutions like RootStock, potentially allow bitcoin to function as an Ethereum-like smart contracts platform.

Exceeded Expectations

The majority of the cryptocurrency community expected the Chinese government to rank private blockchain networks and protocols that can assist the government in surveillance or monitoring transactions at the top. Hence, the ranking of the government which placed cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Monero demonstrate the intent of the government to remain objective in its assessment.

However, analysts have stated that the Chinese government has overlooked the long track record, hashrate, computing power, and accumulated difficulty of major blockchain networks like bitcoin and prioritized next-generation blockchain networks instead.

Earlier this month, South China Morning Post, a major publication based in Hong Kong, reported that China’s public blockchain rankings were developed by China Center for Information Industry Development (CIID), an institute that works closely with the government to advise on policymaking in technology.

The high ranking of Ethereum and smart contract blockchain networks could influence the government to potentially allow some blockchain networks to operate in China.

Bitcoin Price Moves To $9,000 With Strong Momentum

The bitcoin price has surpassed $8,800 after rising more than 6 percent over the past 24 hours. Volumes across major cryptocurrency exchanges remain strong and the daily trading volume of the market has increased past $26 billion for the first time over the past month.

$9,200

On March 21, the bitcoin price tested the $9,200 support level but failed to sustain momentum for mid-term growth and fell below the $6,500 mark within two weeks after struggling to bounce off $8,200.

At this juncture, it is likely that the bitcoin price tests the $9,200 level it had touched in late March, and a movement past that level would lead the bitcoin price to the $10,000 region by the end of April.

In November 2017, investors described the $10,000 mark as a psychological threshold and a key milestone. At the time, traders predicted the price of bitcoin to surge substantially subsequent to surpassing $10,000. Almost immediately after breaking into the $10,000 region, the bitcoin price surged to $14,000 and eventually to $20,000.

Since the initial correction of bitcoin in February, the market has not been able to demonstrate any sign of stability. The price of most alternative cryptocurrencies (altcoins) and tokens followed the short-term trend of bitcoin and the volume of regional exchanges in Japan and South Korea significantly decreased.

Fundamentally, bitcoin is in an ideal position to initiate a new rally in both the short and mid-term, given that the adoption of cryptocurrency in general has started to increase. Moveover, in late 2017, the majority of speculators who bought into the cryptocurrency market did so out of FOMO, or fear of missing out, without solid knowledge in the structure and fundamentals of cryptocurrencies.

Over the past five months, the awareness of cryptocurrency has increased drastically and a substantially large number of individuals have started to understand the basics of decentralized financial networks and cryptocurrencies.

As such, fintech company Smart Valor CEO Olga Feldmeier stated that in the next two years, the bitcoin price will reach a value of $100,000, and within 2018, the bitcoin price will surpass its previous high at $20,000.

“I believe that we will see a comeback to the height achieved at the end of 2017 this year. Over the next two years I still predict we could see it reach a value of $100,000,” Olga told The Independent.

Rise of Altcoins

Throughout this week, CCN reported that the altcoin season may have started with strong consistent performances of small cryptocurrencies and tokens. Today, several tokens like STORM have recorded a gain of above 30 percent against bitcoin and about 40 percent against the US dollar.

Investors have gained more confidence in the cryptocurrency market and are now willing to take more risks by investing in cryptocurrencies with higher volatility and lower liquidity.

Still, in an interview with FT, Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin stated that the valuation of most altcoins or tokens cannot be justified and are overblown. “There’s projects that never had a soul, that are just like, ra-ra, price go up. Lambo, vrromm, buybuybuy now!” Buterin said.

Bitcoin: The Return of The King

Most of you have seen this little, tiny, minuscule, almost invisible jump in volume that happen on the 12th April 2018. So far, it has been the singular highest jump in volume ever seen as market cap went from ~ $270 Billion to ~ $300 Billion. It means around $30 Billion were added to the market in less than 3 hours.

Bitcoin’s dominance remains over 40% and I suspect it will continue to rise as most money that just entered the market should be institutional. There are some strong contenders, like Ripple, due to the nature of the backers (mainly banks and financial institutions).

Nevertheless, there are two ways of looking at this, in my own personal opinion:

  • Either the money that just entered the market stays with the King, or
  • It’s distributed among preferential projects (top-10 I would bet on).

Because there is currently a huge time gap between technological developments and price, meaning price moves due to pure speculation rather than technological advancements or issues that arise. If you think differently look at the examples of IOTA or Verge which have been hacked, however prices of both coins kept rising afterwards. Heck, think about bitcoin: when did the price hit its maximum valuation? At the same time fees were the highest ever.

Price is dictated by volume and what happened was a grand spike in smart-money coming into the market. Maybe some of the money that left at the end of January is coming back.

 

Should we expect the price to continue rising?

Some technical analysts believe price will continue to rise. Then again, the opposite might happen depending on many factors:

  1. Geopolitical tensions between Russia and the U.S. will most definitely shake-up traditional markets. This will no doubt influence the amount of money available to invest in the cryptocurrency market. I’m just not sure how this will affect all markets as at the end, there might be a surprising shift; people could begin to trust more in bitcoin due to its security, resilience and the fact it’s independent from governments and economies.
  2. Investors going short on bitcoin got destroyed and likely lost a lot of money. What can counter this is the CME Bitcoin contracts futures price, as I expect the futures’ volume to rise exponentially. Why? That’s easy: because it’s profitable for those investing in both markets.

  1. News sources. When many positive news start to arrive we usually see a growing euphoria and hype (check google trends) from dumb-money entering the market leading to massive price runs. I see no reason for this to be different this time. If history taught us something is that it “repeats” itself, going around and around in circles.
  2. Small technological hops (pun intended) will play a massive role in the long-term future, as bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are being given time to prepare for adoption worldwide. Hopefully exchanges won’t need to block new hordes of users signing up, bitcoin’s lightning network will be fully operational and segwit adopted by most mining agents and trading platforms.

We cannot forget price is crucial to bring new people into the market, but to keep those users technology must answer today’s problems. People do not care if money is centralized, decentralized, distributed, digital, or physical; People care about:

  • How can I get that money?
  • How much do I pay to store and transfer that money?

For truly massive adoption either the bitcoin team thinks of a way to easily distribute it among where is needed, this is, in countries where banking is limited for example, or a benign group of people develops a way to distribute the currency directly to people in exchange for something, other than money (time, attention, services, etc). I understand those who think until this currency is used by business worldwide it’s a joke. I get it, I truly do, however if the purpose of this cryptocurrency is to bank the un-banked and to be successful in connecting communities worldwide by allowing anyone to transfer and store value over the internet, then maybe the right way to do this would be to simply find ways to trade bitcoin for time and services in those places.

–note: i did not mention the question “how long does that money take to get to another account?”as the current banking system needs 3-5 business days for international transfers to take place. When the bitcoin network is clogged, i have personally waited around 24h for a bitcoin transfer to get approved. It still beats the banking system for personal transactions, which is the final aim of this cryptocurrency (in my opinion)–

Easier said than done

The reality, of course, is that acceptance dictates the rules of the game; businesses  have to start pushing cryptocurrencies by accepting them. At the end of the day for cryptocurrency to be used, all intervening agents must participate.

We must not forget there will always be two sides to the same coin:

  • Should we focus solely on price and volume, to master our gains? Or
  • Should we focus in improving technology scalability and marketing, to achieve worldwide adoption?

Doing one alone would be unwise as balancing both seems to be the right way for the market to grow. My only hope is that the entire community keeps improving the consensus in bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies), never forgetting its true purpose

Ethereum , Ripple and other cryptocurrecies values riseas Bitcoin price spikes

The price of bitcoin rose by $1,000 in less than an hour, sparking massive gains across cryptocurrency markets

Bitcoin’s sudden price rise has resulted in gains across cryptocurrency markets, with ethereum, ripple and litecoin all surging in value.

Within the space of an hour on Thursday, 12 April, bitcoin rose by more than $1,000 – breaking above $8,000 for the first time since March.

The movement’s of the world’s most valuable cryptocurrency is usually reflected across other virtual currencies, and this unprecedented spike was no exception.

Ethereum, which boasts a market cap of around $45 billion, shot up in price by 10 per cent, taking it close to $500. At its peak in January, one ether was worth more than $1,300.

Similar percentage gains were experienced by ripple, which has the third highest market cap behind bitcoin and ethereum.

The altcoin EOS saw the largest gains out of all the top five most-valuable cryptocurrencies, rising by over 30 per cent to take its market cap above $7 billion.

The market-wide shift follows several months of steadily sliding prices for bitcoin, which peaked at nearly $20,000 in December 2017.

Dramatic market movements are not unusual for the notoriously volatile cryptocurrency, which can often be triggered by positive or negative news surrounding regulation and laws.

The latest surge does not appear to be related to any significant news within the cryptocurrency space, however, with some analysts suggesting the gains come from a change in sentiment amongst investors.

“In this scenario traders with short positions will start to lose money and liquidate their positions by buying bitcoin,” Ed Cooper, head of mobile at fintech startup Revolut, told The Independent.

“This causes the price to rise further and as more people start to notice the rise they buy in for a quick gain. This continues the cycle.”

Despite the gains, Cooper advised investors to be cautious about betting on a positive direction of the market beyond the short term.

“We’d need to see a sustained rise over a number of weeks to signal the end of the bear market,” Cooper said. “We’re definitely not there yet.”

UK Watchdog to Publish its Review on Cryptocurrencies Later this Year

Britain’s financial regulator and markets watchdog outline its policy thinking on cryptocurrencies with a review to be published later this year.

In revealing its business plan for the coming financial year, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) underlined cryptocurrencies as ‘an area of increasing interest for markets and regulators globally’. While admitting that cryptocurrencies do not directly fall under its regulatory scope, the FCA stressed that certain models of their usage bring them under its purview in a ‘complex’ landscape.

Pointedly, the FCA confirmed it would reveal its own take on cryptocurrencies, policy-wise, later this year. The regulator said:

We will work with the Bank of England and the Treasury as part of a taskforce to develop thinking and publish a Discussion Paper later this year outlining our policy thinking on cryptocurrencies.

The FCA is notably a member of the ‘Cryptoassets Task Force’ established by the British government in March 2018, consisting of the regulator, Her Majesty’s Treasury and the Bank of England (the central bank). The working group will explore and study the benefits and risks of cryptocurrencies, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said last month, helping the UK’s fintech sector to ‘grow and flourish’ in a regulatory climate that has broadly been supportive of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies over the years.

On Friday, the FCA mandated firms offering cryptocurrency derivatives to comply with all applicable rules to be authorized, stating it would be a ‘criminal offence’ otherwise.

Earlier in February, the UK’s Treasury Select Committee, an influential group of cross-party members of parliament (MPs), launched an inquiry into cryptocurrencies in an effort to better understand them.

While the Treasury Committee confirmed it would look at risks and threats posed by cryptocurrencies to ‘consumers, businesses and governments’, committee chair Nicky Morgan stressed the group would “also examine the potential the potential benefits of cryptocurrencies and the technology underpinning them, how they can create innovative opportunities, and to what extent they could disrupt the economy and replace traditional means of payment.”

Committee member Alison McGovern added that the inquiry would help UK lawmakers and politicians to better educate themselves on cryptocurrencies before enforcing policies. “It is time that Whitehall and Westminster understood cryptocurrency better and thought more clearly about the policy environment for blockchain technology,” she stated.

Bitcoin 7% Increase as Cryptocurrency Market Rebounds From Yesterday’s Losses

After dipping below $6,500, the price of bitcoin has increased 7 percent to $7,100, as the rest of the cryptocurrency market recovered over the past 24 hours.

Since March 30, the valuation of the cryptocurrency market rose from $250 billion to $268 billion, by around 8 percent.

Correlated Movements

On March 29, Cornell professor Emin Gun Sirer stated that a mature market should have assets that are performing independently from each other.

“Indeed, a mature market should be decentralized, with independent coin prices decoupled from each other, each moving in concert with the future prospects of the specific coin,” said Sirer.

For many weeks throughout February and March, the entire cryptocurrency market has demonstrated correlated movements, as the vast majority of both major and minor cryptocurrencies recorded similar gain and loss patterns with extreme volatility.

Today for instance, as the bitcoin price increased by 6 percent, Ethereum, Ripple and Litecoin all increased by the same 6 percent. With the exception of a handful of cryptocurrencies, which have been likely affected by pump and dumps, most of the cryptocurrencies in the global market have all moved in a similar pattern since the major correction occurred in February.

As such, given the extreme volatility in the market and its correlated price movements, it is evident that the market has not stabilized from its recent correction, and thus may need more time to recover from its losses.

The market demonstrated a necessary rebound from the $250 billion mark, and major cryptocurrencies like bitcoin have been able to sustain their resistance levels, even though volumes still remain relatively low across all cryptocurrency exchanges.

History

Bitcoin’s latest correction has been brutal, and it led to millions of dollars in losses for many individuals and institutional investors holding the cryptocurrency on behalf of organizations. But, it is important to acknowledge that identical patterns have occurred in the past, throughout 2013 to 2018.

2018’s bitcoin correction is the third worst correction the cryptocurrency has ever experienced, after two 80 percent corrections it suffered in 2013 and 2014. Both corrections took nearly 12 months for bitcoin to recover from.

The market moves up and down, and volatility is stronger in markets like the cryptocurrency market that have lower liquidity and volume than other regulated markets. The cryptocurrency market was not largely affected by the prohibition of cryptocurrency ads or other news relating to regulation, contrary to the narrative the media has tried to portray. Rather, it was the market simply acknowledging that the price of most cryptocurrencies have increased to a point in which they were difficult to justify based on tangibles and sustainable models.

 

Tron for example, was worth $16 billion, and neared the valuation of SpaceX. While it is entirely possible for Tron to achieve that market cap again in the future, Tron has only released its testnet this week.

 

The valuation of most cryptocurrencies were not proportional to the impact they had on the respective industries they were targeting, and the cryptocurrency market experienced a correction because investors could no longer support the prices of them.

Bittrex Will Remove 82 Tokens Due to Lack of Liquidity in Small Cryptocurrencies

Bittrex, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges which also powers UpBit, South Korea’s second biggest exchange operated by Kakao subsidiary Dunamoo, has stated that it will remove 82 tokens from its trading platform.

Token Removal

“Occasionally, there are circumstances that lead Bittrex to remove a coin’s wallet or market from the Bittrex Exchange,” said the Bittrex team. “We will be removing the wallets included in the list below on March 30, 2018. Once these wallets are removed, we will no longer be able to recover these coins. Users must withdrawal their coins before March 30, 2018, in order to keep them.”

The Bittrex team also stated that several cryptocurrencies have broken blockchains that have disabled users from withdrawing their balances.

“The coins marked with an asterisk (*) have broken blockchains or wallets that will not allow withdrawals,” said Bittrex, referring to cryptocurrencies like CRYPT.

On leading trading platforms, it is difficult for exchanges to sustain a stable order book if a cryptocurrencies does not have enough liquidity and demand from users of the platform. Lack of liquidity leads to price manipulation, which can be initiated with funds as little as $50,000, as shown in the recent study done by cryptocurrency trader Sylvain Ribes.

By using a method called slippage–a process of selling $50,000 worth of a particular cryptocurrency on a trading platform to measure its impact on the price–, Ribes evaluated the liquidity of digital assets on major exchanges like OKEx and GDAX. While GDAX had a slippage of less than 1 percent, on OKEx and other cryptocurrency-only exchanges with low market cap or volume cryptocurrencies, each sale of $50,000 led to a 2 to 10 percent drop in the market value of cryptocurrencies.

“A bit of wash trading and artificial volume inflation is to be expected in a thoroughly unregulated market. What I did not expect was the magnitude of the fraud,” said Ribes. “Many pairs, albeit boasting up to $5 million volumes, would cost you more than 10% in slippage, should you want to liquidate a mere $50k in assets,” he added.

Wash trading and price manipulation is common on major trading platforms with small cryptocurrencies or low-volume cryptocurrency pairs. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently warned investors against pump and dump schemes that are often seen in the cryptocurrency market.

“Fraudsters often try to use the lure of new and emerging technologies to convince potential victims to invest their money in scams. These frauds include ‘pump-and-dump’ and market manipulation schemes involving publicly traded companies that claim to provide exposure to these new technologies,” SEC’s statement read.

SEC’s Involvement

Earlier this month, the SEC requested cryptocurrency exchanges to either de-list ICO tokens or register with the agency in order to continue providing support for tokens. For US-based cryptocurrency exchanges like Bittrex, it is mandatory to register with the SEC before processing trades involving tokens.

Throughout next few months, many major exchanges will likely de-list or remove small cryptocurrencies that are prone to pump and dump schemes, and market manipulation.

Ripple Could Be The Next Bitcoin

Bitcoin has made some investors very rich. Those who purchased the digital currency back in the old days when it was trading for a few dollars. And it could make more investors rich provided that it continues to rise to new highs.

But that’s unlikely, as large percentage gains are hard to come by at these price levels—north of $10,000.

Coin Price* Market Cap
Bitcoin (BTC) $10,751.90 $181,767,449,663
Ethereum (ETH) $788.19 77,266,069,902
Ripple (XRP) $0.91 35,513,987,185
*As of Wednesday, 11 a.m.

Still, there’s Ripple, trading below a $1. And there are experts who believe that it could be the next Bitcoin, one day.

Craig Cole of CryptoMaps is one of those experts.”Ripple just might be the catalyst in making cryptocurrency more mainstream,” says Cole.

Its faster transaction speeds and lower fees make it easier for financial systems to embrace the virtual currency, which is partly why Ripple’s value has increased dramatically just this year. Ripple is helping financial institutions save money and it is only expected to become even more prevalent in payment flows. The virtual currency is certainly on the rise and has the potential to be the first token to truly disrupt an industry, and if it does, expect XRP to reach Bitcoin-like levels of ubiquity in the near future.

John-Paul McCaffrey, Associate Director ITRC, Long Island University, agrees. “Although currently there isn’t a platform to exchange fiat currency for Ripple (XRP) this may change sooner than you think,” says McCaffrey. “There is speculation that Coinbase will be adding this to their list of cryptocurrencies they have available for fiat exchange. Providing easy liquidity through Coinbase alone will attract new interest in XRP.”

That will take some time says Roman Guelfi-GibbsCEO, Lead Systems Designer for Pinnacle Brilliance Systems Inc.

Ripple certainly has the potential to move up a notch in 2018, but I think it will be more likely in 2019. As the market observes more projects being coded in other algorithms such as XRP, ETH will likely take a backseat to the next big coin/token. It will take some time for the markets to digest this, so I am projecting 2019 to be the likely time for it to take place. Of course, with crypto, anything can happen, so watch closely.

Not everyone is that enthusiastic about the prospects of Ripple catching up with Bitcoin. Like Shidan Gouran, president of Global Block Chain Technologies.

Ripple is unlikely to go up by one or two notches in the cryptocurrency world in 2018, and this is the case for three reasons. The first reason is the sheer dollar volume that separates each of the three currencies in the top positions, in terms of their market cap. Bitcoin is at over $191 billion, Ethereum is at over $84 billion, and Ripple is at over $35 billion. To displace Ethereum would require a deficit of about $49 billion to be closed (which is more than double Iceland’s entire national GDP). The second reason is that the use cases for Ripple are mostly for the trade of assets, not for day-to-day spending. As consumer awareness of cryptocurrencies will rise significantly in 2018 and beyond, the interest of the masses will be on cryptocurrencies that can be used as currencies, not just for investment transactions. Finally, the third reason is that because Ripple cannot be bought with fiat currencies, one must purchase existing cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum to purchase XRP. This goes on to feed demand for Bitcoin and Ethereum, and will only solidify their positions as the top two cryptocurrencies on the market.

Actually, the last point is no longer true. Recently, the French exchange bitit.io added Ripple and Litecoin to its coin offerings. This means that Ripple can now be purchased directly. At least that’s what the site claims, though I couldn’t verify how easy the process is and what are the relevant fees.

Still, Ripple investors have to wait for quite some time before they replicate the success of early Bitcoin investors, provided that it gains traction by users—and that big governments, big banks or hackers do not crush cryptocurrencies across the board.

[Ed. note: Investing in cryptocoins or tokens is highly speculative and the market is largely unregulated. Anyone considering it should be prepared to lose their entire investment. Disclosure: I don’t own any Bitcoin.]

CRYPTOCURRENCY : From Centralization to Decentralization

CRYPTOCURRENCY

From Centralization to Decentralization

The major drawback of the traditional fiat currency payment system is high transaction fees with a long settlement period, which has led people to alternative currencies that allow for shorter peer-to-peer (P2P) processing time without intermediaries, resulting in a thriving market for digital currencies that have lower settlement risk. Prior to the creation of cryptocurrencies, there were many other types of digital currencies. The most common example is a digital currency created by an institution and transacted on a platform. Such currencies can be loyalty points created by companies or digital coins created by Internet-based platforms. The institutions or legal entities control the creation, transaction, bookkeeping, and verification of the digital currencies. In other words, these platform-based digital currencies are centralized. A notable example is the loyalty points of e-commerce companies like Rakuten and iHerb, which function like cash on the platform. Q-coin, introduced by the Chinese social platform Tencent, can be bought using the Renminbi and can be used to buy services at Tencent. World of Warcraft Gold is a game token that can only be earned through completing in-game activities and cannot be bought or exchanged into fiat currencies .

These centralized digital currencies are transacted within a specific platform and are designed to support the business of the issuing institutions. It is difficult to use them as a substitute for fiat money because these centralized digital currencies are not legal tender. Therefore, decentralized digital currencies seem a potential replacement for fiat money as no central authority is needed to verify the transactions. However, there are still many obstacles to overcome without the use of an intermediary or central authority. One main obstacle is the double-spending problem: It is possible to spend the same digital coin more than once. This problem has remained unsolved for a long time, discouraging the prevalence of decentralized coins. To ensure every transaction is accurately reflected in the account balance for digital currencies to prevent double spending, there is a need for a trusted ledger without a central authority.

The first cryptocurrency, eCash, was a centralized system owned by DigiCash, Inc. and later eCash Technologies. Although it was phased out in the late 1990s, the cryptographic protocols it employed avoided double spending. A blind signature was used to protect the privacy of users and served as a good inspiration for subsequent development. Shortly after the discovery of cryptography protocols, digital gold currency became popular, among which the most used was e-Gold. It was the first successful online micropayment system and led to many innovations, making transactions more accessible and more secure. However, the failure to address compliance issues finally resulted in its liquidation in 2008, despite an annual transaction volume of over US$2 billion .

The global financial crisis in 2008, coupled with a lack of confidence in the financial system, provoked considerable interest in cryptocurrency. A ground-breaking white paper by Satoshi Nakamoto was circulated online in 2008. In the paper, this pseudonymous person, or persons, introduced a digital currency that is now widely known as bitcoin. Bitcoin uses blockchain as the public ledger for all transactions and a scheme called PoW to avoid the need for a trusted authority or central server to timestamp transactions . Because blockchain is an open and distributed ledger that records all transactions in a verifiable and permanent way, it solves the double-spending problem.

Bitcoin and “bitcoin”

The cryptocurrency, denoted by bitcoin or BTC, can be accepted as a payment for goods and services or bought either from other people or directly from exchanges/vending machines. These bitcoins can be transacted via software, apps, or various online platforms that provide wallets. Another way to obtain bitcoin is through mining.

The Bitcoin system runs on a P2P network, and transactions happen directly between users with no intermediary. Bitcoin decentralizes the responsibilities of verifying the validity of transactions to the entire network. Transactions are recorded in the public ledger called blockchain and are verified by network nodes, which could be any individual using a computer system with Bitcoin software installed. Once users have made a transfer, the transaction will be broadcast between users and confirmed by the network. Upon verification, it will be recorded in the blockchain, and then the transfer is completed. This record-keeping process is referred to as mining, and people offering the computing power to do so are called miners. Bitcoins are created as an incentive for solving the cryptography puzzle using transaction data; thus, successful miners are rewarded with the newly created bitcoins, on top of transaction fees.

Each transaction contains inputs and outputs. An input has the reference to the output from the previous transaction, and the output of a transaction holds the receiving address and the corresponding amount . In general, in a transaction, a certain number of bitcoins is sent from a bitcoin wallet to a specific address, if there is a sufficient bitcoin balance in the wallet from previous transactions. Transactions are not encrypted and can be viewed in the blockchain with corresponding bitcoin addresses, but the identity of the sender or receiver remains anonymous. Typically, bitcoin wallets have a private key or seed that is used to sign transactions. This secured piece of data provides a mathematical proof that the coins in the transaction come from the owner of the wallet. With the private key and the signature, the account can only be accessed by the owner, and transactions cannot be altered by someone else.

Mining is also the process of adding newly verified transaction records to Bitcoin’s public ledger. The records are grouped and stored in blocks. Each block contains a timestamp and a link to a previous block so that the blocks are chained together, thus the name blockchain. The blocks are mined in sequence, and once recorded, the data cannot be altered retroactively. A complete record of transactions can be found on the main chain. Each block on the chain is linked to the previous one and can be traced all the way back to the very first block, which is called the genesis block. However, there are also blocks that are not part of the main chain, called detached or orphanedblocks. They can occur when more than one miner produces blocks at similar times, or they can be caused by attackers’ attempt to reverse transactions. When separate blocks are validated concurrently, the algorithm will help maintain the main chain by selecting the block with the highest value.

There are several systems by which miners can earn rewards through the mining process. Bitcoin uses the Hashcash PoW system and the SHA-256 hashing algorithm. Under the PoW system, rewards are given according to the number of blocks that are mined successfully. Therefore, mining is quite competitive; the miner who first solves a given puzzle or gets the highest value will take all the newly created bitcoins, and the other miners will receive nothing. Rewards thus encourage miners to take an active part in mining data blocks. In addition, mining usually involves a large amount of computation and can be quite energy consuming.

Another commonly seen system is proof-of-stake (PoS). Unlike PoW, no additional work is required under the PoS scheme because investors are rewarded based on the number of coins they hold. For example, a user holding 1% of the currency has a probability of mining 1% of that currency’s PoS blocks . In general, this system does not require a large amount of work for the computation. It provides for higher currency security and is usually used in combination with other systems, as in the case of Peercoin, the first cryptocurrency launched using PoS.

Because the supply of bitcoins is limited to 21 million, the bitcoins awarded to a miner for successfully adding a block will be halved every 210,000 blocks (approximately every four years), according to the Bitcoin protocol. When Bitcoin was first run in 2009, the reward amounted to 50 newly created bitcoins per block added to the blockchain, but the reward has been halved twice to 12.5 as of July 9, 2016. The supply of bitcoins on the network is 16.907 million as of March 6, 2018, with a total circulating supply market capitalization of US$ 159.1 billion.3

Features of Bitcoin

Decentralized. Similar to conventional currencies that are traded digitally, bitcoin can also be used to buy things electronically. Unlike any fiat money or platform-based digital currencies, however, bitcoin is decentralized. In other words, there is no single group or institution that controls the Bitcoin network. Its supply is governed by an algorithm, and anyone can have access to it via the Internet.

Flexible. Bitcoin wallets or addresses can be easily set up online without any fees or regulations. Furthermore, transactions are not location specific, so bitcoins can be transferred among different countries seamlessly.

Transparent. Every transaction will be broadcast to the entire network. Mining nodes or miners will validate the transactions, record them in the block they are creating, and broadcast the completed block to other nodes. Records of all transactions are stored in the blockchain, which is open and distributed, so every miner has a copy and can verify them.

Fast. Transactions are broadcast within a few seconds, and it takes about 10 minutes for the transaction to be verified by miners. Thus, one can transfer bitcoins anywhere in the world, and the transactions will usually be completed minutes later.

Low transaction fees. No transaction fee is required to make a transfer historically, but the owner can opt to pay extra to facilitate a faster transaction. Currently, low priority for mining transactions (a function of input age and size) is mostly used as an indicator for spam transactions, and almost all miners expect every transaction to include a fee. Miners historically have been incentivized mainly by newly created coins, but that is changing. As the number of bitcoins in circulation nears its limit, transaction fees will eventually be the incentive for miners to carry out the costly verification process.

Altcoin Market

Bitcoin is open source and the source code is available on GitHub.4 Therefore, coders around the world have been enlightened by the invention of Bitcoin and have created hundreds of cryptocurrencies, which are referred to as alternative cryptocurrencies, or altcoins. Bitcoin is not perfect. Every new purpose or pain point is an incentive to invent new coins. Coins are invented to address specific issues such as high computation cost of PoW, to increase the number of transactions per second, to increase the block size, to ensure that the ledger is not as transparent, to accommodate more efficient use of smart contracts, and so on. Moreover, to pay for development and launch expenses, developers can raise funds for the project even before the cryptocurrency is launched. In particular, initial coin offerings (ICOs), initial crypto-token offerings, and initial token sales are similar approaches to raising funding to develop new crypto-tokens and cryptocurrencies. ICOs allow people to invest in a project by buying part of its cryptocurrency tokens or prelaunched ERC20-compliant tokens residing on the Ethereum network in advance, typically based on a white paper or other documents on the project for investors to evaluate.

As of October 6, 2017, 869 cryptocurrencies and 269 crypto-tokens were launched and traded,5with a total market capitalization of over US$148.4 billion. Different from fiat money, cryptocurrencies have a circulating supply, total supply, and maximum supply. Maximum supply refers to the best approximation of the maximum amount of coins that will ever be created in the lifetime of the cryptocurrency, and total supply is the total number of coins existing at the present moment. However, some coins will have been burned, locked, or reserved or cannot be traded on the public market, so the circulating supply is computed by deducting those coins from the total supply. When determining the market capitalization, circulating supply is used because it denotes the amount of coins circulating in the market and accessible to the public.

Based on cryptocurrency market value as of June 27, 2017, Bitcoin dominated the market with more than half of the total market value and the highest price. Ethereum, Ripple, and Litecoin also have large market capitalizations of more than US$1 billion. In addition, the supply of different coins varies substantially due to the unique characteristics of each coin, and some coins are not mined, suggesting a fixed amount of supply. The price of the coins ranges from US$0.002 to well over US$1,000.

In general, some altcoins are very similar to bitcoins, whereas others are created by adopting very different methods or ideas. Market capitalization, different categories of altcoins, .

Appcoins, such as MaidSafeCoin, function like digital shares in a decentralized autonomous organization and are sold in token sales for a portion of future profits. Most altcoins are direct copies of Bitcoin, with some minor changes in parameters such as block-generating time and the maximum limit of coin supply. However, many altcoins have adopted other innovative changes. Among the widely accepted altcoins, Ethereum is the one with the most innovative ideas and widely followed besides Bitcoin. The value token of the Ethereum blockchain is called ether and denoted by XRP. It provides a decentralized Turing-complete virtual machine that features smart contract functionality, as do four other altcoins that have launched based on Ethereum: Ethereum Classic, Golem, Augur, and Gnosis. NEM falls under the third category in  (i.e., coins coded in a different programing language): It is operated using JAVA programming, as is Nxt. Stellar Lumens and Factom are excluded because they are based on Ripple and Bitcoin protocols, respectively.

To conclude, many cryptocurrencies other than bitcoin are traded actively with a wide assortment of features for investors to invest in. The complet coins list with over 1300 cryptocurrency , tokens and altcoins on https://cryptocoinhubs.com