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Another Tipping Point is Reached

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When will we reach a point when cryptocurrencies are something more than just a hot topic? We are already there.  Google report for 2017 reveals the nitcoin and related cryptos were the second most searched topic.  Just a couple years ago they were far down on a very long list.  Today I received some of my own anecdotal evidence.

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I was in the remote Mexican town of Mazamittla in a native art gallery.  The artist spoke almost no english. She told me that a painting I was interested in was 6,000 pesos. I offered 5,000.  She wasn’t interested in the slightest.  Just for fun I asked if she would accept bitcoin. Her eyes immediately lit up with excitement.  She knew right away what I was talking about and only wanted to know how many bitcoins she could get for 6,000 pesos.

Is there anywhere in the world where information about cryptocurrencies is still a secret?

Here is a somewhat harder question.  At what point do cryptocurrencies become so  widely accepted by business and consumers that they are permanently embedded our lives?

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Allow me to sight a couple boring statistics to make a point.  I am choosing Ethereum because this is a good measure of public awareness.  Whenever cryptocurrencies are mentioned, bitcoin is the first and often only name mentioned.  So awareness of Ethereum is a better measure of the breadth of public awareness.

Distinct Address is a measure Ethereum uses to track unique accounts. It does a good job of measuring the dynamic fundamental growth in demand for Ether, the gas that drives the Ethereum Network.  It shows that over the past 18 months Distinct Address has risen from 501,305 to 22,634,386 as of January 18th.  All by itself that is a pretty amazing and uninterrupted gain.  Everyday, more than 250,000 new addresses are added.

We could cite a growing number of examples about bitcoin, Ripple, Litecoin and others supporting the notion that 2017 may have been an explosive year for crypto prices but 2018 is going to be just as exciting for reaching and even surpassing the tipping point of economic significance.

ICE And Blockstream  Join Forces

ICE stands for the Intercontinental Exchange and represents the world’s largest network of regulated exchanges and clearing houses.  One of it trophy properties is the New York Stock Exchange and a collection of others that together represent a massive data network.

Blockstream is one of those companies that is using bitcoin’s Lightning Network has created an agreement with ICE to provide customers with a feed that will include real-time cryptocurrency data from approximately 15 participating exchanges. This will include global prices and order book data for six cryptocurrencies:

  • Bitcoin
  • Ethereum
  • Litecoin
  • Dash
  • Ripple
  • Bitcoin Cash

The Cryptocurrency Data Feed is a multi-asset and multi-venue data feed that will cover the majority of cryptocurrency exchange trading volume for a broad range of cryptocurrencies against the U.S. Dollar and other major currency pairs.

Representing cryptocurrency trading in Asia, Europe, and North and South America, the feed will include data from Bitbank, Bitfinex, BitMEX, Bitso, Bitstamp, BtcBox, CEX, Coinfloor, Coincheck, ItBit, Gopax, OKEx, SurBTC, The Rock Trading, Unocoin, Vaultoro, Zaif, and others still in the works.

Once operational, this will put some order to the tremendous pricing disparity that exists today.  This is also a tipping point for investors who restrict their transactions to only well respected exchanges.  

Bitcoin is leading the crypto business, first with the creation of a bona fide futures contract and now to have their Lightening Network being used in the creation of a consolidated crypto data feed with ICE is yet another piece of evidence that 2018 will be a year of major advances in the mainstreaming of crypto.

I will not be surprised if the next time I visit Mazamittla Mexico, that native artist is using the Lightning Network to accept Bitcoin payments from her customers.  

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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4.3 stars on average, based on 22 rated postsJames Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.




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Why I’m Bullish on Stellar Lumens

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When it comes to architecture, team and potential, very few cryptocurrencies compare to Stellar Lumens. The open platform for financial products has quickly emerged as one of the most dominant cryptocurrencies on the market. It is currently ranked eighth in total market cap with a price-per-coin of around 42 cents.

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Stellar’s XLM token is on my short-list of top cryptocurrencies. Those of you who are new to the digital asset market should pay extra attention to XLM for reasons that go far beyond its current price point or market cap.

Partnerships

With the exception of Ripple and Ethereum, very few crypto projects have announced high-stakes partnerships that match Stellar’s in terms of excitement or potential. Last year, Stellar announced it was partnering with Dow blue-chip IBM, which will provide the network with eight new validators. The Stellar company has also confirmed that 30 financial institutions have signed up for the blockchain banking project.

By partnering with IBM, Stellar intends to bring digital currency adoption mainstream by making it easier for consumers and businesses to transact in the new technology. The initiative will also allow financial institutions to move money across borders.

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Business Appeal

As the partnership with IBM demonstrates, Stellar has stronger business appeal than most digital currency projects up to and including bitcoin. Even if we don’t factor in the IBM deal, Stellar purports to make XLM a viable monetary unit.

Although cryptocurrency has the word “currency” in it, the asset class behaves more like a commodity than anything else. Stellar, much like Ripple, dreams up a world where cryptos can be used by businesses and consumers to purchase products and services and send money across borders.

Stellar is also more popular among crypto purists because, unlike Ripple, it operates in a decentralized world. That was kind of the point behind cryptocurrency in the first place. Stellar doesn’t need to sacrifice this core feature to bring crypto adoption mainstream.

Emerging ICO Platform

We’ve written before about Stellar’s potential to become the next major ICO platform competing alongside Ethereum. The protocol actually goes beyond Ethereum in its handling of the so-called gas problem (basically, ether transactions become more expensive at higher price points). Stellar does not require gas to execute programs and has a tiny transaction fee, making it highly attractive for developers.

The protocol also allows startups to customize everything from token distribution to payments and up to special offers. Basically, the Stellar protocol is more than capable of meeting the diverse needs of a rapidly evolving industry that already cuts across at least two dozen sub-sectors.

One of the most appealing features of the Stellar platform is the embedded decentralized exchange. Tokens that launch on the platform do not need to get listed on third-party exchanges to become available to the wider market.

Jed McCaleb

An investment in Stellar Lumens is essentially a vote for Jed McCaleb, the crypto pioneer who has had more positive influence on the market than just about anybody. If you haven’t heard of Jed, it’s probably by design. He tends to keep a fairly low profile, doesn’t tweet much and, unlike Justin Sun of Tron, has no interest in fueling the hype machine.

McCaleb was the founder of Mt Gox, once the largest bitcoin exchange, as well as Ripple, which is now the third-biggest cryptocurrency by market cap. Suffice it to say, he’s had tremendous success in the digital currency market and it would be foolish to think he isn’t applying the same expertise to Stellar.

These are just some of the main reasons why I intend to hold Stellar Lumens as a long-term investment alongside bitcoin and Ethereum. While I’m very bullish on the platform, if anything changes in my evaluation I’ll be sure to let you know. We take the disclaimers below very seriously, and I have no contact with the Stellar project outside of secondary research.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 161 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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NEO

The Lamen’s Story behind QTUM

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Market Update: Th crypto market cap has climbed back above $500 billion. Well done folks! I am liking the slower gains, as I think this could be new entrants. We have a ton of people way behind in cost basis on every coin, so I am just not convinced that those people sold at the bottom and then are re-entering. We waited this out, and the chatter throughout the media is getting to be too much for the later adopters to bare without getting involved. I have begun my history lesson to figure out where the true technical evolution is occurring in blockchain, and what will have the application to render an immediate investment. QTUM combines UTXO ledgers and smart contracts in one platform, and I need to understand their business reasoning behind why that is important. That starts with bitcoin.

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The Timeline in Blockchain

The beginning was bitcoin. This framework was created by the infamous Satoshi Nakamoto, who wanted to encrypt the way that money could be transacted. The transaction model he chose for his ledger based blockchain was inputs and outputs. Each bitcoin is an output from an input, and outputs are used to send money, not accounts.

UTXO “Unspent Transaction Outputs” is what your bitcoin account consists of. Don’t expect Windows 95 to be the most sophisticated! So, when someone sends you bitcoin, it goes “UTXO”. It is added up with all of the other times you received but didn’t send…and there is your bitcoin balance. Here’s where it gets tricky. Say you have UTXO balances of BTC 5, 3, 2. That means someone sent those coins to you in 3 different transactions. Now you want to send 1 BTC. UTXO will choose the most prudent one, 2 in this case, and then create an input for 2. But I wanted to only send 1! Don’t worry, there will be two outputs, 1 BTC for your recipient, and 1 BTC back to UTXO. You cannot take portion of a UTXO, it will all go into the input, and out the output.

Ethereum was the evolution. Instead of this UTXO model where there is no real single account- just lists of inputs and outputs, there was a place where people could have an account that is much similar to a bank account. You send, you receive, and everything is recorded. There is no choosing which UTXO fits which transaction, each transaction can be unique, and only the amount needed will be input. Debits and Credits, just like a bank account.

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Ethereum smart contracts are pillars of the account model. These contracts have unlimited capability to set rules (e.g., 100 voters, duration: six hours, choices: Candidate A, Candidate B, etc.), quantify inputs, determine precise results safely and securely, and dispense the ether of course! This new function in the blockchain required code of higher quality (I am not going to go GitHub level here) for the smart contract to work with, rather than a smart contract having to deal with a bunch of random UTXO’s. The account system worked for this just fine…or so we thought.

The DAO, founded by a consortium of Ethereum founders and followers, was a fund (a smart contract “account”) created in 2016 to be the first organization to promote the migration of business and commerce into the blockchain, and automate things for absolute and unbiased results. If you wanted to make a project that would benefit commerce on the blockchain, the smart contract would determine a consensus-based allotment.

Ironically, the DAO smart contract “account” was spoofed into funding a “Child DAO”, an exact replica of the DAO that convinced the smart contract to fund it multiple times over. Ethereum went from $20 to $13, as $70m was drained into the Child DAO. The Child DAO issue eventually led to an Ethereum hard fork, the result of voting to not let the attacker (who said he had legal right to his property through a lawyer) have his prize for his creation, and emptying the piggy bank to all those who lost ETH and laid claim to it.

QTUM

I want you all to know that all of that information was needed for me to explain QTUM.

This all started when I wanted to do some research for my own benefit. QTUM’s “About Us” was claiming their new benefits were that they designed a UTXO blockchain that has accounts with a smart contract account layer. So my thought was, why does QTUM want a UTXO blockchain? They believe UTXO has much more in scalability terms for business functions by having limiting information and “Proof of Consensus” model, and they wanted to build something that could act as the ether for those who were hard at work mining in the bitcoin UTXO community.

Eighty percent of all the QTUM tokens will be distributed for an array of purposes, but a major one is to bring the real world application into blockchain. Much like the older brother before it, QTUM is providing a DAO-like Account that can incentivize technical projects that can stay on their UTXO chain, but come out of the shadows to work within the community. Those who are used to coding in the Bitcoin blockchain will be happy to see that they now have Ethereum’s paint brushes in their own technical backyard. QTUM also can migrate Ethereum’s contracts into this new smart contract environment.

The platform has partnered with two companies in China (cybersecurity & media) to date, both of which are working along the lines of bringing business into the blockchain through smart contracts. China has been very cold on blockchain as of late. This may be a good project, but they are fighting against my favored incumbent NEO, and there is nothing I would say that truly separates them as unique for large migration. There will only be a handful of platforms. One for each country depending on laws/regulations. NEO is my choice.

Conclusion

I am a fan of the concept of taking a big community of people and trying to give them incentives through smart contracts to work harder for business purposes. I am not sure how big the bitcoin UTXO community is. Like you have seen, this is very deep technical information and the differences between UTXO and the Account method are murky at best for a lamen.

I have a small holding of QTUM, and it will remain small. UTXO seems like a bridge to bitcoin’s old tech that they are reviving. Ethereum already has had the first wave of business migration, and it seems that Solidity, the coding language of Ethereum smart contracts, is on every developers to-do list.

Overall, if QTUM makes a ton of money, non-coders won’t know why. It is a platform for people in the bitcoin chain to use for business purposes, but Bitcoin was made by someone who vanished and there is no one leading the initiatives within. Does bitcoin have an initiative? This may be like a Coder’s Coin. They like it for the certain coding characteristic, but overall the difference is minimal other than the chains are different. I think paradigm platform chains will exist, and the current ones are Ethereum and NEO.

A true technical smart contract artist or developer may disagree with me, but I see no extremely valuable difference between Ethereum and QTUM. QTUM certainly isn’t a coin for business people like myself. I will stick to what I know, and that is Ethereum-based platforms and compliance.

 

None of this is a recommendation to buy or sell cryptocurrencies. I own a small holding, and as mentioned, it will remain small. Best of luck to you on the exchanges. If you would like to remain updated on my thoughts, please do follow me @raijincrypto on Twitter.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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Decoding Ripple

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Market Update: As of this writing, bitcoin is up to almost $10,800 with ETH at $962. Great news. What we saw this week was slow, consistent gains. It looks like most coins are gaining 3-10% daily, with not too much parabolic activity that would make me more nervous. We had a ton of tailwinds, too many to count. A White House Official said cryptocurrency regulation would not be in the immediate future, Wyoming & Colorado are trying to legislate crypto-friendly offerings/enforcements, and of course “Coinbase Merchant” was launched; which is a payment platform for businesses to begin accepting cryptocurrency payments. I couldn’t think of a better way to end the Chinese New Year.

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Big players are announcing partnerships, and of course, Ripple leads the pack. A coin is only as good as their buyers, so I want to make sure that all of my readers know who those buyers could potentially be, and what they can buy. I want provide a background on Ripple & their 3 Products (Xrapid, Xcurrent, Xvia). Ripple is one of my largest holdings, so full disclosure here.

Ripple’s Market

Ripple’s products are all designed to work with businesses on sending and receiving payments instantly and securely. Their main competitor is the incumbent, the SWIFT system.

SWIFT facilitates money wire transfers, with many checks and balances along the way. Overall, it takes about 3-5 days to clear a transaction with the SWIFT system. That means if you want to send money from USA to Germany, you can either wait a long time or you can pay a high fee to get it there quicker (via Remittance company like Western Union). During your wait time, there is also security risk. Just recently, we saw hackers take SWIFT via a Russian Bank for $6M. When you don’t encrypt your transfers & information, there is always a possibility that someone is smart enough to hack in.

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The SWIFT system, regardless of Ripple’s success, will phase out of existence. Their way of transferring money in the 21st century is outdated, and people should expect more out of their financial institutions than their money going through the equivalent of snail mail to get to it’s recipient.

Blockchain is a simple solution for payment processing, which is why you are getting so many people trying to enter the space altogether. There are trillions of dollars being moved back and forth each year around the world, and there are certain niches that will require different blockchain characteristics to serve them. One of them is banks & remittance companies. They need Anti-Money Laundering/Know Your Customer procedures built in, just like the SWIFT system. Ripple (and Lumens!) designed their chains/coins specifically for this purpose.

XCurrent

The product I hate to love. This is Ripple’s solution for bank cross-border transactions. Their system not only uses blockchain, but also validates the parties in the transaction and the transaction itself BEFORE it even takes place, so there is no wait time in between.

One bank wants to send money to another bank, with a “correspondent bank” (wire facilitator) in the middle. There is a message sent from the sending bank that will outline their intended transaction. Ripple will decode the message, and put it into ledger format for all 3 banks to read, compliance screen, and validate instantly (Inter-ledger Protocol). Sender, receiver, account information, and transaction details are all used to determine the fee that each bank will tack on for their services to determine total cost to sender for approval.

The next step is cryptographic hold of funds. This puts a hold on the transaction at all 3 banks, so that they can generate a cryptographic signature that will serve as evidence that funds are available and have been pledged for dispensing. In other words, the banks send each other “I’m ready” signals. Once all parties have provided their cryptographic signatures, Ripple automatically releases the transaction, which is sent and settled within seconds.

Communication and uniformity are the solutions that Ripple brings with this system. No longer should banks have inboxes and outboxes. Blockchain ledgers automatically validate participants in the transaction, and the blockchain itself can serve as the highway to transfer the funds instantly. Overall, this is expected to yield a 30% decrease in transaction costs for customers, while also providing instant settlement. No brainer.

Raiden, why do you love to hate it? This is the main side chain product culprit. You don’t need to use XRP in these scenarios, and banks aren’t. Sure, there is some trial periods, but I haven’t heard a major bank using XCurrent with XRP. This is when I wish I was a shareholder, not a coin holder. The best we can hope for is that XRP will become a base currency for banks once society has warmed up to the thought of virtual shells that encapsulate and mimic the value of fiat currency. Until then, I am not happy when I hear the word XCurrent.

XRapid

Our future hero. This is XCurrent, but with XRP being added in. Cross-Border/Currency payments are completely inefficient. In order for me to send dollars and someone to receive Rupees, Currency (USD) must be sent to a correspondent bank, and exchanged in a “Nostro-Account”, which serves as a liquidity pool of the foreign currency (INR). Then it has to be sent to the receiving bank in the foreign currency, going through the wire system. Long, expensive, and complicated. It is so troublesome, that most banks and remittance companies need to set minimums on transactions because it is so economically inefficient for smaller users.

Nostro-Accounts, what Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse calls “Dormant Cash” are just pools of sitting money that have to remain there in order to convert all of these cross-currency transaction requests. XRP can serve as the unified currency for all banks to transact with, and exchange into their intended currency. Ripple takes a multi-step/multi-party process, and eliminates almost of all it.

The U.S. dollar can eventually take the form of XRP, be sent anywhere in the world, and XRP will then take form of the intended foreign currency, and settle itself within the intended bank account. As coin holders, this is what everyone should be dreaming of prior to the Beta version launch in the Spring of 2018.

During my research, Ripple’s 2016 White Paper was the only source I could find to properly explain this system, and even my explanation may be lacking. This system is expected to free up massive amounts of Emerging Market liquidity through the lessening use of the “nostro-account” system, while also cutting transaction costs by up to 60%. I am trying to get my hands on more XRapid material, but this is very very new. I am going to keep you all posted on developments, as I have set up an RSS feed to give me anything related to XRapid as it comes out in the future.

Xvia

This system for is a platform for point of sale payments. There is not one piece of information on XVia. It is actually kind of scary how little information is available on any of these products. Here is my most educated guess based on the limited information. This is Ripple’s version of Coinbase Merchant. It is software that can be imbedded in E-Commerce sites that people can use XRP to pay for goods and services. Based on the level of information, XVia is not going to be used in the near future. If it is, then their customers must have more information on it than the public does.

Conclusion

This research was tougher than I expected. Ripple has provided good information on XCurrent, but the others are severely lacking. There also isn’t much interest in the Youtube community, with rocket ship memes being more important than content. As a coin investor, I am disappointed. Their main product right now is private labeling chains, which does not benefit coin holders. I want more information on XRapid and Xvia. You can go look at my Lumens article. There is enough information from Jed, IBM, and followers to fill a textbook. If Ripple wants to have products listed on their site, there better be some information for me to look at. We may not be owners, but we are investors. I think it’s time for them to start treating us that way.

 

None of what I am saying is an offering to buy or sell coins. Full disclosure, this author owns XRP. You certainly wouldn’t think it based on this article! I wish you the best of luck on the exchange. Please do follow me @raijincrypto on Twitter. I try to send out thoughts throughout the week.

 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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