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Giant German Web Publisher Axel Springer Is Suing an Ad-Blocker

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It’s a wonder web publishers are able to make a living anymore, in that most people unapologetically use some form of ad-blocking software. The conscientious visitor to a given website will turn off the blocker for that site, in hopes that the site is able to continue to produce the content that brings them there. There is also the option on some ad blockers which enables users to allow “unobtrusive” ads or the type that won’t affect their experience and aren’t known to be full of malware.

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It’s not magic, after all. Someone’s paying the writer, someone’s paying the photographer. If not the advertisers, who? In some cases, people are willing to pay subscription fees, but much of this disposable income is now usurped by other types of digital media – your Netflix, Hulu, and now YouTube, along with your Spotify and so forth.

Edward Snowden has suggested that it’s the only truly safe way to browse the web, saying this month:

As long as service providers are serving ads with active content that require the use of Javascript to display, that have some kind of active content like Flash embedded in it, anything that can be a vector for attack in your web browser — you should be actively trying to block these.

Indeed, it’s the fault of the advertisers themselves that people feel the need to block out the advertising. Most people are capable of ignoring a banner ad or two, as in the early days of the web, similar to how they can sit through up to three minutes of television commercials or flip beyond an advertisement in a magazine. But more than once in recent memory, malware has been installed on people’s computers as a result of advertisements – not on the part of the publisher, but the advertiser. The less scrupulous the publisher, the more likely such ads are to surface. Thus, the prevalence of ad-blocking software.

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Also read: Porn Site RedTube Transmits Digital STDs

For awhile, and potentially for awhile yet, the mobile web represented a new opportunity for game, video, and other digital content providers. Users of free Android games are by now accustomed to seeing advertisements, even on the most popular games. Mobile web browsers have been slower to catch up with their desktop cousins in terms of ad blocking, and so mobile content has been more profitable in recent memory. This was never a situation that could last, as is evidenced with the advent of Blockr, an ad-blocker for iOS9 which now finds itself in court.

Axel Springer Gunning for Blockr

Axel Springer, a massive European publishing conglomerate, recently took issue with the ad blocking phenomenon. They put up a pay-wall last month that gave users a choice between a subscription fee and turning off their ad blocking software. Not surprisingly, many people who still wanted to see the content after that chose not to pay the fee, but rather to disable their ad blocking for Bild.de, the first of Axel Springer’s sites to implement. According to Axel Springer, the number of users who had ad blockers enabled dropped by 23% in just a month.

39-blocker

“With Adblocker activated, you can no longer visit BILD.de”

But they’re not stopping there. Axel Springer have a pending lawsuit against the makers of Blockr in regards to another of their websites, Welt.de, in which they contend that the app negatively affects their business model. In the November 19th court hearing, the court seemed to agree, saying at one point that Axel Springer has other means to deal with ad blocking, such as the one that has been successful on Bild.de. A final ruling on whether Blockr will be prohibited from distributing software that blocks ads on Weld.de will be issued in a couple weeks, on December 10th.

In an era when nearly all content is online, and competition is more fierce than ever, it is understandable both why consumers want to use ad blocking software and why publishers would prefer they didn’t. Social media and professional media can co-exist, and those who work deserve to be paid, but it is unlikely that this quandary will ultimately be solved by courts or government officials. This is the kind of thing the market itself will best sort out, and so far, that’s the direction we seem to be headed in.

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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5 stars on average, based on 1 rated postsP. H. Madore has covered the cryptocurrency beat over the course of hundreds of articles for Hacked's sister site, CryptoCoinsNews, as well as some of her competitors. He is a major contributing developer to the Woodcoin project, and has made technical contributions on a number of other cryptocurrency projects. In spare time, he recently began a more personalized, weekly newsletter at http://ico.phm.link




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The Abyss Becomes First Startup to Test “DAICO” Concept

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An ICO by the name of The Abyss is looking to become the first project to test Vitalik Butrin’s “DAICO” concept. The founder of Ethereum outlined the new crowdfunding protocol in a post that appeared on the Ethereum Research Forum in January. If successful, The Abyss’ token raise could have profound implications on the budding world of ICOs.

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The Abyss Token Sale

Next-generation gaming platform The Abyss is developing a token sale based on Butrin’s Decentralized Autonomous Organization Initial Coin Offering, or DAICO for short. The company will launch a month-long token sale on Mar. 7, with early participation giving investors a bonus of up to 25%. A hard cap of $60 million has been placed on the sale, with 1 ABYSS token valued at 24 U.S. cents. Minimum investment in the project is 0.1 ETH.

According to a post that appeared on the project’s Medium channel last month, The Abyss token raise “will represent an advanced and improved ICO mechanism, allowing token holders to control the fund withdrawal limit, also providing an option to vote for refund of the remaining contributed money in case the team fails to implement the project. With all this, The Abyss project is to become the world’s first Token Sale, pioneering and promoting the DAICO concept.”

The Abyss essentially serves as a multi-level referral platform allowing gamers to participate in in-game and social activities. It also allows developers to lower marketing expenses by directly engaging the gaming community.

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As far as we can tell, no other company has adopted DAICO yet. As a member of the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance (EEA), The Abyss could provide a valuable case study into the system’s viability and reception among investors. As it turns out, The Abyss is very well received by the blockchain community, with several third parties giving the company a favorable review.

DAICO Model

At the core of Buterin’s DAICO model is the need to minimize investor risk during an ICO campaign. The solution is to combine the current ICO structure with the DAO, The resulting DAICO system utilizes smart contracts to encode certain rules into the token raise that startups must follow from the very beginning.

For example, DAICO could stipulate that management receive “approval” from investors each time it wants to utilize funds generated from a crowdsale. In this case, the company would “tap” investors for approval, and the investors themselves would decide whether to grant the firm access to the funds.

DAICO systems can also implement KYC/AML standards and structure a campaign more transparently than current methods. Widescale adoption of this system could have a lasting impact on the blockchain economy by weeding out scams and other companies looking to generate easy cash to finance their business operations. Hacked covered the development of DAICO in a Jan. 19 article, which provides greater insight into Buterin’s thought process.

ICOs generated billions of dollars for hundreds of startups last year, but the parade may soon end as regulators begin clamping down on token raises. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has taken special interest in ICOs, warning companies that their definition of a “utility token” will come under intense scrutiny by federal regulators.

Although ICOs aren’t illegal in the United States, there’s a good chance they will be categorized as securities. Such a designation would make them bound by federal securities laws, something most ICO projects want to avoid entirely. Against this backdrop, many ICOs are electing to avoid the U.S. market entirely.

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 155 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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Lessons From Venture Capital Craziness

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Financial technology or Fintech is a white hot area these days and lots of folks are after a piece of the action.  The payments business is one huge area of opportunity even before counting cryptocurrencies. When the global economy generates more than $90 trillion in GDP, that means lots of money constantly on the move.  Trouble is, these days, it moves slowly and at a high cost.

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With that much at stake, there is no shortage of entrepreneurs with the next disruptive idea.  As an analyst and investor, it is hard to choose who knows their stuff.   Revulut got my attention and here is how it happened.

Venture Capitalists are wrong on about 95% of their investments but to put a valuation of this magnitude was quite unusual, maybe even a little crazy. The crypto buzz had a lot to do with Revolut’s capital raising success.

Last summer, Revolut founders Nikolay Storonsky and Vlad Yatsenko raised over $66 million in VC funding and another $23 million from Crowdfunding. That is serious money considering the company was scarcely a year old at the time with hardly any revenues.  This placed the implied value of the company between $200-$400 million.

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It would be easy to declare insanity in the ranks of venture capital.  An equally plausible conclusion is that a major source of risk capital has done their homework on crypto and has given their seal of authenticity.  Just something to keep in mind as the price of crypto is soaring and the word bubble comes up.    

About Them

The Revolut app allows customers to open a current account in under 3 minutes, and includes a prepaid contactless MasterCard debit card.  So far there is nothing unusual about Revolut. Sounds like about any other branchless bank.

The company marketing offers freebees like free international money transfers that could save users 3% so that is good.  Also there is free access to global ATM machines although no mention is made of what networks are included or their location.  

And there is one other caveat; the free ATM access ends when you withdrawn $250 in any month.  That is chump change for most people.  If you average closer to $500 per month at the ATM, you will want to select the Premium service.  That will cost $6.99 per month.

OK so not everything is really free but still $6.99 per month beats the $25-$35 charged by conventional banks.

Offering freebees can be a great way to attract customers but read the fine print before making any commitments.  In Revolut’s case you really have to dig into the details such as the limit of free ATM withdraw before little charges start to creep in.  And if you are an American here is the most puzzling detail taken directly from the company website.

“You can transfer money to banks in the United States using Revolut. However, if you are currently living in the United States, you cannot make a bank transfer from Revolut to your local bank account due to licensing restrictions.”  Something must have been lost in translation: what does this mean?

The firm launched personal international bank account numbers (IBANs) across Europe last summer.  So if you live in the United Kingdom or one a a dozen or so Eastern European countries, Revolut offers real value added services.  For the rest of the planet, not quite yet.

Since then they have begun integrating  currencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin.  Here is the sizzle to bring in new customers.  “Revolute will now be able to buy, hold and exchange Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum in just 30 seconds at the best possible rates.”  There is a 1.5% fee for this service which is competitive with exchanges like Coinbase and others.

Revolut is adding other new services beyond cryptocurrency to lending and pay-as-you-go travel insurance at the tap of a button.  Altogether, not a bad business plan but it is the crypto connection that moves the needle.

VCs Depending On Experienced Management

Storonsky is more than a slick operator with a pretty pitch deck.  He and his partner have deep experience in the global payments business.  Nikolay spent years as a currency trader with Credit Suisse so he understands the level of fees charged by the current system.  

The technical wizardry, however, rests with his partner Yatsenko. Vlad spent over 10 years building financial systems for major Wall Street investment banks.  He serves as the company’s CTO.

Conclusion: Why Is Revolut Unique?

The global payments business has long been a gigantic oligopoly controlled by a series of networks, governments, banks and a group of oversized corporations such as Visa, MasterCard, Fiserv and others.  

Taken together it is like a mafia of financial behemoths interested in nothing more than keeping the status quo.  Perpetuating the system enables them to maximize the amount of fees for the mindless service of money transfer.  Revolut could be one of many disruptive forces but will it take $90 million to get them there.  Evidence shows the answer is most definitely no.  The cache of cryptocurrencies in the Revolut business mix has attracted Venture Capitalist and others to pay outsized prices for access.  Bravo for crypto investors everywhere.

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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4.3 stars on average, based on 21 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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Are You Considering a Career in Crypto?

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In 2008, a bizarre and esoteric technology by the name of bitcoin was introduced to the world in a whitepaper penned by Satoshi Nakamoto. Just one decade later, that whitepaper would spawn a budding industry racing toward the trillion-dollar mark.

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At the time of writing, there are more than 1,550 cryptocurrencies trying to do a variation of what bitcoin has accomplished. Hundreds more are expected to be created this year alone. To bring these currencies online, startups, institutes and not-for-profits are depending on a talented workforce made up of engineers, analysts, marketers and business professionals.
That’s a long-winded way of saying the crypto-economy is hiring, and there’s no shortage of opportunity. Recently, freelance marketplace Toptal announced it was launching a blockchain engineering platform for talented technology professionals. As TechCrunch pointed out, this is a huge deal because Toptal represents about half of “on-demand engineering labor by revenue.”

Blockchain Talent Demand: By the Numbers

Blockchain engineering has quickly emerged as the fastest-growing segment on Toptal. Since January 2017, demand for professionals in this category has surged 700%. The company also reports that some 40% of fully managed software development jobs in the last month require blockchain skills and domain knowledge.

Toptal isn’t the only freelance community witnessing a surge in blockchain skills. Upwork also reported blockchain as the fastest-growing skillset in terms of revenue, with billings skyrocketing 35,000% year-over-year. For a site like Freelancer, bitcoin job posts grew 82% in the third quarter alone.

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It’s not just freelancing websites that are witnessing an upsurge in blockchain-related job posts. Last year, LinkedIn reported that finance companies saw a 900% increase in bitcoin-related job postings since 2014. There are now tens of thousands of users who list “blockchain” as one of their available skillsets.

At the time of writing, there are 1,060 “cryptocurrency” jobs listed on the U.S. section of Indeed.com, one of the world’s largest job boards. The “blockchain” job category had nearly 3,200 hits. Pretty much all of the jobs had a minimum salary of $70,000 per year and about 40% paid six figures.

Job Categories

From the author’s perspective, working in blockchain/crypto usually involves one of the following organizations:

  • startup company launching an initial coin offering (ICO)
  • an advisory service helping ICOs launch their product
  • a large technology or financial services company utilizing blockchain technology
  • an institute or not-for-profit researching blockchain applications and use case

In terms of job categories, you are mostly looking at the following:

  • Technical: Software developers, engineers, programmers and other IT specialists get the lion’s share of job postings.
  • Writing and Marketing: This is a fairly broad category that covers journalism, content development and copywriting. If you understand blockchain technology and the world of crypto and have good writing skills, there’s no shortage of opportunity.
  • Advisory Services: Domain experts can charge a premium advising startups on how to navigate the crypto sphere. Experts usually make it on to an ICO’s adviser page.
  • Legal: We are seeing a steady rise in legal services that assist token issuers navigate the regulatory requirements of cryptocurrency crowdfunding.

It’s clear from many of these categories that most people didn’t specialize in blockchain initially but have applied their skills and experience to the domain. Depending on how you view the future, specializing may or may not be a good idea.

In mainstream and institutional circles, blockchain is much more of a sure thing than cryptocurrency. That’s one place budding professionals can focus on if they do decide to enter the labor market.

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 155 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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