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How To End The Cryptocurrency Exchange "Wild West" Without Crippling Innovation
In case you haven't noticed the consultation paper, staff notice, and report on Quadriga, regulators are now clamping down on Canadian cryptocurrency exchanges. The OSC and other regulatory bodies are still interested in industry feedback. They have not put forward any official regulation yet. Below are some ideas/insights and a proposed framework.
Typical securities frameworks will cost Canadians millions of dollars (ie Sarbanes-Oxley estimated at $5m USD/yr per firm). Implementation costs of this proposal are significantly cheaper.
Canadians can maintain a diverse set of exchanges, multiple viable business models are still fully supported, and innovation is encouraged while keeping Canadians safe.
Many of you have limited time to read the full proposal, so here are the highlights:
Effective standards to prevent both internal and external theft. Exchange operators are trained and certified, and have a legal responsibility to users.
Regular Transparent Audits
Provides visibility to Canadians that their funds are fully backed on the exchange, while protecting privacy and sensitive platform information.
Establishment of basic insurance standards/strategy, to expand over time. Removing risk to exchange users of any hot wallet theft.
Background and Justifications
Cold Storage Custody/Management After reviewing close to 100 cases, all thefts tend to break down into more or less the same set of problems: • Funds stored online or in a smart contract, • Access controlled by one person or one system, • 51% attacks (rare), • Funds sent to the wrong address (also rare), or • Some combination of the above. For the first two cases, practical solutions exist and are widely implemented on exchanges already. Offline multi-signature solutions are already industry standard. No cases studied found an external theft or exit scam involving an offline multi-signature wallet implementation. Security can be further improved through minimum numbers of signatories, background checks, providing autonomy and legal protections to each signatory, establishing best practices, and a training/certification program. The last two transaction risks occur more rarely, and have never resulted in a loss affecting the actual users of the exchange. In all cases to date where operators made the mistake, they've been fully covered by the exchange platforms. • 51% attacks generally only occur on blockchains with less security. The most prominent cases have been Bitcoin Gold and Ethereum Classic. The simple solution is to enforce deposit limits and block delays such that a 51% attack is not cost-effective. • The risk of transactions to incorrect addresses can be eliminated by a simple test transaction policy on large transactions. By sending a small amount of funds prior to any large withdrawals/transfers as a standard practice, the accuracy of the wallet address can be validated. The proposal covers all loss cases and goes beyond, while avoiding significant additional costs, risks, and limitations which may be associated with other frameworks like SOC II. On The Subject of Third Party Custodians Many Canadian platforms are currently experimenting with third party custody. From the standpoint of the exchange operator, they can liberate themselves from some responsibility of custody, passing that off to someone else. For regulators, it puts crypto in similar categorization to oil, gold, and other commodities, with some common standards. Platform users would likely feel greater confidence if the custodian was a brand they recognized. If the custodian was knowledgeable and had a decent team that employed multi-sig, they could keep assets safe from internal theft. With the right protections in place, this could be a great solution for many exchanges, particularly those that lack the relevant experience or human resources for their own custody systems. However, this system is vulnerable to anyone able to impersonate the exchange operators. You may have a situation where different employees who don't know each other that well are interacting between different companies (both the custodian and all their customers which presumably isn't just one exchange). A case study of what can go wrong in this type of environment might be Bitpay, where the CEO was tricked out of 5000 bitcoins over 3 separate payments by a series of emails sent legitimately from a breached computer of another company CEO. It's also still vulnerable to the platform being compromised, as in the really large $70M Bitfinex hack, where the third party Bitgo held one key in a multi-sig wallet. The hacker simply authorized the withdrawal using the same credentials as Bitfinex (requesting Bitgo to sign multiple withdrawal transactions). This succeeded even with the use of multi-sig and two heavily security-focused companies, due to the lack of human oversight (basically, hot wallet). Of course, you can learn from these cases and improve the security, but so can hackers improve their deception and at the end of the day, both of these would have been stopped by the much simpler solution of a qualified team who knew each other and employed multi-sig with properly protected keys. It's pretty hard to beat a human being who knows the business and the typical customer behaviour (or even knows their customers personally) at spotting fraud, and the proposed multi-sig means any hacker has to get through the scrutiny of 3 (or more) separate people, all of whom would have proper training including historical case studies. There are strong arguments both for and against using use of third party custodians. The proposal sets mandatory minimum custody standards would apply regardless if the cold wallet signatories are exchange operators, independent custodians, or a mix of both. On The Subject Of Insurance ShakePay has taken the first steps into this new realm (congratulations). There is no question that crypto users could be better protected by the right insurance policies, and it certainly feels better to transact with insured platforms. The steps required to obtain insurance generally place attention in valuable security areas, and in this case included a review from CipherTrace. One of the key solutions in traditional finance comes from insurance from entities such as the CDIC. However, historically, there wasn't found any actual insurance payout to any cryptocurrency exchange, and there are notable cases where insurance has not paid. With Bitpay, for example, the insurance agent refused because the issue happened to the third party CEO's computer instead of anything to do with Bitpay itself. With the Youbit exchange in South Korea, their insurance claim was denied, and the exchange ultimately ended up instead going bankrupt with all user's funds lost. To quote Matt Johnson in the original Lloyd's article: “You can create an insurance policy that protects no one – you know there are so many caveats to the policy that it’s not super protective.” ShakePay's insurance was only reported to cover their cold storage, and “physical theft of the media where the private keys are held”. Physical theft has never, in the history of cryptocurrency exchange cases reviewed, been reported as the cause of loss. From the limited information of the article, ShakePay made it clear their funds are in the hands of a single US custodian, and at least part of their security strategy is to "decline to confirm the custodian’s name on the record". While this prevents scrutiny of the custodian, it's pretty silly to speculate that a reasonably competent hacking group couldn't determine who the custodian is. A far more common infiltration strategy historically would be social engineering, which has succeeded repeatedly. A hacker could trick their way into ShakePay's systems and request a fraudulent withdrawal, impersonate ShakePay and request the custodian to move funds, or socially engineer their way into the custodian to initiate the withdrawal of multiple accounts (a payout much larger than ShakePay) exploiting the standard procedures (for example, fraudulently initiating or override the wallet addresses of a real transfer). In each case, nothing was physically stolen and the loss is therefore not covered by insurance. In order for any insurance to be effective, clear policies have to be established about what needs to be covered. Anything short of that gives Canadians false confidence that they are protected when they aren't in any meaningful way. At this time, the third party insurance market does not appear to provide adequate options or coverage, and effort is necessary to standardize custody standards, which is a likely first step in ultimately setting up an insurance framework. A better solution compared to third party insurance providers might be for Canadian exchange operators to create their own collective insurance fund, or a specific federal organization similar to the CDIC. Such an organization would have a greater interest or obligation in paying out actual cases, and that would be it's purpose rather than maximizing it's own profit. This would be similar to the SAFU which Binance has launched, except it would cover multiple exchanges. There is little question whether the SAFU would pay out given a breach of Binance, and a similar argument could be made for a insurance fund managed by a collective of exchange operators or a government organization. While a third party insurance provider has the strong market incentive to provide the absolute minimum coverage and no market incentive to payout, an entity managed by exchange operators would have incentive to protect the reputation of exchange operators/the industry, and the government should have the interest of protecting Canadians. On The Subject of Fractional Reserve There is a long history of fractional reserve failures, from the first banks in ancient times, through the great depression (where hundreds of fractional reserve banks failed), right through to the 2008 banking collapse referenced in the first bitcoin block. The fractional reserve system allows banks to multiply the money supply far beyond the actual cash (or other assets) in existence, backed only by a system of debt obligations of others. Safely supporting a fractional reserve system is a topic of far greater complexity than can be addressed by a simple policy, and when it comes to cryptocurrency, there is presently no entity reasonably able to bail anyone out in the event of failure. Therefore, this framework is addressed around entities that aim to maintain 100% backing of funds. There may be some firms that desire but have failed to maintain 100% backing. In this case, there are multiple solutions, including outside investment, merging with other exchanges, or enforcing a gradual restoration plan. All of these solutions are typically far better than shutting down the exchange, and there are multiple cases where they've been used successfully in the past. Proof of Reserves/Transparency/Accountability Canadians need to have visibility into the backing on an ongoing basis. The best solution for crypto-assets is a Proof of Reserve. Such ideas go back all the way to 2013, before even Mt. Gox. However, no Canadian exchange has yet implemented such a system, and only a few international exchanges (CoinFloor in the UK being an example) have. Many firms like Kraken, BitBuy, and now ShakePay use the Proof of Reserve term to refer to lesser proofs which do not actually cryptographically prove the full backing of all user assets on the blockchain. In order for a Proof of Reserve to be effective, it must actually be a complete proof, and it needs to be understood by the public that is expected to use it. Many firms have expressed reservations about the level of transparency required in a complete Proof of Reserve (for example Kraken here). While a complete Proof of Reserves should be encouraged, and there are some solutions in the works (ie TxQuick), this is unlikely to be suitable universally for all exchange operators and users. Given the limitations, and that firms also manage fiat assets, a more traditional audit process makes more sense. Some Canadian exchanges (CoinSquare, CoinBerry) have already subjected themselves to annual audits. However, these results are not presently shared publicly, and there is no guarantee over the process including all user assets or the integrity and independence of the auditor. The auditor has been typically not known, and in some cases, the identity of the auditor is protected by a NDA. Only in one case (BitBuy) was an actual report generated and publicly shared. There has been no attempt made to validate that user accounts provided during these audits have been complete or accurate. A fraudulent fractional exchange, or one which had suffered a breach they were unwilling to publicly accept (see CoinBene), could easily maintain a second set of books for auditors or simply exclude key accounts to pass an individual audit. The proposed solution would see a reporting standard which includes at a minimum - percentage of backing for each asset relative to account balances and the nature of how those assets are stored, with ownership proven by the auditor. The auditor would also publicly provide a "hash list", which they independently generate from the accounts provided by the exchange. Every exchange user can then check their information against this public "hash list". A hash is a one-way form of encryption, which fully protects the private information, yet allows anyone who knows that information already to validate that it was included. Less experienced users can take advantage of public tools to calculate the hash from their information (provided by the exchange), and thus have certainty that the auditor received their full balance information. Easy instructions can be provided. Auditors should be impartial, their identities and process public, and they should be rotated so that the same auditor is never used twice in a row. Balancing the cost of auditing against the needs for regular updates, a 6 month cycle likely makes the most sense. Hot Wallet Management The best solution for hot wallets is not to use them. CoinBerry reportedly uses multi-sig on all withdrawals, and Bitmex is an international example known for their structure devoid of hot wallets. However, many platforms and customers desire fast withdrawal processes, and human validation has a cost of time and delay in this process. A model of self-insurance or separate funds for hot wallets may be used in these cases. Under this model, a platform still has 100% of their client balance in cold storage and holds additional funds in hot wallets for quick withdrawal. Thus, the risk of those hot wallets is 100% on exchange operators and not affecting the exchange users. Since most platforms typically only have 1%-5% in hot wallets at any given time, it shouldn't be unreasonable to build/maintain these additional reserves over time using exchange fees or additional investment. Larger withdrawals would still be handled at regular intervals from the cold storage. Hot wallet risks have historically posed a large risk and there is no established standard to guarantee secure hot wallets. When the government of South Korea dispatched security inspections to multiple exchanges, the results were still that 3 of them got hacked after the inspections. If standards develop such that an organization in the market is willing to insure the hot wallets, this could provide an acceptable alternative. Another option may be for multiple exchange operators to pool funds aside for a hot wallet insurance fund. Comprehensive coverage standards must be established and maintained for all hot wallet balances to make sure Canadians are adequately protected.
Current Draft Proposal
(1) Proper multi-signature cold wallet storage. (a) Each private key is the personal and legal responsibility of one person - the “signatory”. Signatories have special rights and responsibilities to protect user assets. Signatories are trained and certified through a course covering (1) past hacking and fraud cases, (2) proper and secure key generation, and (3) proper safekeeping of private keys. All private keys must be generated and stored 100% offline by the signatory. If even one private keys is ever breached or suspected to be breached, the wallet must be regenerated and all funds relocated to a new wallet. (b) All signatories must be separate background-checked individuals free of past criminal conviction. Canadians should have a right to know who holds their funds. All signing of transactions must take place with all signatories on Canadian soil or on the soil of a country with a solid legal system which agrees to uphold and support these rules (from an established white-list of countries which expands over time). (c) 3-5 independent signatures are required for any withdrawal. There must be 1-3 spare signatories, and a maximum of 7 total signatories. The following are all valid combinations: 3of4, 3of5, 3of6, 4of5, 4of6, 4of7, 5of6, or 5of7. (d) A security audit should be conducted to validate the cold wallet is set up correctly and provide any additional pertinent information. The primary purpose is to ensure that all signatories are acting independently and using best practices for private key storage. A report summarizing all steps taken and who did the audit will be made public. Canadians must be able to validate the right measures are in place to protect their funds. (e) There is a simple approval process if signatories wish to visit any country outside Canada, with a potential whitelist of exempt countries. At most 2 signatories can be outside of aligned jurisdiction at any given time. All exchanges would be required to keep a compliant cold wallet for Canadian funds and have a Canadian office if they wish to serve Canadian customers. (2) Regular and transparent solvency audits. (a) An audit must be conducted at founding, after 3 months of operation, and at least once every 6 months to compare customer balances against all stored cryptocurrency and fiat balances. The auditor must be known, independent, and never the same twice in a row. (b) An audit report will be published featuring the steps conducted in a readable format. This should be made available to all Canadians on the exchange website and on a government website. The report must include what percentage of each customer asset is backed on the exchange, and how those funds are stored. (c) The auditor will independently produce a hash of each customer's identifying information and balance as they perform the audit. This will be made publicly available on the exchange and government website, along with simplified instructions that each customer can use to verify that their balance was included in the audit process. (d) The audit needs to include a proof of ownership for any cryptocurrency wallets included. A satoshi test (spending a small amount) or partially signed transaction both qualify. (e) Any platform without 100% reserves should be assessed on a regular basis by a government or industry watchdog. This entity should work to prevent any further drop, support any private investor to come in, or facilitate a merger so that 100% backing can be obtained as soon as possible. (3) Protections for hot wallets and transactions. (a) A standardized list of approved coins and procedures will be established to constitute valid cold storage wallets. Where a multi-sig process is not natively available, efforts will be undertaken to establish a suitable and stable smart contract standard. This list will be expanded and improved over time. Coins and procedures not on the list are considered hot wallets. (b) Hot wallets can be backed by additional funds in cold storage or an acceptable third-party insurance provider with a comprehensive coverage policy. (c) Exchanges are required to cover the full balance of all user funds as denominated in the same currency, or double the balance as denominated in bitcoin or CAD using an established trading rate. If the balance is ever insufficient due to market movements, the firm must rectify this within 24 hours by moving assets to cold storage or increasing insurance coverage. (d) Any large transactions (above a set threshold) from cold storage to any new wallet addresses (not previously transacted with) must be tested with a smaller transaction first. Deposits of cryptocurrency must be limited to prevent economic 51% attacks. Any issues are to be covered by the exchange. (e) Exchange platforms must provide suitable authentication for users, including making available approved forms of two-factor authentication. SMS-based authentication is not to be supported. Withdrawals must be blocked for 48 hours in the event of any account password change. Disputes on the negligence of exchanges should be governed by case law.
Continued review of existing OSC feedback is still underway. More feedback and opinions on the framework and ideas as presented here are extremely valuable. The above is a draft and not finalized. The process of further developing and bringing a suitable framework to protect Canadians will require the support of exchange operators, legal experts, and many others in the community. The costs of not doing such are tremendous. A large and convoluted framework, one based on flawed ideas or implementation, or one which fails to properly safeguard Canadians is not just extremely expensive and risky for all Canadians, severely limiting to the credibility and reputation of the industry, but an existential risk to many exchanges. The responsibility falls to all of us to provide our insight and make our opinions heard on this critical matter. Please take the time to give your thoughts.
Spreading Crypto: In Search of the Killer Application
This is the second post of ourSpreading Cryptoseries where we take a deep dive into what it’ll take to help this technology reach broader adoption. Mick exploring the state of apps in crypto Our previous post explored the history of protocols and how they only become widely adopted when a compelling application makes them more accessible and easier to use. Crypto will be no different. Blockchain technology today is mostly all low-level protocols. As with the numerous protocols that came before, these new, decentralized protocols need killer applications. So, how’s that going? Where is crypto’s killer application? What’s the state of application development within our industry? Today we’ll try to answer those questions. We’ll also take a close look at decentralized applications — as that’s where a lot of the developer energy and focus currently is. Let’s dive in.
Beyond the fact that the most popular crypto applications are all used for speculation, another common thread is that they are all centralized.
A centralized application means that ultimate power and control rests with a centralized party (the company who built it). For example, if Coinbase or Binance wants to block you from withdrawing your funds for whatever reason (maybe for suspicious activity or fraud), they can do that. They have control of their servers so they have control of your funds. Most popular applications that we all use daily are centralized (Netflix, Facebook, Youtube, etc). That’s the standard for modern, world-class applications today.
Even though the most popular crypto applications are all centralized, most of the developer energy and focus in our industry is with decentralized applications (dApps) and non-custodial products. These are products where only the user can touch or move funds. Not even the company or developer who built the application can access or control or stop funds from being moved. Only the user has control.
These applications allow users to truly become their own bank and have absolute control of their money.
If the most popular applications tend to be centralized (inside and out of crypto), why is so much of our community focused on building decentralized applications (dApps)? For the casual observer, that’s a reasonable, valid question.
“Not your keys, not your coins.”
This meme is endlessly repeated among longtime crypto hodlers. If you’re not in complete control of your crypto (i.e. using non-custodial wallets or dApps), then it’s not really your crypto. Engrained in the early culture of Bitcoin has always been a strong distrust for centralized authority and power — including the too-big-to-fail government-backed financial system. In the midst of the Financial Crisis, Satoshi Nakamoto included this headline in Bitcoin’s genesis block: “Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks.” There has always been a close connection between libertarianism & cryptocurrency. So it’s no surprise that much of the crypto developer community is spending their time building applications that are non-custodial or decentralized. It’s part of the DNA, the soul, the essence of our community. https://preview.redd.it/fy33zhkvdh551.png?width=1600&format=png&auto=webp&s=386c741f13e9119ecfcfffe1c781d09ce58704ed
When I was at Mainframe, we built Mainframe OS — a platform that developers use to build and launch decentralized applications (dApps). I’m deeply familiar with what’s possible and what’s not in the world of dApps. I have the battle scars and gray hair to prove it. We’ve hosted panels around the various challenges. We’ve even produced videos poking fun at how complicated it is for end-users to interact with.
After having spent three years in the trenches of this non-custodial world, I no longer believe that decentralized applications are capable of bringing crypto to the masses.
While I totally understand and appreciate the ethos of self-sovereignty, independence, and liberty… I think it’s a terrible mistake that as a community we are spending most of our time in this area of application development. Decentralized applications will not take crypto to the masses. Mainframe OS
The user friction that comes with decentralized applications is just too overwhelming. Let’s go through a few of the bigger points:
Knowledge & Education: Most non-custodial products do not abstract away any of the blockchain complexity. In fact, they often expose more of it because the most loyal users are crypto nerds. Imagine how a normie n00b feels when she starts seeing words like seed phrases, public & private keys, gas limits, transaction fees, blockchain explorers, hex addresses, and confirmation times. There is a lot for a user to learn and become educated on. That’s friction. The learning curve on this is just too damn high.
User Experience: It is currently impossible to create a smooth and performant user experience in non-custodial wallets or decentralized applications. Any interaction that requires a blockchain transaction will feel sluggish and slow. We built a messaging app on Ethereum and presented it at DevCon3 in Cancun. The technical constraints of blockchain technology were crushing to the user experience. We simply couldn’t create the real-time, modern messaging experience that users have come to expect from similar apps like Slack or WhatsApp. Until blockchains are closer in speed to web servers (which will be difficult given their decentralized nature), dApps will never be able to create the smooth user experience that the masses expect.
Loss of Funds Risk: There is no “Forgot Password” functionality when storing your own crypto in a non-custodial wallet. There is no customer support agent you can ping. There is no company behind it that can make you whole if you make a mistake and lose your money. You are on your own. One wrong move and your money is all gone. If you lose your private key, there is no way to recover your funds. This just isn’t the type of customer support experience people want or are used to.
Decentralized applications will always have a place in the market — especially among the most hardcore crypto people and parts of the world where these tools are essential. I’m personally an active user of many non-custodial products. I’m a blockchain early-adopter, I like to hold my own money, and I’m very forgiving of suboptimal UX.
However, I’m not afraid to say the poop stinks. Decentralized applications simply cannot produce the type of product experience that mainstream consumers expect.
If the goal is growth and adoption, as a community I believe we’re barking up the wrong tree. We are trying to make fetch happen. It isn’t gonna happen. Our Netscape Moment is unlikely to arrive as long as we’re focused on decentralized applications. \"Mean Girls\" movie There’s a reason why the most popular consumer applications are centralized (Spotify, Amazon, Instagram, etc). There’s a reason why the most popular crypto applications are centralized (Coinbase, Binance, etc). The frameworks, tooling, infrastructure, and services to support these modern, centralized applications are mature and well-established. It’s easier to build apps that are fast & performant. It’s easier to launch apps that are convenient and on all form-factors (especially mobile). It’s easier to distribute and promote via all the major app store channels (iOS/Android). It’s easier to patch, update, and upgrade. It’s easier to experiment and iterate.
It’s easier to design, build, and launch a world-class application when it is centralized! It is why we’ve chosen this path for Genesis Block.
We have a lot more content coming. Be sure to follow our channels: https://genesisblock.com/follow/ Have you already downloaded the app? We're Genesis Block, a new digital bank that's powered by crypto & decentralized protocols. The app is live in the App Store (iOS & Android). Get the link to download at https://genesisblock.com/download
Bitcoin (BTC) is a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency that aims to function as a means of exchange that is independent of any central authority. BTC can be transferred electronically in a secure, verifiable, and immutable way.
Launched in 2009, BTC is the first virtual currency to solve the double-spending issue by timestamping transactions before broadcasting them to all of the nodes in the Bitcoin network. The Bitcoin Protocol offered a solution to the Byzantine Generals’ Problem with ablockchainnetwork structure, a notion first created byStuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta in 1991.
Bitcoin’s whitepaper was published pseudonymously in 2008 by an individual, or a group, with the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto”, whose underlying identity has still not been verified.
The Bitcoin protocol uses an SHA-256d-based Proof-of-Work (PoW) algorithm to reach network consensus. Its network has a target block time of 10 minutes and a maximum supply of 21 million tokens, with a decaying token emission rate. To prevent fluctuation of the block time, the network’s block difficulty is re-adjusted through an algorithm based on the past 2016 block times.
With a block size limit capped at 1 megabyte, the Bitcoin Protocol has supported both the Lightning Network, a second-layer infrastructure for payment channels, and Segregated Witness, a soft-fork to increase the number of transactions on a block, as solutions to network scalability.
Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency that aims to function as a means of exchange and is independent of any central authority. Bitcoins are transferred electronically in a secure, verifiable, and immutable way.
Network validators, whom are often referred to as miners, participate in the SHA-256d-based Proof-of-Work consensus mechanism to determine the next global state of the blockchain.
The Bitcoin protocol has a target block time of 10 minutes, and a maximum supply of 21 million tokens. The only way new bitcoins can be produced is when a block producer generates a new valid block.
The protocol has a token emission rate that halves every 210,000 blocks, or approximately every 4 years.
Unlike public blockchain infrastructures supporting the development of decentralized applications (Ethereum), the Bitcoin protocol is primarily used only for payments, and has only very limited support for smart contract-like functionalities (Bitcoin “Script” is mostly used to create certain conditions before bitcoins are used to be spent).
In the Bitcoin network, anyone can join the network and become a bookkeeping service provider i.e., a validator. All validators are allowed in the race to become the block producer for the next block, yet only the first to complete a computationally heavy task will win. This feature is called Proof of Work (PoW). The probability of any single validator to finish the task first is equal to the percentage of the total network computation power, or hash power, the validator has. For instance, a validator with 5% of the total network computation power will have a 5% chance of completing the task first, and therefore becoming the next block producer. Since anyone can join the race, competition is prone to increase. In the early days, Bitcoin mining was mostly done by personal computer CPUs. As of today, Bitcoin validators, or miners, have opted for dedicated and more powerful devices such as machines based on Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (“ASIC”). Proof of Work secures the network as block producers must have spent resources external to the network (i.e., money to pay electricity), and can provide proof to other participants that they did so. With various miners competing for block rewards, it becomes difficult for one single malicious party to gain network majority (defined as more than 51% of the network’s hash power in the Nakamoto consensus mechanism). The ability to rearrange transactions via 51% attacks indicates another feature of the Nakamoto consensus: the finality of transactions is only probabilistic. Once a block is produced, it is then propagated by the block producer to all other validators to check on the validity of all transactions in that block. The block producer will receive rewards in the network’s native currency (i.e., bitcoin) as all validators approve the block and update their ledgers.
The Bitcoin protocol utilizes the Merkle tree data structure in order to organize hashes of numerous individual transactions into each block. This concept is named after Ralph Merkle, who patented it in 1979. With the use of a Merkle tree, though each block might contain thousands of transactions, it will have the ability to combine all of their hashes and condense them into one, allowing efficient and secure verification of this group of transactions. This single hash called is a Merkle root, which is stored in the Block Header of a block. The Block Header also stores other meta information of a block, such as a hash of the previous Block Header, which enables blocks to be associated in a chain-like structure (hence the name “blockchain”). An illustration of block production in the Bitcoin Protocol is demonstrated below. https://preview.redd.it/m6texxicf3151.png?width=1591&format=png&auto=webp&s=f4253304912ed8370948b9c524e08fef28f1c78d
Block time and mining difficulty
Block time is the period required to create the next block in a network. As mentioned above, the node who solves the computationally intensive task will be allowed to produce the next block. Therefore, block time is directly correlated to the amount of time it takes for a node to find a solution to the task. The Bitcoin protocol sets a target block time of 10 minutes, and attempts to achieve this by introducing a variable named mining difficulty. Mining difficulty refers to how difficult it is for the node to solve the computationally intensive task. If the network sets a high difficulty for the task, while miners have low computational power, which is often referred to as “hashrate”, it would statistically take longer for the nodes to get an answer for the task. If the difficulty is low, but miners have rather strong computational power, statistically, some nodes will be able to solve the task quickly. Therefore, the 10 minute target block time is achieved by constantly and automatically adjusting the mining difficulty according to how much computational power there is amongst the nodes. The average block time of the network is evaluated after a certain number of blocks, and if it is greater than the expected block time, the difficulty level will decrease; if it is less than the expected block time, the difficulty level will increase.
What are orphan blocks?
In a PoW blockchain network, if the block time is too low, it would increase the likelihood of nodes producingorphan blocks, for which they would receive no reward. Orphan blocks are produced by nodes who solved the task but did not broadcast their results to the whole network the quickest due to network latency. It takes time for a message to travel through a network, and it is entirely possible for 2 nodes to complete the task and start to broadcast their results to the network at roughly the same time, while one’s messages are received by all other nodes earlier as the node has low latency. Imagine there is a network latency of 1 minute and a target block time of 2 minutes. A node could solve the task in around 1 minute but his message would take 1 minute to reach the rest of the nodes that are still working on the solution. While his message travels through the network, all the work done by all other nodes during that 1 minute, even if these nodes also complete the task, would go to waste. In this case, 50% of the computational power contributed to the network is wasted. The percentage of wasted computational power would proportionally decrease if the mining difficulty were higher, as it would statistically take longer for miners to complete the task. In other words, if the mining difficulty, and therefore targeted block time is low, miners with powerful and often centralized mining facilities would get a higher chance of becoming the block producer, while the participation of weaker miners would become in vain. This introduces possible centralization and weakens the overall security of the network. However, given a limited amount of transactions that can be stored in a block, making the block time too longwould decrease the number of transactions the network can process per second, negatively affecting network scalability.
3. Bitcoin’s additional features
Segregated Witness (SegWit)
Segregated Witness, often abbreviated as SegWit, is a protocol upgrade proposal that went live in August 2017. SegWit separates witness signatures from transaction-related data. Witness signatures in legacy Bitcoin blocks often take more than 50% of the block size. By removing witness signatures from the transaction block, this protocol upgrade effectively increases the number of transactions that can be stored in a single block, enabling the network to handle more transactions per second. As a result, SegWit increases the scalability of Nakamoto consensus-based blockchain networks like Bitcoin and Litecoin. SegWit also makes transactions cheaper. Since transaction fees are derived from how much data is being processed by the block producer, the more transactions that can be stored in a 1MB block, the cheaper individual transactions become. https://preview.redd.it/depya70mf3151.png?width=1601&format=png&auto=webp&s=a6499aa2131fbf347f8ffd812930b2f7d66be48e The legacy Bitcoin block has a block size limit of 1 megabyte, and any change on the block size would require a network hard-fork. On August 1st 2017, the first hard-fork occurred, leading to the creation of Bitcoin Cash (“BCH”), which introduced an 8 megabyte block size limit. Conversely, Segregated Witness was a soft-fork: it never changed the transaction block size limit of the network. Instead, it added an extended block with an upper limit of 3 megabytes, which contains solely witness signatures, to the 1 megabyte block that contains only transaction data. This new block type can be processed even by nodes that have not completed the SegWit protocol upgrade. Furthermore, the separation of witness signatures from transaction data solves the malleability issue with the original Bitcoin protocol. Without Segregated Witness, these signatures could be altered before the block is validated by miners. Indeed, alterations can be done in such a way that if the system does a mathematical check, the signature would still be valid. However, since the values in the signature are changed, the two signatures would create vastly different hash values. For instance, if a witness signature states “6,” it has a mathematical value of 6, and would create a hash value of 12345. However, if the witness signature were changed to “06”, it would maintain a mathematical value of 6 while creating a (faulty) hash value of 67890. Since the mathematical values are the same, the altered signature remains a valid signature. This would create a bookkeeping issue, as transactions in Nakamoto consensus-based blockchain networks are documented with these hash values, or transaction IDs. Effectively, one can alter a transaction ID to a new one, and the new ID can still be valid. This can create many issues, as illustrated in the below example:
Alice sends Bob 1 BTC, and Bob sends Merchant Carol this 1 BTC for some goods.
Bob sends Carols this 1 BTC, while the transaction from Alice to Bob is not yet validated. Carol sees this incoming transaction of 1 BTC to him, and immediately ships goods to B.
At the moment, the transaction from Alice to Bob is still not confirmed by the network, and Bob can change the witness signature, therefore changing this transaction ID from 12345 to 67890.
Now Carol will not receive his 1 BTC, as the network looks for transaction 12345 to ensure that Bob’s wallet balance is valid.
As this particular transaction ID changed from 12345 to 67890, the transaction from Bob to Carol will fail, and Bob will get his goods while still holding his BTC.
With the Segregated Witness upgrade, such instances can not happen again. This is because the witness signatures are moved outside of the transaction block into an extended block, and altering the witness signature won’t affect the transaction ID. Since the transaction malleability issue is fixed, Segregated Witness also enables the proper functioning of second-layer scalability solutions on the Bitcoin protocol, such as the Lightning Network.
Lightning Network is a second-layer micropayment solution for scalability. Specifically, Lightning Network aims to enable near-instant and low-cost payments between merchants and customers that wish to use bitcoins. Lightning Network was conceptualized in a whitepaper by Joseph Poon and Thaddeus Dryja in 2015. Since then, it has been implemented by multiple companies. The most prominent of them include Blockstream, Lightning Labs, and ACINQ. A list of curated resources relevant to Lightning Network can be found here. In the Lightning Network, if a customer wishes to transact with a merchant, both of them need to open a payment channel, which operates off the Bitcoin blockchain (i.e., off-chain vs. on-chain). None of the transaction details from this payment channel are recorded on the blockchain, and only when the channel is closed will the end result of both party’s wallet balances be updated to the blockchain. The blockchain only serves as a settlement layer for Lightning transactions. Since all transactions done via the payment channel are conducted independently of the Nakamoto consensus, both parties involved in transactions do not need to wait for network confirmation on transactions. Instead, transacting parties would pay transaction fees to Bitcoin miners only when they decide to close the channel. https://preview.redd.it/cy56icarf3151.png?width=1601&format=png&auto=webp&s=b239a63c6a87ec6cc1b18ce2cbd0355f8831c3a8 One limitation to the Lightning Network is that it requires a person to be online to receive transactions attributing towards him. Another limitation in user experience could be that one needs to lock up some funds every time he wishes to open a payment channel, and is only able to use that fund within the channel. However, this does not mean he needs to create new channels every time he wishes to transact with a different person on the Lightning Network. If Alice wants to send money to Carol, but they do not have a payment channel open, they can ask Bob, who has payment channels open to both Alice and Carol, to help make that transaction. Alice will be able to send funds to Bob, and Bob to Carol. Hence, the number of “payment hubs” (i.e., Bob in the previous example) correlates with both the convenience and the usability of the Lightning Network for real-world applications.
Schnorr Signature upgrade proposal
Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (“ECDSA”) signatures are used to sign transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain. https://preview.redd.it/hjeqe4l7g3151.png?width=1601&format=png&auto=webp&s=8014fb08fe62ac4d91645499bc0c7e1c04c5d7c4 However, many developers now advocate for replacing ECDSA with Schnorr Signature. Once Schnorr Signatures are implemented, multiple parties can collaborate in producing a signature that is valid for the sum of their public keys. This would primarily be beneficial for network scalability. When multiple addresses were to conduct transactions to a single address, each transaction would require their own signature. With Schnorr Signature, all these signatures would be combined into one. As a result, the network would be able to store more transactions in a single block. https://preview.redd.it/axg3wayag3151.png?width=1601&format=png&auto=webp&s=93d958fa6b0e623caa82ca71fe457b4daa88c71e The reduced size in signatures implies a reduced cost on transaction fees. The group of senders can split the transaction fees for that one group signature, instead of paying for one personal signature individually. Schnorr Signature also improves network privacy and token fungibility. A third-party observer will not be able to detect if a user is sending a multi-signature transaction, since the signature will be in the same format as a single-signature transaction.
4. Economics and supply distribution
The Bitcoin protocol utilizes the Nakamoto consensus, and nodes validate blocks via Proof-of-Work mining. The bitcoin token was not pre-mined, and has a maximum supply of 21 million. The initial reward for a block was 50 BTC per block. Block mining rewards halve every 210,000 blocks. Since the average time for block production on the blockchain is 10 minutes, it implies that the block reward halving events will approximately take place every 4 years. As of May 12th 2020, the block mining rewards are 6.25 BTC per block. Transaction fees also represent a minor revenue stream for miners.
Top 50 Cryptocurrencies I thought this might be of real help for the ones that are just joining crypto and still want to read. Let’s face it: there are a lot of cryptocurrencies out there, with new ones coming out almost daily and old ones disappearing seemingly just as fast as they appeared. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. If you are new to cryptocurrencies, this is an excellent starting point to learn about each of the top 50 cryptocurrencies (by market cap). Even if you’re a crypto veteran, this is a great resource to reference if you ever get any of the top 50 confused, or if you want to read more about a new coin which has joined the ranks. Our hope is to point you in the right direction, spur your interest to do more research, and steer you away from the potential scams out there (And yes, there are potential scam coins in the top 50!) Here at Invest In Blockchain, we are obsessed with researching the internet for all things crypto. The information found in this post is the result of hundreds of hours of painstaking research by me and other writers on our team. Note that this list is constantly changing and I will do my best to keep it up-to-date, but the top 50 moves almost daily! Please refer to coinmarketcap.com for the latest information on the top 50 cryptocurrencies and their prices. Let’s get started! (Information accurate as of May 23, 2018)
#1 – Bitcoin (BTC)
📷 The king of the crypto world, Bitcoin is now a household name; to many, it is synonymous with “cryptocurrency”. Its purpose is to provide a peer-to-peer electronic version of cash to allow payments to be sent online without the need for a third party (such as Mastercard). The rapid rise in Bitcoin’s price has brought about an explosion of new Bitcoin investors. With the huge increase in interest has come a rise in merchants accepting Bitcoin as a legitimate form of payment. Bitcoin is fast moving towards its goal of becoming a currency accepted worldwide. Bitcoin’s development is led by Bitcoin Core developer Wladimir J. van der Laan, who took over the role on April 8, 2014. Bitcoin’s changes are decided democratically by the community. For an in-depth look at Bitcoin, including an explanation of Bitcoin mining, Bitcoin’s history, an analysis of Bitcoins’ value and a description on how bitcoin actually works, see our comprehensive guide “What is Bitcoin? Everything You Need to Know About Bitcoin, Explained“. For a more detailed description of Bitcoin’s economics, what makes money and how Bitcoin works in the economy as a whole see: “Bitcoin Explained” and “Bitcoin is a Deflationary Currency”.
#2 – Ethereum (ETH)
📷 Ethereum is the revolutionary platform which brought the concept of “smart contracts” to the blockchain. First released to the world in July 2015 by then 21-year-old Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum has quickly risen from obscurity to cryptocurrency celebrity status. Buterin has a full team of developers working behind him to further develop the Ethereum platform. For more background information on Buterin, read our article, “Vitalik Buterin: The Face of Blockchain”. Ethereum has the ability to process transactions quickly and cheaply over the blockchain similar to Bitcoin, but also has the ability to run smart contracts. For future reading on smart contracts, see “What’s the Difference Between Bitcoin and Ethereum”; but for now, think automated processes which can do just about anything. For further reading on Ethereum, including an analysis of the platform’s strengths and future prospects, read “What is Ethereum, Everything You Need to Know Explained“.
#3 – Ripple (XRP)
📷 Ripple aims to improve the speed of financial transactions, specifically international banking transactions. Anyone who has ever sent money internationally knows that today it currently takes anywhere from 3-5 business days for a transaction to clear. It is faster to withdraw money, get on a plane, and fly it to your destination than it is to send it electronically! Not to mention you will be paying exorbitant transaction fees — usually somewhere around 6% but it can vary depending on the financial institution. Ripple’s goal is to make these transactions fast (it only takes around 4 seconds for a transaction to clear) and cheap. The Ripple team currently comprises over 150 people, making it one of the biggest in the cryptocurrency world. They are led by CEO Brad Garlinghouse, who has an impressive resume which includes high positions in other organizations such as Yahoo and Hightail. Check out “What is Ripple” for more information, including a closer look at what they do, controversies and future prospects.
#4 – Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
📷 Bitcoin Cash was created on August 1, 2017 after a “hard fork” of the Bitcoin blockchain. For years, a debate has been raging in the Bitcoin community on whether to increase the block size in the hope of alleviating some of the network bottleneck which has plagued Bitcoin due to its increased popularity. Because no agreement could be reached, the original Bitcoin blockchain was forked, leaving the Bitcoin chain untouched and in effect creating a new blockchain which would allow developers to modify some of Bitcoin’s original programmed features. Generally speaking, the argument for Bitcoin Cash is that by allowing the block size to increase, more transactions can be processed in the same amount of time. Those opposed to Bitcoin Cash argue that increasing the block size will increase the storage and bandwidth requirement, and in effect will price out normal users. This could lead to increased centralization, the exact thing Bitcoin set out to avoid. Bitcoin Cash does not have one single development team like Bitcoin. There are now multiple independent teams of developers. Read “What is Bitcoin Cash” for more information. You can also check out their reddit and official webpage.
#5 – EOS (EOS)
📷 Billed as a potential “Ethereum Killer”, EOS proposes improvements that can challenge Ethereum as the dominant smart contract platform. One main issue EOS looks to improve is the scalability problems which has plagued the Ethereum network during times of high transaction volume, specifically during popular ICOs. A perhaps more profound difference EOS has, compared to Ethereum, is the way in which you use the EOS network. With Ethereum, every time you make modifications or interact with the network, you need to pay a fee. With EOS, the creator of the DAPP (decentralized app) can foot the bill, while the user pays nothing. And if you think about it, this makes sense. Would you want to have to pay every time you post something on social media? No, of course not! In addition to this, EOS has a few other technical advantages over Ethereum such as delegated proof of stake and other protocol changes. Just know that EOS has some serious power under the hood to back up the claim of “Ethereum Killer”. EOS was created by Dan Larrimer who is no stranger to blockchain or start ups. He has been the driving force behind multiple successful projects in the past such as BitShares, Graphene and Steem. For more information on EOS such as how and where to buy EOS tokens, EOS’s vision and potential challenges, see “What is EOS”.
#6 – Litecoin (LTC)
📷 Similar to Bitcoin, Litecoin is a peer-to-peer transaction platform designed to be used as a digital currency. Due to some notable technical improvements, Litecoin is able to handle more transactions at lower costs. Litecoin has been designed to process the small transactions we make daily. Litecoin is sometimes referred to “digital silver” while Bitcoin is known as “digital gold”. This is because traditionally silver was used for small daily transactions while gold was used as a store of wealth and was not used in everyday life. The Litecoin blockchain is a fork from the Bitcoin chain. It was initially launched in 2011 when its founder, Charlie Lee, was still working for Google. Well-known as a cryptocurrency expert, Charlie Lee is backed by a strong development team who appear to be achieving what they set out to do. They have recently achieved a very notable accomplishment with the first successful atomic swap. For an in-depth discussion on what Litecoin does, how it is different than Bitcoin and the team backing up the development, see “What is Litecoin”.
#7 – Cardano (ADA)
📷 Cardano is a smart contract-focused blockchain. It was originally released under the name Input Output Hong Kong by Charles Hoskinson and Jeremy Wood, a few of the early team members of Ethereum, and later rebranded into Cardano. Cardano is trying to fix some of the largest problems the cryptocurrency world which have been causing ongoing issues for years such as scalability issues and democratized voting. They have the potential to challenge Ethereum’s dominance in the smart contract world. Cardano is developing their own programing language similar to Ethereum; however, they are focusing more heavily on being interoperable between other cryptocurrencies. While some cryptocurrencies are all bite but no bark, Cardano is quite the opposite. They are quietly focusing on a strong software which will be completely open-source. Cardano’s team comprises some of the best minds in the industry, and they seek to create a strong foundation which others can build upon for years to come. For up-to-date information on Cardano’s status see their Reddit page or official website. You can also read our article “What is Cardano” to learn more about them.
#8 – Stellar Lumens (XLM)
📷 In a nutshell, Stellar Lumens seeks to use blockchain to make very fast international payments with small fees. The network can handle thousands of transactions a second with only a 3-5 second confirmation time. As you may know, Bitcoin can sometimes take 10-15 minutes for a transaction to confirm, can only handle a few transactions a second and, in turn, has very high transaction fees. If this sounds a lot like Ripple, you’re right! Stellar Lumens was based off of the Ripple protocol) and is attempting to do similar things. Some of Stellar Lumens’ main uses will be for making small daily payments (micropayments), sending money internationally, and mobile payments. Stellar Lumens is focusing on the developing world and, more specifically, the multi-billion dollar industry of migrant workers who send money back to their family in impoverished countries. The Stellar Lumens team is led by Jed McCaleb, who has worked in numerous successful startups in the past such as eDonkey, Overnet, Ripple, and the infamous Mt. Gox. For more information on Stellar Lumens, including the history and what sets Stellar Lumens apart, see “What are Stellar Lumens”. You can also learn about the differences between Stellar Lumens and Ripple.
#9 – TRON (TRX)
📷 As stated in TRON’s whitepaper, “TRON is an attempt to heal the internet”. The TRON founders believe that the internet has deviated from its original intention of allowing people to freely create content and post as they please; instead, the internet has been taken over by huge corporations like Amazon, Google, Alibaba and others. TRON is attempting to take the internet back from these companies by constructing a free content entertainment system. This will enable users to freely store, publish and own data, giving them the power to decide where and how to share. The project is led by founder Justin Sun, who has been listed on the Forbes 30 under 30 list twice (in 2015 and 2017). In addition, Sun is a protégé of Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group, China’s former Ripple representative and the founder of Peiwo APP. Sun has assembled a strong team with heavy hitters including Binshen Tang (founder of Clash of King), Wei Dai (founder of ofo, the biggest shared bicycles provider in China), and Chaoyong Wang (founder of ChinaEquity Group). Sun has also secured the support of a few notable angel investors such as Xue Manzi. For up-to-date information on Tron and further discussion of the technology and team, see “What is Tron” and their website.
#10 – IOTA (MIOTA)
📷 IOTA has seen many of the issues Bitcoin and Ethereum have with the POW (proof-of-work) and POI (proof-of-importance) models and looks to improve them with their revolutionary transaction validation network simply called “tangle”. When issuing a transaction in IOTA, you validate 2 previous transactions. This means you no longer outsource validation to miners which requires wasteful amounts of computing power and usually a large stake of coins. These required resources are, in effect, centralizing the currencies which many believe were created to be decentralized in the first place. With IOTA, the more active a ledger is, the more validation there is. In other words, the more people who use it, the faster it gets. You don’t have to subsidize miners, so there are no fees on transactions. That’s right: zero. The IOTA team has been actively developing blockchain technology since 2011, and created the IOTA foundation and company in 2016. Since its emergence, the team has been continuously growing, attracting exceptional talent from around the world. For more information on IOTA’s team and their revolutionary“tangle” technology, check out “What is IOTA”.
#11 – NEO (NEO)
📷 A leading platform for smart contracts and sometimes referred to as “China’s Ethereum”. NEO (formally Antshares) hopes to digitize many types of assets which were formerly kept in more traditional means, and therefore make it possible to use them in smart contracts. To imagine a potential use case of NEO, think digitizing the title to a house into a smart asset, and then setting up that asset to automatically transfer to another person after payment for the house has been received. This would be, in effect, a simple smart contract. NEO founder Da Hongfei is a leading figure in the cryptocurrency world and has worked on numerous blockchain projects in the past. The development team consists of 6 in-house investors and a large community of third-party developers. For a complete overview of NEO, including the team, history and competitive analysis, check out “What is NEO”.
#12 – Dash (DASH)
📷 Dash (which comes from ‘digital cash’) aims to be the most user-friendly and scalable cryptocurrency in the world. It has the ability to send funds instantly confirmed by “double-send-proof” security with the added functionality of erasable transaction history and the ability to send transactions anonymously. Like Bitcoin, Dash is meant to be used as a digital currency but has some added values such as much faster transaction times and lower fees. For a slightly higher fee, Dash has the added function of “instant send” which allows transactions to be confirmed almost instantly. This is one of the main selling points of Dash because many believe that this feature would allow it to be used in brick and mortar establishments. The Dash development team consists of over 50 members and is led by former financial services professional Evan Duffield. For the latest on Dash, see their official website and reddit page. You can also read “What is Dash” to learn more about the project.
#13 – Monero (XMR)
📷 Monero is a digital currency designed to be used as a completely anonymous payment system. A common misconception with Bitcoin is that it is completely anonymous. In reality, all payments processed on the Bitcoin network are recorded on a public ledger (blockchain), so Bitcoin is actually only partially anonymous or “pseudonymous”. This means that you can, in theory, trace back every transaction a coin has been involved with from its creation. Though users aren’t able to inherently link the public key on the blockchain with the private keys used to store the coins themselves, there will always exist a correlation between the two. Monero has solved this problem by implementing cryptonic hashing of receiving addresses, therefore separating the coin from the address it is going to. This can be hugely valuable for anyone wishing to conceal their purchases. The Monero development team consists of 7 core developers, only two of which are publicly known. There have been over 200 additional contributors to the project and software updates are implemented every six months or so. To learn more about Monero including its competitors and challenges, read “What is Monero”. If you’re thinking about investing in Monero, check out our opinion piece “Should You Invest In Monero?“.
#14 – Tether (UDST)
📷 Tether is a cryptocurrency token issued on the Bitcoin blockchain. Each Tether coin is allegedly backed by one US Dollar. The goal is to facilitate transactions with a rate fixed to the USD. Amongst other things, Tether looks to fix some of the legal issues which can arise when trading cryptocurrencies and it aims to protect people from market volatility. Tether has faced controversy regarding their business model, and some consider it a scam. More info can be seen on reddit posts such as this.
#15 – NEM (XEM)
📷 NEM (New Economy Movement) is the world’s first proof-of-importance (POI) enterprise based on blockchain technology. With a focus on business use cases, the software was built from the ground up with adaptability in mind. NEM’s goal is for companies to use their “smart asset system” to implement customizable blockchains. A smart asset can be almost anything: a cryptocurrency token, a business’s stock or a company’s invoicing and records. Some potential use cases for NEM’s technology include: voting, crowdfunding, stock ownership, keeping secure records, loyalty rewards point programs, mobile payments and escrow services. A list of NEM’s use cases can be found here. The development of NEM is monitored by the Singapore-based NEM Foundation. For more information on what NEM does and what sets NEM apart from its competitors, see “What is NEM”.
#16 – VeChain (VEN)
📷 As described in VeChain’s development plan, the organization’s purpose is to build “a trustfree and distributed business ecosystem based on the Blockchain technology self-circulated and expanding”. They plan to do this by creating an efficient trustless business ecosystem to significantly reduce the wasteful information transfer systems of today. Some of the areas and industries the VeChain platform is focusing on include eliminating counterfeiting in the fashion and luxury industry, food safety tracking systems, digitizing maintenance in the car industry and many other global supply chain processes. For more information on VeChain, see their reddit and website. Read “What is Vechain” to learn about the project, and our investment opinion piece “5 Reasons to Invest in Vechain“.
#17 – Ethereum Classic (ETC)
📷 Ethereum Classic came about after a hard fork of Ethereum in 2016. The fork was a result of the infamous DOA hack where around 50 million dollars worth of Ethereum was stolen due to what was considered an oversight in the code. The blockchain was forked in order to recoup the losses from this attack, but a small portion of the community did not wish to go back and change the original blockchain. Vitalik Buterin, founder of Ethereum, and subsequently the development team chose to go with the hard fork and work on what is now “Ethereum” today. There is a lot of ongoing controversy with Ethereum Classic which can be better described on this reddit thread. For an in-depth discussion of Ethereum Classic, see”What is Ethereum Classic“.
#18 – Binance Coin (BNB)
📷 Binance Coin is the coin used to facilitate operations on the Binance platform, a cryptocurrency exchange that is capable of processing 1.4 million orders per second. The name “Binance” is derived from the combination of the terms “binary” and “finance”, referring to the integration of digital technology and finance. The BNB coin is used to pay exchange fees, withdrawal fees, listing fees, and all other possible transaction expenses on the Binance platform. In order to incentivize new users to do their cryptocurrency trading on Binance, the team is offering discounts when BNB is used to pay fees. The discount will be 50% in the first year, 25% in the second, 12.5% in the third, and 6.25% in the fourth year before the discount ends. Binance was primarily marketed to Chinese cryptocurrency investors at first, but they also have English, Korean, Japanese, French, Spanish, and Russian versions of the platform. For a deeper look into Binance, you can read the whitepaper or check out the trading platform here.
#19 – Bytecoin (BCN)
📷 Bytecoindescribes itself as “a private, decentralized cryptocurrency with with open source code that allows everyone to take part in the Bytecoin network development”. It is the first coin to offer untraceable payments, unlinkable transactions and resistance to blockchain analysis. With Bytecoin, it is possible to send instant transactions anywhere around the world, which are totally untraceable and don’t require additional fees. Bytecoin’s development is community-driven and a list of all of the different community websites can be found here. For more information on Bytecoin, see: “What is Bytecoin“.
#20 – QTUM (QTUM)
📷 QTUM (pronounced Quantum) is an open-source value transfer platform which focuses on mobile decentralized apps or Dapps. QTUM is the world’s first proof-of-stake smart contracts platform. QTUM is meant to be used as both a value transfer protocol, like Bitcoin, and a smart contract platform, like Ethereum. They have a number of technical innovations which some consider to make it superior to Ethereum, and they are focusing on mobile applications. The platform itself is very new. It came about in March 2017, after a highly successful crowdfunding campaign raised them nearly 16 million dollars in only 5 days. QTUM has a small but strong development team and an impressive list of investors backing their ideas. QTUM’s development is lead by the Singapore based QTUM Foundation. For further reading on the background of QTUM and what sets them apart, see “What is QTUM”.
#21 – Zcash (ZEC)
📷 ZCash is a value transfer protocol forked off of the Bitcoin blockchain. ZCash can be used like Bitcoin, with a few added improvements. With “zero cash technology”, ZCash shields both the amount transferred and the senders, making transactions truly anonymous. ZCash is one of the new kids on the block in the world of “private transactions”. An interesting note is that Ethereum is in the process of implementing some of ZCash’s technologies to enable transactions on the Ethereum network to be anonymous as well. ZCash is being developed by the Zerocoin Electric Coin Company. They’ve had some great successes, most notably JP Morgan’s announcement that they would implement Zcash’s privacy technology to Quarum, a technology JP built on Ethereum. Interested in investing in ZCash? Here’s the opinion of one of our writers: Should You Invest In ZCash? ZCash was recently featured on the Radiolab episode The Ceremony.
#22 – OmiseGO (OMG)
📷 “Unbank the Banked” is the slogan of Omise’s online platform OmiseGo and that’s exactly what Omise has set out to do. Founded in 2013 off of the Ethereum blockchain, Omise aims to revolutionize the financial dynamics in Southeast Asia. Omise is targeting individuals and businesses of all sizes by improving the current financial system which is slow, outdated, and inaccessible to most “everyday” people in these countries. With their planned online exchange OmiseGO, Omise seeks to speed up the way money is spent and sent, both domestically and internationally in Southeast Asia and beyond. They have a lot to celebrate too. OmiseGo has been building partnerships in the region and recently partnered with McDonald’s and Credit Saison. Omise has established a strong team of over 130 staff members located in different countries. CEO and founder of Omise, Jun Hasegawa, has been involved in multiple startups and worked for Google for over 16 years. The OmiseGO platform has been endorsed by some of the heavy hitters in the cryptocurrency world such as Vitalik Buterin and Gavin Wood, the co-founders of Ethereum. For more information on what OmiseGO aims to do, see “What is OmiseGo”.
#23 – ICON (ICX)
📷 Fresh off a successful ICO, the Korea-based startup ICON is looking to provide a medium to connect all the different blockchains together. This puts ICON in the same field as Ark, which is attempting to accomplish similar goals. The main concept of ICON is their idea of a “loopchain”. As stated in their whitepaper, a loopchain can be described as a “high-performance blockchain that can provide real-time transaction, which is based on enhanced Smart Contract.” Through ICON, participants will be able to connect to any blockchain without relying on the current centralized exchanges. ICON has a relatively large team from various backgrounds. They have also secured the help of a few notable advisors such as Jason Best and Don Tapscott. For more information on ICON and the work they’re doing, see “What is ICON“.
#24 – Lisk (LSK)
📷 Lisk is a decentralized network, like Bitcoin and Litecoin, which enables developers to deploy their own side chains off the main Lisk blockchain. These side chains are fully customizable blockchains which enable you to change the parameters you want to fit your own blockchain application. This is similar to Ethereum and QTUM in some ways. With Lisk, the main difference is that the customizable blockchains split into their own separate side chains. This saves developers the grueling legwork of designing something from scratch. At the end of the day, side chains are only decentralized databases of blockchain applications. Lisk is being developed by a small but quickly growing Berlin-based team. They are led by co-founders Max Kordek and Olivier Beddows who are veterans in the cryptocurrency and development world. For a thorough look into Lisk including more on what Lisk does, its competitors, challenges and teams, see “What is Lisk”. You can also check out our case study of an accountant who invested all his life savings in Lisk: “Accountant Invests All in Lisk”.
#25 – Zilliqa – (ZIL)
📷 Zilliqa is a blockchain platform which focuses on solving the problem of scaling on public blockchains. With Zilliqa’s network, the number of transactions increases at a linear rate to the number of nodes. This means that as nodes increase, so will its ability to handle high transaction volume. Zilliqa has already run a successfultest on their network, where they were able to achieve 1,200 transactions per second with only 2,400 nodes. Zilliqa also is the first blockchain to successfully integrate “sharding” into a public blockchain. This concept is extremely useful in improving the rate of scalability, bandwidth and performance in blockchains. Sharding, in effect, splits nodes into “shards” which can then conduct micro-transactions in each blockchain block. In addition to this, Zilliqa claims to be more energy-efficient to mine. They also plan to implement dapps into their platform in the future. For more information on Zilliqa, see their website and reddit. Our article “What is Zilliqa” can provide you with an overview of the project.
4 Sub-$10 Million Market Cap Coins Worth Keeping An Eye On
1. Spectrecoin ($XSPEC) – $8.6 Million
What is Spectrecoin?
Utilizing a “range of proven cryptographic techniques” to achieve anonymous, untraceable, and un-linkable transactions, Spectrecoin is a secure Proof-of-Stake cryptocurrency enabling rapid P2P transactions and network privacy. Specifically, Spectrecoin is pulling out all the stops in order to protect user identity through their integration of:
Built-in Tor: Derived from the original software project moniker—The Onion Router—Spectrecoin is fully integrated with Tor, protecting real IP addresses at all times through the directing of traffic through a worldwide (and free) overlay network of more than 7,000 relays.
Anonymous coin creation: Deploying dual key stealth technology (a dual coin system), Spectre authorizes users to generate ‘anonymous coins’ known as SPECTRE for private and anonymous transactions as an alternative to their normal, everyday coin—XSPEC—for traditional transactions (most similar to Bitcoin).
Ring signatures: Through the execution and implementation of ring signatures, Spectrecoin user transaction history is wiped altogether, allowing users to exchange and transfer public coins, XSPEC, and SPECTRE.
At its core, Spectre’s dual coin system sanctions four fundamental types of privacy and anonymity transactions, XSPEC > XSPEC, XSPEC > SPECTRE, SPECTRE > SPECTRE, and SPECTRE > XSPEC, providing a plethora of transaction options for every type of user. And finally, if you’re looking for the TLDR (too long, didn’t read), Spectrecoin notes the best way to understand SPECTRE is to think of Bitcoin + Proof-of-Stake.v3 + anonymous transactions (similar to Monero) + Tor (for IP obfuscation).
Why You Should Keep an Eye On XSPEC
Unlike several other privacy coins which merely provide a Tor proxy—availing users to potential malicious exit nodes—Spectrecoin is fully integrated with Tor, a reliable and tested network providing one of the largest pools of IP addresses for confidentiality and untraceability. Coupled with staking, set at a 5% minimum per year, Spectrecoin offers a unique proposition (the only one in blockchain) for users looking to earn rewards while remaining anonymous by staking anonymous coins while generating more, fresh anonymous ones. Furthermore, for those looking for affirmation of Spectrecoin’s commitment to anonymity, not even the developers know each other’s real names—something that would have made walking away from a lacklustre ICO (which only raised 16 BTC at $600/700 per BTC) all too easy. Spectre has emphasized organic growth without an excessive and aggressive marketing push, opting instead for a working product and timely improvements to meet the ever-changing privacy arms race. And, with their funding gap set around £19,000, users can take solace in knowing the project isn’t an outright cash grab asking for millions to further tenuous goodwill—like far too many projects in the cryptosphere. At time of writing, XSPEC is listed on CoinMarketcap at US$0.41 or 5,970 Satoshis. Finally, if you’re wondering how Spectrecoin stacks up to other privacy coins, such as Monero, PIVX, and Zcash, check out this comparison chart.
2. FundRequest ($FND) – $1 Million
What is FundRequest?
In an age where open source software is an integral component for institutional, government, and nonprofit function and growth, there unfortunately remains a hindering factor—a cohesive, transparent, and styled request and transaction flow. Cue FundRequest, a decentralized marketplace for open source collaboration and catalyst for global open source sharing and circulation, empowering organizations, government, and other entities to:
Trustlessly transact via the blockchain and smart contracts to ensure all contracts created are self-resolving, tracked, and validated in a fair manner,
Incentivize organizations and developers to act in good faith through governance protocols and crypto economics,
Lower costsfor upkeep, while reducing friction for large-scale usage and adoption of open source technology,
Boost transparency for organizations looking to better understand average development and issue costs (ultimately resulting in a more efficient market), and
Integrate with third-party platforms (and vice versa), who are looking to benefit from already completed works.
Need to brush up on what exactly ‘open source’ means? The Open Source Initiative describes the concept of ‘open source’ as a tool which “enables a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process.” For example, a requesting organization (referred to as the funder) will allot set funds—stored in a smart contract (i.e., escrow)—in order to tackle an open source issue, which is then picked up and solved by a developer (the solver). In order to eliminate malicious behavior, FundRequest requires solvers to “have skin in the game,” by staking proportional valued funds, all released and claimed once the issue is solved. Simply put, FundRequest is the go-to facilitating and incentivization platform (similar to Airbnb and Uber) for funding, claiming, and rewarding open source commits and contributions, leading to an enriched and more collaborative open source ecosystem.
Why You Should Keep an Eye On FND
With an estimated US$60 billion-plus in savings per year for organizations and institutions, thanks to open-source software and technology adoption, FundRequest is set to act as the glue which connects all dispersed and integral parts and actors. Traditional software, prohibitive costs, and predatory vendor practices are proving not to be conducive towards maximal technological growth and development, as most people and organizations just simply can’t afford or maintain it. Plus, with a clear push by both private and public sectors to leverage community-based software for development and distribution over the last decade, it’s expanding at rapid pace. In 2018, it’s approximated over 50% of European and North American companies utilize open source software for “crucial applications,” along with over 50% of American government organizations. This is no small industry. GitHub alone boasts over 24 million users (more than 8 times their user base five years ago), and it’s estimated that in the EU and United States combined, there’s over 160 million persons working as freelancers and independent contractors in what’s known as the “gig economy.” And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, with over 60% of online gig economy workers accounted for in Asia. As of August 1st, FND’s price sits at right around US$0.03 or 472 Satoshis. Finally, for open source projects and ERC-20 token projects looking to increase development capacity, consider checking out FundRequest for potential partnerships. Already in their short tenure, FundRequest has partnered with:
Redefining convenience, simplicity, and compatibility, and short for the “Crypto One-Stop Solution’ exchange and platform, COSS is the native token and liquidity attraction tool of the Singapore-based exchange, boasting some of the most popular altcoins on the market while enabling users to receive weekly payouts in “dust” for all traded tokens. Specifically, COSS is looking to provide more than just a simple, fast, and secure cryptocurrency trading exchange—they’re building a borderless, digital economical system to bring cryptocurrencies to the masses via:
Digital wallet with integrated cash flow: allowing users to seamlessly transfer and store crypto funds between the exchange and wallet within a single application.
ICO platform: enabling projects to fund and their ICO on the COSS exchange to increase popularity, volume, and trading value.
Ultimately, COSS is looking to shake up the cryptocurrency exchange ecosystem through improved user experience, heightened product and feature functions, and a comprehensive foundation for employers, startups, companies, and traders to build towards a more accessible and mainstream cooperative blockchain community.
Why You Should Keep an Eye on COSS
With the rapid and gargantuan successes enjoyed by both Kucoin and Binance in 2018, crypto exchanges employing user-friendly token incentivization models are becoming a go-to for users looking to generate passive income while diversifying their crypto portfolio. However, unlike other cryptocurrency exchanges which have lowered their daily fee splits to nominal amounts, COSS has stayed true towards user rewards, keeping their daily percentage at 50%—paying out the respective dividends via a decentralized autonomous organization, ultimately guaranteeing an immutable percentage. In order to stay competitive in the present-day blockchain ecosystem, COSS’s whitepaper notes a minimum of 3-5 new features implemented per quarter. In the past several months, below are just several of their most notable achievements:
Partnership with Blockchain Terminal (BCT): Easing the transition for institutional investors to trade and transact on crypto exchanges.
NEO Listing: Trading pairs for NEO/BTC, NEO/ETH, NEO/USD, and NEO/COSS.
Preparation for COSS 2.0: The hiring of a team of over thirty developers in preparation of COSS 2.0, which is set to roll out dynamic withdrawal fees, sophisticated trading tools, dust conversion, public and private APIs, new wallet, institutional accounts, and more.
And, if you’re looking to know what COSS’s endgame here is, their goal is to shift completely towards a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) in the future, where governance and decision making is outlined in code and run by a peer-to-peer network. Currently, COSS’s price is listed at US$0.06 or 935 Satoshis on Coinmarketcap. Finally, if you’re curious about COSS’s fee sharing, check out the COSS fee share calculator, which provides an accurate picture of your monthly exchange fee earnings relative to the amount of COSS owned. One Reddit user recently posted, and provided a screenshot, showing the COSS annual dividends to be at nearly 10% per year.
4. Lamden ($TAU) – $6.9 Million
What is Lamden?
Named after the Sherpa language word meaning “to guide,” Lamden is staying true to its name by easing the creation and deployment of dapps and custom blockchains. At its core, Lamden is providing a suite of developer tools mimicking “modern development processes in such tech stacks as Node.js or Python.” Simply put, Lamden is supplying the building blocks for experienced and amateur blockchain developers alike, enabling organizations and enterprise to skirt the energy and time costs of hiring and training expensive blockchain developers—ultimately speeding up efficiency and reducing overhead costs. Lamden is broken up into three fundamental sections, which all are in furtherance of project depth and the deployment of hyperfast blockchains for developers to not only experiment with, but test and deploy across other blockchain systems and platforms:
Saffron: a general tool sanctioning the deployment of private chains on an internal network, partitioning blockchains into individual use cases (e.g., an enterprise having their own web app), and bringing them together to interact when needed. Lamden CEO Stuart Farmer noted that from blockchain generation, to installment, all the way to deployment, an entire deployment cycle can be completed within a frame of just ten minutes!
Flora: a central repository for smart contract templates and packages, blockchain discovery tool, and private chain naming services, where developers are able to engage with one another, feed off one another’s innovations, and rapidly deploy and distribute smart contracts.
Clove: a payment network trustlessly facilitating communication between blockchain apps while handling payment channel swap processes, avoiding blockchain bloat and acting similarly to a telephone network.
Furthermore, Lamden supports the Ethereum network and Bitcoin-based blockchains at present, and boasts zero transaction fees and free chain-to-chain payments in exchange for chain allocation a specific amount of bandwidth for confirming payment channel transactions—meaning that its users are able to transact for free as a result of corporate entities bearing the network load and processing.
Why You Should Keep an Eye On TAU
Having released their ‘Cilantro’ testnet alpha in February 2018, Lamden has since hit the ground running, rolling out their first version of Clove soon after and tackling the necessary tune-ups and improvements in preparation of their mainnet launch in Q4 2018. Lamden’s mainnet is set to utilize a unique combination of Delegated Proof-of-Stake (DPoS) and the BFT Protocol, and will scale to process nearly 10,000 transactions per second. Moreover, in April 2018, Lamden announced the creation of LamDEX, their own decentralized cryptocurrency exchange and platform, where users will be able to stake their TAU—the native token of the Lamden platform—to act as a market maker, allowing for a cohesive back and forth across the TAU pair at prices faintly above and below market cost, ultimately generating rewards. With a rather daunting and tedious task ahead for anyone looking to utilize and incorporate existing smart contracts—which involves the manual searching for such on GitHub (a general repository website)—Lamden is truly adding value to blockchain and application development through their smart contract repository. Unlike GitHub, Lamden supports dependencies, versioning, and security, all essential elements for a quality package manager. Doing so adds not only convenience, but practicality to smart contract packages and implementation, and stands to save enterprise and organizations both exorbitant developer costs and time. If you’d like to learn more about Lamden’s developer tool suite, check out this complete overview from their blog. At the time of writing, Lamden’s price according to Coinmarketcap is US$0.04 or 699 Satoshis. To get a better picture of Lamden and their blockchain development tools ecosystem, check out this explanatory YouTube video from their channel. Final Thoughts Risk is inevitable when investing in crypto and blockchain projects. However, as long as you are cognizantly defining parameters for absorbing such risk, then diversifying your portfolio with smaller capped projects can be an effective way to realize value. Whether you’re looking for a user-friendly exchange to purchase crypto directly with fiat from (and earn dividends for loyalty) or wanting to execute anonymous and secure transactions with a P2P coin, the aforementioned projects are all bringing value to the crypto sphere through their overhaul of ineffective traditional mechanisms and institutions. Make sure to stay calm and collected during this bear market, associate yourself with quality projects that you think are bringing actual value to severely flawed industries, and remember, having a little gamble in you never hurts (as long as it’s properly accounted for). Source: https://www.investinblockchain.com/sub-10-million-coins/ B0x: Gustafio
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