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Bob The Magic Custodian
Summary: Everyone knows that when you give your assets to someone else, they always keep them safe. If this is true for individuals, it is certainly true for businesses. Custodians always tell the truth and manage funds properly. They won't have any interest in taking the assets as an exchange operator would. Auditors tell the truth and can't be misled. That's because organizations that are regulated are incapable of lying and don't make mistakes. First, some background. Here is a summary of how custodians make us more secure: Previously, we might give Alice our crypto assets to hold. There were risks:
Alice might take the assets and disappear.
Alice might spend the assets and pretend that she still has them (fractional model).
Alice might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Alice might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Alice might lose access to the assets.
But "no worries", Alice has a custodian named Bob. Bob is dressed in a nice suit. He knows some politicians. And he drives a Porsche. "So you have nothing to worry about!". And look at all the benefits we get:
Alice can't take the assets and disappear (unless she asks Bob or never gives them to Bob).
Alice can't spend the assets and pretend that she still has them. (Unless she didn't give them to Bob or asks him for them.)
Alice can't store the assets insecurely so they get stolen. (After all - she doesn't have any control over the withdrawal process from any of Bob's systems, right?)
Alice can't give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force. (Bob will stop her, right Bob?)
Alice can't lose access to the funds. (She'll always be present, sane, and remember all secrets, right?)
See - all problems are solved! All we have to worry about now is:
Bob might take the assets and disappear.
Bob might spend the assets and pretend that he still has them (fractional model).
Bob might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Bob might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Bob might lose access to the assets.
It's pretty simple. Before we had to trust Alice. Now we only have to trust Alice, Bob, and all the ways in which they communicate. Just think of how much more secure we are! "On top of that", Bob assures us, "we're using a special wallet structure". Bob shows Alice a diagram. "We've broken the balance up and store it in lots of smaller wallets. That way", he assures her, "a thief can't take it all at once". And he points to a historic case where a large sum was taken "because it was stored in a single wallet... how stupid". "Very early on, we used to have all the crypto in one wallet", he said, "and then one Christmas a hacker came and took it all. We call him the Grinch. Now we individually wrap each crypto and stick it under a binary search tree. The Grinch has never been back since." "As well", Bob continues, "even if someone were to get in, we've got insurance. It covers all thefts and even coercion, collusion, and misplaced keys - only subject to the policy terms and conditions." And with that, he pulls out a phone-book sized contract and slams it on the desk with a thud. "Yep", he continues, "we're paying top dollar for one of the best policies in the country!" "Can I read it?' Alice asks. "Sure," Bob says, "just as soon as our legal team is done with it. They're almost through the first chapter." He pauses, then continues. "And can you believe that sales guy Mike? He has the same year Porsche as me. I mean, what are the odds?" "Do you use multi-sig?", Alice asks. "Absolutely!" Bob replies. "All our engineers are fully trained in multi-sig. Whenever we want to set up a new wallet, we generate 2 separate keys in an air-gapped process and store them in this proprietary system here. Look, it even requires the biometric signature from one of our team members to initiate any withdrawal." He demonstrates by pressing his thumb into the display. "We use a third-party cloud validation API to match the thumbprint and authorize each withdrawal. The keys are also backed up daily to an off-site third-party." "Wow that's really impressive," Alice says, "but what if we need access for a withdrawal outside of office hours?" "Well that's no issue", Bob says, "just send us an email, call, or text message and we always have someone on staff to help out. Just another part of our strong commitment to all our customers!" "What about Proof of Reserve?", Alice asks. "Of course", Bob replies, "though rather than publish any blockchain addresses or signed transaction, for privacy we just do a SHA256 refactoring of the inverse hash modulus for each UTXO nonce and combine the smart contract coefficient consensus in our hyperledger lightning node. But it's really simple to use." He pushes a button and a large green checkmark appears on a screen. "See - the algorithm ran through and reserves are proven." "Wow", Alice says, "you really know your stuff! And that is easy to use! What about fiat balances?" "Yeah, we have an auditor too", Bob replies, "Been using him for a long time so we have quite a strong relationship going! We have special books we give him every year and he's very efficient! Checks the fiat, crypto, and everything all at once!" "We used to have a nice offline multi-sig setup we've been using without issue for the past 5 years, but I think we'll move all our funds over to your facility," Alice says. "Awesome", Bob replies, "Thanks so much! This is perfect timing too - my Porsche got a dent on it this morning. We have the paperwork right over here." "Great!", Alice replies. And with that, Alice gets out her pen and Bob gets the contract. "Don't worry", he says, "you can take your crypto-assets back anytime you like - just subject to our cancellation policy. Our annual management fees are also super low and we don't adjust them often". How many holes have to exist for your funds to get stolen? Just one. Why are we taking a powerful offline multi-sig setup, widely used globally in hundreds of different/lacking regulatory environments with 0 breaches to date, and circumventing it by a demonstrably weak third party layer? And paying a great expense to do so? If you go through the list of breaches in the past 2 years to highly credible organizations, you go through the list of major corporate frauds (only the ones we know about), you go through the list of all the times platforms have lost funds, you go through the list of times and ways that people have lost their crypto from identity theft, hot wallet exploits, extortion, etc... and then you go through this custodian with a fine-tooth comb and truly believe they have value to add far beyond what you could, sticking your funds in a wallet (or set of wallets) they control exclusively is the absolute worst possible way to take advantage of that security. The best way to add security for crypto-assets is to make a stronger multi-sig. With one custodian, what you are doing is giving them your cryptocurrency and hoping they're honest, competent, and flawlessly secure. It's no different than storing it on a really secure exchange. Maybe the insurance will cover you. Didn't work for Bitpay in 2015. Didn't work for Yapizon in 2017. Insurance has never paid a claim in the entire history of cryptocurrency. But maybe you'll get lucky. Maybe your exact scenario will buck the trend and be what they're willing to cover. After the large deductible and hopefully without a long and expensive court battle. And you want to advertise this increase in risk, the lapse of judgement, an accident waiting to happen, as though it's some kind of benefit to customers ("Free institutional-grade storage for your digital assets.")? And then some people are writing to the OSC that custodians should be mandatory for all funds on every exchange platform? That this somehow will make Canadians as a whole more secure or better protected compared with standard air-gapped multi-sig? On what planet? Most of the problems in Canada stemmed from one thing - a lack of transparency. If Canadians had known what a joke Quadriga was - it wouldn't have grown to lose $400m from hard-working Canadians from coast to coast to coast. And Gerald Cotten would be in jail, not wherever he is now (at best, rotting peacefully). EZ-BTC and mister Dave Smilie would have been a tiny little scam to his friends, not a multi-million dollar fraud. Einstein would have got their act together or been shut down BEFORE losing millions and millions more in people's funds generously donated to criminals. MapleChange wouldn't have even been a thing. And maybe we'd know a little more about CoinTradeNewNote - like how much was lost in there. Almost all of the major losses with cryptocurrency exchanges involve deception with unbacked funds. So it's great to see transparency reports from BitBuy and ShakePay where someone independently verified the backing. The only thing we don't have is:
ANY CERTAINTY BALANCES WEREN'T EXCLUDED. Quadriga's largest account was $70m. 80% of funds are in 20% of accounts (Pareto principle). All it takes is excluding a few really large accounts - and nobody's the wiser. A fractional platform can easily pass any audit this way.
ANY VISIBILITY WHATSOEVER INTO THE CUSTODIANS. BitBuy put out their report before moving all the funds to their custodian and ShakePay apparently can't even tell us who the custodian is. That's pretty important considering that basically all of the funds are now stored there.
ANY IDEA ABOUT THE OTHER EXCHANGES. In order for this to be effective, it has to be the norm. It needs to be "unusual" not to know. If obscurity is the norm, then it's super easy for people like Gerald Cotten and Dave Smilie to blend right in.
It's not complicated to validate cryptocurrency assets. They need to exist, they need to be spendable, and they need to cover the total balances. There are plenty of credible people and firms across the country that have the capacity to reasonably perform this validation. Having more frequent checks by different, independent, parties who publish transparent reports is far more valuable than an annual check by a single "more credible/official" party who does the exact same basic checks and may or may not publish anything. Here's an example set of requirements that could be mandated:
First report within 1 month of launching, another within 3 months, and further reports at minimum every 6 months thereafter.
No auditor can be repeated within a 12 month period.
All reports must be public, identifying the auditor and the full methodology used.
All auditors must be independent of the firm being audited with no conflict of interest.
Reports must include the percentage of each asset backed, and how it's backed.
The auditor publishes a hash list, which lists a hash of each customer's information and balances that were included. Hash is one-way encryption so privacy is fully preserved. Every customer can use this to have 100% confidence they were included.
If we want more extensive requirements on audits, these should scale upward based on the total assets at risk on the platform, and whether the platform has loaned their assets out.
There are ways to structure audits such that neither crypto assets nor customer information are ever put at risk, and both can still be properly validated and publicly verifiable. There are also ways to structure audits such that they are completely reasonable for small platforms and don't inhibit innovation in any way. By making the process as reasonable as possible, we can completely eliminate any reason/excuse that an honest platform would have for not being audited. That is arguable far more important than any incremental improvement we might get from mandating "the best of the best" accountants. Right now we have nothing mandated and tons of Canadians using offshore exchanges with no oversight whatsoever. Transparency does not prove crypto assets are safe. CoinTradeNewNote, Flexcoin ($600k), and Canadian Bitcoins ($100k) are examples where crypto-assets were breached from platforms in Canada. All of them were online wallets and used no multi-sig as far as any records show. This is consistent with what we see globally - air-gapped multi-sig wallets have an impeccable record, while other schemes tend to suffer breach after breach. We don't actually know how much CoinTrader lost because there was no visibility. Rather than publishing details of what happened, the co-founder of CoinTrader silently moved on to found another platform - the "most trusted way to buy and sell crypto" - a site that has no information whatsoever (that I could find) on the storage practices and a FAQ advising that “[t]rading cryptocurrency is completely safe” and that having your own wallet is “entirely up to you! You can certainly keep cryptocurrency, or fiat, or both, on the app.” Doesn't sound like much was learned here, which is really sad to see. It's not that complicated or unreasonable to set up a proper hardware wallet. Multi-sig can be learned in a single course. Something the equivalent complexity of a driver's license test could prevent all the cold storage exploits we've seen to date - even globally. Platform operators have a key advantage in detecting and preventing fraud - they know their customers far better than any custodian ever would. The best job that custodians can do is to find high integrity individuals and train them to form even better wallet signatories. Rather than mandating that all platforms expose themselves to arbitrary third party risks, regulations should center around ensuring that all signatories are background-checked, properly trained, and using proper procedures. We also need to make sure that signatories are empowered with rights and responsibilities to reject and report fraud. They need to know that they can safely challenge and delay a transaction - even if it turns out they made a mistake. We need to have an environment where mistakes are brought to the surface and dealt with. Not one where firms and people feel the need to hide what happened. In addition to a knowledge-based test, an auditor can privately interview each signatory to make sure they're not in coercive situations, and we should make sure they can freely and anonymously report any issues without threat of retaliation. A proper multi-sig has each signature held by a separate person and is governed by policies and mutual decisions instead of a hierarchy. It includes at least one redundant signature. For best results, 3of4, 3of5, 3of6, 4of5, 4of6, 4of7, 5of6, or 5of7. History has demonstrated over and over again the risk of hot wallets even to highly credible organizations. Nonetheless, many platforms have hot wallets for convenience. While such losses are generally compensated by platforms without issue (for example Poloniex, Bitstamp, Bitfinex, Gatecoin, Coincheck, Bithumb, Zaif, CoinBene, Binance, Bitrue, Bitpoint, Upbit, VinDAX, and now KuCoin), the public tends to focus more on cases that didn't end well. Regardless of what systems are employed, there is always some level of risk. For that reason, most members of the public would prefer to see third party insurance. Rather than trying to convince third party profit-seekers to provide comprehensive insurance and then relying on an expensive and slow legal system to enforce against whatever legal loopholes they manage to find each and every time something goes wrong, insurance could be run through multiple exchange operators and regulators, with the shared interest of having a reputable industry, keeping costs down, and taking care of Canadians. For example, a 4 of 7 multi-sig insurance fund held between 5 independent exchange operators and 2 regulatory bodies. All Canadian exchanges could pay premiums at a set rate based on their needed coverage, with a higher price paid for hot wallet coverage (anything not an air-gapped multi-sig cold wallet). Such a model would be much cheaper to manage, offer better coverage, and be much more reliable to payout when needed. The kind of coverage you could have under this model is unheard of. You could even create something like the CDIC to protect Canadians who get their trading accounts hacked if they can sufficiently prove the loss is legitimate. In cases of fraud, gross negligence, or insolvency, the fund can be used to pay affected users directly (utilizing the last transparent balance report in the worst case), something which private insurance would never touch. While it's recommended to have official policies for coverage, a model where members vote would fully cover edge cases. (Could be similar to the Supreme Court where justices vote based on case law.) Such a model could fully protect all Canadians across all platforms. You can have a fiat coverage governed by legal agreements, and crypto-asset coverage governed by both multi-sig and legal agreements. It could be practical, affordable, and inclusive. Now, we are at a crossroads. We can happily give up our freedom, our innovation, and our money. We can pay hefty expenses to auditors, lawyers, and regulators year after year (and make no mistake - this cost will grow to many millions or even billions as the industry grows - and it will be borne by all Canadians on every platform because platforms are not going to eat up these costs at a loss). We can make it nearly impossible for any new platform to enter the marketplace, forcing Canadians to use the same stagnant platforms year after year. We can centralize and consolidate the entire industry into 2 or 3 big players and have everyone else fail (possibly to heavy losses of users of those platforms). And when a flawed security model doesn't work and gets breached, we can make it even more complicated with even more people in suits making big money doing the job that blockchain was supposed to do in the first place. We can build a system which is so intertwined and dependent on big government, traditional finance, and central bankers that it's future depends entirely on that of the fiat system, of fractional banking, and of government bail-outs. If we choose this path, as history has shown us over and over again, we can not go back, save for revolution. Our children and grandchildren will still be paying the consequences of what we decided today. Or, we can find solutions that work. We can maintain an open and innovative environment while making the adjustments we need to make to fully protect Canadian investors and cryptocurrency users, giving easy and affordable access to cryptocurrency for all Canadians on the platform of their choice, and creating an environment in which entrepreneurs and problem solvers can bring those solutions forward easily. None of the above precludes innovation in any way, or adds any unreasonable cost - and these three policies would demonstrably eliminate or resolve all 109 historic cases as studied here - that's every single case researched so far going back to 2011. It includes every loss that was studied so far not just in Canada but globally as well. Unfortunately, finding answers is the least challenging part. Far more challenging is to get platform operators and regulators to agree on anything. My last post got no response whatsoever, and while the OSC has told me they're happy for industry feedback, I believe my opinion alone is fairly meaningless. This takes the whole community working together to solve. So please let me know your thoughts. Please take the time to upvote and share this with people. Please - let's get this solved and not leave it up to other people to do. Facts/background/sources (skip if you like):
The inspiration for the paragraph about splitting wallets was an actual quote from a Canadian company providing custodial services in response to the OSC consultation paper: "We believe that it will be in the in best interests of investors to prohibit pooled crypto assets or ‘floats’. Most Platforms pool assets, citing reasons of practicality and expense. The recent hack of the world’s largest Platform – Binance – demonstrates the vulnerability of participants’ assets when such concessions are made. In this instance, the Platform’s entire hot wallet of Bitcoins, worth over $40 million, was stolen, facilitated in part by the pooling of client crypto assets." "the maintenance of participants (and Platform) crypto assets across multiple wallets distributes the related risk and responsibility of security - reducing the amount of insurance coverage required and making insurance coverage more readily obtainable". For the record, their reply also said nothing whatsoever about multi-sig or offline storage.
In addition to the fact that the $40m hack represented only one "hot wallet" of Binance, and they actually had the vast majority of assets in other wallets (including mostly cold wallets), multiple real cases have clearly demonstrated that risk is still present with multiple wallets. Bitfinex, VinDAX, Bithumb, Altsbit, BitPoint, Cryptopia, and just recently KuCoin all had multiple wallets breached all at the same time, and may represent a significantly larger impact on customers than the Binance breach which was fully covered by Binance. To represent that simply having multiple separate wallets under the same security scheme is a comprehensive way to reduce risk is just not true.
Private insurance has historically never covered a single loss in the cryptocurrency space (at least, not one that I was able to find), and there are notable cases where massive losses were not covered by insurance. Bitpay in 2015 and Yapizon in 2017 both had insurance policies that didn't pay out during the breach, even after a lengthly court process. The same insurance that ShakePay is presently using (and announced to much fanfare) was describe by their CEO himself as covering “physical theft of the media where the private keys are held,” which is something that has never historically happened. As was said with regard to the same policy in 2018 - “I don’t find it surprising that Lloyd’s is in this space,” said Johnson, adding that to his mind the challenge for everybody is figuring out how to structure these policies so that they are actually protective. “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.”
The most profitable policy for a private insurance company is one with the most expensive premiums that they never have to pay a claim on. They have no inherent incentive to take care of people who lost funds. It's "cheaper" to take the reputational hit and fight the claim in court. The more money at stake, the more the insurance provider is incentivized to avoid payout. They're not going to insure the assets unless they have reasonable certainty to make a profit by doing so, and they're not going to pay out a massive sum unless it's legally forced. Private insurance is always structured to be maximally profitable to the insurance provider.
The circumvention of multi-sig was a key factor in the massive Bitfinex hack of over $60m of bitcoin, which today still sits being slowly used and is worth over $3b. While Bitfinex used a qualified custodian Bitgo, which was and still is active and one of the industry leaders of custodians, and they set up 2 of 3 multi-sig wallets, the entire system was routed through Bitfinex, such that Bitfinex customers could initiate the withdrawals in a "hot" fashion. This feature was also a hit with the hacker. The multi-sig was fully circumvented.
Bitpay in 2015 was another example of a breach that stole 5,000 bitcoins. This happened not through the exploit of any system in Bitpay, but because the CEO of a company they worked with got their computer hacked and the hackers were able to request multiple bitcoin purchases, which Bitpay honoured because they came from the customer's computer legitimately. Impersonation is a very common tactic used by fraudsters, and methods get more extreme all the time.
A notable case in Canada was the Canadian Bitcoins exploit. Funds were stored on a server in a Rogers Data Center, and the attendee was successfully convinced to reboot the server "in safe mode" with a simple phone call, thus bypassing the extensive security and enabling the theft.
The very nature of custodians circumvents multi-sig. This is because custodians are not just having to secure the assets against some sort of physical breach but against any form of social engineering, modification of orders, fraudulent withdrawal attempts, etc... If the security practices of signatories in a multi-sig arrangement are such that the breach risk of one signatory is 1 in 100, the requirement of 3 independent signatures makes the risk of theft 1 in 1,000,000. Since hackers tend to exploit the weakest link, a comparable custodian has to make the entry and exit points of their platform 10,000 times more secure than one of those signatories to provide equivalent protection. And if the signatories beef up their security by only 10x, the risk is now 1 in 1,000,000,000. The custodian has to be 1,000,000 times more secure. The larger and more complex a system is, the more potential vulnerabilities exist in it, and the fewer people can understand how the system works when performing upgrades. Even if a system is completely secure today, one has to also consider how that system might evolve over time or work with different members.
By contrast, offline multi-signature solutions have an extremely solid record, and in the entire history of cryptocurrency exchange incidents which I've studied (listed here), there has only been one incident (796 exchange in 2015) involving an offline multi-signature wallet. It happened because the customer's bitcoin address was modified by hackers, and the amount that was stolen ($230k) was immediately covered by the exchange operators. Basically, the platform operators were tricked into sending a legitimate withdrawal request to the wrong address because hackers exploited their platform to change that address. Such an issue would not be prevented in any way by the use of a custodian, as that custodian has no oversight whatsoever to the exchange platform. It's practical for all exchange operators to test large withdrawal transactions as a general policy, regardless of what model is used, and general best practice is to diagnose and fix such an exploit as soon as it occurs.
False promises on the backing of funds played a huge role in the downfall of Quadriga, and it's been exposed over and over again (MyCoin, PlusToken, Bitsane, Bitmarket, EZBTC, IDAX). Even today, customers have extremely limited certainty on whether their funds in exchanges are actually being backed or how they're being backed. While this issue is not unique to cryptocurrency exchanges, the complexity of the technology and the lack of any regulation or standards makes problems more widespread, and there is no "central bank" to come to the rescue as in the 2008 financial crisis or during the great depression when "9,000 banks failed".
In addition to fraudulent operations, the industry is full of cases where operators have suffered breaches and not reported them. Most recently, Einstein was the largest case in Canada, where ongoing breaches and fraud were perpetrated against the platform for multiple years and nobody found out until the platform collapsed completely. While fraud and breaches suck to deal with, they suck even more when not dealt with. Lack of visibility played a role in the largest downfalls of Mt. Gox, Cryptsy, and Bitgrail. In some cases, platforms are alleged to have suffered a hack and keep operating without admitting it at all, such as CoinBene.
It surprises some to learn that a cryptographic solution has already existed since 2013, and gained widespread support in 2014 after Mt. Gox. Proof of Reserves is a full cryptographic proof that allows any customer using an exchange to have complete certainty that their crypto-assets are fully backed by the platform in real-time. This is accomplished by proving that assets exist on the blockchain, are spendable, and fully cover customer deposits. It does not prove safety of assets or backing of fiat assets.
If we didn't care about privacy at all, a platform could publish their wallet addresses, sign a partial transaction, and put the full list of customer information and balances out publicly. Customers can each check that they are on the list, that the balances are accurate, that the total adds up, and that it's backed and spendable on the blockchain. Platforms who exclude any customer take a risk because that customer can easily check and see they were excluded. So together with all customers checking, this forms a full proof of backing of all crypto assets.
However, obviously customers care about their private information being published. Therefore, a hash of the information can be provided instead. Hash is one-way encryption. The hash allows the customer to validate inclusion (by hashing their own known information), while anyone looking at the list of hashes cannot determine the private information of any other user. All other parts of the scheme remain fully intact. A model like this is in use on the exchange CoinFloor in the UK.
A Merkle tree can provide even greater privacy. Instead of a list of balances, the balances are arranged into a binary tree. A customer starts from their node, and works their way to the top of the tree. For example, they know they have 5 BTC, they plus 1 other customer hold 7 BTC, they plus 2-3 other customers hold 17 BTC, etc... until they reach the root where all the BTC are represented. Thus, there is no way to find the balances of other individual customers aside from one unidentified customer in this case.
Proposals such as this had the backing of leaders in the community including Nic Carter, Greg Maxwell, and Zak Wilcox. Substantial and significant effort started back in 2013, with massive popularity in 2014. But what became of that effort? Very little. Exchange operators continue to refuse to give visibility. Despite the fact this information can often be obtained through trivial blockchain analysis, no Canadian platform has ever provided any wallet addresses publicly. As described by the CEO of Newton "For us to implement some kind of realtime Proof of Reserves solution, which I'm not opposed to, it would have to ... Preserve our users' privacy, as well as our own. Some kind of zero-knowledge proof". Kraken describes here in more detail why they haven't implemented such a scheme. According to professor Eli Ben-Sasson, when he spoke with exchanges, none were interested in implementing Proof of Reserves.
And yet, Kraken's places their reasoning on a page called "Proof of Reserves". More recently, both BitBuy and ShakePay have released reports titled "Proof of Reserves and Security Audit". Both reports contain disclaimers against being audits. Both reports trust the customer list provided by the platform, leaving the open possibility that multiple large accounts could have been excluded from the process. Proof of Reserves is a blockchain validation where customers see the wallets on the blockchain. The report from Kraken is 5 years old, but they leave it described as though it was just done a few weeks ago. And look at what they expect customers to do for validation. When firms represent something being "Proof of Reserve" when it's not, this is like a farmer growing fruit with pesticides and selling it in a farmers market as organic produce - except that these are people's hard-earned life savings at risk here. Platforms are misrepresenting the level of visibility in place and deceiving the public by their misuse of this term. They haven't proven anything.
Fraud isn't a problem that is unique to cryptocurrency. Fraud happens all the time. Enron, WorldCom, Nortel, Bear Stearns, Wells Fargo, Moser Baer, Wirecard, Bre-X, and Nicola are just some of the cases where frauds became large enough to become a big deal (and there are so many countless others). These all happened on 100% reversible assets despite regulations being in place. In many of these cases, the problems happened due to the over-complexity of the financial instruments. For example, Enron had "complex financial statements [which] were confusing to shareholders and analysts", creating "off-balance-sheet vehicles, complex financing structures, and deals so bewildering that few people could understand them". In cryptocurrency, we are often combining complex financial products with complex technologies and verification processes. We are naïve if we think problems like this won't happen. It is awkward and uncomfortable for many people to admit that they don't know how something works. If we want "money of the people" to work, the solutions have to be simple enough that "the people" can understand them, not so confusing that financial professionals and technology experts struggle to use or understand them.
For those who question the extent to which an organization can fool their way into a security consultancy role, HB Gary should be a great example to look at. Prior to trying to out anonymous, HB Gary was being actively hired by multiple US government agencies and others in the private sector (with glowing testimonials). The published articles and hosted professional security conferences. One should also look at this list of data breaches from the past 2 years. Many of them are large corporations, government entities, and technology companies. These are the ones we know about. Undoubtedly, there are many more that we do not know about. If HB Gary hadn't been "outted" by anonymous, would we have known they were insecure? If the same breach had happened outside of the public spotlight, would it even have been reported? Or would HB Gary have just deleted the Twitter posts, brought their site back up, done a couple patches, and kept on operating as though nothing had happened?
In the case of Quadriga, the facts are clear. Despite past experience with platforms such as MapleChange in Canada and others around the world, no guidance or even the most basic of a framework was put in place by regulators. By not clarifying any sort of legal framework, regulators enabled a situation where a platform could be run by former criminal Mike Dhanini/Omar Patryn, and where funds could be held fully unchecked by one person. At the same time, the lack of regulation deterred legitimate entities from running competing platforms and Quadriga was granted a money services business license for multiple years of operation, which gave the firm the appearance of legitimacy. Regulators did little to protect Canadians despite Quadriga failing to file taxes from 2016 onward. The entire administrative team had resigned and this was public knowledge. Many people had suspicions of what was going on, including Ryan Mueller, who forwarded complaints to the authorities. These were ignored, giving Gerald Cotten the opportunity to escape without justice.
There are multiple issues with the SOC II model including the prohibitive cost (you have to find a third party accounting firm and the prices are not even listed publicly on any sites), the requirement of operating for a year (impossible for new platforms), and lack of any public visibility (SOC II are private reports that aren't shared outside the people in suits).
Securities frameworks are expensive. Sarbanes-Oxley is estimated to cost $5.1 million USD/yr for the average Fortune 500 company in the United States. Since "Fortune 500" represents the top 500 companies, that means well over $2.55 billion USD (~$3.4 billion CAD) is going to people in suits. Isn't the problem of trust and verification the exact problem that the blockchain is supposed to solve?
To use Quadriga as justification for why custodians or SOC II or other advanced schemes are needed for platforms is rather silly, when any framework or visibility at all, or even the most basic of storage policies, would have prevented the whole thing. It's just an embarrassment.
We are now seeing regulators take strong action. CoinSquare in Canada with multi-million dollar fines. BitMex from the US, criminal charges and arrests. OkEx, with full disregard of withdrawals and no communication. Who's next?
We have a unique window today where we can solve these problems, and not permanently destroy innovation with unreasonable expectations, but we need to act quickly. This is a unique historic time that will never come again.
The next XVG? Microcap 100x potential actually supported by fundamentals!
What’s up team? I have a hot one for you. XVG returned 12 million percent in 2017 and this one reminds me a lot of it. Here’s why: Mimblewimble is like Blu-Ray compared to CD-ROM in terms of its ability to compress data on a blockchain. The current BTC chain is 277gb and its capacity is limited because every time you spend a coin, each node needs to validate its history back to when it was mined (this is how double spending is prevented). Mimblewimble is different - all transactions in a block are aggregated and netted out in one giant CoinJoin, and only the current spending needs to be verified. This means that dramatically more transactions can fit into a smaller space, increasing throughput and lowering fees while still retaining the full proof of work game theory of Bitcoin. These blockchains are small enough to run a full node on a cheap smartphone, which enhances the decentralization and censorship resistance of the network. The biggest benefit, though, is that all transactions are private - the blockchain doesn’t reveal amounts or addresses except to the actual wallet owner. Unlike earlier decoy-based approaches that bloat the chain and can still be data mined (XMR), Mimblewimble leaves no trace in the blockchain, instead storing only the present state of coin ownership. The first two Mimblewimble coins, Grin and Beam, launched to great fanfare in 2019, quickly reaching over $100m in market cap (since settled down to $22m and $26m respectively). They are good projects but grin has infinite supply and huge never-decreasing emission, and Beam is a corporate moneygrab whose founding investors are counting on you buying for their ROI. ZEC is valued at $568m today, despite the facts that only 1% of transactions are actually shielded, it has a trusted setup, and generating a confidential transaction takes ~60 seconds on a powerful PC. XMR is a great project but it’s valued at $1.2b (so no 100x) and it uses CryptoNote, which is 2014 tech that relies on a decoy-based approach that could be vulnerable to more powerful computers in the future. Mimblewimble is just a better way to approach privacy because there is simply no data recorded in the blockchain for companies to surveil. Privacy is not just for darknet markets, porn, money launderers and terrorists. In many countries it’s dangerous to be wealthy, and there are all kinds of problems with having your spending data be out there publicly and permanently for all to see. Namely, companies like Amazon are patenting approaches to identify people with their crypto addresses, “for law enforcement” but also so that, just like credit cards, your spending data can be used to target ads. (A) Coinbase is selling user data to the DEA, IRS, FBI, Secret Service, and who knows who else? (B) What about insurance companies raising your premiums or canceling your policy because they see you buying (legal) cannabis? If your business operates using transparent cryptocurrency, competitors can data mine your customer and supply chain data, and employees can see how much everyone else gets paid. I could go on, but the idea of “I have nothing to hide, so what do I care about privacy?” will increasingly ring hollow as people realize that this money printing will have to be paid by massive tax increases AND that those taxes will be directly debited from their “Central Bank Digital Currency” wallets. 100% privacy for all transactions also eliminates one HUGE problem that people aren’t aware of yet, but they will be: fungibility. Fungibility means that each coin is indistinguishable from any other, just like paper cash. Why is this important? Because of the ever-expanding reach of AML/KYC/KYT (Anti-Money Laundering / Know Your Customer / Know Your Transaction) as regulators cramp down on crypto and banks take over, increasingly coins become “tainted” in various ways. For example, if you withdraw coins to a mixing service like Wasabi or Samourai, you may find your account blocked. (C) The next obvious step is that if you receive coins that these chainalysis services don’t like for whatever reason, you will be completely innocent yet forced to prove that you didn’t know that the coins you bought were up to no good in a past life. 3 days ago, $100k of USDC was frozen. (D) Even smaller coins like LTC now have this problem, because “Chinese Drug Kingpins” used them. (E) I believe that censorable money that can be blocked/frozen isn’t really “your money”. Epic Cash is a 100% volunteer community project (like XVG and XMR) that had a fair launch in September last year with no ICO and no premine. There are very few projects like this, and it’s a key ingredient in Verge’s success (still at $110m market cap today despite being down 97% since the bubble peak) and why it’s still around. It has a small but super passionate community of “Freemen” who are united by a belief in the sound money economics of Bitcoin Standard emission (21m supply limit and ever-decreasing inflation) and the importance of privacy. I am super bullish on this coin for the following reasons:
Only $400k market cap
Supply started at zero, so there are no VC’s and team to dump on you into the pumps - all coins are mined into existence, just like Bitcoin.
It just had its first halving, reducing emission from 16 to 8 per block. Between now and 2028 there are FOUR (!) more halvings, from 4 to 2 to 1 and then finally 0.15 (I guess that would be an 85%-ing :p) and at this point the supply is the same as BTC and stays in sync forever until the last coin is mined in 2140. This simple supply curve is already accepted by the market as a winner, so why mess with success? (I)
Meets Andreas Antonopolous’ 5 pillars of open blockchains test: Public, Open, Borderless, Neutral, and Censorship Resistant. (How many coins can say this?)
Unlike Bitcoin, Epic created a multi-algorithm approach that enables people to mine on ordinary computers - 60% for CPU on RandomX, 38% for GPU on ProgPow, and 2% for ASIC’s on Cuckoo31+. The algorithms don’t compete with one another. This is essential for leveling the playing field and preventing massive farms from dominating. These percentages can change over time and new algorithms can be easily dropped in. You can mine today using an old laptop and in 5 years you will still be able to. Incidentally, there is nothing standing in the way of adding mobile phone-based mining, which ETN showed there’s a huge demand for.
Based off the excellent Grin codebase, which means they continue to pull in ongoing core code enhancements and focus on ease of use and market penetration instead. (Smart!)
Litecoin’s Charlie Lee is out there daily talking about their move to Mimblewimble, which provides free publicity. What people don’t realize is that you can’t just bolt on Mimblewimble to a legacy blockchain, that’s like putting a Ferrari engine into a school bus - it’s still a school bus, not a race car! LTC is doing it as an optional soft fork via “extension blocks” which will not be supported by all wallets and exchanges. Also, anyone using “optional” privacy features is declaring themselves to be suspicious, which kind of defeats the point for people who care about privacy.
The community is friendly and welcoming to new people coming in, with lots of helpful (independently created) tutorials and guides. (F)
It’s already a global phenomenon, with the whitepaper in 20+ languages (G) and (not bot-infested) active local-language communities on not only Telegram but also Wechat, LINE, QQ and other messenger platforms.
It’s only on two random little exchanges currently, Citex and Vitex. Vitex is actually a pretty good DEX with no KYC and a great mobile wallet.
They are very creative - since centralized exchanges want huge money to list, they created a non-inflationary ERC20 tracker token that’s exchangeable 1:1 for coins so that Uniswap trading is possible (H)
Because it doesn’t have a huge marketing budget in a sea of VC-funded shitcoins, it is as-yet undiscovered, which is why it’s so cheap. There are only 4 Mimblewimble-based currencies on the market: MWC at $162m, BEAM at $26m, GRIN at $22m, and EPIC at $0.4m. This is not financial advice and as always, do your own research, but I’ve been buying this gem for months and will continue to. This one ticks all the boxes for me, the only real problem is that it’s hard to buy much without causing a huge green candle. Alt season is coming, and coins like this are how your neighbor Chad got his Lambo back in 2017. For 2021, McLaren is a better choice and be sure to pay cash so that it doesn’t get repossessed like Chad!
Crypto Banking Wars: Can Non-Custodial Crypto Wallets Ever Replace Banks?
Can they overcome the product limitations of blockchain and deliver the world-class experience that consumers expect? https://reddit.com/link/i8ewbx/video/ojkc6c9a1lg51/player This is the second part ofCrypto Banking Wars— a new series that examines what crypto-native company is most likely to become thebank of the future. Who is best positioned toreach mainstream adoptionin consumer finance? --- While crypto allows the world to get rid of banks, a bank will still very much be necessary for this verypowerfultechnology to reach the masses. As we laid out in our previous series, Crypto-Powered, we believe companies that build with blockchain at their core will have the best shot at winning the broader consumer finance market. We hope it will be us at Genesis Block, but we aren’t the only game in town. So this series explores the entire crypto landscape and tries to answer the question, which crypto company is most likely to become the bank of the future? In our last episode, we offered an in-depth analysis of big crypto exchanges like Coinbase & Binance. Today we’re analyzing non-custodial crypto wallets. These are products where only the user can touch or move funds. Not even the company or developer who built the application can access, control, or stop funds from being moved. These apps allow users to truly become their own bank. We’ve talked a little about this before. This group of companies is nowhere near the same level of threat as the biggest crypto exchanges. However, this group really understands DeFi and the magic it can bring. This class of products is heavily engineer-driven and at the bleeding-edge of DeFi innovation. These products are certainly worth discussing. Okay, let’s dive in.
Users & Audience
These non-custodial crypto wallets are especially popular among the most hardcore blockchain nerds and crypto cypherpunks.
“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), then it’s not really your crypto. There has always been a close connection between libertarianism & cryptocurrency. This type of user wants to be in absolute control of their money and become their own bank. In addition to the experienced crypto geeks, for some people, these products will mean the difference between life and death. Imagine a refugee family that wants to safely protect their years of hard work — their life savings — as they travel across borders. Carrying cash could put their safety or money at risk. A few years ago I spent time in Greece at refugee camps — I know first-hand this is a real use-case. https://preview.redd.it/vigqlmgg1lg51.png?width=800&format=png&auto=webp&s=0a5d48a63ce7a637749bbbc03d62c51cc3f75613 Or imagine a family living under an authoritarian regime — afraid that their corrupt or oppressive government will seize their assets (or devalue their savings via hyperinflation). Citizens in these countries cannot risk putting their money in centralized banks or under their mattresses. They must become their own bank. These are the common use-cases and users for non-custodial wallets.
Let’s take a look at some of the strengths with non-custodial products.
Regulatory arbitrage Because these products are “non-custodial”, they are able to avoid the regulatory burdens that centralized, custodial products must deal with (KYC/AML/MTL/etc). This is a strong practical benefit for a bootstrapped startup/buildedeveloper. Though it’s unclear how long this advantage lasts as products reach wider audiences and increased scrutiny.
User Privacy Because of the regulatory arbitrage mentioned above, users do not need to complete onerous KYC requirements. For example, there’s no friction around selfies, government-issued IDs, SSNs, etc. Users can preserve much of their privacy and they don’t need to worry about their sensitive information being hacked, compromised, or leaked.
Absolute control & custody This is really one of the great promises of crypto — users can become their own bank. Users can be in full control of their money. And they don’t need to bury it underground or hide it under a mattress. No dependence, reliance or trust in any third parties. Only the user herself can access and unlock the money.
Now let’s examine some of the weaknesses.
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 geeks. Imagine how an average, non-crypto user 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 is very high and will always be a major blocker for adoption. We’ve talked about this in our Spreading Crypto series — to reach the masses, the crypto stuff needs to be in the background.
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.
Product Limitations Most non-custodial wallets today are based on Ethereum smart contracts. That means they are severely limited with the assets that they can support (only erc-20 tokens). Unless through synthetic assets (similar to Abra), these wallets cannot support massively popular assets like Bitcoin, XRP, Cardano, Litecoin, EOS, Tezos, Stellar, Cosmos, or countless others. There are exciting projects like tBTC trying to bring Bitcoin to Ethereum — but these experiments are still very, very early. Ethereum-based smart contract wallets are missing a huge part of the crypto-asset universe.
Technical Complexity While developers are able to avoid a lot of regulatory complexity (see Strengths above), they are replacing it with increased technical complexity. Most non-custodial wallets are entirely dependent on smart contract technology which is still very experimental and early in development (see Insurance section of this DeFi use-cases post). Major bugs and major hacks do happen. Even recently, it was discovered that Argent had a “high severity vulnerability.” Fortunately, Argent fixed it and their users didn’t lose funds. The tools, frameworks, and best practices around smart contract technology are all still being established. Things can still easily go wrong, and they do.
Loss of Funds Risk Beyond the technical risks mentioned above, with non-custodial wallets, it’s very easy for users to make mistakes. There is no “Forgot Password.” 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, just as CZ suggests. One wrong move and your money is all gone. If you lose your private key, there is no way to recover your funds. There are some new developments around social recovery, but that’s all still very experimental. This just isn’t the type of customer support experience people are used to. And it’s not a risk that most are willing to take.
Integration with Fiat & Traditional Finance In today’s world, it’s still very hard to use crypto for daily spending (see Payments in our DeFi use-cases post). Hopefully, that will all change someday. In the meantime, if any of these non-custodial products hope to win in the broader consumer finance market, they will undoubtedly need to integrate with the legacy financial world — they need onramps (fiat-to-crypto deposit methods) and offramps (crypto-to-fiat withdraw/spend methods). As much as crypto-fanatics hate hearing it, you can’t expect people to jump headfirst into the new world unless there is a smooth transition, unless there are bridge technologies that help them arrive. This is why these fiat integrations are so important. Examples might be allowing ACH/Wire deposits (eg. via Plaid) or launching a debit card program for spend/withdraw. These fiat integrations are essential if the aim is to become the bank of the future. Doing any of this compliantly will require strong KYC/AML. So to achieve this use-case — integrating with traditional finance —all of the Strengths we mentioned above are nullified. There are no longer regulatory benefits. There are no longer privacy benefits (users need to upload KYC documents, etc). And users are no longer in complete control of their money.
One of the great powers of crypto is that we no longer depend on banks. Anyone can store their wealth and have absolute control of their money. That’s made possible with these non-custodial wallets. It’s a wonderful thing. I believe that the most knowledgeable and experienced crypto people (including myself) will always be active users of these applications. And as mentioned in this post, there will certainly be circumstances where these apps will be essential & even life-saving.
However, I do not believe this category of product is a major threat to Genesis Block to becoming the bank of the future.
They won’t win in the broader consumer finance market — mostly because I don’t believe that’s their target audience. These applications simply cannot produce the type of product experience that the masses require, want, or expect. The Weaknesses I’ve outlined above are just too overwhelming. The friction for mass-market consumers is just too much. https://preview.redd.it/lp8dzxeh1lg51.png?width=800&format=png&auto=webp&s=03acdce545cd032f7e82b6665b001d7a06839557 The winning bank will be focused on solving real user problems and meeting user needs. Not slowed down by rigid idealism like censorship-resistance and absolute decentralization, as it is with most non-custodial wallets. The winning bank will be a world-class product that’s smooth, performant, and accessible. Not sluggish and slow, as it is with most non-custodial wallets. The winning bank will be one where blockchain & crypto is mostly invisible to end-users. Not front-and-center as it is with non-custodial wallets. The winning bank will be one managed and run by professionals who know exactly what they’re doing. Not DIY (Do It Yourself), as it is with non-custodial wallets. So are these non-custodial wallets a threat to Genesis Block in winning the broader consumer finance market, and becoming the bank of the future? No. They are designed for a very different audience. ------ Other Ways to Consume Today's Episode:
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Which are your Top 5 favourite coins out of the Top 100? An analysis.
I am putting together my investment portfolio for 2018 and made a complete summary of the current Top 100. Interestingly, I noticed that all coins can be categorized into 12 markets. Which markets do you think will play the biggest role in the coming year? Here is a complete overview of all coins in an excel sheet including name, market, TPS, risk profile, time since launch (negative numbers mean that they are launching that many months in the future) and market cap. You can also sort by all of these fields of course. Coins written in bold are the strongest contenders within their market either due to having the best technology or having a small market cap and still excellent technology and potential. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1s8PHcNvvjuy848q18py_CGcu8elRGQAUIf86EYh4QZo/edit#gid=0 The 12 markets are
Currency 13 coins
Platform 25 coins
Ecosystem 9 coins
Privacy 10 coins
Currency Exchange Tool 8 coins
Gaming & Gambling 5 coins
Misc 15 coins
Social Network 4 coins
Fee Token 3 coins
Decentralized Data Storage 4 coins
Cloud Computing 3 coins
Stable Coin 2 coins
Before we look at the individual markets, we need to take a look of the overall market and its biggest issue scalability first: Cryptocurrencies aim to be a decentralized currency that can be used worldwide. Its goal is to replace dollar, Euro, Yen, all FIAT currencies worldwide. The coin that will achieve that will be worth several trillion dollars. Bitcoin can only process 7 transactions per second (TPS). In order to replace all FIAT, it would need to perform at at least VISA levels, which usually processes around 3,000 TPS, up to 25,000 TPS during peak times and a maximum of 64,000 TPS. That means that this cryptocurrency would need to be able to perform at least several thousand TPS. However, a ground breaking technology should not look at current technology to set a goal for its use, i.e. estimating the number of emails sent in 1990 based on the number of faxes sent wasn’t a good estimate. For that reason, 10,000 TPS is the absolute baseline for a cryptocurrency that wants to replace FIAT. This brings me to IOTA, which wants to connect all 80 billion IoT devices that are expected to exist by 2025, which constantly communicate with each other, creating 80 billion or more transactions per second. This is the benchmark that cryptocurrencies should be aiming for. Currently, 8 billion devices are connected to the Internet. With its Lightning network recently launched, Bitcoin is realistically looking at 50,000 possible soon. Other notable cryptocurrencies besides IOTA and Bitcoin are Nano with 7,000 TPS already tested, Dash with several billion TPS possible with Masternodes, Neo, LISK and RHOC with 100,000 TPS by 2020, Ripple with 50,000 TPS, Ethereum with 10,000 with Sharding. However, it needs to be said that scalability usually goes at the cost of decentralization and security. So, it needs to be seen, which of these technologies can prove itself resilient and performant. Without further ado, here are the coins of the first market
Market 1 - Currency:
Bitcoin: 1st generation blockchain with currently bad scalability currently, though the implementation of the Lightning Network looks promising and could alleviate most scalability concerns, scalability and high energy use.
Ripple: Centralized currency that might become very successful due to tight involvement with banks and cross-border payments for financial institutions; banks and companies like Western Union and Moneygram (who they are currently working with) as customers customers. However, it seems they are aiming for more decentralization now.https://ripple.com/dev-blog/decentralization-strategy-update/. Has high TPS due to Proof of Correctness algorithm.
Bitcoin Cash: Bitcoin fork with the difference of having an 8 times bigger block size, making it 8 times more scalable than Bitcoin currently. Further block size increases are planned. Only significant difference is bigger block size while big blocks lead to further problems that don't seem to do well beyond a few thousand TPS. Opponents to a block size argue that increasing the block size limit is unimaginative, offers only temporary relief, and damages decentralization by increasing costs of participation. In order to preserve decentralization, system requirements to participate should be kept low. To understand this, consider an extreme example: very big blocks (1GB+) would require data center level resources to validate the blockchain. This would preclude all but the wealthiest individuals from participating.Community seems more open than Bitcoin's though.
Litecoin : Little brother of Bitcoin. Bitcoin fork with different mining algorithm but not much else.Copies everything that Bitcoin does pretty much. Lack of real innovation.
Dash: Dash (Digital Cash) is a fork of Bitcoin and focuses on user ease. It has very fast transactions within seconds, low fees and uses Proof of Service from Masternodes for consensus. They are currently building a system called Evolution which will allow users to send money using usernames and merchants will find it easy to integrate Dash using the API. You could say Dash is trying to be a PayPal of cryptocurrencies. Currently, cryptocurrencies must choose between decentralization, speed, scalability and can pick only 2. With Masternodes, Dash picked speed and scalability at some cost of decentralization, since with Masternodes the voting power is shifted towards Masternodes, which are run by Dash users who own the most Dash.
IOTA: 3rd generation blockchain called Tangle, which has a high scalability, no fees and instant transactions. IOTA aims to be the connective layer between all 80 billion IOT devices that are expected to be connected to the Internet in 2025, possibly creating 80 billion transactions per second or 800 billion TPS, who knows. However, it needs to be seen if the Tangle can keep up with this scalability and iron out its security issues that have not yet been completely resolved.
Nano: 3rd generation blockchain called Block Lattice with high scalability, no fees and instant transactions. Unlike IOTA, Nano only wants to be a payment processor and nothing else, for now at least. With Nano, every user has their own blockchain and has to perform a small amount of computing for each transaction, which makes Nano perform at 300 TPS with no problems and 7,000 TPS have also been tested successfully. Very promising 3rd gen technology and strong focus on only being the fastest currency without trying to be everything.
Decred: As mining operations have grown, Bitcoin’s decision-making process has become more centralized, with the largest mining companies holding large amounts of power over the Bitcoin improvement process. Decred focuses heavily on decentralization with their PoW Pos hybrid governance system to become what Bitcoin was set out to be. They will soon implement the Lightning Network to scale up. While there do not seem to be more differences to Bitcoin besides the novel hybrid consensus algorithm, which Ethereum, Aeternity and Bitcoin Atom are also implementing, the welcoming and positive Decred community and professoinal team add another level of potential to the coin.
Aeternity: We’ve seen recently, that it’s difficult to scale the execution of smart contracts on the blockchain. Crypto Kitties is a great example. Something as simple as creating and trading unique assets on Ethereum bogged the network down when transaction volume soared. Ethereum and Zilliqa address this problem with Sharding. Aeternity focuses on increasing the scalability of smart contracts and dapps by moving smart contracts off-chain. Instead of running on the blockchain, smart contracts on Aeternity run in private state channels between the parties involved in the contracts. State channels are lines of communication between parties in a smart contract. They don’t touch the blockchain unless they need to for adjudication or transfer of value. Because they’re off-chain, state channel contracts can operate much more efficiently. They don’t need to pay the network for every time they compute and can also operate with greater privacy. An important aspect of smart contract and dapp development is access to outside data sources. This could mean checking the weather in London, score of a football game, or price of gold. Oracles provide access to data hosted outside the blockchain. In many blockchain projects, oracles represent a security risk and potential point of failure, since they tend to be singular, centralized data streams. Aeternity proposes decentralizing oracles with their oracle machine. Doing so would make outside data immutable and unchangeable once it reaches Aeternity’s blockchain. Of course, the data source could still be hacked, so Aeternity implements a prediction market where users can bet on the accuracy and honesty of incoming data from various oracles.It also uses prediction markets for various voting and verification purposes within the platform. Aeternity’s network runs on on a hybrid of proof of work and proof of stake. Founded by a long-time crypto-enthusiast and early colleague of Vitalik Buterin, Yanislav Malahov. Promising concept though not product yet
Bitcoin Atom: Atomic Swaps and hybrid consenus. This looks like the only Bitcoin clone that actually is looking to innovate next to Bitcoin Cash.
Dogecoin: Litecoin fork, fantastic community, though lagging behind a bit in technology.
Bitcoin Gold: A bit better security than bitcoin through ASIC resistant algorithm, but that's it. Not that interesting.
Digibyte: Digibyte's PoS blockchain is spread over a 100,000+ servers, phones, computers, and nodes across the globe, aiming for the ultimate level of decentralization. DigiByte rebalances the load between the five mining algorithms by adjusting the difficulty of each so one algorithm doesn’t become dominant. The algorithm's asymmetric difficulty has gained notoriety and been deployed in many other blockchains.DigiByte’s adoption over the past four years has been slow. It’s still a relatively obscure currency compared its competitors. The DigiByte website offers a lot of great marketing copy and buzzwords. However, there’s not much technical information about what they have planned for the future. You could say Digibyte is like Bitcoin, but with shorter blocktimes and a multi-algorithm. However, that's not really a difference big enough to truly set themselves apart from Bitcoin, since these technologies could be implemented by any blockchain without much difficulty. Their decentralization is probably their strongest asset, however, this also change quickly if the currency takes off and big miners decide to go into Digibyte.
Bitcoin Diamond Asic resistant Bitcoin and Copycat
Market 2 - Platform
Most of the cryptos here have smart contracts and allow dapps (Decentralized apps) to be build on their platform and to use their token as an exchange of value between dapp services.
Ethereum: 2nd generation blockchain that allows the use of smart contracts. Bad scalability currently, though this concern could be alleviated by the soon to be implemented Lightning Network aka Plasma and its Sharding concept.
EOS: Promising technology that wants to be able do everything, from smart contracts like Ethereum, scalability similar to Nano with 1000 tx/second + near instant transactions and zero fees, to also wanting to be a platform for dapps. However, EOS doesn't have a product yet and everything is just promises still. Highly overvalued right now. However, there are lots of red flags, have dumped $500 million Ether over the last 2 months and possibly bought back EOS to increase the size of their ICO, which has been going on for over a year and has raised several billion dollars. All in all, their market cap is way too high for that and not even having a product.
Cardano: Similar to Ethereum/EOS, however, only promises made with no delivery yet, highly overrated right now. Interesting concept though. Market cap way too high for not even having a product. Somewhat promising technology.
VeChain: Singapore-based project that’s building a business enterprise platform and inventory tracking system. Examples are verifying genuine luxury goods and food supply chains. Has one of the strongest communities in the crypto world. Most hyped token of all, with merit though.
Neo: Neo is a platform, similar to Eth, but more extensive, allowing dapps and smart contracts, but with a different smart contract gas system, consensus mechanism (PoS vs. dBfT), governance model, fixed vs unfixed supply, expensive contracts vs nearly free contracts, different ideologies for real world adoption. There are currently only 9 nodes, each of which are being run by a company/entity hand selected by the NEO council (most of which are located in china) and are under contract. This means that although the locations of the nodes may differ, ultimately the neo council can bring them down due to their legal contracts. In fact this has been done in the past when the neo council was moving 50 million neo that had been locked up. Also dbft (or neo's implmentation of it) has failed underload causing network outages during major icos. The first step in decentralization is that the NEO Counsel will select trusted nodes (Universities, business partners, etc.) and slowly become less centralized that way. The final step in decentralization will be allowing NEO holders to vote for new nodes, similar to a DPoS system (ARK/EOS/LISK). NEO has a regulation/government friendly ideology. Finally they are trying to work undewith the Chinese government in regards to regulations. If for some reason they wanted it shut down, they could just shut it down.
Stellar: PoS system, similar goals as Ripple, but more of a platform than only a currency. 80% of Stellar are owned by Stellar.org still, making the currency centralized.
Ethereum classic: Original Ethereum that decided not to fork after a hack. The Ethereum that we know is its fork. Uninteresing, because it has a lot of less resources than Ethereum now and a lot less community support.
Ziliqa: Zilliqa is building a new way of sharding. 2400 tpx already tested, 10,000 tps soon possible by being linearly scalable with the number of nodes. That means, the more nodes, the faster the network gets. They are looking at implementing privacy as well.
QTUM: Enables Smart contracts on the Bitcoin blockchain. Useful.
Icon: Korean ethereum. Decentralized application platform that's building communities in partnership with banks, insurance providers, hospitals, and universities. Focused on ID verification and payments. No big differentiators to the other 20 Ethereums, except that is has a product. That is a plus. Maybe cheap alternative to Ethereum.
LISK: Lisk's difference to other BaaS is that side chains are independent to the main chain and have to have their own nodes. Similar to neo whole allows dapps to deploy their blockchain to. However, Lisk is currently somewhat centralized with a small group of members owning more than 50% of the delegated positions. Lisk plans to change the consensus algorithm for that reason in the near future.
Rchain: Similar to Ethereum with smart contract, though much more scalable at an expected 40,000 TPS and possible 100,000 TPS. Not launched yet. No product launched yet, though promising technology. Not overvalued, probably at the right price right now.
ARDR: Similar to Lisk. Ardor is a public blockchain platform that will allow people to utilize the blockchain technology of Nxt through the use of child chains. A child chain, which is a ‘light’ blockchain that can be customized to a certain extent, is designed to allow easy self-deploy for your own blockchain. Nxt claims that users will "not need to worry" about security, as that part is now handled by the main chain (Ardor). This is the chief innovation of Ardor. Ardor was evolved from NXT by the same company. NEM started as a NXT clone.
Ontology: Similar to Neo. Interesting coin
Bytom: Bytom is an interactive protocol of multiple byte assets. Heterogeneous byte-assets (indigenous digital currency, digital assets) that operate in different forms on the Bytom Blockchain and atomic assets (warrants, securities, dividends, bonds, intelligence information, forecasting information and other information that exist in the physical world) can be registered, exchanged, gambled and engaged in other more complicated and contract-based interoperations via Bytom.
Nxt: Similar to Lisk
Stratis: Different to LISK, Stratis will allow businesses and organizations to create their own blockchain according to their own needs, but secured on the parent Stratis chain. Stratis’s simple interface will allow organizations to quickly and easily deploy and/or test blockchain functionality of the Ethereum, BitShares, BitCoin, Lisk and Stratis environements.
Status: Status provides access to all of Ethereum’s decentralized applications (dapps) through an app on your smartphone. It opens the door to mass adoption of Ethereum dapps by targeting the fastest growing computer segment in the world – smartphone users.16. Ark: Fork of Lisk that focuses on a smaller feature set. Ark wallets can only vote for one delegate at a time which forces delegates to compete against each other and makes cartel formations incredibly hard, if not impossible.
Neblio: Similar to Neo, but 30x smaller market cap.
NEM: Is similar to Neo No marketing team, very high market cap for little clarilty what they do.
Bancor: Bancor is a Decentralized Liquidity Network that allows you to hold any Ethereum token and convert it to any other token in the network, with no counter party, at an automatically calculated price, using a simple web wallet.
Dragonchain: The Purpose of DragonChain is to help companies quickly and easily incorporate blockchain into their business applications. Many companies might be interested in making this transition because of the benefits associated with serving clients over a blockchain – increased efficiency and security for transactions, a reduction of costs from eliminating potential fraud and scams, etc.
Skycoin: Transactions with zero fees that take apparently two seconds, unlimited transaction rate, no need for miners and block rewards, low power usage, all of the usual cryptocurrency technical vulnerabilities fixed, a consensus mechanism superior to anything that exists, resistant to all conceivable threats (government censorship, community infighting, cybenucleaconventional warfare, etc). Skycoin has their own consensus algorithm known as Obelisk written and published academically by an early developer of Ethereum. Obelisk is a non-energy intensive consensus algorithm based on a concept called ‘web of trust dynamics’ which is completely different to PoW, PoS, and their derivatives. Skywire, the flagship application of Skycoin, has the ambitious goal of decentralizing the internet at the hardware level and is about to begin the testnet in April. However, this is just one of the many facets of the Skycoin ecosystem. Skywire will not only provide decentralized bandwidth but also storage and computation, completing the holy trinity of commodities essential for the new internet. Skycion a smear campaign launched against it, though they seem legit and reliable. Thus, they are probably undervalued.
Market 3 - Ecosystem
The 3rd market with 11 coins is comprised of ecosystem coins, which aim to strengthen the ease of use within the crypto space through decentralized exchanges, open standards for apps and more
Nebulas: Similar to how Google indexes webpages Nebulas will index blockchain projects, smart contracts & data using the Nebulas rank algorithm that sifts & sorts the data. Developers rewarded NAS to develop & deploy on NAS chain. Nebulas calls this developer incentive protocol – basically rewards are issued based on how often dapp/contract etc. is used, the more the better the rewards and Proof of devotion. Works like DPoS except the best, most economically incentivised developers (Bookkeeppers) get the forging spots. Ensuring brains stay with the project (Cross between PoI & PoS). 2,400 TPS+, DAG used to solve the inter-transaction dependencies in the PEE (Parallel Execution Environment) feature, first crypto Wallet that supports the Lightening Network.
Waves: Decentralized exchange and crowdfunding platform. Let’s companies and projects to issue and manage their own digital coin tokens to raise money.
Salt: Leveraging blockchain assets to secure cash loands. Plans to offer cash loans in traditional currencies, backed by your cryptocurrency assets. Allows lenders worldwide to skip credit checks for easier access to affordable loans.
CHAINLINK: ChainLink is a decentralized oracle service, the first of its kind. Oracles are defined as an ‘agent’ that finds and verifies real-world occurrences and submits this information to a blockchain to be used in smart contracts.With ChainLink, smart contract users can use the network’s oracles to retrieve data from off-chain application program interfaces (APIs), data pools, and other resources and integrate them into the blockchain and smart contracts. Basically, ChainLink takes information that is external to blockchain applications and puts it on-chain. The difference to Aeternity is that Chainlink deploys the smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain while Aeternity has its own chain.
WTC: Combines blockchain with IoT to create a management system for supply chains Interesting
Ethos unifyies all cryptos. Ethos is building a multi-cryptocurrency phone wallet. The team is also building an investment diversification tool and a social network
Aion: Aion is the token that pays for services on the Aeternity platform.
USDT: is no cryptocurrency really, but a replacement for dollar for trading After months of asking for proof of dollar backing, still no response from Tether.
Market 4 - Privacy
The 4th market are privacy coins. As you might know, Bitcoin is not anonymous. If the IRS or any other party asks an exchange who is the identity behind a specific Bitcoin address, they know who you are and can track back almost all of the Bitcoin transactions you have ever made and all your account balances. Privacy coins aim to prevent exactly that through address fungability, which changes addresses constantly, IP obfuscation and more. There are 2 types of privacy coins, one with completely privacy and one with optional privacy. Optional Privacy coins like Dash and Nav have the advantage of more user friendliness over completely privacy coins such as Monero and Enigma.
Monero: Currently most popular privacy coin, though with a very high market cap. Since their privacy is all on chain, all prior transactions would be deanonymized if their protocol is ever cracked. This requires a quantum computing attack though. PIVX is better in that regard.
Zcash: A decentralized and open-source cryptocurrency that hide the sender, recipient, and value of transactions. Offers users the option to make transactions public later for auditing. Decent privacy coin, though no default privacy
Verge: Calls itself privacy coin without providing private transactions, multiple problems over the last weeks has a toxic community, and way too much hype for what they have.
Bytecoin: First privacy-focused cryptocurrency with anonymous transactions. Bytecoin’s code was later adapted to create Monero, the more well-known anonymous cryptocurrency. Has several scam accusations, 80% pre-mine, bad devs, bad tech
Bitcoin Private: A merge fork of Bitcoin and Zclassic with Zclassic being a fork of Zcash with the difference of a lack of a founders fee required to mine a valid block. This promotes a fair distribution, preventing centralized coin ownership and control. Bitcoin private offers the optional ability to keep the sender, receiver, and amount private in a given transaction. However, this is already offered by several good privacy coins (Monero, PIVX) and Bitcoin private doesn't offer much more beyond this.
Komodo: The Komodo blockchain platform uses Komodo’s open-source cryptocurrency for doing transparent, anonymous, private, and fungible transactions. They are then made ultra-secure using Bitcoin’s blockchain via a Delayed Proof of Work (dPoW) protocol and decentralized crowdfunding (ICO) platform to remove middlemen from project funding. Offers services for startups to create and manage their own Blockchains.
PIVX: As a fork of Dash, PIVX uses an advanced implementation of the Zerocoin protocol to provide it’s privacy. This is a form of zeroknowledge proofs, which allow users to spend ‘Zerocoins’ that have no link back to them. Unlike Zcash u have denominations in PIVX, so they can’t track users by their payment amount being equal to the amount of ‘minted’ coins, because everyone uses the same denominations. PIVX is also implementing Bulletproofs, just like Monero, and this will take care of arguably the biggest weakness of zeroknowledge protocols: the trusted setup.
Zcoin: PoW cryptocurrency. Private financial transactions, enabled by the Zerocoin Protocol. Zcoin is the first full implementation of the Zerocoin Protocol, which allows users to have complete privacy via Zero-Knowledge cryptographic proofs.
Enigma: Monero is to Bitcoin what enigma is to Ethereum. Enigma is for making the data used in smart contracts private. More of a platform for dapps than a currency like Monero. Very promising.
Navcoin: Like bitcoin but with added privacy and pos and 1,170 tps, but only because of very short 30 second block times. Though, privacy is optional, but aims to be more user friendly than Monero. However, doesn't really decide if it wants to be a privacy coin or not. Same as Zcash.Strong technology, non-shady team.
Tenx: Raised 80 million, offers cryptocurrency-linked credit cards that let you spend virtual money in real life. Developing a series of payment platforms to make spending cryptocurrency easier. However, the question is if full privacy coins will be hindered in growth through government regulations and optional privacy coins will become more successful through ease of use and no regulatory hindrance.
Market 5 - Currency Exchange Tool
Due to the sheer number of different cryptocurrencies, exchanging one currency for the other it still cumbersome. Further, merchants don’t want to deal with overcluttered options of accepting cryptocurrencies. This is where exchange tool like Req come in, which allow easy and simple exchange of currencies.
Cryptonex: Fiat and currency exchange between various blockchain services, similar to REQ.
QASH: Qash is used to fuel its liquid platform which will be an exchange that will distribute their liquidity pool. Its product, the Worldbook is a multi-exchange order book that matches crypto to crypto, and crypto to fiat and the reverse across all currencies. E.g., someone is selling Bitcoin is USD on exchange1 not owned by Quoine and someone is buying Bitcoin in EURO on exchange 2 not owned by Quoine. If the forex conversions and crypto conversions match then the trade will go through and the Worldbook will match it, it'll make the sale and the purchase on either exchange and each user will get what they wanted, which means exchanges with lower liquidity if they join the Worldbook will be able to fill orders and take trade fees they otherwise would miss out on.They turned it on to test it a few months ago for an hour or so and their exchange was the top exchange in the world by 4x volume for the day because all Worldbook trades ran through it. Binance wants BNB to be used on their one exchange. Qash wants their QASH token embedded in all of their partners. More info here https://www.reddit.com/CryptoCurrency/comments/8a8lnwhich_are_your_top_5_favourite_coins_out_of_the/dwyjcbb/?context=3
Kyber: network Exchange between cryptocurrencies, similar to REQ. Features automatic coin conversions for payments. Also offers payment tools for developers and a cryptocurrency wallet.
Achain: Building a boundless blockchain world like Req .
Req: Exchange between cryptocurrencies.
Bitshares: Exchange between cryptocurrencies. Noteworthy are the 1.5 second average block times and throughput potential of 100,000 transactions per second with currently 2,400 TPS having been proven. However, bitshares had several Scam accusations in the past.
Loopring: A protocol that will enable higher liquidity between exchanges and personal wallets.
ZRX: Open standard for dapps. Open, permissionless protocol allowing for ERC20 tokens to be traded on the Ethereum blockchain. In 0x protocol, orders are transported off-chain, massively reducing gas costs and eliminating blockchain bloat. Relayers help broadcast orders and collect a fee each time they facilitate a trade. Anyone can build a relayer.
Market 6 - Gaming
With an industry size of $108B worldwide, Gaming is one of the largest markets in the world. For sure, cryptocurrencies will want to have a share of that pie.
Storm: Mobile game currency on a platform with 9 million players.
Fun: A platform for casino operators to host trustless, provably-fair gambling through the use of smart contracts, as well as creating their own implementation of state channels for scalability.
Electroneum: Mobile game currency They have lots of technical problems, such as several 51% attacks
Wax: Marketplace to trade in-game items
Market 7 - Misc
There are various markets being tapped right now. They are all summed up under misc.
OMG: Omise is designed to enable financial services for people without bank accounts. It works worldwide and with both traditional money and cryptocurrencies.
Power ledger: Australian blockchain-based cryptocurrency and energy trading platform that allows for decentralized selling and buying of renewable energy. Unique market and rather untapped market in the crypto space.
Populous: A platform that connects business owners and invoice buyers without middlemen. Invoice sellers get cash flow to fund their business and invoice buyers earn interest. Similar to OMG, small market.
Monacoin: The first Japanese cryptocurrency. Focused on micro-transactions and based on a popular internet meme of a type-written cat. This makes it similar to Dogecoin. Very niche, tiny market.
Revain: Legitimizing reviews via the blockchain. Interesting concept, though market not as big.
Augur: Platform to forecast and make wagers on the outcome of real-world events (AKA decentralized predictions). Uses predictions for a “wisdom of the crowd” search engine. Not launched yet.
Substratum: Revolutionzing hosting industry via per request billing as a decentralized internet hosting system. Uses a global network of private computers to create the free and open internet of the future. Participants earn cryptocurrency. Interesting concept.
Veritaseum: Is supposed to be a peer to peer gateway, though it looks like very much like a scam.
TRON: Tronix is looking to capitalize on ownership of internet data to content creators. However, they plagiarized their white paper, which is a no go. They apologized, so it needs to be seen how they will conduct themselves in the future. Extremely high market cap for not having a product, nor proof of concept.
Syscoin: A cryptocurrency with a decentralized marketplace that lets people buy and sell products directly without third parties. Trying to remove middlemen like eBay and Amazon.
Hshare: Most likely scam because of no code changes, most likely pump and dump scheme, dead community.
BAT: An Ethereum-based token that can be exchanged between content creators, users, and advertisers. Decentralized ad-network that pays based on engagement and attention.
Dent: Decentralizeed exchange of mobile data, enabling mobile data to be marketed, purchased or distributed, so that users can quickly buy or sell data from any user to another one.
Ncash: End to end encrypted Identification system for retailers to better serve their customers .
Factom Secure record-keeping system that allows companies to store their data directly on the Blockchain. The goal is to make records more transparent and trustworthy .
Market 8 - Social network
Web 2.0 is still going strong and Web 3.0 is not going to ignore it. There are several gaming tokens already out there and a few with decent traction already, such as Steem, which is Reddit with voting through money is a very interesting one.
Mithril: As users create content via social media, they will be rewarded for their contribution, the better the contribution, the more they will earn
Steem: Like Reddit, but voting with money. Already launched product and Alexa rank 1,000 Thumbs up.
Rdd: Reddcoin makes the process of sending and receiving money fun and rewarding for everyone. Reddcoin is dedicated to one thing – tipping on social networks as a way to bring cryptocurrency awareness and experience to the general public.
Kin: Token for the platform Kik. Kik has a massive user base of 400 million people. Replacing paying with FIAT with paying with KIN might get this token to mass adoption very quickly.
Market 9 - Fee token
Popular exchanges realized that they can make a few billion dollars more by launching their own token. Owning these tokens gives you a reduction of trading fees. Very handy and BNB (Binance Coin) has been one of the most resilient tokens, which have withstood most market drops over the last weeks and was among the very few coins that could show growth.
BNB: Fee token for Binance
Gas: Not a Fee token for an exchange, but it is a dividend paid out on Neo and a currency that can be used to purchase services for dapps.
Kucoin: Fee token for Kucoin
Market 10 - Decentralized Data Storage
Currently, data storage happens with large companies or data centers that are prone to failure or losing data. Decentralized data storage makes loss of data almost impossible by distributing your files to numerous clients that hold tiny pieces of your data. Remember Torrents? Torrents use a peer-to-peer network. It is similar to that. Many users maintain copies of the same file, when someone wants a copy of that file, they send a request to the peer-to-peer network., users who have the file, known as seeds, send fragments of the file to the requester., he requester receives many fragments from many different seeds, and the torrent software recompiles these fragments to form the original file.
Gbyte: Byteball data is stored and ordered using directed acyclic graph (DAG) rather than blockchain. This allows all users to secure each other's data by referencing earlier data units created by other users, and also removes scalability limits common for blockchains, such as blocksize issue.
Siacoin: Siacoin is decentralized storage platform. Distributes encrypted files to thousands of private users who get paid for renting out their disk space. Anybody with siacoins can rent storage from hosts on Sia. This is accomplish via "smart" storage contracts stored on the Sia blockchain. The smart contract provides a payment to the host only after the host has kept the file for a given amount of time. If the host loses the file, the host does not get paid.
Maidsafecoin: MaidSafe stands for Massive Array of Internet Disks, Secure Access for Everyone.Instead of working with data centers and servers that are common today and are vulnerable to data theft and monitoring, SAFE’s network uses advanced P2P technology to bring together the spare computing capacity of all SAFE users and create a global network. You can think of SAFE as a crowd-sourced internet. All data and applications reside in this network. It’s an autonomous network that automatically sets prices and distributes data and rents out hard drive disk space with a Blockchain-based storage solutions.When you upload a file to the network, such as a photo, it will be broken into pieces, hashed, and encrypted. The data is then randomly distributed across the network. Redundant copies of the data are created as well so that if someone storing your file turns off their computer, you will still have access to your data. And don’t worry, even with pieces of your data on other people’s computers, they won’t be able to read them. You can earn MadeSafeCoins by participating in storing data pieces from the network on your computer and thus earning a Proof of Resource.
Storj: Storj aims to become a cloud storage platform that can’t be censored or monitored, or have downtime. Your files are encrypted, shredded into little pieces called 'shards', and stored in a decentralized network of computers around the globe. No one but you has a complete copy of your file, not even in an encrypted form.
Market 11 - Cloud computing
Obviously, renting computing power, one of the biggest emerging markets as of recent years, e.g. AWS and Digital Ocean, is also a service, which can be bought and managed via the blockchain.
Golem: Allows easy use of Supercomputer in exchange for tokens. People worldwide can rent out their computers to the network and get paid for that service with Golem tokens.
Elf: Allows easy use of Cloud computing in exchange for tokens.
Market 12 - Stablecoin
Last but not least, there are 2 stablecoins that have established themselves within the market. A stable coin is a coin that wants to be independent of the volatility of the crypto markets. This has worked out pretty well for Maker and DGD, accomplished through a carefully diversified currency fund and backing each token by 1g or real gold respectively. DO NOT CONFUSE DGD AND MAKER with their STABLE COINS DGX and DAI. DGD and MAKER are volatile, because they are the companies of DGX and DAI. DGX and DAI are the stable coins.
DGD: Platform of the Stablecoin DGX. Every DGX coin is backed by 1g of gold and make use proof of asset consensus.
Maker: Platform of the Stablecoin DAI that doesn't vary much in price through widespread and smart diversification of assets.
EDIT: Added a risk factor from 0 to 10. The baseline is 2 for any crypto. Significant scandals, mishaps, shady practices, questionable technology, increase the risk factor. Not having a product yet automatically means a risk factor of 6. Strong adoption and thus strong scrutiny or positive community lower the risk factor. EDIT2: Added a subjective potential factor from 0 to 10, where its overall potential and a small or big market cap is factored in. Bitcoin with lots of potential only gets a 9, because of its massive market cap, because if Bitcoin goes 10x, smaller coins go 100x, PIVX gets a 10 for being as good as Monero while carrying a 10x smaller market cap, which would make PIVX go 100x if Monero goes 10x.
Wall Street 2.0: How Blockchain will revolutionise Wall Street and a closer look at Quant Network’s Partnership with AX Trading
AX Trading LLC (AX), a technology-enabled registered broker-dealer and Alternative Trading System (ATS) operator, today announced a strategic partnership withQuant Networka pioneering technology company providing financial and regulatory technology as well as interoperability in financial services, payments and capital markets infrastructure.Through this partnership, Quant Network’s technology, Overledger a blockchain operating system, will enable universal interoperability for regulatory-compliant security tokens and digital assets to be traded on AX ATS, a regulated secondary trading market. AX intends to integrate Overledger to help foster the evolution of traditional capital markets infrastructure to facilitate the mass implementation of interoperable regulated digital assets. With the increased market adoption of digital assets and banking “coins” such as JPMorgan Coin, AX and Quant Network are at the forefront to enable the transferability and movement of digital assets.George O’Krepkie, AX CEO said: “we look forward to partnering with Quant. Their technology will allow our blockchain agnostic security token exchange to communicate seamlessly with issuers, traders, investors, and regulators across different blockchain protocols. This is a key technological breakthrough that will help us bring the benefits of security tokens to Main Street and Wall Street.”It is expected that the first interoperable digital asset offering may commence as soon as January 2020, and that the AX Trading ATS may be ready to enable and list interoperable digital assets and securities in 2020.
An institutional investor is an organization that invests on behalf of the organization's members. They consist of hedge funds, banks, investment banks, pension funds, insurance companies, endowment funds, or any other type of money management firm. Institutional investors account for about three-quarters of the volume on the New York Stock Exchange (which alone handles more than $20 Trillion a year in volume). In the US, Institutional investors own about 80 % of the total market value of the equity (stock) market, which globally is worth more than $73 trillion. Wall Street refers to the institutional investors I mentioned above whereas Main Street refers collectively to members of the general public who are not accredited investors and the overall economy as a whole. Whilst the Equity Market is huge, Institutional investors also invest in other securities which are prime to be tokenised such as Real Estate Market (Globally worth $217 trillion), the Debt Market (Globally worth $215 trillion) and the Derivatives Market (Low end estimates at $544 trillion and high-end estimates at $1.2 quadrillion). All of which makes the current market cap for cryptocurrencies look like a drop in the ocean.
Who are AX Trading?
AX Trading is a SEC-registered broker-dealer and Alternative Trading System (ATS) Operator. They are a member of FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority)and SIPC ( Securities Investor Protection Corporation) regulated authorities. The SEC has some of the most stringent regulations in the world for listing securities and there are fewer than 50 SEC-registered Alternative Trading System Operators in the United States, of which only a handful are currently implementing Digital Assets. Others are awaiting regulatory approval with Coinbase, Circle etc are all looking at getting into this huge market. https://www.coindesk.com/stonewalled-by-finra-up-to-40-crypto-securities-wait-in-limbo-for-launch AX Trading have investors and sponsored brokers including the likes of Credit Suisse, (a multinational investment Bank and Financial services company worth $27.5 billion). AX currently have over 800 Institutional traders (these are not individuals, but corporations such as hedge funds, banks, investment banks, pension funds, insurance companies, endowment funds etc). AX Trading have also partnered with Euronext, the largest Stock Exchange in Europe with a market cap of $4.65 trillion as of 2018, in the creation of Euronext Block which utilises AX Trading.
What is an Alternative Trading System?
An Alternative Trading System (ATS) is an SEC-regulated trading venue which serves as an alternative to trading at a public exchange. ATS account for much of the liquidity found in publicly traded issues worldwide. They are known as multilateral trading facilities in Europe, electronic communication networks (ECNs), cross networks, and call networks AX is the world’s first “Electronic Trading Network” (ETN) where institutional traders can proactively connect and trade with other counterparties in a secure environment. Unlike traditional stock exchanges/ECNs that show orders to everyone and traditional dark pools/crossing systems that show orders — presumably — to no one, AX allows institutional traders to pick and choose WHOM they want to notify and also WHAT information they want to share with them. Institutional investors may use an ATS to find counterparties for transactions instead of trading large blocks of shares on national stock exchanges. These actions may be designed to conceal trading from public view since ATS transactions do not appear on national exchange order books. The benefit of using an ATS to execute such orders is that it reduces the domino effect that large trades might have on the price of an equity.
How does AX Trading Work?
The AX Trading process begins when one trader sends an “initiated” order to AX. The order can be routed to the AX ATS via one of our broker sponsors such as Credit Suisse. The initiated order triggers a “Call Auction” on AX, a period of time when the order will rest in AX to be matched against other orders from auction responders. The Initiator of an AX auction decides who they want to invite to participate in the auction, whether they be all 800+ institutional members or targeted to specific ones, as well as how much info they want to disclose about the order. Based on these instructions, the AX ATS then notifies the members inviting them to participate in the trade. The invited members can then participate in the trade by either placing buy orders of their own or placing sell orders. At the end of the AX auction period, all orders are brought together, and a match is performed. In the traditional, continuous market with displayed bids and offers, traders are often chasing liquidity. In other words, the price may move away from them the more they buy or sell to what is commonly called “market impact.” On AX, the advantage of their call auction model is it brings liquidity — in the form of participant orders to the buyer rather than them chasing liquidity.
What is a Security Token?
Security Tokens are different than Utility Tokens or Cryptocurrencies. A security token is a digital representation of a traditional security. It may represent shares in a company, interest in a fund, real estate, art collectables, or essentially any asset a party can own. Anthony Pompliano wrote an article explaining tokenised securities in more detail which you can see here
Security Tokens are digital assets subject to federal security regulations. In layman terms, they are the intersection of digital assets (tokens) with traditional financial products — a new technology improving old things.If cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are considered “programmable money” then you can consider Security Tokens a version of “programmable ownership.” This means that any asset with ownership can and will be tokenized (public & private equities, debt, real estate, etc).
The Tokenisation of assets is thereforeinevitable, because it is a better way torecord,exchangeandmonitorasset ownership for all parties involved. The amounts at stake representmany hundreds of trillions of US dollars
What are the benefits of a security token?
Lower Fees — having Smart Contracts and compliance programmed into the token itself removes the need for middlemen, reducing costs. Post Trade businesses such as clearing houses would also no longer be required further reducing costs.
24/7 markets — Currently the major US stock markets trade between 9:30am and 3pm during weekdays only. Trading can be done 24/7 and globally whilst remaining compliant.
Fractional Ownership — This greatly increases liquidity for previously illiquid assets. Real estate, Artwork, even assets such as Oil Refineries are already in talks about being tokenised through Overledger. If you have an asset such as an oil refinery worth billions of dollars, then naturally this limits the market should you ever want to sell it. However with fractional ownership you could own a tiny percentage of it and receive profits from the oil refinery based upon the percentage you own, which exponentially increases the number ofpotential buyers, increasing liquidity.
Rapid Settlement — Currently it takes 3 working days to settle a securities trade, this can be reduced to minutes by having the asset and fiat represented on a blockchain and handled through smart contracts.
Automated compliance — Security tokens are programmable, and rules and regulations are hard-coded into the architecture of the token to ensure they always remain compliant. This means that they can be traded globally and still ensure they respect the relevant countries regulations that the participants are located in.
The benefits that a blockchain provide such as transparency, security, immutability, high availability. Regulators can also run a node and verify compliance in real time.
Security Token Issuance Platforms
Security token issuance platforms allow issuers to issue Security tokens that represent the security such as Shares in their company etc in return for capital. This is known as a Primary Market. Importantly it’s not just the issuance that they look after, it’s the whole life cycle of a digital security to ensure they remain continuously in compliance as they are traded etc. They also provide reporting to the issuer so they can see who owns the tokens and what dividends to pay out. Securitize are one of the leading security tokens issuing platforms. They have created the DS Protocol, a blockchain agnostic protocol for security tokens which manages the whole lifecycle of a digital security, ensuring it remains continuously in compliance. They have issued a number of security tokens on the Ethereum network as well as recently working with IBM to tokenise the Corporate Debt Market (worth $82 Trillion). On the back of this they joined Hyperledger, an open source project which includes Enterprise blockchains such as Hyperledger Fabric which IBM is heavily involved with. https://tokenpost.com/Quant-Network-Securitize-and-others-join-Hyperledger-blockchain-project-1544 They recently also became the first SEC-registered transfer agent, which means Securitize can now act as the official keeper of records about changes of ownership in securities. There are many companies in this sector which are utilising various blockchains, Other examples include:
Harber — R Token protocol for Ethereum
Polymath — ST20 protocol for Ethereum
Blockstate — a security token issuance platform recently announced plans to migrate a number of ERC-20 tokens from the public Ethereum blockchain to the permissioned blockchain R3 Corda
Whilst the issuance platforms above generally also include their own exchange where the token can be traded on, secondary markets such as those offered through traditional stock exchanges and Alternative Trading Systems provide significantly more liquidity. Traditional Stock Exchanges have been very active in blockchain with some going through proof of concepts, to those like SIX SDX Digital Exchange which is due to launch later this year. They are using various blockchains and cover the full process from Issuance, Trading and Post Trade / Settlement services. I have briefly outlined which blockchain they are using / testing with along with source to read more about it below:
Switzerland’s Stock Exchange — SIX Digital Exchange issue, trading, settlement, custody — Corda — Source
Largest Stock Exchange in Germany — Deutsche Borse Franfurt Stock Exchange — Corda — Source and Source
South Korea’s Stock Exchange — Korea Exchange — Hyperledger Fabric — Source and Source
Japan’s Stock Exchange — Tokyo Stock Exchange — Hyperledger Fabric — Source which the consortium has now grown to 44 companies. Tokyo Stock Exchange are also testing JP Morgan’s Quorum for voting on the blockchain — Source
London Stock Exchange Group — Hyperledger Fabric — Source . They are also invested in Nivaura which utilises Ethereum — Source
Largest Stock Exchange in Europe — Euronext — Permissioned Ethereum via Liquidshare — Source as well as recently investing in Tokeny a blockchain based project based on public version of Ethereum — Source
Situated at the end of the post-trading process, CSDs are systemically important intermediaries. They thereby form a critical part of the securities market’s post-trade infrastructure, as they are where changes of securities ownership are ultimately registered. CSDs play a special role both as a depository, involving the legal safekeeping and maintenance of securities in a ‘central depository’ on behalf of custodians (both in materialised or dematerialised form); as well as for the issuer, involving the issuance of further securities by issuers, and their onboarding onto CSDs’ platforms. CSDs are also keeping a number of other important functions, including: dividend, interest, and principal processing; corporate actions including proxy voting; payment to transfer agents, and issuers involved in these processes; securities lending and borrowing; and, provide pledging of share and securities. Blockchain technology will enable real-time settlement finality in the securities world. This could mean the end of a number of players in the post-trade area, such as central counterparty clearing houses (CCPs), custodians and others. Central Security Despositories (CSD) will still play an important role according to reports: “CSDs could have an important role to play in a blockchain-based settlement system. As ‘custodians of the code, CSDs could exercise oversight of, and take responsibility for, the operation of the relevant blockchain protocol and any associated smart contracts.” Euroclear Report Another group of 30 central securities depositories (CSDs) in Europe and Asia are researching possible ways to “join hands” in developing a new infrastructure to custody digital assets. The CSDs will attempt to figure out how to apply their experience in guarding stock certificates to security solutions for crypto assets. “A new world of tokenized assets and blockchain is coming. It will probably disrupt our role as CSDs. The whole group decided we will be focusing on tokenized assets, not just blockchain but on real digital assets.” You can read more about how blockchain will affect CSD’s here Examples of CSD’s in blockchain
SIX Digital Exchange and Deutsche Borse are utilising Corda as explained in the trading venues section
DTCC the largest in the US process 1.7 Quadrillion US Dollars of securities every year and are planning on moving their Trade Information Warehouse to Axoni’s AXCore Blockchain (Based on permissioned version of Ethereum) later this year — Source
Canada CDS are using the Quartz blockchain from Indian IT Services Company Tata Consultancy Services — Source
Euroclear in collaboration with the European Investment Bank (EIB), Banco Santander, and EY are developing a blockchain solution — Source
French CSD’s too soon go live on Setl Blockchain — Source and Source
Russia’s National Settlement Depository is launching a blockchain project using D3ledger (based off Hyperledger) — Source
The Importance Of Interoperability
The evolution of DLT and the wide adoption across industries and across different market segments is resulting in many different ledgers networks, but the ultimate promise of DLT can only be realized when all ledger networks can seamlessly interoperate. — from the recent DTCC whitepaper with Accenture Some challenges and constraints related to the market infrastructure ecosystem remain open and will need to be addressed in the future to sustain the development of DLT platforms for trading and the post-trade process.At this stage, the questions of interoperability and standardization across these DLT (probably permissioned) platforms remain open and we may see a list of platforms offering no scope for interconnection. This will prevent them from fulfilling the key “distribution” criterion of DLT.Another related challenge that may determine whether or not the technology is adopted is the ability to provide Delivery versus Payment (DvP) settlement, in particular in central bank money. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that settlement can also be facilitated in commercial bank money. —https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/lu/Documents/technology/lu-token-assets-securities-tomorrow.pdf
It’s clear from the above that interoperability will be crucial in order to unlock the true potential of Distributed Ledger Technology. Issuance platforms will seek to interoperate with as many secondary exchanges as possible to provide maximum liquidity for issuers. Issuance platforms and secondary exchanges are each using a wide range of different blockchains that all need to interoperate as part of the trade process. CSD’s will also need to have interoperability between other CSD’s as well as to the secondary exchanges (again each using different blockchains).
Enter Quant Network’s Overledger
Quant Network’s blockchain operating system, Overledger, provides interoperability between any current and future distributed ledger technology as well as easily connecting Off Chain / Legacy networks as well as plans to connect directly to the Internet. Within 10 months it has proven it can provide interoperability with the full range of DLT technologies from all the leading Enterprise Permissioned blockchains such as Hyperledger, R3’s Corda, JP Morgan’s Quorum, permissioned variants of Ethereum and Ripple (XRPL) as well as the leading Public Permissionless blockchains / DAGs such as Bitcoin, Stellar, Ethereum, IOTA and EOS as well as the most recent blockchain to get added Binance Chain. All without imposing restrictions on connected chains, being Internet scalable and able to easily integrate into existing networks / infrastructure. https://preview.redd.it/8p6hi942t0m31.png?width=1920&format=png&auto=webp&s=b0536ea9981306feb8bd95788c66e9a5727a4d58 Overledger a blockchain operating system, will enable universal interoperability for regulatory-compliant security tokens and digital assets to be traded on AX ATS, a regulated secondary trading market. AX intends to integrate Overledger to help foster the evolution of traditional capital markets infrastructure to facilitate the mass implementation of regulated digital assets. With the increased market adoption of digital assets and banking “coins” such as JPMorgan Coin, AX and Quant Network are at the forefront to enable the transferability and movement of digital assets https://www.quant.network/blog/redefining-wall-st-with-decentralised-capital-market-infrastructure-the-possibilities-of-quant-networks-overledger-technology-in-regulated-capital-markets Overledger enables Universal Interoperability where digital assets can move across blockchains so that they can interact with smart contracts on different blockchains. It does this by locking the asset on one blockchain and then representing it on another blockchain either by creating a representing token or representing it via metadata. This will enable all of these different parties such as Issuance platforms, Exchanges, CSD’s, traders etc to move the digital asset from their respective blockchain onto AX Trading’s platform for secure, immediate and immutable trading to take place. Potentially it would even allow Digital Assets / Securities to settled on a public permissionless blockchain such as the recently connected Binance Chain in a completely safe, secure and compliant way. https://preview.redd.it/a3o9qxq5t0m31.png?width=443&format=png&auto=webp&s=78d7a7e7d47213bbb354336ba9d5ad92c1c2254a Regulators would be able to run a node and view transactions in real time ensuring that compliance is being kept. Potentially they could also benefit from using Quant Networks Multichain Search capability http://search.quant.network/ to be able to fully track assets as they move across blockchains.
George O’Krepkie, AX CEO said: “we look forward to partnering with Quant. Their technology will allow our blockchain agnostic security token exchange to communicate seamlessly with issuers, traders, investors, and regulators across different blockchain protocols. This is a key technological breakthrough that will help us bring the benefits of security tokens to Main Street and Wall Street.”
AX Trading have also partnered with Securrency (who have previously tokenised over $260 million in real estate assets). Securrency provide a protocol that enables security tokens to remain in compliance regardless of what blockchain the token is on. Due to the layered approach that Overledger has adopted from the learnings of TCP/IP, this protocol can be easily integrated on top of Overledger to enable security tokens to move across blockchains as well as ensuring they remain in compliance with regulations programmed into the token. https://youtu.be/vSQ2fu9iZGs
Delivery vs Payment (DvP)
A DvP transaction involves the settlement of two linked obligations, namely the delivery of securities and the payment of cash. DvP avoids counterparties being exposed to principal risk, i.e. the risk that the seller of securities could deliver but would not receive payment or that the buyer of securities could make payment but would not receive delivery.Following this requirement, a DvP securities settlement mechanism has to ensure that the delivery of securities and the payment of cash are linked in a way where one leg (obligation) of the securities trade is conditioned to the final settlement of the other leg (obligation) of the trade. Thereby final settlement is defined as “the irrevocable and unconditional transfer of an asset or financial instrument, or the discharge of an obligation by the FMI or its participants in accordance with the terms of the underlying contract”. —STELLA — a joint research project of the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan
We have seen how Overledger can provide interoperability for the securities to move across Issuers platforms, integrate with Stock exchanges, Central Security Depositories and AX Trading. Now we need to be able to ensure that payment is guaranteed and in a way that offers immediate settlement which is irrevocable. To do this we need to represent FIAT on the blockchain so that it can interact with smart contracts and settle transactions on the blockchain.
J.P.Morgan is the largest bank in the United States and ranked by S&P Global as the sixth largest bank in the world by total assets as of 2018, to the amount of $2.535 trillion. J.P. Morgan was the first U.S. bank to create and successfully test a digital coin representing a fiat currency. The JPM Coin is based on blockchain-based technology enabling the instantaneous transfer of payments between institutional clients. With J.P.Morgan’s $2.6 trillion balance sheet, expertise in blockchain and global payments network, J.P. Morgan can seamlessly and securely transfer and settle money for clients around the world. J.P. Morgan are supervised by banking regulators in the United States and in the international jurisdictions in which it operates.
How does JPM Coin work?
A Buyer purchases JPM coins in advance which get represented on the Permissioned Quorum blockchain ($1 =1 JPM Coin). Quant Network’s Overledger could then provide interoperability to lock those tokens on Quorum and represent those onto another blockchain / AX Trading’s Network. By being able to represent securities and FIAT on the same blockchain (even though the underlying assets are on different blockchains) this provides instant finality / settlements to occur. Once the seller receives the JPM coin in exchange for the securities they have sold they will be able to redeem them for USD. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to have a JP Morgan account to redeem them, you could imagine in the future that the Bank instead redeems the JPM Coin and credits the users account. Similarly the buyer of the security token redeems the represented token and unlocks the security token on the original blockchain. You can read more about JP Morgan’s Coin here as well as its use cases
J.P Morgan is betting that its first-mover status and large market share in corporate payments — it banks 80 percent of the companies in the Fortune 500 — will give its technology a good chance of getting adopted, even if other banks create their own coins.“Pretty much every big corporation is our client, and most of the major banks in the world are, too,” Farooq said. “Even if this was limited to JPM clients at the institutional level, it shouldn’t hold us back.”
Overledger enables different securities tokens / digital coins representing FIAT currencies to be brought together from the various permissioned / permissionless blockchains onto one platform where trading / settlement can take place. Overledger is the only technology that can do this today across the leading permissioned and permissionless blockchains as well as existing networks, all in a secure, scalable and easy to integrate way. https://preview.redd.it/ngt7q7hdt0m31.png?width=738&format=png&auto=webp&s=60166bdc0fcdf72a502e3472a09de5ddb5e1eb69 Quant Network are working with AX Trading to bring more digital assets, securities and tokenised assets to their existing 800 institutional traders in an already live and connected FINRA and SEC regulated exchange. AX Trading is not just about trading securities but other digital assets such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and potentially even Quant in the Future. https://preview.redd.it/ibecorcft0m31.png?width=1286&format=png&auto=webp&s=94540cf49654e36a8155f424c2a4bdb5fd549558 This is a multi-trillion dollar market with huge global enterprises, traditional exchanges and global banks are all adopting DLT at a rapid pace and going into production at scale in a matter of months, examples include the NYSE Bakkt launching Bitcoin futures later this month, Swiss Stock Exchange ($1.6 Trillion market Cap) is due to launch their digital exchange running on Corda (SDX) by the end of the year. The DTCC are due to launch their Trade Information Warehouse which processes $10 Trillion of cleared and bilateral derivatives by the end of the year. JP Morgan who transfer $6 Trillion every day are due to launch their JPM coin at the end of year and AX Trading is due to offer their first digital asset by January 2020. Quant Network’ Overledger enables the bridging of traditional finance infrastructure with the new decentralised finance infrastructure DeFi of the future, helping to redefine Wall Street and Capital Markets. https://medium.com/@CryptoSeq/wall-street-2-0-17252ffd8919
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