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Ethereum Classic and August 1st “Bitcoin Cash”

Published July 28, 2017

Cryptocurrencies are open source and anyone with an internet connection is capable of creating a fork. Many forks of Ethereum exist today, however only one has any market value (Ethereum Classic). The success of a fork of any cryptoasset: Ethereum, Bitcoin or otherwise is reliant on the uptake of the new version of the software by miners and nodes (securing the network) and users (using the network). It is therefore extremely difficult to successfully fork a blockchain as it requires miners, nodes and users to move away from existing their system. For such a fork to be successful, it needs to satisfy a strong demand that the existing version of the code doesn’t.

In the case of Ethereum, the fork of July 2016 – which resulted in Ethereum Classic (ETC) – satisfied a demand for a version of Ethereum which was not “rolled back” to retrieve funds from an exploit in the software weeks earlier. ETC appealed to blockchain idealists who believed that every transaction should be immutable regardless of any community consensus to undo those malicious transactions. There were many other reasons as to why ETC remained popular, many of which related to the opportunity to generate personal wealth – often thinly veiled with the aforementioned idealism.

The same is now happening to Bitcoin. Whilst the initial fork fears were abated last week, a new fork of Bitcoin is due to launch on August 1st called “Bitcoin Cash” (BCC). This new coin appeals to those who believe Bitcoin should be scaled by increasing the block size (currently limited to 1mb, and increasing to 8mb in the BCC proposal). These users do not want to see the “off-chain scaling” solutions that BTC enables, and instead want to scale transactions by updating the Bitcoin protocol itself. BCC has now gained enough media attention, and has enough of a demand that it is likely to hold value once it launches on August 1st. It will no doubt continue to exist in some capacity for the foreseeable future. Despite this sounding damaging to the ecosystem, Bitcoin holders have two reasons to be very happy:

1. Bitcoin’s future will no longer be split between two groups. Those who want bigger blocks can now move to BCC, without interfering with the progression of Bitcoin.

2. Bitcoin holders will – once the fork occurs – have access to the same number of BCC coins as they have in Bitcoin today. If you have 0.5BTC, then you will have 0.5BCC post-fork.

Bitcoin’s volatility has clearly had an impact on the price of Ethereum over recent months. But with the scaling debate out of the way (at least for the time being), uncertainty over the future of Bitcoin will subside and we may see a crypto market bullrun in the lead up to 2018 – particularly with planned Ethereum network upgrades due in the months ahead.

The BCC futures market on has a price of 0.112BTC (roughly $310). Expect enormous volatility in the price of BCC in the coming days.

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Bitcoin Fork Avoided

Published July 21, 2017

The last few days have been an intense ride for cryptoasset holders.

The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance announced on Tuesday that MasterCard and Cisco were joining their group to help develop the standard for Ethereum-based enterprise. Whilst these companies are working mostly on private versions of Ethereum, the goal is to make them interoperable with the ever-growing public chain (the Ethereum that we know).

The Ethereum client Parity, which is used by many thousands to interact and write code for the Ethereum blockchain was exploited. Some poorly written/audited code allowed anyone to reassign ownership of its multi-signature wallets (don’t worry, if you’re new to Ethereum and don’t follow the above then your funds are safe). $30M was stolen as a result, however the damage could have been far worse – Ethereum’s “White Hat Group” who helped to secure funds during the DAO debacle of last year, were also able to secure $100M+ of ETH using the same exploit found in Parity. Prices crashed briefly but soon recovered.

The biggest news of all has been today’s “lock in” of the SegWit2x proposal (also known as the New York Agreement). Enough miners (94.4% in the last 24 hours) have signalled support for the change, meaning that – assuming nodes also support SegWit2x – SegWit will be introduced on the Bitcoin blockchain before August 1st. What all this means is that there will not be a hard fork on August 1st and that the Bitcoin network will allow for far greater transaction throughput (nowhere near enough to compete with VISA and co, but a giant step in the right direction).

The User Activated Soft Fork (UASF) that threatened to split Bitcoin in two on August 1st has played a critical role in forcing the hand of those powerful miners. It has shown that despite miners having enormous control over the network, their power can be influenced by “grass roots” code changes from users.

Overall, the last week has been turbulent for cryptoasset prices across the board. The outcome is now an extremely positive one, and the future is looking very bright indeed.

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Welcome to Crypto & V1.3 Release Notes

Published June 15, 2017

Thanks to a sky rocketing price, Ethereum has grabbed the attention of many hundreds of thousands of new investors. Those same investors are no doubt looking at the last 48 hours in disbelief – possibly renewing some initial scepticism about the future of crypto. The 24 hour changes on are – quite frankly – a bloody mess. But hardened cryptoasset investors will be drooling at the sight.

We have been here before. We’ll be here again. And the fundamentals of Ethereum and others remain unchanged.

For those looking for some speculation as to what happened in the last 48 hours:

V1.3 Release notes:

  • Graphing updated to allow for more granularity
  • Timeframe preferences are now available at the top right; no longer forced to only “Today’s” changes
  • Users can now reset cookies from the preferences menu – deletes all cookies and resets to standard ETH/USD weighted average price
  • 5-minutely data will now be available for up to 1 month (collecting from now)

I will be adding some useful information to help new users purchase and secure Ethereum in the coming weeks.

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Bitcoin’s Blockchain May Split In Two. And Soon.

Published June 9, 2017

Amidst the wall-to-wall hype in the cryptoasset space, a storm is brewing in Bitcoin that may setback much of the recent gains. Those new to Bitcoin will be unaware of an impending hard fork (blockchain split) and what its implications may be on the price of not just Bitcoin, but Ethereum too. It is worth taking the time to understand what is set to happen in the next 2 months so as to avoid being caught up in the panic.

What’s the problem?

Bitcoin is having difficulty scaling to meet its increasing demand. The network cannot scale because each Bitcoin “block” (set of validated transactions with a 1mb limit) is full. As a result, transactions are being left in situ for hours and days before squeezing their way into a block. A side effect of this is that users are spending more and more on transaction (tx) fees in the hope that it will incentivize a miner (who receives the tx fee as a reward) into including their tx in a block.

There are solutions to this problem, however these solutions are contentious. So contentious that a community of Bitcoin idealists, developers, and business leaders have created an orgy of character assassination and conspiracy theories. It’s not pretty. After more than 2 years of debating these solutions, it appears that the route forward may be coming to a head in the very near future.

Bitcoin Splits

I want to avoid details of the different scaling solutions, and instead look at a likely split in the Bitcoin blockchain as a result of a grassroots user activated soft fork (August 1st) or a proposed SegWit-2Mb hard fork which has widescale commercial agreement. Both will put Bitcoin in a better position to scale, however they are also both likely to create 2 versions of Bitcoin.

Those who have been following Ethereum, will know that – following a large scale exploit of an Ethereum smart contract – the Ethereum chain split in two. Due to sustained support for both the existing and new Ethereum chains, two coins were born from one – Ether and Ether Classic. The same is looking more and more likely to happen to Bitcoin; but will “Bitcoin Classic” survive in the same way that ETC has?

Here’s a likely timeline for a Bitcoin chain split. For simplicity, we are going to call the second Bitcoin chain, “Bitcoin Classic”:

Users get both coins
First, it’s essential to point out that if you are a proud owner of Bitcoin, then you’ll also be a proud owner of Bitcoin Classic. When a blockchain splits, the number of coins you have (at the time of the split) on the Bitcoin chain are mirrored on the new one. Instructions on interacting safely with both chains will become available nearer to the time.

1. Users/miners/nodes choose a chain
For a period of time there will be economic activity on both chains. It may be that 100% of activity moves almost immediately towards one of the two chains and peace is restored in the world. Or perhaps economic activity splits across both chains in some fashion. The reality is we don’t know if both chains will survive, and at what capacity they will survive. However, we do know that this will become very clear in the hours and days following a chain split. Those with Bitcoin can then decide what to do with their new Bitcoin Classic coins.

2. Critical mass takes hold
Once it becomes clear which chain is “winning” – ultimately which has the most hash (mining) power – then a bigger migration towards the winning chain may occur, potentially dismantling what is now considered the “old” chain. In Ethereum’s case, we saw that following the split, the vast majority of support moved to Ethereum and Ethereum Classic was left at a fraction of the value of Ethereum (7% as of today).

3. Bitcoin Classic
Given that any meaningful support towards either chain would result in its survival, I would suggest that it is likely we will see an established “Bitcoin Classic” coin following a chain split. I would also speculate that a split will happen in the next few months, with a “crypto run” occurring in the build up to the event, fuelled by uncertainty and confusion. Such a run would heavily reduce the price of not just Bitcoin, but Ethereum and dozens of altcoins. Billions could be wiped off of the cryptoasset market cap in a matter of weeks, resulting in a short period of uncertainty followed by a several month long period of stability and then growth.

Alternatively – and possibly most worryingly – there may be no scaling implementation at all. Bitcoin may go on for another year of high fees and slow transactions. Who knows what that might mean for Bitcoin’s already waining dominance on the crypto market cap.

Where does this leave us?

None of this takes away from the fundamentals of public blockchain based cryptoassets. A short term panic will only make the asset class more appealing to new and existing investors. Even if Bitcoin and Bitcoin Classic are total failures and the currency crashes into oblivion, another cryptoasset will take its place. Whilst I am extremely bullish on Bitcoin over the long-term (Bitcoin Classic or otherwise), it is more apparent than ever that a diverse cryptoasset portfolio is essential.

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A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

Published May 11, 2017

Bitcoin, Ethereum and a dozen or more altcoins have all had dramatic price increases in recent weeks. Volatility is as high as ever, but the general direction for a huge number of these coins has been upwards. This increase in market capitalization across multiple cryptocurrencies hasn’t been seen before, and could be indicative of a large stream of “new money” funnelling into the ecosystem. In the past few weeks, there have been a series of positive news stories and developments in the blockchain industry as a whole including:

  • SEC gives Bitcoin ETF a possible second shot
  • Japan legalises Bitcoin; causing massive demand in the country
  • Ethereum ENS launches, attracting $10M in auction bids
  • Japan’s largest bank partners with the consortium blockchain, Ripple (XRP)
  • Russia plans to legitimize Bitcoin; with the country’s largest retailer Ulmart, announcing they will accept the cryptocurrency
  • Australia to treat Bitcoin “like money” from June 1st 2017, dramatically improving its position with regards to taxation
  • Litecoin successfully activates Segregated Witness (a scaling fix which can be applied to Bitcoin)
  • announces its plans to become a smart-contract driven decentralized exchange (full details not yet known, but anticipated to be operating on the Ethereum blockchain)

Investors have always been nervous of cryptocurrency competition, often speculating that one’s rise may lead to another’s decimation. What has transpired in 2017 so far is that an increase in cryptocurrency adoption as whole has tremendous effects on the price of each coin, and that a price rise of one does not come at the expense of another. This year is showing itself to be the year of the blockchain ecosystem (Bitcoin, Ethereum and altcoins), and I only anticipate that this will get stronger as interoperability between chains takes hold in 2018.

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