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What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a digital crypto-currency with no single point of failure due to its decentralized peer-to-peer architecture. The source code is publicly available and changes to the reference Bitcoin client are made via concensus within the community. Advantages of Bitcoin include irreversible transactions (i.e. no possibility of chargebacks as with credit cards), pseudo-anonymous, limited and fixed inflation, near instant transactions, multi-platform, no double-spend and little to no barriers to entry and more. It was created by an anonymous person known as Satoshi Nakamoto. Find out more at WeUseCoins.com.

Bitcoin Latest News

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Posted on 23 January 2018 | 11:30 am

Malta Finance Watchdog Pushes Ahead With Crypto Investment Fund Rules

The Malta Financial Services Authority published the feedback it received on its proposed rules for cryptocurrency investment schemes.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 10:35 am

Bitcoin is now higher, reversing earlier losses that brought it below $10000 - CNBC


CNBC

Bitcoin is now higher, reversing earlier losses that brought it below $10000
CNBC
Bitcoin jumped more than 10 percent Tuesday from session lows of below $10,000. The digital currency climbed to $11,358 in midday trading, up 13.9 percent from a low of $9,972.29 hit early Tuesday morning, according to CoinDesk's bitcoin price index ...

and more »

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 9:40 am

TD Ameritrade Cites Blockchain Stock Interest in Q1 Results

TD Ameritrade said that the first quarter of fiscal year 2018 was a strong one, buoyed in part by interested in stocks related to blockchain.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 9:25 am

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Goldman Sachs Warns Investors of Bitcoin 'Bubble' in New Report ... - CoinDesk


CoinDesk

Goldman Sachs Warns Investors of Bitcoin 'Bubble' in New Report ...
CoinDesk
Goldman Sachs has claimed that bitcoin is a bubble bigger than the dot-com era and the famous Dutch tulip mania. In a research letter to investors, the banking firm's analysts warned about the increase in cryptocurrency values, highlighting the price ...
Ominous Wall Street predictions hammer bitcoin as price decline continuesMashable
This Long-Time Wall Street Analyst Says Bitcoin Could Fall to $1000Fortune
Bitcoin could lose 90% of its value, Wall St. veteran Boockvar warnsCNBC
Cointelegraph (Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency and Blockchain News) -New Zealand Herald -The Merkle -CNBC
all 46 news articles »

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 8:37 am

Goldman Sachs Warns Investors of Bitcoin 'Bubble' in New Report

Goldman Sachs analysts have claimed bitcoin is in a bubble bigger than the dot-com era and the famous Dutch tulip mania.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 8:31 am

Criminal activity will spur government intervention and kill bitcoin: Hermitage CEO Bill Browder - CNBC


CNBC

Criminal activity will spur government intervention and kill bitcoin: Hermitage CEO Bill Browder
CNBC
Hermitage Capital CEO Bill Browder said bitcoin's usefulness for criminal activity will be the death of it and other cryptocurrencies. "Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are a way for bad dictators or criminals to bypass sanctions," Browder told CNBC ...

and more »

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 8:16 am

Ether Price Outlook Gloomy After Again Falling Below $1K

The price of ether is likely to head south unless the bulls can quickly pull the price back over $1,100, price chart analysis indicates.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 8:00 am

Researchers find that one person caused bitcoin to spike from $150 to $1000 in 2013 - CNBC


CNBC

Researchers find that one person caused bitcoin to spike from $150 to $1000 in 2013
CNBC
Within two months, one bitcoin was worth $1,000. Four researchers from the Tandy School of Computer Science at The University of Tulsa and the Berglas School of Economics at Tel Aviv University now believe that this spike was caused by one individual ...

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 7:41 am

UN Forms Blockchain Coalition to Help Tackle Climate Change

The United Nations has formed a new coalition to research and adopt applications of blockchain technology to further action on climate change.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 7:00 am

Bitcoin And Gold: An Inverse Relationship - Seeking Alpha


Seeking Alpha

Bitcoin And Gold: An Inverse Relationship
Seeking Alpha
There appears to an inverse relationship between Bitcoin and gold: one moves up, the other moves down; one moves down, the other moves up. Based on Elliott Wave analysis, Bitcoin appears to have made a new low and is poised for a move up in the coming ...

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 6:54 am

Just Because It's Bad News for Your Crypto Coin Doesn't Mean It's FUD

Not all unwelcome tidings can be dismissed as attempts to sow "fear, uncertainty and doubt," and shooting the messenger won't make the message untrue.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 6:00 am

Bear Grip Strengthens as Bitcoin Price Nears $10K

Bitcoin prices look set to explore sub-$10,000 levels, leaving the bulls an uphill task to achieve a reversal.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 5:20 am

Microsoft, Hyperledger, UN Join Blockchain Identity Initiative

Tech giant Microsoft and blockchain alliance Hyperledger and others have joined blockchain-based digital identity initiative, the ID2020 Alliance.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 4:30 am

Bitcoin May Split 50 Times in 2018 as Forking Craze Accelerates - Bloomberg


Bloomberg

Bitcoin May Split 50 Times in 2018 as Forking Craze Accelerates
Bloomberg
“Unfortunately, most fork-based projects we see today are more of a sheer money grab,” said George Kimionis, chief executive officer of Coinomi, a wallet that lets Bitcoin owners collect their new forked coins. “Looking back a few years from now we ...

and more »

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 4:00 am

Bitcoin: What happens if the currency crashes? - USA Today - USA TODAY


USA TODAY

Bitcoin: What happens if the currency crashes? - USA Today
USA TODAY
If bitcoin is a bubble as some Wall Street watchers say, it could fall as much as the Nasdaq in 2000. But the economy would not see major harm.
The View From the Bitcoin Bubble - The New York TimesNew York Times
'How I sold my Bitcoin and made thousands' - our full guide cashing ...Mirror.co.uk

all 4 news articles »

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 4:00 am

China's Banking Regulator Pushes Blockchain Adoption for Credit Market

China's banking regulator, the CBRC, thinks the country should double down on its adoption on blockchain technology to improve the credit market.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 3:30 am

Cryptocurrency Exchange BitFlyer Launches New EU Branch

Japan-based bitcoin exchange bitFlyer has opened a new EU branch after receiving regulatory approval in Luxembourg.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 3:00 am

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What's a Former CIA Lawyer Doing in Crypto?

After decades at a white-shoe law firm, Russell Bruemmer is now advising blockchain startup Applied Philosophy Labs on token sales and governance.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 2:00 am

South Korea Announces Deadline for Halt of Anonymous Crypto Trading

South Korea's financial watchdog has set a date for the introduction of a new rule barring anonymous virtual cryptocurrency trading accounts.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 1:30 am

Vermont City Pilots Land Registry Record With Blockchain Startup

The City of South Burlington in Vermont is partnering with a blockchain startup to pilot a land registry ledger based on the tech.

Posted on 23 January 2018 | 12:00 am

Yes, Bitcoin Is a Means of Payment. Just Not Yet for You - Bloomberg


Bloomberg

Yes, Bitcoin Is a Means of Payment. Just Not Yet for You
Bloomberg
One popular workaround involves exchanges and wallet providers such as Coinbase and Xapo, which hold Bitcoin on behalf of millions of individual customers. Coinbase last year estimated that they were storing about 10 percent of all bitcoin in ...

and more »

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 5:00 pm

US Senators Blast Venezuela's Oil-Backed Cryptocurrency Plan

U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R.-Fl) and Robert Menendez (D.-NJ) have denounced Venezuela's planned cryptocurrency in a new letter.

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 3:55 pm

Study Suggests 25 Percent of Bitcoin Users Are Associated With Illegal Activity

Study Suggests 25 Percent of Bitcoin Users Are Associated With Illegal Activity

In a newly published paper on the use of bitcoin for illegal activity, researchers from the University of Sydney, the University of Technology Sydney and the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga indicate that a quarter of all bitcoin users are associated with illegal activity.

The use of bitcoin for illicit purposes has long been the most controversial aspect of the cryptoasset, although it has taken a back seat to speculation around the bitcoin price over the past few years.

In addition to estimating the scale of illegal activity involving bitcoin, the research paper also claims this sort of activity accounts for a significant portion of bitcoin’s intrinsic, underlying value.

Methodology

In the paper, which was co-authored by Sean Foley, Jonathon R. Karlsen and Tālis J. Putniņš, publicly available information is used as the basis to identify an initial sample of users involved in illegal activity on the Bitcoin blockchain. Seizures of bitcoin by law enforcement, hot wallets of darknet markets, and Bitcoin addresses on darknet forums are used here, in addition to the trade networks of users who were identified in this data set.

Additionally, the researchers use a formula of their own creation to detect users likely to be involved in illegal activity by analyzing the entire public blockchain up until the end of April 2017. The formula for detecting criminals on the blockchain involves a wide variety of metrics such as transaction count, transaction size, frequency of transactions, number of counterparties, the number of darknet markets active at the time, the extent the user goes to conceal their activity and the degree of interest in bitcoin in terms of Google searches at the time.

“Bitcoin users that are involved in illegal activity differ from other users in several characteristics,” the paper says. “Differences in transactional characteristics are generally consistent with the notion that while illegal users predominantly (or solely) use bitcoin as a payment system to facilitate trade in illegal goods/services, some legal users treat bitcoin as an investment or speculative asset. Specifically, illegal users tend to transact more, but in smaller transactions. They are also more likely to repeatedly transact with a given counterparty. Despite transacting more, illegal users tend to hold less bitcoin, consistent with them facing risks of having bitcoin holdings seized by authorities.”

The paper also notes that bitcoin transactions between illegal users are three to four times denser, meaning those users are much more connected to each other through their transactions. This is consistent, the paper says, with illegal users taking advantage of bitcoin’s use as a medium of exchange, while legal users tend to view the cryptoasset as a store of value.

The Scale of Illegal Activity on the Bitcoin Network

As with any research into the activities of criminals on the internet, it’s important to take the findings of this study with a grain of salt. Remember, this is a study on the activities of those who do not wish their activities to be discovered in the first place.

For example, another study Bitcoin Magazine reported on last week indicated a much lower level of illegal activity — albeit limited to the concept of bitcoin laundering — on the Bitcoin network than what was found in the study being reported on today.

Having said that, here are the levels of illegal activity on the Bitcoin network, according to the study:

  • 24 million illicit users, which is 25 percent of all users
  • 36 million illicit transactions per year, which is 44 percent of all transactions
  • $72 billion worth of illicit transactions per year, which is 20 percent of the dollar-value of all transactions
  • $8 billion in illicit bitcoin holdings at the time of the study
  • 51 percent of all bitcoin holdings throughout bitcoin’s history have been illegal in nature

The study compares Bitcoin’s black market to the markets for illegal drugs in the United States and Europe. In the United States, this market is worth $100 billion per year. In Europe, the market is 24 billion euros on an annual basis.

“While comparisons between such estimates and ours are imprecise for a number of reasons (and the illegal activity captured by our estimates is broader than just illegal drugs), they do provide a sense that the scale of the illegal activity involving bitcoin is not only meaningful as a proportion of bitcoin activity, but also in absolute dollar terms,” the paper says.

More Takeaways from the Paper

While the amount of illegal activity taking place on the Bitcoin network appears to be relatively large, the paper indicates that the prevalence of this sort of activity has been declining since 2015 as more mainstream users have entered the market due to the interest in bitcoin as a store of value or speculative asset.

The paper notes that the illegal activity involving bitcoin is inversely correlated to the number of searches for “bitcoin” on Google.

“Furthermore, while the proportion of illegal bitcoin activity has declined, the absolute amount of such activity has continued to increase, indicating that the declining proportion is due to rapid growth in legal bitcoin use,” says the paper.

The paper also indicates that privacy-focused altcoins, such as Monero and Zcash, may be cutting into bitcoin’s role as the currency of the online black market.

The paper notes that it’s currently unclear if bitcoin is leading to an increase in black market activity or if this is simply offline activity moving onto the internet.

“By providing an anonymous, digital method of payment, bitcoin did for darknet marketplaces what PayPal did for [eBay] — provide a reliable, scalable, and convenient payment mechanism,” the paper adds.

According to the paper, this use case is the underlying value of the bitcoin asset.

“Our paper contributes to understanding the intrinsic value of bitcoin, highlighting that a significant component of its value as a payment system derives from its use in facilitating illegal trade.”

In addition to implications the online black market could have on the valuation of the bitcoin asset (a claim that is highly speculative as the bitcoin price has continued to see tremendous gains in the face of declining use for illicit payments), the paper adds that this realization also has ethical implications: those who choose to speculate on the bitcoin price may question whether they wish to provide liquidity for a payment system that enables illegal online transactions.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 3:36 pm

SEC 'Looking Closely' at Public Company Blockchain Pivots, Says Chairman

The SEC is investigating companies that have made recent waves in markets with their public pivots toward blockchain.

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 2:40 pm

Coinbase Taps Twitter Vet to Bolster Customer Support

Coinbase has added Twitter's former vice president of operations and user services to its team in an effort to improve its customer service.

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 1:10 pm

Commodity Merchant Louis Dreyfus Trials Blockchain for Soybean Trade

Louis Dreyfus, a major commodities trading company, has announced that it has piloted a blockchain-based transaction system developed by a group of financial institutions including ING.

Posted on 22 January 2018 | 11:00 am

Bitcoin Price Analysis: Potential Bearish Continuation Sets Up Lower Lows

Bitcoin Price Analysis

Shortly after a sharp drop from the mid $14,000 to the lower $9,000s, bitcoin saw a strong bounce to the upper $11,000s. At the time of this article, bitcoin appears to be consolidating and is ready to make its next move:

fig1

Figure 1: BTC-USD, 1 Day Candles, Macro View

In the previous BTC market analysis, we discussed the distribution trading range the market fell out of as it reached for lower support boundaries. Ultimately, it found support on the macro 50% retracement values near $10,000. Once it broke south of the trading range, the price fell sharply and with high volume:
fig2

Figure 2: BTC-USD, 15 Minute Candles, Current Support and Resistance Levels

After bouncing off the macro 50% values, the market rallied and ultimately tested the linear trendline shown in Figure 1. Now, after several failed attempts to break the linear trendline’s resistance, the market finds itself in a consolidation pattern where it decides where it will move next.

fig3

Figure 3: BTC-USD, 60 Minute Candles, Potential Bear Flag

One possibility to keep a close eye on is this potential, strong bear flag. After finding support on the macro 50%, the subsequent rally saw decreasing volume throughout the length of the movement. This sort of price action could potentially lead to a bearish continuation with a measure move between $4000 and $5000 — a price target of approximately $6,000 – $7,000. If a drop of this magnitude continues the downtrend, we can expect to find support on the 61% macro Fibonacci retracement values shown in Figure 1.

It’s important to note that bitcoin has a penchant for breaking upwards when all signs say “down,” so tread lightly and wait for confirmation of the move. Confirmation of the bear flag breakout would show a pretty obvious outlier in volume, combined with wide price spread.

Summary:

  1. Bitcoin recently saw a steep drop in price where it ultimately found a local bottom in the low $9,000s.
  2. Since it bottomed out, it has seen a rally on decreasing volume which leaves the door open for a bearish continuation.
  3. If the bearish continuation continues, expect support on the 61% macro retracement values.

Trading and investing in digital assets like bitcoin and ether is highly speculative and comes with many risks. This analysis is for informational purposes and should not be considered investment advice. Statements and financial information on Bitcoin Magazine and BTC Media related sites do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BTC Media and should not be construed as an endorsement or recommendation to buy, sell or hold. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 19 January 2018 | 2:48 pm

Two New Services Could Help Investors Rate Cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrency Rating Services Launched

Increasing interest in cryptocurrencies has led to an influx of new investors. Unlike traditional markets, there are few tools that can help people make informed decisions, a situation that has already begun to claim victims in a particularly volatile environment.

In separate announcements, Weiss Ratings and Intercontinental Exchange (NYSE: ICE) have announced the introduction of new financial tools to help investors navigate the cryptocurrency market and make smarter investments.

Weiss Ratings, an established independent rating agency of financial institutions, says they will begin issuing ratings for cryptocurrencies on January 24, 2018, to help investors make informed decisions.

ICE, an operator of a network of global futures, equity and equity options exchanges, is partnering with blockchain technology provider Blockstream to launch the Cryptocurrency Data Feed (CDF).

Weiss Ratings Takes On Cryptocurrencies

Founded in 1971, Weiss is an independent rating agency of financial institutions. They will begin issuing letter grades for cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Bitcoin Cash, Cardano, NEM, Litecoin, Stellar, EOS, IOTA, Dash, NEO, TRON, Monero, Bitcoin Gold and many others.

According to Weiss Ratings founder Martin Weiss, the data they are using is a combination of purchased data and data collected through other sources. It is updated on a daily basis, covering a sliding 12-month window.

Regressive testing to verify past data that the company uses to confirm predictions is still ongoing, but results have been accurate thus far, Weiss told Bitcoin Magazine.

“We have built an analytical technology over the years using intelligent models to replicate the real world and we are applying [these] to cryptocurrenc[ies]. These have been very accurate for many years.”

Ratings are built up across multiple indexes. The company built new models to reflect cryptocurrency data and developed an overall grading system that is broken down into four separate sub-models:

  1. Risk Index — The level of risk involved in the investment, based on factors like price activity and volatility.
  2. Reward Index — The potential reward outcome, based on historical patterns of buying and selling.
  3. Technology Index — A primarily manual process, where company analysts review the source code and white papers, analyze price movement and make ratings in a Query Tree (their internal software) to generate a quantitative result.
  4. Adoption Index — A measurement of adoption along two dimensions: how broadly it is adopted, transaction speed, settlement times, etc.

“A weighted average of those 4 indices is used to get the final grade,” said Weiss. “The goal at Weiss is to empower the investor to make prudent decisions.”

ICE Data Services: Real-Time Trading Data

The Cryptocurrency Data Feed (CDF) is a multi-asset and multi-venue data feed, capturing nearly 80 percent of cryptocurrency exchange trading volume over more than 15 exchanges around the world. It measures leading cryptocurrencies against the U.S. dollar and other major currency pairs.

The captured data is normalized to create a unique number sequence to identify the transaction, details of where the trade took place, quantity, price, currency, timestamp and other relevant order book data. This is designed to enable ICE Data Services’ customers to receive global market–representative trading data in a real-time feed with high-quality information.

“With the broad array of cryptocurrencies and exchanges, and given the price variances between exchanges, it’s critical that investors have a comprehensive source of pricing information,” said ICE Data Services President and COO Lynn Martin in a statement.

According to Blockstream SVP of Business Affairs Alex Fowler, the initial exchange partners set up through cooperative agreements include Bitbank, Bitfinex, BitMEX, Bitso, Bitstamp, BtcBox, BTCC, CEX, Coinfloor, Coincheck, itBit, GOPAX, OKEx, SurBTC, The Rock Trading, Unocoin, Vaultoro and Zaif, with more coming soon.

The data is collected using the exchanges’ APIs and, in some cases, by setting up dedicated connections with them. The current feeds lack standardized formatting and information: part of what ICE is providing is a single source that consolidates and standardizes the data, which will average out the information from the multiple sources into a more accurate overall view.

Historically, the data currently only goes back to the initial integration; however, Blockstream is working with the exchanges to try and incorporate older data as well.

Fowler told Bitcoin Magazine, “We believe that a consolidated data source, resulting from the combined participation of a strong and growing list of exchange partners globally, will enable us to address these gaps and thereby promote better liquidity, price stability, and public confidence in cryptocurrency as asset class.”

CDF will include bitcoin and a wide range of cryptocurrencies and currency pairings on launch; the final list will be on their website. ICE will develop and publish a selection of criteria for decisions on the addition and/or removal of assets in the feed. This will be an ongoing process as the market evolves. Access to the real-time CDF will be available to subscribers of ICE Data Services’ Consolidated Feed in March 2018.


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 19 January 2018 | 2:03 pm

Decentralizing the Sharing Economy With Blockchain Technology

Decentralizing the Sharing Economy With Blockchain Technology

San Francisco–based startup Origin is creating a set of protocols that allow developers and businesses to build decentralized marketplaces on the blockchain, with a focus on the sharing economy.

The Origin Protocol is a set of open-source blockchain protocols for buyers and sellers of services like car-sharing or home-sharing to transact on a decentralized, open web platform.

The protocol’s applications will store transactional data such as pricing and availability directly on the blockchain.

Leveraging the Ethereum blockchain and the Interplanetary File System (IPFS), the Origin platform will create and book services and goods in a decentralized way, without traditional intermediaries.

Recently, Origin launched its functional, completely decentralized prototype Origin Protocol Demo DApp, live on the Ethereum test network. It also announced that several companies have committed to developing further applications on the Origin platform.

“Our vision for Origin is to create protocols that allow marketplaces to be governed by a set of rules instead of corporate rulers. We want to eliminate the rent-seeking middlemen, maximize personal liberty, reduce censorship and redistribute value to the early participants in the network,” Origin co-founder Josh Fraser said in conversation with Bitcoin Magazine. “Partners are building on Origin because they realize they can get to market sooner and we can share network effects by working together.”

Tackling the Problems of the Centralized Marketplace

Uber and Airbnb, the hugely popular marketplaces for ride-sharing and home-sharing, are usually considered the leading players in the emerging “sharing economy.” Another buzz phrase, “people as a service,” describes the business models of these two companies, both of which attracted funding that values them in the tens of billions of dollars.

Consumers perceive that Uber and Airbnb are faster, cheaper and better alternatives to traditional services like taxis and hotels, delivered via sophisticated yet easy to use apps. But, while the consumer has the impression that they are buying services directly from individual providers in decentralized, P2P networks, Uber and Airbnb are centralized systems where transactions between individual consumers and providers are routed through infrastructure, hubs and software that belong to the companies that own the platform.

Centralization makes Uber and Airbnb vulnerable to regulatory actions, and there is the possibility that both services could be shut down by the government at any time. In the meantime, besides taking a fee, the platform owners are in complete control of the networks and the individual providers and are often accused of predatory behavior.

“Look at Uber and Airbnb as examples,” said Fraser. “Both companies have been banned or heavily regulated in cities all around the world. Likewise, those companies have a history of banning certain individuals for life from ever using their marketplaces.”

Uber and Airbnb (the Services) without Uber and Airbnb (the Companies)

According to data provided by Origin, Uber, Airbnb and other centralized sharing marketplaces are expected to earn $40 billion in platform fees annually by 2022, and the sharing economy as a whole is expected to top $335 billion by 2025. Some centralized sharing services charge upwards of 30 percent fees for hosting transactions.

Origin wants to cut out these middlemen with new standards based on blockchain technology.

The Origin platform “enables people to freely transact on the blockchain in decentralized marketplaces without rent-seeking middlemen,” says Coleman Maher. who recently joined Origin as its first business development hire. “We aim to eliminate excessive transaction fees, reduce censorship and redistribute value back to the community.”

“We imagine a broad collection of vertical use cases (e.g short-term vacation rentals, freelance software engineering, tutoring for hire) that are built on top of Origin standards and shared data,” reads the Origin product brief. Origin applications will be able to share users, creating a “shared network effect” that could benefit all application providers, as well as the consumers.

Bee Token, SnagRide, JOLYY, Acquaint, Aworker, BlockFood, Edgecoin and ODEM have committed to building on the Origin platform. More partners will be announced in the coming months.

The first two projects are in Airbnb and Uber territory. The Bee Token team, a group of former employees from Google, Facebook, Uber and Civic, is building a middleman-free, peer-to-peer network of hosts and guests on the decentralized web, with the stated goal of “reinventing the home sharing economy.” SnagRide is a ride-sharing application for mid– to long-distance rides, which leverages artificial intelligence and blockchain-powered smart contract technologies to smartly manage drivers and passengers willing to travel together between cities and share the cost of the trip.

The Origin ecosystem will offer incentives based on the Origin token, an ERC20 utility token on the Ethereum blockchain, described in the Origin white paper. The Origin token, to be distributed later in 2018, is the currency used for transactions on the Origin platform. However, the Origin team plans to implement on-the-fly conversions of fiat currencies and Ethereum to the Origin token in future releases.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Posted on 18 January 2018 | 11:06 am

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Blockstream Releases Lightning Charge, Launches Test E-Commerce Store

Blockstream Releases Lightning Charge, Launches Test E-Commerce Store

Following the release of the first Bitcoin Lightning Network white paper, published in February 2015, developers have been working on Lightning Network implementations to enhance the throughput and usability of the Bitcoin network. For an overview, see this three-part series on “Understanding the Lightning Network.”

In December 2017, lightning developers ACINQ, Blockstream and Lightning Labs, announced the 1.0 release of the Lightning protocol and the world’s first Lightning test payments on the Bitcoin mainnet across all three implementations. The standardization and deployment of the Lightning Network’s second-level, off-chain payment layer is expected to result in instant bitcoin transactions, improved scalability and lower fees, enabling fast and cheap micropayments.

Blockstream’s implementation of the Lightning spec, c-lightning, is a low-level technology designed to implement the Lightning spec without added complexity. At the same time, Blockstream realizes that developer tools are needed to unlock the power of Lightning for advanced applications, such as those that integrate with credit card companies and with existing online payment systems.

Blockstream is releasing the Lightning Charge complementary package for c-lightning to make it simpler to build sophisticated applications on top of c-lightning.

“Web developers will be able to work with c-lightning through their normal programming techniques, and they’ll also get expanded functionality such as currency conversion, invoice metadata, streaming payment updates and webhooks,” reads the Blockstream announcement. “Together, these additions make it easy for developers to use c-lightning to create their own, independent web-payment infrastructures.”

Lightning Charge is a micropayment processing system written in node.js. It exposes the functionality of c-lightning through its REST API, which can be accessed through JavaScript and PHP libraries, both of which have also been released through the Elements Project.

"Lightning Charge makes integration with the Lightning Network much simpler, since it bridges the needs of application developers and the underlying infrastructure, to provide a simple and extensible way to accept Lightning payments," Blockstream developer Christian Decker said in conversation with Bitcoin Magazine.

“Since the introduction of Lightning Charge, less than 48 hours ago, we have seen a dramatic interest in the Lightning Network, both on the user as well as the developer side,” Decker added. “We have gotten a lot of feedback, and the mainnet network has doubled in the number of participants."

The desired effect of the Lightning Charge launch was to reach a wider audience, get early feedback from future users and to showcase what will be possible in a not-so-distant future, and I think we have achieved that goal.

Israeli entrepreneur Nadav Ivgi, founder of Bitrated, worked with Blockstream developers to create Lightning Charge. “Together with him we built this new code, or this immediate piece of software that provides this nicer to use interface,” said Decker.

“So far the development for Lightning has been mostly on the network side of things. It’s been very much this close-knit group of people that are building it and are trying to build the infrastructure. Infrastructure is nice to have. But if nobody can actually use it then it’s not worth much, right?”

To test Lightning Charge, Blockstream is launching the Blockstream Store, a working e-commerce site that allows users to make small purchases of stickers and t-shirts. “By offering an early demonstration of this cutting-edge technology, we hope to bring Lightning to life with real-world functionality, providing a way for you to test Lightning and become a part of the micropayment revolution,” states the Blockstream announcement.

The Blockstream Store, built on WordPress and WooCommerce, connects with Lightning Charge and c-lightning through a WooCommerce Lightning Gateway, which Blockstream also released as part of the Elements Project.

The only way to purchase the items in the Blockstream store is with a Lightning payment. A disclaimer warns that, although the products sold in the store are real, this store is for testing and demonstration purposes only.

“Lightning is still very new and contains known and unknown bugs,” reads the disclaimer, adding that users may lose funds.

"We believe this is an important step towards a full rollout of the network as a whole, however we’d like to remind users that the Lightning Network is still experimental and that testnet is to be preferred for testing before making the jump to mainnet," Decker told Bitcoin Magazine.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

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