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A 'new wave of defaults' by Chinese companies could come crashing down and send ripples through its stock market

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

wave

  • China has been pursuing a deleveraging campaign. 
  • Corporate bond defaults are rising in the country, especially among public companies.
  • Risk in the bond market could spread to stocks.

China's turning down the money tap, and the effects are starting to be felt in the bond market. 

Chinese policymakers have been focused on a deleveraging campaign, with total social financing, a measure of credit growth, decelerating to 10.5% year-on-year in April, the slowest reading since 2005. The main driver of that slowdown has been a contraction in off-balance sheet lending.

That in turn has helped drive an increase in corporate bond defaults, which could cause market turbulence in the coming months, according to a team of Macquarie Research economists led by Dr. Larry Hu.

"A new wave of defaults in China’s RMB20tn corporate bond market has caught the eyes of investors recently," Hu said. "Credit spreads have shot up to new highs over the past two years and could rise further in June."

Bond defaults increased last month, which also saw more nonpayments than the same period in years past. The default rate, which is the percentage of corporate bond defaults against the total maturing value, was 0.7% between January and May. 

The rate is only slightly higher than a year before and less than 2016 levels, but an increasing share of those defaults are happening in the public sector. Listed companies missed nearly 4.5 billion yuan worth of payments on 2018 bonds between January and May, which Hu called an "unprecedentedly high" amount.

Screen Shot 2018 06 07 at 11.25.08 AM

The shift raises concerns that credit risk could spread from the bond market to the equity market. Public company Beijing Orient Landscape & Environment Co had to reduce its bond issuance last month because of inadequate demand. Shares of the company sank 23% following the news, and trading was suspended

About 1.5 trillion yuan in corporate bonds will mature over the next year. And a potentially "vicious" credit cycle could make things worse, according to Hu. Lower credit growth can discourage risk appetite, which lowers credit growth further. 

Credit growth fell to 10.5% year-over-year in April, which is its slowest pace since December 2005. And net bond issuance turned negative in May, as companies lowered or canceled new bonds.

"Tightened liquidity due to the ongoing deleveraging campaign could cause more market turbulences in the coming months," the note said. 

Screen Shot 2018 06 07 at 11.45.51 AM

SEE ALSO: The next stock market crash will simply be a warm-up for an even bigger issue facing Main Street

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‘BetterHash’: Bitcoin Core Dev. Proposes New Protocols to Decentralize Bitcoin Mining

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Bitcoin Core developer Matt Corallo has published a draft of a Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP) that aims to further decentralize bitcoin mining through the adoption of a new mining protocol. Published by Corallo — perhaps better known by his social media handle TheBlueMatt — on his personal GitHub repository this week, the “BetterHash Mining Protocol(s)”

The post ‘BetterHash’: Bitcoin Core Dev. Proposes New Protocols to Decentralize Bitcoin Mining appeared first on CCN

Jason Attar Takes Cryptocurrency to the Big Screen in New Mockumentary

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Jason Attar Takes Cryptocurrency to the Big Screen in New Mockumentary

Award-winning comedian, actor, writer and director Jason Attar is once again heading for the big screen with his new project KevCoin: The Movie. A follow-up to his previous film One Night in Powder, Attar will don the guise of his infamous character Kevin Powder — a rock star “fixer” who’s constantly trying to reinvent himself through wild schemes — and take on the world of digital finance as he seeks out fame and riches.

Shot over 35 days on the streets of Peckham in the U.K., KevCoin: The Movie is filmed in a mockumentary style, with many real people playing themselves and being co-opted into the film. The plot centers around Kevin Powder as he attempts to build his own cryptocurrency, which he can use to fund his latest movie idea and boost its reputation.

Attar told Bitcoin Magazine,  “This is the second of three films. We want the next film to be shot in Detroit, where Kevin finds real people to create the world’s biggest crypto-party to end all parties. We will only do this if we find suitable cash resources to film the project. Ideally, the funds will come from how we develop KevCoin in the future, and possibly doing some kind of fundraising involving our token.”

Indeed, lead actor Attar is already looking ahead to the next movie in the series. “We do, in fact, have one very strong idea around this already, and depending on the success of this project, we could possibly start this next phase in 2019. It is all dependent on making KevCoin: The Movie work and learning from it. We’re merely experimenting at this point, but we will start to firm up our plans in the near future for a platform that connects audiences to independent films in a social way.”

KevCoin: The Movie

The story begins when Kevin’s girlfriend, Bianca, finally breaks it off after months of instability. Finding himself in between homes and looking to start fresh, Kevin gets his hands on a small camper van and heads out to the nearby city of Peckham, a gritty southeast region of London stuffed with nightclubs, bars and other seedy hangouts.

During this time, Kevin decides to take his love of science fiction to a new level by creating his own fantasy film, which he’ll call The Day Peckham Stood Still. Unfortunately, the movie industry is tougher than it looks, and not everyone’s enthused by his idea, leaving Kevin to find a new route to fund his project. It isn’t long before he gets the idea to build a trillion-dollar token — a path that bears more foul-ups than fortune.

The focus of the film is KevCoin, a real cryptocurrency built on the Ethereum blockchain as an ERC20 token. The film’s premiere is set for Wednesday, June 27, 2018, in London, after which it will be released directly to the crypto community the following day. Those interested in seeing the film can visit kevcointhemovie.com to view a live stream.

Audiences can also download and keep the film for $5. Fiat and crypto (naturally) are accepted, and each purchase entitles the buyer to roughly 5,000 KevCoins. Visitors will also have access to film-related merchandise that they can purchase to garner more tokens, thus theoretically boosting its appeal and establishing it as a real-world virtual asset.

Creating a Social Filmmaking Network via Crypto

Attar has been performing in improvised comedy for over two decades. His big-screen debut came three years ago with the release of his film One Night in Powder, though Attar has numerous television credits to his name including Marshal’s Law and Spaced. He’s been intrigued by cryptocurrency ever since his first bitcoin purchase from a hacker at a London railway, and he believes it can empower the film industry in ways traditional financing and crowdfunding can’t.

“This is just the start of the crypto revolution,” said Attar. “There is still so much space within this environment to try new things. We know there are already entertainment-based tokens vying for space, but we feel we might be able to develop a social filmmaking network via crypto and the blockchain.

“We think the idea that you involve the audience at the earliest opportunity in the filmmaking process leads to the audience feeling they have a real stake in the project, and thus they become advocates and part of the journey.”

https://vimeo.com/272752823


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

SEC Chairman: Cryptocurrencies Like Bitcoin Are Not Securities, but Most ICOs Are

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

SEC Chairman: Cryptocurrencies Like Bitcoin Are Not Securities, but Most ICOs Are

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chairman Jay Clayton states that the SEC will not be bending the rules anytime soon when it comes to cryptocurrencies and that while bitcoin remains a commodity, all initial coin offering (ICO) tokens — or coins offered through a fundraising process — classify as securities.

“We are not going to do any violence to the traditional definition of a security that has worked for a long time,” he explained to CNBC. “There’s no need to change the definition. A token, a digital asset, where I give you my money and you go off and make a venture, and in return for giving you my money I say ‘you can get a return’[;] that is a security and we can regulate that. We regulate the offering of that security and regulate the trading of that security.”

The fight has been ongoing since April of this year, when the Venture Capital Working Group — an association of lawyers, traders and crypto enthusiasts alike — gathered to meet with the SEC and assist regulators in viewing virtual currencies as “utility tokens” rather than securities.

Utility tokens often garner more practical uses than securities and allow customers direct access to a company’s products or services. While utilities are generally exempt from SEC rules, securities, on the other hand, often represent stakes in a company’s offerings. Users can garner capital or profit by investing in securities, which makes them subject to strict regulatory scrutiny.

One of the biggest questions crypto-investors have had is whether ether — the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency — would fall under this category. In its earliest days, ether was originally offered as a presale (now ICO) token, but it has since become highly decentralized, which could potentially bar it from “security status.”

Clayton says that contrary to popular belief, the SEC is willing to assist ICOs to enter a plane of legitimacy, granted their organizers are willing to comply with the organization’s rules.

“If you have an ICO or a stock, and you want to sell it in a private placement, follow the private placement rules,” he explained. “If you want to do any IPO with a token, come see us.”

Nigel Greene — CEO and founder of the investment firm deVere Group — says Clayton’s stance on ICOs and cryptocurrencies is a positive sign that digital assets are becoming more mainstream.

“The SEC is right to insist that the digital coins, such as bitcoin, which are replacement for sovereign currencies, such as the dollar, sterling, yen and euro, are not securities,” he said. “I believe the SEC is also right that tokens — which [Clayton] did not name — that act as digital assets are securities. This clarification by the SEC removes some of the uncertainty that has been swirling around the crypto sector and serves to strengthen the overall proposition of many major cryptocurrencies. The SEC’s invaluable and far-sighted work in this area once again highlights how many governments, central banks and regulators around the world are all now recognizing the scale and potential of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.”

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Weekly Crypto-Centric Radio Show Launches, Joins Booming Bitcoin Podcast Market

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

A weekly cryptocurrency-focused radio show called “Cryptomania – Bitcoin and Beyond” has just launched, joining a flourishing cottage industry of crypto-centric edutainment (education + entertainment). Cryptomania is a radio show that airs Saturday mornings in the Boston, Massachusetts, and southern New Hampshire area on the local FM channel 104.9. The radio program is the brainchild

The post Weekly Crypto-Centric Radio Show Launches, Joins Booming Bitcoin Podcast Market appeared first on CCN

Cryptocurrency Market Gains Stability, Volume Still Low But More Bullish

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

The cryptocurrency market has started to gain some momentum and stability over the past 48 hours, with three consecutive daily buy candles recorded by bitcoin. Tokens such as OmiseGo and DigixDAO have seen notable increase in volume and price, but it is still unclear whether the market can initiate a new rally. Volume Still Low

The post Cryptocurrency Market Gains Stability, Volume Still Low But More Bullish appeared first on CCN

'Just Beware' Is All Jamie Dimon Will Say About Bitcoin

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Jamie Dimon once called bitcoin a fraud – now he's saying "just beware."

CRYPTO INSIDER: Coinbase could add new coins soon

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

puppies in the Coinbase office

Welcome to Crypto Insider, Business Insider's roundup of all the bitcoin and cryptocurrency news you need to know today. Sign up here to get this email delivered direct to your inbox.

$1.6 billion Coinbase says that its newest acquisition puts it "on track" to trade securities — and it could mean new coins are coming soon.

Bitcoin price today

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CRYPTO INSIDER: Coinbase could add new coins soon

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

puppies in the Coinbase office

Welcome to Crypto Insider, Business Insider's roundup of all the bitcoin and cryptocurrency news you need to know today. Sign up here to get this email delivered direct to your inbox.

$1.6 billion Coinbase says that its newest acquisition puts it "on track" to trade securities — and it could mean new coins are coming soon.

Bitcoin price today

In the news:

New to Crypto Insider? Business Insider has a ton of articles to get you caught up to speed, including:

What other questions do you have about crypto? Ask them in Business Insider's Crypto Insider Facebook group today to discuss with readers from all over the world, as well as BI editorial staff.

SEE ALSO: Sign up to get the most important updates on all things crypto delivered straight to your inbox.

Join the conversation about this story »

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Under Armour's cleaning up its biggest problem (UAA)

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Under Armour

  • Under Armour has been cleaning up its inventory problem, according to Jefferies analyst Randal Konik. 
  • The clean-up could add material value to its bottom line. 
  • Under Armour has been losing ground to other players in athletic apparel over the last few years. 
  • Watch Under Armour trade in real time here. 

Under Armour is finally figuring out how to correct an issue that has been a thorn in its side for quite some time, and that could mean significant growth ahead for the company. 

The athletic-apparel retailer is slimming down its inventory levels, which will in turn fatten up its margins, Jefferies analyst Randal Konik wrote in a note to clients. 

"Under Armour fundamentals are poised to inflect, with the top line accelerating and margin erosion lessening, supported by progressively cleaner inventory," Konik said.

The retailer has been pressured by an inventory backlog that started in the second half of 2017 when the company was having issues getting its inventory to out on time. That led to a 22% year-over-year jump in inventory during the third-quarter of 2017. And that remained the case through the first-quarter 2018, before Konik noticed a change. 

"While we acknowledge that inventory was elevated exiting first-quarter, we believe it continues to get cleaner," he said.

Dick's Sporting Goods, one of Under Armour's most important retailers, suggested on its first-quarter conference call that it was seeing inventory changes take shape.

"The majority of the inventory has been cleaned up," Dick's Chairman and CEO Edward Stack said on the call. "We're really pleased with the content and the direction we're going to be going with them going forward.

Konik says, "This should help mitigate the margin pressure going foward and presents upward bias to Street estimates."  

This is a welcomed turn of events for Under Armour, which has had a difficult ride over the past several years. Shares plunged 80% from mid-2015 to mid-2017 as other players having been gaining market share in the athletic-wear market.

Most recently, Puma passed Under Armour to become  number three in market share, and New Balance is nipping on its heels for fourth, according to research from Wedbush Securities. 

Under Armour is up 59.6% this year. 

Screen Shot 2018 06 07 at 10.42.26 AM

SEE ALSO: Mike Novogratz says a CNBC segment on buying a bitcoin rival shows why regulators are clamping down on crypto

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What you need to know on Wall Street today

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Welcome to Finance Insider, Business Insider's summary of the top stories of the past 24 hours. Sign up here to get the best of Business Insider delivered direct to your inbox.

The next stock market crash will simply be a warm-up for an even bigger issue facing Main Street

When the next bear market hits stocks, Wall Street will feel the pain, as it always does.

Hedge funds will take deep losses, trading desks will flail, and the volatile environment will make it more difficult for companies to tap capital markets.

But outside the nation's financial epicenter, the stakes are arguably higher.

That's not because Main Street is more vulnerable to a stock-centered meltdown — in fact, the opposite is true. It's because such steep sell-offs have historically signaled that the economy is in its final stage and that a recession is near.

That is why the perilous situation unfolding in the US consumer market is so troubling. The household savings rate is now sitting at its lowest level since the previous crisis, leaving people no choice but to load up on more debt if they wish to keep consuming.

Replicating Robinhood in Europe 

Startups across Europe are racing to try and replicate the success of Robinhood, the hot US stock trading app.

San Francisco-based Robinhood offers a zero-fee trading app that has taken off with young Americans. Founded in 2013, it claims to have 4 million customers and in May hit a valuation of $5.6 billion.

This success has not gone unnoticed. Fast-growing UK fintech startup Revolut on Thursday announced plans to build a commission-free stock trading platform, similar to the way Robinhood works.

Meanwhile, Freetrade, another UK startup trying to offer free basic stock trading, raised £3 million in a crowdfunding round in May. Dabbl, another new stock trading app, is running a crowdfunding campaign later this month.

Revolut, Freetrade, and Dabbl are part of a group of startups across Europe vying to repeat Robinhood's success.

ZTE saved by Trump 

The US has reached an agreement to lift sanctions on the Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday.

The deal will force ZTE to pay a $1 billion fine and place $400 million in escrow in the event the company violates sanctions again. In addition to the monetary damages, ZTE will be forced to make changes to its management and submit to closer examinations by a US compliance team.

The deal ends a tense period of negotiations between the US and Chinese governments over the telecom equipment maker.

More here. 

'Bitcoin king' on regulators

Mike Novogratz, the famed hedge funder turned cryptocurrency enthusiast, poked a little fun at a segment on the financial-news network CNBC when describing to its rival Bloomberg News the crypto hype that marked the start of 2018.

"CNBC, not to pick on CNBC, but I think I can since I am here, they literally had a show where they were one by one walking people through how to buy the Ripple, the XRP coin, literally when it was trading at $3.20 having moved from $0.20 eight weeks earlier," Novogratz said, speaking with Bloomberg's Erik Schatzker.

Novogratz said that was "peak nonsense."

In markets news

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Millennials are leading an investment revolution — here's what makes their generation different

What you need to know on Wall Street today

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Welcome to Finance Insider, Business Insider's summary of the top stories of the past 24 hours. Sign up here to get the best of Business Insider delivered direct to your inbox.

The next stock market crash will simply be a warm-up for an even bigger issue facing Main Street

When the next bear market hits stocks, Wall Street will feel the pain, as it always does.

Hedge funds will take deep losses, trading desks will flail, and the volatile environment will make it more difficult for companies to tap capital markets.

But outside the nation's financial epicenter, the stakes are arguably higher.

That's not because Main Street is more vulnerable to a stock-centered meltdown — in fact, the opposite is true. It's because such steep sell-offs have historically signaled that the economy is in its final stage and that a recession is near.

That is why the perilous situation unfolding in the US consumer market is so troubling. The household savings rate is now sitting at its lowest level since the previous crisis, leaving people no choice but to load up on more debt if they wish to keep consuming.

Replicating Robinhood in Europe 

Startups across Europe are racing to try and replicate the success of Robinhood, the hot US stock trading app.

San Francisco-based Robinhood offers a zero-fee trading app that has taken off with young Americans. Founded in 2013, it claims to have 4 million customers and in May hit a valuation of $5.6 billion.

This success has not gone unnoticed. Fast-growing UK fintech startup Revolut on Thursday announced plans to build a commission-free stock trading platform, similar to the way Robinhood works.

Meanwhile, Freetrade, another UK startup trying to offer free basic stock trading, raised £3 million in a crowdfunding round in May. Dabbl, another new stock trading app, is running a crowdfunding campaign later this month.

Revolut, Freetrade, and Dabbl are part of a group of startups across Europe vying to repeat Robinhood's success.

ZTE saved by Trump 

The US has reached an agreement to lift sanctions on the Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday.

The deal will force ZTE to pay a $1 billion fine and place $400 million in escrow in the event the company violates sanctions again. In addition to the monetary damages, ZTE will be forced to make changes to its management and submit to closer examinations by a US compliance team.

The deal ends a tense period of negotiations between the US and Chinese governments over the telecom equipment maker.

More here. 

'Bitcoin king' on regulators

Mike Novogratz, the famed hedge funder turned cryptocurrency enthusiast, poked a little fun at a segment on the financial-news network CNBC when describing to its rival Bloomberg News the crypto hype that marked the start of 2018.

"CNBC, not to pick on CNBC, but I think I can since I am here, they literally had a show where they were one by one walking people through how to buy the Ripple, the XRP coin, literally when it was trading at $3.20 having moved from $0.20 eight weeks earlier," Novogratz said, speaking with Bloomberg's Erik Schatzker.

Novogratz said that was "peak nonsense."

In markets news

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Millennials are leading an investment revolution — here's what makes their generation different

The world's largest producer of bitcoin mining chips, which is run by a 32-year-old billionaire, is reportedly considering an IPO

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Jihan Wu

  • The world's largest producer of bitcoin mining chips, Bitmain Technologies, might be considering going public.
  • Bitmain's founder, cryptocurrency billionaire Jihan Wu, told Bloomberg that Bitmain is considering an initial public offering as it expands into producing hardware for AI computing.

Bitmain Technologies, the world's largest producer of mining chips, might be considering an IPO, Bloomberg reports. 

The company, which is run by 32-year-old cryptocurrency billionaire Jihan Wu, has become a global force in the burgeoning cryptocurrency mining industry since it was founded five years ago. In June, Wu told Bloomberg that Bitmain made $2.5 billion in revenue in the year 2017 alone. Now, the company's success might have Wu considering taking it public.

Recently, Bitmain has been tinkering with another kind of hardware beyond mining chips. The company has expressed interest in developing custom chips to compute in the field of artificial intelligence, called application-specific integrated circuits.

Wu suggested to Bloomberg that Bitmain's interest in expanding into AI hardware might eventually lead to an initial public offering. The listing, Wu said, would most likely occur overseas; Hong Kong was mentioned as a possible option. 

“Bitmain is trying very hard to maintain its advantage,” Wu told Bloomberg.

Read the full story over at Bloomberg here.

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$700 Million Bitcoin Mining Farm Coming to Upstate New York

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Upstate New York may soon be home to the world’s largest bitcoin mining center if the ambitious plans being undertaken by cryptocurrency mining firm Coinmint fall into place. Coinmint, through its subsidiary North Country Data Center Corp., has invested $50 million so far to convert a 1,300-acre Alcoa aluminum smelting plant in Massena, NY. With a 435-megawatt

The post $700 Million Bitcoin Mining Farm Coming to Upstate New York appeared first on CCN

From Chatroom to Classroom: The Evolution of Blockchain Education

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

From Chatroom to Classroom: The Evolution of Blockchain Education

With the creation of Bitcoin and its blockchain, Satoshi Nakamoto introduced an entirely new practical application for cryptography, unearthing an unexplored area for computer science and technological development. In the years following the technology’s inception, community demand for instructional information and educational materials began to rise. Soon after Nakamoto bootstrapped the network, coders would look for guidance on developing the software, business heads would look for information on Bitcoin’s financial ramifications, and enthusiasts would look for ways to support the network through mining and investing.

Early adopters flocked to various online platforms to answer each other’s questions, share info and problem solve together. As the market began to mature, new coins were introduced and different forms of smart contracts entered the scene, demand for information continued to grow.

Over time, a growing user base stepped in to supply the educational fodder to satisfy this demand. Online resources expanded outside of the forums that formed the rockbed of the movement, as instructional videos, white papers and other articles, and even informal online accreditation courses were served up as part of many enthusiasts’ pedagogical diet.

It wasn’t until 2013 or so that universities began offering formal courses on blockchain technology, with the University of Nicosia in Cyprus leading the pack. Soon after, top universities in the U.S. and around the world formulated curricula on blockchain development/coding, Bitcoin’s origins, and the emerging fields of cryptocurrency law and finance.

In the realm of education at least, these courses brought a certain institutional legitimacy to the formerly niche movement. But they established a dichotomy between crypto’s anti-establishment roots and a sweeping mode of adoption that persists through mainstream culture; whereas in the beginning, the burden of education was supported by community-centric efforts, now, formal institutions are taking up the reins.

What we have going forward, then, is a clear divide between those early adopters who built a library of online knowledge on the foundations that Nakomoto left from 2008 to 2010 and their traditional, collegiate counterparts.

As the blockchain continues to write its way into university syllabi across the world, the divide begs the question, “What is accreditation for an industry that, until recently, has supported itself without outside authorities?”

The Era of Self-Education

Many of these then-new resources were born from necessity as much as curiosity.

Shortly after Bitcoin’s debut, Nakamoto created bitcoin.org and bitcointalk.org, websites for information on the new digital currency and its intrinsic technology, the blockchain. The two would become invaluable educational resources for Bitcoin’s earliest early adopters, and even today, they are go-to repositories for blockchain information.

Satoshi cemented these sites as the foundation of Bitcoin’s pedagogical canon, creating them as the first educational tools for an entirely new financial system. In the beginning, they were among the few places early adopters could go to sharpen their knowledge on the subject.

Fledgling enthusiasts would flock to bitcoin.org to consult its resources. Per Bitcoin’s decentralized, peer-driven modus operandi, the website is community supported and relies on donations to subsist. It features an extensive FAQ section, “Getting started with Bitcoin” and “How does Bitcoin work?” guides, information for developers and businesses, and even a vocabulary list for must-know terms.

For anything in between, community members could turn to bitcointalk.org to engage in open-forum discussions with other adopters. Like a virtual symposium, the website became the hub for blockchain discussion. Over the years, users have enriched each other’s understanding of cryptocurrency with millions of posts on thousands of topics. Discussions range from rudimentary questions regarding block sizes to complex topics on maintaining mining rigs.

Despite the popularity of these sites, as the crypto space grew, so too did its educational environs. Bitcoin.org began chronicling a handful of these in its resources section as members of the community laid the foundations for a second-generation of crypto-knowledge bases. Launched in April of 2010, one such resource, Bitcoin Wiki, became the community’s encyclopedic arm, consolidating much of the disparate information that had circulated to that point.

Meetups also began to spring up in cities around the world. Small gatherings of half a dozen Bitcoiners would gather in bars or common spaces where people could ask questions, share ideas and listen to guest speakers on various blockchain-related topics. Over a short period of time, those numbers grew as more people became curious about cryptocurrencies.

Early talk shows and podcasts like The Bitcoin Show, Let’s Talk Bitcoin! and the Bitcoin Knowledge Podcast were among the space’s earliest literal mouthpieces. The podcasts perked up the community’s collective ear as its first founts of auditory education. Khan Academy, a nonprofit educational website, played a role on this front, as well, releasing instructional videos alongside its own series of FAQs.

Many of these then-new resources were born from necessity as much as curiosity. Outgrowing its original digs, the infant movement needed to be outfitted with something that would help it with its growing pains. The community had learned to walk; next, it needed to teach itself how to run. And it had to learn fast, because by 2011, altcoins had entered the race.

With Altcoins, the Search for More Knowledge

 It would take more than just developers swapping tips. It would take educators, media personnel and the coders who had curated the movement to advance it further.

Two years and some change after Bitcoin was founded, Namecoin, cryptocurrency’s first altcoin, was created. Toward the tail end of 2011, Namecoin would be joined by a few now-defunct alts and Litecoin, Bitcoin’s most well-known fork.

All of these early altcoins were source-code forks, offshoots of the Bitcoin network that tinkered with its code in their own ways to deliver variations of its consensus mechanism, inflation rate, circulating supply and other parameters. With them, the ecosystem not only expanded in volume of coins, it also expanded technically, introducing the forks and all the new hashing algorithms and technical developments that came with it. The ecosystem was evolving, and it was no longer just about Bitcoin. Cryptocurrency was becoming an industry, with blockchain technology as its backbone.

A growing ecosystem meant growing interest. What previously was confined to the dark web’s illicit marketplaces began attracting developers, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts who were serious about blockchain technology’s widespread application. These visionaries began lifting the movement out of the obscurity of the internet’s shadows and into the light of the mainstream.

Shedding this light would require more information than was readily available to keep it kindled. With the technical advancements that came from a budding industry, Bitcoin Wiki, Bitcointalk and bitcoin.org were no longer sufficient to supply the expanding demand for knowledge on blockchain technology and its newcomers. It would take more than just developers swapping tips. It would take educators, media personnel and the coders who had curated the movement to advance it further.

Mihai Alisie and Vitalik Buterin seemed to bind all these perspectives into one when they founded Bitcoin Magazine in 2011, launching the first editions in 2012. Now the longest-running publication devoted to Bitcoin, blockchain technology and the cryptocurrency space, Bitcoin Magazine set an industry precedent as its seminal editorial. The niche finally had its reader’s digest, as the magazine’s 22 prints dished out news, perspectives, guides and essays on Bitcoin and the emerging market at large.

What Bitcoin Magazine came to represent, then, was tangible growth and legitimacy. Whereas before, information came from volunteer-centric websites with loose organization, now there was clear literature on the subject. Serving a similar function yet obviously not nearly as popular, the magazine became the industry’s Forbes or Wired or a hybrid of both, a serious publication dedicated to legitimate discussion of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency.

Around this same time, the Bitcoin Foundation was gearing up its own operations. Founded in September of 2012, the nonprofit was created with the explicit purpose to “standardize, protect and promote the use of bitcoin cryptographic money for the benefit of users worldwide.” The operating body gave Bitcoin its first organizational face, a working group dedicated to educating not just individuals, but political leaders, institutional financiers, traditional media and all those who did not have a natural interest in the technology.

In general, 2012 became a critical juncture for cryptocurrency. The advent of new coins with their own blockchains, the founding of a cryptocurrency-specific publication and the establishment of a nonprofit that embodied all Bitcoin stood for all seemed to point toward a movement that was inching its way into the mainstream.

Coming out of the woodwork, Bitcoin and the industry it spawned drew new enthusiasts into their fold. They would proselytize soon-to-be-experts like Andreas Antonopoulos who, inspired by the promise of a decentralized and global financial system, would become Bitcoin evangelists with a knack for spreading the word. Antonopoulos preached the Bitcoin gospel at conferences and before governing bodies, and began writing extensively on the subject. By 2014, he had published Mastering Bitcoin, one of the first — if not the first — books to address Bitcoin and its blockchain in hard copy. By 2016, he would publish The Internet of Money, a collection of his talks on Bitcoin and the thriving ecosystem that was developing around it. Antonopoulos would become the space’s principal orator and author, an intellectual mouthpiece of sorts.

More than advocates, the likes of Antonopoulos became the informal intelligentsia of an evolving space. Lacking in what most would consider “accredited” informational sources, these advocates compensated for the lack of cogent, accessible resources on a technology that, for the technologically illiterate, is anything but. They garnered reputations as the industry’s de facto experts, and along with a community of hardcore believers, they established a school of thought out of the nebulous knowledge of a nascent technology and the binaries and bits of cyberspace.

Fittingly — and for better or worse — these foundational members of the community decided to forgo traditional education to develop the decentralized space. Buterin received a two-year $100,000 Thiel Fellowship for a white paper he wrote after dropping out of the University of Waterloo and traveling the world. The white paper is considered a genesis document for Ethereum, the first theoretical iteration of the platform that launched in 2015.

The decision to chase Ethereum’s potential paid off. Ethereum’s code, which was built to easily accommodate smart contracts and the decentralized applications (dApps) that come with them, opened a Pandora’s box for blockchain utility. With Ethereum, developers could build on the blockchain in ways that few programmers had been able to do thus far.

Up until this point, few if any classrooms were willing to broach the subject, so online blockchain certification courses began to fill this demand in an attempt to establish pedagogical standards for an area of study that was still looking for legitimacy under the public eye. Founded in 2014, one institution dedicated to these courses, the CryptoCurrency Certification Consortium (C4), even includes Antonopoulos and Buterin on its board of directors. The consortium offers three distinct certificates (Certified Bitcoin Professional, Certified Bitcoin Expert and Certified Ethereum Developer), with the programs spanning two to three years. Another course, the Digital Currency Council’s Professional Certification Training Program, offers a pricier, less rigorous, seven-hour course.

Eventually, universities and colleges began offering courses dedicated to cryptocurrency finance, law and blockchain development, and they began to redefine what credibility meant for a space that a mainstream audience didn’t care for until it became convenient.

The Rise of Blockchain Curricula

Conceptualizing a course five years ago carried a degree of risk, but like the crypto market writ large, there’s a “positive relation between risk and expected return.” That risk has paid off.

By 2014, the movement had made enough noise to attract the attention of academic institutions. Over the coming years, some of America’s leading universities would introduce blockchain- and crypto-concentrated curricula into their course offerings.

Before universities began these course offerings, the closest thing to a blockchain accredited education came in the form of online courses. The likes of IBM and the Linux Foundation established blockchain certification courses, a seemingly more legitimate extension of the video series that forerunners like Antonopoulos offered for free. It wasn’t long until universities followed suit. Princeton and MIT, for instance, both offer online resources for blockchain education: Princeton with a course on Coursera, and MIT with essays and interactive videos on the subject.

Other universities have dug full-bore into the subject area. Vanderbilt, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, NYU, Duke and Stanford all offer classes dedicated to blockchain technology or the cryptocurrency field to some capacity.

In its third year, Stanford’s Computer Science course on blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies (cs251) “is intended for Computer Science students and teaches how the different blockchains operate, how to build applications that interact with the blockchain, and how to write smart contracts,” Professor Dan Boneh, the course’s instructor, told Bitcoin Magazine.

“These courses can be taught from different perspectives,” Boneh believes. “I focus our course on technology, but other professors may choose to focus on law or economics.”

Indeed, other institutions, such as the NYU Stern School of Business, take an applied rather than technical approach. Since 2014, professors David Yermack and Geoffrey Miller have offered the “Digital Currency, Blockchains and the Future of Financial Services” course, which focuses on “the emerging role of digital currencies and blockchains in money, banking, and the real economy,” the course’s description states.

Duke University’s offering straddles both the technical and applied aspects of the industry with its I&E 550: Innovation and Cryptoventures course. Taught by Fuqua School of Business professor Harvey Campbell, the course covers areas from cryptofinance to smart contract development, and its multilayered approach has brought “a mix of business, law, computer science and engineering students” to its lecture hall, Campbell conveyed to Bitcoin Magazine. In 2014, the course began with only 13 students. Now, Campbell claimed in our correspondence, more than half of the Fuqua School of Business’s 2018 graduating class had taken the course before walking this spring.

And he’s not alone in experiencing such a high turnout. In our interview with Yermack, the professor revealed that over the 2017–2018 academic year, “the course was so popular that [the instructors] had to relocate to the largest lecture hall on campus.”

Campbell candidly admitted that this was, in part, the result of the hype-induced enrollment of some students. Following the crypto market’s exponential rise, he went from 75 students in 2017 to 231 in 2018. Yermack noted a similar trend, indicating that 2018’s spring enrollment for his class hit 230 students, a sizable increase from its inaugural enrollment of 35 in the fall of 2014.

As with the industry at large, this hype could easily be seen as a blemish, the emotive trappings of an industry marred by volatility and get-rich-quick aspirations. Even so, even in a time when industry hype hadn’t reached its peak, these courses weren’t hard sells.

“It was easy to get the curriculum approved. The committee was very supportive. In fact, some of the faculty who approve new courses said that they want to take this course themselves,” Boneh said.

Yermack had a similar experience, while Campbell told us that his original pitch was “naturally” met with some skepticism. “At that time,” he said, “most thought that blockchain equaled Bitcoin. Many perceived the technology as enabling illegal transactions. In the end, Duke University embraced my course.”

Campbell added that conceptualizing the course five years ago carried a degree of risk, but like the crypto market writ large, he believes that there’s a “positive relation between risk and expected return.” And to him, the risk has paid off.

It’s hard to imagine the risk not having an upside given blockchain technology’s increased exposure in financial markets, technological sectors and the purview of an increasingly interested global public. Be it for hype or genuine interest, the “subject is growing quickly,” Yermack told us, “and there is a lot of demand from students for courses in the fintech area.”

This coincides with a rise in demand from the industries — technical, financial and anything else — the blockchain could disrupt.

“In my area, Operations Research should be teaching ‘Supply Chain with Blockchain Technology,’ [and] Accounting should be teaching ‘Financial Reporting with Blockchain Technology,’” said Campbell. “Marketing should be teaching ‘How Blockchain Technology Disrupts Marketing.’ Finance is low-hanging fruit, and they should be teaching a course called ‘The Tokenization of Everything.’ Law should have multiple courses on ‘Smart Contracting.’ They should also offer courses on the regulatory implications. There are a vast array of computer science courses dealing with key aspects of this technology (that are not on the books at most schools). There is much to be taught.”

Of course, the industry’s ever-changing landscape means professors must remain vigilant to keep syllabi up-to-date. With the market and industry constantly in flux, curricula could become markedly different from one year to the next.

To “keep up with the quickly evolving range of topics,” Yermack said that he has to essentially reinvent his syllabus every year, and Boneh revealed that for each new class, he has to “redo the bulk of the course from scratch.”

The industry’s dynamicism, it seems, is the primary pain point keeping it from earning a spot in additional course offerings. Some professors are wary of investing the time to learn and teach an unsolidified and unstable subject that, at worst, may be a passing fancy.

“Currently some faculty are unsure if this area is a fad or if it is here to stay. Clearly, I believe that this technology is here to stay and we need to educate our students how to build on it,” Boneh said.

With University Offerings, an Impasse for Qualification

There are a vast array of computer science courses dealing with key aspects of this technology (that are not on the books at most schools). There is much to be taught.

What started off as a fringe anti-establishment movement for a cypherpunk niche has found a place in the classrooms of some of America’s leading universities.

Like the Andreas Antonopouloses in the earlier days of the emerging field, the professors teaching these courses are trailblazers for a new frontier. This new frontier, the dominion of formal education, is becoming the accredited complement to the old frontier, the virtual domain of unofficial expertise. As such, these professors hope to refine the existing information of the old mode to bring clarity and understanding to an esoteric topic.

“Blockchain technology is complicated,” Campbell said in regard to the difference between academic and nonacademic educational resources. “There is a lot of misunderstanding. Even worse, there are people that believe they know blockchain [technology] but are quite ignorant. Academic institutions have an important role in training the next generation of innovators.”

Boneh expanded on Campbell’s thoughts, saying that he sees his role less as opening up a new frontier and more as acting as an usher to lead others safely through the old one.

“All the information is out there on the internet. The problem is that there is too much information online. I view my role as a guide … we teach the students what they need to know, what is important, and what is less so. The students can always read up online to learn more about the topics discussed in class and in the programming projects. I’d like to think that students who graduate from the class have a fairly complete understanding of the area. Purely self-study is great, and I highly encourage it, but it can sometimes lead to patchy knowledge.”

Yermack conveyed that while he believes online resources “have a role to play in the market,” ultimately “they deliver content to a different population and with considerably less depth and rigor than a graduate university course.”

Undoubtedly, each professor believes that his role and the classroom’s structure will herald in a new age of legitimacy for the space. Academic accreditation will no doubt supply a budding workforce with the tools it needs to work in a burgeoning industry, and having America’s top universities vet a formerly stigmatized field promises to be beneficial for adoption and awareness.

But the advent of official pedagogical standards for a space that has only ever relied on the sweat of its own brow raises the question: What constitutes “accredited instruction” in an industry that, until recently, has subsisted on informal educational resources? With makeshift dedication and decentralized organization, the iconoclasts who built this movement never asked for nor needed a degree to create its infrastructure; much like Buterin dropping out of university to realize Ethereum, academia and blockchain development seem to naturally repel each other.

As we move into an era of formalized education for the cryptocurrency realm, then, the tensions between the official and unofficial will likely arise. Decentralized diehards will measure whether academia complements or contradicts the educational strides the space has made to this point.

Perhaps Boneh’s view of the instructor as a guide diffuses these tensions. Rather than invalidate the work that has been done, these professors are expanding on this work. From this perspective, the relationship between old and new, less than adversarial, is symbiotic.

Taking a look at the syllabus for Campbell’s class, for instance: Antonopoulos’s Mastering Bitcoin, Nick Szabo’s work on smart contracts, and the Bitcoin white paper are all required readings. These classes may, in the eyes of many, play a more legitimate and licensed role in blockchain education. But their makeup is still reliant on the work of the informal forebears that propelled the movement from its infancy out of the shadows of obscurity.

The new mode of education is finally an extension of the old. It carries on the work of the field’s earliest experts for a different audience, one likely less inclined to fully grasp its knowledge without clear, concrete guidance. As Yermack indicates, each has its own role to play in the industry at large, and each will no doubt bear its own mark for a technological revolution that still has plenty of growing up to do.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

From Chatroom to Classroom: The Evolution of Blockchain Education

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

From Chatroom to Classroom: The Evolution of Blockchain Education

With the creation of Bitcoin and its blockchain, Satoshi Nakamoto introduced an entirely new practical application for cryptography, unearthing an unexplored area for computer science and technological development. In the years following the technology’s inception, community demand for instructional information and educational materials began to rise. Soon after Nakamoto bootstrapped the network, coders would look for guidance on developing the software, business heads would look for information on Bitcoin’s financial ramifications, and enthusiasts would look for ways to support the network through mining and investing.

Early adopters flocked to various online platforms to answer each other’s questions, share info and problem solve together. As the market began to mature, new coins were introduced and different forms of smart contracts entered the scene, demand for information continued to grow.

Over time, a growing user base stepped in to supply the educational fodder to satisfy this demand. Online resources expanded outside of the forums that formed the rockbed of the movement, as instructional videos, white papers and other articles, and even informal online accreditation courses were served up as part of many enthusiasts’ pedagogical diet.

It wasn’t until 2013 or so that universities began offering formal courses on blockchain technology, with the University of Nicosia in Cyprus leading the pack. Soon after, top universities in the U.S. and around the world formulated curricula on blockchain development/coding, Bitcoin’s origins, and the emerging fields of cryptocurrency law and finance.

In the realm of education at least, these courses brought a certain institutional legitimacy to the formerly niche movement. But they established a dichotomy between crypto’s anti-establishment roots and a sweeping mode of adoption that persists through mainstream culture; whereas in the beginning, the burden of education was supported by community-centric efforts, now, formal institutions are taking up the reins.

What we have going forward, then, is a clear divide between those early adopters who built a library of online knowledge on the foundations that Nakomoto left from 2008 to 2010 and their traditional, collegiate counterparts.

As the blockchain continues to write its way into university syllabi across the world, the divide begs the question, “What is accreditation for an industry that, until recently, has supported itself without outside authorities?”

The Era of Self-Education

Many of these then-new resources were born from necessity as much as curiosity.

Shortly after Bitcoin’s debut, Nakamoto created bitcoin.org and bitcointalk.org, websites for information on the new digital currency and its intrinsic technology, the blockchain. The two would become invaluable educational resources for Bitcoin’s earliest early adopters, and even today, they are go-to repositories for blockchain information.

Satoshi cemented these sites as the foundation of Bitcoin’s pedagogical canon, creating them as the first educational tools for an entirely new financial system. In the beginning, they were among the few places early adopters could go to sharpen their knowledge on the subject.

Fledgling enthusiasts would flock to bitcoin.org to consult its resources. Per Bitcoin’s decentralized, peer-driven modus operandi, the website is community supported and relies on donations to subsist. It features an extensive FAQ section, “Getting started with Bitcoin” and “How does Bitcoin work?” guides, information for developers and businesses, and even a vocabulary list for must-know terms.

For anything in between, community members could turn to bitcointalk.org to engage in open-forum discussions with other adopters. Like a virtual symposium, the website became the hub for blockchain discussion. Over the years, users have enriched each other’s understanding of cryptocurrency with millions of posts on thousands of topics. Discussions range from rudimentary questions regarding block sizes to complex topics on maintaining mining rigs.

Despite the popularity of these sites, as the crypto space grew, so too did its educational environs. Bitcoin.org began chronicling a handful of these in its resources section as members of the community laid the foundations for a second-generation of crypto-knowledge bases. Launched in April of 2010, one such resource, Bitcoin Wiki, became the community’s encyclopedic arm, consolidating much of the disparate information that had circulated to that point.

Meetups also began to spring up in cities around the world. Small gatherings of half a dozen Bitcoiners would gather in bars or common spaces where people could ask questions, share ideas and listen to guest speakers on various blockchain-related topics. Over a short period of time, those numbers grew as more people became curious about cryptocurrencies.

Early talk shows and podcasts like The Bitcoin Show, Let’s Talk Bitcoin! and the Bitcoin Knowledge Podcast were among the space’s earliest literal mouthpieces. The podcasts perked up the community’s collective ear as its first founts of auditory education. Khan Academy, a nonprofit educational website, played a role on this front, as well, releasing instructional videos alongside its own series of FAQs.

Many of these then-new resources were born from necessity as much as curiosity. Outgrowing its original digs, the infant movement needed to be outfitted with something that would help it with its growing pains. The community had learned to walk; next, it needed to teach itself how to run. And it had to learn fast, because by 2011, altcoins had entered the race.

With Altcoins, the Search for More Knowledge

 It would take more than just developers swapping tips. It would take educators, media personnel and the coders who had curated the movement to advance it further.

Two years and some change after Bitcoin was founded, Namecoin, cryptocurrency’s first altcoin, was created. Toward the tail end of 2011, Namecoin would be joined by a few now-defunct alts and Litecoin, Bitcoin’s most well-known fork.

All of these early altcoins were source-code forks, offshoots of the Bitcoin network that tinkered with its code in their own ways to deliver variations of its consensus mechanism, inflation rate, circulating supply and other parameters. With them, the ecosystem not only expanded in volume of coins, it also expanded technically, introducing the forks and all the new hashing algorithms and technical developments that came with it. The ecosystem was evolving, and it was no longer just about Bitcoin. Cryptocurrency was becoming an industry, with blockchain technology as its backbone.

A growing ecosystem meant growing interest. What previously was confined to the dark web’s illicit marketplaces began attracting developers, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts who were serious about blockchain technology’s widespread application. These visionaries began lifting the movement out of the obscurity of the internet’s shadows and into the light of the mainstream.

Shedding this light would require more information than was readily available to keep it kindled. With the technical advancements that came from a budding industry, Bitcoin Wiki, Bitcointalk and bitcoin.org were no longer sufficient to supply the expanding demand for knowledge on blockchain technology and its newcomers. It would take more than just developers swapping tips. It would take educators, media personnel and the coders who had curated the movement to advance it further.

Mihai Alisie and Vitalik Buterin seemed to bind all these perspectives into one when they founded Bitcoin Magazine in 2011, launching the first editions in 2012. Now the longest-running publication devoted to Bitcoin, blockchain technology and the cryptocurrency space, Bitcoin Magazine set an industry precedent as its seminal editorial. The niche finally had its reader’s digest, as the magazine’s 22 prints dished out news, perspectives, guides and essays on Bitcoin and the emerging market at large.

What Bitcoin Magazine came to represent, then, was tangible growth and legitimacy. Whereas before, information came from volunteer-centric websites with loose organization, now there was clear literature on the subject. Serving a similar function yet obviously not nearly as popular, the magazine became the industry’s Forbes or Wired or a hybrid of both, a serious publication dedicated to legitimate discussion of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency.

Around this same time, the Bitcoin Foundation was gearing up its own operations. Founded in September of 2012, the nonprofit was created with the explicit purpose to “standardize, protect and promote the use of bitcoin cryptographic money for the benefit of users worldwide.” The operating body gave Bitcoin its first organizational face, a working group dedicated to educating not just individuals, but political leaders, institutional financiers, traditional media and all those who did not have a natural interest in the technology.

In general, 2012 became a critical juncture for cryptocurrency. The advent of new coins with their own blockchains, the founding of a cryptocurrency-specific publication and the establishment of a nonprofit that embodied all Bitcoin stood for all seemed to point toward a movement that was inching its way into the mainstream.

Coming out of the woodwork, Bitcoin and the industry it spawned drew new enthusiasts into their fold. They would proselytize soon-to-be-experts like Andreas Antonopoulos who, inspired by the promise of a decentralized and global financial system, would become Bitcoin evangelists with a knack for spreading the word. Antonopoulos preached the Bitcoin gospel at conferences and before governing bodies, and began writing extensively on the subject. By 2014, he had published Mastering Bitcoin, one of the first — if not the first — books to address Bitcoin and its blockchain in hard copy. By 2016, he would publish The Internet of Money, a collection of his talks on Bitcoin and the thriving ecosystem that was developing around it. Antonopoulos would become the space’s principal orator and author, an intellectual mouthpiece of sorts.

More than advocates, the likes of Antonopoulos became the informal intelligentsia of an evolving space. Lacking in what most would consider “accredited” informational sources, these advocates compensated for the lack of cogent, accessible resources on a technology that, for the technologically illiterate, is anything but. They garnered reputations as the industry’s de facto experts, and along with a community of hardcore believers, they established a school of thought out of the nebulous knowledge of a nascent technology and the binaries and bits of cyberspace.

Fittingly — and for better or worse — these foundational members of the community decided to forgo traditional education to develop the decentralized space. Buterin received a two-year $100,000 Thiel Fellowship for a white paper he wrote after dropping out of the University of Waterloo and traveling the world. The white paper is considered a genesis document for Ethereum, the first theoretical iteration of the platform that launched in 2015.

The decision to chase Ethereum’s potential paid off. Ethereum’s code, which was built to easily accommodate smart contracts and the decentralized applications (dApps) that come with them, opened a Pandora’s box for blockchain utility. With Ethereum, developers could build on the blockchain in ways that few programmers had been able to do thus far.

Up until this point, few if any classrooms were willing to broach the subject, so online blockchain certification courses began to fill this demand in an attempt to establish pedagogical standards for an area of study that was still looking for legitimacy under the public eye. Founded in 2014, one institution dedicated to these courses, the CryptoCurrency Certification Consortium (C4), even includes Antonopoulos and Buterin on its board of directors. The consortium offers three distinct certificates (Certified Bitcoin Professional, Certified Bitcoin Expert and Certified Ethereum Developer), with the programs spanning two to three years. Another course, the Digital Currency Council’s Professional Certification Training Program, offers a pricier, less rigorous, seven-hour course.

Eventually, universities and colleges began offering courses dedicated to cryptocurrency finance, law and blockchain development, and they began to redefine what credibility meant for a space that a mainstream audience didn’t care for until it became convenient.

The Rise of Blockchain Curricula

Conceptualizing a course five years ago carried a degree of risk, but like the crypto market writ large, there’s a “positive relation between risk and expected return.” That risk has paid off.

By 2014, the movement had made enough noise to attract the attention of academic institutions. Over the coming years, some of America’s leading universities would introduce blockchain- and crypto-concentrated curricula into their course offerings.

Before universities began these course offerings, the closest thing to a blockchain accredited education came in the form of online courses. The likes of IBM and the Linux Foundation established blockchain certification courses, a seemingly more legitimate extension of the video series that forerunners like Antonopoulos offered for free. It wasn’t long until universities followed suit. Princeton and MIT, for instance, both offer online resources for blockchain education: Princeton with a course on Coursera, and MIT with essays and interactive videos on the subject.

Other universities have dug full-bore into the subject area. Vanderbilt, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, NYU, Duke and Stanford all offer classes dedicated to blockchain technology or the cryptocurrency field to some capacity.

In its third year, Stanford’s Computer Science course on blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies (cs251) “is intended for Computer Science students and teaches how the different blockchains operate, how to build applications that interact with the blockchain, and how to write smart contracts,” Professor Dan Boneh, the course’s instructor, told Bitcoin Magazine.

“These courses can be taught from different perspectives,” Boneh believes. “I focus our course on technology, but other professors may choose to focus on law or economics.”

Indeed, other institutions, such as the NYU Stern School of Business, take an applied rather than technical approach. Since 2014, professors David Yermack and Geoffrey Miller have offered the “Digital Currency, Blockchains and the Future of Financial Services” course, which focuses on “the emerging role of digital currencies and blockchains in money, banking, and the real economy,” the course’s description states.

Duke University’s offering straddles both the technical and applied aspects of the industry with its I&E 550: Innovation and Cryptoventures course. Taught by Fuqua School of Business professor Harvey Campbell, the course covers areas from cryptofinance to smart contract development, and its multilayered approach has brought “a mix of business, law, computer science and engineering students” to its lecture hall, Campbell conveyed to Bitcoin Magazine. In 2014, the course began with only 13 students. Now, Campbell claimed in our correspondence, more than half of the Fuqua School of Business’s 2018 graduating class had taken the course before walking this spring.

And he’s not alone in experiencing such a high turnout. In our interview with Yermack, the professor revealed that over the 2017–2018 academic year, “the course was so popular that [the instructors] had to relocate to the largest lecture hall on campus.”

Campbell candidly admitted that this was, in part, the result of the hype-induced enrollment of some students. Following the crypto market’s exponential rise, he went from 75 students in 2017 to 231 in 2018. Yermack noted a similar trend, indicating that 2018’s spring enrollment for his class hit 230 students, a sizable increase from its inaugural enrollment of 35 in the fall of 2014.

As with the industry at large, this hype could easily be seen as a blemish, the emotive trappings of an industry marred by volatility and get-rich-quick aspirations. Even so, even in a time when industry hype hadn’t reached its peak, these courses weren’t hard sells.

“It was easy to get the curriculum approved. The committee was very supportive. In fact, some of the faculty who approve new courses said that they want to take this course themselves,” Boneh said.

Yermack had a similar experience, while Campbell told us that his original pitch was “naturally” met with some skepticism. “At that time,” he said, “most thought that blockchain equaled Bitcoin. Many perceived the technology as enabling illegal transactions. In the end, Duke University embraced my course.”

Campbell added that conceptualizing the course five years ago carried a degree of risk, but like the crypto market writ large, he believes that there’s a “positive relation between risk and expected return.” And to him, the risk has paid off.

It’s hard to imagine the risk not having an upside given blockchain technology’s increased exposure in financial markets, technological sectors and the purview of an increasingly interested global public. Be it for hype or genuine interest, the “subject is growing quickly,” Yermack told us, “and there is a lot of demand from students for courses in the fintech area.”

This coincides with a rise in demand from the industries — technical, financial and anything else — the blockchain could disrupt.

“In my area, Operations Research should be teaching ‘Supply Chain with Blockchain Technology,’ [and] Accounting should be teaching ‘Financial Reporting with Blockchain Technology,’” said Campbell. “Marketing should be teaching ‘How Blockchain Technology Disrupts Marketing.’ Finance is low-hanging fruit, and they should be teaching a course called ‘The Tokenization of Everything.’ Law should have multiple courses on ‘Smart Contracting.’ They should also offer courses on the regulatory implications. There are a vast array of computer science courses dealing with key aspects of this technology (that are not on the books at most schools). There is much to be taught.”

Of course, the industry’s ever-changing landscape means professors must remain vigilant to keep syllabi up-to-date. With the market and industry constantly in flux, curricula could become markedly different from one year to the next.

To “keep up with the quickly evolving range of topics,” Yermack said that he has to essentially reinvent his syllabus every year, and Boneh revealed that for each new class, he has to “redo the bulk of the course from scratch.”

The industry’s dynamicism, it seems, is the primary pain point keeping it from earning a spot in additional course offerings. Some professors are wary of investing the time to learn and teach an unsolidified and unstable subject that, at worst, may be a passing fancy.

“Currently some faculty are unsure if this area is a fad or if it is here to stay. Clearly, I believe that this technology is here to stay and we need to educate our students how to build on it,” Boneh said.

With University Offerings, an Impasse for Qualification

There are a vast array of computer science courses dealing with key aspects of this technology (that are not on the books at most schools). There is much to be taught.

What started off as a fringe anti-establishment movement for a cypherpunk niche has found a place in the classrooms of some of America’s leading universities.

Like the Andreas Antonopouloses in the earlier days of the emerging field, the professors teaching these courses are trailblazers for a new frontier. This new frontier, the dominion of formal education, is becoming the accredited complement to the old frontier, the virtual domain of unofficial expertise. As such, these professors hope to refine the existing information of the old mode to bring clarity and understanding to an esoteric topic.

“Blockchain technology is complicated,” Campbell said in regard to the difference between academic and nonacademic educational resources. “There is a lot of misunderstanding. Even worse, there are people that believe they know blockchain [technology] but are quite ignorant. Academic institutions have an important role in training the next generation of innovators.”

Boneh expanded on Campbell’s thoughts, saying that he sees his role less as opening up a new frontier and more as acting as an usher to lead others safely through the old one.

“All the information is out there on the internet. The problem is that there is too much information online. I view my role as a guide … we teach the students what they need to know, what is important, and what is less so. The students can always read up online to learn more about the topics discussed in class and in the programming projects. I’d like to think that students who graduate from the class have a fairly complete understanding of the area. Purely self-study is great, and I highly encourage it, but it can sometimes lead to patchy knowledge.”

Yermack conveyed that while he believes online resources “have a role to play in the market,” ultimately “they deliver content to a different population and with considerably less depth and rigor than a graduate university course.”

Undoubtedly, each professor believes that his role and the classroom’s structure will herald in a new age of legitimacy for the space. Academic accreditation will no doubt supply a budding workforce with the tools it needs to work in a burgeoning industry, and having America’s top universities vet a formerly stigmatized field promises to be beneficial for adoption and awareness.

But the advent of official pedagogical standards for a space that has only ever relied on the sweat of its own brow raises the question: What constitutes “accredited instruction” in an industry that, until recently, has subsisted on informal educational resources? With makeshift dedication and decentralized organization, the iconoclasts who built this movement never asked for nor needed a degree to create its infrastructure; much like Buterin dropping out of university to realize Ethereum, academia and blockchain development seem to naturally repel each other.

As we move into an era of formalized education for the cryptocurrency realm, then, the tensions between the official and unofficial will likely arise. Decentralized diehards will measure whether academia complements or contradicts the educational strides the space has made to this point.

Perhaps Boneh’s view of the instructor as a guide diffuses these tensions. Rather than invalidate the work that has been done, these professors are expanding on this work. From this perspective, the relationship between old and new, less than adversarial, is symbiotic.

Taking a look at the syllabus for Campbell’s class, for instance: Antonopoulos’s Mastering Bitcoin, Nick Szabo’s work on smart contracts, and the Bitcoin white paper are all required readings. These classes may, in the eyes of many, play a more legitimate and licensed role in blockchain education. But their makeup is still reliant on the work of the informal forebears that propelled the movement from its infancy out of the shadows of obscurity.

The new mode of education is finally an extension of the old. It carries on the work of the field’s earliest experts for a different audience, one likely less inclined to fully grasp its knowledge without clear, concrete guidance. As Yermack indicates, each has its own role to play in the industry at large, and each will no doubt bear its own mark for a technological revolution that still has plenty of growing up to do.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

From Chatroom to Classroom: The Evolution of Blockchain Education

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

From Chatroom to Classroom: The Evolution of Blockchain Education

With the creation of Bitcoin and its blockchain, Satoshi Nakamoto introduced an entirely new practical application for cryptography, unearthing an unexplored area for computer science and technological development. In the years following the technology’s inception, community demand for instructional information and educational materials began to rise. Soon after Nakamoto bootstrapped the network, coders would look for guidance on developing the software, business heads would look for information on Bitcoin’s financial ramifications, and enthusiasts would look for ways to support the network through mining and investing.

Early adopters flocked to various online platforms to answer each other’s questions, share info and problem solve together. As the market began to mature, new coins were introduced and different forms of smart contracts entered the scene, demand for information continued to grow.

Over time, a growing user base stepped in to supply the educational fodder to satisfy this demand. Online resources expanded outside of the forums that formed the rockbed of the movement, as instructional videos, white papers and other articles, and even informal online accreditation courses were served up as part of many enthusiasts’ pedagogical diet.

It wasn’t until 2013 or so that universities began offering formal courses on blockchain technology, with the University of Nicosia in Cyprus leading the pack. Soon after, top universities in the U.S. and around the world formulated curricula on blockchain development/coding, Bitcoin’s origins, and the emerging fields of cryptocurrency law and finance.

In the realm of education at least, these courses brought a certain institutional legitimacy to the formerly niche movement. But they established a dichotomy between crypto’s anti-establishment roots and a sweeping mode of adoption that persists through mainstream culture; whereas in the beginning, the burden of education was supported by community-centric efforts, now, formal institutions are taking up the reins.

What we have going forward, then, is a clear divide between those early adopters who built a library of online knowledge on the foundations that Nakomoto left from 2008 to 2010 and their traditional, collegiate counterparts.

As the blockchain continues to write its way into university syllabi across the world, the divide begs the question, “What is accreditation for an industry that, until recently, has supported itself without outside authorities?”

The Era of Self-Education

Many of these then-new resources were born from necessity as much as curiosity.

Shortly after Bitcoin’s debut, Nakamoto created bitcoin.org and bitcointalk.org, websites for information on the new digital currency and its intrinsic technology, the blockchain. The two would become invaluable educational resources for Bitcoin’s earliest early adopters, and even today, they are go-to repositories for blockchain information.

Satoshi cemented these sites as the foundation of Bitcoin’s pedagogical canon, creating them as the first educational tools for an entirely new financial system. In the beginning, they were among the few places early adopters could go to sharpen their knowledge on the subject.

Fledgling enthusiasts would flock to bitcoin.org to consult its resources. Per Bitcoin’s decentralized, peer-driven modus operandi, the website is community supported and relies on donations to subsist. It features an extensive FAQ section, “Getting started with Bitcoin” and “How does Bitcoin work?” guides, information for developers and businesses, and even a vocabulary list for must-know terms.

For anything in between, community members could turn to bitcointalk.org to engage in open-forum discussions with other adopters. Like a virtual symposium, the website became the hub for blockchain discussion. Over the years, users have enriched each other’s understanding of cryptocurrency with millions of posts on thousands of topics. Discussions range from rudimentary questions regarding block sizes to complex topics on maintaining mining rigs.

Despite the popularity of these sites, as the crypto space grew, so too did its educational environs. Bitcoin.org began chronicling a handful of these in its resources section as members of the community laid the foundations for a second-generation of crypto-knowledge bases. Launched in April of 2010, one such resource, Bitcoin Wiki, became the community’s encyclopedic arm, consolidating much of the disparate information that had circulated to that point.

Meetups also began to spring up in cities around the world. Small gatherings of half a dozen Bitcoiners would gather in bars or common spaces where people could ask questions, share ideas and listen to guest speakers on various blockchain-related topics. Over a short period of time, those numbers grew as more people became curious about cryptocurrencies.

Early talk shows and podcasts like The Bitcoin Show, Let’s Talk Bitcoin! and the Bitcoin Knowledge Podcast were among the space’s earliest literal mouthpieces. The podcasts perked up the community’s collective ear as its first founts of auditory education. Khan Academy, a nonprofit educational website, played a role on this front, as well, releasing instructional videos alongside its own series of FAQs.

Many of these then-new resources were born from necessity as much as curiosity. Outgrowing its original digs, the infant movement needed to be outfitted with something that would help it with its growing pains. The community had learned to walk; next, it needed to teach itself how to run. And it had to learn fast, because by 2011, altcoins had entered the race.

With Altcoins, the Search for More Knowledge

 It would take more than just developers swapping tips. It would take educators, media personnel and the coders who had curated the movement to advance it further.

Two years and some change after Bitcoin was founded, Namecoin, cryptocurrency’s first altcoin, was created. Toward the tail end of 2011, Namecoin would be joined by a few now-defunct alts and Litecoin, Bitcoin’s most well-known fork.

All of these early altcoins were source-code forks, offshoots of the Bitcoin network that tinkered with its code in their own ways to deliver variations of its consensus mechanism, inflation rate, circulating supply and other parameters. With them, the ecosystem not only expanded in volume of coins, it also expanded technically, introducing the forks and all the new hashing algorithms and technical developments that came with it. The ecosystem was evolving, and it was no longer just about Bitcoin. Cryptocurrency was becoming an industry, with blockchain technology as its backbone.

A growing ecosystem meant growing interest. What previously was confined to the dark web’s illicit marketplaces began attracting developers, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts who were serious about blockchain technology’s widespread application. These visionaries began lifting the movement out of the obscurity of the internet’s shadows and into the light of the mainstream.

Shedding this light would require more information than was readily available to keep it kindled. With the technical advancements that came from a budding industry, Bitcoin Wiki, Bitcointalk and bitcoin.org were no longer sufficient to supply the expanding demand for knowledge on blockchain technology and its newcomers. It would take more than just developers swapping tips. It would take educators, media personnel and the coders who had curated the movement to advance it further.

Mihai Alisie and Vitalik Buterin seemed to bind all these perspectives into one when they founded Bitcoin Magazine in 2011, launching the first editions in 2012. Now the longest-running publication devoted to Bitcoin, blockchain technology and the cryptocurrency space, Bitcoin Magazine set an industry precedent as its seminal editorial. The niche finally had its reader’s digest, as the magazine’s 22 prints dished out news, perspectives, guides and essays on Bitcoin and the emerging market at large.

What Bitcoin Magazine came to represent, then, was tangible growth and legitimacy. Whereas before, information came from volunteer-centric websites with loose organization, now there was clear literature on the subject. Serving a similar function yet obviously not nearly as popular, the magazine became the industry’s Forbes or Wired or a hybrid of both, a serious publication dedicated to legitimate discussion of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency.

Around this same time, the Bitcoin Foundation was gearing up its own operations. Founded in September of 2012, the nonprofit was created with the explicit purpose to “standardize, protect and promote the use of bitcoin cryptographic money for the benefit of users worldwide.” The operating body gave Bitcoin its first organizational face, a working group dedicated to educating not just individuals, but political leaders, institutional financiers, traditional media and all those who did not have a natural interest in the technology.

In general, 2012 became a critical juncture for cryptocurrency. The advent of new coins with their own blockchains, the founding of a cryptocurrency-specific publication and the establishment of a nonprofit that embodied all Bitcoin stood for all seemed to point toward a movement that was inching its way into the mainstream.

Coming out of the woodwork, Bitcoin and the industry it spawned drew new enthusiasts into their fold. They would proselytize soon-to-be-experts like Andreas Antonopoulos who, inspired by the promise of a decentralized and global financial system, would become Bitcoin evangelists with a knack for spreading the word. Antonopoulos preached the Bitcoin gospel at conferences and before governing bodies, and began writing extensively on the subject. By 2014, he had published Mastering Bitcoin, one of the first — if not the first — books to address Bitcoin and its blockchain in hard copy. By 2016, he would publish The Internet of Money, a collection of his talks on Bitcoin and the thriving ecosystem that was developing around it. Antonopoulos would become the space’s principal orator and author, an intellectual mouthpiece of sorts.

More than advocates, the likes of Antonopoulos became the informal intelligentsia of an evolving space. Lacking in what most would consider “accredited” informational sources, these advocates compensated for the lack of cogent, accessible resources on a technology that, for the technologically illiterate, is anything but. They garnered reputations as the industry’s de facto experts, and along with a community of hardcore believers, they established a school of thought out of the nebulous knowledge of a nascent technology and the binaries and bits of cyberspace.

Fittingly — and for better or worse — these foundational members of the community decided to forgo traditional education to develop the decentralized space. Buterin received a two-year $100,000 Thiel Fellowship for a white paper he wrote after dropping out of the University of Waterloo and traveling the world. The white paper is considered a genesis document for Ethereum, the first theoretical iteration of the platform that launched in 2015.

The decision to chase Ethereum’s potential paid off. Ethereum’s code, which was built to easily accommodate smart contracts and the decentralized applications (dApps) that come with them, opened a Pandora’s box for blockchain utility. With Ethereum, developers could build on the blockchain in ways that few programmers had been able to do thus far.

Up until this point, few if any classrooms were willing to broach the subject, so online blockchain certification courses began to fill this demand in an attempt to establish pedagogical standards for an area of study that was still looking for legitimacy under the public eye. Founded in 2014, one institution dedicated to these courses, the CryptoCurrency Certification Consortium (C4), even includes Antonopoulos and Buterin on its board of directors. The consortium offers three distinct certificates (Certified Bitcoin Professional, Certified Bitcoin Expert and Certified Ethereum Developer), with the programs spanning two to three years. Another course, the Digital Currency Council’s Professional Certification Training Program, offers a pricier, less rigorous, seven-hour course.

Eventually, universities and colleges began offering courses dedicated to cryptocurrency finance, law and blockchain development, and they began to redefine what credibility meant for a space that a mainstream audience didn’t care for until it became convenient.

The Rise of Blockchain Curricula

Conceptualizing a course five years ago carried a degree of risk, but like the crypto market writ large, there’s a “positive relation between risk and expected return.” That risk has paid off.

By 2014, the movement had made enough noise to attract the attention of academic institutions. Over the coming years, some of America’s leading universities would introduce blockchain- and crypto-concentrated curricula into their course offerings.

Before universities began these course offerings, the closest thing to a blockchain accredited education came in the form of online courses. The likes of IBM and the Linux Foundation established blockchain certification courses, a seemingly more legitimate extension of the video series that forerunners like Antonopoulos offered for free. It wasn’t long until universities followed suit. Princeton and MIT, for instance, both offer online resources for blockchain education: Princeton with a course on Coursera, and MIT with essays and interactive videos on the subject.

Other universities have dug full-bore into the subject area. Vanderbilt, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, NYU, Duke and Stanford all offer classes dedicated to blockchain technology or the cryptocurrency field to some capacity.

In its third year, Stanford’s Computer Science course on blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies (cs251) “is intended for Computer Science students and teaches how the different blockchains operate, how to build applications that interact with the blockchain, and how to write smart contracts,” Professor Dan Boneh, the course’s instructor, told Bitcoin Magazine.

“These courses can be taught from different perspectives,” Boneh believes. “I focus our course on technology, but other professors may choose to focus on law or economics.”

Indeed, other institutions, such as the NYU Stern School of Business, take an applied rather than technical approach. Since 2014, professors David Yermack and Geoffrey Miller have offered the “Digital Currency, Blockchains and the Future of Financial Services” course, which focuses on “the emerging role of digital currencies and blockchains in money, banking, and the real economy,” the course’s description states.

Duke University’s offering straddles both the technical and applied aspects of the industry with its I&E 550: Innovation and Cryptoventures course. Taught by Fuqua School of Business professor Harvey Campbell, the course covers areas from cryptofinance to smart contract development, and its multilayered approach has brought “a mix of business, law, computer science and engineering students” to its lecture hall, Campbell conveyed to Bitcoin Magazine. In 2014, the course began with only 13 students. Now, Campbell claimed in our correspondence, more than half of the Fuqua School of Business’s 2018 graduating class had taken the course before walking this spring.

And he’s not alone in experiencing such a high turnout. In our interview with Yermack, the professor revealed that over the 2017–2018 academic year, “the course was so popular that [the instructors] had to relocate to the largest lecture hall on campus.”

Campbell candidly admitted that this was, in part, the result of the hype-induced enrollment of some students. Following the crypto market’s exponential rise, he went from 75 students in 2017 to 231 in 2018. Yermack noted a similar trend, indicating that 2018’s spring enrollment for his class hit 230 students, a sizable increase from its inaugural enrollment of 35 in the fall of 2014.

As with the industry at large, this hype could easily be seen as a blemish, the emotive trappings of an industry marred by volatility and get-rich-quick aspirations. Even so, even in a time when industry hype hadn’t reached its peak, these courses weren’t hard sells.

“It was easy to get the curriculum approved. The committee was very supportive. In fact, some of the faculty who approve new courses said that they want to take this course themselves,” Boneh said.

Yermack had a similar experience, while Campbell told us that his original pitch was “naturally” met with some skepticism. “At that time,” he said, “most thought that blockchain equaled Bitcoin. Many perceived the technology as enabling illegal transactions. In the end, Duke University embraced my course.”

Campbell added that conceptualizing the course five years ago carried a degree of risk, but like the crypto market writ large, he believes that there’s a “positive relation between risk and expected return.” And to him, the risk has paid off.

It’s hard to imagine the risk not having an upside given blockchain technology’s increased exposure in financial markets, technological sectors and the purview of an increasingly interested global public. Be it for hype or genuine interest, the “subject is growing quickly,” Yermack told us, “and there is a lot of demand from students for courses in the fintech area.”

This coincides with a rise in demand from the industries — technical, financial and anything else — the blockchain could disrupt.

“In my area, Operations Research should be teaching ‘Supply Chain with Blockchain Technology,’ [and] Accounting should be teaching ‘Financial Reporting with Blockchain Technology,’” said Campbell. “Marketing should be teaching ‘How Blockchain Technology Disrupts Marketing.’ Finance is low-hanging fruit, and they should be teaching a course called ‘The Tokenization of Everything.’ Law should have multiple courses on ‘Smart Contracting.’ They should also offer courses on the regulatory implications. There are a vast array of computer science courses dealing with key aspects of this technology (that are not on the books at most schools). There is much to be taught.”

Of course, the industry’s ever-changing landscape means professors must remain vigilant to keep syllabi up-to-date. With the market and industry constantly in flux, curricula could become markedly different from one year to the next.

To “keep up with the quickly evolving range of topics,” Yermack said that he has to essentially reinvent his syllabus every year, and Boneh revealed that for each new class, he has to “redo the bulk of the course from scratch.”

The industry’s dynamicism, it seems, is the primary pain point keeping it from earning a spot in additional course offerings. Some professors are wary of investing the time to learn and teach an unsolidified and unstable subject that, at worst, may be a passing fancy.

“Currently some faculty are unsure if this area is a fad or if it is here to stay. Clearly, I believe that this technology is here to stay and we need to educate our students how to build on it,” Boneh said.

With University Offerings, an Impasse for Qualification

There are a vast array of computer science courses dealing with key aspects of this technology (that are not on the books at most schools). There is much to be taught.

What started off as a fringe anti-establishment movement for a cypherpunk niche has found a place in the classrooms of some of America’s leading universities.

Like the Andreas Antonopouloses in the earlier days of the emerging field, the professors teaching these courses are trailblazers for a new frontier. This new frontier, the dominion of formal education, is becoming the accredited complement to the old frontier, the virtual domain of unofficial expertise. As such, these professors hope to refine the existing information of the old mode to bring clarity and understanding to an esoteric topic.

“Blockchain technology is complicated,” Campbell said in regard to the difference between academic and nonacademic educational resources. “There is a lot of misunderstanding. Even worse, there are people that believe they know blockchain [technology] but are quite ignorant. Academic institutions have an important role in training the next generation of innovators.”

Boneh expanded on Campbell’s thoughts, saying that he sees his role less as opening up a new frontier and more as acting as an usher to lead others safely through the old one.

“All the information is out there on the internet. The problem is that there is too much information online. I view my role as a guide … we teach the students what they need to know, what is important, and what is less so. The students can always read up online to learn more about the topics discussed in class and in the programming projects. I’d like to think that students who graduate from the class have a fairly complete understanding of the area. Purely self-study is great, and I highly encourage it, but it can sometimes lead to patchy knowledge.”

Yermack conveyed that while he believes online resources “have a role to play in the market,” ultimately “they deliver content to a different population and with considerably less depth and rigor than a graduate university course.”

Undoubtedly, each professor believes that his role and the classroom’s structure will herald in a new age of legitimacy for the space. Academic accreditation will no doubt supply a budding workforce with the tools it needs to work in a burgeoning industry, and having America’s top universities vet a formerly stigmatized field promises to be beneficial for adoption and awareness.

But the advent of official pedagogical standards for a space that has only ever relied on the sweat of its own brow raises the question: What constitutes “accredited instruction” in an industry that, until recently, has subsisted on informal educational resources? With makeshift dedication and decentralized organization, the iconoclasts who built this movement never asked for nor needed a degree to create its infrastructure; much like Buterin dropping out of university to realize Ethereum, academia and blockchain development seem to naturally repel each other.

As we move into an era of formalized education for the cryptocurrency realm, then, the tensions between the official and unofficial will likely arise. Decentralized diehards will measure whether academia complements or contradicts the educational strides the space has made to this point.

Perhaps Boneh’s view of the instructor as a guide diffuses these tensions. Rather than invalidate the work that has been done, these professors are expanding on this work. From this perspective, the relationship between old and new, less than adversarial, is symbiotic.

Taking a look at the syllabus for Campbell’s class, for instance: Antonopoulos’s Mastering Bitcoin, Nick Szabo’s work on smart contracts, and the Bitcoin white paper are all required readings. These classes may, in the eyes of many, play a more legitimate and licensed role in blockchain education. But their makeup is still reliant on the work of the informal forebears that propelled the movement from its infancy out of the shadows of obscurity.

The new mode of education is finally an extension of the old. It carries on the work of the field’s earliest experts for a different audience, one likely less inclined to fully grasp its knowledge without clear, concrete guidance. As Yermack indicates, each has its own role to play in the industry at large, and each will no doubt bear its own mark for a technological revolution that still has plenty of growing up to do.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

‘Beware’: Jamie Dimon and Warren Buffett Double Down as Bitcoin Critics

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

It's a BOGO on bitcoin bashing.

The post ‘Beware’: Jamie Dimon and Warren Buffett Double Down as Bitcoin Critics appeared first on CCN

Op Ed: Venmo Offers the Ultimate Cryptocurrency Experience

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Op Ed: Venmo Is the Ultimate Cryptocurrency Experience

Venmo could be the ultimate cryptocurrency experience from a user-experience perspective. Any cryptocurrency that seeks to power the future of global transactions must ensure that it is supported by a payment system that is simple, user-friendly and free — like Venmo.

Bitcoin and Venmo

In the original Bitcoin white paper, Satoshi Nakamoto describes the network as “a purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash [that allows] online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.”

While Venmo will never truly be “peer-to-peer electronic cash” —  transactions require going through the centralized Venmo network — users can instantly pay their friends by opening the app and finding their friends’ profiles. And for many regular users, this is probably all they need.

Indeed, an estimated 10 million unique Venmo users, whether paying for rent or splitting the cost of a late-night McDonald’s splurge, generally agree that the user experience of payments is beautifully frictionless — like paying in physical cash, except digitally. And Venmo is generally free to use. Last quarter, Venmo processed $12 billion in volume.

Cryptocurrency Payment Experience vs. Venmo Payment Experience

For this example, I use Bitcoin as a widely adopted placeholder for a payment system to illustrate the pros and cons of current blockchain-based payment experiences vs. existing centralized payment experiences. BTC volatility is ignored because of the assumption that after a Bitcoin payment is cleared, the receiver either instantly converts the bitcoin into fiat currency or doesn’t care about the volatility (perhaps because he or she expects the price to go up).

Bitcoin

Support: The Bitcoin blockchain supports international money transfer — anyone connected to the internet can send and receive payments.

Disintermediation: The Bitcoin network has no intermediaries and cannot be censored/modified unless there is a significant attack; e.g., Sybil or 51 percent attacks.

Average transactions, fees and times: To send a payment, a user generally has to input a recipient’s Bitcoin address featuring 26–35 alphanumeric characters; e.g., 3CMCRgEm8HVz3DrWaCCid3vAANE42jcEv9.

At the time of writing, the average transaction fee on the Bitcoin blockchain was $1.10 with an average confirmation time of 31 minutes. (This example focuses specifically on the Bitcoin blockchain without the lightning network or other second-layer payment solutions, and does not account for other cryptocurrencies with lower transaction fees or faster confirmation times.)

All in all, while the Bitcoin network supports a robust and censorship-free payment network, the payment experience is not optimal for most users.

Venmo

Support: The Venmo network supports money transfer under three main conditions:

  1. Users must be physically located in the United States.
  2. Users must have a U.S. cell phone that can send/receive text messages from short codes.
  3. If users want to transfer money from their Venmo balance to a bank account, the bank account needs to be in the U.S.

Centralized intermediary: The Venmo network is owned by PayPal. Transactions can be reversed and/or monitored for scams via Venmo customer support. There are also limitations placed on transactions, such as a $299.99 weekly rolling limit for unverified individuals and a $2,999.99 weekly limit for verified individuals ($2,000 per transaction max.).

Limits: Merchants face a rolling weekly limit of $4,999.99 for all transactions. In addition, they can’t conduct more than 30 Authorized Merchant Payments per day. A centralized intermediary is helpful for users looking to cancel funds that they accidentally sent or got scammed out of. Venmo may also terminate or place holds on accounts.

Average transactions, fees and times: To send a transaction, a Venmo user inputs their recipient’s contact name, Venmo @ username or phone number. Venmo transactions are near-instant and are generally free unless linked to a credit card. Credit card transactions are charged with a 3 percent fee. For an instant transfer of their “Venmo balance” to a bank account, Venmo users must pay a $0.25 fee. If the user is willing to wait up to one to three days, he or she can transfer a Venmo balance into a bank for free.

All in all, Venmo represents a more simple and user-friendly payment experience but faces strenuous limitations.

How Close Are We?

While no one cryptocurrency payment system has currently amassed the network effect to become a “Venmo” equivalent, early pioneers are making their mark. To name some examples, Toshi, an app-based Ethereum browser owned by Coinbase, allows users to send ether to their contacts, similar to the Venmo interface. CoinText, an SMS-based platform, allows users to send and receive BCH directly linked with their phone number, no app necessary. Coinbase also allows users to send and receive cryptocurrency (denominated in USD) via email address, but does not feature Venmo-like username integration.

Venmo vs. Cryptocurrency?

Whether or not consumers will value the marginal benefits unlocked by cryptocurrency over the current Venmo fiat currency experience and functionality remains to be seen. Perhaps, if Venmo could loosen stringent restrictions and allow global support in a government-compliant manner, internal USD “ Venmo balances” may be sufficient to power global transactions. Users already trust the PayPal brand and enjoy Venmo’s customer support guarantees that secure their funds and protect them against fraud and accidental spending.

But, if users decide that the benefits of cryptocurrency such as BTC outweigh the benefits of a fiat currency, like the USD, Venmo could adopt a cryptocurrency like bitcoin in the same way it already adopted the USD, eliminating Bitcoin’s slow transaction time and cost difficulties.

Adoption of Bitcoin

Venmo, as a second-layer application above the Bitcoin protocol, could own its users’ total BTC in a wallet they control, and synthetically redistribute the BTC balance between users by immediately updating account balances on Venmo servers, instead of making direct transactions on the blockchain. This would mean instant bitcoin exchange and could theoretically be done for free. The trade-off for users would be that their funds are stored by a centralized intermediary; however, average users don’t care now and probably won’t care in the future.

Alternatively, Venmo could act as an access point for the Bitcoin blockchain, serving purely as a connector between users by assigning Bitcoin wallets “@” usernames and never taking custody of the underlying cryptocurrency.

The Future of Payment Systems

Technically, all payment systems can support any currency (barring regulation). Even Bitcoin, which supports the BTC currency natively, could for example support USD or EUR through colored coins. Perhaps more importantly, while Bitcoin is not currently a user-friendly payment system, it doesn’t have to be, because the underlying BTC currency can be used in other payment systems as well.

Either way, global payment systems of the future will create a frictionless, easy-to-use system. Consumers’ preferences will mold these future payment systems and dictate whether or not their transactions will be censorship-resistant or censorable, free or with transaction fees, and centralized or decentralized.

This is an opinion piece by Erik Kuebler. Views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Media or Bitcoin Magazine.


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Bitcoin Mining Giant Bitmain Could Go Public in Record-Breaking IPO: Report

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Bitmain, the dominant force in cryptocurrency mining, is considering going public in what could be a record-setting offering for the industry. Bloomberg reports that the China-based company, led by controversial CEO Jihan Wu, is quietly laying the groundwork to launch an initial public offering (IPO), perhaps at some point in the near future. Toward this … Continued

The post Bitcoin Mining Giant Bitmain Could Go Public in Record-Breaking IPO: Report appeared first on CCN

IT'S OFFICIAL: Trump has a deal to save Chinese tech giant ZTE from crippling sanctions

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

trump china happy

  • The Trump administration reached a deal to ease sanctions on Chinese tech giant ZTE, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said.
  • ZTE will be forced to pay a $1 billion fine, make changes to its executive team, and allow a US compliance team to oversee activities.
  • The ZTE deal comes after weeks of tense negotiations between the Trump administration and the Chinese government.
  • Both Republicans and Democrats criticized Trump's willingness to make a deal on ZTE.

The US has reached an agreement to lift sanctions on Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday.

"At about 6 a.m. this morning, we executed a definitive agreement with ZTE," Ross told CNBC. "And that brings to a conclusion this phase of the development with them."

The deal will force ZTE to pay an additional $1 billion fine, make changes to its management, and submit to closer examinations by a US compliance team.

The deal ends a tense period of negotiations between the US and Chinese governments over the telecom equipment maker.

The US originally placed sanctions on ZTE for selling goods with US parts into Iran and North Korea, a violation of sanctions against those countries. But after the Commerce Department determined that ZTE did not abide by those original sanctions, the company was hit with an even harsher penalty: It was not allowed to buy US parts.

Given ZTE's reliance on US-made parts, the sanctions effectively crippled the company and forced major operations to cease.

Though some Trump administration officials attempted to frame the ZTE sanctions as a separate national security issue, the president himself appeared to pull the discussions into the broader talks over trade.

The Trump administration's deal-making process on ZTE has been roundly criticized by lawmakers of both parties. They raised national security concerns about ZTE, a view shared by US intelligence agencies and other countries.

SEE ALSO: Europe and Mexico aren't backing down from a fight with Trump, and they're trying to hit him where it hurts

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Why some countries are more corrupt than others

Bullish Signals Hint at Bitcoin Price Breakout

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Still stuck in a narrowing price range, BTC could rise to $8,870 if the bulls are able to beat the 50-week moving average resistance.

The Future of Bitcoin: What Lightning Could Look Like

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

The Future of Bitcoin: What Lightning Could Look Like

After years of conceptualization and development, the first Lightning implementations are now in beta. As a result, more nodes are appearing online every day, a growing number of users are opening channels with one another, and some merchants even started to accept Lightning payments.

But of course, these are still the very early days of the Lightning Network. While the main implementations are usable and some wallets and other applications are available, Bitcoin\u2019s overlay payment network is projected to improve over the next few years in areas ranging from network architecture to security and usability, and more.

These are some of the more important Lightning projects currently in development.


Dual-Funded Channels

The Lightning Network consists of a series of payment channels. Each payment channel exists between two users, allowing funds to be sent back and forth between them.

However, in this early stage of development, payment channels can only be funded by one of the two parties. The funding party must first make a transaction to his counterparty; only then can that counterparty return a payment within the same payment channel.

The Lightning Network white paper, however, proposed dual-funded channels, for which a specification proposal has now also been made by ACINQ, the company behind eclair. As the name suggests, dual-funded channels will let both users partly fund a payment channel by each depositing some bitcoin. This should bring more flexibility to the Lightning user experience, as users can immediately send as well as receive payment after having opened a channel.


Submarine Swaps

In order to make a Lightning payment, users must deposit funds in a Lightning channel. Once in a channel, these funds cannot be sent to regular (on-chain) Bitcoin addresses (unless the channel is first closed). This means that bitcoin in a Lightning channel is somewhat separated from bitcoin in a regular wallet, not unlike how money in a checking account is somewhat separated from money in a savings account.

But there are solutions to make switching between Lightning and on-chain payments more seamless.

One solution is Submarine Swaps. Developed by Alex Bosworth (but conceptualized by Lightning Labs CTO Olaoluwa Osuntokun even before that), Submarine Swaps essentially let users send Lightning payments to a middleman on the Lightning Network; that middleman will send a corresponding amount of bitcoin to a regular (on-chain) Bitcoin address. It also works the other way around: users can send regular on-chain payments to the middleman; that middleman will then send a corresponding amount of bitcoin to a receiving Lightning node on the Lightning Network.

Importantly, with Submarine Swaps, this conversion is done \u201catomically.\u201d Using a trick that is already embedded in the Lightning Network, the Lightning payment and the on-chain payment can effectively be linked to each other. This makes it impossible for the middleman to steal funds by not forwarding the payment. (In agreement with the users, he could charge a small fee for his service.)


Splicing

Another solution to make the Lightning user experience more seamless is called \u201csplicing.\u201d In essence, splicing would let a user \u201ctop up\u201d funds in an existing Lightning channel, or \u201cdrain\u201d funds from it, potentially while keeping the channel open.

The idea is simple. Any Lightning channel starts with an opening transaction, which ensures that both users consent to moving the funds in the channel. The rest of the Lightning channel consists of a series of subsequent transactions exchanged between the users, which aren\u2019t usually broadcast to the Bitcoin network. The funds in the opening transaction don\u2019t move until the channel is closed.

When \u201csplicing in,\u201d users take the opening transaction to instead send funds to a replacement opening transaction, which includes more bitcoin, from one or both users. Once this new opening transaction confirms on the blockchain, the channel is topped up. Until the new opening transaction is confirmed, the two users can simply update both the old and the new channel at the same time to avoid any \u201cchannel downtime.\u201d

Conversely, when they \u201csplice out,\u201d users take the opening transaction to send funds to a regular (on-chain) address, and potentially keep some of it in the channel using the same trick. This way, users can make on-chain transactions straight out of a Lightning channel.


Eltoo

Each time a new payment is made, Lightning channels between users are updated to reflect their mutual balances. The trick used to accomplish this currently includes a penalty for users who try to cheat by broadcasting an older balance (presumably because that older balance would pay them more). Cheating users can lose all the funds they have in a channel.

The problem is that the broadcasting of old balances is not always a cheating attempt. There are a number of scenarios in which users can accidentally broadcast an older balance; for example, because of a software bug or a backup gone wrong. In such scenarios, a complete loss of channel funds is quite a heavy punishment.

First published on April 30, 2018, eltoo is the newest proposal featured in this article. \u00a0Developed by Blockstream\u2019s c-lightning development team \u2014 Dr. Christian Decker and Rusty Russell \u2014 and Lightning Labs\u2019 Osuntokun, eltoo updates a channel by building a chain of time-locked transactions, where each transaction spends funds from the previous one to reflect the latest channel balance.

If one user broadcasts an older transaction (representing an older channel balance), her counterparty has some time to broadcast the latest transaction (representing the latest channel balance).

A solution like this could work today, but it isn\u2019t practical in cases of failure. It would require that the entire chain of transactions be broadcast and recorded on the Bitcoin blockchain, more or less defeating the purpose of the Lightning Network. Decker therefore proposed a soft-fork change to the Bitcoin protocol to introduce a type of hierarchy in these types of transactions: any newer transaction can override any older transaction without requiring that all transactions in the entire chain be broadcast.

If this soft fork is adopted and activated on the Bitcoin network, Lightning users could create channels in both the current style and by using eltoo, depending on what they prefer.


Compact Client-Side Block Filtering

While the Lightning Network is a second-layer protocol, the Bitcoin blockchain itself is still relevant for Lightning users for security purposes. Specifically, Lightning users must keep an eye on the blockchain to see if specific transactions are included. This can be resource intensive, in particular for mobile users.

A solution for this is called Simplified Payment Verification (SPV) and was described in the Bitcoin white paper. Current SPV wallets use a trick called \u201cBloom filters\u201d to find out whether any relevant transactions happened.

Unfortunately, Bloom filters are rather privacy-unfriendly, as wallets essentially reveal all of their addresses to nodes on the Bitcoin network. They also have some scaling and usability issues, as each individual SPV wallet takes up resources from at least one full Bitcoin node.

To tackle these issues, Lightning Labs\u2019 Osuntokun and Alex Akselrod, along with Coinbase developer Jim Posen, designed a new solution called \u201ccompact client-side block filtering,\u201d which they are implementing in the Neutrino wallet.

Compact client-side block filtering essentially inverts the trick that current SPV wallets use. Instead of wallets requesting transactions relevant to them by creating and sending out a Bloom filter to full nodes, full nodes create a filter for all Neutrino wallets. The Neutrino wallet then uses this filter to establish that the relevant transaction did not happen \u2014 which is really all that users need to know to be sure they are not being cheated. (If the filter produces a match, Neutrino fetches the relevant block to see if the match really concerns the exact transaction instead of a false positive.)

Interestingly, while this trick was designed with the Lightning experience in mind, it could be utilized to benefit regular light wallets as well.


Watchtowers

To avoid being cheated, Lightning users must keep track of potential on-chain transactions that could be relevant to them.

While compact client-side block filtering should make things much easier, users do need to \u201ccheck in\u201d once in a while to make sure they\u2019re not being cheated. If they forget to check, it creates a security risk.

\u201cWatchtowers\u201d are a potential solution that can be traced back to the Lightning Network white paper and has since been improved by Lightning Network white paper co-author and lit developer Tadge Dryja and others. As the name suggests, Watchtowers could let users outsource blockchain monitoring to third parties.

Current Watchtower designs are not set in stone but would roughly work like this. Whenever users update a channel, they send a small data package to a Watchtower. The first part of this package is a \u201chint\u201d of a transaction they should look out for, as if it were a piece of a puzzle. This hint alone doesn\u2019t reveal anything about the content of the transaction that the Watchtower must look out for; users don\u2019t give up any privacy in this sense.

However, if the relevant transaction shows up in the Bitcoin blockchain, the Watchtower can use the hint to recognize it. Then, with the transaction data on the blockchain itself, the Watchtower can use the second part of the package they\u2019ve received to reconstruct the penalty transaction. This penalty transaction sends all funds in the channel to the user that is being cheated. (Or in the case of eltoo, it just broadcasts the correct channel balance.) The penalty transaction can also be designed to let the Watchtower claim part of the funds as a reward, as an incentive to do its job.

Users can outsource channel monitoring to multiple Watchtowers. Even if one fails, another might not, limiting the risk for Lightning users to the point where it\u2019s arguably negligible.


Atomic Multi-Path Payments

What makes the Lightning Network a network is that the payment channels between users are interconnected. Users can pay across payment channels, through peers on the network that act as \u201cmiddlemen,\u201d to users they don\u2019t have a direct channel open with.

However, right now a single payment must be routed over a single route. If one user wants to pay 5 mBTC to another, not only must he have 5 mBTC in a single channel, all the middlemen on the route must also have 5 mBTC ready in a channel to forward. The bigger a payment is, the smaller the odds of this being the case.

Atomic Multi-Path Payments (AMPs) could go a long way of solving this limitation. First proposed by Lightning Labs\u2019 Osuntokun and Conner Fromknecht, the idea is simple: Larger payments can be \u201ccut up\u201d into smaller pieces, all of which have their own route from the payer to the payee, through different middlemen.

A challenge to realize this solution is that Lightning payments can fail, which would in this case mean that a payment is made partially. Partial payments can easily be a bigger problem than no payment at all, however: a merchant won\u2019t be satisfied with a partial payment, while a customer won\u2019t be happy spending any money for nothing.

The solution to this problem is that AMPs use an extension to the hash time-locked contracts, which are already used along Lightning routes and involve passing secret data along a network. Using a trick similar to the one used by deterministic wallets (which generate multiple Bitcoin addresses from a single seed), the smaller pieces of a larger payment can only be redeemed by the payee if all of them are: if some secret data doesn\u2019t make it through the route whole, the entire payment fails.


Atomic Swaps

The Lightning Network is designed as a scaling layer for Bitcoin. But since many altcoins are software forks of Bitcoin\u2019s codebase(s), it\u2019s often not difficult to create similar scaling layers for these altcoins. Already, a small Litecoin Lightning Network exists, and more Lightning Networks are likely to follow.

Interestingly, these networks don\u2019t need to remain separated in the future.

Using a fundamental building block of the Lightning Network called \u201catomic swaps\u201d (first proposed by Tier Nolan and realized on Lightning by Lightning Labs\u2019 Fromknecht), payment channels can be linked across different blockchains. In other words, a user can send bitcoin, and as long as a node on the network is willing to make the exchange, another user can receive the payment as litecoin.

Of course, this also means that users can send such payments to themselves: they can send bitcoin and receive litecoin. In effect, the Lightning Network could establish a network of trustless cryptocurrency exchanges.

For more information on this topic, see: \u201cAtomic Swaps: How the Lightning Network Extends to Altcoins.\u201d


Channel Factories

The main benefit of the Lightning Network is arguably its potential to vastly increase the upper limit of bitcoin transactions without burdening the Bitcoin network. As long as two users both have funds in their channel, they can pay each other a virtually unlimited number of times, while only requiring two on-chain transactions: one to open a payment channel and one to close it.

Still, two transactions per payment channel could add up if Bitcoin and the Lightning Network gain more adoption over time.

A proposal by ETH Zurich researchers Christian Decker (also of Blockstream), Roger Wattenhofer and Conrad Burchert called \u201cChannel Factories\u201d could further decrease the average number of on-chain transactions required per payment channel, perhaps significantly.

Loosely based on an earlier Lightning-like proposal by Decker and Wattenhofer from 2015, Channel Factories are a type of payment channel that can exist among many users. Meanwhile, like any payment channel, a Channel Factory only ever requires two on-chain transactions. (If Schnorr signatures are implemented on Bitcoin, these transactions could be quite compact, even if it involves many users.)

The Channel Factories can, in turn, act sort of like \u201csub-channels\u201d for the Lightning Network. Participants within a Channel Factory can open and close a virtually unlimited number of Lightning channels with each other, without requiring any additional on-chain transactions. By doing so, they could, in theory, bring the number of required on-chain transactions for the Lightning Network down by a magnitude.

For more information on this topic, see: \u201cThis New Scaling Layer Could Make Payment Channels Ten Times More Effective\u201d.

Thanks to Blockstream developer Christian Decker, Lightning Labs developer Conner Fromknecht, ACINQ CEO Pierre-Marie Padiou and others for information and feedback.


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

The Future of Bitcoin: What Lightning Could Look Like

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

The Future of Bitcoin: What Lightning Could Look Like

After years of conceptualization and development, the first Lightning implementations are now in beta. As a result, more nodes are appearing online every day, a growing number of users are opening channels with one another, and some merchants even started to accept Lightning payments.

But of course, these are still the very early days of the Lightning Network. While the main implementations are usable and some wallets and other applications are available, Bitcoin\u2019s overlay payment network is projected to improve over the next few years in areas ranging from network architecture to security and usability, and more.

These are some of the more important Lightning projects currently in development.


Dual-Funded Channels

The Lightning Network consists of a series of payment channels. Each payment channel exists between two users, allowing funds to be sent back and forth between them.

However, in this early stage of development, payment channels can only be funded by one of the two parties. The funding party must first make a transaction to his counterparty; only then can that counterparty return a payment within the same payment channel.

The Lightning Network white paper, however, proposed dual-funded channels, for which a specification proposal has now also been made by ACINQ, the company behind eclair. As the name suggests, dual-funded channels will let both users partly fund a payment channel by each depositing some bitcoin. This should bring more flexibility to the Lightning user experience, as users can immediately send as well as receive payment after having opened a channel.


Submarine Swaps

In order to make a Lightning payment, users must deposit funds in a Lightning channel. Once in a channel, these funds cannot be sent to regular (on-chain) Bitcoin addresses (unless the channel is first closed). This means that bitcoin in a Lightning channel is somewhat separated from bitcoin in a regular wallet, not unlike how money in a checking account is somewhat separated from money in a savings account.

But there are solutions to make switching between Lightning and on-chain payments more seamless.

One solution is Submarine Swaps. Developed by Alex Bosworth (but conceptualized by Lightning Labs CTO Olaoluwa Osuntokun even before that), Submarine Swaps essentially let users send Lightning payments to a middleman on the Lightning Network; that middleman will send a corresponding amount of bitcoin to a regular (on-chain) Bitcoin address. It also works the other way around: users can send regular on-chain payments to the middleman; that middleman will then send a corresponding amount of bitcoin to a receiving Lightning node on the Lightning Network.

Importantly, with Submarine Swaps, this conversion is done \u201catomically.\u201d Using a trick that is already embedded in the Lightning Network, the Lightning payment and the on-chain payment can effectively be linked to each other. This makes it impossible for the middleman to steal funds by not forwarding the payment. (In agreement with the users, he could charge a small fee for his service.)


Splicing

Another solution to make the Lightning user experience more seamless is called \u201csplicing.\u201d In essence, splicing would let a user \u201ctop up\u201d funds in an existing Lightning channel, or \u201cdrain\u201d funds from it, potentially while keeping the channel open.

The idea is simple. Any Lightning channel starts with an opening transaction, which ensures that both users consent to moving the funds in the channel. The rest of the Lightning channel consists of a series of subsequent transactions exchanged between the users, which aren\u2019t usually broadcast to the Bitcoin network. The funds in the opening transaction don\u2019t move until the channel is closed.

When \u201csplicing in,\u201d users take the opening transaction to instead send funds to a replacement opening transaction, which includes more bitcoin, from one or both users. Once this new opening transaction confirms on the blockchain, the channel is topped up. Until the new opening transaction is confirmed, the two users can simply update both the old and the new channel at the same time to avoid any \u201cchannel downtime.\u201d

Conversely, when they \u201csplice out,\u201d users take the opening transaction to send funds to a regular (on-chain) address, and potentially keep some of it in the channel using the same trick. This way, users can make on-chain transactions straight out of a Lightning channel.


Eltoo

Each time a new payment is made, Lightning channels between users are updated to reflect their mutual balances. The trick used to accomplish this currently includes a penalty for users who try to cheat by broadcasting an older balance (presumably because that older balance would pay them more). Cheating users can lose all the funds they have in a channel.

The problem is that the broadcasting of old balances is not always a cheating attempt. There are a number of scenarios in which users can accidentally broadcast an older balance; for example, because of a software bug or a backup gone wrong. In such scenarios, a complete loss of channel funds is quite a heavy punishment.

First published on April 30, 2018, eltoo is the newest proposal featured in this article. \u00a0Developed by Blockstream\u2019s c-lightning development team \u2014 Dr. Christian Decker and Rusty Russell \u2014 and Lightning Labs\u2019 Osuntokun, eltoo updates a channel by building a chain of time-locked transactions, where each transaction spends funds from the previous one to reflect the latest channel balance.

If one user broadcasts an older transaction (representing an older channel balance), her counterparty has some time to broadcast the latest transaction (representing the latest channel balance).

A solution like this could work today, but it isn\u2019t practical in cases of failure. It would require that the entire chain of transactions be broadcast and recorded on the Bitcoin blockchain, more or less defeating the purpose of the Lightning Network. Decker therefore proposed a soft-fork change to the Bitcoin protocol to introduce a type of hierarchy in these types of transactions: any newer transaction can override any older transaction without requiring that all transactions in the entire chain be broadcast.

If this soft fork is adopted and activated on the Bitcoin network, Lightning users could create channels in both the current style and by using eltoo, depending on what they prefer.


Compact Client-Side Block Filtering

While the Lightning Network is a second-layer protocol, the Bitcoin blockchain itself is still relevant for Lightning users for security purposes. Specifically, Lightning users must keep an eye on the blockchain to see if specific transactions are included. This can be resource intensive, in particular for mobile users.

A solution for this is called Simplified Payment Verification (SPV) and was described in the Bitcoin white paper. Current SPV wallets use a trick called \u201cBloom filters\u201d to find out whether any relevant transactions happened.

Unfortunately, Bloom filters are rather privacy-unfriendly, as wallets essentially reveal all of their addresses to nodes on the Bitcoin network. They also have some scaling and usability issues, as each individual SPV wallet takes up resources from at least one full Bitcoin node.

To tackle these issues, Lightning Labs\u2019 Osuntokun and Alex Akselrod, along with Coinbase developer Jim Posen, designed a new solution called \u201ccompact client-side block filtering,\u201d which they are implementing in the Neutrino wallet.

Compact client-side block filtering essentially inverts the trick that current SPV wallets use. Instead of wallets requesting transactions relevant to them by creating and sending out a Bloom filter to full nodes, full nodes create a filter for all Neutrino wallets. The Neutrino wallet then uses this filter to establish that the relevant transaction did not happen \u2014 which is really all that users need to know to be sure they are not being cheated. (If the filter produces a match, Neutrino fetches the relevant block to see if the match really concerns the exact transaction instead of a false positive.)

Interestingly, while this trick was designed with the Lightning experience in mind, it could be utilized to benefit regular light wallets as well.


Watchtowers

To avoid being cheated, Lightning users must keep track of potential on-chain transactions that could be relevant to them.

While compact client-side block filtering should make things much easier, users do need to \u201ccheck in\u201d once in a while to make sure they\u2019re not being cheated. If they forget to check, it creates a security risk.

\u201cWatchtowers\u201d are a potential solution that can be traced back to the Lightning Network white paper and has since been improved by Lightning Network white paper co-author and lit developer Tadge Dryja and others. As the name suggests, Watchtowers could let users outsource blockchain monitoring to third parties.

Current Watchtower designs are not set in stone but would roughly work like this. Whenever users update a channel, they send a small data package to a Watchtower. The first part of this package is a \u201chint\u201d of a transaction they should look out for, as if it were a piece of a puzzle. This hint alone doesn\u2019t reveal anything about the content of the transaction that the Watchtower must look out for; users don\u2019t give up any privacy in this sense.

However, if the relevant transaction shows up in the Bitcoin blockchain, the Watchtower can use the hint to recognize it. Then, with the transaction data on the blockchain itself, the Watchtower can use the second part of the package they\u2019ve received to reconstruct the penalty transaction. This penalty transaction sends all funds in the channel to the user that is being cheated. (Or in the case of eltoo, it just broadcasts the correct channel balance.) The penalty transaction can also be designed to let the Watchtower claim part of the funds as a reward, as an incentive to do its job.

Users can outsource channel monitoring to multiple Watchtowers. Even if one fails, another might not, limiting the risk for Lightning users to the point where it\u2019s arguably negligible.


Atomic Multi-Path Payments

What makes the Lightning Network a network is that the payment channels between users are interconnected. Users can pay across payment channels, through peers on the network that act as \u201cmiddlemen,\u201d to users they don\u2019t have a direct channel open with.

However, right now a single payment must be routed over a single route. If one user wants to pay 5 mBTC to another, not only must he have 5 mBTC in a single channel, all the middlemen on the route must also have 5 mBTC ready in a channel to forward. The bigger a payment is, the smaller the odds of this being the case.

Atomic Multi-Path Payments (AMPs) could go a long way of solving this limitation. First proposed by Lightning Labs\u2019 Osuntokun and Conner Fromknecht, the idea is simple: Larger payments can be \u201ccut up\u201d into smaller pieces, all of which have their own route from the payer to the payee, through different middlemen.

A challenge to realize this solution is that Lightning payments can fail, which would in this case mean that a payment is made partially. Partial payments can easily be a bigger problem than no payment at all, however: a merchant won\u2019t be satisfied with a partial payment, while a customer won\u2019t be happy spending any money for nothing.

The solution to this problem is that AMPs use an extension to the hash time-locked contracts, which are already used along Lightning routes and involve passing secret data along a network. Using a trick similar to the one used by deterministic wallets (which generate multiple Bitcoin addresses from a single seed), the smaller pieces of a larger payment can only be redeemed by the payee if all of them are: if some secret data doesn\u2019t make it through the route whole, the entire payment fails.


Atomic Swaps

The Lightning Network is designed as a scaling layer for Bitcoin. But since many altcoins are software forks of Bitcoin\u2019s codebase(s), it\u2019s often not difficult to create similar scaling layers for these altcoins. Already, a small Litecoin Lightning Network exists, and more Lightning Networks are likely to follow.

Interestingly, these networks don\u2019t need to remain separated in the future.

Using a fundamental building block of the Lightning Network called \u201catomic swaps\u201d (first proposed by Tier Nolan and realized on Lightning by Lightning Labs\u2019 Fromknecht), payment channels can be linked across different blockchains. In other words, a user can send bitcoin, and as long as a node on the network is willing to make the exchange, another user can receive the payment as litecoin.

Of course, this also means that users can send such payments to themselves: they can send bitcoin and receive litecoin. In effect, the Lightning Network could establish a network of trustless cryptocurrency exchanges.

For more information on this topic, see: \u201cAtomic Swaps: How the Lightning Network Extends to Altcoins.\u201d


Channel Factories

The main benefit of the Lightning Network is arguably its potential to vastly increase the upper limit of bitcoin transactions without burdening the Bitcoin network. As long as two users both have funds in their channel, they can pay each other a virtually unlimited number of times, while only requiring two on-chain transactions: one to open a payment channel and one to close it.

Still, two transactions per payment channel could add up if Bitcoin and the Lightning Network gain more adoption over time.

A proposal by ETH Zurich researchers Christian Decker (also of Blockstream), Roger Wattenhofer and Conrad Burchert called \u201cChannel Factories\u201d could further decrease the average number of on-chain transactions required per payment channel, perhaps significantly.

Loosely based on an earlier Lightning-like proposal by Decker and Wattenhofer from 2015, Channel Factories are a type of payment channel that can exist among many users. Meanwhile, like any payment channel, a Channel Factory only ever requires two on-chain transactions. (If Schnorr signatures are implemented on Bitcoin, these transactions could be quite compact, even if it involves many users.)

The Channel Factories can, in turn, act sort of like \u201csub-channels\u201d for the Lightning Network. Participants within a Channel Factory can open and close a virtually unlimited number of Lightning channels with each other, without requiring any additional on-chain transactions. By doing so, they could, in theory, bring the number of required on-chain transactions for the Lightning Network down by a magnitude.

For more information on this topic, see: \u201cThis New Scaling Layer Could Make Payment Channels Ten Times More Effective\u201d.

Thanks to Blockstream developer Christian Decker, Lightning Labs developer Conner Fromknecht, ACINQ CEO Pierre-Marie Padiou and others for information and feedback.


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

SEC Not Changing Securities Rules to Accommodate ICOs [But Bitcoin’s Fine]: Chairman Clayton

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

SEC Chief Jay Clayton has put several regulatory questions to rest by firmly stating in a CNBC interview posted earlier today that the SEC will not be making special allowances either for tokens that represent the value of a project or for the majority of initial coin offerings (IOC), going on to say in the

The post SEC Not Changing Securities Rules to Accommodate ICOs [But Bitcoin’s Fine]: Chairman Clayton appeared first on CCN

$1.6 billion Coinbase says that its newest acquisition puts it ‘on track’ to trade securities, and it could mean new coins are coming soon

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong

  • Coinbase, the $1.6 billion bitcoin exchange, has purchased three companies in one swoop.
  • The main thing that Coinbase gets from the deal: Licenses that let it register with the government to offer its customers even more financial services. 
  • That will give Coinbase some additional cover when the SEC issues its long-awaited rules around regulating digital tokens and cryptocurrencies — rules that could come any day now.
  • Those licenses could also help Coinbase add more cryptocurrencies to the exchange.

$1.6 billion bitcoin exchange Coinbase has turned to M&A to get the licenses needed to run a fully-regulated financial business.

In a blog post Wednesday, Coinbase president and chief operating officer Asiff Hirji announced the acquisition of Keystone Capital Corp., Venovate Marketplace, Inc., and Digital Wealth LLC. Coinbase acquired all three entities through one deal with their parent company, Key Acquisition, LLC, according to a company spokesman.

Those three fintech companies came with credentials near and dear to Coinbase: a broker-dealer license, an alternative trading system license (ATS), and a registered investment advisor (RIA) license. 

"If approved, these licenses will set Coinbase on a path to offer future services that include crypto securities trading, margin and over-the-counter (OTC) trading, and new market data products," Hiriji said in the post. 

Coinbase, an industry-leading cryptocurrency exchange, has been slow to add new coins, given that they may be considered a security by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The SEC has yet to give formal guidance about which digital tokens it plans to regulate, though it has indicated that it will do so in the near future. Cryptocurrency exchanges, unlike similar companies in the financial space, have so far been unregulated in the United States. 

Some of Coinbase's competitors, like Binance, trade more than 200 different coins. But Coinbase currently trades only four of the biggest cryptocurrencies on the market: bitcoin, bitcoin cash, ethereum, and litecoin. 

In late May, Coinbase acquired a trading platform called Paradex which lets users trade "hundreds of coins." 

"The move not only reinforces Coinbase’s commitment to investing in decentralized infrastructure and participating in the nascent world of wallet-to-wallet trading, but also our focus on the international crypto trader," Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong said at the time. 

It's unclear when additional coins will be added to the Coinbase platform. 

Read more about Coinbase's mergers and acquisitions strategy. 

SEE ALSO: An inside look at the team leading Coinbase’s acquisition spree and its plans to become the Google of crypto

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: NFL superstar Richard Sherman is all-in on cryptocurrencies, but doesn’t think his grandmother should invest

$1.6 billion Coinbase says that its newest acquisition puts it ‘on track’ to trade securities, and it could mean new coins are coming soon

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong

  • Coinbase, the $1.6 billion bitcoin exchange, has purchased three companies in one swoop.
  • The main thing that Coinbase gets from the deal: Licenses that let it register with the government to offer its customers even more financial services. 
  • That will give Coinbase some additional cover when the SEC issues its long-awaited rules around regulating digital tokens and cryptocurrencies — rules that could come any day now.
  • Those licenses could also help Coinbase add more cryptocurrencies to the exchange.

$1.6 billion bitcoin exchange Coinbase has turned to M&A to get the licenses needed to run a fully-regulated financial business.

In a blog post Wednesday, Coinbase president and chief operating officer Asiff Hirji announced the acquisition of Keystone Capital Corp., Venovate Marketplace, Inc., and Digital Wealth LLC. Coinbase acquired all three entities through one deal with their parent company, Key Acquisition, LLC, according to a company spokesman.

Those three fintech companies came with credentials near and dear to Coinbase: a broker-dealer license, an alternative trading system license (ATS), and a registered investment advisor (RIA) license. 

"If approved, these licenses will set Coinbase on a path to offer future services that include crypto securities trading, margin and over-the-counter (OTC) trading, and new market data products," Hiriji said in the post. 

Coinbase, an industry-leading cryptocurrency exchange, has been slow to add new coins, given that they may be considered a security by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The SEC has yet to give formal guidance about which digital tokens it plans to regulate, though it has indicated that it will do so in the near future. Cryptocurrency exchanges, unlike similar companies in the financial space, have so far been unregulated in the United States. 

Some of Coinbase's competitors, like Binance, trade more than 200 different coins. But Coinbase currently trades only four of the biggest cryptocurrencies on the market: bitcoin, bitcoin cash, ethereum, and litecoin. 

In late May, Coinbase acquired a trading platform called Paradex which lets users trade "hundreds of coins." 

"The move not only reinforces Coinbase’s commitment to investing in decentralized infrastructure and participating in the nascent world of wallet-to-wallet trading, but also our focus on the international crypto trader," Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong said at the time. 

It's unclear when additional coins will be added to the Coinbase platform. 

Read more about Coinbase's mergers and acquisitions strategy. 

SEE ALSO: An inside look at the team leading Coinbase’s acquisition spree and its plans to become the Google of crypto

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: NFL superstar Richard Sherman is all-in on cryptocurrencies, but doesn’t think his grandmother should invest

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