This week brings a birthday for London-based Bitstamp Bitcoin exchange, the company is turning five and is giving away a bunch of Nano Ledger hardware wallets. News outlet CryptoCoinsNews interviewed the CEO of China-based exchange CHBTC, who answered some questions about China and Bitcoin. The final auction for bitcoins sized in the Silk Road auction, although the turnout has been the lowest of all the auctions at only five bidders.
The blockchain technology fintech world is growing more interesting with Swiss bank UBS announcing a blockchain-based major currency remittance system, thus expanding the horizons for the use of blockchain in fintech.
For Bitcoin Core enthusiasts, version 0.13.0 of Bitcoin Core was just released (and is available for installation) with numerous updates and fixes to the protocol, but most importantly preparations for Segregated Witness–a proposed solution that will lower the data size of Bitcoin blockchain transactions and allow more to be stored in blocks.
As for the Bitcoin market, current value appears to be holding at $583.46 USD (Bitcoinaverage.com). According to charts at CryptoCompare.com this is up from last week at $572. For most of the month, Bitcoin has maintained a value around $570-580 since early August, when a sudden drop in the BTC value (from $654 to a brief low of $513) coincidental to the hack of major Bitcoin exchange Bitfinex (BTXNA, Inc.).
Bitstamp turns 5, giving away Ledger wallets for its birthday
Monday marked the 5th anniversary of Bitstamp Ltd.’s launch. The London-based Bitcoin exchange launched in 2011 and now services customers across the world with offices in New York, London and Luxembourg.
To celebrate this grand event, the company is giving away 10 Ledger Nano Ses ($65 USD) and 100 Ledger Nanos ($33 USD). These are sleek, USB-compatible Bitcoin hardware wallets produced by San Francisco-based Ledger Technologies Inc.
Registered and validated users of the Bitstamp exchange can participate by filling out 5-question quiz about the company.
Above is Bitstamp’s co-founder and CEO Nejc Kodrič speaking about the past 5 years and what it’s meant for the company.
Bitstamp’s legacy is not just as a Bitcoin exchange and institution that has survived the test of time when other exchanges have failed but that it has thrived. Bitstamp reached 1 million transactions by 2012, has processed over $12.8 billion USD since launch and became the first nationally licensed Bitcoin exchange in Europe this year.
CCN interviews Dawei Lee, CEO of CHBTC, one of China’s largest exchanges
CryptoCoinsNews published an interview with Dawei Lee, the CEO of CHBTC, China’s biggest exchange for Ethereum and fourth largest for Bitcoin. The company, founded in 2013, has become one of the leading cryptocurrency exchanges in China offering trades for Ethereum (ETH), Ethereum Classic (ETC), Bitcoin (BTC) and Litecoin.
Boasting about his company’s stats, Lee said, “CHBTC’s highest 24 hours trading volume was 5.431 million Etheruem (about $70.53 million) and 17.13 million Ethereum Classic (about $45.82 million), became the world’s largest Etheruem and Ethereum Classic trading platform. While Bitcoin’s average 24 hours trading volume is 120,000, which makes CHBTC rank fourth in Chinese exchange.”
In an age where many exchanges have suffered hacks and losses, Lee also proudly stated that CHBTC has operated three years without any security incidents. The company uses many industry-standard protections including offline cold storage, multi-signature wallets, SSL encrypted traffic, and two-factor authentication (2FA) with SMS and Google verification.
On the topic of China and cryptocurrency, Lee is optimistic. He says that China has continued to signal positively, such as positive announcements the Cyber Security bureau, the PBOC. However, he noted, that China still has no formal stance on cryptocurrency, digital currency, or blockchain technology since December 2013 (when the Chinese central bank released a statement that caused a lot of upheaval).
Lee also briefly touched on the “zero fee” trading model that many Chinese exchanges use, noting that international colleagues criticize the exchange for this model. In fact, many Bitcoin market tracking websites will dismiss volume and values from exchanges that run zero fee models because they feel it incentivizes spam trading to simply inflate volume without currency actually changing hands in a meaningful way.
This model has also led to some confusion and criticism in the market in past years as exposed in this 2014 article by CoinDesk about Chinese Bitcoin trading volumes.
Overall, Lee also has a very positive view of the Bitcoin industry and community and its future as well.
“The Bitcoin community is a resilient, vibrant and passionate force,” he said. “As we are a China-based member of this community many times we are not in tune with what is happening with the international community due to the language barrier, culture differences and the great firewall. But what unites us all is the potential to change the world for the better with this revolutionary technology that has been able to bring like-minded individuals from across the world together on a common mission.”
Final Silk Road auction sees only 5 bidders, sells at $1.6 million
According to CoinDesk, the United States Marshals Service (USMS) has auctioned off the final lot of bitcoins sized from the Silk Road bust. The bitcoins, totaling 2,700 BTC (worth approximately $1.58 million USD) sold to an anonymous bidder.
This auction drew only five bidders in contrast to the previous auction in November, which saw a turnout of 11 bidders. During that sale the lot of 44,000 BTC (approx. $25.4 million USD) with New York-based exchange itBit winning 5 lots (and other unknown bidders receiving the rest). Another known big bidder from previous USMS auctions is venture capitalist Tim Draper, who won all of the first auction and part of the second auction.
This is the fourth and final USMS auction of Silk Road sized bitcoins and the dwindling number of participants raises a number of questions.
Amid the possible reasons could be that previous auctions tended to see extremely large entities seeking chunks of cheaper bitcoins in order to fill coffers for trading and those may be satisfied currently. Another potential reason might be because Bitcoin market value has fluctuated since 2015, seeing a spike in April of near $800 (up from previous months around $450), which then fell to the current $583. While it’s clear that Bitcoin market value is up from 2015, the current volatility might make the currency seem harder to hold.
UBS announces “Utility Settlement Coin” using blockchain-based technology for fintech
Swiss bank UBS AG has developed what it calls a “Utility Settlement Coin” (USC) in conjunction with four other of the world’s biggest banks that uses blockchain-technology to allow financial institutions to settle transactions quickly.
According to Reuters, the function of USC is to act as a digital cash equivalent to each of the major currencies backed by major banks (such as dollars or euros) rather than using a decentralized currency such as Bitcoin. Holdings in USC would have parity with a deposit in the same currency, meaning that spending USC would be the same as spending the real currency it was paired with.
“Digital cash is a core component of a future financial market fabric based on blockchain technologies,” UBS Investment Bank’s head of fintech innovation Hyder Jaffrey said.
This represents one of the first developments of blockchain technology for fintech purposes that many experts in the field have suggested could have huge disruptive influence in that sector. Especially because blockchain-based technology automates large amounts of the underlying clerical and verification work that needs to be done in order to exchange securities or currency in traditional banking systems.
This means that not only would a blockchain-based coin (such as USC would be) would save a lot of money on administration fees it would also speed things up considerably. In the case of securities, major U.S. stock exchange company Nasdaq has been experimenting with blockchain technology for settlement allowing transactions to occur in minutes (faster than what the industry calls “T+3” or approximately three days).
This represents a move similar to what think tank R3CEV LLC (which includes UBS) has been working on since its foundation in 2015. Other fintech innovations seeking to use blockchain technology include Overstock.com’s TØ.com decentralized exchange remitting a crypto-stock, Chain, Inc. using the Bitcoin blockchain for asset transaction tracking, Align Commerce, Inc. seeking to disrupt international payments by moving faster than traditional services, and many others.
The World Economic Forum recently published a report that blockchain-based technology will eventually occupy a central place in the global financial system. According to the report, 80 percent of the banks surveyed are currently in the process of developing some form of blockchain-based fintech technology. The WEF also concluded that blockchain fintech represents the foundation of the next generation of financial infrastructure.
For further analysis of this announcement from UBS see Mark “Dr. Bitcoin” Hopkins, who tipped SiliconANGLE to this news. Hopkins reveals that a report from 2015 from Santander InnoVentures claimed that blockchain-based technology could save the banking industry $15-20 billion in infrastructural costs by 2022. This announcement from UBS represents the cusp of big banks putting blockchain infrastructure to use and will show what sort of savings it can sustain.
Bitcoin Core 0.13.0 release
The Bitcoin Core team has released the most recent version of the Bitcoin Core client at 0.13.0 and it is now available for download and installation (announcement here). This release contains hundreds of improvements, including security fixes and preparation for the implementation of Segregated Witness (read more about this here and at Bitcoin Magazine).
With the preparation for segregated witness this update hopes to pave the way for increased capacity in blocks, the elimination of transaction malleability and new ways to upgrade Bitcoin’s scripting language with soft forks. (Note: Segwit is not supported yet on the mainnet Bitcoin network, this is only the infrastructure code to support it.)
Also included in this update is compact block relay code, a protocol to reduce peak amount of bandwidth when downloading new blocks by eliminating a major source of redundant peer-to-peer traffic for nodes; fee-based filtering, a mechanism allowing nodes to skip relaying unconfirmed low-fee transactions (that peers would ignore anyway); BIP32 HD wallet support for Bitcoin Core’s built in wallet allowing all keys for backup; and Child Pays for Parent (CPFP) transaction selection to incentivize miners to push priority for unconfirmed transactions by allowing children to pay increased fees for parent.
Much of this update includes highly technical, but very powerful, protocol changes (listed above) but the biggest takeaway is the preparation for Segregated Witness.
For over a year now, the Bitcoin community has been holding a debate about the future of the Bitcoin blockchain revolving around block size. As the network matures, Bitcoin blocks written to the blockchain have been filling up with transactions and eventually blocks will hit a set limit on the total size of transactions potentially slowing down the network (based on demand). Segregated Witness will work to shrink the size of transactions themselves in a block and therefore allow more transactions to be squeezed into a block.
Since a Bitcoin block is “discovered” by miners approximately every 10 minutes, the total number of transactions that can be placed into any one given block limits the speed that transactions can be processed on the network (leading to ever-increasing fees to get transactions confirmed quicker). This is especially true if some transactions must wait for later and later blocks to be confirmed. Larger blocks, however, would also be harder to transport and relay through the network and would take more space to store, both which would create their own new problems.
The debate still continues between those who desire to keep Bitcoin block sizes small (with the standard 1M size limit) and those who want to look to larger or unlimited block sizes to allow increased number of transactions per block.