Central Bank Digital Currencies Are a Trojan Horse for Bitcoin

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Central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) and Bitcoin could scarcely be more different. One is permissioned, the other permissionless; one centralized, the other decentralized; one is censorable, the other censorship-resistant. Despite their dissimilarities, CBDCs might just be the best driver yet for Bitcoin adoption.

Also read: Mobile Gifting Platform Swych Announces Cryptocurrency Support

CBDCs Are the Best Thing That Could Have Happened to Bitcoin

When JP Morgan unveiled its eponymous stablecoin on Feb. 14, the sound of sniggering could be heard throughout the cryptosphere. Aside from the irony given CEO Jamie Dimon’s previous Bitcoin bashing, there was the notion, advanced by benighted mainstream media, that Jpmcoin, which runs on a permissioned ledger and settles transactions between JP Morgan banks only, presented a threat to Bitcoin.

“JPMorgan Just Killed the Bitcoin Dream” screamed one headline, prompting further sniggers from the crypto community. CBDCs and cryptocurrencies exist on parallel tracks that do not cross. The former serves as a type of stable digital currency that is issued and wholly controlled by banks. CBDCs share some characteristics of cryptocurrencies in facilitating fast and low-cost cross-border transfers, but the similarities end there.

The greatest threat these instruments present is not to cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, but rather to slow and inefficient settlement systems such as Swift. Last year, the former chair of the United States Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Sheila Bair, said CBDCs could have “severely negative consequences” for the “bank-dominated payments system.” CBDCs, including stablecoins such as Jpmcoin, may deleteriously affect the incumbent financial system as well as Ripple’s native cryptocurrency, but their impact on Bitcoin is likely to be positive.

Central Bank Digital Currencies Are a Trojan Horse for Bitcoin

How CBDCs Are Bullish for Bitcoin

The emergence of central bank digital currencies serves to legitimize and normalize digital currencies as the future of money. Within this broad context, any attention they receive helps to put further distance between Bitcoin and the tired “drugs, speculation, and tax evasion” narratives. Should CBDCs gain traction, however, people will quickly discover that they offer few improvements over the current financial system and come bearing several distinct disadvantages.

Digital currencies transferred via permissioned ledgers or pseudo-blockchains facilitate real-time tracking of customer spending at all times. Anyone deemed to be persona non grata, or even suspected of transacting with people deemed undesirables, is liable to have their funds frozen and account suspended. These provisions are already in place with the legacy financial system, but CBDCs will amplify the powers available to governments and regulators, with sophisticated forensics tools providing unprecedented insights into the spending habits and social behaviors of citizens.

In a world of CBDCs, there will be no place to hide and no freedom to transact without being authorized by the powers that be. It’s easy to imagine a dystopian future, based on China’s social credit system, in which citizens are billed for their healthcare and screened for employment based on their purchase history and social circle. The rise of central bank digital currencies will also bring benefits, of course, such as lowering the cost and time involved with wiring money abroad. Given the notoriously siloed nature of financial houses, however, it would be optimistic to expect CBDCs to operate globally. Just like Jpmcoin, it is likely that there will be little to no interoperability with CBDCs, preventing these digital currencies from even realizing their limited potential.

As a rising tide raises all ships, increased adoption of digital currencies benefits Bitcoin. When users of central bank digital currencies tire of their limited functionality, lack of privacy, and susceptibility to censorship, they’ll come searching for an alternative means of sending money cheaply, quickly and permissonlessly and they’ll find Bitcoin. CBDCs make for poor digital currencies but are a great Trojan horse for Bitcoin.

Do you think CBDCs will benefit or threaten Bitcoin? Let us know in the comments section below.


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In the Daily: Cryptocurrency Payments, Nvidia Losses, Suspended CFD

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In the first edition of The Daily this weekend, we focus on a study estimating that 13 percent of people have used digital coins for payments. We also look at the latest financial report from Nvidia indicating losses due to falling demand for chips used in cryptocurrency mining. Lastly, a broker suspends its crypto CFD offering.

Also read: Coinbase Bug Bounty, Tradingview Crypto Dashboard, Bitfinex App Update

Report: 1 in 10 People Use Cryptocurrency for Payments

The popularity of cryptocurrency as a payment method has been increasing despite the falling price of digital assets over the past year. According to a recent study conducted by cybersecurity company Kaspersky Labs, 13 percent of those surveyed have already used crypto to make purchases.

In the Daily: Cryptocurrency Payments, Nvidia Losses, Suspended CFD

Almost 13,000 people from 22 countries were surveyed. Commenting on the results, Vitaly Mzokov, head of verification at Kaspersky Labs’ Growth Center said:

Despite a fall in cryptocurrency prices, there is still a strong desire for digital transactions amongst consumers. Our consumer research has found that 13% of people have used cryptocurrency as a payment method, which was surprising to see.

The authors of the study also found that more and more businesses from various sectors such as retail and food services have started offering crypto payment options. For example, a growing number of food delivery platforms now accept cryptocurrency, as news.Bitcoin.com reported recently.

Nvidia Sees 24% Drop in Quarterly Revenue

Leading video card manufacturer Nvidia has announced a significant decrease in its quarterly revenue, which fell 24 percent to $2.21 billion from $2.91 billion a year ago. The figure is also down 31 percent from $3.18 billion in the previous quarter, the company reported. However, Nvidia also noted that for fiscal 2019, revenue was $11.72 billion, up 21 percent from $9.71 billion a year earlier.

In the Daily: Cryptocurrency Payments, Nvidia Losses, Suspended CFD

The drop during the quarter that ended on Jan. 27 has been attributed largely to falling demand for chips used in cryptocurrency mining and gaming applications which weighed on the company’s earnings. Jensen Huang, chief executive officer of Nvidia, commented:

This was a turbulent close to what had been a great year. The combination of post-crypto excess channel inventory and recent deteriorating end-market conditions drove a disappointing quarter.

According to Nvidia’s founder, the company’s fundamental position and the markets it serves are strong, despite the setback. “The accelerated computing platform we pioneered is central to some of world’s most important and fastest growing industries – from artificial intelligence to autonomous vehicles to robotics. We fully expect to return to sustained growth,” he added.

The financial report details that in fiscal 2019 Nvidia returned $1.95 billion to shareholders through a combination of $1.58 billion in share repurchases and $371 million in quarterly cash dividends.

Mtrading Suspends Crypto Offering

Mtrading, a broker regulated in Belize, is suspending its cryptocurrency CFD offering. The decision comes in response to weak demand from clients. Traders with open positions in the affected assets now have a close-only feature, Finance Magnates reported. They will not be able to open new trades with cryptocurrency. According to the publication, the open positions on these instruments will be closed at the company’s market close price on Feb. 28.

In the Daily: Cryptocurrency Payments, Nvidia Losses, Suspended CFD

“While we believe our trading conditions were very good for crypto trading, the demand for these instruments was not what we had anticipated. We still believe blockchain and cryptocurrency has a place in the future, but for now, better opportunities lie in more traditional instruments,” the company said. Like many other financial brokers, Mtrading started offering crypto-based products when the prices of digital assets were on the rise.

What are your thoughts on today’s news tidbits? Tell us in the comments section.


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Mobile Gifting Platform Swych Announces Cryptocurrency Support

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On Feb. 15, the Dallas-based mobile gifting company Swych announced it will be accepting cryptocurrencies for payments. Starting next week, instead of using traditional payment processors, Swych users will be able to pay using decentralized digital assets such as BCH, LTC, ETH, BTC, and ETC.

Also Read: Bitcoin’s Social Contract Must Be Resilient to the Whims of Future Generations

Swych Mobile Gifting App to Add Support for 5 Cryptocurrencies

The popular mobile application Swych allows people to give virtual gift cards from over 600 well known retailers and if the person receiving the gift doesn’t like the store they can easily swap the virtual funds for another retailer. Swych was founded in 2015 by Deepak Jain and is backed by capital investment from UAE Exchange Group, a global money transfer exchange, and payment solutions provider. The gift cards available stem from retailers such as Toysrus, Old Navy, Macy’s, Nike, Target, Best Buy, Gap, Banana Republic, Sephora, Nordstrom, Amazon, and more. Essentially Swych allows users to purchase and send gift cards similarly to platforms like Egifter and Gyft. However, the mobile application allows people to effortlessly switch gift cards if they don’t appreciate the particular brand originally gifted.

Mobile Gifting Platform Swych Announces Cryptocurrency Support

Swych uses payment providers like Apple Pay, Paypal, Amazon Pay, and Google Pay. But according to an announcement on Friday, the company will be accepting five cryptocurrencies next week. Swych users will be able to pay with bitcoin cash (BCH), litecoin (LTC), ethereum (ETH), bitcoin core (BTC), and ethereum classic ETC. Deepak Jain, CEO of Swych, explained during the announcement that gift cards are a de facto choice among consumers and some of the same consumers also want to spend digital currencies.

“We feel we are ahead of the game considering most retailers have not yet chosen to accept crypto payments,” Jain stated. “In keeping with Swych’s mission of providing our consumers with choice and flexibility, we’d like to provide new options based on our customers’ needs — crypto integration is one of the many requests we’ve received.

Mobile Gifting Platform Swych Announces Cryptocurrency Support

‘Cryptocurrencies: The Go-to Choice for Consumers’

Jain says Swych is the only application that allows consumers to send gift cards by simply using a mobile phone number. Swych also got into blockchain technology last year and has rolled out a cross border gifting platform that’s built on top of the Stellar network. Jain believes blockchain technology and cryptocurrency solutions will make the digital gifting platforms’ operations become far more efficient. “While digital gifting is undoubtedly an amazing use case for blockchain, so is payments and I think cryptocurrencies are gradually going to become the go-to choice for consumers to make purchases on the internet,” Jain emphasized.

“For crypto holders, this means they can essentially use their crypto holdings for gift cards that are spendable at hundreds of different retail outlets,” Jain conceded. “There’s no doubt that this will be attractive to a large portion of the community, irrespective of whether the market is up or down.”

What do you think about the digital gifting platform Swych accepting cryptocurrencies? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below.


Image credits: Shutterstock, Pixabay, and Swych. 


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Post Office in Liechtenstein Now Sells BTC

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The government-owned post office in Liechtenstein has begun offering a cryptocurrency exchange service. Initially, the post office in the capital city of Vaduz will sell BTC, with four more cryptocurrencies planned. The service is in partnership with Zug-based Värdex Suisse, the operator of “the largest crypto ATM network in Switzerland.”

Also read: Indian Supreme Court Moves Crypto Hearing, Community Calls for Positive Regulations

Post Office Selling BTC

Liechtensteinische Post AG announced on Feb. 15 that it has begun selling BTC at the counter of the post office in the capital city of Vaduz. “In search of new business opportunities, Liechtensteinische Post AG has decided to offer a new exchange [service] of cryptocurrencies in its post offices,” Friday’s announcement reads. The Post elaborated:

After an introductory phase, the offer will be extended to other post offices and the exchange of additional cryptocurrencies … It will then be possible to change bitcoin (BTC), ethereum (ETH), litecoin (LTC), bitcoin cash (BCH) and ripple (XRP).

The announcement further notes that, after making a BTC purchase, customers will receive “a physical crypto wallet” which includes both the public and private keys.

Post Office in Liechtenstein Now Sells BTC

Founded in 1999, Liechtensteinische Post AG comprises nine post offices and three postal partners, according to its website. Prior to Dec. 31, 1999, the postal service of Liechtenstein, a country with approximately 38,000 people, was managed by Swiss Post, the national postal service of Switzerland which is a public company owned by the Swiss Confederation. Now Swiss Post owns 25 percent of Liechtensteinische Post and the government of Liechtenstein owns the remaining 75 percent.

Partnership With Värdex Suisse

Liechtensteinische Post explained that Swiss Post had always been in “the conventional money exchange business,” therefore “nothing is different” by adding cryptocurrencies to the existing service.

This new service is enabled through a partnership with Zug-based Värdex Suisse AG, a subsidiary spun off from Bitcoin Suisse AG at the end of 2017 in order to meet the growing demand for POS solutions, Liechtensteinische Post detailed.

Post Office in Liechtenstein Now Sells BTC

“Värdex is Switzerland’s largest, financially regulated blockchain and POS network operator,” the company describes itself. It is a member of the Financial Services Standards Association (VQF) and part of the Crypto Valley Zug community.

Its website also states that “Värdex Suisse is operating the largest crypto ATM network in Switzerland,” listing a total of 26 locations, all of which support BTC, ETH, and LTC. According to Coinatmradar, there are 48 cryptocurrency ATMs in Switzerland. Zurich has 13 machines, the most in the country, followed by Basel with six machines and Geneva with five. Other major ATM operators in the country are Bity with six locations and Bitc with 14 locations.

What do you think of Liechtensteinische Post selling cryptocurrencies at post office counters? Let us know in the comments section below.


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RSK Sidechain Is Now Secured by 45% of BTC’s Hashrate

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On Feb. 14, the cryptocurrency infrastructure organization led by RSK Labs announced the one-year anniversary of the RSK network and highlighted several notable achievements. Over the last 12 months, the project’s merge mining has managed to gather 45 percent of the Bitcoin Core (BTC) network hashrate, making the RSK smart contract system more secure than most blockchains.

Also Read: Bitcoin’s Social Contract Must Be Resilient to the Whims of Future Generations

Smart Contract Infrastructure Backed by More Than 20 Exahash of PoW

At approximately 1:41 a.m. CST on January 4, 2018, RSK Labs mined the sidechain’s genesis block. Since then, the blockchain network has increased its merge mining hashrate from 4 percent of the BTC network to 45 percent today. Following this milestone, the RSK team announced that the company’s RSK sidechain has become “the most secure smart contract platform in the world.” RSK’s recent blog post explains that to 51 percent attack the BTC chain would cost $244,853 per hour. “By surpassing 45% of the hashing power of the Bitcoin network, an attack on the RSK smart contract network would cost approximately US$ 112,000 per hour,” the RSK announcement detailed. “This makes RSK one of the most secure and reliable platforms for developers to build their decentralized apps (dapps), and proves that merge-mining can succeed in securing Bitcoin sidechains.”

RSK Sidechain Is Now Secured by 45% of BTC's Hashrate
The merge mined sidechain RSK has been tethered to the BTC blockchain for more than a year, gathering 45% of the overall hashrate.

During the announcement, Diego Gutierrez Zaldivar, chief executive of RSK Labs, explained that because BTC miners are able to secure its own chain alongside sidechains at no added cost, this gives people the ability to build layer 2 solutions confidently. Moreover, the RSK executive details that this type of system also facilitates layer 3 solutions.

“The development of layer 3 services — such as RIF OS — will be vital to scale Bitcoin and RSK to service tens of millions of users while providing peer-to-peer financial services, secure messaging, data storage, and other forms of decentralized services powered by Bitcoin,” Zaldivar emphasized.

Root Infrastructure Framework and the Internet of Value

The RIF system stands for Root Infrastructure Framework Open Standard (RIF OS) and the system is a purpose-driven organization that provides developers with peer-to-peer infrastructure services and software libraries to support easier and scalable dapp development. Over the last year, RSK Labs has partnered with more than 50 crypto-related organizations in order to expand the RSK sidechain network. Initially, the project started with its original 21 million smart bitcoins (SBTC) which circulate within the RSK network. But with the RIF OS, the company has created the RIF token which is intended to enable compatibility with RIF OS protocols and dapps.

RSK Sidechain Is Now Secured by 45% of BTC's Hashrate
The founders of RSK Labs have created a supply of RIF tokens for the firm’s new Root Infrastructure Framework Open Standard (RIF OS) system. Initially, there are only 320 million RIF tokens and the rest of the units are locked in the smart contract and dispersed over the course of five years.

People interested in how the RIF OS infrastructure works and its associated token can read the whitepaper written by the founding members of RSK Labs. The RIF token smart contract was officially deployed on the RSK blockchain on November 9, 2018, at approximately 8:12 p.m. UTC. At the moment, the RIF token smart contract has minted 1 billion coins, but only 320 million have been made available to be redeemed by the early contributors to the project, the RIF token whitepaper explains. The rest of the tokens are locked into the contract and will unlock themselves autonomously over a period of five years.

“Bitcoin set the foundation for the construction of a new internet for the transfer of value,” Zaldivar detailed. “Both the RSK smart contract network and RIF OS were created as a means to move this vision further with the hopes that this new internet of value will foster prosperity and equality around the world.”

Cryptocurrency community members haven’t seen a merge mining project like RSK since the Namecoin project which works in a similar fashion. Many other blockchains can be merge mined with the same proof-of-work (PoW) consensus algorithm that allows various networks to be mined simultaneously. Essentially the RSK blockchain works in the same manner and the smart contract system is bolstered by being secured by more than 20,000,000 trillion hashes per second at the time of writing.

What do you think about RSK’s smart contract system? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below.


Image credits: Shutterstock, RIF OS, and Rsk Labs. 


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Bitcoin Cash-Focused Ifwallet Implements Cash Accounts Name System 

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Last month, on the 10th anniversary of the Bitcoin genesis block, Bitcoin Cash (BCH) developer Jonathan Silverblood launched his Cashaccount.info platform. The Cash Accounts platform allows users to tether human-readable names to BCH addresses in order to make payments easier. Now the Chinese BCH light client Ifwallet has become the first public wallet with Cash Accounts sending support.

Also Read: Bitcoin’s Social Contract Must Be Resilient to the Whims of Future Generations

Ifwallet and Cash Accounts

Bitcoin addresses are long strings of numbers and letters, a format that to some users can be nerve-racking and cumbersome. Over the last few months, BCH software programmer Jonathan Silverblood has been working on a project that helps bypass some of the friction associated with BCH addresses. He’s created Cashaccount.info, a platform that allows users to register a one-time human-readable name that is tied to a BCH public address. News.Bitcoin.com tested the application on January 2, the day before the official launch on Bitcoin’s 10th birthday. The platform hashes a name into the BCH blockchain by using an OP return transaction and after the transaction is registered into a block the name will be validated.

Bitcoin Cash-Focused Ifwallet Implements Cash Accounts Name System 
Ifwallet becomes the first public BCH wallet to integrate the Cash Accounts system.

When Silverblood first launched the project he also mentioned that he had been reaching out to wallet developers so they could possibly support Cash Accounts in the future. The Cashaccount.info website shows that the programmer has discussed the idea with Electron Cash, Edge, BRD, Bitcoin.com, Stash, Ledger Wallet and more. On Feb. 14 the Cash Accounts founder explained that the Chinese cryptocurrency light client Ifwallet has added support for the name address system within the sending interface.

“Congratulations to Ifwallet for releasing the first public wallet with Cash Accounts sending support,” Silverblood stated on Thursday.

The developer continued:

When you go to send you can now type in a Cash Accounts name and if they have compatible payment information in them they will show up in a dropdown list.

Bitcoin Cash-Focused Ifwallet Implements Cash Accounts Name System 
The Cashaccount.info OP return transaction process.

Experimenting With Ifwallet and Cash Accounts

Ifwallet is a cryptocurrency wallet with a focus on bitcoin cash and provides users with a secure asset management tool for token support. The mobile wallet is backed by investors such as Coinex and is partnered with projects like Johnwick.io, Viabtc, BCH Club, and Wormhole. Ifwallet also supports the Wormhole project by implementing WHC integration and incorporating the token factory. Recently the Ifwallet project launched the decentralized applications (dapp) store module and deployed a variety of dapps that can be used with the wallet.

Bitcoin Cash-Focused Ifwallet Implements Cash Accounts Name System 

On Feb. 15, news.Bitcoin.com tested the Ifwallet application and the client’s speed was similar to using the Japanese Yenom wallet. The wallet makes you create a six-digit PIN to access the interface but biometric settings like Apple’s Face ID/Touch ID can also be set up. The wallet doesn’t compel you to back up the wallet’s mnemonic phrase immediately and there is a warning message displayed until this part of the process is complete. I sent 0.00041575 BCH – or a nickel – to the Ifwallet, without realizing there was an identical amount of BSV attached to the BCH. The Ifwallet split the transaction into two and my wallet ended up with 0.00041575 BSV as well.

Bitcoin Cash-Focused Ifwallet Implements Cash Accounts Name System 
Sending a nickel’s worth of BCH to “Jamiecrypto#116” using the Ifwallet on iOS. 

After the transaction confirmed, I simply used Silverblood’s directions and sent money to the Cashaccount.info name “Jamiecrypto#116.” The transaction immediately showed a sent transaction to the Cash Accounts name and the process was much simpler than copy and pasting an alphanumeric string to use as an address. Overall the application worked well and if more wallets integrate this feature it would likely make sending and receiving easier for newcomers. However, some people will definitely take issue with reusing addresses and may not find the Cash Accounts payment system compatible with efforts toward financial privacy.

What do you think about Ifwallet implementing Cash Accounts support? Do you think concepts like Cash Accounts is a good idea? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below.

Disclaimer: Readers should do their own due diligence before taking any actions related to the mentioned companies or any of its affiliates or services. Bitcoin.com and the author are not responsible, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any content, goods or services mentioned in this article. Neither Bitcoin.com nor the author is responsible for any losses, mistakes, skipped steps or security measures not taken, as the ultimate decision-making process to do any of these things is solely the reader’s responsibility. This editorial is for informational purposes only.


Image credits: Shutterstock, Ifwallet, Bitcoin.com’s Block Explorer, and Cashaccount.info.


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In the Daily: Coinbase Bug Bounty, Tradingview Crypto Dashboard, Bitfinex App Update

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In this edition of The Daily, cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has paid out a bug bounty of $30,000 for a critical vulnerability. Also, Tradingview has launched a new crypto dashboard allowing traders to track developments in the cryptocurrency markets and digital asset trading platform Bitfinex has released a new version of its mobile app.

Also read: Cointext Expansion, Keycard Wallet, ETF Withdrawal, PUBG Hackers

Coinbase Pays $30,000 Bug Bounty

Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has paid a bug bounty of $30,000 for a critical vulnerability in its systems. The problem has since been fixed, Hard Fork reported, quoting a spokesperson of the leading U.S. digital asset trading platform. The company representative did not provide further details about the vulnerability.

The high amount of the bounty indicates, however, that the flaw was severe, the publication notes. Coinbase currently has a four-tier reward system that takes into account the possible consequences of a bug.

In the Daily: Coinbase Bug Bounty, Tradingview Crypto Dashboard, Bitfinex App Update

The platform is ready to hand out $200 for low, $2,000 for medium, $15,000 for high, and $50,000 for the discovery of a bug with critical impact. The severity is also determined by the exploitability of the vulnerability. The exchange has awarded three more bounties this week for low-impact bugs.

According to the platform’s bounty terms, a vulnerability must allow bad actors to read or modify sensitive data in its systems, execute arbitrary code, or exfiltrate digital or fiat currency in order to qualify for a critical impact bounty. Coinbase assesses the critical exploitability in terms of the ability of attackers to unilaterally exploit the bug.

Tradingview Launches Crypto Dashboard

Tradingview, a leading social network for traders and investors, has launched a service called Crypto Dashboard that provides an overview of the current status and latest developments in the cryptocurrency markets. The feature allows users to join the crypto community and track digital assets and their market caps.

In the Daily: Coinbase Bug Bounty, Tradingview Crypto Dashboard, Bitfinex App Update

Furthermore, the platform has added support for bitcoin core (BTC) payments for its premium plan. The price is fixed at 0.09 BTC which means the lower the BTC price, the higher the discount. The subscription is currently offered at less than half the original price of 0.20 BTC.

“We have locked the Premium plan price at BTC 0.09 to express our support of the crypto community,” Tradingview explains on its website. The 1-year premium plan offers unlimited chart layouts and watchlists, 200 server-side alerts and up to 25 technical indicators on a single chart. Users will be able to connect up to five devices simultaneously.

Bitfinex Updates Mobile App for Crypto Trading

Cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex has launched an improved version of its mobile application that supports cryptocurrency transactions. The digital asset trading platform maintains services for cryptocurrency traders and liquidity providers.

The updated Bitfinex app offers some new useful features. These include exchange and margin trading, margin funding, charts, transfers between wallets, new deposits, last movements of both deposits and withdrawals, notifications on trades execution, and price alerts.

In the Daily: Coinbase Bug Bounty, Tradingview Crypto Dashboard, Bitfinex App Update

The crypto exchange recently announced it now supports margin trading for the USDT/USD pair to improve the stablecoin offering, The Paypers reported. It also plans to introduce margin trading for other major stablecoin pairings when sufficient liquidity is reached.

In December, Ifinex, the Hong Kong-headquartered operator of the two sister exchanges Bitfinex and Ethfinex, revealed it was migrating data to new servers in Switzerland. The company said the change is part of its decision to switch from using AWS cloud services to a self-designed infrastructure suitable for high-volume trading with faster speeds.

What are your thoughts on today’s news tidbits? Tell us in the comments section.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock.


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High Cost Slows Down Bitcoin ATM Growth in Africa

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There are more than 4,000 bitcoin automated teller machines (ATMs) in the world, but only just about 10 (or 0.2 percent) of these are in Africa. In a continent widely touted as the next big growth region for cryptocurrency, could it be that the story of Africa’s growth isn’t as real as many “Africa rising” headlines have suggested?

Also read: Nasdaq Stock Exchange to Start Offering BTC and ETH Indices

Bitcoin ATM Penetration and Use Weak in Africa

It is little surprise that the bulk of bitcoin teller machines in Africa are found in South Africa, the continent’s most sophisticated economy. About five fiat-to-crypto ATMs are dotted around in the cities of Capetown, Johannesburg, Nelspruit and Pretoria. Altogether, the machines can dispense up to one million rand (about $71,000) combined each day, even though identity verification is required for crypto purchases exceeding 5,000 rand ($350).

High Cost Slows Down Bitcoin ATM Growth in Africa

In Uganda, the Kampala Post Office hosts one machine, the country’s only, which is operated by local blockchain company Kipya Bit2big. Another bitcoin ATM can be found in Nairobi, Kenya at the Kenrail Towers, and surprisingly, in impoverished Djibouti at Appart Hôtel Moulk in the capital city.

Operators of the Djibouti machine, Group DOS, are reportedly planning to introduce two more ATMs in the tiny east African country this year, one at an airport and another at a shopping mall. A two-way bitcoin ATM in Zimbabwe owned by Golix has since become a white elephant after the government banned cryptocurrencies through the back door last April.

In total, there is about nine bitcoin teller machines throughout Africa, a continent of 1.2 billion people from 54 countries. Even more surprising though is the absence of bitcoin ATMs in Nigeria, the continent’s biggest economy by GDP and Africa’s largest cryptocurrency market.

Often, the general assumption is that bitcoin ATMs, which are sometimes called BATMs, will help drive crypto adoption. However, given the slow rate of penetration of such equipment on the continent, perhaps the question to ask is whether Africans use the existing machines at all? There is no straight answer to the question, but the general trend indicates some remote use, hindered largely by legacy trust issues with the old, rigged financial order. And how the mobile money revolution has reduced even the most mundane traditional banking services to something of an amusement.

‘Africans Prefer Face-To-Face Interactions’

High Cost Slows Down Bitcoin ATM Growth in Africa

Suleiman Murunga, founder and chief executive officer of Coinpesa, one of Uganda’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, illustrated both the cultural and economic barriers to progress. “Africans prefer face-to-face interactions and that is why mobile money agents are more popular than bank ATMs,” Murunga told news.Bitcoin.com, in an interview.

“Peer-to-peer trades offer more than just access to BTC, they tap into our sense of community and provide a source of information – things that an ATM can’t provide. In addition, bitcoin ATMs are expensive and the volumes currently do not justify the cost,” he added.

Each BATM costs roughly $12,000. Not many exchange operators or businesses in Africa are willing to make such an investment. That’s also partly because the number of people interested in BTC is low, and the learning curve that one would have to go through is long and expensive, according to William Chui, a former executive at Zimbabwe’s struggling digital asset exchange Golix. He said:

People in Africa, who’ve become accustomed to using mobile money and the convenience that it brings, see an ATM in a physical location as a nuisance, as it overrides the convenience that mobile money brings to the table.

Investment Slows Down as Crypto Bear Market Bites

For African economies looking for something to cheer them up, the current crypto bear market will have the opposite effect. Companies and investors alike are cutting back on their exposure to cryptocurrencies. There’s already the uncertainty of regulation in most African countries that’s got everyone on tenterhooks.

High Cost Slows Down Bitcoin ATM Growth in Africa

In Nairobi, our contact indicated that a few people still patronize the Kenrail Towers BATM, which uses rates from three different crypto exchange websites. But high transaction fees, sometimes of as high as 8 to 14 percent in parts of Africa, have also been a major drawback to the growth of the bitcoin teller machine on the continent.

Even then, Chui remains cautiously optimistic. “The bitcoin ATM makes it easier for people to access and builds trust somewhat, with the buyer knowing a physical location where they can get or sell their BTC. On its own, however, the ATM won’t educate the market, because they’re limited in number and would need to be in very strategic points in order to be noticed.”

In the same way that consumers insert a card into a traditional ATM, the bitcoin cash machine allows users to insert fiat money, which is converted to the volume of BTC that they want to buy. The machine then sends the bitcoin straight to the customer’s wallet. The bitcoin ATM is currently operational in about 80 countries all around the world. With more than 2,600 machines, the U.S. hosts the greatest number of such machines followed by Canada, Austria and the U.K.

What do you think about bitcoin ATMs’ use in Africa? Let us know in the comments section below.


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Indian Blockchain Summit Draws Policy Makers to Speed up Crypto Regulation

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An Indian government-supported blockchain summit is drawing many policy makers with the aim to speed up the development of cryptocurrency regulation in the country. Among expected participants are officials from the Indian Ministry of Finance and the panel currently tasked with drafting the regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies.

Also read: Indian Supreme Court Moves Crypto Hearing, Community Calls for Positive Regulations

Fostering Crypto Ecosystem

Blockchain Summit India 2019 is supported by the Indian government’s Department of Science and Technology and the State Government of Uttar Pradesh. Taking place on Feb. 22 and 23, the event aims to accelerate blockchain and cryptocurrency policy formation for India. According to its website:

The summit is targeted towards enabling Indian government and ministries to speed up the process of developing a flourished blockchain and cryptocurrency ecosystem.

Indian Blockchain Summit Draws Policy Makers to Speed Up Cryptocurrency Regulation

Janina Lowisz, Marketing VP at Cashaa, the event’s fintech partner, told news.Bitcoin.com that “for the first time, the ministers from all relevant departments have come together with experts from the space as well as from leading universities and global brands to learn about and speed up the process of regulating cryptocurrency.”

In addition to the Department of Science and Technology and the State Government of Uttar Pradesh, other government participants include the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Ministry of Law and Justice, the Ministry of Human Resources Development, and the Department of Information Technology.

Ministry of Finance and Crypto Regulation

The regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies in India is currently being drafted by a committee headed by Subhash Chandra Garg, Secretary of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Finance.

Lowisz confirmed to news.Bitcoin.com that “Ministry of Finance officials will be there [at the summit].” She also confirmed that “An invitation has been sent to Mr. Garg.” While noting that he himself is out of the country, she emphasized that “his team will be there to take the notes on Day 2.”

Indian Blockchain Summit Draws Policy Makers to Speed Up Cryptocurrency Regulation

The report containing recommendations for cryptocurrency regulation in India is reportedly in its final stage. However, there have been conflicting reports of what the recommendations entail. One source suggests a ban on cryptocurrencies while another discusses legalization with strong riders.

The Ministry of Finance has also told Lok Sabha that it “is pursuing the matter with due caution,” noting that “It is difficult to state a specific timeline to come up with clear recommendations.” In January, the ministry invited reputed law firm Nishith Desai Associates to present its proposals for the crypto regulation. Meanwhile, the banking ban imposed by the country’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), is still in effect. The supreme court is set to hear the petitions against this ban at the end of this month.

What crypto regulatory framework do you think India will come up with? Let us know in the comments section below.


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Russia’s Minister of Justice: Cryptocurrencies Don’t Need to Be Legally Defined Yet

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Russia’s stance on cryptocurrency remains unclear after the Minister of Justice this week announced that there is still no need to formalize crypto-related legislation. This is because digital assets cannot be used as a means of payment, it asserts, because the constitution forbids it. 

Also Read: Over 50 Bitcoin ATMs Operate Legally in Russia, Study Finds 

‘Categorically Prohibited’

Alexander Konovalov, Russia’s Minister of Justice, said on Feb. 13, during the government hour in the Federation Council, that clear legislation on cryptocurrencies would not be formalized anytime soon according to news agency Tass. Mr Konovalov said both the constitution and the current financial system’s legislation “categorically prohibits the use of the cryptocurrency as a means of payment.” He went on to cite Article 75 of the Russian Constitution which states the Russian ruble is the sole currency and that only the Central Bank of the Russian Federation can issue it. The introduction and issuance of other currencies in the Russian Federation is therefore prohibited.

Russia’s Minister of Justice: Cryptocurrencies don’t need to be legally defined

According to the report by Tass, Mr Konovalov went on to say that cryptocurrency can be considered “other property” in terms of legislation. But he added that it still isn’t necessary to define the concept of cryptocurrency more clearly. Cryptocurrency’s legal status in Russia has been unclear for some time now. Just last month, a draft law was put forward by the Ministry of Economic Development to allow certain entities from the IT sector and the blockchain industry to utilize digital assets in their financial transactions, giving hope to some businesses.

Never-Ending Gray Area

The Minister of Justice’s position does nothing to clarify Russia’s already ambiguous stance on cryptocurrencies. The country has frequently been unclear on where it stands with Bitcoin and crypto. Last year, the lower house of Russia’s parliament ended up postponing the second reading of a long-awaited bill intended to regulate cryptocurrencies in the country. Russia’s Central Bank and the Ministry of Economic Development have clashed over how much to regulate the new technology.

Russia’s Minister of Justice: Cryptocurrencies Don’t Need to Be Legally Defined Yet

Last month, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev expressed an interest in digital assets when he said during a high-level economic conference that there is no reason to “bury them” and that they have both “bright and dark sides.” At the same time, at least 51 bitcoin ATMs are operating in Russia, despite legislation not yet determining the legal status of cryptocurrencies. A recent poll showed that the use of cryptocurrencies to buy goods on the internet is increasing in popularity in the country.

What is evident is that so far the Russian Federation’s authorities have yet to make up their minds on what to do with cryptocurrencies, leaving them languishing in a gray area.

What do you think of Russia’s stance on cryptocurrencies? Share your thoughts on the subject in the comments section below.


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