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Popular Smartphone Apps Are Adding Crypto Capabilities

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News of Japan messaging giant Line’s September 17 launch of an app-connected crypto exchange is captivating lots of attention in the crypto and tech industries this week. Other initially non-crypto apps are also entering the market, adding native tokens, tipping functions and cryptocurrency wallets, illustrating a growing trend toward mainstream crypto acceptance and awareness.

Also Read: Taxation Isn’t Just Theft – It’s Bad for Crypto Adoption

Naver’s Line Launches Built-In Crypto Exchange

For almost anyone living in Japan, or Asia in general, popular messaging app Line is a household name. Line was launched in Japan in 2011 by Korean search engine company Naver Corporation, in the wake of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The tech was a byproduct of improvised communications during telecommunications infrastructure damage resulting from the disaster.

Popular Smartphone Apps Are Adding Crypto Capabilities
The Bitmap exchange can be accessed directly through the Line app.

Line’s freeware app began as a rather simple service, but exploded in popularity soon after, evolving from a simple SMS for sending cute stickers and chatting, to a digital wallet, video on-demand, digital comics and games juggernaut in the Asian market and beyond. Just this month, the expansive trend has taken new ground with the launch of Bitmax, an app-connected cryptocurrency exchange featuring five digital assets: BCH, BTC, ETH, XRP, and LTC. Line is also in development of its own native crypto token, called Link (LN), currently exchangeable for Line points. According to the Link website:

LINE Token Economy is centered around a single token, our general-purpose coin LINK … A single-token economy can make the overall ecosystem more dynamic and stable, and because dApps contribute to the economy, they can grow with it.

Telegram Is Getting Tokenized

Though still cloaked in relative mystery, chat app Telegram’s upcoming Ton network (Telegram Open Network) and native token gram are nevertheless causing a buzz in the cryptosphere. The source code has already been released and testing of the network began in April. Slated for an October 31 launch, the 200 million+ monthly active users of the platform are looking forward to seeing the company put the $1.7 billion it raised via a 2018 token sale to full use. The network is set to operate utilizing a proof of stake (PoS) system, and with the rising popularity of the app in private communications and business applications / team-building functions as well, big waves will likely be made should Telegram deliver.

Tipping bots for BCH and SLP tokens have been added to Telegram as well, making the platform that much more compatible with crypto culture.

Popular Smartphone Apps Are Adding Crypto Capabilities

Rakuten Wallet

As news.Bitcoin.com reported last month, the “Amazon of Japan,” Rakuten, has now launched its own crypto wallet, featuring BTC, ETH and BCH. Like Line, the company is providing a fiat on-ramp with promise of exposing legions of neophytes to the world of cryptocurrency and crypto spot trading. Though Rakuten has many apps, the addition of Rakuten Wallet is indeed unprecedented thanks to its connection to the popular Rakuten Bank app. In an August 19 press release, the company describes how it works: “In order to provide customers with safe and secure crypto asset transaction services, Rakuten Wallet separates money deposited by customers (customer assets) from the company’s own funds, managing the assets (trust maintenance) in trust accounts provided by Rakuten Trust Co., Ltd., the trust company of Rakuten Group. Rakuten Trust manages those trust assets through Rakuten Bank, Ltd. savings accounts.”

Popular Smartphone Apps Are Adding Crypto Capabilities

Cash App

A popular U.S. app to “go crypto” in recent years is Cash App. The mobile payments service originally launched as Square Cash in 2015, and added bitcoin functionality in January 2018. July was a record-breaking month for the app, with a reported 2.4 million downloads. Talk was rampant of the Square service eclipsing competitors like Paypal’s Venmo, and many speculate that the addition of BTC functionalities and growing crypto-interested user base had something to do with this.

Square was founded in part by CEO of Twitter and BTC maximalist Jack Dorsey, so it’s not surprising the app doesn’t support other tokens. With the current atmosphere of increasing adoption, however, the calloused maximalism may come back to bite, should Square turn a blind eye to increasing user adoption of coins like bitcoin cash, and major players in the crypto altcoin world.

Facebook’s Libra as Mainstream Coup de Gras

For those that can remember the antiquated days when Facebook was only available to college students, and there were no moms, dads, or aunt Sallys on there sharing pictures of birthday cakes, the thought of a mobile app (not even a common concept at that time) dominating the world and featuring a cryptocurrency (bitcoin didn’t even exist yet) would have been somewhat mind-boggling. Fast forward to 2019, and the world’s most downloaded app and most popular social media network is now pushing to bring a new crypto payments system to fruition, called Libra.

Popular Smartphone Apps Are Adding Crypto Capabilities

With significant opposition from governments like the U.S., France and Germany, the Switzerland-based initiative to enable a “more inclusive global financial system” is struggling to gain regulatory approval. Normally such potential legal embattlement would signal the end of a project before it begins, but with Facebook’s roughly 2.4 billion monthly active users, and a mega battery of state-entrenched corporate power in the Libra Association, regulators and lawmakers are being careful not to shoot themselves in the foot too fast. As the Libra currency would not be a true crypto in the sense of bitcoin, being completely centralized, and thanks to the fact that project leaders have already expressed interest bending over backwards for regulators, some speculate the current “battles” are little more than show for the media. Whatever the case, the apple cart of global finance could definitely be upset.

Crypto adoption has extended now even to the world of the mainstream app, so it’s not reckless to wager the trend will grow like wildfire in today’s attention economy. After all, folks are with their smartphones 24/7, and electronic payment systems have become an everyday reality. For those looking to maintain the original vision of peer-to-peer, permissionless and private cash, however, these apps will likely be utilized in combination with more private platforms, which afford users financial autonomy in transaction. The Twitters, Facebooks and Rakutens of the world are by nature more interested in collecting user data than they are in privacy, so this stands to reason. Still, the convenience is alluring, and the apps-gone-crypto narrative seems charged and set to expand into the future of crypto adoption.

What are your thoughts on established apps adding crypto functionality? Let us know in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, fair use.


Did you know you can buy and sell BCH privately using our noncustodial, peer-to-peer Local Bitcoin Cash trading platform? The Local.Bitcoin.com marketplace has thousands of participants from all around the world trading BCH right now. And if you need a bitcoin wallet to securely store your coins, you can download one from us here.

The post Popular Smartphone Apps Are Adding Crypto Capabilities appeared first on Bitcoin News.

European Countries Step Up Response to Facebook’s Libra

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The European Central Bank (ECB) and a number of countries in the region have stepped up their efforts in response to Facebook’s Libra, which has revived a competing ECB project for instant payments. As Facebook engages Switzerland’s financial regulator, the ECB clarifies how Libra can be regulated under EU laws.

Also read: India’s Popular ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’ Show Gives Crypto a Boost

A Wake-Up Call and ECB’s Project Revived

Facebook’s proposed Libra digital currency has given governments worldwide a run for their money. European Central Bank board member Benoit Coeure calls Libra “a wake-up call,” after discussing it at last week’s meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Helsinki. Amid concerns over a sovereign threat, 26 regulators worldwide, including the Bank of England and the U.S. Federal Reserve, reportedly met with representatives of Libra in Basel on Monday to discuss the scope and design of Libra.

European Countries Step Up Their Responses to Facebook's Libra

Coeure told the press Friday that Libra had revived efforts of an ECB-backed project for real-time payments in the eurozone, the Target Instant Payment Settlement (TIPS). The project could allow consumers to use electronic cash, directly deposited at the ECB without the need for bank accounts, financial intermediaries or clearing counterparties. Just like with Facebook’s plans, financial intermediaries will be unnecessary in this new ECB system. “TIPS offers final and irrevocable settlement of instant payments in euro, at any time of day and on any day of the year,” the ECB described.

The project was launched last year and could last months or even years, Coeure revealed, adding that the technical feasibility remains to be seen and opposition from banks is likely. In addition, “We also need to step up our thinking on a central bank digital currency,” he suggested. France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said last week that the European Union should create a common set of rules for cryptocurrencies to counter the risks posed by Libra.

Strong Opposition by France and Germany

France and Germany have reportedly agreed to block Libra due to the risks the digital currency could pose to their financial sectors, the French finance ministry said. The two countries jointly issued a statement Friday, stating:

France and Germany consider that the Libra project, as set out in Facebook’s blueprint, fails to convince that those risks will be properly addressed … We believe that no private entity can claim monetary power, which is inherent to the sovereignty of nations.

European Countries Step Up Their Responses to Facebook's Libra

Le Maire believes that Libra should not be allowed to operate in Europe while concerns persist about sovereignty and persistent financial risks. “We encourage European central banks to accelerate work on issues around possible public digital currency solutions,” he added in the joint statement with Germany’s Finance Minister Olaf Scholz. The two countries further called on banks to work on improving European payment systems at the European level.

Swiss License for Libra, New Stablecoin Guidance

Meanwhile, the Libra Association has engaged the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Finma). The regulator has confirmed that the association has requested an assessment of how Finma would classify its planned Libra project including the issuance of a stablecoin under Swiss supervisory law.

Finma revealed that, based on information provided so far, such a project would fall under financial market infrastructure regulation and would require its payment system license, under the Financial Market Infrastructure Act (FMIA). The requirements under the Principles for Financial Market Infrastructures would also apply to the management of cyber risks. Swiss payment systems are subject to the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

European Countries Step Up Their Responses to Facebook's Libra

Moreover, the FMIA sets out additional requirements for services that increase the risks of a payment system. “Due to the issuance of Libra payment tokens, the services planned by the Libra project would clearly go beyond those of a pure payment system and therefore be subject to such additional requirements,” the regulator clarified, adding:

A necessary condition for being granted a licence as a payment system would be that the returns and risks associated with the management of the reserve were borne entirely by the Libra Association and not – as in the case of a fund provider – by the ‘stablecoin’ holders.

In addition, Finma has updated its stablecoin guidance, which supplements its existing guidelines for initial coin offerings (ICOs). The regulator has acknowledged the rising number of stablecoin projects since mid-2018.

Finma detailed that the requirements for stablecoins may differ based on which assets they are backed by — such as currencies, commodities, real estate or securities — and the legal rights of its holders. “Money laundering, securities trading, banking, fund management and financial infrastructure regulation can all be of relevance,” Finma elaborated.

ECB Clarifies Libra’s Regulatory Challenges

European Central Bank executive board member Yves Mersch outlined the ECB’s approach to regulating Libra earlier this month. He described some “extremely concerning” differences between Libra and other cryptocurrencies. Firstly, he explained that “Libra’s ecosystem is not only complex, it is actually cartel-like,” citing several key areas that the Libra Association will have control over the coin’s functionalities. Unlike the decentralized and disintermediary nature of cryptocurrencies, he said that “similarly to public money Libra will actually be highly centralized, with Facebook and its partners acting as quasi-sovereign issuers of currency.”

European Countries Step Up Their Responses to Facebook's Libra
Yves Mersch

Mersch raised several concerns regarding Libra such as its lack of a global lender of last resort and the limited liability of the Libra Association members. It is also devoid of the equivalent of a deposit guarantee scheme to protect its holders’ interests during a crisis, the executive detailed. He further pointed out that “the fact that Libra is backed by a basket of sovereign currency-denominated assets appears to defeat the very purpose of its issuance as a private currency.” Mersch then proceeded to outline some legal and regulatory challenges of Libra:

The first challenge concerns Libra’s fundamental legal nature. The choice is, essentially, whether to treat Libra as e-money, as a financial instrument or as a virtual currency.

In his view, Libra does not appear to qualify as e-money, as it does not embody a claim of its holders against the Libra Association. The second option is to treat it as a transferable security or a different type of financial instrument, which means that both the Libra Association and any entities providing investment services through Libra coins would fall within the remit of the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive. Lastly, if it were to qualify as a virtual currency then both Calibra and its authorized resellers would become subject to the obligations and registration requirements under the Anti-Money Laundering Directive.

European Countries Step Up Their Responses to Facebook's Libra

Another challenge is to ensure that the relevant EU and member state regulatory and supervisory authorities can assert jurisdiction over Libra and its network, Mersch conveyed, adding that there is also the need for cross-border cooperation and coordination. “Because Libra will be used across borders, it is a matter of international interest.” He elaborated:

Its global nature would also call for a global regulatory and supervisory response to avoid regulatory arbitrage, ensure consistency of outcomes and guarantee the efficiency of public policy responses to Libra.

Mersch pointed out the joint efforts by the global community to mitigate risks associated with Libra, including efforts by the G7 countries, the G20 countries, and the Financial Stability Board (FSB). In its recently published report on how Libra could disrupt the financial system, the European Parliament wrote that “an international agreement is needed on harmonizing existing rules for crypto tokens.” The legislative body of the European Union believes that “Co-regulatory oversight of the Libra operation scheme by both state-operators and stakeholders would be needed to prevent money laundering, illicit transactions and consumer fraud.”

What do you think of how the ECB and European countries are responding to Facebook’s Libra? Let us know in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock.


Did you know you can buy and sell BCH privately using our noncustodial, peer-to-peer Local Bitcoin Cash trading platform? The Local.Bitcoin.com marketplace has thousands of participants from all around the world trading BCH right now. And if you need a bitcoin wallet to securely store your coins, you can download one from us here.

The post European Countries Step Up Response to Facebook’s Libra appeared first on Bitcoin News.