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Facebook Reportedly Considers Own Crypto, but First Blockchain

According to online media company Cheddar, an anonymous source has reported that social media juggernaut Facebook is considering creating its own cryptocurrency in order to simplify online payments.

This consideration, apparently with little regard to its recent banning of cryptocurrency advertising, is surprising given that insiders have claimed that the company has no plans to hold an initial coin offering (ICO) and will almost certainly not launch any cryptocurrency in the coming year.

What is more likely though, given that large companies are adopting blockchain technology in increasing numbers, is that Facebook takes this direction long before it considers its own cryptocurrency.

Early Bitcoin investor, Messenger’s David Marcus, who has overseen Facebook development since 2014, in a shakeup at Facebook HQ, now heads up group tasked with exploring blockchain technology on behalf of the company. It was reported that an internal post this week announced the company’s blockchain initiative to employees, although it was non-specific.

When questioned, Marcus, who has now joined the board at giant crypto exchange Coinbase, refuted any immediate plans to integrate cryptocurrency into the FB machinery, commenting:

“Payments using crypto right now is just very expensive, super slow, so the various communities running the different blockchains and the different assets need to fix all the issues, and then when we get there someday, maybe we’ll do something.”

Bridget van Kralingen, IBM’s senior vice president of global industries, platforms and blockchain, suggests: “It’s a technology that fits very well with some of the business model challenges that they’re actually facing, and I think they’re very right to take this very seriously.”

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg last week ordered major administrative changes to the social network, giving more responsibility to his chief product officer and launching the blockchain division.

 

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Santander’s Application Takes Blockchain Mainstream

Santander has claimed that its upcoming blockchain phone app One Pay FX can speed up international payments between multiple countries, in a process that will require “3 clicks and 40 seconds” to complete.

It is set to be initially available in the UK, Brazil, Poland, and Spain with plans to expand to more countries in the near future.

Santander’s blockchain application development

One of the world’s largest banks, Santander’s UK business sector and San Fransisco-based Ripple have been developing the international payment app since 2016. Back in January, the company released a presentation with details of a phone app and the use of blockchain and distributed ledger technology.

Ripple, a cryptocurrency built for enterprise and banking, aims to provide fast global payments, low transaction fees and other beneficial factors like blockchain security. It also looks to implement more bespoke functionality for the industry, which isn’t necessarily required by other coins.

xCurrent is the financial institution software solution currently provided by Ripple, offering end-to-end tracking and bi-directional messaging. Ripple claims many other features and qualities such as scalability which make it well suited for the banking industry.

Santander's Blockchain phone App
Credit: Santander Presentation – www.santander.com/csgs/Satellite/CFWCSancomQP01/en_GB/pdf/Earnings_Presentation_ENGLISH_4T17.pdf

Future banking built on blockchain

Although Santander is at the forefront of the technology, plenty of others are already working towards similar solutions using blockchain. With PKO Polski recently creating a partnership with Coinfirm and Toronto-Dominion (TD) bank applying for blockchain patents, there is a growing transition of organizations moving towards crypto-space.

A consortium in Japan is currently looking to bring in some 60 banks which are responsible for the majority of the countries financial assets (80%) to the blockchain age using Ripple’s technology.

Current bank transfers take two to four days to clear due to checks for fraudulent behavior, but blockchain looks to speed up the process while maintaining security. The use of blockchain also presents the opportunity to implement artificial intelligence which can now work with encrypted data as well as monitor and analyze transaction patterns.

 

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Indian Teenager Finds Californian Buyer for Crypto App

Indian teenager Hashita Arora, just 16 years of age, has received an offer from a Californian blockchain investment firm for her home-developed tracking app.

Hashita has gained worldwide attention as a result of her success with the app, one of many young people making an impact around the globe within the crypto community. Despite her meagre years, she has attracted the attention of Californian-based blockchain investment firm Redwood City Ventures.

The app is a popular iOS application used to track crypto prices. It helps retail investors to monitor prices of more than 1,000 cryptocurrencies across about 20 exchanges and in 32 fiat currencies, in ten languages. Launched in late January in Hashita’s hometown north of New Dehli, the application soared to the top of the app store charts in 24 hours.

Hashita received racist hate mail and misogynistic attacks online from people doubting the origins of the new app and casting doubts on her ability to invent the technology. The young Indian national originally studied in the US at an MIT summer programme and is currently applying for work in the country through a program currently offering visas to foreigners with exceptional abilities. Talking about her earlier experiences online, she commented, “I learned that the online world can be cruel. But I feel I have an entrepreneurial spirit and I love startup culture.”

She said that she was delighted to be a part of the Redwood City Ventures team and looks for support in the development of other ideas and products.

Home-educated Hashita had been learning about coding and digital design since the age of 13. She went on to learn about cryptocurrencies in a tech magazine and quickly became passionate about the subject, realizing an opportunity existed to use her skills to develop a help app.

It was Redwood City Ventures founder, Sean Walsh, who eventually discovered Harshita after posting a cryptocurrency app advertisement on LinkedIn. On meeting Harshita, Walsh was impressed with her maturity and intelligence, realizing she had designed an app that would be both useful and could be marketed at a good price.

The young Indian’s next venture is to plan is to use the money earned from her app to improve her education. She then plans to move to Silicon Valley.

 

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Iranian Government Debate Banning Telegram App Over Recent ICO

Prominent figures in the Iranian government are set to debate the possible ban on popular messaging app Telegram, under the pretext that the recent initial coin offering (ICO) from the company threatens the national currency.

Telegram in Iran

Telegram recently held a record-breaking ICO, so far raising USD 1.7 billion that will be invested into developing a decentralized blockchain digital communication platform powered by their new native token, Gram.

Iran is a popular location for Telegram users. The government has condemned the app as posing a national security threat, however, saying it played a large part in organizing the political protest in the country in December 2017.

Secretary of the High Council for Cybersecurity of Iran, Hassan Firouzabadi, has supported a ban of Telegram, noting what he perceives as the danger of widespread cryptocurrency adoption in the country.

US news outlet A-Monitor reported  Firouzabadi as calling Telegram an ”enemy of the private sector”, claiming that the company refused to have an office in Iran, or cooperate with the country’s private sector. He continued by stating ”Telegram will undermine the national currency of Iran”.

The argument of government officials opposing the introduction of the Gram currency is reportedly their concern that the virtual currency has a lifetime of just ten years. In this time, they predict USD 50 billion would be withdrawn from the country, leading to what they believe will be mass protests when the currency declines.

As well as this, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has called for an investment into cheaply-priced Iranian messaging applications. Speaking to a local news outlet, Rouhani emphasized ”creating and enhancing Iranian software and messaging apps” while preventing Telegram from becoming a messaging app monopoly.

February saw the Central Bank of Iran retract its previous more crypto-friendly stance, now looking to control and prevent cryptocurrency adoption in the country.

The Iranian government has given a number of reasons for banning Telegram in Iran, although critics believe the primary reason they want the ban is to prevent more political protests erupting easily as in December 2017.

 

 

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Snowden Leaks Indicate NSA Spies on Blockchain

Leaked documents point towards a controversial move by the American NSA (National Security Agency) in monitoring blockchain activity, hinting at the importance placed by the government there on Bitcoin and other blockchain assets.

Snowden leaks have shown the blockchain community that surveillance remains at the top of US agenda. It hardly comes as a surprise to most, understanding that governments do and will always have a vested interest in monetary transactions and where that money ends up.

NSA Playbook

Using a protocol called “MonkeyRocket”  NSA analysts were able to find a vulnerability which enabled them to track down senders and receivers of Bitcoin. This all to aid their mission of looking at organized crime and cyber targets that utilize online e-currency services for illicit activities, despite Bitcoin providing users access to a certain degree of anonymity.

The Snowden leaks indicated that examining public transaction ledger (Blockchain) was just the tip of the iceberg, with the NSA obtaining and storing sensitive data, such as the users MAC addresses, users passwords, network ports, and timestamps.

The documents suggest that Bitcoin users were being targeted for mass surveillance, giving weight to the claim that the NSA was not just using their MonkeyRocket, but using the infamous XKeyScore system. The XKeyScore system is one of the most intrusive methods on the planet and covers the entire globe with the widest of reaches. NSA analysts require no prior authorization for the collection of online data.

Snowden stated in the Guardian:“I, sitting at my desk, could wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email… Analysts can also use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing “real-time” interception of an individual’s internet activity.”

The NSA is adamant on suppressing Bitcoin users, as part of a counter-terrorism advance, monitoring their transactions, while subverting their privacy. The source of Bitcoin and Liberty Reserve monitoring, MonkeyRocket, has been governed by overseas surveillance authority known as “EXECUTIVE ORDER 12333”. The order was signed on 4 December 1981 by then-president Ronald Reagan; it was intended to extend powers and responsibilities of US intelligence agencies and direct leaders of the US and federal agencies to cooperate fully with CIA requests for information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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G20 Summit: No Global Regulation in Sight As Buenos Aires Bullish on Bitcoin

The G20 summit is well underway in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with financial leaders seemingly staying their hand on specific regulatory actions and a healthy rebound in the crypto market indicating that traders are viewing this development positively.

Financial leaders from across the world have yet to come to agreement on whether or not policies are the right thing to impose on the market right now. The G20 leaders have stated that cryptocurrency is not likely to see any global regulations any time soon.

The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney made comments on the eve of the summit, stating that cryptocurrencies were not a pressing issue. Carney, who also holds the position as chairman of the Financial Stability Board (FSB), drew light on the fact that virtual assets counted for less than 1% of the global economic output at the late-2017 all-time highs.

Carney stated:

“As its work to fix the fault lines that caused the financial crisis draws to a close, the FSB is increasingly pivoting away from the design of new policy initiatives towards dynamic implementation and rigorous evaluation of the effects of the agreed G20 reforms.”

Carney also put forward the idea that, instead of regulations on cryptocurrencies, the financial system should adapt and adopt. He suggested a mutual understanding between financial leaders to prevent illicit behavior throughout the market, reducing the risk for investors, traders and big business conglomerates:

“Crypto-assets raise a host of issues around consumer and investor protection.”

Brazil not so confident

Following a recent publication in the Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, Brazillian Central Bank President Ilan Goldfajn commented that this is a crucial time for blockchain technologies, where cryptocurrencies are still highly volatile and need to be a safe and legitimate store of value.

Goldfajn went on to say that he thought of cryptocurrencies as a store value, a crypto-asset rather than a modern-day currency: “ I don’t refer to them as money because money has to have stability in its value and be able to facilitate payments.

He did go on to state that Brazil and fellow countries were for blockchain technology adoption, but wanted to see it regulated and made secure, reiterating warnings that the technology could be used for disastrous misconduct worldwide.

Market rebound

After these announcements, the market responded accordingly

Ethereum gained a little traction, its price rising over USD 60 in under one hour. Bullish Bitcoin saw an equal spike, with its current price rising over USD 800 in the same hour, a 25% increase from its latest fall. Bitcoin looks to be breaking away from the current bear market and is likely to soon test the USD 9,000 target.

As Bitcoin trading volume has stayed at the monthly medium of around USD 6 billion, concerns remain, but any rise in trading volume will mean that Bitcoin is backed by strong hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blockchain technologies fueling video games and consoles that can create profit for players

PlayTable from Blok.Party is the world’s first Blockchain gaming console that looks close to an all-in-one tabletop gaming console with the capacity to play a diverse array of video games on its system.

It’s an Android touchscreen console, powered by the Ethereum blockchain and utilizes the toys-to-life genre to significant effect.

Toys-to-life is a genre where players use real-life figurines to do battle (see Skylanders or Disney Infinity). PlayTable combines this with traditional tabletop games such as Magic the Gathering to create an interactive gaming system that boasts the potential to have profitable returns for the player.

The radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags on the bottom of the figurines have unique identifiers which are tracked via the Blockchain.

Using the transparent public ledger, a digital collectable can be tracked across different platforms and will not require a third-party server to authenticate the ownership. Players could quite easily create a new chip, invalidate the old one and ship it worldwide;  in effect, players can now buy and sell high-level or valuable RFID-equipped figurines.

Another exciting application of the Ethereum blockchain is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) called Ethercraft. It’s a game in which players make their way through dungeons, slaying enemies, gathering loot and crafting items.

The twist is that players can trade items with other users or sell them for real-world Ethereum (ETH). Interestingly the in-game gold currency is an ERC20 token itself (XGP), its value is tied to that of ETH and can be earnt completing challenges and in-game objectives; XGP can be exchanged for ETH at any time using the Ethercraft Smart Contract, which is a pretty nifty feature.

Monetizing the Video Game experience has primarily been a benefit passed to developers and publishers; the industry is raking in staggering market revenue figures across all available platforms, but it seems that gamers are spending more money than ever on games and aren’t quite getting much in return.

Players on PC and Mobile platforms are spending heavily on in-game content that come in either physical and digital forms. Whether you’re playing a game you’ve already paid for, or one that is Free-To-Play, you can now purchase weapons, character skins, in-game currency, perishable items and so on.

Blockchain technologies are perhaps going to bring an end to the money vacuum that modern players are being suckered into. Unique resilient economies within a platform or a game could generate new creative innovations that further the rewards the players and enhances the gaming experience beyond that of just financial gains, but create a new sense of consumer ownership over their products, be they physical or digital.

 

 

 

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