Facebook interested in cryptocurrency

facebook-gives-businesses-free-access

If you think about it, the news that Mark Zuckerburg is looking at cryptocurrency with a view to decentralising Facebook should come as no surprise. In fact, he seems to have been rather slow at getting ahead of the blockchain curve, but he may have been taking a ‘wait and see’ approach up until the end of 2017. By that time, he really couldn’t escape the growing momentum around the blockchain in the mainstream media, of which Facebook is now a part. And, with such a massive global network that is also one of the prime platforms for ICO announcements, there is something of the ‘no brainer’ about Zuckerburg’s announcement.

He said on 4th January 2018 that he “plans to study cryptocurrencies and other decentralizing technologies as part of a larger bid to improve the social networking service he co-founded.” In fact, he called it a “personal challenge” to understand all aspects of cryptocurrency and encryption. He also, rather ambitiously, plans to “fix important issues” in the media, technology and government, and is bringing together a group of experts to help him.

Naturally, the moment his announcement about his interest in cryptocurrencies and decentralisation, there was a buzz in the blockchain community that spread faster than wildfire, such is the impact of the social media mogul. He also said that cryptocurrencies were one of the most interesting questions in technology today and appeared to lament the fact that many had lost faith in “technology as a decentralising force.”

He added: “There are important counter-trends to this – like encryption and cryptocurrency – that take power from centralized systems and put it back into people’s hands…I’m interested to go deeper and study the positive and negative aspects of these technologies, and how best to use them in our services.”

It will be interesting to see how long it is before he makes some further announcements about the blockchain. He can call on the best advisors anywhere in the world, and it seems unimaginable that he will ponder on it for any great length of time before taking some kind of action. He will surely want to leverage some ‘first mover’ advantage for his social media empire. And, as we have seen before; where Zuckerburg goes, plenty will follow.

 

 

Challenge to Ethereum smart contracts

It had to happen sooner or later; a new programming language for smart contracts has emerged to challenge Ethereum’s dominance in the market.

Ethereum-city

Ivy, the smart contract programming language developed by CHAIN, which is a blockchain development platform, will write smart contracts for Bitcoin’s blockchain. This might cause some upset for Ethereum, which is the platform everyone associates with smart contracts and the main system for ICOs, where it has something of a market monopoly.

CHAIN announced Ivy this week and explained that it has always been possible to write smart contracts on the Bitcoin blockchain, but that up until the arricval of Ivy, the Bitcoin Script was low level and had limited functionality. In its announcement, CHAIN said: “Bitcoin script development is considered somewhat esoteric,” and whilst some wallets, exchanges and payment platforms have used it successfully, it just wasn’t fit for purpose when it came to smart contracts.

Ivy by contrast is a much higher level language that make sit easier to write contracts for the Bitcoin network. CHAIN described it thus: “Ivy helps you write custom, SegWit-compatible Bitcoin addresses that enforce arbitrary combinations of conditions supported by the Bitcoin protocol including signature checks, hash commitments and timelocks.”

However, even Bitcoin developers are not convinced that this presents a threat to Ethereum. Jimmy Song told Cointelegraph: “Ivy makes SCRIPT easier to handle. It doesn’t change Bitcoin fundamentally, just makes coding it easier. ETH is Turing complete, which BTC cannot have without some sort of soft fork at a minimum. I don’t see the “smart contracting” ability of ETH as a “feature”, but more as a vulnerability. The attack surface on the ETH smart contracting platform is much greater. The fundamentals haven’t changed, this is more like a nice tool for developers.”

This is an interesting perspective, because it suggests that the Bitcoin blockchain still has a long way to go to catch up with Ethereum, However, there are those who are feeling more positive about Ivy, such as Matej Michalko, the CEO of Decent commented in Cointelegraph: “Ivy is an excellent example of the multifaceted development of blockchain products. Cross chain referencing is proliferating and it is on its way to dominate the ecosystem. Bitcoin can now be on par with Ethereum as a great smart contracts prototyping tool for a full range of Blockchain applications. Both platforms, however, remain fundamentally different in their architectures and market adoption. It remains to be seen what blockchain use cases and platforms are going to be adopted by masses. Scalability will be one of the decisive factors. 2018 is going to be a Blockchain year.”

Who will win the battle of the smart contracts? We will have to wait and see.

Gibraltar GSX is excited about Crypto

One of the prominent guests at BlockShow Asia 2017 was Nick Cowan, the managing director and founder of GSX, Gibraltar’s first regulated stock exchange. Cowan is an fervent supporter of the Fintech market so I was interested to discover what he said in the numerous interviews he gave following the show about his personal position and what this might mean for a financial centre like Gibraltar.

gibraltar

It is important to note that Cowan loves networking the crypto communities and admires their dynamism. As far as he can see there are two very important dynamics operating in the crypto market at the moment: the first is distributed ledger usage and the ways in which blockchain platforms can transform a range of businesses and second, the trade in cryptocurrencies. He told Cointelegraph that during one trip to one Asian country, he met about 500 people with an average age of 60 who were all cryptocurrency traders. Considering the perception is that the cryptocurrency market targets those in the 25-45 age range, it would seem that the traders are somewhat older, at least in Asia.

However, Cowan also pointed out that there are significant differences between jurisdictions. For example, in the next country he visited (he didn’t say which one) the focus was more on crypto fund management and institutional engagement with this emerging market. He also answered some questions about what are the drivers behind the interest in crypto. He said: “A lot of it is driven by regulation, in terms of the acceptance of the technology and cryptocurrencies in general.” But what impressed him most was the level of knowledge in each country he has visited.

As he said, and it is evident to anyone who is curious about this market, the interest in everything crypto is snowballing and the perception that it is going to go mainstream is growing. Cowan said: “You are seeing more and more companies, Fintechs that are looking to start their business or grow their business tapping into token sale space as a way of raising money.” He described the sector as being “on fire.”

Gibraltar GSX got involved in crypto about two years ago and the fact that it is a small jurisdiction enables it to be a bit more flexible than other stock exchanges. It got involved by launching a Bitcoin asset-backed security approved by the European Union. As Cowan, explained, when they started on the project Bitcoin was $300, but they knew little about it and the whole team had to dive in and find out everything possible about this whole new world.

The Gibraltar government is also interested in blockchain and has been talking to various communities globally about whether or not there should regulations for operators of blockchain-based financial services. As a result, Gibraltar is introducing regulations in January 2018. Cowan sees this as an opportunity and GSX is applying for a license so that it is in a position to explore the ICO token space to its fullest and use all the knowledge its team has acquired. In fact, watch this space because GSX is launching its own security token next year on its main exchange.

 

 

 

 

 

Global trade on the blockchain

Blockchain-as-chain

The global supply chain moves $64 trillion annually. It’s an unbelievably complex network and even small businesses are reliant on the logistics of this chain operating smoothly. In reality, the global trade network is a challenge for every business, regardless of size and anything that makes it more efficient is to be welcomed. Not only would more efficiency help businesses and their customers, it would also help the environment.

You might think that the information aspect of the Internet would have contributed to simplifying the global trade network, but it hasn’t. Add in the fact that the network has a vast number of intermediaries who establish trust between vendors, but don’t add value to the network, and the fact that it is usually up to humans to identify weaknesses in the supply chain and you can see that there is a lot of inefficiency already. However, there is a solution to this – the blockchain!

Blockchain and AI

If you combine the blockchain with artificial intelligence (AI) it is possible to build an autonomous and decentralised supply chain that can ‘think’ for itself. It would be able to identify areas of inefficiency and correct them. Some think this could be one of the most important developments in blockchain usage and the Blockchain Research Institute has commissioned a research study into the intersection of blockchain and supply chain management.

Don Tapscott, a founder and executive director at the Blockchain Research Institute has commented on the research study “Introducing Asset Chains” on LinkedIn Pulse and shared some of the high level conclusions with readers. The key points is: “Assets all over the world are extracted, designed, combined, transported, and sold every day through the supply chains that underpin global commerce.“ This system has not been overhauled for years and blockchain has the potential to decentralise these traditional supply chains. Add in AI and the Internet of Things and we can have a completely new approach to scaling the network.

Logistics on the blockchain

This new network would have the ability to self-regulate and adjust to improve efficiency. It would also be able to establish “machine trust.” And asset chains are an essential element of machine trust. As Tapscott says: “Asset chains provide a framework for machines to participate autonomously in supply chains and the markets they serve. They allow us to unlock the trading capability of machines without human intermediaries.”

That’s why some of the largest supply chain logistics firms are looking at blockchain to transform their operations. This will of course, give birth to a new group of companies providing these blockchain solutions. Tapscott cites the example of Sweetbridge, an Arizona-based firm that is, “leveraging the value of stranded, underutilized assets within those networks – like trucks or shipping containers – into more liquid tokens.” This means that a supply chain can basically fund itself.

This is an exciting way forward for the global trade network, and it is one in which human intermediaries will have fewer functions, making the entire supply chain less expensive, faster and more trustworthy thanks to cryptography and clever coding.