Amazon and Microsoft’s Move to Blockchain: Centralized Companies Into Decentralized Ecosystem

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Traditional centralized powerhouses like Microsoft and Amazon are almost being forced to take their domination to the decentralised world.
Bitcoin, and the idea of digital cash, has taken hold of the banking sector as banks and financial institutions start to experiment internally with blockchains and cryptocurrencies in order to be at the forefront of these technologies.

This, coupled with the fact that government organisations and even global leadership bodies such as the G20 are looking to regulate cryptocurrencies, again give more legitimacy and longevity to the industry.

The latest wave of adoption is now coming from corporations who, traditionally have come to be successful thanks to their centralized domination over different aspects of the market. Microsoft, in the world of computing, are legendary in driving the world to be digital; then there is Amazon, the pioneers of e-commerce.

These companies are in some manner getting forced towards blockchain technology as it has become apparent that this is the future, and even though it goes against their centralized values, they simply cannot miss out.

Microsoft’s entry

Microsoft has always been one of the biggest companies to give Bitcoin its dues. Back in Dec. 2014, content on the Windows and Xbox stores could be bought in Bitcoin, and this was at a time where Bitcoin’s mainstream adoption and appeal was minimal.

This of course was merely a nod towards alternative payment methods, and Microsoft being flexible to its customers wants and needs. However since then, and since blockchain has grown, Microsoft has been pushing to be in front of the innovative queue.

Microsoft has obviously identified the power of blockchain and its far reaching potential for disruptive applications in the world of enterprise business. The company is now developing blockchain applications — which are not that flashy as some of the solutions put forward by startups, but equally practical.

Microsoft is also looking to build platforms on which businesses can grow their blockchain applications upon, such as the Confidential Consortium (Coco) Framework, an Ethereum-based protocol, which falls under Microsoft Azure, the company’s cloud computing arm.

They have also announced that they are looking into plans to integrate blockchain-based decentralized IDs (DIDs) into its Microsoft Authenticator app.

The latest from the computing giant is that Azure has released its blockchain app creation service, Azure Blockchain Workbench, on May 7. Workbench aims to allow businesses looking to create bespoke blockchain apps to speed up the development process by automating infrastructure setup.

Amazon’s own efforts

Both Microsoft and Amazon have similar origins with their founders — Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos — being driven men with revolutionary ideas. Therefore it is unsurprising to see these two companies pushing to be on the forefront of a new technological wave.

Gates may be spouting some pretty negative things about Bitcoin, and Bezos may be under siege to accept the digital currency on Amazon, but despite what the two founders think of the cryptocurrency space, it is becoming clear that the future is conquering the companies.

Amazon revolutionized the e-commerce space, and is looking to at least be near to top of the pecking order when blockchain technology truly takes a hold. Just like in banking, there is a rush to get blockchain figured out and usable before the rest of the competition gets to market.

Amazon are already in a battle with IBM and Oracle with its own “blockchain-as-a-service” offering. The blockchain framework for Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric, which is allowing users to build and manage their own Blockchain-powered decentralized applications, is being developed in different forms by all three.

Essentially, users would be able to create their own blockchain applications via the Amazon Web Services (AWS) CloudFormation Templates tool to avoid time-consuming manual setups of their blockchain network.

Oracle and others also entering the space

Oracle, the world’s second-largest software company, also recently unveiled blockchain products, and will be releasing them over the next two months. Again, it was a similar cloud service built on the open-source Hyperledger Fabric project like Microsoft, and equally similar to IBM’s blockchain service, announced a year ago.

Major companies are also jumping on the blockchain bandwagon in different easy, shapes and forms. Huawei is loading its phones with a built-in Bitcoin wallet; Samsung revealed that it will use blockchain for managing its global supply chain; Spanish banking group BBVA became the first global bank to issue a loan on a blockchain, and use-cases continue to grow around the world.

Why the blockchain drive?

It was not long ago that people were calling Bitcoin a fad, a scam, and something that will not last for long. Those voices have been silenced somewhat as even banks, one of the biggest detractors of cryptocurrencies, are realising that they need to be on the forefront of this emerging technology.

The excitement is spreading, and it is creating an arms race even outside banks and the finance sector. Blockchain technology, while intrinsically attached to cryptocurrencies, also has many applications for other sectors. These applications are being explored, and evaluated.

Companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Samsung, Huawei and others, all realize that with all these possibilities, it would be blind to not dive in, and quick.

AWS vice president Jeff Barr explained in a post:

“Some of the people that I talk to see blockchains as the foundation of a new monetary system and a way to facilitate international payments. Others see blockchains as a distributed ledger and immutable data source that can be applied to logistics, supply chain, land registration, crowdfunding and other use cases,. Either way, it’s clear that there are a lot of intriguing possibilities and we are working to help our customers use this technology more effectively.”

Neil Patel, advisor to Kind Ads, a decentralized ad-network that consults companies such as Amazon and Microsoft, reiterates that these major corporations almost have no choice but to embrace blockchain technology as it is being regarded quite openly as the future of technology. Patel told Cointelegraph:

“Microsoft and Amazon have no choice but to focus on blockchain because it is the future. If they don’t, they know that it will hurt their growth in the cloud computing space. Just look at Facebook, they see the value in blockchain so much that they moved around their executive team to put the ex president of PayPal on blockchain projects.”

Patel’s example above makes mention of how David Marcus, the former president of PayPal and the Facebook executive who has been running the company’s Messenger app, is now assembling a team to explore blockchain technology for the social media platform.

Contradicting ideas

Bitcoin, blockchain and cryptocurrencies in general all continue to split opinions. However, the voices in the detracting camps are becoming quieter, especially if they are just single voices.

Jamie Dimon, the head of JP Morgan, called Bitcoin a fraud and spouted much vitriol about cryptocurrencies — and yet, JP Morgan is building its own blockchain, Quorum. The Head of Microsoft is in a similar situation as he says he would bet on Bitcoin collapsing while his company pushes to be a blockchain leader.

So Facebook, Google, Oracle, Microsoft, IBM and Amazon are all evaluating or offering blockchain related products. I don’t think blockchain tech is going to solve world hunger or cure cancer, but if you don’t think it’s here to stay?
— Crypto Bobby (@crypto_bobby) May 8, 2018
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Many of these older viewpoints about how things were done, the centralized control of a sector and the move to monopolize a service, still reside in the likes of Gates and Dimon, but on the company floor, it is a different story.

Blockchain technology is being touted as the future, and it is not just empty words. The amount of money, time and effort being put into blockchain-based research and development by banks and corporations prove there is something more to it than a passing fad.

Source: Cointelegraph

Has George Soros changed his mind?

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Back in January 2018, the multi-billionaire announced that cryptocurrencies were a ‘bubble’. He hasn’t been the only one to say this, of course. However, in the last week he seems to have quite radically changed his mind about this, as his ‘family office’, valued at $26 billion, has announced via Bloomberg and other media outlets, that it plans to trade digital assets.

Soros Fund Management, which is based in New York, and its macro investing division headed by Adam Fisher, got the green light internally to trade in digital currencies, although Bloomberg says he has yet to actually make a trade.

When Soros spoke at the World Economic Forum at the beginning of the year, he was scathing about crypto and claimed it could never function as a viable currency. He also said: “As long as you have dictatorships on the rise you will have a different ending, because the rulers in those countries will turn to Bitcoin to build a nest egg abroad.” This is similar to the many, many commentators on cryptocurrencies who have tried to tarnish the reputation of Bitcoin and other altcoins by connecting crypto with either the nefarious dark net, or with those who seek to beat the system in some way.

However, he didn’t predict what would happen to the cryptocurrency in the first quarter of 2018. The precipitous drop in the Bitcoin market cap sent some, like hedge fund manager Mike Novogratz, scurrying away from trading in cryptocurrency. For example, Novogratz decided against setting up a crypto fund, but has pursued links with a merchant bank that focuses on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology ventures.

But other hedge fund managers in macro investing have been turning towards it as hedge fund profits slide. John Burbank is one example, He closed hi main hedge fund and “plans to raise $150 million for two funds investing in digital currencies,” says Bloomberg.

And Soros has been betting on cryptocurrencies, even if it is by a roundabout route. At the end of 2017, his firm acquired a large stake in Overstock.com, which is an online discount company. It accepts payment in cryptocurrencies and was the first major retailer to do so. Overstock then announced it would launch a digital currency exchange and an ICO, but this awakened the SEC last month, and it is investigating the proposals. Consequently, Overstock’s share price dropped.

Nevertheless, let’s remember that George Soros had, and still has, skin in the game, whilst warning the world that Bitcoin et al, are in a ‘bubble’.

GibFin Forum 2018: Blockchain contribution to Rock’s GDP expected to reach double figures

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The Gibraltar International Fintech Forum 2018 got underway this morning at the Sunborn Hotel attracting 180 delegates and speakers from around the globe.

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo kicked off the event with a simple and clear message to all those in attendance:

”Gibraltar is open for business.”

Gibraltar Ahead in the Regulatory Space

With jurisdictions around the world trying to figure out how to regulate the blockchain industry, Gibraltar has already put in place a DLT regulatory framework based on best principles and is currently looking to release new accompanying regulations that focus on token sales within the jurisdiction. A bill is expected through the Gibraltar parliament in Q2 this year showing Gibraltar to be world-leading in this space.

The Minister for Commerce, the Hon. Albert Isola, whose Ministry has been driving the fintech and blockchain agenda in Gibraltar also addressed the full conference hall onboard. When talking about the jurisdiction’s continued development, the Minister made it clear that as a government, “we are not scared of innovation.”

He added that the government is looking to continue to operate with consumer protection at the heart of what they do.

With a wide variety of speakers in attendance, the focus was well and truly on regulations for blockchain and ICO, a sector that is booming and hit an astounding $3.7bn during the course of 2017.

Gibraltar Financial Services Commission on ICO Regulations

Sian Jones and William Garcia from the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission (GFSC) also gave a talk and answered questions from the crowd. The same event last year saw the GFSC present their DLT regulatory framework to attendees and the wider world, this year it was their proposed ICO regulations.

Sian Jones emphasised that the regulator would not be regulating individual ICOs but those that brought the token sales to market, adding that “it’s not the role of the regulator to approve any individual token offerings,” rather highlighting how regulations are implemented is as important as the rules themselves.

Sian added: “We as a regulator will not be setting a single code of practice that should be set by the market.”

A lot like the Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange (GBX) with its network of Sponsor Firms, the GFSC sees this emerging market needing the creation of “authority sponsors that are accountable to us [GFSC].” This format would encompass GBX, which already comes under the scope of the DLT regulations, effectively making it an ‘Authorised Sponsor’ which could open up many pathways of opportunity for the exchange.

During the presentations Q&A, the GFSC spoke of their core desire to embed consumer protection at the heart of their work, whilst being supportive of helping grow and develop this innovative industry: “Tokens as a new asset class are isolated from financial advice, but it is right that it should be regulated for consumer protection.”

The DLT Licence Experience

In the morning of the first day, GBX CEO Nick Cowan moderated the panel “The DLT Licence Experience to Date.” Joining Nick was Joey Garcia from Isolas, Anthony Provasoli from Hassan’s and Jay Gomez from Triay & Triay.

Nick prophesied 2018 to be “the year of the regulator,” pointing out that Gibraltar has the unique first mover advantage of having a regulator that truly understands this space, and is so accessible and open to dialogue. Nick began the panel by categorising the ‘DLT licence experience’ into three distinct areas, Government & Regulators, DLT advisors such as Gibraltar’s law firms and the users of DLT licences such as GBX, each with their own distinct experience.

Joey Garcia, who was a part of the working committee regarding the original DLT framework explained the reasons for a best principles approach by stating: “Let’s build a ground-up framework that is evolutional.” Nick complimented Joey’s sentiments by highlighting the collaborative nature of the DLT framework: “There is a trinity of bodies here, government, industry and users, coming together to find a solution”

The panel concluded that although Gibraltar has been successful in locating and nurturing emerging markets, such as e-gaming, it has seen an explosive reaction to its leading role with the DLT regulation.

Anthony Provasoli pointed out “3 years ago nobody knew where Gibraltar was, but that is very different today, especially in the last 12 months.” He also highlighted his experience on the perception of Gibraltar saying: “Clients love the fact they can come and sit down with the regulators and have an open discussion.” The panel’s experience echoed the Chief Ministers opening comment that Gibraltar is open for business.

The panel also touched on the subject of Brexit in relation to Gibraltar, which despite the outcome is making strides in placing itself strategically between Britain and the rest of Europe. Joey Garcia believes that due to the global connection of blockchain and the cryptocurrency market that Brexit would not have a negative impact, by saying: “High level, I don’t think it [Brexit] will affect this space.” It is a testament to that strategic approach of Gibraltar to pioneer itself in this emerging technology and become a forerunner ahead of the Brexit transition.

Challenges in the Current Crypto Exchange Landscape

Nick later participated in a panel entitled “The Crypto Exchange Landscape for 2018” moderated by Joey Garcia with Vitaliy Kedyk of CEX, David Honeyman from Lendo, and David Gyori of Banking Reports alongside Nick. The panel discussed the challenges of AML/KYC with current cryptocurrency exchanges, with Nick detailing how the GBX intends to create a new industry standard of governance and due diligence for token sales within a rules-based system that would gain access to a large pool of KYC cleared participants.

The question of centralised vs decentralised exchanges was debated, with a consensus forming that if blockchain technology is still in its early developments, then decentralised exchanges are far off in that timescale development. With the current challenges that existing exchanges face around AML/KYC, accountability and consumer protection, decentralised exchanges would not contain a solution. Vitaliy emphasised this by saying: “Decentralised exchanges can’t deliver the real user experience” which the panel agreed that if this space is to be adopted by mainstream consumers, the user experience would be of paramount importance.

Nick was invited to close the 1st-day proceedings of the conference. He championed Gibraltar for its bold stance on the global stage as a home for those businesses that are utilising DLT technology. Mirroring the success story of GBX and its successful completion of raising $27M in the RKT token sale, with the way Gibraltar fostered the exponential growth of the e-gaming industry a parallel to what we are witnessing in the blockchain space. Nick finished by telling the packed out audience that Gibraltar is open for business and made a call out to those looking to Gibraltar as a home for the business to “give us a chance”.

Blockchain Innovation in Gibraltar and Beyond

A key moment during the 2nd day of the conference came from Philip Young, the Marketing Director of GBX. Phil gave a presentation on the Blockchain Innovation Centre (BIC) an initiative set up by the Gibraltar Stock Exchange (GSX) to help create a hub of blockchain innovation in both Gibraltar and further afield. Phil gave the three bedrock tenants that would “Educate, Inspire, Connect.” Phil spoke of the BIC’s offer of a network of experts that would help select, fund, advise and guide blockchain-based startups in Gibraltar. Additionally, Phil proposed the idea of the BIC helping to establish educational programs seeking out universities both abroad and in Gibraltar to encourage collaborations.

Despite the heavy wind and rain hammering the Rock of Gibraltar, attendance was still high over the two-day event, with great networking opportunities between the panels and presentations. It was encouraging to see that more than 180 of the 300 attendees had travelled to Gibraltar for the event demonstrating that Gibraltar is quickly establishing itself as a global hub for all things crypto & blockchain.

The Gibraltar International Fintech Forum 2018 at the Sunborn Hotel attracts180 delegates and speakers from around the globe.

 

Crypto Commandos: The Blockchain Forces vs Big Finance

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The last few weeks have seen the forces of Big Finance arranging in battle formation to take on what its ‘generals’ see as the usurper forces on the blockchain.

FUD spreading media

From the initial rumours and misinterpretation of crypto-related announcements from the Far East, the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) statements coming from the international economic summit at Davos to the loud-mouthed Augustin Carstens of the Bank for International Settlements, the institutional forces have been set on destroying Bitcoin and the other coins on the blockchain. It is nothing less than a declaration of war, and those of us who believe in blockchain technology knew it would come one day. How could it not? The blockchain is a threat to the status quo enjoyed by governments and financial institutions since the Medicis got into banking.

Carstens, appropriately portrayed as a ‘fat bastard’ in Cointelegraph, called Bitcoin, “a combination of a bubble, a Ponzi scheme and an environmental disaster.” And he is one of the bankers screaming for more regulation. Of course they want to regulate cryptocurrency. Anything which is outside their control and which might put a dent in their resources is an enemy that must be executed or at least imprisoned. Because that is what regulation will effectively do: it will suck all the revolutionary qualities out of the blockchain and its crypto progeny until its potential to change the world is put back in the box and locked away for good.

It’s a ‘Criminal’ Currency

He’s not the only one who bleats on about the use of cryptocurrency for criminal activities. The mainstream media and the voices it chooses to publish, also keeps coming back to this time and again, demonstrating a massive lack of imagination, not to mention a real paucity of knowledge about the use of cryptocurrency. But, it’s easy to spot why they focus on this: they want to scare the average Joe away from crypto. Perhaps they missed the memo that showed less than one percent of Bitcoin transactions are involved with money laundering. In fact, the big banks handle more dirty money than the blockchain. But, the media doesn’t let that detail get in the way of the ‘criminal’ story.

The Control Freaks

Of course, the FUD coming from the Big Finance forces is emanating from their collective fear of losing control of the established financial system. Without that, how will they line their pockets? It is unthinkable to them that ‘the people’ might have access to an alternative resource that endangers the use of fiat currency. Big Finance may claim that they want regulation in order to protect ‘us’, but those of us who have been supporting blockchain achievements for many years, know that it is the ideology behind the blockchain that instils a terrible fear in the central and national banks.

Two years ago they didn’t care about Bitcoin, neither did the mainstream media; it was for geeks, not for ordinary citizens. But the crypto events of 2017 spurred them into action. A force was coming that had the potential to “replace the current model based on FIAT money and tax collection and change the current economic power system, which earns profits with financial services, interests and transaction fees,” as Abel Colmenares wrote in Cryptocoin News.

Fear is the weapon

Now we can expect crypto regulation to be the buzz topic at the next G20 summit in Argentina, as France and Germany have already announced their intention to push for global Bitcoin regulation. The French Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire said: “We have a responsibility towards our citizens to explain and reduce the risks.” Lobbyists at the International Monetary Fund are keen to make sure the IMF is on board with ‘world governance’ for cryptocurrencies. All of the arguments in favour of this focus on spreading fear about the new digital currencies without any regard for the benefits it brings.

Paul Gordon, in an article published by Steemit, summed up why Big Finance is waging war against the blockchain: “Cryptocurrencies create two of the most dangerous potentials for individuals and free associations. They create the potential for anonymity and they significantly increase the ability of individuals and free associations to become self-reliant.”

So, far we have just experienced the first skirmish. This may be a protracted war, and whilst the Blockchain Forces may need to rally more troops, the odds are in favour of it winning. Because Big Finance needs the blockchain to evolve, more than people need centralised financial services. This is a war against liberty – which side are you on?