In early October, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) charged this crypto exchange with illegally operating an unregistered trading platform.
A) Bittrex B) Binance C) Bitmex D) That other crypto exchange that starts with the letter “B” Scroll down for the answer.
Ranking and October Winners and Losers
2019 Top Ten Ranking - 40% dropout rate After losing quite a bit of ground in the rankings in September, the 2019 Top Ten rebounded a bit in October. Only BSV finished down on the month, down two places (from #9 to #11) and dropping out of the Top Ten. The rest either held or climbed: EOS, Tron and Stellar each advanced one position each and Litecoin picked up four places and was able to rejoin the Top Ten. It’s good to have LTC back in the familiar confines of the Top Ten, as last month it found itself on the outside looking in, for the first time since the Experiments started back in January 2018. 40% of the crypotos that were in the Top Ten on January 1st, 2019 have dropped out: Tron, Stellar, BSV, and EOS have been replaced by BNB, DOT, ADA, and LINK. October Winners – Big PoppaBTC had a great month, finishing up +25%. Second place goes to LTC, up +17% in October, followed by BCH, up +14%. October Losers – The losses were moderate this month, but the L for October goes to BSV, which lost -7% and fell out of the Top Ten. EOS was second worst performing, down -5%. For overly competitive nerds, here is a tally of which coins have the most monthly wins and losses during the first 22 months of the 2019 Top Ten Experiment: 2019 Ws/Ls Because it's the default winner in down months, Tether is still far ahead in terms of monthly victories (7). That’s more than twice as much as second place BSV, BTC, and ETH. And although BSV is up 74% since January 2019, it dominates the monthly loss count: it has now finished last in nine out of twenty-two months (paying attention, swing traders?). And XRP is still the only crypto that has yet to notch a monthly win.
Overall update – BTC’s lead increases, XRP back to the basement, 2019 Top Ten pulls ahead of other Experiments.
BTC extended the lead it carved out last month over second place ETH in October. The top two are up +262% and +191% respectively, followed distantly by Litecoin, which is up +79% since January 2019. The initial $100 investment in BTC is currently worth $369. For the first time since April 2019, BSV has dropped out of the Top Ten. Twenty-two months into the 2019 Top Ten Index Fund Experiment, 70% of the 2019 Top Ten cryptos are either flat or in the green. After barely escaping the basement last month, XRP has once again sunk to the bottom of the pack, down -33% since January 2019. At +66%, the 2019 Top Ten Portfolio has pulled ahead of the 2020 Top Ten Portfolio’s +61% gain and both are far, far ahead of the 2018 group , which is down -74% (more on that below).
Total Market Cap for the entire cryptocurrency sector:
Total market cap since Jan 2019 is +215% Since January 2019, the total market cap for crypto is up +215%. The overall market gained about $50B in October, ending the month just over the psychologically important $400B mark. This is now the highest month-end level since the 2019 Top Ten Experiment began 22 months ago.
Overall return on investment since January 1st, 2019:
The 2019 Group gained $122 in October, so after the initial $1000 investment, the 2019 Top Ten Crypto Portfolio is worth $1,660. 2019 Top Ten Index Fund Experiment ROI For some context, here’s a look at the ROI over the life of the first 22 months of the 2019 Top Ten Index Fund experiment, month by month: 2019 Top Ten ROI summary Unlike the completely red table you’ll see in the 2018 Top Ten Experiment, the 2019 crypto table is almost all green. The first month was the lowest point (-9%), and the highest point (+114%) was May 2019. At +66%, the 2019 Top Ten Portfolio is now the best performing out of the three Experiments but not by much: the 2020 Top Ten Portfolio is up +61%. Speaking of the other Experiments, let’s take a look at how the 2019 Top Ten Index Fund Portfolio compare to the parallel projects:
Taking the three portfolios together, here’s the bottom bottom bottom line: After a $3000 investment in the 2018, 2019, and 2020 Top Ten Cryptocurrencies, my combined portfolios are worth $3,537 ($264+ $1,660 +$1,613). That’s up about +18% for the three combined portfolios, compared to +11% last month. Here’s a table to help visualize the progress of the combined portfolios: 2018, 2019, 2020 Top Tens combined ROI To sum up: +18% gain by dropping $1k once a year on whichever cryptos happened to be in the Top Ten on January 1st, 2018, 2019, and 2020. But what if I’d gone all in on only one Top Ten crypto for the past three years? While many have come and gone over the life of the experiment, only five cryptos have started in Top Ten for all three years: BTC, ETH, XRP, BCH, and LTC. Let’s take a look at those five: A tie: BTC catches up to ETH this month for leader of the Three Year Club Up until this month, Ethereum would have been your best bet. As of the end of October, it’s basically a tie between BTC and ETH. Both are up +121%, (although BTC is technically $21 ahead of ETH). On the other hand, if I had followed this world’s slowest dollar cost averaging approach with XRP, I’d be down -32%. With BCH I would have just about broken even. Alright, that’s crypto. How does crypto compare to the stock market?
Comparison to S&P 500:
I’m also tracking the S&P 500 as part of the experiments to have a comparison point with traditional markets. The S&P continued to fall from an all time high in the summer, and is now up +30% since January 2019. S&P since Jan 2019? +30% The initial $1k investment I put into crypto 22 months ago would be worth $1,300 had it been redirected to the S&P 500 in January 2019. +30% is not a bad return at all. But the 2019 Top Ten Portfolio is up more than double (+66)% over the same time period. That’s 2019. But what if I took the same world’s-slowest-dollar-cost-averaging $1,000-per-year-on-January-1st crypto approach with the S&P 500? It would yield the following:
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2018 = $1220 today
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2019 = $1300 today
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2020 = $1010 today
Taken together, here’s the bottom bottom bottom line for a similar approach with the S&P: After three $1,000 investments into an S&P 500 index fund in January 2018, 2019, and 2020, my portfolio would be worth $3,530. That is up +17.6%since January 2018. Compared to a +17.9% gain of the combined Top Ten Crypto Experiment Portfolios. You can also compare against five individual coins (BTC, ETH, XRP, BCH, and LTC) by using the table above if you want. It’s small, but that tiny 0.3% difference in favor of crypto. That’s now seven monthly victories for the S&P vs. three monthly victories for crypto, all clustered in the second half of the year. Crypto re-takes the lead in October....barely
Thanks mainly to Bitcoin, October was a good month for crypto and a good month for the 2019 Top Ten Portfolio. As traditional markets have struggled over the last few months, crypto seems to be headed in the opposite direction. I’m looking forward to seeing if those trends hold in the last few months of a crazy year. Take care of each other out there, stay safe. Thanks for reading and for supporting the experiment. I hope you’ve found it helpful. I continue to be committed to seeing this process through and reporting along the way. Feel free to reach out with any questions and stay tuned for progress reports. Keep an eye out for the original 2018 Top Ten Crypto Index Fund Experiment and the 2020 Top Ten Experiment.
In September, this decentralized exchange (DEX) overtook Coinbase in trading volume:
A) UniswapB) AaveC) CompoundD) Both A and B Scroll down for the answer.
Ranking and September Winners and Losers
2020 Top 10 Rank Lots of movement this month: six out of the Top Ten changed positions in September. BCH climbed one from #6 to #5 and BNB made a big move from #10 to #6. Going the opposite direction were BSV, EOS, and Tezos, dropping one, two, and four places respectively. The big story though, at least for anyone who’s been watching crypto for a while, was the ejection of Litecoin from the Top Ten. In just 30 days, LTC fell five places from #7 to #12. For some context, Litecoin’s absence from the Top Ten is a Top Ten Experiment first. It is also the first time since CoinMarketCap has tracked crypto rankings that Litecoin has not has not held a spot in the Top Ten. Drop outs: after nine months of the experiment, 30% of the cryptos that started 2020 in the Top Ten have dropped out. LTC, EOS, and Tezos have been replaced by ADA,LINK, and most recently, DOT. September Winners – Winner, singular: BNB was the only crypto to finish in the green, finished up +25% for the month, and gained four places in the rankings. A very good month for Binance Coin. September Losers – Tezos was the worst performing crypto of the 2020 Top Ten portfolio, losing nearly a third of its value, down -31% for the month. LTC also had a bad month, losing -24% and dropping out of the Top Ten. Since COVID-19 has hammered the sporting world, let’s be overly competitive and pit these cryptos against each other, shall we? Here’s a table showing which cryptos have the most monthly wins and losses nine months into the 2020 Top Ten Crypto Index Fund Experiment: Wins/Losses ETH is in the lead three monthly Ws, followed by Tether and Tezos with two wins each. Even though it is up +79% since January 1st, 2020, BSV has the most monthly losses: it has been the worst performing crypto of the group four out of the first nine months in 2020.
Overall update – ETH maintains strong lead, followed by BNB. 100% of Top Ten are in positive territory.
Ethereum remains firmly in the lead, up +187% on the year. Thanks to a strong month for BNB and a weak month for Tezos,Binance Coin has overtaken XTZ for second place, and is now up +109% in 2020. Discounting Tether (no offense Big-T), EOS (+4%) is the worst performing cryptocurrency of the 2020 Top Ten Portfolio. 100% of the cryptos in this group are in positive territory.
Total Market Cap for the cryptocurrency sector:
The overall crypto market lost about $35B in September, ending the month up +85% since the beginning of this year’s experiment in January 2020. Despite a rough month, this is the second highest month-end level since the 2020 Top Ten Experiment started nine months ago.
Monthly BitDom - 2020 BitDom ticked up slightly this month, but is still lower than it has been for most of the year. As always, a low BitDom reflects a greater appetite for altcoins. For context, the BitDom range since the beginning of the experiment in January 2020 has been roughly between 57% and 68%.
Overall return on investment since January 1st, 2020:
After an initial $1000 investment on January 1st, the 2020 Top Ten Portfolio is now worth $1,536, up +56%. This is the best performing of the three Top Ten Crypto Index Fund Portfolios, but not by much: the 2019 Top Ten came in at +54% in September. Here’s the month by month ROI of the 2020 Top Ten Experiment, hopefully helpful to maintain perspective and provide an overview as we go along: Monthly ROI - 2020 Top Ten Even during the zombie apocalypse blip in March, the 2020 Top Ten has managed to end every month so far in the green (for a mirror image, check out the all red table you’ll find in the 2018 experiment). The range of monthly ROI for the 2020 Top Ten has been between a low of +7% in March and high of +83% in August. So, how does the 2020 Top Ten Experiment compare to the parallel projects?
Taken together, here’s the bottom bottom bottom line for the three portfolios: After a $3000 investment in the 2018, 2019, and 2020 Top Ten Cryptocurrencies, the combined portfolios are worth $3,340 ($238+ $1,538 +$1,564). That’s up about +11% for the three combined portfolios, compared to +31% last month. Here’s a table to help visualize the progress of the combined portfolios: Combined ROI - UP +11% That’s a +11% gain by buying $1k of the cryptos that happened to be in the Top Ten on January 1st, 2018, 2019, and 2020. But what if I’d gone all in on only one Top Ten crypto for the past three years? While many have come and gone over the life of the experiment, five cryptos have started in Top Ten for all three years: BTC, ETH, XRP, BCH, and LTC (Big L, no pressure, but if you don’t claw yourself back in the Top Ten by January 2021, you’re out of the club). Let’s take a look: Three Year Club At this point in the Experiments, Ethereum (+104%) would have easily returned the most, followed by BTC (+77%). On the other hand, following this approach with XRP, I would have been down nearly a third at -31%. So that’s the Top Ten Crypto Index Fund Experiments snapshot. Let’s take a look at how traditional markets are doing.
Comparison to S&P 500
I’m also tracking the S&P 500 as part of my experiment to have a comparison point to traditional markets. The S&P slipped a bit from an all time high in August and is now up just +5% in 2020. Over the same time period, the 2020 Top Ten Crypto Portfolio is returning about +56%. The initial $1k investment in crypto is now worth about $1,563. That same $1k I put into crypto in January 2020 would be worth $1050 had it been redirected to the S&P 500 instead. That’s a $513 difference on a $1k investment, one of the largest gaps in favor of crypto all year. But that’s just 2020. What about in the longer term? What if I invested in the S&P 500 the same way I did during the first three years of the Top Ten Crypto Index Fund Experiments? What I like to call the world’s slowest dollar cost averaging method? Here are the figures:
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2018 = $1260 today
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2019 = $1350 today
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2020 = $1050 today
So, taken together, here’s the bottom bottom bottom line for a similar approach with the S&P: After three $1,000 investments into an S&P 500 index fund in January 2018, 2019, and 2020, my portfolio would be worth $3,660. That $3,660 is up +22%since January 2018, compared to a +11% gain of the combined Top Ten Crypto Experiment Portfolios over the same period of time. That’s an 11% swing in favor of the S&P 500 and breaks a two month mini-streak of wins from the Top Ten crypto portfolios. For those keeping track or unable to see the table above: that’s seven monthly victories for the S&P vs. two monthly victories for crypto. The largest gap so far was a 22% difference in favor of the S&P back in June.
September saw losses for both traditional and crypto markets, but crypto got hit harder. What can we expect for the rest of 2020? The Neverending Year is entering the final quarter and is not finished with us yet: a lot can and will happen in the remaining months. More volatility is no doubt to come as we enter the final stretch of a truly unpredictable and exhausting year. Buckle up. Stay healthy and take care of yourselves out there. Thanks for reading and for supporting the experiment. I hope you’ve found it helpful. I continue to be committed to seeing this process through and reporting along the way. Feel free to reach out with any questions and stay tuned for progress reports. Keep an eye out for the original 2018 Top Ten Crypto Index Fund Experiment and the 2019 Top Ten Experiment follow up experiment.
Ultimate glossary of crypto currency terms, acronyms and abbreviations
Brief Comments on Goguen: Q4 2020, Q1 2021, utility, Marlowe, DSL, Glow, Plutus, IELE, smart contracts, thanksgiving to you, sidechains and Hydra, Goguen rollout and additions to product update
Stakenet (XSN) - A DEX with interchain capabilities (BTC-ETH), Huge Potential [Full Writeup]
Preface Full disclosure here; I am heavily invested in this. I have picked up some real gems from here and was only in the position to buy so much of this because of you guys so I thought it was time to give back. I only invest in Utility Coins. These are coins that actually DO something, and provide new/build upon the crypto infrastructure to work towards the end goal that Bitcoin itself set out to achieve(financial independence from the fiat banking system). This way, I avoid 99% of the scams in crypto that are functionless vapourware, and if you only invest in things that have strong fundamentals in the long term you are much more likely to make money. Introduction
Stakenet is a Lightning Network-ready open-source platform for decentralized applications with its native cryptocurrency – XSN. It is powered by a Proof of Stake blockchain with trustless cold staking and Masternodes. Its use case is to provide a highly secure cross-chain infrastructure for these decentralized applications, where individuals can easily operate with any blockchain simply by using Stakenet and its native currency XSN.
Ok... but what does it actually do and solve? The moonshot here is the DEX (Decentralised Exchange) that they are building. This is a lightning-network DEX with interchain capabilities. That means you could trade BTC directly for ETH; securely, instantly, cheaply and privately. Right now, most crypto is traded to and from Centralised Exchanges like Binance. To buy and sell on these exchanges, you have to send your crypto wallets on that exchange. That means the exchanges have your private keys, and they have control over your funds. When you use a centralised exchange, you are no longer in control of your assets, and depend on the trustworthiness of middlemen. We have in the past of course seen infamous exit scams by centralised exchanges like Mt. Gox. The alternative? Decentralised Exchanges. DEX's have no central authority and most importantly, your private keys(your crypto) never leavesYOUR possession and are never in anyone else's possession. So you can trade peer-to-peer without any of the drawbacks of Centralised Exchanges. The problem is that this technology has not been perfected yet, and the DEX's that we have available to us now are not providing cheap, private, quick trading on a decentralised medium because of their technological inadequacies. Take Uniswap for example. This DEX accounts for over 60% of all DEX volume and facilitates trading of ERC-20 tokens, over the Ethereum blockchain. The problem? Because of the huge amount of transaction that are occurring over the Ethereum network, this has lead to congestion(too many transaction for the network to handle at one time) so the fees have increased dramatically. Another big problem? It's only for Ethereum. You cant for example, Buy LINK with BTC. You must use ETH. The solution? Layer 2 protocols. These are layers built ON TOP of existing blockchains, that are designed to solve the transaction and scaling difficulties that crypto as a whole is facing today(and ultimately stopping mass adoption) The developers at Stakenet have seen the big picture, and have decided to implement the lightning network(a layer 2 protocol) into its DEX from the ground up. This will facilitate the functionalities of a DEX without any of the drawbacks of the CEX's and the DEX's we have today. Heres someone much more qualified than me, Andreas Antonopoulos, to explain this https://streamable.com/kzpimj 'Once we have efficient, well designed DEX's on layer 2, there wont even be any DEX's on layer 1' Progress The Stakenet team were the first to envision this grand solution and have been working on it since its conception in June 2019. They have been making steady progress ever since and right now, the DEX is in an open beta stage where rigorous testing is constant by themselves and the public. For a project of this scale, stress testing is paramount. If the product were to launch with any bugs/errors that would result in the loss of a users funds, this would obviously be very damaging to Stakenet's reputation. So I believe that the developers conservative approach is wise. As of now the only pairs tradeable on the DEX are XSN/BTC and LTC/BTC. The DEX has only just launched as a public beta and is not in its full public release stage yet. As development moves forward more lightning network and atomic swap compatible coins will be added to the DEX, and of course, the team are hard at work on Raiden Integration - this will allow ETH and tokens on the Ethereum blockchain to be traded on the DEX between separate blockchains(instantly, cheaply, privately) This is where Stakenet enters top 50 territory on CMC if successful and is the true value here. Raiden Integration is well underway is being tested in a closed public group on Linux. The full public DEX with Raiden Integration is expected to release by the end of the year. Given the state of development so far and the rate of progress, this seems realistic. Tokenomics 2.6 Metrics overview (from whitepaper)
Ticker: XSN. Currency type: Coin.
Consensus: Minting Proof of Stake, Trustless Proof of Stake.
XSN is slightly inflationary, much like ETH as this is necessary for the economy to be adopted and work in the long term. There is however a deflationary mechanism in place - all trading fees on the DEX get converted to XSN and 10% of these fees are burned. This puts constant buying pressure on XSN and acts as a deflationary mechanism. XSN has inherent value because it makes up the infrastructure that the DEX will run off and as such Masternode operators and Stakers will see the fee's from the DEX. Conclusion We can clearly see that a layer 2 DEX is the future of crypto currency trading. It will facilitate secure, cheap, instant and private trading across all coins with lightning capabilities, thus solving the scaling and transaction issues that are holding back crypto today. I dont need to tell you the implications of this, and what it means for crypto as a whole. If Stakenet can launch a layer 2 DEX with Raiden Integration, It will become the primary DEX in terms of volume. Stakenet DEX will most likely be the first layer 2 DEX(first mover advantage) and its blockchain is the infrastructure that will host this DEX and subsequently receive it's trading fee's. It is not difficult to envision a time in the next year when Stakenet DEX is functional and hosting hundreds of millions of dollars worth of trading every single day. At $30 million market cap, I cant see any other potential investment right now with this much potential upside. This post has merely served as in introduction and a heads up for this project, there is MUCH more to cover like vortex liquidity, masternodes, TOR integration... for now, here is some additional reading. Resources
How are bitcoin and cryptocurrency markets responding to Biden’s new government?
Today, the US stock markets are reopening for the first time after the election results have become known. Some still question the election results, but American media and the Associated Press have definitively named Joe Biden as the new president. It is now up to the market and analysts to determine what a Biden presidency could mean for cryptocurrency. Most analysts seem to prefer a president who says nothing about crypto to a president who belittles bitcoin on twitter. Trump and Mnuchin negative on bitcoin Qiao Wang, the big man at the DeFi Alliance decentralized financing project, applauded Trump’s loss, noting that the president had tweeted negatively about bitcoin and libra in the past: https://twitter.com/chris_sun/status/1325265604220121088 Meanwhile, Galaxy Digital investor Mike Novogratz said a democratic government would be good for crypto, saying an ongoing stimulus program would bolster bitcoin’s anti-inflationary narrative: https://twitter.com/novogratz/status/1323973781619134465 The prices of bitcoin and other cryptocurrency’s depend very much on the strength / weakness of the US dollar. So it is interesting to follow what Biden’s plans are for additional stimulus measures, due to the economic damage caused by the coronavirus. There is also speculation about the upcoming government’s plans and opinions on cryptocurrency. Compound’s Jake Chervinsky noted that the opinion of the puppets that Biden puts in key positions is more important than the opinion of Biden himself. https://twitter.com/jchervinsky/status/1325152892324519936 Gary Gensler is such a “puppet.” He is the former chairman of the CFTC and then appointed by Obama. He is expected to be part of Biden’s transition team. Gensler has spoken positively about bitcoin in the past, and is known for his tough enforcement of Wall Street regulations in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Another candidate is economist Lael Brainard. He has done extensive work for the US Central Bank (FED) and, together with MIT, led an investigation of CBDCs. Brainard is expected on the deposition of the Minister of Finance. We still have to wait for an initial response, the stock markets open today at 2:30 PM. A fierce initial reaction could have its aftermath in the crypto markets.
$1,000 invested in Top 10 Cryptos of 2019 now worth $1,260 (UP +26%)
EXPERIMENT - Tracking Top 10 Cryptos of 2019 - Month Eighteen - UP +26% See the full blog post with all the tableshere. tl;dr - Tether (as it's designed to do) holds its ground, all others finish the month in negative territory. Tron finishes June in second place, down -2%. BSV loses nearly 25% of value in June. Overall, since January 2019, BTC in lead, ETH takes over second place, XRP still worst performing. The 2019 Top 10 is up +26% almost equal to the the gains of the S&P 500 over the same time period (+24%).
According to a June article citing unnamed sources, which two FinTech companies are planning to allow their users to buy and sell crypto directly?
A) Paypal and Venmo B) Square and Cashapp C) Robinhood and Revolut D) Sofi and Coinbase Scroll down for the answer.
Ranking and June Winners and Losers
XRP and Stellar slipped one place each in the rankings in June, now at #4 and #14 respectively. EOS fell two spots to #11 and joins Stellar and Tron as the only three cryptos to have dropped out of the 2019 Top Ten since January 1st, 2019. They have been replaced by Binance Coin, Cardano, and newcomer CRO. Tether was the only crypto to move up in rank in June. Not a good sign when Tether is the only crypto to move up. Not a good sign when Tether enters the Top 3. June Winners – Tether. Second comes Tron, which basically held its ground at -2%. June Losers – BSV lost -23% of its value in June making it the worst performing of the 2019 Top Ten portfolio. EOS had a rough month as well, down -17%, dropping two spots in the rankings, and falling out of the Top Ten. If you’re keeping score, here is tally of which coins have the most monthly wins and loses during the first 18 months of the 2019 Top Ten Experiment: Tether is still in the lead with six monthly victories followed by BSV in second place with three. BSV also holds the most monthly losses, finishing last in seven out of eighteen months. The only crypto not to win a month so far? XRP. (In fairness, XRP has also not lost any month yet).
Overall update – BTC in lead, ETH takes over second place, XRP still worst performing
BTC is out front for the second straight month and ETH has taken over second place from BSV. Ahead until April, BSV has simply not keep up with the pack over the last two months. Bitcoin is up +144% since January 2019. The initial $100 investment in BTC is currently worth $249. Eighteen months in, 50% of the 2019 Top Ten cryptos are in the green since the beginning of the experiment. The other five cryptos are either flat or in negative territory, including last place XRP (down -50% since January 2019).
Total Market Cap for the entire cryptocurrency sector:
The crypto market as a whole is down about $20B in June, but still up +106% since January 2019.
BitDom finally wobbled in June, but not by much – it’s been in a very familiar zone for months now, indicating a lack of excitement (or at least a low risk tolerance) for altcoins. Taking a wider view, the Bitcoin Dominance range since the beginning of the experiment in January 2019 has ranged between 50%-70%.
Overall return on investment since January 1st, 2019:
The 2019 Top Ten Portfolio lost almost $175 in June. After the initial $1000 investment, the 2019 group of Top Ten cryptos is worth $1,259. That’s up about +26%. Here’s a look at the ROI over the life of the first 18 months of the 2019 Top Ten Index Fund experiment, month by month: 18 months of ROI, mostly green Unlike the completely red table you’ll see in the 2018 Top Ten Experiment, the 2019 crypto table is almost all green. The first month was the lowest point (-9%), and the highest point (+114%) was May 2019. How does the 2019 Top Ten Index Fund Portfolio compare to the parallel projects?
Taking the three portfolios together, here’s the bottom bottom bottom line: After a $3000 investment in the 2018, 2019, and 2020 Top Ten Cryptocurrencies, the combined portfolios are worth $2,710. That’s down about -10% for the three combined portfolios. Last month that figure was +4%. Better than a few months ago (aka the zombie apocalypse) where it was down -24%, but not yet back at January (+13%) or February (+6%) levels. Here’s a new table to help visualize the progress of the combined portfolios: ROI of all three combined portfolios - not exactly inspiring How do crypto returns compare to traditional markets?
Comparison to S&P 500:
Good thing I’m tracking the S&P 500 as part of my experiment to have a comparison point with other popular investments options. Even with unemployment, protests, and COVID, the US market continued to rebound in June. It’s now up +24% in the last 18 months. The initial $1k investment I put into crypto would be worth $1,240 had it been redirected to the S&P 500 in January 2019. As a reminder (or just scroll up) the 2019 Top Ten portfolio is returning +26% over last 18 months, just about equal to the return of the S&P 500 over the same time period. Just last month the ROI of the 2019 Top Ten crypto portfolio was nearly double the S&P 500 since January 1st, 2019. But what if I took the same world’s-slowest-dollar-cost-averaging/$1,000-per-year-in-January approach with the S&P 500? It would yield the following:
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2018: +$170
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2019: +$240
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2020: -$40
Taken together, here’s the bottom bottom bottom line for a similar approach with the S&P: After three $1,000 investments into an S&P 500 index fund in January 2018, 2019, and 2020, my portfolio would be worth $3,370. That $3,370 is up over+12%since January 2018, compared to the $2,710 value (-10%) of the combined Top Ten Crypto Experiment Portfolios. Here’s another new table that compares the ROI of the combined crypto portfolios to a hypothetical similar approach with the S&P 500: We see in June the largest difference in favor of the S&P since the beginning of 2020: a 22% gap. Compare that February, when there was only a 1% difference in ROI.
Since January 2019, the crypto market as a whole has gained +106% compared to the 2019 Top Ten Crypto Portfolio which has gained +26%. That’s an 80% gap. At this point in the 2019 Experiment, an investor would have done much better picking different cryptos or investing in the entire market instead of focusing only on the 2019 Top Ten. Over the course of the first 18 months of tracking the 2019 Top Ten, there have been instances this was a winning strategy, but the cases have been few and far between. The 2018 Top Ten portfolio, on the other hand, has never outperformed the overall market, at least not in the first thirty months of that Experiment. And for the most recent 2020 Top Ten group? The opposite had been true: the 2020 Top Ten had easily outperformed the overall market 100% of the time…up until the last two months.
As the world continues to battle COVID, traditional markets seem to be recovering. Will crypto make a significant move in the second half of 2020? Final word: Stay safe and take care of each other. Thanks for reading and for supporting the experiment. I hope you’ve found it helpful. I continue to be committed to seeing this process through and reporting along the way. Feel free to reach out with any questions and stay tuned for progress reports. Keep an eye out for the original 2018 Top Ten Crypto Index Fund Experiment and the recently launched 2020 Top Ten Experiment.
And the Answer is…
A) Paypal and Venmo According to a Coindesk report in June, three sources familiar with the matter say that Paypal and Paypal-owned Venmo are planning to allow their users to buy and sell crypto. Paypal has declined to comment.
Summary: Everyone knows that when you give your assets to someone else, they always keep them safe. If this is true for individuals, it is certainly true for businesses. Custodians always tell the truth and manage funds properly. They won't have any interest in taking the assets as an exchange operator would. Auditors tell the truth and can't be misled. That's because organizations that are regulated are incapable of lying and don't make mistakes. First, some background. Here is a summary of how custodians make us more secure: Previously, we might give Alice our crypto assets to hold. There were risks:
Alice might take the assets and disappear.
Alice might spend the assets and pretend that she still has them (fractional model).
Alice might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Alice might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Alice might lose access to the assets.
But "no worries", Alice has a custodian named Bob. Bob is dressed in a nice suit. He knows some politicians. And he drives a Porsche. "So you have nothing to worry about!". And look at all the benefits we get:
Alice can't take the assets and disappear (unless she asks Bob or never gives them to Bob).
Alice can't spend the assets and pretend that she still has them. (Unless she didn't give them to Bob or asks him for them.)
Alice can't store the assets insecurely so they get stolen. (After all - she doesn't have any control over the withdrawal process from any of Bob's systems, right?)
Alice can't give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force. (Bob will stop her, right Bob?)
Alice can't lose access to the funds. (She'll always be present, sane, and remember all secrets, right?)
See - all problems are solved! All we have to worry about now is:
Bob might take the assets and disappear.
Bob might spend the assets and pretend that he still has them (fractional model).
Bob might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Bob might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Bob might lose access to the assets.
It's pretty simple. Before we had to trust Alice. Now we only have to trust Alice, Bob, and all the ways in which they communicate. Just think of how much more secure we are! "On top of that", Bob assures us, "we're using a special wallet structure". Bob shows Alice a diagram. "We've broken the balance up and store it in lots of smaller wallets. That way", he assures her, "a thief can't take it all at once". And he points to a historic case where a large sum was taken "because it was stored in a single wallet... how stupid". "Very early on, we used to have all the crypto in one wallet", he said, "and then one Christmas a hacker came and took it all. We call him the Grinch. Now we individually wrap each crypto and stick it under a binary search tree. The Grinch has never been back since." "As well", Bob continues, "even if someone were to get in, we've got insurance. It covers all thefts and even coercion, collusion, and misplaced keys - only subject to the policy terms and conditions." And with that, he pulls out a phone-book sized contract and slams it on the desk with a thud. "Yep", he continues, "we're paying top dollar for one of the best policies in the country!" "Can I read it?' Alice asks. "Sure," Bob says, "just as soon as our legal team is done with it. They're almost through the first chapter." He pauses, then continues. "And can you believe that sales guy Mike? He has the same year Porsche as me. I mean, what are the odds?" "Do you use multi-sig?", Alice asks. "Absolutely!" Bob replies. "All our engineers are fully trained in multi-sig. Whenever we want to set up a new wallet, we generate 2 separate keys in an air-gapped process and store them in this proprietary system here. Look, it even requires the biometric signature from one of our team members to initiate any withdrawal." He demonstrates by pressing his thumb into the display. "We use a third-party cloud validation API to match the thumbprint and authorize each withdrawal. The keys are also backed up daily to an off-site third-party." "Wow that's really impressive," Alice says, "but what if we need access for a withdrawal outside of office hours?" "Well that's no issue", Bob says, "just send us an email, call, or text message and we always have someone on staff to help out. Just another part of our strong commitment to all our customers!" "What about Proof of Reserve?", Alice asks. "Of course", Bob replies, "though rather than publish any blockchain addresses or signed transaction, for privacy we just do a SHA256 refactoring of the inverse hash modulus for each UTXO nonce and combine the smart contract coefficient consensus in our hyperledger lightning node. But it's really simple to use." He pushes a button and a large green checkmark appears on a screen. "See - the algorithm ran through and reserves are proven." "Wow", Alice says, "you really know your stuff! And that is easy to use! What about fiat balances?" "Yeah, we have an auditor too", Bob replies, "Been using him for a long time so we have quite a strong relationship going! We have special books we give him every year and he's very efficient! Checks the fiat, crypto, and everything all at once!" "We used to have a nice offline multi-sig setup we've been using without issue for the past 5 years, but I think we'll move all our funds over to your facility," Alice says. "Awesome", Bob replies, "Thanks so much! This is perfect timing too - my Porsche got a dent on it this morning. We have the paperwork right over here." "Great!", Alice replies. And with that, Alice gets out her pen and Bob gets the contract. "Don't worry", he says, "you can take your crypto-assets back anytime you like - just subject to our cancellation policy. Our annual management fees are also super low and we don't adjust them often". How many holes have to exist for your funds to get stolen? Just one. Why are we taking a powerful offline multi-sig setup, widely used globally in hundreds of different/lacking regulatory environments with 0 breaches to date, and circumventing it by a demonstrably weak third party layer? And paying a great expense to do so? If you go through the list of breaches in the past 2 years to highly credible organizations, you go through the list of major corporate frauds (only the ones we know about), you go through the list of all the times platforms have lost funds, you go through the list of times and ways that people have lost their crypto from identity theft, hot wallet exploits, extortion, etc... and then you go through this custodian with a fine-tooth comb and truly believe they have value to add far beyond what you could, sticking your funds in a wallet (or set of wallets) they control exclusively is the absolute worst possible way to take advantage of that security. The best way to add security for crypto-assets is to make a stronger multi-sig. With one custodian, what you are doing is giving them your cryptocurrency and hoping they're honest, competent, and flawlessly secure. It's no different than storing it on a really secure exchange. Maybe the insurance will cover you. Didn't work for Bitpay in 2015. Didn't work for Yapizon in 2017. Insurance has never paid a claim in the entire history of cryptocurrency. But maybe you'll get lucky. Maybe your exact scenario will buck the trend and be what they're willing to cover. After the large deductible and hopefully without a long and expensive court battle. And you want to advertise this increase in risk, the lapse of judgement, an accident waiting to happen, as though it's some kind of benefit to customers ("Free institutional-grade storage for your digital assets.")? And then some people are writing to the OSC that custodians should be mandatory for all funds on every exchange platform? That this somehow will make Canadians as a whole more secure or better protected compared with standard air-gapped multi-sig? On what planet? Most of the problems in Canada stemmed from one thing - a lack of transparency. If Canadians had known what a joke Quadriga was - it wouldn't have grown to lose $400m from hard-working Canadians from coast to coast to coast. And Gerald Cotten would be in jail, not wherever he is now (at best, rotting peacefully). EZ-BTC and mister Dave Smilie would have been a tiny little scam to his friends, not a multi-million dollar fraud. Einstein would have got their act together or been shut down BEFORE losing millions and millions more in people's funds generously donated to criminals. MapleChange wouldn't have even been a thing. And maybe we'd know a little more about CoinTradeNewNote - like how much was lost in there. Almost all of the major losses with cryptocurrency exchanges involve deception with unbacked funds. So it's great to see transparency reports from BitBuy and ShakePay where someone independently verified the backing. The only thing we don't have is:
ANY CERTAINTY BALANCES WEREN'T EXCLUDED. Quadriga's largest account was $70m. 80% of funds are in 20% of accounts (Pareto principle). All it takes is excluding a few really large accounts - and nobody's the wiser. A fractional platform can easily pass any audit this way.
ANY VISIBILITY WHATSOEVER INTO THE CUSTODIANS. BitBuy put out their report before moving all the funds to their custodian and ShakePay apparently can't even tell us who the custodian is. That's pretty important considering that basically all of the funds are now stored there.
ANY IDEA ABOUT THE OTHER EXCHANGES. In order for this to be effective, it has to be the norm. It needs to be "unusual" not to know. If obscurity is the norm, then it's super easy for people like Gerald Cotten and Dave Smilie to blend right in.
It's not complicated to validate cryptocurrency assets. They need to exist, they need to be spendable, and they need to cover the total balances. There are plenty of credible people and firms across the country that have the capacity to reasonably perform this validation. Having more frequent checks by different, independent, parties who publish transparent reports is far more valuable than an annual check by a single "more credible/official" party who does the exact same basic checks and may or may not publish anything. Here's an example set of requirements that could be mandated:
First report within 1 month of launching, another within 3 months, and further reports at minimum every 6 months thereafter.
No auditor can be repeated within a 12 month period.
All reports must be public, identifying the auditor and the full methodology used.
All auditors must be independent of the firm being audited with no conflict of interest.
Reports must include the percentage of each asset backed, and how it's backed.
The auditor publishes a hash list, which lists a hash of each customer's information and balances that were included. Hash is one-way encryption so privacy is fully preserved. Every customer can use this to have 100% confidence they were included.
If we want more extensive requirements on audits, these should scale upward based on the total assets at risk on the platform, and whether the platform has loaned their assets out.
There are ways to structure audits such that neither crypto assets nor customer information are ever put at risk, and both can still be properly validated and publicly verifiable. There are also ways to structure audits such that they are completely reasonable for small platforms and don't inhibit innovation in any way. By making the process as reasonable as possible, we can completely eliminate any reason/excuse that an honest platform would have for not being audited. That is arguable far more important than any incremental improvement we might get from mandating "the best of the best" accountants. Right now we have nothing mandated and tons of Canadians using offshore exchanges with no oversight whatsoever. Transparency does not prove crypto assets are safe. CoinTradeNewNote, Flexcoin ($600k), and Canadian Bitcoins ($100k) are examples where crypto-assets were breached from platforms in Canada. All of them were online wallets and used no multi-sig as far as any records show. This is consistent with what we see globally - air-gapped multi-sig wallets have an impeccable record, while other schemes tend to suffer breach after breach. We don't actually know how much CoinTrader lost because there was no visibility. Rather than publishing details of what happened, the co-founder of CoinTrader silently moved on to found another platform - the "most trusted way to buy and sell crypto" - a site that has no information whatsoever (that I could find) on the storage practices and a FAQ advising that “[t]rading cryptocurrency is completely safe” and that having your own wallet is “entirely up to you! You can certainly keep cryptocurrency, or fiat, or both, on the app.” Doesn't sound like much was learned here, which is really sad to see. It's not that complicated or unreasonable to set up a proper hardware wallet. Multi-sig can be learned in a single course. Something the equivalent complexity of a driver's license test could prevent all the cold storage exploits we've seen to date - even globally. Platform operators have a key advantage in detecting and preventing fraud - they know their customers far better than any custodian ever would. The best job that custodians can do is to find high integrity individuals and train them to form even better wallet signatories. Rather than mandating that all platforms expose themselves to arbitrary third party risks, regulations should center around ensuring that all signatories are background-checked, properly trained, and using proper procedures. We also need to make sure that signatories are empowered with rights and responsibilities to reject and report fraud. They need to know that they can safely challenge and delay a transaction - even if it turns out they made a mistake. We need to have an environment where mistakes are brought to the surface and dealt with. Not one where firms and people feel the need to hide what happened. In addition to a knowledge-based test, an auditor can privately interview each signatory to make sure they're not in coercive situations, and we should make sure they can freely and anonymously report any issues without threat of retaliation. A proper multi-sig has each signature held by a separate person and is governed by policies and mutual decisions instead of a hierarchy. It includes at least one redundant signature. For best results, 3of4, 3of5, 3of6, 4of5, 4of6, 4of7, 5of6, or 5of7. History has demonstrated over and over again the risk of hot wallets even to highly credible organizations. Nonetheless, many platforms have hot wallets for convenience. While such losses are generally compensated by platforms without issue (for example Poloniex, Bitstamp, Bitfinex, Gatecoin, Coincheck, Bithumb, Zaif, CoinBene, Binance, Bitrue, Bitpoint, Upbit, VinDAX, and now KuCoin), the public tends to focus more on cases that didn't end well. Regardless of what systems are employed, there is always some level of risk. For that reason, most members of the public would prefer to see third party insurance. Rather than trying to convince third party profit-seekers to provide comprehensive insurance and then relying on an expensive and slow legal system to enforce against whatever legal loopholes they manage to find each and every time something goes wrong, insurance could be run through multiple exchange operators and regulators, with the shared interest of having a reputable industry, keeping costs down, and taking care of Canadians. For example, a 4 of 7 multi-sig insurance fund held between 5 independent exchange operators and 2 regulatory bodies. All Canadian exchanges could pay premiums at a set rate based on their needed coverage, with a higher price paid for hot wallet coverage (anything not an air-gapped multi-sig cold wallet). Such a model would be much cheaper to manage, offer better coverage, and be much more reliable to payout when needed. The kind of coverage you could have under this model is unheard of. You could even create something like the CDIC to protect Canadians who get their trading accounts hacked if they can sufficiently prove the loss is legitimate. In cases of fraud, gross negligence, or insolvency, the fund can be used to pay affected users directly (utilizing the last transparent balance report in the worst case), something which private insurance would never touch. While it's recommended to have official policies for coverage, a model where members vote would fully cover edge cases. (Could be similar to the Supreme Court where justices vote based on case law.) Such a model could fully protect all Canadians across all platforms. You can have a fiat coverage governed by legal agreements, and crypto-asset coverage governed by both multi-sig and legal agreements. It could be practical, affordable, and inclusive. Now, we are at a crossroads. We can happily give up our freedom, our innovation, and our money. We can pay hefty expenses to auditors, lawyers, and regulators year after year (and make no mistake - this cost will grow to many millions or even billions as the industry grows - and it will be borne by all Canadians on every platform because platforms are not going to eat up these costs at a loss). We can make it nearly impossible for any new platform to enter the marketplace, forcing Canadians to use the same stagnant platforms year after year. We can centralize and consolidate the entire industry into 2 or 3 big players and have everyone else fail (possibly to heavy losses of users of those platforms). And when a flawed security model doesn't work and gets breached, we can make it even more complicated with even more people in suits making big money doing the job that blockchain was supposed to do in the first place. We can build a system which is so intertwined and dependent on big government, traditional finance, and central bankers that it's future depends entirely on that of the fiat system, of fractional banking, and of government bail-outs. If we choose this path, as history has shown us over and over again, we can not go back, save for revolution. Our children and grandchildren will still be paying the consequences of what we decided today. Or, we can find solutions that work. We can maintain an open and innovative environment while making the adjustments we need to make to fully protect Canadian investors and cryptocurrency users, giving easy and affordable access to cryptocurrency for all Canadians on the platform of their choice, and creating an environment in which entrepreneurs and problem solvers can bring those solutions forward easily. None of the above precludes innovation in any way, or adds any unreasonable cost - and these three policies would demonstrably eliminate or resolve all 109 historic cases as studied here - that's every single case researched so far going back to 2011. It includes every loss that was studied so far not just in Canada but globally as well. Unfortunately, finding answers is the least challenging part. Far more challenging is to get platform operators and regulators to agree on anything. My last post got no response whatsoever, and while the OSC has told me they're happy for industry feedback, I believe my opinion alone is fairly meaningless. This takes the whole community working together to solve. So please let me know your thoughts. Please take the time to upvote and share this with people. Please - let's get this solved and not leave it up to other people to do. Facts/background/sources (skip if you like):
The inspiration for the paragraph about splitting wallets was an actual quote from a Canadian company providing custodial services in response to the OSC consultation paper: "We believe that it will be in the in best interests of investors to prohibit pooled crypto assets or ‘floats’. Most Platforms pool assets, citing reasons of practicality and expense. The recent hack of the world’s largest Platform – Binance – demonstrates the vulnerability of participants’ assets when such concessions are made. In this instance, the Platform’s entire hot wallet of Bitcoins, worth over $40 million, was stolen, facilitated in part by the pooling of client crypto assets." "the maintenance of participants (and Platform) crypto assets across multiple wallets distributes the related risk and responsibility of security - reducing the amount of insurance coverage required and making insurance coverage more readily obtainable". For the record, their reply also said nothing whatsoever about multi-sig or offline storage.
In addition to the fact that the $40m hack represented only one "hot wallet" of Binance, and they actually had the vast majority of assets in other wallets (including mostly cold wallets), multiple real cases have clearly demonstrated that risk is still present with multiple wallets. Bitfinex, VinDAX, Bithumb, Altsbit, BitPoint, Cryptopia, and just recently KuCoin all had multiple wallets breached all at the same time, and may represent a significantly larger impact on customers than the Binance breach which was fully covered by Binance. To represent that simply having multiple separate wallets under the same security scheme is a comprehensive way to reduce risk is just not true.
Private insurance has historically never covered a single loss in the cryptocurrency space (at least, not one that I was able to find), and there are notable cases where massive losses were not covered by insurance. Bitpay in 2015 and Yapizon in 2017 both had insurance policies that didn't pay out during the breach, even after a lengthly court process. The same insurance that ShakePay is presently using (and announced to much fanfare) was describe by their CEO himself as covering “physical theft of the media where the private keys are held,” which is something that has never historically happened. As was said with regard to the same policy in 2018 - “I don’t find it surprising that Lloyd’s is in this space,” said Johnson, adding that to his mind the challenge for everybody is figuring out how to structure these policies so that they are actually protective. “You can create an insurance policy that protects no one – you know there are so many caveats to the policy that it’s not super protective.”
The most profitable policy for a private insurance company is one with the most expensive premiums that they never have to pay a claim on. They have no inherent incentive to take care of people who lost funds. It's "cheaper" to take the reputational hit and fight the claim in court. The more money at stake, the more the insurance provider is incentivized to avoid payout. They're not going to insure the assets unless they have reasonable certainty to make a profit by doing so, and they're not going to pay out a massive sum unless it's legally forced. Private insurance is always structured to be maximally profitable to the insurance provider.
The circumvention of multi-sig was a key factor in the massive Bitfinex hack of over $60m of bitcoin, which today still sits being slowly used and is worth over $3b. While Bitfinex used a qualified custodian Bitgo, which was and still is active and one of the industry leaders of custodians, and they set up 2 of 3 multi-sig wallets, the entire system was routed through Bitfinex, such that Bitfinex customers could initiate the withdrawals in a "hot" fashion. This feature was also a hit with the hacker. The multi-sig was fully circumvented.
Bitpay in 2015 was another example of a breach that stole 5,000 bitcoins. This happened not through the exploit of any system in Bitpay, but because the CEO of a company they worked with got their computer hacked and the hackers were able to request multiple bitcoin purchases, which Bitpay honoured because they came from the customer's computer legitimately. Impersonation is a very common tactic used by fraudsters, and methods get more extreme all the time.
A notable case in Canada was the Canadian Bitcoins exploit. Funds were stored on a server in a Rogers Data Center, and the attendee was successfully convinced to reboot the server "in safe mode" with a simple phone call, thus bypassing the extensive security and enabling the theft.
The very nature of custodians circumvents multi-sig. This is because custodians are not just having to secure the assets against some sort of physical breach but against any form of social engineering, modification of orders, fraudulent withdrawal attempts, etc... If the security practices of signatories in a multi-sig arrangement are such that the breach risk of one signatory is 1 in 100, the requirement of 3 independent signatures makes the risk of theft 1 in 1,000,000. Since hackers tend to exploit the weakest link, a comparable custodian has to make the entry and exit points of their platform 10,000 times more secure than one of those signatories to provide equivalent protection. And if the signatories beef up their security by only 10x, the risk is now 1 in 1,000,000,000. The custodian has to be 1,000,000 times more secure. The larger and more complex a system is, the more potential vulnerabilities exist in it, and the fewer people can understand how the system works when performing upgrades. Even if a system is completely secure today, one has to also consider how that system might evolve over time or work with different members.
By contrast, offline multi-signature solutions have an extremely solid record, and in the entire history of cryptocurrency exchange incidents which I've studied (listed here), there has only been one incident (796 exchange in 2015) involving an offline multi-signature wallet. It happened because the customer's bitcoin address was modified by hackers, and the amount that was stolen ($230k) was immediately covered by the exchange operators. Basically, the platform operators were tricked into sending a legitimate withdrawal request to the wrong address because hackers exploited their platform to change that address. Such an issue would not be prevented in any way by the use of a custodian, as that custodian has no oversight whatsoever to the exchange platform. It's practical for all exchange operators to test large withdrawal transactions as a general policy, regardless of what model is used, and general best practice is to diagnose and fix such an exploit as soon as it occurs.
False promises on the backing of funds played a huge role in the downfall of Quadriga, and it's been exposed over and over again (MyCoin, PlusToken, Bitsane, Bitmarket, EZBTC, IDAX). Even today, customers have extremely limited certainty on whether their funds in exchanges are actually being backed or how they're being backed. While this issue is not unique to cryptocurrency exchanges, the complexity of the technology and the lack of any regulation or standards makes problems more widespread, and there is no "central bank" to come to the rescue as in the 2008 financial crisis or during the great depression when "9,000 banks failed".
In addition to fraudulent operations, the industry is full of cases where operators have suffered breaches and not reported them. Most recently, Einstein was the largest case in Canada, where ongoing breaches and fraud were perpetrated against the platform for multiple years and nobody found out until the platform collapsed completely. While fraud and breaches suck to deal with, they suck even more when not dealt with. Lack of visibility played a role in the largest downfalls of Mt. Gox, Cryptsy, and Bitgrail. In some cases, platforms are alleged to have suffered a hack and keep operating without admitting it at all, such as CoinBene.
It surprises some to learn that a cryptographic solution has already existed since 2013, and gained widespread support in 2014 after Mt. Gox. Proof of Reserves is a full cryptographic proof that allows any customer using an exchange to have complete certainty that their crypto-assets are fully backed by the platform in real-time. This is accomplished by proving that assets exist on the blockchain, are spendable, and fully cover customer deposits. It does not prove safety of assets or backing of fiat assets.
If we didn't care about privacy at all, a platform could publish their wallet addresses, sign a partial transaction, and put the full list of customer information and balances out publicly. Customers can each check that they are on the list, that the balances are accurate, that the total adds up, and that it's backed and spendable on the blockchain. Platforms who exclude any customer take a risk because that customer can easily check and see they were excluded. So together with all customers checking, this forms a full proof of backing of all crypto assets.
However, obviously customers care about their private information being published. Therefore, a hash of the information can be provided instead. Hash is one-way encryption. The hash allows the customer to validate inclusion (by hashing their own known information), while anyone looking at the list of hashes cannot determine the private information of any other user. All other parts of the scheme remain fully intact. A model like this is in use on the exchange CoinFloor in the UK.
A Merkle tree can provide even greater privacy. Instead of a list of balances, the balances are arranged into a binary tree. A customer starts from their node, and works their way to the top of the tree. For example, they know they have 5 BTC, they plus 1 other customer hold 7 BTC, they plus 2-3 other customers hold 17 BTC, etc... until they reach the root where all the BTC are represented. Thus, there is no way to find the balances of other individual customers aside from one unidentified customer in this case.
Proposals such as this had the backing of leaders in the community including Nic Carter, Greg Maxwell, and Zak Wilcox. Substantial and significant effort started back in 2013, with massive popularity in 2014. But what became of that effort? Very little. Exchange operators continue to refuse to give visibility. Despite the fact this information can often be obtained through trivial blockchain analysis, no Canadian platform has ever provided any wallet addresses publicly. As described by the CEO of Newton "For us to implement some kind of realtime Proof of Reserves solution, which I'm not opposed to, it would have to ... Preserve our users' privacy, as well as our own. Some kind of zero-knowledge proof". Kraken describes here in more detail why they haven't implemented such a scheme. According to professor Eli Ben-Sasson, when he spoke with exchanges, none were interested in implementing Proof of Reserves.
And yet, Kraken's places their reasoning on a page called "Proof of Reserves". More recently, both BitBuy and ShakePay have released reports titled "Proof of Reserves and Security Audit". Both reports contain disclaimers against being audits. Both reports trust the customer list provided by the platform, leaving the open possibility that multiple large accounts could have been excluded from the process. Proof of Reserves is a blockchain validation where customers see the wallets on the blockchain. The report from Kraken is 5 years old, but they leave it described as though it was just done a few weeks ago. And look at what they expect customers to do for validation. When firms represent something being "Proof of Reserve" when it's not, this is like a farmer growing fruit with pesticides and selling it in a farmers market as organic produce - except that these are people's hard-earned life savings at risk here. Platforms are misrepresenting the level of visibility in place and deceiving the public by their misuse of this term. They haven't proven anything.
Fraud isn't a problem that is unique to cryptocurrency. Fraud happens all the time. Enron, WorldCom, Nortel, Bear Stearns, Wells Fargo, Moser Baer, Wirecard, Bre-X, and Nicola are just some of the cases where frauds became large enough to become a big deal (and there are so many countless others). These all happened on 100% reversible assets despite regulations being in place. In many of these cases, the problems happened due to the over-complexity of the financial instruments. For example, Enron had "complex financial statements [which] were confusing to shareholders and analysts", creating "off-balance-sheet vehicles, complex financing structures, and deals so bewildering that few people could understand them". In cryptocurrency, we are often combining complex financial products with complex technologies and verification processes. We are naïve if we think problems like this won't happen. It is awkward and uncomfortable for many people to admit that they don't know how something works. If we want "money of the people" to work, the solutions have to be simple enough that "the people" can understand them, not so confusing that financial professionals and technology experts struggle to use or understand them.
For those who question the extent to which an organization can fool their way into a security consultancy role, HB Gary should be a great example to look at. Prior to trying to out anonymous, HB Gary was being actively hired by multiple US government agencies and others in the private sector (with glowing testimonials). The published articles and hosted professional security conferences. One should also look at this list of data breaches from the past 2 years. Many of them are large corporations, government entities, and technology companies. These are the ones we know about. Undoubtedly, there are many more that we do not know about. If HB Gary hadn't been "outted" by anonymous, would we have known they were insecure? If the same breach had happened outside of the public spotlight, would it even have been reported? Or would HB Gary have just deleted the Twitter posts, brought their site back up, done a couple patches, and kept on operating as though nothing had happened?
In the case of Quadriga, the facts are clear. Despite past experience with platforms such as MapleChange in Canada and others around the world, no guidance or even the most basic of a framework was put in place by regulators. By not clarifying any sort of legal framework, regulators enabled a situation where a platform could be run by former criminal Mike Dhanini/Omar Patryn, and where funds could be held fully unchecked by one person. At the same time, the lack of regulation deterred legitimate entities from running competing platforms and Quadriga was granted a money services business license for multiple years of operation, which gave the firm the appearance of legitimacy. Regulators did little to protect Canadians despite Quadriga failing to file taxes from 2016 onward. The entire administrative team had resigned and this was public knowledge. Many people had suspicions of what was going on, including Ryan Mueller, who forwarded complaints to the authorities. These were ignored, giving Gerald Cotten the opportunity to escape without justice.
There are multiple issues with the SOC II model including the prohibitive cost (you have to find a third party accounting firm and the prices are not even listed publicly on any sites), the requirement of operating for a year (impossible for new platforms), and lack of any public visibility (SOC II are private reports that aren't shared outside the people in suits).
Securities frameworks are expensive. Sarbanes-Oxley is estimated to cost $5.1 million USD/yr for the average Fortune 500 company in the United States. Since "Fortune 500" represents the top 500 companies, that means well over $2.55 billion USD (~$3.4 billion CAD) is going to people in suits. Isn't the problem of trust and verification the exact problem that the blockchain is supposed to solve?
To use Quadriga as justification for why custodians or SOC II or other advanced schemes are needed for platforms is rather silly, when any framework or visibility at all, or even the most basic of storage policies, would have prevented the whole thing. It's just an embarrassment.
We are now seeing regulators take strong action. CoinSquare in Canada with multi-million dollar fines. BitMex from the US, criminal charges and arrests. OkEx, with full disregard of withdrawals and no communication. Who's next?
We have a unique window today where we can solve these problems, and not permanently destroy innovation with unreasonable expectations, but we need to act quickly. This is a unique historic time that will never come again.
Best places to trade your Ripple/XRP (longer read)
In the past when you heard the word ‘cryptocurrency’, the first thing that came to everyone’s minds was Bitcoin. To some, this is still the case; they believe that Bitcoin is the cryptocurrency and the vice versa to also be true. Of course, the statement is correct in one way; Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, but cryptocurrency is not made up of only Bitcoin but a host of other currencies. One of these currencies is Ripple. When it comes to the top five cryptocurrencies with the highest capitalization, Ripple needs no introduction as it has managed to secure a position of being the third most traded cryptocurrency around the world. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Ripple is the only cryptocurrency with a backing from traditional legacy financial institutions. In addition, the coin has been integrated into the operation of thousands of small businesses around the world. At this juncture, it is only fair that you learn how to be a part of this great innovation. Thankfully, that is what this guide is all about, showing you some of the best trading platforms for Ripple. There are numerous exchanges that offer decent exchange rates and well-matched trading pairs, but I’ll only narrow down to some of our best picks to help you get started fast.
What is Ripple (XRP)?
Ripple is a cryptocurrency, a currency exchange, a real-time gross settlement payment system, and a remittance network powered by Ripple. As I mentioned before, this is the third most capitalized cryptocurrency asset after Bitcoin and Ethereum. XRP allows enterprises such as banks and other financial service providers to offer their clients a reliable option to source for liquidity for cross-border currency transactions. Ripple is a distributed, open-source platform that seeks to capitalize on the weaknesses of the conventional money payment systems such as credit and debit cards, PayPal, bank transfers, among others. According to Ripple, these payment systems expose users to a lot of transaction delays and restrict the fluidity of currencies. The platform aims at replacing traditional payment systems through offering a faster, safer, and more convenient alternative for making payments. Both the platform’s exchange and tokens are called Ripple, and their mantra states one frictionless experience to send money globally.
Where Can I Trade XRP?
Most exchanges that trade Ripple are limited to crypto-to-crypto transactions. This means that you can only trade Ripple with another cryptocurrency and not fiat currencies such as the euro or the dollar. You’ll need to acquire the currency you wish to trade with XRP on a platform that accepts fiat, and once that happens, you can proceed to trade the two currencies. There are several great platforms that offer XRP trading; below are just a few:
Buying XRP on Binance
Buying XRP on Bittrex
Just like on Binance, you’ll need to create an account on Bittrex to get started. The process is pretty much straightforward, only requiring you to sign up using your email address and password. Once you’re done signing up, click on the wallet tab. You will be taken to a page where you can view all the deposit addresses of the cryptocurrencies on the Bittrex platform. You can then choose the currency to use to purchase XRP, after which, you will be required to type in the code of the currency you will be using to purchase Ripple. If you’re using Ethereum, you can type in the search bar “ETH” and then click on the green arrow to reveal the deposit address. In case you will be sending the funds from a different exchange, you’ll need to paste the address to that platform. Next, you’ll need to send funds to your Bittrex account. Bittrex permits payments using both fiat and cryptocurrencies. So, depending on what you will be using, send money to your online wallet and proceed to trade it with Ripple.
Buying XRP on Changelly
Changelly is another Ripple exchange that requires you to use either Bitcoin or Ethereum to acquire XRP. The exchange doesn’t have an inbuilt wallet, so you’ll need to store your funds on a separate hardware or software wallet. You can pretty much use any type of wallet, but the most secure ones are the hardware ones as they store your coins in an offline cold storage area. Ripple prefers not to have many unutilized accounts being set up on its platform; this is why you’ll need to have a minimum of 20 XRP in your account for you to get started. However, if your first transaction will be more than 20 XRP, then you’re all set. Once you have a wallet ready for your Ripple, head to the Changelly site and click on “input currency”. Here, you will be able to enter the currency you wish to trade for Ripple. You can basically pick and use any coin listed on the site, but it is highly recommended that you use either Bitcoin or Ethereum due to their high liquidity. The output section will have Ripple, which is the currency you wish to receive. The next step will require you to key in your XRP address, which is your Ripple address and the destination tag, which is a description of the transaction. You can now proceed to trade your chosen coins for Ripple. The transaction shouldn’t take long, and you will be able to receive the coins in your Ripple wallet.
Cryptmixer is a platform that assists users to swap XRP with 5 other assets freely. The interface lets users convert assets directly from one’s wallet, without having to create an account or register. Besides, the service helps to compare different providers and find a suitable deal for handling Ripple transactions securely, rapidly, and at the best rate. The process of using Cryptmixer is quite simple:
Go to the main page, choose the currency you’d like to swap, and enter the amount.
Choose XRP to receive.
Review the amount to see how much you will receive. Cryptmixer will automatically find the best rates for your trade.
Then, enter the wallet address that you wish to use.
Send in the deposit to the generated wallet address and wait for the transaction to be processed.
What makes Cryptmixer a great fit is that it provides a very simple layout and quick process so it’s not chore when you trade your crypto. The support line also takes on the job of solving the cases by cooperating with users with top priority. To learn more on how to exchange XRP at the best rate check https://cryptmixer.com
Buying XRP on Coinmama
Coinmama is a cryptocurrency exchange that has been around for quite a while now. The Coinmama team has been adding more coins on their platform over time to be able to provide its users with a wider variety of trading pairs. More recently, the platform included Ripple on its platform. However, Coinmama does not allow US-based users to purchase Ripple due to some stringent laws and regulations surrounding the coin. But for non-US users, you can proceed to create your account on the platform and locate Ripple among the listed assets. Once you’ve created your account, navigate your way to the area with the list of assets. Select one of the provided packages and proceed. You’re required to have a crypto wallet prior to making any purchase on the platform, so be sure to have a valid wallet address before completing the purchase. Once that’s done, purchase your Ripple coins and they will be delivered to your wallet.
Storing Your Ripple Coins
Online storages are never safe for cryptocurrency assets. Individuals have woken up to all sort of horrific sceneries on their accounts that left them bankrupt with no one to turn to. One of the most important concepts you need to grasp about online businesses is the security of your transactions. Cryptocurrency burglars are everywhere and are getting smarter by the day; this means that traditional ways of guaranteeing the security of your online assets are no longer effective. Most exchanges have top-notch security standards, but the safety of your cryptos begins with you. A great way of ensuring that your funds are secure is by getting an offline storage device for your coins. I’ve seen great reviews on two hardware wallets that I highly recommend; these are the Ledger Nano S and Trezor wallets. After getting the wallet of your choice, keep your personal data such as passwords and secret words private; this will ensure that no one else gains access to your wallet even if you misplace it. Writing your password or PIN on open places or somewhere in your phone might not be a good idea; yes, it may be convenient for you, but it will be for the burglar too.
What method of purchasing XRP is considered to be the best?
The most secure and common way of acquiring Ripple is through buying Ethereum or Bitcoin from Coinbase or Coinmama, then transferring the same to Cryptmixer to use to exchange with Ripple. This is because Ripple is currently not available for purchase by using fiat currencies.
What is the best trading platform for Ripple?
Ripple is available on a decent number of exchanges including Binance, Coinmama, Coinbase, Bittrex, Cryptmixer, and more. However, among the stated ones, I have found Cryptmixer to be more secure and easier to use while it also offers the best trading rates and fees.
The Bottom Line
As we conclude, you now have some of the best choices when it comes to the exchange to acquire Ripple coins. After buying your XRP coins, store them offline on a secure device due to the risk of being faced by threats such as hacking or system failures. If you’re serious about making cryptocurrency your investment vehicle in the long run, consider investing in a more lasting security solution such as a hardware storage device. You may not get them for a few pennies, but trust me when I say they are worth every last dime you spend on them.
Hey all, I've been researching coins since 2017 and have gone through 100s of them in the last 3 years. I got introduced to blockchain via Bitcoin of course, analyzed Ethereum thereafter and from that moment I have a keen interest in smart contact platforms. I’m passionate about Ethereum but I find Zilliqa to have a better risk-reward ratio. Especially because Zilliqa has found an elegant balance between being secure, decentralized and scalable in my opinion.
Below I post my analysis of why from all the coins I went through I’m most bullish on Zilliqa (yes I went through Tezos, EOS, NEO, VeChain, Harmony, Algorand, Cardano etc.). Note that this is not investment advice and although it's a thorough analysis there is obviously some bias involved. Looking forward to what you all think!
Fun fact: the name Zilliqa is a play on ‘silica’ silicon dioxide which means “Silicon for the high-throughput consensus computer.”
This post is divided into (i) Technology, (ii) Business & Partnerships, and (iii) Marketing & Community. I’ve tried to make the technology part readable for a broad audience. If you’ve ever tried understanding the inner workings of Bitcoin and Ethereum you should be able to grasp most parts. Otherwise, just skim through and once you are zoning out head to the next part.
Technology and some more:
The technology is one of the main reasons why I’m so bullish on Zilliqa. First thing you see on their website is: “Zilliqa is a high-performance, high-security blockchain platform for enterprises and next-generation applications.” These are some bold statements.
Before we deep dive into the technology let’s take a step back in time first as they have quite the history. The initial research paper from which Zilliqa originated dates back to August 2016: Elastico: A Secure Sharding Protocol For Open Blockchains where Loi Luu (Kyber Network) is one of the co-authors. Other ideas that led to the development of what Zilliqa has become today are: Bitcoin-NG, collective signing CoSi, ByzCoin and Omniledger.
The technical white paper was made public in August 2017 and since then they have achieved everything stated in the white paper and also created their own open source intermediate level smart contract language called Scilla (functional programming language similar to OCaml) too.
Mainnet is live since the end of January 2019 with daily transaction rates growing continuously. About a week ago mainnet reached 5 million transactions, 500.000+ addresses in total along with 2400 nodes keeping the network decentralized and secure. Circulating supply is nearing 11 billion and currently only mining rewards are left. The maximum supply is 21 billion with annual inflation being 7.13% currently and will only decrease with time.
Zilliqa realized early on that the usage of public cryptocurrencies and smart contracts were increasing but decentralized, secure, and scalable alternatives were lacking in the crypto space. They proposed to apply sharding onto a public smart contract blockchain where the transaction rate increases almost linear with the increase in the amount of nodes. More nodes = higher transaction throughput and increased decentralization. Sharding comes in many forms and Zilliqa uses network-, transaction- and computational sharding. Network sharding opens up the possibility of using transaction- and computational sharding on top. Zilliqa does not use state sharding for now. We’ll come back to this later.
Before we continue dissecting how Zilliqa achieves such from a technological standpoint it’s good to keep in mind that a blockchain being decentralised and secure and scalable is still one of the main hurdles in allowing widespread usage of decentralised networks. In my opinion this needs to be solved first before blockchains can get to the point where they can create and add large scale value. So I invite you to read the next section to grasp the underlying fundamentals. Because after all these premises need to be true otherwise there isn’t a fundamental case to be bullish on Zilliqa, right?
Down the rabbit hole
How have they achieved this? Let’s define the basics first: key players on Zilliqa are the users and the miners. A user is anybody who uses the blockchain to transfer funds or run smart contracts. Miners are the (shard) nodes in the network who run the consensus protocol and get rewarded for their service in Zillings (ZIL). The mining network is divided into several smaller networks called shards, which is also referred to as ‘network sharding’. Miners subsequently are randomly assigned to a shard by another set of miners called DS (Directory Service) nodes. The regular shards process transactions and the outputs of these shards are eventually combined by the DS shard as they reach consensus on the final state. More on how these DS shards reach consensus (via pBFT) will be explained later on.
The Zilliqa network produces two types of blocks: DS blocks and Tx blocks. One DS Block consists of 100 Tx Blocks. And as previously mentioned there are two types of nodes concerned with reaching consensus: shard nodes and DS nodes. Becoming a shard node or DS node is being defined by the result of a PoW cycle (Ethash) at the beginning of the DS Block. All candidate mining nodes compete with each other and run the PoW (Proof-of-Work) cycle for 60 seconds and the submissions achieving the highest difficulty will be allowed on the network. And to put it in perspective: the average difficulty for one DS node is ~ 2 Th/s equaling 2.000.000 Mh/s or 55 thousand+ GeForce GTX 1070 / 8 GB GPUs at 35.4 Mh/s. Each DS Block 10 new DS nodes are allowed. And a shard node needs to provide around 8.53 GH/s currently (around 240 GTX 1070s). Dual mining ETH/ETC and ZIL is possible and can be done via mining software such as Phoenix and Claymore. There are pools and if you have large amounts of hashing power (Ethash) available you could mine solo.
The PoW cycle of 60 seconds is a peak performance and acts as an entry ticket to the network. The entry ticket is called a sybil resistance mechanism and makes it incredibly hard for adversaries to spawn lots of identities and manipulate the network with these identities. And after every 100 Tx Blocks which corresponds to roughly 1,5 hour this PoW process repeats. In between these 1,5 hour, no PoW needs to be done meaning Zilliqa’s energy consumption to keep the network secure is low. For more detailed information on how mining works click here. Okay, hats off to you. You have made it this far. Before we go any deeper down the rabbit hole we first must understand why Zilliqa goes through all of the above technicalities and understand a bit more what a blockchain on a more fundamental level is. Because the core of Zilliqa’s consensus protocol relies on the usage of pBFT (practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance) we need to know more about state machines and their function. Navigate to Viewblock, a Zilliqa block explorer, and just come back to this article. We will use this site to navigate through a few concepts.
We have established that Zilliqa is a public and distributed blockchain. Meaning that everyone with an internet connection can send ZILs, trigger smart contracts, etc. and there is no central authority who fully controls the network. Zilliqa and other public and distributed blockchains (like Bitcoin and Ethereum) can also be defined as state machines.
Taking the liberty of paraphrasing examples and definitions given by Samuel Brooks’ medium article, he describes the definition of a blockchain (like Zilliqa) as: “A peer-to-peer, append-only datastore that uses consensus to synchronize cryptographically-secure data”.
Next, he states that: "blockchains are fundamentally systems for managing valid state transitions”. For some more context, I recommend reading the whole medium article to get a better grasp of the definitions and understanding of state machines. Nevertheless, let’s try to simplify and compile it into a single paragraph. Take traffic lights as an example: all its states (red, amber, and green) are predefined, all possible outcomes are known and it doesn’t matter if you encounter the traffic light today or tomorrow. It will still behave the same. Managing the states of a traffic light can be done by triggering a sensor on the road or pushing a button resulting in one traffic lights’ state going from green to red (via amber) and another light from red to green.
With public blockchains like Zilliqa, this isn’t so straightforward and simple. It started with block #1 almost 1,5 years ago and every 45 seconds or so a new block linked to the previous block is being added. Resulting in a chain of blocks with transactions in it that everyone can verify from block #1 to the current #647.000+ block. The state is ever changing and the states it can find itself in are infinite. And while the traffic light might work together in tandem with various other traffic lights, it’s rather insignificant comparing it to a public blockchain. Because Zilliqa consists of 2400 nodes who need to work together to achieve consensus on what the latest valid state is while some of these nodes may have latency or broadcast issues, drop offline or are deliberately trying to attack the network, etc.
Now go back to the Viewblock page take a look at the amount of transaction, addresses, block and DS height and then hit refresh. Obviously as expected you see new incremented values on one or all parameters. And how did the Zilliqa blockchain manage to transition from a previous valid state to the latest valid state? By using pBFT to reach consensus on the latest valid state.
After having obtained the entry ticket, miners execute pBFT to reach consensus on the ever-changing state of the blockchain. pBFT requires a series of network communication between nodes, and as such there is no GPU involved (but CPU). Resulting in the total energy consumed to keep the blockchain secure, decentralized and scalable being low.
pBFT stands for practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance and is an optimization on the Byzantine Fault Tolerant algorithm. To quote Blockonomi: “In the context of distributed systems, Byzantine Fault Tolerance is the ability of a distributed computer network to function as desired and correctly reach a sufficient consensus despite malicious components (nodes) of the system failing or propagating incorrect information to other peers.” Zilliqa is such a distributed computer network and depends on the honesty of the nodes (shard and DS) to reach consensus and to continuously update the state with the latest block. If pBFT is a new term for you I can highly recommend the Blockonomi article.
The idea of pBFT was introduced in 1999 - one of the authors even won a Turing award for it - and it is well researched and applied in various blockchains and distributed systems nowadays. If you want more advanced information than the Blockonomi link provides click here. And if you’re in between Blockonomi and the University of Singapore read the Zilliqa Design Story Part 2 dating from October 2017. Quoting from the Zilliqa tech whitepaper: “pBFT relies upon a correct leader (which is randomly selected) to begin each phase and proceed when the sufficient majority exists. In case the leader is byzantine it can stall the entire consensus protocol. To address this challenge, pBFT offers a view change protocol to replace the byzantine leader with another one.”
pBFT can tolerate ⅓ of the nodes being dishonest (offline counts as Byzantine = dishonest) and the consensus protocol will function without stalling or hiccups. Once there are more than ⅓ of dishonest nodes but no more than ⅔ the network will be stalled and a view change will be triggered to elect a new DS leader. Only when more than ⅔ of the nodes are dishonest (66%) double-spend attacks become possible.
If the network stalls no transactions can be processed and one has to wait until a new honest leader has been elected. When the mainnet was just launched and in its early phases, view changes happened regularly. As of today the last stalling of the network - and view change being triggered - was at the end of October 2019.
Another benefit of using pBFT for consensus besides low energy is the immediate finality it provides. Once your transaction is included in a block and the block is added to the chain it’s done. Lastly, take a look at this article where three types of finality are being defined: probabilistic, absolute and economic finality. Zilliqa falls under the absolute finality (just like Tendermint for example). Although lengthy already we skipped through some of the inner workings from Zilliqa’s consensus: read the Zilliqa Design Story Part 3 and you will be close to having a complete picture on it. Enough about PoW, sybil resistance mechanism, pBFT, etc. Another thing we haven’t looked at yet is the amount of decentralization.
Currently, there are four shards, each one of them consisting of 600 nodes. 1 shard with 600 so-called DS nodes (Directory Service - they need to achieve a higher difficulty than shard nodes) and 1800 shard nodes of which 250 are shard guards (centralized nodes controlled by the team). The amount of shard guards has been steadily declining from 1200 in January 2019 to 250 as of May 2020. On the Viewblock statistics, you can see that many of the nodes are being located in the US but those are only the (CPU parts of the) shard nodes who perform pBFT. There is no data from where the PoW sources are coming. And when the Zilliqa blockchain starts reaching its transaction capacity limit, a network upgrade needs to be executed to lift the current cap of maximum 2400 nodes to allow more nodes and formation of more shards which will allow to network to keep on scaling according to demand. Besides shard nodes there are also seed nodes. The main role of seed nodes is to serve as direct access points (for end-users and clients) to the core Zilliqa network that validates transactions. Seed nodes consolidate transaction requests and forward these to the lookup nodes (another type of nodes) for distribution to the shards in the network. Seed nodes also maintain the entire transaction history and the global state of the blockchain which is needed to provide services such as block explorers. Seed nodes in the Zilliqa network are comparable to Infura on Ethereum.
The seed nodes were first only operated by Zilliqa themselves, exchanges and Viewblock. Operators of seed nodes like exchanges had no incentive to open them for the greater public. They were centralised at first. Decentralisation at the seed nodes level has been steadily rolled out since March 2020 ( Zilliqa Improvement Proposal 3 ). Currently the amount of seed nodes is being increased, they are public-facing and at the same time PoS is applied to incentivize seed node operators and make it possible for ZIL holders to stake and earn passive yields. Important distinction: seed nodes are not involved with consensus! That is still PoW as entry ticket and pBFT for the actual consensus.
5% of the block rewards are being assigned to seed nodes (from the beginning in 2019) and those are being used to pay out ZIL stakers. The 5% block rewards with an annual yield of 10.03% translate to roughly 610 MM ZILs in total that can be staked. Exchanges use the custodial variant of staking and wallets like Moonlet will use the non-custodial version (starting in Q3 2020). Staking is being done by sending ZILs to a smart contract created by Zilliqa and audited by Quantstamp.
With a high amount of DS; shard nodes and seed nodes becoming more decentralized too, Zilliqa qualifies for the label of decentralized in my opinion.
Generalized: programming languages can be divided into being ‘object-oriented’ or ‘functional’. Here is an ELI5 given by software development academy: * “all programs have two basic components, data – what the program knows – and behavior – what the program can do with that data. So object-oriented programming states that combining data and related behaviors in one place, is called “object”, which makes it easier to understand how a particular program works. On the other hand, functional programming argues that data and behavior are different things and should be separated to ensure their clarity.” *
Scilla is on the functional side and shares similarities with OCaml: OCaml is a general-purpose programming language with an emphasis on expressiveness and safety. It has an advanced type system that helps catch your mistakes without getting in your way. It's used in environments where a single mistake can cost millions and speed matters, is supported by an active community, and has a rich set of libraries and development tools. For all its power, OCaml is also pretty simple, which is one reason it's often used as a teaching language.
Scilla is blockchain agnostic, can be implemented onto other blockchains as well, is recognized by academics and won a so-called Distinguished Artifact Award award at the end of last year.
One of the reasons why the Zilliqa team decided to create their own programming language focused on preventing smart contract vulnerabilities is that adding logic on a blockchain, programming, means that you cannot afford to make mistakes. Otherwise, it could cost you. It’s all great and fun blockchains being immutable but updating your code because you found a bug isn’t the same as with a regular web application for example. And with smart contracts, it inherently involves cryptocurrencies in some form thus value.
Another difference with programming languages on a blockchain is gas. Every transaction you do on a smart contract platform like Zilliqa or Ethereum costs gas. With gas you basically pay for computational costs. Sending a ZIL from address A to address B costs 0.001 ZIL currently. Smart contracts are more complex, often involve various functions and require more gas (if gas is a new concept click here ).
So with Scilla, similar to Solidity, you need to make sure that “every function in your smart contract will run as expected without hitting gas limits. An improper resource analysis may lead to situations where funds may get stuck simply because a part of the smart contract code cannot be executed due to gas limits. Such constraints are not present in traditional software systems”.Scilla design story part 1
Some examples of smart contract issues you’d want to avoid are: leaking funds, ‘unexpected changes to critical state variables’ (example: someone other than you setting his or her address as the owner of the smart contract after creation) or simply killing a contract.
Scilla also allows for formal verification. Wikipedia to the rescue: In the context of hardware and software systems, formal verification is the act of proving or disproving the correctness of intended algorithms underlying a system with respect to a certain formal specification or property, using formal methods of mathematics.
Formal verification can be helpful in proving the correctness of systems such as: cryptographic protocols, combinational circuits, digital circuits with internal memory, and software expressed as source code.
“Scilla is being developed hand-in-hand with formalization of its semantics and its embedding into the Coq proof assistant — a state-of-the art tool for mechanized proofs about properties of programs.”
Simply put, with Scilla and accompanying tooling developers can be mathematically sure and proof that the smart contract they’ve written does what he or she intends it to do.
Smart contract on a sharded environment and state sharding
There is one more topic I’d like to touch on: smart contract execution in a sharded environment (and what is the effect of state sharding). This is a complex topic. I’m not able to explain it any easier than what is posted here. But I will try to compress the post into something easy to digest.
Earlier on we have established that Zilliqa can process transactions in parallel due to network sharding. This is where the linear scalability comes from. We can define simple transactions: a transaction from address A to B (Category 1), a transaction where a user interacts with one smart contract (Category 2) and the most complex ones where triggering a transaction results in multiple smart contracts being involved (Category 3). The shards are able to process transactions on their own without interference of the other shards. With Category 1 transactions that is doable, with Category 2 transactions sometimes if that address is in the same shard as the smart contract but with Category 3 you definitely need communication between the shards. Solving that requires to make a set of communication rules the protocol needs to follow in order to process all transactions in a generalised fashion.
There is no strict defined roadmap but here are topics being worked on. And via the Zilliqa website there is also more information on the projects they are working on.
Business & Partnerships
It’s not only technology in which Zilliqa seems to be excelling as their ecosystem has been expanding and starting to grow rapidly. The project is on a mission to provide OpenFinance (OpFi) to the world and Singapore is the right place to be due to its progressive regulations and futuristic thinking. Singapore has taken a proactive approach towards cryptocurrencies by introducing the Payment Services Act 2019 (PS Act). Among other things, the PS Act will regulate intermediaries dealing with certain cryptocurrencies, with a particular focus on consumer protection and anti-money laundering. It will also provide a stable regulatory licensing and operating framework for cryptocurrency entities, effectively covering all crypto businesses and exchanges based in Singapore. According to PWC 82% of the surveyed executives in Singapore reported blockchain initiatives underway and 13% of them have already brought the initiatives live to the market. There is also an increasing list of organizations that are starting to provide digital payment services. Moreover, Singaporean blockchain developers Building Cities Beyond has recently created an innovation $15 million grant to encourage development on its ecosystem. This all suggests that Singapore tries to position itself as (one of) the leading blockchain hubs in the world.
Zilliqa seems to already take advantage of this and recently helped launch Hg Exchange on their platform, together with financial institutions PhillipCapital, PrimePartners and Fundnel. Hg Exchange, which is now approved by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), uses smart contracts to represent digital assets. Through Hg Exchange financial institutions worldwide can use Zilliqa's safe-by-design smart contracts to enable the trading of private equities. For example, think of companies such as Grab, Airbnb, SpaceX that are not available for public trading right now. Hg Exchange will allow investors to buy shares of private companies & unicorns and capture their value before an IPO. Anquan, the main company behind Zilliqa, has also recently announced that they became a partner and shareholder in TEN31 Bank, which is a fully regulated bank allowing for tokenization of assets and is aiming to bridge the gap between conventional banking and the blockchain world. If STOs, the tokenization of assets, and equity trading will continue to increase, then Zilliqa’s public blockchain would be the ideal candidate due to its strategic positioning, partnerships, regulatory compliance and the technology that is being built on top of it.
What is also very encouraging is their focus on banking the un(der)banked. They are launching a stablecoin basket starting with XSGD. As many of you know, stablecoins are currently mostly used for trading. However, Zilliqa is actively trying to broaden the use case of stablecoins. I recommend everybody to read this text that Amrit Kumar wrote (one of the co-founders). These stablecoins will be integrated in the traditional markets and bridge the gap between the crypto world and the traditional world. This could potentially revolutionize and legitimise the crypto space if retailers and companies will for example start to use stablecoins for payments or remittances, instead of it solely being used for trading.
Zilliqa also released their DeFi strategic roadmap (dating November 2019) which seems to be aligning well with their OpFi strategy. A non-custodial DEX is coming to Zilliqa made by Switcheo which allows cross-chain trading (atomic swaps) between ETH, EOS and ZIL based tokens. They also signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a (soon to be announced) USD stablecoin. And as Zilliqa is all about regulations and being compliant, I’m speculating on it to be a regulated USD stablecoin. Furthermore, XSGD is already created and visible on block explorer and XIDR (Indonesian Stablecoin) is also coming soon via StraitsX. Here also an overview of the Tech Stack for Financial Applications from September 2019. Further quoting Amrit Kumar on this:
There are two basic building blocks in DeFi/OpFi though: 1) stablecoins as you need a non-volatile currency to get access to this market and 2) a dex to be able to trade all these financial assets. The rest are built on top of these blocks.
So far, together with our partners and community, we have worked on developing these building blocks with XSGD as a stablecoin. We are working on bringing a USD-backed stablecoin as well. We will soon have a decentralised exchange developed by Switcheo. And with HGX going live, we are also venturing into the tokenization space. More to come in the future.”
Additionally, they also have this ZILHive initiative that injects capital into projects. There have been already 6 waves of various teams working on infrastructure, innovation and research, and they are not from ASEAN or Singapore only but global: see Grantees breakdown by country. Over 60 project teams from over 20 countries have contributed to Zilliqa's ecosystem. This includes individuals and teams developing wallets, explorers, developer toolkits, smart contract testing frameworks, dapps, etc. As some of you may know, Unstoppable Domains (UD) blew up when they launched on Zilliqa. UD aims to replace cryptocurrency addresses with a human-readable name and allows for uncensorable websites. Zilliqa will probably be the only one able to handle all these transactions onchain due to ability to scale and its resulting low fees which is why the UD team launched this on Zilliqa in the first place. Furthermore, Zilliqa also has a strong emphasis on security, compliance, and privacy, which is why they partnered with companies like Elliptic, ChainSecurity (part of PwC Switzerland), and Incognito. Their sister company Aqilliz (Zilliqa spelled backwards) focuses on revolutionizing the digital advertising space and is doing interesting things like using Zilliqa to track outdoor digital ads with companies like Foodpanda.
Zilliqa is listed on nearly all major exchanges, having several different fiat-gateways and recently have been added to Binance’s margin trading and futures trading with really good volume. They also have a very impressive team with good credentials and experience. They don't just have “tech people”. They have a mix of tech people, business people, marketeers, scientists, and more. Naturally, it's good to have a mix of people with different skill sets if you work in the crypto space.
Marketing & Community
Zilliqa has a very strong community. If you just follow their Twitter their engagement is much higher for a coin that has approximately 80k followers. They also have been ‘coin of the day’ by LunarCrush many times. LunarCrush tracks real-time cryptocurrency value and social data. According to their data, it seems Zilliqa has a more fundamental and deeper understanding of marketing and community engagement than almost all other coins. While almost all coins have been a bit frozen in the last months, Zilliqa seems to be on its own bull run. It was somewhere in the 100s a few months ago and is currently ranked #46 on CoinGecko. Their official Telegram also has over 20k people and is very active, and their community channel which is over 7k now is more active and larger than many other official channels. Their local communities also seem to be growing.
Moreover, their community started ‘Zillacracy’ together with the Zilliqa core team ( see www.zillacracy.com ). It’s a community-run initiative where people from all over the world are now helping with marketing and development on Zilliqa. Since its launch in February 2020 they have been doing a lot and will also run their own non-custodial seed node for staking. This seed node will also allow them to start generating revenue for them to become a self sustaining entity that could potentially scale up to become a decentralized company working in parallel with the Zilliqa core team. Comparing it to all the other smart contract platforms (e.g. Cardano, EOS, Tezos etc.) they don't seem to have started a similar initiative (correct me if I’m wrong though). This suggests in my opinion that these other smart contract platforms do not fully understand how to utilize the ‘power of the community’. This is something you cannot ‘buy with money’ and gives many projects in the space a disadvantage.
Zilliqa also released two social products called SocialPay and Zeeves. SocialPay allows users to earn ZILs while tweeting with a specific hashtag. They have recently used it in partnership with the Singapore Red Cross for a marketing campaign after their initial pilot program. It seems like a very valuable social product with a good use case. I can see a lot of traditional companies entering the space through this product, which they seem to suggest will happen. Tokenizing hashtags with smart contracts to get network effect is a very smart and innovative idea.
Regarding Zeeves, this is a tipping bot for Telegram. They already have 1000s of signups and they plan to keep upgrading it for more and more people to use it (e.g. they recently have added a quiz features). They also use it during AMAs to reward people in real-time. It’s a very smart approach to grow their communities and get familiar with ZIL. I can see this becoming very big on Telegram. This tool suggests, again, that the Zilliqa team has a deeper understanding of what the crypto space and community needs and is good at finding the right innovative tools to grow and scale.
To be honest, I haven’t covered everything (i’m also reaching the character limited haha). So many updates happening lately that it's hard to keep up, such as the International Monetary Fund mentioning Zilliqa in their report, custodial and non-custodial Staking, Binance Margin, Futures, Widget, entering the Indian market, and more. The Head of Marketing Colin Miles has also released this as an overview of what is coming next. And last but not least, Vitalik Buterin has been mentioning Zilliqa lately acknowledging Zilliqa and mentioning that both projects have a lot of room to grow. There is much more info of course and a good part of it has been served to you on a silver platter. I invite you to continue researching by yourself :-) And if you have any comments or questions please post here!
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