High Hopes as Third Bitcoin Halving Approaches

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There is currently a lot of chatter in the Bitcoin community and the crypto industry at large as Bitcoin’s third-ever block halving nears. Set to take place this month (May 2020), there has been a lot of speculation regarding what will happen to the digital currency’s price.

What the Halving Means

In essence, the bitcoin halving means that the reward for mining a block of bitcoin will be divided by two. When the network finally hits block number 630,000 the amount will drop from 12.5 BTC to just 6.25 BTC. This will be the third time that a halving will be happening since the Bitcoin network went live over a decade ago.

Halving is one of the things that set bitcoin apart from all other digital currencies including other popular digital currency networks such as Ethereum’s. In many ways, it is one of the things that drive the price and value of Bitcoin.

As for the impacts, some of them are already coming into play.

Mining Machines Become More Valuable

Needless to say, the halving will have a huge impact on the companies that depend on bitcoin mining. While the systems themselves will not be affected much, their value is a totally different thing altogether.

Now even mining rigs that were previously said to be obsolete have become profitable again. For instance, mining rigs such as the AntMiner s9 and the Avalon A851 are now able to generate between 10 percent to 20 percent gross margin at an average electricity cost of $0.05 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). These margins could increase to as much as 30 percent to 40 percent to miners who adopt more efficient methods.

Even so, considering the dynamic nature of bitcoin mining, this might not be sustainable in the long term. As bitcoin’s halving approaches it is likely that many of the people relying on the older equipment will eventually be squeezed out by people using newer and more efficient mining rigs.

The Current State of Bitcoin

Over the past week, Bitcoin’s price has surged towards the $10,000 mark – this impressive rise has seen the cryptocurrency’s market return to its pre-coronavirus bull run. In fact, the crash losses that experienced because of the impacts of the pandemic have almost been completely erased.

“The interest in cryptocurrencies is now building as investors  look to the month-end and forward to May and June.”

-Marcus Swanepoel, chief executive of London-based bitcoin and cryptocurrency exchange Luno.

In general, members of the bitcoin community are pretty optimistic about the future of bitcoin’s price even after the supply squeeze that will take place this month. However, the actual impacts remain to be seen.

Number of Daily Bitcoin Transactions Drops Significantly

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The month of March has been tough for several industries across the globe and one of the areas that have been affected is the cryptocurrency market. A price drop that occurred earlier within the month was quite significant. Fortunately, the market has been slowly recovering from that drop and it should be back on track sometime this month.

Despite the impressive recovery of the crypto market, there have been some rather unusual reports regarding the decline in Bitcoin network activity. Daily Bitcoin transactions have been on a steady decline leading experts in the field to look into the matter.

As it turns out, there are several changes that have been noted concerning how Bitcoin, which is arguably the most popular and most widely used digital currency, is being used. While it may seem like a temporary anomaly that will blow over after a while, the plunge in network activity may be a reflection of a greater long-term trend. So, what is going on?

How It Started

Well, since the year rolled around, daily transaction activity grew at a pretty impressive pace and this was partly attributed to the increase in the price of Bitcoin. Both trading and mining picked up pace adding to the number of daily transactions.

However, an abrupt turn in the global economy earlier last month as the coronavirus pandemic spread across more countries affected the crypto market. Crypto prices fell and transactions began to dwindle. Daily transactions fell from over 350k to less than 275k and the number Is expected to fall even further going forward.

Bitcoin Holders Are Hodling

People who own or hold Bitcoin have since pulled thousands of their currency from exchanges and are now trading way less than they used to. Many of them are now only interested in keeping their crypto safe in personal wallets.

The decline in trading and network activity is not the only proof of this fact. There has been a recent uptick in the number of Bitcoin wallets and address diversity. As it stands, there are over a hundred thousand additional addresses compared to what was the case at the beginning of March.

A Win for Bitcoin?

While the decline in network activity is definitely something that people need to be concerned about, it might actually be a win for the crypto industry especially Bitcoin, in this case. The fact that people are keeping or holding their currencies is proof that the digital currency has matured enough to be considered as a health and safe store of value.

The global pandemic is wreaking havoc on the world’s economy and this makes Bitcoin a safe haven for lots of people. Its value is also now bound to go up as there will be very little supply.

Lightning Spin Becomes First-Ever Lapp to Be Sold

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Lightning Spin, a bitcoin gambling game that is based on the famous Lightning Network’s pioneering lightning applications (Lapps) has recently announced its sale. The game marks the first-ever Lapp that the has organized a sale. Developed and launched roughly nine months ago by Portuguese web developer Rui Gomes, the sale of the games has the entire Lightning Network community quite excited about everything primarily because it is a catalyst for further development on the network in the near future.

With the application, the users are able to able to enjoy instantly settled microtransactions and withdrawals. This not only makes it a gem in the world of bitcoin but also a revolutionary step forward for the Lightning Network which has been trying to go mainstream for a while now.

“You could pay 6¢ for a single spin, (1 BTC was around $6,000 back then) and withdraw your winnings in seconds — something that would be impossible with the fiat system and would be increasingly difficult on Bitcoin’s base layer,” Rui Gomes said in a recent blog post that highlighted the various features and novelties in the game.

In addition to disclosing further details about the Lightning Spin Lapp, the developer also revealed that at the time the Lightning Network was being sold, it had already been sold a whopping 120,000 times by at least 3,300 individuals. However, despite touching on a couple of issues and various aspects of the Lapp, he refrained from revealing any details about the parties that the game was sold to.

He, however, assured his Twitter followers that the new owners of the game share a similar vision and enthusiasm as his in as far as the Lightning Network is concerned – as a matter of fact, heaven turned away some other very well-paying buyers simply because they did not have much in common

Lightning Network’s Expansion

The sale of the game coincidently comes at the about the same time that the Lightning Network is expanding. For the last two years, the Lightning Network has grown to be one of the most popular solutions for the scaling problem found in the Bitcoin Core (BTC) network. Its expansion is, therefore, a sign that it may finally be ready to grow beyond what it already is at the moment.

However, just like any other revolutionary, the Lightning Network has been subject to a lot of criticism especially with regards to its lack of security. Naturally, these security concerns need to be addressed as soon as possible if any more progress is to be made in the near future.

EOSBet Unveils Bitcoin Betting and Account System

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After making history at the end of last year by becoming the very first blockchain-based casino to receive an official gambling license EOSBet decentralized application recently announced the next step in its journey toward mass adoption of crypto and blockchain. The platform has made its first big step in 2019 by launching a decentralized account system alongside a native bitcoin deposit and betting option.

After receiving its official gambling license, EOSBet became one of top-rated EOS dApps and it will be taking its proactive approach towards innovation into the future with its new and impressive betting option and its neat account system.

The EOS Account System

One of the biggest challenges experienced by users of blockchain technology is the numerous entry barriers that often come in the form of lengthy wallet setup processes among other things. The EOSBet system seeks to solve this problem by developing a system that allows users to deposit funds directly from any source thus eliminating the need for the use of any wallet or third-party software. Furthermore, the system will also cover all the blockchain costs for the players thus allowing them to enjoy the same gaming experience they would find at a tradition centralized casino on the decentralized one.

EOSBet’s account system, just like every other aspect of the platform, is decentralized and completely on-chain which means that all the actions are fully viewable on any block explorer. All the actions also eventually become part of the EOS blockchain and since the system is non-custodial, the players will always be in total control of their funds.

To make the experience even better, the EOSBet team chose to use a simple two-click sign up process that is not only very intuitive but also optimized to work seamlessly across a wide range of devices. With the new system, even people who do not have accounts with ESO can bet securely and get to participate in its very generous player rewards program.

Bitcoin Betting Is Officially Here!

While there have been a number of previous attempts at bitcoin betting with varying degrees of success, EOSBet has beat every other company to becoming the very first on-chain casino to natively accept bitcoin. As if that is not enough, the company plans to implement several other digital currencies in the near future. The betting platform works very well – all a player needs to do is to deposit bitcoin to their accounts, play instantly and then withdraw whenever they may wish to do so.

Both the betting option and the accounts system are slated to take the online gambling industry by storm and this is certainly going to play a huge role in the long-awaited mainstream adoption of digital currencies and blockchain. 2019 might be the year it finally happens.

Major U.S. Science Museum Now Accepting Payments in Bitcoin

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Bitcoin has made yet another step in the right direction towards mass adoption thanks to a museum located in Cleveland, Ohio that will be taking payments in crypto as from November 13. Great Lakes Science Center, the museum in question plans to use BitPay to process the BTC payments that it will be receiving from the visitors who will want to pay in BTC.

According to the Kirsten Ellenbogen, the museums chief executive, by accepting payments in BTC this early on, the institution hopes to facilitate the growth of the blockchain ecosystem. Moreover, there is much more optimism with regards to blockchain technology thanks to a number of promising developments. For instance, a Swiss luxury watchmaker known as Hublot successfully integrated the bitcoin and the blockchain to sell 210 pieces of its limited edition BTC-themed sports watch – the company made a whopping $5.25 million in revenue from the sales that were conducted solely through BTC with each piece fetching no less than $25,000.

The adoption of the digital currency as a means of payment comes ahead of the museum and education center’s inaugural Blockland Solutions Conference which is a four-day event scheduled for December 2018. One of the core agenda of the conference will be to explore and educate the attendees about the future of blockchain technology.

“There is a lot of excitement around the conference. Accepting bitcoin is just a small part of the momentum to grow a blockchain ecosystem in Cleveland,” Ellenbogen said.

Tried and Tested

Fortunately, the Great Lakes Science Center will not be venturing into unknown grounds since two other casinos in the United States – Museum of the Coastal Bend in Texas and St. Petersburg Museum of History in Florida – have succeeded in integrating bitcoin as a payment system. When it kicked off the initiative in 2013, the Museum of the Coastal Bend’s officials were quite skeptical about anyone visiting and using BTC but they went ahead with it because there really wasn’t as much risk.

Five years down the line and bitcoin has become quite a big deal and is worth upwards of $110 billion. The digital currency is also considered to be a proper asset by mainstream institutions such as Nasdaq, Fidelity, ICE and even the New York Stock Exchange. The Great Lakes Science Center hopes to also tap into the ecosystem with its own set of unique offerings that will include the ability to purchase admission tickets to visit NASA’s Glenn Visitor Center.

All this will be possible through an app that the museum launched a year ago. The app utilizes augmented reality and virtual reality to allow visitors to experiment with various elements of space phenomena such as flames and space-craft designs when they visit the Glenn Visitor Center.

Such developments are clear proof that the integration of trusted or major digital currencies like bitcoin is the new trend in the global market.

Revolutionary BTC Sidechain, The Liquid Network, Goes Live

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For a while now there has been a lot of buzz regarding such developments as the Lightning Network, which scales up the bitcoin network so that it can keep up with digital currencies like Ripple and Tron. The Lightning Network, for instance, has shown a lot of promise and is expected to take off on a large scale pretty soon. In the meantime, Blockstream, a company that majors in blockchain development projects, is hell-bent on completely revolutionizing how the world’s oldest and most popular digital currency works.

On October 10, the company officially announced the launch of the Liquid Network, a project they are touting as an inter-exchange settlement network that connects digital currency exchanges, financial institutions, market makers and brokers from all around the globe. This comes in a little less than a year after Blockstream introduced the concept of the Lightning Network during the Blockchain Association of Canada’s Government Forum that was held in Ottawa.

What It Does and How It Does It

Well, unlike the famous Lightning Network which has also been all the buzz lately, the Liquid Network is a secondary layer that was built as a sidechain of bitcoin – the sidechain essentially qualifies to be referred to as an extension of the bitcoin blockchain. However, it is not exclusive to the bitcoin blockchain. This sidechain allows its users to swap coins from the main blockchain to its sidechain in a 1-to-1 parity, something that is usually aimed at tapping in certain features that the main network may be lacking.

In the case of the Liquid Network, the feature that is tapped in is incredibly fast transactions with the main focus being on enhancing the exchange of large sums between the crypto exchanges, market makers and the financers. As it turns out, the members of the Liquid Network will be the ones providing the liquidity because they will be the people responsible for keeping a balance of L-BTC which they would then allow their users to trade.

“The members of Liquid secure the network by running functionary servers that run the Liquid blockchain as well as maintaining the two-way peg to the Bitcoin blockchain,” Blockstream’s CSO Samson Mow said in a recent interview. “When someone wants to move BTC to the Liquid sidechain, they send it to a unique peg-in address. When someone is ready to move their money back to the Bitcoin blockchain, they can make a peg-out transaction that will tell the [Liquid members] to send Bitcoin to the desired address.”

What Next?

At launch, the Liquid Network project had a total of 23 partners who are now the so-called Liquid members. Blockstream hopes to expand Liquid’s membership moving forward and at the same time build out its services to include such things as Issued Assets (IA) which would include tokenized commodities, tokens, and even Ethereum.

In the meantime, the company will be focusing on extending the features of the Lightning Network to specifically ease its introduction and adoption in the global cryptocurrency community.

Japanese Regulators Ramp Up Scrutiny of Crypto Exchanges

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For quite some time now, Japan has been at the forefront of the cryptocurrency industry thanks to the innovators and forward-thinking stakeholders residing in the country who have quickly adopted the technology. Even though most Japanese citizens are all for the crypto revolution, the regulatory bodies in the country are taking a more cautious stance in a bid to protect the citizens from scams or hacks.

On that note, the country’s top financial regulator, the Financial Services Agency (FSA), has reportedly introduced new screening requirement for cryptocurrency exchanges that are seeking approval to operate within Japanese borders. As reported by the Japan Times, the agency has “tightened its registration screening for cryptocurrency exchanges to see whether they are properly conducting risk management.”

As such, FSA’s focus extends beyond the registrant’s financial health and system safety measures to more explicit criteria such as the crypto exchanges’ links to antisocial groups and their decision-making process. The Japan Times further revealed that the agency will now have about 400 screening questions which is about four times the number they would ask in the past.

“It [FSA] now obligates applicants to submit minutes of board meetings so it can check whether enough discussions have been held about measures to sustain the company’s financial health and ensure the security of its computer system,” the sources told the Japan Times. “The upgraded screening process also regularly reviews the composition of an applicant company’s shareholders, while examining if an internal system is in place to check for links to antisocial groups.”

The FSA’s decree that the exchanges submit board meeting minutes is not only meant to ensure security but also confirm that the executive members of the company are proactively and legitimately involved in the various exchanges’ decision-making processes. In addition to this, the screening process will involve a regular review of the primary shareholders so as to “examine if an internal system is in place to check for links to antisocial groups.”

A Drawback?

Even though this will go a long way in filtering out scams and shady business, analysts are worried that the new regulatory move might end up hampering the development of the cryptocurrency exchanges in the country. However, there are close to zero other ways of handling the situation at the moment.

One of the factors that incentivized the FSA’s move was an inspection of Coincheck, a crypto exchange that was hacked in January, and 23 others. A report that was recently revealed by the agency cited “sloppy internal controls” and “lack of board meetings.” These findings were not very reassuring especially considering the fact that about 160  cryptocurrency exchanges are now interested in entering the Japanese market.

South African Tax Authority Drafting Tax Laws for Crypto

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Africa’s blooming cryptocurrency industry has been operating in a legal gray area, a situation that has left the traders, developers, enthusiasts, and investors to their own devices. However, recent developments in South Africa are beginning to build optimism on a future where crypto is regulated – a number of stakeholders in the crypto industry have expressed their belief that regulation is the key to the industry’s prosperity.

Earlier this year, the South African Revenue Services (SARS) announced that they would begin taxing income from crypto and it has made good on this promise and is now drafting a crypto tax law which will outline the virtual assets law thus effectively creating a framework for crypto revenue systems. Taxpayers in the country were told they are expected to include gains and losses from trading cryptocurrencies in the taxable income reported in the tax returns.

“In South Africa, the word ‘currency; is not defined in the Income Tax Act (the Act). Cryptocurrencies are either official South African tender nor widely used and accepted in South Africa as a medium of payment or exchange. As such, cryptocurrencies are not regarded by SARS as a currency for income tax purposes or Capital Gains Tax (CGT). Instead, cryptocurrencies are regarded by SARS as assets of an intangible nature,” reads an April statement issued by SARS.

“The onus is on taxpayers to declare all cryptocurrency-related taxable income in the tax year in which it is received or accrued. Failure to do so could result in interest and penalties.”

The draft of the crypto regulations on tax has exempted crypto from value-added tax (VAT), a move that has shown an element of leniency towards the budding industry. As quoted above, SARS believe that crypto transactions are separate from financial service transfers and this is what influenced the exemption of crypto from VAT.

Tracking Crypto Traders

SARS is reportedly working on ways of improving the tracking of cryptocurrency traders and their transactions in a bid to verify whether or not they are paying taxes. According to the authority’s commissioner, Mark Kingon, identification of the cryptocurrency traders is the main issue and therefore the most critical aspect of taxation when it comes to the crypto industry.

“The key thing is identifying people who are trading because it’s easy to say cryptocurrency gains must be deductible, but there are also those who lose. That’s why it’s important to identify the trader,” he said.

He also noted that despite the fact that they have procedures in place to identify traders, the issue was not entirely straightforward especially because a significantly large number of the South African crypto traders use foreign bank accounts while some conduct these transactions in other jurisdictions.

Bitcoin Crosses $8,000 Mark, Up 20 Percent in One Week

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Bitcoin’s price yesterday crossed the $8,000 mark for the very first time in over a month. This has already begun to spark speculations that this could be the return of the bull run that last year propelled bitcoin to its all-time high of almost $20,000. But, is it?

This recent rise in bitcoin’s price comes just after a week that saw it increase in value by about 20 percent following news that established financial institutions were eyeing the possibilities of venturing into bitcoin and cryptocurrency as a well as a ton of positive regulatory new from all around the world.

On the same note, bitcoins surge in value has been affecting many other aspects of the crypto industry including the so-called bitcoin dominance which rose to 47 percent this week, which is the highest it has ever been since December 2017 – bitcoin dominance is a measure of how much the total digital currency market is controlled by bitcoin.

What Is the Cause?

Many experts and crypto enthusiasts believe that bullishness around bitcoin can be attributed to the expected approval of a bitcoin exchange trade fund (ETF) that is currently being mulled over by the United States Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). The ETF was filed by New York-based VanEck and a blockchain platform known as SolidX through the Chicago Board of Exchange (CBOE).

If this bitcoin ETF is approved, people will be able to buy bitcoin without having to deal with existing clunky exchanges that usually struggle with cumbersome regulation and lack of trust from the public. According to a report filed but the ICO Journal a week ago, given the rise in bitcoin’s price, it appears that the bitcoin ETF is likely to get approved.

“I would call [the likelihood of approval] 90% at this point. The crypto markets have moderated and regulators have watched the lack of drama surrounding bitcoin futures across several global exchanges,” one of the ICO Journal’s unnamed sources reportedly commented. “The price moderation and adoption of a peer product is what the conversations have centered around. In January we were justifiably concerned about a bubble and the harm a quickly approved product could attract speculators and create losses that led to significant lawsuits. Now, those factors seem to be mitigated significantly.”

Global Regulatory Developments

Investors have also been quite keen on global regulatory news and this might also have something to do with the surge in bitcoin’s value. For instance, South Korea last week set up a government department that is tasked with creating policy initiatives around cryptocurrencies and financial technology.

“Regulation is moving in apace with positive murmurings from governments as they understand the opportunities and risks, and how to tailor their approaches — South Korea being the latest to give another tacit nod,” Charles Hayter, chief executive of digital coin comparison site CryptoCompare, said in an email on addressed to CNBC.

More Universities Providing Courses on Crypto

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It has been a little less than a year since crypto exploded into mainstream awareness but it is already becoming the focus of a growing number of university courses and educational programs. A few of these courses are based on the actual coding, computer science, and cryptography that lie behind cryptocurrencies. However, more and more courses are being tailored with the idea of providing a detailed introduction to crypto in mind – the intention is to allow the more business-focused audiences to have a basis for deciding whether or not to adopt crypto and to what extent they should do this.

While this may seem like a profit-oriented venture by universities that have found ways to capitalize on the cryptocurrency frenzy, the students themselves have reported considerable satisfaction with the teaching that they have received so. Even though the courses simply focus on teaching how to conceptualize blockchain instead of how the technology is coded and created, the knowledge that is imparted is still vital enough to be a major driving force for crypto if it is to be adopted on a global scale.

In the United States, crypto is mostly taught in the context of business-related programs, with very few universities offering specific degrees in crypto or blockchain technology. As it stands, a decent number of high – profile MBA programs in the country have already included or are including crypto-based courses that enable the students to have a grasp on crypto.

Russian Universities Join the Bandwagon

Just like the United States and a few other parts of the world, more academic institutions in Russia are beginning to offer educational courses as well as postgraduate programs focused on crypto and blockchain.

The most recent entrants are three Russian universities who have recently announced new courses and majors all related to cryptocurrencies and associated crypto technologies. These programs will be offered immediately the next academic year kicks off this fall and they will cover a wide array of subjects that include digital economy, cryptography, blockchain, distributed ledger technologies and alternative payment systems among others.

The Voronezh State University (VSU), one of the three universities, has already formulated a bachelor’s degree program that is all about studying digital economy and blockchain technology. Referred to as the “Models and methods for analyzing the digital economy”, the new major will be offered by the university’s Department of Information Technologies and Mathematical Methods in Economics.

The Don State Technical University (DTSU), on the other hand, will be offering two master’s programs in blockchain technologies – these will be “Intellectual systems based on blockchain technologies” and “Digital accounting and management.”

“We offer graduate students [the opportunity] to study in depth the distributed ledger technology. Blockchain is a promising technology that is rapidly introduced in many areas of life. Demand for specialists in this field is growing every day,” said DSTU’s Vice-Rector Alexey Belskopilniy.