Alibaba to Venture into Blockchain, Not Bitcoin

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According to Alibaba founder, Jack Ma, blockchain technology is not a bubble, but bitcoin is. Speaking at the 2nd World Intelligence Conference in Tianjin on Wednesday, May 16, the leader of the Chinese e-commerce giant said that he has been researching blockchain for years and as a result, he strongly believes that the technology has the potential to address issues of data privacy and security in a vast number of different fields.

The company’s interest in blockchain technology does not come as surprise especially due to its prioritization of security. Jack Ma’s stance on bitcoin albeit understandable is rather surprising especially because it would offer a fresh approach to the company’s trading volume that sums up to trillions of transactions. Ma, however, clarified that he thought that the emerging blockchain technology was being overlooked in favor of bitcoin by speculators who view the decentralized digital currency as a “huge gold mine.” Again, understandable.

“Honestly, I know very little about it, and I am totally confused: and even if it works, the whole international rules and laws on trade on finance is going to completely change. I don’t think we are ready for that. So I think I’m focusing on the Alipay and focused on RMB, U.S. Dollars and Euros, and that’s fair … We have a team specifically to study that and also we have a team blockchain technology. We’ve spent a lot of efforts on blockchain technology at Alibaba, but Bitcoin, I say not for me. I don’t know,” Ma said during the conference. “But now that the blockchain is hot, there are people buying and selling blockchains … There is no bubble for blockchain, but there’s a bitcoin bubble … Personally, I’m quite bullish about blockchain.”

Alibaba seems to be quite serious about investing in blockchain technology – last year, for instance, the New York-listed Alibaba ranked first in the world for blockchain patent applications as revealed by data compiled by IPRdaily. Alibaba had 43 published blockchain patent applications in 2017. Blockchain has been lauded by a number of businessmen and if anything is to go by it should be a clear indication of the direction it will eventually take.

Huawei Phones to Offer Easier Access to Bitcoin Wallets

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Even though Chinese authorities have been cracking down on crypto trading platforms and Initial coin Offerings (ICOs), owning cryptocurrencies in the country has not been outlawed. Now according to a report by Bloomberg, Huawei, which is arguably one of the largest telecommunication manufacturers in the world, is enabling easier access to Bitcoin for its users.

The Chinese telecommunication firm and renowned smartphone maker has partnered with to roll out a bitcoin wallet for the tech giant’s proprietary app store, AppGallery. The wallet will be the first of its kind to be offered in the Shenzen-based tech firm’s app store and will be pre-installed on all new Huawei and Honor phones – older phones will not be left out and will thus have the app rolled out to them in coming months as confirmed by’s vice president of business operations Alejandro de la Torre.

“New users can access Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash in a simple, secure and trusted environment. China is almost a ‘cashless economy’ today, accounting for almost 62% of all global mobile transactions. This dwarfs the estimated $49.3 billion in total mobile payment transactions in the United States in 2017, which highlights the amazing opportunity cryptocurrencies have in replacing fiat currency as the currency of choice for mobile payments. Huawei is leading the way in terms of adoption of blockchain technologies, and we’re excited to bring to Huawei’s user base for the first time,” de la Torre said.

As it stands, the greatest impact of this new venture by both and Huawei will be felt on the Chinese mobile phone market which Huawei own a huge chunk of. Furthermore, China has been a hotbed for cryptocurrencies despite the government’s aggressive stance trading in them and Initial Coin Offerings. As part of these control measures, the Chinese government has blocked Android’s Google Play Store and certain sections of Apple’s iTunes in order to limit access to such services as Still, as mentioned earlier, owning cryptocurrencies is not illegal in China and therefore Huawei and can get away with this clever workaround.

“It’s a good opportunity to tap into the Chinese market. The use of cashless payments with apps is very big and the traditional banking system is lacking, so there’s a good use case for crypto payments to grow there,” de la Torre added.

Huawei’s move came as little less of a surprise particularly because of the company’s recent beefed up efforts towards the development of a blockchain.

“Cryptocurrencies have recently expanded the human understanding of digital economy at a large scale. From our leadership position in China, the tip of the spear of mobile payments, we expect to see massive growth in global cryptocurrency adoption habits in the near future,” said Dr. Jaime Gonzalo, vice president of Huawei Mobile Services.

Bitcoin Trading Is Coming to Goldman Sachs

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Bitcoin and other decentralized digital currencies seem to be back on track on the road towards to mainstream adoption thanks to recent developments such as the plans by Reddit to reinstate bitcoin as a payment option – more cryptocurrencies will be accompanying bitcoin when it returns as a mode of payment on Reddit. But that is not all. Now, Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs is taking the next leap into the crypto space according to a May 2 report from the New York Times.

The investment bank will soon begin trading bitcoin futures for its clients while at the same time offering its so-called non-deliverable forwards which is a derivative product that the bank will be bringing to cryptocurrency users. The non-deliverable forward will involve trading of bitcoin without physical exchange of the underlying asset. Instead, it will involve the exchange of the currency it is quoted on the settlement date for the forward.

Since most of the leading financial institutions have tried as much as possible to distance themselves from bitcoin and most, if not all, other cryptocurrencies, the move by Goldman Sachs is very likely to lend some legitimacy to digital currencies. Still, it will certainly spawn a number of new concerns for the investment bank as it is about to begin using its own money to trade with clients in a range of contracts all linked to bitcoin’s price. Thanks to this, the bank is still quite guarded.

While there has been both internal and external skepticism, there is nearly an equal measure of support for the bank’s initiative. Mathew Newton, an analyst at eToro, a cryptocurrency retailer believes that considering the way things have been in the crypto world in the past 18 months, the move by financial institutions to join in should not come as a surprise. According to the analyst, any forward-looking financial institution must endeavor to not only understand the technology behind cryptocurrencies but also acknowledge its huge potential.

“Despite some initial posturing, the reality is most big banks have already invested significant amounts in research and development into blockchain technology, and cryptocurrencies themselves. It will still take time for institutional investors to fully come around – and the fact that Goldman won’t be buying or selling actual coins suggest some skepticism remains – but there’s a growing acceptance that these assets are here to stay,” Newton said.

Goldman Sachs is likely to begin directly trading cryptocurrency once there is more regulatory certainty surrounding bitcoin and other decentralized digital currencies.

First Lightning Network Transaction Performed by BitMari

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Having recently crossed the 2,000 mark of active nodes with 5,801 open channels on the main network, the Lightning network is gaining maturity faster than anticipated. The network essentially adds a second layer on top of the bitcoin blockchain which in turn enables super fast and low-cost bitcoin transactions.

As it stands the payment protocol that operates on bitcoin has had its total network capacity roll over to $150,000 – this is a huge milestone for the payment protocol especially considering its age. Still, there is more in store for the technology.

BitMari, Zimbabwean pan-African blockchain-based remittance service startup recently made history by successfully performing the first ever bitcoin transaction using the Lightning Network. The game-changing Lightning Network test transaction was completed with a Nigerian bitcoin trading platform known as Tanjalo. This particular achievement is proof of greater things ahead not just for payments services in Africa but also for the entire bitcoin community since users of the network will be able to make lightning-fast bitcoin transactions at close to zero costs.

Zimbabwe has been struggling with extremely high inflation rates which makes sending money to other countries extremely difficult. This applies across the board to several other African countries where the citizens only have a few money- transfer options thus forcing them to put with the extremely high transaction fees they pay to institutional bankers.

BitMari was founded with the idea of tackling the problems that the continent’s residents face when it comes to sending money across the borders by using the resources of the blockchain technology. With the entry of the Lightning Network, this rapid advancement in cross-border payment will be easier and also happen sooner.

“International average cost of remittance is approximately 7% yet, the cost of sending money to and from Africa can be as high as 20%. 20% is $2 out of every $10. These $2 may mean very little to you and I but in some areas of Africa, it could be the cost of a daily grocery trip,” reads a message on the platform’s website.

In less than five months, the Lightning Network has grown rapidly enough to topple the dominance of the much-touted Bitcoin Cash network. Therefore, its potential as universal payment service provider offers a lot of opportunities in all parts of the globe. All that is needed is a bit of exploration.

Disgraced Mt. Gox CEO Appointed as London Trust Media CTO

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The last four years have been pretty tough for Mark Karpelès, the Chief Executive Officer of Mt. Gox, the bitcoin exchange that went bankrupt in 2014 following the loss of 850,000 bitcoins. The situation not only made the former head of Mt. Gox one of the most hated men in the crypto world but also saw him serve a jail term for nearly a year while awaiting criminal trial for charges of data manipulations, breach of trust and embezzlement. This is despite the fact that Mt. Gox was able to recover 200,000 bitcoins – the remaining 650,000 bitcoins are believed to have been stolen by hackers from elsewhere.

“I have no way to be sure that I’ll still be able to work in one year, two years,” Karpelès said in an interview with Fortune in an interview in Tokyo in March. “So I cannot really get a normal full-time job.”

This sentiment by Karpelès clearly indicates that he acknowledges the possibility that he may be sent back to jail. Regardless of all this, he did land a new job as a C-level executive at a U.S. corporation – he will be the new chief technology officer (CTO) of London Trust Media which is paid virtual private network (VPN) service provider based in Denver.

The company also invests in cryptocurrency. In fact, it was an early investor in Zcash, a privacy-focused cryptocurrency, as well as Purse, an e-commerce startup that allows people to pay for Amazon purchases with bitcoin.

“Mark fought and fell. And although he fell, his skills, experience, and know-how unarguably continue to exist. And so, bringing in a seasoned warrior makes perfect sense to me. I am more than willing to give a second chance to Mark in this fight’s critical hour. I wouldn’t dare say that the person who architected the Titanic should never again architect another ship”, said Andrew Lee, co-founder at London Trust Media and former head of Mt. Gox’s North American operations.

In the interview with Fortune, Karpelès admitted that the new position at London Trust Media was now his main job alongside other five different IT consulting jobs, as well as online video game-related and network communications projects with employers he preferred not to mention. Also, since he is on trial and thus cannot legally leave Japan, Karpelès will only be able to work remotely.

However, even though his new job description puts him in charge of London Trust Media’s cryptocurrency ventures, the former Mt. Gox CEO has been quite open about the fact that he no longer believes in bitcoin.

“Bitcoin right now is, I believe, doomed. Its original promise of being the future of currency is clearly out of reach”, Karpelès said.

He believes that the cryptocurrency may have a lot of trouble evolving, scaling up and keeping up with everything. In addition to this, he pointed to the split between bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash as proof of how polarized the cryptocurrency community is.

Bitcoin Declared “Generally Permissible” Under Islamic Law

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Yesterday, the value of Bitcoin went from $6,962.6 to $7,720.27 in less than one hour sparking a whole lot of speculations, one being that the price surge had something to do with an Indonesia-based startup’s report. In the report that was published in Thursday, April 12 press release, Blossom Finance, the fintech startup, concluded that bitcoin is “generally permissible” or “halal” under Sharia law. This conclusion was made in conjunction with the startup’s internal Sharia advisor.

Islam is currently the fastest growing religion in the world with over 1.6 billion devoted Muslims. For the longest time, the adoption of cryptocurrencies has been a rather grey area for Muslims around the world – this is because Muslims are forbidden from using currencies that do not have any intrinsic value and lending money with high-interest rates, a practice known as usury.

With the recent massive worldwide adoption of cryptocurrencies, Muslims were left behind as they were forbidden from staking claims in the crypto space – not anymore.

“In Germany, Bitcoin is recognized as a legal currency and therefore qualifies as Islamic money in Germany. In countries such as the US, Bitcoin lacks official legal monetary status but is accepted for payment at a variety of merchants, and therefore qualifies as Islamic customary money,” Mufti Muhammad Abu Bakar, an Islamic scholar and Blossom Finance’s Sharia advisor wrote in a paper he published to address the issue.

“Bitcoin is permissible in principle as bitcoin is treated as valuable by market price on global exchanges and it is accepted for payment at a wide variety of merchants. Moreover, many private individuals accept bitcoin as a medium of exchange in their private transactions,” the study adds.

What This Means

While many people agree that the assumption that bitcoin’s price surge might be purely speculative, even more people believe that it was largely due to the crypto market finally opening up to the Islam community who account for about a quarter of the world’s population. In fact, the assumption is justifiably reasonable especially considering how the digital currency’s price has been affected in one way or the other by external entities such as media outlets.

Not long after the paper was published, over a billion dollars in trades were initiated across nearly all the cryptocurrency exchanges which subsequently saw bitcoin’s price increase sharply over a very short period – less than an hour to be more precise. Bitcoin has proven time and time again that it is not going away any time soon and the adoption by the Muslim community is certainly another step in the right direction for the entire crypto community.

Crypto Trading Has Not Been Banned In India, Govt. Confirms

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As mentioned in the Friday news post, the cryptocurrency situation in India is quite unstable at the moment. Still, it is worth noting that there have been a lot of misconceptions regarding the recent decision by the Indian government with a number of media outlets claiming that India has banned trading in bitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies for that matter. This is certainly not the case. Just to be clear, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) only cut ties between its own banks and any entity that deals with cryptocurrencies.

No Cause for Alarm?

It goes without saying that the RBI press release indeed caused quite a stir especially because it somehow translates to a total ban on bitcoin trading, depending on how one interprets it. While this is not the case, it cannot be said that there is nothing worry about since the RBI’s ultimatum is still rather significant for cryptocurrency users.

All banks that are currently servicing any entities that deal in cryptocurrencies have a three-month deadline looming over their operations. Any bank that fails to sever its ties with the crypto users the will no longer be considered as a partner of the Reserve Bank of India.

What It Implies

According to Unocoin, there is not much cause for alarm since the RBI has not deemed bitcoin as an illegal currency and there is no ban on cryptocurrencies. For now, Unocoin will continue operating as usual until the banks it is affiliated with state otherwise. The three-month ultimatum creates room for a lot of changes and adjustments but everything will become crystal clear after that. So far, the damage is going to be minimal even though this is subject to abrupt change, but such kind of change is something you get used to when you stay in the crypto-world for long.

The decision by Indian officials is not entirely surprising since the RBI has for several months now reiterated the risks associated with cryptocurrencies. As such, it is likely that many of the India cryptocurrency entities have always been prepared for such developments. In other countries, the alternative has been moving to crypto-friendly countries such as Malta and Switzerland. All that matters now is that bitcoin trading has not been banned in the country but in case it happens, there are viable options for the crypto operations. We will just have to wait and see how it all plays out.

RBI Bans Regulated Entities from Dealing in Cryptocurrencies

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Even though it is currently exploring the creation of its own cryptocurrency, India’s central bank on April 5 escalated a crackdown on existing digital currencies like bitcoin. In an official statement released by the Reserve Bank of India, it was directed that all regulated entities, including banks, should stop providing services to individuals or even businesses that are users, holders and traders of cryptocurrencies.

Meanwhile, the central bank has set up a panel that will be tasked with studying the feasibility and the desirability of introducing a fiat digital currency. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) confirmed in a statement on Thursday that the panel will be expected to submit a report by the end of June this year.

“It has been decided that, with immediate effect, entities regulated by RBI shall not deal with or provide services to any individual or business entities dealing with or settling virtual currencies,” the RBI said. “Regulated entities which already provide such services shall exit the relationship within a specified time. A circular in this regard is being issued separately.”

As far as the specified time frame is concerned, the RBI gave the regulated entities three months to unwind their positions with the crypto-related entities. This move comes after over three warnings that were issued to the public in regards to the risks of dealing with decentralized digital currencies. It also follows in the footsteps of several other governments around the world that have been strengthening scrutiny of the virtual currencies. In fact, by its own admission, the RBI affirmed that this move is geared towards protecting the regulated entities form the risks associated with digital currencies.

“Virtual Currencies (VCs), also variously referred to as cryptocurrencies and crypto assets, raise concerns of consumer protection, market integrity and money laundering, among others… In view of the associated risks, it has been decided that, with immediate effect, entities regulated by RBI shall not deal with or provide services to any individual or business entities dealing with or settling VCs,” the RBI said in an April 5 statement.

Possible Introduction of a Fiat Digital Currency

The new RBI regulations certainly have rather significant implications for the crypto market in India. However, the central bank is taking steps that will maintain or draw from certain aspects of the crypto-ecosystem. The underlying blockchain technology, for instance, is quite promising and the RBI acknowledges this fact – the bank will be investigating ways of exploiting the blockchain technology in order to achieve financial inclusion and enhance the efficiency of the country’s financial system.

Also, as mentioned earlier, the RBI is exploring the concept of a fiat digital currency that will be issued by the bank and thus will be considered to be its liability. The new currency will in circulation alongside the tradition paper currency – if it succeeds it also holds the promise if reducing the costs of printing the paper currencies.

Bitcoin Crashes Again amid Social Media Ban on Crypto Ads

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Just a few months after Facebook banned cryptocurrency adverts on its platform, Twitter has followed in its footsteps by confirming reports from earlier this month that it was implementing a global crackdown on ads for Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). Twitter’s updated Restricted Content Policies now requires any project seeking to conduct a token sale to have proof of legal regulation in the targeted country before it is allowed to run adds on the social platform. The same goes for cryptocurrency exchanges and wallets which will now have to be publicly-listed companies on major stock markets.

Bitcoin dropped 12 percent in January after Facebook, which happens to be the world’s second-largest online advertiser, said it would be banning all adverts that promote cryptocurrencies in a bid to prevent what it termed as “financial products and services frequently associated with misleading or deceptive promotional practices.” Twitter’s updated policy is more or less giving the same vibe since the terms it has set are meant to curb the same problem. The policy effectively requires that any adverts for financial products and services must be compatible with all applicable laws in the target countries and the all information regarding the products or services must be provided to the investors. Also, the owners of the ads will have to provide necessary disclosures as well as balanced information detailing the risks and benefits.

Reddit Also Jumps Ship

In similar news, Reddit, another popular social media website, will no longer be accepting bitcoin as payment for the platform’s Reddit Gold membership program. While there is still hope that the payment option may be reinstated in the future, players will have to manage with the existing options, that is, PayPal and credit cards. According to “emoney04”, a Reddit admin, the removal of bitcoin as a payment option was prompted by the upcoming Coinbase change and “some bugs around the Bitcoin payment option that were affecting purchases for certain users.”

“We’re going to take a look at demand and watch the progression of Coinbase Commerce before making a decision on whether to re-enable,” the administrator said.

Bitcoin Price Brushes Aside Child Abuse Report, Nears $9,000

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On Tuesday evening, bitcoin’s price rose above $9,000 for the first time in a week regardless of reports that its blockchain contains links to child abuse imagery. Researchers from the RWTH Aachen University, Germany discovered 1,600 files that were currently stored in the bitcoin blockchain. At least eight of the files contained sexual content including two with 274 links to child abuse imagery and one that looked like an image of the same. Also among these files were 142 that contained links to dark web services.

The blockchain, which is essentially a transaction ledger distributed and stored on many different computers was designed to be immutable so as to guarantee the integrity of information. This is how all decentralized digital currencies work. As such, the information cannot be altered – at least not yet. The only alternative to would be a consensus among the network’s users to use a new version – also called a “fork” – of the blockchain instead of the original one. However, bitcoin is yet to experience this.

The Implications

Some blockchains, such as the one powering bitcoin, which is probably the oldest, can contain all sorts of information fragments some of which may be illegal in certain jurisdictions. Since the information cannot be deleted, everyone that has a copy of the blockchain is essentially breaking the law.

It came as no surprise that the blockchain would undoubtedly cause trouble with laws in certain jurisdictions. The European data protection laws, for instance, say that people must be given the liberty of having their personal data amended or deleted regardless of where it is stored. Public cryptographic keys and transactions which are regularly stored on blockchains are basically personal data – and since the blockchain does not allow these to be altered, it is a breach of that particular law.

“Our analysis shows that certain content, e.g., illegal pornography, can render the mere possession of a blockchain illegal,” the German researchers explained. “Although court rulings do not yet exist, legislative texts from countries such as Germany, the UK, or the USA suggest that illegal content such as [child abuse imagery] can make the blockchain illegal to possess for all users. This especially endangers the multi-billion dollar markets powering cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.”

This is quite serious, isn’t it? But, how is bitcoin braving it? Well, while the research report highlights the importance of addressing the possibility of unintended data insertion in future blockchain designs in order to protect users accordingly, it is also important to note that the existing bitcoin blockchain design troubles do not affect casual users of the cryptocurrency.

Jeff Garzik, a bitcoin core developer explains that the unintended information on the network is not even accessible directly since it has to be decoded first. This does not also apply to users who download fragments of the blockchain such as those who are just doing Bitcoin transactions.