Microsoft Revives Nonfungible Tokens, Sparks Industry's Imagination

By Sritanshu Sinha

Microsoft Revives Nonfungible Tokens, Sparks Industry's Imagination

Ever since the game CryptoKitties was released in November 2017, the concept of nonfungible token has been ingrained in the minds of developers and investors in the crypto community. However, 2019 has been the year that NFTs have gained mainstream attention. And it should come as no surprise that even huge, multinational companies are currently developing NFT projects.

Recently, Mirosoft’s blockchain-based cloud platform, Azure, released its own nonfungible tokens program called “Azure Heroes” with the aim of rewarding its developer community.

Azure Heroes

Through Azure Heroes, Microsoft is on a mission to empower technical practitioners of all backgrounds. With that as the objective, it has created a tool to inspire the community to learn, coach and build on Azure while promoting healthy and inclusive behavior.

Issuance and transactions of “Badger” collectibles will be carried out on the Ethereum network, allowing winners to hold them as NFTs. The tokens were created in partnership with Enjin, a platfor that specifically caters to the video game industry.

In order to earn one of these Badgers, Azure developers must first be nominated — either by themselves or by the community. Then, the community moderators will select the best nominees, based on their performance, to be awarded a Badger. Winners will then be provided with a QR code that can be used to redeem their Badgers via their Enjin wallet, where it can then be transferred to any other NFT-compatible Ethereum address.

The rise of NFTs

Fungibility refers to an item that is interchangeable with another, identical item. A dollar bill or a grain of rice is fungible — i.e., mutually interchangeable with other dollar bills or grains of rice. On the other hand, a house or a piece of art constitutes a nonfungible item — i.e., not mutually interchangeable with other houses or other works of art. Keeping this distinction in mind, an NFT is a unique digital asset with a traceable history that differentiates it from other assets that appear similar.

One of the most interesting things about NFTs is their ability to fundamentally change digital ownership. Until now, people never truly had ownership of anything that they purchased virtually. Purchasing in-game items and treating them as real-world assets is one thing, but the reality is that they don’t belong to the players who made the purchase; they belong to the game’s publishers.

However, 2019 was the tipping point for the adoption of NFTs, and there are a few reasons for this — at least in the gaming community. First of all, games like Gods Unchained were game changers upon their release.

Developed by Australia-based blockchain gaming startup Immutable, Gods Unchained is a turn-based digital trading card game that operates on the Ethereum blockchain. There are other collectible games — such as Decentraland, Etherbots, Spells of Genesis and Rare Pepe — whose popularity rose in 2019. However, outside of the gaming industry, companies utilizing NFTs, such as SuperRare, Zcrafty and Terra0, have also gained prominence.

Marketplaces like OpenSea, RareBits and OpenBazaar have also started to trade NFTs as crypto collectibles. The infrastructure around NFTs is also improving. 0xcert offers developer tools for issuing and managing NFTs. In addition, Codex Protocol has developed a decentralized registry for unique assets like art, fine wine, antiques and more.

Moreover, there are other factors for why NFTs are becoming more popular, one of them being an interest of multinational corporations in blockchain gaming. In September 2018, one of the biggest names in gaming, Ubisoft, sponsored the Blockchain Game Summit in Lyon, France. The following month saw Ubisoft become an inaugural member of Blockchain Game Alliance. When asked about the current use of NFTs in popular products and services, Ethan Pierse, the director at the CryptoAssets Institute, told Cointelegraph:

“Indiegogo and GoFundMe have also shown that people are willing to spend plenty of money supporting causes and products that they believe in. On Indiegogo, the product you get is called a Perk, and on Kickstarter, it is a reward, and people have contributed billions to those crowdfunded projects.”

Pierse went on to add that brand loyalty and self-identification are likely to intensify further, as supporters are also able to show off digital collectibles, concluding that:

“If those tokenized collectibles also have value as an asset to encourage hodling and trading, then we are looking at a digital version of the same craziness seen with Beanie Babies or Magic: The Gathering cards. A $90000 Magic card was just tokenized for 124 investors on collectible assets platform Mythic Markets.”

Diversification of use cases of NFTs

There is a noticeable drive for the development of NFT use cases beyond entertainment. Specifically with the case multi-layer blockchains, the foundational layer — which is the home of assets such as Bitcoin — is increasingly shifting toward being a store of value, presenting a segment of the market in which high-value NFTs can develop.

NFTs can signify ownership of high-value or sensitive physical, illiquid assets such as artwork or real estate. The latter is especially an area that can profit from the use of NFTs. Additionally, there is a drive to use tokenization and fractional ownership to make these investments liquid. For instance, NFTs can represent individual units in a property owned by multiple families.

Even though many look at NFTs as a way of building new financial assets and democratizing access to capital, regulation is likely to act as a hindrance. For example, the NFT platform Codex Protocol aspires to use NFTs as a medium to fractionalize ownership of a piece of art. While this is interesting in theory, there is a risk that doing so would turn these tokenized assets into securities, which would then need to be regulated as such.

Jonathan Brandt, the principal information technology consultant at the Willow Group who designed a course on blockchain at Minnesota State University, told Cointelegraph:

“I believe a major obstacle to the adoption of NFTs for more serious purposes, say, the provenance of antiquities or the tracking of a medical supply chain, is the lack of intuitive or obvious methods for redress and recovery. Ironically, many of the centralized institutions which blockchain stands to dismantle are really good at this. Microsoft, like it or not, has achieved tremendous mass-adoption of Internet Explorer, Windows, and the Office suite. It has the reach and the gravitas to nurture acceptance of NFTs.”

How NFTs can create value for an enterprise

Essentially, the evolution of NFTs is heavily dependent on the underlying blockchain infrastructure. Optimizing for scalability and transaction speeds, for example, is anticipated to have a huge impact on the rate of development for the space. Besides this, the absence of accessibility when it comes to NFTs is a real problem that has yet to be solved, and the entry of big players like Microsoft can go a long way to help.

Enterprises can use NFTs for inventory management, where certain tokens can be combined with other tokens to represent an assembled product with multiple component parts. Another area where NFTs can find application in enterprises such as Microsoft is in licensing software.

Such licenses have been traditionally represented by keys, but NFTs stored in wallets can now be used to grant permissions. Real estate is another example of a unique asset that can potentially be represented as NFTs. Additionally, identity management — both in social media and in enterprises — can leverage nontransferable NFTs.

Microsoft and blockchain

Through Azure, Microsoft has made many pioneering efforts toward blockchain adoption. Over the course of 2018, it has launched a blockchain development kit and the Azure Blockchain Workbench.

In May 2019, the company also unveiled the Azure Blockchain Services, which is a fully managed service that allows for the formation, management and governance of consortium blockchain networks.

Related: Crypto Firms Join Azure as Microsoft Fights Amazon for Market Share

Along with these products, the company has launched an extension to Visual Studio Code to help developers create and compile smart contracts based on Ethereum, and then deploy them on the public chain or on a consortium network in the Azure Blockchain Service. Regarding this, Pierse, the CryptoAssets Institute’s director, said:

“Azure is locked in a battle to differentiate itself with AWS, Oracle, and Heroku among others. If nothing else, this creates visibility and further engages Azure’s existing communities. I’m not sure that CTOs that have committed to other development platforms are going to make strategic decisions based on which ‘badger’ they can get, but I do think this could further showcase the engagement of Azure’s developer community.”

Soon after the announcement of Azure Heroes, Microsoft also unveiled new tokenization and blockchain data management services, highlighting the increased adoption of blockchain in enterprises.

Alibaba Offers Bitcoin Rewards Through Lolli Shopping App for ‘Singles Day’

Leigh Cuen

Posted by Leigh Cuen Nov 11, 2019

Lolli, an affiliate retail startup that gives online shoppers bitcoin instead of regular cash-back perks, just announced its first Asian partnership with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Lolli’s in-browser app allows users to shop through merchants’ websites as they normally would, but earn small bitcoin rewards delivered to the in-browser wallet.

CoinDesk reached out to Alibaba for comment and will update the article if we hear back.

This announcement comes on Singles Day, the Nov. 11 Chinese shopping holiday comparable to the U.S.’s Black Friday. Alibaba Group’s online Singles Day sales have reportedly generated more than $23 billion so far this year.

However, Lolli’s head of communications, Aubrey Strobel, told CoinDesk that Lolli perks will only be available to purchases made in the U.S. For Chinese-Americans, foreign students or travelers, this new option could add additional perks if they participate in online holiday sales, but residents in China will be unable to participate.

“Its products would be shipped from China to U.S. users,” Strobel said.

Lolli CEO Alex Adelman referred to this partnership as a milestone for the startup, which plans to expand internationally in 2020.

“This partnership is a great first step to connect the two largest economies, China and the US, through bitcoin and commerce,” he told CoinDesk. “The opportunity is available for US users only for now but we plan to expand internationally soon, letting everyone in the world easily earn and own bitcoin.”

Stepping back, several cash-back crypto startups are gearing up for the holiday shopping season. There are now several bitcoin retail apps, including competitors like Fold, Pei and SPEDN, targeting customers over the 2019 holiday shopping season, offering more bitcoin options than in previous years.

Bitcoin Price Will See $16,000 ‘Soon-Ish,’ Predicts Binance CEO CZ

Posted By Adrian Zmudzinski – CoinTelegraph

Bitcoin Price Will See $16,000 ‘Soon-Ish,’ Predicts Binance CEO CZ

Changpeng Zhao, the CEO of major cryptocurrency exchange Binance, says a price of $16,000 per Bitcoin will happen “soon-ish,” in a tweet sent on Nov. 1. Zhao explains that price predictions are easy, but getting the timing right is hard. 

He said:

“Lol, price predictions are easy. It’s just hard to be right about the timing. We will see $16k soon-ish. 1.4 billion people working on it as we speak.”

The message was an answer to the tweet of another user who pointed out that the prediction of an anonymous 4chan user predicting Bitcoin’s price would hit $16,000 by the end of October turned out to be wrong. The given prediction also stated that BTC will hit $29,000 in the first quarter of next year, $56,000 in Q3 2020 and $87,000 in Q4 2020.

At the same time, other predictions are actually less modest. John McAfee, for example, doubled down recently on his $1M Bitcoin by 2020 prediction, arguing that Bitcoin’s next price surge will be triggered by its scarcity. 

As Cointelegraph reported, the Bitcoin network mined its 18 millionth BTC last month, which means there are only 3 million BTC not yet in circulation.

Blockchain Will Integrate BitPay’s Payments System For Wallet Payments

Daniel Kuhn

Daniel Kuhn 
Aug 23, 2019 at 22:00 UTC

Bitcoin wallet and blockchain explorer provider Blockchain announced a partnership with the largest bitcoin processor, BitPay.

According to a blog post published today, Blockchain will integrate BitPay’s payment architecture into its wallet service. This partnership will allow Blockchain wallet users to pay merchants online or on mobile.

BitPay processes approximately $1 billion in bitcoin alone every year for businesses and individual clients and over $2.8 billion in other cryptos for institutional clients since 2011. The firm has built an ecosystem of merchants that accept their payments – including Amazon, Delta, and Hotels.com – because, as a payment processor, it offers the option to settle in fiat currencies and provides invoices.

Likewise, Blockchain is often regarded as one of the world’s largest wallet providers with approximately 38 million users, of which more than half are located outside the United States. Further, the firm’s wallet users account for roughly a quarter of all on-chain bitcoin transactions.

“We’re excited to see this new addition connect our Wallet users to the world of merchants that accept Bitcoin (and soon other cryptos) as a payment method — one of the key ways to interact with and grow the digital asset ecosystem,” Blockchain writes in a statement.

Blockchain’s wallet service is non-custodial and offers an optional know-your-customer (KYC) verification for users who want in-wallet trading capabilities. Whereas, BitPay requires its users to undergo KYC requirements.

In July, Blockchain unveiled its crypto exchange platform the PIT, with optionality to connect the firms wallets for nearly instant transfers.

Blockchain CEO Peter Smith via CoinDesk archives

Perverse Outcomes: FATF, Bitcoin and Financial Exclusion

Michael J Casey

Michael J Casey Jul 29, 2019 at 04:15 UTC

Michael J. Casey is the chairman of CoinDesk’s advisory board and a senior advisor for blockchain research at MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative.


In last week’s column — my third on Libra — I referred to a core dilemma confronting the cryptocurrency project’s financial inclusion goals: the impossibility of being both pro-privacy and pro-KYC.

I promise a break this week from Libra and its controversial founder, Facebook. But I want to dive deeper into that dilemma because the problem is hardly unique to that project. As “know-your-customer” rules have steadily encroached into their world, all cryptocurrency startups trying to expand financial access for the poor are hamstrung by requirements to identify and track the people they seek to serve.

This contradiction stems from tough policies contained under Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism rules (AML-CFT), which were tightened worldwide after the September 11 attacks in 2001 and then again after the financial crisis. Since virtually every bank needs access to dollars, KYC rules everywhere tend to follow models laid down in the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act and in guidelines of the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN. Further internationalizing pressure comes from the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force, or FATF, which sets the regulatory standards by which countries pressure each other to comply.

This network of rules, which empower enforcement agencies to impose stiff fines, hold the Sword of Damocles over bankers’ heads, driving them into risk-averse positions. Bank compliance officers need only mention HSBC (fined $1.9 billion for enabling Mexican drug money laundering) or Standard Chartered (hit with a $1.1 billion fine for similar lapses with Iran) to convince their bosses of a rigorous approach to identifying and profiling customers.

Yet it’s not clear these measures are effective. The UnitedNations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that a 2-5% of global GDP, or between $800 billion and $2 trillion, is still being laundered each year. Would the figures be higher without these tough rules? Maybe. But we have no counterfactual against which to measure performance.

Criminals still have a host of mechanisms to move money around and avoid sanctions. Yes, some use bitcoin – which is why the FATF this year introduced tougher rules for what it calls “virtual asset service providers” – but cryptocurrency’s role is far smaller than that played by fiat currency banknotes. And as revealed in the Panama Papers in 2015, all sorts of shady entities continue to help crooked politicians and their financiers hide identities and obscure money movements.

What we do know is that these rules hinder financial inclusion.

Caribbean governments, for example, complain that their economies have increasingly suffered “de-risking,” as tougher compliance has stanched investment flows to the islands.

The consequences are even more severe for poorer countries, where state-led IDs are either non-existent or easily forged. The heavy scrutiny that foreign banks apply to their counterparties in FATF-labeled “high-risk jurisdictions” means the bar for businesses and individuals in those countries to obtain local banking services is very high. It’s a key reason why 2 billion people worldwide are considered “unbanked.”

This, of course, has a negative impact on poverty, which in turn feeds crime and terrorism – the very problems AML-CFT is intended to fight.

Consider Somalia, a failed state whose institutions are often blacklisted by the world’s biggest banks. It’s difficult and costly for Somalian expats to send money home to family members who rely on such remittances. This perpetuates poverty, drives people into informal payment systems and fosters the disenfranchising economic conditions in which terrorist organizations such as the Somali-based Al Shabaab thrive.

Talk about a perverse effect.

Is cryptocurrency the answer?

The Cypherpunk answer is to say, screw governments. People should use bitcoin, since it enables peer-to-peer digital payments without the intermediation of a regulated entity.

The problem lies at the crypto on- and off-ramps, where government surveillance has become ever more intense. The FATF’s new “travel rule” says cryptocurrency exchanges should be required to obtain information, not only about their customers but also on their customers’ customers, forcing cross-exchange information-sharing. This suggests the only environment where cryptocurrency transactions will be free from KYC exists solely between self-custody wallets. The minute a transaction touches the custodial structure that underpins most exchanges, cryptocurrency will be subject to KYC reporting.

Decentralized exchanges, or DEXes, which provide price and matching services but take no custody of clients’ coins, might be a way around this problem. Recent FinCEN guidance excluded them from the definition of regulated money service businesses in the U.S.

However, cryptocurrency advocacy group Coin Center has raised concerns that the FATF’s definition of regulated “virtual asset service providers” includes a vague reference to entities which “transfer” funds. Vagueness creates uncertainty, which as we’ve seen with bank compliance officers, is toxic to risk appetites. Many lawyers will advise their DEX clients to impose KYC to be on the safe side.

Also, with Helsinki-based LocalBitcoins announcing new KYC rules this year due to a new Finnish anti-money laundering law, it has become much harder for people to find each other in person and agree on a price for exchanging cryptocurrency for fiat without being officially surveilled.

In any case, it’s simply impractical for people in the developing world to use bitcoin as their main unit of account and medium of exchange. Perhaps Libra, with its basket-based stability mechanism, could evolve into a day-to-day payment vehicle, but as we saw from David Marcus’s testimony to Congress, that corporate-backed project will require KYC.

Bottom line: the poor need an easy-access fiat on-ramp.

Monitoring tech advances

We’re back to square one: financial inclusion goals suffer at the expense of governments’ crime-fighting objectives.

One could argue governments should decriminalize money – combat the actual crimes of drug trafficking, arms dealing, and so forth, but treat the right to exchange value as a human right. Let’s be realistic, though: that isn’t going to happen.

So, how to escape this vicious cycle? The answer may lie in blockchain technology’s own capacity to track transfers between pseudonymous accounts – though not as currently applied.

For some time, transaction-trackers such as Elliptic and Chainalysis have helped law enforcement agencies trace cryptocurrency payments to and from bad guys and provided rigorous AML monitoring audit services to companies.

Now, newcomers such as the Coral Protocol and CipherTrace are using high-tech network analyses and cryptographic protections to help businesses share cryptocurrency metadata to flag suspicious behavior without revealing their customers’ personal identifying information, or PII. These could make it easier for companies to comply with the FATF travel rule and generally create a more sophisticated, systemic analysis of risk.

Quite apart from KYC rules, there’s real value here for a cryptocurrency economy increasingly dominated by “bots.”

Still, there’s no way around the law. At the on- and off-ramps, customers must be ID’ed. And, under order from a law enforcement agency armed with these sophisticated tracking tools, a firm must crack open the black box and release the PII to the authorities.

A new mindset

What if, though, governments concede that it’s both impossible and unnecessary to formally identify poor people at the on and off-ramps? What if they accepted an AML model that treats the endpoints as unidentified nodes and, drawing on these new analytic tools, actively managed access to networks based on behavior not identity?

Here, ongoing research in machine learning and high-performance computing by the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab in collaboration with Elliptic could be a catalyst. As described by lab researcher Mark Weber, the team uses an approach known as “graph convolutional networks” to create enhanced money flow forensics to address the challenges posed by the “complex layering and obfuscation schemes utilized by sophisticated criminal networks.”

Mapping a massive pool of bitcoin transactions, the researchers have isolated patterns that distinguish between illicit and licit behavior. In a forthcoming paper, they posit their work as a contribution to financial inclusion goals.

One day businesses might use such tools to control access points to cryptocurrency networks without applying traditional KYC, ensuring that good guys get financial services but bad guys don’t, even if neither is furnishing an official ID.

Would regulators go for it? Not, it would seem, under the current mindset. Compliance is used to identify and catch criminals, not as way to control access per se. If anything, the regulatory trend has been toward a greater dependence on state ID and ever more conservative treatment of “high-risk” poor people by financial institutions.

Cryptocurrency compliance expert Juan Llanos complains that regulators “are not open to innovation.” He adds, “As long as government ID is the standard, we are going to have this problem. Anything anonymous is controversial and not allowed. It’s very unfortunate.”

Still, the FATF’s latest round of deliberations did contain one olive branch to innovators: a willingness to explore the potential for “digital identity provided by governments or by the private sector.”

Combine that “private sector” line with a brief reference in Libra’s white paper to “portable digital identity” as a financial inclusion solution, and one can at least imagine financial and tech companies such as those the Libra Association’s members hashing out an onboarding solution for the poor that no longer depends on the outdated notion of state IDs.

This approach won’t satisfy hardline privacy advocates, who rightly view exchange as a human right.

But as a pragmatic solution, it’s perhaps the best hope that the world’s 2 billion unbanked have.

Monero and Zcash Conferences Showcase Their Differences

Leigh Cuen

Leigh Cuen Jun 30, 2019 at 10:00 UTC

Last weekend, two privacy coin conferences heralded the future of cryptocurrency governance: the hybrid startup model versus grassroots experimentation.

Over 200 people gathered in Croatia for Zcon1, organized by the nonprofit Zcash Foundation, while roughly 75 attendees gathered in Denver for the first Monero Konferenco. These two privacy coins are fundamentally different in a variety of ways on clear display at their respective events.

Zcon1 had a gala dinner with a seaside backdrop and programming that displayed close relations between companies like Facebook and the zcash-centric startup Electronic Coin Company (ECC), as evidenced by Libra being widely discussed with team members in attendance.

The quintessential funding source that distinguishes zcash, called the founder’s reward, became the center of passionate debates during Zcon1.

This funding source is the crux of distinction between zcash and projects like monero or bitcoin.

Zcash was designed to automatically siphon off a portion of miners’ profits for creators, including ECC CEO Zooko Wilcox. So far, this funding has been donated to create the independent Zcash Foundation, and support ECC contributions to protocol development, marketing campaigns, exchange listings and corporate partnerships.

This automated distribution was scheduled to end in 2020, but Wilcox said last Sunday he would support a “community” decision to extend that funding source. He warned that otherwise ECC might be forced to seek revenue by focusing on other projects and services.

Zcash Foundation director Josh Cincinnati told CoinDesk the non-profit has enough runway to continue operations for at least another three years. However, in a forum post Cincinnati also warned the non-profit shouldn’t become a single gateway for funding distribution.

The amount of trust zcash users place in the asset’s founders and their various organizations is the primary criticism levied against zcash. Paul Shapiro, CEO of the crypto wallet startup MyMonero, told CoinDesk he’s not convinced that zcash upholds the same cypherpunk ideals as monero.

“Basically you have collective decisions instead of individual, autonomous participation,” Shapiro said. “There’s been perhaps not enough discussion about the potential conflicts of interest in the [zcash] governance model.”

While the simultaneous monero conference was much smaller and slightly more focused on code than governance, there was significant overlap. On Sunday, both conferences hosted a joint panel via webcam where speakers and moderators discussed the future of government surveillance and privacy tech.

The future of privacy coins may rely on such cross-pollination, but only if these disparate groups can learn to work together.

Shared zk-SNARKs

One of the speakers from the joint panel, Monero Research Lab contributor Sarang Noether, told CoinDesk he doesn’t see privacy coin development as a “zero-sum game.”

Indeed, the Zcash Foundation donated almost 20 percent of the funding for the Monero Konferenco. This donation, and the joint privacy tech panel, could be seen as a harbinger of cooperation between these seemingly rival projects. Cincinnati told CoinDesk he hopes to see much more collaborative programming, research, and mutual funding in the future.

“In my view, there is a lot more about what connects these communities than what divides us,” Cincinnati said.

Both projects want to use cryptography techniques for zero-knowledge proofs, in particular a variant called zk-SNARKs. However, as with any open-source project, there are always trade-offs.

Monero relies on ring signatures, which mix small groups of transactions to help obfuscate individuals. This isn’t ideal because the best way to get lost in a crowd is for the crowd to be much bigger than ring signatures can offer.

Meanwhile, zcash setup gave the founders data often called “toxic waste,” because the founding participants could theoretically exploit the software that determines what makes a zcash transaction valid. Peter Todd, an independent blockchain consultant who helped establish this system, has since been an adamant critic of this model.

In short, zcash fans prefer the hybrid startup model for these experiments and monero fans prefer a completely grassroots model as they tinker with ring signatures and research trustless zk-SNARK replacements.

“Monero researchers and the Zcash Foundation have a good working relationship. As for how the foundation began and where they’re going, I can’t really speak to that,” Noether said. “One of the written or unwritten rules of monero is you shouldn’t have to trust someone.”

Shapiro added:

“If certain people are dictating large aspects of the direction of the cryptocurrency project then it raises the question: What is the difference between that and fiat money?”

Different strokes

Stepping back, the long-standing beef between monero and zcash fans is the Biggie vs. Tupac divide of the cryptocurrency world.

For example, former ECC consultant Andrew Miller, current president of the Zcash Foundation, co-authored a paper in 2017 about a vulnerability in monero’s anonymity system. Subsequent Twitter feudsrevealed monero fans, like entrepreneur Riccardo “Fluffypony” Spagni, were upset by how the publication was handled.

Spagni, Noether, and Shapiro all told CoinDesk there are ample opportunities for cooperative research. Yet so far most mutually beneficial work is conducted independently, in part because the source of funding remains a point of contention.

Wilcox told CoinDesk the zcash ecosystem will continue to move toward “more decentralization, but not too far and not too fast.” After all, this hybrid structure enabled funding for fast growth compared to other blockchains, including the incumbent monero.

“I believe something not too centralized and not too decentralized is what’s best for now,” Wilcox said. “Things like education, promoting adoption worldwide, talking with regulators, that’s the stuff that I think a certain amount of centralization and decentralization are both right.”

Some fans of both projects see the benefits of that collective approach. Zaki Manian, head of research at the Cosmos-centric startup Tendermint, told CoinDesk this model has more in common with bitcoin than some critics care to admit.

“I am a big proponent of chain sovereignty, and a big point of chain sovereignty is that the stake holders in the chain should be able to act collectively in their own interests,” Manian said.

For example, Manian pointed out the wealthy benefactors behind Chaincode Labs fund a significant portion of the work that goes into Bitcoin Core. He added:

“Ultimately, I would prefer if protocol evolution was mostly funded by the consent of token holders rather than by investors.”

Researchers on all sides acknowledged their favorite crypto would require significant updates in order to deserve the title “privacy coin.” Perhaps the joint conference panel, and Zcash Foundation grants for independent research, could *inspire* such cooperation across party lines.

“They’re all moving in the same direction,” Wilcox said about zk-SNARKs. “We’re both trying to find something that has both the larger privacy set and no toxic waste.”

Above $300: Ether Price Clocks 10-Month High

Omkar Godbole

Omkar Godbole Jun 22, 2019 at 05:32 UTCMARKETS

The price of ethereum’s native cryptocurrency ether (ETH) surpassed $300 today to hit ten-month highs.

The world’s second largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization climbed above the psychological hurdle at 01:10 UTC and extended gains further to $306 – a level last seen on August 19, 2018.

As of writing, ETH is changing hands at $304, representing 9.7 percent gains on a 24-hour basis and 129 percent gains on a year-to-date basis, according to data source CoinMarketCap.

Ether has more than doubled this year with the price currently reporting more than 260 percent gains on the low of $82.00 seen in December. The price, however, is still down 78 percent from the record high of $1,431 registered in January 2018.

Further, the cryptocurrency has retraced meager 16 percent of the sell-off from $1,431 to $82. On the other hand, BTC has retraced more than 40 percent of the bear market slide and is currently trading at a 15-month high of $10,800.

Looking forward, ether looks set to extend the ongoing rally, as technical charts are biased bullish.

3-day chart

The 50- and 100-candle price averages on the three-day chart have produced a bullish crossover for the first time since in two years. It is worth noting that prices had rallied by more than 900 percent in three months following the confirmation of the bull cross in May 2017.

So, if history is a guide, then the cryptocurrency looks set to challenge the April 2018 low of $364 in the next couple of months. A break higher would expose resistance at $401 – 23.6 percent Fibonacci retracement of the bear market drop.

Supporting the bullish case is the solid rise in ether’s non-price or on-chain metrics in the last few months. For instance, ETH volumes on decentralized applications (DApps) registered record highs in April, according to crypto analytics firm Diar.

Meanwhile, network activity, as represented by daily gas usage, rose to lifetime highs in May. Gas is the fuel of the ethereum blockchain. The token is required to conduct a transaction on etherum’s network.

Disclosure: The author holds no cryptocurrency at the time of writing

Ether via Shutterstock; charts by TradingView