The attempted come back of CoinEx, China's forked-Bitcoin exchange
Written by Shuyao Kong Published bydecrypt.co An interview with Haipo Yang, a crypto OG who’s trying to reposition his Bitcoin Cash-based CoinEx exchange. And more, in this week’s da bing. https://preview.redd.it/h5f3i3lldv051.jpg?width=3200&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=09b8696303ae5c6170753cc438929ebe520d4605 Haipo Yang, founder of ViaBTC, one of the largest mining pools in the world, and CoinEx, a crypto exchange known for its focus on Bitcoin Cash-based trading, is a well-known but relatively quiet character in China’s crypto circle. Typically, Yang doesn’t talk that much about his journey launching the mining pool, nor about CoinEx, which launched in December 2017. And he almost never speaks about his fervent support for BCH, a hard fork of Bitcoin, and his now even more enthusiastic belief in BSV. Yet that’s changing of late. Yang has been more active in recent months, participating in interviews about CoinEx and tweeting more frequently on Weibo, China’s Twitter. He’s been making controversial statements predicting the death of BTC, while supporting BCH and BSV on social media. Recently, Yang told me that as a developer rather than a business person, he’s never been comfortable speaking in public. However he’s making an effort now to help publicize his renovation of CoinEx. So, for this week’s da bing, I decided to chat with him and get a peek into the mind of a veteran crypto entrepreneur who’s trying to make a personal, as well as a platform, comeback.
CoinEx’s golden opportunity
The first hard fork of Bitcoin occurred in August, 2017 and created a new cryptocurrency called Bitcoin Cash. The fork was prompted by partisans, including Yang, who wanted bigger block sizes on the blockchain — the basic idea was that bigger blocks would enable more transactions per second and make Bitcoin Cash something people would actually use to buy things, rather than Bitcoin’s more commonly perceived use as a store of value. Yang added a tremendous amount of value to the mining scene in China. As a technical founder with has years of experience in big tech firms such as Tencent, Yang is proud of his #buidl skills. He developed most of the code in the early days of VicBTC, which became one of the biggest mining pools to this day. Not satisfied with owning just a mining pool,Yang conceived of CoinEx, which was born in December of that year, specifically to carry on the mission of the newly forked Bitcoin Cash blockchain. As he got swept up in Bitcoin Cash enthusiasm, he even said that “BCH is bitcoin.” CoinEx’s strategy was BCH-focused from day one; BCH was its base currency, meaning you could use it to buy and sell other currencies, such as Ethereum and Litecoin. Interestingly, Jihan Wu, the co-founder of Bitcoin Exchange — himself a famous BCH supporter — was a big investor in the exchange. That made me wonder why he, Yang, and many other OG crypto miners, were so passionate about BCH. Was it just about bigger block sizes? “Bigger block size means more users and use cases,” Yang explained. The move to bigger block sizes was attractive to miners because they would facilitate more transactions. Miners make money on transaction fees, as well as mining blocks. Likewise, the network would arguably be more useful to people, who were looking for digital cash for every day use. That especially resonated with many early hardcore Bitcoiners. Said Yang: “We really believe that Bitcoin should be a P2P cash vehicle rather than a store of value.” This view probably sounds outdated to people who believe that Bitcoin’s value as cash is long gone, with solutions such as Lightning Network fulfilling that role. Instead, the new narrative for Bitcoin resides in its value, rather than utility. Yet Yang believed that the forked network would create far more opportunity “We could invite influential companies to establish nodes and contribute to the network. This cannot be done with the original Bitcoin architecture,” he said.
But from its inception, CoinEx struggled with adoption and was dwarfed by the bigger exchanges. Part of that had to do with the fact that BCH and “Bitcoin Satoshi’s Vision,” another Bitcoin hard fork, were both controversial. Critics pointed out that these networks are centralized in a few big mining pools, and 51% attacks are not out of the question. So over time, though Yang’s exchange still maintains strong support for BCH and BSV, it began to add support for all the major currencies. Finally, in January of this year, it announced a major upgrade, of… well, just about everything. It started to offer futures trading, leveraged trading, options trading, and over 100 token projects available to traders. It even rolled out its own blockchain, “CoinEx Chain” to support a new DEX, “CoinEx DEX.” https://preview.redd.it/3okoy5mudv051.png?width=1432&format=png&auto=webp&s=7099249da4a95db873d268f2dfc95d8db93a368e The seemingly sudden publicity of CoinEx should not come as a surprise, then. As BCH/BSV was being marginalized, Yang shifted his focus. He’s now trying to ride the wave of building a bigger, more dynamic exchange. “Crypto exchanges are where value is discovered,” Yang told me.
Building an exchange isn’t done overnight, nor is re-building one. CoinEx is still competing with the giants such as Binance. However Yang thinks his exchange will thrive by zigging when his competitors zag. As usual, CoinEx is taking a slightly different route, he told me. Like what? “We will be listing 小币种,” he said, using the expression for “small token projects.” I cannot help but wonder if these “small token projects” are simply shitcoins, the trading of which is certainly not new. Indeed, Yang said that he’s banking on the success of his new, public blockchain. “We are building a CoinEx Chain, a layer one protocol for DEX alone. Using our public blockchain, anyone can issue any token, at any time,” he said. He described the blockchain as “a real decentralized, token-issuance and transaction platform.” This is the core of Yang’s plan and vision. He believes that centralized exchanges will be a bottleneck for crypto adoption because it contradicts crypto’s nature as a completely free and open infrastructure. Essentially anyone should be able to launch a token and trade it with anyone. Only by building DEXes can we achieve full decentralization, he says.
The Religious nature of Bitcoin, and forked Bitcoin
It’s his belief that Bitcoin should adhere to Satoshi’s original vision that led Yang to send yet another controversial tweet last week, which I will translate: “The early days of Bitcoin expansion are similar to religion. The religious fervor brings prosperity to the industry.” By extension, Yang believes that the next generation of Bitcoin should provoke a similar “religious” fervor. That’s why he has slowly become more of a BSV advocate than a fan of Bitcoin Cash. Yang believes that “BSV has more religious connotations, despite its negative image.” (As most crypto people know, the controversial Craig Wright, who claims to be Satoshi Nakamoto, led the hard fork which created BSV. Consequently it is often met with skepticism and derision.) “The early days of Bitcoin expansion are similar to religion,” said Yang. “The religious fervor brings prosperity to the industry.” Crypto is famous for its tribalism. Many people choose one camp over another not for practical reasons but because of simple faith. Talking to Yang and reading his tweet brings a historic texture to the Bitcoin narrative. But crypto cannot survive on religion alone. One has to build. Hash might have been worshipped in the old days but now the crypto religion is all about the size of the congregation. Original article Click here to register on CoinEx!
¿Debo comprar oro o bitcoin? Comparación de ventajas y desventajas de ambos activos
https://preview.redd.it/hh3edha4pse51.png?width=696&format=png&auto=webp&s=d76c7b5f5ecce0904291bad206c2755312037032 La pandemia por el Covid-19 y los últimos eventos políticos fortalecieron al bitcoin y al oro como los principales activos para el resguardo de capitales. Según datos de Tradingview, en los últimos 6 meses el oro incrementó su precio un 20%, mientras que el bitcoin, a pesar de haber mostrado un comportamiento más volátil, aumentó un 25%. Al momento de esta redacción el oro cotizó en $1973 por onza, y el bitcoin en $11.134 con una capitalización de $205.002.138.787. Ambos activos son utilizados como reserva de valor a largo plazo, pero la criptomoneda tiene ventaja como método de pago por su forma digital. Además, el BTC tiene un suministro máximo de 21 millones de unidades mientras que para el oro no se tiene muy claro cuánto queda por extraer. Los dos son escasos, pero la oferta limitada del bitcoin podría ser más atractiva para la demanda. Binance, la mayor exchange del mundo, publicó el siguiente análisis en el que compara los aspectos más importantes del bitcoin y el oro como activos:
La resistencia falsificada
Es un término que mide la calidad de la unicidad de un activo específico. Los activos propensos a la falsificación conllevan un alto riesgo de devaluación y, a menudo, requieren métodos o herramientas de detección de falsificaciones. Es muy difícil verificar la calidad y pureza del oro, o si es oro, sin las herramientas adecuadas. El oro físico es propenso a la falsificación y a la reducción de su pureza, mientras que el bitcoin es totalmente resistente a la falsificación. Esto es posible gracias a la red blockchain, que verifica y registra cada moneda y transacción extraída.
Es un rasgo importante que te permite transferir sus activos sin problemas en poco tiempo. Ya sea que poseas oro físico o un pagaré (IOU), el oro no es fácil de transferir. Lleva días, si no semanas, transferir oro físico a una ubicación diferente o realizar una transacción. El oro físico requiere medidas costosas de transporte y seguridad, mientras que el bitcoin se puede transferir a cualquier parte del mundo en menos de 20 minutos usando tu teléfono inteligente.
Se aplica tanto a la emisión como a la gobernanza de activos valiosos. La emisión y el gobierno del bitcoin están completamente descentralizados, ya que no hay una entidad central que emita o extraiga nuevos bitcoins, regule su suministro o gobierne la red. El oro, por su parte, tiene un proceso minero muy centralizado, con solo unas pocas empresas mineras que controlan el mercado. Además su comercio también está muy centralizado, y las transacciones directas o entre personas son mínimas e ilegales en muchas partes del mundo.
Significa que el activo se puede dividir en componentes más pequeños. Este es un rasgo especialmente importante en el comercio y el intercambio de bienes. Puedes dividir el oro, pero difícilmente puedes hacerlo en casa. Un solo bitcoin se puede dividir en 100,000,000 satoshi, y la cantidad más pequeña de satoshi que puedes transferir es de 546. ¿Te imaginas pagar por productos con granos de oro? La unidad más pequeña de oro, el «grano», pesa solo 0.0648 gramos.
Es un rasgo esencial de cada inversión a largo plazo o depósito de valor. Su riqueza debe almacenarse donde no se disuelva con el tiempo y permanecer en perfectas condiciones en los próximos años. Las monedas fiduciarias, principalmente los billetes de banco, son propensas a daños físicos, descomposición u otras disminuciones de calidad. El bitcoin se almacena digitalmente y, por lo tanto, no puede deteriorarse. También es imposible destruir bitcoins. El oro también es muy duradero y conserva bien sus características físicas, pero puede destruirse o devaluarse. Tanto el oro como el bitcoin son muy duraderos, pero por diferentes razones.
Es la capacidad de un activo para ser intercambiado por otros bienes o activos. Los activos fungibles simplifican el proceso de intercambio y comercialización, ya que la fungibilidad implica el mismo valor entre los activos. Tanto el bitcoin como el oro son fáciles de intercambiar por diferentes activos o bienes, y ambos obtienen puntajes altos.
La facilidad de uso y la conciencia es un rasgo que a menudo se olvida en el debate bitcoin vs.Oro. La facilidad de uso y las expectativas afectan directamente la demanda, y sabemos que el aumento de la demanda de un activo limitado influye positivamente en el precio. El modelo de oferta y demanda es el modelo principal de determinación de precios utilizado en la teoría económica. El uso prolongado del oro le ha dado un estado casi «sagrado». El oro es un activo casi universalmente reconocido sin importar a dónde vaya en el mundo. Sin embargo, el bitcoin todavía está emergiendo, y solo un porcentaje relativamente pequeño de la población mundial lo sabe. También debemos tener en cuenta que para que el activo sea ampliamente adoptado debe ser fácil de usar.
¿Qué debería comprar? ¿Oro o bitcoin?
Siempre es mejor hacer tu propia investigación antes de invertir. Este artículo es una gran simplificación de un problema complejo, y no es fácil hacer predicciones basadas solo estos aspectos que hemos cubierto brevemente. Estamos en un ecosistema criptográfico, por lo que es natural que gravitemos más hacia el bitcoin, pero no subestimemos el oro. El historial es claro. Ambos demuestran ser una atractiva reserva de valor e inversiones a largo plazo. No esperes multiplicar tu riqueza de inmediato, invertir requiere paciencia, y entre todas las inversiones disponibles, el bitcoin y el oro favorecen especialmente a los inversores a mediano o largo plazo.
Con Binance puedes comprar bitcoins en monedas locales de Venezuela, Colombia y Argentina
A double-spend occurs when the same funds are spent more than once. The term is used almost exclusively in the context of digital money — after all, you’d have a hard time spending the same physical cash twice. When you pay for a coffee today, you hand cash over to a cashier who probably locks it in a register. You can’t go to the coffee shop across the road and pay for another coffee with the same bill. In digital cash schemes, there’s the possibility that you could. You’ve surely duplicated a computer file before — you just copy and paste it. You can email the same file to ten, twenty, fifty people. Since digital money is just data, you need to prevent people from copying and spending the same units in different places. Otherwise, your currency will collapse in no time. For a more in-depth look at double-spending, check out Double Spending Explained.
Why is Proof of Work necessary?
If you’ve read our guide to blockchain technology, you’ll know that users broadcast transactions to the network. Those transactions aren’t immediately considered valid, though. That only happens when they get added to the blockchain. The blockchain is a big database that every user can see, so they can check if funds have been spent before. Picture it like this: you and three friends have a notepad. Anytime one of you wants to make a transfer of whatever units you’re using, you write it down — Alice pays Bob five units, Bob pays Carol two units, etc. There’s another intricacy here — each time you make a transaction, you refer to the transaction where the funds came from. So, if Bob was paying Carol with two units, the entry would actually look like the following: Bob pays Carol two units from this earlier transaction with Alice. Now, we have a way to track the units. If Bob tries to make another transaction using the same units he just sent to Carol, everyone will know immediately. The group won’t allow the transaction to be added to the notepad. Now, this might work well in a small group. Everyone knows each other, so they’ll probably agree on which of the friends should add transactions to the notepad. What if we want a group of 10,000 participants? The notepad idea doesn’t scale well, because nobody wants to trust a stranger to manage it. This is where Proof of Work comes in. It ensures that users aren’t spending money that they don’t have the right to spend. By using a combination of game theory and cryptography, a PoW algorithm enables anyone to update the blockchain according to the rules of the system.
How does PoW work?
Our notepad above is the blockchain. But we don’t add transactions one by one — instead, we lump them into blocks. We announce the transactions to the network, then users creating a block will include them in a candidate block. The transactions will only be considered valid once their candidate block becomes a confirmed block, meaning that it has been added to the blockchain. Appending a block isn’t cheap, however. Proof of Work requires that a miner (the user creating the block) uses up some of their own resources for the privilege. That resource is computing power, which is used to hash the block’s data until a solution to a puzzle is found. Hashing the block’s data means that you pass it through a hashing function to generate a block hash. The block hash works like a “fingerprint” — it’s an identity for your input data and is unique to each block. It’s virtually impossible to reverse a block hash to get the input data. Knowing an input, however, it’s trivial for you to confirm that the hash is correct. You just have to submit the input through the function and check if the output is the same. In Proof of Work, you must provide data whose hash matches certain conditions. But you don’t know how to get there. Your only option is to pass your data through a hash function and to check if it matches the conditions. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to change your data slightly to get a different hash. Changing even one character in your data will result in a totally different result, so there’s no way of predicting what an output might be. As a result, if you want to create a block, you’re playing a guessing game. You typically take information on all of the transactions that you want to add and some other important data, then hash it all together. But since your dataset won’t change, you need to add a piece of information that is variable. Otherwise, you would always get the same hash as output. This variable data is what we call a nonce. It’s a number that you’ll change with every attempt, so you’re getting a different hash every time. And this is what we call mining. Summing up, mining is the process of gathering blockchain data and hashing it along with a nonce until you find a particular hash. If you find a hash that satisfies the conditions set out by the protocol, you get the right to broadcast the new block to the network. At this point, the other participants of the network update their blockchains to include the new block. For major cryptocurrencies today, the conditions are incredibly challenging to satisfy. The higher the hash rate on the network, the more difficult it is to find a valid hash. This is done to ensure that blocks aren’t found too quickly. As you can imagine, trying to guess massive amounts of hashes can be costly on your computer. You’re wasting computational cycles and electricity. But the protocol will reward you with cryptocurrency if you find a valid hash. Let’s recap what we know so far:
It’s expensive for you to mine.
You’re rewarded if you produce a valid block.
Knowing an input, a user can easily check its hash — non-mining users can verify that a block is valid without expending much computational power.
So far, so good. But what if you try to cheat? What’s to stop you from putting a bunch of fraudulent transactions into the block and producing a valid hash? That’s where public-key cryptography comes in. We won’t go into depth in this article, but check out What is Public-Key Cryptography? for a comprehensive look at it. In short, we use some neat cryptographic tricks that allow any user to verify whether someone has a right to move the funds they’re attempting to spend. When you create a transaction, you sign it. Anyone on the network can compare your signature with your public key, and check whether they match. They’ll also check if you can actually spend your funds and that the sum of your inputs is higher than the sum of your outputs (i.e., that you’re not spending more than you have). Any block that includes an invalid transaction will be automatically rejected by the network. It’s expensive for you to even attempt to cheat. You’ll waste your own resources without any reward. Therein lies the beauty of Proof of Work: it makes it expensive to cheat, but profitable to act honestly. Any rational miner will be seeking ROI, so they can be expected to behave in a way that guarantees revenue.
Proof of Work vs. Proof of Stake
There are many consensus algorithms, but one of the most highly-anticipated ones is Proof of Stake (PoS). The concept dates back to 2011, and has been implemented in some smaller protocols. But it has yet to see adoption in any of the big blockchains. In Proof of Stake systems, miners are replaced with validators. There’s no mining involved and no race to guess hashes. Instead, users are randomly selected — if they’re picked, they must propose (or “forge”) a block. If the block is valid, they’ll receive a reward made up of the fees from the block’s transactions. Not just any user can be selected, though — the protocol chooses them based on a number of factors. To be eligible, participants must lock up a stake, which is a predetermined amount of the blockchain’s native currency. The stake works like bail: just as defendants put up a large sum of money to disincentivize them from skipping trial, validators lock up a stake to disincentivize cheating. If they act dishonestly, their stake (or a portion of it) will be taken. Proof of Stake does have some benefits over Proof of Work. The most notable one is the smaller carbon footprint — since there’s no need for high-powered mining farms in PoS, the electricity consumed is only a fraction of that consumed in PoW. That said, it has nowhere near the track record of PoW. Although it could be perceived as wasteful, mining is the only consensus algorithm that’s proven itself at scale. In just over a decade, it has secured trillions of dollars worth of transactions. To say with certainty whether PoS can rival its security, staking needs to be properly tested in the wild.
Proof of Work was the original solution to the double-spend problem and has proven to be reliable and secure. Bitcoin proved that we don’t need centralized entities to prevent the same funds from being spent twice. With clever use of cryptography, hash functions, and game theory, participants in a decentralized environment can agree on the state of a financial database.
Bitcoin (BTC) is a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency that aims to function as a means of exchange that is independent of any central authority. BTC can be transferred electronically in a secure, verifiable, and immutable way.
Launched in 2009, BTC is the first virtual currency to solve the double-spending issue by timestamping transactions before broadcasting them to all of the nodes in the Bitcoin network. The Bitcoin Protocol offered a solution to the Byzantine Generals’ Problem with ablockchainnetwork structure, a notion first created byStuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta in 1991.
Bitcoin’s whitepaper was published pseudonymously in 2008 by an individual, or a group, with the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto”, whose underlying identity has still not been verified.
The Bitcoin protocol uses an SHA-256d-based Proof-of-Work (PoW) algorithm to reach network consensus. Its network has a target block time of 10 minutes and a maximum supply of 21 million tokens, with a decaying token emission rate. To prevent fluctuation of the block time, the network’s block difficulty is re-adjusted through an algorithm based on the past 2016 block times.
With a block size limit capped at 1 megabyte, the Bitcoin Protocol has supported both the Lightning Network, a second-layer infrastructure for payment channels, and Segregated Witness, a soft-fork to increase the number of transactions on a block, as solutions to network scalability.
Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency that aims to function as a means of exchange and is independent of any central authority. Bitcoins are transferred electronically in a secure, verifiable, and immutable way.
Network validators, whom are often referred to as miners, participate in the SHA-256d-based Proof-of-Work consensus mechanism to determine the next global state of the blockchain.
The Bitcoin protocol has a target block time of 10 minutes, and a maximum supply of 21 million tokens. The only way new bitcoins can be produced is when a block producer generates a new valid block.
The protocol has a token emission rate that halves every 210,000 blocks, or approximately every 4 years.
Unlike public blockchain infrastructures supporting the development of decentralized applications (Ethereum), the Bitcoin protocol is primarily used only for payments, and has only very limited support for smart contract-like functionalities (Bitcoin “Script” is mostly used to create certain conditions before bitcoins are used to be spent).
In the Bitcoin network, anyone can join the network and become a bookkeeping service provider i.e., a validator. All validators are allowed in the race to become the block producer for the next block, yet only the first to complete a computationally heavy task will win. This feature is called Proof of Work (PoW). The probability of any single validator to finish the task first is equal to the percentage of the total network computation power, or hash power, the validator has. For instance, a validator with 5% of the total network computation power will have a 5% chance of completing the task first, and therefore becoming the next block producer. Since anyone can join the race, competition is prone to increase. In the early days, Bitcoin mining was mostly done by personal computer CPUs. As of today, Bitcoin validators, or miners, have opted for dedicated and more powerful devices such as machines based on Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (“ASIC”). Proof of Work secures the network as block producers must have spent resources external to the network (i.e., money to pay electricity), and can provide proof to other participants that they did so. With various miners competing for block rewards, it becomes difficult for one single malicious party to gain network majority (defined as more than 51% of the network’s hash power in the Nakamoto consensus mechanism). The ability to rearrange transactions via 51% attacks indicates another feature of the Nakamoto consensus: the finality of transactions is only probabilistic. Once a block is produced, it is then propagated by the block producer to all other validators to check on the validity of all transactions in that block. The block producer will receive rewards in the network’s native currency (i.e., bitcoin) as all validators approve the block and update their ledgers.
The Bitcoin protocol utilizes the Merkle tree data structure in order to organize hashes of numerous individual transactions into each block. This concept is named after Ralph Merkle, who patented it in 1979. With the use of a Merkle tree, though each block might contain thousands of transactions, it will have the ability to combine all of their hashes and condense them into one, allowing efficient and secure verification of this group of transactions. This single hash called is a Merkle root, which is stored in the Block Header of a block. The Block Header also stores other meta information of a block, such as a hash of the previous Block Header, which enables blocks to be associated in a chain-like structure (hence the name “blockchain”). An illustration of block production in the Bitcoin Protocol is demonstrated below. https://preview.redd.it/m6texxicf3151.png?width=1591&format=png&auto=webp&s=f4253304912ed8370948b9c524e08fef28f1c78d
Block time and mining difficulty
Block time is the period required to create the next block in a network. As mentioned above, the node who solves the computationally intensive task will be allowed to produce the next block. Therefore, block time is directly correlated to the amount of time it takes for a node to find a solution to the task. The Bitcoin protocol sets a target block time of 10 minutes, and attempts to achieve this by introducing a variable named mining difficulty. Mining difficulty refers to how difficult it is for the node to solve the computationally intensive task. If the network sets a high difficulty for the task, while miners have low computational power, which is often referred to as “hashrate”, it would statistically take longer for the nodes to get an answer for the task. If the difficulty is low, but miners have rather strong computational power, statistically, some nodes will be able to solve the task quickly. Therefore, the 10 minute target block time is achieved by constantly and automatically adjusting the mining difficulty according to how much computational power there is amongst the nodes. The average block time of the network is evaluated after a certain number of blocks, and if it is greater than the expected block time, the difficulty level will decrease; if it is less than the expected block time, the difficulty level will increase.
What are orphan blocks?
In a PoW blockchain network, if the block time is too low, it would increase the likelihood of nodes producingorphan blocks, for which they would receive no reward. Orphan blocks are produced by nodes who solved the task but did not broadcast their results to the whole network the quickest due to network latency. It takes time for a message to travel through a network, and it is entirely possible for 2 nodes to complete the task and start to broadcast their results to the network at roughly the same time, while one’s messages are received by all other nodes earlier as the node has low latency. Imagine there is a network latency of 1 minute and a target block time of 2 minutes. A node could solve the task in around 1 minute but his message would take 1 minute to reach the rest of the nodes that are still working on the solution. While his message travels through the network, all the work done by all other nodes during that 1 minute, even if these nodes also complete the task, would go to waste. In this case, 50% of the computational power contributed to the network is wasted. The percentage of wasted computational power would proportionally decrease if the mining difficulty were higher, as it would statistically take longer for miners to complete the task. In other words, if the mining difficulty, and therefore targeted block time is low, miners with powerful and often centralized mining facilities would get a higher chance of becoming the block producer, while the participation of weaker miners would become in vain. This introduces possible centralization and weakens the overall security of the network. However, given a limited amount of transactions that can be stored in a block, making the block time too longwould decrease the number of transactions the network can process per second, negatively affecting network scalability.
3. Bitcoin’s additional features
Segregated Witness (SegWit)
Segregated Witness, often abbreviated as SegWit, is a protocol upgrade proposal that went live in August 2017. SegWit separates witness signatures from transaction-related data. Witness signatures in legacy Bitcoin blocks often take more than 50% of the block size. By removing witness signatures from the transaction block, this protocol upgrade effectively increases the number of transactions that can be stored in a single block, enabling the network to handle more transactions per second. As a result, SegWit increases the scalability of Nakamoto consensus-based blockchain networks like Bitcoin and Litecoin. SegWit also makes transactions cheaper. Since transaction fees are derived from how much data is being processed by the block producer, the more transactions that can be stored in a 1MB block, the cheaper individual transactions become. https://preview.redd.it/depya70mf3151.png?width=1601&format=png&auto=webp&s=a6499aa2131fbf347f8ffd812930b2f7d66be48e The legacy Bitcoin block has a block size limit of 1 megabyte, and any change on the block size would require a network hard-fork. On August 1st 2017, the first hard-fork occurred, leading to the creation of Bitcoin Cash (“BCH”), which introduced an 8 megabyte block size limit. Conversely, Segregated Witness was a soft-fork: it never changed the transaction block size limit of the network. Instead, it added an extended block with an upper limit of 3 megabytes, which contains solely witness signatures, to the 1 megabyte block that contains only transaction data. This new block type can be processed even by nodes that have not completed the SegWit protocol upgrade. Furthermore, the separation of witness signatures from transaction data solves the malleability issue with the original Bitcoin protocol. Without Segregated Witness, these signatures could be altered before the block is validated by miners. Indeed, alterations can be done in such a way that if the system does a mathematical check, the signature would still be valid. However, since the values in the signature are changed, the two signatures would create vastly different hash values. For instance, if a witness signature states “6,” it has a mathematical value of 6, and would create a hash value of 12345. However, if the witness signature were changed to “06”, it would maintain a mathematical value of 6 while creating a (faulty) hash value of 67890. Since the mathematical values are the same, the altered signature remains a valid signature. This would create a bookkeeping issue, as transactions in Nakamoto consensus-based blockchain networks are documented with these hash values, or transaction IDs. Effectively, one can alter a transaction ID to a new one, and the new ID can still be valid. This can create many issues, as illustrated in the below example:
Alice sends Bob 1 BTC, and Bob sends Merchant Carol this 1 BTC for some goods.
Bob sends Carols this 1 BTC, while the transaction from Alice to Bob is not yet validated. Carol sees this incoming transaction of 1 BTC to him, and immediately ships goods to B.
At the moment, the transaction from Alice to Bob is still not confirmed by the network, and Bob can change the witness signature, therefore changing this transaction ID from 12345 to 67890.
Now Carol will not receive his 1 BTC, as the network looks for transaction 12345 to ensure that Bob’s wallet balance is valid.
As this particular transaction ID changed from 12345 to 67890, the transaction from Bob to Carol will fail, and Bob will get his goods while still holding his BTC.
With the Segregated Witness upgrade, such instances can not happen again. This is because the witness signatures are moved outside of the transaction block into an extended block, and altering the witness signature won’t affect the transaction ID. Since the transaction malleability issue is fixed, Segregated Witness also enables the proper functioning of second-layer scalability solutions on the Bitcoin protocol, such as the Lightning Network.
Lightning Network is a second-layer micropayment solution for scalability. Specifically, Lightning Network aims to enable near-instant and low-cost payments between merchants and customers that wish to use bitcoins. Lightning Network was conceptualized in a whitepaper by Joseph Poon and Thaddeus Dryja in 2015. Since then, it has been implemented by multiple companies. The most prominent of them include Blockstream, Lightning Labs, and ACINQ. A list of curated resources relevant to Lightning Network can be found here. In the Lightning Network, if a customer wishes to transact with a merchant, both of them need to open a payment channel, which operates off the Bitcoin blockchain (i.e., off-chain vs. on-chain). None of the transaction details from this payment channel are recorded on the blockchain, and only when the channel is closed will the end result of both party’s wallet balances be updated to the blockchain. The blockchain only serves as a settlement layer for Lightning transactions. Since all transactions done via the payment channel are conducted independently of the Nakamoto consensus, both parties involved in transactions do not need to wait for network confirmation on transactions. Instead, transacting parties would pay transaction fees to Bitcoin miners only when they decide to close the channel. https://preview.redd.it/cy56icarf3151.png?width=1601&format=png&auto=webp&s=b239a63c6a87ec6cc1b18ce2cbd0355f8831c3a8 One limitation to the Lightning Network is that it requires a person to be online to receive transactions attributing towards him. Another limitation in user experience could be that one needs to lock up some funds every time he wishes to open a payment channel, and is only able to use that fund within the channel. However, this does not mean he needs to create new channels every time he wishes to transact with a different person on the Lightning Network. If Alice wants to send money to Carol, but they do not have a payment channel open, they can ask Bob, who has payment channels open to both Alice and Carol, to help make that transaction. Alice will be able to send funds to Bob, and Bob to Carol. Hence, the number of “payment hubs” (i.e., Bob in the previous example) correlates with both the convenience and the usability of the Lightning Network for real-world applications.
Schnorr Signature upgrade proposal
Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (“ECDSA”) signatures are used to sign transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain. https://preview.redd.it/hjeqe4l7g3151.png?width=1601&format=png&auto=webp&s=8014fb08fe62ac4d91645499bc0c7e1c04c5d7c4 However, many developers now advocate for replacing ECDSA with Schnorr Signature. Once Schnorr Signatures are implemented, multiple parties can collaborate in producing a signature that is valid for the sum of their public keys. This would primarily be beneficial for network scalability. When multiple addresses were to conduct transactions to a single address, each transaction would require their own signature. With Schnorr Signature, all these signatures would be combined into one. As a result, the network would be able to store more transactions in a single block. https://preview.redd.it/axg3wayag3151.png?width=1601&format=png&auto=webp&s=93d958fa6b0e623caa82ca71fe457b4daa88c71e The reduced size in signatures implies a reduced cost on transaction fees. The group of senders can split the transaction fees for that one group signature, instead of paying for one personal signature individually. Schnorr Signature also improves network privacy and token fungibility. A third-party observer will not be able to detect if a user is sending a multi-signature transaction, since the signature will be in the same format as a single-signature transaction.
4. Economics and supply distribution
The Bitcoin protocol utilizes the Nakamoto consensus, and nodes validate blocks via Proof-of-Work mining. The bitcoin token was not pre-mined, and has a maximum supply of 21 million. The initial reward for a block was 50 BTC per block. Block mining rewards halve every 210,000 blocks. Since the average time for block production on the blockchain is 10 minutes, it implies that the block reward halving events will approximately take place every 4 years. As of May 12th 2020, the block mining rewards are 6.25 BTC per block. Transaction fees also represent a minor revenue stream for miners.
Technical: A Brief History of Payment Channels: from Satoshi to Lightning Network
Who cares about political tweets from some random country's president when payment channels are a much more interesting and are actually capable of carrying value? So let's have a short history of various payment channel techs!
Generation 0: Satoshi's Broken nSequence Channels
Because Satoshi's Vision included payment channels, except his implementation sucked so hard we had to go fix it and added RBF as a by-product. Originally, the plan for nSequence was that mempools would replace any transaction spending certain inputs with another transaction spending the same inputs, but only if the nSequence field of the replacement was larger. Since 0xFFFFFFFF was the highest value that nSequence could get, this would mark a transaction as "final" and not replaceable on the mempool anymore. In fact, this "nSequence channel" I will describe is the reason why we have this weird rule about nLockTime and nSequence. nLockTime actually only works if nSequence is not 0xFFFFFFFF i.e. final. If nSequence is 0xFFFFFFFF then nLockTime is ignored, because this if the "final" version of the transaction. So what you'd do would be something like this:
You go to a bar and promise the bartender to pay by the time the bar closes. Because this is the Bitcoin universe, time is measured in blockheight, so the closing time of the bar is indicated as some future blockheight.
For your first drink, you'd make a transaction paying to the bartender for that drink, paying from some coins you have. The transaction has an nLockTime equal to the closing time of the bar, and a starting nSequence of 0. You hand over the transaction and the bartender hands you your drink.
For your succeeding drink, you'd remake the same transaction, adding the payment for that drink to the transaction output that goes to the bartender (so that output keeps getting larger, by the amount of payment), and having an nSequence that is one higher than the previous one.
Eventually you have to stop drinking. It comes down to one of two possibilities:
You drink until the bar closes. Since it is now the nLockTime indicated in the transaction, the bartender is able to broadcast the latest transaction and tells the bouncers to kick you out of the bar.
You wisely consider the state of your liver. So you re-sign the last transaction with a "final" nSequence of 0xFFFFFFFF i.e. the maximum possible value it can have. This allows the bartender to get his or her funds immediately (nLockTime is ignored if nSequence is 0xFFFFFFFF), so he or she tells the bouncers to let you out of the bar.
Now that of course is a payment channel. Individual payments (purchases of alcohol, so I guess buying coffee is not in scope for payment channels). Closing is done by creating a "final" transaction that is the sum of the individual payments. Sure there's no routing and channels are unidirectional and channels have a maximum lifetime but give Satoshi a break, he was also busy inventing Bitcoin at the time. Now if you noticed I called this kind of payment channel "broken". This is because the mempool rules are not consensus rules, and cannot be validated (nothing about the mempool can be validated onchain: I sigh every time somebody proposes "let's make block size dependent on mempool size", mempool state cannot be validated by onchain data). Fullnodes can't see all of the transactions you signed, and then validate that the final one with the maximum nSequence is the one that actually is used onchain. So you can do the below:
Become friends with Jihan Wu, because he owns >51% of the mining hashrate (he totally reorged Bitcoin to reverse the Binance hack right?).
Slip Jihan Wu some of the more interesting drinks you're ordering as an incentive to cooperate with you. So say you end up ordering 100 drinks, you split it with Jihan Wu and give him 50 of the drinks.
When the bar closes, Jihan Wu quickly calls his mining rig and tells them to mine the version of your transaction with nSequence 0. You know, that first one where you pay for only one drink.
Because fullnodes cannot validate nSequence, they'll accept even the nSequence=0 version and confirm it, immutably adding you paying for a single alcoholic drink to the blockchain.
The bartender, pissed at being cheated, takes out a shotgun from under the bar and shoots at you and Jihan Wu.
Jihan Wu uses his mystical chi powers (actually the combined exhaust from all of his mining rigs) to slow down the shotgun pellets, making them hit you as softly as petals drifting in the wind.
The bartender mutters some words, clothes ripping apart as he or she (hard to believe it could be a she but hey) turns into a bear, ready to maul you for cheating him or her of the payment for all the 100 drinks you ordered from him or her.
Steely-eyed, you stand in front of the bartender-turned-bear, daring him to touch you. You've watched Revenant, you know Leonardo di Caprio could survive a bear mauling, and if some posh actor can survive that, you know you can too. You make a pose. "Drunken troll logic attack!"
I think I got sidetracked here.
Bears are bad news.
You can't reasonably invoke "Satoshi's Vision" and simultaneously reject the Lightning Network because it's not onchain. Satoshi's Vision included a half-assed implementation of payment channels with nSequence, where the onchain transaction represented multiple logical payments, exactly what modern offchain techniques do (except modern offchain techniques actually work). nSequence (the field, but not its modern meaning) has been in Bitcoin since BitCoin For Windows Alpha 0.1.0. And its original intent was payment channels. You can't get nearer to Satoshi's Vision than being a field that Satoshi personally added to transactions on the very first public release of the BitCoin software, like srsly.
Miners can totally bypass mempool rules. In fact, the reason why nSequence has been repurposed to indicate "optional" replace-by-fee is because miners are already incentivized by the nSequence system to always follow replace-by-fee anyway. I mean, what do you think those drinks you passed to Jihan Wu are, other than the fee you pay him to mine a specific version of your transaction?
Satoshi made mistakes. The original design for nSequence is one of them. Today, we no longer use nSequence in this way. So diverging from Satoshi's original design is part and parcel of Bitcoin development, because over time, we learn new lessons that Satoshi never knew about. Satoshi was an important landmark in this technology. He will not be the last, or most important, that we will remember in the future: he will only be the first.
Incentive-compatible time-limited unidirectional channel; or, Satoshi's Vision, Fixed (if transaction malleability hadn't been a problem, that is). Now, we know the bartender will turn into a bear and maul you if you try to cheat the payment channel, and now that we've revealed you're good friends with Jihan Wu, the bartender will no longer accept a payment channel scheme that lets one you cooperate with a miner to cheat the bartender. Fortunately, Jeremy Spilman proposed a better way that would not let you cheat the bartender. First, you and the bartender perform this ritual:
You get some funds and create a transaction that pays to a 2-of-2 multisig between you and the bartender. You don't broadcast this yet: you just sign it and get its txid.
You create another transaction that spends the above transaction. This transaction (the "backoff") has an nLockTime equal to the closing time of the bar, plus one block. You sign it and give this backoff transaction (but not the above transaction) to the bartender.
The bartender signs the backoff and gives it back to you. It is now valid since it's spending a 2-of-2 of you and the bartender, and both of you have signed the backoff transaction.
Now you broadcast the first transaction onchain. You and the bartender wait for it to be deeply confirmed, then you can start ordering.
The above is probably vaguely familiar to LN users. It's the funding process of payment channels! The first transaction, the one that pays to a 2-of-2 multisig, is the funding transaction that backs the payment channel funds. So now you start ordering in this way:
For your first drink, you create a transaction spending the funding transaction output and sending the price of the drink to the bartender, with the rest returning to you.
You sign the transaction and pass it to the bartender, who serves your first drink.
For your succeeding drinks, you recreate the same transaction, adding the price of the new drink to the sum that goes to the bartender and reducing the money returned to you. You sign the transaction and give it to the bartender, who serves you your next drink.
At the end:
If the bar closing time is reached, the bartender signs the latest transaction, completing the needed 2-of-2 signatures and broadcasting this to the Bitcoin network. Since the backoff transaction is the closing time + 1, it can't get used at closing time.
If you decide you want to leave early because your liver is crying, you just tell the bartender to go ahead and close the channel (which the bartender can do at any time by just signing and broadcasting the latest transaction: the bartender won't do that because he or she is hoping you'll stay and drink more).
If you ended up just hanging around the bar and never ordering, then at closing time + 1 you broadcast the backoff transaction and get your funds back in full.
Now, even if you pass 50 drinks to Jihan Wu, you can't give him the first transaction (the one which pays for only one drink) and ask him to mine it: it's spending a 2-of-2 and the copy you have only contains your own signature. You need the bartender's signature to make it valid, but he or she sure as hell isn't going to cooperate in something that would lose him or her money, so a signature from the bartender validating old state where he or she gets paid less isn't going to happen. So, problem solved, right? Right? Okay, let's try it. So you get your funds, put them in a funding tx, get the backoff tx, confirm the funding tx... Once the funding transaction confirms deeply, the bartender laughs uproariously. He or she summons the bouncers, who surround you menacingly. "I'm refusing service to you," the bartender says. "Fine," you say. "I was leaving anyway;" You smirk. "I'll get back my money with the backoff transaction, and posting about your poor service on reddit so you get negative karma, so there!" "Not so fast," the bartender says. His or her voice chills your bones. It looks like your exploitation of the Satoshi nSequence payment channel is still fresh in his or her mind. "Look at the txid of the funding transaction that got confirmed." "What about it?" you ask nonchalantly, as you flip open your desktop computer and open a reputable blockchain explorer. What you see shocks you. "What the --- the txid is different! You--- you changed my signature?? But how? I put the only copy of my private key in a sealed envelope in a cast-iron box inside a safe buried in the Gobi desert protected by a clan of nomads who have dedicated their lives and their childrens' lives to keeping my private key safe in perpetuity!" "Didn't you know?" the bartender asks. "The components of the signature are just very large numbers. The sign of one of the signature components can be changed, from positive to negative, or negative to positive, and the signature will remain valid. Anyone can do that, even if they don't know the private key. But because Bitcoin includes the signatures in the transaction when it's generating the txid, this little change also changes the txid." He or she chuckles. "They say they'll fix it by separating the signatures from the transaction body. They're saying that these kinds of signature malleability won't affect transaction ids anymore after they do this, but I bet I can get my good friend Jihan Wu to delay this 'SepSig' plan for a good while yet. Friendly guy, this Jihan Wu, it turns out all I had to do was slip him 51 drinks and he was willing to mine a tx with the signature signs flipped." His or her grin widens. "I'm afraid your backoff transaction won't work anymore, since it spends a txid that is not existent and will never be confirmed. So here's the deal. You pay me 99% of the funds in the funding transaction, in exchange for me signing the transaction that spends with the txid that you see onchain. Refuse, and you lose 100% of the funds and every other HODLer, including me, benefits from the reduction in coin supply. Accept, and you get to keep 1%. I lose nothing if you refuse, so I won't care if you do, but consider the difference of getting zilch vs. getting 1% of your funds." His or her eyes glow. "GENUFLECT RIGHT NOW." Lesson learned?
Payback's a bitch.
Transaction malleability is a bitchier bitch. It's why we needed to fix the bug in SegWit. Sure, MtGox claimed they were attacked this way because someone kept messing with their transaction signatures and thus they lost track of where their funds went, but really, the bigger impetus for fixing transaction malleability was to support payment channels.
Yes, including the signatures in the hash that ultimately defines the txid was a mistake. Satoshi made a lot of those. So we're just reiterating the lesson "Satoshi was not an infinite being of infinite wisdom" here. Satoshi just gets a pass because of how awesome Bitcoin is.
CLTV-protected Spilman Channels
Using CLTV for the backoff branch. This variation is simply Spilman channels, but with the backoff transaction replaced with a backoff branch in the SCRIPT you pay to. It only became possible after OP_CHECKLOCKTIMEVERIFY (CLTV) was enabled in 2015. Now as we saw in the Spilman Channels discussion, transaction malleability means that any pre-signed offchain transaction can easily be invalidated by flipping the sign of the signature of the funding transaction while the funding transaction is not yet confirmed. This can be avoided by simply putting any special requirements into an explicit branch of the Bitcoin SCRIPT. Now, the backoff branch is supposed to create a maximum lifetime for the payment channel, and prior to the introduction of OP_CHECKLOCKTIMEVERIFY this could only be done by having a pre-signed nLockTime transaction. With CLTV, however, we can now make the branches explicit in the SCRIPT that the funding transaction pays to. Instead of paying to a 2-of-2 in order to set up the funding transaction, you pay to a SCRIPT which is basically "2-of-2, OR this singlesig after a specified lock time". With this, there is no backoff transaction that is pre-signed and which refers to a specific txid. Instead, you can create the backoff transaction later, using whatever txid the funding transaction ends up being confirmed under. Since the funding transaction is immutable once confirmed, it is no longer possible to change the txid afterwards.
Todd Micropayment Networks
The old hub-spoke model (that isn't how LN today actually works). One of the more direct predecessors of the Lightning Network was the hub-spoke model discussed by Peter Todd. In this model, instead of payers directly having channels to payees, payers and payees connect to a central hub server. This allows any payer to pay any payee, using the same channel for every payee on the hub. Similarly, this allows any payee to receive from any payer, using the same channel. Remember from the above Spilman example? When you open a channel to the bartender, you have to wait around for the funding tx to confirm. This will take an hour at best. Now consider that you have to make channels for everyone you want to pay to. That's not very scalable. So the Todd hub-spoke model has a central "clearing house" that transport money from payers to payees. The "Moonbeam" project takes this model. Of course, this reveals to the hub who the payer and payee are, and thus the hub can potentially censor transactions. Generally, though, it was considered that a hub would more efficiently censor by just not maintaining a channel with the payer or payee that it wants to censor (since the money it owned in the channel would just be locked uselessly if the hub won't process payments to/from the censored user). In any case, the ability of the central hub to monitor payments means that it can surveill the payer and payee, and then sell this private transactional data to third parties. This loss of privacy would be intolerable today. Peter Todd also proposed that there might be multiple hubs that could transport funds to each other on behalf of their users, providing somewhat better privacy. Another point of note is that at the time such networks were proposed, only unidirectional (Spilman) channels were available. Thus, while one could be a payer, or payee, you would have to use separate channels for your income versus for your spending. Worse, if you wanted to transfer money from your income channel to your spending channel, you had to close both and reshuffle the money between them, both onchain activities.
Poon-Dryja Lightning Network
Bidirectional two-participant channels. The Poon-Dryja channel mechanism has two important properties:
No time limit.
Both the original Satoshi and the two Spilman variants are unidirectional: there is a payer and a payee, and if the payee wants to do a refund, or wants to pay for a different service or product the payer is providing, then they can't use the same unidirectional channel. The Poon-Dryjam mechanism allows channels, however, to be bidirectional instead: you are not a payer or a payee on the channel, you can receive or send at any time as long as both you and the channel counterparty are online. Further, unlike either of the Spilman variants, there is no time limit for the lifetime of a channel. Instead, you can keep the channel open for as long as you want. Both properties, together, form a very powerful scaling property that I believe most people have not appreciated. With unidirectional channels, as mentioned before, if you both earn and spend over the same network of payment channels, you would have separate channels for earning and spending. You would then need to perform onchain operations to "reverse" the directions of your channels periodically. Secondly, since Spilman channels have a fixed lifetime, even if you never used either channel, you would have to periodically "refresh" it by closing it and reopening. With bidirectional, indefinite-lifetime channels, you may instead open some channels when you first begin managing your own money, then close them only after your lawyers have executed your last will and testament on how the money in your channels get divided up to your heirs: that's just two onchain transactions in your entire lifetime. That is the potentially very powerful scaling property that bidirectional, indefinite-lifetime channels allow. I won't discuss the transaction structure needed for Poon-Dryja bidirectional channels --- it's complicated and you can easily get explanations with cute graphics elsewhere. There is a weakness of Poon-Dryja that people tend to gloss over (because it was fixed very well by RustyReddit):
You have to store all the revocation keys of a channel. This implies you are storing 1 revocation key for every channel update, so if you perform millions of updates over your entire lifetime, you'd be storing several megabytes of keys, for only a single channel. RustyReddit fixed this by requiring that the revocation keys be generated from a "Seed" revocation key, and every key is just the application of SHA256 on that key, repeatedly. For example, suppose I tell you that my first revocation key is SHA256(SHA256(seed)). You can store that in O(1) space. Then for the next revocation, I tell you SHA256(seed). From SHA256(key), you yourself can compute SHA256(SHA256(seed)) (i.e. the previous revocation key). So you can remember just the most recent revocation key, and from there you'd be able to compute every previous revocation key. When you start a channel, you perform SHA256 on your seed for several million times, then use the result as the first revocation key, removing one layer of SHA256 for every revocation key you need to generate. RustyReddit not only came up with this, but also suggested an efficient O(log n) storage structure, the shachain, so that you can quickly look up any revocation key in the past in case of a breach. People no longer really talk about this O(n) revocation storage problem anymore because it was solved very very well by this mechanism.
Another thing I want to emphasize is that while the Lightning Network paper and many of the earlier presentations developed from the old Peter Todd hub-and-spoke model, the modern Lightning Network takes the logical conclusion of removing a strict separation between "hubs" and "spokes". Any node on the Lightning Network can very well work as a hub for any other node. Thus, while you might operate as "mostly a payer", "mostly a forwarding node", "mostly a payee", you still end up being at least partially a forwarding node ("hub") on the network, at least part of the time. This greatly reduces the problems of privacy inherent in having only a few hub nodes: forwarding nodes cannot get significantly useful data from the payments passing through them, because the distance between the payer and the payee can be so large that it would be likely that the ultimate payer and the ultimate payee could be anyone on the Lightning Network. Lessons learned?
We can decentralize if we try hard enough!
"Hubs bad" can be made "hubs good" if everybody is a hub.
Smart people can solve problems. It's kinda why they're smart.
After LN, there's also the Decker-Wattenhofer Duplex Micropayment Channels (DMC). This post is long enough as-is, LOL. But for now, it uses a novel "decrementing nSequence channel", using the new relative-timelock semantics of nSequence (not the broken one originally by Satoshi). It actually uses multiple such "decrementing nSequence" constructs, terminating in a pair of Spilman channels, one in both directions (thus "duplex"). Maybe I'll discuss it some other time. The realization that channel constructions could actually hold more channel constructions inside them (the way the Decker-Wattenhofer puts a pair of Spilman channels inside a series of "decrementing nSequence channels") lead to the further thought behind Burchert-Decker-Wattenhofer channel factories. Basically, you could host multiple two-participant channel constructs inside a larger multiparticipant "channel" construct (i.e. host multiple channels inside a factory). Further, we have the Decker-Russell-Osuntokun or "eltoo" construction. I'd argue that this is "nSequence done right". I'll write more about this later, because this post is long enough. Lessons learned?
Bitcoin offchain scaling is more powerful than you ever thought.
Hi Bitcoiners! I’m back with the 30th monthly Bitcoin news recap. For those unfamiliar, each day I pick out the most popularelevant/interesting stories in Bitcoin and save them. At the end of the month I release them in one batch, to give you a quick (but not necessarily the best) overview of what happened in bitcoin over the past month. You can see recaps of the previous months on Bitcoinsnippets.com A recap of Bitcoin in May 2019 Adoption
Hi Bitcoiners! I’m back with the 29th monthly Bitcoin news recap. (sorry a bit late this month) For those unfamiliar, each day I pick out the most popularelevant/interesting stories in Bitcoin and save them. At the end of the month I release them in one batch, to give you a quick (but not necessarily the best) overview of what happened in bitcoin over the past month. You can see recaps of the previous months on Bitcoinsnippets.com A recap of Bitcoin in May 2019 Adoption
Hi Bitcoiners! I’m back with the 28th monthly Bitcoin news recap. For those unfamiliar, each day I pick out the most popularelevant/interesting stories in Bitcoin and save them. At the end of the month I release them in one batch, to give you a quick (but not necessarily the best) overview of what happened in bitcoin over the past month. You can see recaps of the previous months on Bitcoinsnippets.com A recap of Bitcoin in April 2019 Adoption
On August 1, Bitcoin resumed its original roadmap, scaling on-chain towards global adoption as Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash. It’s been just 3 and a half months since Bitcoin Cash broke away from BTC in order avoid a software mutation called Segwit, and to restore progress and growth to the ecosystem. After a recent price rally that saw us reach 0.5 BTC ($3000), the reality is setting in that an overnight ‘flippening’ scenario that some people hoped for is unlikely, and that we have a longer road ahead. It’s really important to remember how much has been achieved in such a short time. Let’s take a moment to reflect on how far we’ve come as a young community. July:
12: Bitcoin ABC team releases compatible client software
22: ViaBTC Exchange adds BCH trading
23: BTC.TOP Mining Pool announces they will mine BCH
23: Bitpoint Exchange announces plans to add BCH trading
23: Bit Trade Exchange announces plans to add BCH trading
24: CoinMarketCap adds BCH ‘futures market’ to index
24: Ledger adds BCH wallet support
24: Bithumb Exchange announces plans to add BCH trading
25: OKCoin Exchange adds BCH trading
25: Roger Ver publicly supports BCH
28: Bitcoin Unlimited team releases compatible client software
29: Bitcoin XT team releases compatible client software
29: Bitfinex Exchange announces plans to add BCH trading
29: Kraken Exchange announces plans to add BCH trading
29: Coinfloor Exchange announces plans to add BCH trading
29: Korbit Exchange announces plans to add BCH trading
29: BTCPOP Exchange announces plans to add BCH trading
29: HitBTC Exchange announces plans to add BCH trading
29: Coin Dance launches BCH specific website
30: Liqui Exchange announces plans to add BCH trading
30: Bitcoin Classic team releases compatible client software
31: Electron Cash releases BCH Wallet
31: Yobit Exchange adds BCH trading
01: Bitcoin Cash forks off BTC prior to Segwit activation
01: ViaBTC Mining Pool mines the first BCH block
01: Bittrex Exchange adds BCH trading
02: Freewallet releases BCH Wallet
02: Trezor adds BCH wallet support
02: Bitcoin Cash reaches #3 by Market Cap, $7 Billion
02: John McAfee publicly supports BCH
03: Coinbase announces plans to support BCH
03: Poloniex Exchange announces plans to add BCH trading
03: Shapeshift Exchange adds BCH trading
03: Changelly Exchange adds BCH trading
03: BTCBOX Exchange adds BCH trading
04: BTC.com adds BCH wallet support
05: Coinomi adds BCH wallet support
06: BTCMarkets Exchange adds BCH trading
06: nChain publicly supports BCH
07: Coinone Exchange adds BCH trading
08: Evercoin Exchange adds BCH trading
09: KeepKey adds BCH wallet support
09: Rocketr adds BCH support
13: BitGo announces plans to add full BCH wallet support
14: Poloniex Exchange adds BCH trading
16: The first 8MB / 37,000 transaction block mined
16: CEX.IO Exchange adds BCH trading
18: Bitcoin Cash overtakes BTC daily trading volume for the first time - $3.1B vs $2.7B
18: BTC to BCH the most popular trade on Shapeshift
20: Antpool Mining Pool mines their first BCH block
22: Huobi Exchange adds BCH trading
22: OKCoin Exchange adds BCH trading
22: F2Pool Mining Pool mines their first BCH block
23: Yours switches from Litecoin to BCH
24: Over 50% of hash power switches to BCH for the first time
31: BitGo adds BCH support
31: StrongCoin adds BCH wallet support
31: BTCC Mining Pool mines their first BCH block
01: Copay adds BCH wallet support
04: General Bytes announces plans to add BCH to ATMs
05: Tippr Bot launches BCH tipping on Reddit & Twitter
11: Bitcoin Cash overtakes Ethereum to be #2 by Market Cap - $30 Billion
11: Binance Exchange adds BCH trading
12: Bitcoin Cash achieves over $10 Billion trading volume in 24 hours
13: Bitstamp Exchange announces plans to add BCH trading
13: Bitcoin Cash successfully hard fork upgrades
13: Trade Satoshi Exchange adds BCH trading
14: Bittylicious Exchange adds BCH trading
14: Njalla Domain Registrar adds BCH support
14: Kim Dotcom publicly supports BCH
14: eToro Social Trading Platform adds BCH trading
14: SurBTC Exchange adds BCH trading
15: Bitmex Exchange adds adds BCH trading
15: Experience Bitcoin Cash initiative launches
15: Blockchain.com announces plans to add BCH
15: Genesis Mining announces plans to mine BCH
15: Jaxx adds BCH wallet support
16: CEX.IO Exchange adds BCH margin trading
16: BTCC launches BCH mining pool
16: KUCoin Exchange adds BCH trading
16: Bitwala announces plans to support BCH
17: GDAX Exchange announces plans to support BCH
17: Internet Archive adds BCH payments
17: Bitcoin.com launches BCH radio ad on 150 stations
18: Wirex announces plans to support BCH
18: Bitcoin Cash Fund initiative launched
This rate and scale of industry adoption is unprecedented. With every BTC holder receiving an equal amount of Bitcoin Cash, and with the price over $1300, the rate and scale of user adoption is unprecedented. With fast, reliable transactions and fees that are less than 1 cent, and with both BitPay & Coinbase hinting at a full Bitcoin Cash integration, the rate and scale of merchant adoption will be unprecedented. With unprecedented industry, user and merchant adoption, it’s only a matter of time until Bitcoin Cash becomes the default medium of exchange and store of value cryptocurrency. The old Bitcoin is back. You can feel it. It’s the resurgence of a grassroots movement not seen for years. People are putting Bitcoin Cash posters in the streets, handing out leaflets, tipping strangers a few dollars online, and asking in forums how they can contribute to the community. Just in the last couple of days a ‘Bitcoin Cash Fund’ was established, to assist with marketing and projects. The initial goal was $200 to make a short animated advert, but over $17,000 has been donated already. All of this positivity and energy is inspiring. While businesses are being forced to abandon BTC due to exorbitant and skyrocketing fees (upwards of $10), they’re being cheered on every day as they embrace Bitcoin Cash. The original vision is still alive. As an early bitcoiner, I’ve never been more optimistic. Make sure you involve yourself in the community, we’re just getting started :) Reddit: BTC or BitcoinCash Twitter: twitter.com/BITCOINCASH Website: bitcoincash.org Dev: Mailing List Also posted on Yours:Bitcoin Cash: A Reflection on How Far We’ve Come
Stellar Lumens HODL alert: 2017 Round up, Partnerships, Lumens vs. Other Cryptos
Welcome everyone! The future of Stellar Lumens is bright! Today we will look at the accomplishments of Stellar.org in 2017. . . 2017 Round Up • IBM / Stellar Partnership • Kik Messenger’s KIN coin to move from Ethereum to Stellar in 2018 • Stellar ATM introduced in Singapore • Jed McCaleb confirms IBM/Stellar has 30 banks on board (Youtube Video) • Lightyear.io enables forward thinking financial entities to easily join the Stellar ecosystem. • IBM adds 8 new validators from 8 different countries onto the Stellar network (article) • Forbes calls Stellar “venmo, but on a global scale - and for larger bodies like banks and corporations.” • Stellar Lumens Is Up 6,300% Since March and Is Aiming for Big Blockchain Partners (article) • Many new partnerships (listed below) that will be using the Stellar network in 2018. • Binance and GoPax Exchanges Adds Stellar • Ledger Nano S support is now available for Lumens (XLM) • The next coin to break into the top 10 cryptos (article) . . 2017 Partnerships & Financial Institutions • IBM - is an American multinational technology company headquartered in Armonk, New York, United States, with operations in over 170 countries. IBM partnered with Stellar to help financial institutions address the processes of universal cross-border payments, designed to reduce the settlement time and lower the cost of completing global payments for businesses and consumers. • SatoshiPay - a web payment system that helps online publishers monetize digital assets like news articles, videos, or PDFs in tiny increments without friction. • EXCH.ONE - is a FinTech software company based in Switzerland currently working to integrate its platform and its first technology adopter Euro Exchange Securities UK Ltd. into the Stellar network. This addition to the Stellar network will bring access to currency markets of South and Central America,UK and a number of EU countries. • Novati (ASX:NOV) - is an Australian-based software technology and payment services provider. Novatti is currently working to integrate it’s platform into the Stellar network with the ultimate aim to build a global money transfer solution to provide cross border, cross currency and cross asset payments. • Pundi X - is an Indonesia based fintech company that provides POS device, debit card, multi-currency wallet that empowers individuals to buy and sell cryptocurrency at any physical store in the world. They say "buying cryptocurrency should be as easy as buying a bottled water." • MoneyMatch - is a Malaysia based fintech startup that provides a fully-digital peer-to-peer currency exchange platform for customers to transfer and exchange foreign currencies with complete ease and at great value. The company plans to integrate with the Stellar network and enable pay in and pay out from Malaysia. • Streami - is a Korea based fintech company that offers blockchain enabled cross-border remittance service and recently launched a cryptocurrency exchange. The partnership extends both on the exchange side and remittance operations. • Neoframe - is developing and marketing trading solutions for big brokerage firms in Korea and extends its business to blockchain based applications. Neoframe developed high performance centralized cryptocurrency exchange as well as secure wallet solutions and is working with big financial players. The company is planning to launch a remittance business for ASEAN countries (Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Laos, Brunei) using Stellar. • SureRemit($RMT) - is a Nigeria based global non-cash remittances company. SureRemit leverages the Stellar blockchain platform to connect immigrants abroad directly with merchants that provide the services needed by their loved ones back home. With Remit tokens, immigrants all over the world can access digital shopping vouchers that can be spent on goods and services at accepting merchants wherever they are. • Cowrie Integrated Systems - is a Nigerian based Value Added Service Provider. Cowrie provides services at the intersection between telecoms and finance. Cowrie recently joined the Stellar network to bring novel fintech services to the African market. • Smartlands - is a Stellar-based platform designed to create a new class of low-risk tokens, secured by real, profitable assets in the real-world economy. Smartlands is designed to promote investments in the agricultural sector by allowing investment in individual projects, agricultural companies or indexes of groups of projects. These investments will be fully collateralized by agricultural real estate, other productive assets such as fruit or nut trees or, in some cases, the actual crop. • Klick-Ex - is an award winning regional cross-border payments system delivering financial infrastructure for emerging markets. It has been responsible for dramatic uptake in digital financial services in unbanked regions of the world, and lowering costs for banks, central banks and consumers in low liquidity currencies. Its key presence is in the Pacific and Europe, and it is a founding member of www.APFII.org processing more than 775,000 transactions per second, per billion of population (source). • Mobius - Mobius connects any app, device, and data stream to the blockchain ecosystem. Our simple and easy to use bidirectional API allows non-blockchain developers to easily connect resources to smart contracts and more. The Mobius MVP acts like Stripe for Blockchain by introducing innovative standards for cross-blockchain login, payment, smart contract management, and oracles. The Mobius Team includes David Gobaud, Jed McCaleb (Stellar.org founder), Jackson Palmer (creator of Dogecoin), and Chandler Guo (notorious Bitcoin & blockchain investor). • Chaineum - Chaineum, the first French ICO Boutique, will use the Stellar network for upcoming ICOs. “Chaineum is positioned as the first “ICO Boutique” in France, providing a range of end-to-end services to companies and international start-ups wishing to develop with this new funding mechanism. Chaineum is preparing 8 ICOs by the end of 2017, for European, North American and Asian companies, of which cumulative amount could reach € 200 million." (source) • Poseidon Foundation - Poseidon will simplify the carbon credit market with the creation of an ecosystem built on Stellar.org’s blockchain technology. This technology will prevent double counting of carbon and will be consistent across jurisdictions, making it easier for companies to deliver and measure progress towards their climate targets or other goals such as deforestation-free commitments. • Remitr - Remitr is a global platform for cross border payments, licensed in Canada. Remitr uses the Stellar network for international settlements for businesses as well as other payment partners. Remitr’s own payout network of 63 countries, comprising several currencies, is extended onto the Stellar network. • MSewa Software Solution (MSS) - MSewa Software Solution (MSS) Payments provides a one-stop digital payment service available across the Globe. MSS Payments aims at serving the consumers (Banked, Unbanked and Underbanked) with mobile banking facilities on the move from anywhere by transferring funds in their mobile phone. • PesaChoice - PesaChoice is a leader in international bill payment services for the African diaspora. PesaChoice aims at making international bill payment process easy, seamless, secure, with reasonable and competitive service fees, and up to date technological advances. • SendX - Singapore based SendX, in partnership with Stellar, is the better way to move money worldwide. The SendX team believes that the future of transactions is decentralized and distributed, bringing true equity to everyone across the value chain. • VoguePay - VoguePay, with offices in the United Kingdom and Nigeria, is partnering with Stellar to become the cheapest and most efficient way to send money between the United Kingdom and Nigeria. In the coming months, they expect to expand this service to other selected African countries. • HashCash - Hashcash consultants build financial solutions for banks and financial institutions over blockchain. We leverage the Stellar platform to build products that vastly improve the remittance and payments experience for banks and their customers. Transfers happen lightning fast at a fraction of current rates and operational cost is significantly reduced. HashCash is headquartered in India, with operations across South Asia and the Gulf. . . Stellar Lumens vs Other Cryptocurrencies • Lumens vs. Bitcoin: Jed McCaleb spoke at Distributed Markets in 2017 about the advantages, but more importantly, the disadvantages of Bitcoin. Listen to the talk here. Jed said, “Bitcoin is this awesome innovation. The first thing it does is converts a real world resource, electricity, into a digital asset. So it takes something from the real world and puts it into the digital realm. The second thing it does is provides immutable public record. It’s basically a database that everyone can see but no one change arbitrarily… That’s great, Bitcoin solves the double spin problem [ of proving possession and transmitting volume]… [However, to fix the problems of bitcoin] you might think well maybe we’ll just kind of keep adding [software] to Bitcoin until we get there, but that’s not really the way software works. You want to have the design from the beginning and solve these simple issues. Bitcoin was designed to be a new currency, it wasn’t really designed to be this unifying universal payment network. So that’s what Stellar does. It solves these three remaining issues.” • Lumens vs. Bitcoin #2: According to wired.com, "Bitcoin mining guzzles energy - and it's carbon footprint just keeps growing." Wired says "Today, each bitcoin transaction requires the same amount of energy used to power nine homes in the US for one day... The total energy use of this web of hardware is huge—an estimated 31 terawatt-hours per year. More than 150 individual countries in the world consume less energy annually. And that power-hungry network is currently increasing its energy use every day by about 450 gigawatt-hours, roughly the same amount of electricity the entire country of Haiti uses in a year." Because Stellar is based on a consensus algorithm rather than mining, it takes much less energy to run the Stellar network. The Poseidon Foundation decided to build their platform on Stellar rather than Ethereum or Bitcoin because of this (twitter source). • Lumens ICO tokens vs. Ethereum ICO tokens: According to Stellar.org, "traditionally, ICO tokens have been issued on the Ethereum network in the form of ERC20 tokens. ERC20 tokens are easy to issue and are infinitely customizable using Ethereum’s smart contracting language. However, recent events have highlighted and exacerbated some weaknesses of the network, including slow transaction processing times for the network during ICOs and increasingly expensive gas prices (by fiat standards) for transactions and smart contract execution. Moreover, many organizations require only basic tokens; they adopt the risk of Ethereum’s Turing complete programming language without taking advantage of many of its benefits." "While Ethereum has the most expressive programming capabilities, we believe Stellar is the best choice for ICOs that do not require complex smart contracts. Stellar’s primary goal is to facilitate issuing and trading tokens, especially those tied to legal commitments by known organizations, such as claims on real-world assets or fiat currency." • Stellar vs. Ethereum #2: The median transaction time on Stellar is 5 seconds, compared to approximately 3.5 minutes on Ethereum (source). Stellar has a negligible transaction fee (.00001 XLM ~= $0.0000002) with no gas fee for computation, while depending on the complexity of the computation, the median cost for a transfer on the Ethereum network is $0.094. Security: While both Stellar and Ethereum run on a decentralized network, the Stellar network has fewer security pitfalls. Stellar uses atomic transactions comprised of simple, declarative operations while Ethereum uses turing complete programming capabilities which produces less auditable code and greater risk of exploitable vulnerabilities(source). Recently, a security flaw in the Ethereum network froze millions of dollars. According to Mobius ariticle written by David Gobaud, "On November 6, 2017, Github user deveps199 'accidentally' triggered a bug in Parity, a popular Ethereum mult-sig wallet, that froze more than $152 million in Ether across 151 addresses. The bug impacted several token sales including Polkadot, which has had ~$98 million out of its recent $145 million sale frozen." "Mobius had none of its ongoing pre-sale Ether frozen because we do not trust Ethereum’s Smart Contract based multi-sig wallets given the vast Turing complete attack surface and did not use one. Security broadly is one of the main reasons the MOBI token that powers the DApp Store is a Stellar Protocol token and not an Ethereum token." • Lumens vs. Ripple: According to Wall Street Bitcoin Exchange, "Many investors like to compare the company [Stellar] to Ripple, and there are a lot of similarities, being that some of the founders worked on the Ripple team. In what can now be looked at as another blockchain development drama that plays out on chat boards and in interviews all across the globe. Stellar declared they fixed Ripple’s problems with their hard fork, however, Ripple has failed to admit to any of the flaws in its design that the Stellar team has pointed out." The article concludes by saying, "We Choose XLM Over XRP For 2018. That is why we are going with Stellar Lumens over Ripple in our portfolio for the rest of 2017 and 2018. After holding Ripple for a long time this year, it just never seems to make the big break like other names with bigger market caps like Bitcoin Cash, Dash, and Litecoin have. While we are holding on most all our larger market caps, we feel that Stellar Lumens will be one of the break out coins for 2018." . . Conclusion The stellar.org team is doing an amazing job making partnerships and pioneering the use of blockchain technology for various types of transactions. What we are seeing is a new technology that can actually be used to solve real-world problems. As a community, we need to continue supporting Stellar and we will quickly see it power transactions across the world. What are your thoughts about Stellar? What do you see in the future of Stellar? Any important news you want to share? Comment below.
A Beginners Guide to Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency
As cryptocurrency, and blockchain technology become more abundant throughout our society, it’s important to understand the inner workings of this technology, especially if you plan to use cryptocurrency as an investment vehicle. If you’re new to the crypto-sphere, learning about Bitcoin makes it much easier to understand other cryptocurrencies as many other altcoins' technologies are borrowed directly from Bitcoin. Bitcoin is one of those things that you look into only to discover you have more questions than answers, and right as you’re starting to wrap your head around the technology; you discover the fact that Bitcoin has six other variants (forks), the amount of politics at hand, or that there are over a thousand different cryptocurrencies just as complex if not even more complex than Bitcoin. We are currently in the infancy of blockchain technology and the effects of this technology will be as profound as the internet. This isn’t something that’s just going to fade away into history as you may have been led to believe. I believe this is something that will become an integral part of our society, eventually embedded within our technology. If you’re a crypto-newbie, be glad that you're relatively early to the industry. I hope this post will put you on the fast-track to understanding Bitcoin, blockchain, and how a large percentage of cryptocurrencies work.
Altcoin: Short for alternative coin. There are over 1,000 different cryptocurrencies. You’re probably most familiar with Bitcoin. Anything that isn’t Bitcoin is generally referred to as an altcoin. HODL: Misspelling of hold. Dank meme accidentally started by this dude. Hodlers are much more interested in long term gains rather than playing the risky game of trying to time the market. TO THE MOON: When a cryptocurrency’s price rapidly increases. A major price spike of over 1,000% can look like it’s blasting off to the moon. Just be sure you’re wearing your seatbelt when it comes crashing down. FUD: Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt. FOMO: Fear of missing out. Bull Run: Financial term used to describe a rising market. Bear Run: Financial term used to describe a falling market.
What Is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin (BTC) is a decentralized digital currency that uses cryptography to secure and ensure validity of transactions within the network. Hence the term crypto-currency. Decentralization is a key aspect of Bitcoin. There is no CEO of Bitcoin or central authoritative government in control of the currency. The currency is ran and operated by the people, for the people. One of the main development teams behind Bitcoin is blockstream. Bitcoin is a product of blockchain technology. Blockchain is what allows for the security and decentralization of Bitcoin. To understand Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, you must understand to some degree, blockchain. This can get extremely technical the further down the rabbit hole you go, and because this is technically a beginners guide, I’m going to try and simplify to the best of my ability and provide resources for further technical reading.
A Brief History
Bitcoin was created by Satoshi Nakamoto. The identity of Nakamoto is unknown. The idea of Bitcoin was first introduced in 2008 when Nakamoto released the Bitcoin white paper - Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System. Later, in January 2009, Nakamoto announced the Bitcoin software and the Bitcoin network officially began. I should also mention that the smallest unit of a Bitcoin is called a Satoshi. 1 BTC = 100,000,000 Satoshis. When purchasing Bitcoin, you don’t actually need to purchase an entire coin. Bitcoin is divisible, so you can purchase any amount greater than 1 Satoshi (0.00000001 BTC).
What Is Blockchain?
Blockchain is a distributed ledger, a distributed collection of accounts. What is being accounted for depends on the use-case of the blockchain itself. In the case of Bitcoin, what is being accounted for is financial transactions. The first block in a blockchain is referred to as the genesis block. A block is an aggregate of data. Blocks are also discovered through a process known as mining (more on this later). Each block is cryptographically signed by the previous block in the chain and visualizing this would look something akin to a chain of blocks, hence the term, blockchain. For more information regarding blockchain I’ve provided more resouces below:
Bitcoin mining is one solution to the double spend problem. Bitcoin mining is how transactions are placed into blocks and added onto the blockchain. This is done to ensure proof of work, where computational power is staked in order to solve what is essentially a puzzle. If you solve the puzzle correctly, you are rewarded Bitcoin in the form of transaction fees, and the predetermined block reward. The Bitcoin given during a block reward is also the only way new Bitcoin can be introduced into the economy. With a halving event occurring roughly every 4 years, it is estimated that the last Bitcoin block will be mined in the year 2,140. (See What is Block Reward below for more info). Mining is one of those aspects of Bitcoin that can get extremely technical and more complicated the further down the rabbit hole you go. An entire website could be created (and many have) dedicated solely to information regarding Bitcoin mining. The small paragraph above is meant to briefly expose you to the function of mining and the role it plays within the ecosystem. It doesn’t even scratch the surface regarding the topic.
How do you Purchase Bitcoin?
The most popular way to purchase Bitcoin through is through an online exchange where you trade fiat (your national currency) for Bitcoin. Popular exchanges include:
There’s tons of different exchanges. Just make sure you find one that supports your national currency.
Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are EXTREMELY volatile. Swings of 30% or more within a few days is not unheard of. Understand that there is always inherent risks with any investment. Cryptocurrencies especially. Only invest what you’re willing to lose.
Transaction & Network Fees
Transacting on the Bitcoin network is not free. Every purchase or transfer of Bitcoin will cost X amount of BTC depending on how congested the network is. These fees are given to miners as apart of the block reward. Late 2017 when Bitcoin got up to $20,000USD, the average network fee was ~$50. Currently, at the time of writing this, the average network fee is $1.46. This data is available in real-time on BitInfoCharts.
In this new era of money, there is no central bank or government you can go to in need of assistance. This means the responsibility of your money falls 100% into your hands. That being said, the security regarding your cryptocurrency should be impeccable. The anonymity provided by cryptocurrencies alone makes you a valuable target to hackers and scammers. Below I’ve detailed out best practices regarding securing your cryptocurrency.
Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
Two-factor authentication is a second way of authenticating your identity upon signing in to an account. Most cryptocurrency related software/websites will offer or require some form of 2FA. Upon creation of any crypto-related account find the Security section and enable 2FA.
The most basic form of 2FA which you are probably most familiar with. This form of authentication sends a text message to your smartphone with a special code that will allow access to your account upon entry. Note that this is not the safest form of 2FA as you may still be vulnerable to what is known as a SIM swap attack. SIM swapping is a social engineering method in which an attacker will call up your phone carrier, impersonating you, in attempt to re-activate your SIM card on his/her device. Once the attacker has access to your SIM card he/she now has access to your text messages which can then be used to access your online accounts. You can prevent this by using an authenticator such as Google Authenticator.
The use of an authenticator is the safest form of 2FA. An authenticator is installed on a seperate device and enabling it requires you input an ever changing six digit code in order to access your account. I recommend using Google Authenticator. If a website has the option to enable an authenticator, it will give you a QR code and secret key. Use Google Authenticator to scan the QR code. The secret key consists of a random string of numbers and letters. Write this down on a seperate sheet of paper and do not store it on a digital device. Once Google Authenticator has been enabled, every time you sign into your account, you will have to input a six-digit code that looks similar to this. If you happen to lose or damage the device you have Google Authenticator installed on, you will be locked out of your account UNLESS you have access to the secret key (which you should have written down).
A wallet is what you store Bitcoin and cryptocurrency on. I’ll provide resources on the different type of wallets later but I want to emphasize the use of a hardware wallet (aka cold storage). Hardware wallets are the safest way of storing cryptocurrency because it allows for your crypto to be kept offline in a physical device. After purchasing crypto via an exchange, I recommend transferring it to cold storage. The most popular hardware wallets include the Ledger Nano S, and Trezor. Hardware wallets come with a special key so that if it gets lost or damaged, you can recover your crypto. I recommend keeping your recovery key as well as any other sensitive information in a safety deposit box. I know this all may seem a bit manic, but it is important you take the necessary security precautions in order to ensure the safety & longevity of your cryptocurrency.
Technical Aspects of Bitcoin
Address: What you send Bitcoin to.
Wallet: Where you store your Bitcoin
Max Supply: 21 million
Block Time: ~10 minutes
Block Size: 1-2 MB
Block Reward: BTC reward received from mining.
What is a Bitcoin Address?
A Bitcoin address is what you send Bitcoin to. If you want to receive Bitcoin you’d give someone your Bitcoin address. Think of a Bitcoin address as an email address for money.
What is a Bitcoin Wallet?
As the title implies, a Bitcoin wallet is anything that can store Bitcoin. There are many different types of wallets including paper wallets, software wallets and hardware wallets. It is generally advised NOT to keep cryptocurrency on an exchange, as exchanges are prone to hacks (see Mt. Gox hack). My preferred method of storing cryptocurrency is using a hardware wallet such as the Ledger Nano S or Trezor. These allow you to keep your crypto offline in physical form and as a result, much more safe from hacks. Paper wallets also allow for this but have less functionality in my opinion. After I make crypto purchases, I transfer it to my Ledger Nano S and keep that in a safe at home. Hardware wallets also come with a special key so that if it gets lost or damaged, you can recover your crypto. I recommend keeping your recovery key in a safety deposit box.
What is Bitcoins Max Supply?
The max supply of Bitcoin is 21 million. The only way new Bitcoins can be introduced into the economy are through block rewards which are given after successfully mining a block (more on this later).
What is Bitcoins Block Time?
The average time in which blocks are created is called block time. For Bitcoin, the block time is ~10 minutes, meaning, 10 minutes is the minimum amount of time it will take for a Bitcoin transaction to be processed. Note that transactions on the Bitcoin network can take much longer depending on how congested the network is. Having to wait a few hours or even a few days in some instances for a transaction to clear is not unheard of. Other cryptocurrencies will have different block times. For example, Ethereum has a block time of ~15 seconds. For more information on how block time works, Prabath Siriwardena has a good block post on this subject which can be found here.
What is Bitcoins Block Size?
There is a limit to how large blocks can be. In the early days of Bitcoin, the block size was 36MB, but in 2010 this was reduced to 1 MB in order to prevent distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS), spam, and other malicious use on the blockchain. Nowadays, blocks are routinely in excess of 1MB, with the largest to date being somewhere around 2.1 MB. There is much debate amongst the community on whether or not to increase Bitcoin’s block size limit to account for ever-increasing network demand. A larger block size would allow for more transactions to be processed. The con argument to this is that decentralization would be at risk as mining would become more centralized. As a result of this debate, on August 1, 2017, Bitcoin underwent a hard-fork and Bitcoin Cash was created which has a block size limit of 8 MB. Note that these are two completely different blockchains and sending Bitcoin to a Bitcoin Cash wallet (or vice versa) will result in a failed transaction. Update: As of May 15th, 2018 Bitcoin Cash underwent another hard fork and the block size has increased to 32 MB. On the topic of Bitcoin vs Bitcoin Cash and which cryptocurrency is better, I’ll let you do your own research and make that decision for yourself. It is good to know that this is a debated topic within the community and example of the politics that manifest within the space. Now if you see community members arguing about this topic, you’ll at least have a bit of background to the issue.
What is Block Reward?
Block reward is the BTC you receive after discovering a block. Blocks are discovered through a process called mining. The only way new BTC can be added to the economy is through block rewards and the block reward is halved every 210,000 blocks (approximately every 4 years). Halving events are done to limit the supply of Bitcoin. At the inception of Bitcoin, the block reward was 50BTC. At the time of writing this, the block reward is 12.5BTC. Halving events will continue to occur until the amount of new Bitcoin introduced into the economy becomes less than 1 Satoshi. This is expected to happen around the year 2,140. All 21 million Bitcoins will have been mined. Once all Bitcoins have been mined, the block reward will only consist of transaction fees.
Any computer that connects to the Bitcoin network is called a node. Nodes that fully verify all of the rules of Bitcoin are called full nodes.
In other words, full nodes are what verify the Bitcoin blockchain and they play a crucial role in maintaining the decentralized network. Full nodes store the entirety of the blockchain and validate transactions. Anyone can participate in the Bitcoin network and run a full node. Bitcoin.org has information on how to set up a full node. Running a full node also gives you wallet capabilities and the ability to query the blockchain. For more information on Bitcoin nodes, see Andreas Antonopoulos’s Q&A on the role of nodes.
What is a Fork?
A fork is a divergence in a blockchain. Since Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer network, there’s an overall set of rules (protocol) in which participants within the network must abide by. These rules are put in place to form network consensus. Forks occur when implementations must be made to the blockchain or if there is disagreement amongst the network on how consensus should be achieved.
Soft Fork vs Hard Fork
The difference between soft and hard forks lies in compatibility. Soft forks are backwards compatible, hard forks are not. Think of soft forks as software upgrades to the blockchain, whereas hard forks are a software upgrade that warrant a completely new blockchain. During a soft fork, miners and nodes upgrade their software to support new consensus rules. Nodes that do not upgrade will still accept the new blockchain. Examples of Bitcoin soft forks include:
A hard fork can be thought of as the creation of a new blockchain that X percentage of the community decides to migrate too. During a hard fork, miners and nodes upgrade their software to support new consensus rules, Nodes that do not upgrade are invalid and cannot accept the new blockchain. Examples of Bitcoin hard forks include:
Note that these are completely different blockchains and independent from the Bitcoin blockchain. If you try to send Bitcoin to one of these blockchains, the transaction will fail.
A Case For Bitcoin in a World of Centralization
Our current financial system is centralized, which means the ledger(s) that operate within this centralized system are subjugated to control, manipulation, fraud, and many other negative aspects that come with this system. There are also pros that come with a centralized system, such as the ability to swiftly make decisions. However, at some point, the cons outweigh the pros, and change is needed. What makes Bitcoin so special as opposed to our current financial system is that Bitcoin allows for the decentralized transfer of money. Not one person owns the Bitcoin network, everybody does. Not one person controls Bitcoin, everybody does. A decentralized system in theory removes much of the baggage that comes with a centralized system. Not to say the Bitcoin network doesn’t have its problems (wink wink it does), and there’s much debate amongst the community as to how to go about solving these issues. But even tiny steps are significant steps in the world of blockchain, and I believe Bitcoin will ultimately help to democratize our financial system, whether or not you believe it is here to stay for good.
Well that was a lot of words… Anyways I hope this guide was beneficial, especially to you crypto newbies out there. You may have come into this realm not expecting there to be an abundance of information to learn about. I know I didn’t. Bitcoin is only the tip of the iceberg, but now that you have a fundamental understanding of Bitcoin, learning about other cryptocurrencies such as Litecoin, and Ethereum will come more naturally. Feel free to ask questions below! I’m sure either the community or myself would be happy to answer your questions. Thanks for reading!
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