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Internet Authority: History of Centralized Companies Being Hostile Toward Crypto

In the wake of CCN’s Google saga, CT looks at which centralized companies have been hostile to crypto firms in the past.

On June 10, one of the top cryptocurrency media sites, CCN, initially announced that it would shut down, citing a June 3 Google Core Update for stifling its traffic.

Writing on the website, the director and founder of CCN Markets and Hawkfish AS, Jonas Borchgrevink, blamed the update for an overnight fall of 71% of the site’s mobile traffic. While Borchgrevink noted that ups and downs are part of the business, such a vertiginous fall is unprecedented in its history. At the time of the post, the founder said that it could not support new additions to its team or its current operations from advertiser revenue in the given climate.

Within the online crypto media sphere, CCN was not alone in taking a beating. According to data from Sistrix.com, CoinDesk also experienced a drop in traffic. Crypto news took what some are alleging to be a targeted hammering, even though United Kingdom-based online media juggernaut Daily Mail also reportedly lost half of its organic website traffic.

Related to this: The Strange Case of CCN and the Google June 2019 Core Update

At the time of this post on June 10, Borchgrevink and the CCN team were at a loss as to what could have merited such a steep drop off in visibility:

“If Google thinks that CCN, all of a sudden – remember, literally overnight -, is bad, then why not give us the chance to understand the why and give us a way to change before any major update. Instead, we are kicked in the teeth overnight with zero knowledge of what we have done wrong, impacting a team of 60+ people. 6 years of work is evaporated.”

However, only two days later, on June 12, CCN reported that it had clawed its way back into existence after an intensive period of consulting with SEO gurus and experts in the Google Webmasters forum. In the post, also authored by Borchgrevink, it is clear that the team is still not entirely sure what caused the drop, but continue to reference the June 3 update:

“Whether or not the Google June 2019 Core Update is to blame, we are fixing it. We’re receiving help from multiple SEO teams to understand what has transpired.”

Expert reaction to CNN’s self-proclaimed struggles

Several members of the crypto community spoke to Cointelegraph, stating that the update serves as a prominent example of how powerful, centralized corporations can currently smother crypto initiatives. Richard Red, research lead at Decred, a community-directed digital currency, said the update presents an issue for both freedom of the press and of information:

“Regardless of how people feel about CCN, the fact that changes to Google’s search algorithm can make or break media producers is one of many illustrations of the power wielded by large tech companies running centralized services. A centralized authority that can selectively ‘hide’ content signals a broader problem with freedom of the press and the public’s ability to find information.”

Roneil Rumberg, CEO and co-founder of the decentralized music streaming platform Audius, also said this is typical of the dangers of centralized power and called for a more transparent approach to online media:

“The unfortunate situation faced by CCN is inevitable when centralized aggregators like Google control content discovery. Those whose livelihood depends on aggregators have little insight into how these services work, let alone any say in how they are changed over time. They are subject to the whims of Google, YouTube, SoundCloud, or whoever else they are contributing to, and risk being deplatformed, demonetized, or otherwise taken for granted.”

Tak Kol, co-founder of the Orbs public blockchain, also commented on Google’s power to shape opinions and called for change that allows people to protect themselves from what he sees as abuses of such power:

“The situation with CCN and publications like it shows how much power Google has in dictating which news channels can flourish and which should disappear with a behind-the-scenes change in its algorithm. There is a solution to protect ourselves against potential abuse — and this is transparency, through blockchain technology. We should demand filters like Google to be explicit regarding the criteria of what’s deemed important, and we should demand to audit that this criteria is indeed what’s executed under the hood.”

Ad nauseam: Google’s chequered past with crypto

This is not the first time that Google appears to have taken a hard line on decentralization and crypto in general. The most prominent example of hostility from Google occured in June 2018, when the company announced that it would ban all crypto-related advertising in accordance with an update to its Financial Services policy.

Timeline GFX

The official announcement came days after crypto advertisers had noticed a sharp drop in views for its advertisements. At the time, Google AdWords denied that any change in its regulations would block crypto or initial coin offering (ICO) ads. However, as previously reported by Cointelegraph, Google’s updated financial products policy clearly stated that an advertisement ban will be imposed on “cryptocurrencies and related content (including but not limited to initial coin offerings, cryptocurrency exchanges, cryptocurrency wallets, and cryptocurrency trading advice).”

The move, however, was not necessarily out of character for Google, with Google’s director of sustainable ads, Scott Spencer, demonstrating a hesitant approach to all cryptocurrencies in a March 14 interview with CNBC:

“We don’t have a crystal ball to know where the future is going to go with cryptocurrencies, but we’ve seen enough consumer harm or potential for consumer harm that it’s an area that we want to approach with extreme caution.”

In September, the company announced that it would revise its advertising policy in October in order to allow some crypto businesses targeting the United States and Japan.

Fast-forward to January 2019 and Google’s advertising policy on cryptocurrencies remains relatively unchanged, with smart contract auditing startup Decenter tweeting that the company has blacklisted keywords mentioning Ethereum on Google Ads.

In response, the official Google Ads account replied to the tweet, stating that exchanges are permitted to target the United States and Japan and that ads targeting other countries could be liable for rejection.

Decenter further explained that, when trying to use “ethereum development services” and “ethereum security audits” as keywords, an error message would pop up. Google Ads replied to this in a tweet:

Decenter consequently turned to the Ethereum community on Reddit, where the team stated:

“Any of the keywords that contain ‘ethereum’ in our campaigns are no longer showing ads as of January 9th and are now reporting the following error:”

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At the time, the Reddit post’s top comment accused Google of a lack of neutrality:

“Google has various political and economic agendas, and they are quite willing to use their various services to promote their preferences. AdSense and Youtube are notorious for this, but there have been some incidents regarding the play store as well.”

Google is not the only centralized tech giant to have a troubled relationship with both crypto and crypto advertising. Prior to lifting the requirements on May 8 for crypto and blockchain promoters to get consent for running advertisements, Facebook had adopted various degrees of censorship.

In January 2018, Facebook decided to ban all cryptocurrency and ICO advertisements — a move that was widely criticized by the crypto community as unnecessary. Dejun Qian, the founder of Fusion, which provides a financial transaction ecosystem, said:

“This policy will definitely protect people from the scams of predatory projects. However announcing an ‘intentionally broad’ policy is always the easiest way and not necessarily the best route for technology development.”

Since then, Facebook has come to relax its approach to advertising as long as advertisements are not seen to be promoting one currency in particular or initial coin offerings. And Facebook has since announced that it will launch its own stablecoin.

Read more on this: Project Libra: What We Know About Facebook’s Forthcoming Cryptocurrency

E-commerce giants show uniform approach to crypto

It is not only big tech that’s showing resistance to cryptocurrencies. In 2019, two of the world’s foremost e-commerce giants demonstrated varying degrees of hostility to cryptocurrencies and associated cryptocurrency advertising.

On March 18, South America’s largest e-commerce company, Mercado Livre, banned cryptocurrency advertising on its website, according to reporting from Cointelegraph em Portugues. Mercado Livre, which recently overtook Amazon as the top e-commerce marketplace in Latin America, sent out emails to users that laid out the change in company policy. According to an email shared with Cointelegraph, all listings related to digital currency would automatically be removed from the platform as of March 19:

“We would like to inform you that as of March 19, you will no longer be able to advertise used products in the following categories:

– Cryptocurrencies

– Prepaid cards for games

“Because you have ads for used products that will soon be banned, we recommend that you end them. Otherwise, they will be finalized on the date mentioned above.”

Mercado Livre’s biggest rival, Amazon, also demonstrated its less-than-enthusiastic approach to cryptocurrencies in 2019. Twitch, a streaming company owned by the U.S. e-commerce behemoth, removed bitcoin (BTC) and bitcoin cash (BCH) as payment options for subscriptions, according to a Reddit user on March 23.

Payday blues: Payment providers close the door on crypto

Although the initial benefits of cryptocurrency for payment providers are numerous, a number of high-profile companies have either removed payment options or outright banned crypto payments.

On May 7, Dovey Wan, a founding partner of Primitive Ventures and a prominent figure in China-related crypto affairs, tweeted that the Chinese social media titan and payment service provider WeChat will ban merchants from making cryptocurrency payments.

A translation of the Payment Service Protocol, posted on weixin.qq.com, revealed that the ban is due to changes in payment regulation and efforts to ensure “the prevention of illegal telecommunications networks and criminal matters” brought about by the People’s Bank of China.

As per the screenshot posted by Wan, users who carry out crypto trades are liable to have their accounts terminated. The screenshot also shows that “merchants may not engage in illegal transactions such as virtual currency.”

Unsurprisingly, given the chilly atmosphere for cryptocurrencies in China, WeChat is far from alone in its approach. In August 2018, the mobile payment app Alipay clamped down on users who were using their accounts for over-the-counter (OTC) bitcoin trading, according to Beijing News.

As per the state-affiliated Chinese newspaper, Alipay tightened restrictions on and permanently blocked accounts carrying out bitcoin OTC trades. The article also stated that a system had been created to monitor key websites and accounts for this purpose.

Misfortune for crypto payments in China continued into 2019, when Alipay and WeChat both requested that crypto exchange Huobi remove their payment services from its OTC trading desk, according to a report by local media agency Sina published on Jan. 25.

Outside of China, the chief financial officer of PayPal said that the company is reluctant to get involved with cryptocurrencies, according to an interview with Yahoo Finance on May 7.

CFO John Rainey said that, although the company had previously allowed payments in bitcoin, the volatility of the currency meant that merchants would just convert bitcoin to a more stable currency, such as the euro or dollar. Rainey commented that, although the company is not currently interested in cryptocurrencies, he did not rule out involvement in the future:

“We have teams clearly working on blockchain and cryptocurrency as well, and we want to participate in that in whatever form it takes in the future. I just think it’s a little early on right now.”

BTC cards suffer setback, Visa and Mastercard categorize crypto as high-risk

In January, Visa ended its working relationship with debit card provider WaveCrest, affecting crypto card products provided by CryptoPay, Bitwala, Wirex and others. The move was initially believed to be a company crackdown on cryptocurrency services, but was later revealed to be due to WaveCrest violating Visa’s policies.

A Visa spokesperson commented that the issue came down to noncompliance on WaveCrest’s behalf and that it had not adopted a blanket ban on such products:

“We can confirm that WaveCrest’s Visa membership is being terminated due to continued non-compliance with our operating rules. All of WaveCrest’s Visa card programmes will be closed as a result. Visa has other approved card programmes that use fiat funds converted from cryptocurrency in a number of jurisdictions. The termination of WaveCrest’s Visa membership does not affect these other products.”

In October, Finance Magnates reported on the news that payment titans Mastercard and Visa would classify cryptocurrency and ICOs as “high risk.” The publication, which did not disclose its sources, reported that a ban will be applied to brokers operating from “unregulated or loosely regulated environments,” a sweeping description that proved damning for the wave of crypto debit cards. As no universal policy exists for regulating cryptocurrency payments, many companies offering crypto debit card services could, as a consequence, be seen as not having applied proper due diligence to their business.

The publication also referred to regulations brought in by the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) in June, establishing leverage limits for local retailers in the European Union. Steve Maijoor, the ESMA chairman, said that the regulation would seek to protect investors:

“The new measures on CFDs will, for the first time, ensure that investors cannot lose more money than they put in, restrict the use of leverage and incentives, and provide understandable risk warnings for investors.”

Unregulated brokers are reportedly classified as “high-risk securities merchants” by the two biggest debit/credit card issuers. Mastercard acted on Oct. 12, 2018, and the subsequent changes would affect “all transaction globally via Mastercard, Debit Mastercard, and Maestro.”

The move to target crypto debit cards is not that surprising, given the views of management at the two payment giants. Mastercard CEO Ajaypal Banga voiced his criticism of cryptocurrencies, stating that nonstate-issued coins are junk, due to their high volatility and the as-of-yet unrealized goal of operating as a real alternative to fiat currency.

To strengthen the narrative, Mastercard released a series of anti-bitcoin videos, narrated by the president of Mastercard Southeast Asia, Matthew Driver, in which he questioned the anonymous nature of crypto transactions:

“If it’s an anonymous transaction, that sounds like a suspicious transaction. Why does somebody need to be anonymous?”

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Coinbase Commerce App Reaches $50 Mln in Trading Volume, Starts Accepting USDC

The mobile app developed by Coinbase for online merchants has got over
the figure of $50 mln in payment transactions after it was released in February
last year.

In February 2018, Coinbase exchange launched the Coinbase Commerce app that allows merchants to directly take crypto payments. Customers can pay for goods in crypto. Since it was launched, the app has been accepting just a few coins – BTC, BCH, LTC and ETH, four of the top ten digital assets.

CoinDesk reports that today, on Thursday, the app registered a total trading volume amount exceeding $50 mln since the time Coinbase Commerce was launched.

Trading volumes are picking up

The head of the product at Coinbase Commerce, Justin O’Brien, said in an interview that in the second quarter 2019 volumes began to rise and by now have achieved $50 mln.

The mobile app by Coinbase enables both merchants and buyers to use crypto easily. Besides, Coinbase Commerce was developed so it could be integrated with existing payment flows.

Presently, the app is used by such merchants as OpenCart, WooCommerce and a couple of others. Merchants that want to make use of Coinbase Commerce have to create an account and a custodial wallet, so they can receive crypto.

As per O’Brien, more and more merchants are
beginning to use the app, while straight after launch it was more for enthusiasts
of digital currencies. Coinbase Commerce is getting more and more exposure and
its adoption advances quite fast for such a product.

More coins to be added

As said above, after the launch the app only accepted several highest ranking coins. This week, Coinbase Commerce added the USD Coin – a stablecoin, developed by Coinbase and Circle startup.

The team of the app has made certain upgrades, so soon the the mobile platform will be able to take all ERC-20 tokens as payment.

After adding USDC, O’Brien believes that the
app will get more users, since stablecoins are not vulnerable to volatility
jumps unlike decentralized coins, such as Bitcoin or Ethereum.

Coinbase expands its product range

This year, Coinbase exchange has also launched another product that is aimed at everyday use – Coinbase Card released in collaboration with Visa payment service.

The card allows people to simply convert their crypto into fiat via a special app and merchants get fiat currency for their services and goods.

The post Coinbase Commerce App Reaches $50 Mln in Trading Volume, Starts Accepting USDC appeared first on Ethereum World News.

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Report: Chinese E-Commerce Giant JD.com Has Applied for Over 200 Blockchain Patents

The Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com has reportedly applied for over 200 patents.

Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com has applied for over 200 blockchain patents, according to a report by Securities Daily News on May 20.

The report also notes that major e-commerce competitor Alibaba has applied for 262 blockchain patents, and Chinese internet titans Tencent and Baidu have applied for 80 and 50 such patents, respectively, as recorded by the Intellectual Property Center of China Information and Communication.

According to interpretation of the data provided by Intellectual Property Center of China Information and Communication, JD.com was in first place for “global blockchain patent strength,” with Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu coming it at second, seventh, and fifteenth place, respectively.

The report also notes that China is the global forerunner in blockchain applications. From 2013 to 2018, China filed 4,435 blockchain patent applications, which is 48% of global blockchain patent filings, as per the “Blockchain Patent Situation White Paper (Version 1.0)” published by the official website for China Telecom.

The runner-up in patent numbers was the United States, which purportedly filed for 1,833 blockchain patents in total, occupying the global patent space by 21%.

Securities Daily that, with a breakdown of patent filings by industry, companies accounted for 75% of applicants, vastly outnumbering the quantity filed by research institutions, individuals, and government agencies. Out of this 75%, the report noted that the majority of companies that filed were internet-related.

The Intellectual Property Center of China Information and Communication also notes that intellectual property infringements have been an issue in the past for Chinese blockchain patents, and reportedly advises:

“It is recommended that the government do a good job in industry supervision and supervision and patent quality improvement. Enterprises should raise awareness of intellectual property protection and risk prevention, avoid blind investment in the blockchain field, apply for low-value patents, and avoid future blockchains. There have been a large number of infringement lawsuits in the field.”

JD.com released a blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) platform JD Blockchain Open Platform in 2018, which allows organizations to streamline blockchain creation and run smart contracts, as per the Cointelegraph report. JD.com has also helped create institutes for blockchain research, such as the Smart City Research Institute and a blockchain research lab.

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Libra Project: Facebook Stablecoin Aims to Conquer Online Payments Market, Reports Suggest

More on Facebook’s potential expansion into crypto.

Facebook’s potential expansion into crypto has been widely discussed in the past few months. Although the social media giant has not confirmed anything beyond having a blockchain department, new details about its digital token project continue to surface.

Most recently, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that Facebook is talking to major payment networks Visa and MasterCard to raise a $1 billion for its crypto project, which reportedly entails a stablecoin along with a crypto-powered online payments system.

Brief history of Facebook’s secretive crypto project

Facebook has been rumored to be involved with cryptocurrencies for at least a year now. In May 2018, the online publication Cheddar reported that the social media titan is “very serious” about launching its own digital token for its 2 billion users.

In response, the corporation did not comment on having a potential cryptocurrency in the works, but shared a short statement regarding its newly established blockchain team:

“Like many other companies, Facebook is exploring ways to leverage the power of blockchain technology. This new small team is exploring many different applications. We don’t have anything further to share.”

The existence of Facebook’s blockchain research team remains to be the only official confirmation that the social media corporation is involved with crypto. The arm is lead by David Marcus, ex-Paypal president. Notably, soon after joining Facebook’s blockchain department, he had to leave the Coinbase board of directors, of which he was a member, to avoid conflict of interest. Marcus has also admitted to having “a longtime” interest in cryptocurrencies.

By December 2018, the social media corporation’s blockchain team, once categorized by Marcus as “small,” had nearly 40 employees, as per media reports. In late March, five new blockchain-related positions were announced, suggesting that the technology department might continue expanding in the near future.

As 2018 was drawing to a close, rumors about the Facebook-run cryptocurrency reignited with new details. Specifically, Bloomberg reported that the social media company is making a cryptocurrency for users of the messaging service WhatsApp, which Facebook acquired for $19 billion back in 2014.

The token will allegedly allow users to make money transfers within the messaging app and will focus on the remittances market in India, where WhatsApp is reported to have more than 200 million users. According to data from the World Bank, the country received nearly $69 billion in foreign remittances in 2017, which is 2.8% of India’s GDP.

Further, Bloomberg’s sources said that Facebook is developing a stablecoin, specifying that the social media outlet was still figuring out which asset their token will be tied to.

In response to requests for comment at the time, Facebook once again forwarded the statement about “exploring ways to leverage the power of blockchain technology.”

In February 2019, The New York Times wrote that Facebook is “hoping to succeed where Bitcoin failed,” revealing more details about the social media titan’s alleged crypto project.

According to the report, Facebook plans to rebuild its messaging infrastructure and merge its three wholly owned apps — WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram — under one platform. As the NYT wrote, this would provide a future crypto token with exposure across the combined 2.7 billion who use the three services each month.

Additionally, the NYT quoted five people who have allegedly been briefed on the Facebook team’s work as saying that the corporation’s token will likely be a coin that would be pegged to the value of traditional currencies instead of just the United States dollar.

“Facebook could guarantee the value of the coin by backing every coin with a set number of dollars, euros and other national currencies held in Facebook bank accounts,” the report specified.

New details: $1 billion stablecoin for in-house crypto payments

The new WSJ story follows previous reports centered on the social media giant’s secretive project, and mentions even more concrete plans. Notably, the story mentions that the crypto project is codenamed “Libra Project,” while Facebook has recently acquired the rights to the “Libra” trademark, as per media reports.

Specifically, the publication argues that Facebook is planning to launch a cryptocurrency-based in-house payments system, and is in talks with financial firms, applications and e-commerce merchants. The social media platform has reportedly approached them to offer its token as a way to conduct online payments, as well as to seek financial investment.

Thus, the WSJ writes, Facebook “aims to burrow more deeply into the lives of its users” with the new system, following the moves of Apple and Amazon, which have recently unveiled major financial products of their own.  

Notably, the in-house payments might be performed via a user’s Facebook profile. The social media platform is purportedly developing a type of checkout option that could be conveniently used on other websites — similarly to how a Facebook profile can be used to log into many platforms without having to sign in.

Furthermore, the social media behemoth might start paying its users with Facebook Coin — the unconfirmed name of the token — for viewing ads, shopping on Facebook or interacting with other content.

“This would reward the kind of genuine interaction that Facebook, beset by bots and hate speech, has been trying to encourage,” the WSJ suggests. “It could also blunt criticism that the company makes billions of dollars on the backs of its users, sometimes in troubling or invasive ways.”

The stablecoin model has been chosen to ensure the absence of volatility, the report continues, because “bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that aren’t backed by hard assets has hampered their usefulness in payments.” A digital token that is backed by fiat, in turn, would prove to be a more reliable medium.

However, it is still not clear how much control Facebook would have over its digital coin — which seems to replicate the situation with JPM Coin. After the U.S. banking juggernaut rolled out its crypto project for in-house payments back in February, some claimed it was not a cryptocurrency at all, but a marketing play for JPMorgan Chase.

“I do believe that it would be considered a cryptocurrency stable coin, similar to USDC, an Ethereum-based stablecoin offered jointly by Coinbase and Circle that is fully backed 1:1 by US Dollars and audited by Grant Thornton LLP, a widely respected top accounting firm,” David Martin, chief information officer of the financial firm Blockforce Capital, told Cointelegraph.

“Coinbase and Circle formed the CENTRE Consortium so that the coin was not backed by just one centralized entity, but most people view USDC as a centralized ecosystem, and I’d imagine a Facebook coin would be set up in a similar manner.”

Eyal Shani, a blockchain researcher at consulting group Aykesubir, says that Facebook Coin “definitely” seems to be a cryptocurrency:

“If done correctly, even a centralized stablecoin together with the large user base can potentially lead to new innovative ideas for the payments world. Furthermore, we see this as a positive development that will eventually be taken over by officially minted crypto coins by the government, which will make the stablecoins obsolete.”

Facebook needs large amounts of government currency to reinforce its stablecoin. Interestingly, the social media has approached major payment networks Visa and MasterCard to raise a total of $1 billion, along with payment processor First Data Corp., according to the WSJ sources. But Facebook’s efforts to create a stablecoin could disrupt payments from players like Visa, Mastercard and Western Union in the long term, Martin said to Cointelegraph:

“To me, this is similar to JP Morgan creating their own coin, Goldman [Sachs] investing in the cryptocurrency custodian Bitgo, and the owner of NYSE, ICE, making a huge push in the crypto space with Bakkt. Traditional payment and financial companies need to remain relevant, and in order to do so, they need to make investments in the cryptocurrency and blockchain ecosystem so they don’t get passed by like Blockbuster was by Netflix.”

Shani, on the other hand, believes that Facebook Coin will not necessarily undermine the veteran payment networks. “We know that Visa has already raised some concerns regarding their ability to support micro-transactions and transactions generated by large networks of Internet-of-Things,” he said. “They are looking for innovative ways to offload the burden off their systems and this could be one of those ways.”

Either way, given that Facebook boasts more than 1.5 billion daily users, if Project Libra succeeds, it threatens the card networks’ dominance over global payments — especially within developing countries, where social-media platforms form the basis of internet commerce.

“I see Facebook Coin as an attempt by Facebook to go up against WeChat by moving the US Dollar into a private online payment system,” Hartej Sawhney, co-founder of smart contracts auditing firm Hosho, told Cointelegraph.

“Facebook has had their eyes feasted on the remittances and payments market of India for years, which is interesting because India’s government has been announcing a country wide ban on cryptocurrencies.”

Martin also believes that Facebook might attempt to seize the mobile payments industry with its digital token. However, he adds, the corporation’s domestic market might prove to be an even better gateway:

“The US has significantly lagged mobile pay adoption metrics compared to Asia, with 74% of the Chinese population utilizing their mobile phones for payments versus only 44% in the US. Alipay and WeChat account for 93 percent of China’s mobile payment segment, whereas the United States, in particular, is much more fractured. This represents a significant opportunity for Facebook to establish itself as a nationwide and global leader of payments with their user base. Blockchain, and its inherent use case for peer-to-peer cash transfer, scalability, and relative ease of integration make it an excellent base for Facebook to finally crack into the mobile payment world, especially as over the next few years the US should close the gap of mobile payment adoption as a percent of the population.”

Libra could also prove to be one of the largest cases of mainstream adoption for crypto, and therefore push the entire industry further, Martin suggested in an email conversation with Cointelegraph:

“Cryptos need a tangible use case and customers to adopt and utilize the platform. The fact that Facebook has 2.4 billion users representing about 1/3 of the world’s population gives it a substantial leg up in garnering adoption. As a comparison, it’s estimated by Statista at the end of 2018 there were 32 million bitcoin wallets, but many people have more than one wallet. Even if each wallet was held by a different individual, the number of individuals owning bitcoin would represent about 1.3% of Facebook’s user base. This represents a substantial opportunity for a digital asset to garner mass adoption.”

Indeed, as recently argued by Blockchain Capital partner Spencer Bogart in an interview with Bloomberg, the potential release of Facebook Coin could result in the cryptocurrency user base doubling or tripling.

According to Bogard, the social media’s digital token is likely to introduce the masses to the idea of cryptocurrencies:

“It’s like being on the internet; so people can spin out and they can start owning bitcoin, they can start owning ether. Some percentage of the user base is likely to do so, and again I think that’s gonna be a dramatic catalyst.”

Moreover, Bogart claimed, Facebook’s plan “lit a fire in the pants of every major fintech and financial institution in the U.S.,” suggesting that more corporations might follow suit in the future.

No processing fees: Facebook Coin’s plan to attract more merchants

Finally, as per one of the WSJ sources, Facebook plans to abolish card processing fees that merchants pay for transactions on its system. Normally, such fees constitute around 2% to 3% of the transaction and are collected by banks, payments processors and networks such as Visa. That could pressure online merchants to switch sides, especially since Visa and MasterCard have recently announced they were increasing fees for processing transactions.

However, the absence of a clear source of revenue seems to be the most baffling part of the social media giant’s alleged scheme. “If Facebook is indeed aiming to eliminate credit card fees with its new crypto payment network, it raises the question of how it hopes to make money from the thing, especially if it comes alongside the company granting its users privacy and giving up surveillance revenue,” Nathaniel Popper, technology reporter at The New York Times, who first reported on the social media giant’s plan to raise a $1 billion sum for its cryptocurrency project earlier in April, tweeted.

According to Shani, Facebook might be focusing on building a wider audience before monetizing its crypto scheme:

“The profit part is clear in this case. Facebook, unlike many other crypto projects, has all the know-how and ability to monetize its user base in the forms of aggregated data and advertising.”

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Largest Swiss Online Retailer Digitec Galaxus Now Accepts Cryptocurrencies

Leading Swiss online retailer Digitec Galaxus has announced that it now accepts cryptocurrencies.

Leading Swiss online retailer Digitec Galaxus has announced that it will now accept cryptocurrencies, according to a press release published on March 19.

Per the announcement, the shop is now accepting Bitcoin (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Bitcoin SV (BSV), Ethereum (ETH), Ripple (XRP), Binance Coin (BNB), Litecoin (LTC), Tron (TRX), NEO (NEO) and OmiseGO (OMG) for purchases worth over CHF 200 (about $200). The release further claims that the shop hosts around 2.7 million products, ranging from wheat beer to gaming PCs.

The new payment method was reportedly jointly developed as part of a pilot project with Swiss payment processor Datatrans and in collaboration with Danish crypto payments startup Coinify. The system opens 15-minute-time windows for customers, during which the crypto exchange rate doesn’t change in order to make the payment with a fee of 1.5 percent.

As part of its move towards crypto, the company also added a crypto wallet category to ecommerce platform, accompanied by a dedicated guide, and released a blog post under the title “Diamonds or Gold Are Better Suited to Get Rid of Illicit Money.” In the latter post, the company’s chief innovation officer Oliver Herren admitted that he is not fully convinced of the advantages of blockchain over traditional database systems. Still, he concludes:

“But maybe I just haven’t invested enough time in fully understanding how the blockchain ecosystem works.”

Lastly, the company also released a blog post dedicated to its internal engineering team behind crypto integration. In the post, which is mostly an interview, the company explains on a high-level what blockchain is.

According to ecommerce data platform ecommerceDB, Digitec Galaxus’ net sales amounted to over $261 million in 2018 and the store, first launched in 2010, is the world’s 341st biggest online retailer.

Other large retailers internationally have also looked into the idea of adding crypto payments options on their platforms, with Overstock.com’s acceptance of Bitcoin payments as early as 2014 as a major example.

As Cointelegraph reported in April last year, Canadian online trading and barter platform Bunz Trading Zone is launching its own cryptocurrency.

Also, in February last year, Japan’s largest e-commerce company Rakuten, with a market capitalization of over $12.5 bln, announced its own plans to launch a cryptocurrency called Rakuten Coin.

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New Ecosystem Says It Allows Sending and Receiving Crypto or Fiat With No Fees

A new ecosystem is vowing to offer consumers the freedom to pay in fiat or crypto without middlemen — tackling the “miserable experience” they currently face.

An upcoming crypto ecosystem has bold ambitions to offer “a much smoother way of moving fiat and cryptocurrency over the internet,” enabling people to pay in the fiat or crypto of their choice — whatever the requested currency — without fees.

YPTOspace says it plans to develop a “first-of-its-kind platform that connects blockchain assets to real-world payment platforms,” all with the goal to become a one-stop-shop for payments and transactions for consumers and businesses.

The startup argues that the current landscape is a “miserable experience” for consumers and impractical for daily usage. Yet, at the same time, mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies remains a long way off, as these digital assets need to become a viable alternative to cash. YPTOspace wants to create a unifying platform that eliminates middlemen and delays, which can see the public lose money because of the huge swings in volatility seen in the crypto market.

In illustrating the flexibility it ultimately wants to offer its community, the company’s white paper says: “Users can send Bitcoin and have them arrive as dollars or euros. Users can make payments in euros, and businesses can receive them as Ethers or the platform’s native cryptocurrency – YPTO Coins.”

Its team says it wants to combine the benefits of traditional payment systems with the transparency and speed of cryptocurrencies and blockchain, and claims that its platform will be “revolutionary in that it will be free of fees, with the lowest exchange commissions on the market.”

A growing number of applications

YPTOspace says that it has envisaged multiple applications for its ecosystem. While some are already functional, others are in development.

The first is a peer-to-peer trading service that enables users to buy and sell assets in real time through an “automated and trustless reconciliation and settlement system.” It is hoped that this global exchange will offer full transparency with exchange rates, inoculate users against rapid price changes, and make it easy for newcomers to the crypto market to make purchases with confidence.

YPTOspace is available here

In a bid to appeal to the e-commerce market, merchants are going to be offered “smart demand and supply management along with almost instantaneous remuneration,” eliminating the delays that small businesses all too often face when they are dealing with legacy payment processing companies. Back on the consumer side, the banking platform will aim to “give users the tools to manage every aspect of their financial life,”  and again, this is going to be geared toward casual audiences.

YPTOspace says its ultimate aspiration is to create a payment solution that allows customers “to pay swiftly and safely with any cryptocurrency,” as well as to make its offering as simple as a credit card transaction.

“Nurturing an online community”

In offering a service that’s geared toward those with little technical or financial knowledge about cryptocurrencies, YPTOspace says it is determined to ensure they are supported with resources to help them make informed decisions and avoid losing out because of asset volatility.

The platform says it plans to offer “accurate and up-to-date news” on blockchain, crypto assets and fintech trends in a variety of formats, empowering those who are short on time with an opportunity to learn more about trading and investing. This would be backed up by a social media element designed to “nurture an online community that can freely share, exchange, post and get rewarded for participation.”

YPTOspace has applied for banking licenses in the European Union so that users can benefit from a comprehensive service, including credit cards and multi-currency bank accounts.

The startup’s ICO is being conducted in four phases over four weeks, beginning on March 25 and concluding on April 26. YPTOspace’s platform is scheduled to launch in the second quarter of 2019 with a suite of four services, with additional features set to be added by the end of the year and beyond.

Learn more about YPTOspace

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