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Bitcoin Beats Google Trends in 2018 as Internet Users Seek to Know ‘What It Is’

Google users are keen to understand what Bitcoin actually is — more than anything else, data reveals.

Google data shows ‘What is Bitcoin?’ was the most popular search question in the United States and United Kingdom for 2018, showing Bitcoin (BTC) has topped public consciousness online this year.

Capping various achievements in search rankings over the past twelve months, Bitcoin’s latest price volatility saw interest in understanding it peak again following a period of price stability.

‘What is Bitcoin’ currently tops this year’s ‘What is…?’ search list, while the annual listings also include one other cryptocurrency-related entry.

While Bitcoin has topped the list of ‘What is…,’ the major currency lost its rank on ‘How to…’ queries to the second top cryptocurrency, Ripple (XRP). During 2018, users were googling more on how to purchase XRP, with ‘How to buy Ripple’ making it to fourth place in Google’s ‘How to…’ list, while Bitcoin is currently ranked eighth.

The increased popularity of Ripple is likely to be concerted with a recent publicity push — particularly informally on social media.

As Cointelegraph previously reported, despite overall Google searches for ‘Bitcoin’ coming down 75 percent as of June, the term was still more popular than household names such as Beyonce.

In mid-November, as the contentious hard fork of top crypto Bitcoin Cash (BCH) sparked volatility across markets, worldwide search interest in ‘Bitcoin’ hit six-month highs, gently trailing off in subsequent weeks.

At present South Africa, the Netherlands and Ghana represent the top three sources of ‘Bitcoin’ searches.

Curiously, ‘Ripple’ searches meanwhile have remained practically flat since May.

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How Crypto Incentives Work, Explained

Crypto platforms are taking innovative approaches when it comes to incentivization, but what does it mean for miners and the people who use these services?

Where do loyalty programs fit in?

This marketing tool has been suffering issues for years.

In the non-crypto world, consumers are overwhelmed by the number of schemes offered by retailers and are disappointed by the rewards. Blockchain projects are hoping to inject some innovation into this sector by offering schemes which are meaningful to shoppers.

The startup behind Elipay — Eligma — says its approach involves a universal loyalty scheme. Instead of carrying around a wallet full of cash and credit cards, consumers will be able to shop and receive rewards from a plethora of merchants in one place. The tokens that customers earn can then be used for further shopping or for receiving the benefit of discounts on goods and services. This also has the potential to deliver a boost to merchants who have been struggling to compete with online giants such as Amazon, as they can offer compelling deals to drive repeat customers.

 

Disclaimer. Cointelegraph does not endorse any content or product on this page. While we aim at providing you all important information that we could obtain, readers should do their own research before taking any actions related to the company and carry full responsibility for their decisions, nor this article can be considered as an investment advice.

Can tokenizing services help boost investment in crypto companies?

Potentially, as one of the biggest ways to incentivize crypto users is to create utility.

One of the biggest challenges for many crypto startups out there is that they hold crowd sales for utility tokens, but it is not clear whether or not they will be able to satisfy the public’s demand that the tokens be used in exchange for goods and services.

To incentivize the public to embrace cryptocurrency, there need to be clear benefits in using this new form of payment in the first place — offering something that they would not be able to find somewhere else.

Shopping is something we all do every day, and old habits die hard. When it comes to incentivization, it is necessary for crypto startups to think outside of the box in order to encourage the public to try something new. Systems for mobile payments with crypto at offline and online stores such as Elipay are addressing this challenge by offering shoppers cashback in the form of crypto tokens whenever they make a purchase. This solution was to create a network of retailers at which people can spend their assets without converting them back to old-fashioned currencies.

Does proof-of-stake (PoS) offer any advantages over PoW?

One could argue that PoS provides a double incentive.

Here, the onus changes to “staking,” where miners have a better chance of being chosen to add a block to the chain — and hence get rewarded — depending on how many coins they possess. As well as being motivated to invest in a platform and support a currency to increase their profitability, there are the rewards to think about on the horizon.

Although it has addressed some of the issues inherent in the PoW protocol — namely the extraordinary costs involved with mining, which can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars a day — it does deliver its own disadvantages. For example, PoS does run the risk of monopolization, where a few validators rich in coins end up receiving the lion’s share of the rewards.

All of this said, PoS does inoculate a platform against a so-called “51 percent attack” — as such an attack would likely devalue the digital currency which the validators themselves own. In a PoW scenario, miners can reap rewards even if they don’t own the asset involved. Again, it just goes to show that incentives in the crypto world can present themselves in many ways.

How is proof-of-work (PoW) an incentive?

Miners are rewarded, but the costs are high.  

Proof-of-work — known as PoW — sees miners compete to become the first person to solve mathematical puzzles using their computation power. Miners who beat their rivals to the punch are then rewarded in the form of cryptocurrency, and major networks — including Bitcoin and Ethereum — use this consensus algorithm.

Fans believe that PoW delivers an array of benefits. First off, it insulates a platform against denial-of-service attacks. Additionally, it puts miners on more of a level playing field, and decision making on a network does not hinge upon their wallets. Instead, they should be willing to splash out on hi-tech machines that can be very expensive to run.

How are blockchain marketing tools incentivizing users?

They promote a sense of community and inclusion within a platform.

Cutting out the middlemen has tumbled fees, and many startups are using this to their advantage. In addition to cheaper services compared with their mainstream rivals, they are luring in users through revenue-sharing schemes that give everyone a slice of the profits. This encourages loyalty to a platform and drives participation. Miners and validators — the people who make transactions run smoothly on the blockchain — are also getting rewarded through the contributions they make to a network, and crypto enthusiasts with expertise are being incentivized to uncover security flaws through bounties or to embrace new coins through airdrops.

Blockchain platforms are also helping brands connect with consumers directly, eliminating the middlemen who act as a conduit and distort the message. From an advertising perspective, the power is now also in the hands of the shopper. The public is being given opportunities to be paid in tokens when they are exposed to advertising, and they can decide which data about them is used for this purpose. It ultimately helps brands target their products more efficiently, giving them greater value for money.

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MEGA Chrome Extension Compromised to Steal Users’ Monero

The MEGA Chrome extension version 3.39.4 has been compromised and can now steal user’s Monero in addition to other sensitive information, according to recent posts on Twitter and Reddit. MEGA Chrome extension is a tool that claims to improve browser performance by reducing page loading times, in addition to providing a secure cloud storage service.

The official Twitter account of Monero (XMR) posted a warning, advising XMR holders to steer clear of MEGA.

Another user tweeted that, in addition to Monero, the extension could also steal sensitive user data. 

Redditor u/gattacus posted on Monero’s official Reddit page that they became suspicious of foul play following a request for new permission following an extension update:

“There was an update to the extension and Chrome asked for new permission (read data on all websites). That made me suspicious and I checked the extension code locally (which is mostly javascript anyways). MEGA also has the source code of the extension on github […] There was no commit recently. To me it looks either their Google Webstore account was hacked or someone inside MEGA did this. Pure speculation though.”

At press time, the MEGA Chrome extension was unavailable for download on the Chrome Webstore. Clicking the link for the extension resulted in a 404 error.

XMR, which — despite some claims to the contrary — is lauded as a private and “untraceable” cryptocurrency, has been the target of illicit and illegal activities in the crypto space.

In several instances, cryptojackers have used the computer power of web visitors to secretly mine XMR. In June, a McAfee report found 2.9 million samples of coin miner malware, which works by using Coinhive code — a program designed to mine XMR on a web browser.

In September last year, Cointelegraph reported that a group of Russian hackers installed crypto mining malware on 9,000 computers over the course of two years. The hackers were hijacking machines to mine XMR and Zcash (ZEC), among other cryptocurrencies. Total earnings were estimated to be $209,000 for Monero alone.

XMR is the tenth biggest cryptocurrency, with market capitalization of over $2 billion at press time. The cryptocurrency is currently trading over $138, having gained 0.47 percent over the last 24 hours according to CoinMarketCap.

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Google Adds Ethereum Blockchain Dataset to Its Big Data Analytics Platform

The Google Cloud team has officially made the Ethereum (ETH) dataset available in BigQuery, the company’s big data warehouse for analytics, according to a post published on Google’s official blog August 29.

The Ethereum blockchain data is posted in the dataset and updated on a daily basis. As the team explains, the tool was created to help make business decisions, prioritize improvements to the Ethereum architecture itself (for example, to prepare updates), and balance sheet adjustments, e.g. how quickly a wallet can be rebalanced.

As Google explains, the Ethereum blockchain contains APIs for random functions such as checking transaction status, looking up wallet-transaction associations, and checking wallet balances. Still, the API endpoints cannot be easily reached. For that reason, BigQuery’s OLAP features help aggregate such types of data and and visualize it.

Ethereum transfers and transactions costs in 2018

Screenshot of Ethereum transfers and transactions costs in 2018. Source: BigQuery

Furthermore, the software based on Google Cloud synchronizes the Ethereum blockchain to computers running Parity — a UK-based provider of infrastructure software for interacting with the Ethereum network, which performs a daily extraction of data from the Ethereum blockchain ledger and stores date-partitioned data to BigQuery for exploration.

Google also shows some examples of the uses of the new tool. One of them relates to CryptoKitties — a game based on the Ethereum blockchain that is the most popular ERC-721 smart contract by transaction count. BigQuery collects data on accounts that own at least 10 CryptoKitties (a color on the graphics indicates owner) and their mascots’ reproductive fitness (size).

CryptoKitties infographic of owners and CryptoKitties’ reproductive fitness

Screenshot of CryptoKitties infographic of owners and CryptoKitties’ reproductive fitness. Source: BigQuery

Google has already expanded into blockchain-based tools and services this year. In February, the company created a similar tool for the Bitcoin (BTC) blockchain to visualize transactions, detect anomalies, and extract necessary data from the blockchain ledger.

As Cointelegraph wrote in July, Google also partnered with two blockchain-focused firms, Digital Asset and BlockApps, to offer new distributed ledger technology (DLT) solutions on Google’s Cloud Platform.

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Google Releases Tools For Ethereum Blockchain Analysis

Internet giant Google has expanded its big data analytics with the inclusion of tools to explore the Ethereum blockchain.

Just a few months after releasing Bitcoin support for its BigQuery database tool, Google has announced a new plugin for analyzing the Ethereum platform. In a blog post last week the tech giant stated;

“Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies have captured the imagination of technologists, financiers, and economists. Digital currencies are only one application of the underlying blockchain technology. Earlier this year, we made the Bitcoin dataset publicly available for analysis in Google BigQuery. Today we’re making the Ethereum dataset available.”

The post elaborates to explain the primary differences between the Ethereum blockchain and Bitcoin’s. These include a token based smart contract principle, precise and direct Ether value transfer resembling accounting ledger debits and credits, and the virtual machine that can execute arbitrary code. It added that Ethereum blockchain data was now available for viewing with BitQuery, Google’s web service that enables interactive analysis of massively large datasets working in conjunction with Google Storage.

Chrome users are now capable of accessing and reading all of the data stored on Ethereum’s blockchain. Google elaborated on the development stating;

“A visualization like this (and the underpinning database query) is useful for making business decisions, such as prioritizing improvements to the Ethereum architecture itself (is the system running close to capacity and due for an upgrade?) to balance sheet adjustments (how quickly can a wallet be rebalanced?).”

A software system has been built on Google Cloud that ‘synchronizes the Ethereum blockchain to computers running Parity in Google Cloud, performs a daily extraction of data from the Ethereum blockchain ledger, including the results of smart contract transactions, such as token transfers, and de-normalizes and stores date-partitioned data to BigQuery for easy and cost-effective exploration.’

Google then demonstrated a few examples of how this data could be put to use. The first of which was a list of the most popular smart contracts by transaction count. The most popular ERC721 (collectible) smart contract by transaction count is the main contract for Cryptokitties unsurprisingly. This data can then be probed deeper to find out more information on the evolution of these digital moggies in the form of some fancy charts.

Another example was a look at the top ten most popular ERC20 contracts and some statistics from number five, OmiseGO, with evidence of airdrops showing a high number of OMG receivers but no increase in senders.

Girl in a jacket

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Google Now Provides a Big Data View of the Ethereum Blockchain

Internet search giant (and much more) Google has added ethereum to its big data analytics platform BigQuery.

Making the announcement in a blog post on Saturday, the company said that, while an API exists for commonly used functions, such as checking transaction status or wallet balances, it’s not so easy to access all of the data stored on the ethereum blockchain.

The post continues to say that “perhaps more importantly,” the API doesn’t allow for viewing blockchain data “in aggregate.”

Aiming the new service to provide more of a Big Data window into ethereum, Google said:

“A visualization like this … is useful for making business decisions, such as prioritizing improvements to the Ethereum architecture itself (is the system running close to capacity and due for an upgrade?) to balance sheet adjustments (how quickly can a wallet be rebalanced?).”

The software system Google has built on its Cloud platform does several things: it synchronizes the ethereum blockchain to computers running Parity; it pulls data from the ethereum ledger on a daily basis, including the results of smart contract transactions; and it “de-normalizes and stores date-partitioned data to BigQuery for easy and cost-effective exploration.”

In some examples of why the addition may be useful and or interesting to users, Google sets out several examples, showing that, for one, CryptoKitties (a crypto collectibles game) smart contract transactions are by far the most numerous on the ethereum network. It further adds a visualization for “pedigrees” of accounts that own more than 10 CryptoKitties:

CryptoKitty visualization courtesy of Google

A second example looks at data from ERC-20 token project OmiseGo, with a visualization that shows how token recipients spiked on Sept. 30 2017, while senders didn’t. The explanation? The surge marked the OmiseGo project’s airdrop of tokens to its community.

Data from the bitcoin network was added to BigQuery earlier this year, according to the post.

Anyone interested in using Google’s new service can already query ethereum’s data in Kaggle.

Images courtesy of Google

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Dutch Central Bank Advisor: Bitcoin Price Changes With Google Search Activity

A policy advisor for the Netherlands’ central bank has claimed that Bitcoin price changes coincide with Google searches for the cryptocurrency, CNBC reports Friday, August 31.

In an interview with the network Wednesday, De Nederlandsche Bank’s Joost van der Burgt said that the trend became clearer last December with the advent of the first Bitcoin futures hitting the market.

“Every time bitcoin was in the news, be it positive or negative, the price went up accordingly,” he said.

Bitcoin’s failure to compensate for losses which began in the last weeks of 2017 has sparked various theories about its future prospects from traditional finance circles.

Returning to the theme of the Bitcoin “bubble,” figures such as economists Nouriel Roubini and Robert Shiller have made repeated claims throughout this year that the largest cryptocurrency cannot sustain higher prices for long.

Van der Burgt too suggested the bursting of this “bubble” may not have yet definitively occurred.

“My take on it is that because of the introduction of futures, that might have deflated the bubble before it got to a level where it might burst completely,” he added.

Van der Burgt has not taken an altogether anti-Bitcoin stance. In an April report for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, in which he discussed the Bitcoin bubble using Hyman Minsky’s financial instability index, the analyst did not dismiss the idea Bitcoin could represent a genuine innovation.

“Then again, maybe Bitcoin is different than anything we have seen before, and maybe a decade from now its market capitalization will be sky-high as it attains the status of a new global currency,” he mused in concluding comments.

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Report: Some Crypto Mining Apps Remain in Google Play Store Despite Recent Ban

According to a report by the Next Web published on August 28, several cryptocurrency mining apps remain in the Google Play Store despite the ban.

On July 27, Google banned crypto-mining apps from its Play Store. An update to Google’s developer policy read that “we don’t allow apps that mine cryptocurrency on devices.” The company gave mining app developers a 30-day grace period to revise their products in order to comply with the new terms.

The deferral period has passed, but some apps that enable on-device mining are still available on the Play Store, according to the Next Web. The site reportedly found eight apps, three of which have been removed. NeoNeonMiner, Crypto Miner PRO, Pickaxe Miner, and Pocket Miner are still live on the store, while Bitcoin Miner reportedly claims its offering complies with the terms introduced by Google.

While MinerGate has been removed from the store, its developers told Hard Fork that the app’s latest iteration deleted its on-device mining features in order to comply with Google’s rules. MinerGate told Hard Fork in an email:

“Mining on your phone directly was among the core features of the MinerGate app before the last changes in Google Play Development policies. With the last update, we are removing this functionality to meet the updated requirements.”

Earlier this month, Google Play Store hosted a reported Ethereum (ETH) scam application. Lukas Stefanko, a malware researcher from Slovakia, reportedly found a fraudulent “Ethereum” app on Google Play that had been offered for purchase at price of €335 or around $388. According to the researcher, the scam intended to dupe uninformed buyers into purchasing the app, who mistook it for the original Ethereum cryptocurrency.

In April, Google also announced that it is removing mining extensions from its Chrome Web Store after “90 percent” supposedly failed to comply with its rules. The move reportedly came in response to analysis of malicious “cryptojacking” present in extensions.

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Ethereum Scam App Appears on Google Play Store, Malware Researcher Reports

Android’s Google Play Store has recently become a spot for hosting another reported Ethereum (ETH) scam application, The Next Web reports August 21.

Lukas Stefanko, a malware researcher from Slovakia, found a fraudulent “Ethereum” application on Google Play that had been allegedly offered for purchase at price of €335 or around $388, according to The Next Web.

In an August 20 tweet, the researcher noted that buying the app is “not the same” as an Ethereum purchase, implying that his recent discovery is a crypto scam intended to defraud users by mimicking the original altcoin Ethereum, which is worth around $290 at press time.

Scam

Screenshot from Lukas Stefanko’s Twitter

Stefanko’s tweet shows that the scam application, which was described through Google Translate as “just a Ethereum,” was developed by so-called “Google Commerce Ltd,” and has managed to amass over 100 installs since the last update in August 2017 by the time of the report.

The genuine name of the developer of Google-backed applications on Google Play Store is “Google LLC.” At press time, the application is unavailable on Google Play.

On July 27, Google had banned crypto mining apps on its Play Store, only allowing remote mining applications. According to The Next Web, despite the recent ban, multiple illicit apps like JSEcoin are still appearing on the store, noting that Google developers have 30 days from the date of policy changes to comply.

Earlier in April, the tech giant had also announced the ban of all mining extensions from its Chrome Web Store, as well as all browser extensions to mine cryptocurrency. And in March, Google followed Facebook’s move by announcing a ban on all crypto-related ads of all kinds, a step that reportedly subsequently affected the crypto markets.

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Ethereum Scam Swindles Over $40,000 From Unsuspecting Android Users

$400 For A Logo… Woops 

For years, the cryptocurrency industry has been rife with unbridled creativity from an amassment ofindividuals. While this innovation has resulted in some unique projects, products, and services, creative and near ingenious crypto-related scams have become a common, near-daily sight for many consumers.

Lucas Stefanko, a European cybersecurity researcher, recently brought attention to a new Ethereum-centric scam on the Android Google Play store that was unique in its own right. According to Stefanko, the scam was just an app, one that costs €335 (~$390) that is, that portrayed itself as “Ethereum.”

As the image implies, the app claims to sell “just an Ethereum” for 335 Euros, or approximately $100 over the current value of a single ETH token. While the exorbitant price would be somewhat of a scam in itself if that app actually provided users with one ETH, it turns out that users who purchased the “Ethereum” app got nothing but the classic Ethereum logo, with all of its sharp vectors, minimalistic features, and dark aesthetics.

What’s even more bizarre is that in the app’s over a one-year lifespan, it has garnered over 100+ installs from unsuspecting users, racking up a minimum of $39,000 in the process.

Maybe some users were tricked by the 22 reviews (likely fraudulent), which gave the app an average rating of four out of five stars, or by the apparent firm behind the app — “Google Commerce LTD.” Obviously enough, it isn’t Google nor an affiliated subsidiary that is offering this app, as the firm wouldn’t be caught dead taking part in such a scheme. However, reports from The Next Web have speculated that including Google Commerce may have aided the app’s developers to get their scammy app listed on the Play Store. Although Google has touted its secure system, it would make sense that even some small things sneak past Google’s ‘eye of Sauron’.

While it is unclear who is behind the app, or who unfortunately bought it, the app has since been removed from the Play Store, likely in direct correlation with the security researcher’s tweet.

Google Play Store Remains A Battleground For Crypto Apps

In related news, it was recently revealed that Google’s attempts to stave off crypto mining apps have been rather unsuccessful. As reported by Ethereum World News, Google made an attempt to restrict apps that mine cryptocurrencies in late-July. Nearly one month after the firm’s announcement, mining apps, new and old alike, were still present on the Play Store.

JSEcoin, play store, mining app, cryptocurrencyImage Courtesy of TNW

One app included JSECoin, which allowed users to manage desktop mining operations remotely, while also providing users with a method of mining cryptocurrencies through a mobile device. Although this app was totally within the rules prior to the apparent ban, JSECoin somehow slipped under Google’s all-watching radar after the crackdown occurred. While the technology giant has since responded, cracking down on the app and also noting that it will give existing mining apps a thirty-day grace period, others aren’t convinced that the firm’s efforts are warranted. Nonetheless, Google has begun to show fleeting signs that it may be beginning to accept blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

Photo by Jack Sharp on Unsplash

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