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Chinese Internet Court Uses Blockchain to Protect Online Writer’s Intellectual Property

A Chinese Internet Court has started using blockchain to protect the intellectual property of online writers.

An Internet Court in Hangzhou, Eastern China, has turned to blockchain to fight piracy at the expense of online writers, English-language media outlet China.org.cn reports Dec. 8.

China has reportedly “set up three Internet courts in Hangzhou, Beijing and Guangzhou.” Internet Courts are courts expressly intended to manage internet-related cases and allow plaintiffs to file their complaints online.

The official website of Hangzhou Internet Court reads that it “behave[s] as an ‘incubator’ for Internet space governance, a ‘test field’ for Internet judicial rules, a ‘leader’ for diversified Internet disputes, and a ‘first mover’ for the transformation of Internet trials.”

Hangzhou, whose Internet Court plans to use a blockchain copyright system, is “home to many, if not most, online writers in China,” according to China.org.cn. The news outlet notes that 107 “famous” online writers work in a “writers’ village” in the Binjiang District of the city.

The aforementioned article explains that online writers are frequently damaged by piracy, and it’s often hard for them to prove that they are the original authors of any text. Writers used “to resort to screenshots and downloaded content as evidence,” but this is weak evidence since it can be easily forged, China.org.cn notes.

Wang Jiangqiao, a judge at Internet Court, said that since “blockchain guarantees that data can not be tampered [with] […] all digital footprints stored in the judicial blockchain system […] have legal effect,” specifically noting the ability to track “authorship, time of creation, content and evidence of infringement.”

Wang Jiangqiao’s statement is in line with China’s Supreme Court ruling in early September that blockchain can legally authenticate evidence.

As Cointelegraph previously reported in an analysis, blockchain use to contrast piracy in online media is nothing new.

A Russian startup is also reportedly working on a blockchain-based copyright network in Uzbekistan. The project will start by digitizing patents and storing them on-chain before moving onto securing intellectual property as well.

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Handshake Revealed: VCs Back Plan to Give Away $100 Million in Crypto

A long-secret cryptocurrency project whose investor deck once touted Burning Man as central to its anti-capitalist ethos has finally arrived.

Released Thursday, Handshake, backed by top venture capitalists and some of the most well-known blockchain developers, has raised $10.2 million for an attempt to replace the digital entities that today authenticate web payments, in the process rewarding those who built the essential infrastructure for the internet itself.

Spearheaded by the creator of bitcoin’s lightning network, Joseph Poon, Purse CEO Andrew Lee, Private Internet Access founder Andrew Lee and CTO Christopher “J.J.” Jeffrey, the effort is now backed by 67 individuals and funds including A16z, Founders Fund, Polychain Capital and Draper Associates.

The investors combined to purchase 7.5 percent of the protocol at a $136 million valuation.

The key difference here, however, is that this figure is more relative than usual – in the case of Handshake, there won’t be any entity to support (or value) beyond the protocol.

A remaining 7.5 percent of tokens will be set aside for the project’s “principles” (those involved eschew the term “founder”), though more notable is what’s being done to quickly dismantle the entity that’s bootstrapping the project and distribute the remaining 85 percent of tokens, each of which is valued at $0.10 (at least by investors) at launch.

In interview, Poon touted the new cryptocurrency as an experiment that’s heralding two leaps forward – an improvement on the existing CA system and domain registrars and also the initial coin offering (ICO) model itself, which that has found untested projects raising millions.

As such, Poon framed Handshake as a project intent on raising as little as possible, so that the largest amount could be given away to open-source developers.

Poon told CoinDesk:

“There’s this notion that crypto tokens when they go live, it’s similar to late-stage venture financing, and this gives an alternate model for that. Essentially we give tokens as a gift, we’re giving the coins as a gift to the community.”

All told, Handshake aims to give $250 worth of its tokens to users of websites like GitHub, the P2P Foundation and Freenode, a chat channel for peer-to-peer projects, meaning these developers could all receive up to $750 worth of tokens.

Additional token distributions are set to go directly to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Tor Foundation and other like non-profits, while domains controlled by the protocol will go to those who can cryptographically prove they own one of the top 80,000 websites.

The goal, project leaders say, is ensuring what they framed as a recreation of the web, but without a shake-up in its stakeholders.In this way, Poon described Handshake as a donation, one that he hopes will set the tone for a new wave of more philanthropic blockchains.

“One of the goals is to kill the ICO ecosystem and narrative,” he said.

Old ideas, new twist

But if the idea already sounds too complex, Poon sought to stress the innovation with Handshake lies in the distribution, not the code itself.

A fork of a bitcoin software developed by Purse, Handshake offers “no fancy contracts,” just a simple digital, minable ledger to record engagements between users. Poon even went so far as to state plainly his belief the idea been done before, naming blockchain-based domain systems such as namecoin (one of the industry’s earliest projects) specifically.

However, he framed the effort as one that sought to answer the question of why the project failed, given that he believes the idea and technical team were strong.

“If you’re apple, why would you use namecoin? It has amazing developers and tech, but there’s always been a problem,” he said. “The way we attempt to resolve it is Handshake allows anyone to publish proof to the blockchain itself and then they get the domain name.”

Essentially, this would keep the decentralized equivalent of the Apple.com domain open to the company itself, rather than squatters and early adopters, who, hoping to score money on the flip, merely want to sell back these rights to those entities.

“What can you do with the tokens, you can move the tokens around. You can use it to register for names,” Poon continued.

As for the distribution, Poon, Lee and Lee sought to position the model not as an airdrop, in which funds are cryptographically distributed to those who are already users of a blockchain, but a return to the “faucet model” by which early adopters gave away thousands of bitcoin in order to get the word out about the project.

So far, investors seem keen on the idea, as the returns should the protocol become widely adopted (and accrue value) are still the same, even without the investment in an entity.

“We support experimentation and see this as an interesting social experiment with an interesting distribution method,” Ryan Zurrer, principal at Polychain Capital, said.

No foundation

But if rethinking the ICO and CA systems wasn’t enough, Poon sought to brand the project in even larger terms, emphasizing how Handshake is properly expressive of what he sees as the key innovation behind cryptocurrencies – the ability to give value, not just create it.
Still, that’s not to say getting the project off the ground didn’t require time, legal work and the other trappings that have come to be associated with the ICO model.

In the case of Handshake, the project has been close to launch for at least three months, though Poon, Lee and Lee said it has been held up by questions of how to best position the wording around the project, as well as to finalize technical details.

The most notable change is that the project will no longer create a Handshake Foundation, a non-profit whose sole responsibility is to distribute the tokens and manage funds allocated to project contributors, instead automating the whole process to the extent possible.

“The idea originally was that the foundation would manually verify ownership of each of these names and do all these things. But, we found a way to automate that on the blockchain,” Lee, of Private Internet Access, said.

To best capture the “spirit of open-source,” those involved say that one day, there might not even be much evidence of a centralized start to the project at all. “We’re even thinking about turning off the website,” Poon said.

However, that’s not to say that he doesn’t have every aspiration that the model and ideas will be lasting.

“There’s a lot of pieces to this, there’s a notion of the nature of gift economies, perhaps there’s this emergent game where it’s in one’s own self-interest to ensure that the overwhelming majority of tokens are properly distributed to humanity,” he said, concluding:

“I think there could be interesting developments about this, and it could be one of the key features of what the blockchain can provide.”

Global network image via Shutterstock

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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Former US President Bill Clinton to Give Keynote Speech at Ripple’s Fall Tech Conference

Ripple’s global payments tech conference, Swell, will start off this fall with a keynote speech from 42nd President of the United States Bill Clinton, according to Ripple’s July 31 blog post.

Former President Clinton’s keynote and Q&A in San Francisco on Oct. 1 will be moderated by Gene Sperling, the National Economic Council Director and Advisory under both Presidents Clinton and Obama.

The blog post notes that former President Clinton helped to “usher in a period of extreme growth and adoption of the Internet, shaping what it is today,” as well as bringing new technologies to underprivileged communities globally.

Ripple notes that today’s technologies like digital assets and blockchain present the same challenges as the growth of the Internet in the 1990s, as both phenomena require striking a policy balance between preventing risk and allowing for innovation.

Cryptocurrencies and politics have drawn ever closer together this year, as U.S. regulators have begun to call for more regulation of the crypto sector. Crypto-focused companies have leaned more into politics as well — recently released documents revealed that major U.S. crypto exchange and wallet Coinbase has formed its own political action committee (PAC), allowing it to potentially pool donations for crypto-friendly campaigns.

Back in 2016, Bill Clinton reportedly received his “first” Bitcoin (BTC) in form of a physical coin from crypto entrepreneur Matt Roszak — who also gave celebrity Kim Kardashian a similar physical Bitcoin earlier this week at a charity poker tournament.

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Decentralized Cloud Platform Launches Mainnet in Challenge to ‘Big Four’ Market Leaders

A cloud platform, with the goal of building a fairer internet, has made its mainnet live — allowing its growing suite of network-ready applications to offer faster and more secure hosting services for websites, APIs, apps and e-commerce stores.

DADI says its peer-to-peer network helps to shift the emphasis of computing power away from large corporations, as its infrastructure is owned by users. The company claims that those who use its network enjoy greater performance and efficiency as a result, with costs slashed by as much as 60 percent when compared to traditional cloud providers.

This shift away from server farms could also be good for the environment, as spare computing capacity in devices that are commonplace in homes and offices around the world can be used to deliver results. Those who offer spare capacity through their device — be it a DADI Node device or their own games consoles, laptops or any other internet-enabled device — earn residual income through DADI tokens as a result.

According to the company, almost three-quarters of the competitive cloud computing market is now dominated by four tech giants: Google, Microsoft, Amazon and IBM. DADI’s goal is to transform the market’s landscape entirely — and its other web services are already being used by major brands such as Empire, Kiss, What Car? And Monocle. The team also believes that these media brands will opt to migrate to the network over time.

A suite of DApps

The British startup plans to offer a suite of new web services (DApps) designed to work perfectly with the decentralized network.  

‘DADI CDN’ is already live — the first decentralized application to be operational on DADI’s mainnet, with the company describing it as a “just-in-time asset manipulation and delivery layer designed for faster content distribution.”

However, many more are expected to follow in the coming months. The third quarter brings Store, which is designed to offer cloud storage facilities for “all types of data” — providing the security, privacy and redundancy that users have come to expect in this tech-aware age.

Others include Publish, a DApp which is scheduled to go live in the first quarter of 2019. Geared toward writers who are looking to share their engaging content with the world, this software will offer flexible interfaces that allow journalists to reduce the time they spend managing articles across multiple platforms. It has been designed to support the principle of COPE — Create Once, Publish Everywhere.

Looking ahead, other applications include Track and Predict. While Track is designed to provide a real-time streaming data layer that offers accurate metrics at an individual and product level, Predict aims to offer intelligence on how users will behave in the future, based on their past interactions with a service.

It is hoped that further DApps will join DADI’s marketplace in the future — and the company is encouraging developers with ideas for new applications to contact them.

Blockchain for good

While the majority of the network revenues will be given back to the network’s contributors directly, DADI’s mainnet launch comes as the organization also throws its support behind a new nonprofit that is designed to act as a “natural extension of its work to democratize the internet.” Funded by transaction fees from the DADI network, the DADI Foundation is designed to offer research, educational tools and financial tools to help technology continue to advance human rights around the world.

At the time of the foundation’s launch, its chief executive Jennifer Martin-Nye warned that the role of technology needed to be reviewed, given the ever-increasing inequality seen in the distribution of wealth and power.

DADI quickly followed up its mainnet launch by teasing a new ‘Founding Node’ program — with plans to give away 100 limited edition DADI Node devices in a prize draw taking place in July. The company says early contributors have a chance to win a Founding Node and be one of the first to power — and own — “a small piece of a fairer, faster, safer internet.”

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.

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ConSensys’ Ajit Tripathi: ‘Rebellious Teenager’ Crypto Is Maturing

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Cointelegraph had the opportunity to speak to ConsenSys’ Ajit Tripathi at BlockShow Europe 2018 about his experience leaving Wall Street for the crypto world, what new ConsenSys projects he’s most excited about, and why crypto regulation changes from country to country.

Molly Jane: Could you tell us a little bit more about what Consensys does and what your role is there?

Ajit Tripathi: ConsenSys is a venture production studio based in Brooklyn, and now we have offices in London, in about 30 countries, including London, Paris, South Africa, Australia, and Singapore — we’re building teams all over the world to essentially develop blockchain-based solutions. We create a lot of startups, we’re technology builders, and we are creating tools, components, infrastructure and solutions for a decentralized ecosystem.

If I had to put this in one line, we create technology for insider marketplaces.

What that means is, today, the whole world is dominated by centralized platforms, like banks or the likes of Facebook — they all dominate either data or assets and become rent-seeking participants in the economy.

We want to shift that to a peer-to-peer paradigm, where the individual is empowered. We think technology, especially blockchain technology, has a big role to play in creating an ecosystem where we do not depend on these dominant intermediaries in every single market for information and assets.

My focus is on decentralized exchanges, regulation and policy. Decentralized exchanges are peer-to-peer marketplaces for exchanging digital and digitized assets. And what that means is that, historically, we’ve had centralized exchanges, for the most part, right? Like the NASDAQ, or NYSE, and so on and so forth, that are very efficient in terms of providing liquidity but then are not so great for low-liquidity assets.

I come from the enterprise space. I worked for Goldman Sachs, Barclays, UBS, PwC — some of the most established institutions and the kind of intermediaries I talked about — and I sort of bring the whole power, and this innovation in the crypto ecosystem, to institutions and legacy. My role is to help some of these institutions understand what’s going on in crypto and how they can leverage this technology to participate in this decentralization revolution, so to speak.

MJ: These past few months have seen what some would call an “exodus” of Wall Street players leaving the traditional financial sphere for the crypto sector. As someone that has gone down the path, can you speak to the reasons that brought you to ConsenSys?

AT: I can’t speak for everybody’s motivations, right? On the one hand, some people are excited about the growth of the crypto ecosystem, and that’s perfectly honorable and great. And some people are excited by the sheer amount of wealth that’s flowing into this ecosystem, and that’s perfectly honorable as well.

I’m an engineer, I came from technology and did some work in consulting and regulation. In the process, I met Joe [Lubin]. Joe is the CEO of ConsenSys, and Joe has something about him, he is an inspirational figure, he has this ability to excite people about this future.

Like this decentralized internet, and then this decentralized insider-marketplace idea that we are building, in so many, different sectors of the global economy. This whole thing about being able to build something, something that’s futuristic. A lot of large institutions want to innovate, or companies want to innovate, but they have the innovator’s dilemma, they’re tied to what exists today, and they are scared of disrupting their own businesses.

With ConsenSys ,there is no such thing, right? ConsenSys exist to create new things, ConsenSys does a lot of experimentation, ConsenSys is purely focused on innovation, and that’s what made me really excited about ConsenSys at this time, because if you have an idea and if you have a team — and you can actually make things happen — then ConsenSys is a great place for people to go. And we are hiring right now.

MJ: What projects is ConsenSys currently working on that you’re the most excited about? Are any close to mass adoption?

AT: It’d be very, very difficult for me not to be excited about some of our projects. Blockchain is an early-stage technology, right? But, at the same time, in the enterprise space, we have seen a lot of progress. Truffle is the most popular development tool in all of the Ethereum (ETH) development community, then Metamask has had 1 million downloads — it’s a wallet. Infura can support up to 12 billion transactions a day, which is for read-only transactions, and takes a lot off the load of the public Ethereum blockchain.

For a wide range of digital assets that need this peer-to-peer discovery for exchanging, we are working on this next-generation decentralized exchange platforms. Trustology is our platform for an institutional great crypto custody that will go live at the end of this year. I mean, we have 40+ projects: we have a “blockchain for social impact” project, we have a venture capital arm now, we are creating a lot of ventures in partnership with enterprise customers.

In some sense, our role is to unleash this entrepreneurial spirit — or energy — of the whole blockchain community, whether it’s the enterprise community or the crypto community, and these are all starting to converge.

MJ: I’ve noticed on your Twitter that you had been very vocal against the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) privacy bill. Can you explain your position?

AT: Yeah, I have strong views on that. So GDPR is well-intentioned, right? I mean, it was partly that our current privacy regime is outdated — that previous regime needs an update.

Because, now, we have Facebook, and we have Google, and you have lots of these data intermediaries — it’s central monopolies that are taking everybody’s data and selling ads back to them. And as we found out from Edward Snowden, they might be giving their data off to the government for surveillance.

But if you look at how the regulation has been written, then it has some significant flaws. Regulation needs a little bit of adaptation to the technology that’s emerging, because privacy isn’t the only need, right? Europe needs to remain competitive against other jurisdictions, we need to create great technology, we need to make sure that our economies are competitive against China, and India, and the U.S., and so on, and so forth. We need a technology ecosystem in this continent that’s competitive. And GDPR runs the risk of being too restrictive.

For example, we have a right to be forgotten, now what does that mean in practice? I did a lot of consulting for banks, and at PwC, and now if you try to actually delete a customer’s data from the bank because of the GDPR, there are 10 other regulatory requirements that prevent you from doing that. So, in theory, it sounds fantastic but — in practice — implementing GDPR is really hard now, and it can actually make people very concerned.

Parity, which has a KYC utility PICOPS — which is very popular with the Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) — had to stop its service because now they are really concerned about GDPR. [From] now on, you definitely want to have KYC and AML regulations, ICOs comply with all of that. And now suddenly we have to stop a very useful service called PICOPS because of the GDPR. These guys don’t want to be in legal trouble because they are offering a great service, right?

We are working on a project with the European Commission. It’s called the EU Blockchain Observatory, and we invite all the blockchain ecosystem participants to engage in that process. At some point, policymakers and regulators will adapt GDPR to this new and exciting technology that’s coming up. But until then, there is a lot of confusion and and uncertainty in the marketplace.

MJ: Could you speak more about the general regulatory uncertainty in the crypto space, worldwide?

AT: Regulatory approaches around the world are rooted in their culture, right? For example, when we talked to kids at the dinner table in the U.S. when they’re not behaving, we tell them to go to their rooms. In China, in India, we might actually hit them.

So crypto is like this kid growing up, and regulators are like these parents who behave in ways that are attuned to their culture.

Now some of these are knee-jerk responses from regulators around the world because, for example, in China there was a Communist Party Congress just before Bitcoin (BTC) was banned. The government didn’t want social instability, and there was a very bullish market that could have caused a lot of problems for individual investors. A lot of these things that regulators are doing are well-intentioned, but part of the challenge is that the crypto community hasn’t really engaged with policymakers.

We haven’t tried or invested in educating, so — initially — Bitcoin came out of a bit of a revolution. We were rebelling, the crypto community was rebelling against the “Chancellor Bailout,” and Occupy Wall Street was the theme.

But now that kid — the rebellious teenager — has grown up a little bit. It’s time for us as technologists to engage with the other processes of the society like regulation and policy, and work collaboratively, help regulators understand what’s going on, help governments understand what’s going on, educate ourselves on why the rules are the way they are, why the securities laws are set up the way they are. And then, maybe, find this ground where the technology can develop and create the fairer world, but, at the same time, without causing some of the issues that might occur if we are not responsible in using this technology.

MJ: Thank you so much for speaking with us and attending BlockShow!

AT: Thank you so much. It was my pleasure.

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Swiss Bank Lambastes Crypto; Slow, Costly, and will Break the Internet

In a recent report the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) condemned cryptocurrencies with some scathing comments about the collapse of the internet among other things.

It is not unusual for a bank to be critical of crypto. It is not surprising either since decentralized money competes with and goes against a bank’s business model which is to make money from its customer’s money. They will often fuel FUD harping on about terrorism funding and criminal activity but breaking the internet really is going a bit far.

In its Annual Economic Report, the Swiss-based central banker’s bank argued that the decentralized technology underpinning cryptocurrencies is no substitute for trusted fiat money. The report stated that the bank was prompted to look ‘beyond the hype’ following ‘intense interest’ in Bitcoin and virtual currencies. Predictably the authors were overtly critical;

“looking beyond the hype, it is hard to identify a specific economic problem which they currently solve. Transactions are slow and costly, prone to congestion, and cannot scale with demand. The decentralised consensus behind the technology is also fragile and consumes vast amounts of energy.”

For a bank to say crypto transactions are slow and costly is absurd, anyone that has tried a cross-border transaction between two different banks in two different countries will know the meaning of ‘slow and costly’.

The report went on to attempt a calculation on what it would take the current Bitcoin blockchain to process the current level of retail transactions taking place at the moment;

“To process the number of digital retail transactions currently handled by selected national retail payment systems, even under optimistic assumptions, the size of the ledger would swell well beyond the storage capacity of a typical smartphone in a matter of days, beyond that of a typical personal computer in a matter of weeks and beyond that of servers in a matter of months. The associated communication volumes could bring the Internet to a halt.”

What it doesn’t consider is that the industry is embryonic and gradual adoption will lead to evolution in the technology. There are already several blockchains and digital currencies that are far more efficient than Bitcoin and more will follow. Would networks in 1994 been able to handle the current level of information flowing around the internet? No, they have evolved along with the technology and adoption.

In addition to breaking the internet the report went on to call the energy consumption in mining operations an ‘environmental disaster’. Did it compare this to the energy used to power the tower blocks that banks own or fuel for the planes that their executives fly around the planet in? No.

Banks are threatened by crypto in the same way that corrupt governments are threatened by free speech and flow of information. Taking the profits and power back from the banks by fostering crypto adoption will bring about a financial revolution that this world profoundly needs – it just may take a few years, and the bankers will not like it.

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Coinbase Board Member: Crypto Ecosystem Will Not See Regulation for Years

Kathryn Haun, board member of Coinbase and HackerOne claimed that cryptocurrency and blockchain will not see regulation for years, Techcrunch reports May 31. Haun made her statements on regulation at the Code Conference in California today.

Haun drew parallels between the internet and crypto, claiming that the in the early days of the internet, users called for one single regulatory body, which never took place. As per Haun, crypto and blockchain are following the same scheme of the development. She further pointed out that if regulation would have been developed a year ago, it would already be outdated due to the rise of initial coin offerings (ICOs).

Haun, who is also a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, argued that there cannot be any regulation in the crypto field until regulators gain a solid understanding of how it works. Haun stressed the need to “wait and see how the the technology develops,” adding that regulation should not “outpace understanding.”

Today’s statements echoed those of Mike Lempres, Chief Legal and Risk Officer at Coinbase, who said during a Congressional hearing in March that the US regulatory system is currently “harming healthy innovation.” Lampres said there is a lack of understanding of what is allowed and how digital assets are considered under the law; either as securities, commodities, property, or money.

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From the Internet to Crypto – How the World’s Richest Have Sized Things Up

Throughout history, the thoughts and perceptions of the masses have been shaped by leaders of politics, industry and entertainment.

The greatest minds of our time have often predicted and touted some of the most prolific innovations. Lended the support of these voices, these very innovations have shaped the way the world works.

Internet

A prime example would be the Internet. The technology revolutionized communication in the 1990s and led to a surge in investments in Internet-based companies.

What followed is now known as the dotcom bubble – a rapid rise in equity born out of speculative investing in these dotcom companies eventually led to a stock market crash, with many companies with millions of dollars of market capitalization ending up worthless.

However, a lot of companies managed to survive this period – especially Amazon, which is now the biggest Internet retailer in the world and the third most valuable public company globally.

Ironically, some of the greatest investors of our time missed the boat on Amazon and other tech companies – showing that even the most revered industry leaders can get it wrong from time to time.

It’s interesting to see how some of these thought leaders have gauged emerging technologies over the past 25 years. Four of the five richest men in the world have had diverging opinions, as we’ve seen with their predictions on the internet almost two decades ago.

In 1996, Microsoft founder Bill Gates wrote a now famous essay titled ‘Content is King’, where he outlined his prediction for what would make the internet a world-shaping invention. His opening line pretty much hit the nail on the head, in terms of how a lot of the Internet is monetized:

“Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”

Meanwhile world famous investor Warren Buffett was wary of investing in internet based companies in the 1990s – something he has since admitted he regrets.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos had more faith than most – enough to quit his full time job and start his own Internet-based company. According to CNBC, Bezos saw the potential of the sector due to the massive growth in the space, as recalled in a speech at Princeton University in 2010:

“I came across the fact that Web usage was growing at 2,300 percent per year. I’d never seen or heard of anything that grew that fast, and the idea of building an online bookstore with millions of titles — something that simply couldn’t exist in the physical world — was very exciting to me.”

Crypto and blockchain

These contrasting views highlight the difference between industry revolutionaries over the years. This has also been the case with Bitcoin, blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies more recently. As the sector grows in prominence, the brightest minds have offered predictions, thoughts and appraisals of virtual currencies.

Some of it is positive, and some of it is negative. Nevertheless, we take a look at four of the five richest people in the world and their take on Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general. They’re ranked from richest downwards, as per Forbes’ prestigious list.

No.1: Jeff Bezos

2018 will go down as the year that Jeff Bezos became the first ever centi-billionaire. The founder, chairman and CEO of Amazon net worth is now over $100 bln, making him the wealthiest man in the world.

His company has gone from strength to strength over the years, and is now the world’s largest online shopping platform.

However, it’s almost impossible to find any comments made by Bezos directly talking about Bitcoin, cryptocurrency or blockchain technology.

The most we have is historical rumors that Amazon would start accepting Bitcoin as a payment option on its platform, which to this day has not happened.

There was further speculation when Amazon purchased three domain names that hinted a move towards the acceptance of cryptocurrency in October 2017.

Amazon Web Services partnered with R3 late in 2017 to provide one of the first ever distributed ledger technologies on the platform – the Corda project. Ironically, this was a week after Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy said the company wouldn’t launch blockchain-based services.

Despite all of this, we are yet to hear what Bezos thinks about cryptocurrencies and blockchain. Given the scope of his company and his own influence, any commentary from the world’s richest man would no doubt have an effect on the industry.

No. 2: Bill Gates

The principal founder of Microsoft is responsible for developing one of the most popular operating systems around and is ranked as the second richest individual in the world by Forbes. Gates formerly occupied that number one spot from 2014 to 2017.

His wealth is a result of his ingenuity and he has now shifted his focus to philanthropic endeavors. Some of these projects, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are using blockchain technology to solve problems plaguing developing countries.

The Foundation has supported projects like Bitsoko in Ghana, which has pioneered a Bitcoin merchant payment processing and Bitcoin wallet service in Ghana and other African countries.

With that being said, let’s take a look at some of Gates’ most notable takes on Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies over the past few years.

During a Reddit Ask Me Anything in February 2018, Gates delivered some cynical remarks about cryptocurrencies in general.

Gates hit out at the anonymity of virtual currencies, saying they were ‘not a good thing’ as they hindered the identification of money laundering, tax evasion and funding of terrorism. He also went on to say that cryptocurrencies had “caused deaths in a fairly direct way” because they enabled people to buy hard drugs anonymously:

“Right now cryptocurrencies are used for buying Fentanyl and other drugs so it is a rare technology that has caused deaths in a fairly direct way. I think the speculative wave around ICOs and cryptocurrencies is super risky for those who go long,”

Gates’ latest take on Bitcoin was in an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box, where he said that he “would short it if there was an easy way to do it”. Gates added that Bitcoin and initial coin offerings (ICOs) offered nothing as an asset class and that people should not expect a rise in value.

While he was fairly harsh on Bitcoin and ICOs, he gave a more measured take on blockchain technology:

“There’s some really good technology in terms of sharing databases and verifying transactions that is talked about as blockchain. That is a good thing.”

Gates’ crypto philanthropy

These sentiments are a far cry to his more optimistic take on Bitcoin in an interview back in 2014 on Bloomberg TV’s Smart Street show. At the time, Gates extolled the virtues of cheap transaction made possible by Bitcoin:

“Bitcoin is exciting because it shows how cheap it can be. Bitcoin is better than currency in that you don’t have to be physically in the same place and, of course, for large transactions, currency can get pretty inconvenient.”

At the time, Silk Road and other dark web marketplaces had recently been shut down – but Gates was still of the belief that Bitcoin had a lot to offer:

“The customers we’re talking about aren’t trying to be anonymous. They’re willing to be known, so Bitcoin technology is key and you can add to it or you could build a similar technology where there’s enough attribution where people feel comfortable that this is nothing to do with terrorism or any type of money laundering.”

What is more, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have long been supporting blockchain projects, especially in Africa. For example, in 2015, the Foundation donated $100,000 to Bitsoko, a Kenyan Bitcoin merchant payment platform.

The Foundation has been pushing for the development of virtual currencies in Africa, as they could provide a way for the poor to have access to cheap, transactional services.

While Gates holds Bitcoin at an arm’s length, Microsoft has had a long association with Bitcoin and blockchain technology.

Back in 2014, the company’s website began accepting Bitcoin as a payment method, and its cloud computing platform Microsoft Azure launched its Blockchain Workbench that aims to allow companies develop, test and launch blockchain applications.

No. 3: Warren Buffett

Currently ranked the third richest man in the world behind Jeff Bezos and Gates, Buffett is a household name when it comes to investments and finance.

The current CEO and chairman of multinational conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett is considered one of the best investors in the world. When he speaks, people tend to take notice, especially when it comes to money and investments.

The ‘Oracle of Omaha’ has long been a skeptic of Bitcoin. As early as 2014, Buffett has been of the opinion that Bitcoin’s value is merely as a result of its capabilities as a transactional tool, which he believes can and will be replicated, as he told CNBC:

“Stay away from it. It’s a mirage, basically … it’s a method of transmitting money. It’s a very effective way of transmitting money and you can do it anonymously and all that. A check is a way of transmitting money, too. Are checks worth a whole lot of money just because they can transmit money? Are money orders? You can transmit money by money orders. People do it. I hope Bitcoin becomes a better way of doing it, but you can replicate it a bunch of different ways and it will be. The idea that it has some huge intrinsic value is just a joke in my view.”

It took a good three years for Buffett to grab Bitcoin-related headlines again, as the cryptocurrency began its biggest ever bull-run that eventually led to an all time high of $20,000.

In an interview with CNBC in January 2018, Buffett categorically stated that he would not trade Bitcoin, while predicting that cryptocurrencies as a whole would end badly:

“In terms of cryptocurrencies, generally, I can say almost with certainty that they will come to a bad ending. Now, when it happens or how, or anything else, I don’t know.”

Ironically, Buffett followed that very statement with another that suggested he wasn’t too clued up on the technical side of Bitcoin:

“We don’t own any, we’re not short any, we’ll never have a position in them. I get into enough trouble with the things I think I know something about. Why in the world should I take a long or short position in something I don’t know about?”

Buffett’s latest critiques of Bitcoin have been more fervorous. In April 2018, he suggested that buying Bitcoin was closer to gambling than investing in the lead up to Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting:

“Now, if you buy something like bitcoin or some cryptocurrency, you don’t really have anything that has produced anything. You’re just hoping the next guy pays more.”

“You aren’t investing when you do that. You’re speculating. There’s nothing wrong with it. If you wanna gamble somebody else will come along and pay more money tomorrow, that’s one kind of game. That is not investing.”

The 87 year old further fueled that flame at the annual meeting where he was asked for his latest take on cryptocurrencies, stating “cryptocurrencies will come to bad endings.”

Buffett’s missed opportunities

While his stance on crypto is pretty clear, in 2017 Buffett admitted that he’d missed the boat on certain technology stocks over the years as reported by Fortune.

While Berkshire Hathaway have invested heavily in Apple of late, Buffett lamented passing the chance to buy Google stock when it launched its initial public offering in 2004 at the company’s 2017 annual meeting.

Buffett’s had a change of heart when it comes to tech companies, saying the market has ‘fundamentally changed’. According to Fortune, in 2017 the top five American tech companies were worth more than $2.5 tln – that is Amazon, Alphabet (formerly Google), Microsoft, Apple and Facebook.

Buffett said the same of Amazon in no uncertain terms: “I was too dumb to realize what was going to happen.”

It begs the question, are Buffett and some of his closest business partners like Charlie Munger missing the trick once again? Only time will tell, as it always does.

No. 4: Mark Zuckerberg

Currently rated the fifth richest individual on Earth by Forbes, Mark Zuckerberg is the cofounder, current chairman and CEO of Facebook.

The man has been in the news a lot lately, due to Facebook’s involvement in the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal.

Surprisingly, Zuckerberg has hardly been quoted in the media when it comes to his views on Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.

In fact, it’s hard to find much on the subject from Zuckerberg other than his own Facebook post in January 2018.

In that very post, Zuckerberg expressed his goals for 2018, which centered around making his social media platform a better tool for people in their everyday lives. Looking for areas to take inspiration from, Zuckerberg pointed to cryptocurrencies:

“There are important counter-trends to this – like encryption and cryptocurrency – that take power from centralized systems and put it back into people’s hands … i’m interested to go deeper and study the positive and negative aspects of these technologies, and how best to use them in our services.”

Ironically, Facebook and a number of the world’s biggest social media platforms and search engines announced plans to ban cryptocurrency and ICO advertising on their platforms.

Facebook’s move to ban these adverts are intended to prevent unwary investors from being duped by fraudulent services and scams – which could be an understandable endeavor.

However it ends up painting all cryptocurrencies and blockchain-based services and companies with the same brush, denying them one of the biggest advertising platforms in the world.

Winds of change

As we’ve seen, none of these influential leaders can predict the future, but almost every single one has left indelible marks in their various spheres of influence.

However, slowly but surely, it seems that blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies are creeping into these spheres and these same men will no doubt have very different opinions on the subject matter in the coming years.

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Bitcoin (BTC) Compared To The Young Internet Of The 80s

The King of the Crypto-Verse, Bitcoin (BTC) is still holding steady at above $8,000 and currently trading at $8,188.  According to technical analysis this morning, Bitcoin has a healthy support at a new level of $7,900 with a possibility of testing the $8,400 to $8,500 levels. These current values are a long way from what the value was over 9 years ago when Bitcoin was first introduced to us as an open source software. The earliest value comparison for Bitcoin was 10,000 BTC for 2 Pizzas from Papa John’s in May 2010. Prior to that, Bitcoin was worth pretty much nothing.

One of the first supporters, adopters, contributor to bitcoin and receiver of the first bitcoin transaction was programmer Hal Finney. He downloaded the bitcoin software the day it was released, and received 10 bitcoins from Nakamoto in the world’s first bitcoin transaction on 12 January 2009. The value of the first Bitcoin transaction was negotiated by individuals on a bitcoin forum with the famous two pizza transaction of  10,000 BTC earlier mentioned.

It is with such a premise that CNBC Fast Money’s Brian Kelly, was quoted as referring to Bitcoin as to being like the internet in the 80s with early companies such as Cisco and Microsoft trailblazing in the industry. For Brian Kelly, Bitcoin is neither a company nor a stock. This description fits the bill of what the inventor of Bitcoin – Satoshi Nakamoto – envisioned for the cryptocurrency. Satoshi wanted the users to have full control of transactions and not financial institutions.

Going back to the to the internet of the 80s, rudimentary devices such as cassette tape recorders were used to store data because the much famous floppy disk had not been designed by Steve Wozniak. Internet connection speeds were at a merger 300 bits per second if you were lucky. Current speeds range from 1.0 Mbs (1,024 Kbps) to 2,000 Mbps currently being offered by Comcast.

This means if we are in the 80s of cryptocurrencies and blockchain, the future looks pretty bright for the crypto-verse. With the added fact that hardware and software technology has been improving on a daily basis, it is safe to say that cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology is the future of global technology and finance moving forward. It is not impossible then, for the Bitcoin price predictions of $25k, $91k and $250k floating around on the web.

[Photo, first versions of the Mac. Source: cnn.com]

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Telecom Egypt Covertly Redirecting Internet Users To Crypto Mining Sites, Report Says

Devices found at Telecom Egypt demarcation points have been found to be surreptitiously redirecting Egyptian Internet users to advertisements and cryptocurrency mining sites, according to a report published by Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto Friday, March 9.

The technology research lab’s report explains that the scheme, referred to as Adhose, operates via middleboxes, computer networking devices for manipulating internet traffic. The report identifies two modes of redirection used on Egyptian citizens: “spray mode” and “trickle mode.” “Spray mode” means that a middlebox “redirects Egyptian Internet users en masse to ads or cryptocurrency mining scripts whenever they make a request to any website,” and is seemingly used “sparingly.”

“Trickle mode” means that only attempts to open certain URLs redirects users to these ads or mining scripts, specifically CopticPope.org (which was formerly the website of the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria) and Babylon-X.com (formely a porn site).

Coinhive, a Monero mining platform that positions itself to sites as an online advertising alternative, was also listed in the table of links for AdHose middleboxes to redirect Egyptian users.

Coinhive has previously been linked to a large case of cryptojacking at the end of January 2018, when hackers ran YouTube ads with a Coinhive script that secretly used up the users’ CPU power for mining. American cable network Showtime was also found to be using Coinhive on two of their websites as an alternative for advertisements back in September of last year, albeit without informing their customers. After Showtime’s surreptitious use of the mining script was exposed, Coinhive announced that in future it would seek permission from users before using their computers to mine Monero.

Citizen Lab’s report showed that the same middlebox that runs AdHose was also responsible for Internet censorship in Egypt, blocking websites for Human Rights Watch and the news outlet Al Jazeera.

The report noted as well that middleboxes in Turkey and Syria were redirecting users attempting to download software to different versions of the same software with spyware attached.

A fingerprint of a network injection of the middleboxes, deep packet inspection (DPI) devices, was patched with a second-hand PacketLogic device made by Canadian network equipment company Sandvine.

In the report, Sandvine denied that their products could be used in such a manner, and highlighted to Citizen Lab their human rights protection standards that prompt a review of a sale when the customer is part of a country ranked low on the Worldwide Governance Indicators.

Citizen Lab writes in their report that Sandvine’s safeguards have “come up short,” and recommends that the company begin engaging in “regular consultation with civil society regarding its human rights due diligence and business ethics program.”

While Egypt’s first Bitcoin exchange was reported to be opening in August 2017, the Egyptian government has taken a hard line against cryptocurrencies in the country. Egypt’s top cleric called Bitcoin (BTC) “unlawful” under Sharia law in January of this year.

A year earlier in February 2017, a Sharia law expert had told Cointelegraph that since Islam has historically only recognized “commodities of intrinsic value” as money, “Bitcoin probably misses the mark.” It is unclear how Monero or Coinhive’s mining script would thus fall under Sharia law.