liquid-network

Blockstream’s Liquid Network Project Finally Goes Live

Blockstream, a blockchain technology company has recently announced the launch of the Liquid Network, the company’s revolutionary take on the concept of bitcoin sidechains. This project is expected to supersede the limitations of the regular bitcoin blockchain by being able to withstand heavy transaction volumes that are often experienced by brokers, exchanges and other cryptocurrency services experience. At launch, the Liquid Network already had over 20 exchanges including Xapo, BitMEX, and Bitfinex on boards which indicates how eager industry stakeholders are about solutions to the problems associated with volume transfers on the bitcoin blockchain.

What It Does

The primary purpose of the Liquid Network will be improving transaction speeds as well as efficiency on the bitcoin blockchain while at the same time facilitating a more ‘liquid’ movement of bitcoin between exchanges. In addition to the primary objectives, the Liquid Network will also introduce such features and functions as confidential transactions, issued assets, and a new token.

Liquid Network’s new token, L-BTC, is pegged to the price of bitcoin and its holders can readily trade it for BTC. Issued assets, on the other hand, will be Liquid Networks way of tokenizing fiat currencies, securities, and even gold and treating them as Bitcoin equivalents.

According to a blog post written by Blockstream, the Liquid Network went live om September, a few days prior to the announcement. The post further outlines the company’s plans to add more features in the future – these will include integration of the GreenAddress Wallet as well as third-party hardware wallet support from Trezor and Ledger.

How Does It Compare to The Lightning Network?

Both the Lightning Network and the Liquid Network are sidechains of the bitcoin blockchain, i.e., they allow for transactions to be performed off of bitcoin’s main blockchain thus allowing service providers to avoid the inconveniences of the bitcoin network. However, unlike the Liquid Network, the Lightning Network is primarily intended to cater for smaller transactions since it relies on the power of nodes with relatively limited capacities, perhaps one of the reasons why its adoption has been hampered.

“Liquid allows parties to send funds to any destination, without the need to establish channels ahead of time. Funds in Lightning are ‘hot’ (private keys are online), whereas you can store Liquid Bitcoin in both hot or cold wallets. Liquid also has the ability to have Lightning added as a second layer as well, so we view these two technologies as complementary and both important for the ecosystem,” Blockstream’s CSO, Samson Mow explained.

Blockstream’s short-term goal is to build out the features of the Liquid Network so as to ease its introduction, and subsequently, wider adoption in the wider crypto community. In the long term, the company is aiming to have bitcoin as the epicenter of more sidechains that will facilitate the seamless and interconnected exchange of the crypto industry’s many assets.

google-adwords

Google Lifts Its Ban on Cryptocurrency Advertisements

Earlier this year (in March), Google announced a cryptocurrency ad ban that it went on to roll out in June – these were intended to protect its consumers and involved wallets, trading services, and Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). This is all about to change with the company on September 25 ending the ban on cryptocurrency advertisements.

In a new update to its advertising policies, the company emphasizes that at the ads that would be allowed would only be those of “regulated” trading sites.

“The Google Ads policy on Financial products and services will be updated in October 2018 to allow regulated cryptocurrency exchanges to advertise in the United States and Japan,” Google explained. “Advertisers will need to be certified with Google for the specific country in which their ads will serve. Advertisers will be able to apply for certification once the policy launches in October. This policy will apply globally to all accounts that advertise these financial products. For more details, see About restricted financial products certification. The Financial products and services page will be updated once the policy goes into effect.”

Google was one of the tech companies that moved to prohibit cryptocurrency advertisements alongside Twitter and Facebook, though the latter later relaxed some of the restrictions it had placed on cryptocurrency-related advertisements. Google’s ban was so wide-ranging that it affected offerings from both legitimate wallet services and trading professionals.

This crackdown on crypto went on to rapidly spread across the internet leading to various bans from other companies, including LinkedIn, MailChimp and Snapchat. Even though this was meant to stop or at least slow down scammers on the internet it also whipped out legitimate blockchain projects which in turn slowed down adoption of digital currencies, stifled promotion and stoked more fears about mainstream acceptance of crypto.

The Reason Is Yet to Be Known

As is it stands, there has not been a clear explanation as to why the tech giant has chosen to lift the ban barely four months after it imposed it. It is speculated that the company believes that the hype that surrounded crypto, as well as the negative side effects associated with the skyrocketing values, have finally died down are at least reduced significantly. Still, it is possible that Google is simply keeping its eye on the prize i.e., the valuable ad money that crypto will bring in.

“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,” Google’s Scott Spencer said in June when the original ban was rolled out.

crypto-regulation

Treasury Committee Report Calls for Crypto Regulation

MPs on the Treasury select committee have recently issued a report that states that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are “wild west” assets that expose investors to a litany of risks and therefore, there is an urgent need for their regulation. The report further pointed out concerns that consumers were left unprotected from the unregulated crypto market which also happens to be a conduit for criminal activities such as money laundering and illegal trade.

Apparently, the government and regulators have not been proactive in handling the arising issues that are associated with the crypto market – according to the Treasury Committee.

“Crypto-asset investors are currently afforded very little protection from the litany of risks. Namely, there are no formal mechanisms for consumer redress, nor compensation,” said the committee. “As the government and regulators decide whether the current Wild West situation is allowed to continue, or whether they are going to introduce regulation, consumers remain unprotected.”

Cryptocurrencies are currently covered by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the City regulator, and there are still no formal mechanisms for investor compensation or consumer redress, something that Nicky Morgan, a conservative MP and the chair of the committee, says is unsustainable.

“Bitcoin and other crypto-assets exist in the wild west industry of crypto-assets. This unregulated industry leaves investors facing numerous risks,” Nicky Morgan said. “Given the high price volatility, the hacking vulnerability of exchanges and the potential role in money laundering, the Treasury committee strongly believes that regulation should be introduced… It’s unsustainable for the government and regulators to bumble along issuing feeble warnings to potential investors, yet refrain from acting. At a minimum, regulation should address consumer protection and anti-money-laundering.”

The Treasury Committee believes that there should at least be some regulation to add customer protection and fight money laundering. All of these issues stem from concerns regarding the volatility of digital assets – the prices of cryptocurrencies were so volatile that while the potential gains are quite large, so are the potential losses.

“The FCA agrees with the committee’s conclusion that bitcoin and similar crypto-assets are ill-suited to retail investors, and as we have warned in the past, investors in this type of crypto-asset should be prepared to lose all their money.”

The Treasury Committee’s recommendations have been noted and echoed by a number of stakeholders in the cryptocurrency industry including CryptoUK, a self-regulatory trade association for the United Kingdom’s digital currency industry.

“As an industry, we have been calling for the introduction of proportionate regulation to improve standards and encourage growth,” said Iqbal Gandham, the chairman of CryptoUK. “Self-regulation by the industry was always intended to be a starting point – this must now be matched by government action.”

crypto-Investigation

200 ICOs and Cryptocurrencies Under Active Investigation

The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), an international task force that is tasked with tackling securities violations in the cryptocurrency industry, on August 28 announced that it has opened active investigations into over 200 initial coin offerings (ICOs) and crypto-related investment products.

First launched in May, the operation – referred to as “Operation Cryptosweep” – has been targeting a number of suspicious crypto investment products. It is composed of regulators from the United States and Canada which makes it the largest coordinated investigation by state and provincial officials. It has also already seen through 47 enforcement actions against ICOs and cryptocurrency investment funds in the U.S. and Canada, something that has earned its praise from Jay Clayton, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The violations the operation has uncovered range from securities fraud to failure to properly register products before offering access to investors.

According to NASAA president and Alabama Securities Commission director Joseph Borg, the regulatory operation continues to commit significant resources to ensure that retail investors are protected. This is especially because many cryptocurrency advocates and financial watchdogs are split on how the ICOs and crypto firms should be regulated. NASAA’s contribution is, therefore, one of the best developments in the sector since other than protecting the retail investors, it will also serve to raise awareness among industry participants in regards to their regulatory obligations and responsibilities.

“While not every ICO or cryptocurrency-related investment is a fraud, it is important for individuals and firms selling these products to be mindful that they are not doing so in a vacuum; state and provincial laws or regulations may apply, especially securities laws. Sponsors of these products should seek the advice of knowledgeable legal counsel to ensure they do not run afoul of the law. Furthermore, a strong culture of compliance should be in place before, not after, these products are marketed to investors,” Joseph Borg added.

Do Your Homework, Investors Told

As it stands, NASAA is the oldest international organization whose main focus is investor protection – it is based on voluntary association and boasts of 67 member states, provinces and territories across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. However, despite its far-reaching capabilities in handling irregularities in the crypto within the mentioned areas, there still needs to be some element of support from other stakeholders.

The operations president has highlighted the need for ICOs to register with the appropriate agencies or, if possible, contact regulators to check whether they qualify for exemptions or not. He further warned investors against dealing with ICO promoters claiming their products is exempt from securities registration unless of course, the claim is verifiable.

“Do your homework and contact your state or provincial securities regulator with any concerns before parting with your hard-earned money — afterward may be too late,” he pointed out.

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eToro Brings Bitcoin to Premier League Football Clubs

Global online investment, FOREX and crypto trading platform, eToro yesterday (August 21, 2018) announced that it has entered into marketing partnerships with seven different Premier League football clubs. The partnership venture which is funded by bitcoin is the very first of its kind and will involve the following football clubs: Brighton & Hove Albion F.C., Cardiff City F.C., Crystal Palace F.C., Leicester City F.C., Newcastle United F.C., Southampton F.C., and Tottenham Hotspur.

“As a global multi-asset platform where you can purchase the world’s biggest crypto assets alongside more traditional investments, we are excited to be partnering with so many Premier League clubs and make history by being the first company ever to pay for a Premier League partnership in bitcoin,” Iqbal V. Gandham, UK Managing Director at eToro said in a statement that accompanied the announcement.

This move is considered to be another great leap forward for bitcoin and the crypto industry as a whole since it is anticipated that it will expose many more people to the idea of digital currencies. Hopefully, this will, in turn, result in new investments, most ideally through the eToro platform.

“The blockchain technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like bitcoin brings transparency, which we believe can improve the experience for everyone who loves the ‘beautiful game’, from fans being targeted by ticket touts, or a club negotiating a transfer, we believe that blockchain will revolutionize the world of football,” the managing director added.

Unfortunately, there is a bit of speculation regarding how the move by eToro to partner with soccer clubs will benefit the cryptocurrency industry – the trading platform is now among a growing number of blockchain-based companies that have either inked sponsorship deals with sports clubs or are hoping to do so in the near future. However, it is quite obvious that the money involved in this case is pretty huge and it would be a mistake not to take. Furthermore, it opens up doors for greater opportunities in the world of sports. As for how this will impact the crypto industry, we will just have to wait and see.

What It Entails

The partnerships will involve in-game advertising on digital perimeter boards as well as exposure on each of the seven cub’s social media channels through the creation of what they have termed as “unique content”. The clubs will also be working closely with eToro in a bid to find ways of harnessing cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology at each of the stadiums.

“We are pleased to welcome eToro to the club as an Official Partner, it is exciting to be working with such an innovative industry leader. Much like Leicester City, eToro is an ambitious brand with a significant global reach and we look forward to working together throughout the season,” Jonathan Gregory, Leicester City’s commercial director commented.

goldman-sachs-bitcoin

Goldman Sachs to Reportedly Manage Bitcoin for Its Clients

Goldman Sachs, one of the world’s leading investment banks is reportedly considering a custodial service to store bitcoin for investment funds that intend to hold cryptocurrencies, more so, bitcoin. According to a Bloomberg report that cites more than one anonymous sources familiar with the matter, the investment bank has been holding discussions about becoming one of the first mainstream financial institutions to custody crypto assets.

The custody service, if implemented, is going to be a huge gain for crypto funds and simultaneously have greater implications since it would effectively get rid of a major obstacle that has been preventing institutional investors such as endowments and pensions from comfortably adding crypto assets to their portfolios. Well, such custody services already exist, but until now, they have largely been limited to cryptocurrency startups like Coinbase – instead of Wall Street giants like Goldman Sachs, with whom many mainstream institutions prefer to work.

Response to Client Interest

According to the anonymous sources, deliberations on the issue are ongoing but a timeline for when the investment bank will roll out the services is yet to be set. They further confirmed that this is good news since the custody operation in place could also lead to other lucrative ventures including prime brokerage services.

“That means the bank would hold the newfangled securities on behalf of the funds, reducing risk for clients seeking to guard against the threat of losing their investments to rogue attacks,” the anonymous sources clarified.

As it stands, Goldman Sachs is yet to publicly confirm the claims that it is exploring the aforementioned crypto custody service. Instead, the Wall Street giant has opted to reiterate its previous plans from May this year to offer Bitcoin futures.

“In response to client interest in various digital products we are exploring how best to serve them in this space,” the investment bank’s spokesman said in an August 6 publication. “At this point, we have not reached a conclusion on the scope of our digital asset offering.”

If Goldman Sachs does indeed veer ahead with a crypto assets custody service, it will be joining JPMorgan Chase, Bank of New York Mellon, Northern Trust and Japan’s Nomura. The institution has been taking baby steps with their crypto-related offerings – it has not yet set up the full-fledged cryptocurrency trading desk it announced earlier this year – but all the same, these minor developments are huge milestones for the cryptocurrency industry.

Still, it is worth noting that Goldman Sachs remains very cautious about crypto assets despite their confirmed and rumored efforts to venture into the crypto space. In fact, the institution recently published a statement that expresses its belief that there will be further price drops across the crypto market in the short term.

blocktrade

First Fully Regulated Cryptocurrency Exchange Goes Live

Crypto has been on a roll with a ton of new developments popping up every single day. While the nascent industry is certainly headed towards the right direction, achieving full regulatory approval is a very big deal, especially for cryptocurrency exchanges – it is even harder for them to get regulatory approval before they launch. Well, not anymore.

Liechtenstein-based Blocktrade.com has just been approved by the Finance Markets Authority and is set to be the first digital currency exchange to be open for testing – the Financial Markets Authority is a member of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA). In a press release, the company confirmed that is in the process of obtaining a multilateral trading facility (MTF) license courtesy of the European Union’s MiFID II framework.

Blockrade.com’s launched the beta version for testing last week – this trial period is set to end on August 25 and will be followed by the full launch though the actual date of the launch is yet to be revealed.

“I hope early adopters will provide us with valuable feedback so that we can improve the platform even further. I believe its capability, as well as its user experience, are impressive, so I am convinced the word about our beta release will be spread widely. We are already setting up interviews with major financial, fintech and business media, so I will get a chance to talk about our development and vision for the future of finance,” Blocktrade’s CEO Luka Gubo said in a recent interview.

During the aforementioned initial testing phase, Bolcktrade.com will be offering Ethereum, bitcoin, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Ripple’s XRP trading pairs. Once the platform is fully launched later this year (around September), it will offer Security Tokens, Crypto Traded Indices and Tokenized Assets.

“We believe that if you operate an exchange and if you have an orderbook with a matching engine, you should also be regulated as an exchange. This removes the hurdles for traders (retail and institutional alike) to access the new asset class as the full MiFID II compliance makes us more transparent, reliable, trustworthy and enables equal access for all,” Gubo added.

The State of Crypto

Unfortunately, many institutional investors still regard the unregulated exchanges that dominate the crypto market as risks due to the lack of transparency. In fact, as it stands the European Union is yet to come up with a unified position and regulatory requirements for the cryptocurrency exchanges operating in the territory.

As for the MiFID II which came into effect at the beginning of 2018, the licensing process is quite explicit and will certainly do for now. To put this into perspective, it requires that the companies seeking its license prove that they have operated fairly, honestly and professionally in the best interests of the users of their platforms. The institutions also have to comply with a number of reporting, transparency and capital requirements.

nasdaq-bitcoin

Nasdaq, Fiat and Crypto Firms Discuss Crypto Regulation

The crypto industry is well on its way to mainstream adoption albeit with a few though significant setbacks such as the shakeup of the industry’s history of shady transactions and fraud. Fortunately, Nasdaq Inc. believes it has just what it takes to get clear the obstacles that have impeded progress in as far as the legitimization of cryptocurrencies is concerned.

Bloomberg reports that earlier this week Nasdaq Inc. hosted a closed-door meeting that was attended by half a dozen cryptocurrency companies and mainstream institution. These included Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss’ crypto exchange platform, Gemini. The main agenda of the meeting was a discussion pertaining to ‘how to encourage the cryptocurrency industry to do things that will improve its image and validate its potential role in global markets’. A source familiar with meeting also confirmed that the parties that attended the meeting also discussed the potential implications of future regulation of digital currencies, the necessary tools for such an initiative as well as what surveillance would be needed for such a future.

Certainly Not the Last

Nasdaq has recently announced a partnership cum collaboration with Gemini, who as mentioned earlier also attended the closed-door meeting. While both companies declined to give any comments on the meeting and what was discussed, Nasdaq did confirm that the meeting did indeed take place. Their collaboration will see Nasdaq tap Gemini’s SMARTS market Surveillance, an industry benchmark technology that is extensively used by Wall Street firms.

It has further been confirmed that the meeting was not the last of its kind and this is a clear indication that cryptocurrency startups are working harder towards achieving mainstream adoption and mollifying the anxieties of regulators. Considering how often regulatory clampdowns occur, stakeholders in the cryptocurrency industry are starting to employ more forward-thinking and proactive approaches to ensure its survival.

By ensuring that both crypto and fiat firms work together, Nasdaq believes that the legitimization of digital currencies will have lesser setbacks. To this effect, the company has already partnered with a number of cryptocurrency exchanges in a bid to foster or facilitate collaboration on some of the most significant impediments to crypto regulation.

“I think the technology is fascinating and it’s a very sound technology. It’s just a matter of making sure that the community is all-embracing it together,” Adena Friedman, the Nasdaq Chief Executive Officer said.

One of the most recent issues that will hopefully be addressed by this initiative is the move by United States regulators to classify digital assets as securities instead of utility tokens. The US crypto community is concerned that this move will result in some adverse effects on the emerging cryptocurrency sector.

Bitcoin_value_rise

Bitcoin Increases 5 Percent to $7,700. Is This It?

Bitcoin, the world’s largest and most popular digital currency continued its rally yesterday, shrugging off the hoard of regulatory and security worries that have significantly dragged down its price this year. According to data from CoinDesk, the cryptocurrency’s value increased by 5 percent on Monday, July 23, to a high of $7,770.58. This further represents a 20 percent increase in value from what was recorded a week ago.

Bitcoin broke above the $7,000 mark last Tuesday for this time in over a month after news surfaced that BlackRock, an asset-management company, was planning to set up a working group for the purpose of exploring digital currencies and the underlying blockchain technology. Similarly, in a report that was written last week, Grayscale, which manages $2 billion in assets said that more institutions are beginning to take interest in crypto. This, as affirmed by Matthew Newton, an eToro analyst, adds to the long-term upside for both bitcoin and the entire crypto industry.

“In the long-run, all of these points are very bullish,” said Newton, an analyst at eToro. “Technically, on the charts, what happened last week was very positive, but getting through these levels will be critical in the short term action.”

Matthew has also expressed the immense excitement and anticipation surrounding the approval or a bitcoin ETF, which is due to be decided in August by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Largest Bull Run in History?

Bitcoin has been inspiring bullishness as it breaks resistance levels and steadily moves towards the $8,000 mark – there is already a lot of anticipation that this might turn out to be the largest bitcoin bull run ever. Spurred by news of interest from major institutions, the bullishness that has been hitting the crypto market lately is not without merit and a number of experts are beginning to weigh in on all the possibilities.

According to Romal Almazo, the cryptocurrency lead at Capco, tier 1 banks are beginning to weigh their options in regards to crypto.

“Any signs of the big players entering the market will cause huge waves. Though my personal belief is that we are still a few years away from reaching this tipping point, we are in what I would refer to as an exploratory phase when it comes to institutions and crypto,” Almazo said in an interview with Express.co.uk. “Right now, as Tier 1 banks and financial institutions explore their options, the two main things that are holding them back are the lack of regulatory oversight and the numerous risks associated with digital custody and storage. This will also mean a huge opportunity for insurers to get into the market and partner with digital custodians and digital storage providers.”

Bitcoin-price-chart

Bitcoin Price Spikes As Crypto Market Finds Momentum

The past few days have been great for bitcoin as big-money investors have started looking into getting involved in crypto. Bitcoin, which is considered to be the mother of all digital currencies has gained close to four percent in the past day. This follows a week of stability in the $250 billion region which has contributed to a solid momentum that the crypto market has begun to demonstrate – in fact, it is possible the bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash have already initiated the rally that is required to propel the market towards and beyond the $300 billion mark.

Bitcoin’s Steady Rise

Starting from earlier yesterday, bitcoin’s rose by over $200 from an initial $6,300 and clocking in at just over $6,600. Considering its current price level, bitcoin is expected to see one of its most significant price upswings in two weeks, gaining close to 4 percent in value.

June was not a particularly great month for bitcoin, with the digital currency dipping below the $6,000 mark not once but twice thus setting a new all-time low record for 2018. However, things seemed to take a turn for the better at the start of July with bitcoin being on a bit of a resurgence that saw it peak at $6,800 on July 8. This upward trend was unfortunately interrupted by a single but significant pullback that saw it lose nearly all of the price gains it had attained during the first few days of July.

After that, bitcoin came dangerously close to falling below the $6,000 mark but this has since been evaded in the past few weeks. Therefore, amidst the steady growth we have seen since July 13, yesterday’s surge may be just what is needed to push its price higher towards the $6,900 resistance level.

Institutional Investors Trouping In

Bitcoin’s price upsurge has partly been attributed to the fact that the crypto space and bitcoin are beginning to become more and more appealing to investors especially due to the emergence of trading futures. Trading futures contracts is considered to be the safer and more advantageous options by traders since it is an efficient asset to hedge the price of bitcoin as it rises and falls.

“We see continued growth both in terms of the average daily volume and open interest,” said Tim McCourt, group global head of equity products and alternative investments at the Chicago-based CME Group. “The volume has steadily increased compared to when it was first launched in December. This is not a one-sided product because we have both supply and demand. Customer demand is strong because the relationship between the futures and cash market have a tight basis spread.”