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Usesof URL shortening are to "beautify" a link, track clicks, or disguise the underlying address. Although disguising of the underlying address may be desired for legitimate business or personal reasons, it is open to abuse. Some URL shortening service providers have found themselves on spam blacklists, because of the use of their redirect services by sites trying to bypass those very same blacklists. Some websites prevent short, redirected URLs from being posted.

There are several reasons to use URL shortening. Often regular unshortened links may be aesthetically unpleasing. Many web developers pass descriptive attributes in the URL to represent data hierarchies, command structures, transaction paths or session information.

This can result in URLs that are hundreds of characters long and that contain complex character patterns. Such URLs are difficult to memorize, type-out or distribute. As a result, long URLs must be copied-and-pasted for reliability. Thus, short URLs may be more convenient for websites or hard copy publications (e.g. a printed magazine or a book), the latter often requiring that very long strings be broken into multiple lines (as is the case with some e-mail software or internet forums) or truncated.

On Twitter and some instant-messaging services, there is a limit to the number of characters a message can carry – however, Twitter now shortens links automatically using its own URL shortening service, so there is no need to use a separate URL shortening service just to shorten URLs in a tweet.

On other such services, using a URL shortener can allow linking to web pages which would otherwise violate this constraint. Some shortening services, such as zii.bztinyurl.com, and bit.ly can generate URLs that are human-readable, although the resulting strings are longer than those generated by a length-optimized service.

Finally, URL shortening sites provide detailed information on the clicks a link receives, which can be simpler than setting up an equally powerful server-side analytics engine, and unlike the latter, does not require any access to the server.

URLs encoded in two-dimensional barcodes such as QR code are often shortened by a URL shortener in order to reduce the printed area of the code, or allow printing at lower density in order to improve scanning reliability.




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Uniform Resource Locator (URL) makes surfing the internet less difficult. It is what your social media followers click to visit your website.

You should never underestimate the influence of URL in attracting traffic. This is why URL shorteners like bit.ly, zii.bz TinyURL and many others came on board. However, some people don’t use because they are probably not aware of it or they think it is a waste of time. If you are one of those who is yet to join the URL shortening bandwagon, these are five reasons you should know.

It is good for SEO

Search Engine Optimization has a key role to play in the ranking of a website by Google. The more you creatively optimize your website and content, the better your ranking. One way to achieve this is by shortening URLs. When you shorten URL, it makes it easier for Googlebot to detect it. But remember that shortening URL alone is not enough to significantly improve your rankings. It is a combination of different efforts including shortening URL that enhances the Google search results of either your website or shared content.

It makes links more manageable

Wordy or lengthy contents are not easy to distribute via Facebook, twitter, and WhatsApp. Besides, a long URL may not get you the clicks you want because it is unattractive and easily put off your readers. To better manage your content, shorten URLs.

You can get data

When you use a URL shortening service like zii.bz, you can receive basic all-inclusive data like the number of clicks, the location of the website visitors and also which social media platform the content was clicked. This data can aid in content development.

It encourages sharing

Your content may not get the desired attention if you don’t share it on social media. You can share any content no matter how long the URL is.

It is user-friendly

Shortening a URL is not rocket science. You can just visit zii.bz enter the URL you want to shorten and within seconds you get your shortened URL. It is absolutely free. In addition, you are more likely to remember a shortened URL that features only your domain name and keywords then the original lengthy and bogus URL.





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A Russian arbitration court of appeals has recognized cryptocurrency as a property with value in its ruling on Monday. This overturned a previous ruling by another court even though Russia currently has no legal framework for cryptocurrencies.

Crypto Recognized as Property


Cryptocurrency Recognized as Valuable Property by Russian Court  

The Ninth Arbitration Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that a bankrupt person’s cryptocurrency must be included in the debtor’s bankruptcy estate, local media reported.

The case involves Russian citizen Ilya Tsarkov who filed bankruptcy in October last year. The court has ordered his cryptocurrencies to be transferred to the trustee, Alexei Leonov, who is expected to be handed the private key to the crypto wallet belonging to Tsarkov soon. According to Vedomosti, Tsarkov owns almost 0.2 bitcoin which is worth approximately US$1,885 at current market rates.

“The cryptocurrency was first recognized as property in Russia,” Ris Novosti reported. Leonov commented that with this ruling:
The court indirectly recognized the cryptocurrency as property and recognized its value.
Court Recognizes Crypto


Prior to Monday’s ruling, the case was heard in February by the Moscow Arbitration Court, which ordered Tsarkov to disclose his cryptocurrency holdings after he revealed to the bankruptcy trustee that he had a wallet at Blockchain.info.

Cryptocurrency Recognized as Valuable Property by Russian Court 

Leonov requested the court to order the transfer of Tsarkov’s cryptocurrencies into the bankruptcy estate, but the court rejected his request at the time, stating that cryptocurrency cannot be used to pay creditors since “the laws of the Russian Federation do not recognize cryptocurrency as property.”

However, with Monday’s ruling, the Ninth Arbitration Court of Appeals overturned the judgment of the Moscow Arbitration Court after Leonov appealed. Russian Legal Information Agency Rapsi conveyed the court’s explanation:
Currently Russian legislation does not provide the definition of cryptocurrency and there are no requirements for its circulation. There is no way to tell if it is property, information or a ‘surrogate’…it is impossible to regulate the relations involving cryptocurrency.
Leonov cited “the position of the European Court of Human Rights on the issue of property and a bankruptcy case in Japan, where a court permitted to sell the debtor’s cryptocurrency,” the agency noted. “The lower court should have taken into account modern economic realities and new information technologies…bad-faith parties could exploit the fact that cryptocurrencies were excluded from bankruptcy estates by converting their assets and thus rendering them inaccessible,” he reportedly conveyed.

What do you think of the court’s ruling? Let us know in the comments section below.




alfwesh22

Bitcoin adoption continues to grow rapidly worldwide. This adoption roundup features four merchants that recently started accepting the digital currency – a boutique hotel in Spain, parking lots, an electrical supply store, and online courses in Japan.

                    Parking Lots
Park Realty Co. Ltd., which provides a parking lot sharing serving called QRpark, announced last week that it has started accepting bitcoin payments.
 
“It is the service to convert the industry’s first monthly parking lot into a temporary parking lot,” the company described. A parking lot owner just needs to set up a visible signboard on the premises to be shared. “Guests using the parking lot select the parking time at the time of parking and pay the fee using the [QRpark] application,” the company detailed, adding that “Compared to [traditional] coin parking, capital investment is small, so the price is also cheap.”

The announcement states that the company believes that this system will lower the vacancy rate of monthly parking lots, and expects that approximately 4,000 locations and 10,000 renters nationwide to use this service throughout the year.
The QRpark team wrote:
We decided to introduce a bitcoin payment service, expecting to increase the convenience for customers by increasing the means of payment and [it will] lead to the acquisition of new customers.
                              Electrical Supplies Store
Fujiden Corporation recently started accepting bitcoin payments at one of its stores in Japan – the Yawata Electrical Materials Purchasing Center. This is done through Japan’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by volume, Bitflyer. The company currently has 11 stores in Japan, mostly in Kyoto and Osaka. The Yawata location is in Kyoto prefecture.

“Cash settlement is the mainstream for electrical wires, electrical construction materials, electrical tools etc. used at construction sites, such as [for] electrical work and air conditioning construction,” the company explained, adding that while its stores focus on credit cards, “We intend to pursue further convenience by introducing bitcoin payments.”

                               Online Courses
Kiramex recently announced that it is accepting bitcoin payments for courses at its online school, Techacademy. Citing that customers can use Bitflyer’s Bitwise Shop to pay for all courses offered at the Techacademy online boot camp, the company elaborated:
Techacademy responds to the needs of users born from new technologies and markets, such as starting to offer blockchain courses since February this year. The bitcoin payment [option] this time is part of that effort.
 

Spain’s Hotel El Tiburon
El Tiburón is a boutique hotel located on the beach of La Carihuela, Spain. The hotel announced last week that it has become “the first hotel in Andalusia to accept cryptocurrencies as a form of payment,” specifically naming “four main cryptocurrencies: bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin, and bitcoin cash.” The hotel uses Coinbase Commerce to accept crypto payments.
El Tiburón says:
We bet on technology to provide our customers with the latest digital trends, due to the great boom that has been generated with bitcoin, ethereum, dash, etc., we have decided that our customers should be able to pay for our services with this innovative technology.

Do you think all merchants will soon adopt bitcoin? Let us know in the comments section below.




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Israelminers vs. Union Bank


Israeli Bitcoin Mining Company Sues Bank for Closing Its Account  
Union Bank of Israel, Ltd. (TLV: UNON), the sixth

largest Israeli bank, has been slapped with a lawsuit by a local cryptocurrency mining company. Israminers Ltd, accuses the bank of unilaterally deciding, after three months of operations, that it will no longer allow the company to accept funds from bitcoin exchanges, and then sending back money already received in the account – preventing the company from buying further mining hardware and shutting down the account within 30 days.

The founders of Israminers, one of which is also the owner of a law firm, have decided to take the case to the courts, asking for a reprieve from the bank’s decision. The company has furthermore turned to the Israeli banking regulator with an official complaint against Union Bank. And today, the miners have announced that the Herzliya court has accepted the case, presenting a temporary order against the bank.

Adv. Guy Penn told news.bitcoin.com today that: “banks in Israel are currently refusing services to companies that operate in the crypto field, without even checking or understanding their business activity. The banks’ overwhelming refusal leaves us with no choice but to take our case to the courts of law, otherwise the entire Israeli crypto field will have to relocate its business model abroad.”

                          Supreme Precedent


Israeli Bitcoin Mining Company Sues Bank for Closing Its Account 

The Israeli banking system has not been welcoming to bitcoin-related business, to say the least, forcing companies to turn to the courts to get service. In February, for example, Bitflash LTD, a company which was established to provide digital currency trading services based in Acre, has asked the Tel Aviv District Court to order all 11 banks in the country to open a current account without credit for it.

Later that month, the Supreme Court of Israel issued a temporary injunction order forbidding Bank Leumi from sweepingly halting the account activity of the Bits of Gold bitcoin exchange. This was seen as a major victory in the Israeli cryptocurrency industry – and one that sets a precedent for other bitcoin businesses struggling to get banking services.

Should the regulators act against banks who refuse to serve bitcoin businesses? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 




alfwesh22

Almost three months after starting to roll out cryptocurrency trading, Robinhood has expanded the service to another two more American localities. This means that residents of eight US states in total now have access to Robinhood Crypto.

 
 

Robinhood Financial LLC, the Palo Alto-headquartered US stocks brokerage app, has announced that it added another two locations where cryptocurrency trading is now supported for its clients. The company officially announced on Thursday on its twitter page that the service is rolling out to Wisconsin and New Mexico.

Wisconsin is the 20th most populous American state with almost six million residents, and with a population of approximately two million, New Mexico is the 36th most populous state. This means that about eight million more Americans now have access to Robinhood Crypto. The two states are only the seventh and eighth locations in the country where Robinhood’s cryptocurrency trading service is made available. The company also added Colorado in April, after initially launching in California, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, and New Hampshire back in February.

More States Promised Sooner or Later
Besides the few selected states that the company’s cryptocurrency trading service is available, Robinhood also offers market data on a total of sixteen cryptocurrencies including bitcoin, ethereum, bitcoin cash, litecoin, ripple, ethereum classic, zcash, monero, dash, stellar, qtum, bitcoin gold, omisego, neo, lisk and dogecoin. The company is also working on Robinhood Feed, a way to discuss cryptocurrencies, news, and market swings in real-time with other investors on the platform. On Friday, the app’s team has also assured clients that they are “working through regulatory processes to bring Robinhood Crypto trading to more states.”

What country or American state should Robinhood Crypto reach next? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 




alfwesh22

Despite already setting a precedent in a previous case, the Israeli courts system is again called upon to stop a bank from shutting down a crypto business. This time, Union Bank tried to refuse operating an account to a mining firm – a service all companies need to legally operate in the country. 

Israelminers vs. Union Bank


Israeli Bitcoin Mining Company Sues Bank for Closing Its Account  
Union Bank of Israel, Ltd. (TLV: UNON), the sixth

largest Israeli bank, has been slapped with a lawsuit by a local cryptocurrency mining company. Israminers Ltd, accuses the bank of unilaterally deciding, after three months of operations, that it will no longer allow the company to accept funds from bitcoin exchanges, and then sending back money already received in the account – preventing the company from buying further mining hardware and shutting down the account within 30 days.

The founders of Israminers, one of which is also the owner of a law firm, have decided to take the case to the courts, asking for a reprieve from the bank’s decision. The company has furthermore turned to the Israeli banking regulator with an official complaint against Union Bank. And today, the miners have announced that the Herzliya court has accepted the case, presenting a temporary order against the bank.

Adv. Guy Penn told news.bitcoin.com today that: “banks in Israel are currently refusing services to companies that operate in the crypto field, without even checking or understanding their business activity. The banks’ overwhelming refusal leaves us with no choice but to take our case to the courts of law, otherwise the entire Israeli crypto field will have to relocate its business model abroad.”

                          Supreme Precedent


Israeli Bitcoin Mining Company Sues Bank for Closing Its Account 

The Israeli banking system has not been welcoming to bitcoin-related business, to say the least, forcing companies to turn to the courts to get service. In February, for example, Bitflash LTD, a company which was established to provide digital currency trading services based in Acre, has asked the Tel Aviv District Court to order all 11 banks in the country to open a current account without credit for it.

Later that month, the Supreme Court of Israel issued a temporary injunction order forbidding Bank Leumi from sweepingly halting the account activity of the Bits of Gold bitcoin exchange. This was seen as a major victory in the Israeli cryptocurrency industry – and one that sets a precedent for other bitcoin businesses struggling to get banking services.

Should the regulators act against banks who refuse to serve bitcoin businesses? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 




alfwesh22

Dutch Drivers can now charge their electric cars without cash or card payments courtesy of a new digitalized charging station recently announced by ElaadNL.

The company, ElaadNL, is a “knowledge and innovation center” in the field of Smart Charging infrastructure in the Netherlands and is an initiative of Dutch grid operators. The new site will be located at Arnhem’s Buiten Business Park in northern Holland.

The technology behind the charging park is Tangle, the data structure at the heart of IOTA which uses a DAG instead of a blockchain to store its ledger, with the main motivation being scalability. IOTA’s Tangle is a distributed ledger protocol that is designed to facilitate machine-to-machine interactions including feeless payments in real time and the secure transfer of data through an internal protocol that does without blocks and miners and delivers “secure data transfers” as well as zero-fee micropayments.

ElaadNL claims that no admin office or communication protocol is required to operate the new system and transactions are paid for without the use of card or subscription. The meter values are stored every five minutes in the Tangle allowing for faultless and accurate payment.

The charger sets up a TCP/IP connection with the car through pre-installed hardware allowing machine-to-machine payment and data exchange. The charger is available to the public, and cars without the hardware will be given the option to send IOTA tokens using the normal IOTA wallet.

ElaadNL also has plans to develop a car wallet which will hold IOTA for use allowing clients to pre-fund their car for future charging periods.

The proposed themes will be familiar to electric car owners, including color indicators, such as: yellow/idle; green/connected; light blue/offering; dark blue/charging; and red/error

The company director, Onoph Caron, feels that DLT will increase in popularity and become more widespread with the announcement of more such schemes in the future.




alfwesh22

The first C3 Crypto Conference was held this month at prime exhibition location STATION Berlin over two days attracting over 2,500 crypto enthusiasts, 50 speakers and 70 exhibitors.

The C3 conference and expo was conceived to attract blockchain professionals and beginners to experience panel discussions and keynote presentations covering a range of topics surrounding the future of blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

Speakers included Alena Vranova, a consultant for Bitcoin, blockchain and fintech and Dr Ulrich Keunecke from professional service law company KPMG and organizer of the conference, Dennis Weidner. The panel outlined how startups can launch successful projects and discussed regulatory frameworks for ICOs. The panel also confirmed the sentiment that Germany is currently one of the EU’s most active cryptocurrency member.

Fabien Spielberger from Cetana Capital outlined the importance of Berlin as a location illustrating to members of his panel that this was the first time in history that Europe, “can compete with the USA for fundraising.” Miko Matsumura from Evercoin is impressed with what the Berlin conference has to offer:

“The Berlin crypto conference is the gathering point for European blockchain insiders and features world-class thought leaders and an incredible setting. Berlin has an incredible vibe and it’s no wonder that it’s become a global hub for advanced technology ventures.

On the second day of the conference, participants were able to pitch their ICO ideas in a competition offering euro prizes from 5,000 to 25,000 euros as starting capital for their pitched ventures.

The winner of this year’s competition for new ICO venture was TV-TWO, a decentralized TV ecosystem promoted as an application for Smart TVs, used as the new gateway to linear broadcast combined with a personalized video stream as an additional channel.

Organizer, Dennis Weidner, was pleased with the public response to the C3 commenting:
“The response of the participants to the conference and the fair shows us how important such a platform for exchange is for the Blockchain ecosystem. Events like these are important to highlight the innovative power and socio-political significance of Blockchain and cryptocurrencies for the future”.




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In the beginning of his career Eric held technical positions at prominent companies such as Steve Job’s NeXT, IBM or General Magic, before co-founding LinkedIn with his Stanford classmate and other colleagues in 2002. There, among other things, Eric was responsible for developing software integrations with software such as web browsers and Microsoft Outlook. Eric left LinkedIn in 2006 to develop his own projects.

Now Eric is launching a reputation system around the initial coin offering (ICO) ecosystem that aims to help people make trustful decisions while buying and selling something.

We talked about Eric’s new project, the role of reputation for everyday communications, social media, and cryptocurrency development.

On the recent crypto ads bans by social networks and Internet giants like Facebook, Google, Twitter
I believe that these kind of platforms are conservative protective approach for themselves. Recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has been asking a lot of questions and subpoenas for information from people and companies. I believe that is a protective measure from a lot of these companies to not engage in new form of not advertising, but activities by ICOs, they probably want to avoid potentially uncertain interactions with SEC.
But I do believe that this is a temporary period because like many domains, advertising has an incentive to support as many domains as possible. So when regulatory clears itself up, I believe there will come a time again when advertising of this nature around token sales will be re-permitted on these platforms.

On protective measures against scams and other motivations behind these bans
This is the only one that I can think of because back in the early 2000s there was this Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which allowed all of the online platforms to disassociate themselves from the responsibility of the content that their users would put onto their platforms. So that is very key act made it possible for web 2.0 to really flourish. Advertising really should be covered under that regardless of whatever domain is advertising.
But I do believe that the ban is fundamentally around just kind of a conservative protective measure that these platforms have to not have to be entangled with the answering the SEC’s potentially interesting questions, which they don't have to deal with.
On cryptocurrency related ads on LinkedIn
I don't believe LinkedIn has yet made a decision, you know, like the other social platforms, and it remains to be seen whether they will go in that direction. I wouldn't be surprised if they made a similar decision based on similar reasons. But at this point we're just conjecturing what the reason might be.
Eric Ly left LinkedIn in 2006, founded an event app platform in 2007, and now is developing a sophisticated project for the crypto community. He is CEO and founder of a Blockchain based trust protocol Hub.
Hub protocol in a glance
I have many simplified versions – I am trying to pick the best one. Hub is trying to put reputation on the Blockchain. What we believe is that trust and reputation are really valuable to people and right now they're all locked up in centralized databases. What we're trying to do is basically put that information onto a Blockchain so that people can control that information, so they can bring it from one marketplace or a community to another and really derive the economic benefits from it. We believe that in the coming years, billions of people around the world are going to be creating trustworthy relationships with each other using a Blockchain.

It's sort of like a meta social network if you will. Our project is building a protocol. It’s underlying many different kinds of applications, both new and existing. So we're not necessarily building one social network. We're trying to enable a trust layer that can work across many different social networks and many different marketplaces, so that people can use their reputation across multiple of these networks or communities.

We have the initial protocol implemented and nearly ready for release - and we're working on finishing the first proof-of-concept on the protocol, which will be a reputation system around the ICO ecosystem. We figured that was a great place to start and, you know, it provides a really great opportunity for us to kind of showcase the value of the protocol itself.

On sharing information in everyday interactions
We definitely see a lot of use cases around buying and selling and that exists across many different industries and different domains. We believe that transactions actually start with just interactions: people interacting with each other and basically sharing information and engaging with each other in conversations. There also needs to be an element of trust and reputation as well.
How do you know that the information that you are reading or somebody that you're interacting with is a trustworthy source? We want to solve that problem as well. Because that is really the basis on which people make sometimes very important decisions about what they're going to buy, what they're going to sell.
So the whole process starts much sooner than just a transaction itself. So that's what we want to cover the interaction part of it.

On tokens in a trust establishment
Tokens are really designed to incentivize trustworthy interactions and the building of reputation data on the Blockchain, which hopefully further creates trustworthy interactions. One of the design goals that we had for our token was that it is impossible to buy trust. We really wanted to design that in - you cannot buy the tokens and have more trust.

So what the tokens allow you to do is staking mechanism for various kinds of interactions that people might have - we define interactions very broadly. But you can imagine a buyer-seller scenario or a people sharing information with each other. Across all of this - the idea is that people can stake tokens on the interaction. It's almost like a bond that says I'm going to act in a trustworthy way in this interaction. If I do that and the other parties agree, I'm going to get those tokens back, I'm going to get my bond back and I'm going to get rewarded with some additional tokens that I can take for some future interactions. But if things don't go well, then the tokens that I have staked, might be at risk and might be given to somebody else who sort of lost out on a certain transaction, for example. So, that's how the token works.

How to measure reputation
The important point is that you cannot buy your reputation. Otherwise, the whole purpose of the reputation system is defeated. So the way that we measure reputation is really on all of those granular interactions that are happening with the staking going on. So we remember, on the Blockchain, all the different interactions and transaction builds up a reputation history. That could be scored by different kinds of scoring systems.
So imagine a FICO score in the US that is designed for credit worthiness. Now we can have scores across multiple domains, even beyond credits and worthiness, where reputation and trustworthiness make a difference.

How this whole idea should work
One of our favorite scenarios is a kind of a service marketplace, where maybe somebody is a designer and they're offering website design services, and then there's a client who wants to find the right designer to build up their website. So, we can capture this transaction in a smart contract that records the participants and most importantly - it records the outcome. At the beginning of this transaction, both sides stake their tokens and say: we're going to act in a trustworthy way. For the consultant, this means: “I'm going to do a good job, I'm going to successfully deliver the design”. For the client, this means: “I'm going to pay for that once I believe that this is a good outcome”.
So the participants will go through the process and the project, and they'll come up with the results of the design. If everything goes well - both participants act in a trustworthy way. Somebody delivered, somebody paid - and they both get their tokens back, and a little bit more from the reward function that's built into the protocol. When things do not go well - there's a dispute and in this case it's maybe not clear which side was correct: maybe the design was delivered correctly but the client just wasn't happy for some reason. 

On disputes
So we have a mechanism where disputes can be handled by an arbitrator which can basically decide and is a trusted source for both parties to figure out who was right. In the arbitrator might, actually, have reputation himself or herself in the protocol. So however it gets decided: whether it's the vendor, the consultant or the client - they get the tokens that have been staked on this transaction. There's one party that basically loses out on that token.
There is basically an incentive that's built into the overall process to incentivize people to act in a trustworthy way. Again, the reputation comes out of the history of that interaction and the outcome, and that it actually goes on to both the consultant and the client in terms of how they interacted. So, in the case of the consultant, if they do a lot of great projects then they build up a really great reputation for themselves - that maybe can reflect very effectively for them and get them new projects in a marketplace.

On losing tokens in a dispute
Maybe people might not always be able to perform perfectly, and that's fine. The scoring algorithms and so forth will consider those situations and make sure that people have a fair chance to improve the reputation over time if in some cases they did not do it perfectly. So, we believe in designing a fair system that works in a fair and maybe even slightly generous way for people.
It is a professional network but it is falls into the broad category of a social network.




alfwesh22

The government of Belgium is making a contribution of €2 mln to promote a Blockchain project by the World Food Programme (WFP), the WFP announced April 19.

The contribution will reportedly allow the United Nations (UN) to use Blockchain technology to fight against hunger in impoverished areas. The “Building Blocks” project is piloted with other agencies in the UN and has been implemented to make WFP cash transfers to refugees more efficient and transparent. Over 100,000 Syrian refugees in camps in Jordan have benefited from the project, using donations provided by donors to get food and other crucial resources.

The project was presented at the Leveraging Innovation for Humanitarian Action in New York. Commenting on Belgium’s contribution to the initiative, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Development Cooperation, Alexander De Croo, said:
“Innovation saves lives. This year, more than 128 mln people across the world will need humanitarian assistance and protection. This is triple the number of three years ago. Only by finding better ways to deliver aid more efficiently will we close the gap between requirements and aid delivery on the ground. Belgium lauds the efforts of WFP to come up with innovative solutions to save more lives and help more people in need.”
In May last year, the UN announced its plans to use Ethereum Blockchain technology to ensure refugees in Jordan have access to food rations by distributing coupons which would be used in place of the local currency. The technology had already been tested by the WFP in Pakistan with more than 10,000 people having benefited.




alfwesh22

Taiwanese Minister of Justice, Chiu Tai-san, said that the country will roll out new regulations for virtual currencies later this year, Taiwan Central News Agency reported April 20.

Today, at a conference dedicated to anti-money laundering (AML) in the financial industry held by the Taiwan Financial Services Coalition, Chiu Tai-san said that the country will develop and launch new regulations on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The regulations will aim to prevent cryptocurrencies from becoming instruments for money laundering and reportedly will take effect in November.

The Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC), with the consultation of the Ministry of Interior, the Central Bank, and the Investigation Bureau, will determine the relevant control mechanism, laws, and regulations for cryptocurrency.

As part of the AML program, the FSC reportedly has asked banks to list Bitcoin trading platforms’ accounts as “high-risk accounts.” In 2017 financial institutions were asked to warn customers about investment risks and not to accept Bitcoin.

This week, members of the European Parliament voted in favor of EU AML reforms, which will include stricter regulation for digital currencies. The new reforms are focused on ensuring transparency in order to prevent the large-scale concealment of funds, and compels trusts and trading companies to reveal cryptocurrency holders.




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The Monetary Authority of Macau has issued a warning to the public regarding the possibility “fraud and criminal activities” in cryptocurrencies, the South China Morning Post reports April 20.

The warning comes on the heels of revelations that Macua Dragon Group, a firm associated with Chinese gangster Wan Kuokoi, employed Cambridge Analytica to promote Dragon Coin, a new virtual currency for gamblers to transfer money to Macau casinos. Wan has reportedly spent more than ten years in prison for various crimes, including leading the “14K” triad group in Macau. The statement reads:
“The media has reported that a Macau company was involved in an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) recently. The Monetary Authority of Macau reminds all Macau residents that cryptocurrencies are virtual products, but not legal currencies or financial tools. Residents should be aware of fraud and criminal activities associated with cryptocurrencies.”
Banks and payment institutions are forbidden from direct or indirect involvement in providing services for cryptocurrency exchanges under Macau monetary regulations, but there are no rules restricting ICOs in the private casino industry. The Monetary Authority impressed the illegality of digital assets upon the public in its statement:
“[The] Monetary Authority of Macau reiterates that any institution providing regulated financial services such as currency exchange, cross-border fund transfer, and financial exchange platforms without permission violates relevant provisions of the Financial System Act.”
Cambridge Analytica was reportedly planning to release its own digital currency prior to becoming involved in a scandal regarding the misuse of data from Facebook. Sources say that the data analytics agency sought advice from a firm that conusults on how to structure ICOs.




alfwesh22

BithumbSouth Korea’s leading cryptocurrency exchange, has recently revealed plans to issue its own token, Bithumb Coin, in an Initial Coin Offering (ICO), local news outlet TokenPost reports Thursday, April 19.

According to the report, the Bithumb token sale will be conducted in Singapore since ICOs are banned in South Korea. Bithumb is reportedly focusing on large-scale investors rather than individual investors. Bithumb did not confirm when the coin is expected to be launched, or the of the venture, according to TokenPost.

Bithumb is not the first crypto exchange to launch its own token. In January, Chinese crypto exchange Huobi announced its plans to issue Huobi Token (HT) that would be capped at 500 mln tokens. Huobi noted that the token would not be an ICO, claiming that only active users of the trading platform would be able to receive HT.

South Korea’s Financial Services Commission (FSC) announced a ban on ICOs in late September 2017, citing increased risks of financial scams as a motivator. In March, Cointelegraph reported that the South Korean government revealed plans to local financial authorities to legalize ICOs.  While the FSC remains skeptical toward ICOs, local financial authorities are attempting to authorize them by enabling strict Know Your Customer and Anti-Money Laundering systems.

Some South Korean crypto exchanges are already seeking to open branches abroad. Earlier this week, Coinone, the number three crypto exchange in South Korea, announced its plans to launch an exchange in Indonesia in June.




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Major Brazilian university Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV) in São Paulo is offering the country’s first Master’s degree in crypto-finance, Finance Magnates reported April 12.

The program offers specialized education for the crypto industry. Ricardo Rochman, the program’s coordinator, explained:
“It is a market with a profound lack of people with expertise. Cryptofinance has economic and financial fundamentals that are worth discussing, researching, and [being] taught.”
The FGV Master’s aligns with a wider movement in the Brazilian higher education system to embrace digital currencies and Blockchain as part of their study programs. Neighboring University of São Paolo incorporated cryptocurrency studies into the Derivatives unit of its Faculty of Economics and Administration last year. Professor Alan de Genaro, who initiated the move, explained:
“Some issues have to be presented even though the [student] does not go to work in the finance market. People have to understand which factors are beneficial and which are not suitable [regarding cryptocurrencies].”
Seven months ago, two Brazilian economics students in their twenties, Juan Perpetuo and Felipe Santos, founded Blockchain Insper, a part study group and part junior company, which offers classes and workshops on cryptocurrencies. Soon they they will be offering consultancy services to clients, focused on emerging technologies and business models within the crypto space.

Institutions such as Cambridge University have conducted substantial research into the crypto-finance field, and Swiss university Lucerne even accepts Bitcoin payments for tuition fees.

survey from March 2018 found that 21.2 percent of U.S. college students have used their student loan money to fund investments in cryptocurrencies.




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J.P. Morgan Chase & Co, a leading global financial services provider and one of the largest banking institutions in the US, was sued for charging undeclared fees to customers who used their credit cards to purchase cryptocurrency, treating the purchases as cash advances, Reuters reported April 11.

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in a federal court in Manhattan on behalf of a proposed nationwide class, accusing the bank for charging additional fees, sky-high interest rates on the “cash advances”, and refusing to refund the charges to customers who complained.

Brady Tucker, the plaintiff, claims the bank charged him $143.30 in fees and $20.61 in interest charges for cryptocurrency transactions he made in January and February. Tucker made an attempt to dispute the charges through Chase’s customer service line, but the bank refused.

The lawsuit claims that J.P. Morgan Chase & Co violated the US Truth in Lending Act, which requires the disclosure of policy changes to customers in written form. The lawsuit asks to “recover [Tucker’s] and the Class’s actual financial damages, plus statutory damages in the aggregate amount of $1 million, plus his costs of this action and reasonable attorneys’ fees and expenses incurred therein”, according to the complaint submitted to the court.

On Feb. 3, Chase joined a wave of banks banning customers from cryptocurrency purchases with credit cards The bank later stated that financial institutions can “face the risk that payment processing and other services could be disrupted by technologies, such as cryptocurrencies.”

A representative of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co declined to comment on the legal claim, stating that customers can continue using their Chase debit cards to buy cryptocurrency.




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Adrian Lai, founding partner of Hong Kong-based crypto investment firm Orichal Partners, has forecast that in 2018 the crypto market will “mature” and increase its trading volume, particularly among institutional investors, the South China Morning Post reported April 9.

Lai characterized both last year’s eye-popping market cap growth — reaching an all-time high of over $800 bln by early Jan. 2018 — and its subsequent first quarter spiral to $256 mln, as of today, April 9, as “irrational.” He attributed this staggering volatility to a lack of regulatory oversight and institutional investment, but struck a decisively optimistic tone about the future, saying that:
“Regulators are not banning the development of cryptocurrencies, but are trying to better regulate the market, which should help the industry mature (…) If the regulatory stance gets clearer, large funds will be more assured and willing to commit significant capital.”
2018 has already seen considerable regulatory momentum pertaining to the crypto sphere, lending credence to Lai’s position. The US Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) hearings in Feb. 2018 were devoted to crypto regulation.

The USJapan, and South Korea are all currently debating and issuing regulation for virtual currenciesBlockchaincrypto exchanges and ICOs, as well as considering taxation frameworks, with some admitting that regulatory measures are not fully developed.

In January, Cointelegraph reported that venture capital (VC) Blockchain investment in 2018 is already on track to exceed 2017’s numbers, with notable investments including $140 mln VC already raised from Goldman SachsBaidu, and CICC for Circle’s recent acquisition of the Poloniex crypto exchange, as well as VC Firm Digital Currency Group’s investment in crypto-friendly Silvergate Bank.




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The views expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of Cointelegraph.com
Decentralized cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have strong advantages over centralized financial systems, primarily because of their ability to function and operate without a single point of failure, which hackers and bad actors can target.

Transaction processing


On Feb. 19, Jameson Lopp, the lead engineer at multi-signature Blockchain security firm BitGo, noted that during a holiday in the US, local banks closed down, failing to provide financial services to individuals and businesses that could be in urgent need of financial settlement services to process payments.

Meanwhile, Bitcoin, as a peer-to-peer (P2P) settlement system, was able to process over $1 bln worth of transactions, and more than $7 bln worth of Bitcoin was traded on a single day. Regardless of holidays and weekends, users of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies like Ether can freely transact on a peer-to-peer basis, through the utilization of wallets.

Non-custodial cryptocurrency wallets enable users to remain in full control over their funds, by only allowing users to gain access to their private keys and no other centralized entity or platform. As such, Bitcoin wallets like Blockchain, Trezor and Ledger cannot refund transactions or recover user accounts once the private key is lost, encouraging users to be more financially aware and responsible.

As emphad by Bitcoin analyst and RT’s Keiser Report host Max Keiser on several occasions, financial freedom and independence provided by Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in the market are largely beneficial and crucial for individuals and businesses operating in regions wherein government entities control banks and financial institutions.

Importance of financial freedom

Last year, Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince al-Waleed Bin Talal was arrested by the government of Mohammed Bin Salman, who is expected to take control over Saudi Arabia and become its ruler, as the most powerful figure in the Middle East. The government of Salman initiated an anti-corruption purge, arresting 11 Saudi princes and 200 businessmen.

At the time, The Wall Street Journal reported that the government of Saudi Arabia had asked $6 bln for the freedom of Bin Talal, who has garnered a net worth of over $25 bln from his investments in Twitter ($300 mln), CitiGroup ($550 mln), AOL, Apple, MCI, Motorola, Fox Broadcasting and many more.

On the Keiser Report, Keiser criticized the previous remarks of Bin Talal, who had called Bitcoin “Enron in the making.”

"It just doesn't make sense. This thing is not regulated, it's not under control, it's not under the supervision of any central bank. I just don't believe in this Bitcoin thing. I think it's just going to implode one day. I think this is Enron in the making,” said Bin Talal on CNBC’s Squawk Box.

Criticizing Bin Talal, Keiser stated:
“He said Bitcoin was no good because there is no central government and no central bank. And then a week later, the central bank and the central government rips out all of his net worth. If he had them in Bitcoin, he wouldn’t have that problem. He is like a poster child for why you should buy Bitcoin. Anyone who is thinking about should I buy Bitcoin, look at [Talal] sleeping on a mattress of a rich hotel under house arrest. Furthermore, he is overrated as a money manager.”

In November 2017, the Saudi government cracked down on private bank accounts and froze the accounts of prices and businessmen. Keiser noted that could have been avoided if the wealth of these individuals were stored in a decentralized store of value, like Bitcoin.

Potential of cryptocurrency in offshore banking

The offshore banking industry, which is dominated by influential financial institutions like JPMorgan, is structured around large banks that are able to clear big sums of money in an efficient and secure manner. But, the transfer of millions to billions of dollars require significant manual labor including transaction verification, Anti-Money Laundering (AML) checks and payment clearing.

Cryptocurrency-focused hedge fund Blocktower executive Ari Paul stated that cryptocurrencies have the ability to address the offshore banking industry that supersedes that of major banks:
“Cryptocurrency is trying to be the offshore banking system, I think. At least some of the cryptocurrencies. Most of the financial luminaries, I think genuinely, don’t understand what it’s trying to be. Jamie Dimon is an exception. By all accounts, I know people who spoke to him about cryptocurrency four years ago before I was really in the space.

He understands it. I think he sees it as a competitor against JPMorgan,” said Paul during an interview with Business Insider.

Regarding transaction settlement, offshore banking, and financial freedom, centralized systems of banks fall significantly behind major cryptocurrencies, which can offer all three services with low costs and a robust infrastructure.

Conclusively, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have significant advantages over banks in a number of areas, including security, borderless transaction settlement, efficient payment clearance, and lack of dependence on centralized service providers or entities.  Although the offshore banking industry is valued at $32 tln and the valuation of the cryptocurrency market remains below half a trillion, the above-mentioned advantages could allow cryptocurrencies to compete against banks across many sectors.




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What is a Centralized Cryptocurrency Exchange?

It is an online platform and most common way to trade cryptocurrencies.
This includes buying/selling cryptocurrencies with fiat (fiat/crypto paring) as well as buying/selling cryptocurrencies with other cryptocurrencies (crypto/crypto pairing). They can be viewed as an online marketplace for the entire cryptocurrency network.

What does it mean for an exchange to be centralized?

To be centralized means to trust somebody else to handle your money.
In the past, the word “centralized” was a given for all institutions that managed finances.
To be centralized means that there is a trusted middleman to handle whatever asset may be in a trade. In a bank, for example, a customer gives their money over to the bank to hold for them. This one institution is now in complete control of the customer’s money.

In many cases, this is much safer than a person finding some way to manage themselves. Banks have many securities and a team to watch over their customers’ money. The bank can also offer a variety of services, such as loans, because the bank has a large amount of money and has created a trust relationship with the customer.

Centralized cryptocurrency exchanges are no different. A user can store their money on the exchange.
The currency is now in the hands of the exchange, but the trust of the middleman makes it easy for a customer to recover a lost password or 2FA because that customer has given the exchange full access to their account.

This can also take the pressure off of the customer of being 100% in control of their money. There are many stories of investors losing hundreds of thousands of dollars because they lost the private keys to their hardware wallet. If their money were in a centralized exchange, they wouldn’t have to worry about that; recovering would be as easy as showing a passport or verifying identification.

How does a centralized exchange differ from a decentralized one?

Cryptocurrencies and blockchain are decentralized by nature, so this allows for the exchanges to also be decentralized.

In simple terms, a decentralized cryptocurrency exchange (DEX) cuts out the middleman by creating a highly intelligent “trustless environment.” Deals are made through smart contracts and atomic swaps so that currency never passes through the hands of an escrow service - it’s just peer-to-peer. DEXs are still in infancy and not very popular just yet, but 2018 might see a lot of progress with decentralized exchanges.

Do all centralized exchanges provide fiat/crypto pairings?

No.
All exchanges have crypto/crypto pairing (i.e., trading 1 BTC for 9 ETH), but not all have fiat/crypto pairings (i.e., trading $900 for 1 ETH). The most popular exchanges that provide fiat/crypto pairings are:

  • Coinbase - most popular in the world, supports Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, and Ethereum
  • Gemini - based in New York with high regulation standards for the US. Supports Bitcoin and Ethereum
  • Kraken - has a variety of crypto/fiat pairings with more than just USD and EUR, which can be viewed on their site.
  • Robinhood - a popular trading app provides fiat pairings to Bitcoin and Ethereum.
Is volume important for exchanges?

The more volume there is on an exchange, the less volatility and market manipulation there will be.
If Alice is trying to buy 1 BTC for the exchange’s current price of $10,000 and the volume on the site is extremely high, chances are she will buy the 1 BTC almost instantly. If the market price is $10,000 on a very low volume site, she may eat up all of the sell orders that are at $10,000 before she can buy her whole Bitcoin. Then Alice would need to buy the higher sell orders to satisfy her order, losing money and also making the price of Bitcoin go up on that exchange.

Are centralized cryptocurrency exchanges safe?

No centralized exchange is immune to hacks.
Many hacks have occurred throughout the course of cryptocurrency history, but in a lot of cases, the exchange went out-of-pocket to pay customers back for the stolen money. DEXs are impossible to hack, but users are much more vulnerable to locking themselves out of their money. Popular centralized exchanges are safe in the way that banks are safe.

Is verification required to open an account on an exchange?

The regulations of each country are still fuzzy, but exchanges around the world require minimum verification to authenticate the account.

Many exchanges allow users to open an account without an identity check, but those accounts will have extremely small withdrawal/deposit limits. Basic verification normally requires a picture of the user’s passport/ID, and 2 Factor Authentication enabled. 2FA is a secret password that regenerates every thirty seconds or so that is needed every time a user logs into their account. 2FA is normally kept on the user’s phone.

Which exchanges have the most volume and crypto pairings?

While exchanges are still new and growing more and more popular each day, there have been some over the past 2017 year that have stood out in volume and amount of coins to trade.

  • Binance. While Binance has only launched in 2017, it has already begun trading the highest volume of any exchange. This exchange is based out of China and is so popular that most altcoins first move to this major exchange after their ICO. Level two verification allows 100 Bitcoin withdrawal while Level one allows under 2 Bitcoin withdrawal/day.

  • Bittrex. Bittrex has been a long-standing cryptocurrency exchange based out of the United States. While the most popular coins traded are BTC and ETH, Bittrex holds over 250 trading pairs. It is known for its easy interface for crypto beginners.

  • Bitfinex. Located in Hong Kong, Bitfinex is another long-standing cryptocurrency exchange which still lies in the top ten for trade volume.

  • Upbit. While many South Korean crypto exchanges have suffered during the crackdown on crypto in the country, Upbit stayed on top and even broke a record back in January of 2018 for highest trading volume ever.

  • GDAX. The Global Digital Asset Exchange is an extension of CoinBase, one of the most popular exchanges in the world. GDAX is not suitable for beginners but is very useful for margin trading as well as trading crypto/fiat and crypto/crypto. Users are also insured up to $250,000 by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (USA). While offering many more options and features than its sister company Coinbase, Vice President Adam White of Coinbase noted: “Coinbase is designed for retail customers while GDAX is focused on serving sophisticated and professional traders.”




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Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum, presented a Blockchain scaling solution called Plasma Cash, an even “more scalable” version of an existing solution called Plasma, during a talk live streamed on YouTube at the Ethereum Community Conference in Paris on Friday, March 9.

Plasma Cash was developed by Buterin and developers Dan Robinson and Karl Floersch.

Plasma itself is an on-chain scaling solution for Blockchains, introduced by Buterin and Lightning Network creator Joseph Poon in August 2017. Plasma works by optimizing data that is passed onto the root Blockchain, reducing the transaction fees for smart contracts and decentralized applications (DApps).

The problems with the scalability of Plasma, according to Buterin, is that every user must download and authenticate each Plasma block, which prevents exponential scaling.

To explain the Plasma Cash model, Buterin gives the example that if a user deposits some amount of ether to a crypto exchange or any third party service, a Plasma coin would be created with the same value of ether and a unique ID that cannot be merged or split.

In contrast with Plasma, Plasma Cash would only require users to pay attention to the blocks that contain coins they want to keep track of:
“A user actually only needs to verify the availability and correctness of the Plasma chain only […] at the specific index of the coin, of any coins that they own and any coins that they care about.”
As for the current practical applications of Plasma Cash, Buterin sees a possibility for crypto exchanges to take advantage of the technology to make themselves more “hack resistant”.  

Since each Plasma coin has an owner, the coins are not fully fungible or interchangeable: no one can take another user’s coin without the owner of the coin being alerted. In this case, the coin’s owner would prevent the potential fraudulent withdrawal through the “complaint system” by showing their “proof data” for their coin’s history.

Buterin notes that even if a hack occurs on an exchange using Plasma Cash, users will not lose their money:
“Regardless of what happens in the exchange, users can run their money through the Plasma exit procedure and get their money out.”
Buterin ends his talk with a positive prognosis for the future use of Plasma Cash:
“Whenever the next big multi-billion dollar exchange written by a totally incompetent developer gets hacked, no one will lose any money.”
Segregated Witness (SegWit), a scalability solution for Bitcoin (BTC), has recently been implemented across a variety of crypto exchanges. The Bitfinex exchange announced the implementation of SegWit on Feb. 20, and the crypto exchange and wallet Coinbase announced their SegWit implementation on Feb. 23. The Bitcoin Core client version, which fully supports SegWit technology, was  officially released on Feb. 26.




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