Latest Blog Posts

  • 20 Comments
    4,353 views

    We Talk, Share, Create, Exchange, and Resolve: Decentralized Autonomous Society

    August 19th, 2014 by lainfinity
    New Editor: Crystal Editor: Cheryl Decentralized autonomous society empowers individuals by rewarding innovation through sharing, distributed ownership and abundance. By sharing innovative ideas we can build a much better, fair, transparent and innovative society which is based on group consensus rather than a society enforced by rules and regulations. Therefore for any society to operate on complete autonomy, it should have these 5 major components or in other words the 5 pillars as its foundation. I would like to explore these components and provide a bird's eye view of how decentralized autonomous society can thrive. * **Decentralized Communication to talk** * **Decentralized Collaboration to share ideas and designs** * **Decentralized Creation to manifest goods and services** * **Decentralized Exchange to barter goods, services and resources** * **Decentralized Arbitration to resolve conflicts** ###Decentralized Communication and Privacy Establishing privacy in our communication channels is the first and foremost priority in order to be self-autonomous and free. Without private correspondence we cannot strive to build a free autonomous society. Privacy enables an individual to be free as a self autonomous entity and thus empowering the society as a whole to be self autonomous. ####Why mass surveillance is a violation of Article 12 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights of United Nations? >No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.[Source](http://www.ichrp.org/en/article_12_udhr) Mass digital surveillance in any form is an arbitrary interference of privacy and correspondence. Therefore it is a gross violation of human rights. On December 19 2013 the United Nations passed a resolution backing the right to digital privacy. >Deeply concerned that electronic surveillance, interception of digital communications and collection of personal data may negatively impact human rights, the United Nations General Assembly has adopted a consensus resolution strongly backing the right to privacy, calling on all countries take measures to end activities that violate this fundamental tenet of a democratic society.[Source](http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46780#.U-vXmaJX-uY) we can hardly trust any third party to keep our information safe and secure because of conflicts of interest such as maximizing profits and legal obligations to local jurisdiction. The E-mail privacy can only be achieved through decentralized peer to peer communication. ####How does Bitmesssage enable E-mail privacy? >Bitmessage is a P2P communications protocol used to send encrypted messages to another person or to many subscribers. It is decentralized and trustless, meaning that you need-not inherently trust any entities like root certificate authorities.[Source](https://bitmessage.org/wiki/Main_Page) Bitmessage protocol implements two major features which are storing the information in peer nodes for a limited period of time and encrypting the message end to end. Thus it is extremely difficult for anybody to intercept the information. Bitmessage is not the only open source tool that enables digital privacy as there are many other tools which serve similar purpose. One such tool is known as Tox which fascilitates instant messaging and video calls. >Tox is a free and open-source, peer-to-peer, encrypted instant messaging and video calling software. The stated goal of the project is to provide secure yet easily accessible communication for everyone. ###Decentralized Collaborative Sharing vs Centralized Hiding Let us imagine a cave man discovered how to make fire to keep him warm and cook food. If he did not share his discovery and decentralized the concept of light and warmth but instead claimed intellectual property right on how to make light and heat, I do not think I would be able to type this article in a markdown format and share my vision with all of you today. The moral of the story is to let your light shine. It would be nothing but an absurdity for anyone to claim a patent right on how to make light and heat because inventions and discoveries are nothing but an innovative improvisation of a priori. There is nothing wrong in awarding compensation for inventions and discoveries. But it should rather be awarded to the collective for decentralized collaborative sharing than compensating global monopolies such as corporates for centralized hiding. >In 1742 Benjamin Franklin invented a new type of stove for which he was offered a patent. Franklin refused it arguing in his autobiography >we enjoy{ed} great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours. [source](http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2014/08/innovation) In similar veins Linus Torvalds could not afford to buy propriatiary Unix so he created Linux kernel and released the source code under GPL Licence so that it can be used for similar purpose and to empower others. ####Why is Linux kernel a success story even though it defied the conventional knowledge of the academic paradigm? Decentralized collaborative sharing enabled the success of Linux kernel.Thousands of ordinary people shared small pieces of code known as patches. Linus Torvalds designed and developed a tool known as git. This open source tool enabled the decentralized collaborative sharing by managing a distributed revision control archive and Linus along with his team merged the patches with the kernel. But the irony is that thousands of ordinary people who contributed to the Linux kernel walked away without a penny and the monopoly corporates such as Redhat and Google reap billions of dollars today in profits thanks to Linux kernel. It is neither fair nor ethical but it bootstrapped the open source movement because they don't want to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. ####Open source tools that enables decentralize collective sharing Even though there are many tools that enable decentralize collective sharing I would like to highlight only two tools. One is git which enables to develop open source software by means of decentralize collective sharing and contribution of source code which I have discussed before. And the other one is Twister which is a hybrid of two peer to peer technologies such as Blockchain from Bitcoin and DHT from Torrents. Twister is a social microblogging peer to peer network such as twitter but is based on decentralized peer to peer network. It enables decentralized sharing of ideas and concepts without being tracked or compromising your digital privacy. It creates and authenticates users using Blockchain and stores the data using Distributed Hash Table (DHT) ####What is the issue with Centralized Hiding? By enforcing centralized hiding such as intellectual property rights on the masses, it leads to a situation where the benefits are funneled to the 1% at the cost of 99%. It also impedes innovation resulting in stagnation and scarcity thus empowering the few to control the many. For example if there are 7 different brands of cars and there is a billion of each brand, controlling and manipulating one of each 7 brands will be easier than controlling each of the 7 billion different cars. Control, manipulation and corruption are applicable to finite sets of numbers. They are of no relevance to infinite set of numbers. An example of a centralized hidden archive is the vault below the Vatican which runs for more than 52 miles and hoards vast collection of knowledge dating back 10000 years from various libraries from around the world such as Alexandria. **Knowledge is power when applied, but is wisdom when shared. Power corrupts but wisdom redeems.** ###Decentralize Creation and Abundance Let me clarify the key difference between creation and cloning. Creation is the process of manifesting our shared ideas and design into a physical or readable form. Cloning on the other hand is a process of producing photocopies of someone's design using it as a template. Creation can also be compared to writing your own book or novel but production is photocopying a book written by someone else. In a decentralized creation the value is based on network effect and abundance. Let us consider LTBcoin for example, the value of the coin will increase provided more people use the LTB network and the network creates higher quality content. Thus the value is not based on scarcity but is based on abundance. The decentralized creation operates on the principle of abundance, the more the better as we do not produce but we create. On the other hand, centralized production operates on the principle of scarcity of innovation, the lesser the better. This is because we do not create but we clone someone's design which resides in a centralized hidden archive. We are forced to pay a patent fee for the clone even though someone has the knowledge to design and create their own car. For example if we consider a centralized car manufacturing industry, the value of the car is directly proportional to the quantity that has been produced.Ford is a cloned mass produced car based on a single template.Even though there are million clones they have less value because they are not original, creative or innovative. Let me give you another example even though someone has the knowledge to use one of the open source software distributions like Ubuntu, every time he buys a new laptop or computer he is forced to pay the license fee for Windows which has its source code residing in the centralized hidden archive which the buyer has no access to. ###Decentralized exchange of goods, services and resources Any exchange involves two major transactions. We sell what we create and we buy what we need.Peer to peer payment system enables individuals to pay directly to the producers bypassing the middlemen. This enables the producers to have a better profit margin and the consumers to have better value for their money. One such example is OpenBazaar. >OpenBazaar is an open source project to create a decentralized network for peer to peer commerce onlineusing Bitcointhat has no fees and cannot be censored.[Source](https://blog.openbazaar.org/what-is-openbazaar/) Lets say that you would like to sell vegetables from your garden. Using the OpenBazaar, you create a new listing on your computer with details of the vegetables and quote for the price in Bitcoin. When you publish that listing, it is sent out to the distributed p2p network of other people who use OpenBazaar. Anyone who searches for the keywords such as local vegetables will find your listing. They can either accept your price, or offer up a new price. If you both agree to a price, OpenBazaar creates a contract with your digital signature and sends it to an entity called a notary. In the case of a dispute an arbiter can be brought into the transaction. There is no third parties involved. The notaries and arbiters are also part of the distributed p2p network who the buyer and seller trust in case something goes wrong. The notaries and arbiters witness the contract and create a multisignature Bitcoin account that requires two of three people to agree before the Bitcoin can be released. Decentralized distributed exchange can also empower individual innovation at a personal level through crowdfunding. Crowdfunding in turn enables decentralized distributed ownership. >Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people, typically via the Internet. One early-stage equity expert described it as the practice of raising funds from two or more people over the internet towards a common Service, Project, Product, Investment, Cause, and Experience[Source](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowdfunding) ####How decentralized distributed ownership is different from stocks and bonds? Decentralized distributed ownership enables individuals to directly own a company but not through third parties like stock brokers or banks. The dividends are paid directly to the individual owners of the company. Distributed ownership can enable all the 7 billion people of this planet to own one single company directly without any major issues or downsides. The funds raised through bonds are invested in public infrastructure projects such as roads, rails, bridges etc. The decentralized distributed ownership enables individuals to directly participate in the public infrastructure projects without the need for bonds. ###Decentralized Arbitration We as individuals each one of us is a sovereign. We are not a person but a sovereign, which is a basic right granted by the Creator. We exist simultaneously in a parallel multiverse which has many domains or dimensions that exist in parallel but we are aware of only one domain. These are some of the practical implications of the Multiverse hypothesis. We can only be tried in any jurisdiction as a person. We consent to be represented as a legal person to be tried in a court of law in a temporal domain. A person is a legal entity such as a limited liable company which can be tried by any jurisdiction. The purpose of a legal entity such as a person is to limit the liability to this temporal domain. We can create our own rules without involving any third parties to arbitrate and abide by them as a sovereign as long as the rules are consented by the counter party and are not violating the common law or natural law. This is made possible by the application of smart contracts. >Smart contracts are computer protocols that facilitate, verify, or enforce the negotiation or performance of a contract, or that obviate the need for a contractual clause. Smart contracts usually also have a user interface and often emulate the logic of contractual clauses.[Source](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_contract) ####What is Temporal Jurisdiction? As a sovereign, if anyone prefers litigation rather than decentralized arbitration, then they should be at liberty to exercise their freedom to choose their temporal jurisdiction in order to resolve their conflicts. When Ethereum started the first round of crowd funding the funds are managed by a company incorporated in Switzerland. The developers of Ethereum had the freedom to choose their legal jurisdiction of sale and thus are accountable to the laws of Switzerland but not accountable to the temporal jurisdiction of Canada or USA. This is a classic example of exercising their freedom to choose their temporal jurisdiction in order to resolve their conflicts in future. ####Disclosure This article is meant for informational purposes and is not an endorsement. Articles published on the LTB network are the authors personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the LTB network. ####Further Reading https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Email_privacy https://bitmessage.org/bitmessage.pdf https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tox_(software) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Git_(software) http://twister.net.co/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vZpNQUIqIg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiverse https://www.ethereum.org/ Read More
  • 46 Comments
    2,485 views
    Categories: General

    An Overview of Applications that Could Be Empowered by Bitcoin

    August 18th, 2014 by CrimsonRoze
    edited by denise 8/8/2014
    Please note that author wants to submit recording to release simultaneously with blog.

    "After editing, before publication, I would like to have the article recorded so it an be released with an audio recording attached. Please do not publish it before I have had a chance to get it recorded. (but you're more than welcome to do all edits so I get a final version to record.)"
    Read More
  • 58 Comments
    3,248 views
    Categories: General

    Counterparty, Dogeparty, and Why the Term 'Burning' Gives the Wrong Impression

    August 18th, 2014 by Rob

    The world of cryptocurrency has progressed so that now anyone can create their own cryptocurrency. With only basic experience using Bitcoin or Dogecoin, it is easy to create blockchain-based tradable digital tokens, thanks to the Counterparty protocol, and its brand new implementation called Dogeparty.
     

    Read More
  • 34 Comments
    2,861 views
  • 22 Comments
    4,351 views
    Categories: Columns

    Security in Decentralized Domain Name Systems

    August 17th, 2014 by mdw
    Editor #1: William
    Editor #2: Cheryl
    Proofreader/publisher: Cheryl

    The first article in this series compared the Domain Name System (DNS) to a phonebook. In this analogy, DNS is a directory that allows you find computer addresses from domain names just as people's names can be looked up in a phone directory to find their phone numbers. DNS enables us to translate "LetsTalkBitcoin.com" into the computer-friendly IP address "66.175.222.204".

    This article discusses the system's security. It will explain how the existing DNS system is prone to malicious attacks, and suggest how decentralized solutions increase security.


    DNS Security in the Age of the Blockchain

    The current Domain Name System was designed with reliability in mind, not security. It was designed in a different era, when packet switched networks were still a novel idea. Indeed, DNS is easily compromised, and is now a prime target for attack. For example, the government of Turkey recently forced local ISPs to redirect all traffic for twitter.com to a government site by changing the DNS entries in their nameservers.

     

    Our current DNS has many intermediaries, called nameservers where traffic can be intercepted or tampered with. Blockchain based DNS reduces the number of queries to nameservers. That's because many domains are associated with IP addresses in the blockchain, so no other servers need to be consulted.

    A huge problem on the Internet is man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks. In MITM attacks, the "bad guy" is positioned between users and the site being accessed. This allows the attacker to return fake data in order to to divert users to malicious sites.

    Blockchain-based DNS makes significant improvements to the existing system. Most importantly, the process of resolving a domain name and verifying the credentials of the destination server will be greatly simplified and substantially more secure. All the information needed to resolve a domain name will often be found in the blockchain, whereas the current process usually involves querying multiple servers. Blockchain-based DNS will also simplify the process of establishing trust between a given user and a server.

    Centralized control structures create central points of failure that constitute valuable targets for attack. We noted in a previous article how these hierarchical systems lead to troubling political problems. In this article we will briefly look at some of the security implications.


    Digital Certificates

    Let's suppose some user Mary wants to visit her bank website. How does she decide whether or not she has found the legitimate bank website? She trusts her web browser, which in turn relies on an overly complex system involving signed digital certificates.

    Mary's web browser is presented with a digital certificate from the bank website, which bolsters her belief that she is interacting with the legitimate bank website that she expected. That certificate makes the claim that this bank is indeed the site operator, by offering an assurance from the entity issuing that claim - called a certificate authority (CA). Her web browser probably decides to trust the site because the Certificate Authority is on a whitelist of trustworthy CAs, and therefore trustworthy.

    The government of France was recently caught using a fraudulent Google certificate, which is dangerous because it can be used to man-in-the-middle (MITM) Google users. How safe should you feel? Digital certificates can usually, but not always be trusted. Rather than basing security on math, the current system requires faith.

    Decentralized DNS can fix this problem by replacing the current certificate trust relationships with a much simpler scheme. The site owner can publish their own signed certificate, or the equivalent, right there in the blockchain. Only the registrant has the ability to publish this certificate because doing so requires the private key.

    See the difference? There is no need to have a third party validate the trustworthiness of a certificate since by definition only the site owner has control of this. Certificate authorities are a prime target for attack, but decentralized systems have no such authorities to rely on. There is literally nobody to attack!


    Man In The Middle

    Main-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks are a persistent problem on the Internet. MITM refers to a broad class of attacks where somebody between the two endpoints intercepts, tampers with, or redirects the traffic without the knowledge of the victim.

    For example, when Mary attempts to access her bank website she might be attacked by someone in a position to intercept this traffic. She may be tricked into connecting to a fake bank website, in an attempt to steal her username and password.

    A next generation nameserver like DNSChain will retrieve the information needed to resolve a decentralized domain name by maintaining local blockchains. Signing the reply with a private key allows Mary to know that the IP address she gets back definitely came from her chosen name server.



    On a local network like many people have in their homes or offices, a router is the perfect place for this nameserver to reside. By being so close to the networked devices it can efficiently provide name resolution to connected computers, tablets, mobile devices, smart toasters and more. By expecting signed responses from a next generation router, devices can avoid the classic MITM attack which victimizes so many Wi-fi users.


    Domain Thefts

    Domain names are stolen or hijacked all the time, often by exploiting registrar procedures for safeguarding registrants' names. A typical domain theft begins with an email account being compromised. The thief then calls the registrar to explain that they forgot the password, and requests a reset link be sent to the registrant's email address of record. Once the registrar account can be accessed, the domain name is transferred to an overseas registrar.

    In decentralized systems there is no registrar to exploit with social engineering. If there is an entity like a registrar, they cannot be made accomplices in order to change ownership data, or provide password resets. With Namecoin's .BIT domains, for example, an update operation is required to transfer ownership, which can only be accomplished by presenting the corresponding key.

    Note that spear-phishing, social engineering, hijacking email accounts, cracking registrar passwords, compromising registrar databases and other traditional tools in the domain thief's arsenal are all useless here.

    There seem to be only two ways to steal a domain name in a blockchain-based system like Namecoin; either steal the private key from the registrant, or take control of the network via 51% attack and register the domain again. The former is certainly plausible, but strategies to prevent it are straightforward, including using multiple signature (multisig) addresses.


    Eliminating Attack Targets

    The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has the authority to digitally sign the root zone, which in practical terms means they hold one of the most valuable private keys in the world. ICANN carefully guards the key used to sign root nameserver keys. Root servers store the most important data for almost all the world's Top Level Domains (TLD) like .COM, .NET and so on.

    In case that description did not make it clear, this essentially means that both ICANN and the root name servers themselves are high value targets for criminals and malicious hackers. After DDOS attacks on the root servers in 2002 and 2007, these lynchpins of the Domain Name System were made more redundant, but they remain a critical target. A threat was made in 2012, allegedly from Anonymous, to "shut the Internet down" by attacking the root servers.

    Another potential choke point is the registry operators. Recall that registries are granted the authority to operate a Top Level Domain by ICANN. They provide the APIs which allow registrars to offer domain name registration and domain management services for all conventional domain names. Attacking registry operators like Verisign, administrator of .COM and .NET, would have a severe impact on the Internet.

    Decentralized DNS avoids these problems. If all the domain data is stored in the blockchain, there is no need for ICANN, registries, or registrars. Gone in one fell swoop are all of these pressure points of the legacy DNS. Decentralized Domain Name Systems are MITM-resistant, theft-proof, and solve the whole digital certificates problem on the Internet today!



    A quick reminder, this is a multipart series on decentralizing the Domain Name System. Be sure to check back next time as we take a close look at a real, working example - Namecoin.

    If you enjoyed this article and want to show your gratitude you can do so by signing up to Lets Talk Bitcoin using my referral code: http://letstalkbitcoin.com/?ref=52b52db8

    Read More
  • 57 Comments
    10,513 views
    Categories: Guest Blog

    What we have today is not Bitcoin but BINO

    August 17th, 2014 by Tim Swanson
    [A [PDF](http://www.ofnumbers.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/What-we-have-today.pdf) version is also available] Yesterday I was told by a China-based WeChat user that I was "hating on a technology" and "expending energy trying to destroy it." It being Bitcoin. This is untrue, I like some of the ideas in Bitcoin (the protocol) circa 2009 and work daily with startups to create value in this space. However, what currently is called "Bitcoin" is a shell, at most, of its former self for at leas... Read More
  • Let's Talk Bitcoin #136 The Head Or The Horse

    August 16th, 2014 by adam
    *Subscribe to the [Let's Talk Bitcoin! show feed](feeds.feedburner.com/ltb/ltb) and never miss an episode again. ##On Todays Show **Adam**, **Stephanie** and **Andreas** discuss the recent theft of [50 million NXT](nxtforum.org/index.php?topic=4444.120) and the question of whether to roll back the blockchain. Then, **Stephanie** speaks with **Ira** and **Justin** of [Coinapult](coinapult.com) about their upcoming LOCKS service ##Sponsors for Episode 136 2014 Sponsor - [KryptoKit](kryptokit.com) LTBc Sponsors: YOU! If you like this episode, send Bitcoin or LTBc to this address and if you want to emphasize that THIS was a valuable episode enter the show number **(136)** as the last three digits. ###1JDQ5KSqUTBo5M3GUPx8vm9134eJRosLoH Read More
  • 49 Comments
    3,704 views
    Categories: General, Legal Activity

    Death and Bitcoin

    August 15th, 2014 by wildjo

    Editor: Edward
    Proofreader: Cheryl

    For too many people, the answer to the question "What happens to your bitcoins when you die?" will include some variant of "lost." Of course, that does not have to be the case if we use the legacy estate law of our home jurisdictions. These legacy systems, however, have the same disadvantages of the financial system we are trying to make obsolete with cryptocurrencies: trusted third parties and gatekeepers.

    There are alternatives within and on top of the Bitcoin protocol that can overcome these legacy estate law disadvantages. This article identifies two and suggests a mechanism in which they may be employed to provide simple estate-like planning in a decentralized, autonomous way without the time cost and monetary expense of traditional strategies.

    [The above was written by the original author. I assume it was meant to be used as an excerpt/preview for the article. I made some minor edits.]

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    What happens to your Bitcoin when you die?

    For some of us outliers in the U.S. cryptocurrency communitythat is, those of us who didnt grow up with a computer in the home and are old enough to have learned how to type on an actual typewriterthe twin certainties of death and taxes are on our minds more than others. In this regard, crypto presents unique challenges. How do we pass on our Bitcoin wealth and legally avoid unnecessary estate expenses, while also protecting our private keys while we are still alive?

    The world of estate law (the law governing the management of a persons assets, with an eye to how they will transfer after he or she dies) has some ideas, but, not being crypto devotees, those ideas center around how to wrangle crypto into their non-crypto world.

    For example, the proposed Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (FADAA) would simply give trusted-third parties enhanced rights (and liability protection) to force a software or hardware company to provide anothers private information. That may be necessary in some situations, but Im sure the crypto community can come up with a better and more generally applicable decentralized and autonomous solution that minimizes the need for trusted third-parties and gatekeepers (and their associated privacy risks and fees).

    Why is the status quo unsatisfactory? The main problem with legacy estate law is that it requires the disclosure of private keys to trusted third-partiesexecutors, trustees, agents operating under a power of attorney, conservators, and personal representativesso that they may access the decedents wallet and distribute the decedents digital assets. Thus, we reintroduce the trust factor back into an area of the cryptocurrency arena that was doing just fine without it. Not only must we trust that these third-parties wont access our wallets while we are living, but we must also trust that they will keep the private keys secure and provide continuity of care in the event they predecease us. Continuity of care requires the introduction of even more third-parties, but is necessary, if not required under some state professional responsibility codes, when attorneys and other professional fiduciaries are involved.

    Another deficit of the legacy estate system is that it necessitates the inclusion of gatekeepersprobate courts/judges, magistrates, executors, attorneys, and state agencies (e.g. vital statistics departments). In even the simplest of situation where all the necessary information is known and all the heirs are getting along, these gatekeepers impose costs in terms of both time and money. Where information is absent and heirs disagree, those costs can be extraordinarily high. Sadly, the latter scenario is far too common.

    Estate law is a required course in law school. I suffered through it and swore I would never practice it when I became an attorney because it can capture the human species at its very worst. The cases usually have the same last name on each side of the v., as in Jones v. Jones and Smith v. Smith, because some relative feels they got the short end of the inheritance stick and decides the only way to be vindicated is to blow up the family. These fights rage on because both sides are empowered by a legal system and legal profession that stands to profit from the dispute. Family relationships are devastated and family assets dwindle in the process. Insert the technological difficulties and relative unfamiliarity of crytpocurrency and you are simply adding heavy fuel to those fires; fires that can only be snuffed out with the loss of additional time and money.

    No. Satoshi was right. We need to continue to keep trusted third-parties and gatekeepers out of our digital financial lives as much as possible, both during our lives and after our deaths. The problem is, however, that there is no clear way to accomplish this within the Bitcoin protocol. Or is there?

    Im no coder, and my computer competency is just deep enough to make me dangerous. Still, we need to start considering this question, so allow me to kick it off and allow other, more sophisticated, members of the community to take it further.

    In my view, what we are looking for is a mechanism that allows a wallet holder to send a percentage of their wallet balance, whatever that balance may be at some indeterminate time, to another wallet(s) upon the death of the first wallet holder. There are a couple elements here that we need to parse out.

    First, the transaction needs to take place in the future. As I understand it, this function (or something very similar to it) already exists within the protocol. It is called LockTime and is a major feature of distributed blockchain contracts that allows a payment to be made from one address to another after the specified period (n) has passed. Without more, such a function could be used as a crude estate planning tool by selecting a date beyond which is the reasonable life expectancy of the initiating party. However, that means that the initiating party could never change their mind and that the beneficiary might have to wait years before they receive the asset. A lot could happen in that intervening period to make such a transaction unpalatable.

    To make this function better for autonomous estate planning purposes, we would need to modify the LockTime functionor build on top of itto allow us to modify the transaction date repeatedly. If this were possible, we could set up transactions to our heirs on New Year's Day of each year to be distributed, for example, on January 1st of the following year. If we pass away within that period, then transaction propagates. If we dont, then we modify the transaction on New Years Eve to take place in another year, repeating the process until we are no longer around to do so and the transaction kicks in. In the meantime, this flexibility allows us to adjust who our beneficiaries are, the amount they would receive, or to suspend the transaction altogether at any time. In other words, it gives us the flexibility of the existing estate law system (e.g. rewriting a will) with the autonomy of the Bitcoin protocol.

    The second element to address is the amount transferred. With the current LockTime function, the amount of the coin transferred must be specified and it is removed from the wallet. However, in the new estate planning space we are creating for ourselves, while we want our heirs to inherit what is left over, we might want to spend some of our Bitcoin in the meantime. Having to deplete our wallet balance, even if temporary, in order to make a contingent LockTime transaction, could be inconvenient. But, what if we could modify the function to allow for a percentage of the then existing wallet balance to be transferred? For example, I set a transaction to my daughter to be completed a year from today and the amount is set at twenty-five percent of the balance existing in my wallet at that specific time. I could then accommodate multiple heirs with set percentages and not have to worry about changing the transaction each time my wallet balance changed.

    In this scenario, I could set up empty wallets for each of my beneficiaries, teach them how to use the technology, make sure the private keys were preserved (e.g. in a safe), and instruct them to get their own wallets and move their distribution out of that interim wallet and into their own, secure wallet upon my death. This prevents the private keys to my account from being compromised, while minimizing the period of time that the interim account is vulnerable (it will not be used except on the moment the contingent LockTime transaction is ultimately made and then transferred out to the beneficiaries' own wallet) while also ensuring that the LockTime transaction can be recovered (private keys kept in safe place known to me and relevant beneficiary). All of this accomplished autonomously, with only me and my beneficiaries playing an active role.

    Another use of a system of this nature would be to safeguard wallets in the event of lost private keys. For example, on my birthday each year, I could create a TimeLock transaction that would transfer my balance (0-100%) to another address on my following birthday, unless I rescinded it at any time before that magical date arrives. In the interim, if I lost my private key, there is a contingency in place that would allow me to recover my balance in the new wallet and all I would need is a little patience.

    Getting back to our estate planning use, an autonomous system of this nature is similar to the legacy estate planning systems pay on death (POD) or transfer on death (TOD) account. There, an account holder designates a beneficiary and informs the institution holding the account of their identity. During the principals life, the beneficiary has no right to the account, but title and right vests immediately with the beneficiary at the moment of the principals death. This allows the account to be distributed to an heir(s) (the designated beneficiary) outside of probate. The drawback, of course, is that the beneficiary has to obtain and present a certified copy of the death certificate to the bank in order to take possession. This can waste time and money.

    A contingent TimeLock % balance transaction is clearly superior as it accomplishes everything a POD/TOD account does, while keeping the gatekeepers (in this case, the institution issuing the death certificate and the institution holding the account) out.

    There are a lot of nuances to any given jurisdictions estate law and a lot of complexities that go into a persons estate plan. This discussion is, by no means, an attempt to cover any of that ground or to provide legal advice to the reader. Rather, the goal here is to kick off a discussion of a basic wallet/protocol function that could be one strategy in an overall estate plan, and, most importantly, one that minimizes the drawbacks of the legacy estate planning system and its trusted third-parties and gatekeepers.

     

    In other words, Im hoping we can answer the question, What happens to your Bitcoin when you die? with, No worries. Its in the blockchain.

    Read More
  • 34 Comments
    2,029 views
    Categories: General, Guest Blog, Fiction

    Grandpa, Tell Me 'Bout the Good Ol' Days

    August 14th, 2014 by Tron

    Editor: Cheryl

    “Hey Jimmy what do you have there?  Oh goodness, I haven’t seen that shoebox since I was teenager.  Were you in the back of my closet?   Bring it here.  Open it up and let's take a look.  It’s my box of old paper dollar bills.  I thought they might be worth something someday.  Boy!  Was I wrong!”

    "When I was kid, back in 2014, people used to trade this paper for housing, food, gas, and cell phone service. Yes, believe it or not -- paper.  I know, it’s bizarre and still makes me chuckle. And they had these big machines called ATMs back then that were bolted to the sides of buildings we used to call 'banks'. These ATMs would spit out these green paper slips with pictures of dead presidents on them.  And then, for whatever reason, other people would trade these slips of mostly green paper for things they wanted. Surprisingly it worked. Sure, it seems archaic now, but people didn't think so at the time.”


    “What?  Oh, banks? Yeah, they would store and track your money like your Samsung S27 bitcoin wallet does now, only they were entire buildings staffed with real people. In fact that social center down on Main Street where they have that little room with the ice cream machine and the big steel doors -- that was a bank.  If memory serves, Bitcoin existed back then, but I guess it just took some time to adjust to the new way of storing and sending value.“


    “What happened to paper money?  Oh, that’s a long story.  It started a long, long time ago in the early 1970s when President Nixon decided that the paper money was accepted well enough that it didn’t need to be backed by anything, so he just stopped allowing convertibility to gold.  Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, it was a really stupid thing to do, but it worked for a while.  Nobody thought much of it at the time.”


    “What happened next?  Oh, not much at first, but in 2008 the first problems started.  It wasn’t so much because of Nixon’s bone-headed decision, but because those ‘banks’ I was telling you about were allowed to loan out more than they held in deposits.   They created more money by making loans, and they could create as much as they wanted as long as they could find people to borrow.  They started loaning to everybody, and I mean everybody.  ‘No job, no problem, here’s your loan.’  Sure, looking back, it seems insane, but I don’t think people in that era really understood money.”


    “Then, the banks had this brilliant idea to insure against loan defaults and sell the loans as investment grade.  The banks used some clever, but ultimately self-destructive methods to hide the bad loans and pretend they were investment worthy.  Well, as you’ll soon learn in your history class, and what should’ve been obvious at time, those with no jobs couldn’t pay their loans, so they didn’t.  There were so many of these bad loans that the insurance companies couldn’t make good, so the whole system was at-risk.”


    “Well, as you can imagine, this was a pretty scary time for those that benefitted from creating money out of nothing.   What were they to do?  What could they do?  They figured they could make more money out of nothing and use it to try to save the system, so that’s what they did.  They just started creating money like crazy to buy Treasury bonds.  This helped the political class back then because they could spend this new money to create programs and buy votes.  There were dozens of different programs to get the money out into the economy.  It didn’t matter how crazy the idea.  We were even sending money to other countries to buy their cooperation.”


    “It worked for a while.  They just kept pumping more ‘free’ money into the system, and people didn’t seem to care.  If you were poor, you got free stuff. Why complain?  No job? -- free money.  If you were rich, you got even richer since borrowing costs were super low so you could borrow cheap and invest in the stock market.  If you were a CEO, you couldn’t lose because you could just borrow cheap, buy back your own stock and get rich.   But, if you were a saver back then, you got crushed.”


    “Jimmy, would you hand grandpa that drink of water? Thanks.”


    “It wasn’t until 2017, when things turned bad for almost everyone.  There weren’t enough people working to keep the system going.  The defaults started again, and surprisingly they hadn’t learned anything the first time.  They ramped up the printing presses again to buy even more Treasury bonds.  Only now, there was so much interest owed it was like running on an accelerating treadmill.  We could loan ourselves more money out of thin air and be the only buyers with an infinite imaginary bank account, or we could offer more interest to get other interested buyers, but only at our own peril because increasing interest rates on our massive debt was crippling.  We were trapped.”


    “Even the Wall Street guys could see the writing on the wall and started looking for safe havens.  What’s Wall Street you ask?  Ah, funny story, there was this guy from New York named Ben Lawsky.  He started Wall Street’s woes, but that’s a story for another time.  I’ll take you to the Wall Street museum sometime.”


    “Anyway, they were desperate to get dollars into the economy, so dollars were easy to come by.  If you had something that had real value, you could get lots and lots of dollars, but saving dollars was futile.  Savers were again getting crushed.  People wanted anything that couldn’t be conjured out of thin air.   It wasn’t only bitcoin that people wanted, it was also food, gold, real estate, and farm land.  Bitcoin was the easiest to store, and transmit, so it worked best when trading for food and other daily needs.”


    “Once the ball was rolling, it picked up speed.  Some say it made the Weimar Republic look tame by comparison.  Since nobody wanted the green slips of paper, but wanted bitcoin instead, the transition happened very quickly.  Thankfully, your grandma and I did fine because we already had some bitcoin before the rush started.  I kept that shoebox full of dollars, partly as a reminder, and partly because I really thought they might be worth something someday.”


    “Well, off to bed."




    The events depicted in this story are obviously fictitious -- there’s no way paper money can last ‘til 2017.  Any similarity to any person living or dead is merely coincidental - except for Ben Lawsky - he’s real and couldn’t be reached for comment because he’s too busy shooting NY in the foot.

     
    Read More
  • 33 Comments
    4,635 views

    International Monetary Fund Asserts Bitcoin Not a Currency in Draft Report

    August 12th, 2014 by bcohen

    Original (dhimmel), accidently modified with intial edits:

    NOte From BrianL Not sure what impact the above statement has on article but I ##have made a few modification on original to 8/13

    The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is currently drafting Monetary and Financial Statistics Manual & Compilation. The document has a Draft watermark and a meta-data creation date of June 26, 2014.

    Chapter four of the manual is entitled "Classification of Financial Assets and Liabilities" (PDF) which includes in part classifications of "Monetary Gold and SDRs" and "Currency and Deposits."

    Under Currency and Deposits we find section 4.36 with Footnote 13:

    Not all electronic payments involve electronic money. For instance, credit cards or debit cards are not electronic money because no monetary value is stored on them; and store cards or internet-based currency (such as Bitcoins [13] or gaming money) are not electronic money because these are not widely accepted as a medium of exchange.

    Scrolling down to the referenced footnote 13 we find:

    Bitcoin also does not meet the definition of a currency as it is not issued or authorized by a central bank or government.

    Therefore we must assume that the IMF presently defines currency as issued or authorized by a central bank or government. Oddly at the same time, the manual states that Bitcoin is and is not a currency. The author chose the term "internet-based currency" rather than the more common terms "virtual currency" or "digital currency." Maybe the IMF is confusing Bitcoin with "Internet-based payment services" which is a commonly used term (and Bitcoin is a payment network in addition to being a virtual currency). The G7 connected FATF (Financial Action Task Force) prepared a document in June 2013 entitled "Guidance For A Risk-based Approach Prepaid Cards, Mobile Payments and Internet-Based Payment Services" (PDF).

    I was able to find reports from 2011 and 2012 from the IMF that define currency in part as "..consist{ing} of notes and coins that are of fixed nominal values and are issued or authorized by the central bank or government."

    July 27, 2012, IMF Staff Discussions Note "What Lies Beneath: The Statistical Definition of Public Sector Debt An Overview of the Coverage of Public Sector Debt for 61 Countries"(PDF) defines "Currency and deposits":

    Currency consists of notes and coins that are of fixed nominal values and are issued or authorized by the central bank or government. Although all government subsectors hold currency, generally only the central bank issues it. Deposits are all claims, represented by evidence of deposit, on the deposit-taking corporations (including the central bank) and, in some cases, general government and other institutional units.

    On May 27, 2011 "Public Sector Debt Statistics: Guide for Compilers and Users (Google Books) was issued by the IMF Inter-Agency Task Force on Finance Statistics which provided the following definition of "Currency and deposits":

    Currency consists of notes and coins that are of fixed nominal values and are issued or authorized by the central bank or government. In some countries, commercial banks are able to issue currency under the authorization of the central bank or government, Currency constitutes a liability of the issuing units. Unissued currency held by a public sector unit is not treated as a financial asset of the public sector or a liability of the central bank. Gold and commemorative coins that are not in circulation as legal tender, or as monetary gold, are classified as nonfinancial assets rather than currency."

    The IMF definition of currency appears to be a derivative work of the European System of National Accounts from the European Commission in 2008. This document (Google Books) was drafted by European Commission, IMF, United Nations, World Bank and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and defined currency as follows:

    "Currency consists of notes and coins that are of fixed nominal values and are issued or authorized by the central bank or government. (Commemorative coins that are not actually in circulation should be excluded as should unissued or demonetized currency.) A distinction should be draw between domestic currency (that is, currency that is the liability of resident units, such as the central bank, other banks and central government) and foreign currencies that are liabilities of non-resident units (such as foreign central banks, other banks and governments.) All sectors may hold currency as assets, but normally only central banks and government may issue currency. In some countries, commercial banks are able to issue currency under the authorization of the central bank or government."

    The Manual provides some history on this document and states that:

    In 2000, the International Monetary Fund (IMF, or the Fund) published the Monetary and Financial Statistics Manual (MFMS), which was the first volume of its kind in the field of monetary and financial statistics.

    The IMF appears to recognize the difficulty in defining or "classifying" certain financial instruments:

    This Manual contains additional discussions on borderline cases in the classification of financial assets and liabilities.

    Further, the IMF is willing to reclassify (i.e. redefine) some of these instruments:

    An important revision concerning financial instruments is the reclassification of the special drawing rights (SDR) allocations to the Fund's member countries, from equity to long-term foreign liability. The change was introduced in August 2009 in the monetary data compiled by countries, with historical data having been revised correspondingly. Previously, SDR allocations were recorded as a unilateral transfer from the IMF to its member countries, and in monetary statistics recorded as part of equity.

    This change is particularly interesting as we have seen headlines such as "IMF Bailout for Ukraine and a New World Currency" from the New American in regards to the April 30th Announcement by the IMF "IMF Executive Board Approves 2-Year US$17.01 Billion Stand-By Arrangement for Ukraine, US$3.19 Billion for immediate Disbursement"

    Robert Wenzel of Economic Policy Journal was quoted by New American as follows:

    It signals fear on the part of U.S. government officials that the dollar is slowly losing its luster as a reserve currency. U.S. officials are trying to nudge the SDR as the alternative to the dollar because they will still maintain significant influence with regard to the SDR, as opposed to some other currency taking hold in parts of the world as a reserve currency (the [Chinese] renminbi?) or gold returning as an important reserve. China and Russia are both presently accumulating gold.

    In an IMF blog post from September 24, 2009 entitled "Reserve Currencies in the Post-Crisis International Monetary System" (brought to my attention from Bitcoin Magazine article "

    Read More
  • 35 Comments
    3,775 views
    Categories: Guest Blog

    Overstock to Cryptostock

    August 12th, 2014 by daniel
    Orignal (dhimmel): The crypto-currency industry has been abuzz ever since Wired published an article entitled *[Overstocks Radical Plan to Reinvent the Stock Market With Bitcoin](http://www.wired.com/2014/07/overstock-and-cryptocurrency/)*. Patrick Byrne, CEO of [Overstock.com](http://overstock.com), has seen firsthand how Wall Street has been corrupted to the core, and hes eager to do something to fix it. He has identified two primary sources of corruption: centralized clearing (exchanges) and fractional reserve banking. These systems enable unscrupulous insiders to sell shares in companies that dont exist while allowing investors to exploit loopholes in stock settlement, such as naked short sales, harming public companies and the economy as a whole. The primary question Byrne has been concerned with is, How might a public company go about issuing a crypto-security? Earlier this year, he and others at Overstock held discussions on this very subject with developers of Bitshares and Counterparty, platforms that aim to extend Bitcoin technology to enable securities issuance and trading without the need for third-party brokers or centralized exchanges. To foster discussion on what might be involved in issuing a cryptosecurity, Overstock recently launched a web page editable by anyone. The new webpage has sparked a wiki-war over the merits and drawbacks of a dozen or so Bitcoin 2.0 crypto-security platforms either on the market or close to launch. In my opinion, two systems, NXT and BitShares X, appear to have emerged as the leading contenders in the Overstock wiki arms race. Both of these systems provide built-in, decentralized exchanges that allow users to issue their own assets (though the SEC may call the assets securities, depending on whether issuers make any promises with respect to the assets). Do any of the existing technologies offer a ready-to-go solution with which a public company could list a new crypto-security? At the current time, none of the existing systems seems to meet all of the regulatory and business requirements for a successful crypto-security issuance. Even if a satisfactory platform did exist, a crypto-security issuer would no doubt need to work closely with developers to customize their blockchain to fit their particular circumstances and goals. In my opinion, the primary difficulty with existing platforms is that, in most jurisdictions around the world, it is illegal for a public company to issue shares that function effectively as bearer shares. The essence of bearer shares is that they are freely transferable securities that are owned by whomever holds them, and by possession alone they demonstrate participation in a company. By contrast, with registered or conventional shares, the name of the owner is included with a share and will also be entered in the registry of company shareholders. Changing the ownership of conventional shares requires a change in the share endorsement and registry. With bearer shares, since no name is included, any person who holds them in their possession is recognized as the owner. If an owner of bearer shares wishes to transfer them to a third party, it suffices to just hand over the relevant certificates. There is no need for any paperwork or changes to the registry of the company (except for anti money-laundering measures in certain jurisdictions) because only the amount of bearer shares that were issued to create the company and their numeration are shown, without making any reference to their owners. Thus, transference of bearer shares is similar to the operation of a cashiers check, whereby any person presenting it can collect the amount contained therein. The legal and regulatory measures many countries and organizations have been enacting against money laundering and tax fraud have created a significant stigma around bearer shares. Pressure on the governments of widely-used tax havens has forced most offshore jurisdictions to restrict the use of bearer shares. Normally, these constraints take the form of rules that serve to immobilize securities. That is, bearer shares are required to be in the custody of banks, trust firms, or a registered company agents who usually must maintain a record of the owners. The objective of such measures is to keep track of any change in ownership of the company and to be able to determine at all times who holds the legal ownership. With such restrictions, not only is the raison-detre of bearer shares lost, but they are often not in the hands of their rightful owners, making their transmission more complicated. **How to Legally Issue a Crypto Security** The solution to Byrnes problem lies in finding a crypto-system that supports the issuance of registered or conventional shares for which the owners names are included and tracked in the register of company shareholders. In effect, the crypto-systems blockchain itself would serve as the register of shareholders. While some crypto platforms, such as BitShares with its TITAN technology, already enable users to transfer shares to other users by account name rather than account number, no system currently in use supports the restriction of share ownership to certified identities. The BitShares system aims to be the first to provide the market with a practical, easy-to-use solution to this critical problem. The solution implemented in the BitShares system would be very simple. An Identity Authority would be required to sign a BitShares account with a certification that the owner has provided the necessary Know Your Customer documentation. Then, the BitShares account would need to digitally sign the shareholders agreement and release the shareholders identity information to Overstock. After these signatures were place, then--and only then--would the blockchain allow a particular account to buy, sell, send, or receive the relevant securities. Such a system might not seem ideal from a crypto-anarchists point of view, but from the perspective of a company like Overstock it would help them achieve a primary goal: the creation of an honest and transparent securities market, one that would be provably free of fractional reserves, naked short sales, and high-frequency trading. **Better Market Algorithms** > _Byrne says that one of the things hes trying to eliminate is high-speed trading that serves no real purpose_ In todays world of computerized trading on Wall Street, the markets move at nearly the speed of light, with trades executed in milliseconds. This type of speed is not possible in a decentralized system because, even moving at the speed of light, information would need 200 milliseconds or so to circumnavigate the globe. The speed barrier faced by decentralized systems is no problem for Byrnes vision; indeed, it is consistent with his goal of eliminating high-frequency trading. In fact, trading speed is not the real issue facing decentralized trading systems. The critical issue instead is how to remedy a fundamental flaw in the order-matching algorithm that traditional stock exchanges use. What is a market price, really? It is fundamentally a collective judgment about the value of a company. As such, it should only change when new information becomes available and can be processed by the shareholders themselves. Human judgement cannot possibly operate at 200 milliseconds, and it is challenged to operate on the shortest time intervals (10 seconds) currently supported by BitShares or other decentralized blockchain systems. High-speed trading is the result of Wall Street insiders attempting to front-run orders placed by people who have access to real information. When someone learns some news that causes them to want to buy, a high-frequency trader can quickly see the buy orders within milliseconds, enabling them to place automated trades to scoop up any asks lower than the buyers bid and then sell to the buyer with almost no risk. This is just one of the many games that high-frequency traders may engage in. BitShares confronts this problem by implementing a new matching system that effectively eliminates front running by insiders. All executed orders always receive the price that was requested--nothing more and nothing less. There is no opportunity for high-frequency traders or front-runners to squeeze risk-free profit out of market participants by executing orders that steal some of the overlap between the bid and ask. Traditional order-matching algorithms that promise to give a trader the best price below his bid are an illusion because anyone else located physically closer to the exchange can capture much of the gains with little or no risk, leaving the buyer with little more than he asked for. In essence, the blockchain becomes the ultimate insider. What this market algorithm does is take all of the surplus that could have been earned by front running (the overlap between bid and ask) and collect it as fees for the network. This algorithm ensures that market participants place orders at exactly the prices they are willing to pay based upon their opinion of fair value. As a result, market participants now face less price risk in the execution of their orders. By removing the profit potential from front-running, BitShares is the only system to date that is less likely to be vulnerable to attacks by high-frequency traders attempting to squeeze risk-free profits out of bid/ask overlap. A beneficial side effect of the BitShares matching algorithm is that traders attempting to manipulate the market by walking the book in a single trade will face a much higher cost than traders who walk the book at a slower pace. Thus, once again, the trading algorithm implemented by BitShares punishes fast traders and rewards value traders. **Eliminating Fractional Reserves** There is one other aspect that companies looking to list their shares on a decentralized exchange must consider: what will the newly-listed shares be traded against? In the case of all existing crypto-security systems (except for the soon-to-be introduced BitAssets in BitShares X), the only thing that new company shares can be traded against is shares in the system (e.g, units of NXT) or shares in other assets listed on the system. This means that if Overstock wanted newly-issued shares in a crypto platform to trade against USD, then someone would have to issue bearer bonds denominated in USD on the platform. These bearer bonds would be a promise to pay $1 on demand and thus would no doubt be a second highly-regulated security. In this scenario, Overstock would likely have to issue its own Overstock USD bond to trade on the system against the own shares. This once again opens up an enormous regulatory challenge centered around Know Your Customer laws. If Overstock USDs are not part of the solution, then the only alternative would seem to be USDs issued by some exchange that is subject to regulations and potential fractional reserve issuance. Fractional-reserve issuance is one of the primary issues Patrick Byrne has identified that needs to be resolved. It is counterproductive to rely on crypto-IOUs for users to trade in a newly-issued crypto-stock. After all, using a blockchain for order matching would seem to be of little advantage if management of IOUs still requires relying on third parties. Furthermore, absent crypto-dollar IOUs, the only assets left for Crypto-Overstock shares to trade against would be other crypto-assets that would have market capitalizations equaling only a small fraction of Overstocks. Eliminating the need for cyrpto-IOUs is where BitShares X, with its internal BitUSD asset collateralized by shares in BitShares X itself, provides a unique advantage over all other crypto systems on the market or in public development. BitUSDs are not an IOU issued by a central party. Rather, they are a crypto-asset that has no counterparty, is not a security, and confers no legal obligation to any party. They are created by free market forces, and by design each unit of BitUSD is collateralized, i.e., backed by 1.5 to 2 dollars worth of BTSX and fully backed by the Bitshares network. With BitShares X, companies like Overstock can allow their shares to trade against trust-free assets pegged to the dollar, gold, silver, or other national currencies. This provides a significant advantage over all other systems known at this time. **Conclusion** In the near future, the BitShares X system, with its certified accounts and collateralized assets such as BitUSD, will be able to meet the regulatory, philosophical, and business requirements outlined by Mr. Byrne. BitShares X will resolve the problems arising from fractional reserve banking, naked shorting, and high-frequency trading manipulation. An equally important advantage of BitShares is that its developers are not simply faceless identities hiding behind anonymity on the internet; the leaders within the BitShares ecosystem are real people who will be able to draw upon their expertise to help customize solutions to suit the needs of Overstock and other public companies. As exciting as it would be to see Overstock or another company issue a crypto-stock in the next few months, I think it would do far more harm than good. Careful evaluation of the various issues and risks from regulatory and business perspectives can help ensure that the amazing potential benefits of being able to issue shares on a crypto-ledger are realized. Read More
  • 36 Comments
    5,581 views

    Banks Issue Bitcoin Report: Bitcoin Community Absent

    August 11th, 2014 by bcohen
    only publish between 3PM and 4AM Pacific Time Recently I took out [Twitter to note my surprise](https://twitter.com/inthepixels/status/497581726005465088) that only a handful of folks have bothered to watch the "[Conference of State Bank Supervisors Public Hearing on Virtual Currencies](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0d7olT7R8so)" on YouTube which was part of a "[CSBS Emerging Payments Task Force Public Hearing on May 16, 2014](http://www.csbs.org/regulatory/ep/Pages/EPTFVideos.aspx)". This was a week after the Federal Advisory Council and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve [met and discussed Bitcoin at great length](http://bitcoinmagazine.com/13165/federal-reserves-bitcoin-policy-begins-take-shape/) at their quarterly meeting. The [speakers were announced on May 5](http://www.csbs.org/news/press-releases/pr2014/Pages/050514.aspx). This becomes even more surprising as the U.S. Government Accountability Office linked to the the hearing in its blog report "[Risks of Virtual Currencies](http://blog.gao.gov/2014/07/16/the-risks-of-virtual-currencies/)" in its "[Watchblog: Following The Federal Dollar](http://blog.gao.gov/)." I guess its a Watchblog with no one watching? At the public hearing, Megan Burton, Chief Executive Officer, [CoinX ](https://www.coinx.com/)noted the overwhelming obstacles that they encountered with banking institutions. Though you probably wouldnt know this if you read the [transcription of the hearing](http://www.csbs.org/regulatory/ep/Documents/EPTF%20Hearing%20Panel%203.pdf) (PDF) which erroneously credits Annemarie or Annemarie Tierney, EVP Legal and General Counsel, SecondMarket with the comments: >... We've actually been turned down by about 61 banks now. That's overwhelming. We never get to the word cryptocurrency. We state the word MSB and the conversation halts... And further, >I wouldn't say that it's specific to this panel that you see before you today. I think it stems specifically to us being put in a category of high risk. In this meeting, what was fascinating was the fact that when I talk about the transaction flow that we could potentially have, the sheer volume of what would go through...A community bank is typically not equipped to be able to handle that level of transaction volume, nor do they have the insight into my business to know how to gather enough information at the KYC process to know who we're touching and what we're doing. Moreover, >There needs to be a bridge between where we are as a MSB in a high risk category and where the banks are and how they're being regulated to be able to facilitate better communication between the two. Burton's comments on community banks is interesting. When larger institution are rejecting Bitcoin companies applications they are putting additional pressure on smaller banks, i.e. community banks who are being approached to fill this void. And what can community banks use as guidance when dealing with these newfangled Bitcoin companies? Well, on June 23, five weeks after the Conference of State Bank Supervisors Public Hearing on Virtual Currencies, the ICBA or Independent Community Bankers of America Clearing House and The Clearing House (TCH) issued a thorough twenty five page white paper entitled [Virtual Currency: Risks and Regulation](http://www.icba.org/files/ICBASites/PDFs/VirtualCurrencyWhitePaperJune2014.pdf) (PDF). This report is also available as a PDF through short URL at [www.icba.org/virtualcurrency.cfm](http://www.icba.org/virtualcurrency.cfm) as well as the [TCH website](https://www.theclearinghouse.org/publications/2014/tch-releases-white-paper-on-virtual-currencies). The [Independent Community Bankers of America](http://www.icba.org/) is the nations voice for more than 6,500 community banks with nearly 5,000 members, representing more than 24,000 locations nationwide and holds $1.2 trillion in assets, $1 trillion in deposits, and $750 billion in loans to consumers, small businesses and the agricultural community. And further, ICBA member community banks create symbiotic relationships with the communities they serve, favor local decision-making, while adhering to the highest business practices and ethical standards, and support a democratically governed association where each member bank has a voice and a vote& The Clearing House according to its website was {e}stablished in 1853 by the nations leading banks, The Clearing House originally functioned as the de facto central bank for banks in the United States long before the Federal Reserve was formed& and as noted in the white paper, >The Clearing House is the oldest banking association and payments company in the United States. It is owned by the worlds largest commercial banks, which employ over 2 million people and hold more than half of all U.S. deposits. The Clearing House Association L.L.C. is a nonpartisan advocacy organization representingthrough regulatory comment letters, amicus briefs and white papersthe interests of its owner banks on a variety of systemically important banking issues. The Clearing House Payments Company L.L.C. provides payment, clearing, and settlement services to its member banks and other financial institutions, clearing almost $2 trillion daily and representing nearly half of the automated clearinghouse, fundstransfer, and check image payments made in the U.S. The white paper also makes reference to the Conference of State Bank Supervisors: >...A large number of U.S. states currently participate in the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS), a web-based utility operated by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors State Regulatory Registry, through which participating states and the federal government ...has recently been expanded to permit states to utilize the system to administer licensing of payday lenders, money transmitters, check cashers, and other types of consumer financial service providers...The existing NMLS infrastructure could be expanded to include licensure of virtual currency market participants.. Perhaps it is a bit surprising that ICBA was involved in drafting the report because while it was being drafted, Cary Whaley, Vice President of payments and technology policy for ICBA told Bloomberg news in [Bitcoin Breakthroughs Studied by Banks the Currency Is Out to Replace](http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-05-07/bitcoin-breakthroughs-seen-copied-by-banks-it-s-meant-to-replace.html) that they had no interest in using Bitcoin: That reputation makes banks reluctant to use the digital currency directly, said Cary Whaley, a vice president at the Independent Community Bankers of America. While virtually none of the groups members are interested in using the digital money, a small number are examining its concepts, he said& However, the regulatory scrutiny that community banks face has been compared to that of virtual currency upstarts in Informationweek Bank Systems & Technology [How New York State Is Looking to Regulate Bitcoin](http://www.banktech.com/compliance/how-new-york-state-is-looking-to-regulate-bitcoin/d/d-id/1296859) as well as PaymentsSource [New York Sees Bitcoin as a Catalyst for Modernizing Regulation](http://www.paymentssource.com/news/new-york-sees-bitcoin-as-a-catalyst-for-modernizing-regulation-3016794-1.html); both of which use NYDFS as a reference. And shortly after the report was released [there were grumblings on BitcoinTalk](https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=689587.0) about banks and in particular community banks interest in Bitcoin. Too big too fail doesnt mean too small to succeed. Community banks importance to the financial system became clearer during the 2008 financial crisis which illustrated what happens when banks become too big to fail. In July, [the Senate approved an amendment](http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2014/07/17/senate-approves-move-to-reserve-fed-seat-for-community-banks/) to reserve a seat on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors for an individual with community banking experience. It is interesting to note that OTC Markets Group Inc which operates financial marketplaces for 10,000 U.S. and global securities recently [announced](http://finance.yahoo.com/news/otc-markets-group-welcomes-banks-110000336.html) the first banks to trade on the [OTCQX marketplace](about:blank) under a new streamlined qualification process for U.S. community and regional banks. This also happens to be where [SecondMarket (i.e. Bitcoin Investment Trust) is proposing to launch a bitcoin investment fund](http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304026304579449782511589924) for ordinary investors in competition to the [Winklevoss Bitcoin ETP](http://letstalkbitcoin.com/post/55120007013/winklevoss-bitcoin-etf-may-not-be-redeemable-in) commonly referred to as an ETF. A statement of purpose for Virtual Currency: Risks and Regulation succinctly explains the goal of this document: >The purpose of this white paper is to promote consideration of how existing regulatory regimes in the U.S. may be applied to virtual currency, virtual currency system participants and products, and virtual currency transactions. I hand picked some additional quotes from the paper and found the footnotes particularly interesting: >Under the current federal regulatory regime, players in the Bitcoin system are not subject to safety and soundness oversight, and no entity in the Bitcoin system is yet large enough to be subject to oversight as a systemically important institution or utility, even were such regulations applicable. _ >Live market capitalization of 158 convertible virtual currencies can be viewed at [https://coinmarketcap.com](https://coinmarketcap.com/)  _ >Primary sources for this section {The Bitcoin System and Bitcoin Transactions.} are the Nakamoto paper cited at fn. 7, above; CoinDesks A Beginners Guide to Bitcoin (available at http://www.coindesk.com/information/); and Blockchain.info, which hosts the publicly searchable blockchain database and technical information regarding Bitcoin mining. _ >Given the lack of international consensus regarding classification and treatment of virtual currencies, the regulatory approach ultimately adopted by the U.S. is likely to have a significant influence on the shape of the global virtual currency economy in years to come. _ >Notwithstanding the use of the term wallet, it is not necessary that users store their Bitcoins in their wallets. In fact, for security reasons, users are often advised to store a list of their Bitcoin serial numbers [sic] on paper, a USB key, or a non-internet-connected hard drive (all of which are referred to as cold storage or cold wallets) rather than in an online (or hot) wallet. The user must then load the Bitcoin into the wallet prior to using it for a transaction. _ >...in some cases, there will be no wallet provider associated with a Bitcoin wallet. Where there is no wallet provider, there is no entity that can be subject to regulation other than the user. Regulating the user would not likely be viewed as furthering the consumer-protection policy that motivates much of the existing payments regulatory framework. _ >Given the limited size of the virtual currency economy, no virtual currency exchange or wallet currently is likely to satisfy the requirements that must be met to be eligible for designation as a systemically important FMU {Financial Market Utility} or as engaging in systemically important PCS {payment, clearing, and settlement} Activities. _ >It is unlikely that exchanges that accept and maintain fiat currency accounts would be deemed to be taking deposits for purposes of U.S. banking laws, as (i) most exchanges that engage in such activity use a bank custodian model and (ii) most virtual currency exchanges are either located outside the U.S. and/or have established banking relationships with non-U.S. depository institutions. _ >...a team of core developers, led by developers allegedly appointed by Satoshi Nakamoto, has a leadership role in proposing changes to the Bitcoin protocol. However, that team has no authority to force the Bitcoin community to accept such changes. _ >...one existing unregistered virtual currency exchange advertises that it will be offering customers the ability to earn interest on the Bitcoins those customers deposit with the exchange at an attractive rate. In this regard, the exchange could be seen as offering a security (an investment contract) to its customers& _ >...While virtual currency market participants may eventually develop an insurer similar to the FDIC or SIPC, or may even be able to obtain insurance coverage from private insurers in a more de-centralized fashion, in the absence of a meaningful insurance fund, regulators should ensure that consumers and others engaging in transactions on virtual currency exchanges receive adequate warnings of the risks involved in that activity (e.g., that trading in virtual currency products on an exchange is unregulated and risky, and may result in the loss of the consumers investment), similar to disclosures required for penny stocks or even the Surgeon Generals warning regarding use of tobacco products. The white paper in part concludes that: >This white paper has described certain of the risks faced by consumers and others that hold or transact in convertible virtual currencies, and has evaluated certain ways in which U.S. regulatory authorities may consider regulating virtual currency transactions, products and marketplace participants based on their functional similarity to other transactions, products and marketplace participants that are regulated. The failure of Mt. Gox earlier this year, and the value that may have been irretrievably lost in connection with that failure, serves as a perfect backdrop for this white paper. The aggregate number and value of virtual currency transactions and holdings in the U.S. is small relative to most other regulated payments transactions and trading markets. However, the emerging nature of the virtual currency marketplace creates an opportunity to develop and implement a regulatory framework to mitigate risk to consumers and others without unduly burdening innovation and while the structure of the marketplace remains malleable. Image Credit: Cigarette Box is an altered [Flickr Image](https://www.flickr.com/photos/icerazor/5993241070/in/photolist-a8AVLA-aVR53T-Gngjf-muFW3-3f8aeo-7aNiBG-2k9UWE-fhLAKa-4GBm29-7Dy2eJ-83eMFA-83ePrm-gVPtf2-efCSdD-7bwFk4-e1ZxdD-83bEgB-a6hkgi-74ijhw-5fpdU8-adbj3P-hLmfHv-7XqRtY-hMo61U-chEMnw-bRgoQB-5miZHE-acgNkb-acgNk9-ej1Nod-gVVBPY-acgNkd-83bFo4-7SwHUY-a1ZRQj-93BVsy-97cd3t-dXPbrq-bkjPhC-coh5M7-coh5rL-61UemM-4SPd77-tTFai-dhgMTp-8aZBLx-9hLTZn-4GqPLC-8jjukA-4yZefv/) Read More
  • 24 Comments
    2,985 views
  • 10 Comments
    1,455 views
    Categories: Columns

    The Bitcoin Economy: Global, Connected, and Cooperative

    August 11th, 2014 by Buzzdron
    The Bitcoin EconomyGlobalConnected and Cooperative
     
    The Bitcoin economy represents many things, including a multitude of global and transformational triumphs. The best symbol of this combination – the example that sets the standard for Bitcoin, and is a reminder of the credibility of this alternative form of currency – starts with the virtual network of investors, mentors, executives and entrepreneurs responsible for this international phenomenon.
     
    Indeed, if you seek to contrast these benefits with the conventional world of venture capital and the subculture of Silicon Valley, if you want a clear alternative to the status quo and the financiers headquartered on San Hill Road – the multibillion-dollar backers of brands like Facebook and Twitter – my suggestion is simple: Redirect your attention from the bulldozed apricot orchards, long since converted into office complexes and parking lots off Interstate 280 in Northern California, and look at your laptop, smarphone or tablet, instead.
     
    There, in this digital domain, you will find the rise of innovative trading platforms, virtual wallets (for the transmission and receipt of Bitcoin) and ways to send remittances to friends and family throughout the Americas – all of it underwritten by experts with an appreciation for the union between technology and convenience.
     
    This model, which I have alluded to in previous articles, is one I champion not out of self-interest or monetary gain; it is one I support – and shall continue to do so – because it works. I refer, specifically, to Seedcoin (http://www.seedco.in), a virtual Bitcoin-incubator with a worldwide portfolio of investments.
     
    Again, I celebrate this organization because, given its proven record of success (more about anon) and dynamic nature, it signifies an important milestone involving the popularity of Bitcoin and the power of modern technology.
     
    Concerning the latter, and the ability to rapidly adapt to changing circumstances, it is this very characteristic – the freedom to call upon the wisdom of business experts and mentors – that transcends borders, nationalities and the traditional politicking for influence and guidance.
     
    According to Eddy Travia, Co-Founder and Chief Startup Officer for Seedcoin: 
     
    "As a global incubator, Seedcoin unites entrepreneurs with established leaders, who provide their counsel and assistance for newly launched companies. Our emphasis on fast-growing, Bitcoin-centric businesses – enterprises with the agility to succeed, and the infrastructure to rapidly respond to demands from traders, merchants and consumers – is a sign of the revolutionary developments underway in this virtual landscape."
     
    I second this comment because it redefines the way all companies should pursue financial support, business tutelage, and an international framework of marketing and promotions. 
     
    So, in lieu of making a pilgrimage to the denizens of Sand Hill Road, and in comparison to the physical limitations of geography (where location, not the superiority of the best ideas, trumps a group's likelihood to raise money), the Seedcoin ideal should inspire all manner of entrepreneurs.
     
    The Virtual Model in Practice: A Platform for Everyone
     
    A strong illustration of this point involves BTC.sx, a platform for the trading of Bitcoin derivatives. (This company is a personal favorite of mine because of two reasons: Transparency and flexibility. One governs all communications between BTC.sx and the public, while the other proves the assertion about the skill necessary to accommodate the swiftness of aglobal marketplace.)
     
    It is this nimble approach to technology and commerce that defines the Bitcoin economy, where freedom – the liberty to hedge against fluctuations in the price of Bitcoin, and enjoy adjustable rates of leverage when trading Bitcoin derivatives –  that underscores the vitality of this new word.
     
    In the words of George Samman, COO of BTC.sx:
     
    "The legitimacy of Bitcoin rests with its international influence and wealth of business opportunities, in which innovation is often well ahead of corollaries from Wall Street or other run-of-the-mill economic features. As a global platform, with a strong presence in Asia, we can immediately respond to and make adjustments for any number of events."
     
    I return to this theme about agility – I choose to repeat its importance – because it articulates the why and how of theBitcoin economy, which crosses countries and unites cities at the speed of the electron. 
     
    It is not the prisoner of dollars, yen, yuan, pesos or euros. Nor is it captive to the capriciousness of a market clouded by obscurity and overrun by manipulation.
     
    In the Bitcoin economy, at least the one actualized by Seedcoin and BTC.sx, there is, indeed, a level playing field. With openness and choice, there is a venue to succeed. 
     
    That promise encapsulates the essence of this issue, for the good of all and the satisfaction of a global audience. For these individuals – diverse in their interests, steadfast in their expectations and laudatory in their comments – now is a time of great excitement.
    Read More
  • 18 Comments
    1,302 views
    Categories: General, LTB News, Columns
  • 46 Comments
    4,913 views
    Categories: Columns

    Decentralized DNS: Politics of the Domain Name System

    August 8th, 2014 by mdw

    The Domain Name System (DNS) has become such a fundamental part of the Internet over the years, and yet it has also become more political than ever. In our introductory piece we introduced the main themes for this series, and in this article we explore the the specific issues of censorship, domain seizures, thefts and privacy. Decentralization can address these important issues in a direct way.

    Much of what is wrong with the status quo stems from the centralized structure of our DNS. From a political perspective it is a three-tired hierarchy. ICANN is in charge, at the center of it all. On the second level are the registries, like Verisign, who are in charge of Top Level Domains (TLDs) like .com.

    On the bottom tier are registrars, who provide retail services like domain registration to customers. They are proxies who typically present an assortment of TLDs for consumers to register. There are currently around 1000 registrars accredited by ICANN, and many have networks of resellers working with them. Think of registry operators as the wholesalers and registrars as the retailers.

    All these are eliminated or at least marginalized with a decentralized solution - there is just no need for them. People and companies are now empowered to register their domain names without going through intermediaries, and without being forced to adhere to the rules set by political bodies like ICANN.

    The hacker inside me likes decentralization architecture. It could be argue that much of the "political problems" we have today derives from the centralized nature of the DNS with the root. So technology like namecoins or other decentralized identifier system intrigues me. 
    - James Seng, March 2014 draft from ICANN's Technology Innovation Panel

    Vint Cerf explaining who controls the DNS


    Protecting Freedom of Speech

    Censorship is an important issue for us all. National governments are the primary concern here, with many exerting as much control as they can. Extreme examples include North Korea and Iran, where authoritarian regimes control virtually all available information.

    In countries where political speech is stifled, dissidents are often prevented from publishing anti-government opinions. The use of Tor in Turkey nearly tripled this past March in the wake of videos on youtube implicating government officials of trying to stage an event as pretext to declare war on Syria. Government officials also banned twitter in March by redirecting DNS queries, after leaked recordings surfaced with the prime minister apparently instructing his son to dispose of large amounts of cash.

    The situation in most countries is far more nuanced. It is all too easy to single out countries like Turkey and Iran for what many consider to be draconian censorship. But some level of censorship takes place pretty much everywhere, including less oppressive Western nations. Google, the world’s largest search provider, now discloses the number of requests they receive to remove search results.

    Luckily no matter the current level of censorship in a country, blockchain systems can provide a solution. Namecoin’s .BIT domains and BitsharesDNS upcoming .p2p domains cannot be seized or pointed to government sites against the will of the registrant. Even if a government seized control of the network through a 51% attack, it does not appear possible to change ownership of a blockchain-based domain name without being in possession of the corresponding private key.

    Next generation DNS like Namecoin are immune to censorship! People can now publish political content without worrying about government censors seizing their domain names. We cited political dissidents but this is a critical assurance used by journalists operating in hostile environments as well. This freedom to speak out will certainly be used by bad actors too, but the benefits are indisputable.


    Domain Thefts

    People often believe that theft of domain names is rare, because there is a lack of supporting evidence. There is anecdotal evidence, and a few high profile cases like sex.com (video). There was even a conviction in the much publicized case of the P2P.com domain name theft.

    Most people own very few domain names and have never experienced domain theft firsthand. No reliable data on domain thefts seems to be available. The registrars are in a position to have information about this, but have a strong disincentive to publicizing incidents that might damage their reputation.

    "As far as I know, no one has a really good handle on just how much of a problem domain theft is. We hear of occasional instances of high profile thefts that catch everyone's attention, however I'm sure the vast majority of thefts go unreported." 
    - Ron Jackson, Editor and Publisher, DN Journal

    It is typically registrars that engage in bad behaviors which result in lost or stolen domain names. However, both registry operators and registrars can both behave in questionable ways, like registering domain names right after their customers search for them.

    Registrars have been caught stealing users' domain names too. Bad actors lose their accreditation when caught, but that is small consolation to a person or company that no longer has their domain names. If only these domain names had been registered on a blockchain! Domain name theft in the world of crypto-DNS requires stealing a private key. Theft of a .bit or .p2p domain name cannot occur as result of a company abusing its authority.


    Domain Name Seizures

    Registrars commonly seize domain names at the behest of government agencies or judicial systems. There are instances when many people feel it can be considered appropriate, but again this comes loaded with the potential for abuse. As mentioned earlier, although there is a nearly universal consensus on the undesirability of domains being used to host child pornography, it is less clear in matters involving intellectual property rights or political speech.

    The DNS pecking order goes something like this. The U.S. Department of Commerce has had the authority to approve changes to the Root Zonefile since it was inherited from the U.S. Department of Defense in 1998. ICANN awards contracts for management of TLDs to registry operators, who enter into contractual relationships with registrars.

    Individual domain names are sometimes seized as result of court orders when the domain is operated by a registry which operates in that jurisdiction. The .COM registry for example, is run by Verisign, a U.S. Corporation, and can therefore be compelled to comply with U.S. federal court orders.

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has seized domain names on several occasions, when illegal activities are alleged. And in fact, other nations routinely seize domain names as well when a registry is located within their jurisdiction.

    Thus the rationale for blockchain-based DNS, where domain names are independent of national jurisdictions. If a government agency wants to take control of a Namecoin .bit domain name, for example, how can they do it? It's basically impossible for governments, courts, registries or registrars to seize domain names in a decentralized system.

    Department of Justice took down 130 websites, Thanksgiving 2011


    Seizing Entire Namespaces?

    There are several types of extensions, and they are not treated the same. The two letter country code domains (ccTLDs) like .DE (Germany ccTLD) are administered entirely as the national governments decide. This is in stark contrast with how Sponsored Top Level Domains (sTLDs) are forced to abide by very restrictive terms and conditions.

    Yet a U.S. federal court is currently being asked by plaintiffs in a lawsuit to compel ICANN to seize control of the ccTLDs of Iran (.IR), Syria (.SY) and North Korea (.KP) to satisfy judgements against those nations. At stake is the fate of three entire namespaces, despite there being virtually no functioning websites in North Korea.

    This raises legitimate questions about Internet governance. In blockchain-based DNS, federal courts have no agency. Even in the case of BitsharesDNS, where the underlying technology is being developed by a for-profit company, it seems that they cannot be compelled to intervene because they simply don't have that capability.


    Protecting Privacy

    Who is that domain name registered to? It's a question many would like to know. Registration data is generally stored by the registry operator, and can be accessed using a protocol called WHOIS. Providing accurate information including name, street address and phone number is required by ICANN. Failure to comply is grounds for forfeiting the domain name.

    The status quo is convenient for law enforcement to help locate lawbreakers. It also makes life easier for intellectual property holders to identify those who they believe to be infringing. The current system is also of great benefit to prospective buyers who wish to negotiate a domain name sale, or potentially anyone interested in contacting the domain owner. But the status quo offers no good options for individual registrants to protect their private information.

    In fact, the current scheme has serious disadvantages for individuals. We make this distinction between individual and corporate registrants because the latter can use corporate contact info and no personal information is exposed. Individual domain owners are often targets for scammers because their personal information is required to be public. For example, an easy way to bootstrap a botnet intended for mass spamming is to harvest the millions of email addresses publicly available in WHOIS records.

    Over the years registrars began to sell private registration services. This service typically involves replacing the ownership data on the official WHOIS record with that of the registrar. This scheme unfortunately requires even more trust be extended.

    Technically these registrars are in a position to make an ownership claim, which might be important if the owner disappears from public view. More troubling still is the notion that they keep the real ownership info in their database. Those private details must be kept hidden from both misbehaving employees as well as hackers.


    Two Systems Going in Different Directions

    ICANN wants to replace the current system with one where more detailed contact information is required from registrants, but data lookup would be granted only for "permissible purposes" to authenticated and approved users. Despite thoughtful objections of the sole privacy advocate on the working group which came up with this proposal, both registrants and agents looking up information would need to be clearly identified in the latest proposed scheme.

    Namecoin requires no information from the registrant to simply reserve a domain name. Possession of the private key corresponding to that domain’s address on the blockchain is the only thing required. Registrations are pseudonymous in that no identifying information is available by default except that particular tokens can be tracked through the blockchain. With some effort, a registrant could come to posses tokens which could not be traceable back to any personal identifier.

    But this is not an anomaly. According to project lead Nikolai Mushegian, "all domains are anonymous by default" in BitsharesDNS, meaning that personal identifiers are only public record if the registrant chooses to provide that info. In their soon-to-be launched system domain names will be pseudonymous, meaning that they are by default only associated with internal identifiers.

    A registrant in either the Namecoin or BitsharesDNS systems can put in specific contact details entirely at their discretion. Meanwhile ICANN steadily continues down the path of eroding user privacy in order to appease the interests of big business.



    A quick reminder, this is a multipart series on decentralizing the Domain Name System. Stay tuned for the next installment as we explore how decentralized DNS allows us to solve some of the most pressing online security issues we face today.

    If you enjoyed this article and want to show your gratitude you can do so by signing up to Lets Talk Bitcoin using my referral code: http://letstalkbitcoin.com/?ref=52b52db8

    Read More
  • 53 Comments
    2,714 views
  • 43 Comments
    1,096 views
    Categories: General, Guest Blog, Columns

    Bitcoin and Intrinsic Value

    August 6th, 2014 by Tron

    Warren Buffett, generally a shrewd investor, surely knows the financial definition of intrinsic value, but inexplicably he does not understand Bitcoin. How do I know he does not understand Bitcoin? Because he called it a "mirage," said it had “no intrinsic value,” called it “a joke,” and compared it to a check. A check? Bitcoin, the network, can be compared to the entire banking system that processes a check, which includes the clearing system, the image scanning system, the ATM network, the credit and debit system of the Automated Clearing House, the SWIFT financial messaging system, and ultimately the institutions that we trust to safely track our balances and return our deposited funds upon request.


    Warren’s uninformed and off-the-cuff remark sparked a conversation about the intrinsic value of Bitcoin. We need to begin by defining "intrinsic value," because it has a different definition for a financial investor than it does for most noninvestors. Investors look at the book value and add the discounted cash flow to arrive at the intrinsic value, which is often different from the market value. Most noninvestors think of intrinsic value as the value of a thing itself. Noninvestors often cite the example of gold, or of a knife that can cut, splice, and dice. Gold can be used for industrial purposes. It is extremely malleable, shiny, and contains other unique physical properties. I posit, however, that gold’s real value lies in its scarcity and in its worldwide acceptance as a store of value. Knives, on the other hand, are great tools of utility value.


    Mr. Buffet’s ability to calculate the difference between intrinsic (or fundamental) value and market value gives him a real investing edge. I respect his investing acumen and I mean no disrespect for him when I declare he is wrong about Bitcoin.


    Perhaps if Warren thought about Bitcoin differently, he might come to a better conclusion. He regularly purchases stocks, so he understands that market. A stock, based upon the investor's definition of intrinsic value, represents partial ownership in an ongoing business that holds assets (book value) and makes money, which can be included in its value when discounted for time. Once Mr. Buffet learns a bit more about Bitcoin, I hope he will realize that upper-case Bitcoin, the network, holds tremendous value because it can be compared to a banking system, or a worldwide collection of banks and all of their systems. While lower-case bitcoin, the currency, can be compared to an index fund or an exchange-traded fund, which would indlude all the bitcoin companies in the Bitcoin ecosystem.


    Value is subjective and contextual. It is subjective because it depends on the feelings and opinions of the person doing the valuing. It is contextual because it depends on the circumstances and setting of that person.


    Let’s explore this with a simple example. Imagine you are stranded alone on a desert island with no internet connection. You are hungry, thirsty, and you cannot get off the island. Three things wash ashore -- a laminated-paper bitcoin wallet that gives the private key for an address that holds 100 BTC, a shoebox full of freshly printed US $100 bills, and a crate containing a knife, some flint, nine hens, a rooster, and several large sealed bottles of crystal-clear purified water. Which has the most value -- to you?  


    Now change the context, and imagine you just polished off a meal at a five-star restaurant and you ate too much dessert. You’re faced with the choice between the same items, but now you might want to count the $100 bills and check the public bitcoin address to decide whether you would rather take the bitcoin or the shoebox full of cash.  


    OK, one last example. This time you have eaten a nice meal while reading about China and Russia striking a deal to use their native domestic currencies to settle trade and purchase energy in the form of gas, oil, and coal. You are faced with the same choice of food, bitcoin, or dollars. But now you’re rattled. You think, “What if the dollar is losing its status as the global-reserve currency? What if dollars come flooding back to the United States as other countries choose not to hold them? What if government numbers for inflation are being blatantly manipulated?” You give it more thought, and you reason that you could take the dollars and buy stock in global companies in order to protect yourself. Then it hits you: “This is why the stock market is doing so well. It is not in recovery at all. People are shifting to stock assets in the face of a manipulated and devalued currency.” Your choice now comes down to buying global stocks, or taking the bitcoin. You look at the history of Bitcoin over the last few years, compare it to the S&P 500, and you make your choice without even needing to count the dollars in the shoebox.
    Read More