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Bitcoin Just Got a Shoutout in a New US Supreme Court Opinion

That’s not something you see every day: an opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court that makes a reference to cryptocurrencies. On June 21, the Supreme Court issued a ruling on Wisconsin Central Ltd. v. United States, a court case involving a dispute over whether worker stock options can be taxed …

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Ripple CEO Defends XRP’s Utility at Fintech Conference

“Let’s be clear: Ripple is different than XRP,” Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of distributed ledger startup Ripple, argued during CB Insights’ Future of Fintech conference on Thursday. Garlinghouse opened his talk by pushing back against arguments that the XRP cryptocurrency may be considered a security, given its close link to the …

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Ex-FDIC Chair Bair: ‘I Welcome’ New Rules for Crypto

Sheila Bair, a former chairperson of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), believes the U.S. should create a wholly new regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies. Speaking at CB Insights’ Future of Fintech conference on Thursday, the noted Fedcoin supporter – that is, a cryptocurrency operated by the U.S. central bank – …

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Bitcoin’s Price Hit Its Lowest Point Since Early February

The price of bitcoin on Friday fell to a level last seen in early February when it registered its lowest price in 2018. Prices went as low as $6,081.09, according to CoinDesk’s Bitcoin Price Index (BPI), a significant drop considering the day’s opening price of $6,717.20. At press time, bitcoin’s …

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Bitcoin Price Hits Lowest Point Since Early February

The price of bitcoin on Friday fell to a level last seen in early February when it registered its lowest price in 2018. Prices went as low as $6,081.09, according to CoinDesk’s Bitcoin Price Index (BPI), a significant drop considering the day’s opening price of $6,717.20. At press time, bitcoin’s …

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Enigma Protocol to Integrate Smart Contracts Tech With Intel Systems

Intel is working with blockchain startup Enigma to help secure its privacy-enhancing smart contracts.

As previously reported by CoinDesk, secret contracts are a type of smart contract for public blockchains that use cryptographic tricks to keep transaction data hidden from view. Enigma – a startup that grew out of efforts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with the goal of creating a more private platform for decentralized applications – wants to boost their privacy by incorporating Intel's Software Guard Extensions (SGX), a move slated for the second half of 2018.

An Enigma spokesperson told CoinDesk:

"Privacy is currently the biggest barrier to smart contract adoption. Blockchains are good at correctness, but bad at privacy by design. Smart contracts and decentralized applications will need to be able to use private and sensitive data to see global adoption."

Enigma plans to work with Intel and other industry partners to develop applications that support the protocol and SGX, later this year launching a proof-of-concept that showcases the potential of combining the two technologies.

Both teams are also conducting R&D into trusted execution environments (TEEs), which are an integral part of Intel's SGX technology that securitizes data and code. Specifically, TEEs refer to space on a device's main processor that is separate from its operating system and is responsible for storing and protecting data in a secure environment. In this regard, Intel and Enigma's goal is to create "production-level software that can be used at scale."

The collaboration is a timely one, given that high-stakes attacks have already taken place. The most prominent of these is perhaps the DAO hack in 2016, where 3.6 million ether, valued at around $50 million at the time, was stolen from the decentralized and autonomous venture capital fund as a result of vulnerabilities in a smart contract.

In an April Medium post, Enigma CEO Guy Zyskind highlighted the need for secret contracts given the issues affecting other forms of privacy tech. These include problems with coin-mixing and zero-knowledge proofs, the latter of which he said are particularly vulnerable in multi-party cases where several "untrusted and pseudonymous" parties are executing computations.

Therefore, Zyskind said, secret contracts provide the "missing piece" by executing computations using encrypted data that stays hidden from network nodes.

Looking further ahead, Enigma will also be launching its testnet and mainnet – a fully functioning, live network– in Q1 and Q2 of 2018, respectively, according to its roadmap.

Padlock image via Shutterstock

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

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$3 Billion Blockchain Tron Kicks Off Token Migration

The 10th most valuable cryptocurrency in the world is set to commence its token migration process on Thursday.

Created by former Ripple representative Justin Sun, Tron aims to build infrastructure for a "truly decentralized internet" that can host decentralized applications (dapps). The project, which started on the ethereum blockchain and launched its own blockchain in late May, has positioned itself as a competitor to its former host.

As such, the token migration is an intermediary step in what Tron has called its progression towards "independence," or in other words, the completion of its departure from ethereum and the activation of its mainnet technology.

Though the token migration is now a key part of the realization of Tron's technology, the original iteration of the project's roadmap did not include a token swap, much less the launch of an original Tron mainnet.

Sun initially intended for the project to remain on ethereum, however, according to a May Medium post, "network issues" triggered the decision to "detach" from the protocol.

He wrote further:

"This is the only way to propel the industry into a stage of large-scale, rapid growth...Independence from ethereum is our answer to the calling of the blockchain era."

The implementation of the network is likely to be contingent upon the success of the events of the upcoming week, which Tron told CoinDesk users can watch via its blog and social channels.

Whether the protocol will measure up to Sun's claims after the activation, however, remains to be seen.

Implications for token holders

For token holders, the swap merely means that the placeholder ERC-20 TRX tokens Tron distributed during its development phase will be switched out for native "TRON-20" TRX tokens.

Likewise, the swap means the balance of tokens in users' ethereum wallets will subsequently be transmitted to their Tron wallets.

Unlike other projects, such as EOS, which provide users with the option to carry out the swap manually, Tron's migration process will be facilitated wholly by exchanges. The process commences on Thursday, and users will have until June 24 to deposit their ERC-20 TRX tokens to one of 30 participating exchanges.

Users who already hold their tokens on a participating exchange do not need to take any action.

From June 22 to June 25, users will be unable to withdraw their TRX from exchanges. On June 24, the exchanges will take "snapshots" of users token balances to ensure the sums transfer correctly, and on June 25, both TRX deposits and withdrawals on exchanges will be frozen. Users will still be able to trade TRX during this period.

According to Tron, the completion of the token migration on June 25 will mark the point at which the Tron mainnet will become "fully independent" from the ethereum blockchain.

Following "Independence Day," users will be able to resume deposits and withdrawals on June 26 in time for Tron's "super representative election."

Similar to EOS' block producer election, this process requires users to stake or "freeze" their TRON20 TRX tokens to vote for block validators to operate in Tron's delegated proof-of-stake (DPoS) consensus system.

Upon the completion of the election, the Tron blockchain will be fully activated.

Rubber ducks image via Shutterstock

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

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21e800: Bitcoin, Satoshi and the Mystery Twitter Is Obsessing Over

#00000000000000000021e800c1e8df51b22c1588e5a624bea17e9faa34b2dc4a

This is a hashtag, but not just any hashtag. In all likelihood, it's the longest and most confusing one you'll ever come across trending in the crypto community.

Posted on June 19 by Mark Wilcox, the hashtag actually represents a cryptographic code known as a hash that's produced each time new transactions are validated and written onto the bitcoin blockchain. There are several of these written each day, so at first glance, it seems strange that this particular one produced on Tuesday at 19:32:37 (UTC) would be of any groundbreaking importance.

That's where you'd be wrong.

Well, actually, that's where you might be wrong.

Some background: There is a theory in physics that attempts to explain the interactions and dynamics of all forces in the universe with one simple mathematical structure known as the E8. Presented in a paper titled, "An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything" by Garrett Lisi in 2007, it still remains unproven.

Couple the unsolved status of the E8 theory with the equally unsolved mystery of the exact identity of the person(s) who invented bitcoin – with its supply cap of 21 million coins – into existence, and you get the hypothesis that "21e800" isn't just some random string of numbers and value. In fact, the theory seems to suggest, it is a "vanity hash" purposefully placed by the creator of bitcoin himself/herself/themselves, Satoshi Nakamoto.

Starting to get goosebumps yet?

If this hash is indeed a "vanity hash" or, in other words, one deliberately created as some kind of sign, the computing power to create it is not only magnitudes greater than is currently capable by the average computer, but the time needed to create it is somewhat jaw-dropping, as shown in a chart posted by developer Andrew DeSantis.

So for all these reasons and a few more (which we'll get to shortly), several people on Twitter are raving about the sheer impossibility of the existence of this hash, if indeed it was created and purposefully marked by an unknown person(s).


The impossibility of it all has led others to assert that perhaps the true identity of the creator of bitcoin is really something out of this world.


Hold your horses

But before we go jumping to any more wild conclusions, it is important to note the possibility that perhaps this string of characters is just random and simply the output of an ordinary hash function – not engineered by a hidden mastermind.

As Cornell University professor and blockchain researcher Emin Gün Sirer explains, the string of characters "21e8" isn't all that "magical" and actually occurs about once a year.

To this point, many others have also refuted the idea of a "vanity hash" entirely.

Instead, they see the more likely idea being that "21e8" isn't anything special and might even be a complete hoax.

What's keeping the magic alive?

What's clear from the day's social chatter is that the mystery behind this hash value is closely linked to the mystique – and fascination – with Satoshi Nakamoto and the creation story of bitcoin itself.

Indeed, a post on the Bitcoin Talk forum highlights how today's viral mystery is actually a rather old one.

Begun back in 2013, a post dubbed "A mistery[sic] hidden in the Genesis Block" on bitcointalk.org questions the creation of the first verified transaction using bitcoin.

As you may have heard, mining, the activity that verifies or "unlocks" blocks on the blockchain to write in new transactions is getting progressively harder. However, back in bitcoin's early days, the computing power required to process a block was comparatively lower – and at the same time, the computing processors in use weren't as powerful as today's power-hungry ASICs.

To put things in perspective, from unlocking Block 0, the genesis block, to Block 1, the approximate time to transpire was 6 days.

But according to calculations that have to do with the size of nonces – which are basically the additional data values added by miners to the hash function in order to get the appropriate hash value validating the next block – the approximate time to unlock Block 0 was only 4.2 minutes.

How is that possible?

Alas, that mystery persists. Perhaps, as in the words of @nondualrandy, these are all a series of "easter eggs" strategically planted to keep the magic behind bitcoin alive.

Ready to go hunting?

Galaxy image via Shutterstock

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

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Zcash Pays Off Developer to Avoid Blockchain Split

Despite the best efforts of zcash developers to keep the cryptocurrency's coming upgrade, Overwinter, as seamless as possible, the $800 million network was faced with a plot-twist this week.

Mere days before the update (a hard fork of the code) was set to execute – a developer decided to effectively threaten to split the network – if he wasn't paid in return that is. In a forum post published Tuesday, the sole maintainer of the Windows zcash wallet software, D. Jane Mercer, said he was going to cease development of the clients and release a zcash competitor "rebranded as another coin," if he didn't get further funding for his work.

See, last year Mercer was living off developer fees and donations for his work on the clients, but according to the post, the money had run out and he had been working for free for some time.

As such, Mercer decided to use the idea he might split the cryptocurrency as a way to air his frustrations.

On the forum, Mercer said:

"Altcoin drama rage quit hard fork, as it were. Pull a bitcoin cash, as it were."

And this message sent some in the zcash community into a frenzy.

That's because the Overwinter upgrade is scheduled to activate on June 25, but more importantly, that upgrade only adds limited features to zcash's protocol in an effort to prepare it for the Sapling hard fork upgrade, which looks to make zcash more scalable and private, in October.

If Mercer stopped development on the Windows wallet software, the most popular zcash wallet software, "tens to hundreds of thousands of users" would have been left without a workable wallet after the Sapling upgrade.

So, even though, blockchain splits have become, according to some, a healthy mechanism for asserting opposition of any decentralized cryptocurrency development, others do fear that these competing coins have the potential to split the community into fighting factions that confuse users.

"It might be as simple as pay the man," zcash engineer Ariel Gabizon said.

And payment came. The zcash community quickly stepped to financially support the developer after the threat – at least for a little while. The amount donated to Mercer by several anonymous zcash addresses is currently at 80 ZEC, around $15,360, according to current metrics.

"People have thrown enough in the kitty for a few months living expenses, so that's all well and good," Mercer told CoinDesk.

No more coexisting

Stepping back, though, it's notable in how the features packaged in the Overwinter hard fork made the theoretical hostage situation more dire.

One reason is that most developers support forks. While potentially disruptive to crypto economies, the guiding ethos is they allow a novel form of financial freedom. If users don't like what is going on with zcash, they have the ability to create another instance of the software.

This is different, proponents say, than traditional money systems. (Try as some might, you can't exactly fork the U.S. dollar and the elaborate banking system that enables it.)

In this way, Overwinter prepares the network for further upgrades and the potential for future hard forks, by including so-called "replay protection" to ensure that the network can bifurcate correctly in the case of a split.

However, the software still contains code called "auto-senescence," which causes nodes running older versions of the software to shutdown after a period of 16 weeks.

Designed to remove risks when undergoing network upgrades, Mercer had prepared for feature.

In the newest version of his wallet software, auto-senescence remained, so that the software would eventually expire. However, having removed it from the old version, if the users stayed on the old client, it would cause a chain split, Mercer continued.

"There is going to be a chain fork in one case, and then client death in another," he wrote.

While zcash developers were quick to counter that, saying that after Overwinter, older versions of the software will just be pushed into "safety mode," which causes those versions to deprecate at some point without causing a chain split, Mercer still had the community in a tight spot.

"Rock and a hard place you know," Mercer said, explaining the pressure he put on the community. "Overwinter is coming, and you got an Overwinter wallet but it's gonna deprecate sometime between Overwinter and Sapling, so how am I going to get to Sapling."

Mercer's orneriness was on full display at that time, but since he received the donations, he said, that he's dedicated to preparing the wallet software for the Sapling upgrade to come in about three months.

"Overwinter broke crap in a bunch of places which we're only figuring out now how to fix that with Windows, but it's like, bootin' hell knows what Sapling's going to be," the developer said, adding:

"Well now I'm funded by the community to find out and bring it forward."

A timely lesson

Above and beyond the donations Mercer received, though, he also got on the phone with the Zcash Foundation as well.

"I finally got one of the Zcash Foundation board members on the phone, and he managed to talk me back from the ledge from chain fork threats and fun things like that," he told CoinDesk, adding:

"I'm all calmed down, everything is happy now, I hate altcoin drama and it's the only time I have stirred it up deliberately in my life."

Still the episode has sparked an important conversation between Mercer and the Zcash Foundation – one that other cryptocurrency communities should be clued into as well – about how crucial independent developers are to these protocols and how to best compensate them for their work.

The Zcash Foundation, which receives donations from the so-called "founder's fee," a piece of code that contributes a percentage of zcash mining rewards to the founders fund, has a recurring grant program.

For independent developers like Mercer, though, relying on crypto and its volatile markets to continue contributing code can be crushing. Zcash in particular was hit hard this year, down from $876 per coin in January to $192 at the time of writing.

"The bear market really killed me," Mercer said. "You know ... when the blood spilling happened, I woke up and 25 percent of my money was gone."

And if the Zcash Foundation holds their reserves in ZEC, then the same rules would apply, whereby the grant program would be a little less healthy. As such, on a forum, executive director of the Zcash Foundation Josh Cincinnati said the organization is open to researching other funding methods as well.

Speaking broadly about the whole incident, it's has been a timely lesson on the importance of good developer relations, Mercer said, adding:

"Developers, developers, developers! There needs to be someone to talk to third-party wallet providers and exchanges, directly."

Crumpled paper image via Shutterstock

EDIT (11.45 UTC June 22, 2018): A former version of this article falsely stated that the feature "auto-senescence" is removed in the Overwinter upgrade. This has now been corrected.

EDIT 2 (12.15 UTC June 22, 2018): A former version of this article falsely stated that the Zcash Foundation was "hard coded" funds from the founders fee. This is incorrect. The Zcash Foundation is a recipient of the founders fee, but only by donation.

EDIT 3 (15.30 UTC June 22, 2018): A former version of this article falsely stated that zcash has a marketcap of $8 billion. It is worth $800 million according to current metrics.

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

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Amid Crypto Bear Market, Attention Turns to Small-Time Investors

“It’s all being bought by retail.” Speaking at CB Insights’ Future of Fintech conference Wednesday, Nasdaq president and CEO Adena Friedman hit on a theme almost everyone at the event echoed: the central role normally marginal figures – small-time investors and millennials in particular – play in the cryptocurrency market …

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The Downside of Democracy (and What it Means for Blockchain Governance)

Taylor Pearson is the author of “The End of Jobs” and writes about entrepreneurship and blockchain technologies at TaylorPearson.me. Following acrimonious debates within the bitcoin and ethereum communities over the past few years regarding governance decisions that ended in forks, there has been a wave of projects offering on-chain governance. …

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Fur Real? Businesses Test CryptoKitties-Inspired Ethereum Tech

Sure the cypherpunks love CryptoKitties, but it turns out luxury fashion brands are also taking a shine to the digital fluffballs. Or at least, they’re into the technology behind the ethereum-based decentralized application that captured the hearts and minds of crypto enthusiasts in December of last year. According to French …

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Litecoin Sinks to Lowest Price in 7 Months

Litecoin’s (LTC) price hit a seven-month low on Friday as the cryptocurrency markets turned risk-averse. The world’s sixth largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization fell to $84.39 at 14:00 UTC – its lowest level since November 29, according to CoinDesk’s Litecoin Price Index – and was last seen at $84.99, down …

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ICON Token Swap Underway With ‘No Issues,’ Foundation Says

Millions of dollars worth of ICON tokens are now on the move – as the cryptocurrency project begins its token migration. Designed to connect independent blockchain communities with a variety of governance strategies, the ICON protocol first launched its crypto token, ICX, on the ethereum blockchain, but – in what …

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Tencent, Chinese Officials Partner to Fight Blockchain Crime

Technology giant Tencent is teaming up with the Chinese government to fight blockchain-related security issues. The firm’s vice president, Bin Ma, announced the formation of the China Blockchain Security Alliance during the China Blockchain Security Forum in Beijing on Thursday, according to a report from ChinaNews, a state-owned media outlet. …

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Korean Government to Lead 6 Blockchain Pilots With $9 Million Fund

The South Korean government will invest 10 billion Korean won (or $9 million) to support blockchain development in the country, with plans to carry out six pilots using blockchain technology. According to a report from CoinDesk Korea, the country’s Ministry of Science and ICT published a blockchain development strategy on …

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Japan’s Financial Watchdog Orders AML Shake-Up at 6 Crypto Exchanges

Japan’s financial watchdog has issued business improvement orders to six licensed cryptocurrency exchanges following on-site inspections conducted over recent months. According to an announcement made by the Financial Services Agency (FSA) on Friday, the regulator is ordering bitFlyer, QUOINE, BTC Box, Bit Bank, Tech Bureau and Bit Point to enhance …

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Bitcoin Eyes Bear Revival After Key Support Breached

Bitcoin’s (BTC) bears may be building for a strong comeback, having pushed prices to a eight-day low below $6,300 earlier on Friday. The price fell to $6,286 on Bitfinex at 09:50 UTC, the lowest level since June 14, and, at press time, was changing hands at $6,326, down around 6 …

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