Weekly Crypto Recap [26/10/18 – 1/11/18]

Week in Brief


 

Bitcoin turns 10: the Satoshi whitepaper that questioned the necessity of the financial system that we know today

 

The institutional herds are coming — Fidelity, the 5th largest asset manager in the world announce the launch of Fidelity Digital Assets

 

Total crypto market cap is down 1.7% w/w, with 75% of the top 100 coins by market cap trading down w/w. In the last 24 hours, 87% of the top 100 are trading up whilst BTC is down 1.29% and ETH is down 1.92%. BTC, ETH and XRP lead the market cap respectively.

 

Market Performance


Top Stories


 

Bitcoin turns 10: the Satoshi whitepaper that questioned the necessity of the financial system that we know today

 

On the 31st of October 2008, coinciding with both the beginning of the global financial crisis, with the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and Halloween itself, notorious Satoshi Nakamoto unveiled the Bitcoin whitepaper to the world. Whether the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin is a male, female or a group of individuals is up for debate. Yet the imperceptible timing of this release cannot have been a coincidence, for, in the first block ever created, the genesis block, Satoshi inscribed a clear message for all to see:

“The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks”

Whilst Wall Street crumbled under the midst of the largest financial crisis since the great depression and possibly the greatest financial scandal of all time, an alternative financial infrastructure was being quietly developed online in order to destroy the current status quo.

Although Bitcoin would not be discovered by the mainstream until the speculative mania of 2017, the foundations for a new way of transferring value between individuals was already firmly laid. No longer would banks be necessary for individuals to transact trustfully with one another. Instead, a financial system had been built with trust inherently baked into the Bitcoin code. Such trust is immutable, it cannot be tampered with, it cannot be censored and it cannot be seized.

The world is still waking up to what Satoshi coined a “purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash that would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.” But as we loom on the edge of another global financial crisis, how much longer will individuals place trust in intermediaries who continually exploit everyone but themselves. Bitcoin has provided an exit sign for individuals to leave this corrupt system and become their own bank. Such financial freedom is arguably one of the most impactful inventions one will see in their lifetime. One thing is for certain, Bitcoin is here to stay.

 

The institutional herds are coming — Fidelity, the 5th largest asset manager in the world announce the launch of Fidelity Digital Assets

 

Fidelity, the renowned asset management franchise, announce the launch of their cryptocurrency investment vehicle, Fidelity Digital Assets, aimed at onboarding institutional investors to the marketplace. The firm is currently the 5th largest asset management company in the world, with a total of $7.2 trillion of customer assets under their control. This dwarfs the current market cap of the cryptocurrency industry, a mere $200 billion at the time of writing. If just 10% of their total assets were to become cryptocurrency assets in the future, this would sharply bring the cryptocurrency market estimation towards a trillion itself. Alongside the other institutional investment onramps which are around the corner, such as Bakkt, early retail adopters are almost certain to cash in big on their curiosity and foresight.

Based in Boston, the limited company aims to bring industry-grade custody solutions for institutional investors not possible with traditional unregulated cryptocurrency exchanges. They will achieve this with a geographically diverse set of cold storage locations which are disconnected from the internet itself and vault protected. At current, Institutional investors are simply not willing to risk the large sums of capital they have at their disposal on exchanges which could be shut down, hacked or exit scammed at any moment. Instead, such market participants need assurance from regulated and familiar mechanisms that their funds are secure at all times.

The firm will also provide a cryptocurrency trading platform alongside 24/7 institutional advisory services to cater to the market that never sleeps. Tom Jessop, founder of Fidelity Digital Assets states that “This is recognition that there is institutional demand for these assets as a class, family offices, hedge funds, other sophisticated investors, are starting to think seriously about this space.”. Ultimately, it is clear that the institutional herds are coming with the funds needed to really push this market into a new era, for better or worse. Optimistically, this institutional jumpstart could be exactly what the market needs right now to keep momentum, allowing the underlying technology to continue to improve at an exponential rate.

 

Meanwhile


 

Cryptocurrency titan, Coinbase, receives a further $300 million dollar investment in their most recent round of funding, leading to a total valuation of over 8 billion dollars (Coindesk).

Bakkt is set to be launched in December, a cryptocurrency exchange founded by the intercontinental exchanges (ICE) seeking to solve the custody problem for institutional investors, confirming a new era of investment from retail to Wall Street may be on the horizon (Bitcoinist).

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) launches a Strategic Hub for Innovation and Financial Technology, in hopes of updating individuals on SEC regulatory issues, in order to be more transparent and create greater confidence in the market. (The Daily Hodl).

 

What We’re Reading At BBOD


 

Bitcoin At 10: The Satoshi Whitepaper

Why Bitcoin and Crypto Have No Future

MappleChange: The Story of Another Cryptocurrency Exchange Exit Scam

 

What We’re Listening To At BBOD


 

Reflections on the 10 Year Anniversary of The Bitcoin Whitepaper

Radical Markets: Uprooting Capitalism and Democracy for a Just Society

What Bitcoin Did: Crypto Custody

 

Fundamental Pick: Elastos (ELA)

BBOD Rating [10/10/2018]


SPEC BUY: A speculative opportunity for investors with a higher risk tolerance

 

Overview


Currency Code ELA
Transaction Start Date 01/02/2018
Total Supply 33,647,865
Circulating Supply 7,722,239
Protocol Type Blockchain Platform
Base Protocol ELA
Where To Buy LBank, Huobi, CoinEgg, Kucoin

 

Problem To Solve


Since the inception of the Internet, it has become impossible for content creators to claim individual ownership of their works and to ensure such original creators reek the monetary benefits from their creative outputs. This is the result of the Internet’s inability to provide unique content which cannot be copied by individuals and spread freely over its vast distributed network. With over 3 billion individuals having access to the Internet, who all possess the ability to copy original content with ease, trying to stop the flow of illegal content between parties is simply impossible. Moreover, it is not only individual actors who take advantage of the ability to stream content globally, well-known centralised digital content providers such as Spotify, Youtube and Netflix all profit substantially from monetising digital content which is not of their own creation. Ultimately, this process often leaves original content creators with a tiny fraction of the actual profit they should be receiving for their creative endeavours and large corporations with the majority.

On the opposite side of this dilemma, individuals themselves no longer physically own much of the digital content they consume. People simply pay for subscription services and become drip fed by whichever corporation they choose to worship. Many may argue that, in fact, this is not an issue for the individual, as digital content has never been so easy to consume, yet is convenience necessarily a good thing without rights to ownership? In the past, individuals collected physical possessions over the period of their lifetime, such as books, records and photo albums, which could then be passed down to their family. This not only acted as a memoir of deceased loved ones but also a mechanism of passing value down through generations. Today, little of what we consume is actually ours and consequently, we cannot monetise our possessions when needed for ourselves or our children.

 

The Solution


In order to tackle the dissemination of creator content, Elastos [ELA] proposes a unique Blockchain design philosophy which detaches original content from the internet itself and runs separately on what Elastos has coined the ‘Smartweb’. Here creators content will not be uploaded to the internet that we know today, rather, it will be placed on a decentralised application on Elastos ‘Runtime’ software. ‘Runtime’ will enable individuals to store, view and exchange original content peer-to-peer on their personal smartphones or computers without connecting to the internet itself. Instead, Elastos will utilise the Blockchain only to confirm transactions between parties and verify their identity without needing a third party.

Thus, creators using the system will have the ability to attach their personal identity to their unique content on the Blockchain, allowing them to track exactly how many individuals are consuming their content, ensuring all revenue is sent directly to the original artist rather than unnecessary intermediaries. Moreover, Content creators will have the ability to introduce the concept of digital scarcity to their work, limiting the amount of digital content that can be bought by consumers to a fixed number. As in all markets, scarcity often creates increased incentives for individuals to purchase an item in a specific timeframe whilst supply remains fixed, increasing adoption and price over time. Such mechanisms should allow creators to reek the financial rewards they deserve for digital content, unlike in the current status quo.

Additionally, the Elastos ‘Runtime’ ecosystem will benefit consumers of the network, by allowing them access to original content which they will digitally own, verified by their Blockchain Identity. Unlike in today’s markets where one merely owns the right to use a product for a specified amount of time via a subscription service, consumers of Elastos ‘Runtime’ network will have unconditional ownership of their digital assets. Much like in the physical content world before the era of the internet, this will allow individuals to generate future revenue if they decide to sell some of their digital content. For instance, perhaps, due to the scarcity of the digital content when first purchased, such an asset has now significantly increased in price as there is now huge demand and virtually no supply, one could benefit akin to selling a rare piece of art. This mechanism creates an entirely new smart economy by allowing anyone to participate in wealth generation through peer to peer free markets without the interference of costly and unnecessary third parties.

 

Summary


Ultimately, Elastos allows digital content to be stored, viewed and traded in a secure and transparent manner. Without the need for third parties, creators are guaranteed to be rewarded with fair compensation for their creative output whilst consumers can benefit from their digital content ownership. Within this closed environment, the projects native ELA token will be used to pay for access to content that individuals desire. ELA can then be spent within the Elastos ecosystem itself or transferred to any other financial network.

 

Catalysts


  • Rewarding Content Creators: Since the introduction of the internet, content creators have lost out significantly as they have no means of stopping the dissemination of their artistic works. Moreover, unnecessary intermediaries have profited substantially by providing user-friendly interfaces which consumers have gravitated towards due to their ease of use. This is only set to continue as more individuals have access to the internet and product offerings become more sophisticated. Elastos provides a way out of the traditional content economy that allows creators to become the sole beneficiaries of their work, an idea that would not be possible without Blockchain technology and certainly appealing to creators themselves.
  • A Universally Beneficial Ecosystem: Not only does Elastos benefit content creators, but it also allows consumers themselves to take back the ownership of their digital content. This should attract individuals who are fed up with paying for subscription services that have the right to remove content at any time. Elastos allows consumers to benefit from the financial rewards of having exclusive ownership of digital content by exchanging such content in a peer-to-peer manner. Individuals can also feel confident that their purchase decisions are directly affecting the lives of the artists they admire.
  • Longevity and Strength of The Elastos Team: CEO Rong Chen began work on Elastos after leaving a senior role at Microsoft in 2000. Over time, the project has evolved in line with the pace of technology to now include Blockchain technology, which now allows it to function. The foresight and longevity of the project suggest the team is certainly in this for the long haul. Elastos now comprises of over 52 team members, with well-respected Blockchain advisors including Jihan Wu (CEO of Bitmain) and Hongfei Da (Founder & CEO of NEO).

 

Risk Factors


  • Challenging Traditional Oligopolies: The market for content streaming services is fierce, with a few key playing dominating the space, such as Spotify, Youtube and Netflix. If Elastos is to overcome the huge amounts capital these companies have at their disposal, they are going to need to pursue aggressive marketing strategies in order to establish themselves as an alternative competing brand. Despite this, the overwhelming benefits for content creators who utilise the platform should push the market forward, if they decide to limit content exclusively outside of the traditional system.
  • Copying Copyright Material: Although digital content will be detached from the Internet on the Elastos ‘Runtime’ software, this does not stop consumers from screen-capturing videos, text or rerecording audio. Individuals desire to find content for free will prevail if they search hard enough. Regardless, individuals who choose to do this will only receive knock-off versions of an original file of lesser quality, unlike today where original files can easily be copied and disseminated.
  • Verification: Elastos have failed to state how they will verify content is uploaded by the original creator. Although a Blockchain ID will be assigned to each piece of digital content, there is nothing stopping someone else uploading a file to the ‘Runtime’ system and claiming it as their own. In order for this to occur, however, the fake uploader would have to possess the original file and upload it before the original content creator, a rare circumstance.

 

Conclusion


Elastos provides an innovative alternative ecosystem for content creators and consumers to maintain full control of their digital assets and monetise them without the need for unnecessary intermediaries. The projects key strength is the ability to create a marketplace for digital content detached from the internet itself, Elastos ‘Runtime’, utilising the Blockchain only to verify the identification of content creators and to implement trustless peer-to-peer transactions. This has the potential to create an environment outside of the traditional corporate structure that will allow consumers to truly own their digital content and content creators to be rightfully rewarded for their creative endeavours. If Elastos can market their brand effectively, content creators could start transitioning exclusively over to the platform, leaving consumers no alternative but to adopt the system if they wish to enjoy their favourite artists. With support from cryptocurrency giants such as Bitmain and NEO and a dedicated team of 18 years, Elastos seem capable of successfully implementing their idea. Thus, as the mainstream begins to adopt decentralised applications, Elastos is certainly one to watch.

 

BBOD Rating Standard


BUY: A low-risk buying opportunity

ACCUMULATE: An opportunity to buy a medium risk cryptocurrency at a low price

SPEC BUY: A speculative opportunity for investors with a higher risk tolerance

HOLD: Maintain current levels of position until further research is published

SELL: Investment is associated with the potential of losing capital

 

Disclaimer


BBOD Research is an independent cryptocurrency research-house. The company has not received any remuneration (cryptocurrency or otherwise) in preparing this analysis.

This report has been prepared solely for informative purposes and should not be the basis for making investment decisions or be construed as a recommendation to engage in investment transactions or be taken to suggest an investment strategy in respect of any financial instruments or the issuers thereof. This report has not been prepared in accordance with the legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and is not subject to any prohibition on dealing ahead of the dissemination of investment research under the Market Abuse Regulation (EU) No 596/2014. Reports issued by Trade the Future Holding (“BBOD Research”) or its affiliates are not related to the provision of advisory services regarding investment, tax, legal, financial, accounting, consulting or any other related services and are not recommendations to buy, sell, or hold any asset. The information contained in this report is based on sources considered to be reliable, but not guaranteed, to be accurate or complete. Any opinions or estimates expressed herein reflect a judgment made as of this date and are subject to change without notice. BBOD Research will not be liable whatsoever for any direct or consequential loss arising from the use of this publication/communication or its contents. Trade the Future Holding and its affiliates hold positions in digital assets and may now or in the future hold a position in the subject of this research.

 

Fundamental Pick: Binance Coin [BNB]

Image result for binance coin

 

BBOD Rating [10/10/2018]


BUY: A low-risk buying opportunity

 

Overview


 

Currency Code BNB
Transaction Start Date 25/07/2017
Total Supply 192,443,301
Circulating Supply 117,443,301
Protocol Type Cryptocurrency Exchange
Base Protocol BNB
Where To Buy Binance, HitBTC
Go Long/Short BBOD

Binance Exchange Overview


Binance began trading as a little known Chinese cryptocurrency exchange in July 2017, during a boom time for the marketplace as a whole. Utilising the fortunate timing of their project and an aggressive marketing strategy the company became the highest traded spot exchange by daily volume a mere six months after inception. This rise to fame was unprecedented and something competitors such as Bittrex and Poloniex certainly did not anticipate. Binance achieved such success by significantly beating competitors on tradings fees with 0.10% per trade as opposed to 0.25%. Additionally, they employed an extremely liberal coin listing policy, growing their community at an exponential rate by attracting traders from a wide pool of already well-established cryptocurrency projects. Today, the platform lists 280 active trading pairs with an average of 1 billion trading volume daily and over 9 million active users.

 

Binance Coin [BNB] Overview


In order to raise money for the platform, Binance launched their ICO for Binance Token [BNB] on July 2nd. Due to the substantial bull market of the time and their solid project, Binance sold the entirety of their 100 million BNB tokens within several minutes of availability. The token sold for an average price of 0.11 USD, equating to approximately 11 million USD total funds raised during their ICO. BNB is an ERC20 token based on the Ethereum blockchain with a max supply of 200 million, after which no more coins will be created. Although BNB is now widely acknowledged as a utility token for use on the platform, the value of the token also corresponds to the equivalent of a traditional stock, with holders owning a proportional share in Binance that will likely appreciate proportionally with the growth of the exchange. This is a particularly rare phenomenon in the cryptocurrency space, where the majority of coins do not have such a substantial functioning product supporting them.

 

The Utility of Binance Coin [BNB]  


Discount

Currently, the main use case of BNB token stems from its ability to be used to decrease trading fees on the Binance Platform. Users can choose to pay for fees using BNB instead of utilising the cryptocurrency they are trading. If one chooses to do so they can expect 50% trading fees in their first year of membership, which decreases by half every year of subscription, until year five, where a discount no longer applies. In essence, BNB becomes the fuel for the Binance ecosystem, providing real-world utility to the token, unlike many other cryptocurrency projects whose promise of utility stems from the future success of yet to be released product. The reduction in fees is hugely significant to frequent traders as the platform itself currently undercuts any other exchange on the market without even employing the token discount, at 0.1% per trade. Combine this with the lowered fees when BNB is implemented to trade with and the exchange substantially undercuts its competitors on trading fees. For example Huobi and Bitfinex both employ trading fees of 0.2%. The oversight of Binance competitors higher fees is likely what drew many to the platform from in the first place.

 

Token Burn

In order to counteract the decreasing value of the BNB fee discount over the period of five years, Binance has employed a quarterly coin burn for their tokens. Essentially, Binance will buy back BNB tokens from the market and send them to a public address whose private keys are unobtainable, effectively destroying the tokens. This decreases the supply of BNB in circulation with demand remaining the same, usually resulting in an increase in price as the token becomes more scarce. This ingenious tactic has gained much publicity and succeeded in its aim thus far, with prices increasing substantially before coin burns that have occurred in the past. Binance aims to do this every financial quarter with 20% of their profits. So far they have met their promise, with 986,000 BNB burned in their first quarter, 1,821,586 BNB in the second and 2,220,314 BNB in the third, approximately 30 million USD at the time. The process will continue until half of their total supply remains, 100 million BNB. Such a mechanism has captured the attention of investors who will likely hold onto BNB for speculation purposes once users fees no longer decrease by utilising the token for trading fees. With increased visibility into the valuation of the BNB due to its direct correlation to the success of the exchange, no doubt prices will increase if the business continues on its current trajectory.

 

ICO Launchpad

Continuing their effort to provide BNB with meaningful value, the Binance Launchpad program allows individuals to invest in certain cryptocurrencies that are in the process of being listed on the platform using BNB. This furthers the tokens use case and creates a seamless marketplace between available ICOs and the exchange itself. Additional add-ons such as the Launchpad program increase the utility of the token and hence its demand, potentially leading to an increase in price. Continuing the process of frequently improving the usability of BNB will likely be key to the tokens success going forward. Such efforts thus far include Monaco adding BNB to their cryptocurrency Visa Card/App and the ability to buy virtual gifts on Uplive using the token.  

 

Future Applications


Decentralised Exchange

Looking to the future, Binance plan to build a decentralised cryptocurrency exchange (DEX) which will utilise the BNB token as the primary base asset and gas to be spent. Binance has coined this project Binance Chain, although it is still in the stages of development, admittedly aiming to outsource the underlying technology by providing a 1 million USD bounty and a job at Binance to an individual with a successful proposal. Although, if Binance Chain is as successful as Binance itself, BNB will gain significant value from a substantial increase in demand for the token for investors to utilise on the DEX platform. Moreover, they would mitigate regulatory risks of their current centralised exchange, as decentralised exchanges are inherently impossible to shut down. Despite this, the current DEX environment has largely suffered from a lack of usability, functionality and liquidity. Thus, pulling off a decentralised exchange successfully at this moment in time would be no easy feat.

 

BNB Catalysts


Organic Growth Through Reputation: Binance’s significant success in the cryptocurrency spot exchange market thus far has gained them substantial brand recognition in the marketplace. Couple this success with an ever-expanding user base and this could translate into sustainable long-term growth for the BNB token.

Continual Drive for Innovation: Since their inception, Binance has made continual strides to expand their product offering and overall ecosystem. For example, improving the functionality of the exchange itself, introducing the coin burn function and offering market participants the opportunity to invest in cryptocurrencies utilising BNB in their Launchpad program. Further efforts to improve the Binance ecosystem will not go unnoticed and will certainly affect the price of BNB.

Sustainable Growth During a Bearish Market: Although the fortunate timing of the implementation of the exchange can be seen as luck by many, Binance have not failed to increase their market dominance this year in a declining market (approx. -70% YTD). The consistency of trading volume, hovering around 1 Billion USD per day suggests that when the market decides to turn bullish, the number of individuals who utilise the platform and its token will increase.

 

BNB Risk Factors


Regulatory Environment: Since the success of BNB is entirely hinged on the success of the Binance exchange, the centralisation of the exchange may become an issue if regulators choose to crack down on cryptocurrency exchanges in general and make an example of them as a key figure in the industry. The platform has shown no interest in complying with regulators and so the way forward appears to be creating their decentralised exchange Binance Chain, which they are far from realising.

Market Saturation: Now that the market for exchanges is becoming incredibly saturated, firms with capital are employing aggressive strategies such as feeless spot exchanges, eradicating the need for BNB’s fee reduction utility. Despite this, none have diversified their market as much as Binance thus far and it will be hard to keep pace if the company pays attention.

Centralised Ownership: Ultimately Binance is a centralised exchange and thus decisions on what utility BNB should hold are made by management officials. This removes the right for token holders to collectively decide the fate of their token going forward. Although, so far, one would be stretched to challenge the decisions for BNB’s utility, as the strategies implemented seem to have largely paid off.

 

Conclusion


The initial incentive to buy BNB tokens was to gain discounted trading fees on the Binance platform, as doing so would substantially out-compete other spot exchanges on fees. Although this function is slowly being phased out over the period of five years, over time Binance has presented multiple other utilities for their token such as the ability to invest in ICOs to be launched on the Binance platform using BNB and the future hopes of utilising the token on Binance Chain, their decentralised exchange in the early stages of development. Couple this with token burning to slowly decrease the supply of BNB and Binance seem to know how to create sustainable long-term value for their BNB token. Hence, looking forward, as long as Binance can keep pace with the ever-evolving regulatory environment, BNB appears to have a bright future ahead of itself.

 

BBOD Rating Standard 


BUY: A low-risk buying opportunity

ACCUMULATE: An opportunity to buy a medium risk cryptocurrency at a low price

SPEC BUY: A speculative opportunity for investors with a higher risk tolerance

HOLD: Maintain current levels of position until further research is published

SELL: Investment is associated with the potential of losing capital


Disclaimer


BBOD Research is an independent cryptocurrency research-house and research arm of BBOD Exchange. The company has not received any remuneration (cryptocurrency or otherwise) in preparing this analysis.

This report has been prepared solely for informative purposes and should not be the basis for making investment decisions or be construed as a recommendation to engage in investment transactions or be taken to suggest an investment strategy in respect of any financial instruments or the issuers thereof. This report has not been prepared in accordance with the legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and is not subject to any prohibition on dealing ahead of the dissemination of investment research under the Market Abuse Regulation (EU) No 596/2014. Reports issued by Trade the Future Holding (“BBOD Research”) or its affiliates are not related to the provision of advisory services regarding investment, tax, legal, financial, accounting, consulting or any other related services and are not recommendations to buy, sell, or hold any asset. The information contained in this report is based on sources considered to be reliable, but not guaranteed, to be accurate or complete. Any opinions or estimates expressed herein reflect a judgment made as of this date and are subject to change without notice. BBOD Research will not be liable whatsoever for any direct or consequential loss arising from the use of this publication/communication or its contents. Trade the Future Holding and its affiliates hold positions in digital assets and may now or in the future hold a position in the subject of this research.

 

Bitcoin ETF Proposals Possess Substantial Market Influence

gold-colored Bitcoin on book

Before July, one could be forgiven for being confused by the prospect of a Bitcoin ETF being introduced into the cryptocurrency ecosystem. Almost three months on, however, such ETFs have become synonymous with the term Bitcoin. To claim naivety of the ETF proposals at this stage risks entirely misinterpreting current market conditions. This article aims to ensure market participants are completely aware of the facts thus far including what exactly a Bitcoin ETF entails, when they are likely to be implemented and how they will impact the overall market.

 

ETFs Defined

Exchange-traded funds, commonly known as ETFs, are a traditional investment vehicle offered on all major stock exchanges around the globe. The most notorious example of such a fund is the well-regarded S&P 500 on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). They allow exposure to an underlying asset or basket of assets offered in the form of a security that is proportionally represented by the funds’ shares. Most importantly, they allow exposure to a market without needing to physically hold or store the underlying asset, which is left up to the fund. For many years now, ETFs have become one of the key mainstream methods for passive investment by the masses in mainstream markets, as they are commonly associated with lower investment risks than individual stocks.

Indeed, as ETFs allow an individual to buy a basket of multiple assets, they mitigate strong price swings which individual stocks often suffer from, especially in the incredibly volatile cryptocurrency market. Any losses from assets which do not meet up to their promise are counterbalanced with assets which have performed particularly well and the growth of the overall industry during that period. Driving up the funds share price over time. The notorious investment tycoon Warren Buffett once proved the power of ETFs with a successful bet that the S&P 500 would outperform a collection of well-regarded Wall Street hedge funds over the period of a decade. His victory truly displayed to the masses the power of such funds.

 

Bitcoin ETFs Market Impact

One of the major barriers to mainstream cash inflow into the blockchain ecosystem has been the lack of institutional investors ability to purchase assets using traditional methods. Many do not understand that such market participants are simply not going to risk their hard-earned capital on unfamiliar and unregulated cryptocurrency exchanges, there is simply too much at stake. Instead, institutional money will enter the space once they can acquire cryptocurrencies without needing to hold the underlying asset, in a highly regulated and fully insured manner. Thus, for institutional investors crypto ETFs mitigate the risks of the industry whilst allowing them to profit from one of the greatest financial revolutions one will likely see in their lifetimes. Make no mistake, institutional investors want to get involved in the ongoing revolution, they simply want to do so in a highly regulated and safe fashion.

Although the impact of such institutional investors on the market will likely be of a speculatory nature in the first instance, this huge influx of money to the market will bring much-needed market exposure. The media love to shame the cryptocurrency ecosystem as much as feasibly possible, calling it a scam or a fad on a regular basis. Such institutional money would bring credibility to the entire industry and allow well-respected entities who have been quietly investing in the cryptocurrency space to come out of the woodwork and into the spotlight. Ultimately this could lead to mainstream cryptocurrency adoption long term, as a result of the perceived integrity of the industry as a whole.

 

Bitcoin ETF Calendar

Issuer Company Filing Date Status SEC Date
“Physically” Backed by Bitcoin Holdings
Winklevoss Bitcoin Shares Winklevoss Cap Mgmt 01/07/13 Denied 26/07/18
VanEck SolidX Bitcoin Trust VanEck & SolidX 05/06/18 Postponed 30/09/18
Bitwise HOLD 10 Cryptocurrency Index Fund Bitwise 24/07/18 Awaiting Approval Unknown
Derivatives Based
GraniteShares Bitcoin ETF GraniteShares 15/12/17 Denied 15/09/18
GraniteShares Short Bitcoin ETF GraniteShares 15/12/17 Denied 15/09/18
Direxion Daily Bitcoin 1.25X Bull Direxion 05/01/18 Denied 21/09/18
Direxion Daily Bitcoin 1.5X Bull Direxion 05/01/18 Denied 21/09/18
Direxion Daily Bitcoin 2X Bull Direxion 05/01/18 Denied 21/09/18
Direxion Daily Bitcoin 1X Bear Direxion 05/01/18 Denied 21/09/18
Direxion Daily Bitcoin 2X Bear Direxion 05/01/18 Denied 21/09/18
Evolve Bitcoin ETF Evolve Funds 21/09/17 Awaiting Approval Unknown

The table above displays cryptocurrency ETFs which are currently laying the foundations for their approval. Such firms are on a waiting list ready for their hearing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), who will ultimately determine their fate. The notorious Winklevoss twins fund has already been turned down for the second time as of the 26th of July. Following this, the SEC has denied a following 9 applications, predominantly from Derivatives based ETFs such as GraniteShares and Direxion. Such a decision results from their perceived inability to provide significant liquidity due to their market size, which could lead to significant market manipulation.  

Despite such dismissals, the most important ETF which market participants should be fully aware of is the VanEck SolidX Bitcoin Trust who plan to release their ‘physically’ backed ETF on the notorious Chicago Board of Options Exchange (CBOE). Recently, the SEC hearing date was postponed to the 30th of September. The CBOE has true industry influence as the largest options exchange in the world and have proven themselves in the cryptocurrency market by introducing their Bitcoin futures market in late 2017. They have meticulously studied the failures of all previous ETF denials and reviewed their application accordingly. If an ETF is likely to get approved this year, this will most likely be the one.

Despite all the hype, some sceptics suggest that ETF delays are usual, with Copper being the last ETF to pass through the SEC. With their reasoning, the likelihood of an ETF being approved in 2018 is minimal. However, regardless of whether a decision happens in the next few months or not, the market has certainly been responding rapidly to both positive and negative news. The first Winklevoss twins ETF denial news caused a flash crash which quickly corrected, whilst the delay of the major CBOE proposal caused a more prolonged fall in Bitcoins valuation. Ultimately, the market appears to be in a stalemate until a further delay, approval or disapproval occurs. The latter would likely cause a long-term downtrend, whilst an approval could see prices increase exponentially. As the 30th of September looms, the market tension builds. Be sure to have a plan for all situations to ensure one maximises or minimises the ETFs impact.

 

Centralisation Undermines The Most Fundamental Principle Of Blockchain Technology

airport-bank-board-534216.jpg

 

Blockchain technology promised users the ability to become their own bank, yet the majority of exchanges which allow individuals to purchase cryptocurrencies are entirely centralised.

This is a fundamental problem plaguing the industry currently, with centralised exchange hacks occurring on a far too frequent basis. For example, the colossal Mt. Gox hack of 850,000 BTC, Bitfinex’s loss of 120,000 BTC and more recently the Bithumb breach, the 5th largest exchange by volume at the time. Such events indicate that no matter how established the exchange, there is always a possibility of being infiltrated by hackers, after all this may be the most profitable heists of all time, as Bitcoin continues to increase in value.

The problem here is simple, just like with traditional institutions, all of your money is held in one or several accounts, which can easily be targeted by hackers to great effect. A single point of failure.

Whilst traditional firms have heavy measures in place to avoid such attacks, they are still vulnerable. Yet at least such firms provide consumers with reassurance, if your funds are stolen, they will be replaced. This is not the case with the majority of cryptocurrency exchanges, someone hacks the exchange, you lose your entire account. Will you get refunded? Maybe. When? Who knows.

Surely there must be a solution to such a problem, after all, can you really call yourself a proponent of blockchain technology when you may as well be handing over your precious money to a central bank. Let us consider our options.

 

How Fully Decentralised Exchanges Work Using Blockchain Technology

 

THE IDEAL

Dissimilar to centralised exchanges, decentralised exchanges are not controlled by one single entity. Instead, they are distributed over the entire Blockchain network that they utilise. This ensures that a decentralised exchange does not possess any of their customers’ funds or information and so are impossible to hack or shut down. They simply match trade orders for consumers by utilising a certain blockchains smart contract system. Thus, entirely decentralised exchanges live up to the libertarian promise of a free society where individuals are their own bank and they inherently avoid censorship from any third parties such as governments seeking to seize control. Pretty awesome right? Why aren’t they used more often then?

 

THE REALITY

Usability

First, they are difficult to use for the consumer, with the high barriers to entry in the Blockchain space already, centralised companies like Coinbase have thrived from attracting new money through their simple user interfaces and user experiences. No need for understanding a public or private key, just connect your bank account and buy some crypto. Unfortunately, this approach is far more appealing, who wants to understand how the technology works as long as it functions? Early adopters perhaps, but not the majority. Here we are again at square one, with our funds in the control of a centralised authority.

 

Functionality

Second, decentralised exchanges offer limited functionality compared to their centralised competitors.  Unfortunately, entirely relying on distributed networks has not yet allowed exchanges to offer certain essential trading utilities such as stop losses and limit orders, two things the majority of traders simply cannot function without. Additionally, the number of different cryptocurrencies on offer are often largely limited to a select few as result of the point to follow.

 

Lack of Liquidity

The shortcomings of usability and functionality lead to decentralised exchanges not being able to encourage the trade volume necessary for an exchange to function as it should. There are often difficulties finding a counterparty to match one’s trade order, resulting in missed opportunities and aggravated traders. The less liquid the cryptocurrency in general, the less likely one will find a counterparty to complete their trade.

 

THE STATUS QUO

At first glance of the ideal, one might question why most exchanges who supposedly support a decentralised future are living in the centralised present.  But after thorough analysis, it is clear that Blockchain technology and its ecosystem simply isn’t ready to handle the complex functionality and underlying usability that traders desire. Maybe in years to come full decentralisation will be feasible, a world we should all strive to live in, but for now, it simply isn’t.

So, how can one be in control of their own funds whilst enjoying the complexities and subtleties of centralised trading? Enter the hybrid trading model.

 

Hybrid Trading

This model brings with it the best features of both the decentralised and centralised models. One can become their own bank and possess sole control of their funds whilst enjoying the functionality and usability of centralised platforms. No more exchange hacks, no authoritarian governments have the ability to seize funds or close accounts, complete financial freedom. Integrate such liberty with powerful means to profit from one of the biggest financial revolutions in human history and you are onto a winning combination. So how is this all possible?

 

Decentralised Custody

First one must understand the concept of decentralised custody. Utilising Blockchains that allow for the creation of smart contracts, Hybrid Trading Platforms, such as BBOD, merely settle profit and loss from a personal distributed wallet by employing the functionality of smart contracts. Here, one creates a set of defined rules which auto-complete when such rules are met. In this case, settle profit and loss every 24 hours between different counterparties.

Such personal wallets are inherently impenetrable as they are distributed over the entire chosen Blockchain ecosystem, BBOD utilises Ethereum’s. In order to hack one account, you would have to hack every account simultaneously, much like the Blockchain itself, an impossible feat when networks are distributed over millions of computers.

Thus, BBOD users become completely in control of their own funds in an incredibly secure decentralised manner and can choose to withdraw money from their personal wallet at any time.

 

Centralised Trading Engine

Second, one must understand the concept of a centralised trading engine. Here transactions are settled off-chain utilising the mechanism commonly used on centralised exchanges. For instance, BBOD utilises a custom trading engine built by well-respected GMEX, which can handle more than a million transactions per second with latency of less than 25 microseconds.

Essentially this ensures lightning fast transaction speeds between parties, avoiding the pitfall of the functionality of decentralised exchanges. Additionally, BBOD’s user-interface is extremely user-friendly allowing traders of all levels to utilise the platform.

 

CONCLUSION

This article has discussed the pitfalls of centralised exchanges, the pro and cons of fully decentralised exchanges and the overwhelming benefits of hybrid trading platforms, such as BBOD.

Now one must ask themselves how much trust they want to place in the hands of centralised exchanges. Do you want to be a victim of the next centralised hack? Blockchain technology has afforded us the ability to be in control of our own funds, so why not utilise this capability for the security and freedom that it allows.

BBOD offers users financial freedom and the opportunity to get involved in the ever-evolving cryptocurrency revolution. Be sure to make the most of being an early adopter.

 

 

Ethereum White Paper, Explained. Part 2

We are glad you made it to the second part of our dissection of the ethereum white paper. Read on to uncover the rest of the ethereum white paper document.

Ethereum White Paper Format.png

Ethereum was built around the central focus of creating a protocol for building a variety of decentralized applications with numerous use cases.

They provide a Turing complete programming language where development time, security and interaction between dapps (decentralized apps) are important. A Turing complete programmable blockchain allows a wide variety of smart contracts to be developed which are much more sophisticated than those offered by Bitcoin.

Ethereum Philosophy

Ethereum is designed on the following five principles.

Simplicity

Ethereum is built as a protocol that is simple and has a vision of being open to all, even at the

cost of data storage and time inefficiency. Any average programmer should be able to pick the

workflow and implement projects with ease.This helps in fully realizing the unprecedented

potential of Blockchain and Cryptocurrency.

Universality

The Turing completeness of Ethereum helps in creating any smart contract that can be

mathematically defined. Currency, financial derivatives or your very own Skynet, anything can be built. However if you do plan on building Skynet, you might need to have an array of many interlocking contracts and feed them with enough gas to keep the smart contract running.

Modularity

Ethereum is designed such that all parts of the protocol can be separated into individual units. Even if somebody makes a small protocol modification in one place, other parts of the application stack would be seemingly unaffected and continue to work without further modification.

Innovations like Ethash, modified Patricia trees and RLP (which will be discussed in future posts) are implemented as separate, feature complete libraries. Ethereum development is done so as to benefit the whole cryptocurrency system rather than just itself.

Agility

Constructs of the Ethereum protocol are not set in stone, although modifications to high-level constructs will only be done judiciously.

Non-discrimination and non-censorship

Being a true open for all protocol, any and all kinds of applications can be developed using Ethereum. The regulatory mechanisms used in Ethereum are used to restrict and minimize the harm to the ecosystem rather than restrict a specific category of applications.

For instance, you can run an infinite loop script as long as you pay necessary and relevant charges to the miners for running your code.

Ethereum Accounts

In Ethereum, the state is made up of objects called “accounts” where each account has a 20-byte public address. State transitions are transfers of value and information between two or more accounts. An Ethereum account contains the following four fields.

  • Nonce; this is a counter that ensures each transaction can only be processed once
  • The account’s current Ether balance
  • The account’s Contract code, (if present, applicable to smart contracts)
  • The account’s Storage (empty by default)

Ether is the main fuel used in Ethereum and is used for transaction fees also known as Gwei.

There are two types of accounts namely :

  1. Externally owned accounts; controlled by Private keys : Have no inherent code. Messages are sent by creating and signing a transaction.
  2. Contract accounts; controlled by Contract code : Code activates depending on the content of the received message and further process like reading & writing into internal storage, sending other messages or creating contracts can be activated.

The second type of account is used by a cryptocurrency exchage :Blockchain Board of Derivatives in its non-custodial smart contract wallet system.

Smart contracts are thus autonomous agents that live inside the Ethereum environment and execute code when conveyed by a transaction or a message. Such contracts have direct control over their ether balance and their own key store.

Transactions

Transaction in Ethereum is essentially a signed and encrypted data package that stores a message to be sent from an externally owned account.

Typical transactions contain the following:

  • The recipient of the message (Public Key of the recipient)
  • Signature identifying the sender (Private Key of the sender)
  • The amount of ether to transfer from the sender to the recipient
  • An optional data field
  • A STARTGAS value, representing the maximum number of computational steps the transaction execution is allowed to take
  • A GASPRICE value, representing the fee the sender pays per computational step

Let us break down these individual points. The first three are standard fields present in every cryptocurrency. The data field has no default function but can be used by a contract to access the data. For instance, if a contract is functioning as a domain registration service, then it may wish to interpret the data being passed to it as containing two “fields”, the first field being a domain to register and the second field being the IP address to register the domain to. The contract would read these values from the message data and appropriately place them in storage.

STARTGAS and GASPRICE fields are crucial for Ethereum’s anti-denial of service model. In order to prevent infinite loops or other computational wastage, each transaction is required to set a limit to the number of computational steps it can use. The fundamental unit of computation is “gas”. Usually, a computational step costs 1 gas, but some operations cost higher amounts of gas because they are more computationally expensive or increase the amount of data that must be stored as part of the state.

There is a fee of 5 gas for every byte in the transaction data. The fee system causes an attacker to pay proportionately for every resource that they consume, including computation, bandwidth and storage. Hence, any transaction that leads to high network consumption naturally leads to a higher gas fee.

In simple terms, gas paid is directly proportional to the number and complexity of computations done on the blockchain.

Messages

Contracts can send messages to other contracts.

Typical messages contain:

  • The sender of the message
  • The recipient of the message
  • The amount of ether to transfer with the message
  • An optional data field
  • A STARTGAS value

A message is similar to transaction except that messages are created by a contract and not an externally owned accounts. A message is produced when a contract executing code executes the CALL opcode, producing and executing a message.

The message is received by the recipient account which then runs its code. In this manner, contracts can enact in relationships with other contracts in a way similar to externally owned accounts.

The gas allocation assigned by a contract applies to both the gas consumed by transaction and all sub-executions.

Let us understand the same with an example.

@A is an externally owned account

@B is a contract

@A sends @B a transaction with 1000 gas.

@B consumes 600 gas and sends a message to @C.

The internal execution of @C consumes 300 gas.

1000-600-300=100

This implies that the contract @B can only spend another 100 gas on computation / message / transaction before running out of gas.

Ethereum State Transition Function

eth paper 2.2.PNG

As mentioned in part 1 of the series, you might recall the state transition function

APPLY(S,TX) -> S’

Further steps are taken from the white paper and are pretty much self-explanatory:

  1. The transaction must have the right number of values, the signature must be valid and the nonce should match the nonce in the sender’s account. If it does not comply, throw an error.
  2. The transaction fee is calculated as STARTGAS * GASPRICE, the sending address can be determined from the signature. Subtract the fee from the sender’s balance and increment the sender’s nonce. If there is not enough balance to spend, throw an error.
  3. Initialize GAS = STARTGAS, and a certain quantity of gas per byte is taken off to pay for the bytes in the transaction.
  4. Transfer the transaction value from the sender’s account to the receiving account. If the receiving account does not yet exist, create it. If the receiving account is a contract, run the contract’s code either to completion or until the execution runs out of gas.
  5. If the value transfer failed because the sender did not have enough money, or the code execution ran out of gas, revert all state changes except the payment of the fees, and add the fees to the miner’s account. The payment of fees cannot be reverted as miner expends energy to facilitate the transaction.
  6. Otherwise, refund the fees for all remaining gas to the sender, and send the fees paid for gas consumed to the miner.

Assume the contract code to be the following:

if !self.storage[calldataload(0)]:
self.storage[calldataload(0)] = calldataload(32)

The contract is actually written in low-level EVM code but the above example is written in Serpent.

Now let us consider an example:

The contract’s storage is initially empty and a transaction is sent with 10 ether value, 2000 gas, 0.001 ether gasprice, and 64 bytes of data, with bytes 0-31 representing the number 2 and bytes 32-63 carrying the string CHARLIE.

The state transition function process in this scenario is as follows. These steps are similar to the ones mentioned in the generic example above.

  1. Check that the transaction is valid and well-formed.
  2. Check that the transaction sender has at least 2000 * 0.001 = 2 ether. If it is, then subtract 2 ether from the sender’s account. (Since we have to use STARTGAS * GASPRICE as the formula)
  3. Initialize gas = 2000; assuming the transaction is 170 bytes long and the byte-fee is 5, subtract 850 (170*5) so that there is 1150 (2000-850) gas left.
  4. Subtract 10 more ether from the sender’s account, and add it to the contract’s account.
  5. Run the code. In this case, this is simple: it checks if the contract’s storage at index 2 is used, notices that it is not, and so it sets the storage at index 2 to the value CHARLIE. Suppose this takes 187 gas, so the remaining amount of gas is 1150 – 187 = 963
  6. Add 963 * 0.001 = 0.963 ether back to the sender’s account, and return the resulting state.

This concludes the steps that are undertaken in the whole process.

If there was no contract at the receiving end of the transaction, then the total transaction fee would simply be equal to the provided GASPRICE multiplied by the length of the transaction in bytes, and the data sent alongside the transaction would be irrelevant.

In this case, all gas would be utilized by a miner to provide no result as any contract does not exist.

Messages and transactions work on similar terms when it comes to reverts: if a message execution runs out of gas, then that message’s execution, and all other executions triggered by that execution, revert, but parent executions do not need to revert.

This implies that it is “safe” for a contract to call another contract as if A calls B with G gas then A’s execution is guaranteed to lose at most G gas. However, parent executions outside of contracts do not revert.

Also, there is an opcode, CREATE, that creates a contract. Its execution mechanics are generally similar to CALL, with the exception that the output of the execution determines the code of a newly created contract.

We will delve into opcode in further detail in our future in-depth technical blog posts.

Code Execution

The code in Ethereum contracts is written in a low-level, stack-based bytecode language, referred to as “Ethereum Virtual Machine code” or “EVM code”. EVM code is essentially a series of bytes and each byte is an operation.

“Code execution is an infinite loop that consists of repeatedly carrying out the operation at the current program counter (which begins at zero) and then incrementing the program counter by one, until the end of the code is reached or an error or STOP or RETURN instruction is detected.”

The operations have access to three types of space in which to store data:

  1. Stack, a last-in-first-out container to which values can be pushed and popped like a typical stack.
  2. Memory, an infinitely expandable byte array.
  3. Storage, a key/value store. Unlike stack and memory, which resets after computation ends, storage persists for the long term.

The code also has the ability to access the value, the sender, the data of the incoming message and the block header as well. The code can also return a byte array of data as output.

The execution model of EVM code is quite simple. We will further explore it in the below steps.

While the Ethereum virtual machine is running, its full computational state can be defined by the tuple. A tuple consists of block_state, transaction, message, code, memory, stack, pc and gas.

Here, block_state is the global state containing all accounts and includes balances and storage.

At the start of every round of execution, the current instruction is found by taking the pc-th byte of code (or 0 if pc >= len(code)) which means pc is considered to be zero when it is greater than or equal to the length of the code.

Each instruction has its own definition on how it would affect the tuple.

ADD pops two items off the stack, pushes their sum, reduces gas by 1 and increments pc by 1 (typical working of a stack)

SSTORE pops the top two items off the stack and inserts the second item into the contract’s storage at the index specified by the first item.

There are many ways to optimize EVM execution via just-in-time compilation, a basic implementation of Ethereum can be done in a few hundred lines of code.

Blockchain and Mining
eth paper2.3.PNG

Ethereum blockchain is more or less similar to the Bitcoin blockchain with a few subtle differences.

The main difference between Ethereum and Bitcoin with regard to the blockchain architecture is that, unlike Bitcoin (which only contains a copy of the transaction list), Ethereum blocks contain a copy of the transaction list, the most recent state, the block number and the difficulty.

The basic block validation algorithm in Ethereum can be explained in the following steps:

  1. Check if the previous block referenced exists and is valid.
  2. Check that the timestamp of the block is greater than that of the referenced previous block and less than 15 minutes into the future.
  3. Check that the block number, difficulty, transaction root, uncle root and gas limit (various low-level Ethereum-specific concepts which will be covered later) are valid.
  4. Check that the proof of work on the block is valid.
  5. Let S[0] be the state at the end of the previous block. (recall this being discussed and explained in the previous blog post)
  6. Let TX be the block’s transaction list, with n transactions. For all i in 0…n-1, set S[i+1] = APPLY(S[i],TX[i]). If any applications returns an error, or if the total gas consumed in the block up until this point exceeds the GASLIMIT, return an error.
  7. Let S_FINAL be S[n], but adding the block reward paid to the miner (S_FINAL =S[n]+Block reward). The reward is awarded once a miner completes mining a block successfully.
  8. Check if the Merkle tree root of the state S_FINAL is equal to the final state root provided in the block header. If it is, the block is valid; otherwise, it is not valid. (Merkle tree and validation with the block header is explained with relevant pictures in the previous blog post)

The approach of storing the entire state within each block might seem inefficient at first but is comparable to that of Bitcoin.

The state is stored in the tree structure and after every block, only a tiny part of the tree needs to be changed. This implies that between two adjacent blocks, the vast majority of the tree should be the same. The data can be stored once and referenced twice using pointers (hashes of subtrees).

A special kind of tree known as a “Patricia tree” is used to accomplish this, including a modification to the Merkle tree concept that allows for nodes to be inserted and deleted in an efficient manner.

Additionally, because all of the state information is part of the last block, there is no need to store the entire blockchain history.

A commonly asked question is “where” contract code is executed, in terms of physical hardware.

The process of executing contract code is defined in the state transition function itself, which is part of the block validation algorithm. If a transaction is added into block B the code execution spawned by that transaction will be executed by all nodes that download and validate block B, either now or in the future.

This marks the end of Part 2 of the Ethereum white paper. In the next part, we will discuss real-time applications of the Ethereum protocol and the ecosystem.

Part 3 available here.

Ethereum White Paper, Explained. Part 1

In the following blog posts, we will be dissecting the Ethereum white paper by describing it in layman terms. As the paper is too long to fit into one blog post, we will be dividing it into several sections. We will try to explain the niche details mentioned in the Ethereum white paper in the simplest terms possible.

Ethereum White Paper Format.png

 

Introduction and Existing concepts


We all know that Satoshi Nakamoto’s development of Bitcoin gave rise to the monumental technology known as – Blockchain. Hopefully, you already know what Blockchain technology is, thanks to our previous posts.

There are numerous other applications for Blockchain technology some of them include: coloured coins, smart property, namecoin, smart contracts or DAO (Decentralised Autonomous Organizations). These applications are complex to build on top of the Bitcoin blockchain. To address this issue, Ethereum proposes a Turing-complete programming language that can be used to create smart contracts or encode complicated functions. A Turing-complete language can essentially be used to simulate a Turing machine. A Turing machine is a model that can simulate any computer algorithm regardless of the complexity.

The Ethereum foundation proposes that all of the above can be achieved effortlessly in a few lines of code. We will validate this claim further in this blog and future posts.

 

History


Digital currencies as a concept have been prevalent for decades. In the 80s and 90s, a cryptography technique called Chaumian Blinding was used. However, they relied on a centralised intermediary which was a clear deal breaker. Then came B-money which proposed a decentralized consensus system but how that would be achieved was debatable. This was followed by Hal Finney proposing reusable proofs of work which when combined with the concept of B-money seemed promising at first but attempts to implicate such a solution were unsuccessful.

Satoshi Nakamoto collated all of these concepts along with other established primitive technologies for managing ownership through cryptography techniques. The consensus algorithm used by the Bitcoin Blockchain to keep track of the coins is called proof of work.

The proof of work consensus mechanism was a major breakthrough in this area as it solved two main problems.

  1. Nodes in the network could now easily agree on using the consensus algorithm to enter transactions in the distributed ledger.
  2. The problem of who gets to decide the entry into the distributed ledger was solved by using the computing power each node is willing to spend.

For miners, this essentially means – More computing power = More blocks mined = More crypto rewards.

Another concept called proof of stake calculates the weight of a node in the voting process based on the number of coins it holds and not just computational resources.

 

State transition systems


The ledger of any cryptocurrency is essentially a state transition system which at any given point in time holds information about how many coins are there in individual wallets and the transactions done by these wallets.

In the below diagram there are three main blocks to be considered

 

 Image Courtesy: https://github.com/ethereum/wiki/wiki/White-Paper

 

State – This consists of all ownership information contained in the ledger which is cryptographically encrypted.

Transaction – Transaction block defines the amount of the transfer that is initiated in the system. It also includes a signature which is defined by the sender.

State’ – This state consists of the final ownership information that is distributed across all nodes. This State’ will then act as State in the next transaction.

In a traditional fiat banking setting, the states are individual balance sheets and when money is sent from A to B, their individual records get updated.

Obviously, using traditional banks we cannot send more money than we have in our individual accounts, a similar logic has been applied here which is defined by the following function.

APPLY(S,TX) -> S’ or ERROR

To illustrate this in the context of the banking example, we can translate it into the following expression.

CRYPTO

APPLY(S,TX) -> S’

BANKS

APPLY({ Alice: $50, Bob: $50 },”send $20 from Alice to Bob”) = { Alice: $30, Bob: $70 }

Here S is the initial state where both Alice and Bob have $50 in their accounts.

TX is the transaction which defines “send $20 from Alice to Bob”

S’ is the final state which reflects the updated balances of Alice and Bob

Before moving to the next scenario, we must understand how the possession of coins in individual accounts is calculated.

A bitcoin “state” has the collection of all coins that exist along with the public key of their owner. The collection of these coins are determined by total UTXO associated with the address. UTXO is Unspent Transaction Outputs, which as the name suggests have not been spent by the owner. These outputs are measured by checking if the coins that came from the previous owner were also UTXO, to begin with. This is confirmed by checking the previous owner’s UTXO and pairing it with the cryptographic signature produced by the previous owner’s private key.

Now let us analyse what happens if you try selling coins that you don’t have?

CRYPTO

APPLY(S,TX) -> ERROR

BANKS

APPLY({ Alice: $50, Bob: $50 },”send $70 from Alice to Bob”) = ERROR

1. Check the value mentioned in TX ($70)

a.    If this value is not verified by UTXO of the owner, then it is not present in their account. Return an error.

b.    If the mentioned cryptographic signature does not match the signature of the owner, return an error.

2.     If the sum of all UTXO of the owner is less than the figure mentioned in TX, return an error.

3.    If the transaction is valid, transfer funds to the receiver. This transfer happens by removing the input UTXO from the sender and adding it under the receiver’s public key address.

Step 1a prevents the sender from sending coins that do not exist and step 1b prevents senders from sending other people’s coins.

Step 2 makes sure that there are enough coins with the sender before proceeding with the transaction.

Step 3 completes the process by subtracting values from the sender and adding it in the receiver’s wallet.

Now, these steps might look easy to visualize but behind the scenes, there is a lot going on.

The following example should help you better understand.

Suppose you go out to buy a bunch of Bananas. Now for some vague reason, 1 banana costs $75. In a traditional setup, to see if you can afford this precious overpriced banana, you will open your wallet and check the balance. You have two notes of $50 each totalling $100 (50+50=100, duh!). These two notes were given to you by your mom to buy Bananas.

To be able to afford this Banana you have to give away both your $50 notes to the Banana seller and he will return $25 using a combination of USD note denominations. You are now a proud owner of this super expensive Banana. The real problem that now lies ahead of you, is explaining to your mom the price of 1 Banana.

This is reasonably simple to understand, now let us see what happens in a typical cryptocurrency transaction.

Consider Alice wants to send 75 BTC (yes, Alice is filthy rich) to Bob. To proceed she will first check if she has 75 BTC in her wallet. To check this, she must sum up all of her UTXO (value inputs). Consider this UTXO as the two notes of $50 in the previous example. However, Alice has two UTXO values in her wallet of 50 BTC each. This implies that Alice has received two transactions into her wallet. Each UTXO is worth 50 BTC.

Now, we know that you cannot cut a $100 note into two parts to divide into two $50 notes, that would render the $100 note worthless. However, in cryptocurrency, you can do microtransactions by dividing 1 coin into ten 0.1 coins. This division is, however, not straightforward.

To transfer 75 BTC to Bob, Alice will create a transaction with the two 50 BTC inputs to give out two outputs. One output will be given to Bob, another balance will be transferred back into Alice’s wallet.

50BTC + 50BTC → 75BTC to Bob + 25BTC to Alice

In this scenario, Bob is not entrusted with returning the balance as compared to the previous example. Rather the transaction handles the return of the remaining balance output to Alice.

 

Mining


 Image Courtesy: https://github.com/ethereum/wiki/wiki/White-Paper

In an ideal society where we could trust a centralized system with all transactions, this step would be totally unnecessary. But we are trying to create a decentralized consensus system that has the potential to disrupt the monopoly that banks have over our economies. Mining is a method by which we can combine the state transition system with a consensus system such that all nodes in the network agree on the transactions. These transactions are combined and packaged into blocks as shown in the below figure.

The Bitcoin network produces 1 block every 10 minutes. Each block has a timestamp, a nonce (an arbitrary non-repeatable number), a reference to the previous block mentioned as Prevhash in the above diagram and the list of all transactions that have taken place after the previous block is mined. This never-ending chain of blocks always represents the latest state of the distributed ledger and thus acquires its name – the Blockchain.

The following steps check the validity of a block:

  1. Check if the previous block referenced by the block exists and is valid.
  2. Check that the timestamp of the block is greater than that of the previous block and less than 2 hours into the future.
  3. Check that the proof of work on the block is valid.
  4. Let S[0] be the state at the end of the previous block.
  5. Suppose TX is the block’s transaction list with n transactions. For all i in 0…n-1, set S[i+1] = APPLY(S[i],TX[i]) If any application returns an error, exit and return false.
  6. Return true, and register S[n] as the state at the end of this block.

Points 1 to are straightforward. However, the next 3 points might sound a bit confusing. Let us understand how that works.

As mentioned in point 4, let S[0] be the state at the end of Block 5624.

In point it is mentioned that for each n transaction, there is a particular state as follows:

So by the function →  S[i+1] = APPLY(S[i],TX[i])

We have the following:

S[1] = APPLY(S[0],TX[0]) ← First transaction

S[2] = APPLY(S[1],TX[1]) ← Second transaction

.

.

S[n] = APPLY(S[n-1],TX[n-1]) ← nth transaction

If you remember the function that we read about in the previous topic. We should be able to backtrack the value of S’ based on the Apply function.

APPLY(S,TX) -> S’

This is predominantly used to link various transactions and blocks. So each transaction in the block defines a valid state transition using the above functions from one transaction to another. The state, however, is not stored anywhere in the block and is calculated correctly only by starting from the genesis state of that particular block, for every transaction in that block. This finally gives an output of S[n] which will act as S[0] for the next block.

The order of the transactions is of prime importance because if B creates a transaction involving funds (UTXO) that have been sent (created) by A, then the transaction done by A must come before B for the block to be valid.

The condition of proof of work required is that the double-SHA256 hash of every block which is a 256-bit number must be less than a dynamically adjusted target. These dynamic targets vary from time to time so that the miners provide ample computational power to confirm their proof of work. Also, since the SHA256 function is completely pseudo random and unpredictable, the only way to crack it is by simple trial and error or brute force.

Suppose the dynamic target is set at ~2150 , then the network must achieve an average of 2(256-150) which equals 2106 tries before a valid block is found. This dynamic target is reset every 2016 blocks and calibrated to new target value. A new block on an average is produced every ten minutes on the Bitcoin network. For all the heavy lifting that miners do by facilitating our transactions and solving complex math problems, they are given Bitcoins as reward. The initial reward was 25 BTC per block mined. Currently, the reward is 12.5 BTC per mined block. This is how bitcoins come into circulation. The Bitcoins awarded to miners are new bitcoins that are being unlocked from the 21,000,000 Bitcoins which is the hard limit of Bitcoins that can ever be in circulation.

 

WHAT HAPPENS IN THE EVENT OF AN ATTACK?


Now let us analyse the benefits of mining and how it prevents attacks. The following lines have been picked from the Ethereum white paper as the text is pretty much self-explanatory.

“The attacker’s strategy is simple:

  1. Send 100 BTC to a merchant in exchange for some product (preferably a rapid-delivery digital good)
  2. Wait for the delivery of the product
  3. Produce another transaction sending the same 100 BTC to himself
  4. Try to convince the network that his transaction to himself was the one that came first. 

Once step (1) has taken place, after a few minutes some miner will include the transaction in a block, say block number 270. After about one hour, five more blocks will have been added to the chain after that block, with each of those blocks indirectly pointing to the transaction and thus “confirming” it. At this point, the merchant will accept the payment as finalized and deliver the product; since we are assuming this is a digital good, delivery is instant. Now, the attacker creates another transaction sending the 100 BTC to himself. If the attacker simply releases it into the wild, the transaction will not be processed; miners will attempt to run APPLY(S,TX) and notice that TX consumes a UTXO which is no longer in the state. So instead, the attacker creates a “fork” of the blockchain, starting by mining another version of block 270 pointing to the same block 269 as a parent but with the new transaction in place of the old one. Because the block data is different, this requires redoing the proof of work. Furthermore, the attacker’s new version of block 270 has a different hash, so the original blocks 271 to 275 do not “point” to it; thus, the original chain and the attacker’s new chain are completely separate. The rule is that in a fork the longest blockchain is taken to be the truth, and so legitimate miners will work on the 275 chain while the attacker alone is working on the 270 chain. In order for the attacker to make his blockchain the longest, he would need to have more computational power than the rest of the network combined in order to catch up (hence, “51% attack”).

The above text shows how to gain control over the blockchain, the attacker has to have more processing power than 51% of the total blockchain which is probabilistically impossible for top coins.

 

Merkle Trees


 Image Courtesy: https://github.com/ethereum/wiki/wiki/White-Paper

Merkle trees help maintain the uniqueness of a block. Merkle trees are a binary tree where each node has two children, and this goes all the way to the bottom to have individual leaf nodes which consists of transaction data. These leaf nodes build up to the top as shown in the below figure and end up in one ‘hash’. This hash of a block consists of a timestamp, nonce, previous block hash and the root hash of the Merkle tree as shown in the image on the left.

Now, the beauty of cryptographic functions is, even if one bit of input is changed, the whole encryption pattern changes and the intermediate hash value output is different. This changes the hash value output of the overall block and is rejected by the blockchain because it does not have a valid proof of work. The output of a Merkle tree is a single hash which is secure enough to act as an assurance to nodes.

These nodes compare this hash from one source with another small part of the Merkle tree from another source to ultimately validate the authenticity of the block. A similar scenario is shown in the right side of the above image when a node rejects a block because its hash does not match with the data in Merkle tree.

As the data stored in the blockchain of bitcoin is continuously increasing, there will be a point at which average desktop computers would not be able to store all the data. This is where a protocol known as “simplified payment verification” (SPV) comes into play. This protocol lets nodes verify the proof of work using the hash in individual blocks. Such nodes are also called as ‘light nodes’. These light nodes download the block headers, verify the proof of work on the block headers, and then download only the “branches” associated with transactions that are relevant to them. Light nodes thus assure that the transactions are legit despite downloading only a very small portion of the blockchain.

 

Alternative Blockchain Applications


  1. NameCoin
    NameCoin lets you register names on a decentralized database.
  2. Colored coins
    Colored coins serve as a protocol to allow people to create their own digital currencies on the Bitcoin Blockchain.
  3. Metacoins
    Metacoin protocol is stored on top of Bitcoin but uses a different state transition function from Bitcoin. They provide a mechanism to create an arbitrary cryptocurrency protocol.

There are two ways to build a blockchain system. The first is building an independent network and the second includes building a protocol on top of Bitcoin. The first approach is difficult to implement because of the costs involved. Also, the number of applications that would run on the Blockchain do not demand a full-fledged independent network. The requirements of these applications are relatively less computer intensive.

The Bitcoin-based approach has the flaw that it does not inherit the simplified payment verification features of Bitcoin. SPV works for Bitcoin because it can use blockchain depth as a proxy for validity; at some point, once the ancestors of a transaction go far enough back, it is safe to say that they were legitimately part of the state. A fully secure SPV meta-protocol implementation would need to backward scan all the way to the beginning of the Bitcoin Blockchain to determine whether or not certain transactions are valid.

 

Scripting


Bitcoin protocol does handle a primitive version of a concept known as ‘smart contracts’. UTXO in Bitcoin can be owned not just by a public key, but also by a complicated script expressed in a simple programming language. In this scenario, after a transaction, UTXO must provide data that satisfies the script. Afterall, even the basic public key ownership mechanism is implemented via a script which is verified using elliptic curve signatures. The script returns 1 if the verification is successful and returns 0 otherwise.

This can be further controlled to write a script that requires signatures from two out of a given three private keys to validate (“multisig”). This is a use case for large conglomerate corporate accounts, secure accounts and escrow situations. These smart contract scripts can be modified to do numerous actions depending on the use case.

However, there are several limitations in the Bitcoin scripting language:

  1. Lack of Turing Completeness – Loops are not available to prevent infinite loop situations but to write a smart contract in a language that is not Turing complete can be considerably daunting.
  2. Value Blindness – The UTXO script is not able to determine if the value of BTC has changed when compared to USD.
  3.  Lack of State – A UTXO can either be spent or unspent. To create complicated smart contracts that might include two stage cryptographic verification on the Bitcoin network is not possible.
  4. Blockchain Blindness – UTXO also does not have access to nonce, timestamp or previous block hash. This limits the application of Bitcoin in many fields.

“Ethereum proposes to build an alternative framework that provides even larger gains in ease of development as well as even stronger light client properties, while at the same time allowing applications to share an economic environment and blockchain security.” 

This concludes the interpretation of Part 1 of the Ethereum white paper. To summarise, this post gave us a general overview of how Bitcoin, the very first Cryptocurrency, functions. We will now move on to analyse how Ethereum is different from the Bitcoin protocol.