All news on: Bitcoin

Romit enables low-cost international money transfers

Proposed par Robocoin, Romit is a “fully automated cash-to-cash remittance solution,” allowing people to conveniently send and receive money.

Any business with a Web-enabled kiosk or cashier can offer its customers the ability to send money worldwide, using Bitcoin. The company announced that kiosks are already available in 20 locations, in the U.S., Hong Kong, Romania, and Italy, and partnerships are on their way to increase the availability of the service, “in major convenience store networks, pawnshops, and even a state-owned bank, while targeting the Philippines, India, Mexico, and other remittance-heavy markets.”

romit

Romit directly competes with existing services centered on small, person-to-person, international money transfer, such as Western Union and MoneyGram. Thanks to the blockchain technology, the transfers can be much faster and much cheaper, as advertised by the company, comparing the fees for different amounts sent overseas: sending $100 from the US to the Philippines will cost $4 – more than three times less than with conventional services.

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New association set to modernize Real Estate through Bitcoin

The newly formed “International Bitcoin Real Estate Association” (IBREA) intends to “take real estate from the 17th to the 21st century” with the help of Bitcoin. “By using Bitcoin, we can reduce costs, stamp out fraud, speed up transactions, democratize investing, increase financial privacy, internationalize markets, reemphasize equity, and make real estate a liquid asset,” explained the founders.

The association will work to establish new standards for the real estate industry, and to implement solutions for payments, escrow, and titles on the blockchain. IBREA’s first corporate member is iNation, a company created earlier this year in order to allow the storage of legal documents inside the blockchain. The company’s co-founders are members of the IBREA board.

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Neteller absorbs Skrill and embraces Bitcoin

Optimal Payments, the parent company of Neteller, has announced that it will acquire one of its main competitor, Skrill.

A global provider of online and mobile payment processing services, Optimal Payments has customers in 200 countries and processes “billions of dollars each year.” Skrill has 36 million account holders, also sending and receiving money worldwide in 40 currencies. The deal between the two former competitors, valued at $1.2 billion, will create “a global tech champion in the fast growing digital payments space,” reads the press release.

Optimal also announced a partnership with Bitpay, allowing customers to top up their accounts by exchanging Bitcoin into any currency offered by Neteller. “This makes Optimal Payments one of the first major financial institutions to facilitate digital currency transactions on a global scale,” noted the company.

These two major announcements are of particular interest for poker players and online betting fans, Neteller and Skrill being the most widely used solutions to deposit and withdraw money to and from online gaming sites. Most online poker rooms and sport betting websites can now easily allow their customers to use Bitcoin as a deposit method, and a closer integration with the crypto-currency can be expected in the near future.

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Redditmarket now accepting Bitcoin

Redditmarket, the official store for Reddit-branded items, has started accepting Bitcoin.

Ranked 25th among the most popular websites in the world (10th in the U.S.) according to Alexa.com, Reddit had planned to create its own digital currency, “Reddit Notes,” but the project suffered a blow after the lead developer was fired last month.

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Messaging app Telegram introduces Bitcoin to all its users

Telegram, a growing instant messaging solution, has introduced Telebit, an integrated Bitcoin wallet.

All users now have the possibility to easily send small amounts in bitcoins to each other. The social tipping function uses a tipbot working like similar available solutions: inside the app, users just need to type a username followed by any amount, and the corresponding amount is instantly transferred to the chosen recipient. Bitcoin addresses are created on the fly, and received bitcoins can be later transferred to any other Bitcoin wallet.

The move is important, as Telegram claims to have 50 million users, who can now use Bitcoin without even knowing what is a crypto-currency, or how to set up a Bitcoin wallet. Telegram is available on iOS and Android, as well as in a desktop version, on PC/Mac/Linux.

Still being tested, the Telebit launch comes with a promotion: every new user registering is automatically credited with 50,000 satoshis.

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Australia: Coinjar offers Bitcoin hedged accounts

Coinjar, a major Australian online wallet provider, has announced a new service intended to protect users against Bitcoin volatility. Named “Coinjar Hedged Accounts,” the service allows people to hold any amount of bitcoins with a fixed value in terms of selected fiat currencies (GBP, AUD, EUR, USD).

“Once you’ve transferred bitcoins into a Hedged Account, the amount of bitcoins will fluctuate depending on current prices, however the value will always remain set to that account’s currency.” explained the company. For instance, if Alice holds 1 Bitcoin currently worth $200 and decides to hedge it against the dollar (USD), her Bitcoin account will always be worth $200. If, in 6 months, 1 BTC = $400, Alice will hold 0.5 BTC; if 1 BTC = $100, she will hold 2 BTC.

The service should therefore appeal to people looking for security and stability, out of any form of speculation, as explained by Coinjar: “While having your funds stored in a Hedged Account can protect their value if the bitcoin price falls, you may miss out on potential gains should bitcoin’s price rise.”

Claiming 37,000 customers and $50 million processed in the past 12 months, Coinjar can only process Australian dollar bank withdrawals and deposits.

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First Bitcoin store opens in San Francisco

Nakamoto’s is a brick and mortar shop where people can buy popular goods, such as electronics, games and computers, and pay with bitcoins. Located in the heart of the Mission District of San Francisco, inside 20Mission, a shared work space for art and technology creators, the store claims it offers prices 10% cheaper from Amazon prices when consumers pay with Bitcoin.

The store has been launched with the help of Purse.io, a company already offering discounts on Bitcoin online shopping. According to Andrew Lee, the CEO of Purse.io, a Bitcoin ATM will be added to the shop soon.

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Adyen started to add Bitcoin as a payment option for merchants

Adyen, a payments technology company which processed $25 billion of transactions last year, for about 3,500 corporate brands like Evernote, Facebook, Mango or Vodafone, has started offering Bitcoin as a possible payment option to its customers.

The company announced that Jagex, a UK-based game developer, creator of RuneScape, is the first merchant to accept Bitcoin payments through its Bitcoin platform, established in partnership with Bitpay,

“Interest in bitcoin continues to grow among merchants. And as a business focused on merchant needs, we are excited to give merchants the ability to securely accept Bitcoin payments, alongside over 250 payment methods and 187 transaction currencies that we currently offer,” said Roelant Prins, Adyen Chief Commercial Officer.

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First empirical analysis of Bitcoin-based scams

Scientists from the Southern Methodist University (Dallas, Texas) have published the first academic paper analyzing Bitcoin scams, dubbed There’s No Free Lunch, Even Using Bitcoin: Tracking the Popularity and Profits of Virtual Currency Scams.

The researchers identified 192 scams occurring between 2011 and 2014. In about 21% of cases, they were able to track payments into and out of the scams, finding that “at least $11 million were stolen by the scammers from 13,000 distinct victims,” but also that “the most successful scams depend on large contributions from a very small number of victims.”

The paper identifies four distinct kinds of scams:

  • Ponzi schemes: promise investors outlandish interest rates on deposits. “Of all the scams, this type has taken in the lion’s share of money from victims,” say the researchers. Such schemes often collapse within 37 days, but are then replaced with a new program, often run by the same criminals.
  • Mining scams: taking orders and money from customers but never delivering any mining equipment. “These retailers typically endure for 145 days,” note the researchers.
  • Scam wallets: the service offers greater transaction anonymity. “If the deposit is small, scammers leave the money, but if it rises above a threshold, scammers move the money into their wallet,” describes the paper.
  • Fraudulent exchanges: they offer PayPal and credit card processing at a better exchange rate than competitors. “Customers soon find out they never get Bitcoin or cash after making payment. Longer-lived exchange scams survived about three months.”

The paper nevertheless underlines the inherent relative transparency of Bitcoin: “Fortunately, the block chain creates an opportunity in that transactions may often be tracked, which could make it easier to assess the true risk posed by scams and make it harder for scammers to hide.”

“Scams pose serious dangers to the Bitcoin ecosystem. First, there is the direct harm imposed on the victims who pass money to the scammers, never to see it again. Second, and perhaps more substantially, there is indirect harm imposed on all users, even those who don’t fall victim to scams. This harm manifests in damage to the reputation of legitimate operations and the undermined trust of users who become more reticent to try out new services,” conclude the researchers.

One word of advice could be that, in the Bitcoin universe as everywhere else, what seems to be “too good to be true” usually is.

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New public study shows Bitcoin still has bad image

Coin Center, a non-profit research and advocacy center focused on crypto-currencies, has revealed today the first results of its ongoing “Bitcoin Public Sentiment Survey”. The study, conducted via Google Consumer Surveys (an online tool and publisher network where internauts can choose to answer surveys rather than subscribe to a publication), intends “to measure the attitudes of the American public toward Bitcoin in an unbiased and objective way.”

The results show a vast ignorance on what is Bitcoin: “Around 65% of respondents were not familiar at all with it. Of those respondents who are familiar with Bitcoin, consistently over 80% have never actually used it.”

And a large part of people still think that Bitcoin is somewhat related to criminal activities: when asked “Is Bitcoin used primarily for crime, fraud, and extortion, or is it primarily used for legal transfers and investing?”, about 42% of respondents tend to choose the first answer. 13% of people even think that the government should purely and simply “ban Bitcoin.”

“What we see is a large gap in public understanding of Bitcoin,” concluded Peter Van Valkenburgh, Coin center Director of Research, “this profound lack of familiarity is particularly alarming.”

 

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Coinbase sets a new record with a $75M investment round

“We are pleased to announce that Coinbase has raised $75 million in Series C financing, the largest funding round to date for a Bitcoin company”, reads the blog of the company. Based in San Francisco, Coinbase is an online Bitcoin wallet and platform allowing merchants and consumers to transact with bitcoins.

Apart from several big investment firms (Andreessen Horowitz, Union Square Ventures, and Ribbit Capital), several notable institutions and individuals got involved: “Three of the world’s most respected financial institutions – The New York Stock Exchange, USAA, and BBVA (a large multinational bank) – also invested in the round alongside personal investments from former Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit and former Thomson Reuters CEO Tom Glocer.” NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s largest mobile telecommunications operator, also participated to the funding round.

“This marks the first time that financial institutions have made a major investment in a Bitcoin company.”, said Coinbase, whose goal is “to continue driving mainstream, global adoption of Bitcoin.”

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Bitwage allows US companies to pay overseas employees in Bitcoin

Bitwage has announced the launch of its third product, “International Payroll for the Individual”, allowing employees to receive wages internationally in local currency, from any US employer. The service is initially launched for the Philippines, but should be extended to other countries later this year.

The launch is based on a partnership with Coins.ph, one of the Philippines’ leading Bitcoin wallet and exchange. “Coins.ph enables anyone to easily send money to the Philippines, top up their phone, and shop at 63,000+ global merchants using digital currency.”, explained Bitwage, noting that “an estimated one million filipino professionals are working for overseas companies”. 

“By using the Bitcoin protocol, we are able to provide a faster, lower cost, and more efficient means for companies to send payments and employees to obtain payments, without the need for the recipient to have a bank account.”, stated the company.

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The poker industry starts embracing Bitcoin

2015 could be a major “play poker with Bitcoin” year, as more major actors of the online poker industry confirm their interest for the peer-to-peer crypto-currency.

Earlier this week, iGaming Business, a leading publishing, research and events company for the iGaming sector, started accepting Bitcoin and other digital currencies. “Crypto currency offers the ecommerce and particularly the iGaming market huge opportunities whether this be minimizing fraud or lowering fees, so we are extremely happy to embrace and support this technology,” commented Alex Pratt, Head of the company, which organized last november in London Bitcoin4iGaming, the “first dedicated iGaming Bitcoin Conference”.

Americas Cardroom has also just announced that Bitcoin deposits are now available on its website. “We’re always looking for new ways to make the lives of poker players easier. That’s why we’ve added Bitcoin to our lineup of payment methods,” stated Michael Harris, spokesperson of the online poker room. Players can make Bitcoin deposits with maximum daily transactions as high as $1,000 and minimum deposits as low as $5. Bitcoin withdrawals will be available in the coming days, said the poker room. Targeting US players, Americas Cardroom is part of the Winning Poker Network (WPN), a network ranked 22nd worldwide, according to global online poker traffic ranking site PokerScout.

The room is not the first one to propose Bitcoin as a payment method. WinPoker, part of the iPoker network, the 3rd biggest online poker network, started accepting Bitcoin in 2013. And Coingaming.io, a platform provider which specializes in the provisioning of Bitcoin solutions for the iGaming sector, announced in november 2014 that it will offer to operators a “Coin Poker Network” solution.

Among other indicators of this growing trend are Bitcoin-only online poker sites. After Seals with Clubs, a poker site with “no banking, only Bitcoin,” ranked 46th on PokerScout’s worldwide trafic list, several other online poker rooms entirely based on Bitcoin are expected soon. Among them is GetLuckyPoker, a brand new Bitcoin-only poker room backed by american professional poker poker Michael Mizrachi and promoted by other poker pros, including Mike Matusow. The poker room will be officially launched in a few days.

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Peter Diamandis optimistic for Bitcoin in 2015

Peter Diamandis, founder and chairman of the X-Prize Foundation, co-founder of several innovative start-ups and named in 2014 one of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” by Fortune Magazine, forecasts that 2015 could be a good year for Bitcoin. And, contrary to other opinions, he doesn’t consider Apple Pay as a Bitcoin competitor.

In a post entitled “My Top Tech Picks for 2015“, he writes:

“Bitcoin: While 2014 was a rough year for bitcoin (it was ranked the “worst performing currency”), I am optimistic that 2015 will be a better year for the cryptocurrency. Weak currencies and uncertainty in the global economy, emerging smartphone markets in developing countries (billions coming online for the first time), better “interfaces”, and more commercial adopters who accept bitcoin as a form of payment will all play a role in a brighter bitcoin future. Finally it’s worth noting that Apple Pay will ultimately teach an entire generation how to navigate life without cash… making the transition to bitcoin natural and easy.”

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Bitcoin in 2014 by the numbers

Some say Bitcoin is falling. But the numbers show otherwise…

Transactions: strong increase. According to Coin Cadence, 25,263,720 Bitcoin transactions happened in 2014. That’s almost half of all transactions since the birth of Bitcoin in 2009, and an increase of about 30% over 2013. There was 1 Bitcoin transaction occurring every second during December 2014.

Bitcoin addresses: doubled up. According to Blockchain.info, the number of unique Bitcoin addresses used per day almost doubled up during 2014. Around 120,000 addresses were used at the beginning of the year, and more than 200,000 in average in December. The all-time highest number of Bitcoin addresses (245,004) was also reached in December 2004.

Start-ups: strong investment. Venture Capital funding for Bitcoin startups tripled in 2014, says CoinDesk: “Bitcoin firms raised $314.7m in 2014, a 3.3-fold increase over the previous year, in which $93.8m was invested”.

Bitcoin ATMs: huge increase in number. Bitcoin ATMs installed worldwide went from 4 machines in January 2014 to 342 in December 2014, according to Coin ATM Radar. During the last weeks of 2014, there were 1.58 Bitcoin ATM installed per day on average.

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