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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Munne University opened in Alpha version to explain crypto-currencies to everybody

Launched by the team behind MunneCoin, the Munne University (MunneU) is an e-learning platform focusing exclusively on Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies.

Inspired by other big online learning services, MunneU will offer free and for-a-fee courses. Independent instructors will be allowed to propose their own courses, accepting tips or asking for a fixed price. As of today, the service only offers a free course named “Crypto 101″ for beginners.

The service will make an extensive use of videos, texts and interactive applications. “Our objective is to teach and promote the usage of digital coins so that more people will be able to benefit from the next economic revolution,” explained the creators.

 

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Encompass released as a possible universal multi-Altcoins wallet

Mazaclub has just released a new multi-currency wallet software named Encompass (v. 0.2.2). Available for Windows and Linux, the wallet, a port of the lightweight Bitcoin client Electrum, is already compatible with Bitcoin, Litecoin and Mazacoin, but any other Altcoin could be added. Encompass is indeed fully BIP-0044 compatible and allows existing Electrum code and servers to be quickly added by any developer, making the wallet a possibly universal solution, able to handle any Altcoin.

“Encompass is a first step in our journey to interconnect blockchains that serve distinct purposes,” said the developers. Future releases will include Mac OS and native Android implementations.

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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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Bitshares Play raised 2,400 BTC to create a decentralized gaming platform

After a crowdfunding campaign started a month ago and ended yesterday, Bitshares Play has collected 2,396 BTC (or $570,000 as of today’s Bitcoin price).

The project, based on Bitshares, intends to create a complete and innovative gaming platform. Among the planned developments are a decentralized marketplace, where game providers and users will be able to sell their game coins and game assets to each other, and a blockchain-based gaming platform, allowing “Truly Random Number Generation” and provably fair games.

“Games such as card, dice, roulette need to first prove that their source of random number is honest, but decentralized random number generation guarantees that doubt of fairness is unnecessary,” explained the developers, adding that “BitShares PLAY will be first in history to demonstrate a random number generation technology that is entirely transparent and fair using the blockchain technology.”

The project is backed by a dedicated foundation.

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DeBuNe intends to create a B2B Peer-To-Peer Platform

Decentralized Business Network, or DeBuNe, is a new project based on the Nxt platform and targeting small  businesses. The idea is to provide all the necessary tools for small companies and freelancers to “collaborate, market, offer, and monetise their expertise or products,” via an open source peer-to-peer infrastructure based on the Nxt blockchain.

Companies will be able to set up Business Units whose operations can be outsourced to other Units through the platform. But the project intends to become more than a marketplace. “Any person can buy shares of a Business Unit or a project within DeBuNe. Business Units can trade shares of their projects against support in finance, effort or material. DeBuNe thus becomes a vector for project fundraising and financing,” explained the company, describing a possible “stock market away from Wall Street.” DeBuNe will also take advantage of Smart Contracts, “a set of contractual clauses written in computer code, executed and enforced based on data such as transactions, value triggers, or product delivery.”

Launched in alpha stage, the project is in itself a Nxt asset and is already open to private investors through the Secure Assets Exchange, Nxt’s decentralized exchange. Although a dozen of existing small businesses are already part of the pre-launch, DeBuNe plans to open to beta testers by the end of June 2015, and will not be fully operational before the end of 2015.

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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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PotWallet adds functionalities and installs its first point-of-sale

PotLabs, an independent group dedicated to developing services around PotCoin and increasing the adoption of the alternative currency, has released new features to PotWallet, an online service targeting merchants and consumers.

The wallet’s security has been strengthened, with a 3rd factor authentication, while the merchant payment process has been updated to 3 simple steps. Most notably, the service now embeds LocalPot, acting as a peer-to-peer exchange and allowing users to buy potcoins directly from each other, from inside the wallet.

The team also announced the installation of its first “PotWallet Point Of Sale system”, with full Potcoin integration, in a physical e-cigarettes and e-liquids shop located in Montreal, Quebec.

PotCoin, which celebrated its first anniversary last week, is one of the main crypto-currencies targeting the legal marijuana market and community.

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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 opens a US based exchange

Coinbase, so far a major Bitcoin wallet provider, has launched its exchange. The new service, opened a few days after the closing of a record investment round in the company, should become a major actor on the market, as the first regulated US Bitcoin exchange. The exchange, which is not available outside the United States yet, will have no trading fees until March 30, 2015.

A few days ago, the Winklevoss brothers, known for being some of the largest Bitcoin holders and previously active on several Bitcoin projects, also announced the launch of an ambitious US exchange, named Gemini.

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Developers give updates on Litecoin evolution

Litecoin developers and the Litecoin Association were answering questions from the public on Reddit earlier this week. Several projects have been announced or confirmed:

  • MultiBit for Litecoin: the team is working on porting the lightweight, OpenSource Bitcoin wallet to Litecoin. “We have a working prototype in private testing. There should be a public beta before the end of Q1 2015.”
  • LitecoinAverage.com: a Litecoin average price index similar to BitcoinAverage should be released soon.
  • Integration of Litecoin into Lamassu Bitcoin ATMs: “This project has been delayed due to other priorities but we are planning to continue working on this during Q1 2015.”
  • Litecoin.com: a new website will be launched soon, “aimed at helping people and businesses use/adopt Litecoin.”
  • Litecoin Association: the short term goals are to “get the Association stood up again and open membership for everyone in order to increase funding for future projects”, long term goals could possibly include the launch of a Litecoin Conference.
  • Other projects: “For the last half a year I have also been independently consulting a banking organization that is interested in integrating cryptocurrency into their financial service offering. They are integrating Bitcoin and Litecoin (as well as possibly Ethereum in the future). This is a major project for cryptocurrency ecosystem in general and will be announced in the next few months.”, said Aspect, one of the main Litecoin developer.

Developers and representatives also commented on Litecoin price and position compared to Bitcoin.

“In order for Litecoin to become less volatile, it needs to have real world usage and not just speculation. This is true for Bitcoin, but much more true for Litecoin and other alts.”, said Coblee.

“I always see Litecoin with Bitcoin as a pair. Both are important and complementary to each other. Litecoin can coexist without any problems.”, concluded Crazik.

The price of Litecoin showed a significant increase this week (1 LTC=$2.30 today, a 74% increase over the last seven days) and its market capitalization is above $80 million.

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Ziftrcoin raises $880,000 to boost cryptocurrency-based eCommerce

The crowdsale of Ziftrcoin has ended, with a total of 4,141,444 ziftrcoins sold (an estimated $878,695 value). Created by MyVBO, a US-based e-commerce solutions provider operating the Ziftr brand, Ziftrcoin aims to  “revolutionize shopping by putting cryptocurrency into the hands of consumers and enabling them to conduct simple, secure transactions at their favorite retailers.”

Strongly focused on mainstream global adoption by consumers and merchants, the company announced it will give away 300 million ziftrcoins in 2015. The first 1 million users will get 100 each and “when spent within Ziftr’s merchant network, each ziftrcoin will have a minimum redemption value of $1.”

The project roadmap includes ZiftrPay (“an API that enables merchants to accept cryptocurrency and credit cards without having to view or store the customer’s credit card information”), ZiftrShop (a worldwide online marketplace built upon the existing Ziftr merchants base), and ZiftrWallet, a mobile multicoin digital wallet.

The wallet, already available in beta version (on invitation) for Android, should allow users to store all their coins and currently works with Bitcoin, Litecoin and Dogecoin.

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New VeriCoin wallet improves interface and adds functionalities

The VeriCoin Wallet 1.5, released today, adds many new features, including some “to help the average ‘every day’ end user navigate the wallet easier.”

New in-wallet tabs give direct access to a News Ticker (announcements and updates from the VeriCoin community), a BlockChain explorer (details on all VRC transactions), a Chat, and a Forum. The new release also adds a “Turbo Bootstrap” option, allowing users to sync to the blockchain “in mere minutes”. In addition, from now on, the wallet will be automatically updatable.

The wallet also extends the possibilities for buying VRC without leaving the wallet (with other Altcoins or fiat currencies), with more integrated exchanges.

 

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Bitcoin and crypto-currencies popular in Davos

The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) has started in Davos, Switzerland, and crypto-currencies seem to ride an expected tide of popularity this year. The prestigious forum, which gathers political leaders, high-ranked managers and academics, is usually not considered a Bitcoin-friendly place, after public comments criticizing Bitcoin were made last year.

Times change. As noted by CNBC, “Bitcoin finds a place among the world’s elite”“Davos attendees can use digital currencies for a range of options this year such as paying for apartments, taking a toboggan trip or even splashing out on a new Nissan.”, comments the article, noting that, for the first time ever, the WEF will host tomorrow a seminar entirely devoted to Bitcoin, named “From bucks to bitcoin”.

Although only the expression of a personal view, an article titled “5 ways digital currencies will change the world” was also published today on the official website of the forum. The author, Susan Athey, The Economics of Technology Professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an advisor to Ripple Labs, explains:

“The way banks move money today is archaic. […] By using a digital currency such as Bitcoin, bank transfers could be made instantly, cheaply and safely. In fact, such transfers could even happen without using new currencies. Ripple supports a protocol that allows clients to transfer funds from one currency to another (say, dollars to euros) using a secure digital ledger. Their technology moves money around the globe in seconds…”

At a private session hosted by Time yesterday, LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman seemed supportive of Bitcoin too. According to the magazine“Hoffman’s hope for the coming year centered on the digital currency, Bitcoin, which he said could open up the advantages of banking to regions of the world that do not yet benefit from the banking system. He envisaged Bitcoin’s potential impact on the developed world also; for example, the currency might make easier all financial transactions related to driving, including paying tolls and paying for parking.”

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