Monday, July 29, 2019

Brave: A New Dimension of Privacy-Focused Browsing and User-Driven Content Rewards

brave browser
Somehow, privacy has become somewhat of a controversial concept in recent years.
Some people say if you have nothing to hide, then privacy should be of no concern to you. But can the issue be reduced to such a binary perspective?
As journalist Glenn Greenwald explains in the Ted Talk below, privacy is an important and fundamental right for everyone. He poses a simple question to those who proclaim that privacy concerns are only for the paranoid. 
He asks them for usernames and passwords to all of their email accounts.
Of course, no one ever agrees to this. And yet, many people have no problem with websites tracking their browsing habits with cookies, search engines logging their searches, email clients archiving their messages, and intelligence agencies collecting and storing almost every piece of virtual information available.
We won’t dive into the ethical, legal, or political implications of privacy concerns here. But we will discuss one piece of software putting browsing back into the hands of users via blockchain technology.
Brave is a browser unlike any other.
Browsing the web is a necessity for most everyone these days. You’re using a web browser right now to read this article. 
But what do you know about your browser and the company who created it?
Did you know your browser has a “fingerprint” that can be used to track you, regardless of your apparent IP address? 
Ever see ads for something you just searched for or clicked on? Thank the cookies stored in your browser for allowing companies to better target you with advertisements. This kind of browsing experience is broken, since ads become ubiquitous and ad revenue gets gobbled up by a small group of megalithic corporations. 
By contrast, Brave is “on a mission to fix the web.” Brave describes itself as:
“Much more than a browser, Brave is a new way of thinking about how the web works. Brave is open source and built by a team of privacy focused, performance oriented pioneers of the web.”
Brave has features no other browser to date has ever incorporated, including:
– Built-in TOR functionality (more on this below)
– One-click anti-tracking mechanism (shields)
– Reward system based on the Basic Attention Token (BAT)
In Brave, users can open a new tab with TOR (short for The Onion Router, TOR anonymizes web traffic by routing your requests through a series of servers located in different countries around the world).
Even without using TOR, Brave users still enjoy a degree of privacy that users of other browsers do not. 
“Shields up” means that you are protected from a variety of ad trackers and third-party fingerprinting attempts. Because this may break the functionality of some sites, you can “lower your shields” with a single click and turn off the privacy-enhancing features of the browser.
But wait, there’s a problem. 
If advertisers can’t track you in order to market their products and services, and websites can’t host those ads for affiliate revenue, how will any site remain profitable in this new internet? 
Creator Rewards: How it Works
If you’re not yet impressed, just wait. The coolest and most revolutionary feature of Brave is the built-in Basic Attention Token (BAT) wallet. This wallet enables users to send BAT to creators of sites they enjoy.
Do you own a website? Consider registering with Brave Rewards. Once you’re set-up, users who visit your site while using Brave can send you BAT if they like your content.
This system has been created in an attempt to overthrow the existing online revenue model of users having to tolerate advertisements so that websites can be profitable. Sacrificing privacy becomes a necessity in that model, as ad trackers embedded in your browser cache enable companies to target you with user-specific advertisements (not to mention even more intrusive tracking methods like browser fingerprinting). 
Because websites can be rewarded with BAT instead of having to rely on ad revenue, the entire paradigm changes. 
The Basic Attention Token is listed on major exchanges like Coinbase and Poloniex. Although getting website creators and internet users to participate in the BAT ecosystem is a core goal of Brave, using the built-in BAT wallet is optional. 
And as you might imagine, most sites have yet to register with Brave rewards. But don’t let that stop you from sending them BAT — the tokens will be stored in a wallet and waiting for them until they do decide to register.
Be Brave When Browsing: Download the App
You can download the Brave app on your phone and get Brave on your desktop to enjoy this new browsing experience. 
Personally, when it comes to browsers on mobile, I don’t use anything else anymore. Brave is so fast that it’s too painful to use anything else. And avoiding ads without even having to install a browser extension is quite convenient. 
Brave is slowly starting to integrate more browser extensions into its software as it matures, grows, and transforms. One day the browser may be even more user-friendly than its competitors.
At that point, Brave’s mission to “fix the web” will be almost complete.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

These Blockchain Investment Houses Are Banking on a Decentralized Future

The total market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies is about $250 billion, with the all-time high surpassing $800 billion. But this figure only represents capital which has been invested directly into digital assets.
There’s an entire industry springing up around blockchain technology. And while cryptocurrencies are great, finance is only one of many areas of human discourse which can be improved by blockchain technology.

Blockchain investment houses breathe life into blockchain.

There are countless blockchain-related endeavors being forged by various business entities around the world. Investing capital in this area is crucial for the continued development of the blockchain sector.
Here are five blockchain investment houses which are banking on the future of decentralized tech.  

1) Pantera Capital

Founded in 2013, Pantera Capital is the first U.S.-based blockchain investment firm.
The team at Pantera Capital is experienced in both cryptocurrency and traditional finance. The firm focuses 100-percent of its efforts on blockchain. Pantera prides itself on building a diverse portfolio, and aspires to become the “catalyst for widespread blockchain adoption and innovation.”
Pantera foresees cryptocurrency and blockchain tech as having a more mainstream and accepted place within the global economy in the near future. Many other participants in the blockchain community likely agree.

2) Block Asset Management

Block Asset Management is the “world’s first fund of funds” when it comes to blockchain investment houses. Their investing strategy focuses on five main pillars:
1) Expertise – Their team consists of experienced experts from relevant fields.
2) Diversification – Utilizing a “multi-strategy approach” provides maximum rewards, while reducing risk and volatility.
3) Regulation –Block Asset Management is registered with the CSSF, Luxembourg’s regulatory authority.
4) Risk Management – The fund uses risk assessment models which have been custom-tailored to the cryptocurrency asset class.
5) Scale – Investor returns grow in tandem with that of the fund itself, rather than being limited to owning a single asset.

3) Applied Crypto Ventures

Applied Crypto Ventures is unique in that it has a broader focus than most blockchain investment houses.
Rather than limiting itself exclusively to blockchain technology investments, ACV is focused on several other areas of next generation fintech as well, including artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and Internet of Things devices. These are referred to collectively as “Fintech 4.0.”
Led by a team that spans three continents and has over 20 years of combined experience, ACV is a blockchain investment house in a league of its own.
4) Invstur
Invstur focuses on all things blockchain. Their main interest at present is on creating high-output bitcoin mining farms.
Mining is intended to be the backbone for further growth, since Invstur is one of the younger blockchain investment houses on the list.
5) Pangea Blockchain Fund
Pangea Blockchain Fund and its partners operate from the perspective that blockchain technology might very well become “the greatest driver of value creation in our lifetime.”
Pangea focuses its investments on four primary areas:
1) Value-Chain Investments – specific areas that fiat currency meets cryptocurrency; financial intersections that generate revenue by way of fees and could therefore see significant returns on an ongoing basis
2) Tactical STOs – investments made in startups during the private phase, or at discounted rates
3) Industrial Applications of Blockchain Technology – could help give existing companies a competitive edge
4) Ticino Labs – a Ticino-based incubator soon to be launched by Pangea, which will help new blockchain innovations grow, while providing for unique investment opportunities

A decentralized future is on the horizon.

These blockchain investment houses are helping to build a decentralized world. In addition, investors who don’t want to hold cryptocurrencies can gain exposure to the market through organizations like these, bringing additional capital to the sector.
All things considered, it’s firms like these which will help blockchain continue to grow and build new decentralized structures within society.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Steemit & Dtube: Social Networking, Blogging, and Video Sharing in the Blockchain Era

steemit logo

Mainstream social media networks have devised an ingenious yet insidious business model.
It involves having users generate content and data that then gets collected and monetized by the network. You spend lots of time posting photos, writing comments, liking/sharing content created by others…and you do it all for free  
Users do all of the work. Corporations reap all of the profits.
As the world becomes more decentralized thanks to blockchain technology, however, arrangements like this one start to look less and less appealing. One day, we may look back on them and think, “how did anyone think this was cool, and why did anyone participate?”
The New Model: Steemit Rewards Users
The introduction of Steemit in 2016 was a hallmark moment in social media history. For the first time, users could be in control of their content.
On Steemit, no one owns or controls the network. Just like everything else built on blockchain, Steemit is decentralized.
How does it work? Steemit rewards users with STEEM for participating in the community. Create valuable content that others enjoy while being a positive member of the community, and you will earn STEEM.
The more upvotes your content gets, the more you earn. You also get STEEM when you upvote posts created by others.
Upvotes by veteran users with more STEEM Power generate more STEEM than upvotes by newbies. There are three things you can earn on Steemit:
– STEEM, which is the cryptocurrency that can be traded on exchanges,– STEEM dollars, a debt-like instrument that promises the holder $1 for every Steem dollar at some point in the future,– STEEM Power, which gives you greater influence over post payouts  
You can choose how you want your rewards distributed. The default is 50/50 STEEM tokens and STEEM dollars. Another option is to convert all of your STEEM and STEEM dollars into STEEM Power, a process called “powering up.”
Voting, sharing, and commenting all represent transactions in the STEEM blockchain. They can’t be reversed by anyone. While this is a great anti-censorship feature, it may annoy some users (think twice before you post anything embarrassing or compromising – there’s no “delete” button). That holds especially true for the video-sharing element of Steemit.
Video Sharing with Dtube
Dtube is Steemit’s video sharing platform. It’s like YouTube combined with Steemit. Users get rewarded for the content they create on Dtube in the same manner as Steemit.
When you share a video on Steemit, it will be posted to Dtube. Your Dtube account is connected to your Steemit account. You will need a separate password to log in, but other than that there’s little difference between the two.

It’s elegantly simple and ridiculously rewarding – both in terms of crypto and user experience.
Steemit and Dtube Represent a New User Experience
Steemit is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Still, by participating in the community, you can:
– Have an independent platform free of censorship– Be a part of crypto social network history– Have fun with other users experiencing the new paradigm
There is a slight learning curve when it comes to getting used to the way Steemit works. Users of Reddit may find the user-interface intuitive while others may struggle to adjust.
Thankfully, the Steemit FAQ answers most of your questions.
Blockchain technology has ushered in a new and exciting era of social networking.
Crypto Social Networks are the Future
Imagine what the future can hold for a decentralized crypto social network.
Everyone will be rewarded for sharing photos of their dog and what they had for dinner last night. Funny video of something that happened when you went out for drinks the other night? Share it! You could earn something from it on a crypto social network like Steemit.
And keep in mind that there are plenty of other crypto social networks out there. Steemit is just the first and is currently the most popular.
A new era of editorial freedom is also upon us. It’s not just about profit sharing with users. It’s about user empowerment.
Those long-winded political rants or controversial blog posts won’t get your account banned. Previous posts won’t be censored – everything will be secure and immutable in the blockchain.
While there are a few bots that patrol the Steemit community watching for spam and plagiarized content, there are a lot fewer trolls and almost zero censorship. Compared to what has become of the more mainstream networks, Steemit feels like a breath of fresh air for most users.
Once you go Steemit, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

[Originally posted on the BlockPulse blog:

Monday, May 13, 2019

Bitcoin is Dead as a Doornail – All Crypto Will Soon Go to Zero and Beyond?

bitcoin is dead

  • ·    “Bitcoin is dead” again amongst a record number of new user wallets, institutional investors preparing to enter the market, and substantial price appreciation.
  • ·    BTC/USD on the uptrend despite $40 million Binance hack.
  • ·    Fidelity Digital Assets announces it will enter the crypto market in the coming weeks.

Here’s a fun fact: Try typing “Bitcoin is” into Google and see what comes up.

The top suggestion by Google to fill in this blank? You guessed it.

Bitcoin is dead.

It’s May of 2019. Already, Bitcoin has been declared dead at least 17 times this year, and at least 355 since its inception in 2009.

Some news outlets claim that just because the Baakt BTC futures platform has been delayed multiple times due to regulatory concerns that the entire cryptocurrency sector is in decline. Nothing could be further from the truth.

While Baakt gets delayed, other parts of the Crypto community continue to see explosive growth. Kraken, one of the world’s oldest and largest cryptocurrency exchanges, is in the middle of a hiring spree with dozens of jobs available. 

It’s true that many other crypto companies have been laying off staff during the last six to nine months.

But does that indicate a declining crypto economy or simply an overzealousness by some select organizations?

There are many indications that institutional investment in crypto is at hand, even though Baakt is waiting on further regulatory clarity before proceeding with its physical-settlement BTC futures.  

And to be clear, the fact that some large institutions are awaiting guidance from regulatory bodies says nothing of the value of bitcoin or the future of cryptocurrency and blockchain. It just means that regulators are late to the game and continue to drag their feet.

BTC Seeing Record Adoption Rates

The rise and fall of the BTC/USD price aren’t the most important part of the story. Just look at the steady rise of new bitcoin user wallets created during the last several years:

This indicates that crypto is catching on despite so much fake news claiming the contrary. Bitcoin is not dead.

One thing that mainstream critics love to cling to when it comes to hating on crypto is high-profile hacks, even if those attacks amount to little in the grand scheme of things.

Binance Hack

This May, it was announced that Binance got hacked and lost $40 worth of BTC as a result. Poor Binance.

Fortunately for Binance wallet holders who made the unwise decision to hold their private keys on an exchange, Binance has a fund that will compensate such users for their losses.

And even without such a fund, the exchange will make the equivalent amount in profit in about six weeks.

Binance, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges by trading volume and one of the most trusted and respected names throughout the industry, is now also among the largest cryptocurrency exchange hacks to ever hit the crypto industry since the inception of Bitcoin.

The “security breach” as Binance is referring to it as, resulted in 7,000 BTC being stolen from the exchange using advanced methods that helped the hackers remain undetected. The stolen Bitcoin at today’s prices, brings the total loss at the hands of hackers to roughly $41 million dollars – an amount Binance will be able to recoup completely in just 47 days, according to one crypto analyst.
Despite this terrible news, the price of BTC/USD continued to rally beyond $6,000.

How can this be? Shouldn’t the sky be falling all over the place? If bitcoin is dead, red candlesticks ought to be on every BTC chart in the world.

Something else must be going on, of course. While a $40 million hack makes for some great doom and gloom headlines, it pales in comparison to the potential market impact of institutional investors entering the crypto space.

One of the biggest institutional names in the crypto game is Fidelity Investments.

Fidelity Announces Intent to Buy and Sell Digital Assets

After much fanfare, Fidelity has finally announced that it will indeed be getting into the digital asset space.

Fidelity Digital Assets promises to lead the way in terms of institutional investors in the cryptocurrency sector. This is only the start of what is to come.

Bitcoin has reached a market cap of over $100 billion without any big-name players or “smart money” being in the market. What might happen once the flood gates are opened?

Fidelity Crypto Exchange Focuses on Security

Perhaps the biggest reason institutional investors have so far been hesitant to enter the cryptocurrency space has to do with their uncertainty with regard to cybersecurity.
There have been many high-profile hacks of large cryptocurrency exchanges that have resulted in over $1.6 billion worth of coins being lost, according to Coinbase’s State of the Blockchain report for Q2 2018. [This data is about a year old now and doesn't include the Binance hack of 2019.]

Fidelity, however, has a lot of experience with these kinds of security concerns.

The company has a proven track record of dealing with enterprise security and public/private key cryptography. Fidelity plans on incorporating their knowledge and existing practices already used in other parts of their business into their new digital asset custody platform.

They will use offline cold storage for the bulk of their digital assets, as many existing exchanges do. This is the safest method when it comes to crypto custody. And while it’s possible for any individual to do the same with their own private keys, most people don’t know how to do it.

That’s why institutional investors have already begun to accept the idea of a Fidelity crypto exchange.

Institutional Investors Already Piling into Funds Like the Fidelity Crypto Exchange

Companies like Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Northern Trust Corp. have also announced their interest in creating crypto custody services.

TD Ameritrade, E*TRADE and TradeStation expressed a desire to create something like what Fidelity has done, but so far haven’t made any bold moves.

While the above companies failed to act, some people have not. David Swensen, who manages Yale University’s endowment, for example, invested in two large cryptocurrency funds. Swensen is widely considered one of the world’s top money managers.

Bitcoin is Dead – PERIOD!

All things considered, bitcoin is dead. Definitely dead.

With the rise in new user wallets, the rise in price, and the adoption from institutional investors, you can stick a fork in this asset class. 

Bitcoin is like a cross between a phoenix and a jellyfish. When jellyfish are faced with death, they expel all of their reproductive fluids, leading to the creation of tons of new jellyfish.

Each time Bitcoin dies, it comes back stronger, like a phoenix rising from the ashes. It also brings more investors, more innovators, and more altcoins. Jellyfish.