Prices Aside, Crypto's Tech Stack Is Steadily Improving

Prices Aside, Crypto's Tech Stack Is Steadily Improving

Rachel Rose O'Leary and Alyssa Hertig

Feb 11, 2018 at 14:45 UTC

 

A look at the headlines of late may leave you with a familiar conclusion – with all the ups and downs in the market, it's just too early to take crypto seriously.

And it's true, despite the best efforts of even the industry's most notable developers, the world's largest cryptocurrencies remain not just volatile, but difficult (and risky) to use, at least in a way that their creators' intended.

Still, heading into 2018, enthusiasts the world over are hard at work on improvements.

As such, there's optimism advances could start to compound, creating a user experience that finally starts to transcend the issues – namely, the high fees and long wait times – users of most blockchains have become all too accustomed to.

In fact, in the year ahead, blockchain users could see exciting new features and scientific firsts that just might help push the industry closer to that vision:

 

1. Off-chain channels

What if it was possible for blockchain-based transactions to avoid using the blockchain at all?

That's the big idea behind off-blockchain payment channels, an idea that harkens back to 2015, but whose time may have finally come this year. Most associated with Bitcoin's Lightning Network, the idea is actually more general than this specific instance.

Essentially, off-blockchain payment channels would allow two people using any one cryptocurrency to send small payments back and forth, settling to the blockchain (and dealing with its high fees and slow transaction times) only when absolutely necessary.

Due to the potential impact, the idea is catching on – ethereum developers, while they often don't see eye-to-eye with their bitcoin peers, are at work on the same type of solution.

But there's more than just a rivalry at play, there's also reason to believe 2018 might be different in that actual live transactions could be sent in significant numbers.

The developers behind bitcoin's Lightning Network have declared the technology almost ready based on successful tests. Meanwhile, ethereum's developers have also unveiled successful tests for their versions of the concept, Raiden Network, with a more ambitious version, Plasma, potentially around the corner.

 

2. Real-live staking

As their popularity grows, attention is also being paid to the electricity required to sustain cryptocurrencies.

While the relevant data is difficult to pin down, proof-of-work, the consensus protocol that underlies bitcoin mining, is best defined as an energy-intensive process. As such, there are concerns about its electricity use could have large-scale environmental effects.

This is leading to new research on an idea from 2011. Called proof-of-stake, or "consensus by vote," the idea has been implemented, however, not at the scale intended by ethereum.

As such, it's long-awaited project Casper is likely to be under significant scrutiny this coming year, and early versions are beginning to see the light.

In a testnet released on New Year's Eve, one variation of Casper, was claimed to be functional. Karl Floersch, a leading developer behind the technology, told CoinDesk at the time that the code is working with "no hiccups."

Work remains to adapt this early version of Casper across the different ethereum clients, but ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin has said he expects the technology will be tested alongside proof-of-work sometime in the future.

 

3. Privacy advances

Privacy has been a somewhat neglected promise in the majority of blockchains, but it's nonetheless an issue that could see improvement this year.

Most notable is the advances in zero-knowledge proofs, what Buterin has called "the single most under-hyped thing in cryptography right now," are getting cheaper and easier to deploy.

A form of cryptography that hides information without risking validity, it's already been adapted to a small degree into ethereum, which could lead to a wave of startups experimenting with private smart contracts in novel and unexpected ways.

Plus, in a white paper published earlier this month, a system for achieving zero-knowledge without compromising trust – a point of contention in some earlier iterations of the tech – was released, an update which could have exciting consequences.

And as existing tech matures, privacy-centric cryptocurrencies such as monero and zcash are also set to improve.

In preparation for an upgrade, zcash has been steadily reinforcing its security, while monero is stepping up to implement "bulletproofs," a feature that could cut fees by 80 percent.

 

4. Decentralized exchanges

No, this isn't just a new version of Coinbase or Kraken.

As the industry's largest exchanges struggle to cope with the influx of new adopters, an increasing number of projects are at work developing something called a decentralized exchange. The term denotes not just a new browser-based exchange, but rather a type of software users can use to swap one cryptocurrency with another without a central entity.

2017 saw a flood of new decentralized exchange projects, such as ShapeShift's Prism, 0x, OmiseGo, Kyber Network, and many others.

Expect those efforts to accelerate this year.

So far, hardware wallet Ledger has already integrated with decentralized exchange Radar Relay, allowing users to trustlessly exchange tokens based on ethereum.

While functionality is limited (it's only supported by a single wallet and only ethereum-based tokens can be sent), many in the industry see it as a glimpse into the future of not just cryptocurrency exchanges, but the technology itself.

 

Posted By David Ogden Entrepreneur
David ogden Cryptocurrency entrepreneur

Get started in cryptocurrency with this beginner's directory

Get started in cryptocurrency with this beginner’s directory

The wonderful world of cryptocurrency has grown from a budding idea to a full-fledged market bonanza. Hopefully you’re savvy to the terminology and ready to start putting your money where your technology is. This directory should provide you with the basic starting points to begin building your fortune in digital money.

(Don’t forget that cryptocurrency is an investment, and you shouldn’t trust your finances to an article you read on a news-source. We strongly advise contacting a financial adviser before risking your money.)

Bitcoin was founded in 2009. It represented the first decentralized cryptocurrency. It’s the oldest, and, as of August 17th it reached an all-time high of over $4,500. Just six months prior it was worth about $900. While you’re trying to wrap your head around that, keep in mind Bitcoin isn’t the only cryptocurrency.

How many cryptocurrency offerings are there? Over 850 are currently listed on CoinMarketCap. Before you decide which one to blow your speculation money on, make sure you have all your crypto-ducks in a row.

You need a wallet

Before you can buy into an initial coin offering (ICO), purchase cryptocurrency, or execute smart-contracts you’ll need a wallet. There are hardware wallets and software wallets; for now we’re only going to worry about software wallets.

Here’s a few to start you off:

  1. Blockchain – possibly the most popular cryptocurrency wallet

  2. Electrium – has been around since 2011

  3. Gemini – boasts regulation by New York State Department of Financial Services (NYSDFS).

Buy an established coin

You don’t have to start off trying to predict which ICO is the best investment. There are numerous ways to aquire cryptocurrency from an established coin. Here are some of our favorite coins to get your research started:

  1. Bitcoin – The big one. If you’ve got $4,000+ to fork out for a Bitcoin you can get in on the over/under $5,000 action. For what it’s worth there are experts on both sides of that fence.

  2. Ethereum – Things get a little more complicated here, but worth listing as a currency simply because ETH is second only to Bitcoin in popularity.

  3. Litecoin – Launched in 2011 billing itself the “silver” to Bitcoin’s “gold”.

  4. Bitcoin Cash – Bitcoin managed to fork itself and now there’s this.

  5. Siacoin – Sometimes cryptocurrency comes in the form of cloud storage.

  6. World Coin Index — provides a great listing to check valuations out

  7. Coin Market Cap — another listing of coin valuations

Or just find an ICO and dive in

Which is easier said than done. It seems like there’s an ICO for everything. We’re hesitant to even list any here, simply because you should research an ICO much more in-depth than would be prudent for the purpose of this directory. However, we’re happy to provide some links that might help:

  1. Coin Schedule – provides analysis on current and upcoming ICOs

  2. Smith and Crown – A curated list of ICOs

  3. ICO List – One of the most popular international sites concerning ICOs

It’s time to hit the exchange

Depending on which coin you’re investing in you’ll either visit an exchange, or use whatever method of purchase or trade the offering requires. You may be able to set up an online store that accepts Bitcoin or ETH, for example. Or perhaps you know someone who will sell you some. One of the most common ways to get cryptocurrency is to visit an exchange.

  1. Coinbase – probably the most popular exchange there is

  2. Kraken – you’ll find this one is well-reviewed by insiders

  3. Bittrex – US based and supports nearly 200 cryptocurrencies

  4. Buy Bitcoin Worldwide— provides country-specific exchange information

The above links should provide you with enough information to get you started on a path to dominate the cryptocurrency markets and become rich beyond fantasy. Or you could lose a bunch of money.

by TRISTAN GREENE — 13 hours ago in EVERGREEN

 

Posted by David Ogden
Entrepreneur