Crypto Currency

What’s the Value of a Facebook Cryptocoin?

8,000 kinds of money. It was a chaotic, confusing time to buy your groceries. Private banks issued notes with the promise of backing in gold and silver, but their actual value was anybody’s guess. Soon other companies—drug stores, coal mines, and of course railroads, the wealthy connectors of their day—jumped into the fray.What’s old is…


8,000 kinds of money. It was a chaotic, confusing time to buy your groceries. Private banks issued notes with the promise of backing in gold and silver, but their actual value was anybody’s guess. Soon other companies—drug stores, coal mines, and of course railroads, the wealthy connectors of their day—jumped into the fray.

What’s old is new again in the hands of today’s barons of digital infrastructure.

On Thursday,The New York Timesreported new details about Facebook’s efforts to produce its own digital coin. Facebook’s first foray into blockchain will reportedly take the form of a so-called “stablecoin,” where the value of its digital currency is backed by the physical kind—in this case, a basket of global currencies. The idea is to tamp down the rampant speculation and tumult that have plagued other cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin, making the coin easier to someday use to buy your gas and meals (or, who knows, your neighbor’s cat tower on Facebook Marketplace).

The company’s blockchain team has reportedly grown to more than 50 people—cordoned off, theTimessays, in a wing with restricted key-card access—and expects to release a product within six months. Facebook’s plans have been rumored since April, when the company tapped David Marcus, former head of Facebook Messenger, to helm a dedicated blockchain team.

The new coin would leverage the built-in connections of WhatsApp’s more than 1.5 billion users—and potentially billions more should the coin come to Instagram or Facebook itself. That alone would make it an instant competitor to Venmo (and its owner, PayPal), and to China’s WeChat Pay, which is attempting to make inroads globally, including in the US. Neither of those companies, however, uses a blockchain to send money, or even uses its own coin; WeChat users in China pay in yuan, just as American Venmo users pay in US dollars. Facebook’s clearest advantage, in using a coin backed by multiple currencies, would be to allow users to send payments across borders cheaply. In December, Bloomberg reported that the coin would initially be tested with WhatsApp users in India, where demand for cross-border payments is strong.

The question, however, is what a blockchain-based coin gives Facebook that tried-and-true payment methods can’t? Blockchains present an array of hurdles, especially relating to privacy. Bitcoin, for example, offers a relatively transparent record of transactions, which is no

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Crypto Currency

San Francisco Bans Agency Use of Facial Recognition Tech

facial recognition by city agencies, a first-of-its-kind measure that has inspired similar efforts elsewhere.Gregory Barber covers cryptocurrency, blockchain, and artificial intelligence for WIRED.San Francisco’s ban covers government agencies, including the city police and county sheriff’s department, but doesn’t affect the technology that unlocks your iPhone or cameras installed by businesses or individuals. It’s part of…

facial recognition by city agencies, a first-of-its-kind measure that has inspired similar efforts elsewhere.

Gregory Barber covers cryptocurrency, blockchain, and artificial intelligence for WIRED.

San Francisco’s ban covers government agencies, including the city police and county sheriff’s department, but doesn’t affect the technology that unlocks your iPhone or cameras installed by businesses or individuals. It’s part of a broader package of rules, introduced in January by supervisor Aaron Peskin, that will require agencies to gain approval from the board before purchasing surveillance tech and will require that they publicly disclose its intended use. In coming weeks, Oakland and Somerville, Massachusetts, are expected to consider facial-recognition bans of their own.

Facial-recognition technology has been used by law enforcement to spot fraud and identify suspects, but critics say that recent advances in AI have transformed the technology into a dangerous tool that enables real-time surveillance. Studies by researchers at MIT and Georgetown have found that the technology is less accurate at identifying people of color and could automate biases already pervasive in law enforcement. Privacy advocates see banning facial recognition as a unique opportunity to prevent the technology from getting too entrenched. “We’re doing it now before the genie gets out of the bottle,” says Brian Hofer, an attorney who heads Oakland’s Privacy Advisory Commission, which spearheaded the legislation in that city.

In San Francisco, the police department says it doesn’t currently use facial recognition, although it tested the technology on booking photos between 2013 and 2017. The Sheriff’s department, which is included under the board’s unique city-and-county authority, says it doesn’t either. “We will comply with whatever the requirements are,” says spokeswoman Nancy Crowley, adding that officers are equipped with Axon body camera

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Crypto Currency

New to Blockchain: Turning In-Game Virtual Goods into Assets

resident CryptoKitty, a cartoon cat with tiger stripes and trembling eyes, for $1.05. Since then, we haven’t seen her much. A so-called “digital collectible,” she lives a lonely life in perpetuity at an address on the Ethereum blockchain: You can look at her, but little else. Soon, though, her digital life could gain a bit…

resident CryptoKitty, a cartoon cat with tiger stripes and trembling eyes, for $1.05. Since then, we haven’t seen her much. A so-called “digital collectible,” she lives a lonely life in perpetuity at an address on the Ethereum blockchain: You can look at her, but little else. Soon, though, her digital life could gain a bit more excitement—in the hands of game developers.

Gregory Barber covers cryptocurrency, blockchain, and artificial intelligence for WIRED.

For developers, the technology that underpins Catoshi offers an intriguing twist on the economics of gaming. Virtual goods are already a $50 billion-plus annual market, making up the bulk of gaming industry revenue as players shell out for the likes of fancier virtual swords and new character outfits. But unlike a CryptoKitty, gamers don’t really own the virtual items they pay for: at the end of the day, they’re pixels that disappear when you delete the game. Companies like Andreessen Horowitz–backed Forte and Hong Kong’s Animoca, which invested in CryptoKitties last year, want to use blockchain technology to turn these ephemeral items into assets.

Kevin Chou, Forte’s CEO, previously founded Kabam, the mobile gaming company that was a pioneer of the so-called freemium model: Games that are free to download and don’t require a fancy console to play, but generate revenue by selling virtual goods. Chou’s insight was that people increasingly live their lives online, and put real value on their virtual experience. “Imagine a person who’s spending three or four hours a day playing a game and is plugged into the community, talking about what’s going on in their lives with their friends,” he says. That makes people more likely to pay for virtual items, whether to unlock new types of gameplay or simply because they look pretty. Kabam sold for nearly $1 billion in 2017, primarily to South Korea’s Netmarble.

But Chou says in-game economies have grown so complicated that developers have trouble overseeing them. As a result, they place limits. Game developers typically sell goods directly to gamers and keep a firm grip on the levers of supply and demand. There’s no mechanism for players to sell the virtual items among themselves—because they don’t actually own the things. “Right now these are basically command-and-control economies,” says Brett Seyler, Forte’s chief platform officer.

Some players find loopholes to buy and sell their in-game spoils.CounterStrike: Global Offensive, a popular multiplayer shooting game, became notorious for supporting billions of dollars in bets that use decorative virtual weapons, known as “skins,” as gambling chips to wager

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Crypto Currency

Not caring about bad news, Bitcoin goes above $6,000 for the first time this year

If you thought that the theft of 7,000 bitcoins from one of the world’s biggest crypto exchanges would stop Bitcoin’s price in its tracks, you were wrong.  On Thursday, the price of Bitcoin went above $6,000 for the first time since November last year. At the time of writing, Bitcoin is trading at $6,102.64 according…


If you thought that the theft of 7,000 bitcoins from one of the world’s biggest crypto exchanges would stop Bitcoin’s price in its tracks, you were wrong. 

On Thursday, the price of Bitcoin went above $6,000 for the first time since November last year. At the time of writing, Bitcoin is trading at $6,102.64 according to CoinMarketCap. 

The Binance hack — made worse by the company CEO Changpeng Zhao’s short-lived suggestion to change Bitcoin’s history to undo the hack — wasn’t the only recent bad news for Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general. In April, news broke that China is considering banning cryptocurrency mining in the country. Later that month, cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex and stablecoin Tether were accused by the New York Attorney General of covering up an $850 million loss of customer fund

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Crypto Currency

Major U.S. retailers are now accepting Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency

Major U.S. retailers are now accepting Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency

Major U.S. retailers are now accepting Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency
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