- Cardano’s Charles Hoskinson continued his media blitz giving this interview in which he reiterates their studied scientific approach to the project. He expects that in the second half of 2018 Cardano’s coin, “ADA,” will become objectively better than bitcoin, and by the end of the year, their smart contract platform will be objectively better than Ethereum.
- The first release of Cardano’s wallet seems to have disappointed. Some people suggest this caused the recent price dip.
- EOS’s Dan Larimer gave this awesome interview with one my favorite crypto analysis, Ivan the Tech. I watched it live. As is characteristic of Dan, he was pretty negative about everything from Bitcoin to Ethereum to Iota, and even about his previous projects, BitShares and SteemIt — both of which are awesome in my opinion, and both of which now run as Decentralized Autonomous Organizations. I think it’s his perfectionism. BitShares, a decentralized exchange and lending platform, and SteemIt, a social network, are by far the most functional, sophisticated non-crypto-currency crypto-projects operating in the real world. Perhaps most interestingly, he was asked about Cardano’s Charles Hoskinson who was briefly CEO of BitShares. Dan mysteriously said he was asked to step down for “moral reasons” but wouldn’t elaborate. He also said that he loves Nikola Tesla’s work and wants to do more research about electricity — studying the anomalies that everyone who has ever worked with electricity has seen, instead of ignoring them as anomalies.
- “Rational Ignorance”. Both Charles and Dan are deep into game theory, which is obviously a huge thing when building decentralized system. I thought it was interesting that in the interviews above, each of them discusses “rational ignorance” of users — ie. when the cost of learning something is unlikely to be proportional to the reward.
I’ve been keeping my eye on investment fund projects. Swiss based Melons, and Czech based Iconomi, are the leading projects which are trying to be platforms for cryptographically binding investment funds. I think AdShares can already do this too, but I’m not sure.
The TAAS project, by contrast, is itself a digital investment fund. They recently announced that their third payout to investors will happen in the beginning of February. All Ethereum addresses which hold TAAS tokens will receive a payout in Ethereum. One TAAS token currently costs about $8, and there about eight million of them.
Built on a profit-sharing model, TaaS Fund provides its token-holders with 50% of the quarterly capital gains. The first fully-operational quarter payouts of 0.28 USD(T) per 1 TaaS token were distributed on August 7th, and the second fully-operational quarter payouts of 0.33 USD(T) per 1 TaaS token were distributed on November 4th, 2017. We are now approaching the date of TaaS Fund’s third fully-operational quarter payouts.
I’ll be very curious to see how these payouts look. It’s NOT cryptographically secure and I don’t know whether it’s auditable either. However much they decide to send to each holder of TAAS tokens will indicate their claim to how well their investment did. Since the period covered the huge December bull run, I’d expect it be greater than previous pay outs.
Both of these projects are in the early stage. Both have proven crypto entrepreneurs behind them, and based on that fact, both have exploded into the top ten most valuable crypto currencies without yet having a product.
I think they’re both going to have bright futures, but I’ve listened to enough of Cardano’s Charles Hoskinson, and EOS’s Dan Larimer and that I think I grok how each regards its advantages and the other’s weaknesses:
• EOS will have scaling problems just like everyone else. They aren’t designed from the ground up for a billion people and it’s hard to make changes to a system already functioning.
• They did not do the hard work of proving that their systems, including Delegated Proof of Stake, are cryptographically secure against a precisely defined threat.
• They are not following the most rigorous procedures for designing and deploying software. This is a bad way to build something as important as financial infrastructure.
• We may not have theoretically limitless scaling like Cardano, but we will have enough to cover planet Earth. That’s enough . . . for now.
• All code is fallible. Your kidding yourself if you think otherwise. Our human-first approach aligns incentives correctly and gives the right people authority to react to problems and fund their resolutions.
There are other competitors too, of course. Including but not limited to: NEO, NEM, Enigma, Stratis, Qtum, Waves and many, many others.
Perhaps I should also summarize Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin’s criticism of EOS:
Short version: “Delegated proof of work” is not really decentralized because there are only hundreds of nodes that do all the work.
Short version of how I understand Dan’s response: There are thousands of nodes TRYING to do the work, and it is up to holder of the currency to nominate / approve / vote for who does the work. This is a better alignment of incentives that relying on miners (74% of whose capacity is in China, btw) who are not even necessarily holders of large quantities of the currency they mine.
Short version of how I think Cardano’s Charles Hoskinson would respond to the debate: You didn’t invest in rigorously specifying your criteria and mathematically proving your security.
There’s a category of crypto currencies which can be easily be called “stability coins”.
By far the most prominent is Tether. It is listed on most major crypto exchanges, and it presumes to be pegged to the US dollar.
The value for the trader is obvious. If a trader is expecting a crash of the whole crypto eco-system, he can transfer his wealth to dollars.
The value for the exchanges is also obvious. They outsource legal liability to the company that issued Tether. Instead of trading dollars, which have a myriad of legal consideration, they trade these digital tokens.
Unfortunately, Tether seems to be running on promises and wishful thinking. The Hong Kong company behind it did three months of monthly audits which abruptly ended in March 2017. There were rumors that banks blocked transfers of dollar into the company’s bank accounts.
So it seems unlikely that Tether tokens are backed by actual dollars. Despite this, Tether is currently trading at $0.997326, and has a $1.6B market cap.
Nubits and Dai and other stability-coin projects, which, unfortunately, I have not had time to research.
And then there’s bitUSD.
There’s also bitEUR, bitSilver, and bitGold, but they all work the same way. And it seems to me, this is by far the best digital peg I’ve encountered. I’ll explain how they work.
They all exist in bitShares, which started as a Dan Larimer project, but now runs as a Decentralized Autonomous Community (DAC). BitShares is a decentralized exchange. It’s also a system of governance, a lending platform, and many other things. You can trade Bitcoin and a few dozen other currencies. bitShares has its own money, namely, bitShares.
BitShares, unlike, Bitcoin, has a big supply of its currency that owned by the system. This is called the “reserve pool.” The BitShares community can vote to inflate the reserve pool for specific projects. To vote, you need to own Bitshares. I like how this aligns incentives. Imagine the people who hold US dollars voting whether to inflate, and how to distribute the newly create dollars, instead of the Federal Reserve doing so.
Anyway, back to bitUSD. Every bitUSD is backed by the bitShares reserve pool. So you can hold bitUSD for however long you want, and when/if you ever redeem them to bitShares, you’ll get the exchange rate at that particular moment. Right now, bitShares are about $0.50 each, so if you redeemed now, you’d get two bitShares for every bitUSD.
Furthermore, they keep a 200% reserve of bitShares. So if the supply of bitUSD is $1M, and each is redeemable for two bitShares, they keep a reserve of 4M instead of 2M.
Lastly, there’s an automatic mechanism which will liquidate bitUSD and trade them from bitShares in the event of a BlackSwan event that causes a very fast and dramatic fluctuation in the exchange rate beyond the reserve pool’s ability to cover it.
The same is true for bitGold, bitSilver, and bitEur. This seems pretty damn awesome.
Currently these assets are only traded on the BitShares decentralized exchange, but they’re trying to get them onto centralized exchanges.
Other interesting things about BitShares:
• BitShares has a deflation as as an inflation mechanism. Holders of Bitshares can nominate and vote on specific projects and then inflate the reserve to pay for them. Whenever you make a transaction, part of the fee is destroyed. That’s the deflation mechanism.
• I could not believe it actually works so well. The interface is about as good and responsive as those of centralized exchanges. And the exchange fee is literally fractions of a penny, in contract to the 1% which centralized exchanges usually charge.
• BitShares, as well as Dan Larimer’s current project EOS, have received criticism for being only loosely decentralized. There is a limit of hundreds of key nodes which do the actual work, instead of the limitless number in Bitcoin and Ether. Dan Larimer calls his approach “delegated proof of stake”. Holders of bitShares can nominate, hire and fire nodes. This architecture seems to give BitShares (and will give EOS) performance that I really didn’t think was possible. Dan argues that his approach has better dencentralized because while theoretically anyone can mine Bitcoin, in reality 75% of the mining power is in China, and they’re the ones making decisions. And it’s miners, not the holders of Bitcoins don’t directly make decision about the future of Bitcoin.
I am amazed by bitShares. It seems to eclipse the value propositions of other projects. For example, bitshares can do loans against 90% of the value of a digital asset that you put in escrow. Lending in the lone value proposition of SALT, which has a $400M market cap.
And their decentralized exchange is active and easy to use. I think what I wrote in my previous newsletter may have been wrong. Decentralized exchanges are not far away — at least not if you accept Dan Larimer’s “delegated proof of stake” as sufficiently decentralized.
Reasons to bet on Bitcoin:
- You think there will be a pull back from Bitcoin’s market dominance shrinking from 85% to 35% in 2017.
- You think the lightning network will solve enough of Bitcoin’s scalability problems.
- With a market cap of $180B, you feel there’s enough financial pressure on Bitcoin to solve all of its problems.
- You think Bitcoin will begin competing with Ether and others as a smart contract platform.
- You think it will be the entry point of a lot of new money entering the crypto space.
- You the nine year track of Bitcoin and the proof-of-work consensus mechanism safe and reliable as compared to newer technologies.
Reasons to bet on something else:
- You think the decline of Bitcoin’s market dominance from 85% to 35% will continue.
- You think there are many niches and value propositions which Bitcoin does not address.
- You think the lightning network is not a full solution to scalability.
- You think “mining” and proof-of-work, as compared to other consensus mechanism, is stupid.
- You’re worried about infighting in the Bitcoin community and its lack of formal governance mechanisms.
my plans for “Coin Watch”
After spending the majority of my time over two weeks learning about crypto currencies, it’s become obvious that no one person can keep up.
I hope to keep a running list of categorized currencies, which will include the categories I mentioned in newsletter #8.
- Investment Coins
- Content Coins
- Smart Contract / Application Platforms
- Prediction Markets
- Misc Crypto Infra Structure
- Community Building
- Supply Chain Management
- Web 2.0
- Decentralized Exchanges
- Decentralized Computing
I’ll add another category: stability coins. Tether is the most famous — it presumes to be exchangeable for dollars. Its price rose to $1.03 during the crash. There’s also DAI. I found it by looking for coins which weren’t red during the crash. I don’t know how DAI works, but I understand that there are a bunch of projects like “Chain Link” which I categorize as infrastructure, which try to connect crypto currencies to real world things. If chain link could reliably broadcast the price of gold, for example, then another crypto currencies could, for example, use some scheme to remain proportional to the price of gold.
I’ll try to keep doing that because it offers some structure for understanding a complicated space, but some weeks, I’ll just publish my disorganized research and views and different coins. Like this:
Two to Avoid(?)
I’ve decided that two coins are probably best to avoid: Monetha and Black Moon Crypto. They’ve both raised so much money that they may go on to produce great product anyway. But in any case, I’d steer clear.
Monetha claims to be a payment system with a trust mechanism. This is a simple, important value proposition for which other coins are also competing. Who ever pulls it off will make a lot of money for themselves and their investors. My concern:
– Weak answer to the question of why someone will adopt them and not someone else.
– Marketing is just a little too slick.
– Too many of the lower-brow crypto youtubers have made what seem to me like hype videos praising Monetha. “Monetha (MTH) The Sleeping Behemoth!!”
– In all their forums, in their chat, which I’ve been monitoring, and under all their articles and video, there are huge number of hype comments about the price potential.
– The CEO was previously a model and a DJ, and doesn’t have a tech background. (My recurring business partner is also a DJ. I have nothing against DJs. But the lack of a tech background stands out.)
– He makes very professional videos aimed at crypto beginners, which seem devoid of substance. One of them was about avoiding pump and dump schemes. If he is self-consciously a pump and dump scheme then this is typical psychopath behavior. If he isn’t, then I would still wonder why is doing public service announcements instead of busying himself with building a company.
– In a recent interview of their lead developer, I thought I saw fear in his eyes. The video seemed to over-hype a not-very-important milestone.
– They seem to quickly identify and aggressively counter negative press.
Black Moon Crypto is an Ireland-based company run from Moscow. They’re one of the Investment services coins I listed in newsletter #8. Their value proposition includes being the only investment coin through which users can invest in real world assets. It seems like they’re a more-or-less legitimate investment company AND they’ve launched a crypto currency. And it seems like these two facts exists uncomfortably side by side, like new roommates, and nobody has decided what each has to do with the other.
– Their white paper is vague and full of marketing nonsense.
– There seems to be confusion whether the company was founded in 2014 or 2016.
– Despite listening to over an hour of interviews and reading their white paper and other materials, I can’t figure out what anyone gets for holding their coins. The tie between an organization and its crypto currency is a key aspect of evaluating cryptos.
There are suggestion in their interviews and marketing materials that holders of BMC coin will have the privilege(?) of working for BMC by doing marketing, legal, or other clerical work. This makes no sense to me. They also said that holders of a lot of BMC tokens will participate in their strategy sessions.
So it’s like a game of pretend. They’re a normal investment company (or perhaps I should say, a normal Russian investment company), which raised tens of millions of dollars selling these digital tokens. And now they’re really really trying to create the impression that these tokens mean something, though it seems like they themselves aren’t sure how they’ll use the tokens.
Their market cap is about $30M. I’m not sure what portion was sold, but it’s typical for issuers to keep anywhere from 10-50% to cover development costs. So, there’s probably plenty of capital to pull something off, even if the original idea was vague.
In a recent interview, the CEO spoke about “fund tokens”, and setting up different funds where investors can simply buy tokens and collect dividends. Of course this is a great idea, and after raising so much money, they have the capital to pursue it. But what about the already issued BMC token? It’s certainly possible that I misunderstood something, but to me it seems like it’s backed only by vague promises.
Other investment coins
There are two other crypto currency investment projects which seem to be doing the hard work of building a platform for investment fund management, where the holder of a token has a cryptographic guarantee of a fixed share of the fund’s profit.
Those projects are Swiss-based Melons which I mentioned in newsletter #8, and Czech-based Iconomi, which I didn’t mention despite it being a top-100 crypto currency. I simply hadn’t known about it.
I had also written about the Kyiv-based TAAS project. This is an investment fund, a digital one, which not only claims to pay dividends to token holders, but has a track record of doing so. However there’s no crypto graphic guarantee. I heard a rumor that the guys behind it are both overwhelmed and a little intimidated by TAAS’s $60M market cap, as if they didn’t expect their experiment to go so right.
Here too there are no crypto graphic guarantees. You have to trust them. I guess I’m not as hard on them because aside from being the home team, they’re geeks, and not finance people. TAAS recently announced a relationship which another crypto currency called Bancor which is a top-100 coin that calls itself a “liquidity network”. I think it’s a decentralized exchange, though I’m not sure.
Misc Coin Watch
Cardano – I remain very confident that this project has a bright future. They’re late comers to the smart contract space, but their engineering team, methodology, and network of experts is second to none. Their founder was a co-founder of Ethereum, whose value proposition Cardano aspires to address even better.
Rchain – I recently discovered Rchain. It’s only traded on obscure exchanges. It’s the only other project besides Cardano that uses some technological approach to scaling called “lambda” (?), and it’s team also contains Ethereum veterans.
Both Cardano and Rchain seem like the opposite of Monetha. They’re both hugely technical with weak marketing.
Hacken – This is a small Ukrainian projects (market cap $15M) which I’m mentioning because I think it illustrated the weakest possible, but still viable justification of crypto currency. Hacken is a network of hackers, including some world-famous ones, apparently, who’ve created a community where companies can ask for security testing. By insisting on getting paid in Hacken tokens, they’ve created a way for people to invest in this project, and it gives them the capital they need for marketing and other expenses. This is the weakest possible justification for having a currency, but I think it’s viable.
From what I understand, many large American companies had their own currencies in the mid 19th century (though it was for building loyalty rather than allowing investment). Also in the video of Binance’s CEO posted above, he envisions a future in which many services, many businesses, and even many individuals have their own currency. It’s a beautiful vision. It allows anyone to invest in anything.
Tether & DAI – Stability coins, tether, by far the more popular, is pegged to the dollar.
ByteBall – I guess it’s a competitor to Iota. Like Iota, ByteBall doesn’t use a blockchain, but a tangle. It recently exploded into the top 100.
Oyster Pearl – In newsletter #8, I described this as an advertising coin based on it’s ambition to give websites a different scheme of monetizing. Instead of showing ads, website owners can burden their visitor with the requirement to do a little math on their devices. Since then, I’ve learned that Oyster Pearl uses a tangle instead of a blockchain, and that it also tries to do decentralized file storage. At first glance, these disparate value propositions seem far afield from one another, but the community is enormous and active. I think they’re re-imagining the internet in a similar way to projects like substratum (which I like), and Tron (which is probably over-hyped).
Salt – A lending platform that allows users to put up digital assets (like a bunch of Bitcoin) as collateral. Lenders have a crypto graphic guarantee of the collateral. I’m not sure how the platform attempts to see the real world and determine whether / when loans are paid back. Salt is a top-50 coin.
Ardor & Gnosis – These are the two most prominent prediction markets. Ardor was first, and is in the top 50. Gnosis came later and surprised even hard core crypto believers by raising a $300M ICO. It’s in the top 100.
Loop Ring – I looked at loop ring a month ago and couldn’t figure out what it does. It seems to be a middle layers that allows you to interact with it instead of going to crypto exchanges. I guess I misjudged it. It has since exploded into the top 50. Perhaps it’s similar to Bancor which bills itself as a “liquidity network”.
Publica – Publica is a content coin trying to revolutionize the book industry. I’ve listened to at least an hour’s worth of interview of their affable CEO, and I’m still not sure precisely how what their tokens do. However, they’re well funded, they have a huge community, lots of connections in publishing, and they say that they’ll do a beta launch tomorrow. Their market cap is about $25M.
Generally, I’m more wary of customer focused projects built on top of a smart contract platform because there are important scaling questions hanging over everything. We don’t know which platforms will survive. Thus I’m more interested in Cryptos which take the role money, or in infrastructure-type projects. Publica is built on top of Ethereum which is going to have scaling challenges. However they’ve said they’re ready to change platforms if necessary.
I guess I like it because I know the book industry. I’m both a published, and self-published author. (See my books here.) And I can imagine it working. Your investment in something should be proportional to your understanding of it.
In newsletter #6 I wrote that I’d be looking for token system to start working in 2018. I was wrong to write that. They’re already working, as evident in the descriptions below.
In an attempt to keep up with the rapidly changing world of crypto currencies, I’ve sorted a few dozen into the following categories.
All my acquaintances consider me an expert, but I feel like an newbie. This emerging industry is very deep, very complex, and very active. There’s so much to still learn.
The emerging industry includes niches for hyping new investments, and I’ve found a handful of good resources among the deluge of poor ones.
Crypto Gurus are by far the best. Check out their quick overview of the top 50 crypto currencies from December.
Their youtube channel is solid — technical, skeptical and level headed.
I also like David Hay’s youtube channel. Here he seems to second my doubts about Verge which I described in newsletter #7.
And, I like the Box Mining youtube channel. He produces a lot of content always summarizing important news and development.
On Twitter, I like Charlie Lee of LiteCoin, the Merkle, @themerklenews, and representatives of all the projects that interest me, including Charles Hoskinson of Cardano, @IOHK_Charles.
There are groups on Slack, Telegram, and Reddit which track specific projects too.
Lastly, I like the Youtube channel In it for the money, though he does a little too much hype for my taste. Here he seems to offer pretty simple and reasonable guidelines for evaluating crypto currencies. And I watch DataDash, though he does a lot of technical analysis which to me seems like pseudo science.
Monero vs Bytecoin
I’ve written previously that Monero seems to be the most anonymous crypto currency, having the ingominious endorsement of hackers. Monero has been in the top ten, and is currency #13 in total valuation.
Recently Bytecoin skyrocketted from obscurity into the #22 slot. Bytecoin is Monero’s predecessor. It developed the anonymous algorithms back in 2014, but by the time people discovered it, 80% of the coins were already mined. The distribution of coins was very centralized which is generally frowned upon by the crypto community. Monero cloned Bytecoin and did a lot of their own research and development. I don’t know what resurrected Bytecoin in recent weeks.