Ethereum Classic Network Announces Latest Hardfork; ‘Thanos’ Upgrade Scheduled for Nov 29

The Ethereum Classic network is set to undergo a network upgrade on November 29, according to an announcement by ETC Core developer and Ethereum Classic Labs, the teams behind ETC’s blockchain ecosystem. Dubbed ‘Thanos,’ this hardfork is an Ethereum Classic Improvement Proposal (ECIP 1099) and is part of developing a stable ecosystem that can withstand 51% attacks.

Notably, ETC’s blockchain experienced three 51% attacks over the summer, calling for the need to upgrade its technical fundamentals. Per the estimated timeframe, the Ethereum Classic community’s consensus decision to initiate the Thanos hardfork will happen in a week.

Once this milestone is achieved, Ethereum classic stakeholders are optimistic that the network will continue to ‘drive innovations that will support existing miners and attract new ones while maintaining compatibility with Ethereum (ETH).’

Prior Solutions to the ETC 51% Attacks

While the Thanos hardfork is anticipated to mark a big milestone, Ethereum Classic had already launched some initiatives to counter the 51% attacks. One of these solutions is dubbed Modified Exponential Subjective Scoring (MESS) and goes by the ticker ‘ECIP 1100’. Ideally, this innovation makes it harder for 51% attacks by increasing the costs associated with chain re-organizations.

Ethereum Classic Labs Founder and Chairman, James Wo, commented that,

“After the successful implementation of MESS, the finality algorithm that provides 51% protection, we continue to see Ethereum Classic innovate and grow in a way that distinguishes itself and increases functionality for its users.”

Mainnet Activation

ETC’s Mordor Testnet, which went last month, has already implemented the Thanos upgrade, ahead of the Mainnet activation scheduled for block 11,700,000. This will happen around November 29, although the timeframe might change as the network narrows closer to the activation block (currently at block 11,672,555). Wo was keen to note that Thanos hardfork is the next natural thing after MESS,

“The Thanos hard fork is the natural next step for the network, reducing the DAG size to help cultivate a more distributed and healthy mining ecosystem, increasing hash rate, and allowing for miners to continue mining ETC and for new miners to join the ecosystem.”

Ethereum Classic has since advised its consumers to upgrade their software nodes to fork compatible versions ‘if they have not done so already to Core-geth v1.11.16 or later.’

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Stellar Network Rolls Out Protocol 15 Upgrade, Adding Two New Payment Features; XLM Surges

Stellar blockchain network has upgraded to protocol 15, according to a blog post announcement on Nov 23. The publication was sent out by Stellar Development Foundation Ecosystem lead, Justin Rice; it highlights two new features: ‘make it easier than ever to build user-friendly apps on Stellar.’ The new functions are Sponsored Reserves and Claimable Balances.

According to the blog post, these new features are already changing Stellar’s ecosystem when it comes to hosting user-friendly DApps,

“We’ve already seen both deployed to great effect on the testnet, and we’re excited to see what you can do with them in a production environment.”

Notably, Stellar skipped protocol 14 after a critical bug was discovered in this update while in the testing phase. The previous protocol ‘13’ had been voted for by the validator nodes in June; improvements in this upgrade included fee bump transactions and advanced asset authorization control.

Stellar’s Protocol 15 Upgrade

This milestone was first announced in October, although the project had been a work in progress for several months. The upgrade went live on Nov 23 at 1600 UTC, and users have since been advised to install software that supports the latest protocol. According to the blog,

“Stellar Core will immediately throw an error if it’s not up to date, but Horizon and the Stellar SDKs may function as normal for a bit until they encounter — and are baffled by — one of the new operations.”

The value proposition in claimable balances can split payments into two by creating a new ledger entry. Stellar users can create a balance and claim a balance, which means that they can send an asset, regardless of the receiving account’s state.

On the other hand, Sponsored Reserves open up the window for funding innovations with Lumens (XLM) while maintaining control. An earlier blog post highlighted that,

“It also adds new extensions to account entries and ledger entries to record pertinent information about sponsorships.”

XLM Price Bullish

Meanwhile, the XLM price is currently bullish, having gained 72.6% within the past 24 hours. The coin is currently trading at $0.189 while its total market cap is well over $3 billion, according to metrics site Coingecko.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

SingularityNET to Move ‘A Significant Portion’ Of Operations To Cardano From Ethereum

In an announcement on Sept. 30, SingularityNET, the AI firm developing the human-like Sophia robot, announced its partnership with IOHK, the development team behind Cardano, led by founder, Charles Hoskinson. The strategic partnership between the two firms has been on the table for several months as Ethereum blockchain gas fees spiked to all-time highs – at an average tx cost of $15.

The move between the two will see IOHK transfer Ethereum (ERC-20) based AGI tokens to Cardano-based AGI tokens, similar to the wrapped tokens. Moreover, the statement says there will be significant advantages to switching to Cardano, mainly the new updates coming to the Plutus smart contract language – moving away from Ethereum’s Solidity coding language.

However, the statement did not state the portion of SingularityNET that will move from the Ethereum network,

“Final decisions and details regarding porting of a portion of the SingularityNET network to Cardano have not yet been made and will be discussed in-depth with the SingularityNET community when the time is right.”

The move to Cardano aims to increase the speeds of the transaction while lowering the network fees. The announcement states Ethereum high gas fees and high latency times as the main reason they are looking at other options. Additionally, the never-ending postponement of the ETH 2.0 launch, which will introduce a proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus mechanism, has been a barrier to the growth of SingularityNET.

“The ambitious Ethereum 2.0 design holds promise, but the timing of the rollout of different aspects of this next-generation Ethereum remains unclear, along with many of the practical particulars.”

In a 90-minute video chat with Hoskinson, SingularityNET CEO, Ben Goertzel, stated the company still aims at having a multi-chain approach when building blockchain-agnostic solutions to AI. This means that the company, more than likely, will not fully move the blockchain operations from Ethereum, Goertzel stated.

He states it will be left to the community to decide which blockchain offers the best properties, given Cardano has its own flaws. He stated:

“If it turns out the Ethereum portion is more powerful and useful for some purposes, and the Cardano portion is useful for other purposes, then so be it, right?”

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Author: Lujan Odera

Libra Association Hires Former HSBC Europe Managing Director, James Emmett

In an announcement on Thursday, Libra Association announced James Emmett, former European head at HSBC as the new managing director of its subsidiary, Libra Networks LLC. Emmett will start his role at the digital stablecoin firm on October 1.

According to the statement, James Emmett is a well-experienced financial services leader in “business, strategy, technology, and operations” having worked 25 years at the global financial institution. Emmett becomes the second high-profile manager from HSBC to join Libra, after Stuart Levey joined as the CEO of the Libra Association earlier this year.

Speaking on Emmett’s appointment, Levey showed his excitement saying the new appointee’s “leadership will help make Libra’s vision a reality.”

Emmett’s 25 years at HSBC saw him take on a number of roles including chief executive of HSBC Bank PLC and Europe. In his capacity as the chief executive of HSBC PLC, Emmet was responsible for the bank’s wholesale and retail operations across Continental Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Bermuda. Emmett has also acted in the position of COO of HSBC overseeing overseas technology operations. Passionate in the opportunities that digital currencies offer the current financial services, Emmett said,

“I am delighted to be joining Libra Networks with a mission to enhance financial innovation and inclusion and to deliver the operationalization of the network.”

With global regulators on Libra’s neck as the Association plans to launch its stablecoin, Libra is moving to employ more legal experts to smooth the relationship with global regulators. Shortly after appointment of Stuart Levey and CEO of Libra Association, Libra appointed Ex-Goldman Sachs Executive, Sterling Daines as its global compliance lead and Stevan Bunnel, former Homeland Security general counsel to replace Robert Werner as Libra’s general counsel.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Coinbase Effect Surges Numeraire (NMR) By 160% Following Listing Announcement

An announcement by Coinbase to list AI-focused Numeraire (NMR) token appears to have caused its price to rally by over 160% within the last 24 hours. Metrics from CoinMarketCap indicate that the project’s market cap also surged and currently stands at $127 million while the prevailing price of one NMR token is $46.

Going by these stats, the ‘Coinbase effect,’ which increases the probability of a price surge for tokens set to be listed within its ecosystem, seems to be holding water. The exchange made the announcement only yesterday, but technicals indicate that the market has already caught up with the fundamental value of NMR tokens should the Coinbase Pro listing sail through.

Coinbase highlighted that NMR deposits could be made into its professional trading platform from Monday, August 17, with trading set to begin the following day after 9 AM Pacific Time. Upon the establishment of a stable NMR supply, the Coinbase Pro order books will be rolled out in four phases, which include transfer-only, post-only, limit-only, and full trading. Trading pairs that will feature initially are NMR-GBP, NMR-EUR, NMR-BTC, and NMR-USD.

Numeraire’s (NMR) AI Cutting Edge in Crypto

This hedge fund backed project is among 18 tokens that Coinbase noted it would consider back in 2019. Notably, the hedge, which acts as the NMR parent company, uses AI in executing its fund management role and has since doubled down on the opportunity in crypto markets.

Founded back in 2016, the hedge fund, which is dubbed ‘Numerai,’ has attracted funding from prominent investors like Renaissance Technologies, given its cutting edge in using AI for better prediction models.

With NMR acting as the native token for this AI hedge fund initiative, a debut on Coinbase Pro will expose it to a bigger market. Coinbase, however, said that it would not be available for users in New York State. Currently, users can only fund their accounts through the actual Coinbase Pro platform, although the firm stated that mobile Apps for both Android and iOS would follow later.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Chinese Ride-Hailing Unicorn, Didi Chuxing, to Pilot Digital Yuan; First Mass Scale Use of DCEP

China’s ‘Uber,’ Didi Chuxing, will test run the digital yuan according to an announcement on July 8. The Chinese ride-hailing unicorn has over 500 million registered users and is optimistic that a ‘strategic partnership’ with the PBoC Digital Currency Research Institute will scale the DCEP adoption.

“Under PBOC’s overall DCEP strategy and operation timeline, DiDi’s DCEP taskforce will design and implement pilot DCEP projects following rigorous safety, security and governance standards.” read the announcement.

With only a few months of being in existence, the digital yuan pilot is already making a debut in China’s shared economy. This comes barely two months since it was first used to partially pay some state employees in pilot provinces. Now that the DCEP will be integrated with Didi Chuxing’s ecosystem, it might just be the beginning of a mass scale adoption as China looks to wipe out the fiat renminbi in circulation.

Notably, Didi Chuxing’s market muscle and financial position will be a big boost for the digital yuan. Currently, this ride-hailing service dominates the Chinese market with a valuation of $56 billion, operating across 400 cities. It also enjoys the backing of big tech like Apple, Softbank, Alibaba, and Tencent. While its value proposition goes a long way in the digital yuan roll out, Didi Chuxing noted that working with the PBoC is strategic for their fundamental goals as well,

“The partnership is a key milestone in DiDi’s ongoing initiatives to enhance the interconnectivity of online and offline economic sectors in China, as the government seeks to support the development of the real economy sectors with innovative financial services,”

China Setting Stage for the Digital Currency Economy

This development is no surprise, given the recent highlights of China’s digital yuan. As other countries continue with debates on adoption, China is miles ahead and could soon launch an official version of the DCEP. A former top executive of the PBoC recently said that the DCEP backend infrastructure is almost complete. However, no comments were made on an official launch date.

Looking at the ongoing works, this date could be sooner than most stakeholders expect. For starters, the digital yuan pilot is being facilitated by China’s banking and tech giants who have been tasked with digital wallet facilities, amongst other ecosystem functions. Also, major food chain retailers like Subway, Starbucks, and McDonald’s are reportedly looking to pilot China’s CBDC as well. Could this be finally sunrise for the project, which has been in the works since 2014? Well, the COVID-19 pandemic might just favor the odds as paradigm shifts to digital economies.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Italian Banking Association Wants A Digital Euro; Ready to Participate in Pilot Program

Italian Banks are ready to participate in the launch of a digital Euro according to an announcement last week by the country’s banking association (ABI). This body made up of over 700 banks said in a statement that it would be willing to speed up the roll-out of an ECB backed digital currency. Talks in the CBDC space have recently made headlines in crypto as advanced economies like France take into consideration these digital assets.

Notably, ABI was previously involved in the digital currency industry has launched a research group to look further into the assets last year. Also, an inter-bank settlement DLT initiative dubbed ‘Spunta‘ is already running in a bid to increase efficiency amongst ABI members. The ABI quoted this milestone as one of the consideration factors in their contribution towards a digital Euro.

Following the progress, Italian banks are of the view that digital currencies propose a significant value addition to the existing market infrastructure. The announcement says,

“A programmable digital currency represents an innovation in the financial field, capable of profoundly revolutionizing money and exchange. This is a transformation capable of bringing significant potential added value, particularly in terms of the efficiency of the operating and management processes.”

EU Regulations Should Be the Standard

While the ABI acknowledges an underlying value n digital assets, the association was keen to highlight that the EU’s monetary policy framework should take the forefront in any decision attributed to this space.

“Monetary stability and full compliance with the European regulatory framework must be preserved as a matter of priority.”

According to the ABI, such an approach ensures that the regulator and banking entities can maintain public trust.

Apart from Italy, the digital Euro has support from France and the Netherlands. Germany has also signaled that a programmable digital Euro would be a good idea despite FUD sentiments by the president of the Deutsche Bundesbank, Jens Weidmann, back in 2019.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Bison Trails Launches Validator Support For Smart Contract Platform, NEAR Protocol

In an announcement released on June 9, 2020, Bison Trails, an infrastructure as a service platform, announced the addition of NEAR Protocol validator support. As a member of the NEAR Protocol Advisory board, Bison Trails aims at easing the transition of NEAR protocol nodes through the integration of its Proof of Authority (PoA) consensus mechanism and the “Restricted Mainnet” scheduled to launch next quarter.

CEO at Bison Trails, Joe Lallouz, statement on the NEAR Protocol integration acquired by BEG reads,

“We are excited to support the NEAR team as they launch the protocol. I’ve been following the team at NEAR for some time now and am blown away by their focus on the developer experience.

NEAR’s incredible technical team understands building a strong developer ecosystem will help drive success.”

Bison Trails Supports NEAR Protocol Validators

The NEAR Protocol is a proof of stake (PoS) decentralized app that enables the management of high-value assets to give the power of open finance and open web to the user. The system employs a PoA consensus mechanism that delegates the power to approve and verify transactions to validators.

Anyone can become a validator on NEAR Protocol but for those who do not wish to be one, Bison Trails offers its platform to run the node on the users’ behalf.

According to the statement, any participant who runs their nodes on the Restricted Mainnet will be awarded a stipend while the validators “warded special voting rights.” It reads,

“The voting power of these validators will be magnified in the community stage by having the additional delegated tokens on the validator.”

NEAR Protocol also adopts dynamic sharding, which means the number of shards changes in response to usage demands, scaling up and down, in a bid to increase scalability on the platform. The system is yet to be built on to the platform but Bison Trails stated they will be supporting the NEAR’s sharding – as it also helps in Bison’s scalability.

Future of NEAR Protocol

Bison Trails and NEAR Protocol have worked together since March 2019, when the latter become the first company to launch NEAR’s testnet. The co-founder of NEAR Protocol, Illia Polosukhin, believes Bison Trails will provide mentoring and further development on their validator program in the future. On the partnership between the two blockchain firms, Illia said,

“Bison Trails has been at the forefront of what is now considered the professional validator industry, making participation in blockchain networks more accessible and helping to provide more high-quality operators to the network.”

NEAR Foundation, the development lead on the platform, in May announced a $21.8 Million funding led by VC firm, a16z, in its plan to launch the mainnet. Illia said the company will be moving into layers 1, 2, and 3 in the summer of 2020 in preparation for the Restricted mainnet.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Privacy-Focused Browser Brave Adds Binance Exchange Widget to All Versions

Privacy-focused browser Brave has made an April 30 announcement that it has integrated the Binance widget into all their desktop offerings.

Brave users can now exchange Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Ripple (XRP), Litecoin (LTC) and all the other cryptocurrencies supported on Binance through their browser. More than this, they get to enjoy many other functions such as buying, trading, depositing and checking summaries, all without having to use other apps.

The Widget Enabled by Default

The same announcement from April 30 says the Binance widget is already enabled by default. This means the millions desktop users of Brave are going to hear about the crypto exchange Binance if they haven’t until now. In the past, the same widget was available in Brave Beta and Brave Nightly, also only for testing.

Now, all Brave users who open a new window or tab in the browser are going to be introduced to Binance and the Brave crypto rewards widget that’s on the page’s right side. After, they will be prompted to connect their Binance account with the widget. After authentication, they will be able to view the assets they’re holding and to trade straight from the browser.

Security and Mobile Versions

Since the widget is built straight into the browser, it preserves the users’ privacy by communicating with the Binance API via authenticated interaction only. Obviously, the widget can be disconnected, which means the browser would no longer interact with the users’ Binance account until the authentication process would get to happen again. Even if enabled by default, the widget can still be manually hidden.

At the moment, Brave has more than 13.5 million users who are active every month across all platforms. The Binance widget is for now integrated into the desktop Mac, Windows and Linux desktop versions of the browser, but it has been announced to have its iOS and Android mobile apps later this year.

Binance said the integration with Brave is another step in encouraging the adoption of cryptocurrency. Neither of the two companies revealed anything about the business the partnership between them will bring. You can try using the Brave Privacy Browser here.

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Author: Oana Ularu

Algorand Joins Wall Street Blockchain Association to Enhance Tech Value in Financial Markets

Algorand is now a corporate member of the Wall Street Blockchain Association (WSBA) following an announcement on April 23, 2020. The proof-of-stake blockchain solutions provider will join other finance and tech-oriented firms under this association as they look to leverage the ecosystem resources.

According to WSBA’s welcoming announcement, Algorand’s participation in the alliance will also add value to the non-profit trade association. This is because of its underlying blockchain value as FinTech stakeholders take a deep dive into solutions for borderless economies. Ron Quantara, the WSBA chairman, echoed that they are happy to have Algorand as a new member,

“We are privileged to have the Algorand team join our organization and work with us and our global members to further the shared mission of promoting comprehensive adoption of blockchain technology across global markets.”

Algorand, on the other hand, is set to enjoy the strong networks within the WSBA which might come in handy given the platform’s promising outlook. Founded by Silvio Micali, a Turing Award winner and well-known computer scientist, Algorand has achieved several milestones with the WSBA as its latest. The company’s COO, Sean Ford, further expressed confidence in their ability to contribute to the association’s growth,

“With recent accelerated adoption across open finance, traditional finance, and central bank digital currency initiatives, Algorand is well-positioned to bring a fresh perspective to alliance members. I look forward to our participation with this prominent group.”

Algorand’s Recent Milestones

This blockchain platform has been gradually gaining market share owing to its value proposition. Some of its prominent features include a scalable Layer-1 for businesses looking to use smart contracts. They also pioneered a co-chain architecture which essentially allows its users to enjoy both private and permissionless blockchain features.

Notably, the Algorand foundation is determined to incentivize growth within its blockchain network. As a result, they have launched a grant program close to $250 million in ALGO tokens for stakeholders such as developers and educators committed to its network growth.

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Author: Edwin Munyui