32% of El Salvador Population Actively Using Bitcoin Wallet, Lightning Network Capacity Surpasses 2,900 BTC

32% of El Salvador Population Actively Using Bitcoin Wallet, Lightning Network Capacity Surpasses 2,900 BTC

El Salvador’s Bitcoin adoption continues to gain traction, as evident from the number of people using the government’s Bitcoin wallet called Chivo.

Over the weekend, president Nayib Bukele claimed on Twitter that 2.1 million Salvadorans are actively using the Chivo wallet.

“Chivo is not a bank, but in less than 3 weeks, it now has more users than any bank in El Salvador and is moving fast to have more users than all banks in El Salvador combined.”

“This is wild!”

On Sept 7. El Salvador became the world’s first nation to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender alongside the US dollar. Despite the protests and polls suggesting criticism against this move, already a third of the country’s population is using the cryptocurrency.

To spread the Bitcoin adoption in the Central American country, the government has been offering an incentive of $30 in BTC for anyone who downloads the app. The wallet app has also been dominating the Finance category in El Salvador’s app stores, both iOS APP Store and Google Play Store.

Like the Chivo wallet, Bitcoin ATMs in the country have also grown to hit 205 to become the third-largest after the US and Canada, which have 23,588 and 1,938 respectively, according to Coin ATM Radar.

This Bitcoin adoption also facilitates the growth of the layer 2 solution Lightning Network that allows faster and cheaper bitcoin transactions.

With 32% of El Salvador’s population onboarded to the Lightning Network in less than 3 weeks, the capacity of the network has climbed to a new all-time high of 2,947.67 BTC. This capacity has been growing throughout this year, and at the end of January, it was only around 1,050 BTC.

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Like the network capacity, the number of nodes and channels has hit new highs of 27,186 and 74,153, respectively.

A Lightning node is a software that connects and interacts with the main blockchain network and within the LN itself. The nodes open payment channels with each other that are funded with BTC. Transactions are made across these channels, and balance is not broadcast on-chain, thus creating a second layer on top of the bitcoin network.

Last week, Twitter also announced a new feature that allows tipping with Bitcoin over the LN through the payment app built on the network called Strike. Twitter users can basically use any Bitcoin Lightning wallet to send tips to someone’s Strike account.

If this catches on, this could further drive Bitcoin and Lightning Network adoption.

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Author: AnTy

Shanghai Using Permissionless Blockchain to Pilot the Use of RMB for Cross-border Payments

Shanghai Using Permissionless Blockchain to Pilot the Use of RMB for Cross-border Payments

Conflux’s permissionless blockchain will be used to test the digital RMB for cross-border payments in Shanghai’s Lingang Pilot Free Trade Zone.

In July, China’s central bank has approved the Lingang Pilot Free Trade Zone to test the free capital inflows and outflows.

In January, the Shanghai government invested $5 million in the network.

“Conflux public blockchain will pilot the use of the RMB offshore stablecoin for cross-border payments as part of Shanghai Free Trade Zone initiative- the renminbi is China’s official currency, while the Yuan is the unit of the currency,” noted Conflux Network.

In response to the news, the token of the network CFX pumped 170% to $0.736 over the weekend. But since then, CFX is down about 39% to trade at $0.451 on Monday. The coin is also down 72.4% from its all-time high of $1.70 from six months back.

The state-owned Shanghai Maritime University will conduct the experiment, and Conflux established the Shanghai ShuTu Blockchain Research Institute. The research center will also explore developing blockchain standards for trade and shipping.

The People’s Bank of China has been conducting trials for its central bank digital currency (CBDC) since April of last year but has recently started testing it in cross-border applications.

The PBOC actually aims to launch the CBDC by the 2022 Winter Olympics. Earlier this month, speaking at the China Digital Finance Forum, deputy governor Fan Yifei said e-CNY test runs have shown “great potential” though there were some issues that “need to be solved.”

By mid-July, 21 million individuals were using the digital yuan, and the trial had reached 34.5 billion yuan ($5.3 billion) in transactions.

Two months later, about 140 million people have used China’s digital yuan app thanks to the collaboration between the central bank and Chinese shopping platform Meituan. As a result, almost all the residents in nine major Chinese cities can download the app and start using it.

New features in the form of programmability through smart contracts and sub-wallets to facilitate online digital currency payments to participating merchants have also been added to the app recently.

Besides working with tech giants for the digital yuan, China is also developing gadgets like bracelets, wristbands, and smartwatches to support digital yuan wallets.

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Author: AnTy

Unique Addresses Using DeFi Protocols Grow by 65% in Q2, Institutional Capital Flooding in DeFi Too: ConsenSys

Unique Addresses Using DeFi Protocols Grow by 65% in Q2, Institutional Capital Flooding in DeFi Too: ConsenSys

As of July 1, 2021, 161 million unique Ethereum addresses have been created, an increase of 10% over Q1 and a decrease in the 12% growth since January, according to ConsenSys’ 2Q21 report.

2.91 million unique addresses used at least one DeFi protocol by the end of Q2, representing a 65% growth from Q1. However, DeFi addresses are just 1.81% of all Ethereum addresses. The report noted,

“As community driven education, simple user interfaces, appealing yields, and general awareness around DeFi best practices increased throughout the quarter, so too did the number of new addresses.”

Growth in DeFi usage can also be seen in popular Ethereum wallet, MetaMask’s monthly users, which surpassed 8 million due to the development of DeFi applications on other Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) compatible networks that users can access via MetaMask, like BSC and Polygon.

These EVM compatible blockchains took off in Q2, attracting users with much lower fees and higher throughput with the number of transactions on BSC and Polygon’s Proof of Stake commit-chain overtaking Ethereum.

In the DeFi space, DEXs saw their highest volume ever in Q2 at $343 billion, surpassing the leading crypto exchange in the US, Coinbase’s $335 billion volume in Q1. Coinbase had identified decentralized exchanges as one of the key threats to their business in S-1. It went public via a direct listing in Q2.

Interestingly, DEXs enable trading only for EMV-compatible assets while more than half Coinbase’s trading is in Bitcoin.

Regulated Institutional Investors Stepping In

Over the past year, DeFi has come a long way and has now started to attract institutional investors’ attention. ConsenSys noted,

“With radical financial innovation and growth comes radical investment returns and opportunity, leading to more and more institutional capital flooding into this space.”

This can be seen in Coinbase custodial assets at over $90 bln and Gemini having more than $30 bln in assets under custody, while purely institutional custodians like Bitgo having have at least $16 billion assets under custody.

The report further mentions PWC reporting 47% of traditional hedge fund managers representing $180 billion of AUM looking at investing in crypto. An Intertrust survey finds that hedge funds are expected to hold 7% of their assets, equating to $312 billion in crypto in 5 years.

DeFi projects like Aave and Compound are already taking steps towards this with permissioned pools and Treasury to earn a fixed rate. MetaMask also launched a wallet built for institutions with an address tracking system called Codefi Compliance that allows custodians to identify addresses within pools suspected of nefarious activity effectively. The report says,

“Driven to take advantage of the exceptional investment returns, but also able to do so from a regulatory and compliance perspective, more regulated institutional investors are now stepping into this space.”

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Author: AnTy

“Backdoor Bitcoin Ban?” Infrastructure Bill Creator Rob Portman Unveils Competing Amendment

Senator Rob Portman’s amendment, which supports PoW chains but punishes those using PoS protocol, for now, has gained support from Mark Warner, Kyrsten Sinema, and most importantly, the White House. Crypto experts are skeptical and urging the community to call their senators and support the Wyden-Lummis-Toomey amendment.

On Wednesday, as we reported, Cynthia Lummis (R- Wyo), Ron Wyden (D-Ore), and Pat Toomey (R-Pa) filed their amendments to the crypto tax provision, which has also gained the support of Colorado Governor Jared Polis.

Late on Thursday, then, Senator Rob Portman, who is behind the bipartisan infrastructure bill and its overreaching crypto policies, tweeted out his support for the Wyden-Lummis-Toomey amendment saying, “we can do more to clarify the intent of the cryptocurrency provision & the Senate should vote on their amendment,” which had the crypto community excited and increasingly hopeful of getting this done.

But in a quick turn of events, at the last minute, Portman proposed his own “whack competing” amendment with support from Mark Warner, D-Va and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz, which support PoW chains but punishes those using PoS protocol.

“It is a disastrous. It only excludes proof-of-work mining. And it does nothing for software devs. Ridiculous!” said Jerry Brito, executive director of CoinCenter.

Blockchain Association executive director Kristin Smith warns that Portman and Warners’ amendment is anti-technology and anti-innovation that “would be disastrous for the U.S. crypto ecosystem.”

“If there is a worse way to make policy, someone is always ready to pounce. Hopefully it is simple ignorance rather than a malicious attack on a burgeoning FinTech industry. What a train wreck!” commented Congressman Warren Davidson, who is a crypto supporter.

Portman’s amendment even gained the support of the White House.

“The Administration believes this provision will strengthen tax compliance in this emerging area of finance and ensure that high income taxpayers are contributing what they owe under the law… we believe that the alternative amendment put forward by Senators Warner, Portman, and Sinema strikes the right balance and makes an important step forward in promoting tax compliance,” reads the statement attributed to Andrew Bates, White House Deputy Press Secretary.

This obviously took the crypto community by shock. They were quick to point out that this is absolutely wrong to do at the last moment and is an attempt to do what the original bill was planning all along, ban the crypto industry.

“Make no mistake, this is a backdoor Bitcoin ban. Compliance is impossible. Their intent is to criminalize full nodes, lightning nodes, and most Bitcoin wallets. And they are not really in favor of proof-of-work; the very next bill will include some ESG thing to attack that too,” tweeted Balaji Srinivasan, former Coinabse CTO, and General Partner at a16z.

The Senate plans to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Saturday.

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Author: AnTy

Dash Releases App for Retail Commerce Payments Using DASH Token

Dash Releases App for Retail Commerce Payments Using DASH Token

The developers of the DASH cryptocurrency have launched a retail-focused app that will help customers to spend the cryptocurrency at retail and online shops across the United States.

In a press release shared earlier this week, the blockchain-based payments network confirmed that its app – called DashDirect – will help improve commercial payments and, most importantly, grow adoption for the asset.

DashDirect – Payments With DASH Made Easy

As the release explained, DashDirect will allow customers to shop at over 155,000 physical store locations and 125 online platforms across the United States.

Some big names – including Home Depot, BestBuy, Chipotle, and Staples – are part of those that will allow the service’s use. Speaking to news sources, Marshall Greenwood, DashDirect’s chief executive, explained that it will also offer sizable savings on products purchased through its interface.

As the executive explained, DashDirect is a non-custodial app. By leveraging Dash’s payment technology, the app will offer instant, low-cost payment capacities – especially for crypto micro-transactions.

So customers will be able to hold and control their DASH tokens from the app. It will also include a tipping feature and a dashboard for users to track their savings and expenses.

Greenwood pointed out that all users have to do is enter the amount of money they would like to pay on DashDirect. Immediately, the platform calculates a discount of up to 12 percent. Greenwood added that the primary objective is to make it as easy to spend DASH as it is to spend the dollar – whether physically or online. But, with DASH offering efficient and low-cost transactions, customers will enjoy impressive savings that aren’t available with the American fiat.

The CEO also pointed out that they are expanding their partner retailers, languages, and customer support.

Dash Working on Seamless Payment Integration

DashDirect is the latest in Dash’s efforts to boost adoption of the asset and optimize payments. Back in January, the Dash Core Group announced several updates to its smartphone app and the DashPay smartphone wallet.

DashPay is a social crypto payments wallet with human-readable addresses. As the January announcement explained, the development work for v0.17 of the app had been moved to the testnet phase. The Dash Core Group had been looking towards releasing the app before 2020, but delays in employment had pushed the work back.

Dana Alibrandi, the Head of Product at Dash, explained that DashPay is the biggest deployment of the Dash Platform. Its release will mark the biggest milestone in Dash’s long-term ambition for mainstream adoption.

With v0.17 now in testnet, Dash is looking towards v0.18 and some additional items on its agenda. The upgrade will feature more protocol involvements for light clients and greater functionalities for its Android and iOS apps.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Banks, Including Barclays, Ban Transfers to Crypto Exchange Binance Using Debit & Credit Cards

Banks, Including Barclays, Are Banning Transfers to Crypto Exchange Binance Using Debit and Credit Cards

All of this has been done in the name of keeping the customers’ money safe while Binance says, “If our partners have any concerns, we would welcome a dialogue to discuss,” adding UK regulator FCA’s notice to BLM, isn’t about Binance.com at all.

Leading cryptocurrency exchange Binance took to Twitter to share that many of their banking partners are not allowing their users to use their services.

“It’s disappointing to learn that some partners are taking unilateral action to stop servicing Binance users based on what appears to be an inaccurate understanding of events,” said Binance on Tuesday.

In one such instance, one of the partners referred its users to an FCA notice that was addressed to Binance Markets Limited (BML), saying it was taking this action to keep people’s money “safe.” Still, Binance has “always taken the security of our users’ money very seriously,” they said.

As Binance informed its users of this development, many in the comments section pointed out how banks are not letting them make transfers to the platform.

Barclays is one such platform that is not allowing its users to make transfers to Binance and is stopping any payments made by credit and debit card to the exchange for an unspecified time period, all in the name of keeping the customers’ money safe.

“It’s our responsibility to help protect your money. With this in mind, we’ve taken the decision to stop payments made by credit/debit card to Binance until further notice, to help keep your money safe,” reads the bank’s automated message.

Other users noted that it’s not just Barclays, but other UK banks like Natwest, Lloyds, and HSBC are also not allowing them to make deposits.

This has been after Binance reactivated GBP withdrawals last week after the exchange’s customers were unable to deposit or withdraw British Pound (GBP) from its platform after the regulator in Britain cracked down on crypto activities in the country. Binance has been at the center of  regulatory concerns for the past few weeks, with the UK as well as the Cayman Islands and Thailand SEC.

“The FCA notice was not about user deposits on http://Binance.com at all,” reiterated Binance adding, the notice relates to the UK incorporated BLM, which is regulated by the FCA. A separate entity, BML does not offer any products or services via Binance.com.

“If our partners have any concerns, we would welcome a dialogue to discuss.”

“We take our compliance obligations very seriously, and we are committed to working collaboratively with regulators to shape policies that protect consumers, encourage innovation, and advance the industry.”

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Author: AnTy

Extreme Right-Wing Groups Using Virtual Assets and Stablecoins to Move Funds: FATF Report

Extreme Right-Wing Groups Using Virtual Assets and Stablecoins to Move Funds: FATF Report

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) released a report called “Ethnically or Racially Motivated Terrorism Financing” that talks about the use of cryptocurrencies by terrorists to move funds.

The global anti-money laundering watchdog said few countries had designated extreme right-wing groups (ERW) or individuals as terrorists who appear to be becoming more adept at disguising their financial activities.

Some of these ERWs are also using virtual assets like Bitcoin to move funds, according to a new FATF report. Using “so-called privacy coins” meanwhile allows them to maintain anonymity when making transactions. The report said,

“There has been plenty of interest in VAs from different ERW groups and individuals looking for anonymity, especially after being removed from mainstream payment platforms.”

Those who are more security-conscious and looking for a greater level of secrecy “often choose VAs.” However, the agency noted that “there is limited information on the volume of funds being transferred in this way.”

The FATF further points to the use of stablecoins, one created by the group itself “where transactional data only lasted 24 hours before becoming untraceable.” One far-right organization in South Africa created this stablecoin which was managed by an application styled PayApp that “enables the group to use digital money as cash.”

The report also mentions that these groups have property “central” to their fundraising activities as such argues that authorities should target them to deter terrorist financing and disrupt related financial networks.

Additionally, these groups are using concerts, music festivals, mixed martial arts events, and merchandise sales to raise funds, socialize, and network.

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Author: AnTy

Augur Launches Sports Betting Platform, Turbo, Built on Polygon Using Chainlink’s Oracles

Augur Launches Sports Betting Platform, Turbo, Built on Polygon Using Chainlink’s Oracles

Augur, a decentralized betting ecosystem, announced its Augur Turbo project, a platform aiming to introduce sports betting, adding to its wide betting market. Turbo will use Chainlink’s decentralized oracles to raw external data and scores – ensuring a trustless and efficient way to feed data to its smart contracts, an announcement reads.

According to the statement released on Monday, Augur Turbo is built on the Ethereum layer 2 solutions, Polygon (formerly Matic), which will save a ton of fees for the players and market creators – compared to Ethereum. The new decentralized sports betting market aims to replace the “highly centralized” traditional betting exchanges solving the issues of “limited payouts, withdrawal problems, high fees, and market control,” the statement further reads.

Additionally, the Turbo project is also turning to Chainlink (LINK), which will provide decentralized oracles to feed on-chain smart contracts with external data from games schedules and results, scores, player and team stats, etc. With this integration, market makers on Augur Turbo will create a betting market from any sports discipline, including the NBA, NFL, UEFA, FA, UFC, the Olympics, and other sporting events.

Augur allows market makers to create betting markets outside the sports realm, with recent markets ranging from recent U.S. Presidential elections, weather, current events, financial assets, etc.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Only 1% of Ethereum Addresses Are Currently Using DeFi: ConsenSys Report

Only 1% of Ethereum Addresses Are Currently Using DeFi: ConsenSys Report

As of April 1st, 2021, there were 146 million unique Ethereum addresses, 16 million more since the beginning of the year. However, only 1% of these addresses are using decentralized finance (DeFi).

By the end of quarter first, 1.75 million unique addresses had used at least one DeFi protocol, despite DeFi users growing by 50% this quarter and a 10x increase from the end of Q1 2020, states the latest report on the DeFi sector by ConsenSys.

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The growth of DeFi represents the increasing demand for the sector, increasing the median gas price to 50% in ETH and average transaction fees to spike 4.2x.

In Q1 2021, Ethereum’s total fees were double of the Bitcoin blockchain. This gap continues to widen between both the blockchains, with Ethereum generating more than 850% fees daily than Bitcoin this month. Even leading AMM, Uniswap is doing more in fees than the largest network.

Due to the persistent issue of high fees, developers are moving to layer 2 solutions such as Polygon (MATIC), Optimism, and Starkware’s STARK-based roll-ups.

Within DeFi, each sector gained a 50% increase in users in the first quarter. DEX volume increased 2.5x to $63 billion, and outstanding loans rose 3x to $10.8 billion.

The report further covered NFTs, which saw a meteoric rise due to the coronavirus pandemic, which left 62% of artists unemployed. NFTs are about 10% of global art sales, it noted.

Now, in Q2, the trends to watch, according to ConsenSys, involve DAOs investing in NFTs and Flashbots dominating the Ethereum Network.

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Author: AnTy

Bank of America to Speed Up Stock Trade Settlement Using Paxos Blockchain Network

Bank of America to Speed Up Stock Trade Settlement Using Paxos Blockchain Network

Crypto firm Paxos has welcomed Bank Of America to its blockchain-based network for settling US equities.

According to Bloomberg, Bank of America has become the latest US bank to join the Paxos Network for blockchain stock settlement. The Paxos network facilitates the quick settlement of securities.

European banking giant Credit Suisse and Nomura Holdings Inc’s Instinet already use the network known as Paxos Settlement Service.

Improving Return-on-Assets for BoA

Speaking on the new development, the Bank of America’s head of financing and clearing, Kevin McCarthy, said joining the Paxos network would help improve the return-on-assets in the business, which he said has been a challenge for the bank.

Paxos Settlement Service is an alternative settlement platform to existing market infrastructure. It was launched in 2020 after receiving a no-action relief from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in October 2019. Paxos has also applied for a clearing license with the SEC.

The CEO of Paxos, Chad Cascarilla, said his platform could threaten the Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. (DTCC), which currently dominates equity settlement. The DTCC offers a “T+2” settlement process via legacy software. The DTCC settlement takes up to two days and only offers same-day settlement for trades are recorded on or before 11 a.m.

This is unlike Paxos that settles stock trades within minutes using the blockchain. Paxos runs a permissioned version of the Ethereum blockchain.

Using Blockchain In The Stock Market

In recent times, financial firms worldwide have begun to explore how blockchain can help address inefficiencies in the financial markets. Even as the total value of stocks traded globally is pegged to be around $77.5 trillion, the complexity in stock-related transactions persists. The stock market still has problems regarding the time it takes for transactions to be approved and the operational costs.

NASDAQ is one stock exchange that has been a front-runner when it comes to adopting blockchain. The exchange already uses blockchain technology to issue and manage private securities. Most of the other exchanges are still exploring prototypes and looking into the opportunities in blockchain technology.

Banks like JP Morgan Chase have also leveraged blockchain technology to develop specialized payments systems and offer niche banking products. Since last year, JPMorgan has used the blockchain to execute intraday repurchase agreements totaling billions of dollars.

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Author: Jimmy Aki