The Ethereum Altair upgrade was completed on October 28, 2021. This is part of the transition to ETH 2.0, as PoS (Proof-of-Stake) consensus mechanism merges with the Beacon Chain.
The upgrade implements the following:
light-client support to the core consensus.
Setup of beacon state incentive accounting.
Fixes validator incentives issue.
Penalties for offline or inactive validator nodes per EIP 2982.
Over 95% of the network participated at the time of the upgrade’s first epoch. This is the first upgrade to the Beacon Chain since going online in December 2020 and could also be the last before the merge with PoS on the Ethereum mainnet.
“Through the Altair upgrade, Ethereum sets the base for this vision, enabling the upcoming merge of the proof-of-work chain and the Beacon Chain. Finally, these are expected to benefit Ether holders and stakers by making it deflationary while offering higher returns to validators.”
The recent London Hard Fork had introduced a base fee as part of EIP 1559 with a coin burning mechanism that adds a deflationary feature to Ethereum. During the first 48 hours of that upgrade, $30 million in ETH were burned from the network’s circulation. As of 10/30/21, 681,030 ETH have been burned that is valued at $3,013,073,269. This puts pressure on supply as it decreases and drives the price of ETH higher due to market demand.
With ETH 2.0 set for deployment in 2022, Altair is part of the preparation. Altair is a hard fork, which means that the 250,000+ validator nodes who didn’t upgrade are now considered offline. Their ETH will then slowly diminish at about 10% per year. This was included in Altair as a sort of way to push for moving towards the upgrade. This not only benefits the validators, but the network as a whole as it comes to an agreement to pave the way for Ethereum’s next phase.
There have been reports of Twitter integrating Bitcoin (BTC) tipping from their app. This would allow users to receive BTC from their followers or from anyone who appreciates their content. This would require some payment integration with the Bitcoin blockchain, allowing Twitter accounts to receive BTC tips. While there is no final word on that ever becoming a feature (as of posting), it is generating excitement among crypto-fanatics on social media.
Tipping on Twitter is possible using a third party payment channel. It is called the Tip Jar service, and you can receive money that goes through a payment processor like PayPal. It would also be possible to receive crypto like BTC, but once again this is assuming Twitter will actually integrate crypto. Jack Dorsey (Twitter CEO) did mention before that he has plans for Bitcoin and Twitter, but whether this is part of the plan remains to be seen.
Due to this news, can we also assume (or expect) that Bitcoin will help make Twitter a more decentralized social media platform? After all, Bitcoin is based on the ideology of decentralization and censorship resistance. Those are things that Twitter is actually not known for. They are highly centralized with a team of systems administrators and moderators who check content and have even banned a former head of state and public figures who have violated their terms of service. Twitter has also been accused of bias when it comes to content, but there has been no undeniable proof that has been determined by the court of law.
Decentralization means there is no one controlling the platform. That is in contrast to Twitter. The Bitcoin network is considered decentralized because no single entity controls it. It consists of independent nodes that verify payments, hold copies of the blockchain database or mine blocks for rewards. If one of the nodes goes down, the entire network can still operate. If Twitter were to shut down, it affects the entire network operations. With decentralization you also have platform neutrality because no one is going to restrict any user’s action, even if they have consequences (this is another topic for debate).
In a decentralized platform, there are no admins or moderators who check the content. Not even AI algorithms that make sure users are following the company policy. There is no need for that, so a truly decentralized platform is not regulated. It can still deal with bad actors, but that requires community to come to a consensus. Decentralized networks are based on this mechanism to keep users honest and properly behave. With Twitter, it is decided by a few people at the top of the organization. You can make the argument that Twitter can do what it wants because it is their platform. That is fine, but it is the perfect example of a centralized organization.
Some would say making the software open source paves the way to decentralization. The Twitter app is open source just like Bitcoin. They are both open source, yet one is centralized and the other is not. Therefore it is not about being open source. It is really more about organizational structure and policy. Twitter can become decentralized if it has not main office or central authority for leadership. Bitcoin does not even have a recognizable executive team like Twitter. Its founder is an anonymous user and it has no directors or employees. Those who work in Bitcoin development are for the most part volunteers.
So even with Bitcoin integration it is not likely Twitter will become decentralized. Just because a company uses crypto does not mean they follow the principles behind it. Even digital exchanges like Coinbase and Binance have a high degree of centralization, despite embracing the cryptospace. They have an executive board, they can shut down accounts, ban users and manipulate data. As long as the organization exists as a single entity with board members consisting of a few people not voted through consensus, it will not be decentralized.
VISA has announced the purchase of a CryptoPunkNFT (Non-Fungible Token) worth approximately $165,000 (~50 ETH this August 18, 2021). Perhaps the most unlikely thing you would expect VISA (the financial credit company) to invest in. VISA is apparently bullish on NFTs, or could this just be another signal to show they are “in the know” or “part of the gang”? CryptoPunk NFTs are original digital artwork made by Larva Labs. These are unique collectible characters that have verified ownership on the Ethereum blockchain. They are not physical objects at all, but purely digital. They look just like icons or emojis, not at all like the works of art you would see in a gallery.
This shows that VISA is getting in on the DeFi (Decentralized Finance) market with NFTs. According to their recent tweet:
“Over the last 60 years, Visa has built a collection of historic commerce artefacts—from early paper credit cards to the zip-zap machine. Today, as we enter a new era of NFT-commerce, Visa welcomes CryptoPunk #7610 to our collection”
NFTs like CryptoPunks, despite looking like mediocre art, hold plenty of value. A typical CryptoPunk can bid over $20,000 while the more in demand will bid in the millions of dollars. That shows that there is a big market for these collectibles and the buyers have plenty of money to spend. This is not your basic retail market where items cost a few dollars. This is a big money market, and it has attracted VISA’s attention.
What makes CryptoPunks desirable as a collectible is their uniqueness. A CryptoPunk character (i.e. Punks) is algorithmically generated by computer, not manually created by a human artist. There are also different types like Apes, Zombies and Aliens. Each CryptoPunk character has their own set of attributes and their metadata are recorded on the Ethereum blockchain. That also includes the proof of ownership to the holder of the NFT.
It seems like VISA will hold this NFT for the collection purposes. It will hold the CryptoPunk for historical records, perhaps to document a time when NFTs first emerged. This will surely be valuable in the future, whether NFT continue to become successful or not. Just owning a piece of history is valuable in itself, so VISA is going to look back on this as having a memento to that timeline. Overall the NFT market continues to grow. According to Forbes, the NFT market grew 1,785% In 2021. It is now the fastest growing sector in DeFi that is also gaining pop culture adoption and VISA is jumping on board.
Moving forward, it looks like VISA is also on the horizon ready to enter new partnerships and projects related to NFTs. As a payment processor, VISA can help bridge the traditional finance market with the DeFi space. That opens a world of opportunities for buyers, sellers and developers.
The Ethereum network has activated the London Hard Fork successfully (12:34 UTC, Block# 12,965,000, 8/5/2021). In the first two days, $30 Million of ETH (Ether) were burned. That amount of ETH burned, removes approximately 3,000+ ETH from circulation. This is part of the EIP 1559 specification in which a certain portion of the transaction fee is burned per transaction. The hard fork also makes transaction fees on the Ethereum blockchain more predictable. This creates lower gas fees that can bring the costs of transactions down since there is now a base fee.
The introduction of a base fee addresses the volatility in transactions. This is regarding the cost of gas prices during times of network congestion. When the network is at its busiest, the cost of gas can suddenly increase which is why recent transaction costs on the Ethereum network has been high. With a base fee, this can prevent gas prices from suddenly shooting up to levels where it makes more sense to send large transactions than lower ones.
Since Ethereum uses an inflationary currency model, the burning introduces a deflationary system for the first time. This puts a check on the amount of ETH in circulation, which can affect prices to the upside. This has become controversial since it affects miner rewards, but the Ethereum network is moving away from mining (Proof-of-Work) consensus. A protocol difficulty bomb is part of the design for Ethereum 2.0 (ETH2.0) that will make mining more difficult, encouraging validators to move towards staking (Proof-of-Stake) consensus. The London Hard Fork will delay this at the moment to allow time for transition.
In a nutshell the London Hard Fork has enabled the following features:
Establish a base fee for transactions
Provide more transparency and predictability to transaction fees
Make ETH a more deflationary asset with a burning mechanism
Here are other EIPs activated during the London Hard Fork:
EIP 3554 delays the “difficulty bomb”.
EIP 3529 reduces gas refunds. Gas tokens (e.g. Chi) will become obsolete.
EIP 3198 allows users to return the base fee opcode.
Overall this introduces steps that will bring Ethereum closer to a minerless future. This gives time for miners to transition to staking, but once the difficulty bomb is activated it begins the “Ice Age” for mining. The new structure for transaction fees is also a positive development in light of the skyrocketing costs to run a transaction on the Ethereum blockchain. It doesn’t exactly lower gas prices, but makes it more manageable with a base fee. At least users will not have to deal with sudden increases when all they want to do is transfer ETH to another wallet or swap tokens. ETH will also be headed towards a more deflationary asset as well, with the burning of portions of its transaction fees. All of this creates positive market signals that drives further utility on the Ethereum blockchain.
In Big Tech, Apple was usually the one who was late to the party. When it comes to crypto, that does not seem to be the case. Apple has made moves to hire an “alternatives payment” manager that we can assume involves cryptocurrency. It became obvious when one of the key qualifications mentioned was experience with cryptocurrency. Google has been involved with blockchain technology related matters like their partnership with Theta Labs network. Other Big Tech companies like Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft have dabbled with blockchain and cryptocurrency on occasion but there is one company that we have not heard much about recently being involved in crypto … Amazon.
Amazon has actually patented a blockchain-based product authenticator back in 2020. It is not using cryptocurrency (as of writing) and has not really been in the news much. Amazon even removed crypto from their payment methods from the Twitch.TV platform . There is however news that Amazon is moving towards cryptocurrency payments. Just like Apple, Amazon is looking for a digital currency and blockchain expert. They might be considering crypto payments for their online retail business.
It is a big deal if Amazon embraces crypto. Not just for payments, but if the company invests in digital assets like Tesla. Amazon has a large retail empire which they could open to retail for cryptocurrency. This will most likely require payment processors like Visa, who have started to process cryptocurrency for payments in 2021. Amazon may permit payment processors to handle cryptocurrency to fiat conversions, meaning the final payment will still be in fiat.
Developers would find it an opportunity to create gateways for payment processors from crypto to fiat. Regulations must be followed as part of jurisdiction laws, so how it will be implemented is the challenge. The less you have to deal with regulators, the better it will be to just allow others to deal with it. Then again why would Amazon need a third party, when they are more than capable of implementing a system with their vast resources available.
According to an Amazon spokesperson:
“We’re inspired by the innovation happening in the cryptocurrency space and are exploring what this could look like on Amazon. We believe the future will be built on new technologies that enable modern, fast, and inexpensive payments, and hope to bring that future to Amazon customers as soon as possible.”
It sounds like the type of news that can move the market to the upside. It is also what speculators want to hear because it can generate more interest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency. That usually leads to FOMO buying sprees that help drive prices of digital assets higher. While the news cycle from the media had been full of FUD the past few weeks since “Elon FUD” back in May, it has since become more positive. Whether or not Amazon does finally consider cryptocurrency payments or develop their own token, they have confirmed their interest. For many analysts that is a sign that cryptocurrency is not about to go away any time soon.
“You can now use your Coinbase Card with Apple Pay and Google Pay to make it even easier to spend crypto at home and on the go.”
It is Coinbase that has integrated cryptocurrency payment options, and is not directly from Apple Pay. This means that users will need a Coinbase card first, which can then be added as a payment option on Apple Pay.
Coinbase provides a debit card from which users can attach their cryptocurrency wallet to use funds. One of the perks it offers is a cash-back spending feature (up to 4% according to Coinbase). This rewards heavy users back to their iPhone.
Before a user can pay with cryptocurrency, it is clear that it is not a direct exchange of value. It must first be converted to fiat at the point-of-sale. The merchant must also support payments in cryptocurrency, so this means that users cannot just use their card to make any payment in cryptocurrency. Merchants who accept the card can offer designated cryptocurrency payment methods (e.g. ETH, XLM, BTC).
Cryptocurrency debit cards are providing users not just a new payment method, but a way to actually use digital assets as a medium for exchange. They can be used to pay for goods and services where it is accepted, and that allows more utility for cryptocurrency. There are other types of cards offered by Crypto.com and BitPay, with their own reward system for users.
With crypto payments going toward mainstream adoption, the question is whether the volatility will have any negative effect. An example of this is sudden change in price of a cryptocurrency in the middle of a transaction. How will payment processors handle the variations, which can suddenly increase or decrease without warning? The idea is making the payment at the point-of-sale, but users may delay in paying from the time of quote. In the real world, prices are fixed with fiat currency and users pay for an item as listed. Prices don’t suddenly change after a few minutes. With crypto, prices can suddenly change while a user is waiting to make a payment. This is certainly something that will be tested.
Certain crypto, like Bitcoin, may be considered too valuable to spend. However, that would probably be the digital asset merchants would like to accept for cryptocurrency payments. Users will have to consider whether they want to spend fractions of their BTC for a pair of sneakers or just HODL it. There are other crypto options of course, which is why this can still work out for both users and merchants. Another thing to take note of are the transaction fees. Users would probably want to use a blockchain where transaction fees are cheapest to spend their crypto.
Stablecoins may provide a better solution to go around the volatility. This might be a good option since it is pegged to more stable assets. Users can set their Coinbase card to use a stablecoin like USDC as their payment option method. All users will need to do is convert a certain amount of their base crypto like Bitcoin to a stablecoin. From there they can fund their debit card with less worries about volatility.
Both Apple Pay and Google Pay come from large tech platforms that serve millions of users. Integration with cryptocurrency payments is further simplified through the use of smartphones. Apple Pay users have iOS (iPhone) while Google Pay users have Android (Samsung, OnePlus, Huawei, etc.). This finally takes the world of retail digital payments to the blockchain.
The launch of the Alonzo hard fork signals the next stage in the Cardanoroadmap. This provides the path to the Goguen phase, which introduces smart contracts to the network. This will take place in multiple phases represented by colors. The current phase is called Alonzo Blue, to be followed by Alonzo White and Alonzo Purple. What is coming are the feature for developing applications. Alonzo is the upgrade that will allow developers to build DApps (Decentralized Applications) that run on a secure and mathematically verifiable network.
“The ‘Alonzo’ hard fork will bring exciting and highly-anticipated new capabilities to Cardano through the integration of Plutus scripts onto the blockchain. These will allow for the implementation of smart contracts in Cardano, enabling the deployment of a wide range of new DeFi applications for the first time.”
Cardano (ADA) has been criticized for its slow development pace. This has anxious investors waiting for the release of products built on top of the Cardano blockchain. The Cardano team are doing this with purpose to be able to release a peer reviewed system that is stable, secure and quality tested. That can only be possible by following the roadmap set by the developers. It begins with the foundation to build a core network that was introduced in the Byron phase. Next came the decentralization of the core network, which was the purpose of the Shelley phase. Now comes the ability for developers to build on top of the Cardano blockchain, like how developers use the Ethereum blockchain for smart contracts and DApps.
The smart contracts used in Cardano are written using the Plutus programming language. It is based on the functional programming language Haskell, which is used for reliable and mission critical application development (e.g. aerospace and defense software). The aim here is to provide a more stable code for smart contracts, which are critical in nature. That means a more sound way to execute DApps on the network, that minimizes logic errors and capable of scalability.
The Alonzo Blue phase will bring the testnet live by the end of May 2021. It will be open to a select group of partners and developers to test the codebase. The Alonzo White phase comes around July 2021 and will bring in more participants for testing. Alonzo Purple will then open up the testnet to the public. This is in preparation for opening the system up to other users to test the performance of Cardano smart contracts. With these developments, the smart contract platforms will get more competitive in the cryptocurrency markets. Ethereum and Binance Smart Chain (BSC) are going to see a new platform to compete with.
Unlike most projects, Cardano has a reputation for being slow. Founder Charles Hoskinson wants to take the slow tortoise approach to development, rather than giving too many updates right away. The team’s objective is to release quality controlled and tested software that is reliable and secure. They want to make sure they avoid many bugs and flaws that could compromise the system. Perhaps we can now see the fruits of their labor.
When investing in cryptocurrency, the fundamentals seem very important. How then can a coin that was meant to be a meme remain so popular it has a market cap over a $1 Billion (as of this writing)? That is a lot of value for something that has no distinct utility or feature, yet has captured a large share of the market. It is certainly FOMO for noobs. Meme coins were meant to be just for fun, and that is the image many have of Dogecoin. Yet there are some things about Dogecoin that are actually fundamentally what cryptocurrency should be all about.
First and foremost, this is not financial advice. This is for reference and informational purposes only. Cryptocurrency is very volatile and there are risks to consider when investing. This is not a direct promotion of Dogecoin, the cryptocurrency or investing in a digital asset. Instead this is a look into why it is popular and how it fits in the current cryptocurrency landscape. With that said, what is all the fuss about Dogecoin?
What Is DOGE Coin?
A meme coin is a cryptocurrency that is not meant to be taken seriously. It does not serve any purpose other than for exchanging and trading. It can be used as a form of payment for tipping or just a way to exchange value over a blockchain. It doesn’t have the core principal of being a store of value like Bitcoin, or an application development platform like Ethereum. First released in December 6, 2013, Dogecoin was just meant to be a simple P2P (Peer-to-Peer) electronic payment software like Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency got its name from the popular Doge meme which features a Shiba Inu dog as the logo. DOGE is the listing name used for the digital asset.
DOGE, while not anything sophisticated, did not initially have any sort of application other than P2P. It is based on open source software from the cryptocurrency Luckycoin and Litecoin. DOGE uses the scrypt algorithm with a PoW(Proof-of-Work) consensus mechanism. There are 127 billion coins in total supply with a 1 minute block time. The block reward for miners is 10,000 DOGE per block produced. Unlike other cryptocurrency, Dogecoin’s founders (Billy Markus and Jackson Palmer) have not continued promoting or even associating with DOGE. They have pretty much been on the sidelines, but DOGE has flourished in part due to its community.
Pump And Dump
While Dogecoin seems like a fun and trendy cryptocurrency that is nice to have, it is also notorious for pump and dump schemes. This has been encouraged in large part by users from Reddit, social influencers and public personalities that include Elon Musk. All it takes is a tweet from a well known personality, and DOGE prices on the market surge. These pumps do not seem to follow any sort of fundamentals other than the encouragement of influencers.
DOGE became a TikTok trend in July 2020, promoted by fans of the popular social media app. It began going viral as users began to spread the word through the platform. This was a push to pump up the price of DOGE and it worked. DOGE volume spiked by 683% after TikTok user urged a buying spree pump. Another surge occurred when Elon Musk tweeted in support of the cryptocurrency. That led to the value of DOGE to surge from $0.003 to $0.005. What do you think happens with all the viral videos on TikTok and tweets from Musk? It creates attention, and people will either Google search Dogecoin to learn more or ask someone they know about it. This type of news is not something you would expect on mainstream media.
These pumps are usually followed by dumps, as can be observed from the latest that occurred in 2021. This was a result of the Gamestop Short Squeeze in which retail investors were temporarily shut off from buying stocks for Gamestop. This led to users urging a pump for DOGE because at least they can buy it freely without any restrictions. It was more about making a statement to the establishment by some, but more people probably did it in order to make gains. That was exactly what happened and then came the dump. During this time (January 28, 2021) DOGE surged by 1,100% to an ATH of $0.082 but would dump a few days later.
In these pumps, many were motivated to see the price surge. However, once it reaches the highs it is really hard to control people from taking profits. After all, DOGE does not really have the same value for HODLing as BTC. You can hold thousands of DOGE in your bag, which really does not seem to be worth much. When prices surge it becomes valuable for converting to fiat, like winning money from a casino. Unfortunately this does not end well for noobs who probably got into the pump craze with no idea what was about to happen. They probably expected that their investment was going to go up, but not realizing that when others cash in the prices go back down and they can lose their initial investment.
DOGE Is In Theory What Cryptocurrency Should Be
While many would berate and laugh DOGE off as just a meme coin used for fun, it actually does have fundamental features of a cryptocurrency. People will be surprised that Dogecoin is capable of many things that modern banking systems cannot do. Dogecoin takes the innovations from blockchain technology and applies it to a community driven environment. Despite not having a platform of its own, what matters is that it provides the basic needs for cryptocurrency which is the direct and decentralized P2P transfer of value. There are also no barriers to purchase it that require proof of documentation, like with other financial assets.
Transactions in DOGE are cryptographically secured, which is important in cryptocurrency. Dogecoin uses a blockchain to allow two people to exchange or trade without knowing each other personally and without requiring permission from a third party to conduct a transaction. Today before we can purchase an item with a credit card, it actually requires permission from the issuer of the card. They can stop a transaction any time they want since it is under their control. This can happen to certain individuals who credit institutions may want to limit or target for any reason.
Dogecoin is highly decentralized after all. It is not controlled by any one entity or organization. Its founders cannot even shut it down and it is open source and available to everyone. There are no constraints to access the source code which users can do with as they wish. No one is going to stop you from buying or selling DOGE, because there are is no censorship against a user. Instead you have a permissionless and trustless system like Bitcoin that is peer to peer at best. Many do not realize that you can also use DOGE to transfer money across borders, but of course when you convert it to fiat it is your responsibility to meet KYC requirements from digital exchanges.
Banks take days or longer to settle payments. With Dogecoin it can be done much faster and at a lower cost as well. There are no middle men or third party to pay when conducting a transaction between two users. If Bob wanted to tip Alice with DOGE, he can do so directly to Alice’s digital wallet with no one to prevent the transaction or require arbiters to facilitate it. The Dogecoin blockchain network provides a neutral service users need to transfer value. So during any pump and dump, the blockchain is still being used to record all transactions in a transparent and immutable manner.
TakeawaysAnd Closing Thoughts
Dogecoin is for the most part the simplest blockchain decentralized app for cryptocurrency. What started out as something just for fun, turns out to have a large following. What this did is foster a community of individuals that brings power to the people. We can see how much that is the case when influencers and public figures join in to participate in pushing the price of DOGE higher. Through social media and the Internet, information spreads faster and coordination becomes easier as the network provides the necessary infrastructure to allow that. Just be careful though when you participate, things can quickly change if you commit more than what you are willing to lose during pumps. It is not a good idea to invest life savings, pay checks or even mortgage a house just for DOGE. Think rationally and it should be fine.
DOGE as a digital asset is not actually worthless like so many penny stocks. It is cheap, but due to its popularity is gaining the attention of the mainstream. Many digital exchanges (e.g. Binanc) and wallets (e.g. Exodus) do support DOGE, which is why it can be purchased by many people. Developers of the Flare blockchain have announced their support for DOGE, which could introduce smart contracts to Dogecoin users. There is also interest in the gaming community to use DOGE, for online gambling, tips and purchasing game items (e.g. badges, powers, etc.). Ren has provided a path for DOGE into DeFi with their renDOGE token. This can bring more applications for DOGE when it comes to liquidity for cryptocurrency lending, payments and trading.
The interest in Dogecoin is going to help sustain the digital asset as something of value to users. This keeps the momentum of holding the coin for longer terms. What Dogecoin showed is that through a coordinated effort by a decentralized community, the market can drive the prices. That is what free market laissez-faire economics should be all about. People are free to enter and leave the market at their own will. When DOGE is surging there is no one group or individual who can stop people from buying it, like what Robinhood did with Gamestop (the reasons are due to how the current financial system works). DOGE is not to be treated as a sure bet financial instrument by any means though, it is a risk that must still be evaluated. With these new possibilities and opportunities coming to Dogecoin, who is to say it is worthless and only for pump and dumps.
Disclaimer: This is not financial advice. The content shared is for informational purposes only. Please do your own research always before investing in cryptocurrency.
You can take two good things and combine them together to get the best of both. In LA’s streets you can get what some would consider one of the city’s iconic sandwiches. It is the hotdog wrapped in bacon. It brings you the meaty flavor of a hotdog with the greasy goodness of bacon. Now think about the top digital asset Bitcoin (BTC). What would you wrap it with if you were to compare it to a hotdog wrapped in bacon? How about Ether (ETH), the Ethereum blockchain’s token. BTC is your hotdog, while ETH is your bacon. It actually exists and it is called Wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC).
Wrapping one cryptocurrency with another uses the hotdog wrapped in bacon example as a simpler way to illustrate an analogy. Wrapping in this sense means to create a protocol to represent one cryptocurrency on another cryptocurrency’s blockchain. BTC can be represented on the Ethereum blockchain by issuing an ERC-20 token called WBTC. This allows BTC integration with smart contracts that can be traded on the Ethereum network using the ERC-20 standard.
In Wrapped Bitcoin, BTC is locked into a smart contract and issued as WBTC. This allows BTC holders to access DeFi systems on the Ethereum blockchain. It is as good in value as BTC which is verified by a Proof-of-Reserve system. This ensures a 1:1 peg between the issued or minted WBTC tokens and BTC. The actual BTC is still on the Bitcoin blockchain since you cannot store it on the Ethereum blockchain. The BTC is taken under the custody of the WBTC token issuer, so it is not directly with the WBTC token holder. It is maintained by a group called the WBTC DAO, who are the custodians of the BTC. The group’s members include blockchain-based organizations like BitGo, Ren and Kyber.
What is the purpose of WBTC?
As mentioned earlier, it is primarily for giving BTC holders a way to gain access to the DeFi markets. A large portion of the DeFi space uses the Ethereum blockchain and BTC is not directly compatible with it. It is a bridge that allows BTC holders to use DeFi protocols to provide liquidity or participate in other services that yield returns. WBTC is a way to bring the value from BTC into the DeFi space without having to convert BTC to ETH. BTC (as of 2020) has the largest cryptocurrency market cap and this is crucial in helping bring liquidity to the DeFi space as well as expanding on the collateral types available.
This is a great way for BTC holders to take part in the DeFi markets. Many BTC holders have plenty of value stored, but are not able to use it if they are HODLing. DeFi provides ways for cryptocurrency to earn even while HODLing, using decentralized protocols like Uniswap, Curve and Yearn. Most DeFi protocols will only support ERC-20 or ETH since they execute from smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain. WBTC is a protocol that allows BTC to be wrapped in an Ethereum ERC-20 token. Holders would not need to convert their BTC to ETH during this process.
To enter the DeFi space, Bitcoin holders would have to deposit their BTC into a smart contract of a WBTC issuer (e.g. BitGo, Coinsquare, etc.). This can be a digital exchange or DEX (Decentralized Exchange) that accepts BTC. Once the BTC has been deposited, WBTC tokens are minted that have a 1:1 value to the BTC that was deposited. Once the holder receives their WBTC, they can now use it for loan collateral, providing liquidity and swapping for other tokens. Digital exchanges will most likely require a KYC (Know Your Customer) in compliance with the law before the WBTC can be issued. On a DEX or over-the-counter it is not required (check with the exchange requirements always). The WBTC can be cashed out to either BTC or ETH.
Another way to get WBTC is through a DEX like Uniswap. Instead of depositing BTC into a smart contract, anyone who holds ETH can purchase WBTC. It requires connecting a digital wallet like Metamask to perform the transaction with ETH. The WBTC is already available in the market and it does not require BTC for purchase in this case. Since WBTC is an ERC-20 token, it can be purchased with ETH very easily.
Other Uses For WBTC
WBTC can be put to use in DeFi yield farming protocols. This allows WBTC holders to put their digital asset for lending and trading purposes. In return, the WBTC holders earn yields as a their return on investment. These yields are fees collected from the transactions. Rewards can be issued in the form of governance tokens, which allow the holders to participate in digital governance through voting. This provides holders a way of participating in decisions that govern these protocols.
Yield farming requires the holders to deposit their WBTC. In return, they are issued another token. Examples of these tokens include SNX (Synthetix token), REN (Ren Project token) and BAL (Balancer token). The tokens are specific to which protocol is used by the yield provider. To learn more about yield farming, there is an article on Coindesk that explains it a little bit further. (Link here)
The Best Of Both
Wrapped Bitcoin brings the best of two blockchains. It is a way to interoperate between two digital assets at the protocol layer. The value of Bitcoin and the decentralized applications on Ethereum. BTC is the digital asset while ETH is the protocol that utilizes it for liquidity, trades and financing. The Ethereum blockchain is serving as a transaction layer that can bring more capital into diverse markets. Bitcoin can provide the capital, as institutional investment grows in the digital asset. WBTC provides a way for investors to bring capital for yielding returns using the Ethereum blockchain.
Disclaimer: This is not financial advice, just reference. Do your own research always to verify information.
It seems there is a correlation to Coinbase having network issues every time there is a Bitcoin bull run. It just appears to be a certainty at this point:
“When Bitcoin goes up, Coinbase goes down”
During the Bitcoin rally in 2017, when Bitcoin price value approached an ATH of $20K, Coinbase also experienced connectivity issues and trading was halted. This was the time Bitcoin suddenly surged and then came crashing down as soon as traders hit the exchange. It seems that the Coinbase system was not designed to accommodate or scale to handle millions of new users. That should have been a lesson to resolve the problem over the years.
During a brief Bitcoin surge in November 2020, and also during an XRP rally, Coinbase suddenly goes down. It is frustrating traders who could have sold or bought more assets, but instead the system crashes. If it were a universal problem, it would also happen at the same time to other exchanges like Binance and Kraken. They all have to deal with issues on the network, but never at the level of Coinbase.
Coinbase CEO, Brian Armstrong, tweeted (in response to the problems):
“We’re working hard to add additional capacity (both in servers and customer support) to deal with increased traffic. Thank you for your patience during this time. And thank you to the team at Coinbase working hard to serve our customers! Bull runs can be exciting and stressful.”
From an IT and network engineering perspective, the problem has to do with scalability and contingency. While AWS has autoscaling capabilities, if the whole infrastructure is affected, it will have an effect on Coinbase. There are other cloud IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) providers like Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, which allows operations to continue in the event that one provider is down. For contingency, a more distributed and decentralized system would have kept the system operational to handle enormous workloads. Perhaps Coinbase had planned for capacity, but not agility.
A more distributed system can prevent downtime, but doesn’t totally eliminate it. If a server malfunctions it will go down and there is nothing that can be done to prevent it. However, the contingency in place is to plan for fault-tolerance and redundancy. Other IT professionals have aired the same opinion, like Hashoshi on his “404 Logic Not Found” section.
Coinbase has been a pioneer in the cryptocurrency space. It would be sad to see their trading business affected by downtime and outages. They have enabled millions to get into cryptocurrency as an onboard to more decentralized financial instruments. There are more options available for traders to buy/sell crypto, including the Robinhood app and even PayPal. They still need exchanges like Coinbase to convert cryptocurrency. Hopefully they can work things out, or else traders will flock to other digital exchanges or DEXes for their business.