10 May 2014

Mycelium: The Definitive Android Wallet

Actually, in a society based in the instantaneity and movability of information, the adoption of a technology depends, totally, on its capacity of adaptation at this exigencies.

One of the most important strategies for best Bitcoin adoption is the smartphone wallets that give to people and business the possibility of making a transaction anywhere with an accessible and popular technology: basically, an app and a smartphone; this is more similar to pocket change than the credit card (that you can only use with specific technology not accesible for all and in any place). And this isn’t happening only in the first world; nations in Africa or Asia have extensive examples of smartphone uses like Kenya or Tanzania, where mobile payments systems have millions of subscribers.

You can choose between different android bitcoin wallets such as, for example, Coinbase (50-100k users), Blockchain.info (50-100k users) based in different levels of cloud-storage of your private keys, and Bitcoin Wallet (100-500k users) or Mycelium (20k users) for local-storage of the private keys.

KnC Wallet (5-10k users), launched by the famous KnCMiner company, which is another of the recent wallet apps that we can choose from, is only a clone with steroids of Bitcoinwallet that allows you, besides original software features, to send bitcoins to any person in your address book long as that person has installed this wallet too. And the app is distributing some satoshis to any person that installs the app.

The most booming app at present, and with more interesting features, is Mycelium, a semi-opensource android wallet that provides a powerful gateway to the bitcoin network with quick broadcasts throughout their servers. We’re speaking with Andreas Petersson, one of the two full-time developers together with Jan Moller, who has been telling us everything about the project.

According to Petersson their software “is unique because it combines simplicity of use and speed with full power to the end user because he keeps his private keys”.

For months, since I bought my first bitcoin in early 2013, I was a Blockchain.info user but, looking for more security and empowerment of my money I started looking for a better app. Then I found Mycelium; it seemed to have everything that I needed: a simple, secure and useful bitcoin wallet.

I can say that my experience is positive all of this time of using because the app simplifies all the things that, before, I had to do with different apps; as for example, generate paper wallets with encryption or fast and secure cold-storage payments, all with syncing in a fraction of a second.

Of course, for now a perfect and totally secure android wallet doesn’t exist, because without encryption, we’ve always had the problem that malware with root access can read our private keys. For this reason, for me, secure cold-storage payments seems a good way to spend at this moment. This system can read a private key of a paper wallet every time that we want to make a payment and after that the private key is removed.

But, definitely, one of the most interesting features that an android wallet has is Local Trading and, surely soon, Bitcoin nodes.

With the first feature, Local trading, we can sell and buy bitcoins inside the App with a low fee of 0.2% per trade with a system similar to Localbitcoin. The mycelium system allows contacting two people to buy and sell bitcoin with an encrypted message system.

With this feature you can know, with GPS, who is trading bitcoins in your area and start the transaction in a secure platform.

The last feature, that for the moment is only a proposal, is Bitcoin nodes, allowing Mycelium users to know what businesses accept Bitcoin and where ATMs are around there using an OpenStreetMap layer.

If you want try newer features you can also participate in the Mycelium Beta program in their Google+ community.

Definitely I think that smartphones and weareables will be the axis where we should focus our attention. People want to use money in the street, at the shop, in a party, with friends or with strangers but always as smoothly as they do with physical coins or a bank app. Developing a sterling android wallet and expanding its features maybe would be the key for expanding our favourite currency.

May 10, 2014 at 12:26AM

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9 May 2014

Video: Roundup of This Week’s Bitcoin News 9th May 2014

Some good news from America, and (unsurprisingly) some more bad news from China. Find out what’s happened in the world of digital currencies this past week.

BitPay plans to display prices in bits: The Georgia-based merchant processor BitPay has announced plans to display BTC prices in bits. The company’s move follows a community discussion about bitcoin’s current denominations being too complex for mainstream users.

Vaurum raises $4m in seed funding: Bitcoin trading platform Vaurum has raised $4m in funding from a group of investors including former AOL CEO Steve Case and venture capitalist Tim Draper. The California-based company offers financial institutions a way to trade and store bitcoins.

FEC approves bitcoin donations for political parties: The US Federal Exchange Commission has approved bitcoin donations for political campaigns. The FEC unanimously decided that political campaigns and political action committees can accept bitcoin as a form of in-kind donation. Congressman Jared Polis became one of the first to set up bitcoin donations for his re-election campaign.

Bitcoin versus China continues: This week BTC China halted RMB deposits from the Bank of China, CEOs of five major Chinese bitcoin exchanges withdrew from the Global Bitcoin Summit in Beijing, and Huobi is considering a future as a bitcoin marketplace.

Vote for Emily: We are proud to announce that our Emily Spaven has been nominated for the Blockchain Awards‘ Most Insightful Journalist. Vote for her by filling out this form.

Have a good weekend and catch us next week at the Bitcoin 2014 conference in Amsterdam.

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May 09, 2014 at 06:16PM

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7 May 2014

Survey Finds Silicon Valley, Wall Street Bullish on Bitcoin


A new survey published by the SecondMarket-owned public investment fund, Bitcoin Investment Trust (BIT), suggests that as the general public learns more about bitcoin, overall optimism about its future financial applications is likely to improve.

The survey garnered responses from more than 1,000 individuals, including those from the Wall Street, Silicon Valley and bitcoin communities. The results detail how the respondents first learned about bitcoin and how their view of the technology’s potential changed over time.

Overall, the findings suggest that, should the experience of these individuals successfully translate to the general public, confusion regarding bitcoin will continue to decline. This rise in awareness, the survey suggests, could also lead to more bitcoin purchases this year.

In total, BIT found that 66% of respondents plan to purchase bitcoins in 2014, and that 74% believe that bitcoin will become a viable alternative currency.

Fifty-three percent of survey takers had previously purchased bitcoin, though of those who did not, 87% indicated they were likely to purchase bitcoins in 2014 or were unsure if they would do so before the year’s end.

Launched in September of 2013, SecondMarket’s Bitcoin Investment Trust allows high net-worth investors the ability to gain exposure to bitcoin’s price movements.

Bitcoin awareness spikes in 2013

The majority of respondents – 45% – indicated that they first heard about bitcoin in 2013. Notably, 30% reported that they learned of the technology between 2009 and 2011.

By comparison, just 22% of respondents reported becoming aware of bitcoin in 2012.

The survey also sought to assess how these individuals became aware of bitcoin, with 35% saying they first learned of the technology via a blog or social media. An additional 19% of respondents first learned of bitcoin through a family or friend, while 18% read about bitcoin for the first time in a magazine, newspaper or other publication.

Understanding leads to positive sentiment

BIT found that 50% of those who first learned about bitcoin found it “intellectually interesting”, while 30% believed it was confusing or that it would never be widely adopted.

Of those individuals who found the technology interesting, 66% were likely to purchase BTC. Notably, 44% of those who were confused by the technology still reported purchasing BTC.

Upon learning more about bitcoin, 83% said they became more positive about the technology and its potential applications.

Image via Bitcoin Investment Trust

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May 07, 2014 at 09:40PM

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6 May 2014

Chinese Exchange Huobi Considers Future As Bitcoin Marketplace


Amid ongoing uncertainty regarding their ability to continue operations, the top executives of five major China-based bitcoin exchanges abruptly cancelled scheduled appearances at this weekend’s Global Bitcoin Summit.

The move, a response to continued pressure from the People’s Bank of China, however, is unlikely to have a significant impact on what has become a core problem for these businesses – that the country’s central bank is looking to limit their interaction with key financial partners.

Now, a new report from Sina Tech suggests major Beijing-based exchange Huobi may be seeking to reposition its company’s services in response to the measures.

Speaking to the media outlet, Huobi co-founder Jun Du suggested that the company is considering a plan to use its exchange platform as a marketplace and price aggregator for digital currency buyers and sellers.

Under this proposal, Du told Sina Tech that users would form their own online chatroom group using a popular tool offered by the tech giant Tencent. Buyers and sellers within this group would then exchange bitcoin or recharge codes for RMB, interacting independently of the exchange.

Du explained that this workaround would relieve a current pain point, that Huobi must handle the transition of bitcoin to fiat currency, stating:

“What we are most focused on is the inflow of [fiat] monies.”

Though surprising, Huobi has been one of the more open exchanges when discussing a potential repositioning of its business.

The company previously reported that it has registered for overseas incorporation and offshore accounts that would perhaps allow it to continue as an exchange abroad.

Decline in volume and activity

Du also gave a glimpse at how the PBOC’s still-unofficial policies have affected the exchange. He noted that as Huobi lost key business partners, it kept open voucher deposits. This, Du said, led to a decrease in the speed of the exchange’s ability to bring in capital.

In total, Du estimates that the loss of these partner banks resulted in a 10% decline in user activity.

Further, he estimates that prices dropped 30% across all China-based exchanges in the month following these actions. The price of bitcoin had held steady above $500 on the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index before the rumors began in late March.

Uneven enforcement

The report also suggests that Huobi may have been affected more by the PBOC’s warnings due to its location in China’s capital.

Sina Tech notes that BTC China, which is based in Shanghai, has been “under far less pressure”, complying with requests to close accounts, but otherwise continuing to operate normally.

BTC China CEO Bobby Lee has been outspoken about the ongoing regulatory issues in China, moving to calm international fears amid fears that the country would act aggressively against domestic exchanges.

However, it, too, is facing increased setbacks. On 6th May, BTC China announced it would suspend RMB deposits from the Bank of China. For more on this story, read our full report.

CoinDesk will continue to monitor this developing story.

Image via Huobi

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May 06, 2014 at 11:41PM

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Fortress CIO Mike Novogratz Explains Why he is Bullish on Bitcoin

Mike Novogratz

Fortress Investment Group CIO Mike Novogratz is bullish on bitcoin. Why? The digital currency is attracting some of the smartest people around, he says.

In an interview with Bloomberg TV from the 2014 Sohn Investment Conference in New York, and reported by Business Insider , Novogratz argued that bitcoin is attracting some serious talent, including some of the brightest programmers on the face of the planet.

Furthermore, there is a lot of smart money flowing into the digital currency, he added.

Human and financial capital

Novogratz claims there are an estimated 30,000 individual programmers working on bitcoin, which is a lot given the size of the niche and market cap of bitcoin at the moment.

In the interview, Novogratz explained why he is intrigued by the human capital side of bitcoin:

“So there’s this open source community where there’s huge brain power, let alone all the VC money that’s going in. And so from Marc Andreessen and his company to Benchmark… there’s lots of smart money going in. I’ve never seen a small project with more human capital going into it, and so I kind of want to bet just on that alone.”

When asked whether bitcoin could fade away, Novogratz said the basic concept will ultimately lead to the decentralisation of finance.

He argued that new concepts such as peer-to-peer lending will emerge and that the banks are already feeling threatened, as similar concepts have already taken off in other industries.

“The Internet disintermediates large players and I think bitcoin is just one of the threats that the finance industry [...] has coming against it,” said Novogratz.

Already a bitcoin backer

Fortress Investment Group already has a substantial presence in bitcoin: the company teamed up with Benchmark Capital, Ribbit Capital and Pantera Capital to launch a bitcoin investment fund back in March.

Previously, back in 2013, Fortress became the first Wall Street investment firm to enter the bitcoin space. It was rumoured to be buying bitcoins and a regulatory filing in February revealed that the company invested $20m in bitcoin holdings in 2013.

Novogratz clearly has more than one reason to want bitcoin to succeed – about 20m reasons, in fact – but his comments on human capital and the long-term development potential of bitcoin do ring true.

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May 06, 2014 at 01:08PM

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5 May 2014

Ripple’s Susan Athey: Too Much Focus on Bitcoin Exchange Rate

TC Susan Athey

TechCrunch is currently hosting its Disrupt NY 2014 conference, spiced up with a hackathon and an interesting ‘battle’ between 30 start-ups. Of course, no disruptive tech event would be complete without digital currencies, so TechCrunch obliged.

Ripple’s Susan Athey and Blockchain’s Peter Smith took to the stage at the event to share their thoughts on cryptocurrencies and the current state of bitcoin.

Media obsession

Athey cautioned against the media’s incessant focus on the bitcoin exchange rate.

“I think the focus on the exchange rate is a little overrated. I mean it’s fun to watch the price move around, but if I wanted to send funds to you, say, in Japan, I only care about the bitcoin exchange rate for about 10 minutes,” she said. “The level of the exchange rate is really irrelevant for its use as a transaction medium.”

We have heard similar statements from bitcoin execs in the past, but the focus is slowly shifting toward matters generally considered more important, such as VC-funding of bitcoin companies and the real-life applications of cryptocurrencies and block-chain technology.

Athey pointed out that even gold has a premium on top of its intrinsic value. As bitcoin has no intrinsic value, it’s value is solely premium, she said, explaining:

“You can think of the number of bitcoins like a pipe of fixed dimension. If I want to put a lot of dollar value through that pipe, the exchange rate of bitcoin has to grow to accommodate that volume through the pipe. If you look at the volumes and exchange rates, they track each other reasonably closely.”

She further said there were some deviations from historical trends, but it is possible to imperfectly predict the value based on the transaction volume.

Exchange warning

TC Peter Smith Asked to comment on the demise of Mt. Gox and its effect on bitcoin, Peter Smith said the overall impact will be relatively small.

However, he also used Mt. Gox as a cautionary tale, as an example of why bitcoin startups should not centralize their operation – namely their bitcoin storage. Smith said Blockchain never takes possession of the funds, always keeps its software open source and works to decentralize trust rather than centralize it.

Smith explained that centralized exchanges are vulnerable and that almost all services that have ‘centralized trust’ have suffered significant security breaches and incurred losses, adding:

“If you go out and buy bitcoins on an exchange with centralized trust, you should immediately transfer these bitcoins to a service where you can manage public and private keys.”

Smith went on to criticize the basic concept of centralising trust.

“I don’t think that business models that take away the core value proposition of the bitcoin protocol are a good idea,” he said.

The bottom line is, Smith believes start-ups that centralize trust simply have no future in bitcoin.

Images via TechCrunch

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May 05, 2014 at 06:41PM

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