The concept of a team accomplishing what might be impossible for one person is the centerpiece of countless dramatic stories that have been written over the years.
There's a reason for this; despite the rousing tales of individual heroism in classical literature, there is a conspicuous dichotomy as well, where authors weave tales about small groups of people that overcome the odds based on their trust and reliance on each other. Star Wars is the most famous science fiction example of this 'teamwork' theme; and I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that Season Eight of Game of Thrones also possesses this idea of a coalition being needed to battle exhaustive opposition.
The idea of a group performing noteworthy deeds is based on real-life lessons; teams can accomplish more together rather than as individuals.
This is, ironically, the flip side to another blog I've written demonstrating how one person can affect crypto adoption in profound ways. For those of us that have been a part of the cryptomarket, we know that both of these concepts hold true independent of each other.
There is always room for the hero among us, but most important is the growth of the community or group that supports our investment, especially when the investment in question is an innovation that involves a digital asset.
The nature of crypto has revealed that 'just having the best technology' is not enough. If that were the case, XRP would have topped the worldwide volume rankings after it was first created; but instead, we've seen old, insecure proof-of-work digital assets continue to be favored by the majority of trading volume.
But Bitcoin has lost its luster for many in the cryptomarket, and new investors and digital asset holders are tired of waiting over an hour to send money from one wallet to another using these outdated networks.
The XRP Community is making dramatic progress in getting the word out.
We have done our part to educate the public about our preferred digital currency, and along the way, we've had help from innumerable heroes, developers, writers, YouTubers, swag makers, artists, and entrepreneurs that have a stake in seeing that the new industry of digital assets matures in a meaningful way, and that real businesses are able to use scalable technology rather than the "model T" of crypto.
We've seen the community come together to support XRP adoption by voting for change whenever the opportunity presents itself. Overwhelmingly, XRP has won the day in these circumstances; it's almost tempting for us to loosen our focus.
But we must be vigilant. We must stay hungry.
And most importantly, we must stay united in our quest to support XRP adoption. This means staying focused on meaningful progress and goals, in addition to actively supporting developers, new ideas, and initiatives. We know the importance of supporting developers looking to 'build on XRP.' And we must ensure that our voices are heard when those among us have a good idea and are seeking to marshal support.
We don't have far to look for examples; each day there is a new way in which we can make our opinion known, even in a passive way that only requires minutes of our time. Yes, lone individuals can do truly remarkable things to help adoption; but they need the support of the larger group, and we must be willing to add strength to their cause.
General Crypto News
Bitcoin's appeal, for me, faded within a very short time span, after I learned of its slow confirmation times and inefficient dependency on competitive mining to secure the network. It was painfully obvious that the first experiment in decentralized, no-counter-party digital currencies would - and should - be replaced by better alternatives.
That was my conclusion in 2013.
Six years later, it's evident that the 'first mover' advantage was enough to keep Bitcoin floating unnaturally above much better technology, buoyed by protectionist marketing and nefarious attacks on competition from a sub-group of original Bitcoin investors known as "Bitcoin maximalists," a group that has consistently lobbied for a "first network takes all" approach to the cryptomarket.
One of the most obvious flaws in Bitcoin's design is its reliance on competitive mining to secure the network; it's an approach that has been left behind by far more modern alternatives such as Proof-of-Stake, Delegated Proof-of-Stake, and Consensus models of transaction validation, among others.
Vitalik Buterin, the founder of the Ethereum blockchain, made it known that he would champion a transition away from Proof-of-Work for Ethereum, to a Proof-of-Stake model, which would end Ethereum's reliance on flawed, Proof-of-Work incentives.
The old Proof-of-Work networks like Bitcoin have faced increasing levels of centralization by mining pools, and what's more, most of these mining pools are located where electricity is cheapest, which in large part happens to be China.
Until now, that geographic centralization - and its resultant security risk - has been a frequent talking point among critics of the oldest Proof-of-Work cryptocurrency; but on April 8th that talking point materialized into a very real problem, when "cryptocurrency mining" showed up on a National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) list of activities that it was recommending be phased out. 1
The NDRC is a central planning organization for China.
One reason for the crackdown might be Bitcoin's increasing usage of electricity to secure the network. According to some estimates, Bitcoin uses as much electricity as the entire Czech Republic - somewhere around 70 terawatt hours per year: 2
That amount of electrical consumption, along with recent 51% attacks on major Proof-of-Work networks like ETC, have led many - including me - to call for a repositioning of the cryptomarket to reflect newer technology.
After the successful 51% attack against the ETC network in January of this year, Coinbase Pro now requires 5,676 confirmations before crediting a deposit in their accounts:
If you think that this can't happen to Bitcoin, think again; a recent Bank of International Settlements (BIS) research paper indicates that there are potential conditions where a successful network attack by miners would be more profitable than the incentives currently in place.
The cryptomarket faces a choice with increased security threats and continued environmental destruction from these older proof-of-work networks; either continue to favor obviously-outdated and insecure technology, or pivot to newer, more secure options that do not harm the environment.
Token Taxonomy Act
On April 9th, Warren Davidson, a US Congressman representing the 8th district of Ohio, reintroduced the Token Taxonomy Act, a bill which had first been introduced in late 2018 at the end of the 115th Congress:
The act contains a clear taxonomy of what constitutes a "digital token," and outlines changes to the US tax code as well, retroactively applying the changes to all transactions taking place on or after January 1st, 2017. 3
The bill, if passed, would provide the necessary legal clarity to determine the difference between a digital token and a security, and determines the administrative and enforcement responsibility for each. The differentiation rests in the following language defining a "digital token:"
"... is not a representation of a financial interest in a company or partnership, including an ownership interest or revenue share."
It's obvious from the above language that some initial coin offerings (ICOs) would fail that test, because many have involved the sharing of revenue from enterprise operations, such as a crypto exchange or business. Other ICOs have indicated that the purchaser would receive an ownership right in the enterprise, which would also cause it to fail the definition of a digital token.
This clarified taxonomy, combined with the new IRS taxation rules, seem to be straight-forward and easy for most stakeholders to understand, and serve to do three things in a compact, efficient manner:
- Protect investors by continuing SEC authority over securities
- Providing clarified guidance to future blockchain businesses
- Provides clear taxation rules for traders and speculators in digital assets
This is the type of balanced approach that is most likely to garner the nonpartisan support that the bill will need for passage.
The process is just beginning, however, and must go through a number of steps before it becomes law, some of which could take a material amount of time. This includes hearings, revisions, votes by the Senate and the House, and other activities. For now, it's good to follow updates by @WarrenDavidson on the topic, and to let your own local representative know about your support, as I detailed in a recent blog.
My hope is that with the broad support of the entire crypto community - and the XRP Community - that this bill can become law.
Who To Follow
Crypto is still very new.
It's a financial innovation born of a decentralized mode of computing, with geographically-disperse participants from all corners of the world. It is censorship-resistant, and if used thoughtfully, it has the potential of democratizing finance in ways that far exceed that of the traditional banking systems of the world.
However, in addition to their technological and financial promise, digital assets pose a risk to those that choose to purchase them.
As assets, their value is only reflective of free market forces, and the price per unit can fluctuate wildly. On top of this inherent market risk, there is also the risk of managing custody. Many initiates to the space have been victims of hackers and other malicious actors that have managed to steal digital assets through electronic means.
These are risks that are unique to cryptocurrency.
However, there has also been the advent of 'classical' scams that serve to enrich their creators; in some cases, these are outright scam artists that advertise false claims of "special, limited-time offers" of crypto distributions if only people will send a certain amount of crypto to them. As unbelievable as it may sound to some, there are many investors, desperate for a profit, that are drawn in by these criminals. These types of scams are not new. They are as old as nineteenth-century financial systems, and they have their counterpart in the brick-and-mortar world.
There are also the classical "Pyramid Schemes" and "Ponzi Schemes" that enrich their creators by recruiting investors and then asking these initial investors to turn around and recruit more people in anticipation of 'referral bonuses,' which, on the surface, sound like they could be similar to legitimate referral bonuses offered by crypto exchanges. But they are anything but legitimate, and many of these pyramid operations end up closing shop and disappearing with investors' money after enticing many to send their cryptocurrency.
These criminal enterprises are then pursued by authorities, and due to the complexities of the decentralized financial networks involved, the funds are only sometimes recovered; in many cases, the stolen crypto is beyond the reach of authorities, due to its international, border-less nature.
To help both victims and law enforcement, a small, volunteer group of XRP Community members has arisen to track stolen or scammed funds, and then to refer their findings to authorities where relevant. They are calling themselves "XRP Forensics," and in a direct message, they indicated their focus to me:
"We are a group of XRP community members, dedicated to the prevention and removal of scams on the XRP Ledger. We keep an eye out for new scams to warn about them through our Twitter handle and to take actions to close them down as quickly as possible (hosting providers, domain name providers, exchanges etc.)
We have plans to provide a blacklist to exchanges and the community as well as develop material to inform and enlighten investors about topics such as security and common scams, as well as collecting information from victims of thefts, scams etc., such as ways to contact and any evidence, in case law enforcement is able to recover some of the funds.
Any information provided to us by victims or whistle-blowers is treated with the strictest confidence."
While the community seemed to like the idea of warning others about scams, there were strong concerns about the concept of a 'blacklist,' and some people responded with criticism.
In response, XRP Forensics clarified that they are still only at the beginning stages of creating their processes and procedures, and sent out the following response to the initial feedback:
The group is committed to helping warn and protect investors; if the appropriate processes and procedures are transparently put into place, this effort can yield very effective results for the community.
The members of the XRP Forensics team are not compensated for their efforts, and need our support and honest feedback. It's for this reason that I'm recommending XRP fans 'follow' them:
We can all help them achieve their goal of protecting the community while balancing it with the need for transparent and fair processes.
If you know of any new scam that is targeting the XRP Community, please let them know as soon as possible. If we all work together, we can prevent other members of the community, especially new investors, from becoming victims of crime.
Chris Larsen, Ripple's Chairman of the Board of Directors, his wife Lyna Lam, and Ripple Works, the nonprofit foundation Chris Larsen co-founded, made a huge donation to San Francisco State University. San Francisco State University is where Chris Larsen did his undergraduate work before moving on to Stanford, where he received his MBA. 4 5
The donation is set to total $25 million dollars, and will include the use of XRP as part of the total package. It's unknown if the university will liquidate all of it, or hold some for future speculative purposes. Part of the donation will be to support a new "Lam-Larsen Fund for Global Innovation" and to fund two endowed chairs. The fund will be used to support students in learning about and becoming "changemakers" of local and global entrepreneurial and fintech ecosystems.
University President Leslie E. Wong had this to say about the massive donation: 6
“This groundbreaking gift will position the College of Business as an evolving, distinctly diverse and industry-relevant epicenter of business innovation and entrepreneurship.
Chris, Lyna and Rippleworks are innovators, and their gift will inspire our students to creatively and strategically approach the business and tech landscapes to become the next generation of entrepreneurs and global business leaders.”
While separate from Ripple's UBRI funding of various secondary educational programs, this gift also seems to have a similar focus, although it's not specific to blockchain research or education. The term 'fintech' was used in its purpose description, however, so I'm guessing that the university will use the money for supporting efforts at the intersection between finance and technology, which is a direct reflection of Chris Larsen's career path.
xRapid is Ripple's software solution that utilizes XRP for sourcing liquidity, so it's one of the most-tracked pieces of the broader XRP ecosystem.
The solution was recently honored by FastCompany as a "2019 World Changing Idea." 7
Ripple has also committed to doubling its staff in the Singapore office, and has now filled the position of "APAC Business Development Lead, xRapid," according to an XRP fan that's been tracking the published openings. 8 9 These moves also accompany an apparent, recent increase in the number of ads - presumably sponsored by Ripple - promoting the use of Ripple technology for the corridors served by xRapid. 10
It's apparent that Ripple is ramping up its efforts to expand coverage.
When it comes to xRapid, Ripple is not the only business stakeholder. Being an xRapid partner can be a very lucrative venture for the exchanges involved, especially if some of the original projections come to fruition regarding adoption. The early exchanges are all positioned to benefit substantially from steadily-increasing, utility-driven volume that will not be subject to the usual volatility of daily speculation.
These exchanges include Bitstamp and Bittrex, both of which encountered different results recently from the New York BitLicense evaluators. New York State operates with a licensing approach to crypto exchanges and businesses, and requires them to go through an application process if they want to serve residents of that state. Because the application process is the most cumbersome of any of the fifty states, securing a BitLicense has become an important step in the industry for those businesses that wish to benefit from transaction volumes in the West.
"Bittrex is saddened and disappointed in today’s decision by the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), which we believe harms rather than protects New York customers. Bittrex fully disputes the findings of the NYDFS in today’s decision. We have worked diligently with NYDFS to address their questions and meet their requirements since first applying for our BitLicense in August of 2015.
First, and foremost, we adamantly disagree with NYDFS’ claims and allegations in regard to our anti-money laundering (AML) and compliance practices. Corporate responsibility is in our DNA and our commitment to regulatory and compliance guidelines is second to none. More specifically, today’s letter contains several factual inaccuracies that we feel must be addressed:"
The official statement then went on to describe, in detail, the steps that Bittrex has taken to enforce KYC and AML requirements on the exchange, and noted that the agreement that New York regulators would have required them to sign would have actually restricted the number of coins available for trading on the exchange to only ten options for customers. The company concluded the lengthy statement by saying:
"We were not provided an opportunity to see or even comment on the findings before they were made public. While we are saddened to no longer be serving the citizens of New York, we have been as transparent with NYDFS as we have been with other regulatory agencies both in the United States and around the world."
The setback for Bittrex may prove to be fascinating to watch, however, as the exchange obviously indicated that the requirements imposed by the New York licensing body were so onerous as to dissuade them from serving residents of New York state.
One day prior to the news about Bittrex, however, the New York State licensing body granted the BitLicense to Bitstamp, opening the doors for that exchange to fully serve residents of the state. 13
It's unknown if the developments centering around New York state will mean that specific payment flows - those originating or ending there - will go through Bitstamp.
XRP Community members have been tracking exchange volumes that may be associated with the xRapid solution, and have verified the most likely flows for each of the various corridors targeted by Ripple and its xRapid remittance partners. Other independent researchers have zeroed in on some of the accounts, finding what they think is a steadily-increasing volume of payments flowing through these channels. 14
While the award and the expansion news in Asia are both great data points, the most important progress to track on a weekly and monthly basis will continue to be the volume associated with xRapid. The next logical step would be to compare point-in-time volumes from one time period to future measurements, in order to identify how quickly the adoption trend is moving for Ripple's XRP-powered liquidity solution.
If you use video conferencing, and you also wish to support Coil's growing ecosystem of participants and businesses, you'll be interested in a recent tweet from Coil's corporate twitter account:
The website for room.sh indicates that the project is still in 'beta' mode. Their user interface seems to be geared around an intuitive organizational structure.
To determine how the platform would react, I created a new virtual "room," and noted that the application immediately brought me to a page where I could choose a 'starting point,' and then it asked my permission to access the computer's camera, as well as the microphone.
The common-sense design seems easy-to-use, and if it is web monetized, then all the better, as Coil users now have one more option for services and applications that accept micropayments.
This new, web-monetized platform for virtual meetings may gain significant traction in the coming weeks.
Wietse Wind, the creator of the XRP Tip Bot, foresaw a conundrum, however, and that is for users that already have an existing XRP Tip Bot account. For these users, they now have an option of "adopting" either a deposit from @SchlaubiD's MoneyMessage application, or the XRP Tip Bot's native paper accounts feature, and then receiving the XRP amount in their normal account:
The new feature provides added flexibility to XRP Tip Bot account holders, and makes it convenient for them to accept "paper account" or "MoneyMessage" tips if they already have an existing account.
XRPL Labs Beta Testers Needed
XRPL Labs is seeking volunteers to help beta test their new products. For each of the projects in flight, XRPL Labs will ask BETA users to test the new features and applications, and then answer a few questions afterward:
Most of the questions will pertain to whether or not features worked properly, and will provide an opportunity for users to indicate any problems.
To sign up for beta testing, those interested should navigate to the Google sign-up form and fill it out; the sign-up process only necessitates that the volunteer indicate their operating system, device type, and answer some questions about their use of specific applications like the XRP Tip Bot.
If you're interested in volunteering as a beta tester for XRPL Labs, here is the link: Sign-up Form
For those that don't already know it, Skype is one of the largest operators of IP phone messaging, and their application has a user base measured in the hundreds of millions. The XRP Community has responded in support of David Oliver's suggestion, with approximately 2,100 votes for the idea as of April 11th:
Sometimes it just takes one person to launch an idea that takes root in the imagination of thousands; the XRP Tip Bot is an amazing application that has been met with fast adoption by the user community, and if it's integrated into a far-reaching application like Skype, XRP's scope would be enhanced considerably.
To vote, Skype will ask you to designate your email address and name. If you haven't already placed your vote in support of the idea, please consider spending a few moments to make your opinion known.
Teamwork Can Overcome Insurmountable Odds
One person with an idea can change the world.
And it's much easier for that idea to take hold of people's imaginations if there is a group behind that individual, supporting their efforts.
Within the XRP Community, we've seen these lone heroes emerge, and so far, the entire community has come together on a consistent basis to support their efforts. We've made amazing progress on multiple fronts; I've lost count of the number of social media polls where XRP supporters have won with margins that indicate a dramatically-shifting tide among cryptocurrency advocates.
We need to continue this trend.
The temptation, of course, is for us to become overconfident and assume that 'somebody else will write that letter' to my representative in Congress, or that 'somebody else will vote for Skype to add XRP Tipping.'
Together, if each of us sets aside a few minutes of our day to support XRP on social media, whether through simple retweets of positive adoption news, or by participation in online polls, or by taking a few minutes to send an email to a member of the Financial Services Committee, we can have an extraordinary impact.
How quickly could we re-order the crypto rankings if we all act as one?
We can test this collectively; together, we can challenge the status quo in the cryptomarket and make our voices heard. Each of us can make a change individually, to be sure, and as a group, there is very little that can stop us; I predict that XRP will post amazing adoption results in 2019 and beyond, not because of the efforts of one individual person, but because the entire market will hear our unified voice.
And that voice is calling for an end to mediocrity; it's time for all of us to demand the best technology that crypto has to offer.
Sources and Credits:
Cover Art: Thank you to @youxventures