What is Ethereum?

Ethereum is a platform for creation of decentralized applications running on blockchain, through the use of smart contracts.

Since its launch on June 30, 2015, it has been steadily gaining popularity. Starting from late January 2016, it has experienced a surge.

In March 2016, within less than a year of its existence, that growth culminated in Ethereum achieving a record-breaking market capitalization of over $1B.

Since then, the passions have subsided and Ethereum has declined a bit. However, the coin is now second only to Bitcoin on the cryptocurrency market capitalization list.

Ethereum Charts

Ethereum Charts

– The graphical representation of how Ethereum has been killing it

Bitcoin has undergone a similar explosion of growth in the late 2013 – early 2014, when its price has reached its all-time high. Launches of several hundreds, if not thousands of different kinds of alternative cryptocurrencies followed.

Some of those altcoins have managed to reach a certain degree of success, but none of them have achieved the heights of Ethereum.

The platform has even enjoyed Microsoft’s attention, when it announced the launch of Ethereum Blockchain as a Service (EBaaS) based on the Microsoft Azure platform back in November 2015.

Now the reader might be wondering: why did all of that happen?

Ethereum Timeline

Why is Ethereum so hot?

Well here’s the short version: Ethereum is decentralized, like Bitcoin, but is capable of much, much more.

The way Bitcoin’s peer-to-peer network is decentralized and distributed, where every participant is a client and a server at the same time, allows for unprecedented increase in that network’s security and resilience.

In legacy systems, where the entire network is handled by a single server entity, it becomes a weak point, which may be exploited by potential attackers.

On the other hand, decentralized networks are:

  • Very resistant towards hacker attacks;
  • Have zero downtime, even if some of their parts go down;
  • Are not run by specific, limited number of people (having people in charge can cause additional problems, both intentionally and unintentionally, due to the notorious human factor).

In addition to all those characteristics, one of the most important features of blockchain and, by extension, Bitcoin is the integrity of data.

Records of every transaction ever made in the Bitcoin network can be accessed by anyone, are easily traceable to the pseudonyms of the sender and receiver (but not to their real-life identities), and are virtually unalterable.

Thus, nobody can trick each other, by, for example, spending the coins which they don’t actually have.

– Here’s a short video about how Bitcoin works, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past several years

These advantages are very important for a payment protocol, but some developers have quickly realized that that utility doesn’t end with one simple use case.

Basically, any area, where you need to keep a registry of some data, can be made more secure and efficient with the blockchain:

  • Domain names;
  • Ownership records;
  • Business contracts, etc.

What is Ethereum

The problem

So far, the developers tried to produce new apps based on the blockchain in two distinct ways, both of which have been ultimately ineffective.

The first option was to build an app on top of Bitcoin. However, Bitcoin’s script is not Turing complete, i.e. it cannot solve the problems that are easily solvable by some known programming languages, such as C++, for example.

That is associated with technical complications and requires a developer to introduce all kinds of “crutches” to make it work.

Other option was to develop, launch and promote you own alternative blockchain, thus depriving yourself of the opportunity to use the immense power of the whole Bitcoin’s network.

Instead, you will have to run your own blockchain, which is associated with high costs, that can not be justified for every app.

The solution

Ethereum has solved this discrepancy for the first time ever, by integrating a proper, all-purpose programming language with its own blockchain.

With it, anybody can think of any possible application, easily code it and offer the ETH network to execute it.

Quite simply put, Ethereum is a worldwide distributed decentralized computer with a theoretically unlimited power.

A developer codes a solution and deploys it in the network. Then the network executes it by itself, verifies the outputs by itself and distributes value between the participants by itself.

The applications run in an absolutely transparent manner, without any input from central authorities, achieved with the help of smart contracts.

The cherry on the cake is that the network’s power is only limited by the number and power of the computers, which are connected to it, i.e. it isn’t: keep in mind, that there are no barriers to entry.

– Vitalik Buterin, the founder and one of the principal developers of Ethereum, explains what Ethereum is

The World Computer

The potential uses of such a system are truly unlimited.

One of the more obvious options is creating a new cryptocurrency in just a couple dozen lines of code, and immediately launching it on Ethereum’s blockchain;

For that matter, any possible asset, such as a car, or a house, can be represented, and consequently traded on a blockchain in the form of a token.

More complex solutions include disintermediating (and eliminating the middleman fees in the process) some of the existing marketplaces, such as Facebook Advertising and Google AdWords.

That could be achieved by creating the smart contract counterparts of all the business processes which comprise those companies, and – you guessed it – running them on the blockchain.

Another potential use for Ethereum is coding solutions for complex scientific tasks, such as distributed astrophysical computations or protein folding for pharmaceutical companies.

Such applications would enjoy the theoretically unlimited computational power of the network, unattainable by even the most advanced supercomputers.

Even completely revolutionary, never before thought about projects, are made possible, one such example being Augur.

It is a “Decentralized Prediction Market”, theoretically capable of delivering predictions with a higher degree of accuracy, than that of the best experts in any particular field (achieved through the use of the “wisdom of the crowd” principle).

– With Augur you don’t have to worry about how correct are the answers, just ask the right questions

The future of Ethereum

Considering everything that was mentioned so far, the reasons for Ethereum to be in the spotlight right now should be quite obvious.

And although at this point it’s highly unlikely for the coin to ever fade into obscurity, the speed and scope of its future growth will depend on many factors.

Yes, Ethereum gives the promise of unlimited opportunities. But whether that promise is going to be fulfilled, and to what extent, depends on how powerful the network will become, and how talented and creative will the developers of particular solutions be.

Experts’ opinions

To help you better understand what Ethereum is, we have decided to ask several experts in the field the following question: “ELI5: What is Ethereum?”

“Ethereum is the second Blockchain to pass a billion dollars of market capitalisation and deploy a secure amount of mining power. Like Bitcoin it is decentralised, but unlike Bitcoin it is not used as a currency as its supply of digital tokens (Ether) is not fixed. This is by design as Ether is used for creating smart contracts rather than as a currency.

In a world where corporation are all interested in Blockchains, Ethereum has become a decentralised Blockchain that they are more comfortable to use, even though Bitcoin is a lot more secure and has a longer history right now. When corporations realise that private Blockchains do not have much value they will be able to choose between Ethereum and Bitcoin (whose economics work very differently) to secure smart contracts.”

Simon Dixon, CEO BnkToTheFuture.com and Fund Manager Bitcoin Capital

“Ethereum relates to blockchains like java relates to relational databases: you store your data in the database and build your application in java. One of the key differences is that Blockchains and the ethereum platform are not running on one but several distributed servers. They offer some unique features like for example the fact that transactions in a blockchain cannot be reverted, whereas all databases offer transactions handling and rollback mechanisms.”

Benedikt

In near future, CoinTelegraph will continue this series with the following chapters:

  • The way the idea of Ethereum was born;
  • How the smart contracts – the basic building block of its apps – work;
  • How can you become a part of the ETH network, which solutions have already been implemented based on it, and what does future hold for it.

Stay tuned!

Top 10 Crypto Reshuffle: NEM Pushes Back Augur and Steem

Top 10 Crypto Reshuffle: NEM Pushes Back Augur and Steem

Competition on the top 10 of CoinMarketCap is intensifying admirably with some cryptos displacing others. NEM has dislodged Augurand Steem to occupy the number nine spot.

CoinMarketCap in 2016

If you keenly observed CoinMarketCap in late 2016, you would remember how NEM and MaidSafe fought an epic battle for the number 10 spot. The two altcoins kept dislodging each other from the 10th position until MaidSafe took an upper hand and pushed NEM below the top 10.

It was, therefore, very surprising to see NEM rise from below to join the elite cryptos at the top. Many experts thought it would further drop down, but alas they have been proved wrong.

In a recent blog post, the Blockchain Technology Platform announced how it has been receiving interest in South and East Asian Countries like Japan, China, Malaysia and South Korea. It also made mention of rising interest in Europe as well.

New energy

Cointelegraph was curious about NEM’s new found energy and reached out to NEM.io Foundation’s President Lon Wong to find out more.

Wong says:

“NEM has for too long been under the radar and has not been recognized as a serious Blockchain platform by the community in the crypto space. The fact remains that NEM is one of the best Blockchain platforms available on the market.”

The Foundation believes that what is really influencing NEM’s price on the market is that people are beginning to slowly see that NEM is moving along fine, especially with the establishment of a foundation (NEM.io Foundation Ltd) that is going to oversee the global development, promotion and marketing of the NEM Blockchain solution to academia, governments and industries.

Expectations

As to whether the community should expect the trend NEM has taken to continue, Wong had this to say:

“Yes, we are certainly a Blockchain solution that can have multiple vertical applications. We have converts from Ethereum and Bitcoin that were amazed at how easy it is to develop in NEM. For example, we put together a land title registry solution in less than five days, whereas we can see a competition who’d have an army of programmers to do similar things in months using the Bitcoin core technology. We also heard that this similar project would take 1 month to do in Ethereum. This bodes well for the future of NEM.”

Appreciation to holders

To fans and holders of NEM, Wong expresses the Foundation’s profound appreciation to all for their patience and support.

“On behalf of NEM, we thank you for your patience. We are grateful that you have placed your trust in us. …I have no doubt that we will come out doing very well in the coming years. It is my wish and desire, and together with the rest of the NEM team at the Foundation, that we will make the NEM Blockchain project very successful.”

We are all watching avidly to see if NEM can maintain the tempo. It is very slippery to predict when it comes to the performance of cryptos, however, every cryptocurrency’s true success adds to the success of the entire digital currency community.

How People Pay Bills With Bitcoin All Around The World

How People Pay Bills With Bitcoin All Around The World

It’s getting easier and easier to pay your day-to-day expenses in cryptocurrency.

Now you can add to the list gas, electric, cable, and cell phone bills. And it’s probably faster to use one of the services below than it is to mail a check, enter credit card information, or go through PayPal, anyway. Fees for the services mentioned below range from 0.5 % – 3 %.

Take a world tour with these bill pay providers:

Canada

Bylls – Residents of Canada can pay essentially any bill using Bylls – users need not limit themselves to utilities. “Unverified” users – those who choose not to submit government papers – can use Bylls to pay up to CAN$1,000 worth of bills per month. “Verified” users can pay up to CAN$5,000 per month.

Mexico

Volabit or Pademobile – Volabit recently integrated a digital assistant from Whatsapp named Jaime. Using Jaime, users can pay both utility and phone bills in Mexico with Bitcoin.

Pademobile offers services to both Mexico and the U.S., but its utility and phone bill pay services are more geared to Mexico. It behaves much like Kenya’s mPesa, allowing users to send anyone money via a simple text message. But unlike mPesa, Pademobile uses Bitcoin, not fiat.

Pakistan or Malaysia

PayBill – Residents of either of these regions can use PayBill to pay gas, electricity, cell phone, landline or Internet bills. No account creation or document submission is needed.

PayBill accepts bitcoin, litecoin, and dogecoin and hopes to expand its services to more regions soon.

Australia

Living Room of Satoshi or Noghi – Living Room of Satoshi was among the first Bitcoin-to-bill-pay services to emerge. After temporarily shutting down while deciding whether or not a Bitcoin tax applied to them, Living Room of Satoshi re-opened for business last year.

Like Living Room of Satoshi, the company Noghi uses the BPay network (the organization that centralizes utility billing in Australia) to offer users the ability to pay all BPay bills with crypto instead.

Argentina

enBitcoins – During the last few months as the Argentinian peso has undergone rapid inflation, enBitcoins has been offering bill payments with the more stable bitcoin. No government papers are needed to use the service.

Thailand

Coins.co.th – This company functions similarly to Mexico’s Pademobile – it’s a wallet that offers utility and phone bill pay services.

Coins also acts as an exchange for both buying and selling bitcoins, making it far easier for Thai residents new to Bitcoin to get their hands on some.

Philippines

The Bills Ninja will pay your Filipino bills while kicking and punching. No government papers are needed to use the service, and users can create an account for personal recording-keeping, or just go account-less.

Coins.ph is the Filipino branch of Coins.co.th. They offer the same services as their Thai counterpart — phone top-up, money transfer, and bill pay.

Italy

NordOvest Energie is an Italian gas and electric company. They began accepting bitcoins for payment only this month, using payment processor Tinkl.it. This made them the second utility company in Europe to add cryptocurrency to their list of accepted currencies.

Netherlands

Bas Nederland was the first European utility company to accept bitcoins directly, beginning in early 2014. They provide an interesting option to customers called “path to zero,” which apparently provides residents with self-run, power-generating tools in exchange for the long-term cost savings they provide.

Don’t Live There?

Live somewhere other than the regions listed above, but still want to pay your bills with Bitcoin? Never fear.

The company Bitwala is a crypto-to-SEPA service, which means they’ll make a bank transfer on your behalf in exchange for bitcoins. This service, of course, can be used to pay bills.

Bankymoon, on the other hand, will enable you not only to pay your South-African utility bills, but to top off the meters of anyone else in the world.

Lastly, the company 12Charge processes cell phone top-ups and utility payments for over 110 countries – essentially globally. The company is based in Hong Kong and requires no account creation or government document submission.

Did we miss your favorite bill pay service? Let us know in the comments below.

Gamble with Bitcoin

Have Fun Playing these Zero Deposit Games!

There are a million and two different ways out there to earn bitcoin, from picking up a few Satoshi for filling out captchas on faucet websites, to working a full time job that pays in btc. But all of those things are boring. What you really want is a way to earn yourself some lovely bitcoin whilst doing something which is actually good fun to do. Like playing video games. It may come as a surprise to you to find out just how many different websites and apps there are which include ways for you to earn bitcoin – or earn an internal currency that can be cashed out in bitcoin – whilst playing a fun game. Everything you will find listed on this page is free to play – no deposit needed. I have also taken care to make sure that all of the games are fun to play and, preferably, require some element of skill rather than just straight up luck. As always I welcome suggestions in the comments if you know of anything I’ve missed off these lists, just as long as you don’t spam and only recommend quality.

Earn Bitcoin While Training Your Brain

  • SatoshiQuiz – With a prize pot of 1000 Satoshis for every question, this is actually quite a fun little quiz game with some interesting questions. There’s a good mixture between easy and tough questions, and you get one minute for each quiz question so if you are fast fingered you may even be able to Google the answer to questions you don’t know before the clock runs down on you. There are also regular challenges with prizes of up to 1 million satoshis!!!
  • The Bitles – Available on all major platforms, this puzzle game rewards you in coins for every level you complete as well as offering a daily bonus for training your brain on a regular basis. Its quite fun and the rewards are pretty generous.
  • Bitcoin Riddles – Solve riddles presented in YouTube videos and if you are the first to get the correct answer you win a prize in BTC!

Earn Bitcoin with Trading Games

  • Spark Profit – (Repeated from apps section above because its available for web browsers or mobile devices, and certainly fits into the investment strategy category). If you fancy yourself as being the next financial whizz kid, earning millions as a city trader in London or on Wall Street, but you are actually trying to live off a dollar a day in your mother’s basement, then this is the game for you. Its a financial trading simulation in which you try your hand at making predictions about real financial markets, including digital currency markets as well as fiat forex markets. The better your do the more currencies you will unlock, and the more points you will build up. At any point, you can cash out your points to BTC or fiat! Perhaps one of the best things about it is that they will also provide you with tutorials and resources to help you learn how to become a successful trader. If you are one of the top traders you can earn up to $100 per month, but you do need to verify your email and phone number first.

Earn Bitcoin Playing Flash Games

  • Tremor Games – Tremor Games has a wide range of different flash games, just like you would find at most good quality online arcade sites. Unlike those oyher sites, however, you can earn ‘Tremor coins’ for playing games and gaining acheivements, and when you’ve built up a large enough haul you can then exchange them for a range of goodies including bitcoin withdrawals
  • Cash Clamber – It takes a bit of getting your head around this, but basically its a way to create and play skill based games with your friends for btc prizes – they have their own framework for making up your own games. You can also play anonymously if you want.

Apps and Phone Games

  • [iOS] Takara – PokemonGo style geo-caching game where you collect coins from specific locations in your local area! Also includes Spells of Genesis collectible blockchain-based trading games as well as actual coins. Android version coming soon!
  • [iOS & Android] Bitjoy – Bitjoy offers two different games with more on the way, both of which are modern takes on classic video games. The first is ‘Froggy’, which sees you jumping across roads and avoiding obstacles while collecting coins and trying to keep ahead of the poison fog that is chasing you – that’s available for both Android and iOS. The second game is the ’80s space shooter’ which is currently only available for Android. You have to register on their site before downloading the apps.
  • GameFaucet – Three different games allow you to collect coins as you go along and also to get a bonus for completing a level: Pirates Adventure, which is a little bit like a renewed version of pacman; Going Nuts, which is a physics based adventure / puzzle; and also a Bubble Shooter. There are also power ups that you can purchase to make things easier for yourself if you want.
  • SaruTobi – SaruTobi is a flying monkey, who you literally use to collect coins which appear on the sreen in this simple but addictive game for the iPhone or other Apple device. This was one of the original games primarily designed to be fun to play with the added bonus that you could withdraw free BTC, and it is still amongst the most popular.
  • The Bitles – See the description above in the brain training section or check out our review. Availabe for Android and iOS.
  • Bitcoin Flapper – An alternative to SaruTobi for Android users is this flying game in which you can challenge your friends to play with your in tournaments, and the winner is rewarded with a BTC prize by the game.
  • Oh Crop! – This Android game pits you against a plant uprising in an apocalyptic future, and if you get into the top ten scores you earn BTC rewards.
  • Spark Profit – See investment / market trading games section above for full descriptions – the app is available for both Apple iPhone and Google Android devices and you can earn up to $100 per month playing a simulation of the world’s financial markets.

Faucet Games

  • FaucetGame gives you a very small number of satoshi from their faucet, but you can then use these free coins to play a slot game in a casino with very big difference – the odds are stacked in your favour instead of against you. You can only play small amounts to start off with, but you can use your winnings to level up and unlock multipliers to increase the amounts.
  • Bitcoin Ball is a basic minesweeper style game in which you are rewarded with a few satoshi for every safe square you uncover.

Get Paid to Stream

  • BitGamer.TV – Play your favourite games, stream the action, and potentially earn a range of cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Litecoin and Dogecoin. Viewers can set you challenges (10 no scope kills, laptime under a minute etc) and offer prizes if you meet the challenge. Currently you might find there are not many paying viewers, but its a nice idea and would be a great way to earn if you were able to do so.

Earn Bitcoin Playing MMO & Sandbox Games

  • BitQuest – If you are a fan of Minecraft then you are going to absolutely wet yourself over this. If not then maybe you will be soon, as its a fun andvery popular ‘sandbox game’ in which players build up the game world themselves. You make the game, you defined the story – you get control over everything. BitQuest is a custom MineCraft server which makes Bitcoin the in-game currency, which you can earn by mining, trading with other players, and so on.

Earn Bitcoin Playing Treasure Hunt + Augmented Reality Games

  • Takara – see phone games section above.
  • BitRunner – Augmented reality gaming taken to the next level. This is a cross between a treasure hunt and an action game you can play with friends: not only can you find coin fragments by visiting the right locations, and piece them together to earn bitcoin, but you can also steal them of other players using cunning strategies. You can play with any mobile device that has GPS.

Other CryptoCurrencies:

If you look beyond BTC to some of the other ‘alt coins’, or alternative cryptocurrencies, there are plenty more opportunities available. Of course you don’t have to keep those alt coins, you can exchange them for BTC as soon as you get your hands on them if you want…

Hyper

Hyper is the number one cryptocurrency for gaming at the moment. You can earn it in loads of different ways in loads of different games, with new ones coming out all of the time. There are Hyper game servers for many popular titles such as CounterStrike, Minecraft, Starmade and more where you can earn Hyper in regular competitions and tournaments:

 

In addition to these competitions you can also earn a regular Hyper income playing the classic space strategy game Zandagort, the RPG Dragon Knight or the (very basic) new space strategy game Hyper Wars – all of which have more complete Hyper integration allowing you to trade in-game resources which you have earned, collected or taken from other players for Hyper coins.

New games and competitions are added all the time to check out the Hyper website for the latest: http://hypercrypto.com/

Neucoin

You can earn Neucoin playing the ‘Solitaire Racer‘ game on Facebook, where you compete to complete your deck within the time limit, or against other players to win the pot!

HunterCoin

huntercoin screenshot

A screenshot of HunterCoin mining in action.

HunterCoin – This ‘human mineable’ coin is one of the original ways to earn cryptocurrency by playing video games. Its a massive multiplayer online game where you earn HunterCoins for each kill you make. You also have to compete against bots these days though.

Coming Soon…

The best is yet to come. Some of the most exciting games are still in development – here come the teasers.

  • CoinRPG – A massive action RPG game where you compete to be the best coin collector in the realm, and then cash out your riches for real bitcoin in your wallet.
  • Spells of Genesis – This is described as a mixture between traing card games and arcade action. If you sign up now you will get extra free coins when they eventually go live.

Honourable Mention:

Leet is a peer-to-peer betting platform for gamers. You really need to make a deposit and then place bets on yourself to win against other players, so it doesn’t fit the bill for the main section of this post, but if you are skilled at any of the supported games (CounterStrike, League of Legends, Minecraft Hunger Games) then it could provide a really great way to earn yourself some coins.

For Sex Industry, Bitcoin Steps In Where Credit Cards Fear To Tread

Across the country, law enforcement is cracking down on sex trafficking of minors by going after online escort ads.

Five years ago, Craigslist was pressured to shut down its adult-services forum. The new target is Backpage.com — Visa and MasterCard stopped processing transactions with Backpage this summer.

Some in the sex industry are getting around that by using the virtual currency bitcoin. That’s the latest adaptation by an industry used to getting creative to avoid detection.

After making more than 800 arrests off Backpage since 2009, Cook County Illinois Sheriff Tom Dart called a news conference to announce a victory this summer.

“We want to commend both Visa and MasterCard for their civic responsibility, for so quickly acting when we talked to them. American Express has already done that. They’ve now been narrowed down to where there’s very little options for people who want to work with that website,” Dart said.

A version of this has played out before. The main site for escort ads used to be Craigslist. But under pressure from activists, Craigslist shut down its adult services forum.

Many of those ads then migrated to Backpage.

For human rights lawyer Malika Saada Saar, who led the Craigslist action, that nimble pivot was a disappointment.

“I am no longer willing to play a game of whack-a-mole with these websites. Until we start arresting buyers for statutory rape and putting them on the sex offender registry, Craigslist, Backpage or the next mainstream website will continue to be popular and used in a widespread way,” Saada Saar says.

Backpage, owned by a Dutch company, is fighting back. It’s suing Sheriff Dart and making its ads free.

It won’t provide revenue figures and an attorney for the company declined to comment.

Backpage’s free ads spurred a blizzard of listings, but free isn’t always free. Advertisers who want to make their ads more prominent pay a premium.

That’s where where bitcoin comes in. It’s a cyber currency that’s sold peer to peer. There’s no central bank, but there’s an online ledger where transactions are recorded.

Some bitcoin fans hope Backpage’s credit card obstacle might become bitcoin’s boon.

Ray Youssef is the CEO of Paxful Inc. in New York, a website that sells bitcoin. He says “the Backpage Effect” drove in a whole new clientele.

“I was getting calls from people and they were just calling me up begging me to help them and I said, ‘OK, just log on, create an account,’ and they were like, ‘Account where?’ They didn’t even know what our website was. People were just passing around our number on social media,” Youssef says.

He says these customers, many of them unbanked and not tech-savvy, found bitcoin clunky.

Tutorials sprang up to help this kind of customer on the Web, and in-person — gatherings like one near San Francisco publicized by the Bay Area Chapter of the Sex Workers Outreach Project.

In an apartment in a newly gentrified industrial area, a recent bitcoin workshop for Backpage ads gets underway.

It feels like a neighborhood meeting, with snacks and soft drinks. A tax attorney arrives with his PowerPoint.

He shows the group how to trade the virtual currency on their cellphones, and he points out they can also use bitcoin to reserve hotel rooms on Expedia.

Those attending this session view the easy movement of virtual currency, and the difficulty of tracing it, as appealing. But for those trying to combat the sex trade, strangling the money flow to an industry this adaptable remains a challenge.

Sasha Aslanian is a correspondent for American RadioWorks, the national documentary unit of American Public Media.