US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii is running for president of the United States in 2020. In December 2017, Gabbard bought Litecoin and Ether at the height of the crypto bull market, according to federal filings.

“I have decided to run and will be making a formal announcement within the next week,” Gabbard tells CNN on Jan. 12 (see video below).

“There are a lot of challenges that are facing the American people…that I want to help solve.”

Gabbard: US Must Stay out of Mideast Wars

Gabbard says her main concern is to make sure that the US does not continue to intervene in ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.

Her other priorities include climate change, health care, and criminal justice reform.

There is one main issue that is central to the rest, and that is the issue of war and peace.

Gabbard, 37, is a fresh, energetic face on the American political scene. However, her chances of winning the Democrat Party’s nomination are slim, given the huge field of candidates.

For example, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is also running for president. Warren is a crypto critic who says the virtual currency market is full of scam artists.

Gabbard Bought Crypto at Height of Market

As CCN reported, Tulsi Gabbard bought $1,001 to $15,000 of Ether and Litecoin in December 2017. At the time, the bitcoin price soared to a record high of $19,500.

It’s unclear how much crypto Gabbard currently holds. However, it’s likely that she lost some money on her investments amid the ongoing bear market.

Tulsi Gabbard bought crypto

Other US lawmakers who invested in crypto include Republican Bob Goodlatte, a 13-term Congressman from Virginia.

In 2018, Goodlatte revealed that he held $17,000 to $80,000 worth of bitcoin, bitcoin cash and Ether.

Goodlatte’s son, Bobby Goodlatte Jr., is an angel investor in Coinbase, the largest US-based crypto exchange.

Lobbyists Are Pushing Crypto in Washington

As CCN reported, Coinbase, Circle, and the Digital Currency Group recently launched a lobbying group in Washington, DC called the Blockchain Association.

A week after the group launched, the Congressional Blockchain Caucus introduced three laws to promote digital currencies and blockchain in the United States.

The Congressional Blockchain Caucus urged US lawmakers to support blockchain and crypto. They say the disruptive technologies could revolutionize banking, supply-chain management, and healthcare.

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US Bills Seeks to Protect Cryptocurrency Investors from Market Manipulation https://www.ccn.com/us-bills-seeks-to-protect-cryptocurrency-investors-from-market-manipulation/ 

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US Bills Seeks to Protect Cryptocurrency Investors from Market Manipulation

Congressmen Darren Soto and Ted Budd introduced two laws to prevent cryptocurrency price manipulation and to position the US as a leader in the industry.

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In December 2018, US lawmakers proposed legislation to prevent price manipulation and to position the US as a market leader.

Congressmen Darren Soto (Democrat-Florida) and Ted Budd (Republican-North Carolina) said the United States must nurture the “profound potential” of crypto to stimulate the economy.

Skeptics: Bitcoin Is Dying

Meanwhile, skeptics gleefully claim that bitcoin is near death amid the current market slump. But the original cryptocurrency has been proven itself resilient during its 10 years in existence.

Having pro-crypto politicians in the United States government could usher in a sea change for the industry. As CCN reported, Mick Mulvaney — the acting White House Chief of Staff — has been bitcoin advocate since 2014.

Mulvaney is also the director of the Office of Management and Budget. His job is to prepare President Donald Trump’s budget proposals to Congress. Having bitcoin proponents at the highest levels of the federal government could be a boon or a bust for the crypto market. Only time will tell.

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U.S. President Donald Trump has been vocal about his intent to fund his desired border wall through Congress, extending the partial government shutdown into its 22nd day to make it the longest in history. What kind of impact, if any, could it have on the stock market in the short-term?

No Impact on the Stock Market

On January 12, WSJ reported that hundreds of thousands of federal workers in the U.S. government missed their first paycheck. Some prison guards have started to drive Uber to cover day-to-day bills, and many took the streets to protest against the shutdown.

Now on its 22nd day, President Trump seems to be willing to extend the shutdown for as long as needed to fund the border wall without declaring a national emergency.

Technically, President Trump could reallocate the funds from military construction to finance the border wall, and several Republican senators including Lindsey Graham encouraged President Trump to declare a national emergency to build the wall.

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The US partial government shutdown is now the longest-ever.

Others have suggested that the call for a national emergency could enrage many members in both the Republican and Democratic party and could establish a precedent for future Democratic presidents.

With President Trump outspoken on his plans to work with the Congress rather than to bypass it by calling it a national emergency, the partial shutdown of the U.S. government is expected to extend throughout January.

Currently, the performance of the U.S. stock market is mainly based on three factors that include the Federal Reserve interest rate, earnings reports of major U.S. conglomerates, and the trade war between the U.S. and China.

While the missing paychecks of hundreds of thousands of federal employees could certainly have an impact on a big portion of households in the U.S., it is insufficient to have any meaningful impact on the performance of the stock market.

As Adam Funds CEO Mark Stoeckle said:

Events like a government shutdown are just part of the growing noise coming out of Washington that investors should ignore.

In the short-term, depending on the earnings revision breadth or the revised earnings of companies, the stock market could recover or experience another phase of volatility.

Analysts remain cautious in giving an all-clear sign to investors because there are many variables that could shake up the markets in the weeks to come.

Can Stock Market Sustain Recovery?

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The Dow Jones has managed to recover in 2019 despite the government shutdown. Will the rally continue?

Often, extreme pessimism and negativity in the markets is considered a positive sign of a bottom and Robeco portfolio manager Jeroen Blokland said that he expects stocks to rebound in the latter half of 2019.

He said:

Some kind of turbulence, or phases of elevated volatility, will stay with us because every time the economy hits a soft spot, there will be this chatter about a potential recession coming. I don’t think we’ll see the stability we’ve seen in 2017 and the first part of 2018, but I do think it will become less volatile than December.

The partial shutdown of the U.S. government is not a factor that will contribute to the performance of the stock market at the beginning of 2019. But, investors still have to observe the performance of major U.S. companies and revisit their earnings reports.

Credit: CCN

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis has released an article today about Bitcoin. In it, the bank notes that the price of Bitcoin has three potential futures: indefinite, infinite appreciation; zero; or somewhere in between. They believe it will be somewhere in between.

The authors, David Andolfatto and Andrew Spewak, conclude that one of the factors dragging down the price of Bitcoin is an ever-expanding supply of alternatives. Bitcoin is an inherently speculative and volatile asset. A fixed supply doesn’t mean an ever-increasing value. Demand determines value, after all. Other tokens are frequently launched which have properties attractive to a portion of the market. If Bitcoin was still the only cryptocurrency, something which was only the case for a very brief time in its history, this money would probably go into Bitcoin.

Bitcoin Maximalists Ignore Important Realities

However, the Bitcoin maximalist argument that Bitcoin will simply usurp any improvements by other tokens has never come to fruition. There are even fewer dApps and users of dApps via Bitcoin’s blockchain than much later entrants like Tron.

The Federal Reserve economists write:

Consider the following thought experiment. A restaurant selling meals for $10 will happily accept payment in the form of one Hamilton bill ($10) or two Lincoln bills ($5). That is, the nominal exchange rate between Hamilton and Lincoln bills is 2:1. Now, suppose that the supply of Lincoln bills is increased but the supply of Hamilton bills remains the same. The exchange rate remains unaffected […] That is, the increase in the supply of Lincoln bills has led to a decline in the purchasing power of both Lincoln bills and Hamilton bills, even though the supply of Hamilton bills has remained fixed. Might an expansion in the supply of Altcoin have a similar depressing effect on the price of Bitcoin?

There are other complicating factors to the price of Bitcoin. On the one hand, it is the cryptocurrency with superior liquidity. This makes it the on-ramp and off-ramp for many other cryptocurrencies. Does anyone remember when ICOs were primarily conducted for Bitcoin? Nowadays Ethereum performs that function. Importantly, ICOs fueled demand for Ethereum through 2017 and 2018. Ethereum has a large supply and may never stop producing new units. Therefore, its lower values make sense: the more available something is, the less value it is.

Federal Reserve on the Intrinsic Value of Cryptocurrencies

The article also speaks to “intrinsic value.”

Consider now the bearish case for Bitcoin. This outlook is based on the view that Bitcoin has no fundamental value and that sooner or later the market will recognize this fact. In our view, one can accept that Bitcoin trades above its fundamental value without claiming that its fundamental value is zero. In fact, many securities trade above what might be considered their fundamental value. Gold, for example, trades above its value as measured by its industrial applications.

As noted before, Bitcoin’s actual utility is a secure digital store of value and transfer of the same. Other blockchains have taken and dominated the “blockchain” aspect of cryptocurrency. Despite the global chaos, demand for cryptographically secure payment systems isn’t necessarily popping. But it is feasible that people will come into contact with blockchain technologies through banking applications as well as other decentralized applications. Such things will generate demand for tokens that underpin those blockchains. Tokens like Ethereum, TRON, NEO, Aelf have a long-term technical proposition that Bitcoin has long been lagging on.

Smart Contracts Change The World

Bitcoin as a smart contract platform is probably a dream at this point. For one thing, it’s significantly more expensive to use. For another, at this point, other platforms simply do it better. The trend of alternatives taking up more and more of the total cryptocurrency market capitalization is likely to continue. Bitcoin maximalists rest on flawed arguments such as “network effect.” These arguments conveniently ignore historical examples where superior technology and marketing overtook dominant networks.

Bitcoin is likely not to trend downwards toward zero. The economists acknowledge this as well. But the odds are that an increasing amount of cryptocurrency market capitalization will enter through and be invested in alternatives with growing demand based on their usefulness.

After ten years, Bitcoin remains more a speculative asset and store of value than anything. The trend the Federal Reserve economists identify is representative of that. There are numerous factors that go into an actual downturn in the price of Bitcoin. A good percentage of holders will not sell at a loss. Another good percentage will not sell at all. These people hold the coin’s price at a certain level. But active trading can eventually reduce the price without regard to these people’s philosophical or strategic holding patterns.

No One Knows the Actual Value of Bitcoin

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The Bitcoin price, at the time of writing, was $3,641, but what is the asset really worth?

Bitcoin and all other cryptocurrencies very much remain in a price discovery phase. Some believe Bitcoin was overbought in the hype bubble of 2017, which inherently raised the price of nearly every other crypto available. Others believe it was just a fluke. Institutional money is still only just entering the picture. The utility of Bitcoin is only one aspect of its value, but it will play an increasingly important role as others develop more advanced and attractive feature sets.

As the Federal Reserve economists said:

We think the future price path is more likely to remain bounded between these two extremes.

Zero? No. Endless incline without significant change to the demand climate? Certainly not. Look out, Bitcoin. The 2000s called and they want their basic crypto design back. The era of smart contracts is dawning. Whoever does it best will see the most demand. It’s probably that simple.

Credit: CCN

According to a spokesperson from the Financial Services Agency (FSA), Japan is not considering the approval of a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF).

Speaking to Bitcoin.com, an FSA representative said:

There is no such fact that we are considering approving ETFs which track crypto-assets at present. We are not currently considering approving them.

Japan Doesn’t See the Need for a Bitcoin ETF

Last week, several sources including Bloomberg reported that Japan is exploring the possibility of approving Bitcoin ETFs as an alternative to Bitcoin futures.

The reports led to an increase in anticipation toward the approval of the VanEck Bitcoin ETF filing that is set to be decided by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by the end of February, as the emergence of strictly regulated investment vehicles in a major market like Japan would decrease the risk of price manipulation.

However, in a statement, an FSA spokesperson said that the agency does not recognize the necessity of any cryptocurrency-related derivatives as of now, solidifying its stance against both crypto ETFs and futures products.

“Taken it into consideration that it is difficult for us to find constructive and social significance of trading crypto-assets derivatives at present, we think that there is no need for trading crypto-assets derivatives at financial instruments exchanges where many market participants are able to trade,” the representative explained.

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Japan was reportedly going to approve a Bitcoin ETF, but regulators have squashed that rumor.

Previously, Jake Chervinsky, a government enforcement defense and securities litigation attorney at Kobre & Kim, said that while the launch of an ETF in overseas markets could address what the SEC considers as a key issue in manipulation, it is likely to have a minimal impact on the decision of the SEC.

A Bitcoin ETF in Japan or any other major cryptocurrency market was never going to have any effect on the decision of the U.S. SEC, as the commission prefers to operate as the leader in international regulation.

But, it demonstrates the willingness of the FSA and the Japanese financial authorities to focus on strengthening the infrastructure of the local cryptocurrency exchange market rather than shifting to investment vehicles that could provide the asset class with mainstream exposure in a short period of time.

Bitcoin ETF Proposals in the U.S.

Throughout the past several months, ten ETFs have been rejected by the U.S. SEC for various reasons including manipulation and security risks.

Since then, companies in the likes of VanEck and Bitwise have filed ETF proposals that address most of the issues the SEC laid out publicly in the past.

Bitwise, for instance, a cryptocurrency hedge fund which filed an ETF proposal this week, has built an index to track the price of Bitcoin on exchanges, futures markets, and over-the-counter (OTC) trading platforms in an attempt to find an accurate price of the dominant cryptocurrency based on maximum daily volume.

Regardless of the progress made in overseas markets, the U.S. SEC will likely continue to identify areas of improvement following the rejection of every ETF filing, which would eventually increase the probability of a Bitcoin ETF in the long run.

Credit: CCN

NEO appears to be losing ground in the popularity contest, at least lately. In the glory days of 2017, the “Chinese Ethereum” was a top 10 cryptocurrency with unstoppable potential. NEO was touted as being faster, better, and capable of handling way more transactions than other major networks. The hype surrounding the project was palpable.

Since its heyday in January 2018 when its market cap was over $10 billion, NEO has slipped to 18th place with a market cap around half that amount.

neo price
NEO, like other top cryptocurrency assets, had a rough 2018.

What’s happened to see it fall out of favor?

The crypto community may be losing interest in NEO, but its co-founder, Erik Zhang, isn’t losing any sleep.

In fact, ask him what NEO price is on any given day and, chances are, he hasn’t even checked.

“I don’t care about NEO’s price and market capitalization at all,” he told me.

I caught up with Zhang to find out what’s going on with NEO, why being compared to Ethereum irks him, and how his cat writes most of his code. Check it out.

Everyone’s heard of your charismatic co-founder Da Hongfei; he’s the face of NEO. Do you prefer to work behind the scenes? What is your main role at NEO?

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Erik Zhang, NEO Co-Founder | Source: NEO.org

“Da Hongfei has done a great job in promoting NEO and made great contributions to the development of blockchain industry,” he says.

“Da had more exposure to the public whereas my contributions were more focused on the GitHub.”

Despite his reduced share of time in the spotlight, Zhang isn’t just the co-founder of NEO; he’s also a core developer. And he’s completely disinterested in the NEO price and the crypto market fluctuations in general.

His job, he reminds me, is to focus on building out NEO and strengthening the community.

“What’s the difference between the top 10 and the 18th?” he questions, “We are developing a blockchain project instead of playing a capital game. I just want to make this project even better.”

Is it accurate that NEO is often called the “Chinese Ethereum?” Do you mind that association or is this something that annoys you and the team?

Like a red rag to a bull, Zhang really begins to come into his own here. Somehow, I had the feeling that the constant comparison to Ethereum might be a sticking point.

The labeling is a hype. We never introduced NEO this way, and I’m personally against this labeling.

He goes onto explain that he has nothing against Ethereum, however; he even calls it a “great project.” But he reaffirms that the two blockchains are very different.

It’s easy to call WeChat the “Chinese WhatsApp” and Baidu the “Chinese Google,” but that’s probably where the similarities end. It’s pretty much watered down marketing for dummies in the West.

NEO may have been conceived in China, but Zhang explains that it’s a global project contributed to by developers throughout the world.

“Although it was initiated by two Chinese people, I believe that the founder’s nationality is not the nationality of the project.” And Zhang isn’t real keen on projects having a figurehead.

In my eyes, the founder is nothing but a mascot.

He then comes out with an extremely valid point on the NEO/Ethereum comparison:

Lastly, I have to say that the one that can defeat the Ethereum can never be another Ethereum.

So, what are the key differences between NEO and Ethereum at the technological level? And at a visionary level?

“NEO and Ethereum both have their own tokens. They can all run turing-complete smart contracts. But they also have a big difference. First, their consensus mechanisms are different. Ethereum uses a PoW algorithm, while NEO uses the dBFT algorithm,” he says.

“Second, their smart contract development languages are very different. Ethereum uses a domain-specific language called Solidity, while NEO uses general-purpose languages with a large number of developers, such as C#, Python, Java, Golang, JavaScript, etc.”

Even the smart contract features the two networks provide are different, Zhang explains:

The interfaces provided by Ethereum for smart contracts are relatively simple, and they are usually provided through the EVM instruction set. NEO provides a large number of powerful APIs for smart contracts, and they are provided in a way similar to virtual devices.

Beyond the technical differences, the greatest chasm lies between the vision of the two projects. Says Zhang:

Ethereum wants to be a world computer that cannot be stopped while NEO wants to serve the smart economy.

Da Hongfei said at Web Summit in Lisbon that NEO is ready for the “formal economy.” What does he mean by this and how is this the case?

NEO Team
The NEO Team | Source: Twitter

“In the past year, we have adhered to the principle of building NEO a compliance-ready blockchain. Although blockchain is treated differently in different countries, there’s no doubt that no country or region would turn away from blockchain technology,” he said.

From the perspective of social revolution, blockchain has to be well monitored for mass application and healthy development. We’ve seen the liquidity being facilitated by unhealthy development; however, it propagated a wrong way of usage.

“NEO’s vision of smart economy is composed of ‘smart contract,’ ‘digital identity,’ and ‘digital assets,’ of which ‘digital identity’ is a prerequisite for compliance and a feature of NEO,” he adds. “Digital identity is also the area NEO wishes to focus on to facilitate the development of the formal economy using blockchain technology.”

You can be forgiven for not digesting all that in one go. With so much focus on digital identity, what does that actually mean to the end user? What does all this translate to?

Regarding the importance of digital identity and privacy in blockchains for the mainstream, what applications are available to take NEO to the mainstream?

“NeoID is an important component which facilitates the development of digital identity.” He reinforces:

Blockchain has to be compliance-ready and associated with the real economy to achieve growth.

NEO has never wanted to disassociate itself with the real economy, according to its vision in the whitepaper. NEO plans to make the existing economy better. Zhang confirms:

What’s in NEO’s plan is to use blockchain to empower the real economy, and we firmly believe that NEO will build the future of smart economy.

Are you a believer in regulation despite the fact that ICOs and cryptocurrency exchanges are banned in China? Do you still think this is the right move?

“Although ICOs and exchanges are banned in China, the government still encourages the development of blockchain technology. I think it works positively. When the monitoring system is immature, it is a good idea to build compliance into blockchain technology.”

The situation is a little murky in China upon first glance. On the one hand, the government seems to be entirely hostile to crypto. It’s not an ICO incubator hub the likes of Switzerland or Malta.

However, it’s also not falling behind in the race to blockchainize its economy in any way. But does banning crypto trading and ICOs not damage Chinese-based crypto?

Just to double check, cryptocurrency is not illegal in China, however, trading is? Has this hurt NEO’s growth? How will NEO be able to get ready for a formal economy if trading cryptocurrency is banned in China?

china bitcoin cryptocurrency
Crypto traders in China and Russia are evading local restrictions on exchanges by trading OTC.

“Trading is not illegal,” Zhang corrects me, “exchanges are illegal. This won’t hurt NEO, or the damage to NEO is the same as any other projects. You cannot trade NEO or other tokens on Chinese exchanges. But you can legally trade NEO or other tokens in other countries.”

This is where he brings out a sucker punch to retail traders, the likes of which only a developer can, reiterating that the price of NEO is about as interesting to him as the latest tweet from a Kardashian.

Traders always think of ways, I don’t need to care about this at all, because I am not a trader myself.

What’s new with NEO at the moment? What’s coming up next?

“NEO’s goal is to have the ability to run large-scale commercial applications. To achieve this goal, we are doing two things. The first is to improve NEO’s infrastructure so that it has higher tps and a more reliable dBFT consensus algorithm.

“After half a year of development, the improved NEO consensus algorithm dBFT is about to be completed. dBFT will become the best consensus mechanism for blockchains.

“The second is to develop a distributed storage network, NeoFS, so that applications can store massive amounts of data. The development of the first release candidate (RC1) of NeoFS is expected to be completed in Q3 2019.

“In February, we will hold the second NEO DevCon in Seattle and will share more details about the progress.”

NEO DevCon
DevCon | Source: devcon.neo.org

What’s the importance of DevCon for NEO and for the industry? Can you tell us a bit about the event?

“The DevCon is strategically held to keep the community informed of our development progress. It also provides a chance to the people interested in blockchain to learn about the latest technological advances, interesting applications and discuss the possibilities of future changes with relevant experts and scholars.

“NEO DevCon will be held during Feb 16-17 in Seattle revolving around Layer2, consensus mechanism and distributed file storage system etc., with more topics to be decided. This time we also invited some speakers from Seattle-based tech giants to share their insights with us.

“By holding the DevCon, we hope to build more connections between blockchain and traditional large enterprises to facilitate a wider application of blockchain technology.”

Do you see this year’s event drawing as many people as your last event, given the fact that many companies like ConsenSys are laying people off?

“The NGD marketing team has been dedicated to the preparation of DevCon, and we are confident of the result. Our objective is not restricted to the blockchain industry alone; instead, we expect to incorporate blockchain technology into higher-dimensional scenarios and industries to serve large-scale business purposes,” he continues, adding:

It is worth mentioning that in the past six months, we had more than a dozen new talent join the team and witnessed a growth in technology communities. Our vision is clear and we always focused on technology development, so market volatility doesn’t have a big impact on the team’s development.

So, that being the case, would you still encourage developers to get into blockchain despite the slump?

“Of course! This is one of the things I officially do. Just as the Internet has brought people into the digital economy era, I believe that the blockchain will lead people into the era of the smart economy. The changes in the economic system will bring people a better life.

“I think this is something that deserves to be done. We need more talented developers to join in the innovation. It has nothing to do with the market situation.”

Let’s get back to NEO and your plans. Can you tell us anything about the hard fork? Can you give us some details or a timeline for that?

“NEO will have a major update next year, which is NEO 3.0. To upgrade to NEO 3.0, we need at least one hard fork.” he continues:

We might even propose to start a new blockchain network, then migrate all the old data to the new chain.

However, “These are still under discussion. As for the type of upgrade that will ultimately be chosen, it depends on the final technical implementation. But in either case, it will not be implemented until next year.”

So, no hard fork in the road ahead for NEO until 2020, but there’s still plenty to look forward to as the NEO community continues along its roadmap.

Moving back to the cryptocurrency industry in general, what’s going on? Did you anticipate the Bitcoin Cash hard fork having such an effect on the industry?

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Erik Zhang believes Ethereum will overtake Bitcoin, sooner rather than later.

“Personally, I didn’t pay much attention to the market fluctuations nor did I notice the BCH hard fork. So it is difficult for me to answer this question,” he said. However, he added:

From what I’ve observed, an industry has to weed out underperforming projects to achieve growth.

He then goes on to drop an unexpected prediction:

In my opinion, Ethereum will sooner or later exceed Bitcoin and get the first position. But Ethereum will also face very fierce competition from other projects such as NEO.

Where do you see the future of cryptocurrency? Are traditional financial institutions right to fear it?

“As far as I know, many financial institutions are exploring the application of blockchain technology in financial scenarios,” however:

I don’t think traditional financial institutions can make any real achievements in the blockchain field. Because in my opinion, the nature of the blockchain is to reduce the cost of trust transfer through decentralization, and the nature of traditional financial institutions is to create trust through a centralized authority. These two ideas are contrary to each other and difficult to unify.

Any hard-line predictions for us?

“No, I’m not a wizard.” (He also doesn’t mince his words.)

Okay then, lastly, can you tell us something about yourself that no one knows?

“Remember, NEO’s code is written by Erik’s cat.”

Credit: CCN

Blockchain developers are now earning more than they were six months ago, according to a survey-based report by Computer World.

In the course of the last six months, the annual pay for blockchain developers in the highest bracket increased by over US$4,000, as per the survey which was conducted by management consulting firm Janco Associates.

The median annual pay for blockchain developers is also considerably higher than that of other software developers at US$132,000. Experienced developers earn even more – US$176,000 – especially when they change employers.

Top of the Food Chain

In the top bracket of IT jobs, the only other positions enjoying higher pay than blockchain developers were data scientists, database managers, ERP data architects, and ERP data engineers. Only ERP data engineers and database managers out-earned blockchain developers in the second quartile while in the third quartile only ERP data engineers earned more than blockchain developers.

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Blockchain developers are in the top quartile of the tech sector food chain (Courtesy of Computer World)

This is not the first survey to demonstrate the enviable position that blockchain developers occupy in the tech sector food chain. Last year in October, CCN reported that blockchain engineers in the United States were earning almost as much as artificial intelligence specialists, another field that is seeing increased demand for top talent:

[T]he average pay for blockchain engineers in the United States is between US$150,000 and US$175,000 making it comparable to what developers who specialize in another high-demand field, artificial intelligence, make. The two fields now currently offer the highest-earning specialized engineering roles. Typical software engineers make an average of US$135,000.

Growing Demand

At the time, the competitive pay that was being offered to blockchain developers was attributed to the increased demand for talent in the field with tech sector recruitment firm, Hired, indicating then that job postings had risen by 400%. Jobs site Glassdoor also disclosed last year that job postings related to cryptocurrencies and distributed ledger technology had risen by 300%.

Last month professional networking site LinkedIn reported that the biggest growing field on its platform in 2018 was blockchain development. Specifically, the Microsoft-owned social media firm revealed that job listings for software engineers with the capacity to develop distributed ledgers using peer-to-peer technology had increased by 33 times in 2018.

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Blockchain Development Is Linkedin’s Biggest Growing Job Sector https://www.ccn.com/blockchain-development-is-linkedins-biggest-growing-job-sector/ 

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Blockchain Development is LinkedIn’s Biggest Growing Job Sector

Today, Microsoft-owned LinkedIn released its top 5 emerging careers, where it listed  “Blockchain Developer” as its biggest growing job sector for 2018.

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Interestingly, the high demand for blockchain developers and engineers has come at a time when some cryptocurrency firms have already announced plans to lay off staff. This includes ConsenSys, the cryptocurrency development firm led by Ethereum co-founder Joseph Lubin, which is planning to retrench 13% of its workforce. Decentralized social media firm Steemit has also disclosed plans to reduce its employee numbers by 70%.

Credit: CCN

Earlier this week, an Ethereum startup in Serbia discovered that its advertisements on Google were not being shown in certain regions.

As the company investigated the case further, it found out that the keyword “Ethereum” has been completely banned on Google Ads and is not served to users on the platform.

Why are Companies Having Trouble With Ethereum Google Ads?

Throughout the past three days, the startup attempted to contact Google to receive clarification on the removal of Ethereum-related advertisements.

On January 12, a representative of the startup said that Google did not respond to the firm and wrote:

We’ve been using Google Ads for the past 6 months to help us get more visibility for our smart contract auditing services and we’ve noticed a strange change in the last few days. It seems that Google completely blacklisted Ethereum as a keyword. Any of the keywords that contain ‘ethereum’ in our campaigns are no longer showing ads as of January 9th.

It is likely that the company has not blacklisted Ethereum or cryptocurrency advertisements in general but is moving slowly in enabling advertisements because of the large number of scams and fraudulent operations it saw in the cryptocurrency sector in early 2018.

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Ethereum startups have reported issues with getting ads approved.

In September 2018, Google announced the resumption of cryptocurrency-related advertisements on its platform after banning them in March of the same year.

In March, when the search engine giant initially imposed a blanket ban on cryptocurrency ads, Google executive Scott Spender said:

We don’t have a crystal ball to know where the future is going to go with cryptocurrencies, but we’ve seen enough consumer harm or potential for consumer harm that it’s an area that we want to approach with extreme caution.

At the time, analysts suggested that Google banned cryptocurrency ads because of an inflow of scam-related promotions on the platform. Five months later, under a strict guideline yet to be disclosed to the public, the tech giant began to allow cryptocurrency ads — but only to a limited group of companies.

To ensure that any scam-related ads are not published on the platform, the company stated that it will initiate a rigorous evaluation of all cryptocurrency ads and will only permit a subset of advertisements within the cryptocurrency sector.

Considering that Google is cautiously bringing a small portion of cryptocurrency ads back to its platform, at least in the foreseeable future, it is possible that startups or lesser-known companies in the cryptocurrency ecosystem may not have their advertisement applications accepted by the company’s advertising platform.

Don’t Expect Google to Accept Many Ads

The disapproval of advertisement filings by Google is not exclusive to Ethereum nor other communities within crypto.

“We are concerned that Google is targeting Ethereum specifically for some reason and wanted to see if we as a community could put some pressure on the Google Ads team to adjust their keyword policy or to at least provide a reasonable explanation for such discriminatory regulations,” the startup said.

Until the conglomerate gains confidence in its ability to sufficiently filter out scams and advertisements promoting fraudulent activities, Google will likely continue to be wary of accepting crypto-related ads.

Credit: CCN

Malaysian government officials have come out to say they are still undecided on whether or not they will legalize cryptocurrency. The matter is still under consideration, which is frustrating those looking to seize the moment to help the Malaysian cryptocurrency industry grow.

As neighboring South East Asian nations such as Thailand, Singapore, and Hong Kong continue to regulate their crypto markets with one eye on greater adoption, Malaysia is lagging behind the forerunners on the sub-continent.

Indecision on Malaysian Cryptocurrency Future

Malaysia is currently one of the few South East Asian nations not to have a clear and defined stance on digital currency at this moment in time. Nobody is quite sure when or if a decision will be made in the near future. And nobody is sure if crypto is legal or not.

The Malaysian Federal Territories Minister Khalid Abdul Samad recently confirmed the indecision when attending a charity event in Kuala Lumpur, reported on by the local media outlet, the Malay Mail. Samad said they are still not sure which direction to take in regards to legalizing cryptocurrency. He was quoted as saying:

People have asked me if these (cryptocurrency and digital currency) currencies are legal or illegal. At the moment, the answer is neither legal nor illegal as the situation is still unclear. Yes, I was involved in the launch of Harapan Coin. However, I was not appointed as finance minister. Instead, I became federal territories minister.

As you can see, these recent comments in regards to Malaysian cryptocurrency legalities are greyer than 50 Shades of Grey in black and white on a dull day. They are more unclear than Stevie Wonder circumnavigating the North Pole in a dingy in a continual fog.

Malaysia Getting Left Out in the Crypto Cold

Because of such indecision from the Malaysian government, they are lagging behind other financial powerhouses in SE-Asia. Although Thailand also took its time to draft a regulatory framework for its crypto sector, they are now powering ahead with the Thai SEC recently issuing more licenses to crypto-related businesses.

As Hong Kong and Singapore also push ahead with greater regularity measures, the best we can get from Malaysian officials when pushed on the subject is the same old familiar story that Samed told the local Malaysia media when he said:

As the matter is not under my jurisdiction, I cannot push too much.

To be fair on Samad, he is one of the main advocates of Malaysian cryptocurrency integration and previously tried to push both the Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the Bank Negara Malaysia to use the Harapan Coin for governmental transactions. But to no avail.

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Consulting giant McKinsey & Co recently published a report on the state of the blockchain industry, claiming that while crypto technology has potential, it has been unable to break away from the early “pioneer” phase with most use cases failing to take off.

The Report: ‘Blockchain’s Occam Problem’

The report is not entirely critical, stating that blockchain is viewed as a potential game-changer in many industries. It does, however, point out that a huge amount of money has been pumped into blockchain projects, adding the view that “little of substance has been achieved.”

The consulting firm states that blockchain is an infant teleology that is “unstable, expensive, and complex. It is also unregulated and selectively distrusted.” A chart is included in the report, illustrating the industry struggling to emerge from the first stage of a four-stage cycle moving from pioneering to growth, maturity, and decline.

The report goes on to detail emerging doubts regarding crypto technology, with the report title referring to Occam’s Razor, the concept that the simplest answer or solution is the best one. The implication here, of course, is that blockchain technology is not the simplest solution.

Crypto Firms Respond

Anyone reading the report could be forgiven for taking a rather dim view of the technology. While not an outright dismissal of blockchain tech, McKinsey’s report certainly aims to drastically temper the expectations of any blockchain enthusiasts who firmly support the technology as a potential solution for many cross-industry problems.

Blockchain firms have not remained silent in the face of the report, with multiple CEOs addressing and debunking various points made within.

CEO Angel Versetti of blockchain supply chain tracking company Ambrosus acknowledged that blockchain hype had clouded expectations, but firmly asserted that in its intended use case, blockchain is indeed the best solution by far:

“The report claims that competing emerging technologies are hindering the progress of blockchain, however, I think there is no technology that really competes with Blockchain in terms of its core value proposition: censorship-resistant, universally trusted ledger of transactions and contracts with no central point of failure,” said Versetti.

Blockchain will not solve all the problems of the world. But in the core value proposition of data integrity and immutability, blockchain is king.

Utopia Music CEO Brent Jaciow focused on solutions to the issue, pointing out that blockchain tech was still an emerging industry.

Developers must work hard to remove any roadblocks to firm’s harnessing its capabilities. This feat may be accomplished by creating API’s which integrate into existing solutions or developing a user experience that is simple and easy to use whilst integrating blockchain technology as the backend software.

Is Blockchain The Future?

The McKinsey report runs the gamut of regulatory, scaling, and security concerns which have of course featured heavily in all criticisms of blockchain technology.

Dale Sanders@drsanders

McKinsey report on Blockchain, Jan 4: “The bottom line is that despite billions of dollars of investment, and nearly as many headlines, evidence for a practical scalable use for blockchain is thin on the ground.” https://lnkd.in/gfWbiaj 

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Blockchain’s Occam problem

Blockchain’s Occam problem

Blockchain has yet to become the game-changer some expected. A key to finding the value is to apply the technology only when it is the simplest solution available.

mckinsey.com

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Blockchain company responses to CCN seem to tackle these concerns with the suggestions of API development and the assertion that blockchain truly does outshine competing technologies when it comes to immutability and data protection, but it’s perhaps too soon to say whether the crypto industry is ready to break through to the second phase of the growth cycle outlined in the report.

However, the report reads more like a stern lecture from a well-meaning parent than it does a smear campaign from competing interests. While highly critical in some cases, even McKinsey agrees that blockchain is potentially revolutionary. Three guiding principles are cited:

  • Organizations must start with a problem.
  • There must be a clear business case and target ROI.
  • Companies must agree to a mandate and commit to a path to adoption.

The report states that industries are “downgrading expectations” regarding blockchain, but acknowledges that the technology has the potential to revolutionize processes in banking, healthcare, insurance, shipping, and more – but only if the above principles are observed. Companies are urged to “adapt their strategic playbooks, honestly review the advantages over more conventional solutions, and embrace a more hard-headed commercial approach.”

The consulting firm concludes an occasionally bleak report with a more hopeful outlook by saying:

If they can do all that, and be patient, blockchain may still emerge as Occam’s right answer.

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In the last 48 hours, the volume of the crypto market has dropped from $15 billion to $13 billion as the Bitcoin price fell below the $3,600 mark.

Analysts have started to demonstrate concerns regarding the declining volume of digital assets and the potential scenario of cryptocurrencies free falling without significant sell pressure from bears.

Is $3,000 Inevitable For Bitcoin?

Generally, traders in the crypto market expect a lackluster year with low volatility, at least until cryptocurrencies escape the last stage of a 12-month-long bear market and initiate a strong accumulation phase.

In the short-term, however, many traders envision most cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin testing key support levels in a low price range.

A cryptocurrency trader Josh Rager wrote:

As the volume continues to slowly descend Bitcoin could see more sideways ranging This could last for days or weeks until a decrease in buyers, currently holding up the market, at these levels. Nice support below $3,000 with lots of buyers waiting there.

Currently, following an intense sell-off on January 11, the crypto market is demonstrating stability in the range of $122 to $124 billion.

But, the combined valuation of all cryptocurrencies in the global market is down nearly $100 billion since November 2017 and the asset class is struggling to demonstrate signs of a trend reversal.

Considering the lack of momentum of cryptocurrencies and the inability of dominant digital assets in the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum to breakout of important resistance levels, a cryptocurrency technical analyst DonAlt suggested that 2019 may turn out to be a boring and a low volatile year.

“I’ve been relatively inactive this year – for one reason – there just hasn’t been too much to trade. I wouldn’t be surprised if ’19 plays out like this, boring, choppy and frustrating to trade. The worst thing you can do is force trades when your system doesn’t give you any,” the analyst said.

As Bitcoin approaches the low $3,000 region, similar to its corrective rally in mid-December, it may initiate a relatively sharp recovery triggered by big buy walls on major cryptocurrency-to-fiat exchanges such as Coinbase and Bitstamp.

How About Other Cryptocurrencies?

If Bitcoin continues to fall below $3,500 and possibly to its 12-month low at $3,122, cryptocurrencies with low market caps and daily volumes are expected to experience intensified downward price movements against both Bitcoin and the U.S. dollar.

Digital assets that have shown strong upward price movements in the past several weeks due to product launches and protocol upgrades including TRON and Ethereum have already begun to drop in value, affected by the negative sentiment surrounding the short-term trend of the cryptocurrency market.

The price movement of Bitcoin, until the January 11 correction, was seen as a positive short-term breakout above $4,000. But, based on the intensity of the sell-off over the past week, it will likely have a minimal impact on the performance of the asset class in the weeks to come.

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