1 min read

Microsoft Adds Bitcoin Payments for Xbox Games and Mobile Content

Global computing giant Microsoft has added bitcoin as a payment option for a variety of digital content across its online platforms.

According to the company’s payments information page, US-based customers can now use bitcoin to add money to their accounts, which can then be used to purchase content like apps, games and videos from its Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox platforms.

The surprise announcement, which is the result of an integration with Georgia-based bitcoin processor BitPay, adds yet another major tech player to the bitcoin ecosystem – Microsoft boasts a market cap of more than $380bn and annual revenue in excess of $86.8bn in 2014.

2 mins read

Coindesk Interview: UK Treasury Committee MP: “Bitcoin Doesn’t Need New Laws”

By Coindesk: Last month, the United Kingdom parliament debated an arcane topic that hasn’t been raised in the legislative chamber in 170 years: money creation.

The last time the subject was discussed in the House of Commons was when the Bank Charter Act of 1844 was passed. That historic act put an end to British commercial banks’ ability to issue banknotes, transferring those powers exclusively to the Bank of England.

The member of parliament who revived the topic in the House was Steve Baker, who was recently elected to a seat on the Treasury Select Committee. The committee is responsible for scrutinising the Treasury, the Bank of England, the tax authority and the financial regulator.

Bitcoin believers who heard the debate would have been pleased to discover that Baker is also a bitcoin user. During the debate, the MP called on the government to move away from creating new regulations specifically for alternative currencies, including bitcoin. Instead, he said, the state should do everything possible to regulate bitcoin under ordinary commercial law.

Speaking to CoinDesk exclusively at the House of Commons, Baker explained his view, conceding that it was a strong position for a politician to adopt.

He said:
“Bitcoin should be regulated by the ordinary commercial business laws with no additional regulation. It is a big ask. It is saying to people, you can buy bitcoin, but don’t come running to us if the exchange does down or you lost your wallet [private key].”

Read the full story:
http://www.coindesk.com/uk-treasury-committee-mp-bitcoin-doesnt-need-new-laws/The less intervention the betterFor Baker, the less government intervention in the digital currency world, the better. Bureaucratic attempts to invent a new regulatory framework for bitcoin would only stifle entrepreneurialism and innovation, he said, adding:

“The government should get out of the way of innovation – as long as it is lawful.”

In Baker’s view, the UK government has already been largely supportive of bitcoin. He pointed to the Bank of England’s recent research into cryptocurrencies and the Treasury’s public call for information about digital currencies as evidence of this.

“It is a remarkable fact that the UK Treasury is interested in cryptocurrencies at all,” he said.

When asked if UK banks should adopt a more open posture towards dealing with bitcoin businesses, however, Baker declined to take a stronger stand.

“The actual risk [for banks] is regulatory, not commercial … I would not presume to tell the banks how to cope with regulatory risk. I would just implore the government to create conditions that minimise that risk,” he said.

Baker believes consumers should be allowed to use digital currencies without being encumbered by a new set of laws.

He said:
“I’m a great believer in personal responsibility. I would say cryptocurrencies right now are accessible to a tiny portion of the population who are both technically competent and sufficiently willing to take risks and so forth.”

2 mins read

Top Dutch Banks ING, ABN AMRO, Rabobank, Confirm Blockchain Experiments on RTL primetime news.

From: http://www.coindesk.com/top-dutch-banks-confirm-blockchain-experiments/

Three Dutch banks have announced that they are experimenting with blockchain technology as a way of improving their payments systems.
That ING, ABN Amro and Rabobank are all testing the technology was aired last Monday in a segment on the Netherland’s popular RTL evening news.

ING’s global head of transaction services Mark Buitenhek (pictured) told RTN that his bank has been improving on technology that was built in the ’70s and ’80s, explaining:

“We have improved the speed of transactions since then, up to where we are today,” he said. “As such, we are always looking out for the latest technological breakthroughs to improve this even further. This is why ING is testing blockchain technology.”

“By using bitcoin technology, banks might be able to update customer accounts within seconds. The question now is whether this would indeed be possible, and if so, at what risks. Apart from the functionality, our focus will always be on security as well.”

Menno van Leeuwen, the team leader at the bank’s Innovation Centre, was quoted as saying: “Banks are faced with competitors from outside of the traditional financial sector, who come up with new solutions. If we ignore these developments, that might lead to surprises, which is undesirable … As banks, we have a lot experience in the field of providing customers with security, and we’re currently testing the combination with bitcoin.”

RTL confirmed that Rabobank is testing blockchain technology, including bitcoin, although a spokesperson told CoinDesk that the bank is not interested in using bitcoin directly – either its currency or network – but is interested in researching how the technology works.

Additionally, at SWIFT’s InnoTRIBE conference (see a video), a Rabobank official stated that the institution is also experimenting with the Ripple payments network.

Limited Central Bank Approval:
While reaffirming the DNB’s stance on bitcoin, central bank spokesman Martijn Pols indicated it does approve of experimentation with blockchain technology.

“We are not in charge of everything banks do, and we are happy to let them experiment with any technology that might innovate their payment services,” he said. “Dutch banks are allowed to learn from bitcoin, are free to experiment with blockchain technology and are even encouraged to integrate similar technologies into their own payment services.”

1 min read

Coinbase Enables Instant Bitcoin Trades with New USD Wallets

Coinbase announced today it has enabled USD wallets for its customers in 16 US jurisdictions, allowing those users to store dollar balances and make instant bitcoin purchases without waiting for bank transfers.

US-based customers now have the same option to store fiat currency that Coinbase customers in 13 eurozone countries have enjoyed since September, when it expanded bitcoin buying and selling beyond the US for the first time.

With the new wallets, users can add USD whenever they like and dip into that balance for instant trades at a later date. They may also use the USD wallets to store proceeds from bitcoin sales and withdraw them to a connected bank account at any point.

Coinbase does not charge fees for deposits and withdrawals made via ACH (automated clearing house) bank transfers.

Coinbase counsel Juan Suarez told CoinDesk the company has worked with its legal representatives and state regulators to assess whether its USD wallet is a regulated activity.

He said: “Coinbase’s cooperation with its regulators in the US and abroad is a priority company investment, and we will continue to collaborate with regulators to establish sanctioned avenues for Coinbase to offer its USD wallet and other Coinbase services – whether the approach is to regulate such services under conventional payments rules and laws, new bitcoin-specific guidance, or not to regulate at all. We hope to offer USD Wallet in all US jurisdictions in the near future.”

To implement the new service, Coinbase needed to repurpose and adapt existing fraud detection algorithms for its ACH buys.

Read the full story at: http://www.coindesk.com/coinbase-enables-instant-bitcoin-trades-new-usd-wallets/

1 min read

Coinify Seals Multi-Million external Funding Backed by Danish Government

Pioneering European Bitcoin payment facilitator Coinify has announced a multi-million euro funding deal with Danish firm SEED Capital, along with two partner acquisitions, it has announced.

The move will see the company’s expansion further into European markets and even further afield into the Middle East courtesy of its acquisition of Bitcoin Nordic, which has been operating as a broker in the space since 2012.

Additionally, Coinify has purchased the intellectual property rights to the payment gateway technology as well as all merchant relationships from Danish-based payment provider Bitcoin Internet Payment System.

“With the investment and acquisitions, Coinify is now positioned to bring the empowering potential of Bitcoin to all of the 500 million individuals in Europe,” Hans Henrik Heming, CEO at Coinify said in a press release issued today.

“Bitcoin Nordic has been looking for further global expansion, and unifying consumer and merchant services under the Coinify brand will enable us to realize that vision,” added Lasse Birk Olesen, Bitcoin Nordic founder and now chief product officer for Coinify.

SEED Capital is partly supported by Vækstfonden, the Danish government’s fund for creating growth in new companies. “This must be the first time government funds are invested in a Bitcoin company,” Olesen commented to CoinTelegraph.

Coinify itself has come to be seen as one of the success stories of Bitcoin in Europe. Over 6000 merchants are currently signed up to its merchant service, of which a notable recent addition is online food ordering portal Hungry.dk, bringing Bitcoin payment functionality to over 800 Danish food outlets.

Read the full article at: http://cointelegraph.com/news/112607/coinify-seals-multi-million-external-funding-backed-by-danish-govt

2 mins read

Where is the Smart VC Money Going in Financial Technology? Follow the Unicorns

Fin Tech deal activity by 12 top VC firms ranging from Sequoia Capital to Andreessen Horowitz has grown 61% from 2010 to 2013.

If trying to understand the emerging business models, technologies and disruption in Fin Tech, one of the smart ways we are seeing financial services firms do this is by following deals and investor money flowing into Fin Tech companies. But instead of tracking all investors, let’s follow the smart VC money since as we all know, not all VCs are created equal.

And within the Fin Tech universe today, the smart money VCs are investing in technologies ranging from peer-to-peer loan marketplaces to mobile payments to big data tools for capital markets.

As new innovation rapidly makes its way through the financial services sector, Fin Tech investments across the entire ecosystem have exploded in recent years. Of note, a recent report released by Accenture and the New York City Investment Fund using CB Insights data found global Fin Tech investments reached nearly $3B in 2013 from under $930M in 2008.

This research brief highlights the Fin Tech investment activity of 12 of the top venture firms as identified by our tech unicorn VC analysis. The VC firms whose Fin Tech investments are analyzed include:Accel PartnersAndreessen HorowitzBattery VenturesBenchmark CapitalBessemer Venture PartnersCRVGreylock PartnersKleiner Perkins Caufield & ByersNew Enterprise AssociatesRedpoint VenturesSequoia CapitalUnion Square Ventures

While Fin Tech investments span a diverse array of companies ranging from payments to asset management to personal financial management, there appear to be several themes that these brand-name venture firms see opportunities in. When we use the Business Social Graph inputs and cluster companies by focus area, four markets emerge as being consistent areas of focus among the top 12 venture firms. These includeLendingPersonal finance managementPayments technologyBitcoin

Read the full article at: https://www.cbinsights.com/blog/fin-tech-vc-innovation/

2 mins read

The Blockchain Application Stack: Emerging Architecture Of Internet Applications

By AVC / Joel Monegro: “The bitcoin blockchain is not just going to change the way money works on the Internet (and off). It’s going to change the way Internet applications are built.”

The most important things to understand about this blockchain stack are the overlay networks (most of which are still emerging), and the shared data layer and the shared protocol layer. Please read Joel’s post which describes each of these in some detail.

What is most important about this emerging stack is, in Joel’s words,

This imposes a very interesting set of challenges for developers, entrepreneurs, and investors as so much of the value in the current Internet stack will be commoditized by this architecture.

Differentiation and defensibility and network effects will be much harder to obtain with this architecture. Most things will work like email. Take your keys from one app to another and all your data and relationships come with it.

Fun times are ahead. Time to put your seat belt on.

The basic idea is that everything inside the gray rectangles is decentralized and open source. For now I’m calling these the Shared Data and Protocol Layers. Nobody controls these parts of the system, and they’re accessible by any person or company. If we use Bitcoin as an example, the Blockchain is the shared data layer and the Bitcoin protocol is a Decentralized Protocol that’s part of the Shared Protocol Layer.

You’ll notice that each layer gets thinner the higher up you go. You’ll also notice that the Shared Data and Protocol Layers cover about 80% of the entire stack. Internet applications today are built on top of open, decentralized technologies like TCP/IP and HTTP, but if you were to graph the current internet application stack like above, those open, decentralized protocols would probably only make up about 15% with everything on top being private and centralized.

Read more at http://joel.mn/post/103546215249/the-blockchain-application-stack

1 min read

Blockstream Raises $21 Million from Google Chairman, LinkedIn and Yahoo Co-Founders

Blockstream has officially announced $21m in seed funding to continue the development of its much-anticipated blockchain technology proposal, ‘sidechains’.

Announced on the Blockstream website, the round was led by LinkedIn co-founder and Airbnb board member Reid Hoffman; Khosla Ventures, which has previously invested in bitcoin API developer Chain; and Canada-based seed fund Real Ventures. In total, Blockstream indicated 40 investors took part in the round.

Blockstream CEO Austin Hill positioned the funding as proof that the wider tech industry is increasingly acknowledging the disruptive potential of the technological innovations first introduced by bitcoin through its underlying ledger.

Hill wrote:
“Blockstream is the first company extending the capabilities at the protocol level to support massive scaling of bitcoin and blockchain technology to a broad range of asset types. Put another way, the extension mechanism of sidechains, the company’s initial area of focus, allows any number of so far unthought of developments to happen in an open and interoperable way.

Additional investment firms that contributed to the round included Crypto Currency Partners, Google chairman Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors, Future\Perfect Ventures, Mosaic Ventures, Ribbit Capital and Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang’s AME Cloud Ventures.

Read the full story at:

1 min read

Spanish Bank Backs Decentralized Bitcoin Exchange Coinffeine

Spanish bank Bankinter has made an investment in Coinffeine, a bitcoin startup launched in June by four engineers aiming to create a new distributed exchange platform.

The investment, made through the Bankinter Innovation Foundation, is one of the first in the bitcoin ecosystem, according to the bank.

Coinffeine is developing a distributed platform for the exchange of fiat money by cryptocurrencies in a secure and anonymous environment. It is designed to let users send fiat money and transfer bitcoins outside banks in a peer-to-peer (P2P) fashion.

BitTorrent for your bitcoins

The Coinffeine desktop app, which the company likens to “BitTorrent for your bitcoins”, is scheduled to launch next January.

“The big innovation here is the Coinffeine protocol, a mathematical model based on Game Theory. This protocol ensures the safety of the fiat-bitcoin exchange without a trusted third party and in an automated way, offering the same experience as a traditional exchange even though the transactions are really P2P,” the company said in a statement.

Coinffeine co-founder Sebastián Ortega told CoinDesk the platform will provide customers with a service that combines the existing financial infrastructure with a distributed exchange.

Ortega explained:

“Coinffeine lets you keep ownership of your bitcoins in a way that only a distributed exchange can provide. You don’t need to trust anyone, not even us, for the safeguard of your coins and you can reuse the existing financial infrastructure for handling the fiat payments.”

Read the full story at: http://www.coindesk.com/spanish-bank-backs-decentralized-bitcoin-exchange-coinffeine/

2 mins read

DocuSign Founder Sees Blockchain’s Potential in Identity Management

Digital signature company DocuSign might have little to do with bitcoin at first glance. The firm’s business is replacing ink signatures on paper with its own electronic version.

Read the full article at: http://www.coindesk.com/docusign-founder-sees-blockchain-tech-potential-identity-management/

But the audience listening to DocuSign founder Tom Gonser at Web Summit in Dublin last week might have been forgiven for thinking they’d stumbled onto a sermon about the benefits of the blockchain.

Gonser ran through the complexities of identity and contract management in a digital age, pointing out that different jurisdictions had very different ideas of what constituted a valid contract. He stood on stage in Dublin and waved a $5 bill at the audience, saying:

“This is a contract … I’ll give this bill to whoever wants it. But you have to go to a pub and try to buy a beer with it. You’ll have a hard time, because they’ll say no, I need to take euros.”

In a bitcoin sermon, this is where the blockchain and decentralisation comes in. Instead, Gonser’s talk continued with the credit card companies – Visa, and MasterCard – solving the problem of converting cash in different jurisdictions by “hiding” the transactions behind a single credit card, which they issued.

Blockchain a ‘sea change’

Gonser, who serves as chief strategy officer at DocuSign, isn’t touting the bitcoin protocol and its open ledger as a solution for his company – but it may only be a matter of time.

He told CoinDesk that his firm’s research labs are experimenting with the technology underpinning bitcoin, because of the chance that it might uncover ways of working on digital identity that are “fundamentally better”.

“Bitcoin is definitely something to watch … it does represent something that’s a sea change in how transactions can be tracked and audited,” Gonser said.

Gonser also extolled the decentralised nature of distributed ledgers in identity management systems of the future. He gave the example of personal medical records, which are held by a number of different institutions, depending on the jurisdiction a patient is located in.

“No one actually owns their [records]. I have probably 10, but I’ve never seen mine. It’s the hospital – I don’t know where it is. But it needs to be mine, it needs to be something I store,” he said.

Gonser said distributed networks that make use of the blockchain, then, could be the solution for digital identity systems of the future, explaining:

“The notion of empowered individuals in the digital world, creating a strong identity to make their life have less friction … to the extent bitcoin represents this decentralised framework, it’s very much in line with my thinking of how identity evolves.”