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SocialDrift Review – What I learned from using Instagram automation

There’s a lot out there about Instagram automation right now. In particular, there’s been mixed opinions about if automation tools are worth your time and money. Some discourage its use entirely, while others claim that they’re essential to any brand’s success.

After looking around and doing some research, I decided to check it out for myself. For the last two and a half months I’ve been using SocialDrift to see what automation is like for myself.

Here’s what I discovered through my experience with it:

1. Stick with one tool at a time.

A common mistake that people make is that they give multiple automation services access to their Instagram account. They assume that more tools running at once will result in even more growth.

Contrary to this line of reasoning, that’s just not the case. In fact, it will likely do more harm than good.

The dilemma here is that Instagram will find this sort of activity suspicious. The app is built to monitor your activity and make sure that it stays within sensible human capacities. If you are giving out too many likes and comments per minute, there is a chance that you’ll get banned.

Most automation tools are built to obey these restrictions. For instance, SocialDrift uses SecureBoost to prevent your account from going outside the limits. So you’re better off trusting them to do their job on their own, rather than trying to stack several of them and pushing it to the brink.

Thankfully I learned about this prior to getting started, so everything went smoothly. Always remember to dig around and investigate before you try anything!

2. Always go over the tutorial.

Sometimes it’s hard to resist the temptation of jumping in and learning on the fly. I know I’m certainly bad about this. Patience has never been my strongest suit. However, this is an instance where I would strongly advocate for it.

That’s not to say that SocialDrift isn’t intuitive. Its layout is actually very clear and easy to understand. Yet, I still think there’s a lot to be gained from getting a quick primer about the controls. The same goes for any other automation tool.

Many tutorials give you handy tips and suggestions that you might not have considered. They’re also helpful to refer back to when you forget how something is supposed to work.

3. Define your desired audience.

Is your automation tool not working as effectively as you had hoped? One reason for this issue might be that you haven’t set your targeting filters to be specific enough.

The first thing you need to do is narrow down which demographics you are trying to reach. Forming a clear, distinct profile of your intended audience will make it easier to tailor your interactions to their needs and interests.

One approach that is severely underutilized is engaging with smaller accounts. This includes users whose posts don’t tend to get a lot of activity. They are most likely to appreciate your recognition and return the favor. With SocialDrift, you can set a minimum and maximum amount of likes for the content that you interact with.

If you run a local business with a physical location, it’d be wise to target users within the nearby area. SocialDrift has a feature called Place Targeting that can aid you with that. It also has options to interact with users that use certain hashtags or follow certain accounts.

4. Use the Unfollow option strategically.

Some might wonder why you would ever need to unfollow others. The more the merrier, right?

The problem is that Instagram doesn’t let you follow any more than 7,500 accounts. The only way you can follow more people than that is if you did it before the limits were implemented.

So, it’s sometimes necessary to prune your following numbers. Generally you want to cut it down to about half the size of your followers once you’ve gained a decent amount. This will make your account seem more unique and popular.

SocialDrift has an automatic unfollowing feature that can be found at the top of the page in the Activity Types box. Initially I was skeptical about using it, as I was concerned it’d start unfollowing too many people, but it does a great job at being selective and gradual.

5. Customize and change up your automated comments.

Just about every automation tool offers the ability to send comments on your behalf. It cuts down on the tedious and time-consuming work that it would take to comment on hundreds of posts every day.

SocialDrift’s approach is to let you create these comments, which it will use in rotation. I would recommend writing at least a dozen of them. A greater variety of comments will make your activity seem more organic and less generic. Make sure to add new ones periodically, and replace old ones that have been used for awhile.

6. Continue answering questions and talking to your followers.

While automated comments are extremely useful, they shouldn’t completely replace all interaction with your audience. You should still address any concerns or queries they might have, and strike up friendly conversations whenever you have the chance. Show them that there’s still humans running the account, ready and willing to pay attention to them.

7. Optimize your settings.

Here’s an embarrassing admission: when I started my first month of SocialDrift, I mostly ignored the button labeled Optimization above the Account Settings. I took a cursory glance at it, of course, but for some reason I dismissed it as extraneous and didn’t return for awhile. This is something that I regret immense now.

The page features an evolving list of recommended settings adjustments for your account. Its purpose is to help you generate the most optimal results possible. The list is also color coded and assorted based on urgency, with red being the most important.

Taking heed of optimization advice could make a big difference and noticeably increase your growth. That was certainly the case for me, and I only wish I had taken it seriously sooner.

8. Focus on delivering high-quality content.

The greatest benefit from using automation is that it gives you the freedom to put more time into developing your content. While automation tools undoubtedly will bring more people to your page, it’s your content that will make them stick around and follow you.

SocialDrift has proven invaluable in this regard. Thanks to it’s assistance, I feel like I’m at the top of my Instagram game now.






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The use of chatbots in the customer experience – By Nate Simmons COO at GameOn Technology

When they first came on the scene, it’s fair to say chatbots were perceived as a flash in the pan gimmick. However, an increasing number of brands are recognising the potential this technology has for generating valuable customer insight. Thanks to the artificial intelligence (AI) mechanisms powering them, chatbots are being widely integrated across industries and are finally being acknowledged as an effective way to automate and augment the customer service experience — so much so that, according to a report by Grand View Research, the global chatbot market is expected to reach $1.23 billion by 2025, an annual growth rate of 24.3 percent.

Similarly, a UK marketing report found 55% of marketers are certain that artificial intelligence will have a more radical transformative effect on the marketing industry than social media – and they are right. Consumers now expect to be put first, and OTT chatbots present the opportunity to build an authentic relationship with a key demographic on the social platform of their choice, thanks to the data insights they are able to offer. Driven by the rise of smart devices, voice recognition advances, and AI-powered apps, more customers today expect businesses to be reachable anytime, know their likes and needs in advance, and respond instantly. Given these requirements, chatbots are becoming a necessity for communicating with customers in real time.

Moving to an engaged audience

Yet, the future of user acquisition is not about changing behavior; it is about taking content to where the user is already active and engaged. Chatbots are an ideal way to do this, though they have been dramatically misunderstood and misused by many. For the past 10 years, the install base and developer ecosystems have driven content owners to adopt iOS and Android applications as primary ways to build an OTT audience. Taking into account that Apple sold roughly 1 billion phones from 2008 to 2018 and chat platforms that support chatbots have 3.5 billion daily active users on them, one cannot look past the immediate, green-field opportunity for penetration and growth. Some chat platforms boast over 65% lifetime retention rates and are seeing monetization start to take hold.

Our partnership with Sky Sports on the Jeff Bot is a good example of this. The Jeff Bot, which provides coverage of the Premier League based on Jeff Stelling and Sky Sports Soccer Saturday content, has had a direct effect on customer engagement. Fans can ask Jeff a question about the EPL at any time and get an answer back, as well as subscribe to teams and get information sent to them based on real time developments on and off the pitch. This model of encouraging fan interaction is key to creating long term users.

Value of chatbot data

The volume of data generated by chatbots is huge. On any given day, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is produced across social platforms by bots. This ability to bring order from chaos allows chatbots to answer customer service questions, scan restaurants to book dinner reservations, check sports scores, and order flowers.

Experts are predicting that we’ll be sitting on 35 zettabytes of data by 2020, more than our human brains can digest without aid. Fortunately, the artificial intelligence within chatbots has the potential to help deliver the level of deep, intuitive personalisation that today’s hyper-connected consumers demand, offering the ability to select the right audience for the most relevant conversation. Of course, we’re unlikely to see a customer service world without humans anytime soon, but more natural interactions with ever-improving chatbots mean a better, clearer and more intuitive connection to user insights brands can rely on.






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Walmart Looks to Blockchain for Retail Product Resales

A new patent application from retail giant Walmart shows how blockchain could be used to augment its digital offerings for consumers.

The document, released last Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, outlines a blockchain ledger which would track the items that stores sell to a particular customer. It’s the latest example of an intellectual property play by Walmart, which has filed a number of related applications and has also piloted the tech for tracking food products.

The proposed system would allow a customer to register the item after it’s bought for the first time. The customer would then be able to choose a price for a resale, with the system itself acting essentially as a digital marketplace, according to the application.

Perhaps just as notable is the fact that the application appears to work in details from another use case – distributed delivery tracking – that was outlined in a past patent filing.

Walmart’s latest application explains how a “distributed delivery record blockchain” would be updated as products move from the seller to the courier to the buyer, with new transactions signifying each step.

The company wrote:

“By one approach, the transfer from the seller to the courier may require signatures from both the sender and the courier using their respective private keys. The new transaction may be broadcasted and verified by the sender, the courier, the buyer, and/or other nodes on the system before being added to the distributed delivery record blockchain. When the package is transferred from the courier to the buyer, the courier may use the courier’s private key to authorize the transfer of the digital asset representing the physical asset from the courier to the buyer and update the delivery record with the new transaction.”

The idea of Walmart actually pursuing such a use case isn’t that far-fetched – last September, the retailer detailed how it was testing automated delivery solutions with a limited group of customers in California.

Walmart image via fotomak / Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Not Just a Bubble: Blockchain Is Already Delivering on the Hype

Balaji S. Srinivasan is the CTO of Coinbase and a Board Partner at Andreessen Horowitz.


In Monty Python’s “Life of Brian,” there’s a famous scene in which John Cleese’s character is stirring up a group against the Romans.

He’s trying to get them all frothed up about the supposed righteousness of their cause and the uselessness of the Romans, until reality intrudes. One by one, members of the crowd begin listing off all the things the Romans actually have brought to the community, from roads to medicine to sanitation, thereby contradicting his criticism and undermining his point.

I’m reminded of this scene when surveying much of today’s commentary on blockchain technology.

There’s no dearth of intelligent and thoughtful people claiming that the blockchain is bad, or that it has no use, or that it’s bad and has no use.

It’s an odd situation, because while businesses in the blockchain sector are already empirically generating billions of dollars in revenue, the value of digital currencies and assets is often said to be driven largely by speculation on future rather than present utility.

But even if we grant this claim for the sake of argument, stating that most of the value of blockchain lies in the future is not the same as saying that (a) the present-day utility of the blockchain is zero or that (b) the blockchain sector will never live up to its valuation.

In this piece, we review some of the reasons why new technologies like the blockchain are often heavily criticized en route to ubiquity. We then discuss the specifics of how the blockchain has already begun disrupting at least three multibillion dollar verticals: the gold industry, international wire transfers and crowdfunding.

Finally, we talk through a few objections, and conclude by discussing the areas where the blockchain may provide yet more near-term 10X advantages.

Fad, bubble, monopoly

Highly valuable technologies typically experience relentless negativity on the way to the summit.

High growth is matched by high volatility and even higher expectations, leading to hype cycles and periods of apparent overvaluation until eventually the technology is globally ubiquitous. Then the new critique is no longer about faddishness or lack of utility but about inescapable monopoly, until the next disruption appears on the horizon and the cycle begins anew.

One example of this with the earlier internet revolution can be seen by comparing IT Doesn’t Matter (published in the trough of the dot-com bubble in 2003) to The Shallows (written after social media and web 2.0 had re-emerged and proven themselves in 2011).

The first book argued that software was no longer a source of competitive advantage and that the internet revolution had been overhyped. The second book, by the very same author, argued that software companies were now too successful and the internet revolution was causing a fundamental shift in society. While the theses were mutually contradictory, the one common thread was unremitting negativity toward the then-new technology called the internet.

Another more recent example is with Facebook and social media.

Despite piling up 500 million users in six years, in 2010 people were still calling the company a bubble that would never live up to the outlandish $33 billion valuation that people had placed on it. This narrative still held as late as August 2012, as Facebook’s stock plummeted after the IPO and it was an open question as to whether they’d be able to monetize on mobile. By 2017, of course, Facebook made $15 billion in net income in just one year.

Now the questions of whether social media is a fad or Facebook is overvalued have silently faded away. The new question is whether Facebook is an unstoppable monopoly that requires government regulation. This may be a legitimate question; however, it is a wholly different one from the contention that social media was a mere trifle or passing fad.

The blockchain is already midway through a similar path. Lest we forget, bitcoin was initially dismissed as something that could never work due to its deflationary mining schedule. Decade-old macroeconomic textbooks were quoted like holy scripture, as if “Econ 101” was relevant to Nakamoto Consensus and the solution of the Byzantine Generals Problem. Tulips were waved like cloves of garlic. Endless processions of the prominent were trotted out to denounce the heresy.

Hundreds of obituaries and dozens of “bans” later, of course, bitcoin is now worth many billions of dollars. It hasn’t just survived but has thrived, and has given rise to ethereum and dozens of other coins and chains.

But it’s far too early to declare victory.

No longer dismissed as a passing fad, and not yet attacked as a dominant monopoly, today’s argument against the blockchain sector is that it’s a bubble without real use. After all, the blockchain space as a whole is worth hundreds of billions of dollars, but where is the utility? What are the daily use cases? What justifies this value? Why is it not just a bubble now and forevermore?

10x advancementws

So let’s talk about the successes of the blockchain to date, as those often go without saying. There are at least three multibillion dollar sectors where the blockchain has provided quantifiable 10X improvements over the preceding technologies. These are digital gold, international wire transfers, and crowdfunding.

First and perhaps most obviously, bitcoin is a better gold.

Wences Casares of Xapo gave the canonical presentation on this several years ago. Being digital, bitcoin is infinitely lighter than gold of the same value. Large amounts of money can be quickly transported across borders, easily 10X faster than the equivalent amount of gold can be moved. And bitcoin is significantly more divisible and liquid than a gold bar.

Even given bitcoin’s recent issues with transaction fees and wait times (already partially obviated via Lightning), the technical advantages vis-a-vis gold are obvious and at this point well-nigh indisputable. The gradual replacement of gold by bitcoin on many balance sheets and in a wide variety of financial contexts is now just a matter of time and institutional inertia.

Given that the total value of gold is estimated to range into the trillions of dollars, scaling the digital gold application alone can justify the total market cap of the blockchain sector.

Second, consider international wire transfers.

If two startups or contractors on either side of the world want to transact and if both parties are aware of cryptocurrency, ethereum is increasingly their medium of choice. The reasons for this low-profile revolution in global money transmission are simple: ethereum settles in roughly 14 seconds, works 24/7 in any country, allows instantaneous generation of receiving addresses, and is now fairly well known in the tech community. Thus, if you can email someone, you can send them $50,000 in ethereum about as quickly and easily as you can send them an attachment.

This allows medium-scale international deals to close in real time. The vendor emails over an ethereum address, and the customer Docusigns a contract and sends the ethereum. Receipt is confirmed over the phone as both parties hit refresh on Etherscan. The sheer speed of the transaction increases the velocity of business and the trust between geographically distributed partners. Forget same-day transfer; this is same-minute transfer.

We’ve personally seen this exact use case many times. While it’s not obvious how many people are using ethereum in this way, it is obvious that it’s far better than wires for those that are. To gauge how widespread this use case is, we spoke to Peter Smith, CEO of Blockchain for this article, who noted that “a significant fraction of our tens of millions of users are using the Blockchain Wallet to enable large, fast cross-border transactions. We may publish statistics on this in the future.”

In theory, this use case will soon face competition from banks, who will adopt SWIFT gpi and bring settlement times down. But in practice, international wires still take multiple business days to clear while ethereum reliably clears within seconds — and has for years. Ethereum also saves both parties a trip to the bank during business hours, as ETH transactions can be sent between any pair of devices at any time of day.

In this case, the real world utility of a blockchain-based technology has actually been underhyped. It is already 10X faster than SWIFT, and has been for some time.

As a third example of what the blockchain has already done for us, consider crowdfunding. Most folks in tech know of Kickstarter, Indiegogo and GoFundMe. But when considered internationally, the sector is even bigger than you might think. It was estimated to be in the billions annually and growing fast even before January 2017. And then came the year of ICOs and token sales.

With almost $9 billion worth of token sales and ICOs consummated within the span of about a year, we have entered a completely new age for crowdfunding. To put this in perspective, just three years ago ethereum itself raised about $15 million in what was then one of the largest crowdfunders of all time. But the advent of ICOs and token sales completely demolished all previous records. As with gold and international wire transfers, the use of blockchain technology empirically introduced a 10X improvement, allowing international crowdfunders on the scale of hundreds of millions of dollars to occur for the first time. And thanks to the blockchain, tens of millions of dollars from all around the world could now be sent and settled within 30 seconds.

Please note: remarking on these totals is meant to offer neither praise nor criticism of the specific projects which have raised these funds. It is simply important to note that blockchain-driven improvements in crowdfunding technology have enabled financings of an unprecedented scale and speed, literally 10X larger and faster than what came before. And while many regulatory issues still need to be worked out to fully mainstream ICOs and token sales, it is quite possible that the blockchain will go on to transform not just crowdfunding, but venture capital itself.

Flaws are fixable

The three application areas outlined above — digital gold, international wire transfer, and crowdfunding — demonstrate that blockchain-driven 10X innovation is already here.

The remaining obstacles are related to execution and distribution. The fundamental zero-to-one innovation in these areas is no longer in question and has been obvious to people in the space for years.

One counterargument is that these 10X improvements may indeed exist, but not everyone can yet avail themselves of them.

Note, however, that this is a significant step back from the claim that “nobody has come up with a use case for blockchain after 10 years,” as the number of parties that can benefit from these three use cases includes every entity with gold on the balance sheet, every business with transnational trade, and every organization raising money online.

While scaling the blockchain-driven 10X advantages out to all these entities will doubtless take some time, it will also reliably generate billions in value.

Another counterargument is that the new technologies are not superior in all respects.

What about vitcoin’s volatility? What about the fact that everyone doesn’t yet accept ethereum in lieu of a bank-based wire transfer? And what about the regulatory issues surrounding crypto crowdfunding?

Each of these is a legitimate objection, for which we can furnish an answer.

To address volatility we need companies to sell the traditional instruments for managing volatility, like collars. To get more folks to accept crypto as a means for international wire transfer means getting more users for exchanges on both sides. And to address the regulatory issues surrounding ICOs and crypto-crowdfunding, we’ll have to spend time with policy makers and heads of state.

But these kinds of objections miss the forest for the trees. A new technology is typically not mildly superior to an existing technology in every respect but is instead 10X better on one key axis. That 10X improvement draws customers and provides the capital and rationale for fixing the other defects.

The early iPhone camera is a good case in point — while far worse than a dedicated digital camera in most respects, it had one 10X advantage going for it: its ubiquity as a bundled piece of a network-connected smartphone. That led to a rapid rise in use and a concomitant rapid investment in the feature set of network-connected, phone-based cameras.

We’re seeing a similar phenomenon with blockchain-based technologies, where their 10X advantages mean they are gaining ground despite their largely remediable flaws.

Conclusion

There is no dearth of articles on how the blockchain will eventually disrupt everything. I actually believe we will see most of the envisioned use cases come to pass, though some will take years or decades to fully play out and will go through multiple iterations before succeeding. Over the next few years, I’m particularly bullish on ethereum games and blockchain-based social networks and marketplaces.

But that long-term bullishness comes from an empirical reckoning with the concrete successes that the blockchain has put on the board to date.

It is only because the blockchain has already done so much for us that I expect it to do so much more.

Checklist image via Shutterstock.

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Sberbank Buys Commercial Bonds Issued Over Blockchain Platform

Russian bank Sberbank CIB and telecoms firm MTS have conducted what they say is the country’s first commercial bond transaction made using blockchain.

MTS announced Tuesday that it had placed commercial bonds of 750 million rubles ($12.11 million), with the primary buyer being Sberbank, using a proprietary blockchain platform provided by the National Settlement Depository (NSD) and based on Hyperledger Fabric 1.1.

The bonds issued have a maturity of 182 days with an annual coupon rate of 6.8 percent and were placed on OTC market, according to a press release. The transaction used the “delivery versus payment” (DVP) method of settlement and was compliant with Russian legislation, it adds.

Andrey Kamensky, VP of finance, investments and M&A at MTS, commented that the successful blockchain transaction was carried out through “the entire settlement chain, from security placement and cash receipt to fulfillment of all obligations to the investor.”

Kamensky added:

“MTS intends to continue employing blockchain-based solutions, primarily in financial markets, due to [the technology’s] clear advantages in increasing transaction transparency and the participants’ confidence, while substantially reducing transaction costs.”

As reported by CoinDesk, the NSD, the central depository for Russia’s largest securities exchange group, announced trials of its Hyperledger-based commercial bond trading platform in October 2017. At the time, Raiffeisenbank Russia had already tested the system with the purchase of $10 million-worth of bonds in a mobile phone network.

According to Eddi Astanin, chairman of the board at NSD: “The pioneering transaction with Sberbank and MTS confirmed blockchain’s status as an efficient industrial technology providing confidentiality and speed during securities settlement.”

Sberbank image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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‘BitLicense Refugees’: ShapeShift, Kraken Talk Escape from New York

If you wanted to hear red-meat rhetoric about New York State’s regulatory approach, a fireside chat Tuesday between two of the cryptocurrency industry’s most outspoken leaders delivered.

For example, the audience at Consensus 2018 in New York City cheered when ShapeShift CEO Erik Voorhees invoked a local icon to make the case that the state’s BitLicense was a case of regulatory overreach.

Here we are two miles from the Statue of Liberty and you cannot sell CryptoKitties in the state without that license. That’s the absurdity of what’s happened here,” he said.

And Jesse Powell, the CEO of Kraken, got some laughs at the expense of former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

When Scheniderman’s office sent a request for information to Kraken (along with several other exchanges) earlier this year – three years after his company stopped doing business in New York – it felt like “a slap in the face,” Powell said.

But then “it turns out this asshole actually slapped people in the face,” he quipped, referring to the allegations of physical abuse that forced Schneiderman to resign shortly afterward.

Yet between these zingers and applause lines about the BitLicense – which both executives blame for driving their companies out of state – there were subtler points made. The conversation highlighted the challenges facing both the industry and regulators worldwide as governments come to terms with the ramifications of cryptocurrency.

Powell, for example, pointed out the tension between anti-money-laundering regulations and customer privacy protections. In the case of the BitLicense, he said, Kraken would have had to “disclose all the information about our entire global client base to the state of New York.”

That was not only distasteful, Powell said, but “potentially illegal” under the privacy laws of other countries.

“To service New York today, what we’d have to do is create a special purpose entity just to service New York and completely firewall off” all the exchange’s other users to protect their privacy, he said.

Alternative models

Widening the lens, Powell contended that the U.S. “has really failed” by leaving it up to local regulators to figure out how to deal with cryptocurrencies.

“In others parts of the world, it’s an issue that’s being taken seriously by heads of state – presidents, prime ministers. It’s not something that’s relegated to individual regulators at a state level,” he said. “It should be treated as a national economic and national security issue, maybe even an international issue.”

Powell cited Japan’s Virtual Currency Act as an example of “reasonable” regulation. Although the law is “not perfect,” he said, “we’re already seeing an explosion of business in Japan” as a result of the clarity it brought.

Voorhees, however, held up a different U.S. state as an example of how to do things right: Wyoming, which recently passed a package of five blockchain-related laws.

The two most important ones, in his view, were a law that excludes tokens from being automatically categorized as securities, and another that excludes digital asset companies from being automatically classified as money transmitters.

“That’s the model people should be looking at, they’ve done it the best,” Voorhees said.

And despite using the phrase “statist oppression” early in the conversation to describe his feelings about New York when the BitLicense was created, Voorhees later clarified that he thinks regulators generally have good intentions.

But their aims can be met today by means other than imposing bureaucratic, bank-style regulations on businesses that want to be nothing like traditional financial institutions, he argued.

“The crypto industry and regulators can find common ground in realizing that this incredible new technology can achieve many of the noble goals of the regulators such as protecting consumers,” Voorhees said.

Regulatory hopscotch

Ultimately, though, the two executives depicted cryptocurrency as a highly mobile activity that can easily relocate when any jurisdiction starts to appear heavy-handed.

Powell said Kraken’s main office is located in San Francisco only as a convenience because that’s where he lived when he started the company. Crypto businesses can basically pick up and move anywhere in the world they want to be, he said.

And users need not always move to another place, use a VPN to mask their IP address or even break the law to get around restrictions; Powell shared a tip for New York residents who feel deprived because of the way the BitLicense has limited their cryptocurrency trading options.

“If you’re here stuck in New York and you can’t trade how you want to trade, set up a Wyoming LLC and you can trade through that and have your business trade for you,” he said.

Further limiting regulators’ power, Powell said, the rise of decentralized exchanges will give users even more alternatives.

“If they can’t do what they want on Kraken they’re doing to do it on a decentralized exchange,” he said.

And Voorhees said “regulatory hopscotch” by exchanges and other businesses that move from one country to another is only a symptom of a broader phenomenon that won’t easily be resolved.

He concluded:

“Bitcoin basically broke down the borders of how value moves across humanity. There is no way that an invention like that doesn’t run straight into the jaws of regulations. And that conflict is going to be one of the great themes of my lifetime.”

Photo via Wolfie Zhao for CoinDesk. Left to right: CoinDesk research director Nolan Bauerle, Jesse Powell and Erik Voorhees. 

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Ripple: XRP Payment Pilots Cut Fees by 40-70 Percent

Distributed ledger startup Ripple published the results of its xRapid pilot programs on Thursday,

The report focused on the company’s offering centered around the cryptocurrency XRP, stating that pilot-takers saw significant savings on fees as well as overall transaction times. The company has announced a number of partnerships in recent months with companies piloting xRapid as well as xCurrent, another offering that does not utilize XRP.

Head of product Asheesh Birla told CoinDesk that the company looked at seven pilot projects, finding that the results were fairly similar across the board. As a result, the startup aggregated the data into the 40-70 percent savings released in its report on Thursday. He also noted that transactions across borders only took a few minutes, compared to a period of several days for traditional payments of that kind.

The platforms piloting xRapid recognized that speed, he said, adding “they were like, ‘Wow, this entire thing is happening in a matter of seconds all the way through,’ and that’s just not possible given the way the current legacy financial system works.”

While the transactions from one financial institution to another took a few minutes, the portion actually involving the XRP ledger only took a few seconds, Birla said. The bulk of the time spent was caused by the institutions converting fiat to XRP and back through local exchanges.

“It takes a few minutes to process and send out into local rails,” he said.

Now Ripple plans to focus on moving from pilot programs to full-scale launches, he said, though there is no firm timeline yet for those plans.

“We’re going to continue running pilots and we’re working on putting the final touches on the product. The next step now is moving those customers from pilot to production,” Birla explained, adding:

“With financial products and payments, there is no Silicon Valley ‘move fast and break things,’ we really have to make sure we’re buttoned up from security standpoint, from the compliance standpoint.”

XRP token image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Crypto Data Site CoinMarketCap Releases iOS Mobile App

CoinMarketCap, the popular cryptocurrency market data site, has released its first mobile app.

The Tuesday release – which is currently only available for iOS users – comes as the site marks its fifth anniversary since launching in 2013. CoinMarketCap lists prices for hundreds of coins and tokens as well as trading volume data for exchanges. The site has become one of the most-visited in the world, ranking 174th in Alexa’s global rankings.

According to a post by the company published alongside the app’s release, CoinmarketCap has received 60 million unique visits tus far in 2018.

“The space has really evolved in the past five years and so have we,” CEO Brandon Chez said in a statement. “So we thought for this anniversary, it would be nice to do something big for our users.”

CoinMarketCap’s app is available from the iTunes Store free of charge and includes ads. It has earned 12 ratings at the time of writing, all of them five stars. The company also unveiled a new logo Tuesday.

Amidst growing interest in digital assets, ConiMarketCap faces increasing competition. Thomson Reuters, an established data provider, has added bitcoin, ether, litecoin, bitcoin cash and Ripple’s XRP to its data offerings. The company is also offering indices based on data from CryptoCompare, CoinMarketCap’s less-trafficked rival.

App image via CoinMarketCap

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Fear and HODLing at MIT: Blockchain Experts Weigh Impact of SEC Crackdown

Regulation: It’s good for you, but it’s going to hurt.

That seemed to be the main takeaway for the cryptocurrency industry from Monday’s Business of Blockchain conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

On the one hand, the event was clouded by speculation that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) may go as far as to classify two of the top three coins by market cap, ethereum and Ripple’s XRP, as securitiesSuch a determination could subject a wide swath of industry members to legal penalties – far beyond the promoters of recent initial coin offerings (ICOs) who were already on alert the last few months.

Those fears were reinforced late in the day when Gary Gensler, an old lion of financial services regulation, confirmed for the crowd that in his view, bitcoin’s two largest rivals may fit the description of securities in U.S. law.

“Ripple Labs sure seems like a common enterprise, or the Ethereum Foundation in 2014,” said Gensler, a former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. “Ripple is doing a lot to advance the value of XRP.”

(The so-called Howey test says something is a security under U.S. law if it is an investment in a “common enterprise” offering an expectation of profits from the efforts of others.)

Yet, on the other hand, the general sentiment at the event was optimistic about regulators’ growing involvement in the space.

Neha Narula, director of the Digital Currency Initiative at MIT Media Lab, for example, told CoinDesk insufficient regulation can actually stifle innovation by deterring honest players because rampant scammers undermine market integrity.

And aligning with Gensler, Narula said, there need to be more honest conversations about the fact that many emerging cryptocurrencies are actually securities.

However, there may not be a bright line separating the two.

As Narula said:  

“We’re realizing money versus equity isn’t a binary choice. It’s a spectrum.”

Coming pain

And that realization could have a serious impact on the cryptocurrency industry.

Patrick Murck, counsel at Cooley LLP and fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, told CoinDesk the token economy could be on the verge of a dramatic shift if the SEC agrees with Gensler.

If ether and XRP are deemed securities, cryptocurrency exchanges and general industry promoters or foundations, or anyone who sold or evangelized projects like ethereum to the general public, could be subject to legal penalties.

“It would be like shooting fish in a barrel,” Murck said, adding:

“There’s nothing magical about the blockchain that absolves you from investor protection regulations if investors have to trust you to deliver something.”

Driving that point home, Gensler in his talk cited several reasons that the way ethereum and XRP were issued and traded seemed to meet the definition of securities.

For example, the 2014 ethereum crowdsale would have created an expectation of profit for the people who purchased tokens before the network went live.

“The Ethereum Foundation offering had a 50 percent appreciation right in the first 42 days written into the offering,” Gensler said on stage. (The industry think tank Coin Center in Washington, D.C. promptly issued a statement that “ether is not a security,” rebutting Gensler’s argument.)

Meanwhile, for issuers of new tokens, it’s almost impossible to walk the line, even with more feedback from regulators and lawyers.

For example, so-called airdrops, once viewed as a way to avoid breaking securities laws by simply sending free tokens to people who already have some type of cryptocurrency wallet, are instead creating a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation.

If issuers fail to collect information about recipients of airdrops, they may inadvertently violate international sanctions (what if that wallet belongs to someone in Iran?). On the other hand, if they do collect such information, the airdrop may start to look like an investment in regulators’ eyes, according to Murck.

“The SEC has interpreted the first prong of the Howey Test broadly,” Murck told CoinDesk. “The collection of information may be enough to fit the first prong” – pegging an airdrop as “an investment of money.”

Long-term gain?

Even so, Murck joined others at the conference in welcoming regulators’ participation in the space.

“They’re becoming a part of our blockchain community and that’s a valuable thing,” Murck said.

Part of the value is clearing up uncertainty.

The shortage of such clarity was illustrated during a talk by Kathleen Breitman, a co-founder of the Tezos project.

When asked whether securities regulations apply to her project’s tokens, Tezzies, she responded:

“I don’t know. I don’t mean to play coy, I’m not just an attorney…I would recommend token holders comply with relevant laws.”

But Gensler said legal clarity is slowly emerging in this red-hot market.

“If you do an issuance now, in April 2018, do it under U.S. securities laws,” said Gensler, who is now a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, “It’s better to bring it into a public policy framework, even if there’s a little bit of a chill.”

And perhaps some cooling off would be healthy. MIT’s Narula said she is deeply concerned about the lack of due diligence completed for many, if not most, cryptocurrency projects. Just because the code is open source doesn’t mean that knowledgeable people have evaluated it.  

“A lot of investors don’t know that. They go by signaling,” Narula said. “A lot of projects have had some pretty fundamental flaws that were exposed only after a project launched.”

If nothing else, the excited chatter in the halls of MIT suggested that regulatory encroachment has yet to put a damper on the energy being channeled into blockchain tech.

Amber Baldet, the former JPMorgan Chase blockchain expert, said what makes her optimistic about the space, writ large, isn’t skyrocketing coin prices or even regulatory clarity on the horizon. It’s the explosive growth of this community in the wake of the 2017 boom.

“In order to have an internet of value, people are going to have to interact with each other,” Baldet said, speaking to the need for an ecosystem that includes everyone from enterprises like her former employer to accredited investors to retail investors.

She concluded:

“You meet thousands of people tackling these challenges in unique ways.”

Image via Annaliese Milano for CoinDesk.

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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JPMorgan Trial Puts Debt Issuance on a Blockchain

JPMorgan Chase has partnered with National Bank of Canada and other major firms to trial a blockchain platform aimed to improve the debt issuance process.

As reported by Reuters, the investment bank said in a statement Friday that the trial, which took place on Wednesday, mirrored a $150 million offering the same day by the the National Bank of Canada of a one-year floating-rate Yankee certificate of deposit.

The trial also saw participation from Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Pfizer, Legg Mason Inc’s Western Asset and others.

David Furlong, senior vice president of blockchain at National Bank of Canada, said in a statement that blockchain technology “has the potential to bring about major change in the financial services industry.”

Based on JPMorgan’s Quorum blockchain, the debt-issuance platform took over an year to build, according to the report.

As reported by CoinDesk in March, the bank is currently mulling spinning off the Quorum project as an independent company.

A spokesperson for the bank declined to comment on what they called “speculation” at the time, but said that “Quorum has become an extremely successful enterprise platform even beyond financial services and we’re excited about its potential.”

However, Umar Farooq, head of blockchain initiatives for JPMorgan’s corporate and investment arm, confirmed the move to Reuters in today’s report, saying that discussions are in the early stages and the bank has had interest from financial institutions in the project.

The open-source Quorum blockchain was launched in 2016 as a permissioned version of ethereum. In October 2017, it notably integrated the zero-knowledge security layer (ZSL) from privacy-focused public blockchain zcash.

The technology obscures all identifiable information about a transaction but still provides the ability to audit those transactions.

JPMorgan image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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