Happy Thursday afternoon to you crypto fanatics. It’s that time of the week where we check in on you to see how you’re doing and let you know about the latest developments in the ever-changing world of coins. We hope your week has been a good one thus far. Do you run your own bitcoin node, or have the full Core wallet? If so, you’re going to want to make an update soon. If not, you should still familiarize yourself with what SegWit is and why its important to the continued survival of bitcoin. We also explore big price movements in a few of the top alts and let Bill Gates explain to you why he still considers cryptocurrency to be a “risky” investment.

Bitcoin Core Gets Upgrade

Earlier this week, version 0.16.0 of Bitcoin Core – the master client/wallet that contains the full version of bitcoin’s blockchain – was released to the public. Originally created by Satoshi Nakamoto, the new version of the software features support for Segregated Witness, commonly referred to as SegWit. The new SegWit feature shortens the average size of transactions by removing data not completely necessary for continued operation of the blockchain. Addition of SegWit to Bitcoin Core was the result of a compromise between two factions within the developer community, better known as the New York Agreement. Markets initially appeared to be enthusiastic about the launch as the price of BTC has climbed over 5% in the last 3 days.

Bitcoin’s potential for maximum scalability has been theoretically hobbled since its existence because of the 1 MB block size limit that caps the amount of transactions that can possibly be included in each ten minute block. As a result, the network has become heavily strained since bitcoin’s popularity went through the roof in 2017. Confirmation times can still take upwards of 6 hours if a priority fee is not assigned to a transaction. SegWit was developed out of the principle that if each transaction contains less data, more transactions can be squeezed into a single block, and thus the network will be better able to handle increased traffic.

the average bitcoin block size has decreased significantly since the implementation of SegWit

When transaction fees shot through the roof in late December (along with confirmation times and the price of BTC), it became obvious to those concerned about the future of bitcoin that changes were necessary in order for it to continue functioning properly as a currency. A series of BIPs (Bitcoin Improvement Proposals) were presented as a solution to the problem, and the winning protocol included the implementation of SegWit. A few losing protocols, unhappy with the compromise reached in the New York Agreement, launched their own versions of bitcoin as hard forks off the bitcoin blockchain.

The most successful bitcoin fork to continue using SHA-256 for encryption is Bitcoin Cash (BCH), which raised the block size limit to 8 MB, and now enjoys a market capitalization of over $21 billion. Though BCH was touted as “the true bitcoin” by its supporters and expected to overtake bitcoin within its first 6 months of existence, it remains a highly speculative investment with little penetration into the economy. It now faces increased competition from the original bitcoin thanks to the deployment of Bitcoin Core 0.16.0.

Even without an increased block size, the original blockchain is projected to grow to over 15 terabytes (15,000 GB) in size over the next five years.

NEO Passes Cardano in Market Cap

NEO, considered to be China’s answer to Ethereum, jolted up 10% over the last 7 days into 6th place in the ranking of cryptocurrency market capitalizations, supplanting the academic-driven Cardano (ACA) from its long-held spot. NEO’s upward move can be largely attributed to a positive investment rating from the Weiss Ratings bureau, who recently changed their grade of the going from a B- to an A-. The rating is a prized honor as the two crypto titans themselves, bitcoin and Ethereum, only managed to achieve C+ and B gradings, respectively. NEO’s market cap of $8.4 billion is still only a tiny sliver of bitcoin and Ethereum’s combined $270 billion.

At least 27 ICOs are in the process of being launched via the NEO blockchain whose outcome will help predict the future value and usability of the platform. In a country that is infamous for its use of a “Great Firewall” to block internet access regarding certain subjects and keywords, as well as for its crackdown on initial coin offerings, the success of NEO also treads lightly on future maneuvers by its home country’s socialist government. Regardless, NEO investors are encouraged by the recent rating and remain confident that it will be China’s go-to as a cryptocurrency platform in upcoming years.

Cardano has been in a downswing for almost the entirety of 2018, falling from an all-time high of $1.26 on January 24th to its current price of $0.30. While the novel blockchain technology underpinning Cardano is thought to be extremely sound and secure, it faces adoption and integration issues experienced by the majority of coins that aren’t bitcoin, and was perhaps overvalued more than other coins coming into the new year. Because its advanced software design renders it potentially faster and cheaper as a currency than bitcoin and many other altcoins, it has the strong potential to rebound if prevailing market conditions don’t encourage a move further downward.

Also in the News

  • Add the Marshall Islands to the list of countries launching their own cryptocurrency. The Pacific Ocean nation consisting of 1,100 islands and 70,000 people is launching the coin to raise funds for citizens effected by the U.S. testing of scores of nuclear bombs tested throughout the 1950s and 60s. It joins Ecuador, Estonia, Sweden, and most recently Venezuela, in the list of countries whose government has formally mandated the creation of a state-backed cryptocurrency.
  • Microsoft founder Bill Gates drew a lot of criticism from the crypto community when he described investing in digital coins as “super risky” during a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) event. In a Reddit post, the now-retired philanthropist had this to say to those considering investments in the highly volatile world of cryptocurrencies:“The main feature of cryptocurrencies is their anonymity. I don’t think this is a good thing. The government’s ability to find money laundering and tax evasion and terrorist funding is a good thing. Right now cryptocurrencies are used for buying fentanyl and other drugs so it is a rare technology that has caused deaths in a fairly direct way.”
  • Realtors in Los Angeles are now beginning to accept bitcoin for payment, joining those in England, Australia, Japan and a host of other bitcoin-friendly countries. For those who can withstand bitcoin’s notorious volatility, real estate is a perfectly suitable scenario for its use as a currency. While only a handful of luxury properties currently accept bitcoin as a method of payment, the trend is likely to continue in the future as the benefits of digital currency become more widely engrained in the minds of consumers.

Bitcoin Core developer Peter Todd demonstrates the wrong way to approach merchant adoption of bitcoin.