Senate Banking Committee Remains Open to Idea of Digital Dollar in Tuesday’s Hearing. If you want a measure of how far things have come in terms of the acceptability of the digital dollar idea in Washington from something that a year or so ago would have been a nutty, fringe idea, read the opening paragraph to Nikhilesh De’s writeup of this hearing: “Not every U.S. lawmaker is on board with the idea of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) or digital dollar, but no one explicitly rejected it during a hearing of the powerful Senate Banking Committee.”
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While both the Bitcoin and Ethereum networks are powered by the principle of distributed ledgers and cryptography, the two differ technically in many ways. For example, transactions on the Ethereum network may contain executable code, while data affixed to Bitcoin network transactions are generally only for keeping notes. Other differences include block time (an ether transaction is confirmed in seconds compared to minutes for bitcoin) and the algorithms that they run on (Ethereum uses ethash while Bitcoin uses SHA-256).
And while Ethereum fans crow about there being 12 times more wrapped bitcoin on their platform than the mere $9 million locked in the Lightning Network’s payment channels, the latter is making inroads in developing nations as a payment network for small, low-cost bitcoin transactions. Unlike WBTC, which requires a professional custodian to hold the original locked bitcoin, Lightning users need not rely on a third party to open up a channel. It’s arguably more decentralized.
This system is being fueled by a global innovation and development pool bigger than Bitcoin’s. As of June last year, there were 1,243 full-time developers working on Ethereum compared with 319 working on Bitcoin Core, according to a report by Electric Capital. While that work is spread across multiple projects, the size of its community gives Ethereum the advantage of network effects.
Decentralized exchanges (DEXs), which allow peer-to-peer crypto trading without centralized exchange (CEX) taking custody of your assets, have integrated WBTC into their markets to boost the liquidity needed to make them viable. Sure enough, DEX trading volumes leapt 70% to record highs in June. (It helped, too, that June saw a surge in “yield farming” operations, a complicated new DeFi speculative activity that’s easier to do if you maintain control of your assets while trading.)
This expansion in DeFi’s user base and market offerings is in itself a boost to security. That’s not just because more developers means more code vulnerabilities are discovered and fixed. It’s because the combinations of investors’ short and long positions, and of insurance and derivative products, will ultimately get closer to Nassim Taleb’s ideal of an “antifragile” system.
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ZIMBABWE ACCIDENTALLY LEAVES DOOR OPEN FOR CRYPTO. Here’s a recipe for creating a fertile environment for alternative payment systems: outlaw the system everyone is currently using. When the Zimbabwean government made the nutty step of banning digital payments – used for 85% of transactions by individuals, due to severe shortage of cash – it clearly wasn’t trying to promote bitcoin. In forcing people to go to a local bank to redeem funds locked in popular payments apps such as Ecocash, its goal was to protect the embattled Zimbabwean dollar. In a statement, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, said the move was “necessitated by the need to protect consumers on mobile money platforms which have been abused by unscrupulous and unpatriotic individuals and entities to create instability and inefficiencies in the economy.” The thinking is that Ecocash, which enables currency trading, is making it easier for people to dump the local currency. But here’s the thing: Ecocash, which said it suspended cash-in-cash-out functions (presumably because its banking lines will be cut) is still keeping in-app payment facilities open. And it said nothing about stopping its fairly popular service allowing people to buy cryptocurrency. Not surprisingly, since the ban “demand for bitcoin has skyrocketed,” according to African crypto news site, bitcoinke, with “sources claiming bitcoin is now selling at at 18% premium above the market rate.”
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