Ethereum Tokens Are All the Rage. But What Are They Anyway

Ethereum Tokens Are All the Rage. But What Are They Anyway

Ethereum Tokens Are All the Rage. But What Are They Anyway

Ethereum wants to create an ecosystem where everything works together seamlessly as part of its vision for a 'world computer' – and that includes the tokens required to power it.

Launched in 2014 by a band of coders and an upstart teenager, ethereum was designed to make it possible for anyone to code nearly any type of app and deploy that on a blockchain. Many of these decentralized apps (or 'dapps' for short) needed their own token that could, among other things, be sold and traded easily.

To that end, nearly 18 months ago, the ERC-20 token standard was born.

It's hard to overstate how important that interface has been. By defining a common set of rules for ethereum-based tokens to adhere to, ERC-20 allows developers of wallets, exchanges and other smart contracts, to know in advance how any new token based on the standard will behave.

This way, they can design their apps to work with these tokens out of the box, without having to reinvent the wheel each time a new token system comes along.

As a result, almost all of the major tokens on the ethereum blockchain today, including those sold in the recent surge of ethereum-based initial coin offerings (ICOs), are ERC-20 compliant.

 

Tokens 101

Before delving deeper, it's important to spell out what a token actually is and how it differs from ether, the native currency driving the ethereum blockchain.

As they relate to the ethereum network, tokens are digital assets that can represent anything from loyalty points to vouchers and IOUs to actual objects in the physical world. Tokens can also be tools, such as in-game items, for interacting with other smart contracts.

But put simply, a token is nothing more than a smart contract running on top of the ethereum blockchain. As such, it is a set of code (functions) with an associated database. The code describes the behavior of the token, and the database is basically a table with rows and columns tracking who owns how many tokens.

If a user or another smart contract within ethereum sends a message to that token's contract in the form of a 'transaction,' the code updates its database.

So, for instance, when a wallet app sends a message to a token's contract to transfer funds from Alice to Bob, this happens:

First, the token's contract checks that the message was signed by Alice and that Alice has enough funds to cover the payment

Then, it moves funds from Alice's to Bob's account in the database

Finally, it sends a response, letting the wallet know the transaction was a success.

In contrast to tokens, ether is hard coded into the ethereum blockchain. It is sold and traded as a cryptocurrency, and it also powers the ethereum network by allowing users to pay for smart contract transaction fees. (All computations on the ethereum network have a 'gas' cost.)

When you send tokens to an exchange, for example, you pay for that transaction (in this case, a request to the token's contract to update its database) in ether. This payment is then collected by a miner who confirms the transaction in a block, which then gets added to the blockchain.

Early on in ethereum's history, standards were part of the overall plan to create a user friendly and broadly accessible system. But like all standards, ERC-20 took time to evolve over a series of long discussions and careful considerations.

So, sometime before DevCon1, the first big ethereum conference in 2015, Vitalik Buterin, the founder of ethereum, introduced the initial standards token.

Later that year, Fabian Vogelstellar, one of the developers working on ethereum's Mist wallet, took that standard, changed a few things, and proposed it to the community as ERC-20 to initiate a formal conversation around how the standard should be implemented.

Then in April, due to changes in how the Ethereum Foundation was organizing its GitHub, the ERC-20 standard was moved to a Github pull request.
 

What's inside?

ERC-20 defines a set of six functions that other smart contracts within the ethereum ecosystem will understand and recognize.

These include, for instance, how to transfer a token (by the owner or on behalf of the owner) and how to access data (name, symbol, supply, balance) about the token. The standard also describes two events – signals that a smart contract can fire – that other smart contracts 'listen' for.

Together, these functions and events make ethereum tokens work the same almost everywhere within the ethereum ecosystem. As a result, nearly all wallets that support ether, including Jaxx, MyEtherWallet.com and the official ethereum wallet, now also support ERC-20 compliant tokens.

According to Vogelstellar, who spoke to CoinDesk about the importance of ethereum's token standard, this interoperability lays the groundwork for big changes to come.
 

He said:

"I believe we are just at the beginning of tokenizing everything. Maybe in the future, you will be able to buy a share of the chair you are sitting on, the paint inside your house or a fraction of equity in a huge building complex."

 

Bumps in the road

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that ERC-20 is formally a draft, meaning it is not being enforced and still needs to be fully blessed by the ethereum community. Regardless, Vogelstellar said, every new token will likely conform to its set of rules.

He cautioned, however, that the standard is still young, so there will be bumps in the road. One of those bumps is that sending tokens directly to a token's smart contract will result in a loss of money. That is because a token's contract only tracks and allocates money. When you send tokens to another user from a wallet, for example, that wallet calls on the token's contract to update the database.

As a result, if you attempt to transfer tokens directly to a token's contract, the money is 'lost' since the token's contract cannot respond.

So far, $70,000 worth of tokens have been lost in this manner.

But solutions are in the works. As an extension to ERC-20, ERC-223 attempts to resolve the issue by suggesting a token's contract implement a tokenFallback function to prevent the contract from holding tokens sent directly to it accidentally.

Vogelstellar argued this is all just part of developing a solid system, though, saying:

"Driving with these prototypes can be rocky at times, but ultimately they provide the necessary learning that will bring us to the future of blockchain and smart contract interactions."

 

David Ogden
Entrepreneur

 

Author: Amy Castor

 

David

Top 3 Reasons Not to Use an Exchange Wallet to Participate in a Cryptocurrency ICO

Top 3 Reasons Not to Use an Exchange Wallet to Participate in a Cryptocurrency ICO

Top 3 Reasons Not to Use an Exchange Wallet to Participate in a Cryptocurrency ICO

Even though cryptocurrency ICOs have been going on for quite some time now, a lot of basic questions continue to show up. It appears there is a lot of confusion as to why one should never send funds to an ICO from their exchange wallet directly. There are several good reasons as to why this should not be done, though, as we outline below.

3. TRANSACTION DELAYS CAN COST MONEY

Contrary to what some people may think, exchange wallets do not always send out withdrawals right away. In some cases, it can take an hour or longer until your withdrawal is effectively processed. Depending on which cryptocurrency we are talking about, it may take even longer to get the necessary network confirmations. This is anything but a fun experience, especially when it comes to dealing with a cryptocurrency ICO.

These ICOs often provide early investors with some sort of a bonus. Having to wait until the exchange sends out your funds can result in buying less ICO tokens than initially anticipated. It is not something anyone wants to deal with. Even if an ICO is scheduled to last multiple days, there is no reason not to transfer funds to your own wallet first before participating in a crowdsale.

2. AN EXCHANGE WALLET IS NOT YOUR WALLET

It may be hard for novice users to understand this principle, but a cryptocurrency wallet is not like a bank account. With a bank account, you rely on a third-party service provider to safeguard your funds. That is exactly what exchange wallets are, yet they do not let users spend their funds as they want. You always need “permission” from the exchange wallet service provider to move funds around, which is both annoying and risky.

There is a big difference between an exchange wallet and a private wallet. With a private wallet, you are the only one controlling the wallet address and its associated private key. An exchange wallet is generated on your behalf, yet you have no control over it whatsoever. Although you can freely use an exchange wallet, it is not your digital property by any means. Unless you own its private key, it’s not yours, nor is any of the money associated with it.

1. YOU WON’T GET YOUR TOKENS (RIGHT AWAY)

Perhaps the biggest complication that arises when using an exchange wallet is how the purchased ICO tokens are not yours to control by any means. In most cases, a cryptocurrency ICO smart contract will send money back to the address the deposit was made from. If that wallet is an exchange wallet, the exchange is the actual owner of the tokens you purchased using their wallet. That is a rather disturbing way of buying ICO tokens, yet the end user cannot claim ownership of the tokens, as they do not own the wallet’s private key.

Granted, in some cases, exchanges will eventually support these ICO tokens and return the purchased amount to the customer. However, one has to keep in mind they have no legal obligation to do so by any means. If you send money to a cryptocurrency ICO address from a wallet, you do not fully control as the sole owner, it is your own fault. All ICOs clearly warn users not to send funds from an exchange to avoid any complications.

 

David Ogden
Entrepreneur

 

Author: JP Buntinx

David

Bitcoin prices likely to continue wild ride

Bitcoin prices likely to continue wild ride

Bitcoin prices likely to continue wild ride

SAN FRANCISCO — What goes precipitously up, often comes crashing down to earth.

So it was with bitcoin on Thursday, when the price of the digital currency plunged 19% — its steepest drop in more than two years — after a record run. The volatility remained on full display late Thursday and, as of Friday evening, bitcoin rebounded to $2,484.59.

The cryptocurrency, which flirted with $3,000 on Monday, sunk as low as $2,076.16 in intraday trading early Thursday amid a confluence of bad omens. Tech stocks have recently taken a thumping over concerns about their lofty valuations. Ominous reports from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley suggested bitcoin was due for a reversal in price and required government regulation. The Federal Reserve hiked interest rates Wednesday.

Compounding worries, digital currency exchange Coinbase experienced an outage Monday because of high-trading volume. Another exchange, Bitfinex, on Tuesday said it was under DDOS attack.

Meanwhile, prices for digital currencies ripple and NEM declined the past week, though Ethereum, the second-largest currency, has soared 20% on speculation it will be the top currency. At $371.36, it lags far behind bitcoin in value.

CryptoCurrency Market Capitalizations

"Bitcoin and other digital currencies are experiencing rapid growth these days," says Guy Zyskind, CEO of Enigma, a start-up in cryptocurrency investing. "For this to be sustainable over time, the market has to correct itself from time to time."

The market's wild ride this week underscores "the ebbs and flows of an entirely new asset class," says Bill Barhydt, CEO of Abra, a peer-to-peer payment service.

"While the bitcoin price will likely recover and continue to rise, what we should see in the future is bitcoin becoming a solid store of value, much like gold," says Mihir Magudia, executive director of LEOcoin Foundation. "It will be relatively easy to liquidate but will not be used to commonly pay for goods and services."

David Ogden
Entrepreneur

 

Author: Jon Swartz , USA TODAY

 

 

David

Traders Plan for Correction as Crypto Market Falls Below $100 Billion

Traders Plan for Correction as Crypto Market Falls Below $100 Billion

Traders Plan for Correction as Crypto Market Falls Below $100 Billion

The total value of all publicly traded cryptocurrencies may be at an all-time high, but trader confidence isn't keeping pace.

After rising more than 1,500% from just over $7bn on 1st January, the market is beginning to show signs that its rapid ascent in 2017 may be slowing.

According data from CoinMarketCap, the cryptocurrency asset class fell from a high of $117bn yesterday to just under $100bn today, a period in which more than 80 of the top 100 cryptocurrencies have seen double-digit declines.

While this decline may just be a speed bump in the world of cryptocurrencies, some analysts report it is sufficient enough that they are beginning to reassess their positions in light of recent activity.

Hedging for a crash?

Indeed, several traders spoke with CoinDesk about the strategies they're currently using to hedge against a potential decline in cryptocurrency prices, with some indicating they're employing simple strategies by reducing their holdings.

For example, Charlie Shrem, a bitcoin entrepreneur and over-the-counter (OTC) trader, is in this camp. He reported he's been buying more bitcoin lately, with "less than 10%" of his portfolio in alternative assets.

Marius Rupsys, a cryptocurrency trader and co-founder of fintech startup InvoicePool, took a bolder approach, telling CoinDesk he liquidated his entire cryptocurrency portfolio and has started shorting bitcoin, actively betting its price will go down.

Rupsys predicted:

"There should be larger correction at some point which will cause altcoins to fall and bitcoin to fall at the same time."

While several traders identified portfolio management and active trading strategies as ways to hedge against a cryptocurrency price crash, cryptocurrency trader Kong Gao offered a different solution.

One way to hedge against this decline, he said, is to begin mining on alternative asset protocols, and simply hold the coins they receive instead of selling them.

Irrational exuberance

Elsewhere, Rupsys spoke to how he believes the increasing price has been largely caused by highly optimistic newcomers, a prospect that leads him to believe the bull run could soon fade.

"Many of these new traders are retail traders that have little knowledge of crypto-assets or trading in general," Rupsys told CoinDesk.

He added, many people have contacted him interested in getting rich quick.

Tim Enneking, managing director of cryptocurrency hedger fund, Crypto Asset Management, also spoke to the exuberance in the market.

While cryptocurrencies have been experiencing sharp gains, they will reverse direction at some point, Enneking predicted. Crypto Asset Management has set up stop loss orders to liquidate positions in certain cryptocurrencies should these digital assets suffer an "abrupt crash", he said.

And according to Charles Hayter, co-founder and CEO of cryptocurrency exchange CryptoCompare, a crash is likely. The attention alternative asset protocols have gained lately have highlighted some of this overconfidence, he said.

While there may be no clear signs yet, Hayter is still putting his money where his mouth is, noting CryptoCompare is going so far as to reallocate its active positions in the market.
 

David Ogden
Entrepreneur

 

Author: Charles Bovaird

David

Getting High on Cryptocurrencies

Getting High on Cryptocurrencies

Getting High on Cryptocurrencies

There are now four times as many cryptocurrencies in circulation as fiat currencies.That's amazing. And encouraging.According to the Swiss Association for Standardization, which maintains the International Standards Organization database, there are 177 national currencies currently in use. That list generously includes four precious-metals and four bond-market units (codes XBA to XBD, for the curious).NUMBER OF DIGITAL CURRENCIES753The CoinMarketCap website lists 753 cryptocurrencies, all the way from Bitcoin and Ethereum down to StrongHands and Paccoin (current value: $0.00000014).With a retired basketball star promoting one such incarnation — tied to marijuana — on a recent trip to a repressive Asian nation lying to the north of South Korea, I'm tempted to call Peak Crypto.But let's not kid ourselves: The madness is far from over. Bitcoin skeptics have been eating their words ever since the leading digital currency reached $1,000. January seems like such a long time ago now that Bitcoin is trading above $2,700.

Bruised Bears

Although Bitcoin has climbed 300 percent in the past 12 months, giving its "coins" in circulation a value of $45 billion, Satoshi Nakamoto's brainchild is actually declining in relative importance. From more than 95 percent in late 2013, Bitcoin now accounts for 39 percent of the value of all cryptocurrency in circulation. Ethereum has caught up fast, from 3.9 percent at the start of the year to 31 percent of the total now, according to CoinMarketCap. Ripple is in third place at around 8.8 percent after briefly overtaking Ethereum last month.

VIRTUAL VALUE

The other 20 percent of cryptocurrency value is unevenly distributed among the 750 wannabes along a very long tail. It's possible some will rise to a level of legitimacy that will make them viable in the long term. Many are betting not on mass uptake but on niche acceptance — one pitches itself as the payments platform for online games; another limits the amount of coins to the number of kilometers between Earth and its moon; one seeks to be the official currency of a fictitious nation.

Market Force

Bitcoin remains the world's biggest cryptocurrency, but its dominance has waned

Yet Bitcoin itself remains so niche that the WannaCry hackers reaped a minuscule harvest after infecting more than 200,000 computers, because they insisted on being paid in the cryptocurrency.Just because the boom is ridiculous doesn't mean it lacks momentum — it just tells you that consolidation also is inevitable. Not in the traditional M&A sense, but in the way that messenger apps like AIM, ICQ, Yahoo and MSN quietly gave way to WhatsApp and WeChat, which then led to the ubiquity of instant-messaging technology.Morgan Stanley posited last week that government acceptance will be key to Bitcoin's continued rise, with the flipside being some kind of regulation of the currency. That's probably right, and if proponents of cryptocurrencies think they'll achieve widespread uptake without a nod from the authorities, they're probably smoking something.

David Ogden
Entrepreneur

Author : Tim Culpan

 

 

David

Bitcoin, Ethereum and a New Direction for Cryptocurrency Investment

Bitcoin, Ethereum and a New Direction for Cryptocurrency Investment

Bitcoin, Ethereum and a New Direction for Cryptocurrency Investment

This week CoinDesk released its State of Blockchain Q1 2017 study, which details recent trends, statistics and sentiment around cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.

While the entire report is worth a read (there are some surprises), two slides especially caught my attention. When put together and compared with current data, they point to what could be a fundamental shift in market dynamics.

Now, why would investors give up bitcoin to buy into ethereum? Either they believe that bitcoin will soon start heading down – slide 62 shows that almost 45% of respondents are negative on the cryptocurrency – or that it could continue to go up, but that ethereum will increase by even more. Either way, we’re looking at an asset reallocation.

If you take a look at the ether trading volumes today, though, you see a different picture.

The volume of fiat purchases of ether has shot past that of bitcoin to account for approximately 70% of volume (at time of writing). A large part of that growth is due to a jump in interest from South Korea, but US dollar purchases have also increased significantly.

This looks like ‘new money’ is coming into cryptocurrencies and choosing ethereum over other alternatives. Bitcoin’s trading volume is also increasing (and still dwarfs that of ethereum), but not by as much.

What could this mean?

While trading data of a few weeks does not necessarily translate to new market trends, it could hint at a shift in portfolio prominence. While bitcoin has traditionally been the main cryptocurrency holding for both private and institutional portfolios, ether is emerging as a strong contender.

One interesting effect from this will most likely be a change in the conversation. It should move from the 'bitcoin isn't money' diatribe, to one of 'what can ethereum do?'.

Although over 85% of our survey respondents felt that ether could serve as a currency as well as bitcoin could, it has never worn the currency cloak like bitcoin has. Ether has traditionally been positioned more as a ‘digital token’ that can engage with scripts and contracts, and can be used to enable apps across a wide range of sectors.

From an asset allocation and a sentiment perspective, ether’s rise in prominence is encouraging. A shift in focus from threat to innovation would be more constructive for all, and should push development in the cryptocurrency sector even further.

From an asset allocation and a sentiment perspective, ether’s rise in prominence is encouraging. A shift in focus from threat to innovation would be more constructive for all, and should push development in the cryptocurrency sector even further.

David Ogden
Entrepreneur

Article by Noelle Acheson

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, CoinDesk.

David