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Navigating Bitcoin, Ethereum, XRP: How Google Is Quietly Making Blockchains Searchable

Navigating Bitcoin, Ethereum, XRP: How Google Is Quietly Making Blockchains Searchable
It’s a balmy 80 degrees on a mid-December day in Singapore, and something is puzzling Allen Day, a 41-year-old data scientist. Using the tools he has developed at Google, he can see a mysterious concerted usage of artificial intelligence on the blockchain for Ethereum. Ether is the world’s third-largest cryptocurrency (after bitcoin and XRP), and it still sports a market cap of some $11 billion despite losing 83% of its value in 2018. Peering into its blockchain—the distributed database of transactions underpinning the cryptocurrency—Day detects a “whole bunch” of “autonomous agents” moving funds around “in an automated fashion.” While he doesn’t yet know who has created the AI, he suspects they could be the agents of cryptocurrency exchanges trading among themselves in order to artificially inflate ether’s price.
“It’s not really just single agents doing things on their own,” Day says from Google’s Asia-Pacific headquarters. “They’re forming with other agents to have some larger group effect.”
Day’s official title is senior developer advocate for Google Cloud, but he describes his role as “customer zero” for the company’s cloud computing efforts. As such it’s his job to anticipate demand before a product even exists, and he thinks making the blockchain more accessible is the next big thing. Just as Google enabled (and ultimately profited) from making the internet more usable 20 years ago, its next billions may come from shining a bright light on blockchains. If Day is successful, the world will know whether blockchain’s real usage is living up to its hype.
Danish researcher Thomas Silkjaer is using Google's BigQuery to map publicly available information about XRP cryptocurrency addresses. The craters represent some of cryptocurrency's largest exchanges.
Last year Day and a small team of open-source developers quietly began loading data for the entire Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains into Google’s big-data analytics platform, BigQuery. Then, with the help of lead developer Evgeny Medvedev, he created a suite of sophisticated software to search the data.
In spite of a total lack of publicity, word of the project spread quickly among crypto-minded coders. In the past year, more than 500 projects were created using the new tools, trying to do everything from predicting the price of bitcoin to analyzing wealth disparity among ether holders.
When it comes to cloud computing, Google is far behind Amazon and Microsoft. Last year Google pocketed an estimated $3 billion in revenue from cloud ser­vices. Amazon and Microsoft, meanwhile, generated about $27 billion and $10 billion, respectively.
Day is hoping that his project, known as Blockchain ETL (extract, transform, load), will help even the playing field. But even here Google is trying to catch up. Amazon entered blockchain in a big way in 2018 with a suite of tools for building and managing distributed ledgers. Microsoft got into the space in 2015, when it released tools for Ethereum’s blockchain. It now hosts a range of services as part of its Azure Blockchain Workbench. But while Amazon and Microsoft are focusing on making it easier to build blockchain apps, Day is focusing on exposing how blockchains are actually being used, and by whom.
“In the future, moving more economic activity on chain won’t just require a consensus level of trust,” says Day, referring to the core validating mechanism of blockchain technology. “It will require having some trust in knowing about who it is you’re actually interacting with.” In other words, if blockchain is to go mainstream, some of its beloved anonymity features will have to be abandoned.
A native of Placer County, California, Day got his first computer at the age of 5 and a few years later started writing simple programs. A fascination with volcanoes and dinosaurs turned his interest to life sciences, and he ultimately graduated from the University of Oregon with a dual degree in biology and Mandarin in 2000. From there he headed to UCLA to pursue a doctorate in human genetics and helped build a computer program to browse the genome.
It was at UCLA where Day began relying on distributed computing, a concept that is core to blockchains, which store their data on a large network of individual computers. In the early 2000s Day needed to analyze the massive amounts of data that make up the human genome. To solve this problem he hooked many small computers together, vastly increasing their power.
“Distributed-systems technology has been in my tool kit for a while,” Day says. “I could see there were interesting characteristics of blockchains that could run a global supercomputer.”
Hired in 2016 to work in the health and bio­informatics areas of Google, Day segued to blockchains, the hottest distributed-computing effort on the planet. But the talents he had honed—sequencing genomes for infectious diseases in real time and using AI to increase rice yields—were not easily applied to decoding blockchain.
Before Day and Medvedev released their tools, just searching a blockchain required specialized software called “block explorers,” which let users hunt only for specific transactions, each labeled with a unique tangle of 26-plus alphanumeric characters. Google’s Blockchain ETL, by contrast, lets users make more generalized searches of entire ecosystems of transactions.
To demonstrate how customers could use Blockchain ETL to make improvements to the crypto economy, Day has used his tools to examine the so-called hard fork, or an irrevocable split in a blockchain database, that created a new cryptocurrency—bitcoin cash—from bitcoin in the summer of 2017.
Google Cloud developer advocate Allen Day presents his early cryptocurrency work at Google's Asia Pacific headquarters in Singapore in August 2018. DORJEE SUN / PERLIN
This particular split was the result of a Hatfield and McCoy “war” within the bitcoin community between a group who wanted to leave bitcoin as it was and another who wanted to develop a currency that, like cash, was cheaper and faster to use for small payments. Using Google’s BigQuery, Day discovered that bitcoin cash, rather than increasing so-called micro-transactions, as the defecting developers claimed, was actually being hoarded among big holders of bitcoin cash. “I’m very interested to quantify what’s happening so that we can see where the legitimate use cases are for blockchain,” Day says. “Then we can move to the next use case and develop out what these technologies are really appropriate for.”
Day’s work is inspiring others. Tomasz Kolinko is a Warsaw-based programmer and the creator of a service that analyzes smart contracts, a feature of certain blockchains that is designed to transparently enforce contractual obligations like collateralized loans but with less reliance on third parties, like lawyers. Kolinko was frustrated with his blockchain queries.
In December, Kolinko met Day at a hackathon in Singapore. Within a month of the meeting, Kolinko was using Google’s tools to search for a smart contract feature called a “selfdestruct,” designed to limit a contract’s life span. Using his own software in conjunction with Day’s, Kolinko took 23 seconds to search 1.2 million smart contracts—something that would have taken hours before. The result: Almost 700 of them had left open a selfdestruct feature that would let anyone instantly kill the smart contract, whether that person was authorized or not. “In the past you couldn’t just easily check all the contracts that were using it,” Kolinko says. “This tool is both the most scary and most inspiring I’ve ever built.”
Day is now expanding beyond bitcoin and ethereum. Litecoin, zcash, dash, bitcoin cash, ethereum classic and dogecoin are being added to BigQuery. Independent developers are loading their own crypto data sets on Google. Last August, a Dutch developer named Wietse Wind uploaded the entire 400 gigabytes of transaction data from Ripple’s XRP blockchain, another popular cryptocurrency, into BigQuery. Wind’s data, which he updates every 15 minutes, prompted a Danish designer named Thomas Silkjaer to create a heat map of crypto flows. The resulting colorful orb reveals at a glance more than a million crypto wallets, including big ex­changes like Binance and London’s crypto debit card startup Wirex, which are neck deep in XRP transactions.
“Google has been a bit of a sleeping giant in blockchain,” says BlockApps CEO Kieren James-Lubin, who is partnering with Google to sell enterprise blockchain apps. In addition to Day’s work, Google has filed numerous patents related to the blockchain, including one in 2018 to use a “lattice” of interoperating blockchains to increase security, a big deal in a world where untold millions of crypto have been stolen by hackers. The company is also pushing its developers to build apps on the Ethereum blockchain, and Google’s venture arm, GV, has made a number of significant investments in crypto startups.
The giant, it seems, is waking up.
Reach Michael del Castillo at [email protected]. Cover image by Munshi Ahmed.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeldelcastillo/2019/02/04/navigating-bitcoin-ethereum-xrp-how-google-is-quietly-making-blockchains-searchable/#5105408f4248
submitted by dForceProtocol to u/dForceProtocol [link] [comments]

Is Bitcoin really 'useless' if it cannot be used for everyday transactions or can Ethereum and Bitcoin thrive together?

Hi ethtrader - I just posted this article on Bitcoin, where it really belongs. But since the discussions are normally no match for the ones found on here, I would like to get your guys opinion on this.
FYI: I hold more Ethereum than Bitcoin, but am still a strong believer in both. I don't see why they can't lead this industry together, as they have different use cases.
There are so many articles floating around the web about the advantages of Bitcoin, but I feel a large majority of them miss a vital point on why Bitcoin could be this revolutionary asset-class that completely changes the way the average person stores money, especially in Africa and Asia. The recent crazy rise of altcoins has lead to many doubting or hoping for Bitcoin to lose its spot as number one. Considering how long Bitcoin has been around, what it has survived and the recognition it has, I feel so much of this ‘new money’ still don’t believe Bitcoin is here to stay. Many are under the impression that if Bitcoin can’t be used for everyday transactions, it is or will be useless. I am here to argue otherwise.
Satoshi's Vision
Yes, the original vision of Satoshi Nakamoto was that Bitcoin became a peer-to-peer currency, though in the meantime the network has grown so large that transactions can take up to hours during peak times and average fees can range from anything between $3 and $20. These factors severely limit Bitcoin being used as a currency for everyday transactions. Maybe they can be fixed, but what if we look at Bitcoin more as ‘digital gold’, or as I like to call it an inflationary safe-haven asset. In this post I am going to explore the advantages of Bitcoin as an asset-class over traditional asset-classes, such as stocks, funds, gold etc. and why I believe it won’t so easily be dethroned as many like to claim.
As you may have heard over the past few months, Bitcoin has been extremely successful in Venezuela. Their president, or shall I say ‘dictator’, Nicolas Maduro is committing crimes against his people and destroying the economy in a similar way to what Mugabe did with Zimbabwe 35 years ago. This has lead to the Venezuelan bolivar depreciating significantly, since August 2016 it has lost over 95% of its value. Therefore it is no surprise that people are turning to Bitcoin.
But why choose Bitcoin over traditional asset-classes, such as stocks, gold or the Swiss Franc?
Ease of Access
Some most likely believe in the underlying technology, others foresee its growth continuing, but most likely a large portion purchase it because of ease of access to a ‘safe-haven asset’. Many people in these third or even second world countries do not have access to the banking services readily available to many of us in the West. In order to buy stocks, gold or fiat currency a minimum capital requirement is needed, with Bitcoin you can purchase almost any amount you wish. Even if Bitcoin is worth $1 Million one day, you would still be able to purchase $1 worth. Now some will argue that traditional asset-classes are regulated, less risky and have far lower volatility than Bitcoin. At the moment I couldn’t agree more, but in the long term, once Bitcoin has really gone mainstream and this huge influx of money has slowed down, we will most likely see a far more stable Bitcoin. It seems the opening of futures trading has already managed to calm Bitcoin down, though this may just be temporary since the run over the last couple months was so unprecedented.
Costs of holding Bitcoin
In the developed world anyone with internet access can buy Bitcoin. In third world countries it is slightly more difficult to purchase cryptocurrencies and they therefore often trade at a premium. Commissions vary from 0.1%-1% dependent on country, with third world countries being at the upper end. This is still better than traditional asset-classes. Even the cheapest stockbroker sites charge $5+ per trade and an additional fee for outgoing transfers. Gold is even more expensive, as commissions vary between 1–2%, with an additional 1–2% in the form of an annual holding fee. For cryptocurrencies we will likely see a completely decentralised exchange, as Binance claims in their whitepaper. Fees will decrease with time and the availability to trade fiat for crypto-assets will increase. Once you have purchased Bitcoin there are no costs, as there are with traditional investments. No costs arise from just holding Bitcoin, you don’t pay a management fee and definitely no annual fee to the bank for holding your money, which they reinvest anyway to profit for themselves.
No central authority or spokesperson
This I believe is one of the greatest advantages of Bitcoin. It can be held for free and easily transferred to whomever you choose without having to use an intermediary. Now I am sure many of you are aware that this isn’t just unique to Bitcoin. But Bitcoin offers one unique characteristic that gives it a big advantage over its peers and that’s the fact that it has no central authority and no spokesperson. No person’s actions can directly affect Bitcoin in the long term, in the short term yes, we all saw what Jamie Dimon managed to do after his ridiculous comments back in October. Though Bitcoin recovered quickly and this time with a vengeance!
The downturn because of this event is due to the people not being able to fully wrap their heads around the concept of Bitcoin, the public is not yet convinced that it is here to stick around. But as time progresses such comments will have less and less of an impact on the price. Now you can claim that having Vitalik Buterin as a spokesman is beneficial. Though, as much as I love him and think he is a genius, I am sure there are others out there who think he is too geeky or too young to be the CEO of a beast like Ethereum. Inevitably humans are also prone to making mistakes, as an example just look at how Roger Ver’s interviews can negatively and positively affect the price of Bitcoin Cash or how Donald Trump’s actions affect the Dollar. Therefore, by having a community calling the shots, with no one person as a focal point, you minimise these risks, whilst providing more stability. I am sure this is one of the reasons why Satoshi Nakamoto has not revealed himself.
Trust
Furthermore, the longer Bitcoin stays around, the more trust it gains and slowly but surely the number of critics sink, (and start offering their clients the option to purchase Bitcoin futures). Bitcoin has a massive first mover advantage and outside the realms of the cryptocurrency fanatics many will know what Bitcoin is over the word cryptocurrency. Some may have heard of Ethereum or Bitcoin Cash, but that’s normally as far as it goes. People are far more likely to trust something that has a proven track record, a name they have heard of multiple times through friends or the news, is often more appealing than something unknown. For example when purchasing a laptop are you going to buy a new make that claims to be better, faster and cheaper but has only been around for a few years, or go for a make that is well known and has a proven track record that it works. Now since most of you reading this are early adopters you may be more willing to take a risk and purchase a new make, but the large majority are going to go for a Dell, HP, Apple, Acer etc. Unfortunately, we have this herd mentality ingrained into us and most tend to follow the accepted trends, through which we minimise our risks.
Problems that probably need addressing
There are currently some disadvantages to Bitcoin that need to be addressed, such as the slow transaction times and high fees, but I do not see these being a big hindrance to Bitcoin becoming a so-called safe-haven asset in the long term. With time I am confident these issues will be addressed, though even with them, Bitcoin still offers more advantages over the traditional monetary system than disadvantages. It has no minimum capital requirement, no upkeep fee, low commissions and is in theory deflationary. The slow transaction times and high costs in comparison to other cryptocurrencies may even incentivise people to hold it for a longer period of time, thus giving it stability.
I strongly believe if people can easily and for a low cost store their money in an asset that is relatively stable we will see a big change in the current banking system. If you have a phone and a data plan, Bitcoin is utilisable. And already, smartphones are in nearly every pocket, even in Africa, and a worldwide internet might already be on the horizon. 2 billion people around the world are still unbanked and if Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general can gain the trust of the people, just maybe we will see these 2 billion leapfrog the traditional banking system, just like many parts of the world leapfrogged landlines and went straight to cellular networks.
But, but Bitcoin Cash?
I have left Bitcoin Cash out on purpose, as it will very likely be far more volatile than Bitcoin for the foreseeable future. It is far too new to be mentioned as the ‘new Bitcoin’, the only reason it's successful is because it was a fork and has the Bitcoin brand name. At the moment it is still inferior to many coins out there and only processes a fraction of the number of transactions in comparison to Litecoin. Only recently did the number of Bitcoin Cash transactions surpass those of the infamous Dogecoin, according to bitinfocharts.com that is. This recent price spike looks artificial and I believe large quantities are locked up by whales, who in turn started the pump. It was no surprise to me that the Bitcoin.com co-founder came out and claimed to have dumped Bitcoin. After all, Roger Ver is the owner of Bitcoin.com, that should make his motives pretty clear.
I am just putting my opinion out there, again not hating on Ethereum, just want to know what your guys opinion on this is.
If you think this article deserves some more exposure, please head over to Medium and SLAP that clap button, or hold it down. Helps a lot with exposure: https://medium.com/@bendylan_93514/is-bitcoin-useless-if-it-cannot-be-used-for-everyday-transactions-81273d6b3287
submitted by RayolCanadel to ethtrader [link] [comments]

Altcoin winners 2017 - what will we see in 2018

Top 4 performers of 2017: (all > 14,000%)
Ripple 36,018%
NEM 29,842%
Ardor 16,809%
Stellar 14,441%
Rest of top 10: Dash. Ethereum, Golum, Binance Coin, Litecoin, OmiseGo (from 9,265% to 3,315%)
Compare this with Bitcoin: 1,318% on place number 14.
Older altcoins like Dash , Ethereum Litecoin show us that there is still enough room for growth, even if the coins are somewhat older. I think the newest one could be Ardor (start july 2016), so we do not have any ICO here.
Interesting though would be to see if we can find something that the top 4 coins have in common and maybe find a way to look for the most likely winners of 2018. That will take some time though and maybe some of you could help? Just a quick guess for now: tx speed and costs are crucial I think, no lending platforms or ICO’s, and we are heading to more practical applications of blockchain not just store value …
At the moment I have my eyes on these ones, although I have to screen them through my findings of the above and maybe we are already too late on these ones:
Tech and practical applications:
Stellar Lumens (XLM)
Request Network (REQ)
VeChain (VEN)
Enigma (ENG)
Siacoin (SC)
Backdoor entries to (semi) closed markets with focus on dApps::
ICON (ICX)
Neo (NEO)
And just for tx speed, community and low costs:
Dogecoin (DOGE)
Byteball (GByte)
Rai Blocks(XRB)
submitted by thommynic to altcoininvesting [link] [comments]

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