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Peter McCormack – Cointelegraph Magazine

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Cointelegraph By Andrew Fenton

For someone who devotes so much of his life to Bitcoin and finance — and who has made and lost a small fortune twice now — podcaster Peter McCormack doesn’t actually seem to care that much for money.

“I did have a lot of money in my life a couple of times,” says the 42 year old on a call from his home in Bedford. “But the wealthiest time of my life was the most miserable. I had a company in London that turned over three million a year. Big team. Money in the bank, good salary,” he says.

“My marriage broke up and I couldn’t have been in a worse place. Money didn’t make a difference. Even if I’d been really rich, I still would have had the panic attacks and anxiety. I still would have been miserable.”

McCormack is in a much better place now, and the anxiety has long since subsided. He’s looking fitter and healthier than he has in years, after giving up drinking and riding his Peleton bike around digital courses for miles and miles during lockdown.

He’s also become one of the most well known and successful crypto podcasters in the industry, with the What Bitcoin Did show downloaded 7.2 million times in total, including a record 569,000 in January alone. As a true adherent to Bitcoin philosophy he transparently reports his finances online, showing the business — including his other podcast Defiance — turning over $71,000 a month and clearing $16,000 in profit.

“We’re not rich, I don’t have a flash car, we don’t have a big house. But we have everything we need. Everything else is just like, more stuff.”

Time rich

While he’s still amassing piles of Bitcoin, McCormack places a much higher value on his time and independence than he does on making money — being able to do what he likes, when he likes, and to spend his days engaged in creative and satisfying work.

“Time is like the most valuable resource you have,” he explains. “I get to wake up every day and decide what I want to do.” After our interview he’s off to do a personal training session in the middle of the day, then he’ll maybe pick up the kids at 4pm and hit the shops. (He has a 16 year old son he lives with and a 10 year old daughter he shares custody for.)

“I just do what the f— I want — and that is the best thing that you can have, complete control over your time. Would I swap that for more money? No, I wouldn’t at all. I also really enjoy my job. Like I f—ing love what I get to do. So I’m content. I mean, apart from having a good wife, I have everything I need in life, and money is not going to get me more of what I need.”

McContradictory

There are a bunch of apparent contradictions when it comes to McCormack. He’s a big muscly Bitcoiner with tatts and a beard who nevertheless sees major benefits in yoga, meditation and veganism.

He comes across like a Bitcoin maximalist, but when he hosted a debate between Blockstream’s Samson Mow and Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin, he went out of his way to try and be impartial and fair. In person, he’s considered and thoughtful, while on Twitter he is adversarial, or a bit “punchy” as he describes it. 

“I’m just f—ing winding people up,” he says. “I just think Americans don’t understand the humour.” McCormack says he also uses Twitter as a sounding board to work through his ideas.

“People often say my Twitter personality is not like my podcast — it’s because my podcast is me. My Twitter is just like a tool. Twitter’s a tool.”

I can’t resist: “And are you a tool on Twitter?”

“I am a definitely a tool on Twitter,” he laughs.

Not left or right or in the centre

He’s also difficult to pin down politically. Despite his crypto libertarian sympathies he can see the arguments in favour of lockdowns, especially given the UK has one of the worst death rates in the world. A self described socialist in his youth, he says he went “through a phase of being like conservative” and now says he just takes each issue on its merits.

“That kind of f—s with people because I’m conservative on some issues and I’m liberal on others. It’s just the way I think. I’m a bit bolshie because I just see through a lot of bullshit.”

He’s willing to change his mind too. A year or two ago he tweeted that he’d probably vote for Trump if he was American. But by the end of Trump’s term he’d put out a podcast series called Chaos about what an utter disaster his presidency had been. He says he was initially drawn to Trump as a loose cannon, challenging the status quo and trying to drain the swamp.

“What I realized over time is just that he is not a stable enough or rational enough character to deal with the nuance. So for example, there are problems with the media, but to call all media which disagrees with you fake and then retweet Breitbart articles, this is not really an honest position. When I started looking into [former Treasury Secretary] Steven Mnuchin I realized he didn’t drain the swamp he just did exactly the same. And now I realize he’s just a complete f—ing moron.” 

Of course, this sort of attitude doesn’t go down well with the red meat eating, guns and freedom subculture of Bitcoiners and he says his anti-Trump stance lost him up to 500 followers a week. “What I realized is there are a lot of secret Bitcoin Trump fans. People who I thought were anarchists now seem to be Trump fans.”

He puts it down to a lack of trust in institutions and the media, enabling seemingly rational people to believe conspiracy theories about a stolen election. “They’re so easily debunked. But people just distrust so much that they will believe any nonsense.”

Music magazine mini mogul

McCormack got an early start in the media as a teenager, putting out his own music fanzine with friends and trying to flog it at concerts. He even scored interviews with Korn, Pantera, Biohazard and Skunk Anansie, but shuttered the mag after four issues due to the workload.

When he started a music management course at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College around the turn of the millennium, he considered resurrecting it as a website. But unable to afford to buy a site, he spent a summer working in a pub during the day for three British pounds an hour and learning to build his own sites from a book at night.

It was a smart move, leading to contracts for 1,000 pounds a week building websites, and eventually to the founding of his own web building, social media and marketing agency with a friend, called McCormack and Morrison in 2007. It grew to turnover 2.7 million pounds a year at its peak. “It did quite well, grew to 35-40 staff with a big office in Covent Garden,” he says.

Crash and burn

But in 2014, his life went off the rails spectacularly. Three months after marrying the mother of his two kids, he discovered she’d been having an affair with his best friend for a year. “My marriage breakup was awful,” he says. “I haven’t had another relationship since and that was seven years ago.”

He suffered severe anxiety for a couple of years after — best characterized as feelings of terror and existential dread combined with panic attacks where you’re sure you’re going to die. “These panic attacks were awful,” he says. “Like every time you think you’re dying. Like once I collapsed on a tube, I thought I was dying:

“Any little pain in your stomach it’s like I’ve got f—ing cancer. That’s it. It was awful, I had it for like two to three years quite bad.”

Drugs will fix it

McCormack also fell down a rabbit hole of heavy drinking and cocaine use. He first used Bitcoin to buy drugs via mail order from Silk Road, scanning the reviews for the highest quality gear.

“It was Amazon for drugs and it was brilliant. I remember being so excited when a package would come,” he says. One time a package arrived in the middle of the day, and he thought he’d just try a cheeky line to see if it was any good. 

“I ended up doing the whole lot, about three grams in a day, and I was a f—ing mess,” he says. He was carted off to hospital in an ambulance, his heart beating at 200 beats per minute with a suspected heart attack. Fortunately it was the much less serious supraventricular tachycardia brought about by his next level drug consumption. 

But this was the rock bottom point he needed to turn his life around. He remembers lying in a hospital bed thinking that six months earlier he’d been married, in charge of a company and that everything had been great.

“And now I haven’t got any of it. And I’m essentially a drug addict and an alcoholic, and a terrible father and my company is collapsing. And yeah, so the company ended up folding, but then everything kind of just started getting better.”

“I cleaned up my act instantly”

Reluctant to take medication, he asked his doctors for alternatives and they suggested running, meditation and yoga. So he got addicted to that instead and became a vegan for good measure.

“I pretty much ran every day for a year, lost loads of weight, I was in great shape, running up 40 miles a week,” he says. “Now I don’t get anxiety, I mean, very occasionally, maybe like, once every six months, something happens but very minor.”

His mother got very sick from cancer, and he volunteered at her hospital. It was while buying her some cannabis as medication on Silk Road that he rediscovered Bitcoin.

“I was about ready for what I was going to do next in life. And then Bitcoin happened, it was just a weird chain of events.”

That was December 2016 and he ploughed 23,000 pounds into Bitcoin and crypto over the course of the following year which grew into $1.2M during the all time high and all of a sudden his fantasies about buying the Bedford Town football league and turning around their fortunes seemed eminently possible.

He admits his conversion to Bitcoin came about simply because he was making bank. “I was making lots of money. That was really it. It’s only when I started to do the podcast that I started going beyond the money side, and got very excited about what it meant.”  

The Ice Man commeth

Of course, everything came crashing down in Crypto Winter and he ended up committing Maxi-blasphemy by selling most of his Bitcoin for the sake of his business. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t want to talk about any of this, having been mercilessly trolled for an article he wrote about it in The Guardian

For that matter, he also doesn’t want to discuss Satoshi claimant Craig Wright suing him for defamation, for fear of giving Wright’s lawyers more ammunition. “I’m purposefully suffocating them,” he says. “I’m fine. It’s just another thing on my to do list every day that I have to think about.”

What Bitcoin Did came about through his friendship with vegan podcaster Rich Roll, who he’d met a vegan retreat in Italy. The first episode came out in November 2017 and he’s recorded more than 300 episodes now with everyone who is anyone in the Bitcoin world, from Brian Armstrong to Andreas Antonopolous and pioneering cypherpunk Whitfield Diffie. He stopped covering altcoins after getting enormous grief for interviewing Bitcoin Unlimited’s Peter Rizun in April 2019.

New horizons

McCormack also has grander ambitions than just talking about crypto, and has branched out into other areas with his Defiance podcast series, which covers everything from the war on drugs, to the employment prospects for former inmates. He’s also told the story of the aftermath of a fatal crash involving band The Ghost Inside in the podcast 1333 Days and investigated Ghislaine Maxwell and Steven Mnuchin

“I think Bitcoin is great. But I just have a creative curiosity to work on other ideas,” he says. “We have journalists and storytellers. And then you have this strange place in the middle where you can be a little bit of both.

“Serial was, I think, one of the first great podcasts that did it. It was journalism, but it was entertainment as well. I kind of like that stuff. I’m really drawn to doing it. You know, trying to craft a story in a way that people are engaged, I find a real challenge.”

The eventual goal is to move towards filming documentaries, and he made a couple of “mini-documentaries” in Venezuela and Turkey immediately prior to lockdown. 

“I want to make films,” he says. “I don’t know if I can make the jump to it. That’s the goal. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, I can see a path to it — but it’s getting there.”





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The crypto whale who wants to give billions away – Cointelegraph Magazine

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Cointelegraph By Andrew Fenton

Like many people in crypto, Sam Bankman-Fried is in it for the money. As the founder of quant trading firm Alameda Research, exchange FTX and DeFi protocol Serum, the curly haired 28-year-old has amassed a $10 billion fortune in just three years in the industry.

Unlike most people in crypto though, he’s building up a fortune in order to give half of it away. An ‘effective altruist’ he’s essentially robbing from the rich, via his preternatural crypto trading strategies, in order to give to the poor. 

“Maybe without the robbing part,” he says. “In the end my goal is to have as much impact as I can, however that is. And right now, I think that’s flowing through donations, so figuring out how I can be able to make as much as I can and donate as much as I can.”

SBF, as he’s sometimes referred to, has been walking the walk for some time now. He spent a couple of months as the director of development at the Centre for Effective Altruism in 2017 and before that, gave away half of his income during his stint on Wall Street. He plans on giving away around 50% of his crypto billions too — but only after he’s finished reinvesting in his ever-expanding empire.

He does donate to causes as they come up however. He was the second largest donor to President Joe Biden’s campaign, after former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, tipping in $5.2 million.

“I was excited about the impact it might have. I basically thought that it mattered what happened in the election.”

Also, the FTX Foundation launched recently. It’ll give away 1% of the platform’s fees and match user donations dollar for dollar up to $10,000 a day. In its first couple of weeks the Foundation has raised more than $2M, mostly in user contributions, with users able to vote on the recipient charities from a carefully curated list.

The old bean bag

SBF’s growing public profile was given a shot in the arm when he was named on Forbes 30 Under 30 finance list for this year. “I’m honored,” he says. “I tend to be fairly forward looking instead of backward look and so it was cool for a bit but it sort of wore off pretty quickly.”

He also came in at number three in the recent Cointelegraph Top 100.

 

 

Famous for sleeping on his bean bag at his Hong Kong office so he never misses a trade, and it seems a key reason SBF makes more money than anyone else is that he’s barely ever off the clock. 

“I’m at the office, well usually 24 hours a day. I’ll sometimes just nap on a beanbag here and obviously shoot the shit with coworkers and sometimes with people online, but mostly its work.”

He doesn’t have a girlfriend or even see many people outside of work, though he makes time to speak with his family back in the U.S. “a few times a week on the phone.” It’s safe to say SBF isn’t the type of person desperate to strike the perfect work/life balance or who even accepts that productivity decreases after the first 11 hours or so at work.

“I think that sort of narrative is substantially oversold and the brutal or inspiring truth, depending on how you think about it, is that the more you put in, the more you get out,” he says. “It’s motivating for me and it’s fulfilling, but you know, another piece of it is that, it’s how I think I can have the most impact.”

How did I get here?

The child of two Stanford Law professors, SBF discovered the Effective Altruism movement during his Physics degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Popularized by philosophers and ethicists including Toby Ord and Peter Singer the movement is focused on pragmatic ways to help others using science and reason to ensure the benefits are maximized, rather than the good intentions and poor outcomes that characterize some charitable organizations. This practical approach also extends to a hard headed examination of the best way an individual can help.

“Imagine the amount of good that you could do working directly for some cause, versus the amount that you could do working on Wall Street and donating to it. In a lot of cases you could probably actually help them out more with the donations. And so basically I checked out Wall Street.”

Friends who’d interned at quant trading firm Jane Street Capital gave him the pathway to Wall Street, and he began working there straight after college in 2014. Why did they hire a physics major with very little financial experience straight out of school you ask? 

It turns out quant trading strategies are “super valuable” trade secrets which means no one teaches the successful ones in Uni degrees. Instead, firms recruit people with raw talent: maths whizzes or people with strong backgrounds in physics or computer science.

“What you need to know about markets, they’ll teach,” he says. He traded a variety of ETFs, futures, currencies and equities and designed an automated OTC trading system. While there he became interested in the insanely profitable arbitrage opportunities in the inefficient crypto markets and set up crypto quant trading firm Alameda Research to profit from it in late 2017.

The whale to rule all whales

Alameda Research has now grown to become one of the biggest companies in crypto with around $2.5 billion in assets under management, although as with his own fortune, SBF qualifies this with some provisos around liquid and illiquid assets.

Alameda is the Moby Dick of crypto whales, responsible for up to 10% of the cryptocurrency moving around the markets at any one time. “I think at particular times it can get up to about that fraction of the volume,” he says. “I think it averages a bit lower. It’s solidly in the group of the five to ten larger trading firms in the space.”

That means any trade Alameda takes has the potential to move markets and cause liquidations. In October last year, Alameda was widely blamed for crashing the price of YFI by shorting, though SBF has downplayed any impact. He believes that with great power comes great responsibility.

“It’s absolutely a responsibility,” he says, adding that he tries to follow the approach of TradFi quant firms. “Their role is to find profitable trades, but it’s also to provide liquidity and promote healthy markets,” he says. “The biggest duty is the duty to do no harm. And to make sure that what you do is, on the whole, promoting liquidity in healthy markets and efficient trading, as opposed to intervening in it.”

He adds that arbitrage trades, for example, can have positive impacts as it makes markets more efficient and brings down prices where there are premiums. Identifying and working out how to profit from arbitrage trades was the whole reason Alameda was founded. “One of the first big ones that we actually made some money on was Litecoin,” he recalls.

“There was a week in late 2017 when Litecoin was trading at a consistent 20% premium on Coinbase GDAX [now Coinbase Pro]. There’s sort of this idea like ‘Oh that’s cool, you just make 10% every half hour I guess you make infinity dollars?’ And of course, that’s not the answer.”

It turns out that trying to exploit the opportunity was hideously complicated and required, getting around trade size limits, and withdrawal limits of a million a day. “Especially a few years ago in crypto an enormous piece of the problem was figuring out the logistical steps,” he says.

Another arbitrage trade saw SBF and friends move up to $25M a day through a series of intermediaries and rural banks in Japan to take advantage of the famous Kimchee premium, which saw Bitcoin trading for up to a third more in South Korea’s hard to access financial system than the U.S.

But it was dealing with the legacy financial system that threw up the biggest challenges. “The single hardest part of the arbitrage, the piece that was slowest and hardest and most expensive and most frustrating was the fiat,” he says, noting difficulties getting accounts, which could then be shut at any moment, the archaic procedures and bureaucracy and insanely slow wire transfers.

“We spent five man hours per day in physical bank branches for a good solid five months, because that’s what it took to send the wire transfers,” he says, adding:

“Like got there at 10am and stayed till 1pm with multiple people there, to have all the meetings we had to have every single f–king day of the week, in order to send the same wire transfer we sent yesterday.”

This is one reason SBF is so passionate about DeFi – his vision is for it to one day replace the lumbering existing financial system. “The current payment rails are not efficient at all,” he says. There’s trillions of dollars of companies, which are just built around trying to abstract that away and you end up with this incredibly complex web of shit to make it usable for most people. They’re running on systems that are old and not designed even with the internet in mind.”

Crypto influencer

For many people SBF sprang fully formed as a major crypto and DeFi personality during the mid-2020 DeFi boom, as he began to make an impact on Crypto Twitter. This was a deliberate move: he’d been happy to fly under the radar in 2018 because Alameda’s quant trading focus had: “Very little need for publicity, it’s sort of mostly downside.” But when he launched the innovative crypto exchange FTX in 2019 he needed to build a community around it and he stepped up to become its public face on social media.

 

 

“With FTX as a retail facing business the more customers the better. You can build the best  product in the world but if no one knows about it it’s not worth anything,” he says.

“One of the hardest and most interesting pieces has been figuring out how to get users, and increasing awareness was a big part of that.”

He seems to have figured it out as FTX became the fifth largest derivatives exchange by volume, with a $3.5 billion valuation. It’s launched a range of innovative markets, including tokenized fractional stock offerings of companies like Tesla, Apple and Amazon, as well as pre-IPO trading in Coinbase.

He’s also using his wealth and influence to try and overcome what he sees as the biggest blocker preventing the wide scale adoption of DeFi. He believes that Ethereum, including Eth2 can’t scale enough to allow crypto and DeFi to replace the existing financial system. DeFi can currently handle about 10 transactions per second, with second layer solutions enabling a few thousand TPS.

“This is an absolute hard, immoveable barrier, in terms of growth,” he says. “DeFi just literally cannot grow as an ecosystem until that is addressed. And so no long-term plan that doesn’t address it is viable. […] That is just fatal.” Even Eth2’s goal of 100,000 TPS isn’t enough for what SBF has in mind.

“If your goal is to scale to 100 million or a billion users, […] if you want to have the upside of an application that might grow to the scale of the largest applications in the world, it needs to be able to scale up to about a million transactions a second. And so you can just sort of cross off the list permanently with no recourse and not even needing to consider any other factor, any scaling solution that doesn’t get there, if that’s your goal.”

That’s what led him to become one of the most vocal proponents for Solana, a blockchain that can currently process 65,000 TPS and whose team claim it can eventually scale up to astonishing levels: 710,000 TPS on a 1 gigabit link or 28.4 million TPS on a 40 gigabit link.

 

 

He founded the Serum DEX on Solana and launched the SRM cryptocurrency in August 2020. Bankman-Fried say you can see Solana’s benefits in Serum’s on chain order book matching engine and fees of “100th of a penny to send an order and trades happen in seconds.”

“So you get a lot of juice out of having the higher throughput. And that’s really helped scale up that product base quite a bit. To the point where I think that, you know, our best guess is that, probably Serum DEX in six months of operation has, has consumed more transactions than all of the Ethereum blockchain in history.”

Ethereum’s network effects mean he faces an uphill battle getting DeFi projects and users to migrate to Solana. Even after he was handed control of SushiSwap by Chef Nomi, he was unable to convince the community to port over. “It ended up being way harder than we thought to get the existing projects to port over and way easier to just have new projects built,” he explains, adding:

“We would still be super excited for them to have an outpost on Solana. I think they still may at some point. But I also think that Serums’ gonna march on either way. In the end, like, I sort of want to have the best products and users, you know, however it gets there.”

(Following our interview, a new proposal emerged to build a version of SushiSwap on Solana and Serum, potentially called Bonsai.)

Although SBF says the network effects of having so many interconnected applications built on Ethereum are substantial, he points out that eventually each project will have to “migrate and break composability and tooling with the existing options” in order to switch to layer-two, Eth2, or some other scaling solution. In terms of user numbers he says ETH’s network effects are overstated.

“The other part is that while the current DeFi user base is super devoted, super important and powerful, it’s not that large. Daily active users, I think it’s in the tens of thousands. I think FTX probably has more daily active users than all of DeFi combined.”

SBF’s plan appears to be to embed the Solana blockchain as infrastructure in apps where it’s invisible to most users, in order to onboard millions into DeFi. At the start of 2021, Alameda led a $50 million funding round to embed DeFi style tools in Maps.me, a European offline mapping application with 140 million users. It’ll have a multi-currency wallet with staking and swapping facilities built on Solana. FTX’s purchase of Blockfolio may follow a somewhat similar strategy.

“I think it’s gonna be a really cool product and powerful product suite for the app,” he says of Maps.me. “I’m super excited about it. I think it might really kickstart adoption.



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What are privacy coins and how do they differ from Bitcoin?

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Cointelegraph By Benjamin Pirus

Cryptocurrencies are typically pseudonymous, but not necessarily private. Bitcoin (BTC) and other assets run on blockchains, with each transaction posted publicly online. During a transaction between two or more parties, assets move to different wallets, each represented by a string of characters. 

With these addresses and transactions visible to all, however, a certain level of trackability exists, especially if a wallet transfers funds to an exchange requiring Know Your Customer verification.

Certain crypto assets, which are often referred to as privacy coins, private coins or anonymous coins, attempt to hide information about transactions, giving users more privacy. Why might someone need privacy if they are not doing anything illegal? It could be preference or a view of privacy as a basic human right could be two reasons. Cash is largely private. Every transaction is not recorded somewhere for all to see with the click of a button.

A number of possible methods exist for adding privacy to Bitcoin, including peer-to-peer trading, although multiple crypto assets focus on privacy more directly via their technology. Some familiar privacy assets in the crypto space include Monero (XMR), Zcash (ZEC), Verge (XVG), Beam and Grin. Dash also makes it on the list, as it allows for added anonymity, although the coin is not technically classified as a privacy asset.

Monero

One of the industry’s most well-known privacy-focused assets, Monero came on the scene about seven years ago, having spurred numerous headlines in the years since. Monero prides itself on decentralization, touting origins that back such stated values. “It was a fair, pre-announced launch of the CryptoNote reference code,” Monero’s website says. “There was no premine or instamine, and no portion of the block reward goes to development.”

Monero, a coin based on its own proof-of-work blockchain, touts multiple different privacy technology features, per its website, including stealth addresses and RingCT. Added to XMR in 2017, “RingCT, short for Ring Confidential Transactions, is how transaction amounts are hidden in Monero,” Moneropedia, the explanatory section of the asset’s site, explains.

Monero piqued the interest of the United States government in the latter part of 2020. The Internal Revenue Service put out a bounty on the asset’s head, promising as much as $625,000 in exchange for cracking the coin’s privacy tech. Two blockchain analytics outfits, Integra FEC and Chainalysis, took home the prize just a few weeks after the IRS announced the bounty.

Zcash

Zcash hails as another popular privacy-focused asset in the crypto space. It started in 2016 and was initiated by the Electric Coin Company, which is headed up by cypherpunk Zooko Wilcox. Zcash stems from the same code as Bitcoin, according to the asset’s website. ZEC operates on its own blockchain with PoW mining consensus, separate from Bitcoin.

ZEC allows both private transfers, called shielded transactions, and public transactions. “Zcash gives you the option of confidential transactions and financial privacy through shielded addresses,” Zcash’s website explains, adding: “Zero-knowledge proofs allow transactions to be verified without revealing the sender, receiver or transaction amount. Selective disclosure features within Zcash allow a user to share some transaction details, for purposes of compliance or audit.”

Dash (sort of)

Dash is another well-known cryptocurrency hosting privacy features. The entity managing the coin’s development, the Dash Core Group, however, clarified on several occasions that Dash is not a privacy asset, although it comes with elective characteristics for added anonymity.

“Dash is a payments cryptocurrency with a strong focus on usability, which includes speed, cost, ease of use and user protection through optional privacy,” the group’s chief marketing officer, Fernando Gutierrez, told Cointelegraph previously.

“Dash is not an AEC!” Ryan Taylor, CEO of DashPay, said in a January 2021 tweet referring to anonymity-enhanced cryptocurrencies, or AEC — a term used by U.S. regulating bodies. “As a literal fork of Bitcoin, all Dash transactions are completely transparent,” his tweet added: “All inputs, outputs, addresses, and amounts are recorded on each and every transaction and viewable – by anyone – on its public blockchain.”

XCoin joined the crypto world as a 2014 Bitcoin fork, later rebranding as Darkcoin, and subsequently Dash. The asset is based on its own proof-of-stake blockchain.

The coin lets users transact anonymously, if they so choose, through what is referred to as PrivateSend. “The technology that Dash utilizes in our PrivateSend function is CoinJoin, which is a technique for complicating transactions to the point that they’re more difficult for analytics firms to analyze those,” Gutierrez explained, as previously reported.

Verge

A PoW asset running on its own blockchain, Verge exists as yet another cryptocurrency touting privacy capabilities. Verge started with a different name. “Verge Currency was created in 2014 under the name DogeCoinDark,” the asset’s website states, but was later rebranded into Verge Currency.

An open-source asset, Verge enables private transfers through I2P and Tor tech, which conceal transactors’ locations (IP addresses), according to information from BitDegree, as well as previous Cointelegraph reporting.

Verge gained significant price traction in late 2017, hitting highs around $0.31, based on TradingView data. The asset currently trades at roughly $0.023.

Beam and Grin

Grin and Beam burst onto the crypto market in 2019, touting a different technology called Mimblewimble. A type of blockchain technology, the concept of Mimblewimble went public in 2016 as a PoW variation, according to a community submission article from William M. Peaster on Binance Academy.

Grin and Beam launched based on Mimblewimble, although Litecoin (LTC), a long-time prominent asset in the crypto space, has been working on implementing the technology.

“In a MW blockchain, there are no identifiable or reusable addresses, meaning that all transactions look like random data to an outsider,” the Binance Academy article reads. “A Mimblewimble block looks like one large transaction rather than a combination of many,” the article adds, subsequently diving into other aspects of the technology.

Privacy coins and regulation

Government overwatch on privacy coins has grown in recent years, as shown in part by the IRS’ efforts against Monero’s technology. Privacy coin references also surfaced in the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s proposed regulation on self-hosted crypto wallets in December 2020.

“Several types of AEC (e.g., Monero, Zcash, Dash, Komodo, and Beam) are increasing in popularity and employ various technologies that inhibit investigators’ ability both to identify transaction activity using blockchain data,” the December document said referring to anonymity-enhanced cryptocurrencies. Additionally, South Korea outlawed anonymity assets in November 2020.

Some crypto exchanges have delisted the abovementioned assets. In October 2019, OKEx Korea ceased trading on its platform for Monero, Zcash, Super Bitcoin (SBTC), Dash and Horizen (ZEN). BitBay removed Monero near the beginning of 2020. Bittrex removed Zcash, Dash and Monero from its exchange in January 2021. A number of other crypto platforms have also delisted privacy-enhanced assets over the past year or two, including ShapeShift.





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Beeple on his 5040 day labor of love – Cointelegraph Magazine

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Cointelegraph By Elias Ahonen

At the age of 26, Wisconsin web designer Michael Winkelmann began creating a new piece of digital art in his personal time every single day. He calls them ‘Everydays’.

“I saw a pretty big step-up in the work that I do,” he says. “The ‘Everydays’ are basically just the pictures that I do every single day, and I’ve been doing those for over 5,000 days now.”

Thirteen years later Beeple, as he’s better known, has been commissioned by huge acts like Justin Bieber and Imagine Dragons and he emerged in 2020 as a trail blazing figure in the NFT community. His digital art collections have fetched record prices in the millions at NFT auction houses including Rarible and Nifty and he’s about to take a major step into the mainstream, with Christies offering a collage of 5000 Everydays pieces at auction from Feb. 25 until Mar. 11.

“This monumental digital collage marks the first time Beeple’s work will be sold at a major auction house,” Christies said in an announcement. “It’s also the first-ever purely digital artwork (NFT) to be offered at a traditional auction house, with its authenticity assured thanks to blockchain technology,”

Beeple’s work touches on politics and pop culture, with a typical example being a recent image depicting Amazon’s Jeff Bezos as an octopus that he created on the day that the billionaire announced his upcoming retirement as CEO. Winkelmann says his daily ritual has made him a better artist.

“The broader message with this entire Everyday project is just about practicing and looking at things long term. I look at it as one long-term project. And so, incrementally improving and just sticking with something.”

NFT artist Beeple has created a new digital artwork every day for 13 years. (beeple-crap.com/everydays)

 

Winkelmann, 39, only discovered NFT’s around four months ago, and immediately set to work converting his freely available Instagram art into highly sought after digital collectibles. In November he sold an election-themed digital collectible for $66,666.60, and a December auction brought in $3.5 million dollars. While one piece went for as much as $777,777, he also sold hundreds of images for $969 each of which have since gained in value exponentially.

NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token, which means each token is unique and thus distinct from other tokens. Unique tokens make it possible to designate them as representing ownership of specific digital goods, allowing for transferable ownership of digital images, texts, or even in-game items.

“I think it’s just going to be seen as the digital art revolution. I truly believe this is the start of the next chapter in art history.”

The Wisconsin artist says that while everything is reproducible on the internet, NFTs allow for individual ownership of a piece even though it is copied and circulated widely.

“I’m very open with allowing people to share stuff and post it wherever,” he says. “You can’t police the f—ing Internet. You post on the Internet, it’s the f—ing Internet! The cool thing about the blockchain is that you can kind of have it both ways.”

He adds that NFT’s are a “very advantageous way of collecting art, because it will live on as long as the blockchain lives on, and it can take all different forms.”

 

Turning point

Last December, Winkelmann hit the crypto news headlines after he auctioned off a collection of digital artworks for $3.5 million on the Nifty platform. While the previous 13 years of Everydays accompanied a steady career progression of better clients and ever-increasing paychecks, he wasn’t quite prepared for “overnight” success.

“That was the big shift where it was like ‘oh shit this is it’, this is a crazy opportunity to look at my work that I never really thought about as being collectible, and now suddenly it’s like ‘wow this is very collectible!’”

But he points out he wasn’t a starving artist before the auction: “[Many people] think this is a little bit more rags to riches than it is. I was making pretty good money before.”

While he credits his success to a large social media following and established name as “one of the most well known digital artists,” Winkelmann acknowledges that he was also in the right place at the right time with little competition.

“There’s a lot of low hanging fruit […] In more mature spaces, you really need to come up with a fantastic idea to stand out, everybody has already got the easy shit. It feels like there’s still a lot of easy shit to try.”

Nevermind by Beeple
Nevermind by Beeple, created April 29, 2020 (beeple-crap.com/everydays)

An artistic revolution

It is said that art is either plagiarism or revolution. The art world is in a constant state of redefinition, and it’s normal for new styles to begin as underground ‘degenerate’ movements that struggle for acceptance in the established art world. In this way it’s similar to cryptocurrency, which was first dismissed and derided by traditional investors and institutions, many of whom are now re-evaluating.

In the past, Winkelmann says that neither graphic art, nor graphic artists, could really exist in the traditional sense. No graphic artist could truly sell their personal work — they had to work as artisans because working as an independent digital artist was not an option.

“It wasn’t. There was just no way to collect your work. The technology did not exist, and the market did not exist… Everybody was just, you know, freelance, or they just had a job or whatever.”

This means that the innovation of NFT’s representing ownership of digital art represents a pivotal moment in art itself: art no longer needs be a physical item to be sold and displayed, but is equally legitimate as a digitally expressed and cryptographically transferrable manifestation of the artist’s mind.

Winkelmann said the upcoming Christies auction of his collage will be another milestone, as its a major auction house conducting “their first ever 100% digital auction. There will be no physical piece; they’re literally just auctioning off a JPEG. And so, I think that will be a very big moment, and big validation for this space. They’ll also be accepting Ether for this auction for the first time ever.” (Christies auctioned a combination physical work/NFT piece last year for $130,000.)

“Whoever buys it, I will work with them in the future to be like ‘okay, so how do we want to show this?’ Do we want to project it on the side of a building, do we want to make a giant canvas of it? Do we want to put it on a big screen? The artwork itself can take a bunch of different forms; that’s the beauty of digital art.”

 

Banksy on it

Beeple’s NFT journey from avant-garde to acceptance follows an arc not dissimilar to other hugely successful artists like Banksy, whose graffiti stencil art reliably sells for millions today. “20 years ago that wasn’t the case. That was vandalism. Like graffiti is not, you know, ‘art’, it’s vandalism.”

Indeed, we need not go far back in time to find similar narratives within the blockchain space. Back in early 2018 Cryptokitties, one of the first NFT projects, was slowing down the entire Ethereum network causing people to accuse the lovable but useless NFT cats of ruining Ethereum.

It is an unfortunate arc d’art that experimental artists are often under-appreciated in their time, with the likes of Van Gogh and Monet dying in obscurity before achieving wide recognition for their work. “So are you saying I’m going to die?” Winkelmann asks sarcastically but with a hint of existential dread, to which I reassure him that he appears well ahead of his historical peers. He agrees. “I feel very lucky to be in this position, especially so young to be able to capitalize on this.”

While he may now have a lot of money, Winkelmann won’t be rushing out to buy a Lamborghini.

“Honestly, I’m really just putting it back in, making more and more art and cooler projects that I didn’t have the ability to do […] anybody who is collecting my artwork, I very much look at them as ambassadors, and they’ve sort of given me that money to like ‘OK there you go, go do even cooler things’, and that’s what I want to do. I want to do bigger projects, that obviously requires more money, or hiring people, or this or that.”

Considering his generous art budget, I suggest an NFT Bitcoin Lamborghini that comes with a real, physical lambo as a bonus physical token. “I think that’s a good idea, that would be great! Is it a green or a yellow lambo?” he asks. “I’ve got to figure out something like that, I feel like that would be very interesting.”

I tell him I’m claiming a 10% cut on that idea. Beeple laughs. “You’ve got your royalties all set up there!”

 

Endgame by Beeple
Endgame by Beeple. Created Jan. 6, 2021 in response to the Capitol insurrection. (beeple-crap.com/everydays)

Art markets re-imagined

Speaking of royalties, NFTs open up new opportunities for artists because the pieces can be programmed so that whenever they are sold, a 10% royalty payment is returned to the artist.

This means that if an artist originally sells a piece for $100 and the buyer sells it to someone else some months later for $1,000, the artist will double their earnings to $200. Even more exciting, a $100,000 sale will net the artist $10,000 even years after the original sale, and the artist’s great grandchildren could theoretically benefit from the sale of the art a hundred years after the fact. In this new order, artists have a lifelong relationship with and ambassadorship to their pieces. “When you buy one of my NFT’s, it’s the beginning of us having a relationship,” says Winkelmann.

There are several platforms in which NFT’s can be traded. Winkelmann prefers Nifty Gateway, owned by the Winklevoss twins, for his sales. He’s far from a cryptocurrency maximalist, preferring instead to make his blockchain-enabled artwork as widely accessible as possible.

“The things I liked about Nifty is that they accept credit card payments. And again, I look at the NFT’s and the blockchain as sort of a means to an end, and not like the end. It’s one of these things where nobody really cares how credit cards work. They just work, they make your life easier and that’s how I look at NFT’s”

He adds: “Nobody’s going to give any shit about how NFT’s work or what blockchain they’re on.”

 

 

Until recently, a large portion of NFT art has been decidedly close to the ideas surrounding cryptocurrency and blockchain, giving them a sort of meta-quality. Winkelmann believes this will change, as NFT’s are merely “the mechanism used to make these, prove provenance, prove ownership. I don’t think moving forward it’s going to have as much to do with crypto.”

Crypto- themed art will certainly continue to exist, he says, but as “a subset of digital art”.

Future visions

Winkelmann believes that everything is being digitized, and our lives will soon revolve around virtual and augmented reality. This recalls the concept of The Metaverse, which refers to an ongoing, shared 3D space that connects various virtual worlds together. It was originally described by Neil Stephenson in 1992.

This future may be closer than we think. Twenty 1/1 NFT’s in Beeples latest auction were purchased for $2.2 million by an NFT fund (yes, such things exists) for the purpose of launching VR digital art galleries in several virtual words including Cryptovoxels, Decentraland and Somnium Space. The pieces were bundled together along with virtual land and museums, and tokenized as the B.20 token so that anyone can own a piece of NFT history. Winkelmann says we’re only just getting started exploring the possibilities:

“I think we will look back fondly on the days when we were just glued to our phones as the ‘good old days’. The alternate realities that people are living in now will be nothing compared to the alternate reality people will be living in when AR really becomes a very viable thing and people are wearing these headsets all day. I think you’re gonna see some f—ing crazy shit happening.”

 





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