# 1. Why Google Data Scientists Are Interested in Ethereum Classic
Google’s big-data analytics platform, BigQuery, just quietly added support for Ethereum Classic blockchain searches along with a range of other cryptocurrency networks. This effort will make it easier for technologists to search the blockchain for specific pieces of data.
This move is just one out of many the ETC community is pushing forward this winter to try to boost the niche cryptocurrency’s role in the broader marketplace, where it currently ranks via the CoinDesk Crypto-Economics Explorer as having less than 1 percent of the network activity displayed by bitcoin and just over 3 percent of the comparable developer benchmarks on GitHub.
Brazilian entrepreneur Edilson Osorio Junior, CEO of the blockchain voting and verification startup originally, told CoinDesk that this BigQuery addition will make it easier for his startup to search for a specific vote or authenticated publication date for a piece of media.
“Retrieving from BigQuery will be so fast, so I don’t need any more to have a local database to be redundant,” Junior said.
Although his company plans to continue operating nodes for their own records, OriginalMy is an anomaly in that it has paying clients like the Brazilian Fintech Association that might require quick queries. Junior said OriginalMy earned $60,000 from such clients in 2018 and is currently participating in the first Ethereum Classic Labs startup accelerator program in San Francisco, which concludes with a demo day in April 2019.
According to Yaz Khoury, director of developer relations at the nonprofit ETC Cooperative, Google’s staff took note of this increased focus on fostering use cases.
“They approached me,” Khoury said of Google, adding that BigQuery support is about “merging the gap between people who are very familiar with the blockchain data structure” and technologists who are more familiar with querying other types of data.
Khoury is already using BigQuery to map out ETC ownership distribution beyond exchanges and the two millionaires who helped grow the ethereum spinoff, ethereum co-founder Charles Hoskinson and Digital Currency Group founder Barry Silbert (full disclosure, DCG is CoinDesk’s parent company).
Now that Khoury said people can search for ETC blockchain data across all of Google Cloud’s BigQuery products – and that hopefully, less-crypto-savvy technologists will experiment on their own as well.
Despite its nascent user base, this Google support comes at a fortuitous time for the ETC community. ETC Labs, funded by the parent company Digital Finance Group, invested $100,000 in six of the projects participating in the inaugural class of the accelerator program.
originally previously participated in Google’s Startup Residency Program in 2017. And if the current ETC Labs accelerator goes well, there may soon be other ETC-centric startups with enough user traction to warrant additional invitations for like-minded projects.
ETC Labs director Elizabeth Kukka told CoinDesk the accelerator’s first batch teams of range from pre-seed projects to full-fledged startups seeking Series A rounds. She says the first class of projects is comparable to the more robust there ecosystem fostered by ConsenSys Ventures and its Tachyon incubator program.
The Ethereum Foundation itself, headed by there creator Vitalik Buterin, has been known to donate to the ETC cooperative, promoting synergy between these ecosystems. However, in addition to cross-industry partnerships, the ETC community wants to establish a support system of its own.
As ETC Labs marketing director Dean Pappas put it, the lab aims to join the blockchain research startup IOHK, which is headed by ethereum classic co-founder Hoskinson, as an institutional partner for the community. The lab now employs roughly nine developers focusing on the ETC blockchain, comparable to the way bitcoin-centric firms like Chaincode Labs and Blockstream devote developer resources to purely open-source work.
“Just like we see Blockstream informing most of bitcoin’s development,” Pappas said. “We see ETC Labs trying to be that.”
Pappas added that ETC-centric startups are going to be able to grow faster now that they have a direct line of communication to ETC core developers.
“We think that this cooperation will lead to faster deployment,” Pappas said.
2. Ethereum Foundation Weighs $15 Million Bid to Build ‘Randomness’ Tech
At the cutting edge of the blockchain, research is a potential $15 million dollar venture by the Ethereum Foundation centered around a technology called Verifiable Delay Functions (VDFs).
Acting as a source of computer-generated randomness that is unpredictable and unbias-able, VDFs are envisioned for use in a highly-anticipated “proof-of-stake”(PoS) system called Serenity which the ethereum network will migrate to in the next few years.
What’s more, the ability to generate secure randomized numbers – if implemented in Serenity – would be a feature that can be leveraged by all decentralized applications (apps) on the platform once integrated into the ethereum codebase.
Speaking to current viability studies on VDF technology, Ethereum Foundation researcher Justin Drake told CoinDesk:
“We’re basically doing all this groundwork to make an informed go, no-go decision on the bigger project. The bigger project is 15 million dollars on that order of magnitude. So we want to make sure that if we do go ahead it’s going to be successful.”
And in terms of making the final decision on the technology, Drake stressed that the process of decision-making would be multi-layered.
“To an extent, we need the buy-in from the wider there community that this is a good idea and that the foundation should be spending this money,” said Drake. “This is something where we can reach rough consensus on public calls.”
For now, Drake told CoinDesk that a number of essential tests will be carried out by ethereum developers before a final “go, no-go decision” is made on the incorporation of the technology into Serenity.
One of these tests, called the RSA ceremony, will require hundreds of randomized individuals spread out across the globe to participate in an experiment which tests the security of random number generation by a VDF.
Outside of the RSA ceremony, there will also be a worldwide circuit competition requiring participants to test and create specialized firmware also called ASICs to run VDF computations.
As Drake elaborated:
“In the VDF, we basically need an ASIC which is very low latency, that is very fast. The so-called circuit – the way transistors connect in the ASIC – needs to follow a clever algorithm … We don’t need it to be the fastest in the world, just fast enough.”
’A fundamental new primitive’
And it’s not just the Ethereum Foundation looking at hosting circuit competitions to build VDF technology.
To this end, the decentralized app network Chia completed their first-ever VDF open circuit competition, awarding a total of $100,000 to relevant participants. The company is said to be gearing up for a second round of competition by “incorporating the solutions from this first round,” as highlighted in a press release.
“If we don’t do a great job of optimizing performance … there are likely to be sudden jumps in the performance of the best VDF that anyone has out there post-launch, which could result in significant network instability,” Bram Cohen, Chia’s co-founder, told CoinDesk.
Outside of China, there are a total of 11 other blockchain companies exploring VDF technology – each with unique plans of their own.
As Revealed to CoinDesk in an interview, the ethereum sidechain POA Network plans to host “a public bounty” for a VDF implementation using the ethereal open-source collaboration platform Bitcoin.
Other than Chia and POA Network, some of the notable crypto projects researching VDF include file storage system Filecoin, smart contract platform Tezos, decentralized app network NEAR protocol and ThunderCore.
The imperative for increased collaboration between all these companies, according to Drake, is all the more needed given that VDFs are “like a fundamental new primitive.”
“It’s quite generic in that sense … It would be nice if the industry standardizes around a single VDF, partly because that would make the various blockchain projects more compatible with each other but it also means that we [wouldn’t] have to reinvent the wheel and [would collectively] pay less,” said Drake.
And while at least one company was previously reported to be in collaboration with the Ethereum Foundation on VDFs, Drake highlights that for now, the foundation is working independently.
Potential for partnership
Unveiled last November, Filecoin had tentatively agreed to split costs for a VDF viability study and reevaluate at a later date whether or not to move forward with the necessary firmware development to bring VDF ideas to life.
A protocol researcher from Filecoin, who wished to remain unnamed, told CoinDesk:
“We’re enjoying the collaboration with the Ethereum Foundation, but at this point, it’s not certain that Filecoin needs a VDF. It could simplify things, but it’s one of a number of options we’re exploring.”
The representative also affirmed that, at present, Filecoin is moving ahead “separately” from the Ethereum Foundation but may “potentially co-fund third party proposals for exploratory VDF research with the Ethereum Foundation” in the months ahead.
As such, Drake highlights that, for now, “the Ethereum Foundation has moved on its own … [funding] various researchers, generally small grants to the order of 10 and 25 thousand dollars.”
But moving forward, Drake estimated that the foundation could come to a decision about whether or not to use the technology in as little as four months time.
“So the various studies that we’ve just kicked off should take four to six months but I think that in about four months we’ll be able to make an informed go, no-go decision,” Drake said.
3. Korean Central Bank Study: Issuing Digital Currency Poses Financial Risk
Researchers from South Korea’s central bank say issuing a central bank digital currency (CBDC) could have negative ramifications for the economy.
The Bank of Korea (BoK) published a study on Thursday, which modeled how a CBDC issuance might affect on liquidity at commercial banks.
It found that if the public could access the theoretical digital currency directly, commercial banks’ demand deposits, or reserves, could be reduced – leaving them with a cash shortfall. That could eventually force them to compensate by raising interest rates on loans, the central bank explained.
“This has negative effects on financial stability, which increases the likelihood of bank panic in which commercial banks are short of cash reserves to pay out to depositors,” the report states.
According to CoinDesk Korea, report co-author Kwon Oh-Ik said that, if a CBDC is issued, “supplementary measures should be taken so that they do not adversely affect financial stability.”
In June 2018, the BoK said that issuing a CBDC could pose a “moral hazard” by adversely affecting monetary policy and destabilizing the economy.
The Bank of International Settlements (BIS), known as the central bank of central banks, also warned last spring that if any country’s central bank is looking to develop and launch a CBDC, it should “carefully weigh” the implications of doing so, especially as they relate to monetary policy and overall economic stability.
On the other hand, Christine Lagarde, managing director and chairwoman of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has encouraged the “exploration” of CBDCs in the light of decreasing demand for cash and the rising preference for digital money.
A November research report from IBM found that most polled central banks believe they should issue a wholesale CBDC, although they were uncertain if blockchain can provide sufficient cost and efficiency benefits.
4. Swiss Stock Exchange SIX Plans Blockchain Platform in H2
Switzerland’s top stock exchange, SIX, aims to roll out a blockchain platform to speed up trading later this year.
Reuters reported Feb. 6 that SIX chairman Romeo Lacher said the planned new SIX Digital Exchange (SDX) will initially operate alongside the existing SIX platforms.
Currently, trade takes several steps to complete, which can take days. However, using a distributed ledger knocks out two of the stages and can reduce the trade lifecycle to fractions of a second, Reuters added.
The report cites officials as having said that SDX will launch offering to trade in certain stocks, with a wider range of stocks and bonds to follow. Exchange-traded funds could ultimately be on offer too, and possibly even tokenized physical assets such as art.
Lacher told the news source that the SIX supervisory board will “probably” make the final decision late in the summer, as it is still working out legal and regulatory issues with Switzerland’s financial markets regulator, FINMA.
SIX first announced the new DLT-based platform last July, with CEO Jos Dijsselhof saying at the time: “This is the beginning of a new era for capital markets infrastructures. For us, it is abundantly clear that much of what is going on in the digital space is here to stay and will define the future of our industry.”
Once the new platform is live, SIX plans to use it itself to raise funds later in the year, according to Reuters.
“We want to start with our own security token offering,” Lacher said.
Last November, SIX announced it would launch the first ever exchange-traded product (ETP) tracking multiple cryptocurrencies. The Amun Crypto ETP goes by the ticker symbol HOLD, and tracks an index the “top 5 crypto assets in terms of market cap and liquidity.”
5. Pablo Escobar’s Brother Says New Crypto Will Fund ‘Impeach Trump’ Effort
Having allegedly been blocked from fundraising on GoFundMe, the brother of deceased drug lord Pablo Escobar has launched a cryptocurrency apparently targeting the impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Revealed on a new website, escobartrump.org, the new token has been dubbed the ESCOBAR and is an ethereal ERC-20-based stable coin it claims will be pegged to the U.S. dollar. The project was founded by Escobar’s elder brother, Roberto.
The website further claims:
“The token came to existence as a tool to raise money for the Impeach Trump Fund cause, where a GoFundMe fundraiser was shut down and censored. Thanks to cryptocurrencies, there are no boundaries to be censored!”
The project is currently holding an ICO pre-sale of 200 million tokens, which launched Wednesday and runs until May 10. Altogether the Escobar estate hopes to sell 1 billion ESCOBARS, according to its white paper. By June, the website claims, the stable coin will be redeemable for dollars via a company in Belize.
Olof Gustafsson, CEO at Escobar Inc., told The Next Web that the plan had been to raise $50 million via the GoFundMe campaign they’d titled “ByeByeTrump.” But after their campaign was blocked on the platform, they’d decided to immediately launch the token, he claimed.
Gustafsson went on to say:
“After raising $10 million in just 10 hours we were shut down by GoFundMe and within 24 hours launched the ESCOBAR stable coin cryptocurrency to avoid anyone censoring us again. We believe the Trump Administration [sic] or President Trump shut us down.”
The GoFundMe claims are yet to be confirmed, said TNW, although it published a screenshot provided by Escobar Inc. purporting to be the campaign page with $10 million donated.
On another site for its Trump impeachment campaign, Roberto Escobar is openly described as the former co-founder of the Medellín drug cartel alongside Pablo, “where Roberto used to be the accountant responsible for over $100 billion in profits.”
Escobar Inc. previously released another crypto called dietbitcoin that seems to have flopped. The website for sales of that token is currently classed by Google Chrome as a security risk to visitors.
Whether this latest cryptocurrency touted by the co-founder of a drugs cartel will do any better remains to be seen. Crypto investors should, of course, carry out extensive due diligence before investing in any coin.