These Entrepreneurs Are Building the Blank Canvas of the New Internet 1 728

We need a new internet. This HTTP stuff is left over from the ‘90s. It’s corporate controlled in the post neutrality world, susceptible to government censorship, inaccessible to many with nearly half the world’s population still unable to connect. It increasingly needs a more streamlined makeover.

Or at least a little house cleaning. How many apps can we possibly have? How many passwords and accounts? How much content can we cram in here? What do we do with the ever growing graveyard of dead links, old MySpace accounts and cat memes, to say nothing of the emptying, generic cruise ship we call Facebook drifting steadily away from relevance? One possible answer: clean the slate. Start again. This time with something more efficient.

Imagining the Internet 2.0

By some indicators, blockchain could be the thing to supplant the internet as the de facto way we create, communicate and store data. But how will we see it widely implemented without it first becoming more user friendly to the layperson? SMBs and entrepreneurs don’t necessarily have a background in programming, nor have the skills to set their business up on the blockchain. Learning to program or hiring a team of blockchain devs isn’t always within reach to the average SMB, to say nothing of individual artisans or small nonprofits.

By contrast, consider how easy it is to start up a website. You can do it in a few hours, thanks to software platforms that make it easy. You get your URL from GoDaddy, a visual template from WordPress or SquareSpace, who also might bundle in your ecommerce space if you haven’t set that up with Shopify already. It’s because of these SaaS and PaaS third parties that we can web.

If we want to go blockchain, we’ll need a third parties like these to help facilitate it. So where are these platforms? Who’s building them?

The Deregulated Ecommerce Toolkit

Well, Eric Tippetts, for one. Tippetts expects the 2020s to see a shift to blockchain much like the 90s shift to the information superhighway and the 2010s shift to mobile. To speed things along, his company NASGO has created a toolkit called BlockBox, the goal of which is to be the ‘GoDaddy of blockchain’ so people and businesses can start building.

Through BlockBox, which Tippetts cocreated with a development team, you can find and secure a blockchain domain address, like you would with a URL, adapt your existing website for blockchain, and create a custom token. Instead of having to wrap your head around lines of code or hire a dev team, it just takes a couple minutes and a couple hundred bucks.

Tippetts describes NASGO itself as “a decentralized hosting environment that allows content to be seen in every part of the world, opening up blocked boundaries for communication and collaboration.” It also includes a platform for decentralized apps (DAPPS) that could compete with Apple and Google’s app stores.

Their website repeatedly emphasizes the deregulated nature of the product, ostensibly gearing their platform toward the “businesses, developers and consumers” of a sharing and open ecommerce.

A Platform for Public and Private Good

Amber Baldet’s company Clovyr has similar goals, but with a distinctly different tone. She wants people to use their DAPP platform to “build the systems we want to see in the world.”

Baldet left JP Morgan Chase, where she was hired to spearhead their out-of-character blockchain experiments, to found her startup. She recently testified before congress about blockchain regulation and the importance of protecting human rights and privacy early on, while the technology is still in its infancy.

She says that there needn’t be a divide between public and private interests when it comes to blockchain. “It’s very divided, the people that are building things for public chain and people that are building things for ‘permissioned’ or business enterprise kind of chains,” said Baldet in an interview with Fortune. She says that nomenclature isn’t helpful, “because it creates this kind of animosity where we’re saying that big business is on one side and the people or the proletariat are on the other side, when really it should just be about information residing where it makes sense and creating security boundaries that are logical.”

Building a Blank Canvas

In a way, the blockchain is a platform much like the internet itself, a canvas available for anybody to use, whatever their interests and intentions are.

So whatever direction the blockchain internet-nouveau of the future takes, if that’s really what we’re in for, people like Tippetts and Baldet are the architects of its structure. It’ll be up to the rest of to fill it up with content. Hopefully good content. Bring the memes, leave the corporate derelicts.

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I grew up in the Silicon valley under the technological mentorship of Steve Wozniak. I'm a proud member of the Choctaw Nation, I've lived, worked and traveled all over the world, and I now write in the Pacific Northwest.

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Bitcoin Uses As Much Energy As Austria, Could Add 2°C to Earth’s Atmosphere 3 237

Bitcoin mining, it turns out, damages the earth more than more traditional environmental assaults like actual mineral mining.

According to a paper published Monday in Nature Sustainability, the power-hungry Bitcoin mining process consumes more than triple the amount of energy needed to mine the equivalent amount of gold, more than quadruple what’s needed for copper, and more than double what it takes to mine platinum.

Other coins didn’t fare much better. By their measurements, Ethereum and Litecoin consume 7 megajoules of electricity to produce the equivalent of $1, the same energy expenditure as copper mining but more than that of platinum or gold. Monero eats up 14 megajoules to produce $1.

Naturally, these measurements refer to the notoriously variable dollar valuations of such tokens. “While the market prices of the coins are quite volatile,” write researchers Max J. Krause and Thabet Tolaymat, “the network hashrates for three of the four cryptocurrencies have trended consistently upward, suggesting that energy requirements will continue to increase.”

Bitcoin’s Growing Electricity Bill is Bigger Than Some Countries

We’ve long known that Bitcoin is unsustainable. In a 2015 article for Motherboard, Christopher Malmo pointed out that a single Bitcoin transaction used 5,033 times as much energy as a Visa swipe, and could power 1.5 American homes for a day.

The electricity used to crunch Bitcoin code—and its environmental cost—has been growing with its increasing popularity. Digiconomist’s Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index shows Bitcoin currently consuming 73.12 terawatt hours (or 263.232 billion megajoules) of electricity annually. To put that in context, it’s comparable to the amount of energy it takes to power Austria for a year.

That means there are 175ish countries on earth using less energy than Bitcoin (to say nothing of crypto on the whole), while 66 countries consume less energy per capita than one Bitcoin transaction (it takes 94 thousand kilowatt hours of electricity to mine a single Bitcoin).

Iceland, a major hub of Bitcoin mining farms, spends nearly as much energy on Bitcoin as it does powering its residential homes. In this case, the damage is mitigated because most of Iceland’s power comes from renewable energy.

Canada’s Bitcoin emissions are also on the lower end due to renewable energy sources. They’re using this to court mining companies from China, where mining emissions are about four times that of Canada’s. Montreal International attracts foreign investment by calling Quebec the land of “green bitcoin”. This has caught the eye of some Chinese mining companies looking to go overseas as the Chinese government has discouraged expansion and shut down some mining operations altogether.

Depending on Bitcoin’s growth, some have projected that it could use as much energy as the entire world by 2020.

Digital Currency Has a Real Carbon Footprint

Krause’s and Tolaymat’s research reminds us of the sobering reality that all this invisible wealth has real world costs.

For the 30 months they measured between January 2016 and June 2018, they estimate their four featured tokens collectively belched out at least 3 million tons of CO2 emissions, possibly as much as 15 million tons.

These findings follow another study, published last month, which determined Bitcoin alone could add two degrees Celcius to global warming within the next three decades. That’s enough to raise ocean acidity by 29 percent.

Solving Bitcoin’s Energy Consumption Crisis

So what is the solution? If the world were to switch to 100 percent renewable energy overnight, the problem would be moot. But we can’t hold our breath for that. There could be ways of incentivizing clean energy so greener mines reap more coins, or of implementing clean energy in other ways.

It’s also possible to adopt less computationally intensive mining algorithms so the mining computers don’t guzzle as much juice. This would disappoint a lot of old school Bitcoiners who have invested in hardware, but their feelings don’t really outweigh that 2 degrees celcius that everyone will have to live with (or die by).

Whatever the best solution turns out to be, something needs to change soon. Bitcoin is growing up, and it’s time for it to mature into something more sustainable.

Crypto is Big Now. How Do You Pay Your Taxes? 0 150

There are 2070 kinds of tokens in circulation, with a total market cap of $209.5 billion. Bitcoin tokens alone account for $112.4 billion of that.

And while it’s been a bearish year for Bitcoin, a recent survey of fintech leaders anticipates its value to rise 220 percent by the end of 2019. Research by Stasis also supports a promising future for cryptos, projecting a trade volume growth of 50 percent through next year.

Cryptos are more popular than ever. A survey of the intersection between crypto enthusiasts and reddit users found first timers have tended to adopt crypto in step with valuation booms. “The peaks unsurprisingly follow the growth of the cryptocurrency market,” the results read, “with the two biggest years being 2013 and 2017 by a significant margin. Within 2017 the same trend shows, with most people entering crypto May through to August which coincided with the end of Ethereum’s big bull run up to $400 and Bitcoin’s run up to $5000.”

Those surveyed, overwhelmingly college educated males with a median age between 26 and 30, are confident in their knowledge about blockchain and tend towards crypto evangelism. About 40 percent said they check the price of their coins over ten times per day, with 94 percent checking at least once daily.

All This Interest in Crypto Has Alerted the Old Guard

With crypto values rising, and public interest along with it, the federal government has lumbered to life and started investigating cryptospace to the best of their ability. Which apparently means paying others to do it for them. Paying a lot. According to research by Diar, public records show US government agencies like the FBI, ICE, the SEC, and of course the IRS, have cumulatively spent $5.7 million hiring blockchain analysis companies. Two thirds of that spending has been in the last year, since Bitcoin’s big surge.

Perhaps all that analysis will help the IRS to finally clarify how they intend to tax cryptocurrencies. As of now, the only information they’ve released is a brief notice from 2014 mumbling to the public that the IRS is “aware” of “virtual currency,” and they consider it “property.” It’s very little to go on, but their silence and their heavy spending on analysis suggests they’re trying to catch up.

Investors Are Wondering How to Fulfill Their Tax Obligations

Meanwhile, we’re in the fourth quarter of crypto’s most popular year yet, and investors are looking back at the fiscal year wondering what they can do to stay in good standing. But bookkeeping gets complicated with crypto, because transaction data isn’t standardized.

With thousands of cryptos being traded across many different exchanges and every exchange reporting differently, not to mention wallet-to-wallet transactions that don’t involve an exchange, there’s no consistency in how to keep crypto books. If there were industry standards for recording and reporting transactions, that would be another story. But crypto is still young, and let’s be honest, nobody really knows what they’re doing.

So squaring up with tax responsibilities is no simple task. In fact, it’s a bit of a mystery at this point.

Who’s Solving the Problem?

While the fed scratches its noggin, champions of the private sector are stepping in to deliver solutions for companies and investors who need crypto bookkeeping. Libra is one that offers real time blockchain auditing tools “to automate and optimize middle and back office processes and reporting, while improving operational and financial analysis and control.”

Another SaaS to look into, one that’s optimized for the single investor while still useful to a company or a fund, is Profitstance. Their tools are designed to keep you up to speed on the tax consequences of every crypto transaction, again in real time. They say they guarantee the 100 percent accuracy of their calculations, and they’ll pay your IRS fines and interest if they’re wrong. With someone else taking on that much responsibility for your numbers, hopefully you can sleep (and trade) a little bit easier.

Alternatively, you can hire a team of CPAs who know crypto, like those at Camuso, and just let them handle everything for you. For the DIY types, you can use utilities like CryptoTrader.Tax to autofill your 8949 (it’s under development, but you can sign up to get the latest release when it’s ready).

So don’t stress about taxes, even if you’re among the many newcomers to the ever-expanding crypto game. We’re making this up as we fly forward into it, but there are plenty of people offering support to make sure you don’t get caught in a wrestling match with the IRS.

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