Crucial Bitcoin Scalability Topics to be Discussed at New Scientific & Academic Workshops

Bitcoin Magazine
Crucial Bitcoin Scalability Topics to be Discussed at New Scientific & Academic Workshops

“This is going to be the most important Bitcoin conference of the year,” said Warren Togami, Technical Project Manager of Blockstream and Scaling Bitcoin committee member. Judging by the scope and focus of these ambitious workshops, he might not be exaggerating.

The timing of the announcement on August 11 could not be more apt. On August 15, core developer Mike Hearn announced the launch of the Bitcoin XT hard fork, in a Medium blog postIn his post, Hearn asks, “Why can this dispute not be resolved in some more civilised manner than an outright split?” His conclusion? “Put simply, the decision making process in Bitcoin Core has broken.” The Scaling Bitcoin workshops appear to be poised to address this specific dilemma.

On September 12 and 13, the first of two Bitcoin scalability workshops will be held in Montreal, Canada. Hosted by CryptoMechanics, sponsored by about a dozen companies, and underwritten by Blockstream, Chaincode Labs, MIT Digital Currency Initiative and Chain, this first phase of proposals and presentations will focus on setting the stage for further discussions in phase two, which will be held in Hong Kong at a later date.

Billed as an inclusive and transparent forum for Bitcoin’s engineering and academic community — “No exhibit booths. No distractions.” — the workshops hope to “aid the technical consensus-building process,” removed from the emotional vitriol that has come to characterize much of the debate surrounding scalability and the future of Bitcoin.

“We have to take the politics and drama out of what needs to be a highly technical discussion,” says Togami. “We’re looking for science-based ideas with simulations and testing on how to improve scalability as a whole.”

Planning Committee Chair Pindar Wong of VeriFi (Hong Kong) Ltd., in an interview with Bitcoin Magazine, emphasized the need for “transparent, reproducible data — not opinion.” As such, the workshop committee is asking for presentation proposals. The goal is to allow for the consideration of a diversity of points of view, studies, simulations and proposals from around the world. These proposals will be presented using an academic structure.  

“A lot of people are talking about scalability, and a lot of material is being produced,” said committee member Jeremy Rubin of MIT. “It’s hard for anyone to read everything and stay on top of all the ideas out there. This will give people an opportunity to be heard in an open and respectful environment.”

Togami agreed with Rubin, adding, “The issues are complex. Even experts can’t synthesize everything they hear in one day.”

This need for sober reflection and consideration is also the reason why the organizers insist that there will be no debates, and no decisions or pronouncements on scalability will be made during the workshops.In fact, the first workshop in Montreal will not be hosting sessions on the topic of any specific proposals involving changes to the Bitcoin protocol. It is intended to set the stage for phase two in Hong Kong where participants will share results from experiments performed as a result of phase 1 and discuss new developments.

The Bitcoin Scalability workshops’ commitment to openness, inclusion and transparency is evident in their attendance models. Early bird tickets are priced at $150 USD until September 3, but interested participants who are unable to travel to Montreal are invited to watch the livestream via IRC. Presenters also have the option of applying for a limited number of travel subsidies.

“This is not a bunch of people at a closed door meeting,” Rubin emphasised. He acknowledged that while in-person, face-to-face conversation is the most effective way to share information, it’s not always practicable. But organizers are trying to remove as many barriers to participation and inclusion as possible.

While there are opportunities to support the workshop through sponsorship or by becoming an event underwriter, Togami stressed another vital way that companies can support the workshops’ aims: “Send us your best engineers.”

Proposals for presentations can be submitted until September 12, 2015. The committee encourages prospective participants to post a paper, simulation results and source code or “whatever other type of research material” they have. However, they point out that publishing a paper is not required, provided there is an adequate presentation plan and summary. Their main goal is to ensure that all good ideas are given consideration.

“In the end,” said Wong, “everyone wants Bitcoin to scale and to succeed.”

For more information about attending a Scaling Bitcoin workshop or submitting a presentation proposal, visit the Scaling Bitcoin website.


Photo Robert Scoble / Flickr (CC)

This post has been updated to add information about Mike Hearn’s BitcoinXT proposal.

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Coinify Acquires Coinzone in a Deal That Accelerates the Consolidation of European Bitcoin Services

In May Bitcoin Magazine reported on the European expansion initiatives and plans of two European Bitcoin startups, Coinify and Coinzone, respectively based in Denmark and The Netherlands.

“We expect to raise [funds] to make sure that Europe will be playing a leading role in this new payment space,” said Coinify Chief Financial Officer Christian Larson.

“Growing European demand for Bitcoin means more and more consumers want a simple and secure way to transact,” said Coinzone co-founder and CEO Manuel Heilmann. “Our aim is to make it easy for European consumers to do more with bitcoin.”

Both companies expressed the need for Bitcoin solutions tailored to European users. In particular, some aspects of European regulations, both national and European Union (EU) -wide, must be addressed – for example, consumer protection and data privacy regulations.

Now the two startups have decided to join forces. A press release published on the Coinify site announces that Coinify will be taking over the operations of Coinzone. Coinzone will bring development and volume to the table, and this new partnership will result in a number of new opportunities for customers of both platforms.

“We welcome aboard Coinzone’s merchants and partners to Coinify, and will make sure that we continue the good work of Coinzone,” said Coinify CEO Mark Højgaard. “Coinzone has done a remarkable job, especially considering its short time in the market.”

Coinify is no newcomer to acquisitions. In September 2014, after securing a multi-million capital injection by SEED Capital and Accelerace Invest, the company purchased technologies and the customer base from the trade platform Bitcoin Nordic and the merchant services pioneer Bitcoin Internet Payment System. Coinify is now preparing for a new series A investment round.

“We reached out to Coinify as we believed that we could strengthen the position of a European-based Bitcoin provider,” said Heilmann on the Coinzone side. “Coinify has a strong financial management team, supportive investors behind it, and together with the strong position that Coinzone has built over the last few years, we look forward to even more growth with Coinify.”

The acquisition marks an acceleration in the trend toward consolidation of Bitcoin services in Europe and the emergence of a global European operator. Though both companies had a presence in most European countries, Coinzone was stronger in certain countries, which likely is one of the main reasons for the acquisition.

“Coinzone’s established presence in Europe, especially in the most active countries of France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Romania, and the recent market entries in the U.K., the Czech Republic and Poland, is 100 percent in line with our strategy to accelerate the expansion in these important markets,” said Coinify CFO and Head of Strategy Christian Visti.

Another reason for the acquisition is likely to be the synergy between the two companies’ focuses. In fact, the move will permit Coinify to offer a solid payment gateway technology to its growing merchant client base.

“Coinify is taking the lead in the current battlefield with a strong belief that Coinify will be among the top players in the world dealing with cryptocurrency infrastructure for online merchants through a PSP tailored solution,” said Richard Breiter for SEED Capital, one of Coinify’s funders. “The Coinify team has done an amazing job, pushing past milestones and achievements beyond our expectations.”

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