t0.com Completes Successful Production Beta Test of its Crypto Exchange Platform

Bitcoin Magazine
t0.com Completes Successful Production Beta Test of its Crypto Exchange Platform

In June, Bitcoin Magazine reported that e-commerce giant Overstock had become the first company to offer qualified buyers the option of purchasing corporate bonds that will trade using Bitcoin’s blockchain protocol. In July, we reported that Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne is interested in “cleaning up” Wall Street.

“We have started building things that replace what Wall Street does,” said Byrne. “It does them far cheaper, and with far more transparency, and without any of the opportunity for rigging.” Overstock’s platform, known as t0.com, applies the security and efficiency of cryptographically-protected, distributed ledgers to the world of finance. “T0’s radical transparency and true settlement combine to grant real, unambiguous ownership – nearly instantly,” states the t0 website. “If you buy it, you own it. It’s that simple.”

t0.com is an assumed name for Medici, Inc., which is a majority-owned financial technology subsidiary of Overstock. The Medici project was first announced by Byrne in 2014 at Inside Bitcoins Las Vegas. Overstock is a large online retailer based in Salt Lake City, Utah. The company, which went public in 2002 at an IPO price of $13 and now trades at $17, is likely to enjoy first mover advantages in the novel and very promising sector of crypto-securities. In fact, the crypto-stock exchange could sidestep traditional stock exchanges such as NYSE and NASDAQ and issue corporate stock directly over the Internet. T0 partnered with a number of banks, including the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), which Relbanks ranked as the largest bank in the world, to test its technology.

In July, Byrne said to expect further announcements about the t0 platform, and that it presents an “extraordinary opportunity” for Overstock because it has the potential to be disruptive.

Now, Overstock announced that it successfully completed another production beta test of its t0 software, by successfully using the bitcoin blockchain to record evidence of compliance with SEC Regulation SHO before a trader can engage in a short sale. Mandatory compliance with Regulation SHO, which was adopted to update short sale regulations, began in 2005.

Earlier this week, hedge fund Clique Fund, LP, participated in the t0 testing to purchase locates for all 30 Dow Jones Industrial Average stocks.

“The blockchain is the most important financial development of our lifetimes,” said Byrne. “While others theorize about the innovations this new technology can usher in, t0 is taking action and proving the concept daily, including using it to crack open the notoriously inaccessible black box of securities lending. This is further evidence of the world-historical potential of distributed, cryptographically secured ledgers.”

Byrne added that, once up and running, each Pre-borrow Assured Token will provide the purchaser a valid locate satisfying the SEC’s Regulation SHO requirements.

Pre-borrowed Assured Tokens (PATs) convert the rights to lend a third-party’s money into cryptographic tokens that are auctioned off at the end of the day, and reverse auctioned at the beginning of the day. PATs will be auctioned nightly in a Dutch auction using t0 software and the transaction will be recorded on the blockchain. Access to t0.com’s PATs, when available, will be limited to qualified institutional buyers that are also qualified purchasers.

“As I have said publicly ad nauseam, I have no objection in principle with short selling when done legally,” said Byrne. “Our introduction of the Pre-borrow Assured Token will solve a problem for the beneficial owners, by bringing their inventory into a transparent market; it will solve a problem for the short seller, who will be able to borrow in a transparent market; and it will solve a problem for regulators, who for several years have taken a more aggressive stance regarding this mischief than they did a decade ago, I feel obliged to acknowledge. Unfortunately, a few bad apples spoil the barrel. That barrel needs a good scrubbing, and that’s what our Pre-borrow Assured Token will do.”

It appears that Overstock’s t0 platform is advancing steadily toward fully operational status, and could have a big and disruptive impact on securities trading.

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Bitcoin Blocksize Debate to Continue at DevCore with Garzik, Andresen, Antonopoulos and others

Bitcoin luminaries Gavin Andresen, Andreas Antonopoulos, Matt Corallo, Jeff Garzik, Charlie Lee, Greg Maxwell, and Michael Perklin are among the speakers appearing at this Friday’s DevCore conference at Draper University in San Mateo, California.

Organized by the Bitcoin Foundation, the conference is principally designed to be a learning and development experience for new developers in the space. Those developers who are interested can also receive accreditation as a Certified Bitcoin Professional from the CryptoCurrency Certification Consortium (C4).

“It’s very important to increase knowledge about development in Bitcoin, now more than ever,” Executive Director Bruce Fenton told Bitcoin Magazine, “The aim of DevCore is to help develop developers and to increase overall knowledge about Bitcoin Core and the important work that is being done.”

Education and development aside, its hard to imagine that the blocksize debate won’t come up or even dominate some of the conference discussions.

The Bitcoin block size debate about how the Bitcoin network can support increased transactions without compromising the original values of decentralization and democratic control, has dominated forums, chat rooms and social media for months now.

“Given the timing and importance of the blocksize discussion we will discuss that as well, although it’s not the primary focus of the meeting,” Fenton said.

For those following the debate, it’s not so much whether to increase the blocksize anymore, but by what method and by how much. At least six possible alternative solutions are now on the table as outlined here.

Jeff Garzik, one of the Bitcoin Core early developers has been an active participant in the debate and has proposed BIP 102, a patch to Bitcoin software that would use a hard fork to raise the block size limit to 2 MB.

He sees the conference as not just a day to revisit the block size debate but also to catch up with other developers and reassess where the Bitcoin movement is heading.

“I’m looking forward to discussing current and future issues regarding Bitcoin development, including block size and other hot topics,” Garzik told Bitcoin Magazine.

Certified Bitcoin Professional accreditation will be available

C4, the CryptoCurrency Certification Consortium is a nonprofit organization that provides certifications to professionals who perform cryptocurrency-related services.

C4 is holding two workshops at DevCore – one led by Andreas Antonopoulos and C4 President Michael Perklin will outline the specifics of their CryptoCurrency Security Standard program.

The other workshop will give attendees the opportunity to write the CCSS exam so they can walk away from DevCore as an accredited Certified Bitcoin Professional. When asked about the block size debate, Perklin said:

“The biggest hurdle facing the bitcoin ecosystem is the lack of technical expertise in dealing with cryptocurrencies. The last two DevCore workshops have been successful in tackling this problem, and the upcoming DevCore San Francisco will be no different.

“The last two DevCores provided attendees with real-world skills that are relevant for anyone looking to develop blockchain applications. DevCore San Francisco will be no different. I look forward to training attendees in the CCSS so that their companies are protected against bitcoin hacks like the ones we’ve heard about recently in the news.”

Andreas Antonopoulos has been taking a balanced approach to the debate, saying on Twitter, “Diversity is good and bitcoin is resilient. Consensus will converge on the correct answer.”

Other speakers at the workshop include Matt Corallo, a longtime Bitcoin developer who is pioneering work on sidechains; Gavin Andresen, an original Bitcoin Core developer and chief scientist at the Bitcoin Foundation; and Charlie Lee, creator of Litecoin and currently Director of Engineering at Coinbase.

Two of the speakers – Greg Maxwell and Charlie Lee were signatories to the “Open Letter to the Bitcoin Community from the Developers” published recently here.

The conference is from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Draper University, Menlo Park, California. For more information check here.

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Bitreserve Rebrands as Uphold, Pivots to New Financial Services and De-Emphasizes Bitcoin

Bitcoin startup Bitreserve is becoming a full-fledged financial services company and rebranding as Uphold. CEO Anthony Watson announced the move with a post titled “ Welcome to Uphold. The Internet of Money.”

A press release notes that Uphold wants to be the world’s leading cloud-based money platform, connecting the legacy and fragmented financial ecosystem with the future of money and finance. Uphold will be a members-only, member-to-member financial service for individuals, businesses, charities (including nonprofits and nongovernment organizations) and developers.

Watson, former Nike CIO and member of the exclusive Fortune 40 Under 40 list, joined Bitreserve as president and chief operating officer earlier in 2015.

“I am thrilled to join Bitreserve at such a pivotal moment in the evolution of cloud money and financial technology,” he said.

Founded by CNET founder Halsey Minor in 2013, Bitreserve launched innovative features to shield its customers from the volatility of bitcoin by instantly locking deposits to a fiat currency selected by the customer, such as the U.S. dollar.

“Bitreserve is on a mission to democratize the use of digital currency by protecting businesses and consumers from the risks inherent in the bitcoin model,” noted a Forbes review quoted on the Bitreserve website.

In March, Bitreserve launched two new “bitcurrencies”: the bitrupee (BitINR) and bitpeso (BitMXN), pegged to two key developing world currencies – the Indian rupee and the Mexican peso – that allow Indian and Mexican customers to hold their local currencies on Bitreserve.

“Today, Bitreserve takes its next great step forward on the journey to transform global financial services for the benefit of everyone, everywhere,” says Watson. “Together with the entire company, I’m proud and excited to announce that Bitreserve has become Uphold. But that’s just the beginning. We have additional exciting updates and announcements to share, from new market entries to new products and services and broader changes at our company.”

Now, customers in 30 European Union countries, as well as Switzerland, can deposit money into Uphold via bank transfer or from credit and debit cards. In November, Uphold will begin to roll out its services to customers in the United States and China (limited beta), followed by India in January 2016 (limited beta).

Members can fund their Uphold accounts by linking any bank account, debit and/or credit card (Visa and MasterCard initially), in addition to bitcoin and ‘the Voxel’ or ‘Voxels,’ a new form of virtual currency that the company and a partner will announce in the next few days.

In December, Uphold plans to roll out multiple card and payment products, both physical and virtual (limited beta release). Members, based on their location and jurisdiction, will be able to choose among Visa, MasterCard or Discover to pay for goods and services, online or in person, using cards directly linked to their Uphold accounts.

Watson’s post emphasizes that Uphold is not a bank and doesn’t lend or leverage members’ funds.

“Our members can rest assured that value held in Uphold is 100 percent safe and secure and can be withdrawn, at any time, regardless of what is happening in the global economy,” says Watson. He adds that Uphold services will be mostly free, with some fees that will apply in special cases. For example, a fee of 2.75 percent will apply to members who choose to fund their Uphold account with a debit and/or credit card.

Fortune notes that Bitreserve, now Uphold, is de-emphasizing the role of bitcoin in its business model and operations. That is shown by the new name without “bit” – “that oh-so-common prefix amongst digital currency startups” – and the new emphasis on financial services linked to traditional credit cards and bank accounts.

“I’ll be surprised if bitcoin is here in five years,” Watson told Fortune . “The value of bitcoin isn’t the currency, but the technology. I think once the world becomes more accustomed and attuned to the platform of bitcoin, the noise will go away, and the currency will go away, too.”

The company’s founder Halsey Minor, too, predicts that bitcoin as a currency “will get destroyed.”

Minor and Watson’s remarks are certainly attuned to the prevailing mood in the financial services industry, which focuses on the advantages of using the blockchain technology for faster, cheaper and traceable transactions while considering the bitcoin currency as a temporary inconvenience. At the same time, it is worth bearing in mind that the current system – blockchain technology plus bitcoin currency – is proven to work.

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EU Court to Decide Bitcoin’s VAT-Status Next Week

In what could be a landmark case for Bitcoin in the EU, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has announced that it will make its decision on the VAT-status of virtual currency exchanges next Thursday. The verdict, which is the climax of an originally Swedish court dispute, could have far-reaching implications for bitcoin users and companies in all 28 EU-member states.

In essence, the ECJ will decide whether bitcoin exchanges should be subject to VAT (Value Added Tax). Specifically, as requested by the Swedish high court, the ECJ will answer two questions:

“Is Article 2(1) of the VAT Directive to be interpreted as meaning that transactions in the form of what has been designated as the exchange of virtual currency for traditional currency and vice versa, which is effected for consideration added by the supplier when the exchange rates are determined, constitute the supply of a service effected for consideration?”


“If the answer to the first question is in the affirmative, is Article135(1) to be interpreted as meaning that the above mentioned exchange transactions are tax exempt?”

Speaking to Bitcoin Magazine , Dutch fiscalist for law firm Baker & McKenzie and VAT-expert Roger van de Berg explained what the implications of the court ruling will be.

Van de Berg:

“Strictly speaking, the case is about bitcoin exchange services. It’s not about bitcoin itself, it’s not about bitcoin mining, it’s not about paying with bitcoin, or anything else. The court will decide whether exchange services fall within the scope of VAT-based law – that’s the first question. If the ECJ decides that bitcoin exchange services do in fact fall within this scope, the second question will answer whether a VAT exemption should apply.”

If the ECJ rules that a bitcoin exchange does fall within scope of VAT-based law, and also decides that a VAT exemption will not apply, it could mean two things. The most likely outcome is that bitcoin exchanges will be required to pay VAT over the spread; the difference in price of buying and selling bitcoin from which they profit. But another – less likely – outcome could be that the value of the sale itself is subject to VAT. Since VAT in different EU member states is anywhere between 15 and 27 percent – depending on the country – this would effectively mean that it would cost an additional 15 to 27 percent to purchase bitcoin.

But while the questions that are to be answered by the ECJ strictly speaking apply only to bitcoin exchangers, it is possible that the answers could have even more far-reaching implications as well.

“In order to answer the question regarding exchange services, the ECJ might reason that it first needs to assess what such an exchange is actually doing and how the underlying assets should be qualified,” Van de Berg explained. “As such, it might also investigate the VAT treatment of virtual currencies and thus decide whether or not bitcoin itself is subject to VAT. If that happens, we have a clear answer from the ECJ of where bitcoin stands for VAT purposes within the EU. This would then apply to all bitcoin-related activities, including mining, spending and more.”

Currently, different EU member states uphold their own VAT-laws regarding virtual currencies. Some charge VAT, others do not, and yet others have not taken in any official position so far. With the ruling next week, however, all national virtual currency-related VAT laws will be overruled by the ECJ, in effect creating a uniform fiscal policy for all of the EU. This decision will be binding to all EU member states, and can only be overturned if overruling law is made by the European Commission in Brussels.

In July of this year, the Advocate General of the ECJ, Juliane Kokott, urged the court not to apply VAT on bitcoin purchases. While Kokott acknowledged that bitcoin is not legal tender, she did argue that it is comparable to money. As such, Kokott believes it does not in itself add value to the economy (which VAT is meant to tax), and should for tax purposes be treated like foreign currencies instead. While the advice of its Advocate General is in no way binding, the Luxembourg-based ECJ does often follow it.

It would be very favorable for the European Bitcoin community if the ECJ does follow Kokott’s reasoning, according to Van de Berg.

“If bitcoin is not taxable for VAT purposes, EU citizens can transact with each other much more freely,” Van de Berg explained. “It would put bitcoin on a level playing field with fiat currency in that respect. I think that’s essential for the growth of Bitcoin. If, on the other hand, we’re all going to have to tax each other every time we use bitcoin, that would put significant damper on adoption. And a non-taxable status would be much better from a compliance perspective as well. Having to keep track of all bitcoin payments for tax purposes would be a compliance nightmare.”

The particular questions are brought before the ECJ as part of a Swedish dispute. Specifically, it concerns David Hedqvist, who planned to operate a Swedish bitcoin brokerage on his website bitcoin.se back in 2012. Hedqvist asked the Swedish tax authority whether his business would be subject to VAT, and the tax authority in 2013 decided it was not. The Swedish tax office, however, disagreed, and believed that commission and fees should be subject to VAT. The case ended up at the Supreme Administrative Court in Sweden, which in turn decided to ask for a ruling from the ECJ on how to interpret the common EU VAT directive a year ago.

Thanks to David Hedqvist for providing details regarding the court case.

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