The Bitcoin Boom: In Code We Trust – The New York Times

Photo Credit Andrea Chronopoulos

You dont need brilliant financial analysis skills to notice that Bitcoin is in a bubble. It has grown in value from about 39 cents to over $18,000 in just eight years and recently attracted broad media attention by doubling in just a few days. The conventional wisdom had been that illegal and illicit transactions buying drugs or transferring money out of Argentina accounted for much of Bitcoins value. Today the mainstream view sees mere greed and speculation.

Yet as Bitcoin continues to grow, theres reason to think something deeper and more important is going on. Bitcoins rise may reflect, for better or worse, a monumental transfer of social trust: away from human institutions backed by government and to systems reliant on well-tested computer code. It is a trend that transcends finance: In our fear of human error, we are putting an increasingly deep faith in technology.

Bitcoin may be in a bubble, but not all bubbles are created equal. Some are shimmering nothings, reflecting little more than an underlying pyramid scheme. But others are like ocean swells that could become enormous waves. Consider the tech stocks of the late 1990s a bubble, to be sure, but in retrospect, was Amazon really overvalued?

What gives the Bitcoin bubble significance is that, like 90s tech, it is part of something much larger than itself. More and more we are losing faith in humans and depending instead on machines. The transformation is more obvious outside of finance. We trust in computers to fly airplanes, help surgeons cut into our bodies and simplify daily tasks, like finding our way home. In this respect, finance is actually behind: Where we no longer feel we can trust people, we let computer code take over.

Bitcoin is part of this trend. It was, after all, a carnival of human errors and misfeasance that inspired the invention of Bitcoin in 2009, namely, the financial crisis. Banks backed by economically powerful nations had been the symbol of financial trustworthiness, the gold standard in the post-gold era. But they revealed themselves as reckless, drunk on other peoples money, holding extraordinarily complex assets premised on a web of promises that were often mutually incompatible. To a computer programmer, the financial system still looks a lot like untested code with weak debugging that puts way too much faith in the idea that humans will behave properly. As with any bad software, it can be expected to crash when conditions change.

We might add that major governments the issuers of currency, the guarantors of banks and enforcers of contracts do not always inspire confidence. Governments can be tempted to print money recklessly or seize wealth brazenly from their citizens Venezuelan hyperinflation and Indian demonetization are recent examples. But even the most trusted governments can be dubious. Europe, riddled by internal struggles among states, is still in shock about the planned departure of Britain from the European Union. China is a secretive authoritarian state that can lash out against its citizens and rivals when it feels insecure. The United States, perhaps the main guarantor of world solvency, is some $20 trillion in debt, constantly on the verge of default and headed by a serial bankruptee who prizes unpredictability. It is little wonder that the worlds citizens might be looking for alternatives.

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The Bitcoin Boom: In Code We Trust – The New York Times

SEC suspends trading of red-hot bitcoin stock – Dec. 19, 2017

The Securities and Exchange Commission suspended trading Tuesday of The Crypto Company until January 3, citing “concerns regarding the accuracy and adequacy of information” about compensation paid to promote the firm and plans for insider sales.

The Crytpo Company describes itself as a business that “offers a portfolio of digital assets, technologies, and consulting services to the blockchain and cryptocurrency markets” with plans for a “rollout of a full scale, high frequency cryptocurrency trading floor.”

Shares of The Crypto Company (CRCW) have surged nearly 160% in the past five days, more than 1,800% in the past month and 17,000% in the past three months, as investors and traders have bid up the price of bitcoin (XBT) higher and higher.

That stunning rise has lifted the company’s market value to more than $11 billion. To put that in perspective, that’s higher than the market value of well-known brand name companies like Macy’s (M), The New York Times (NYT) and Under Armour (UAA).

Related: Regulators worried about bitcoin euphoria

The SEC move comes shortly after The Crypto Company announced plans to split its stock 10-1 to try and push the price lower and make it more affordable for average investors.

Shares had surged to a price of $575 before the SEC suspended trading. A 10-1 split would have increased the number of total shares by a factor of ten and lowered the price to $57.50. So the value of the company would not have changed.

The Crypto Company CEO Mike Poutre said in a release about the split that the company wanted to “see orderly market activity” for the stock and added that the split was “the responsible thing to do.”

He noted that many blue chip companies, including MasterCard (MA) and Apple (AAPL), have done stock splits to keep their prices more accessible to mom and pop investors.

Poutre also referred to “the euphoria” surrounding bitcoin, and added that “we want people to pay attention to the business we are building, not the hype of a stock or the cryptocurrency world.”

The Crypto Company was not immediately available for comment about the SEC action.

But the SEC has taken steps lately to crack down on potential frauds and scams surrounding bitcoin and other digital currencies, particularly with initial coin offerings or ICOs. With an ICO, a company sells a digital currency or token to investors instead of stock.

Several cryptocurrency executives are nervous about the industry getting a bad reputation too.

Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of Ripple, a company that developed the Ripple XRP cryptocurrency and also works to license blockchain technology with banks, says he wants to cooperate with agencies like the SEC to weed out bad actors.

“Many of the ICOs are more frauds than real businesses. The industry needs to work with regulators and not be in the shadows,” he said. “ICOs are taking advantage of grey areas in securities law. What worries me the most is some of the hype in the system.”

Related: Feds crack down on fraud as bitcoin soars

Jalak Jobanputra, partner with venture capital firm FuturePerfect Ventures and an investor in cryptocurrency tech firms, agrees. She said that there is “a lot of speculation” in the crypto area and that she “welcomes scrutiny from the SEC.”

Still, there are signs that investors aren’t listening to these warnings.

Another small financial tech company that just went public called LongFin (LFIN) has skyrocketed from a low of $4.69 a share in the past week to a high of $142.82 after it announced it was buying a blockchain microlending company named Ziddu.com

And then there’s Riot Blockchain (RIOT), a company that up until recently was a biotech firm and has decided to get into the crypto business. Its stock is up more than 300% in the past month and 1,200% this year.

Mike O’Rourke, chief market strategist with JonesTrading, wrote in a report that this reminded him clearly of the dotcom and tech stock mania of the late 1990s. That did not end well for investors chasing the most speculative of stocks.

O’Rourke pointed out that one widely hyped business-to-business software company called Commerce One went public in 1999 at $21 a share and surged to around $1,000 by the end of the year. Commerce One filed for bankruptcy five years later.

Now this is not to say that bitcoin itself is a bubble. There is a real trend towards digital payments using blockchain technology.

Related: Move over, bitcoin. Here comes litecoin

After all, many of today’s tech leaders, such as Amazon (AMZN), Apple and Microsoft (MSFT), survived the dotcom crash and are now doing better than ever. But investors need to be careful and not chase tiny companies trying to ride the wave.

The talk of a future where we’re all using bitcoin instead of paper currencies may be a little far-fetched too.

“Digital currencies have a role to play with reducing customer friction and increasing transaction times,” said Ripple’s Garlinghouse, who was a former exec at AOL and Yahoo — which are now both owned by Verizon (VZ).

“But government-backed fiat currencies aren’t going away. Banks aren’t going away. The dollar still works well and is efficient,” Garlinghouse added.

CNNMoney (New York) First published December 19, 2017: 12:21 PM ET

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SEC suspends trading of red-hot bitcoin stock – Dec. 19, 2017

Bitcoin hits $13,000: The rally is back, big time – Dec. 6 …

The virtual currency leaped above $13,000 for the first time Wednesday — only hours after it hit $12,000.

Bitcoin has crashed through a series of milestones in recent weeks despite warnings of a potential bubble. After starting the year below $1,000, it hit $8,000 for the first time in early November and topped $11,000 just last week.

Related: What the heck is going on with bitcoin?

Much of the stunning ascent has been driven by the expectation that big, professional investors are set to start trading it. It’s also been propelled by mom-and-pop investors who don’t want to miss its meteoric rise.

People are bidding its price higher even though leading figures in finance and economics are telling them to beware.

Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz said last week that bitcoin “ought to be outlawed.” Criticism has also come from the likes of JPMorgan Chase (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon and legendary investor Warren Buffett.

Related: Nobel winner says bitcoin ‘ought to be outlawed’

But some financial institutions are helping bring bitcoin more into the mainstream.

Starting next week, investors will be able to trade bitcoin futures via the Chicago Board Options Exchange, which is expected to increase interest from hedge funds and big asset managers.

Futures allow traders to bet on the future price of assets like currencies, metals and agricultural commodities.

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange is set to follow with a similar move later in December, while New York’s Nasdaq wants to list bitcoin futures starting in the middle of next year.

“The fact the CME, CBOE and Nasdaq will now all offer bitcoin products lends additional legitimacy,” said Dave Chapman, managing director at Hong Kong’s Octagon Strategy, a digital currency exchange.

Bitcoin is one of many cryptocurrencies, virtual “coins” that are “mined” by computers using complex algorithms.

Its recent rise has been far from smooth. After powering past $11,000 last week, it plunged by more than $2,000, providing a stark reminder of its extreme volatility.

Related: Can anything stop bitcoin?

But cryptocurrency industry insiders are unfazed. They predict bitcoin will soar far higher in the coming months.

Arthur Hayes, CEO of Hong Kong’s Bitmex, an exchange for trading financial instruments based on bitcoin, told CNNMoney last week that he thinks it could hit $50,000 next year.

Octagon’s Chapman is willing to go even further. He believes bitcoin could reach $100,000 before 2018 is out despite a growing number of rival cryptocurrencies that could vie for investors’ attention.

Bitcoin is “the most battle hardened and proven cryptocurrency right now,” he said. “For now, it’s unsurpassable.”

CNNMoney (Hong Kong) First published December 6, 2017: 12:52 AM ET

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Bitcoin hits $13,000: The rally is back, big time – Dec. 6 …

Everything you need to know about Bitcoin mining

Price…Global Vol….Diff…. How Bitcoin Mining Works

Where do bitcoins come from? With paper money, a government decides when to print and distribute money. Bitcoin doesn’t have a central government.

With Bitcoin, miners use special software to solve math problems and are issued a certain number of bitcoins in exchange. This provides a smart way to issue the currency and also creates an incentive for more people to mine.

Bitcoin miners help keep the Bitcoin network secure by approving transactions. Mining is an important and integral part of Bitcoin that ensures fairness while keeping the Bitcoin network stable, safe and secure.

Currently, based on (1) price per hash and (2) electrical efficiency the best Bitcoin miner options are:

Bitcoin mining is the process of adding transaction records to Bitcoin’s public ledger of past transactions or blockchain. This ledger of past transactions is called the block chain as it is a chain of blocks. The block chain serves to confirm transactions to the rest of the network as having taken place.

Bitcoin nodes use the block chain to distinguish legitimate Bitcoin transactions from attempts to re-spend coins that have already been spent elsewhere.

Bitcoin mining is intentionally designed to be resource-intensive and difficult so that the number of blocks found each day by miners remains steady. Individual blocks must contain a proof of work to be considered valid. This proof of work is verified by other Bitcoin nodes each time they receive a block. Bitcoin uses the hashcash proof-of-work function.

The primary purpose of mining is to allow Bitcoin nodes to reach a secure, tamper-resistant consensus. Mining is also the mechanism used to introduce Bitcoins into the system: Miners are paid any transaction fees as well as a “subsidy” of newly created coins.

This both serves the purpose of disseminating new coins in a decentralized manner as well as motivating people to provide security for the system.

Bitcoin mining is so called because it resembles the mining of other commodities: it requires exertion and it slowly makes new currency available at a rate that resembles the rate at which commodities like gold are mined from the ground.

A proof of work is a piece of data which was difficult (costly, time-consuming) to produce so as to satisfy certain requirements. It must be trivial to check whether data satisfies said requirements.

Producing a proof of work can be a random process with low probability, so that a lot of trial and error is required on average before a valid proof of work is generated. Bitcoin uses the Hashcash proof of work.

Bitcoin mining a block is difficult because the SHA-256 hash of a block’s header must be lower than or equal to the target in order for the block to be accepted by the network.

This problem can be simplified for explanation purposes: The hash of a block must start with a certain number of zeros. The probability of calculating a hash that starts with many zeros is very low, therefore many attempts must be made. In order to generate a new hash each round, a nonce is incremented. See Proof of work for more information.

The Bitcoin mining network difficulty is the measure of how difficult it is to find a new block compared to the easiest it can ever be. It is recalculated every 2016 blocks to a value such that the previous 2016 blocks would have been generated in exactly two weeks had everyone been mining at this difficulty. This will yield, on average, one block every ten minutes.

As more miners join, the rate of block creation will go up. As the rate of block generation goes up, the difficulty rises to compensate which will push the rate of block creation back down. Any blocks released by malicious miners that do not meet the required difficulty target will simply be rejected by everyone on the network and thus will be worthless.

When a block is discovered, the discoverer may award themselves a certain number of bitcoins, which is agreed-upon by everyone in the network. Currently this bounty is 25 bitcoins; this value will halve every 210,000 blocks. See Controlled Currency Supply.

Additionally, the miner is awarded the fees paid by users sending transactions. The fee is an incentive for the miner to include the transaction in their block. In the future, as the number of new bitcoins miners are allowed to create in each block dwindles, the fees will make up a much more important percentage of mining income.

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Everything you need to know about Bitcoin mining

Warning Signs About Another Giant Bitcoin Exchange

In the latest blow, on Tuesday, an alternative virtual currency that is owned and operated by the same people as Bitfinex, known as Tether, announced that it had been hacked and lost around $30 million worth of digital tokens.

None of that has been enough to stop customers from pumping billions of dollars worth of virtual currency trades through Bitfinex in recent weeks on some days, the exchange claimed to be doing more trades, by dollar value, than some stock exchanges in the United States.

Even many people who believe in virtual currencies worry that the mixture of loose controls and booming trading at the worlds largest exchange is likely to cause trouble for all the investors piling into virtual currencies, even those who dont go near Bitfinex.

Im worried about the systemic risk that this centralized company poses, and Im worried that if they go down, they will take down the space with them, said Emin Gn Sirer, an associate professor of computer science at Cornell University, who has a track record of successfully predicting problems in the growing virtual currency industry.

The chief executive of Bitfinex and Tether, Jan Ludovicus van der Velde, said in an email on Tuesday that the financial position of the company has never been stronger.

Concerns over virtual currency exchanges are nothing new. The first and largest Bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox, collapsed in 2014 after losing $500 million of customer money to hackers.

This year, law enforcement took down another large Bitcoin exchange, BTC-E, which was accused of being a way station for many of the Bitcoin flowing through online black markets and ransomware attacks.

Regulators in the United States and a few other countries have tried to tame the business, and the largest exchanges in the United States and Japan are now under official oversight.

Those regulated exchanges, though, are dwarfed by unregulated ones like Bitfinex and several that have popped up in South Korea, where regulators have been slow to act.

The liquid nature of the Bitcoin markets, flowing around national borders and laws, is a product of the virtual currencys unusual structure. Bitcoin is stored and moved through a decentralized network of computers that are not under the control of any single company or government.

This structure means that the virtual currency continues to be an easy target for people who want to manipulate its price or use it to launder money.

Unregulated, unregistered exchanges are a very big concern for the industry and the community broadly, said Kathryn Haun, a former federal prosecutor who is on the board of the American virtual currency company Coinbase.

The most frequent face of Bitfinex is its chief strategy officer, Phil Potter. Mr. Potter worked for Morgan Stanley in New York in the 1990s but lost his job after bragging at length in The New York Times about his $3,500 Rolex, his opulent lifestyle and his aggressive tactics for making money.

Mr. Potter, 45, runs Bitfinex alongside Mr. Van der Velde, a Dutch-speaking man living in Hong Kong, and Giancarlo Devasini, an Italian man who lives on the French Riviera, according to company filings in Hong Kong.

The company lost 1,500 Bitcoin, worth around $400,000, to a hacker in 2015. But the most damaging incident happened in August 2016 when a thief got almost 120,000 Bitcoin, worth around $75 million at the time.

The company spread out the losses to all customers even those who were not holding Bitcoin at the time of the hacking by forcing customers to take a 36 percent haircut or loss on any money at the exchange.

The lack of detail that Bitfinex provided about the hacking drove away some large customers like Arthur Hayes, the founder of Bitmex, a Hong Kong-based virtual currency exchange.

There are so many questions about them, Mr. Hayes said. All of this could be easily rectified by just showing all the figures.

Mr. van der Velde said the company had been as public and transparent as possible about the security incident in August 2016 given the ongoing criminal investigations.

Banks have also been put off by Bitfinexs operations. Wells Fargo said this year that it would no longer move money from Bitfinex accounts. Shortly after, Bitfinex said its main banks in Taiwan were shutting it off. Since then, it has moved between a series of banks in other countries, without telling customers where the exchanges money is stored.

But nothing has drawn more criticism than the operation of Tether, a virtual currency that is supposed to be tied or tethered to the value of a dollar.

Customers can buy Tether coins on Bitfinex and then transfer them to other virtual currency exchanges, providing a way to move dollars between countries without going through banks. Tether has also become a very popular way to buy Bitcoin. In recent weeks, a few hundred millions dollars worth of Tether has changed hands on a daily basis across several exchanges, according to data on CoinMarketCap.com.

Tether and Bitfinex have insisted that the two operations are separate. But leaked documents known as the Paradise Papers, which were made public this month, show that Appleby, an offshore law firm, helped Mr. Potter and Mr. Devasini, the Bitfinex operators, set up Tether in the British Virgin Islands in late 2014.

One persistent online critic, going by the screen name Bitfinexed, has written several very detailed essays on Medium arguing that Bitfinex appears to be creating Tether coins out of thin air and then using them to buy Bitcoin and push the price up.

Tether and Bitfinex have countered this criticism in statements on the companies websites and promised that every Tether is backed up by a dollar sitting in a bank account. In September, the companies provided an accounting document intended to prove that Tether is financed with real money.

Lewis Cohen, a lawyer at the law firm Hogan Lovells who advises many virtual currency projects, said the document, because of the careful way it was phrased, did not prove that the Tether coins are backed by dollars.

Even if they are, he said, Tether and Bitfinex appear to be violating laws in the United States and Europe that govern investments like Tether, which has qualities very similar to a money market mutual fund.

There are a long list of reasons that you dont want to deal with them, Mr. Cohen said of Tether.

On Tuesday, Tether announced that an external attacker had taken $30 million worth of Tether from the companys online wallets. The company said it was working to recover the coins.

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Warning Signs About Another Giant Bitcoin Exchange

WeUseCoins – Official Site

Price…Global Vol….Diff….

I’m a big fan of Bitcoin… Regulation of money supply needs to be depoliticized.

Bitcoin is a technological tour de force.

Every informed person needs to know about Bitcoin because it might be one of the world’s most important developments.

With the Bitcoin price so volatile everyone is curious. Bitcoin, the category creator of blockchain technology, is the World Wide Ledger yet extremely complicated and no one definition fully encapsulates it. By analogy it is like being able to send a gold coin via email. It is a consensus network that enables a new payment system and a completely digital money.

It is the first decentralized peer-to-peer payment network that is powered by its users with no central authority or middlemen. Bitcoin was the first practical implementation and is currently the most prominent triple entry bookkeeping system in existence.

Beware of the confusingly similar Bcash, BCH, Bitcoin Cash project.

The first Bitcoin specification and proof of concept was published in 2009 by an unknown individual under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto who revealed little about himself and left the project in late 2010. The Bitcoin community has since grown exponentially.

Satoshi’s anonymity often raises unjustified concerns because of a misunderstanding of Bitcoin’s open-source nature. Everyone has access to all of the source code all of the time and any developer can review or modify the software code. As such, the identity of Bitcoin’s inventor is probably as relevant today as the identity of the person who invented paper.

Over $1B of investment into Bitcoin and blockchain companies has taken place resulting in thousands of companies and hundreds of thousands of individuals involved from around the world.

Nobody owns the Bitcoin network much like no one owns the technology behind email or the Internet. Bitcoin transactions are verified by Bitcoin miners which has an entire industry and Bitcoin cloud mining options. While developers are improving the software they cannot force a change in the Bitcoin protocol because all users are free to choose what software and version they use.

In order to stay compatible with each other, all users need to use software complying with the same rules. Bitcoin can only work correctly with a complete consensus among all users. Therefore, all users and developers have a strong incentive to protect this consensus.

From a user perspective, Bitcoin is nothing more than a mobile app or computer program that provides a personal Bitcoin wallet and enables a user to send and receive bitcoins.

Behind the scenes, the Bitcoin network is sharing a massive public ledger called the “block chain”. This ledger contains every transaction ever processed which enables a user’s computer to verify the validity of each transaction. The authenticity of each transaction is protected by digital signatures corresponding to the sending addresses therefore allowing all users to have full control over sending bitcoins.

Thus, there is no fraud, no chargebacks and no identifying information that could be compromised resulting in identity theft. To learn more about Bitcoin, you can consult the original Bitcoin whitepaper, read through the extremely thorough Frequently Asked Questions, listen to a Bitcoin podcast or read the latest Bitcoin news.

Many people new to Bitcoin are curious about how to get some. Bitcoin faucets, places where bitcoins are given away for free, have been a part of spreading Bitcoin since the earliest days. But one problem is running out of bitcoins to give! That is why we have figured out a sustainable way to give away free bitcoins with sponsors.

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Bitcoin Price Index – Real-time Bitcoin Price Charts

Tether Claims $30 Million in US Dollar Token Stolen By Attacker

Nov 21, 2017 at 04:15 | Stan Higgins

The team behind the stable cryptocurrency Tether is claiming $30 million worth of its funds have been sent to an unauthorized address.

Nov 20, 2017 at 21:10 | Brady Dale

Options exchange CBOE has released early specifications for its planned bitcoin futures product.

Nov 20, 2017 at 17:00 | Stan Higgins

CME Group’s planned bitcoin futures product could start trading on Dec. 11, according to the firm’s website.

Nov 20, 2017 at 15:18 | Stan Higgins

The price of bitcoin has hit yet another all-time high, passing above $8,200 for the first time.

Nov 20, 2017 at 14:00 | Omkar Godbole

With talk of a possible derivatives market on the way, the price of ether, ethereum’s native token, looks to be on the rise.

Nov 20, 2017 at 12:15 | Omkar Godbole

Bitcoin prices are at their highest ever, but there may be a chink in the cryptocurrency’s armor low volumes.

Nov 20, 2017 at 07:00 | Nikhilesh De

A plurality of respondents to a new survey from brokerage firm Triad Securities said they believe bitcoin is in a bubble that’s primed to crash.

Nov 20, 2017 at 06:00 | William Mallers

The CMEs plan to offer bitcoin futures will benefit the futures trading and bitcoin communities alike notwithstanding hand-wringing in both

Nov 20, 2017 at 03:16 | Stan Higgins

Bitcoin’s price rose above $8,100 for the first time on Sunday.

Nov 18, 2017 at 21:59 | Michael del Castillo

The first ever LedgerX long-term bitcoin futures option pegs the cryptocurrency price at $10,000 by next December.

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Bitcoin Price Index – Real-time Bitcoin Price Charts

Bitcoin Crashes and Then Surges in Wild Weekend Action …

Bitcoin is proving that investing in digital currencies isnt for the faint of heart.

After plunging as much as 29 percent from a record high following the cancellation of a technology upgrade on Nov. 8, the largest cryptocurrency came roaring back in early trading Monday before fluctuating between gains and losses.

Crypto trading is not for the novice investor, said JohnSpallanzani, chief macro strategist at GFI Securities LLC in New York.

While multiple reasons are being cited for the price volatility, one of the more viable is that some investors are switching to alternative coins. Bitcoin cash, an offshoot of bitcoin that includes many of the technical upgrades being debated by developers, has more than doubled in the same period.

We have seen similar steep falls in bitcoin throughout the year — specifically in June and September — but every time a considerable decline occurs, new investors jump in to experience the new asset class, Hussein Sayed, chief market strategist at ForexTime Ltd., a currency broker that uses the brand FXTM, wrote in a note Monday.

While markets had been focusing on bitcoins more than 500 percent surge this year, bitcoin cash was gaining popularity because of its larger block size. Thats a characteristic that makes transactions cheaper and faster than the original.

When a faction of the cryptocurrency community canceled plans to increase bitcoins block size on Wednesday — a move that would have created another offshoot — some supporters of bigger blocks rallied around bitcoin cash.

The resulting volatility has been extreme even by bitcoins wild standards and comes amid growing interest in cryptocurrencies among regulators, banks and fund managers. While skeptics have called its rapid advance a bubble, the asset has become too big for many on Wall Street to ignore. Even after shrinking as much as $38 billion since Nov. 8, bitcoin boasts a market value of about $110 billion.

Supporters of bitcoins technology upgrade are now switching support to bitcoin cash, said Mike Kayamori, head of Tokyo-based Quoine, the worlds second most-active bitcoin exchange over the past day. Theres a panic about whats happening. People shouldnt panic. Just hold on to both coins until we see how it plays out.

Read more: A QuickTake on the bitcoin communitys infighting

The cancellation of last weeks bitcoin upgrade has left users to choose between the two versions of the cryptocurrency. On one side is the original bitcoin, powered by so-called SegWit technology, which aims to improve its performance by moving unessential data off of its underlying blockchain. On the other side is bitcoin cash, which allowsits blockchain to handle eight times as much data as the original.

Proponents of bitcoin cash believe their approach is simpler and closer to the original goal of bitcoin,whichwas described primarily as a payment system in its white paper. Supporters of the original bitcoin say that vision is too limited,and that by improving the blockchain with SegWit technology, bitcoin can become a new digital-asset class that not only supports payments but countless other functions.

While bitcoin cash has been around for months, it saw limited support as the community awaited last weeks technology upgrade for the original bitcoin, which promised similar features. Now that the upgrade has been called off, businesses that use the cryptocurrency primarily as a payment method are expected to increase adoption of bitcoin cash.

While bitcoin cash surged over the weekend, it hasnt been a straight line up. The cryptocurrency was trading at $1,300 at 4:45 p.m. in New York, down from a high of about $2,478 on Sunday, Coinmarketcap.com prices show.

Bitcoin has been similarly volatile; it initially rose after news that it would avoid another split, but the gains were short-lived. Its plunge earlier Monday to as low as $5,605 compares with an intraday record $7,882 on Nov. 8.

Volume across bitcoin exchanges jumped to 436,021 bitcoins on Sunday, the highest since September, Bitcoinity.org data show. BitMEX, an exchange for cryptocurrency derivatives that allows shorting, saw record activity on Sunday, Chief Executive Officer Arthur Hayes said.

With assistance by Natasha Doff

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Bitcoin Crashes and Then Surges in Wild Weekend Action …

The Rise and Fall of Bitcoin | WIRED

In November 1, 2008, a man named Satoshi Nakamoto posted a research paper to an obscure cryptography listserv describing his design for a new digital currency that he called bitcoin. None of the lists veterans had heard of him, and what little information could be gleaned was murky and contradictory. In an online profile, he said he lived in Japan. His email address was from a free German service. Google searches for his name turned up no relevant information; it was clearly a pseudonym. But while Nakamoto himself may have been a puzzle, his creation cracked a problem that had stumped cryptographers for decades. The idea of digital moneyconvenient and untraceable, liberated from the oversight of governments and bankshad been a hot topic since the birth of the Internet. Cypherpunks, the 1990s movement of libertarian cryptographers, dedicated themselves to the project. Yet every effort to create virtual cash had foundered. Ecash, an anonymous system launched in the early 1990s by cryptographer David Chaum, failed in part because it depended on the existing infrastructures of government and credit card companies. Other proposals followedbit gold, RPOW, b-moneybut none got off the ground.

One of the core challenges of designing a digital currency involves something called the double-spending problem. If a digital dollar is just information, free from the corporeal strictures of paper and metal, whats to prevent people from copying and pasting it as easily as a chunk of text, spending it as many times as they want? The conventional answer involved using a central clearinghouse to keep a real-time ledger of all transactionsensuring that, if someone spends his last digital dollar, he cant then spend it again. The ledger prevents fraud, but it also requires a trusted third party to administer it.

Bitcoin did away with the third party by publicly distributing the ledger, what Nakamoto called the block chain. Users willing to devote CPU power to running a special piece of software would be called miners and would form a network to maintain the block chain collectively. In the process, they would also generate new currency. Transactions would be broadcast to the network, and computers running the software would compete to solve irreversible cryptographic puzzles that contain data from several transactions. The first miner to solve each puzzle would be awarded 50 new bitcoins, and the associated block of transactions would be added to the chain. The difficulty of each puzzle would increase as the number of miners increased, which would keep production to one block of transactions roughly every 10 minutes. In addition, the size of each block bounty would halve every 210,000 blocksfirst from 50 bitcoins to 25, then from 25 to 12.5, and so on. Around the year 2140, the currency would reach its preordained limit of 21 million bitcoins.

When Nakamotos paper came out in 2008, trust in the ability of governments and banks to manage the economy and the money supply was at its nadir. The US government was throwing dollars at Wall Street and the Detroit car companies. The Federal Reserve was introducing quantitative easing, essentially printing money in order to stimulate the economy. The price of gold was rising. Bitcoin required no faith in the politicians or financiers who had wrecked the economyjust in Nakamotos elegant algorithms. Not only did bitcoins public ledger seem to protect against fraud, but the predetermined release of the digital currency kept the bitcoin money supply growing at a predictable rate, immune to printing-press-happy central bankers and Weimar Republic-style hyperinflation.

Nakamoto himself mined the first 50 bitcoinswhich came to be called the genesis blockon January 3, 2009. For a year or so, his creation remained the province of a tiny group of early adopters. But slowly, word of bitcoin spread beyond the insular world of cryptography. It has won accolades from some of digital currencys greatest minds. Wei Dai, inventor of b-money, calls it very significant; Nick Szabo, who created bit gold, hails bitcoin as a great contribution to the world; and Hal Finney, the eminent cryptographer behind RPOW, says its potentially world-changing. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocate for digital privacy, eventually started accepting donations in the alternative currency.

The small band of early bitcoiners all shared the communitarian spirit of an open source software project. Gavin Andresen, a coder in New England, bought 10,000 bitcoins for $50 and created a site called the Bitcoin Faucet, where he gave them away for the hell of it. Laszlo Hanyecz, a Florida programmer, conducted what bitcoiners think of as the first real-world bitcoin transaction, paying 10,000 bitcoins to get two pizzas delivered from Papa Johns. (He sent the bitcoins to a volunteer in England, who then called in a credit card order transatlantically.) A farmer in Massachusetts named David Forster began accepting bitcoins as payment for alpaca socks.

When they werent busy mining, the faithful tried to solve the mystery of the man they called simply Satoshi. On a bitcoin IRC channel, someone noted portentously that in Japanese Satoshi means wise. Someone else wondered whether the name might be a sly portmanteau of four tech companies: SAmsung, TOSHIba, NAKAmichi, and MOTOrola. It seemed doubtful that Nakamoto was even Japanese. His English had the flawless, idiomatic ring of a native speaker.

Perhaps, it was suggested, Nakamoto wasnt one man but a mysterious group with an inscrutable purposea team at Google, maybe, or the National Security Agency. I exchanged some emails with whoever Satoshi supposedly is, says Hanyecz, who was on bitcoins core developer team for a time. I always got the impression it almost wasnt a real person. Id get replies maybe every two weeks, as if someone would check it once in a while. Bitcoin seems awfully well designed for one person to crank out.

Nakamoto revealed little about himself, limiting his online utterances to technical discussion of his source code. On December 5, 2010, after bitcoiners started to call for Wikileaks to accept bitcoin donations, the normally terse and all-business Nakamoto weighed in with uncharacteristic vehemence. No, dont bring it on,’ he wrote in a post to the bitcoin forum. The project needs to grow gradually so the software can be strengthened along the way. I make this appeal to Wikileaks not to try to use bitcoin. Bitcoin is a small beta community in its infancy. You would not stand to get more than pocket change, and the heat you would bring would likely destroy us at this stage.

Then, as unexpectedly as he had appeared, Nakamoto vanished. At 6:22 pm GMT on December 12, seven days after his Wikileaks plea, Nakamoto posted his final message to the bitcoin forum, concerning some minutiae in the latest version of the software. His email responses became more erratic, then stopped altogether. Andresen, who had taken over the role of lead developer, was now apparently one of just a few people with whom he was still communicating. On April 26, Andresen told fellow coders: Satoshi did suggest this morning that I (we) should try to de-emphasize the whole mysterious founder thing when talking publicly about bitcoin. Then Nakamoto stopped replying even to Andresens emails. Bitcoiners wondered plaintively why he had left them. But by then his creation had taken on a life of its own.

Bitcoins economy consists of a network of its users computers. At preset intervals, an algorithm releases new bitcoins into the network: 50 every 10 minutes, with the pace halving in increments until around 2140. The automated pace is meant to ensure regular growth of the monetary supply without interference by third parties, like a central bank, which can lead to hyperinflation.

To prevent fraud, the bitcoin software maintains a pseudonymous public ledger of every transaction. Some bitcoiners computers validate transactions by cracking cryptographic puzzles, and the first to solve each puzzle receives 50 new bitcoins. Bitcoins can be stored in a variety of placesfrom a wallet on a desktop computer to a centralized service in the cloud.

Once users download the bitcoin app to their machine, spending the currency is as easy as sending an email. The range of merchants that accept it is small but growing; look for the telltale symbol at the cash register. And entrepreneurial bitcoiners are working to make it much easier to use the currency, building everything from point-of-service machines to PayPal alternatives.

Illustrations: Martin Venezky

Bitcoin enthusiasts are almost evangelists, Bruce Wagner says. They see the beauty of the technology. Its a huge movement. Its almost like a religion. On the forum, youll see the spirit. Its not just me, me, me. Its whats for the betterment of bitcoin.

Its a July morning. Wagner, whose boyish energy and Pantone-black hair belie his 50 years, is sitting in his office at OnlyOneTV, an Internet television startup in Manhattan. Over just a few months, he has become bitcoins chief proselytizer. He hosts The Bitcoin Show, a program on OnlyOneTV in which he plugs the nascent currency and interviews notables from the bitcoin world. He also runs a bitcoin meetup group and is gearing up to host bitcoins first world conference in August. I got obsessed and didnt eat or sleep for five days, he says, recalling the moment he discovered bitcoin. It was bitcoin, bitcoin, bitcoin, like I was on crystal meth!

Wagner is not given to understatement. While bitcoin is the most exciting technology since the Internet, he says, eBay is a giant bloodsucking corporation and free speech a popular myth. He is similarly excitable when predicting the future of bitcoin. I knew it wasnt a stock and wouldnt go up and down, he explains. This was something that was going to go up, up, up.

For a while, he was right. Through 2009 and early 2010, bitcoins had no value at all, and for the first six months after they started trading in April 2010, the value of one bitcoin stayed below 14 cents. Then, as the currency gained viral traction in summer 2010, rising demand for a limited supply caused the price on online exchanges to start moving. By early November, it surged to 36 cents before settling down to around 29 cents. In February 2011, it rose again and was mentioned on Slashdot for achieving dollar parity; it hit $1.06 before settling in at roughly 87 cents.

In the spring, catalyzed in part by a much-linked Forbes story on the new crypto currency, the price exploded. From early April to the end of May, the going rate for a bitcoin rose from 86 cents to $8.89. Then, after Gawker published a story on June 1 about the currencys popularity among online drug dealers, it more than tripled in a week, soaring to about $27. The market value of all bitcoins in circulation was approaching $130 million. A Tennessean dubbed KnightMB, who held 371,000 bitcoins, became worth more than $10 million, the richest man in the bitcoin realm. The value of those 10,000 bitcoins Hanyecz used to buy pizza had risen to $272,329. I dont feel bad about it, he says. The pizza was really good.

Perhaps bitcoins creator wasnt one man but a mysterious groupa team at Google, maybe, or the NSA.

Bitcoin was drawing the kind of attention normally reserved for overhyped Silicon Valley IPOs and Apple product launches. On his Internet talk show, journo-entrepreneur Jason Calacanis called it a fundamental shift and one of the most interesting things Ive seen in 20 years in the technology business. Prominent venture capitalist Fred Wilson heralded societal upheaval as the Next Big Thing on the Internet, and the four examples he gave were Wikileaks, PlayStation hacking, the Arab Spring, and bitcoin. Andresen, the coder, accepted an invitation from the CIA to come to Langley, Virginia, to speak about the currency. Rick Falkvinge, founder of the Swedish Pirate Party (whose central policy plank includes the abolition of the patent system), announced that he was putting his life savings into bitcoins.

The future of bitcoin seemed to shimmer with possibility. Mark Suppes, an inventor building a fusion reactor in a Brooklyn loft from eBay-sourced parts, got an old ATM and began retrofitting it to dispense cash for bitcoins. On the so-called secret Internet (the invisible grid of sites reachable by computers using Tor anonymizing software), the black-and-gray-market site Silk Road anointed the bitcoin the coin of the realm; you could use bitcoins to buy everything from Purple Haze pot to Fentanyl lollipops to a kit for converting a rifle into a machine gun. A young bitcoiner, The Real Plato, brought On the Road into the new millennium by video-blogging a cross-country car trip during which he spent only bitcoins. Numismatic enthusiasts among the currencys faithful began dreaming of collectible bitcoins, wondering what price such rarities as the genesis block might fetch.

As the price rose and mining became more popular, the increased competition meant decreasing profits. An arms race commenced. Miners looking for horsepower supplemented their computers with more powerful graphics cards, until they became nearly impossible to find. Where the first miners had used their existing machines, the new wave, looking to mine bitcoins 24 hours a day, bought racks of cheap computers with high-speed GPUs cooled by noisy fans. The boom gave rise to mining-rig porn, as miners posted photos of their setups. As in any gold rush, people recounted tales of uncertain veracity. An Alaskan named Darrin reported that a bear had broken into his garage but thankfully ignored his rig. Another miners electric bill ran so high, it was said, that police raided his house, suspecting that he was growing pot.

Amid the euphoria, there were troubling signs. Bitcoin had begun in the public-interested spirit of open source peer-to-peer software and libertarian political philosophy, with references to the Austrian school of economics. But real money was at stake now, and the dramatic price rise had attracted a different element, people who saw the bitcoin as a commodity in which to speculate. At the same time, media attention was bringing exactly the kind of heat that Nakamoto had feared. US senator Charles Schumer held a press conference, appealing to the DEA and Justice Department to shut down Silk Road, which he called the most brazen attempt to peddle drugs online that we have ever seen and describing bitcoin as an online form of money-laundering.

Meanwhile, a cult of Satoshi was developing. Someone started selling I AM SATOSHI NAKAMOTO T-shirts. Disciples lobbied to name the smallest fractional denomination of a bitcoin a satoshi. There was Satoshi-themed fan fiction and manga art. And bitcoiners continued to ponder his mystery. Some speculated that he had died. A few postulated that he was actually Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Many more were convinced that he was Gavin Andresen. Still others believed that he must be one of the older crypto-currency advocatesFinney or Szabo or Dai. Szabo himself suggested it could be Finney or Dai. Stefan Thomas, a Swiss coder and active community member, graphed the time stamps for each of Nakamotos 500-plus bitcoin forum posts; the resulting chart showed a steep decline to almost no posts between the hours of 5 am and 11 am Greenwich Mean Time. Because this pattern held true even on Saturdays and Sundays, it suggested that the lull was occurring when Nakamoto was asleep, rather than at work. (The hours of 5 am to 11 am GMT are midnight to 6 am Eastern Standard Time.) Other clues suggested that Nakamoto was British: A newspaper headline he had encoded in the genesis block came from the UK-published Times of London, and both his forum posts and his comments in the bitcoin source code used such Brit spellings as optimise and colour.

Key moments in the short and volatilelife of bitcoin.

Even the purest technology has to live in an impure world. Both the code and the idea of bitcoin may have been impregnable, but bitcoins themselvesunique strings of numbers that constitute units of the currencyare discrete pieces of information that have to be stored somewhere. By default, bitcoin kept users currency in a digital wallet on their desktop, and when bitcoins were worth very little, easy to mine, and possessed only by techies, that was sufficient. But once they started to become valuable, a PC felt inadequate. Some users protected their bitcoins by creating multiple backups, encrypting and storing them on thumb drives, on forensically scrubbed virgin computers without Internet connections, in the cloud, and on printouts stored in safe-deposit boxes. But even some sophisticated early adopters had trouble keeping their bitcoins safe. Stefan Thomas had three copies of his wallet yet inadvertently managed to erase two of them and lose his password for the third. In a stroke, he lost about 7,000 bitcoins, at the time worth about $140,000. I spent a week trying to recover it, he says. It was pretty painful. Most people who have cash to protect put it in a bank, an institution about which the more zealous bitcoiners were deeply leery. Instead, for this new currency, a primitive and unregulated financial-services industry began to develop. Fly-by-night online wallet services promised to safeguard clients digital assets. Exchanges allowed anyone to trade bitcoins for dollars or other currencies. Bitcoin itself might have been decentralized, but users were now blindly entrusting increasing amounts of currency to third parties that even the most radical libertarian would be hard-pressed to claim were more secure than federally insured institutions. Most were Internet storefronts, run by who knows who from who knows where.

Sure enough, as the price headed upward, disturbing events began to bedevil the bitcoiners. In mid-June, someone calling himself Allinvain reported that 25,000 bitcoins worth more than $500,000 had been stolen from his computer. (To this day, nobody knows whether this claim is true.) About a week later, a hacker pulled off an ingenious attack on a Tokyo-based exchange site called Mt. Gox, which handled 90 percent of all bitcoin exchange transactions. Mt. Gox restricted account withdrawals to $1,000 worth of bitcoins per day (at the time of the attack, roughly 35 bitcoins). After he broke into Mt. Goxs system, the hacker simulated a massive sell-off, driving the exchange rate to zero and letting him withdraw potentially tens of thousands of other peoples bitcoins.

As it happened, market forces conspired to thwart the scheme. The price plummeted, but as speculators flocked to take advantage of the fire sale, they quickly drove it back up, limiting the thiefs haul to only around 2,000 bitcoins. The exchange ceased operations for a week and rolled back the postcrash transactions, but the damage had been done; the bitcoin never got back above $17. Within a month, Mt. Gox had lost 10 percent of its market share to a Chile-based upstart named TradeHill. Most significantly, the incident had shaken the confidence of the community and inspired loads of bad press.

In the publics imagination, overnight the bitcoin went from being the currency of tomorrow to a dystopian joke. The Electronic Frontier Foundation quietly stopped accepting bitcoin donations. Two Irish scholars specializing in network analysis demonstrated that bitcoin wasnt nearly as anonymous as many had assumed: They were able to identify the handles of a number of people who had donated bitcoins to Wikileaks. (The organization announced in June 2011 that it was accepting such donations.) Nontechnical newcomers to the currency, expecting it to be easy to use, were disappointed to find that an extraordinary amount of effort was required to obtain, hold, and spend bitcoins. For a time, one of the easier ways to buy them was to first use Paypal to buy Linden dollars, the virtual currency in Second Life, then trade them within that make-believe universe for bitcoins. As the tone of media coverage shifted from gee-whiz to skeptical, attention that had once been thrilling became a source of resentment.

More disasters followed. Poland-based Bitomat, the third-largest exchange, revealed that it hadoopsaccidentally overwritten its entire wallet. Security researchers detected a proliferation of viruses aimed at bitcoin users: Some were designed to steal wallets full of existing bitcoins; others commandeered processing power to mine fresh coins. By summer, the oldest wallet service, MyBitcoin, stopped responding to emails. It had always been fishyregistered in the West Indies and run by someone named Tom Williams, who never posted in the forums. But after a month of unbroken silence, Wagner, the New York City bitcoin evangelist, finally stated what many had already been thinking: Whoever was running MyBitcoin had apparently gone AWOL with everyones money. Wagner himself revealed that he had been keeping all 25,000 or so of his bitcoins on MyBitcoin and had recommended to friends and relatives that they use it, too. He also aided a vigilante effort that publicly named several suspects. MyBitcoins supposed owner resurfaced, claiming his site had been hacked. Then Wagner became the target of a countercampaign that publicized a successful lawsuit against him for mortgage fraud, costing him much of his reputation within the community. People have the mistaken impression that virtual currency means you can trust a random person over the Internet, says Jeff Garzik, a member of bitcoins core developer group.

And nobody had been as trusted as Nakamoto himself, who remained mysteriously silent as the world he created threatened to implode. Some bitcoiners began to suspect that he was working for the CIA or Federal Reserve. Others worried that bitcoin had been a Ponzi scheme, with Nakamoto its Bernie Madoffmining bitcoins when they were worthless, then waiting for their value to rise. The most dedicated bitcoin loyalists maintained their faith, not just in Nakamoto, but in the system he had built. And yet, unmistakably, beneath the paranoia and infighting lurked something more vulnerable, an almost theodical disappointment. What bitcoiners really seemed to be asking was, why had Nakamoto created this world only to abandon it?

If Nakamoto has forsaken his adherents, though, they are not prepared to let his creation die. Even as the currencys value has continued to drop, they are still investing in the fragile economy. Wagner has advocated for it to be used by people involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement. While the gold-rush phase of mining has ended, with some miners dumping their souped-up mining rigsPeople are getting sick of the high electric bills, the heat, and the loud fans, Garzik saysthe more serious members of the community have turned to infrastructure. Mt. Gox is developing point-of-sale hardware. Other entrepreneurs are working on PayPal-like online merchant services. Two guys in Colorado have launched BitcoinDeals, an etailer offering over 1,000,000 items. The underworlds use of the bitcoin has matured, too: Silk Road is now just one of many Tor-enabled back alleys, including sites like Black Market Reloaded, where self-proclaimed hit men peddle contract killings and assassinations.

You could say its following Gartners Hype Cycle, London-based core developer Amir Taaki says, referring to a theoretical technology-adoption-and-maturation curve that begins with a technology trigger, ascends to a peak of inflated expectations, collapses into a trough of disillusionment, and then climbs a slope of enlightenment until reaching a plateau of productivity. By this theory, bitcoin is clambering out of the trough, as people learn to value the infallible code and discard the human drama and wild fluctuations that surround it.

But that distinction is ultimately irrelevant. The underlying vulnerabilities that led to bitcoins troublesits dependence on unregulated, centralized exchanges and online walletspersist. Indeed, the bulk of mining is now concentrated in a handful of huge mining pools, which theoretically could hijack the entire network if they worked in concert.

Beyond the most hardcore users, skepticism has only increased. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote that the currencys tendency to fluctuate has encouraged hoarding. Stefan Brands, a former ecash consultant and digital currency pioneer, calls bitcoin clever and is loath to bash it but believes its fundamentally structured like a pyramid scheme that rewards early adopters. I think the big problems are ultimately the trust issues, he says. Theres nothing there to back it up. I know the counterargument, that thats true of fiat money, too, but thats completely wrong. Theres a whole trust fabric thats been established through legal mechanisms.

It would be interesting to know what Nakamoto thinks of all this, but hes not talking. He didnt respond to emails, and the people who might know who he is say they dont. Andresen flatly denies he is Nakamoto. I dont know his real name, he says. Im hoping one day he decides not to be anonymous anymore, but I expect not. Szabo also denies that he is Nakamoto, and so does Dai. Finney, who has blogged eloquently about being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, sent his denial in an email: Under my current circumstances, facing limited life expectancy, I would have little to lose by shedding anonymity. But it was not I. Both The New Yorker and Fast Company have launched investigations but ended up with little more than speculation.

The signal in the noise, the figure that emerges from the carpet of clues, suggests an academic with somewhat outdated programming training. (Nakamotos style of notation was popular in the late 80s and early 90s, Taaki notes. Maybe hes around 50, plus or minus 10 years.) Some conjecturers are confident in their precision. He has at best a masters, says a digital-currency expert. It seems quite obvious its one of the developers. Maybe Gavin, just looking at his background.

I suspect Satoshi is a small team at a financial institution, whitehat hacker Dan Kaminsky says. I just get that feeling. Hes a quant who may have worked with some of his friends.

But Garzik, the developer, says that the most dedicated bitcoiners have stopped trying to hunt down Nakamoto. We really dont care, he says. Its not the individuals behind the code who matter, but the code itself. And while people have stolen and cheated and abandoned the bitcoiners, the code has remained true.

Benjamin Wallace (benwallace@me.com) wrote about scareware in issue 19.10.

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The Rise and Fall of Bitcoin | WIRED

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