Weekly Round Up: Croatia and Swiss fight for Bitcoin, Casascius warned by FinCen and the latest 0.8.6 update

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After a week of crazy volatility, Bitcoin is still recovering from the price drop it suffered, but also from the warnings launched by the Chinese and French central banks.

However, these were just some of the issues that made the headlines during the past seven days and we are about to show you the rest. Welcome to another weekly round up.

Sheep Marketplace heist is the “Biggest Darknet Scam Ever”

screen-shot-2013-10-02-at-10-59-56-pm-625x625The shutdown of the illegal online bazaar Sheep Marketplace that sold illicit goods including guns and drugs through the Tor network can actually be the !Biggest Darknet Scam Ever”. The title has spread across the internet, describing the scam that made $100 million worth of Bitcoin vanish.

After the marketplace’s customers realized they had been robbed, two Redditors started to follow the trail of evidence left by the thief or thiefs.

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Bank of France warns Bitcoiners and merchants about cryptocurrency risks

The People’s Bank of China wasn’t the only one to warn its banks and citizens about the risks of dealing with cryptocurrency. The Bank of France decided to follow the same path, claiming Bitcoin is inherently volatile and that users might find it difficult to convert the virtual coin to real money.

The central bank sees no threat to legal tender, but the anonymity that Bitcoin can offer is a problem, as it raises the risks of money laundering and financing of terrorism, the central bank said in an official document.

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University of Nicosia receives first tuition paid with Bitcoin

University_of_Nicosia_Front_viewThe University of Nicosia (UNic), in Cyprus, already received the first tuition paid with Bitcoin from a South African student that will take an online MBA degree. The news was revealed by the institution, one of the largest accredited English language universities in the Euro-Mediterranean region, which recently started accepting cryptocurrency.

“On November 27, Francois Rossouw, a new UNic student in South Africa, made a payment of 1 BTC, the equivalent of €670 ($910), toward tuition for an online Master of Business Administration degree”, the university said in a press release.

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The power of the Bitcoin network

In November, 2013, the global Bitcoin network passed 64 exaflops. This is 256 times the computer power of the top 500 supercomputers in the world, according to The Next Big Future. The total Bitcoin valuation is currently over $8 billion. The exaflops are not floating point and are mainly dedicated specially designed ASICS.

British entrepreneurs change HMRC’s view on Bitcoin

HM_Revenue_and_Customs_-_geograph.org.uk_-_679643The British HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) recently classified Bitcoin as a “voucher”, but a few crypto-entrepreneurs are trying to change the institutions’ mind regarding this option, which meant that the Value Added Tax (VAT) would be applicable to sales involving Bitcoin.

A group of well-known Bitcoiners in the UK visited the HMRC’s facilities to change the financial department’s opinion. The representatives were Tom Robinson from BitPrice, the cryptocurrency entrepreneur Michael Parsons, Marc Warne from Bittylicious and Eitan Jankelewitz from Sheridans law firm.

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Nio card lets users send and receive Bitcoin via NFC

The nio Card, a new smart device from the British tech specialist Bluenio, recently made its Kickstarter debut, on 8th November. The device uses Bluetooth technology to connect to a user’s smartphone wirelessly.

However, according to Coindesk, the nio Card packs an extra punch for Bitcoin users: on 29th November, the company revealed that, if it reaches its fundraising target of £35,000, it will allow merchants and consumers to send and receive Bitcoin via near-field communication (NFC).

Bank-free exchange EasyCoin ready to start operating on December 31st

easycoin2The Bitcoin company Neo is almost ready to kick-off its new exchange, EasyCoin. The platform is set to start operating on the last day of this year. The virtual service will provide “the newest, simplest, hassle free way to buy cryptocurrencies online without the need for a bank account”.

Neo guarantees that its new customers will be able to create an account in less than three minutes, as well as quickly top-up their account at one of the new Bitcoin-friendly ZipZap payment locations across the world.

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Croatia considers Bitcoin legal; Swiss fights for the same

Croatia might be very distant from China in two different ways: it’s not only a matter of miles, but also a matter of opinion when it comes to Bitcoin. After discovering that two places in the country already accepted cryptocurrency, the Croatian National Bank (CNB) debated Bitcoin for the first time and concluded that the use and trading of this digital coin in Croatia is legal. After the announcement, the world’s most famous virtual coin got massive media coverage in the country.

In the meantime, 45 members of the Swiss parliament signed a postulate asking for Bitcoin to be legally treated as a foreign currency, like the Euro or the Dollar.

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Sorry, Snoop Dogg! Mel B is the first music artist to embrace Bitcoin

800px-MelaniebrowntorontoSnoop Dogg was preparing himself to become the world’s first superstar to accept Bitcoin for a music album, but the former Spice Girl Mel B was quicker. The singer recently announced she will be accepting cryptocurrency for her new single, entitled ”For Once in My Life”, which will be on sale on December 25th through her website.

The singer established a partnership with Cloudhashing.com in order to accept Bitcoins. ”I love how new technology makes our lives easier, and to me that’s exciting. Bitcoin unites my fans around the world using one currency”, she said.

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KryptoKit lets you pay in Bitcoin on almost any webpage

KryptoKit, recently launched at the Inside Bitcoin conference in Las Vegas, is the service that searches for Bitcoin addresses on the webpages you visit and allows for one-click payment in BTC.

You can create by creating a Bitcoin wallet at KryptoKit, which you can use to store your BTC using your browser. As reported by TechCrunch, it is rather secure: you can set a password that you must enter before the wallet can send out any Bitcoins. It also lets you backup your wallet to a file.

Safello showcases Sweden’s first Bitcoin ATM

10o=BitcoinsWThe Hilton Slussen hotel, in the center of Stockholm, was the spot chosen by the Bitcoin-friendly startup Safello to showcase the first cryptocurrency ATM available in Sweden. The device was developed by the company and allows the users to exchange cash for virtual money.

The Bitcoin ATM was showcased last Monday (9), at the STHLM TECH’s Meetup. After exchanging fiat currency for virtual coins, the users could buy drinks and food on a nearby street using their cryptocurrency, for instance.

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Bitcoin businesses aren’t applying for licenses in the United States

State financial regulators in the United States have received several inquiries about licensing Bitcoin businesses, but few applications, Coindesk reported this week. The commissioner of banks in Massachusetts, David Cotney, claimed his state has only received one application to license a Bitcoin business to date, with other states reporting similarly low figures.

This news comes after the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) made a statement back in March that any company trading digital currencies would be regarded as a “money transmitter”.

Is the “section 22.1? the only reason why Apple seems to hate Bitcoin?

apple-app-storeApple has been drifting away from the Bitcoin community ever since cryptocurrency started growing, but the truth is that we still don’t really understand why this is happening.

After previous “incidents”, in the past couple of months, the tech giant has been rejecting any Bitcoin-related service that even comes close to its precious App Store. That happened with Coinbase’s app for iOS, which was slashed from the platform in mid-November, and more recently with Gliph. Rob Banagale, from Gliph, said this rejection is probably based on the section 22.1 of Apple’s App Store review guidelines.

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BitPay transacts more than $100 million in Bitcoin

Christmas is still a few days away, but the payment processor BitPay already unwrapped two gifts. According to the company, their platform surpassed in December the $100 million in Bitcoin transactions and now has more than 15,500 merchants spread across 200 countries.

BitPay “blames” its all inclusive pricing plans, launched back in October, for the growing success of the platform. Besides, the integration with Shopify has increased the number of new merchants over 50 percent, tripling the volume of transactions.

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JP Morgan’s new project: an anonymous online payment system

Photo: JB Reed | Bloomberg News

Photo: JB Reed | Bloomberg News

A payment system using “virtual cash”. This is the core theme of a new patent recently filed by the United States bank JP Morgan Chase. What has that to do with Bitcoin? Well, it surely makes us think about the world’s most famous cryptocurrency and even the financial institution compared their future service to the virtual coin.

According to JP Morgan, the features of this electronic system will allow users to make payments “completely anonymously”, much like Bitcoin. Besides, users won’t have to pay for “wiring fees” when making transactions.

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Coinbase secures investment of $25 million

In a week, the Bitcoin company Coinbase got two great news: a major investment and a popularity boost after being considered the second most exciting startup of the year by nothing less than Time.

Coinbase secured a series B funding round of $25 million, led by the Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. The investment had the participation of Union Square Ventures and Ribbit Capital.

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Producer of physical Bitcoin Casascius shutdown by FinCen

794px-Casascius_coinMike Caldwell, the creator of the highly popular physical Bitcoins called Casascius, recently received a letter from FinCen (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network), part of the United States Treasury Department, claiming his activity falls within the “money transmitting” classification.

This means that, to keep minting physical crypto-coins on behalf of his customers, he would have to get quite a few state and federal licenses. Taking into account the complexity of the process, Caldwell halted all Casascius’ orders. However, he defends the idea that he doesn’t transmit money, rendering FinCen’s warning inapplicable in this case. Still, his business is being affected and shutting down the operation is an option.

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What’s new about Bitcoin 0.8.6? Bugs and block size limits

The Bitcoin update 0.8.6 was officially launched this week, bringing welcomed news to the community. It’s not just about being affected by less bugs, it’s also about the changes made to the block size.

It’s now possible to make as many as 27 free transactions per block, a big improvement when compared to the 0.8.5 version. Another welcomed change relates to the minimum output requirement, which is no longer of 0.01 BTC. With the value increasing, the requirement became outdated and was eliminated. However, there might be some users facing problems related to the update.

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Maria Santos

Maria is an experienced journalist currently living in the UK. She has been writing about Bitcoin and the altcoin universe since 2013. She is also a member of the Lifeboat Foundation's New Money Systems Board and a big cryptocurrency supporter.

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