Top Bitcoin, Blockchain and Cryptocurrency News Stories From February
February was the month when fear gripped financial markets; with stock markets tumbling in the face of worldwide fears of Coronavirus.
But that didn't halt progress towards further development and regulations. So much so that Democrat presidential candidates were pitching crypto policy ideas this month. Here, we chronicle some of the most impactful events from the month.
February 1 – Pro-Crypto presidential candidate, Andrew Yang calls for uniform crypto regulations
In an interview with Bloomberg, responding to a question on how his administration would tackle cryptocurrency regulation.
Andrew Yang advocated for a uniform, nationwide range of crypto regulations, rather than fractured state-by-state policing, which he argued impeded innovation and forced Bitcoin businesses out of certain states.
He further added that regulators could not hope to stop or impede cryptocurrencies with regulations,
“We need to have a uniform set of rules and regulations around cryptocurrency nationwide because right now we’re stuck with this hodgepodge of state-by-state treatments.”
The Democrat candidate continued:
“My priority would be clear and transparent rules so that everyone knows where they can head in the future and we can maintain competitiveness. Right now, you have banks restricting payments to these platforms and so forth. I don’t think that you could impede it with regulations if you tried.”
February 2 Twitter adds Bitcoin emoji, prods Unicode to follow suit
Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey, a long-time Bitcoin proponent, announced the introduction of the new emoji by tweeting using the bitcoin hashtag and tagged Unicode’s twitter account, seemingly urging the non-profit consortium to follow suit and incorporate the symbol in the Unicode character encoding standard.
Several members of the crypto community echoed Dorsey’s sentiments, including Lightning Labs co-founder Elizabeth Stark.
Although the bitcoin symbol, ₿, is already encoded as a character, the Unicode Technical Committee (UTC) has, thus far, rejected two separate emoji proposals for Bitcoin. Blockchain wallet revealed that they were putting together a new proposal for a Bitcoin emoji.
February 5 Lightning Labs Raises $10 Million to Expand Its Lightning Network
In a medium blog post, Lightning Labs CEO, Elizabeth Stark, revealed that the company behind Bitcoin's Lightning network had raised a $10 million Series A financing round.
The funding, which was led by Craft Ventures, allowed Lightning Labs to roll out its first commercial product, the Lightning Loop, which Stark branded “the Visa network for Bitcoin,” to help businesses integrate and use its high-speed network for instant payments.
Three decades ago, the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee included an HTTP status code for client error “402 Payment Required” reserved for future use. This error code suggested a future expectation for a digital micropayments system native to the Internet.
Bitcoin’s second-layer protocol boasts the potential to finally fulfil that expectation.
February 7 Japan Deliberates CBDC to Curb the Potential Influence of China’s Digital Yuan
On the same day the Governor of the Federal Reserve, Lael Brainard revealed that the Fed was studying the feasibility of digital currency, Japan's vice-minister for foreign affairs, Norihiro Nakayama said that Japan was looking to collaborate with the US and five other central banks.
The vice-minister announced that this was with the aim of exploring the viability of digital currencies in a bid to forestall the impact of China’s impending central bank digital currency (CBDC) on the global reserve currency system.
Earlier in the week, Bank of Japan’s (BOJ) Deputy Governor Masayoshi Amamiya had stated at a Reuters event that it was critical for Japan’s central bank to continue examining the possibility of issuing CBDCs:
“The speed of technical innovation is very fast. Depending on how things unfold in the world of settlement systems, public demand for CBDCs could soar in Japan.
We must be prepared to respond if that happens.”
February 10 Australian Government Unveils Roadmap for Blockchain Adoption
Under the guidance of the National Blockchain Roadmap Advisory Committee, the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER) published a 52-page roadmap, enumerating a twelve-point five-year plan.
This plan includes implementing a clear regulatory framework, helping people develop blockchain skills and increasing global investment and collaboration opportunities to help Australia progress towards “a blockchain empowered future.”
The report recognized the importance of leveraging blockchain beyond just the financial services sector. Including using it in areas such as agriculture and healthcare, estimating blockchain technology to add $175 billion in annual business value by 2025 and in excess of US$3 trillion by 2030.
February 12 US Treasury Department Plans to Implement new AML Rules for Cryptocurrencies
During a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee. The US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, explained that his department was working in concert with other agencies in a bid to improve transparency.
This cross-department work includes entities from the legal, regulatory and cybercrime fields in a bid to crackdown on the use of Bitcoin for illicit activities, such as money laundering.
Mnuchin admitted that there was growing concern over the use of cryptocurrencies to anonymously execute illegal transactions and potentially evade American sanctions on countries such as Iran and North Korea:
“We are about to roll out some significant new requirements. We want to make sure that technology moves forward; on the other hand, we also want to make sure cryptocurrencies aren’t used for the equivalent of old Swiss secret number banking.”
February 14 FC Barcelona partners with Chiliz to Launch Blockchain-Based fan Token
Following in the footsteps of six other European clubs, Spanish football giant FC Barcelona signed up with Chiliz, owner of Socios.com. The mobile app will allow fans of the club to vote on various polls, binding and non-binding, throughout the course of the football season.
The influence of a fan's vote will be determined by the number of tokens held by the fan. Fans will be offered 40 million Barca coins at 2 euros each, expected to go on sale in the second quarter of 2020, with all proceeds from the token sale going to the club.
Josep Pont, a board member at FC Barcelona, said that the agreement presents “innovative marketing and partnership activations” in the digital realm to take the club closer to its global fan base.
Since Chiliz debuted its fan tokens in December 2019, the Socios.com app has been able to engage 110,000 users, with fans of the nine partner clubs buying an average of $20 worth of fan tokens.
February 16 German Gold Bullion Company Urges Investors to buy Bitcoin
The Frankfurt-based precious metals exchange, CelticGold AG, advised conservative precious metal investors to overcome their mental blockages regarding Bitcoin and diversify at least 5% of their assets into the cryptocurrency.
In a periodic bulletin to its investors, the German company noted Bitcoin's superior performance against all other asset classes over the last two years and said that it expected the trend to continue in 2020.
“A decision is getting closer in the unnoticed but extremely interesting Bitcoin/Gold ratio. Bitcoin will soon break out against gold. Conservative precious metal investors are therefore well advised to free themselves from their mental blockages and to diversify at least a tiny part of their assets into Bitcoin during the next dip.
The king of cryptocurrencies should bring breathtaking gains again this year and will possibly outperform gold again.”
February 19 Presidential Candidate Mike Bloomberg Outlines his Crypto Policy Ideas
Former New York Mayor and Democratic candidate for US president, Mike Bloomberg released a campaign document outlining his financial reform policies. These policies also included a promise to work with regulators to provide clearer rules for cryptocurrency users and businesses.
Recognizing the burgeoning impact of cryptocurrencies, which have become an asset class worth hundreds of billions of dollars, the document lamented the inadequacy of regulatory rigour.
Bloomberg proposed a five-point plan which included clarifying responsibility for regulatory oversight, providing a well-defined framework for ICOs, protecting consumers from crypto fraud, clarifying tax liabilities for crypto investments and defining capital and other requirements for financial institutions holding cryptocurrencies.
February 20 Visa grants Coinbase principal membership status
Coinbase revealed in a blog post that it had become the first pure-play cryptocurrency company to be approved as a Visa principal member.
Granted in December, principal membership allows the San Francisco-based exchange to issue payment cards of its own to others, including other cryptocurrency companies. The membership also simplifies the process of spending cryptocurrency anywhere Visa is accepted, regardless of whether the merchant itself accepts cryptocurrency.
Zeeshan Feroz, CEO of Coinbase UK, said that this could transform cryptocurrency into a liquid, readily spendable asset and accelerate retail integration.
“Your Bitcoin holdings have never been liquid because you have to sell them, you have to go through a process, withdraw the money, and then spend it. What the card is trying to change is the mindset that crypto is tucked away, takes two days to access, and can actually now be spent in real-time.”
February 24 Central Bankers Deem Blockchain Unnecessary for CBDCs
At a conference in Kyiv organized by the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU), experts from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and representatives from central banks of Japan, South Africa, Uruguay, Finland, Lithuania, Canada and Sweden discussed the merits, opportunities and potential of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs).
The NBU said it had tested a digital token running on a fork of the Stellar blockchain from September to December 2018 and found that “there are no fundamental advantages in using blockchain to build a centralized digital fiat system.”
Bank of Canada’s Scott Hendry said that use of blockchain wouldn't change the technology used by banks internally and offered few benefits over the current efficient centralized system for the purpose of interbank payments.
Harro Boven from the Dutch central bank observed that banks were being forced innovate by the looming threat of private money such as Libra, and instead of screwing up the monetary system trying to compete, they should focus on doing their job.
February 26 Coinbase Adds Support for Transacting With Wallet Usernames
Coinbase revealed in a blog post that its wallet users can start sending crypto using “short human-friendly addresses”, a wallet username set by the user, instead of using long alphanumeric wallet addresses.
The exchange said it was a move in response to wallet users often telling the company how cumbersome it was dealing with long crypto addresses and how stressful it was to send money with the fear of having copied an address incorrectly.
The blog post went on to add that being able to transact in cryptocurrency in a familiar manner similar to traditional payment apps could help drive adoption with a more mainstream audience.
In addition to wallet usernames, Coinbase also integrated the Ethereum Name Service (ENS), which will allow users on the platform to send crypto to .eth addresses from their Coinbase wallet.
February 28 US Congress Committee to Discuss Benefits of Blockchain for Small Businesses
The US House of Representatives Committee on Small Business will hold a hearing titled, “Building Blocks of Change: The Benefits of Blockchain Technology for Small Businesses.”
Set to be held on March 4, the remit for the hearing is to explore how innovators and entrepreneurs are using blockchain technology to help small businesses boost productivity, increase security, open new markets, and change the way business is done.
The notice of hearing sent to members of the committee noted blockchain's role beyond cryptocurrencies, including its utility in tracking goods in global supply chains and supporting IoT implementations, as well as increasing transparency and trust among stakeholders.
One of the witnesses to testify before the committee, CEO of Cleveland based blockchain company Ownum, Shane McRann Bigelow said that he hoped the hearing will demonstrate US intent on seizing a leadership role in blockchain technology, similar to how the US-led the way with the Internet back in the '90s:
“The Committee is doing our country a favor by starting 2020 with a look at how blockchain can be used, beyond crypto, to enhance our daily lives.”