Bitcoin’s SegWit and Lightning: Need of the hour or not needed at all?

Mankind is a dedicated race and our insatiable thirst for innovation has been evident through history. Humans are obsessed with speed. For us, anything faster is better. Major innovations like telephones and trains, improved our speed of communication and transport, whereas simple developments like food-delivery apps, increased our ability to access a cooked-meal under 20 minutes. In short, our race takes pride in making things faster, and rightfully so.

“A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.”

This is the first statement from Bitcoin‘s revolutionary whitepaper that was released 11 years ago. Satoshi Nakamoto’s infamous idea, that would go on to create an industry worth over $200 billion in less than 10 years, did not mention the necessity of speed.  The anonymous figure’s only objective was to eliminate third party cost and create a payment system that is based on a peer-to-peer trust model.

However, not everyone bought into the same ideology. After appreciating what Bitcoin was back then, our ingrained affinity to make it faster manifested into a process. Bitcoin got popular, transaction rates increased, hence, the network got a little slower. Our speed-hungry consumer base got a little tired, and hence the concept of scaling Bitcoin surfaced.

Why was scaling even important in the first place?

Bitcoin’s working infrastructure is based on blockchain technology. For all its benefits of transparency and irreversibility of transactions, blockchain is comparatively slow.

The Bitcoin network can facilitate only 3.3 to 7 transactions per second whereas Visa completes around 1700. Even though Visa is a centralized system, opposite to Bitcoin’s working principle, the largest digital asset needed to amp up its numbers to rival the current competition in the industry.

Over the last decade, various solutions to improve Bitcoin’s scalability issue have been considered and implemented but the jury is still out on its relative success. This article aims to analyze factors that hinder its substantial rise and adoption.

The rapid rise of SegWit; was it failing to impress?

The main concern with Bitcoin’s transaction speed was its limited block size of 1 MB. Enter SegWit, and it theoretically improved a block’s ‘weight limit’ to 4 MB, without changing the block size. SegWit’s soft fork improved the block size without major changes to the code and it was implemented on August 24th, 2017.

Despite several initial concerns surrounding its launch, SegWit was off to a flying start in the network. By October of 2017, 7-10 percent of the total transactions were completed using SegWit and the implemented protocol was deemed to overcome all future scalability issues. However, few share the sentiment today.

SegWit’s adoption through 2018 and 2019 was analyzed to understand its adoption from a statistical point of view.

Data Source: bitcoinvisuals

2018 chart represented the rapid growth of transactions taking place on SegWit during the initial stages of implementation. From January 2018 to June 2018, the adoption rate registered a growth of over 25 percent as the number of transactions ranged from 24,500 to approximately 70,000. During the next half of the year, the adoption rate slowed down but the average number of transactions increased.

From July 2018 to December 2018, the number of transactions ranged from 70,000 to 90,000, with a minor dip in July, where the number of transactions dropped down to an average of 56,000. During this period, the adoption percentage hiked from 35.21 percent to 37.0; during October 2018, the rate was as high as 39.9 percent.

Overall, the SegWit adoption rate in 2018 grew from 10.11% to 37.00%.

Data Source: bitcoinvisuals

In comparison, 2019 has been rather stagnant in terms of adoption rate.

The growth in the number of transactions can be seen; however, the range did not scale periodically. From January 2019 to June 2019 [it is important to note, the aforementioned period was considered bullish], the adoption percentage mediated between the range of 33.4 percent to 39.4 percent, gaping only 6 percent in 6 months. The number of transactions increased over the period but remained hugely inconsistent.

During July 2019 to December 10th, 2019, SegWit reached its all-time-high adoption on October 5th, with a registered percentage of 61.8 percent. However, it dropped down to 47.7 percent on November 19th, and on record, the hike was only 9 percent during the 6 months. Transactions were incredibly inconsistent, scaling up to over 200,000 on October 1st but depleted largely during July-September, registering only 102,763 transactions on the 1st of September.

Overall, the SegWit adoption rate in 2019 stretched from 33.4% to 52.1%.

So, what was SegWit lacking exactly?

Just like any soft-fork in the network, SegWit also required a backward-compatible upgrade so that participants could access SegWit transactions. Despite all its advantages, every exchange or person who had a software system built around Bitcoin would need to upgrade their system to facilitate SegWit transfers. For major exchanges, it was a massive call to make, as an upgrade to SegWit would reportedly cost millions of dollars in terms of software development and for all its hassle, only a 1.5x-2x increase in terms of transaction capacity would be achieved.

Ironically, BitMEX and Bitfinex recently did convey support for Segwit after both the exchanges announced its support for bech32 addresses. However, the major catch was that users could only withdraw Bitcoin after the recent upgrade and to send BTC, it was still necessary for them to facilitate a transaction via a P2SH format address.

Another major issue with SegWit was the general disagreement and opposition from major bitcoin mining firms, notably Bitmain.

AMBCrypto spoke to Richard Dennis, Founder, and CEO of temtum cryptocurrency, and he suggested that SegWit is currently a solution to a problem, which essentially needs a better solution. He said,

“I do not think we will see adoption from the end-users, so it comes down to the wallet providers and the exchanges to implement this. Users don’t really care about this feature, but on the next bull run – when blocks start filling up and fees skyrocket – we will see a new conversation about scaling options.”

However, Luke Dash Jr, Core Bitcoin developer, believed that SegWit could be implemented in the system but from a different perspective. He told AMBCrypto,

“The point of SegWit was and is to fix the malleability issue. Adoption of Segwit as a goal in itself-if you are just sending A to B as a normal on-chain transaction, it shouldn’t be SegWit. Only Lightning and similar smart contracts should be using SegWit.”

The Lightning Network or a Lightning Mess?

Fron On-chain solutions to now Off-chain. Lightning Network or LN’s objective was to facilitate micro-transactions without altering the main blockchain or directly impacting Bitcoin’s core layer. While the Bitcoin community has desperately raged on lengthy debates on why LN is the one-stop scaling solution for Bitcoin, the problems with it noted by the rest of the space keeps piling on.

Since launching in early 2018, Lightning Network, [Just like SegWit] registered an impressive growth of over 15 percent per month as it reached over 10,000 nodes in September 2019. The numbers were significant but it did not give out a clear picture of the problems underneath.

After analyzing through endless arguments in the community and the current activity in the network, it can be identified that LN’s issues stemmed down to a few major problems.

1. Lightning Network did not exactly solve the transaction fee issue

LN has always been touted as the answer to the rising transaction fees of Bitcoin but it had its own set of issues. Firstly, Bitcoin’s congestion was a major factor that affected transaction cost and there were two parts to it. The first part was a fee that is charged in order to open and close the channel between the two parties, and after that, there is a separate routing charge to transfer the funds between channels.

In the past, Thaddeus Dryja, co-writer of the Lightning Network whitepaper, had also claimed that the rise of BTC transaction fees can inevitably impact lightning network and adoption, due to LN’s nascent stage.

Another crucial issue with Lightning Network is that the nodes on its network are required to remain online 24/7 to send or receive payments. The privacy aspect of the network is sacrificed in that manner and the network becomes susceptible to online thefts. Overall, despite its encouraging start, LN was nowhere near solving the scalability issues of Bitcoin, when it was facing its own set of problems with network and functionality.

Addressing the current status of Lightning Network, Richard Dennis, commented,

“Lighting Network will never work. We have seen examples over the past few months where experienced users have lost many BTC due to the complexity. This is not a system for the end-user. While it is marketed as a decentralized Bitcoin system, in reality it’s a bad attempt to patch Bitcoin to scale.”

Are we close to solving the ubiquitous problem of scaling in Bitcoin?

At press time, it has been over 3,695 days since Bitcoin whitepaper was launched and throughout that period, the largest virtual asset has survived a lot of speculation and critics. Despite that, it would be naive to say that Bitcoin can go forward without making certain changes to its system.

After witnessing constructive institutional involvement from the likes of Fidelity and Bakkt, it is safe to say Bitcoin will not face extinction any time soon. Keeping that in mind, Bitcoin would inevitably undergo another bull run like 2017.

Considering Bitcoin is even more popular than it was 2 years, during its next bull run, the largest asset would face another congestion period as the rapid transactions will fill up block space. Upon saturation, transaction fees would reach staggering heights and the topic of developing a scaling solution for Bitcoin will be back in the frame.

Could SegWit and Lightning Network be the answer? Maybe not, but at the moment, without another solution, exchanges and organizations may resort to these imperfect fixes, as the need of the hour may eclipse the need for an ideal system.

Bitcoin heists and bogus lawsuit claims put investors at risks

2019 shed light on the lack of security engulfing several crypto exchanges. Over 10 exchanges were reportedly hacked, reporting a loss of $170 million, according to Bobby Ong, co-founder of Coingecko. These incidents shook the community, and many looked toward the Proof-of-Keys [PoK] movement led by prominent YouTuber and Bitcoin enthusiast, Trace Mayer. Mayer has been persuading investors to move their cryptocurrency away from exchanges and into a Bitcoin wallet, where they control the private keys. Calling it ‘monetary sovereignty’, Mayer appeared on Peter McCormack’s podcast where he shed light on the PoK movement.

The website represented by Bitcoin mascot, the honey badger who is walking away with the keys, represented Mayer’s cogitation about investors holding their own keys. The page emphasized this idea through a tagline that has caught on with the community, ‘Not your keys; Not your bitcoin.’ While talking about his stance on the show, Mayer noted that when the investors allow an exchange to hold their Bitcoin, a bunch of things remain unclear including accounting statements and their means of securing coins.

According to Mayer with numerous lending agreements, things begin to tangle up and become difficult to discern. Especially with unregulated exchanges, which often hold millions of dollars in customer assets and do not produce any financial statements, pose a greater threat in case something blows up.

Mayer noted:

“If something blows up you become an unsecured general creditor like you don’t have any priority.”

The Cryptopia hack, that took place in two installments in January 2019, resulted in the theft of $15 million in ETH. The exchange referred to it as a ‘security incident’ and months later appointed Grant Thronton as the liquidator. The exchange reportedly, recovered $5.02 million from third-party trust accounts, while fixed assets worth $202,534 had been sold, including 344 BTC from ‘company wallet outside of known clients’.

The YouTuber cited the infamous Mt. Gox Bitcoin heist in 2014 and told McCormack that the reason users have not been able to withdraw their bitcoin from the exchange was due to the lawsuit by Coinlab, Mt. Gox’s former business partner filed by Peter Vessenes.

Mayer questioned:

“Why would a potential breach of contract claim be superior to customer assets”

Coinlab had increased the amount of its claim against Mt. Gox in February 2019, which was claimed to be unjustified by the community. Many called it trick to block creditor payouts. Users might have to hold on longer to withdraw their assets due to the existing lawsuit, impacting the trades and causing people to lose money. He urged crypto holders to learn to hold their own private keys in order to avoid such uncomfortable situations.

Namrata Shukla

Namrata is a full-time journalist at AMBCrypto covering the US and Indian market. A graduate in Mass communication, while majoring in Journalism, she writes mainly about regulations and its impact with a focus on technological advancements in the crypto space.

 

Venezuelan govt to airdrop 0.50 Petro to citizens

Venezuelan government has been working on a state cryptocurrency named Petro which is supposedly tied to the price of the oil. In the latest development, eligible Venezuelan citizens will receive 0.50 Petro token from the government. President Nicolás Maduro announced that whoever wished to receive the giveaway amount, which is equivalent to $30, must register on the platform called PetroApp, a digital wallet to buy and sell Petros and other cryptocurrencies.

Dubbed as a Christmas incentive, President Maduro revealed that the giveaway of the nation’s state-run cryptocurrency will be a nationwide affair that is expected to further its adoption. This is not the first time that the President has initiated a Petro giveaway. Maduro had previously made pension payments in Petro, instead of the sovereign Bolivar through the Patria system.

Venezuela’s fiat currency became hyper-inflated and the country has been caught in a downward spiral for years with growing political discontent. The digital currency, Petro , was announced in the middle of this crisis in an attempt to come out of it. While the government claimed that Petro was backed by oil reserves, the digital currency project faced huge resistance from Venezuela’s National Assembly. Headed by the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable, the National Assembly declared Petro to be an illegal debt issuance by a government desperate for cash and refused to identify it as a legitimate currency. Additionally, even the US Treasury called Petro, a scam.

Recently, Maduro said some 30 million barrels of oil sitting in storage tanks would serve as backing for Petro. Addressing the same, the President stated:

“I will deliver these 30 million of barrels as a liquid, physical, material backing for the Petro. The inventories of crude and products in storage tanks are available for immediate commercialization … to sustain and back the operations of the sovereign Venezuelan crypto-asset, the Petro.”

Chayanika Deka

Chayanika is a full-time cryptocurrency journalist at AMBCrypto. A graduate in Political Science and Journalism, her writing is centered around regulation and policy-making regarding the cryptocurrency sector.

 

Could Binance, Bittrex be facilitating new XRP ODL corridors? Crypto Twitter speculates

Ripple’s On-Demand Liquidity [ODL] platform has been noting a barrage of transactions, especially with the popular MXN corridor. According to the ODL data provider on Twitter, H_M_X, out of the total $108 million ODL flow in the fourth quarter, the MXN corridor was responsible for $100 million in transactions. Owing to the success of this corridor, Ripple had announced plans to open gateways to several other nations soon. However, Crypto Twitter has always been prompt in piecing together information and speculating on what’s next.

Crypto Twitter speculated that Ripple might be working on a new corridor with the help of either Bittrex or Binance or both. The speculation stemmed when a Twitter user @hallwaymonitor2 asked the community about the wallet address rBgnUKAEiFhCRLPoYNPPe3JUWayRjP6Ayg.

The Tweet read:

Does this anonymous exchange account belong to Bittrex or Binance?https://t.co/yhSQ7vl3v2https://t.co/PQOfylCb3nhttps://t.co/vfRwGUp9oN

It receives ODL like txs from BTC Markets with DT 794715642

— hallwaymonitor (@hallwaymonitor2) December 13, 2019

The user noted that the address received ODL like transactions from BTC Markets, Ripple’s ODL facilitator in Australia. After digging deeper into the wallet activators, it was found that the source address belonged to Ripple co-founder, Arthur Britto. Thus, answering the question put forward by twitter user @hallwaymonitor2.

Source: XRPscan

Source: XRPscan

Source: XRPscan

Source: XRPscan

However, this did not leave Binance and Bittrex out of the picture. The user pointed out that the aforementioned address received transactions from the Australian exchange, BTC Markets, shortly after AUD/XRP trades.

@hallwaymonitor2 speculated:

“New ODL corridors should be opening somewhere anyways.”

rBgnUKAEiFhCRLPoYNPPe3JUWayRjP6Ayg transacted 300,000 XRP to a Binance [1] wallet address with destination tag 104502291 and with Bittrex wallet where it transacted 550,000 XRP with destination tag 1829104356. The small transfers of XRP on these exchanges could indicate a testing phase between the corridors. Bittrex already serves as an ODL corridor in the United States, however, Binance could be a new addition to the list.

The Twitter user in his recent tweet said:

“Honestly I don’t know is this ODL but the MO suggests it would be. The key is to deanonymize this account first and then check are they selling the arriving XRPs to FIAT or not.”

While also highlighting the suspected ODL transfers.

Source: Twitter

Source: Twitter

However, they found an old XRPL Monitor tweet with the transaction of 70,000,000 XRP from rBgnUKAEiFhCRLPoYNPPe3JUWayRjP6Ayg to rpPcmcGQ5iTXDc5zF5owxwTifkTs1qYrA6, an address activated by Bittrex.

Source: XRP Scan

Source: XRP Scan

Source: XRP Scan

Source: XRP Scan

Moreover, even though Bittrex activated the rpPcmcGQ5iTXDc5zF5owxwTifkTs1qYrA6 address, Binance appeared to be using it as a cold wallet, chimed XRP scan.

Source: XRP Scan

Source: XRP Scan

If there is a new corridor being established where Binance may act as a facilitator, the platform needs to be tested with small transactions. The current transfers taking place between BTC markets, wallet address- rBgnUKAEiFhCRLPoYNPPe3JUWayRjP6Ayg, Binance and Bittrex hint at such a testing phase.

AMBCrypto has reached out to both Bittrex and Binance for comments and will update the article accordingly. 

Namrata Shukla

Namrata is a full-time journalist at AMBCrypto covering the US and Indian market. A graduate in Mass communication, while majoring in Journalism, she writes mainly about regulations and its impact with a focus on technological advancements in the crypto space.

 

Litecoin’s active address chart shows signs of dusting attack

Unlike privacy coins, cryptocurrencies like Litecoin do not have inbuilt privacy features. MimbleWimble via extension blocks is yet to be implemented. In the absence of new cryptographic obfuscation methods, the network becomes vulnerable to malicious activities such as dusting, where hackers and scammers try to break the privacy of cryptocurrency users by sending tiny amounts of coins to users’ personal wallets.

In the latest news, Litecoin.com’s Franklyn Richards witnessed strange network activity behind Litecoin’s active addresses. In a recent blog post, Richards stated:

“On average the network typically sees around 40,000 active addresses per day, however according to data from bitinfocharts, every 7 days this value is spiking to over 70,000 before abruptly dropping back down. This has resulted in an almost sawtooth like pattern that’s pretty evident given a cursory glance.”

According to Richards, this behavior started on the 20th of August 2019. Since then, every week there has been a spike and an abrupt drop, and this trend was in force for four months. Previously, a very noticeable dust attack occurred on the 10th of August 2019. He further noted that unless a large economic network entity has implemented a method for automatically managing and moving its Litecoin holdings and speculated that this could be a continuation of the August 10th attack.

AMBCrypto had previously reported about this incident after James Jager, Project Lead at Binance Academy first identified the attack.

Interestingly, the total number of transactions did not record any surge during the same time nor did the average value being sent exhibited signs of a correlation.

Richards noted that if the activity is indeed confirmed to be dust attacks then it is up to those mining the network to introduce a new set of rules to reduce the spread of dust. Additionally, the non-mining nodes can “economically pressure miners” to implement the necessary rules.

Dust is essentially tiny amounts of coins or tokens that is so small, that even users fail to notice at times, hence the name. Since the balances are so small, it is not spendable without being included with other coins held by the user. This allows the attacker or the sender of the dust to trace and de-anonymize the victim behind the wallet.

Developers are, however, working on ways to make the network more private by deploying methods like Confidential Transactions and Litecoin’s MimbleWimble via EB should help secure users’ financial data from attackers.

Chayanika Deka

Chayanika is a full-time cryptocurrency journalist at AMBCrypto. A graduate in Political Science and Journalism, her writing is centered around regulation and policy-making regarding the cryptocurrency sector.

Mysterious case of Quadriga: Trace Mayer urges for Cotten’s proof for body and keys

Trace Mayer, a YouTuber, and host of Bitcoin Knowledge podcast spoke with Peter McCormack on What Bitcoin Did and addressed the upcoming Proof-of-Keys [PoK] and other important aspects related to Bitcoin and the ecosystem.

Mayer, the person behind the Proof-of-Keys movement, spoke about the last event and how it helped spread awareness and take back control of people’s funds. Since the first PoKs event, a lot of exchanges have shut down and a lot of users might have noticed, said Trace Mayer. He added that if this was being done every year, it would be easier to keep track of the funds.

Speaking about interesting things that came out of the first event, Mayer mentioned that he would like to know where Gerald Cotten’s Proof of Keys is and how nobody has seen the body or the private keys. He also mentioned the ‘exorbitant lifestyle’ and the ‘crazy trading’ that took place in the exchange’s background as an example of how all of this could be avoided if people would understand the simple concept, ‘not your keys, not your coins’.

Extrapolating, Mayer added that if the Proof-of-Keys was done on a regular basis there wouldn’t be a need to ‘trust’ exchange with coins and hence this would eliminate the risk of losing your coins.

“And it’s better to just you know the best way to deal with a problem is to avoid it.”

There have quite a few mishaps when it comes to exchanges in the nascent yet budding field of cryptocurrency, take, for example, the earliest and the most known hacks, the Mt. Gox, or the Bifinex exchange, that was hacked on two separate occasions, or the most recent yet alluring loss of millions of funds, the QuadrigaCXCryptocurrencies, in general, cannot be hacked; but the exchanges, are online and hence vulnerable.

Mayer’s movement/event addresses this core issue with exchanges having a fractional reserve. With events such as the Proof-of-Keys, it would put exchanges, often the point of failure on its toes, as the users would go on a bank run, forcing the exchanges to give the users’ funds back.

With regards to the push back that Mayer received from the first event he said:

“What unintended negative consequences? They get to stress test their withdrawal systems, they get to polish up their withdrawal policies and procedures. And if they’re not playing A-game basketball, they need to get on the bench. So, I don’t really see a lot of downsides to it and maybe you’re paying a couple of cents in transaction fees, but you know you get some intrinsic reward out of that because you know that you’ve accomplished something.”

Akash Girimath

 

Akash is a full-time cryptocurrency writer and an analyst at AMBCrypto. He is an engineering graduate with an avid interest in finance and economics. Attracted to the chaos of trading, Akash has invested in BTC, ETH and XRP for educational purposes.