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The Race to be the Best Decentralized Storage Solution

Submitted by Seth Goldfarb on Wed, 02/21/2018 - 16:32
02/21/2018
The Race to be the Best Decentralized Storage Solution

This article was originally published at CoinCentral.com

Blockchain technology is all about decentralization. First it was financial systems and payments. Next came decentralized apps and programs that could run on the blockchain. Now, another frontier is opening with the decentralization of file storage. The decentralized storage space has rapidly become a crowded race, with StorjSia, Filecoin, and MaidSAFE all competing for market share.

The idea behind decentralized storage is allowing ordinary people to rent an unused portion of their hard drive space in a peer-to-peer network. The different platforms we’ll discuss in this article accomplish this task in slightly different ways. No matter the approach, however, data is a booming industry, and the future looks promising for any project that can perfect decentralized file storage.

Basics of Decentralized Storage

Decentralized storage works by sharing a file across a peer-to-peer network.

First, the uploader encrypts the file, and that person retains the key to unlock the encryption. Then the file gets broken into many smaller pieces. Each of these small encrypted pieces gets duplicated to ensure redundancy. Finally, the file shards get sent to various individual computers on the peer-to-peer network.

Those individuals hosting the files only have a small shard of the file’s contents, and it’s encrypted. This means hosts can’t gain information from the file. It also means that launching an attack against a hosting node would be pointless.

To recall a file, the original uploader uses a private key along with a blockchain-hosted hash table to locate all the shards of the original file and ask the network to reconstruct the file. Once the nodes send back the various shards, the file gets rebuilt. Then the uploader uses the original encryption key to unencrypt the file for use.

Demand for Storage

The cloud storage market is enormous. However, major players like Amazon and Google currently dominate the space.

Market research groups estimate the cloud storage market could grow to $74.94 billion by 2021 and $92.49 billion by 2022. If decentralized storage can capture even a small percentage of that market, it’s poised to be a large industry.

That’s why the race to be the top decentralized storage solution is so competitive.

Storj

Storj is, by far, the market leader for decentralized storage. It is also one of the oldest projects in the space. To date, Storj boasts a community of 20,000 users (uploaders) and 19,000 farmers (storage providers).

The project’s code is open source, so anyone could implement an instance of Storj. That said, Storj Labs, the private company behind Storj, has already built an impressive network. Users pay for access to that network.

The Storj architecture follows the standard model of sharding, encryption, and swarming described above to split and re-compile files.

User Experience

Storj’s big differentiator (aside from being the dominant force in the market) is user experience. Storj makes it easy and intuitive to sign up, host your files, or operate a node. It’s intended for mass market adoption, and the design clearly works.

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The payment model is also pay-as-you-go for uploaders, and they can pay in USD. This facilitates onboarding and makes the transaction easy to understand.

However, control over the user experience comes at a cost of some centralization. Storj Labs controls access to its network. The network is more decentralized and secure than centralized alternatives, though. Storj also can’t see any of your files. However, you do have to trust the Storj portal to use the network.

STORJ Token & Future Plans

Storj doesn’t support mining. Instead, its farmers undergo file audits. If the farmer can prove their computer is online and holds a copy of the given file, then they’ll receive a payout. These audits ensure that the files actually exist on the network. They’re also how farmers get rewarded.

Payouts come in the form of STORJ tokens. STORJ is an ERC-20 token. In fact, the entire Storj ecosystem is a dApp on the Ethereum blockchain. Storj does not have its own blockchain.

In the near future, Storj plans to focus on solutions for scalability. They also hope to address file sharing, so users can share/revoke access to files in real time.

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Storj has multiple partnerships in place to test and grow its reach. Notably, they recently partnered with FileZilla, a major FTP provider. In the last six months of 2017, the amount of data stored on Storj grew by 50% each month. Storj currently hosts over 30 petabytes of data on the network.

Sia

Sia is Storj’s biggest competitor with a viable product released to production. It works in a similar way to Storj. Specifically, Sia splits files into thirty segments, with enough redundancy that they could successfully rebuild the file with only ten of the thirty segments. The protocol also encrypts files in a similar way to Storj.

In contrast to Storj, Sia has its own blockchain. This proprietary blockchain supports smart contracts that Sia uses to manage and send files. Once sent, Sia also implements similar storage proofs to audit its nodes’ file maintenance.

Siacoin (SC)

Sia doesn’t support fiat payments like Storj. Instead, uploaders and nodes pay and get paid in Siacoin. Sia also needs miners to support its blockchain, and those miners are rewarded in Siacoin as well. There are multiple mining pools for Siacoin, the first and largest of which is SiaMining.

Growth & Future

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Over the course of 2017, Sia grew from 75 hosts and 500 TB of storage up to 1,000 hosts and 3.3 PB of available storage. That’s a rapid growth rate. However, it’s still small in comparison to Storj’s 20,000 hosts. Storj also has over 3.5 PB in use – more than Sia’s entire network size.

Filecoin

Filecoin is an interesting contender in this race because it hasn’t launched yet. Still, many anticipate it will be a major player in the space from day one.

This is partly due to the team behind the launch. Filecoin is a project from Protocol Labs. They’ve successfully deployed other network-based storage and computing projects, most notably IPFS. Filecoin also has massive backing. On the one hand, Silicon Valley venture capital is behind the project, including Andreessen Horowitz and Kamal Ravikant. On the other hand, Filecoin launched one of the most successful ICOs ever, raising $205 million in its token sale.

Platform Architecture

Filecoin’s white paper describes a dual approach to platform architecture that uses two types of network nodes.

The first are the storage nodes, like those in Sia and Storj. However, Filecoin seems to be angling toward larger players with large amounts of dedicated storage to contribute.

The second type of nodes are retrieval nodes. These nodes are ideally physically located in a central point surrounded by many storage nodes. They also need high-bandwidth, low latency internet access to retrieve and relay file shards as efficiently as possible.

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When operating a node, Filecoin works on a model of proof of continuous replication of the file shards entrusted to you. Creating redundancy earns Filecoin tokens. Filecoin is also ahead of the game on infrastructure. Since it comes from the same company that developed IPFS, Filecoin already has a built-in protocol for redundancy and erasure coding.

Marketplace

Another differentiation is that Filecoin offers a marketplace for data storage. Whereas Storj and Sia have established pricing models, Filecoin encourages asks and bids on a data storage exchange. Hosts can state at what price they’re willing to offer storage and uploaders can choose whether to accept that price.

Future

There’s a lot of hype around Filecoin, but the reality is they haven’t yet launched. It still remains to be seen whether the hype is warranted.

MaidSafe

MaidSafe is a smaller competitor in the field, so far. They’re also not strictly a file storage solution. They also have ambitions to get into the realm of decentralized computing. These broad ambitions make them an interesting project that could have enormous potential if they succeed. However, the drawback is grand visions mean less focus in the near term on establishing and differentiating a viable solution to a single problem.

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Their architecture is all about providing computing resources, not just storage. If your computer has a lot of processing power, for instance, you could rent that out on MaidSafe. Bandwidth or consistent, reliable connectivity are also valuable computing resources that you can trade on MaidSafe.

MaidSafe will also make it possible to use the network anonymously. This gives added privacy to your file storage when combined with end-to-end encryption and sharded storage.

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The project is still in the alpha stage of development. It doesn’t have all its features yet. However, they are making progress on development, entering Alpha 2 in the last few months.

Conclusion

The future of decentralized storage is exciting. It has the potential to be faster, cheaper, and more secure storage for broad adoption. While competition is fierce in this space, it will ultimately be good for the resulting technology. All of these teams are working hard to improve and differentiate their solutions. If speed, price, and scalability improve, you could see these companies going toe-to-toe with Amazon and Google in the not so distant future.

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Simple Guide To Exchanging Digital Currency With GDAX

Submitted by Seth Goldfarb on Sat, 02/17/2018 - 13:41
02/17/2018
Simple Guide To Exchanging Digital Currency With GDAX

Introduction

To learn more about digital exchanges, please check out The Ultimate Guide To Digital Exchanges. The GDAX exchange can be found at https://www.gdax.com/. GDAX offers trading pairs in US Dollars, Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and Litecoin.

Getting Started

Click the “Create Account” button in the top right corner of the screen. After entering in your information, click the “Create an Account” button. You’ll then be prompted to enter more information, to verify your identity.

GDAX Signup

Once your identity is verified, you can now fund your account. Click on the “Deposit” button on the “Order Form menu” at the left side of the screen. You can deposit funds from a Coinbase Account, BTC Address, connected Bank Account, or through a Bank Wire. 

GDAX Deposit

After you have deposited funds GDAX will wait for the transaction to be confirmed. Confirmation takes longer for some digital assets than others but once your funds are received you can use them for trading. 

Checking Your Balance
Click on the “Accounts” tab, on the top right pop-out menu, to view your account balances and other account information.

GDAX Balance

Making An Exchange
Click the “Select Product” tab on the top left side of the screen and choose your desired trading pair. You can place an order using the “Order Form” menu, on the left side of the screen. 

GDAX Exchange

For this example we have the USD/BCH trading pair displayed. To make a purchase of BCH using USD at the current market price leave “MARKET” and “BUY” selected and enter the amount of USD you wish to spend to see the amount of BCH you will receive. If you’re satisfied with the exchange rate then click “Place Buy Order” to execute the trade. GDAX also allows more advanced users to place limit and stop orders, which you can learn more about here.

GDAX Order Form

Advanced Features and Security Considerations
Some exchanges offer margin trading, futures, and other features designed to enhance the trading experience for more advanced users. It is recommended that users develop a solid understanding of trading and investment before purchasing digital assets or making use of advanced trading features. Be aware of the tax implications incurred by trading in your jurisdiction and the inherent risks of investing in general. Using an exchange can be intimidating for new users so practice making trades with small amounts of currency until you are comfortable using the platform of your choice. Most importantly, have fun!

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The Ultimate Guide to Digital Exchanges

Submitted by Seth Goldfarb on Fri, 02/16/2018 - 11:18
02/16/2018
The Ultimate Guide to Digital Exchanges

Introduction
A digital exchange allows users to purchase and exchange digital currencies. Some exchanges allow users buy and sell cryptocurrency to each other, some allow users to buy and sell tokens and fiat currencies from the exchange itself, and some strictly deal with digital currency exchange, often with advanced trading features like margin and futures. 

Types of exchanges

  • Peer-to-Peer: A platform allowing users to exchange digital currencies with other users. The exchange itself does not hold onto any currency but facilitates trades between users, ex. www.localbitcoins.com
  • Fiat-to-Digital: A platform allowing users to buy and sell digital currencies for fiat currency or other digital currencies, ex. www.coinbase.com
  • Digital: A platform allowing users to exclusively exchange cryptocurrencies, ex. www.bittrex.com

Security features to consider
The first rule when dealing with digital currencies is that you are solely responsible for the security of any money you store online. Always store your password in a safe location and make sure to use a strong password containing letters, numbers, and symbols. Many exchange, online wallets, and cryptocurrency users have suffered from security breaches resulting in the loss of significant assets so skepticism toward exchanges and wallet providers is highly recommended.

In addition to a secure password, two-factor authentication using an application like the Google Authenticator App rather than receiving a code via SMS is recommended. Exchanges are intended for use as an exchange and for daily trading so use your own digital wallets for long-term storage.

Questions to ask when choosing an exchange
Do users purchase digital assets directly from the platform, exchange IOU’s using a market-clearing mechanism that allows withdrawals, or from other users via the platform? Is this a reputable exchange? Does the exchange provide my desired functions? Am I legally allowed to exchange digital currencies based on the laws where I live?

Trading on an exchange
As an example we will use the platform provided by Bittrex at www.bittrex.com. Once you have created an account, hopefully set up two-factor authentication, and funded your account you can navigate between bitcoin and USDtether trading pairs at the top of the screen. The following example displays charts and information for the BTC-BCC trading pair trading Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, including the current BCC price in bitcoin and USD, the 24-hour volume, current bid, ask, and 24-hour high and low spot prices.

Bittrex

If we scroll down from there we find the actual exchange functions for buying Bitcoin Cash on the left and selling it on the right and below that the order book containing the most current bids to buy BCC and the asks for those wanting to sell you BCC. 

Bittrex Order

To buy BCC, enter the amount of BTC you would like to spend in the row marked “Total” on the left side. Then use the drop-down menu marked “Price” in the “Bid” row and select the “Ask.” The lowest rate at which you can currently buy BCC will be displayed in the “Bid” row and the amount you can buy will be in the row marked “Units.” As they say, you want to buy low and sell high. 

If you select a “Good Til Cancelled” order and the amount of units you intend to purchase exceeds the amount displayed in the “Size” column under “Asks” in the order book then your order will remain on the order book until a large enough lot of BCC becomes available at or below the requested price. If you select a “Fill or Kill” order the order will not remain on the books if it can’t be immediately fulfilled.

To sell BCC, enter the amount of BTC you would like to spend in the row marked “Units” on the right side. Then use the drop-down menu marked “Price” in the “Ask” row and select the “Bid.” The highest rate at which you can currently sell BCC will be displayed in the “Ask” row and the amount of BTC you can receive will be in the row marked “Units.” Again, if the amount of units you intend to sell exceeds the amount displayed in the “Size” column under “Bids” in the order book then your order will not be immediately filled. 

If you would like to see your order filled then search for a Bid whose size exceeds the amount of BCC you wish to sell; multiple bids can be used to fill an order so if the size of the first few orders exceeds the order you wish to make then as long as you place the order at the lowest bid before any other orders are entered you will have your order filled. 

Advanced features and other considerations
Some exchanges offer margin trading, futures, and other features designed to enhance the trading experience for more advanced users. We recommend developing a solid understanding of trading and investment before making use of these features. Be aware of the tax implications incurred by trading in your jurisdiction and the inherent risks of investing in general. Using an exchange can be intimidating for new users so practice making trades with small amounts of currency until you are comfortable using the platform of your choice.

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Brixby ICO: A Transportation Services Marketplace

Submitted by Seth Goldfarb on Tue, 01/30/2018 - 21:52
01/30/2018
Brixby ICO: A Transportation Services Marketplace

Brixbу iѕ a marketplace that bringѕ together реорlе whо wаnt to rеnt, раrk, аnd charge thеir саrѕ аnd аѕѕеt оwnеrѕ оf any size whо аrе rеаdу tо оffеr thоѕе ѕеrviсеѕ, in оnе еаѕу-tо-uѕе Brixbу app. Brixbу will рrоvidе a dесеntrаliѕеd blockchain-based mаrkеtрlасе, where еасh trаnѕасtiоn iѕ confirmed. Trаnѕроrtаtiоn ѕеrviсеѕ are in high dеmаnd, duе to the growth оf cities аnd inсrеаѕеѕ in рорulаtiоn. It iѕ a USD 74+ BN mаrkеt, which iѕ rеаdу fоr innovation and trаnѕраrеnсу.

Brixbу tеаm is rеаdу to take оn thiѕ сhаllеngе, hаving successfully imрlеmеntеd ѕimilаr ѕеrviсеѕ оn bоth small and mеgа-сitу scales. There аrе twо gоаlѕ for thе сlоѕеd рrе-ICO: find thе соntributоrѕ аnd find thе testers fоr Brixbу pre-alfa арр. The bеѕt раrt оf Brixbу’ѕ mоdulаr ѕtruсturе iѕ that buѕinеѕѕеѕ mау uѕе оnlу thоѕе services thаt are сurrеntlу аррliсаblе for thеir ѕizе аnd processes, thuѕ аllоwing fоr a lеаn IT infrastructure.

Rеgiѕtrаtiоn for thе рrivаtе рrе-ICO has ѕtаrtеd аt www.brixby.io . All intеrеѕtеd раrtiсiраntѕ may rеgiѕtеr on ѕitе. On Dесеmbеr 15, еvеrуоnе rеgiѕtеrеd аnd eligible will be granted an ассеѕѕ to their Brixby account аnd will bе аblе tо mаkе соntributiоnѕ. For аll the еаrlу supporters, thеу оffеr fаntаѕtiс bonuses: uр to 100% bonus dереnding оn the amount оf a contribution. All thе dеtаilѕ will bе shared аftеr the pre-registration.

CHRISTMAS SALE: Also, thеrе wаѕ a ѕресiаl Chriѕtmаѕ ѕаlе, on December 24 аnd 25 and Jаnuаrу 7 аnd 8, tо incorporate bоth Chriѕtiаn calendars. This special рrоmоtiоn wаѕ for Christmas оnlу.

FOR TESTERS: Thе key tо Brixbу’ѕ success iѕ оnе univеrѕаl арр with grеаt user experience, which serves drivеrѕ in all thе соuntriеѕ. To do thаt wе need thе соmmunitу’ѕ hеlр. We are vеrу еxсitеd that we gоt the рrе-аlрhа app rеаdу! Bеfоrе аррrоасhing thе роtеntiаl clients fоr рilоting thе арр in a commercial еnvirоnmеnt аnd аdding mоrе services, ѕuсh аѕ еlесtriс vеhiсlе сhаrging аnd саr ѕhаring, wе wоuld likе tо gеt thе соmmunitу feedback аbоut uѕеr experience of оur core ѕеrviсе – раrking.

You do nоt hаvе to be a рrоfеѕѕiоnаl tеѕtеr with a shiny rеѕumе, аll you need is an Android phone – thе firѕt vеrѕiоn оf thе рrе-аlрhа app iѕ android оnlу. Thе first ѕtер tо bесоmе a tеѕtеr is tо jоin the tеѕtеr соmmunitу оn www.brixby.io wеbѕitе. Aftеr thаt, уоu’ll have tо fill a ѕhоrt ѕurvеу, that will hеlр us undеrѕtаnd your background. Onсе dоnе, you’ll gеt a dirесt link to dоwnlоаd the Brixbу app with tеѕting inѕtruсtiоnѕ. Fоr соmрlеting thiѕ simple tаѕk, thеу are оffеring Brixbу tokens free of сhаrgе:

• 500 Brixby tоkеnѕ еасh, for thе first ten testers, whо complete thеir tаѕk

• 250 Brixby tоkеnѕ еасh, fоr thе nеxt tеn tеѕtеrѕ,

• 150 Brixby tоkеnѕ each, fоr the last tеn testers.

Rеgаrdlеѕѕ оf whеthеr the driving method iѕ autonomous оr whеthеr the саr is роwеrеd bу gasoline, hydrogen, or electricity -раrking and rеfuеling аrе twо оf thе ѕеrviсеѕ Brixby will рrоvidе. Brixby will еnѕurе that the selection of services аnd the customization оf ѕеttingѕ will bе drivеn by market dеmаnd аnd bу thе аdарtiоn оf technology, bе it app, USSD, or еnd-tо-еnd intеgrаtiоn with a ѕеlf-driving vehicle.

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Certified Blockchain-Based Diamond Exchange (CEDEX) ICO

Submitted by Seth Goldfarb on Wed, 01/17/2018 - 11:37
01/17/2018
Certified Blockchain-Based Diamond Exchange (CEDEX) ICO

Certified Blockchain-Based Diamond Exchange (CEDEX) aims to be the bridge between the diamond industry and the cutting edge of financial technology (FinTech). The exchange will enable users to trade in diamonds, shares of high-value stones, or shares in a basket of diamonds (ETF) through its web-based platform. To enable the secure exchange of diamond-backed digital assets, CEDEX uses a machine-learning algorithm to keep track of the quality, rarity, and spot price of stones.

A collaboration between leading online diamond exchange IDEX and Financial Technology (FinTech) company TechFinancials, the team includes Co-founder and CEO Saar Levi, Founder Ronen Priewer, CTO and Senior Blockchain Developer Avner Lewenstein, and Head of Product Evgeni Kif. Advisors include Alex Norta of the faculty of Software Science at TTU, Chairman of LDJ Capital David Drake, ethical hacker Jorge Rodriguez, IDEX founder Ehud D. Cohen, blockchain evangelist Jae Kim, TechFinancials Group Co-founder Asaf Lahav, independent non-executive chairman of XL Media plc Christopher Bell, and Mintbox founder Pialy Aditya.

The token presale will begin on March 16, 2018 and pre-registration is currently underway, with plans for launch of the CEDEX platform in Q3 2018. Token allocations will include 45% for marketing and business development, 20% for platform development, 20% for regulation, and 15% for working capital. The CEDEX token will be the only payment accepted on the CEDEX platform and ERC20-compatible. To learn more about CEDEX, please visit https://cedex.com/.

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Simple Guide To Purchasing Digital Currency With Coinbase

Submitted by Seth Goldfarb on Wed, 01/03/2018 - 22:34
01/03/2018
Simple Guide To Purchasing Digital Currency With Coinbase

Introduction
To learn more about digital exchanges, please check out The Ultimate Guide To Digital Exchanges. The Coinbase exchange can be found at https://www.coinbase.com/. Coinbase offers purchases and sales of Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Bitcoin Cash using a U.S. bank account, credit/debit card, or wire transfer.

The first rule when dealing with digital currencies is that you are solely responsible for the security of your funds. Use your own digital wallets to store tokens you intend to store for the long term. Unless otherwise specified, transactions made with digital currencies are irreversible and not anonymous. Practice sending small amounts of currency between digital wallets before making large transactions and always double-check to be sure you’re sending tokens to the intended address. 

Getting Started
Click the “Sign Up” button in the top right corner of the screen to create an account. Enter your information, click the Captcha and “Create Account” to get started.

Sign Up

After creating an account you can log in to the Coinbase dashboard displaying the current spot prices and charts for the digital currencies offered by Coinbase.

Dashboard

Click the “Buy/Sell” tab to purchase and sell digital currencies. You can choose between connecting a bank account, using a credit/debit card, or initiating a wire transfer to fund your digital USD wallet on Coinbase or purchase currencies.

Purchasing Info

Click the “Accounts” tab to view your wallet balances and transaction history. You can also send and receive tokens using the buttons by each wallet in your account.

Accounts

Advanced Features and Security Considerations
Some exchanges offer margin trading, futures, and other features designed to enhance the trading experience for more advanced users. It is recommended that users develop a solid understanding of trading and investment before purchasing digital assets or making use of advanced trading features. Be aware of the tax implications incurred by trading in your jurisdiction and the inherent risks of investing in general. Using an exchange can be intimidating for new users so practice making trades with small amounts of currency until you are comfortable using the platform of your choice. Most importantly, have fun!

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