Zuck makes first blockchain buy. Social media giant Facebook made an “acqui-hired” the Chainspace team, according to Cheddar. This is a Silicon Valley term for a buyout intended to gain expertise rather than existing assets. According to Alex Heath’s reporting, Chainspace was “a small blockchain startup founded by researchers from University College London, [that] was building a decentralized smart contracts system that could facilitate payments and other services through blockchain technology.” Heath goes on to suggest that Facebook is just getting started, and other digital ledger technology startups including payment platform Algorand are ripe for picking. Chainspace’s website has been updated to state that the 11-person team was “moving on to something new” as it shuts down the works and go to work for Mark Zuckerberg’s empire.
Coinbase extends PayPal link to Europe. Leading U.S.-based centralized exchange Coinbase announced that it has enabled European Union and European Free Trade Association residents to withdraw their holdings to PayPal. This service, available for the past few months to American customers, supplements European Coinbase users’ ability to make deposits into SEPA and UK Faster Payments. Coinbase advises PayPal subscribers who don’t live in in the U.S., E.U. or the non-E.U. European Free Trade Association countries to “stay tuned” because they expect to make similar announcements throughout 2019.
Persia’s petro? Four Iranian banks have unveiled a new, gold-backed cryptocurrency, according to Financial Tribune, an English-language news outlet focused on the Islamic republic. The PayMon – a play on the Farsi word for “covenant” – will be issued by Bank Mellat, Bank Melli Iran, Bank Pasargad and Parsian Bank, and traded on the over-the-counter Iran Fara Bourse. Speculation is that the PayMon will be used initially to help European nations circumvent U.S. sanctions in dealing with Iran, which the White House accuses of violating the terms of its nuclear disarmament treaty. It’s worth noting that private banks rather than the Central Bank of Iran are backing the new coin, as Cointelegraph among others speculated might be the case. The cryptocurrency news site noted that, if this had been an attempt at a central bank digital currency launch, it might have borne some resemblance to Venezuela’s failed, oil-backed petro.
Stablecoin clearinghouse to debut, led by major talent. Bitfinex and Tether executive Phil Potter is joining with Monax and Libra investor XBTO to launch Stablehouse.io, a clearinghouse designed to ensure liquidity, stability and accessibility for stablecoins. XBTO founder Philippe Bekhazi will serve as initial CEO, with Galaxy Digital’s David Namdar and Blockstream’s Samson Mow serving with him and Potter on the board. “The stablecoin market at the moment is inefficient and has various disparate stablecoins, with users needing to transact several times with different parties to exchange one stablecoin for another,” Coindesk quotes Bekhazi. “Stablehouse will address this by serving as a centralized platform that gives issuers, holders and exchanges certainty over access and liquidity, creating enhanced confidence for investors, developers and merchants.”
Crypto lives down to its reputation. Sure, there are lots of legitimate uses of cryptocurrency – self-executing contracts, frictionless remittances, in-app or in-game utility and so on. But let’s be real: It’s still used – a lot! – for illicit purposes. Bitcoin.com’s Kai Sedgwick reports on six of the most popular darknet sites from which you can buy anything from assault weapons to a night’s companionship. With names like Cannazon (“the Amazon of Cannabis”) to Wallstreet (where everything from cocaine to counterfeit US$100 bills are presented in product photos) to (our favorite site name) Berlusconi Market, there’s something for everybody – or everybody’s friend who’s into this stuff. But not us. No, sir.
LOOKING FORWARD: Cybersecurity professional Anthony Khamsei predicts that the day will come when all crypto exchanges are decentralized. “Decentralization facilitates a move away from centralized control and differentiates crypto from government-backed fiat currencies. It is the crucible of security and privacy,” he writes in a Bitcoin.com op-ed. He goes on to explain why he believes centralized exchanges lack security and privacy, and offers his suggestions on how to improve dexes’ liquidity and user experience. … Although Fidelity Investments hasn’t set a date for the launch of its bitcoin custody service – now in final testing – Bloomberg reports that it is targeting a March kickoff.