By Michael J. Casey
Welcome to BitBeat, your daily dose of crypto-current events, written by Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey.
Bitcoin Latest Price: $581.52, down 0.89% (via CoinDesk) - AUG 2014
Crossing Our Desk:
–It’s two weeks into new Ethereum’s one-and-a-half-month fund-raising and already the cryptocurrency startup can boast one of the most successful crowdfunding exercises in history, with the equivalent of $12.7 million raised.
The Zug, Switzerland-based firm is developing a software platform that will use a network of computers similar to bitcoin’s in order to decentralize all manner of economic activity. Developers are being encouraged to design special software applications that will exploit that network and its transparent “blockchain” public ledger in order to remove middlemen and keep costs down when people or companies exchange funds, assets and information.
Among the ideas being floated is an Ethereum-based, decentralized Facebook-like product in which users would have complete control over their personal pages, allowing them to derive advertising revenue rather than foregoing it to a centralized company. Other ideas involve securities markets that run without a central stock exchange or clearing house, contracts that need no lawyer for implementation, or tamper-proof polling and voting platforms that produce a perfect vote count without a pollster or electoral body handling the ballots.
The concept has stirred great interest among techies. And that helps explain the success of Ethereum’s “pre-sale” of ether, the digital coin-like tokens — or “fuel,”as it describes it on its web site — that will be needed for third-party software applications to run on the platform.
The tokens, which are yet to be issued and carry no governance rights or claims to dividends, are being sold in unlimited quantity according to a sliding scale of fixed prices quoted in bitcoin. The first, two-week round, which concluded at 6 p.m. EDT Tuesday, set the price at 2,000 ether per bitcoin. Now buyers will get 1,970 ether for each bitcoin tendered and the amount will drop by 30 ether each day after that until the sale ends on Sept. 2.
Late Tuesday in New York, total ether sold stood 43.75 million, representing 21,878 bitcoins or $12.7 million, based on the latest Coindesk bitcoin index price. The previous 24 hours saw a surge in orders as last-minute buyers sought to lock in the lower price. The total exceeds the estimated $7 million raised in an April digital-currency offering by decentralized computer storage provider Maidsafe and beats nearly all other dollar fundraisers on popular crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter.
According to Ethereum co-founder Joseph Lubin, early orders have come from software developers and financial entities looking to develop Ethereum-based applications as well as from buyers betting on future demand for the tokens.
As per Swiss law, the pre-sale is described not as a security or currency offering but as a product release. It treats ether as a form of software, on the grounds that developers will need the tokens in order to distribute information via transactions over Ethereum’s network and so implement their software applications.
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Mr. Lubin said third parties are currently building “hundreds” of prospective applications on top of the Ethereum platform. These include digital currency exchanges, digital wallets, decentralized messaging programs, business reputation marketplaces and self-enforcing “smart contracts.”
Ethereum is the brainchild of Vitalik Buterin, who drafted its white paper last year at age 19. Buterin’s idea was modeled on bitcoin’s core infrastructure, whose decentralized network and blockchain ledger obviate the need for fee-charging “trusted” third-party intermediaries, such as banks and credit card companies, in peer-to-peer electronic money transfers.
But Mr. Buterin felt bitcoin’s infrastructure was too limiting to support the full range of possible applications that these projects offered. So he came up with Ethereum, with an entirely new, independent blockchain and network of miners. (Michael Casey)