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Bitcoin Got Its First Makeover In Four Years

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The first bitcoin upgrade in four years has just been approved by miners around the world. It is a rare moment of consensus among stakeholders, and crypto experts tell CNBC it’s a pretty big deal for the world’s most popular cryptocurrency.

The upgrade is called Taproot, and it’s due to take effect in November. When it does, it will mean greater transaction privacy and efficiency – and crucially, it will unlock the potential for smart contracts, a key feature of its blockchain technology that eliminates middlemen from even the most complex transactions.

“Taproot matters, because it opens a breadth of opportunity for entrepreneurs interested in expanding bitcoin’s utility,” said Alyse Killeen, Founder and Managing Partner of bitcoin-focused venture firm Stillmark.

Unlike bitcoin’s 2017 upgrade – referred to as the “last civil war” because of the contentious ideological divide separating adherents – Taproot has near universal support, in part because these changes are fairly incremental improvements to the code.

What’s changing

Bitcoin’s makeover has to do with digital signatures, which you can think of as the fingerprint individual leaves on every transaction they make.

Right now, the cryptocurrency uses something called the “Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm,” which is created from the private key which controls a bitcoin wallet and ensures that bitcoin can only be spent by the rightful owner. Taproot will switch over to something known as Schnorr signatures, which essentially makes multi-signature transactions unreadable, according to Alejandro De La Torre, Vice President at Hong Kong-headquartered major mining pool Poolin.

In practice, that means greater privacy, because your keys won’t have as much exposure on the chain. “You can kind of hide who you are a little bit better, which is good,” said Brandon Arvanaghi, previously a security engineer at crypto exchange Gemini.

It won’t translate to greater anonymity for your individual bitcoin address on the public blockchain, but it will make simple transactions indistinguishable from those that are more complex and comprised of multiple signatures.

These souped-up signatures are also a game-changer for smart contracts, which are self-executing agreements that live on the blockchain. Smart contracts can theoretically be used for practically any kind of transaction, from paying your rent each month to registering your vehicle.

Taproot makes smart contracts cheaper and smaller, in terms of the space they take up on the blockchain. Killeen says that this enhanced functionality and efficiency presents “mind-blowing potential.”

Currently, smart contracts can be created both on bitcoin’s core protocol layer and on the Lightning Network, a payments platform built on bitcoin, which enables instant transactions. Smart contracts executed on the Lightning Network typically lead to faster and less costly transactions.

“Lightning transactions can be fractions of a penny…while a bitcoin transaction at the core protocol layer can be much more expensive than that,” explained Killeen.

Developers have already begun to build on Lightning, in anticipation of the upgrade, which will allow for highly specific contracts.

“The most important thing for Taproot is…smart contracts,” said Fred Thiel, CEO of cryptocurrency mining specialist Marathon Digital Holdings. “It’s already the primary driver of innovation on the ethereum network. Smart contracts essentially give you the opportunity to really build applications and businesses on the blockchain.”

As more programmers build smart contracts on top of bitcoin’s blockchain, there is also the potential for bitcoin to become more of a player in the world of DeFi, or decentralized finance, a term used to describe financial applications designed to cut out the middleman.

Today, ethereum dominates as the blockchain of choice for these apps, also referred to as “dapps.”

Why the wait

Though the bitcoin community has agreed to the upgrade, the rollout itself won’t happen until probably November. A lot of testing ahead of time will reduce the likelihood of something going wrong during an upgrade.

“Upgrades allow the – extremely remote – possibility of a bug entering the system, which would destroy confidence in the whole cryptocurrency system, effectively wiping it out – a ‘self-inflicted wound’ if you like,” said Jason Deane, an analyst at Quantum Economics.

Deane says this is why upgrade processes are so carefully tested, retested, and vetted, again and again, over very long periods of time, prior to being deployed.

Many also remember the disastrous migration of 2013, when an upgrade went wrong and resulted in bitcoin temporarily splitting in half.

“You don’t want different clients or miners in the protocol out of sync. That’s how catastrophic stuff happens,” Nic Carter, founding partner at Castle Island Ventures, told CNBC. “Because we don’t want a repeat of 2013, we have these extremely long lead times.”

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Bitcoin

BTC Gains 15 Percent In 3 Hours Amid Tight Squeeze

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The price of Bitcoin has surged more than 10 percent in just a few hours earlier today, with prices quickly surging from roughly $35,000 to tag just shy of $40,000 on July 26.

Price action shows a violent short squeeze that occurred as prices broke above $35,000, with bullish momentum suddenly accelerating as prices quickly rallied 15 percent from roughly $34,000 to $39,800 over the course of fewer than three hours.

By contrast, BTC had taken the past five days to gain from roughly $30,000 to $34,000. As of this writing, Bitcoin is changing hands for roughly $38,500.

According to CoinMarketCap, Bitcoin is the top gainer for the past 24 hours among the top 30 crypto assets by capitalization, posting a gain of nearly 13 percent.

The sudden rally has seen numerous technical indicators return to offering bullish signals, popular analyst, Lark Davis, informing his 426,000 followers that BTC’s price is again trending above its 50-day moving average.

Polkadot and Chainlink are also among the day’s top gainers, each having increased by more than 10 percent in the past 24 hours.

With Dogecoin up by 11.83 percent for the day, it would appear the impact of Elon Musk’s Twitter account on the meme-coin’s markets is beginning to wane, with Tesla’s CEO posting a meme asserting that “Dogecoin is money” on July 25.

Despite Musk’s efforts, Dogecoin appears to have moved in lock-step with the broader altcoin markets, with most large-cap crypto assets having posted high single-digit gains for the day.

Despite next month’s fast-approaching London upgrades for Ethereum, Ether is also lagging behind the pack, posting a gain of  7.82 percent in the past 24 hours.

As such, ETH is the weakest-performing cryptocurrency ranked among the top 10 by capitalization for the past day.

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Bitcoin Will Hit All-time Highs Again This Year, Crypto is Inevitable Future: deVere CEO

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Bitcoin will hit its previous all-time highs again by the end of the year with prices driven higher by the “carefully considered arguments” and “new measured tone” being put forward by the likes of Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey and Cathie Wood, affirms the CEO of deVere Group.

The bullish Bitcoin price prediction from Nigel Green, chief executive and founder of one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory and fintech organisations, follows Wednesday’s The B Word Conference.

At the live virtual event, Tesla and Space X founder Elon Musk, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, and Ark Investment’s Cathie Wood all advocated for the cryptocurrency and talked about its massive future potential.

Bitcoin surged as much as 10% on the back of their comments.

Nigel Green says: “Musk, Dorsey and Wood are three of the most important and forward-thinking business leaders of our time.  What they say matters.

“Crucially, the tone was less sensationalist than it has been in past, with all the panelists putting across carefully considered, fact-based arguments about why they are all bullish on the future of Bitcoin and crypto generally.

“This will not have gone unnoticed by investors.

“As such, I believe that with these hugely influential figures pursuing this stance and this new tone, we can expect the price of Bitcoin to hit, or even surpass, its mid-April all-time high of $65,000 by the end of 2021.”

Demand will boom because of what Musk, Dorsey and Wood said for two main reasons, says Mr Green.

“First, both institutional and retail investors were given a considerable crypto confidence boost by comments the panelists made about their own multinational businesses and their visions for the future.

“Musk, one of the world’s most successful and richest entrepreneurs, confirmed for the first time that both of his companies, Tesla and Space X, and that he personally, owned Bitcoin.  And that neither he nor his companies, will sell the cryptocurrency.  He also revealed Tesla is likely to restart taking payments in Bitcoin.

“Similarly, Dorsey hinted that Twitter will soon allow advertisers to pay for advertising on the giant social platform in crypto.

“He went on to say the cryptocurrency could function as the internet’s ‘native currency’ and this would help all businesses in a much faster way.

“Second, Dorsey and Wood – and Musk to a lesser degree – addressed the environmental impact of Bitcoin mining, an issue which has weighed heavy on the price in recent months.”

Wood, in particular, spoke about how Bitcoin aligns with the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing growth trend.

She highlighted how Bitcoin “will be much more environmentally friendly—certainly more than traditional gold mining or the traditional financial services sector. In many ways, it already is.”

She added that Bitcoin has much to offer in the ‘social’ bracket “by providing financially underserved people with “access to payment technology… everywhere around the world without friction”; and the ‘governance’ bracket by offering transparency “unlike the opaqueness of financial systems and the toll-takers in the traditional financial world.”

The deVere CEO affirms: “All of this will help drive Bitcoin prices higher and this will have a knock-on effect to the wider crypto market.”

He concludes: “The message from mega-influencers Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey and Cathie Wood was clear: crypto is the inevitable future.”

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Athena Bitcoin to Install 1,500 Bitcoin ATMs in El Salvador as BTC Becomes Legal Tender

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Bitcoin ATM operator Athena Bitcoin has unveiled its plan to install 1,500 bitcoin ATMs in El Salvador. The company will install dozens of machines as a test.

On Thursday, Athena Bitcoin said that it plans to invest over $1 million to install cryptocurrency ATMs in El Salvador, particularly where residents receive remittances from abroad, Reuters reported, citing a company representative.

The firm expects to gradually install about 1,500 ATMs, hire staff and open an office to carry out operations in El Salvador.

Matias Goldenhörn, Athena Bitcoin’s director for Latin America, was quoted by the publication as saying that El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele “presented us with a tough challenge of 1,500 ATMs, we will go for that, but in phases.”

“We are a private company and we want to ensure that our development in the country is sustainable,” Goldenhörn added, elaborating: “Initially we are going to bring dozens of machines, test what the business model is like in El Salvador, which will probably be different than in the United States.”

Athena Bitcoin installed its first cryptocurrency ATM in El Salvador’s El Zonte beach about a year ago. It was part of an experiment called Bitcoin Beach with the aim to make the town one of the world’s first bitcoin economies.

El Salvador passed a bill making bitcoin legal tender earlier this month. The law will go into effect on Sept. 7. President Bukele unveiled the country’s official wallet application and a bitcoin giveaway Thursday.

This week, Bitcoin ATM provider Chainbytes also said it plans to install bitcoin ATMs in El Salvador. The company is setting up a manufacturing hub in the country.

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