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Bitcoin Open-Source Development Takes The Stage In Nashville

Caught up in the storm of price action and US politics, it’s easy to forget the Bitcoin technology landscape had its own breakout earlier this year. Now that things have cooled off over the summer, next week’s Open-Source Stage at Bitcoin Nashville is a good opportunity to survey the industry’s progress.

Looking at this agenda, this year’s stacked lineup should be able to provide some signal amidst the electoral chatter. To warm us up for what promises to be an absolute marathon of an event, I’ve highlighted a handful of topics and talks to keep an eye on.

Technical innovation

Bitcoin builders will be looking to pick up on the momentum generated around “Bitcoin Season 2” in Nashville as the focus will remain on efforts to unlock Bitcoin’s programmability.

I previously discussed the arms race over all things BitVM and other purported layer 2s. The level of excitement around Bitcoin script has never been so high. Progress enabled by previous soft forks like Taproot and SegWit has led to various experiments, most motivated by the Ordinals craze. Naturally, the conversation has started to revolve around what comes next.

Unlocking expressivity with OP_CAT

Friday, July 26. 9:30 AM

Base58’s founder and everyone’s favorite Bitcoin educator Niftynei (Lisa) will look to set the tone on Friday morning by chairing a panel on the popular soft fork proposal OP_CAT. The hype around the script improvement proposal has not subsided and Bitcoin developers have been increasingly vocal about their affinity for CAT and its superpowers.

I expect co-panelists Andrew Poelstra, Director of Research at Blockstream, and fellow developers Rjindel & Brandon Black to make a strong case for the versatile script improvement.

BitVM: Pushing innovation without a soft fork

Friday, July 26. 10:00 AM

It’s hard to overstate the sheer brain power assembled in this talk. There is a reason BitVM has been the talk of the town since developer Robin Linus brought it onto the stage last year. The proposal has managed to attract an impressive crowd of builders and thinkers fascinated by the prospect of bringing fraud-proofs to Bitcoin.

With no working implementation yet, it also feels like crunch time for many of its promoters who have been talking a big game about its potential. The star-studded group of developers should be able to update us on the progress here and perhaps cut through the hype a bit.

Privacy at stake

Bitcoin’s legal battle for privacy: Free Samourai

Friday, July 26. 2:00 PM

The arrest of developers Keonne Rodriguez and William Hill in April sent shockwaves through the Bitcoin industry. Fixtures of the community for nearly a decade, both had been ardent proponents of Bitcoin users’ rights to privacy. Now that the dust has settled, questions linger about the case’s implications for open-source developers worldwide.

Veteran attorney Tor Ekeland who represented Roman Sterlingov in the high-profile “Bitcoin fog” mixer case will be joined by other panelists to discuss the US Department of Justice’s “abusive crypto prosecutions and the blockchain surveillance state.

Making Bitcoin more private with CISA

Friday, July 26. 1:30 PM

This one is a little more obscure but will likely warrant attention from the more technical-minded folks. Cross-input signature aggregation, or CISA, is a proposal that has been floated in Bitcoin circles for many years already and was once envisioned as part of the Taproot upgrade. 

The general idea is to allow transactions to combine signatures from multiple inputs into a single one, effectively reducing their overall weight, and therefore cost. The proposal surfaced back into public discourse a few months ago in the context of debates over much-needed privacy improvements to the Bitcoin protocol. Some have suggested that reducing the cost of collaborative, multi-input, transactions like coinjoin might incentivize further use of privacy tools.

Originally spearheaded by Blockstream Research, developer Fabian Jahr was recently awarded a grant by the Human Rights Foundation to research the topic further. He will be joined on stage by respected wallet developers Craig Raw of Sparrow Wallet and Jameson Lopp of Casa.

Bitcoin development

The state of Bitcoin Core development

Saturday, July 27. 11:00 AM

Bitcoin’s reference software implementation is the quiet giant of this industry. The diverse and diligent team of developers has historically preferred to remain out of the spotlight. Now that the technical space is heating up and the stakes are as high as ever, how are its contributors dealing with the increased attention?

Bitcoin Magazine’s own Aaron Van Wirdum will attempt to elucidate the inner workings of this tight-knit group and allow contributors like Ava Chow and Murch to share their thoughts on the project.

Bitcoin free banking

Ecash debate: what are the tradeoffs?

Saturday, July 27. 3:15 PM

I could not end this article without shilling at least one of the panels I will be involved in. Is it a replacement for centralized custodians? Is it a scaling solution? Nobody seems to agree on the role of ecash in the Bitcoin ecosystem but, if anything, it can’t be ignored anymore.

The rapid progress of projects like Fedi and the Cashu open-source implementation has garnered a significant amount of mindshare over the last year. Advocates celebrate its versatility and privacy gains while detractors claim it is no different than the banking system Bitcoin was built to obsolete.

Both sides will be represented on the panel which is shaping up to be an exciting conversation around the future of Bitcoin’s financial system.

There is a lot of excitement at the prospect of Bitcoin entering the big leagues but it’s hard to tell if the ecosystem is ready to accommodate this new influx of interest. Now that we are crossing the political chasm, it’s crucial to continue supporting the open-source culture that brought us here. Fortunately, the industry has never looked so ready to tackle this challenge. The diversity of initiatives on display at the conference is a testament to the maturing technical environment made possible by FOSS developers. 

In Defense of Bitcoin Culture

The original article this piece is responding to: Reflections on Bitcoin Culture

Bitcoin changes our lives.

It’s an almost spiritual observation that we’ve all seen within ourselves. After acquiring some, learning how it works, and to various degrees delving into what this decentralized, uncensorable, proof-of-work money is, we’ve seen our lives change. It echoes history. Some people see god in it.

Bitcoiners have had their lives upended, their perspectives shifted, and their value systems altered. We see how our behavior changed from our pre-Bitcoin selves, our emphasis now squarely placed on real things, hard things, the long term, and the local. We look to our inner selves, and we look after ourselves. We see to our families. We set our own house in order before we criticize the world.

Bitcoin encourages higher-level thinking, of the dynamic kind that once characterized good economics. Once a Bitcoiner, we become less prone to believing commonly accepted just-so stories — more skeptical and interested in verifying rather than trusting.

Anyone who’s been in Bitcoin for a while can point to countless such examples in their own lives. It’s undeniable, therefore, that Bitcoin itself has a culture. It affects change in the people it welcomes; you don’t change Bitcoin, Bitcoin changes you.

The values embedded in it are rules that people who embrace this monetary revolution can’t help but internalize. Whether they understand it or not is unimportant. Bitcoin is for anyone, sure, but you don’t stay that same person after Bitcoin has changed your life; you’re a different “anyone” than when you first opened your fiat eyes.

Bitcoin allowed us to see much of the stupidity of the collective delusions at the base of the state, democracy, central banks, public health, public schooling — public anything, really. It’s the same realization that makes us put huge question marks on climate change worries or trans ideology.

In the world of fiat, anything goes. You can unverifiably feel oppressed, a man can unverifiably be a woman, anyone who’s sad or distracted can unverifiably feel autistic or depressed. If the lord of the printing press doesn’t feel like there’s enough money around, he makes more. Violently extorting productive members of society is held as a morally good thing and celebrated. The experts and fiat media voices say the world ends in twelve (or five) years, and if you disbelieve them or ask for verification, you’re on par with the Nazis.

In Bitcoin, this playbook doesn’t fly anymore. Identifying as receiving a block reward does nothing, political votes become irrelevant, nobody’s unverifiable feelings reign supreme, and cheating gets harder. UTXOs don’t have a sex. It all goes out the window, revealed and denuded for the nonsense it always was.

Thus, something doesn’t add up in Margot Paez’s recent article thrashing Bitcoin culture. She writes:

“…popular influencers who are often millennial men spending a lot of time taking photos of themselves flexing their muscles in front of a mirror. I really wonder how big those muscles have to get to protect the fragile ego buried beneath those muscular fibers.”

Big muscles are flexes because they’re unfakeable — like a hash under the difficulty target. A transaction is valid and confirmed or it isn’t. It’s right there, objective, and verifiable to anyone who cares to look.

Pull-ups are flexes because they display truth, regardless of what anyone else thinks about an invisible ego beneath. You can do them, or you can’t; they’re verifiable and undeniable. A muscle-up doesn’t ask for permission or tries to confuse you about nuances to an imagined reality.

This stands in contrast to the fiat, legacy world — of which trans ideology is merely one of the least material but verifiably stupid examples — where words are violence, invisible and unverifiable identities rule, fiat schools can’t teach people to read or count, Uber doesn’t have any cars, and the banks don’t have your money. It’s a broken culture, where the only thing running away faster than the deaths of despair are the deficits in a profligate Treasury, forever bound to send welfare checks to rent-seekers.

It’s a culture dominated by sensitivity instead of truth, that celebrates weakness instead of strength and responsibility and self-improvement, that encourages therapy even though it barely works and shoves you pharmacy-full of meds and injections at the first sign of trouble.

That’s why I’m not sold on this “Progressive Bitcoiner” ethos flying around. Progressives came to Bitcoin and carved out a niche for themselves, and for now that works well as a bridge over from the hyper-leftwing clown world to our world. But you won’t be a Bitcoiner and long remain a progressive; they’re mostly incompatible ideas.

Progressivism came to Bitcoin as a breath of fresh air, but it will ultimately die here.

Bitcoin strips a government of control over transactions and economic value. A progressive requires a large and invasive government to uphold and enact the many things they yearn for. If you still want those goodies, but not the violent organized crime syndicate we call government, you’re merely a libertarian with a strong social ethos. Congrats. I’ve said so before regarding Jason Maier’s A Progressive’s Case for Bitcoin, and I maintain that in time Bitcoin will change him too, like it has the rest of us.

Bitcoin sooner or later forces you into seeing the world of truth and acting in unfakeable ways, looking to what is rather than what’s voiced or recommended by “experts.” On the way there one usually complains loudly about the mean Bitcoiners not seeing the world you do.

It’s not a coincidence that so many Bitcoiners proudly and diligently consume steak. We saw that the nutritional guidelines were gunk (some might even say corrupt), and the people pushing them were obese, ill, and ugly. We ate a bunch of meat and felt better. Do I look unhealthy to you?! we ceremoniously ask.

The LGBTQ flags that Paez defends sit next to flags with “Free Palestine” — even though Palestinians aren’t exactly known for their pro-gay values — and “Slava Ukraini,” celebrating a country that scores among the worst on the Rainbow Europe index and routinely counts as Europe’s second most corrupt country (behind Russia). These are not serious people. You know something is rotten when originally peace-loving leftists celebrate the very warmongering people they should detest.

The ultimate shit-test is the clown world shitshow, not Bitcoiner culture. In fact, the truth and honesty in Bitcoin culture is the antidote.

Quit whining and go do some pull-ups.

This is a guest post by Joakim Book. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.

A Zero-Knowledge Proof Is Verified on Bitcoin For The First Time in History

Earlier this year, Weikeng Chen and his partners at venture firm L2 Iterative decided to shift their attention to the bubbling Bitcoin ecosystem. Chen, a Chinese native, had taken notice of the growing interest in Bitcoin development from several large actors in the mining space who started backing different projects in the Ordinals and layer 2 space.

“I never really realized Bitcoin had a development community,” he says, half-joking.

Fast forward to last week, an open-source initiative led by himself, with sponsorship from infrastructure company Starkware, has achieved the first implementation of a zero-knowledge verifier using Bitcoin script.

In an industry where significant breakthroughs are few and far between, those involved in the effort are gushing about the significance of this milestone. Zero-knowledge proofs, they argue, are the key to unlocking Bitcoin’s programmability and scaling its use globally.

Behind this achievement is the remarkable journey of an outsider who picked up Bitcoin development just six months ago and has now coded arguably its most advanced piece of software. I interviewed Weikeng Chen to delve into his motivations, his collaboration with Starkware around OP_CAT and STARKs, and his perspectives on this new era of Bitcoin development.

Starting from scratch

A PHD graduate from UC Berkeley with a specialization in cryptography, Chen explained he began seeking an opportunity to contribute his technical skills to the industry to better position his firm with potential investors and companies. Despite his extensive engineering experience, he quickly realized that resources were scarce and the learning curve was steep. “A lot of the material out there is outdated and does not reflect the current state of development.” His affinity for zero-knowledge technology eventually led his research to focus on Bitcoin’s ability to perform the computations required for verifying zero-knowledge proofs.

As one rabbit hole led to another, Robin Linus’ work on the novel computing paradigm of BitVM came onto his radar. Interested in the potential of using fraud proofs to implement zero-knowledge systems compatible with Bitcoin, he started poking around the white paper and noticed some issues with some of the concepts involved in the system. “I sent a message to Robin asking a few questions about BitVM. My understanding of BitVM from that whitepaper was indeed dead wrong. I remember Robin’s first reaction was to ask me who had told me this,” he recalls laughing. This interaction sparked a brief but productive collaboration between Chen, Linus, and other researchers as they iterated on the original idea and looked for ways to optimize it.

“It was obvious to me that this method could be used to verify zero-knowledge proof so my work quickly went in the direction of implementing a SNARK verifier.”

A verifier is a cryptographic tool that enables the verification of zero-knowledge proofs on the Bitcoin network.

The OP_CAT opportunity

Around the same time, a team at zero-knowledge industry giant Starkware was paying close attention to the emerging activity coming out of the Bitcoin community. For some, it was a long time coming. Starkware founder Eli Ben-Sasson was arguably the first person to discuss zero-knowledge technology in the context of cryptocurrencies at an early Bitcoin conference. Almost a decade later, Starkware’s research and ZK-STARK technology serve as the foundation of a growing number of applications in the space.

“Back in 2013, when I suggested using validity proofs to scale Bitcoin, I was hoping Satoshi might still be around and would make it happen faster. Thanks to cryptography visionaries like Weikeng Chen and Bitcoin OP_CAT researchers like Andrew Poelstra and Ethan Heilman, my 11-year old dream feels now within reach,” Ben-Sasson commented.

Last month, the company announced they were beginning the deployment of numerous initiatives focused on closing the technology gap between Bitcoin and zero-knowledge proofs. A $1,000,000 application grant was offered towards research and exploration into the potential of the OP_CAT soft fork proposal.

The announcement was marked by notable enthusiasm, leaving some to wonder what was driving this optimism. Until recently, the prospects of zero-knowledge technology on Bitcoin had been mostly an afterthought — another OP code that might never see the light of day. Indeed, the difficulty of getting consensus over smaller changes to the Bitcoin codebase made it seem unlikely something more complex would ever come to pass.

Based on conversations with Starkware contributors, it was around May when they caught wind of Weikeng’s progress on BitVM and the mood shifted dramatically. As it would turn out, the developer had already set his sights on the company’s Circle STARKs technology. In a paper released a couple of months ago, Chen had already identified the latter as a “Bitcoin-friendly proof system.”

After some back and forth, both parties agreed to come together and stand up a joint effort dedicated to an open-source implementation of a STARK verifier using the OP_CAT primitive. “I knew it could be done. We just needed to put all the pieces together,” suggests Chen. The “Bitcoin Wildlife Sanctuary” was born.

Two months later, the project appears to have reached its goal thanks to the collaboration of other developers like Pingzhou Yuan, another early BitVM contributor. Late morning last Friday, Chen jumped into the project’s Telegram group to break the news to other participants: “I think I finished the job!”

Following successful local tests, the developer broadcasted a series of transactions to Bitcoin’s Signet testnet network that would execute the entire script. To optimize on-chain usage, the STARK proof, based on Starkware’s open-source Stwo implementation, is split into concurrent transactions chained together using an OP_CAT based covenant.

At 6:29AM on July 12, 2024, the final transaction was confirmed on the Signet network, signaling what proponents believe could be the beginning of a new era of development on Bitcoin.

“This was a tremendous effort and took a significant amount of time,” said Chen. “We started with nothing. There’s no information about ZK proofs on Bitcoin. There’s no information regarding the mathematical operations to follow. We had to build the full stack, which eventually led to the implementation of the STARK verifier.”

Inspiring a new development path

While the results deserve to be celebrated, Chen is insistent the job is not done. Asked if he was optimistic about his work creating the foundation for new scaling protocols like rollups on Bitcoin, the developer was quick to tamper expectations. 

“The idea roughly works but the proof-of-concept is not production-ready. Validity proofs also take a lot of block space which might turn out to be expensive in the future.”

Contributors at Starkware acknowledge the challenges ahead but are confident the success of the project represents “a monumental leap forward” towards Bitcoin scaling solutions that can leverage their ZK rollup technology.

One thing is for sure, the collaboration is likely to further strengthen arguments in favor of a potential OP_CAT soft fork. In order to put together the verifier implementation, Chen says he had to develop a reliable framework for covenants using CAT which can serve to highlight the versatility of the script improvement proposal. He believes other developers in the ecosystem can play with his code and come to the same conclusion he did regarding its benefits.

“I don’t think there is a lot of risk once we have developed best practices. There are not that many places where this is going to go wrong. We now have a clear demonstration that OP_CAT can be adapted to various covenant projects in a safe way.”

When questioned about his intention to contribute to a future activation process, the developer readily admits he is not familiar enough yet with all of the dynamics around Bitcoin open-source development. Next, he intends to share his progress with members of the development mailing list and hopes others will be able to contribute review, and provide feedback on his work.

Reflecting on his experience so far, Chen immediately points out the importance of creating a fertile environment for new developers entering the ecosystem. He believes many talented developers are passing on the opportunity to build on Bitcoin because of the lack of a cohesive vision.

“There is not a clear sense of direction right now which leaves contributors perplexed about their ability to impact the future. Hopefully, the emergence of new tools and primitives can improve this situation so Bitcoiners are allowed to dream again.” 

Bitcoin Magazine And Look Into Bitcoin Partner To Launch Enhanced Bitcoin Magazine Pro

Bitcoin Magazine is thrilled to announce the launch of the newly enhanced Bitcoin Magazine Pro in partnership with Look Into Bitcoin. This strategic collaboration involves rebranding Look Into Bitcoin and relaunching it as Bitcoin Magazine Pro, bringing real-time data and market-leading chart intelligence to users while significantly enhancing the capabilities and reach of Bitcoin Magazine Pro.

“I’m thrilled to partner with the Bitcoin Magazine team, whom I’ve long admired, to build on the success that Look Into Bitcoin has achieved since its launch in 2019,” said Philip Swift, Founder and CEO of Look Into Bitcoin and now Managing Director of Bitcoin Magazine Pro. “Bitcoin Magazine Pro now goes beyond news information to provide all the relevant tools you need for Bitcoin investing: on-chain charts, macro data, bespoke chart alerts, and Tradingview scripts for real-time analysis that, when combined, give our users a huge edge in the market. Together, we’re ready to create incredible value for the Bitcoin Magazine Pro community.”

Prior to this partnership, Bitcoin Magazine Pro was the leading top-ranked Bitcoin-only newsletter on the Substack platform, publishing in-depth research on Bitcoin and traditional financial markets. This new partnership will significantly elevate the user experience by providing a comprehensive suite of Bitcoin on-chain and macro charts, advanced charting tools, and market-leading analysis. 

The Bitcoin Magazine Pro platform now offers a wide range of features and services, including:

Real-time Bitcoin charts and data: Stay updated with the latest market trends and movements.Advanced charting tools: Analyze the market with sophisticated charting tools.In-depth market analysis: Gain insights from regular expert videos and reports.Educational resources: Access a wealth of information on Bitcoin and blockchain technology.Customizable chart alerts and notifications: Set up alerts so you never miss a thing!

Click here to start your free trial

Mark Mason, International Publisher at Bitcoin Magazine, also commented on the partnership, stating, “It’s been an absolute delight to partner with Philip. As Bitcoin achieves more mainstream adoption and recognition, the need for real-time data insights and cutting-edge market intelligence analysis becomes more critical. This partnership will be integrated to support and complement all existing and future distribution channels, implementing Bitcoin Magazine Pro charts and data across our online, print, social, video, and events channels.”

To celebrate the launch of this partnership, users can receive a free 30-day trial of the new and improved Bitcoin Magazine Pro platform for a limited time. This trial provides full access to all the features and services, allowing users to experience the enhanced platform firsthand.

“This partnership will enable millions of people worldwide to make informed, data-driven decisions about Bitcoin,” Swift continued. “Stay tuned – the future of Bitcoin analysis just got brighter!”

For more information and to start your free trial, visit the Bitcoin Magazine Pro website here.

NoOnes Bitcoin Philosophy: Everyone Eats

I like to eat. What I mean by that is I like to make money. I’ve had my share of being hungry and eating two-minute noodles because I couldn’t afford anything else. That’s no fun, but it’s the reality for a lot of people in the Global South. It’s a reality that NoOnes plans to change.

I want to make a lot of money, and I’m not ashamed to say so. Being really rich would be great, but it wouldn’t feel good if everyone around me was poor. It wouldn’t even feel good if they were moderately successful. The only way it would feel good is if everyone around me is rich, too. That’s the reason one of our values at NoOnes is “everyone eats,” and it’s so important I’ve made it part of our business model.

There is hunger at NoOnes, but it’s a hunger to make sure we are doing everything we can to make sure everyone eats. It started with our pledge to give back 50% of the company’s profits. You can’t take that promise to the bank – because who’d trust them? – but you can look at my record and ask yourself if I’m serious about it.

Ever since I joined the dots about the financial system and realized how it suppresses people who have no power, especially those in the Global South, I’ve made it my mission to help create a new system. There have been many roadblocks put in my way, but I’m positive we can create a new financial ecosystem, and that’s why I get up every morning. I’m making a choice, and I’m lucky enough to be able to make it because I have a skill-set that empowers me to get the job done.

My vision of a Global South where everyone eats would already have happened if we hadn’t been held back by the disastrous policies of the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after decolonization. I say decolonization, but the truth is that military regimes have merely been replaced with economic ones. Now, we have the tools necessary for us to go to work and defeat that system to give us something better.

We’re already doing a lot of things at NoOnes, such as our Partner Program and cash back to reward the customers who help us to grow. For example, our users are our greatest ambassadors, so we give them jobs to help with our education programs online and on the ground. All of these initiatives are part of our “everyone eats” mantra but there is so much more to come.

Everyone eats is much more than giving back financially. The vision we’re driving towards is really a new financial architecture, an ecosystem where everything is about incentivizing people to work. We are already doing that by creating jobs – having our citizens generate content to onboard people into crypto, such as showing others how to make money, making educational videos about how to buy or trade Bitcoin, or talking to groups in person and online. The best part of all of this is that it’s organic and circular, a constant loop that keeps feeding into the system.

Crypto users across Africa are learning how to use what we’ve built and they’re building layers on top of it. They are hacking it in ways we’ve never imagined, and then putting back what they learned into the ecosystem by teaching others. This is how everyone gets a place at the table and a plate in front of them with some food on it.

We want everyone to grow, so our goal is to expand this ecosystem, to make it a truly people-powered, trustless, completely transparent tool that will transform the Global South into a powerhouse. This “everyone eats” philosophy flips the whole western corporate model on its head. Instead of blocking the potential of millions across the Global South, our model is designed to be generative, to build – and it works.

Years ago, when I first began talking to potential users in Africas about Bitcoin online, I tried to onboard many people by giving away BTC because I knew my investment would be returned to me. I went further when I founded the Built with Bitcoin Foundation and built 13 schools in the Global South to help educate local people. We were on the ground showing people how a peer-to-peer marketplace using Bitcoin as a universal container for money could not only lift them up, but transform the livelihoods of future generations to come.

“Everyone eats” means we all have food, we have a great place to live, and we all have work – but it also means we have free time, and we are going to show the world that this model works. As a P2P platform, we must make profits because we can’t advocate for an equitable society without resources. However, it’s absolutely essential we’re not obsessive about profits, except to the extent that we can feed it back into the ecosystem to generate more growth.

We want ordinary people to understand they have so many opportunities to grow, despite the obstacles in front of them, a lack of education, resources, or the “right” nationality. I was just some nerd from an immigrant family who failed a lot of times until I learned how to succeed. Now I’m trying to give my brothers and sisters in the Global South a short-cut to prosperity. If that means I have to give away 50% of our revenue to make sure everyone eats, I will do it. We need profits, but we are people-driven, and that’s what makes NoOnes so special. The task now is to spread the word.

This is a guest post by Ray Youssef. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.

Seedless Keys And DLCs: How Lava Is Making Bitcoin Custody Easy

Company Name: Lava

Founders: Shehzan Maredia

Date Founded: January 2022

Location of Headquarters: New York, USA (with some remote employees)

Amount of Bitcoin Held in Treasury: N/A

Number of Employees: 7

Website: https://www.lava.xyz/

Public or Private? Private

Shehzan Maredia wants to make custodying Bitcoin easy.

This is why he founded Lava, an app that he and his team have created that allows users to purchase bitcoin, transact with both bitcoin and stablecoins globally and now hold their bitcoin in self-custody without having to write down a seed phrase.

Maredia is one of a growing list of entrepreneurs in the Bitcoin space who believes that seed phrases — lists of 12 to 24 words used to recover funds from lost or stolen cryptocurrency wallets — are hindering mainstream adoption of bitcoin. He thinks that seedless alternatives to self-custody will help onboard the masses.

“I realized that seed phrases were a big barrier to adoption,” Maredia told Bitcoin Magazine, “and I went down the rabbit hole [to make] something better.”

After months of R&D, Maredia developed a solution that’s now at the heart of the design of the Lava app: Lava Vault.

Lava Vault

After testing a number of different self-custody setups, Maredia and his team arrived at a unique multisignature solution that became the backbone of the Lava Vault.

“We built this two-of-two recovery solution for self-custody where you can attach one part of the two-of-two to your cloud account and the other is a four digit PIN,” he explained.

Introducing the Lava Vault, the best self-custody app for people who want to save in bitcoin and spend in dollars without compromising on security.

free, instant, global payments
buy bitcoin with lowest fees available
secure your assets with seedless, 2-of-2 recovery pic.twitter.com/nEIYIHD6Dg

— lava (@lava_xyz) July 16, 2024

“If I have your four digit PIN, I can’t steal your money because I don’t have access to your cloud account. If I have access to your cloud account, I don’t have your four digit PIN, and I can’t brute force it,” he added.

Maredia and the team at Lava call this design the Lava Smart Key, and they believe that it’s helping to provide simpler self-custody for those who otherwise might not want to take on the responsibility.

“We’ve actually seen a bunch of people using it that previously would have just bought bitcoin and kept it on Coinbase,” he said.

What is more, Lava Vault works seamlessly with Lava Exchange, another product Lava recently rolled out.

Lava Vault + Lava Exchange = Auto-Onboarding To Self-Custody

It’s often challenging for new Bitcoin users to tell the difference between a custodial wallet that an exchange provides and a self-custody wallet. It can be overwhelming for someone new to Bitcoin to go through the process of moving their bitcoins from an exchange wallet into self-custodial wallet, especially if the exchange offers both (e.g., Coinbase).

Lava removes this difficulty, though, as it allows users to purchase bitcoin within the app — at the best rate available — before automatically sending that bitcoin into self-custody.

“We have this exchange aggregator we’ve built,” said Maredia.

“If you want to buy bitcoin today, you have to figure out which exchange — Kraken, Coinbase. So, we work with a lot of them. We know what price they offer you based on your order, and we just route you to the best exchange through Lava,” he added.

Once users make their purchase, the bitcoin shows up in their Lava Vault.

“This is super useful if I’m trying to onboard users to self-custody,” said Maredia. “Now, I can tell them to download directly to self-custody, which largely increases the likelihood that they will continue to use self-custody.”

Once users have their bitcoin or stablecoins in self-custody via Lava, they can use either asset to make transactions permissionlessly with anyone in the world. And soon they will also be able to borrow dollars against their bitcoin without having to turn their bitcoin over to a third party.

Lava Loans

Maredia and the Lava team recently released a beta version of a new product called Lava Loans, which Maredia describes as a “self-custodial version of BlockFi.”

BlockFi, now defunct, was a platform that allowed users to use bitcoin as collateral for a loan. The main difference between a platform like BlockFi and Lava is that users had to give up custody of their bitcoin to BlockFi to use the service.

“Lava Loans is the first way to borrow against your bitcoin without giving it to a custodian or bridge,” said Maredia.

Maredia created this product because he both saw the demand for it and wanted something like this for himself.

“There’s a lot of Bitcoiners who don’t want to sell their bitcoin,” shared Maredia.

“I don’t want to sell my bitcoin either, because it’s appreciating. I’d rather borrow against it at a lower interest rate than it’s appreciating,” he added.

He also noticed that the other methods of borrowing against one’s bitcoin are both highly inefficient and expensive.

“There are billions of dollars of bitcoin-secured loans happening with custodians or with Wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC),” he explained.

“To get Wrapped Bitocin, you have to take your Bitcoin, KYC yourself, put it on an exchange, pay fees to mint it, pay a bunch of network fees to move it onto Ethereum and then once you’re done using Wrapped Bitcoin, move it back to your exchange, pay extra fees to unwrap your Bitcoin and move it back to self-custody. And you probably have tax obligations for wrapping your Bitcoin, too,” he added.

“I want to get these people using native bitcoin. We can increase the market size of people who are using actual bitcoin as collateral.”

Discreet Log Contracts (DLCs)

Lava Loans employs a specific type of smart contract on Bitcoin called Discreet Log Contracts (DLCs).

Maredia explained that DLCs are safer than the types of smart contracts often deployed on other major crypto networks.

“DLCs are interesting because you’re basically just using the Bitcoin layer one to lock your Bitcoin and release it under some predefined set of conditions,” he explained.

“[As opposed to] smart contracts on Ethereum or Solana that constantly keep getting hacked, DLCs are basically a bunch of pre-signed transactions that you encrypt. You almost get formal verification of your system by default, because you know that the money that’s locked in the smart contract between you and your counterparty can only be moved under this predefined set of conditions that you have verified,” he added.

“So, there’s a lot less technical risk versus writing arbitrary code deployed on the EVM that anyone can poke around with and exploit.”

Maredia also shared that the Lava team is composed of a number of engineers who contributed to early DLC standards.

“There’s probably like 10 people, a lot of which work at and contribute to Lava right now, who know about this tech,” explained Maredia, who also shared that the potential of DLCs has yet to be fully realized largely because of how new the technology is. “Not too many people know about [DLCs, but] that’s because the tech is early and we’re building it.”

Move Slowly And Safeguard Things

Unlike many in the crypto and broader tech space who take the “Move fast and break things” approach, Maredia and his team are analytical and thorough. They prefer to conduct research and test products rigorously before bringing them to market.

“We’ve been doing a lot of R&D over the last two years,” said Maredia.

“We were experimenting with lots of things. Even before we built Lava Smart Key, Lava Exchange and Lava Loans, we had been experimenting with a lot of different ways to do loans, to do self-custody security and to do on-ramp and off-ramp,” he added.

“This new self-custody security solution is a product of the last eight to ten months of experimentation.”

Maredia added that while Lava Loans is likely months away from going live, the beta version of the product has been functioning well and providing he and his team with important feedback.

“Everything’s coming together,” he concluded.

Lava is a portfolio company of UTXO Management, a regulated capital allocator focused on the digital assets industry. Bitcoin Magazine is owned by BTC Inc., which operates UTXO Management. UTXO invests in a variety of Bitcoin businesses, and maintains significant holdings in digital assets.

Mainstream Media Bias Is Bad, But Will Only Get Worse From This Point On

I logged back on to social media after a week offline in the countryside, only to see my timeline filled with news of an assassination attempt on Trump.

My first thought, after noting my impeccable timing, was: “Let me see how CNN frames this.

And lo and behold: The first thing they wrote was that “Trump was rushed off stage after falling at his rally”.

You may have had a similar thought process like mine, and if you did, you’ll probably agree that the media landscape has changed.

A lot.

Influenced by the political leanings of its workforce, the rise of cancel culture, and the need to make money, this shift has majorly impacted how tech and Bitcoin (and pretty much everything else) are viewed.

So what’s going on here?

Let’s dive into what’s shaping today’s media.

No Monolithic Media Elite

First off, let’s make one thing clear: There’s no secret group of media elites calling the shots.

The idea of a capital “M” Media controlling everything is simply not true.

It’s a myth.

What’s really happening is that many journalists come from elite schools like Columbia, Harvard, or Penn. This trend has brought a liberal bias to the media, not because of a grand conspiracy, but because of the backgrounds and views of those creating the news.

This liberal slant has particularly affected coverage of tech and Bitcoin, making left-leaning media outlets essentially anti-tech.

Generally, liberals have been wary of rapid tech advancements and the decentralized nature of Bitcoin, seeing them as threats to regulations and traditional financial systems.

The Rise of Cancel Culture

Another factor is that the last decade has seen cancel culture take off, where people or companies face public shaming for controversial opinions or actions.

This has also influenced media companies in a major way, making journalists feel they need to align their reporting with prevailing attitudes to avoid backlash.

As a result, media companies have let their employees’ political biases shape the content more than they used to.

Now, you may think this is different from the MSM of previous decades, thinking they aimed to be more balanced and less politically charged.

Sure, political bias has often overshadowed factual reporting, especially in hot-button areas like tech and Bitcoin, but this is nothing new.

Chasing Truth vs. Making Money

At the core of media operations is the struggle between finding the truth and making money.

These companies make money in two ways: advertising, which connects potential buyers with sellers, and subscriptions, which include consumer subscriptions (like your $10/month news subscription) and enterprise subscriptions (like buying a Bloomberg terminal).

If you look back over the last 15 years, the era of mass consumer publications is over. Today, the media is thriving at two ends of the spectrum.

The New York Times, for example, is doing phenomenally well. People might not realize that the New York Times is really a product company at this point, with 30-40% of their business coming from games and cooking, and another big chunk from their subscriptions.

The point is; while journalism ideally seeks to uncover and report the truth, economic realities dictate otherwise.

Media companies need to engage their audience and make money in different ways, so they cater to what their audience wants, sNavigating media bias is important in a digital age when that bias is becoming more pronounced.ometimes sacrificing objective truth, sometimes sacrificing actual journalistic work in favor of whatever brings in revenue.

This explains why media outlets tailor their content to their audience’s preferences.

Editorial decisions about what stories to highlight and how to frame issues are driven by what will attract readers and viewers to not only the story itself but the multimedia ecosystem an outlet wants to offer to remain relevant and economically viable.

A Historical Perspective on Media Bias

But while these different revenue streams are new approaches to media, bias itself is not.

During the American Civil War, newspapers openly supported specific political factions. (Google “Copperhead Democrats” to get an idea of one of three different media outlets all picking a side.)

Today’s media works exactly the same way, only with modern complexities.

Digital platforms and algorithms that curate content based on user preferences have intensified echo chambers, where people mostly see information that supports their existing beliefs.

This echo chamber effect worsens media bias, as outlets produce content that aligns with their audience’s views to keep them engaged.

For tech and Bitcoin, this means negative narratives will stick, making it tough to fight the biases.

Bitcoin Is Not For Everyone

In an opinion piece from last year, I wrote about how Bitcoin is not for everyone, meaning that one has to look at specific groups. The Bitcoin and wider tech industry need to understand and navigate this landscape.

Because having a bent towards certain topics is fine—it’s part of the media. The problem happens when that bias leads to writing things that aren’t factual.

And that is the reason why people have grown to dislike the mainstream media as a whole—not because it has a bias, but because that bias often overpowers factual reporting. This is a relatively new phenomenon.

And from the look of it, it might continue, or media organizations might realize that if they keep doing this, they’ll lose their audience’s trust.

Or maybe the lesson is the inverse: If you go too neutral, your audience might also react negatively, trying to cancel you or pull their contracts.

Most media organizations, whether it’s CNN, the New York Times, or Fox News, know what their audience wants to hear. The only time they face a revolt is when they present the opposite narrative.

So curate your content consumption carefully.

Because I know the world is scary right now, but it’s gonna get way worse. 

This is a guest post by Fernando Nikolic. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.

Bitso to Bring Bitcoin Lightning to its 8 Million Users via Lightspark

Leading Latin American crypto exchange Bitso has partnered with Lightspark to integrate the Bitcoin Lightning Network onto its platform. This will introduce faster, cheaper Bitcoin transactions to Bitso’s user base of over 8 million retail clients and 1,700 institutional customers.

Bitso will leverage Lightspark’s infrastructure to enable Lightning transfers. Lightspark will host the nodes while Bitso retains control of the private keys in a remote signing setup.

The integration comes as Lightning Network adoption spreads globally, making payments with Bitcoin faster, smoother and less expensive.

According to Bitso’s research, 53% of crypto wallets in Latin America hold Bitcoin. Trading pairs against local fiat currencies are also widely used. Thus, Lightning is a natural fit to upgrade Bitso’s existing infrastructure.

Daniel Vogel, co-founder and CEO of Bitso, said, “We’re thrilled to partner with Lightspark to bring Lightning to our platform. This advances our mission of making crypto useful by delivering faster, more cost-effective, and transparent money transfers.”

With Lightning, Bitso can offer near-instant Bitcoin transactions at a fraction of the cost of regular on-chain Bitcoin payments. This unlocks new potential payment and remittance solutions for both retail and enterprise clients.

Lightspark CEO David Marcus said Bitso “shares our vision of building open payments for the Internet. This gets us closer to that goal. We know people across Latin America want this solution.”

As a pioneering Latin American exchange with millions of users, Bitso’s integration of Lightning is a milestone in increasing Bitcoin adoption. 

Mt. Gox Moves $6 Billion Worth of Bitcoin

The rehabilitation trustee for the now-defunct Mt. Gox exchange moved over $6 billion worth of bitcoin on Tuesday morning as it took further steps toward reimbursing creditors.

JUST IN: Mt. Gox moved 95,870 #Bitcoin worth $6 billion to unknown addresses 👀 pic.twitter.com/duCIiVPcsK

— Bitcoin Magazine (@BitcoinMagazine) July 16, 2024

On-chain data shows that Mt. Gox’s wallet transferred around 95,870 BTC across two transactions to newly-created addresses. The first shift of 47,000 bitcoin was valued at nearly $3 billion.

The destination wallets remain unidentified but are presumed to be linked to Mt. Gox’s ongoing repayment process. The exchange owes creditors $9 billion in total, stemming from Bitcoin lost in Mt. Gox’s infamous 2014 hack.

Saturday’s large transactions follow initial smaller test transfers last week as Mt. Gox prepared to distribute funds. Analysts have feared the payouts could weigh on Bitcoin’s price if creditors immediately liquidate holdings.

So far, the transfers have coincided with dips below $64,000 as markets reacted cautiously. But the expectation remains that most creditors will hold the restored coins rather than rush to sell.

While unnerving for traders, the long-awaited Mt. Gox reimbursement will close the book on one of the Bitcoin industry’s most infamous episodes. Tens of thousands of early adopters lost holdings when the pioneering exchange collapsed.

Over eight years later, creditors will finally recoup some of those early losses. The saga underscores Bitcoin’s resilience and the community’s commitment to accountable custody and transparent transactions.

Bitcoin 2024 to Host ‘Bitcoin Propaganda Track’ In $5,000 Winner Take All Challenge

Bitcoin 2024, the world’s largest Bitcoin conference, will feature a new creative contest at this year’s event, designed to mobilize and inspire broader audiences about Bitcoin: The Bitcoin Propaganda Track.

The Bitcoin Propaganda Track calls on content creators to submit original videos and memes that uniquely showcase Bitcoin and the potential impact of this revolutionary technology, offering a $5,000 prize in BTC to the winner.

The contest, part of the Official Bitcoin Games 2024 Hackathon, invites participants to produce commercials, memes, or any form of engaging content that crafts compelling narratives around Bitcoin. Interested participants are asked to create 30-60 second commercials showcasing Bitcoin, as well as memes that effectively communicate key Bitcoin concepts and data.

Submissions must be made here (or emailed to michael.markle@btcmedia.org with the subject line including “Hackathon Submission [Project Title].”) by July 17th at 11:59 PM ET. The winner will be announced on stage during the conference and featured in Bitcoin Magazine.

The judges for the contest are Mike Germano, President of BTC Inc. and Bitcoin Magazine, Brandon Green, BTC Inc.’s Chief of Staff, TIP_NZ, a Bitcoin advocate known for her artistic contributions through rap and visual storytelling, and Hills, a notable member of the Bitcoin Puppets community.

For further details and guidelines, visit the virtual hackathon’s website and join the hackathon Discord channel located on the site.

Update: ALL #Bitcoin 2024 Hackathon tracks have had their deadlines extended!

Submit by Wednesday July 17 for a chance at over $65,000 in prizes – paid in #BTC!

Join here: https://t.co/p9nnD0xQII pic.twitter.com/fi1SZqJMbJ

— The Bitcoin Conference (@TheBitcoinConf) July 15, 2024

Bitcoin Magazine is owned by BTC Inc, which also owns and operates the world’s largest Bitcoin conference, The Bitcoin Conference.