Facebook is backpedaling from its ambitious vision for Libra

Facebook is backpedaling from its ambitious vision for Libra

Enlarge / David Marcus, head of blockchain at Facebook, speaks at a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Wednesday, July 17, 2019. (credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

David Marcus, the head of Facebook’s new Calibra payments division, appeared before two hostile congressional committees this week with a simple message: Facebook knows policymakers are concerned about Libra, and Facebook won’t move forward with the project until their concerns are addressed.

While he didn’t say so explicitly, Marcus’ comments at hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday represented a dramatic shift in Facebook’s conception of Libra. In Facebook’s original vision, Libra would be an open and largely decentralized network, akin to Bitcoin. The core network would be beyond the reach of regulators. Regulatory compliance would be the responsibility of exchanges, wallets, and other services that are the “on ramps and off ramps” to the Libra ecosystem.

Facebook now seems to recognize

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There’s a big problem with Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency

There’s a big problem with Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency

Enlarge (credit: Getty / Aurich Lawson)

Mark Zuckerberg is known for his boundless ambition. He’s had a longstanding fascination with Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor who (in Zuckerberg’s words) “established 200 years of world peace.” So having conquered social networking, Zuckerberg has his eyes on something bigger: reshaping the global financial system.

Payment services from rivals like Apple and Google essentially offer an improved user interface for conventional credit card networks. Facebook, by contrast, is aiming to use blockchain-like technology to build a new payment network from scratch, complete with its own currency.

Facebook has assembled an impressive roster of launch partners for its Libra project. Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal are backing the effort. So are Uber and Lyft, as well as several venture capital firms and non-profit organizations.

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Computer from NASA’s Apollo program reprogrammed to mine bitcoin

Computer from NASA’s Apollo program reprogrammed to mine bitcoin

Enlarge / DSKY unit of the Apollo Guidance Computer in the National Air and Space Museum. Shirriff used a different unit that belongs to a private collector. (credit: Tamorlan)

Among the many technological breakthroughs of NASA’s Apollo project to land a man on the Moon was the Apollo Guidance Computer that flew onboard Apollo spacecraft. In an era when most computers were refrigerator-sized—if not room-sized—the AGC weighed only about 70 pounds. It was one of the first computers to use integrated circuits.

A team of computer historians got its hands on one of the original AGCs and got it working. A member of the team, Ken Shirriff, then decided to see if the computer could be used for bitcoin mining.

Mining is a key part of the process for maintaining bitcoin’s shared transaction ledger, or blockchain. To win the right to add a block to the blockchain, you

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Bitcoin soars past $12,500 five days after hitting $10,000

Bitcoin soars past $12,500 five days after hitting $10,000

Enlarge (credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Bitcoin has risen above $12,500, its highest level in 2019. The new milestone comes just five days after bitcoin rose above $10,000.

Bitcoin’s value has risen by almost a factor of four since last December, when the price bottomed out around $3,200. Bitcoin’s price is still well below the all-time high of around $19,500 reached in December 2017.

Bitcoin’s rise is part of a broader rally in cryptocurrency markets. The price of ether, the currency of the Ethereum network, is up 11 percent over the last 24 hours to nearly $350. Bitcoin Cash, a bitcoin spinoff optimized for higher transaction volumes, is now worth more than $500 for the first time since the start of 2019.

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Bitcoin is worth $6,000 for the first time this year

Bitcoin rises above $10,000 for the first time in a year

Enlarge (credit: Peter KovalevTASS via Getty Images)

Bitcoin’s price has soared above $10,000 for the first time since early 2018, a new milestone in the virtual currency’s latest comeback.

The price has more than tripled since hitting rock-bottom last December around $3,200. That was after crashing from an all-time high around $19,500 in December 2017.

As always, it’s difficult to be sure what drives changes in Bitcoin’s price. But one obvious candidate is Facebook’s announcement of its own cryptocurrency, called Libra, earlier this week. Libra is a potential Bitcoin competitor, but the announcement also brings added legitimacy to the overall cryptocurrency market.

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Fake cryptocurrency apps on Google Play try to profit on bitcoin price surge

Fake cryptocurrency apps on Google Play try to profit on bitcoin price surge

Enlarge (credit: Google)

Google’s official Play Store has been caught hosting malicious apps that targeted Android users with an interest in cryptocurrencies, researchers reported on Thursday.

In all, researchers with security provider ESET recently discovered two fraudulent digital wallets. The first, called Coin Wallet, let users create wallets for a host of different cryptocurrencies. While Coin Wallet purported to generate a unique wallet address for users to deposit coins, the app in fact used a developer-owned wallet for each supported currency, with a total of 13 wallets. Each Coin Wallet user was assigned the same wallet address for a specific currency.

“The app claims it lets users create wallets for various cryptocurrencies,” ESET Malware Researcher Lukas Stefanko wrote in a blog post. “However, its actual purpose is to trick users into transferring cryptocurrency into the attackers’ wallets—a classic case of what we named wallet address scams in our

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It took just five days for bitcoin to rise from $6,000 to $8,000

It took just five days for bitcoin to rise from $6,000 to $8,000

Enlarge (credit: Thomas Trutschel / Getty Images News)

Last Wednesday we reported that bitcoin had risen to $6,000 for the first time this year. On Monday, just five days later, bitcoin reached a new 2019 high of $8,000. As I write this one bitcoin is worth about $7,900.

Of course, bitcoin reached much higher levels in late 2017 and early 2018. Bitcoin’s current price just under $8,000 is less than half the all-time high of $19,500 set in December 2017. Bitcoin was last worth at least $8,000 in July 2018.

As often happens, bitcoin’s rise is part of a broader cryptocurrency boom. On Saturday, the price of ether—the currency of the Ethereum network—rose above $200 for the first time in 2019. Other cryptocurrencies, including Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, Monero, and Dash are at or near 2019 highs.

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Bitcoin is worth $6,000 for the first time this year

Bitcoin is worth $6,000 for the first time this year

Enlarge (credit: Peter KovalevTASS via Getty Images)

Last year was a brutal one for holders of bitcoin. The price fell from its all-time high of $19,500 in December 2017 to a low of $3,100 a year later. Then the price mostly languished between $3,000 and $4,000 in the early months of 2019.

But recently bitcoin has been on a tear. On April 2, the price soared almost 20 percent in a single day to reach $5,000. The price has drifted steadily upward since then, and it hit $6,000 on Wednesday.

It’s often difficult to explain bitcoin price movements, and this case is no exception. Major bitcoin-related news in recent weeks has seemed mostly negative: a possible Chinese government ban on cryptocurrency mining, worries that a major cryptocurrency exchange might be insolvent, and most recently, hackers stealing $40 million from another cryptocurrency exchange.

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The leading “stablecoin” is no longer backed by $1 for every coin

The leading “stablecoin” is no longer backed by $1 for every coin

Enlarge (credit: Marco Verch / Flickr)

A New York judge has ordered Bitfinex, a cryptocurrency exchange that shares a parent company with the “stablecoin” Tether, to turn over a bunch of documents to New York Attorney General Letitia James. James announced the order in a Thursday press release. She also unsealed her office’s legal filings requesting the order.

Those documents suggest that Bitfinex could be in serious financial trouble. The company has been unable to recover $851 million in cash it had entrusted to a little-known Panamanian payment processor called Crypto Capital. James’ office writes that information uncovered during the investigation “raised serious questions about the viability of Bitfinex as an ongoing concern.”

In a statement, Tether said that the filings from New York’s attorney general were “written in bad faith and are riddled with false assertions.” According to Tether, the missing $851 million “are not lost but

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