Bitcoin Economics – Credit expansion and the characteristics of money which make it possible (Part 1)

Abstract: In this piece on economics, we look at misconceptions with respect to how banks make loans and the implications this has on the ability of banks to expand the level of credit in the economy.  We analyze the inherent properties of money which ensure that this is the case and the impact this could have on the business cycle.

 

Dynamics of Credit Expansion

The core characteristic of the traditional banking system and modern economies, is the ability of the large deposit taking institutions (banks) to expand the level of credit (debt) in the economy, without necessarily needing to finance this expansion with reserves.

An often poorly understood point in finance, is the belief that banks require reserves, liquidity or “cash”, in order to make new loans. After-all where do banks get the money from? It is true that smaller banks and some financial institutions do need to find sources of finance to make new loans. However, in general, this is not the case for the main deposit taking institutions within an economy.

If a main deposit taking institution, makes a new loan to one of their customers, in a sense this automatically creates a new deposit, such that no financing is required.  This is because the customer, or whoever sold the item the loan customer purchased with the loan, puts the money back on deposit at the bank.  Therefore the bank never needed any money at all. Indeed there is nothing else people can do, the deposits are “trapped” inside the banking system, unless they are withdrawn in the form of physical notes and coins, which rarely happens nowadays.

Please consider the following simplified example:

  1. A large bank, JP Morgan, provides a mortgage loan to a customer, who is buying their first home, for $500,000
  2. JP Morgan writes a check to the mortgage customer for $500,000
  3. The mortgage customer deposits the check into his deposit account, at JP Morgan
  4. The mortgage customer writes a new check, for $500,000 and he hands it over to the seller of the property
  5. The seller is also banking client of JP Morgan and as soon as she receives the check, she deposits it into her JP Morgan bank account

 

Illustrative diagram of a new home mortgage with one dominant bank in the economy

As one can see, the above process had no impact on the bank’s liquidity or reserves, the bank never had to spend any “cash” at any point in the above example. Of course, the seller of the property does not necessarily have to have an account with the same bank as the one which provided the loan.  However large deposit taking institutions, such as JP Morgan, HSBC or Bank of America, have large market shares in the deposit taking business, in their local markets.  Therefore, on average, these large banks expect more than their fair share of new loans to end up on deposit at their own bank. Actually, on average, new loans in the economy actually increases the liquidity for these large banks, rather than decreasing it.

The accounting treatment of this mortgage, for the bank, is as follows:

  • Debit: Loan (asset): $500,000
  • Credit: Deposit (liability): $500,000

The bank has therefore increased its assets and liabilities, resulting in balance sheet expansion.  Although from the point of view of the home seller, she has $500,000 of cash.  The above transaction has increased the amount of loans and deposits in the economy. From the customer’s point of view, these deposits are seen as “cash”. In a sense, new money has been created from nothing, apart from perhaps the asset, which in this case is the property.  In the above scenario, M0 or base money, the total value of physical notes and coins in the economy, as well as money on deposit at the central bank, remains unchanged.  M1, which includes both M0 and money on deposit in bank accounts, has increased by $500,000.  Although the precise definition of M1 varies by region.

Cash reserves from the point of view of a bank are physical notes and coins, as well as money on deposit at the central bank.  The ratio between the level of deposits a bank can have and its reserves, is called the “reserve requirement”.  This form of regulation, managing the reserve requirement, leads to the term “fractional reserve banking”, with banks owing more money to deposit customers than they have in reserves. However, contrary to conventional wisdom, in most significant western economies, there is no regulation directly limiting the bank’s ability to make these loans, with respect to its cash reserves.  The reserve requirement ratio typically either does not exist, or it is so low that it has no significant impact.  There is however a regulatory regime in place that does limit the expansionary process, these are called “capital ratios”. The capital ratio, is a ratio between the equity of the bank and the total assets (or more precisely risk weighted assets). The bank can therefore only create these new loans (new assets) and therefore new deposits (liabilities), if it has sufficient equity.  Equity is the capital investment into the bank, as well as accumulated retained earnings.  For example if a bank has $10 of equity, it may only be allowed $100 of assets, a capital ratio of 10%.

 

The credit cycle

To some extent, the dynamic described above allows banks to create new loans and expand the level of credit in the economy, almost at will, causing inflation. This credit cycle is often considered to be a core driver of modern economies and a key reason for financial regulation. Although the extent to which the credit cycle impacts the business cycle is hotly debated by economists.  These dynamics are often said to result in expansionary credit bubbles and economic collapses. Or as Satoshi Nakamoto described it:

 

Banks must be trusted to hold our money and transfer it electronically, but they lend it out in waves of credit bubbles with barely a fraction in reserve

 

Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates (a leading investment firm), appears to agree that the credit cycle is a major driver of swings in economic growth, at least in the short term, as his video below explains:

 

 

The view that the credit cycle, caused by fractional reserve banking, is the dominant driver  of modern economies, including the boom and bust cycle, is likely to be popular in the Bitcoin community.  This theory is sometimes called Austrian business cycle theory, although many economists outside the Austrian school also appreciate the importance of the credit cycle.

However, there are alternative views.  For example another successful investment firm, Marathon Asset Management, identifies the “capital cycle” as the main driver of the business cycle, rather the credit cycle.  In their view a cycle emerges with respect to investment in production, as the below diagram illustrates.

 

The capital cycle

Source: Capital Account

 

The fundamental cause of the credit expansionary dynamic

The above dynamic of credit expansion and fractional reserve banking, is not understood by many. However, with the advent of the internet, often people on the far left politics, the far right of politics or conspiracy theorists, are becoming partially aware of this dynamic, perhaps in an incomplete way. With the “banks create money from nothing” or “fractional reserve banking” narratives gaining some traction. The question that arises, is why does the financial system work this way?  This underlying reasons for this, are poorly understood, in our view.

Individuals with these fringe political and economic views, may think this is some kind of grand conspiracy by powerful elite bankers, to ensure their control over the economy. For example, perhaps the Rothschild family, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, the Bilderberg Group, the Federal Reserve or some other powerful secretive entity deliberately structured the financial system this way, so that they could gain some nefarious unfair advantage or influence? Actually, this is not at all the case.

The ability of deposit taking institutions to expand credit, without requiring reserves, is the result of inherent characteristics of the money we use and the fundamental nature of money. This is because people and businesses psychologically and for very logical practical reasons, treat bank deposits in the same way as “cash”, when they could alternatively be considered as loans to the bank. This enables banks to then expand the amount of deposits, knowing they are safe, as customers will never withdraw it, since they already think of it as cash.

Bank deposits are treated this way for perfectly reasonable and logical reasons, in fact bank deposits have some significant advantages over physical cash. Bank deposits are simply much better than physical cash.  It is these inherent and genuine advantages that cause fractional reserve banking, not a malicious conspiracy, as some might think.

 

Advantages of bank deposits compared to physical notes and coins

Factor Bank deposit Physical cash
Security

Keeping money on deposits in financial institutions, increases security

The money is protected by multiple advanced security mechanisms and insured in the unlikely event of theft

Large physical cash balances at home could be vulnerable to theft or damage

Physical cash cannot be insured and storage costs can be expensive

Electronic transfers Using the banking system, it is possible to quickly send money effectively over the internet or by phone, across the world at low cost and at high speed If physical cash is used, then a slow, inefficient, insecure physical transfer must take place
Convenience

Using a banking system to manage your money, can result in a convenient set of tools. For example the ability to use money using your mobile phone or on your computer

Precise amounts can be sent so there is no issue with receiving change

Handling cash is often a difficult and cumbersome process. Precise amounts cannot be specified and one may need to calculate change amounts
Auditability Traditional banks offer the ability to track, control and monitor all transactions, which can help prevent fraud.  This improves reporting and accountability With physical cash, effective record keeping is less automated, increasing the probability of fraud

 

Bitcoin Economics – Credit expansion and the characteristics of money (Part 2)

Abstract: In this piece we look at why Bitcoin might have some unique combinations of characteristics, compared to traditional forms of money.  We examine the implications this could have on the ability of banks to engage in credit expansion.

 

The main features of the different types of money

Despite the strong advantages of bank deposits mentioned in part 1 of this piece, namely the ability to use it electronically, physical notes and coins do have some significant benefits over electronic money.  The following table aims to summarize the main features of the different types of money, bank deposits, physical cash and Electronic Cash (Bitcoin).

 

Features of electronic bank deposits, physical notes & coins and electronic cash

Feature Bank deposit Physical cash Electronic Cash
Advantages of physical cash
Funds are fully protected in the event the bank becomes insolvent or inaccessible*
It is difficult for the authorities to confiscate funds
Funds can be effectively hidden from the authorities
Transactions cannot easily be blocked
Transfers can be highly anonymous
Transfers can be irrevocable
Transfers can occur instantly ? ?
Payments can occur 24×7 ?
Transaction fees are zero ?
Payments work during power outages or when communication networks are down
Money can be used without purchasing or owning a device
Anyone can use the system, without seeking permission
Advantages of electronic systems
Payments can be made over the internet
Change does not need to be calculated
Payments can easily be recorded
Funds can easily be secured to prevent theft ?

Note: * Physical cash still has a potential problem with respect to the solvency, related to the policy of the central bank which issues the currency

 

Due to the strengths mentioned in the above table, physical cash will always have its niche use cases. However, on balance, banking deposits are superior to physical cash, for the majority of users.  The ability to use bank deposits electronically is particularly compelling, especially in the digital age.  As we explained in part one of this piece, it is this ability to use the money electronically that ensures there is always high demand for bank deposits, giving banks the ability to freely expand the level of credit.

 

The unique properties of Bitcoin

Bitcoin shares many of the advantages of physical cash over electronic bank deposits.  Although Bitcoin does not have the full set of advantages, as the table above demonstrates.  However the key unique feature of Bitcoin, is that it has both some of the advantages of physical cash and the ability to be used electronically.

Bitcoin aims to replicate some of the properties of physical cash, but in an electronic form, an “electronic cash system”.  Before Bitcoin, people had to make a binary choice, between physical cash or using a bank deposit.

Although technically physical cash is a kind of a bank deposit, a deposit at the central bank, physical cash still has unique bearer type properties which could not be replicated in an electronic form.  For the first time ever, in 2009, Bitcoin provided the ability to use a bearer type asset, electronically.  The the simple table below illustrates this key unique feature of Bitcoin and blockchain based tokens.

 

The binary choice in legacy finance & the new option Bitcoin provides

Bearer type instrument Electronic type instrument
Physical Cash (Notes & Coins)
Electronic money (Bank Deposit)
Electronic Cash (Bitcoin)

 

Therefore Bitcoin can be thought of as a new hybrid form of money, with some of the advantages of physical cash, but also some of the advantages of bank deposits.

 

Bitcoin’s limitations

Although Bitcoin has inherited some of the strengths of both traditional electronic money systems and physical cash.  Typically Bitcoin does not have all the advantages of either electronic money or physical cash, however it is uniquely positioned to be able to have subset of the features of each.  This provides a new middle ground option.

For example, Bitcoin may never have the throughput of traditional electronic payment systems or the ability to use without electricity such as with physical cash.  Although as technology improves, Bitcoin may slowly develop more strengths and gradually improve its capabilities, to narrow the gap.

 

The implications of these characteristics on credit expansion

Understanding the dynamics of these characteristics, can be useful in evaluating the potential economic significance of Bitcoin, should the ecosystem grow. Bitcoin has at least six properties which provide some level of natural resilience against credit expansion, which traditional money does not have. This is because the advantages of keeping money on deposit at a bank are not always as pronounced in Bitcoin, compared to the alternatives.  However, Bitcoin is certainly not immune to the same credit expansionary forces which exist in traditional systems, indeed people can keep Bitcoin on deposit at financial institutions just like they can with physical cash.  Bitcoin may merely have greater resistance to the same credit expansionary forces.

At the core of our reasoning, is looking the advantages of bank deposits compared to physical cash, which are the characteristics that enable large banks to freely expand credit and evaluating to what extent they apply in Bitcoin.  As the table below shows, the advantages of keeping money on deposit at a bank are less significant in the Bitcoin world, therefore we think Bitcoin does have some unique resilience against the forces of credit expansion.

 

Physical cash vs bank deposits compared to Bitcoin vs Bitcoin deposits

Factor Physical cash compared to deposits Bitcoin compared to Bitcoin deposits
1. Security

Keeping money on deposits in financial institutions, increases security relative to keeping large physical cash balances at home, where the cash is vulnerable to theft or damage

Bitcoin can potentially allow a high level of security, without putting the funds on deposit at a bank

For example Bitcoin can be concealed or encrypted

2. Electronic transfers

Using the banking system, it is possible to send money effectively over the internet or by phone, across the world at low cost.

If physical cash is used, then a slow, inefficient, insecure physical transfer must take place

Bitcoin can allow users to efficiently transmit money over the internet, without using deposits at financial institutions
3. Convenience

Using a banking system to manage your money, can result in a convenient set of tools. For example the ability to use money using your mobile phone or use your computer.

Precise amounts can be sent so there is no issue with receiving change

Bitcoin can allow users to make payments on a mobile phone or without manually calculating change amounts.  Deposits at financial institutions are not required
4. Ability to redeem deposits In the traditional banking system, withdrawing physical cash from a financial institution is a long administrative process which takes time.  Banks therefore do not need to worry about keeping large quantities of physical cash in reserves Bitcoin can allow users to withdraw money from deposit taking institutions quickly, which may encourage banks to ensure they have adequate Bitcoin in reserve at all times
5. Auditability

Banks offer the ability to track and monitor all transactions, which can help prevent fraud and improve accountability.

Physical cash cannot offer this

Bitcoin’s blockchain or other electronic databases can allow users to effectively audit and monitor transactions, without using third party financial intermediaries
6. “Hybrid banking”

In traditional banking models there are only two fundamental choices:

1. Physical cash which provides full user control of the money

2. Money on deposit at a financial institution

This is a binary choice with no middle ground options, forcing consumers to make a difficult choice with no compromise option available

Bitcoin allows a wider spectrum of deposit and security models, resulting in a more complex credit expansionary dynamic.

For example:

1. 2 of 2 multi-signature wallet, where the bank holds one key and the user holds another key; or

2. 1 of 2 multi-signature wallet, where the bank holds one key and the user holds another key

 

The economic consequences of less credit expansion

The consequences of the lower level of credit expansion this analysis implies, does not really say much about whether this potentially new economic model will be more beneficial to society, nor does it say much about whether Bitcoin will be successful or not. The former is something that has been heavily debated by economists for decades and the latter is a separate topic, in our view.  Although, despite decades of economic debate, perhaps Bitcoin is sufficiently different to the money which came before it, such that the debate is required again, with new very different information.  For example inflation  or deflation, caused by cycles of credit expansion, may have very different consequences in a Bitcoin based financial system, than on one based on bank deposits and debt.  A key problem with deflation in a debt based money system, is that it increases the real value of debt, resulting in a downwards economic spiral.  For non debt based money systems like Bitcoin, it is less clear what the implications of deflation are.

Although Bitcoin may not necessarily result in a superior economic model, we think this analysis may suggest that Bitcoin may have some properties that make the economic model somewhat unique or perhaps interesting, compared to the possible models that came before it.  Therefore it does look like an area worth examining.

To many, the ultimate objective of Bitcoin is to become sufficiently dominant, such that there is a significant decrease in credit expansionary forces, which can neutralize the credit cycle and therefore the business cycle.  Although, this should be considered as an extremely ambitious objective, which we consider as extremely unlikely.  And even in the remarkable circumstance that Bitcoin grows to this scale, other  unforeseen economic problems, particular to Bitcoin, may emerge.

Policy on Bitcoin Hardforks (Update) and SegWit2x (B2X)

Anyone can create a chain fork of Bitcoin at any time. The possibility of a SegWit2x hardfork (B2X) in November 2017 requires that we, once again, clarify our position on any and all potential hardforks.

 

BitMEX Hardfork Policies

At BitMEX, our top priority is protecting the assets of our customers. In order for us to effectively do this, we insist that any Bitcoin hardfork includes the following:

  • Strong two way transaction replay protection, enabled by default, such that transactions on each chain are invalid on the other chain.
  • A clean break, such that the new chain cannot be “wiped out” by the original chain.
  • A modification to the block header, such that all wallets (including light clients) are required to upgrade to follow the hardforked chain.
  • A change in address format, to prevent people inadvertently sending coins to an address on the wrong chain.
  • New P2P network magic bytes, to ensure a functioning and reliable node network for the both coins.

Strong replay protection and wipeout protection, in particular, are considered absolutely crucial.  Should a hardfork not follow these policies, we will not support the new coin. To be clear, we do not intend to access or keep these coins. The administrative overhead of distributing any and all hardforked coins (including Bitcoin-based distributions like Byteball/Lumens) is prohibitive and BitMEX will not monitor or maintain balances of hard-forked coins.

Additionally, support of any forked currency is solely at the discretion of BitMEX. While we may snap users’ margin balances at the time of the fork in case we decide to distribute, there is no guarantee that it will be safe, desirable, or practical to do so. If this concerns you, you should withdraw your funds before any given fork and handle the split on your own.

 

SegWit2x (B2X) – BitMEX Policy

The SegWit2x (B2X) proposal is aimed at increasing the blocksize. It is scheduled to take place in November 2017. This change is incompatible with the current Bitcoin ruleset and therefore a new coin may be created.  

Proponents of this new coin hope it becomes known as Bitcoin, however which coin is known as Bitcoin is not up to the proponents of the new token. Investors and traders may decide which coin has the highest value.  In order for this process to work smoothly, strong two way  transaction replay protection is necessary.

It is our understanding that the SegWit2x proposal does not include two way transaction replay protection, enabled by default. Therefore BitMEX will not be able to support SegWit2x.

As such, BitMEX will not support the distribution of B2X, nor will BitMEX be liable for any B2X sent to us.  This policy applies even if the SegWit2x chain has the majority hashrate. Therefore, it is up to our users to withdraw their Bitcoin’s from BitMEX prior to the fork if they wish to access B2X.

BitMEX considers any and all contentious hardfork tokens as altcoins. The .BXBT and .BXBTJPY indices will remain unchanged and will not include B2X.

The SegWit2x (B2X) Hardfork – Protecting Yourself and Your Coins, Part 1: Coin Splitting

Abstract: The upcoming SegWit2x hardfork lacks replay protection.  In this piece we look at what you can do to protect yourself, by analyzing various ways you could split your coins.

 

Overview

SegWit2x (B2X) is a proposal to double Bitcoin’s capacity limit. This is an increase in the maximum block weight to 8MB from 4MB.

The upgrade is an incompatible with Bitcoin’s current consensus rules (known as a hardfork), which means it is likely to result in a new coin, such that Bitcoin holders prior to the fork will receive both original Bitcoin (BTC) and SegWit2x coin (B2X) after the fork. In many ways this is similar to the recent Bitcoin Cash hardfork (also an increase in the blocksize limit to 8MB). A key difference is that unlike Bitcoin Cash, B2X does not include strong transaction replay protection. Therefore many users could lose funds, on the other hand, those that do successfully protect their funds could make positive investment returns.

The hardfork is expected to occur on around Saturday 18th November 2017. (Block number 494,784)

 

Why bother splitting?

The SegWit2x split will result in two coins, the existing Bitcoin (BTC) and a new “spin-off” coin SegWit2x (B2X). This is likely to lead to significant price volatility, which may present investment opportunities. Due to the lack of replay protection, whatever your view on the situation or your investment strategy, it is sensible to split your coins as soon as possible, to ensure as much flexibility as possible and also to protect your coins.  Many users are likely to intend to send only one of the two coins in a transaction, but accidentally send both, which may result in an irrecoverable loss of funds.  If you do not split, you could be one of these users incurring losses.

Unfortunately the lack of strong replay protection may also present an opportunity for scammers/attackers. For example scammers could repeatedly deposit and withdraw from exchanges, hoping to find any weaknesses. If any exchange has not implemented replay protection, attackers are likely to exploit this quickly, which could make the exchange insolvent. In addition to this, individual users could be targeted by scammers. Scammers could sell the victim Bitcoin, knowing their wallet is following the wrong chain or scammers could acquire Bitcoin from a victim who is expected to replay coins on both chains to the buyer.

These kind of losses and attacks could damage the reputation of the ecosystem, therefore a contentious hardfork without strong replay protection is a high risk event with potentially significant negative consequences. However, there are actions you can take to protect yourself.

 

Splitting your coins

When the hardfork occurs, your Bitcoin will exist separately on both chains BTC & B2X, in the same output. Since the B2X hardfork does not contain transaction replay protection enabled by default, when spending your coins, in either chain, the transaction could be replayed on the other chain.  Therefore the prudent thing to do is split your coins, so that your BTC and B2X exist on different outputs on each chain, which means that your transactions can no longer be replayed.

Unfortunately this is not a simple process and many people are unlikely to be able to achieve this. You cannot split your coins prior to the hardfork, however a prudent strategy may be to prepare how you plan to split beforehand, for example moving your coins to a different wallet before the split occurs. For many users this is not likely to be easy, however if you act fast, there could be investment rewards, if you are able to sell the spin-off coin before others have a chance to do so.

 

Which wallets to use

In order to split your coins, you would either need to manually construct your own transactions or use two wallets, one for BTC and one for B2X, since most wallets will not allow you to broadcast two conflicting transactions. You will then need two separate wallets, to receive the coins on each side of the split.

Unfortunately two full node wallets are likely to be necessary to protect your coins, for example Bitcoin Core for BTC and BTC1 for B2X. A full node wallet means it verifies all the consensus rules on the entire blockchain. Two fully verifying nodes may be needed because:

  • On the BTC side you may need a wallet that enforces the 4 million unit weight limit (which B2X plans to breach), and;
  • On the B2X side you need a wallet that enforces the coin wipeout protection rule, which requires non witness data in the first B2X block to be greater than 1MB.

You need to ensure each respective wallet enforces each of these rules, to make sure your wallets does not follow a different chain to the one on which your coins are located on.  Otherwise your coins could disappear from your wallet.

In order to prudently prepare for the hardfork, it might be a good idea to run full nodes of each client on a separate computer. The syncing process can take several days, therefore perhaps you could start to run the nodes before the fork, as you may want to be ready to split your coins and spend them as soon as possible.

 

The splitting methods

Method 1: The trial and error approach

The most basic way of splitting is to run a BTC client and a B2X client, import your private keys, and then try to send your coins to yourself, to two different outputs on each chain. Either both transactions confirm, in which case you succeeded, or the same transaction occurs on both chains, and you simply try again.

The trouble with this method is that it could be expensive, in terms of both time and money. Many people may try this approach and therefore network congestion could be high, and the more failed attempts occur the more one needs to pay in fees. In addition to this, at least one of the two chains is guaranteed have minority hashpower, which could increase the block interval in the short term, resulting in more transaction congestion and you would need to wait for your transaction to confirm on both sides of the split to ensure you are protected.

Unfortunately, the trouble with B2X, is not only did this fork not implement strong replay protection, so that BTC transactions are valid on B2X and vica versa, but B2X also uses the same network magic as BTC. Therefore, by default your B2X wallet will broadcast its transactions to the BTC network, making transaction replay likely.

 

Method 2: Locktime

Locktime is a transaction field, which ensures a transaction is only valid after a certain block height. By default some wallets, including Bitcoin Core, add the current block height to the locktime field for their transactions. There are several motivations for this transaction type, one of which is to reduce the incentive for miners to orphan the current leading block, in order to get more fee income, by scooping up the fees from transactions already confirmed in the last block and the transactions in the memory pool. This is expected to be a potential problem in the future when the block reward is low.

One could try to use this feature to split BTC and B2X coins. For example, if the BTC chain has a 5 block lead over the B2X chain, you could send a BTC transaction with the current block height as the locktime, therefore this transaction will be invalid on B2X for the next 5 blocks. If the transaction confirms on BTC, you could then send another different transaction spending the same output on the B2X network, before the 5 block period is over. This could also work the other way around if B2X has the block height lead.

This method sounds complicated, and involves monitoring both chains. However, using the Bitcoin Core wallet this may happen by default and can be combined with the trial and error method described above. In theory, all you need to do is see which chain is in the lead, with respect to block height, and then send your transaction on that chain first.

 

Method 3: The “official” opt in replay protection

The B2X chain is considering adding opt in replay protection. This essentially means B2X client defines a subset of existing valid transactions and then prohibits these transactions on the B2X chain. Therefore you could send a transaction in this format on the BTC network and it would be invalid on B2X, resulting in a successful split.

However, this could be technically challenging to do, as it is not clear if any BTC wallets will support this feature and there may not be enough time for wallets to implement this for ordinary users. In addition to this, it is not known what type of opt in replay protection B2X will use or if this feature will be enabled at all. The official B2X client appears to have gone through the following iterations:

  • Initially there was no opt in transaction replay protection
  • A method of replay protection using OP_Return was merged into the codebase
  • A new replay protection method, banning transactions with an output to a particular P2SH address was merged
  • Problems were found with the latest method, which could apparently result in the loss of funds. Therefore a few days ago this opt in replay protection was removed from the B2X client

Therefore it is not clear what the opt in replay protection for B2X will be and it’s possible there could be no option here at all.

 

Method 4: Taint the coins with already split coins

Somebody else may have successfully been able to split their coins. They could then send you an output from their split coins. You could then use this output as an input for your new transaction. Since this input only exists on one chain, your transaction would be invalid on the other chain. Ideally this could be the coinbase reward from a block mined after the split, that way you can be sure your transaction can only occur on one side of the split, regardless of any potential re-orgs.

This process seems easier than the above methods, although you must ensure you get your coin control in your wallet arranged correctly to ensure you spend the desired transaction input. This method requires waiting for somebody else, therefore it could be slow, which may be a problem if you want to split as soon as possible.

 

Method 5: Let an exchange do it

You could send your coins to an exchange which supports both BTC and B2X, the exchange could then handle the split for you. You need to check if the policy of the exchange is to split your coins before the split or to also split coins sent to them after the split.

A disadvantage of this policy is that your need to take counterparty risk, which you may not want to do with your long term savings.  Taking such a risk could be particularly problematic during a high risk, high volume period such as a chain split without strong replay protection, which may present operational challenges for the exchanges. This method also goes against a common narrative or mantra in the Bitcoin community, which is you should always control your private keys, especially during a hardfork.

Although an advantage of sending your coins to the exchange before the fork, is that you may be able to trade the two coins very quickly, perhaps even faster than those doing the above split methods. This could provide you better investment opportunities.

 

Conclusion

Perhaps the best strategy is to combine the above methods. After reviewing the policy of the exchanges, you could send some of your coins to an exchange of your choice before the fork and then attempt to split the remainder of your coins using method 2 explained above.

However, despite all this advice, it’s probably likely that the overwhelming majority of Bitcoin holders will take no preparatory action for the split. Therefore if you do any above, you are probably well ahead of the majority, which could hopefully lead to some financial rewards or at least help you avoid losses.

The SegWit2x (B2X) Hardfork – Protecting Yourself and Your Coins, Part 2: Investment Strategies

Abstract: The upcoming SegWit2x hardfork is likely to lead to price volatility.  In this piece we look at some potential investment strategies which could allow you to capitalize on the event.

 

Strategy 1: Do nothing

The most popular investment strategy following the split is likely to be to take no action and remain a holder of both BTC and B2X. This is probably the most prudent approach, as your assets may be protected whichever coin becomes more valuable. Most people may pursue this strategy out of laziness rather than choice.  However, even if this is your preferred investment strategy, it may still be sensible to try and split your coins anyway; to increase the flexibility of your investment strategy and protect your funds in case you need to make a transaction.

 

Strategy 2: Invest in your favored coin

Many investors may support either the BTC or B2X coin for ideological reasons or because they feel their chosen coin has the best characteristics.

  • Supporters of BTC typically prefer the consensus rules to be robust, as they feel this results in superior or more unique monetary characteristics. Also they typically value the cautious and meticulous approach of the current development team. BTC supporters may want flexibility and innovation to come from other layers in the system above the consensus rule layer.
  • In contrast to this B2X supporters may value a more flexible consensus ruleset to ensure the system is dynamic and able to cater to user requirements more quickly. B2X supporters typically value the user experience over the monetary characteristics of the system. Typically they draw less distinction between changes in the consensus layer and other types of changes to the system.

If you agree with one of these visions more than the other, it might be a good idea to invest in the coin that matches your vision, this may not only help you obtain larger returns if your vision is correct, but may also help ensure your favoured token is the “winner”, as it may contribute to the value of the coin.

Alternatively you may not care which vision “wins”, but want to back the winner. In this case it’s important not just to gage opinion, but also the level of conviction those on each side of the debate have. Somebody slightly favouring one of the visions but also wanting to hedge their bets may have less of an impact than a die hard supporter of one of the visions, who is willing to sell all their coins on one side of the split no matter what. This factor could favor the BTC side, since many die hard “large blockers” may have already sold some BTC to invest in Bitcoin Cash.

The most common investment strategy after the fork may be to do nothing. However, of the tiny minority of people that do act, many of those people may be sellers of B2X. This is because the section of the minority that took action in favor of the large block chain in August, will not be allocated either BTC or B2X for the coins they sold for Bitcoin Cash. In contrast, the minority that quickly sold Bitcoin Cash in August, will be allocated BTC and B2X this November. Although, obviously this is highly speculative and nobody really knows what will happen.

 

Strategy 3: Invest in whichever coin is the cheapest/the “bad” coin – The Joel Greenblatt strategy

The top investment tip in one of our favorite books on investing, Joel Greenblatt’s “You can be a stock market genius” (bad title but a great read), appears to be that if a stock split occurs, one should buy the less favored company, the spin-off.  In this case B2X is the spin-off token.

Joel Greenblatt’s Gotham Capital achieved annualized investment returns of 50% from 1985 to 1994. One of the core strategies of the fund in this period was to invest in “bad” spin-off companies. As Greenblatt explains:

There are plenty of reasons why a company might choose to unload or otherwise separate itself from the fortunes of the business to be spun off. There is really only one reason to pay attention when they do: you can make a hole of money investing in spin-offs. The facts are overwhelming. Stock of spin-off companies, and even shares of the parent companies that do then spinning off, significantly and consistently outperform the market averages. One study completed at Penn State, covering a twenty five year period ending 1988, found that stocks of spin-off companies outperformed their industry peers and the S&P 500 by about 10% per year in their first three years of independence.

Greenblatt mentions that spin-offs tend to be driven by a “desire to separate out a bad business so that an unfettered good business can show through to investors”. The bad company or spin-off company is typically sold by investors, with the negative narrative around the bad company dominant at the time of the split, causing negative sentiment. As Greenblatt explains:

The spin-off process itself is a fundamentally inefficient method of distributing stock to the wrong people. Generally, the new spin-off stock isn’t sold, its given to shareholders who, for the most part, were investing in the parent company’s business. Therefore, once the spin-off’s shares are distributed to the parent company’s shareholders, they are typically sold immediately without regard to the price of fundamental value. The initial excess supply has a predictable effect on the spin-off stock’s price: it is usually depressed. Supposedly shrewd institutional investors also join in the selling. Most of the time spin-off companies are much smaller than the parent company. A spin-off may be only 10 or 20 percent the size of the parent. Even if a pension or mutual fund took the time the analyze the spin-off’s business, often the size of these companies is too small for an institutional portfolio.

Greenblatt goes on to cite four spin off case studies, Host Marriott/Marriott International, Strategic Security/Briggs & Stratton, American Express/Lehman Brothers and Sears/Dean Witter, where this thesis applied.

In many ways there are some analogies between the opportunities which may arise from Bitcoin spin-offs such as B2X and stock spin-offs. Perhaps B2X is being distributed to the “wrong people”. Bitcoin investors typically value robust rules and the resulting highly resilient monetary properties. Perhaps, some of the Bitcoin investors who value other characteristics such as flexibility and user experience may have already divested into Ethereum or Bitcoin Cash, therefore the remaining investors may “dump” B2X. The risk for B2X proponents is they allocate their new coin to the “wrong people” and the price becomes “depressed”.  However, this could provide contrarian investors an opportunity.

The price of B2X could fall to cheap levels and there could be significant amounts of negative sentiment with some people writing the coin off. This could then be a good time for contrarians to invest in B2X. This investment philosophy seems to go against a common narrative in the Bitcoin space that “network effect is king” or “the most work chain wins”, meaning a minority chain has limited prospects. However, there may be little investment basis for this view.

However, whether the Greenblatt spin-off philosophy really applies to Bitcoin spin-offs such as B2X is not clear. Greenblatt still does fundamental analysis on the bad spin-off company, and whether one can take this type of fundamental approach to Bitcoin or its spin-offs, is not obvious. It’s certainly more risky. Although, in my view, after the hardfork, if B2X is trading at c5% or less of the price of Bitcoin and the prevailing narrative is that B2X is dead, then the “bad” coin may be worth a small punt.

 

Strategy 4: Take advantage of different policies on different exchanges

During the Bitcoin Cash hardfork, different financial platforms had different policies. For example BitMEX essentially ignored Bitcoin Cash, and the futures price just followed Bitcoin. However, Kraken for example, supported Bitcoin Cash, in such a way that those with long margin positions on Bitcoin were also given Bitcoin Cash. Critically on Kraken if you were short Bitcoin at the time of the fork, you were then automatically short Bitcoin Cash. These different policies between exchanges provide asymmetry, which in theory can be used to earn free money.

For example going into the Bitcoin Cash hardfork, an interesting strategy was to open a margin long position of 1 BTC on Kraken and then hedge the position by taking a margin short position of 1 BTC on BitMEX. Thereby after the hardfork, you receive one Bitcoin Cash token on Kraken, essentially for free, since there was no corresponding Bitcoin Cash liability on BitMEX associated with the short.

When it comes to the upcoming fork, there are four relevant potential exchange policies one needs to consider, when trying to engage in this type of arbitrage.

 

Potential financial platform policies regarding the B2X spin-off token

Policy A Policy B Policy C Policy D
Split user Bitcoin deposit balances into BTC & B2X    
Split user Bitcoin margin long positions into BTC & B2X long positions        
Split user Bitcoin margin short positions into BTC & B2X short positions      
Bitcoin lenders are due back BTC & B2X    
Bitcoin borrowers owe BTC & B2X    

Note: It is also possible to have a different policy with respect to Bitcoin lending and Bitcoin margin positions, which is not illustrated in the above chart.

An interesting investment strategy to engage in before the B2X fork could be to open long Bitcoin positions with exchanges with policy C and D, and potentially open short Bitcoin positions on exchanges with policies A, B and C.  In theory, this should allow you to get B2X tokens for free.

One may think that policy C may seem a slightly inappropriate choice, as it results in an asymmetry. However some exchanges did have a policy similar to this with respect to Bitcoin Cash. The rational for this was that the burden on customers who were short Bitcoin, to go out into the market and buy Bitcoin Cash may have been too high, particularly if the liquidity of Bitcoin Cash was low.

As the B2X fork approaches, we may write a piece summarizing the policies of the main exchanges and how one could engage in this type strategy. Although, if you wait for it to be clearly explained, it could be too late and spreads could have already opened up, reflecting the opportunity. On Bitfinex, B2X is already trading at over $1,000, therefore there could be money to be made by engaging in these types of strategies. Perhaps a good idea, if you really like taking risks, may be to review the policies exchanges took with respect to Bitcoin Cash, to get an idea of what their policies might be with respect to B2X and then open your positions before the policies are officially announced.

ICO – 第二部分 - 投资回报

摘要:尽管只有少量的可靠数据能作为参考,但在本文中,我们将看看投资于ICO(“虚拟货币首次公开发售”)的投资回报。我们将对比投资收益与每个ICO项目得到的融资金额,并参考最高参与度的ICO顾问们的过往投资回报记录。

 

ICO投资者回报(对数单位)

资料来源:BitMEX 研究,Coinmarketcap,ICO网站,Reddit评论

注释:10x的回报意味着投资者在所投资的基础上赚了10倍的钱

 

数据的公正性

  • 一般来说,ICO价格的数据质量很差,在许多情况下可能会出现重大计算错误。对于任何不准确之处,我们深表歉意。
  • ICO项目通常具有其自身独特的情况和条件,例如ICO融资次数的不同或以及用不同加密货币来进行融资。不幸的是,由于缺乏透明度和高度的复杂性,在某些情况下,我们无法保持所有项目的自身特性的一致性。
  • 在某些情况下,我们可能无法确定ICO价格,因此使用其在第一天的交易价格 。
  • 在我们的分析中可能会存在一些选样偏差,例如,我们的调查样板中可能偏向一些后期投资表现较成功的ICO项目。
  • 不幸的是,在少数情况下,由于缺乏替代资料,我们采用了Reddit评论中的 ICO价格。


ICO投资者回报与募集资金相比(对数单位)

资料来源:BitMEX 研究,Coinmarketcap,ICO网站,Reddit评论,Coindesk

注释:10x的回报意味着投资者在所投资的基础上赚了10倍的钱

 

在上图中,我们将募集资金与投资回报率进行比较。从图表中可以看出,虽然其相关性无法通过严格的统计要求,但仍存在着轻微的负相关。

 

前20名ICO顾问的投资回报(对数单位)

资料来源:BitMEX研究,Coinmarketcap,ICO网站,Reddit评论,ICO Hunt

备注:括号中的数字表示所得到的投资回报数据的ICO项目数量与顾问参与的ICO总数之比

 

最后,我们按照ICO的数量看看前20名参与度最高的个人投资回报率。在许多情况下,ICO项目最近开始启动,因此尚未能够提供价格数据。

 

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ICO – 第一部分 - ICO团队成员/顾问间的互动关系网

摘要:在本周的文章中,我们来探讨ICO(“虚拟货币首次公开发售”)的世界。我们将演示了一个可互动的图像,它体现了整个ICO领域的市场情况以及在ICO世界里面人与人之间的关系网。

 

ICO团队成员互动关系网

资料來源:BitMEX 研究,ICO網站,icoHunt自己提供原始數據(未經許可不得使用)

 

关系网注释

  • 蓝圈代表ICO
  • 黄色圈子代表ICO团队成员,顾问或支持者
  • 圆圈的大小是根据其他ICO的加权链接数量
  • 数据包括500个ICO和c5,000个团队成员
  • 对于任何资料的错误,遗漏或拼写失误,我们深表歉意


ICO关系网查看提示

  • 将节点数修改为1000左右
  • 从5个节点开始,然后逐渐按向上箭头一次添加10个节点
  • 显示所有5,388个节点可能会占用大量的系统资源
  • 这里提供了可图像化类型的演示


ICO团队成员互动程度的负面影响

上图显示的关系网说明了ICO之间的联系是非常紧密的,少数人参与了众多的项目 。因此,批评者可能会认为一个人不应该参与这么多的ICO项目中,这现象也表现出误导营销,不良做法和披露不充分等问题。

 

ICOs和IPOs的比较

许多ICO项目中列出的参与人均为项目支持者或顾问,而不是作为项目日常管理人。在某些方面来看,他们更多的是ICO项目的“保荐人”,而不是积极参与项目的管理者或开发人员。例如,如下图所示,涉及多个ICO项目的个人集中度与参与IPO的财务顾问或簿记管理人的集中度非常吻合。Vitalik Buterin是参与ICO项目最多的人物。我们的分析显示,他至少参与了13个项目,占总数的2.5%左右。就算Vitalik所扮演的是保荐人的角色,那么Vitalik所占的市场份额要比花旗银行在IPO上所占的市场份额要低,花旗银行过去12个月中所占的市场份额为3.7%。

 

财务顾问市场份额分布(前20名) –  ICO / IPO比较

资料来源:BitMEX 研究,icoHunt,ICO网站,Bloomberg IPO数据库

注释:上述数据来自过去12个月发生的520起ICO项目和3,266起IPO项目。市场份额是基于项目个数,而不是市值。

 

主要簿记管理人在股权上市中的作用包括:

  • 承销所发行的上市公司股票,
  • 确保股票上市后的价格稳定性和流动性,
  • 准备上市股票发行营销材料,
  • 安排公司的管理层与路演中的潜在投资者接洽,
  • 利用销售人员通过电话和电子邮件向客户推销上市公司股票,
  • 协助向参与者分配发行股份比例。


在许多方面,这些责任与上述ICO项目中一些最突出的参与者的角色类似,特别在项目推广和营销方面。然而,在ICO世界,“保荐人”的作用更加模糊。有时发起这个想法的人,也参与管理甚至负责项目的开发。 ICO的市场中对个人所担任的角色和责任缺乏明确性。

 

一开始的分配情况

上市期间股份的初始分配过程通常是不透明的 。通常,财务顾问会“酌情”分配,大型机构和对冲基金客户首先受惠,而不是透过公平的随机分配或拍卖机制。金融监管机构对于这种做法尽然不进行规管,这还是有点令人惊讶。虽然有关监管的反对者认为上市公司应该有自由决定自己新股东是谁,如果投标人很多的话。不幸的是,这名簿记管理人/财务顾问似乎在这个过程中有着很大的影响力。

尽管有机会改善IPO在这方面的运作模式,但是对于ICO初始分配过程而言, 似乎并不比IPO好到哪去。ICO的初始分配过程也是不明确的,甚至在某些方面比IPO更糟,因为早期投资者或关系户投资者往往可以以较低的价格参与ICO项目。其分配过程是根据谁是项目团队的好哥们儿或谁拥有更好行业关系 。因此,尽管IPO的运作方式不佳,但IPO似乎在初始分配方面比ICO更公平一些。

虽然我们可以大言不惭的说,ICO和IPO之间有一个关键的区别就是ICO是由我们控制着的。然而在某种程度上这个来说这种观点忽略了新技术真正的意义,这与现有的金融体系基本上有什么本质上不同甚至又能带来什么改善吗?

 

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SegWit交易容量增长 – 第二部分 – 激活后的第一个月

摘要:SegWit一个月前激活以来的用数量一直步增,令人惊的是交易用在也大幅减少。我们认为交易费用下降可能是巧合,因一个月期使用SegWit的用户数量是相当低的


第一个月SegWit数据情况

如下图(图1)所示,以橙色显示,SegWit应用数量自激活以来,以一种线性的方式稳步增长。其应用规模现在已经达到总交易量约4.5%。仅仅一个月,在理论上已经显示出网络的交易容量增加了c1.6%。

如图1所示,SegWit的激活的时点似乎与平均交易费用急剧下降的时间一致。


图1 – 交易费用与SegWit的应用规模

资料来源: BitMEX 研究部
注脚: 数据为日平均,至2017年9月20日

 

如下图2所示,以比特币计价交易费用与比特币价格和比特币价格波动有关。这种关系可能是由于比特币价格上涨导致交易需求增加。 SegWit激活后的第一个月是比特币大幅上涨和价格波动较大的时期,这使得交易费用下调看起来有些不寻常。这个交易费用下降是在价格仍在迅速上涨的时期发生的 。

 

图2  – 交易费用与比特币价格

资料来源: BitMEX 研究部
注脚: 数据为日平均,至2017年9月20日

 

如下图3所示,与非SegWit的应用相比,SegWit的使用率仍然很低。虽然要量化市场和需求的价格弹性是非常困难的。另外,有可能因为交易容量增长了1.6%而导致交易费用减少,纵然我们认为这个可能性很低。因此,交易费用的急剧下降可能是个奇怪的巧合。

因此,现在做出SegWit成功增加了交易量并降低交易用的结论为时尚早。


图3 – SegWit应用数量与旧交易模式相比

资料来源: BitMEX 研究部
注脚: 数据为日平均,至2017年9月20日

 

于交易费用降低的另一个解是,并不是所有的史需求都是“真的”。垃圾区块制造者可能在试图交易需求并增加交易用。也SegWit的激活或比特币现金的推出意味着垃圾区块制造在有更少的理由继续进行昂的攻然没有直接据支持点。

 

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SegWit交易容量增长 – 第一部分

摘要:SegWit以新的较复杂的400万单位区块容量取代了原来的1MB的区块大小限制 。在钱包升级成SegWit 的交易格式后,这将令到网络交易量提升两倍 。本文章主要分析在随着用户逐渐更新并使用 SegWit交易的情况下,如何提升网络交易量。

 

容量增加概述

隔离见证Segregated Witness简称SegWit是比特币制式的升级,该可能会增加整体网络交易量。用户需要先升级到新的交易格式,才能受益于高交易量的提升。这可能会使整体交易量以一个缓慢而逐渐的方式提升。尽管那些升级的人可以立马得到交易费用减少的好处。

更高的交易量是透过以新的区块容量替换旧的区块大小限制来实现的。旧的1MB区块大小限制(如下所示)已从代码中删除

MAX_BLOCK_BASE_SIZE = 1000000;

新的,更复杂的容量限制由以下公式代替:

4 * non witness data (in bytes) + witness data (in bytes) < 4 million units

一旦用户和企业升级到新的交易格式,新的容量限制将使网络的交易量增加约两倍。矿工为了最大限度地提高交易费收入将会尽可能把最多的交易添加到区块内,而新区块容量便是该上限。

 

见证数据(Witness Data)是什么?

见证数据是数字签名,授权费用的支付。下图试图说明SegWit应用之前和之后的交易结构。在一个典型的交易中,见证数据占整个数据大约54%的容量,见下面的第二个图表中的蓝色矩形。

下图显示了两笔交易,其中交易2支付其在交易1中所收到的款项。

SegWit – 交易构的明(百分比数据占用)

 

SegWit– 交易构的明(百分比数据占用)

修复第三方交易的延伸性

我们经常听到到,SegWit是将见证和非见证数据“分开”并“放置”到两个不同的地方。真实情况并不是如此,见证和非见证数据仍然一起存在着。如上图绿色箭头所示,SegWit应用后的主要区别在于计算交易ID(TXID)时不再需要见证数据,而是在下一次交易支付中才需要用到。

这得以解决第三方交易的延伸性问题。如果签名从一个有效的签名更改到另一个有效的签名,交易ID将保持不变。因此,在区块确认交易1之前,创建并广播交易2到网络上得做法是合理及安全的。这样做可以改善用户体验,因为现在用户需要等待确认的时间较少,等待确认有时候是很慢的。

 

升级SegWit交易量增加对个体用户的好处

假设见证数据占交易空间的54%,当用户升级SegWit时,与旧交易格式相比,交易容量占比应减少约41%,如下面的公式所示:

因此,假设市场收费情况不变(即交易费用水平与SegWit应用之前相同),通过升级到SegWit,用户可以减少交易费用约41%。在其他用户升级到SegWit之前便会得到该好处。

不升级到SegWit的用户的交易费用应该与之前维持相同水平。但是,由于其他用户使用SegWit而释放了部分的固有容量,理论上他们可能会感受到“附属效益”。该效益可能会改善市场收费情况并降低交易费用,即使对于尚未升级到SegWit的用户。估计这个所谓的“附属效益”的规模几乎是不可能的,因为这取决于整体市场收费的情况 。

 

升级SegWit交易量增加对整个网络的好处
下面我们分析如果用户和企业决定选择采用SegWit交易,市场拥有高SegWit采用程度的网络交易量动态情况。

下面的图表显示出在见证数据于区块中增加时,区块大小及容量的变化。图表的左侧显示了SegWit采用率较低水平(目前情况),而随着向右移动,我们假设采用率一步步提高。

如果我们实现高采用率,则区块大小可能在2MB左右,包括1.3MB的见证数据和0.7MB的非见证数据。区块容量将达到400万单位。这意味着网络的交易量将增加约100%。

 

假设“正常”SegWit采用率的区块容量动态


理论区块容量问题

SegWit的质疑者经常提到一些问题。一个常见的看法是:

SegWit可以容下4MB的区块,但只有其中1MB是交易数据

 

也许提出这种说法的人的看法是根据下图作为依据。该图与上图类似,除了假设“正常”交易模式采用率,下图假设区块容量一直保持在400万单位,而见证数据增长到4MB。

在右侧的图表显示,理论上一个区块的大小(在只包含见证数据的情况下)可以达到 4MB,垃圾区块制造者可能产生与生成1MB区块(只包含非见证数据)相同的费用。由于两个区块都拥有400万个单位。

 

当区块容量一直保持400万动态情况

 

确实,垃圾区块制造者可能会产生这样的4MB区块,使得费用与1MB的区块相同。这的确是一个潜在的问题。

然而,对整体系统来说这没有对其安全属性做出改变,因为4MB的区块不比1MB的区块便宜,只是双方的成本相同。无论SegWit被采用与否,垃圾区块制造者总是能够占合法用户的便宜。
事实上,攻击者可以简单地产生1MB的非见证数据,与“合法”的用户进行竞争,而这个攻击的成本并不比以前便宜。SegWit不会也不能改变系统的安全动态,如果攻击者想要透过产生垃圾数据来占用户的便宜,他们仍可以做得到。

这里还有一个潜在的问题。现在有一个4MB的“最差情况”区块,尽管预期的容量增加只能略高于旧的容量1MB限制的2倍,而不是4倍。

这个对SegWit的批评是有一些道理的。然而,由于见证数据的容量缩放特性,情况可能不会像人们想象的那样糟糕。在某些方面,见证数据具有比非见证数据更好的可扩展性。

 

们将讨论以下些特性:

  1. 签名认证:通过更改交易哈希中签名的计算,使得每笔交易的每个字节只需要最多运算两次,SegWit减轻了二次运算的签名哈希操作问题。因此,包含大量见证数据的区块将包含大量有线性特征的数据,减少了潜在的签名验证时间并提高了可扩展性。
  2. 数据库对未使用的交易输出(UTXO)的影响:见证数据涉及交易输入的签名。如果只想创建新的交易输出数据,则将不会被包含在见证数据中。因此,理论上4MB区块不包含新的输出数据。因此,大区块对UTXO集的大小具有中立或甚至正面的影响。
  3. 长期存储成本:最糟糕的情况是4MB块可能对长期存储成本产生负面影响。然而,当采用隔离认证时,计算交易ID(TXID)的过程便不再需要认证数据。这意味着可以在计算TXID,梅克尔树根哈希和区块哈希时,不再需要见证数据。所需要的只是见证承诺以及可以在没有见证数据的情况下计算出来的区块哈希。因此,钱包可以在不需要见证数据的同时,获得“工作量证明(PoW)”的保证 。然而,如果想要在节点重新启动时验证所有的见证数据,就必须存储见证数据了。
  4. 区块传播/速率:在最差的情况下,理论上这些的4MB区块具有较差的传播特性。然而,像紧凑区块等技术却减轻了一些这种风险。然而,最近中国市场的震动可能显示出这是一个严重潜在问题。
  5. 宽带:比起1MB的非见证数据区块,4M的区块可能会增加节点/钱包的宽带负担。因此,这是大区块的潜在缺点。虽然也许一些轻型钱包只能下载他们自己交易的见证数据,他们永远不需要下载其他的见证数据,但是他们仍然可以将区块哈希与交易数据相联,从而获得“工作量证明(PoW)”的保证。

 

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挖矿诱因 – 第一部分 – 难度调整的经济学

摘要:这章比较了比特币与传统资源开采的挖矿经济学。我们将着眼于难度调整机制如何影响挖矿业的盈利能力以及一些潜在的不利影响。

 

比特币采矿业之难度调整

挖掘是找到新的比特币区块的随机过程,从而确认用户的交易。这必然是具有竞争性和能源密集型的过程。为了确保网络顺利可靠,每隔两周,挖矿难度会根据期间开采的区块数量而进行调整。 区块之间的平均目标间隔为10分钟。

每两个星期的周期被分为2016个10分钟的时段。

  • 如果在两个星期的周期内有超过2016个区块被挖掘,挖矿则变得更困难,因此如果哈希值保持不变,预计在接下来的两周内将每10分钟发现一次区块。
  • 如果在两个星期的时间内少于2016个区块被挖掘,挖矿就变得不那么困难了,因此如果哈希值保持不变,预计在接下来的两周内将每10分钟会发现一次区块。
  • 任何一个周期的最大调整是4的基数(即旧有难度的25%至400%的范围)。

下图显示了过去两个月中的难度调整(红线)和经计算的两周哈希率估量波动(绿线)。


采矿业平衡和误解: 
这意味着矿工们无法赚取利润

理论上,当外部因素变化时,难度调整会使系统处于平衡状态。例如以下比特币价格突然上涨的情况:

  1. 比特币价格上涨
  2. 因为矿工赚取比特币为回报,挖矿利润增加
  3. 进入市场壁垒有限,由于利润率高使得更多的矿工加入
  4. 网络哈希率增加,平均区块间隔下降到10分钟以下
  5. 几个星期后,挖矿难度增加,因此挖矿利润下降
  6. 平均区块间间隔回升到10分钟

相同的逻辑适用于比特币交易费用的增加或更高效的挖矿硬件被投入市场的情况。当比特币价格突然下降,该理论同样可以应用在相反的情况下。

与普遍的误解相反,两周的周期短暂,加上任何人理论上均能快速进入挖矿业,并不意味着采矿利润率每几个星期都趋于零。困难调整可能意味着的,是最边缘的矿工的利润率很快就趋于零。然而,并不是所有的矿工都是一样的,例如一些矿工可能会从结构上降低成本,例如降低电力成本,建立更大规模或有效的维护制度。这些更有效率的矿工可能能够在整个周期内产生稳定的利润。

除此之外,在特定的成本水平下,进入比特币采矿业务的壁垒不再是有限的。例如,可能需要大量的投资资本,可能当挖矿场活跃之前有长时间滞后,可能难以获得廉价的电力,可能难以掌握最新的专业挖矿芯片。因此,进入壁垒有限的假设可能不再存在。

 

以黄金矿业作为类比

下图显示了矿业公司的全球黄金开采总产量。 x轴显示了公司占全球黄金生产的比例,而y轴则是衡量生产一金衡盎司黄金的成本。成本的衡量标准称为“所有可持续成本”(AISC),其中包括生产边际成本(可变成本)和建设矿山所产生的资本投资的年折旧(固定成本)。直线红线代表现货黄金价格。

 

金矿行业成本曲线

如图所示,尽管现货黄金价格大幅下调,于左边的矿工也能够赚取利润。相比之下,最右边的矿工,可以归类为最边缘的矿工。这些最边缘的矿工的利润率在这个周期内趋于零。

如果黄金价格上涨,长期来看,更多的黄金矿工可能会在图表右侧加入行业,增加黄金供应,最终导致黄金价格下行压力。这种类型的均衡不能在比特币中发生,因为比特币的供应是固定的,因此难度调整是一种替代平衡机制。

开始一个新的金矿需要很多年(目前相较比特币长得多),矿工可能需要一个大的价格缓冲区才能决定决定是否投资新的矿场。因此,比特币的均衡机制可以被认为比传统的矿业更快。

图表最右侧的灰色条形显示一个矿工个亏损。可是,由于AISC包括贬值因素,对矿工来说,在亏损的情况下继续运营的决定可能是理性的,是对初始投资的资本投入持续贡献,尽管最初的投资决定是不正确的。

相同的逻辑可以应用于比特币采矿业,固定成本主要来源于采购挖矿设备和建设挖矿场等,而可变成本则是电费和维修费用等。因此,就像在传统的挖矿行业一样,只要它对初始的固定成本作仍有收入,就可能会使比特币矿工继续运营。这可称之为对自由现金流(FCF)持正面态度的矿工。这可以帮助确保挖矿哈希率和比特币网络条件比其他情况更稳定。

 

矿业调整如何影响整体行业的经济

当挖矿难度增加时,矿工生产一个比特币的成本应该向上升。顺带一提,这不一定是平行向上升的成本。难度向上调整10%,理论上只能将生产一个比特币所需的可变成本增加10%,其固定成本,如折旧,则保持不变。

每个矿工在固定和可变成本之间可能有不同的细分。固定成本不应受到难度调整的影响,因此固定成本比例高的矿工,可能由于本身电费偏低,在难度向上调整所带来的收益可能其同业更高。

这种动态的资源开采,于传统的资源开采不同(例如黄金)。如果黄金现货价格发生变化,这不会影响生产金衡盎司黄金的可变成本或固定成本。因此,在黄金开采中,其他矿工的行为不能直接影响任何一个矿山的成本。另一方面,在比特币难度调整的驱动下,其他矿工的行为可能直接影响到单位生产成本。如果黄金现货价格上涨或下跌,所有黄金矿工在销售方面会平均受到打击,因而影响金衡司盎利润。这种动态跟在比特币挖掘中是不同的。

 

理论上,一些比特币矿工甚至可以从比特币价格下跌中获利

我们已经解释了比特币矿工如何从较低的比特币价格中获得优势,但是在短期内,一些矿工也可能从比特币价格下滑中获得绝对的收益。

如果比特币的现货价格下跌,最初所有的矿工的受益都会按其生产之比特币数量而平行受挫,就像传统矿业一样。然而,当成本曲线右侧的矿工离开时,一些矿工实际上根据成本曲线的形状,可以得到绝对的上升利润。在某些方面,这可能会使比特币矿业的收益在价格下跌时有更快速恢复的能力,但在其他方面可能会产生不正当的诱因。

如下面虚构,甚至不真实的成本曲线所示,如果比特币的价格从1000美元降至800美元,那么成本在刚刚1000美元以下的大批矿工可能会关闭他们的机器。然后,当难度向下调整,曲线左侧的矿工在理论上可以增加其绝对利润。类似的分析,可能适用于没有矿工进入市场,而不是离开市场。

 
虚构的采矿业成本曲线(可变成本)

 因此,也许一些矿工可能会在某些时期内,受益于比特币价格下跌。有谁知道,我们很可能已经看到这种现象,在一定程度上,较大的低成本矿工会希望价格保持低位,这样新的矿工就不会进入市场。纵然这机会不大。

 

 

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ICOs – Part 1 – An Interactive Visualization of the ICO Space

Abstract: In this week’s piece, we look at the world of ICOs.  We present an interactive visualization, that illustrates the entire ICO landscape and the interconnections between people officially affiliated with each ICO.

 

Interactive ICO team member network map

Source: BitMEX Research, ICO websites, icoHunt own and provided the raw data (Do not use the data without their permission)

Network map notes

  • Blue circles represent ICOs
  • Yellow circles represent ICO team members, advisers or backers
  • Circle size is weighted by number of links to other ICOs
  • Data includes around 500 ICOs &  around 4,900 team members
  • We apologies for any errors, omissions or spelling mistakes

ICO network map viewing tips

  • Modify the number of nodes to around 1,000
  • Alternatively, start with 5 nodes, then gradually press the up arrow to add 10 nodes at a time
  • Displaying all 5,388 nodes may use up significant amounts of system resources
  • An illustration of the type of visualization which can be produced is provided here

 

The negative implications of the extent of ICO team member interconnections

The above network visualization illustrates the high degree of interconnections between the ICOs, with a few dominant individuals involved in many projects.  Skeptics may therefore argue that it is not feasible for any one individual to be involved in this many ICOs, and this is an indication of misleading marketing, bad practice or inadequate disclosure.

 

Comparing ICOs & IPOs

Many of the individuals listed in multiple ICOs are often listed as a backer or adviser, rather than as an individual involved in day to day management.  In some ways they may be more of an ICO “sponsor” than someone actively involved in project development.  For example, as the chart below illustrates, the concentration of individuals involved in multiple ICOs compares reasonably well to financial advisers or book-runners involved in IPOs.

Vitalik Buterin is the most prolific person when it comes to ICO involvement.  Our analysis shows he has involvement in at least 13 projects, around 2.5% of the total.  Although if you think of Vitalik’s role as more of a sponsor, then Vitalik has a lower market share than Citibank when it comes to IPOs, which has been the lead bookrunner in 3.7% of the IPOs in the last 12 months.

 

Market share of advisers (Top 20) – ICO/IPO comparison

Source: BitMEX Research, icoHunt, ICO websites, Bloomberg IPO database
Notes:  The above dataset is from around 520 ICOs and 3,266 IPOs which have occurred in the last 12 months.  The market share is based on the number of offerings, not value of the offerings.

 

The role of a lead bookrunner in an equity IPO, may be to do the following:

  • Underwrite the offering,
  • Ensure the offering complies with regulations,
  • Ensure price stability and liquidity after the stock lists,
  • Prepare marketing materials for the IPO,
  • Bring management of the company on a tour to see potential investors in a roadshow,
  • Use its investment sales staff to promote the offering to its clients,
  • Assist in the allocation of the shares to the offering participants.

In many ways these responsibilities are similar to the roles of some of the most prominent individuals in our ICO analysis above, certainly with respect to marketing and promotion. However, in the world of ICOs the role of the “sponsor” is a lot more murky.  The individual in question is sometimes said to be the person who originated the idea, is involved in management or even the development of the product.  The ICO market therefore lacks clarity with respect to the roles and responsibilities of the individuals involved.

 

The initial allocation

The initial allocation of shares during an IPO is often an opaque process.  Typically the bookrunner/adviser decides the allocation on a discretionary basis, with the largest institutional and hedge fund clients favored first, rather than a fair random process or auction driven mechanism.  It is somewhat surprising that financial regulators have not clamped down on this practice. Although a counter argument to regulation is that listing companies should have the freedom to decide who their new shareholders are, if their are multiple bidders.  Unfortunately the bookrunner/adviser seems to have a significant influence on the allocation process.

Despite the opportunity to improve on what IPOs do in this area, the initial allocation process when it comes to ICOs does not appear to be much better.  The initial allocation of ICOs is also a murky process, but in some ways even worse than for IPOs, since earlier or better connected investors sometimes get lower prices. The allocation process can be based on who is friends with the people in the team or other industry connections.  Therefore on balance, despite poor practice, IPOs appear to have a somewhat fairer process when it comes to allocation than ICOs.

Although one could cynically say there is a key difference in the offering process between ICOs and IPOs, this time we are the ones in control.

ICOs – Part 2 – Investment Returns

Abstract: Although the reliability of the data is limited, in this piece we look at the investment returns one would have achieved  by investing in ICOs.  We compare the returns against the amount each ICO raised and look at the historic investment performance of the most prolific ICO advisers.

 

ICO investor returns (log scale)

Source: BitMEX Research, Coinmarketcap, ICO websites, Reddit comments
Notes: A return of 10x means the investor made 10x their money.  Prices up to 25th September 2017

 

The integrity of the data

  • In general the quality of pricing data for ICOs is poor, we are likely to have made significant errors in many cases.  We apologies for any inaccuracies.
  • ICOs often have particular circumstances and conditions, for example multiple ICO rounds or offerings in different currencies.  Unfortunately due to a lack of transparency and a high degree of complexity, in some cases, we have not been able to account for all of these particularities in a consistent basis.
  • In some circumstances we may have been unable to determine the ICO price and therefore may have used the price on the first day of trading.
  • There may be some selection bias in our analysis, for example we may be more likely to have investigated the investment performance of ICOs which subsequently turned out to be successful.
  • Unfortunately, in a small number of cases we obtained the ICO price from Reddit comments, due to the lack an alternative source.

 

ICO investor returns compared to the amount raised in the offering (log scale)

Source: BitMEX Research, Coinmarketcap, ICO websites, Reddit comments, Coindesk
Notes: A return of 10x means the investor made 10x their money

 

In the above chart we compare the amount raised in the offering with the investment returns of the ICOs.  From looking at the chart, it appears that there is a slight negative correlation, although the correlation is not strong enough to pass rigorous statistical requirements.

 

ICO investor returns of for the top 20 ICO advisers (log scale)

Source: BitMEX Research, Coinmarketcap, ICO websites, Reddit comments, ICO Hunt
Notes: The numbers in brackets represent the number of ICOs we were able to obtain return data for compared to the total number of ICOs the adviser is involved in

 

Finally we look at the investment returns of the top 20 most prolific individuals in the ICO space, by number of ICOs.  In many cases, the ICOs occurred very recently and therefore pricing data is not yet available.