CURRENT PRICE PER EKRONA IS 0.2€. PRICE EXPECTED TO RISE BY 320% ON  Aug 16

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Bitcoin

Houses Accept Buyers’ Bitcoin and Display NFT Art – The Hollywood Reporter


The soaring contemporary architecture and breathtaking views of the Palazzo di Vista in Bel Air may seem well worth the $87.77 million it’s listed for. But the lucky buyer will also acquire a $7 million art collection, including an NFT (non-fungible token) art gallery, curated by MDP Art Curators, with works by Ghost Girl and BigHead Music Producer.

“The art world is changing so fast in this digital world, so we thought, ‘Why not incorporate it into the house world?’ ” says Compass’ Aaron Kirman. He holds the listing with The Agency’s Mauricio Umansky, who says, “It adds another level of fun where you just might attract the right buyer. And it’s a great marketing campaign.”

Living space inside the house at 1250 Hilldale, built by Colossal Properties and designed by architect Hagy Belzberg
Chris Nolasco

One early booster of NFTs has been developer Phillip Braunstein, president of Colossal Properties, and it’s already changed the way he views his homes. “Where I would maybe in the past have looked for a really nice wall to put a piece of art, now I’m going to be focusing on how to integrate the digital art experience,” he says. As a collector of NFT art, Braunstein sees enormous benefits in integrating NFTs into real estate portfolios. Not only is their provenance authenticated on blockchain, they also cut out some of the hassle of maintaining traditional artworks.

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Four pieces out of a set of seven NFT “Vandal Gummy” works by WhIsBe at 1250 Hilldale, said to be valued at $1 million; the pieces are displayed inside Meural Canvas II screens by Netgear.
Chris Nolasco

“NFT art is interesting, because in a sense it’s more durable. You can’t really have any soilage or damage from sunlight. And it’s easy to take down and remove,” he says. “I know some friends where the majority of their [art] collection is in storage because they simply don’t have wall space, but with the NFT art, you could have thousands of art pieces that you could rotate in and out using your phone.” Colossal Properties’ 1250 Hilldale residence in the Hollywood Hills, listed for $18 million, displays Braunstein’s set of four Gummy Bear NFT works by the artist WhIsBe.

In another sign of changing times, both Palazzo di Vista and 1108 Wallace Ridge (listed at $65 million by Kirman and Michael Chen of the design-development firm Luxford Group) are accepting Bitcoin cryptocurrency at the rate equivalent to the asking price. “It’s just an additional way of us trying to make it easy on potential buyers, because there are so many multimillionaires and billionaires invested in using crypto,” Umansky says.

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Interior courtyard with an olive tree at 1108 Wallace Ridge in Beverly Hills.
Douglas Friedman

As new practices become more commonplace and accessible, the digitization of real estate transactions could transform the industry. “Imagine if I could show you I own my house by just a QR code on my smartphone,” Braunstein says.

But many questions remain — as Umansky notes, there has yet to be a major L.A. real estate transaction through Bitcoin. “It’s something new,” he says. “It’s exciting — but I think there is still a lot to learn.”

This story first appeared in the July 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.





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Ethereum

Bye-bye, bitcoin: It’s time to ban cryptocurrencies


I’ve never quite understood why cryptocurrencies are worth anything. Of course, the untraceable payments are worth a lot to ransomware hackers, cyber criminals and money launderers. But dollars, euros and yen are backed by nations’ respective treasuries. If someone invents a cryptocurrency, any value is based solely on convincing others it has value. But is it a usable means of exchange? International banking officials say cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin are speculative assets, not sustainable, usable money.

Yet the epidemic of hugely disruptive ransomware attacks in recent months — on JBS Foods, a major meat processor; on Colonial Pipelines, our critical infrastructure, causing gasoline shortages for weeks; and on 1,000 or more U.S. businesses on July 4 — highlights the enormous risks. Moreover, hundreds of small towns, hospitals, school districts and small businesses have been hit by the ransomware epidemic — all enabled by cryptocurrencies.

How should governments respond? Besieged with cyberattacks, the Biden administration has been struggling with this question of cybersecurity with few clear answers. Cyber offense still seems to beat cyber defense.   

As the eminent economic analyst Martin Wolf outlined in a recent Financial Times essay, the risks and chaos of a wild world of unstable private money is a libertarian fantasy. According to a recent Federal Reserve paper, there are already some 8,000 cryptocurrencies. It’s a new mom-and-pop cottage industry.

How should governments respond? Wolf argues that central banks (e.g., the U.S. Federal Reserve) should create their own official digital currencies — central bank digital currencies (CBDC) and make cryptocurrencies illegal.

I’ve been asking the same question: Who needs cryptocurrencies? Apart from the nasty uses and wild speculative value swings, data mining to produce bitcoin is a serious environmental hazard, using huge amounts of electricity by rows and rows of computers.

Governments should guarantee safe, stable and usable money. Already, according to the Atlantic Council GeoEconomics Center’s CBDC Tracker, 81 countries representing 90 percent of world gross domestic product are at various stages of researching and exploring the adoption digital currencies.

The four largest central banks — the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan and the U.S. Federal Reserve — are all exploring CBDCs, though the U.S. lags behind. Meanwhile, China is already digitizing its currency, the RMB, and allowing foreign visitors to use it for payments. Though China is still a long way from having an international reserve currency to rival the dollar, its digitized RMB is a step in that direction.

Nonetheless, caution is well advised, as there are important, complex issues that must be sorted out before launching an official digital currency. These issues include equity: Should the digital dollar be available to all or just used for certain business transactions? I would argue it must be for all. Should a U.S. CBDC augment cash or totally replace it, and would there be a transition period? Then there is the impact on private banks: Should individuals have bank accounts with the Fed rather than private banks? What should be the relation between private banks and the Fed with regard to currency? Should businesses have “digital wallets”? How would international payments work?

And not least, there is the question of privacy and surveillance. A digitized dollar would likely make it hard to dodge taxes with untraceable cash. But just how traceable would the public and Congress accept a CBDC to become? Would the fact of a CBDC making transactions safer, faster and cheaper be worth some trade-off?

Then there is the question of whether the world’s major powers would cooperate in outlawing cryptocurrencies — and reach agreement on rules and regulations of CBDCs. China, always with an eye on control, has indicated skepticism, if not disdain, toward cryptocurrencies. Indeed, that was one driver in Beijing’s swift move to digitize the RMB. This could be an area of U.S.-China cooperation worth exploring.

If China were on board, the possibility of a U.N. Security Council resolution to ban cryptocurrencies could be in the cards. That would be a foundation for taking the issue to the Group of 20 to make it a global norm.

For now, there are a whole lot more questions than answers. But the insidious new industry of cyber hacking and ransomware is an unacceptable disruptive threat to American economic security. It is a problem that is growing, not subsiding. And the proliferation of do-it-yourself digital currencies is a serious and bad omen for global financial stability.

Yet amid an international order that is fraying and fragmenting, it’s an open question whether such threats are enough to catalyze sufficient international cooperation. But I suspect that with a little U.S. leadership, jump-starting financial diplomacy would go a long way. Certainly, it’s a good test for President BidenJoe BidenTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Republicans focus tax hike opposition on capital gains change Biden on hecklers: ‘This is not a Trump rally. Let ’em holler’ MORE’s efforts to align democracies.

Robert A. Manning is a senior fellow of the Brent Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He was a senior counselor to the undersecretary of State for global affairs from 2001 to 2004, a member of the U.S. Department of State policy planning staff from 2004 to 2008 and on the National Intelligence Council strategic futures group from 2008 to 2012. Follow him on Twitter @Rmanning4.





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ekrona

Bitcoin And Crypto’s Recent Struggles Have A Major Silver Lining


Although investors may be frustrated with the market’s recent downturn, crypto offers a key tax loophole that can help to dramatically reduce tax bills both now and in the future.

Click here to subscribe to Forbes CryptoAsset and Blockchain Advisor.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedInCheck out my website or some of my other work here

Shehan is the Head of Tax Strategy at CoinTracker.io (bitcoin & crypto tax software). He is one of the handful of CPAs in the country who is recognized as a real-world operator and a conceptual subject matter expert on cryptocurrency taxation. 

He is a CPE instructor who has been awarded with various awards: 2019 CPA Practice Advisor 40 under 40 accounting professionals, Outstanding Young CPA of the year & Among 21 accountants mentioned on Accounting Today who will be helping shape (and reshape) accounting in 2020 and beyond by Accounting Today

Shehan is a renowned speaker who has done speaking engagements with many organizations including Google, Coinbase, Lyft, AICPA, American Bar Association, and State CPA Societies. 





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Bitcoin

Opinion: Ethereum, the No. 2 behind bitcoin, fights off challengers that offer cheaper and faster blockchains


If you are an investor who dabbles in cryptocurrencies, or even are what we in the industry call “crypto-curious,” you know ethereum
ETHUSD,
+6.85%

as the No. 2 cryptocurrency behind bitcoin
BTCUSD,
+5.09%

— and the blockchain imbued with the ability to write self-executing “smart” contracts right into the code underlying a transaction between parties.

What you might not know about is some of the complexities of how the ethereum blockchain functions, its challenges in terms of security, scalability and energy consumption. Ethereum has a market capitalization over $250 billion and at least five times greater than its competitors. But high fees and network congestion have degraded performance and priced certain activity out of the market, providing an opportunity for a variety of competitor blockchains to emerge. Conceived and funded in 2017, these blockchains are now jockeying to make inroads in the smart contract market  by providing alternative solutions to some of its problems.

These blockchains, with names that certainly would fit into any horse race (such as Cosmos, Solana and Polkadot) each have their own competitive characteristics that have positioned them well against challenges for ethereum. (Bitcoin, as the first and biggest blockchain, is and may always be the No. 1 with its unrivaled status as “digital gold.”)

A big drawback that ethereum developers are seeking to shore up is that, like with bitcoin, its mining is incredibly energy-intensive. In the “proof of work” (PoW) consensus algorithm currently used by both bitcoin and ethereum, so much computing power is used to solve ever-more complicated equations that the University of Cambridge estimates the annual electricity usage of ethereum to be on par with the country of Ecuador, a country of 17 million people. Bitcoin would be similar to Argentina’s annual energy consumption, according to these calculations.

Other blockchains have addressed this problem by using “proof of stake” (PoS) models in which cryptocurrency is used as collateral to secure activity instead of relying on computations typically carried out at massive data centers. Ethereum is now also speeding in that direction as well and should get there as early as the last quarter this year.

Another technical aspect that is hurting ethereum is congestion, where intense activity runs up transaction fees, known as gas prices. Here, ethereum is a victim of its own success attracting many more users than other competitor blockchains. In a way, it’s like a popular restaurant where patrons find it difficult to get a table.

Still, this has provided a window of opportunity for competitors as users look elsewhere for cheaper and faster alternatives. For instance, Solana, which announced last month a $314 million fundraising round, is much faster and cheaper to use due to its ultra-high scalability.

Congestion is also often created by traders’ bots written to do front-run and back-run ethereum mining transactions in ever-more sophisticated arbitrage activities. But here again, there is evidence that ethereum can stay ahead. There is a newly created research-and-development organization called Flashbots that has been undertaking activities to manage the arbitrage happening on networks, and already gas fees have fallen.

Ethereum has to move carefully to transition from PoW to PoS while its competitors build their proof-of-stake blockchains from scratch. To use another analogy, it is as if ethereum was a plane changing its engines in mid-flight while its competitors took off with the latest model already in place.

Still, ethereum is responding aggressively to keep its smart-contact crown. Ethereum’s developers and proponents are responding by improving the blockchain’s scalability. Initiatives have gained traction in recent months to reduce congestion. Known as “layer 2” solutions because they manage activity away from the base-layer blockchain, these innovations batch transactions in a way that reduces pressure on ethereum to settle transactions so frequently.

As a result of Flashbots and the rapid adoption of these layer 2 solutions such as Polygon, average gas fees decreased by 80% on the ethereum network in the second quarter.

Other ethereum-boosting activities include enacting an upgrade in the next few weeks. EIP-1559, in crypto-speak, is one of the most highly anticipated updates of the network since its launch six years ago. EIP 1559 will change how ethereum miners are paid, with a base rate plus a tip, to better manage network congestion at times of peak demand. It also includes a fee-burning mechanism that will remove ether from circulation — behaving almost like a stock buyback.

If you are just tuning into this as the news begins to hit even mainstream business publications this month, it might all sound very complicated. Just know that this is ethereum moving through some of the fundamental changes to upgrade its system to make it more functional, efficient and secure. It’s possible these efforts will allow it to maintain its position against the challengers. But the coming months will tell.

Ethereum and the challengers

Ethereum has a lot to do to move through its plan, and how this will change the competitive field will be important — and exciting — to watch. If you are interested to see how this plays out through ethereum’s efforts this summer, and then as we move into 2022, when ethereum transitions from PoW to PoS, here are a few blockchains to keep an eye on as this horse race plays out:

Ethereum: It’s the smart contract blockchain of choice. It’s also what is known as the settlement layer. While the blockchain itself is being upgraded, there are a host of other so-called “layer 2” solutions, such as Polygon, Arbitrum, Optimism and so-called “zero-knowledge” based systems that are being released to help with scaling. They manage transactions offline from the ethereum blockchain, roll them up and bring them back to the ethereum blockchain to “settle” the accounts. This expansion of “layer 2s” has shown ethereum’s power, even as these new challenger blockchains also become a force of their own. Watch closely for the continued progress of ethereum, including the EIP-1559 update and toward a PoS model to see if the picture is coming together relatively quickly.

Solana: It offers the highest throughput smart contract platform. Its transaction throughput is orders of magnitude faster than the competition. The competitive advantage of Solana has largely been that it is the cheaper and faster blockchain. This advantage will begin to fade if ethereum manages its updates successfully. Besides, Solana’s weakness is often perceived as its lack of decentralization. Blockchain believers prize decentralization as the way to keep networks secure because it reduces exposure to specific points of vulnerability. 

Binance smart chain: It’s similar to Solana — fast and cheap. But more than any other competitor in the race, BSC is criticized for being too centralized because it is controlled by Asia’s dominant crypto exchange Binance. Decentralization is a fundamental element in making blockchains secure because it avoids single points of vulnerability that can be hacked.

Polkadot: It offers a settlement layer, which allows different blockchains to interact in a shared security model. Designed largely by one of the original architects of ethereum, Polkadot provides among the easiest ways for new projects to get a purpose-built blockchain out the door.

Cosmos: Like Polkadot, Cosmos enables developers to build “app-specific” blockchains using a standard software development kit (SDK). Cosmos recently released the interblockchain communication protocol, or IBC, which connects all of the different blockchains in the Cosmos ecosystem. 

Tim Ogilvie is the co-founder and CEO of Staked, which provides infrastructure services for institutional investors wanting to earn rewards from blockchain staking.



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Ethereum

Youth arrested for cheating bitcoin investors


A 25-year-old youth was arrested by the Hyderabad Cyber Crimes police on Saturday for cheating a person on the pretext of selling bitcoins. The accused, Akshay Gowda, is a native of Bengaluru.

Joint Commissioner of Police (Detective Department) Avinash Mohanty said that on April 8, one Manish Reddy P. approached their Cyber Crimes team stating that he was cheated to the tune of ₹3,14,526 by somebody on the pretext of selling bitcoins. Based on his complaint, a case was registered and police launched a probe.

The accused befriended bitcoin traders through Binance and Wzrix websites. Initially, he sold bitcoins to online traders after getting money transferred into his bank account.

“After selling bitcoins two to three times, he gained their confidence and started offering them a huge commission. Believing Gowda’s stories, the victims transferred huge amounts to his account,” Mr. Mohanty said. After receiving the money, he stopped responding to their calls and messages.

“People are advised to verify the credentials of online bitcoin traders,” police said.



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ekrona

Clubhouse opens up, Twitter talks bitcoin, Snap sees record quarter – TechCrunch


Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and suggestions about new apps and games to try, too.

This Week in Apps will finally be a newsletter! It will launch on August 7. Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

This Week in Apps took a little vacation this month, so we’re back this week with a big round-up of all the news we missed — and then some. And a super-sized section of apps getting funded, too! Let’s play some catch-up…

Platforms: Apple

ATT isn’t killing mobile game performance. An Apptopia report found that Apple’s launch of App Tracking Transparency has so far had no clear impact on mobile game download performance or monetization performance. The firm says this could be the result of any number of factors, including publishers using fingerprinting techniques (despite not being permitted), increased ad budgets on large networks like Facebook, increased spend on user acquisition, use of IDFV (vendor identifier) by larger publishers or higher than expected opt-in rates than was predicted.

Image Credits: Apptopia

Image Credits: Apptopia

iOS 14.7 launched, adding support for Apple Card Family with combined credit limits, a Home app with support for multiple timers on HomePod, support for the MagSafe Battery Pack, Podcast app enhancements and more. iPadOS 14.7 also became available, offering bug fixes, security updates, as well as the same Apple Card Family and HomePod support.

Meanwhile, the iOS 15 beta 3 added the ability to update your device using Software Update even if less than 500 MB of storage is available. This could be a big deal for getting users onto the most recent version of iOS, which has in the past been more difficult when users’ phone storage is nearly full.

Apple added the ability to assign tax categories to apps and in-app purchases on App Store Connect. The categories are based on the app’s content — like videos, books, news, etc. — and allow Apple to administer taxes at the specific rates that apply to that type of application or purchase.

Apple expanded Ultra Wideband functionality in the Apple Watch Series 6, iPhone 11 and 12 to more countries, including Argentina, Pakistan, Paraguay and the Solomon Islands. Some countries don’t allow the technology still, and it must be disabled, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

Apple asked Judge Gonzalez Rogers to consider three other antitrust cases that have since been decided since the start of Epic Games’ antitrust lawsuit, which is now being deliberated. The cases include a recent decision by the courts to throw out the FTC lawsuit against Facebook.

Platforms: Google

Android beta 3 came out. The new release dropped a month after beta 2, and includes features like scrolling screenshots, face detect auto-rotate, more Material You theme options and new icons, the ability to disable Assistant corner swipe activation, tweaks to features like one-handed mode and internet toggles and changes to the camera, Chrome, toggles, launcher and more.

Android phones’ backup system was upgraded to “Backup by Google One,” an improvement that now backs up photos, videos and MMS messages with more granular control, in addition to the app data, SMS messages, call logs and device preferences the old system covered.

Google won’t enforce the original September 30, 2021 deadline that would have required all Play Store apps to switch over to the Play Billing IAP system. The company will now allow developers to request an extension for adopting the new policy, in the wake of the big antitrust lawsuit filed by AGs across 36 U.S. states and D.C.

Epic Games filed an update in its antitrust lawsuit against Google over its Play Store policies, but most of the information it contains has been redacted. From the visible tidbits, Epic discusses Google’s relationship with Apple and its agreement to pay between $8 and $12 billion to be the default search provider; as well as Epic’s plans to launch Fortnite on the Samsung Galaxy Store.

Verizon joined AT&T and T-Mobile in preloading the Android Message app as the default texting app on all Android phones it sells, meaning that now all three major U.S. carriers support RCS — the next-gen standard to replace SMS — as the default Android experience.

E-commerce

Amazon got the recently launched app Fakespot pulled from the App Store. An extension of the fake review-spotting website, Fakespot app was taken down because it was wrapping the Amazon website without permission, which Amazon successfully argued could be exploited to steal customer data. Amazon also said Fakespot injected code into its website, which opened up an attack vector. Apple said it gave Fakespot time to correct its issues before the takedown.

Augmented Reality

✨ Snap called out its AR advances during its Q2 earnings where the company posted record revenue and the largest user growth in four years. The company’s Cartoon 3D Style Lens went viral in the quarter on other social networks, including TikTok, generating 2.8 billion impressions on Snapchat alone. Snap also partnered with Disney on location-based Lenses for Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary. The company is now working on shopping features that could potentially allow users to try on clothes using AR.

Fintech

Popular investment app Robinhood is targeting its IPO valuation up to $35 billion in a filing released on the 19th. The company first filed to go public in early July after raising billions earlier in the year. The fintech giant expects to debut between $38 and $42 per share.

Fintech giant Revolut launched a travel booking feature called Stays, which allows users to book hotels and other accommodations in its app, in a move to become more of a “super app” that offers multiple services through one interface.

Venmo removed the app’s global, public feed as part of its major redesign. The public feed put user privacy at risk, and follows a number of complaints about Venmo’s oversharing throughout the years. Recently, Venmo’s privacy leaks led BuzzFeed News to uncover President Biden’s Venmo account.

✨ Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said bitcoin will be a “big part” of Twitter’s future. On the company’s earnings call, the exec spoke for the first time about how he envisions bitcoin can integrate with Twitter’s products, including commerce, subscriptions and other new additions like the Twitter Tip Jar and Super Follows. The company posted the fastest revenue growth since 2014 in a pandemic rebound, but user growth slightly declined.

Social

Instagram confirmed it’s testing a new feature called Limits that would allow users to lock down their accounts in a moment of crisis. Found in privacy settings, users could quickly toggle on options to limit the ability for new followers or accounts who don’t follow you to comment or message you. The Limits could be applied for a set period of time you specify, in terms of days or even weeks.

Facebook launched a new tool available to U.S. Facebook Groups that allows users to ask for prayers. The prayer request tool could help drive engagement on the platform by turning into a product something users were already doing. Facebook’s head of faith partnerships told Reuters COVID gave new urgency to the building of the feature.

TikTok ads get more tools and upgrades. TikTok partnered with Vimeo to integrate the latter’s video tools with the TikTok platform. The deal gives SMBs the tools they need to create effective video ads via Vimeo’s AI-driven production tool, Vimeo Create, and the ability to publish ads directly into TikTok’s Ad Manager. The companies also collaborated on custom video templates optimized for TikTok. The video app also launched Spark Ads, which allow brands to use existing posts from influencers in their ad campaigns.

Instagram added new controls that allow users to limit “sensitive” content in the app’s Explore tab. The feature appears in the settings menu and lets users choose to allow or limit content that could be “upsetting or offensive,” or “limit even more.”

Instagram also began testing a new “collab” feature in India and the U.K. that lets users invite another account as a collaborator on posts or Reels. If the other person accepts, both accounts will appear in the header of the post or Reel.

Twitter is killing Fleets, its misguided effort to offer its own version of “Stories” in an app where content flows so quickly it effectively already feels “ephemeral,” even if the posts don’t auto-delete. Twitter hoped Stories would give hesitant users a place they felt comfortable posting, but that didn’t happen. The feature will be removed on August 3.

Tumblr’s community lashed out at the company’s new subscription feature, now in beta, that would allow bloggers to get paid for their content. The system, called Post+, offers the ability to paywall content, which subscribers can pay for at price points of $3.99, $5.99 or $9.99 per month. But some angry Tumblr users didn’t like the idea of paying, or at least, not being able to pay the blogger directly without the company taking a cut. They harassed and even sent death threats to one early tester. (Perhaps it’s time to move to Substack?)

Messaging

WhatsApp is testing multi device support that works without the phone. The company recently rolled out a limited public beta that will allow users to use the service on up to four non-phone devices without having the registered phone switched on or otherwise connected to the internet.

Facebook Messenger introduced “soundmojis,” which are, as you’d expect, emojis that include sound. The sounds include laughter and applause as well as those sourced from pop culture — like snippets from Netflix’s “Bridgerton,” movies like “F9,” and various musicians. It also later added a search bar for emoji reactions, and a recently used emojis section.

Streaming & Entertainment

✨ Clubhouse opens to all. The pandemic’s favorite audio chat app Clubhouse this week exited beta and become publicly available to everyone. That means users no longer need to know someone with an invite in order to sign up. The app continues to grow thanks to its Android release. In June, the app was installed 7.7 million times across iOS and Android. It also just launched an in-app messaging feature called Backchannel to allow users to chat both one-on-one and in groups as they host or listen.

Apple Music updated its Android app to add support for Spatial Audio and Lossless Audio. The Dolby Atmos-powered Spatial Audio feature requires a compatible phone, however, and even some Pixel devices don’t qualify.

TikTok found to drive music discovery. A recent study of around 1,500 TikTok users found that 75% discovered artists on the video app, and 63% said TikTok was a source for music they hadn’t heard before.

Spotify partnered with Facebook-owned Giphy to connect users to artists’ music through GIFs. The new GIFs will allow users to click a button to hear the artist’s songs on Spotify directly. The GIFs can be found in the Giphy mobile app or on the web.

Triller, the one-time TikTok rival that has since expanded into PPV events, has now moved into long-form video, including both prerecorded and live shows. As part of this effort, Triller livestreamed the Essence Festival of Culture on its app.

YouTube added the ability for users to directly pay creators for their videos through a new feature called Super Thanks. This is YouTube’s fourth Paid Digital Good alongside Super Chat, Super Stickers and channel subscriptions, and is the first that lets fans tip creators for uploads instead of just livestreams.

HBO Max partnered with Snap to allow Snapchat users to stream a selection of free episodes inside the Snapchat app with their friends. That means users can both stream and chat with others as they watch, and even react with Bitmoji.

Gaming

Top gaming title and award winner Genshin Impact released its 2.0 update on Android devices. This update brings cross-save functionality for all platforms, a brand-new region called Inazuma and the new Thunder Sojourn event, as well as new characters, stories and weapons.

Facebook bypassed building a native iOS app for its cloud gaming service and instead launched to the web at fb.gg. The company did not want to go the App Store route due to Apple’s restrictions on apps that offer app stores of sorts and its commissions on in-app purchases.

Health & Fitness

A poll suggests around 20% of U.K. adults have now deleted the NHS COVID app, most because they want to avoid orders that would have them self-isolate. Among younger users ages 18 to 34, more than one-third had removed the app.

Edtech

Duolingo said it aims to be valued as much as $3.41 billion in its U.S. IPO, with 5.1 million shares that will be offered between $85 and $95 each, raising more than $485 million at the top end of the range.

Reading

Amazon’s Kindle app launched a serialized fiction store called Kindle Vella, which will allow readers to unlock episodic, self-published stories via in-app purchases that range from $2 for 200 tokens to up to $15 for 1,700 tokens. The Wattpad-like feature is only available on the Kindle iOS app for the time being.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjBoQrFgOms?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent

Utilities

Chrome for iOS lets you lock your private tabs. The new version rolled out support for using either Face ID or Touch ID to lock incognito tabs, along with other features, like full-page screenshots, and more.

Google’s iOS search app now lets you choose an option to delete your last 15 minutes of search history — perfect for those times when you forgot to launch an incognito tab.

Government & Policy

China has given 145 apps until July 26 to take corrective measures over what authorities said was their illegal collection of user information by misleading customers or by requesting excessive permissions. Apps from Amazon, ByteDance, NetEase, Tencent and others are among those being called out by Beijing in the crackdown.

China’s most popular fitness app, Keep, backed by SoftBank and Tencent, pulled its U.S. IPO after Chinese regulators announced an investigation into data security concerns at ride-hailing app Didi. The move indicates that China’s probe is having larger impact on the stock market, as China’s biggest podcasting platform, Ximalaya, also recently canceled its U.S. IPO.

Facebook escaped an EU ban on its use of WhatsApp customer data but will face an investigation of its new terms of service that sparked customer outrage. The European Data Protection Board said the new practices must be examined in a “swift” fashion by the EU privacy watchdog.

Security & Privacy

A Catholic priest was outed by way of his phone’s location data found in a data set from a data vendor. This data is commonly aggregated and sold by data vendors, and can then be analyzed for timestamped location data. The signals collected on the priest’s phone were gathered from Grindr, and tracked to his home and other bars and clubs.

Reports found that military-grade spyware developed by Israeli firm NSO Group and licensed to governments for tracking terrorists and criminals was used to hack the phones of journalists, activists, politicians and other business executives, whose phones appeared on a list of 50,000 numbers. Amnesty International has now provided a toolkit that can help people identify if their phones had been among those targeted.

💰 Voice-based social app Zebra raised $1.1 million in a pre-seed round for its messaging app that pairs photos with voice chat. Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s early-stage venture firm Seven Seven Six led the round.

💰 Sololearn raised $24 million led by Drive Capital for its Duolingo-like coding education app. The app delivers short bursts of bite-sized content and offers a community of helpers and influencers, not formal teachers.

💰 Belarus-based video editing app VOCHI raised $2.4 million in a late-seed round after growing its app to over 500,000 MAUs and achieving a $4 million+ annual run rate in a year’s time. The company now has 20,000 paid subscribers for its advanced filters and video effects, but makes 60% of its effects catalog available for free.

💰 Instant grocery delivery app Gopuff is raising $750 million at a $13.5 billion valuation, according to an SEC filing, but sources say the fundraise is higher — $1 billion at a $15 billion valuation.

💰 Investment app Titan raised $58 million in Series B funding led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), valuing the business at $50 million. The Robinhood rival has 30,000 users and is also backed by General Catalyst, BoxGroup, Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures and a group of professional athletes and celebrities including Odell Beckham Jr., Kevin Durant, Jared Leto and Will Smith.

💰 Fitness app HealthifyMe raised $75 million in Series C funding from LeapFrog and Khosla Ventures to grow its user base in India, Southeast Asia and North America. The app has around 1,500 trainers and coaches on the platform, with plans to add 1,000 more to support its expansion.

💰 Free-to-play games publisher Tilting Point raised $235 million to fund its business of acquiring users for partnered games, or what the company refers to as its “progressive publishing model.” The company borrows from its line of credit to fuel advertising for games that show promise, allowing them to grow users and revenues, and then shares in the growth that it achieves.

💰 Virtual and in-person care app Carbon Health raised $350 million at a valuation of $3.3 billion in a round led by Blackstone’s Horizon platform. The company has 80 clinics across the U.S.

💰 Yoobic raised $50 million in Series C funding for its chat and communications app aimed at frontline service workers. Highland Europe led the round. The startup works with 300 brands across 80 countries.

💰 Travel rewards app Miles raised $12.5 million in Series A funding in a round led by Scrum Ventures that included Japan Airlines, Translink Capital and others. The app aims to offer travel rewards, with a focus on clean transportation.

🤝  Salesforce’s deal to acquire workplace communication app Slack officially closed. The $27.7 billion deal was first announced in December 2020.

🤝  Fortnite and Unreal Engine maker Epic Games bought New York-based Sketchfab, a 3D model sharing platform.

💰 Fintech app M1 Finance raised $150 million in a SoftBank-led Series E, valuing the business at $1.45 billion. The app offers automated investing, borrowing and banking/spending accounts, and has grown to $4.5 million assets under management.

💰 Mobile.dev raised $3 million in seed funding from Cowboy Ventures and others for its service that aims to catch bugs and errors in apps before they launch. The two-person team includes a former Uber engineer and has already bagged Reddit as a client.

💰 On-demand coworking space app Deskimo gets Y Combinator backing for its app currently available in Singapore and Hong Kong that helps remote workers find alternative spaces to work at times, like the occasional meeting.

💰 London-based financial “super app” Revolut raised $800 million in Series E funding co-led by Softbank Vision Fund 2 and Tiger Global, valuing the business at $33 billion. This makes Revolut the most valuable fintech in the U.K.

💰 Indian startup Inshorts, maker of a news aggregator app and a social media app called Public, raised $60 million in a new round led by Vy Capital, valuing the business at $550 million.

💰 Miami’s Play2Pay raised $13 million in Series A funding led by Telesoft Partners to convert mobile user engagement into bill payments. The company offers a way for consumers to lower their bills by playing mobile games, watching videos and competing in challenges and surveys.

💰 South Korea’s largest travel app Yanolja Co. raised $1.7 billion in funding from SoftBank. The app began as a hotel booking service and has since expanded to include transportation and leisure activities.

💰 Venezuela-based delivery app Yummy raised $4 million to expand its delivery operations across Latin America. Backers included Y Combinator, Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen, Canary, Hustle Fund, Necessary Ventures and the co-founders of TaskUs. The company has connected with over 1,200 merchants and completed over 600,000 deliveries. It now plans to move into ridesharing.

🤝 Tumblr and WordPress.com owner Automattic acquired the popular podcast app Pocket Casts, which had sold to a combined group comprised of WNYC, NPR, WBEZ and This American Life back in 2018. The app went up for sale in January, after NPR reportedly lost $800,000 on it the year prior.

💰 Israeli AI-driven health app Sweetch raised $20 million in Series A round led by Entreé Capital. The app encourages users to change their behaviors using AI smarts, after learning about your lifestyle through mobile sensors. The app is distributed through health organization partners, not the App Store.

Skate City: Tokyo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1j24hvPAMD4?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent

Apple Arcade has added a handful of reimagined classic games in recent days, including an updated version of Alto’s Odyssey, called Alto’s Odyssey: The Lost City, which adds a new locale and other features. This week, Apple Arcade added a new version of Snowman’s popular game, Skate City. The expansion coincides with the start of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, and includes 21 new challenges, 30 new goals, new soundtracks and more. Another classic, Tetris Beat, is on the way soon.

HalloApp

Image Credits: HalloApp

 

Two early WhatsApp employees have launched a private social networking app called HalloApp on both iOS and Android. The ad-free app is somewhat similar to WhatsApp as it also allows for encrypted, private chats with friends and family, including group chats. The app also features a Home feed with posts from friends. The company plans to eventually monetize via subscriptions if it gains traction.

Anyone

Image Credits: Anyone

Audio app Anyone launched its “marketplace for advice” app on iOS and Android after previously operating in a closed beta. The app allows users to pay for access to busy people whose advice they’d like to seek out, but limits calls to just five minutes. (Advice givers can opt to donate the money to charity, if they don’t want to profit from the help they’re giving.) The company claims to vet advisors before they’re allowed to offer calls, in order to keep the advice on the platform high-quality.

Streamlabs’ Crossclip

Image Credits: Streamlabs

Streamlabs, a maker of livestreaming software, launched a new iOS app that allows creators to easily turn their Twitch clips into a format that works on TikTok, Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts and Facebook. The app works by allowing streamers to enter the URL of a clip, selecting the output format (landscape, vertical or square) and choosing a pre-loaded layout. You can also crop the clip, blur the background and select from different layouts depending on which frames you want to feature. The app is free with a subscription of $4.99/mo or $49.99/yr to remove the watermark and add more features, including higher-quality exports.






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Bitcoin

Bitcoin Momentum Improves; Faces Resistance at $34K – Yahoo Finance



Bitcoin Momentum Improves; Faces Resistance at $34K  Yahoo Finance



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Ethereum

Bitcoin Is Failing Its First Inflation Test as Selloff Deepens


Bitcoin’s steep selloff is undercutting the argument made by the digital currency’s proponents that it’s an inflation hedge.

The original cryptocurrency has lost about half of its value since mid-April, fizzling after a spectacular rally that saw it surge above $60,000 from around $7,000 at the start of 2020. It traded Wednesday afternoon at $31,864, and got a small boost after Tesla Inc. boss Elon Musk said he has personal holdings of the cryptocurrency, as does his space company SpaceX.

The timing is ironic.

Bitcoin’s supporters for years have touted it as an inflation hedge like gold, mainly because the bitcoin network has a set limit on the number of units that can be created: 21 million. Their argument hadn’t previously been tested, however, because inflation has largely been under the Federal Reserve’s 2% target since bitcoin’s 2009 launch.

Now for the first time in years, shortages of semiconductors, lumber and workers are putting pressure on consumer prices, sparking worries about inflation. At the same time, governments and central banks have been forced to spend trillions to prop up their economies, potentially sapping the purchasing power of their currencies.



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ekrona

Bitcoin Dips Below $30,000, Yellen Hints at Stablecoin Regulations


Bitcoin’s year has tracked like a pair of tumbling dice in Vegas, dishing out big wins…and big losses. For the second day in a row Tuesday, everything came up snake eyes as the digital currency sank below $30,000 for the first time in nearly a month.

Compounding the pressure on bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies was U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who urged the government to establish a regulatory framework for stablecoins, a fast-growing class of digital currency.

A Sign of Maturity?

While crypto’s latest tumble might seem dramatic, it could be a sign the digital currency is starting to perform like most mature assets. After all, the slump is no economic outlier — global stocks have been reeling from a major sell-off, and Monday was the Dow’s worst day since October. As for digital coins:

  • $89 billion was wiped from the cryptocurrency market on Tuesday, according to CoinMarketCap data.
  • Bitcoin was down 6%, Ethereum 7%, and meme-currency dogecoin slipped 7%, according to Coindesk. “There’s been a broad sell-off in global markets, risk assets are down across the board,” Annabelle Huang of cryptocurrency services firm Amber Group told CNBC.

Yellen Out Loud: Meanwhile, stablecoins — cryptocurrencies pegged to the value of other digital coins, fiat money, or exchange-traded commodities — are causing much consternation in Washington. Nearly half of all bitcoin trading is done using leading stablecoin Tether, and stablecoin operators must hold vast amounts of short-term debt to keep their coins tied to the value of corresponding assets. Ratings agency Fitch warned that rapid liquidations of these reserves could destabilize short-term debt markets, prompting Yellen to call for regulation without delay.

Too Bitcoin To Fail: “If policymakers wait a decade, stablecoin issuers will become the money market funds of the 21st century — too big to fail — and the government will have to step in with a rescue package whenever there’s a financial panic,” Yale economist Gary Gorton and Fed attorney Jeffery Zhang wrote in a paper this month.





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Bitcoin

China’s Bitcoin Mining Disruption Offers Bit Digital A Growth Opportunity


“We welcomed being invited to Sequire’s event featuring Bit Digital and other leading Blockchain companies,” says Sam Tabar, Chief Strategy Officer at the Company, “The conference provided our CEO a great venue for Bit Digital to share its positioning and our special opportunity related to China.”

About Bit Digital

Bit Digital, Inc. is a bitcoin mining company headquartered in New York City with one of the largest currently-owned fleets among US listed bitcoin miners. Our operations are in the United States and Canada. For additional information, please contact Samir Tabar at [email protected] or visit our  www.bit-digital.com.

Investor Notice 

Investing in our securities involves a high degree of risk. Before making an investment decision, you should carefully consider the risks, uncertainties and forward-looking statements described under “Risk Factors” in Item 3.D of our most recent Annual Report on Form 20-F for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020. If any material risk was to occur, our business, financial condition or results of operations would likely suffer. In that event, the value of our securities could decline and you could lose part or all of your investment. The risks and uncertainties we describe are not the only ones facing us. Additional risks not presently known to us or that we currently deem immaterial may also impair our business operations. In addition, our past financial performance may not be a reliable indicator of future performance, and historical trends should not be used to anticipate results in the future. Future changes in the network-wide mining difficulty rate or Bitcoin hash rate, as well as other factors beyond our control, may also materially affect the future performance of Bit Digital’s production of bitcoin. Additionally, all discussions of financial metrics assume mining difficulty rates as of July 2021. See “Safe Harbor Statement” below.

Safe Harbor Statement

This press release may contain certain “forward-looking statements” relating to the business of Bit Digital, Inc., and its subsidiary companies. All statements, other than statements of historical fact included herein are “forward-looking statements.” These forward-looking statements are often identified by the use of forward-looking terminology such as “believes,” “expects,” or similar expressions, involving known and unknown risks and uncertainties. Although the company believes that the expectations reflected in these forward-looking statements are reasonable, they do involve assumptions, risks and uncertainties, and these expectations may prove to be incorrect. Investors should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date of this press release. The company’s actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements as a result of a variety of factors, including those discussed in the company’s periodic reports that are filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and available on its website at http://www.sec.gov. All forward-looking statements attributable to the company or persons acting on its behalf are expressly qualified in their entirety by these factors. Other than as required under the securities laws, the company does not assume a duty to update these forward-looking statements.

[1] Actual operating hash rate will vary depending on network difficulty rate, total hash rate of the network, the operations of our facilities and the status of our miners. 

SOURCE Bit Digital, Inc.



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