We wish our readers in the USA a Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! A former Canadian prime minister said bitcoin could become a global reserve currency. Goldman Sachs is reportedly looking to get into the crypto custody business, and MetLife is bullish on CBDCs.
Goldman Sachs stepping in?
According to an internal source, plans to hold crypto data will “soon be obvious”. CoinDesk’s Ian Allison reported that the major investment bank made a request for information about investigating digital asset custody despite not being interested in becoming a prime broker. Last week, crypto-native Anchorage received conditional approval from the Office of the Currency Auditor to become a national digital bank.
Update the base
Coinbase, a forerunner in bull runs as the stock market is likely to decline during times of high volatility, is updating its infrastructure to avoid outages. It will also bring more customer support. Coinbase has sent smoke signals about the IPO this year, but they have not yet been filed.
Digital “Belt and Road”
China’s blockchain-based service network (BSN) – an approved blockchain network for creating decentralized applications and tokens – will test a central bank digital currency (CBDC) as early as the second half of 2021, according to a blog post on January 15. In addition, the network appears to be a blockchain of blockchains with a total of 30 public blockchain integrations planned for this year.
- NFTs & DEFI: Andrew Thurman from Cointelegraph speaks to Jesse Johnson from Aavegotchi. (Cointelegraph)
- BITCOIN BUBBLE? No! (CoinDesk opinion)
- RESERVE CURRENCY: The former Canadian Prime Minister lists Bitcoin as a possible reserve currency. (CoinDesk)
- Fear of volatility: Bloomberg reports that fluctuations in Bitcoin price are holding CFOs away from the market. (CoinDesk)
- WHAT IS MONEY? No CBDCs, IMF respondents seem to think. (Decrypt)
- BITCOIN RESURGENCE: Nic Carter explains. (New York)
Connected to Bitcoin?
LINK, the native token of the Chainlink oracle system, has hit a new all-time high as Bitcoin trades sideways. CoinDesk’s Omkar Godbole cited LINK’s new high at $ 23.68 (previous life high of $ 19.90 was reached in August), which was set in overnight trading. Link is just one of many altcoins benefiting from consolidation in the Bitcoin markets and a rotation of capital into more speculative bets, reports Godbole.
On the game
MetLife is the newest financial institution to dig deep into crypto. In an introduction titled “The Blockchain Blockbuster,” MetLife Investment Management (MIM), the investment wing of the life insurance giant, examined the nature of money from “Yapese stones to central bank digital currencies.”
My colleague Will Foxley reported that MIM considers CBDCs to be anything but “a passing fad” (MIM’s words) and the “logical progression of money and technology” (Foxley’s words). “[J]Just as the dreams of cryptocurrency developers are rather lofty, so are the dreams of various CBDC initiatives, ”the document says.
The 18-page report that was released on January 8th, frankly, didn’t say much more. It has been argued that interest in CBDC development was piqued by the explosion of digital assets that sparked after the appearance of Bitcoin. In conclusion, it could be said that “western countries” could possibly use China’s digital yuan experiment as a guide. None of the points are really controversial, but we have to debate them!
There is one minor point worth investigating. While Alexander Villacampa and Jun Jiang, the authors of the paper, seem to believe that CBDCs and cryptocurrencies can (and will) coexist, there was a moment of existential conflict. I quote:
“Bitcoin and its colleagues are constantly struggling to maintain a balance between three main problems known as the ‘blockchain trilemma’. The trilemma, often depicted as a triangle, consists of three aspects of sustainable public blockchain development: scalability, decentralization and security. The trilemma assumes that strengthening one of the corner points of the triangle must weaken at least one of the others. “
The “scalability trilemma” attributed to Ethereum’s co-founder, Vitalik Buterin, is an (often constructive) criticism of blockchain networks. Even though it has fallen out of the “discourse” in recent years – a quick Google search showed the problem was widely used as a marketing tool for blockchains that supposedly solved the problem in 2018 – a lot of smart people still think about it.
The concept known as the trilemma can be reduced even further to a sliding level of decentralization and centralization, with the advantages and disadvantages of switching between the two. Developers can’t have it all when it comes to efficiency and security. Optimizing for decentralization will of course make the network slower, albeit more secure. Centralization reduces security by introducing a single entity that can be attacked, but improves transaction throughput. Simple enough!
But is it right? In 2018, in the heyday of the trilemma, most people cited the Bitcoin and Ethereum proof of work consensus algorithm (the security design of the networks) as a prime example of how decentralization is reducing transaction throughput. Thousands of miners create a secure but slow network.
Bitcoin developers are looking for Layer 2 solutions like Lightning to create a usable payment system from a secure base, while Ethereum developers are looking at Layer 2 solutions and a network overhaul. In many of these cases, the solution will move and process some off-chain transactions, which limits how much a decentralized blockchain can get in the way.
While it is clear that the contours of the trilemma are real and should be addressed, the real solution is likely to be to ignore the frame. The trade-off between scalability and security is a problem that exists across the payments universe. Bitcoin is cumbersome despite being accessible to everyone, and Visa is lightning fast but totally prone to “financial censorship”.
This is not Bitcoin maximalist’s view that Bitcoin is a store of value and need not be a payment system, but it is an admission that there is room in the world for several types of systems, each optimized for different things.
Going back to CBDCs, as Villacampa and Jiang note, the “expansion of electronic payment systems via blockchain technology has piqued the interest of central banks who believe that they can uniquely not only provide a better alternative but also lay the foundation for an official approved global regime for electronic payments. “If that includes researchers who believe they have solved the“ scalability tremma ”, they have more power.