The Bitcoin Cash debate rages on as we approach Thursday’s hard fork.

There’s a very real possibility that Bitcoin Cash, as we know it, will split into two separate cryptocurrencies.

The two camps are deeply divided over technical (and political) disagreements. This isn’t just a debate over algorithm changes, it’s a fight over the true vision of bitcoin.

New to this debate? Here’s everything you need to know about the Bitcoin Cash hard-fork

So who’s winning?

Well, it depends on how you look at it.

Traders Are Backing the Bitcoin Cash ABC Project

Thanks to Poloniex – a crypto exchange which opened up pre-fork trading on both coins – we know that traders value Bitcoin Cash ABC about four-times higher than rival Bitcoin Cash SV.

Traders are currently pricing BCHABC at $390.

But they’re only pricing BCHSV at $111.

It’s a fairly clear indicator that traders are throwing their weight behind ABC. ABC is backed by bitcoin.com‘s Roger Ver, mining giant Bitmain and most large third-party service providers.

But Bitcoin Cash SV May Have More Miner Support

While traders are important in the debate, so are Bitcoin Cash miners.

Bitcoin Cash miners will have to choose which version of the upgrade they migrate to on November 15th, and early indications suggest Bitcoin Cash SV might have the edge.

The largest Bitcoin Cash mining pools, including CoinGeek, BMG Pool, okminer, mempool, and SVPool, have publicly backed Bitcoin Cash SV. 

Translated into hash power, the current estimates look like this:

Bitcoin Cash SV has at least 66% of estimated hash rate.

Bitcoin Cash ABC has at least 18% of estimated hash rate.

The numbers come from CoinDance’s hash power charts.

bitcoin cash hash rates

Hash power simply refers to the amount of computer power dedicated to cryptocurrency mining at any one time. If the majority of hash power is directed at one side of the fork, we can infer it has more support from miners.

In other words, it looks like miners might back SV.

These Figures are Estimates

It’s important to remember that figures on both sides of the debate are estimates.

Poloniex trading figures are based on a hypothetical market with relatively thin trading volume.

And the CoinDance hash estimates are based on how mining pools have indicated their support. Miners themselves won’t necessarily follow the public statements of their pools.

Bitcoin Cash ABC and Bitcoin SV Explained

Bitcoin Cash ABC – Lays the groundwork for enormous scaling in the future. Keeps the block size the same, while building functionality for new features like atomic contracts. Backed by Roger Ver, Bitmain, and supported by Coinbase, Binance, and other large third-parties.

Bitcoin Cash SV – Claims to be the true Bitcoin vision (or “Satoshi Vision”). Technical updates include a larger block size to improve transaction speed. Backed by Craig Wright, nChain, CoinGeek and a large portion of BCH mining pools.

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Bitcoin whales

Bitcoin whale is the term given to those with huge amounts of bitcoin. And if they were to suddenly sell all their coins at once, it would cause an enormous splash on the markets.

It’s estimated that only 1,000 “whales” own about 40% of all bitcoin.

To put it another way, 61% of all bitcoin is owned by just 0.07% of wallets.

But who exactly are these crypto millionaires with gigantic bitcoin wallets?

A few names spring to mind:

Satoshi Nakamoto Bitcoin’s mysterious founder is estimated to own one million bitcoins. He mined them in the early days and has never moved them since.

The Winklevoss Twins – The arch nemeses of Mark Zuckerberg, the Winklevi poured much of their Facebook legal settlement into bitcoin. They’re estimated to own 1% total bitcoin supply. 

There are others too. Early adopter Charlie Shrem, for example. Then there’s billionaire Tim Draper and Barry Silbert, both of whom bought bitcoin in a 2014 auction.

However, a recent Chainalysis report dug deeper into bitcoin whale activity. Analyzing the 32 biggest bitcoin wallets, here’s what they discovered:

chanalysis bitcoin whales
Credit: Chainalysis

A Third Are Active Traders

Nine of the 32 largest whales were actively buying and selling in the last year or so. They could be individuals or institutional crypto hedge funds.

As for their activity, these holders were generally “buying the dips.” In other words, they were waiting for bitcoin to decline before buying more.

As Chainalysis explained: “they have, on net, traded against the herd, buying on price declines.” So, despite media claims, bitcoin whales aren’t necessarily the ones crashing the price. Instead, bitcoin whales are stabilizing the market, buying at the low points to prop up the price.

Chainalysis also estimated that most of these active whales splashed into the market in 2017 so they are relative newcomers.

Early-Adopters 

Chainalysis uncovered a handful of wallets dating back to the early days of bitcoin. These are early-adopters and miners that amassed a large wallet when bitcoin was in its infancy.

Trading activity is “extremely low” among this group, however, a fair number appeared to “cash out” during the bull runs of 2016 and 2017, making a fortune in the process. 

Criminals

Of the 32 largest bitcoin wallets, three have been linked to criminal activity. Those three wallets contain 125,000 coins, worth $800,000,000 at today’s prices.

Two of the wallets are linked to the infamous Silk Road black marketplace, where users could buy drugs and weapons with bitcoin. Chainalysis concludes that the third wallet was involved in money laundering.

Further reading: Black Markets, Fraud, and Money Laundering: How Much Is Bitcoin Used For Crime?

Lost Wallets

The remaining largest wallets have lain dormant since 2011. We assume the private keys to these wallets are lost for good which means these whales no longer have access to their vast fortune.

These lost wallets contain 212,000 bitcoins, or approximately $1.35 billion worth of bitcoin.

It’s estimated that a total of four million bitcoins have been lost over the years.

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stellar overtakes EOS

On the back of a storming price surge, Stellar Lumens (XLM) has overtaken EOS as the fifth-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization. XLM is the token associated with Stellar – a cross-border payments project built on blockchain technology.

XLM has soared 16% in the last seven days to hit a market capitalization of almost $5.4 billion. It has now surpassed the market cap of EOS which dipped below $5 billion.

How Stellar Overtook EOS

Stellar is riding a wave of optimism over the last week, culminating in the news that Blockchain.com will facilitate a $125 million XLM airdrop to new wallet holders.

Blockchain.com, one of the world’s most popular crypto wallets, will gift new users a small amount of XLM in a bid to increase user adoption.

It’s reportedly the largest cryptocurrency airdrop in history, marking a new level of crypto marketing.

Speaking of the airdrop, Stellar founder Jed McCaleb said:

“We believe that airdrops are central to creating a more inclusive digital economy. Giving away lumens [XLM] for free is an invitation to communities to design the services they need. Our hope is to eventually have global citizens own and use lumens, in both developing and developed economies. By working with Blockchain to increase the availability and active use of lumens on the network, leveraging their almost 30m wallets, we will increase the network’s utility by many orders of magnitude.”

Gaining on Ripple XRP?

Stellar is often seen as a competitor to Ripple in the sense that it facilitates super-fast, cross-border transactions. While Ripple is working closely with banks, Stellar has partnered with IBM and aims to bring international money payments to the developing world.

Founder Jed McCaleb was instrumental in the early development of Ripple before leaving to begin work on Stellar.

Overtaking EOS marks a powerful step in the Stellar journey and places it within touching distance of its rival.

Will XLM maintain its position as fifth-largest cryptocurrency? We’ll keep you updated.

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binance CEO

October was the worst month of the year for cryptocurrency volume. Now deep into a bear market, the amount of crypto changing hands on a daily basis has slumped.

However, CEO of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, Binance, says the real volume is at least twice as big as reported.

Speaking to CNBC’s Ran Neuner, Changpeng Zhao pointed to the enormous over-the-counter (OTC) market for hidden volume:

“What I’ve heard is the OTC market is at least as large as the live recorded volumes. So that is at least 50 percent of volume that is not being reported on CoinMarketCap.”

Crypto volume, explained: “Volume” is the amount of cryptocurrency changing hands on a daily basis. It is typically measured on CoinMarketCap by combining data from cryptocurrency exchanges like Binance, Coinbase, Bitfinex, etc. 

OTC Markets: Where the Whales Trade

Traditionally, over the counter markets are those in which trades are made in secret, and not recorded on an order book.

In the case of bitcoin, investors are buying and selling millions of dollars of cryptocurrency directly between one another, avoiding an exchange like Binance completely.

They may also operate through crypto brokers (such as BitStocks or Circle) which require high trading minimums. It allows “whale” investors to move their cryptocurrency without shaking the markets.

bitcoin whales

As Large as the Exchange Market?

As mentioned above, Changpeng Zhao believes this crypto OTC market is at least as large as the recorded volumes across the major exchanges. 

This chimes with a report released earlier this year by research firm TABB. They concluded that the crypto OTC market is at least two to three times larger than reported.

CoinMarketCap is currently reporting a 24-hour volume of $12.5 billion. If Changpeng Zhao’s analysis is correct, the real trading volume across the crypto market is closer to $25 billion.

Why Do “Whales” Trade OTC?

The first reason is liquidity. Crypto whales and institutional investors often trade multi-million figures in bitcoin and altcoins on a daily basis. 

Even the largest exchanges don’t often have millions of dollars in liquidity to facilitate such trades. Only by making private trades can they access the necessary buyers.

Furthermore, if a whale suddenly offloaded tens of million in bitcoin on a crypto exchange, it would very likely crash the market.

“We Are Still a Very Healthy Business”

Elsewhere in the interview, Changpeng Zhao reaffirmed that Binance was a healthy business, despite a 90% drop in volume since January’s boom.

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bitcoin banks

A version of this article first appeared in our exclusive newsletter. If you’d like Block Explorer’s cutting-edge analysis before it hits our website, sign up now.

It’s funny… I was re-reading the Bitcoin white paper last week as it’s now ten years old.

Bitcoin’s founder Satoshi Nakamoto constantly refers to bitcoin as a way to avoid using a “trusted third-party,” like banks or financial institutions.

And yet it seems like all anyone can talk about right now is Wall Street adoption of crypto and banking bitcoin.

Just look at what happened in the last few weeks:

1. Coinbase is now a “qualified custodian” to hold cryptocurrencies in New York (the same designation given to banks that hold your money). (CoinDesk)

2. Mastercard filed a patent to launch a “fractional reserve” crypto bank. (CCN)

3. Bank of America filed a patent for a crypto storage system. (CCN)

3. Gemini announced full insurance for its exchange and custody service. (Block Explorer)

4. BitGo is approved as a qualified custodian to hold cryptocurrencies. (Bloomberg)

mastercard bitcoin
Credit: Cryptocoinmastery

None of these stories are groundbreaking on their own.

But it’s a very clear trajectory. Major “third party” institutions are competing to hold (or bank) cryptocurrencies on behalf of others.

What we’re talking about is the quiet emergence of bitcoin banks.

Are “Bitcoin Banks” a Good Thing?

Yes!

On the one hand, cryptocurrency institutions like Coinbase, Gemini, and Bitgo are taking storage security seriously. With almost $1 billion cryptocurrency stolen in exchange hacks this year alone, we need to provide better security and storage options for traders.

Secure custody also gives confidence to institutional investors who are looking to enter the space. Arguably, the next big influx of capital will come from institutional investors, who need trusted custody before making large investments.

No!

Bitcoin was designed to operate outside the banking system. It was created so that you don’t have to trust a bank or third-party.

Crypto evangelists (ourselves included) have always advocated keeping your cryptocurrency off exchanges entirely. Unless you’re trading large volumes of crypto every day, there’s no good reason to store your bitcoin on Coinbase, Gemini or any other exchange.

Instead, you need a safe, offline, cold-storage solution where you control the private key (with backups, of course). It might be more hassle, but it’s worth it for peace of mind and security.

Further reading: 8 Cryptocurrency Best Practices (Keep Your Crypto Safe)

It seems our newsletter subscribers agree, especially when it comes to big banks wading into crypto storage. We asked them, on a scale of 1-10, how much they would trust an institution like Bank of America to look after their cryptocurrency. Every respondent picked either one or two out of ten.

Conclusion

Like it or not, bitcoin banks are coming. It might start small with custody solutions at Gemini and Coinbase, but the big-names are slowly getting involved. While this should bring more legitimacy to the cryptocurrency world, there are worrying ramifications, too. Mastercard filing a patent for a “fractional reverse crypto bank” is a worrying precedent that pulls bitcoin towards the very system it was designed to avoid.

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