Uphold Head of Research Martin Hiesboeck says that centralized crypto exchanges (CEXs) remain a good bet in spite of the recent market collapse. The rampant hacking in DeFi makes mass adoption of decentralized finance an “impossibility,” he argued.
Hiesboeck spoke as the multi-billion-dollar collapse of FTX exchange in November due to a liquidity crisis brought increased attention and scrutiny to CEXs. Confidence has hit rock bottom and investors are moving assets off centralized exchanges.
Investors withdrew more than $5 billion from Binance within days of FTX’s demise, worried whether the world’s biggest crypto exchange by volume was the next to fail. It was a time of unprecedented fear, uncertainty and doubt, or FUD.
Amid the chaos, Binance executive Patrick Hillman commented that centralized exchanges are seeing their last days. He pointed out that the platforms may not be around for another decade because of the severe loss in investor confidence.
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Hiesboeck: Centralized crypto exchanges not going anywhere
Hillman’s comments reflected the general market sentiment at the time, which continues to this day. However, Uphold’s Hiesboeck told MetaNews that CEXs are here to stay. He argued more crypto assets have been lost from misplaced private keys than any exchange collapse.
He quotes industry data which says that 20% of all Bitcoin (BTC) is lost due to users losing passwords to their wallets. That represents a range of between 68,110 BTC and 92,855 BTC worth – or between $1.15 billion and $1.57 billion at existing market prices.
“That’s only known Bitcoin,” Hiesboeck said. “True cryptocurrency lost irrecoverably being sent to wrong addresses, without tag, etc. is over $30 billion!” He added that exchanges are compliant to security laws, which gives users a guarantee on the safety of their investments.
“It [compliance] helps to keep security breaches to an absolute minimum. Whereas, in DeFi, all hackers need to do is get into a vulnerable wallet on its own without a platform to protect it,” said Hiesboeck.
Hacking makes DeFi impossible alternative
Decentralized exchanges, or DEXs, and other forms of decentralized financial offerings have been proposed as alternatives to centralized exchanges because of their supposed ability to avoid a single point of failure.
Hiesboeck explained that centralized platforms carry an enhanced ease-of-use and security benefits that DeFi cannot provide. He said the “cumbersome management of illegible wallet addresses and 12-word recovery keys is anathema to mainstream adoption.”
“Ongoing hacks in the DeFi make mass adoption of decentralized finance an impossibility,” Hiesboeck detailed. “Security must be improved exponentially before it becomes suitable for everyday usage. This will likely mean having wallet addresses tied to real world identities.”
“The notion of ‘not your keys, not your coin’ is ridiculous. Exchanges don’t hold on to private keys because they need to, but because it makes it easier for the user. There’s no need to memorize 12 random words or countless passwords, which is a huge barrier to entry in DeFi for those who aren’t crypto-native.”
DeFi is a part of cryptocurrency that has broadly remained true to the foundational ethos of Bitcoin of decentralization and privacy, maintaining cynic detachment from governmental oversight. Unchecked, however, such liberties come with great risk.
According to blockchain security firm PeckShield, hackers have pilfered more than $2.32 billion in over 135 exploits, from the DeFi industry this year. The figure is 50% higher than what was stolen from the entire sector for the whole of 2021.
#PeckShieldAlert Wintermute has lost ~$160M, making it come to #5 on our 2022 DeFi exploit leaderboard
In this incident, exploiters immediately put the most stables into 3CRV pool to avoid blacklisting, while ～50% of Top 10 exploiters transferred to Mixer before Tornado sanction pic.twitter.com/RxMPOIypSz
— PeckShieldAlert (@PeckShieldAlert) September 21, 2022
Over the years, online thieves have employed a variety of tactics to carry out their work. The most used methods of attack include honeypot, exit scam, exploit, access control, and flash loan, says the REKT Database.
Catching up with centralized exchanges
Phil Zimmerer, chief strategy officer at Spool, a DeFi middleware firm, told MetaNews that in order to fully replace centralized platforms, decentralized options need to catch up in terms of convenience, user experience, and features.
“This includes things like performance, execution, spreads, and liquidity but also a replacement for secondary financial services, such as simple ‘earn’ programs offered by centralized exchanges,” he said.
“To make this happen, decentralized financial protocols need to become more accessible and manageable, which requires infrastructure to be built first.”
Strategists at top bank JP Morgan argue that because of their demonstrated efficiencies, CEXs are likely to remain the preferred platform among users. In a note to clients, they argued that DEXs’ slower transaction speeds, pooling of assets and order-traceability features are likely to limit institutional participation.
Marcello Mari, CEO of SingularityDAO, told MetaNews that now is the right time for conversations around the utility of centralized exchanges in a cryptocurrency world designed to avoid fiat-like monetary system.
It is obvious that after the spectacular collapse of the FTX exchange governments are going to tighten regulation. We asked Martin Hiesboeck, the Uphold Head of Research, whether he believes that state regulation would help bring transparency into the crypto sector.
“Absolutely,” he declared. “The cryptocurrency industry needs more transparency, and regulations which force them to do so ensures that platforms cannot skirt around their security responsibilities.”
“Regulations will expose those who aren’t ensuring the best transparency and highest reserves, allowing investors to see who’s the real deal and who can’t be trusted,” Hiesboeck added.
Several exchanges have taken steps to increase transparency and trust amongst their users in the wake of the collapse of FTX, the world’s second largest crypto exchange. Exchanges have started publishing proof-of-reserves, a process that verifies it has adequate cash and crypto in reserve to back customer balances.
“The most important thing an exchange could do to restore confidence and remain relevant is by publishing a proof of solvency. It’s not enough, but it’s a start,” said Hiesboeck.
AI and Big Data Tokens Are Exploding with Fetch.ai (FET) Soaring More than 200%
AI and Big Data tokens have joined metaverse tokens and industry-related cryptocurrencies to spike substantially in price. Among the hundreds of AI and Big Data tokens in the market, Fetch.ai (FET), Ocean Protocol (OCEAN), and The Graph (GRT) have brought awesome gains to their holders in the first three weeks of January.
Fetch.ai (FET) has soared more than 200%
Fetch.ai was created in 2017 as an AI laboratory that builds open, decentralized, and permissionless machine learning networks within the crypto economy.
After shedding more than 80% of its value in 2022 due to an industry-wide bloodbath that wiped off more than $2 trillion from the crypto market, FET rebounded strongly in 2023.
After opening the year on Jan. 1 with a trading price of $0.09166, the coin reached a monthly low of $0.09041 on Jan. 2. On Jan. 13, Binance announced the launch of FET/USDT Perpetual Contracts across multiple margin assets. The largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume followed this up by opening trading for FET/TRY (Turkish Lira) on Jan. 26. On Jan. 17, another exchange Bitrue also listed FET/USDT on its futures platform. In the crypto space, staking, the adoption of a crypto asset by a mainstream institution as well as token listing by reputable exchanges (in this case Binance and Bitrue) are major drivers of price.
The listing of the coin led to it reaching a monthly and yearly high of $0.3045 on Jan. 23. After seeing a low daily volume of $5.5 million, increased demand for the coin on the more than 30 exchanges that supports it led to the new high daily volume of $170 million.
In the process, FETs market capitalization has risen by 232% from $75 million on its opening day to over $230 million.
Ocean Protocol (OCEAN) spiked over 130% due to the Hackathon progress
As a blockchain-based ecosystem that allows individuals and businesses to unlock the value of their data and monetize it via the use of Ethereum-based tokens, OCEAN has benefitted immensely from the cryptocurrency market rebound of 2023.
Ocean has built on top of several mainstream blockchains in the industry and the highlight was when it partnered with Moonbeam Network on Polkadot to allow stakeholders of the Polkadot ecosystem to buy, stake, and publish data.
OCEAN, like more than 90% of cryptocurrencies shed around 80% of its value in 2022 after opening and closing the year at $0.8586 and $0.1633 respectively. OCEAN opened 2023 with a price of $0.1633, reached a monthly low of $0.1592 on Jan. 2, and since that day, the token has benefitted from the Data Builders Hackathon the Ocean Foundation launched with Gitcoin which launched on Jan. 5 and it’s slated to end by the end of the month. Through this Hackathon, $40,000 in bounties will be shared among participants.
OCEAN tested a monthly high of $0.3834 on Jan. 24 after seeing its least daily volume rise from $6.6 million to the highest of $143 million.
Within 25 days, OCEAN’s price ascended by 134% which increased its market value from $100 million to more than $220 million.
The Graph (GRT) is increasing due to positive market sentiment
As an indexing protocol for querying data for networks like Ethereum, The Graph has helped power many applications in the decentralized finance (DeFi) space and the broader Web3 ecosystem.
Renewed interest in cryptocurrency coupled with the awarding of funds to hackers by The Graph Foundation to build bold new decentralized applications (dApps) with sub-graphs has contributed to GRTs price spike. GRT, which is the novel token of the Graph lost 91% of its value in 2022. The token has impressed so far in 2023 recouping more than 70% of investor losses after opening at $0.05538 and reaching a monthly high of $0.0963 on Jan. 24. The significant rise in daily volume from $9 million to $86 million has also led to a rapid rise in market capitalization from $493 million to over $800 million.
Other AI and Big Data coins and tokens that have spiked in value include, but are not limited to, Singularity NET (AGIX), Phala Network (PHA), Phoenix (PHB), and Covalent (CQT), Alliance Block (ALBT).
SHIB The Metaverse at Texas Film Festival: Here’s What You Can Expect
Shiba Inu (SHIB), the popular dog-themed meme coin that started as a joke, will showcase its developing immersive metaverse experience at the upcoming Southwest Film and TV festival (SXSW) in Texas in the U.S.
It comes as the creators of SHIB announced on Jan.15 the impending launch of Shibarium, a layer-2 (L2) solution built on the Ethereum blockchain. The new network will help to make transactions faster and cheaper – and even improve user experience for metaverse and gaming apps.
According to a recent blog post, Shiba token was invited to participate at the annual festival where visitors will get a first-time preview of the ecosystem’s WAGMI Temple, the first of 11 hubs in SHIB The Metaverse.
“Hubs are epicenters of activity within the [SHIB] metaverse, offering distinctive experiences rooted in each hubs’s theme,” said Sherri Cuono, metaverse advisor to Shiba Token. “Each offers special attractions that may only be experienced in that hub.”
SXSW is known for its conferences and festivals that celebrate the convergence of tech, film and television, music, education, and culture. The festival runs from March 10 -19, and will also feature exhibits covering experiences in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
What is SHIB The Metaverse?
Shiba Inu was created to make up for what rival Dogecoin (DOGE) lacked in functionality. Itself, Dogecoin started as a joke, just like Shiba Inu, but has since acquired meme status thanks to billionaire Elon Musk’s backing.
SHIB gained the limelight when it sent half of its initial supply of one quadrillion tokens to Vitalik Buterin. The Ethereum co-founder immediately sold about $1 billion worth of SHIB and donated the proceeds to India’s pandemic relief fund.
For immediate release: Shiba Inu & SHIB The Metaverse have been invited to exhibit at this year’s SXSW XR Experience. The VR/AR experience showcase is open to all badge holders at SXSW March 2023 in Austin, Texas @sxsw
Read more: https://t.co/51Oa3DwshY
— Shib (@Shibtoken) January 12, 2023
However, without utility, meme coins like Shiba Inu and DOGE “are examples of speculative hype-coins better classified as fun for gamblers on an unprecedented 24/7 global scale,” as Mike McGlone, Bloomberg senior commodity strategist, previously said.
SHIB has not grown at the scale that its pseudonymous creator Shytoshi Kusama hoped it would. The crypto token is now building on strong community support in addition to a series of improvements being made on the network to boost its token price and improve utility.
On Oct. 6 last year, Shiba Eternity game was launched, and now the launch of Shibarium is imminent. Shiba Inu already operates a decentralized exchange (DEX), allowing users to transact peer-to-peer. The DEX is to be upgraded to ShibaSwap 2.0.
There are plans to unveil a metaverse, which is still in development, part of which will now be showcased at SXSW. According to its creators, SHIB The Metaverse is “a virtual representation of Shiba Token’s collective history.”
It “is home to immersive experiences that will allow people to explore, learn from and interact with the Shiba Inu ecosystem.” At the Texas festival, visitors will experience WAGMI Temple, so named to reflect crypto’s rallying cry of “We’re All Going to Make It”.
“The common thread is digital-plus-IRL utility including activities, commerce, customization, expression, events, education and exploring,” said Sherri Cuono, the Shiba Token metaverse advisor. She added:
“Users will be able to earn passive income, collect in-game resources, generate rewards, and even have their own space to build and manage their projects in SHIB: The Metaverse.”
What’s it like in the SHIB WAGMI Temple?
WAGMI Temple “is a zen-like realm with calming sensations, meditation, natural beauty, and spiritual connections to the world. Echoes whisper through the region, with a rich history and discovery of SHIB’s birth and its decentralized roots,” the blog post claims.
The Shiba Inu team at SXSW is hoping to use the showpiece to help participants learn how to connect their digital wallets, purchase metaverse land, and explore the WAGMI Temple. It believes that SHIB’s presence “will make it easy for people to take part in the metaverse.”
The metaverse enables new online social interactions and group experiences, such as virtual reality and gaming, according to experts. It is providing new ways for people to connect and collaborate, as well as new types of digital services that go beyond physical limitations.
Shibarium launch imminent
The Shiba Token team announced on Jan. 15 the imminent launch in beta of the Shibarium layer 2 blockchain, which is expected to make SHIB transactions faster, cheaper, and more private.
Shibarium runs on top of the Ethereum (ETH) network, and will also serve as a transitional evolution to the Shiba Inu ecosystem, centering around metaverse, Web3 innovation, and gaming. The team wrote in a separate blog post that:
“This is primarily due to the commonality of scalability and performance limitations of current existing blockchain networks.”
Shibarium’s layer 2 blockchain tech can enable a new decentralized metaverse and gaming ecosystem, “where players can interact and transact in a trustless and decentralized way and where players can own, buy and sell the digital assets they acquire.”
🍖 Introduction to Shibarium: Shiba Inu's Layer 2 Network — Rejoice #ShibArmy! Shibarium Beta is about to be launched, and through this article we want to introduce some basic concepts in order to provide clarity to the community.
Read more: https://t.co/xWyPaVlQQ4
— Shib (@Shibtoken) January 15, 2023
Shiba Inu token price action
After a massive rally two years ago, Shiba Inu has crashed 88% since peaking at $0.000086 on Oct. 28, 2021, according to CoinGecko. While the token fell in line with the rest of the crypto markets, investors have also sobered up about their expectations of the asset.
Despite the decline, SHIB remains the 15th largest cryptocurrency, with a market value of $5.78 billion. That compares with DOGE’s $11 billion, making it the ninth largest crypto asset. Dogecoin is down 89% from its all-time high of $0.7315 reached on May 8, 2021.
As of writing, SHIB is down 1.8% at $0.00001052.
Metaverse Tokens See Price Spike with MANA Soaring More than 100%
Metaverse tokens have soared massively in the first two weeks of January with many cryptocurrencies seeing a price spike of more than 50%.
Many analysts have attributed this to positive market sentiment for cryptocurrencies, renewed demand for non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and the quest by many individuals and companies to be a part of this growing sector.
Decentraland (MANA), The Sandbox (SAND), Flow (FLOW), and Immutable X (IMX) are among the metaverse tokens that have brought more than 50% gains to investors.
Decentraland (MANA) has recouped some of 2022’s losses
Decentraland is among the most recognizable metaverse platforms in the decentralized finance (DeFi) space as it allows users to experience shared digital experiences.
MANA plunged by more than 90% in 2022 due to negative market sentiment that wiped off trillions of dollars from the crypto economy. Despite this, the token has recouped some of the losses by increasing by 145% from an opening price of $0.297 on Jan. 1 to reaching a yearly high of $0.7278 on Jan. 16.
Much of the gains came from the introduction of new features in a tweet from Decentraland on Jan. 12. The features comprise the highlighting of avatars, new user profiles, links in profile, new friend request flow, and differentiated nametags.
This led to an increase in trading volume which reached a daily high of $879 million on Jan. 15 which has helped push MANA’s market capitalization from $560 million to around $1.3 billion.
The Sandbox spikes by more than 90%
Among the tokens that plummeted by more than 90% in 2022, SAND has also made decent gains in January 2023. The token has ascended by 95% in the first two weeks of the first month of the year from $0.3831 on the opening day to a monthly and yearly high of $0.7487 on Jan. 15.
SAND has been going up this year due to updates lined up for The Sandbox’s Game Maker 0.8. According to the Sandbox, Game Maker 0.8 will bring new multiplayer gameplay features, new lighting and visual effect features, video and audio streaming, and equipment and wearable support in social hubs.
This has created an enormous excitement within the Web3 community and many stakeholders of Play-to-Earn (P2E) platforms believe this can help transform the way many people engage with the Sandbox metaverse. While the trading volume for Jan. 5 (the day of Game Maker 0.8)’s announcement was $124 million, daily trading volume has gone, and has so far reached a monthly high of $624 million on Jan. 14. As of Jan. 16, The Sandbox NFT sales for January was approximately $262,000.
FLOW recovers 70% of its value in 15 days
The Flow blockchain which is NFT-specific has been integral to the fortunes of the NBA and NFL. NFT sales from NBA Top Shots and NFL ALL DAY have totalled $2.74 million so far in 2023 with $1.2 million and $1.5 million respectively.
This has transcended positively on FLOW which has seen a price rise of 73% from an opening day value of $0.6535 to a monthly high of $1.15 on Jan. 15.
IMX is up more than 50%
IMX is the novel token of Immutable X, a platform that tags itself as powering the next generation of Web3 games. There has been a growing demand for Immutable X NFTs due to their 100% carbon-neutral feature. As of Jan. 16, more than 58 million NFTs have been minted on the platform and more than 10 million NFT trades have been made in the process.
This has made Immutable X one of the biggest blockchains by all-time sales volume. Immutable X NFT sales have surpassed more than $300 million from the activities of over 124,000 buyers involved in more than 12 million transactions.
The boom in the demand for NFTs being minted and renewed interest in NFTs have reflected positively on IMX’s price. The token has rose by 56% year-to-date (YTD) after opening at $0.3835 on Jan. 1 and reaching a monthly high of $0.5986 on Jan. 16.
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