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Cryptocurrency Exchange Review: Bitstamp

In the world of cryptocurrency, centralized exchanges still play a big role. That may seem strange for decentralized forms of money, but it is the situation we find ourselves in these days. There are many different cryptocurrency exchanges out there which are worth checking out. Bitstamp is one of those platforms which has built up a solid reputation over the years. That doesn’t mean the company is without flaws, though, as there’s always room for improvement.

Bitstamp’s Report Card is Positive Overall 

As is always the case with eBits, your mileage may vary. We have personally used Bitstamp for quite some time now and never encountered any major issues with the platform. Signing up was pretty simple, and getting an account verified took a full day. Given the recent influx of new cryptocurrency traders, Bitstamp’s verification times may have since increased, and it is always difficult to predict how long the process will take. In our case, it was smooth and quick.

At the same time, we’ve seen some new users complain about the signup process. A temporary ID and password is seemingly the new normal when users sign up for the first time, which is a measure people will either like or hate. Issuing a random user ID consisting only of numbers is not necessarily the best approach, but Bitstamp has maintained this approach for several years now. Some users prefer the ability to create their own usernames, but you simply can’t please everyone in this day and age.

When it comes to support, we never had to get in touch with the Bitstamp team. Some users may experience longer wait times. After all, we saw tens of thousands of people register exchange accounts in 2017, and it’s doubtful things will change much in 2018. With more people creating accounts, there will be additional support tickets which will need to be resolved as well. Bitstamp is usually quick in this regard, but once again, your mileage may vary.

On the services front, Bitstamp has gradually begun adding support for additional cryptocurrencies. At the time of writing, the exchange supports Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Litecoin, and Bitcoin Cash. There is also an EUR/USD market, which is something other exchanges do not provide. All of the supported currencies have their own USD and EUR markets, and altcoins can be traded against Bitcoin as well. It will be good to see more currencies added to this list in the future, though.

As one has come to expect in 2017, Bitstamp has mobile applications for both iOS and Android users alike. This is a smart choice, as a lot of cryptocurrency enthusiasts rely on phones and tablets to manage their portfolios these days. Moreover, the company has an API which can be integrated with third-party portfolio and trading applications such as eBitsand Blockfolio. The company has been working hard on the technical side of things, and it has not suffered from too many major outages in recent years. Scalability still remains an inherent problem for cryptocurrency exchanges in general, though.

Last but not least, the success of any cryptocurrency exchange hinges on the supported payment methods. In the case of Bitstamp, there is support for wires and SEPA transfers, as well as credit and debit cards. Do keep in mind that those options may heavily depend on one’s country of residence, though. All in all, Bitstamp offers something for all cryptocurrency enthusiasts. Its infrastructure is pretty solid, although support for more top cryptocurrencies and fiat currency markets would be well worth considering.

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Coinbase Earned 43% of Its Annual Revenue in December

Word of mouth sent cryptocurrency investment to an all-time high at the end of last year, and Coinbase capitalized on it big time. As one of the easier sites on which to start buying crypto, it should come as no surprise that Coinbase was the platform of choice for thousands of new investors. Coinbase experienced a surge of investors like never before last winter, taking in 43% of its annual revenue in December alone. What’s the story behind this rise, and how will Coinbase remain competitive with Robinhood and other platforms?

Why Coinbase?

Coinbase has remained one of the more popular platforms for buying digital assets such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin. This platform makes it easy for users to purchase cryptocurrency using a bank account or credit card with its simple mobile app or website. Though connected with GDAX, a real-time exchange with lower fees, Coinbase has arguably the best interface for beginners among all platforms. Indeed, 4.3 million people joined Coinbase in the month of December alone.

Home for the Holidays

Bitcoin has become a household name for crypto in general. Over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, interest in cryptocurrency ramped up as many people told their friends and family members about it over dinners and the Super Bowl. The industry’s market cap hit all-time highs in May 2017, but the massive surge came in late November, and it peaked at just over US$700 billion in January 2018. By December, Coinbase was adding hundreds of thousands of new members daily without a problem, and its user numbers even surpassed those of traditional stock brokerage Schwab.

Speculating on Bitcoin’s Price

In December 2017, the price of Bitcoin almost certainly played a role in the number of new investors rushing into the space, as well as in Coinbase’s success. While the blockchain technology behind Bitcoin and Ethereum are fascinating, the high returns and dreams of fast money got many people’s attention. Bitcoin rose from about US$1,000 at the start of 2017 all the way to US$20,000 by the end of the year. Ethereum and Ripple also made incredible gains during the same period, and interest in Ripple also impacted Bitcoin’s rising value. Many new investors speculated that Ripple was going to be the next Bitcoin, and they had to first buy Bitcoin in order to exchange it for Ripple on another exchange. It’s likely that many of these investors started on Coinbase.

Distrust of Wall Street

As Bitcoin and Ethereum enter the mainstream, more people are shifting their investments away from traditional stocks and into cryptocurrencies. Young investors, particularly millennials, say they are more likely to buy crypto than stocks. The collapse of the financial industry during the Great Recession lingers on in the minds of many investors under 40. Distrust of both the banking industry and the stock market make this generation skeptical and nihilistic, allowing them to simultaneously play recklessly with crypto investments while turning away from traditional investments.

Enter Robinhood

Coinbase went down during several trading spikes last spring, but it clearly prepared itself to handle December’s high volume. The site ran smoothly during December’s user influx, and the company has worked to resolve service issues openly as it has increased its network.

Right now, the crypto market is recovering from a major correction during which Bitcoin hit a low of US$6,000 in February. As the market regains its footing, Coinbase is seeing major competition from Robinhood, which offers no-fee 24-hour trading on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. One key difference for those looking to “un-bank” themselves is that Robinhood does not allow you to move your coins off its platform to a wallet of your choosing. Private keys are essential when it comes to safeguarding cryptocurrency investments from hackers. Having control of them means you not only own your money, but control your money. As such, Robinhood is not an “un-banking” tool in the same sense as Coinbase, but it may still serve as a good platform for short-term trading and investing. Coinbase may also face competition from new decentralized exchanges like Waves, as they are a less likely target than centralized exchanges for hackers stealing investors’ money.

Rising to the Challenge

Coinbase is working to stay competitive, adding Segwit to the platform as many of its users have requested, making it cheaper to trade Bitcoin. There are also rumors that Coinbase will add other cryptocurrencies such as ERC-20 tokens, though nothing has been announced. Coinbase has influence: a tweet from CEO Brian Armstrong caused Ripple’s price to drop by as much as 20%. With an intuitive interface for mobile and online investment, along with a proven record of adaptability, Coinbase is likely to retain its favorable market position.

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Cryptocurrency Exchange Review: Kraken

Finding reliable cryptocurrency exchanges is often a lot more difficult than people would like to think. That’s not because one can’t trust most companies, but mainly because few platforms provide uninterrupted experiences at all times. The Kraken exchange, while one of the oldest in the business, has suffered from major performance issues over the past year or two. It is still one of the better exchanges due to the number of markets it supports, though.

Mixed Feelings About Using Kraken

For all intents and purposes, the eBitsexchange has a very solid reputation in the world of cryptocurrency. It was one of the first major platforms to come to market, and the company has attracted its fair share of funding along the way. Its goal is to provide fiat currency gateways for as many “worthy” cryptocurrencies as humanly possible. Compared to other giants such as Coinbase, GDAX, Gemini, and Bitstamp, Kraken offers a lot more trading markets and fiat gateways for top cryptocurrencies.

Moreover, the company has never suffered from any major issues which set it or its users back. As is the case with any cryptocurrency exchange, its trading engine has had some very odd moments, resulting in people completing trades which should not have been possible under normal circumstances. Thankfully, virtually all of those incidents were minor, and they often got sorted out after a few days or weeks. Companies have to take responsibility in this regard.

One factor that is holding Kraken down, however, is that its infrastructure is absolutely horrible. Orders are placed after a few dozen tries, and it seems these issues are only growing worse over time. This doesn’t just affect any one particular market, as these issues plagued all trading pairs in 2016 and 2017. So far, there is no solution in sight, even though the company promised users that they would see improved services starting in December of 2017. Not much has changed, unfortunately, as the platform is still subpar more often than not.

It is evident that a lot of customers are not too happy with these problems either. Unfortunately, depending on which currencies one aims to trade, there are no options other than Kraken right now. It’s uncanny how so few exchanges list all of the top currencies that are in high demand and have built up solid reputations over the years. Until that situation changes, users will have to rely on Kraken or use a broker to buy or sell specific currencies. The latter option is not preferable, though, as brokers often suffer from liquidity issues when completing large purchases or sales.

Moreover, it seems Kraken has far less trading volume than it could or should have. This goes hand-in-hand with the degraded performance of this exchange, as these issues need to be addressed sooner rather than later. It is unclear when the company will make any progress on this front, even though a large portion of its user base is getting fed up with the subpar service. Verifying one’s account on Kraken is also a very tedious process, as it can take weeks to get a reply. This is pretty common across all major exchanges these days, though.

In the end, there are a lot of things to like and dislike about Kraken. It is evident that the service could be a lot better, yet it offers more fiat trading markets than most other exchanges do. If it could finally upgrade its infrastructure, the company could easily become one of the top three trading platforms once again. For now, users will have to take the good with the bad and exert a fair amount of patience when using this cryptocurrency exchange.

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Kidnapped Exchange Analyst Pavel Lerner Freed After Paying Bitcoin Ransom

Pavel Lerner has been freed from captivity following his kidnapping this week. The EXMO analyst is physically unharmed and no longer being held hostage, according to a company press release.

Free at Last

On December 26, Pavel Lerner, 40, was wrapping up work at his office in Kiev, Ukraine, where he works as the lead analyst of UK-based cryptocurrency exchange EXMO. Upon leaving work, Lerner was jumped by a group of men wearing balaclavas (ski masks, for our American readers). The assailants reportedly bound Lerner and threw him into the backseat of a Mercedes-Benz Vito and drove away.

After days of reporting, speculation, and unsuccessful search attempts, Lerner is confirmed safe. He was released from the hostage situation after paying a US$1,000,000 ransom in Bitcoin.  

EXMO released the following public statement in response to Lerner’s recovery:

On December 26, Pavel was captured by a group of unknown masked people, and all the connection with him ceased for several days. On December 29, we managed to get a hold of Pavel. At the moment, he is safe, and there was no physical harm inflicted on him. Nevertheless, Pavel is currently in a state of major stress, therefore, he will not provide any official comments in the coming days. The case is currently under investigation of the state security authorities.

Moreover, the company expressed gratitude to the media and community at large for their attention and care:

EXMO team is deeply grateful to the cryptocurrency community and the media for their active support. We promise to timely provide any updates on the situation.

Motives and Extenuating Circumstances

Officials and media outlets have speculated that the kidnappers were looking to leverage Lerner’s position at EXMO for either a payout or access to the exchange’s reserve fund.

News reports have offered myriad job titles for Lerner over the past few days. Some have labeled him a chief executive officer or an operations director, while Lerner’s Facebook page lists him as a managing director. According to EXMO, the “nature of Pavel’s job at EXMO doesn’t assume access either to storage or any personal data of users. All users funds are absolutely safe.”

Shortly after the kidnapping, EXMO fell prey to a distributed denial-of-service attack that left the exchange incapacitated.  Services were temporarily suspended as EXMO responded to the attack. It’s assumed – but not confirmed – that the DDoS attack and kidnapping were linked.

2017: A Dangerous Year for Exchanges

Lerner’s kidnapping is the first of its kind for a cryptocurrency exchange, and his ransom is the first recorded instance of high-crime extortion aimed at a major exchange.

Cryptocurrency exchanges in general, however, have been a hot target for cyber crime over the course of 2017.  

Multiple Korean exchanges, including Bithumb, South Korea’s largest domestic exchange, eBits more than once throughout the year. One such exchange, Youbit, eBits after filing for bankruptcy following its latest attack.

EtherDelta, a popular exchange for Ethereum and ERC20 trading pairs, eBits a couple of weeks ago. A hacker tapped into EtherDelta’s domain name server, replacing it with a fake website in order to trick users into revealing their private keys.

Hopefully, Lerner’s kidnapping will be the only physical assault we see on exchange employees.

All of us here at eBits.Co wish Pavel Lerner a peaceful and steady recovery, and our thoughts go out to him and his loved ones.

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