You can now buy Skype credit with Bitcoin via Gyft

Gyft, a digital gift card platform that lets you buy, sell and redeem gift cards has now introduced Skype credit purchases with Bitcoins.

Gift cards can be purchased in $25 dollar amounts and are redeemable online where customers can purchase premium monthly accounts, along with accessories such as headsets and webcams.

Although relatively new, Gyft are one of the hottest startups around and are rapidly growing in popularity among the Bitcoin community. They have also received a cool $6.25M in funding since their launch.

Vinny Lingham, CEO of Gyft commented:

“We are thrilled to be able to offer an iconic brand such as Skype on our platform. We are continuing to show our market leadership in the Bitcoin space by offering more opportunities to spend Bitcoin than anyone else.”

For the uninitiated, Skype is well established, Microsoft owned Voip and Instant messaging service that in 2013 alone connected a monumental 299 million users globally.

So with Bitcoin growing exponentially throughout the world it is great that users can now chat with loved ones anywhere in the world through the cryptocurrency!

It is even more exciting to see the Bitcoin ecosystem go from strength to strength as it continues to infiltrate mainstream, longstanding services as a reputable alt-currency through services such as Gyft.

The gift card provider is not stopping anytime soon either. Just last week they added Dell to their list of corporate partners which at the time of writing also included Burger King, GAP, Amazon and Nike.

Despite Bitcoin still being a young currency, a recent survey in the UK revealed that 57% of Brits are aware of the cryptocurrency. This is great news for startups like Gyft who are helping bridge the gap between UK shoppers who are aware of Bitcoin but are not sure how how to use it to buy what they want.

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With success comes powerful enemies

Bitcoin is currently being attacked by a well organised and distributed denial of service attack(DDOS), which is flooding the network with mutated transactions. It is currently unconfirmed as to who is behind the this attack and why.

That said, Max Keiser — one of america’s most outspoken political pundits has now pointed the finger at global banking superpower JPMorgan Chase & Co who coincidentally filed for a patent in the United States to develop a payment system using “virtual cash”, similar to, Bitcoin.

Are JPMorgan Chase & Co attempting to cripple Bitcoin to make way for their own **shudder** digital currency?

Max Keiser said on Twitter:

JPM was never going to ‘like’ BTC. They tried and failed to file virt. currency patent 170 X’s. Now they are attacking exchanges with DDoS.

The patent filing also made mainstream news with journalist Matthew Sparkes, Deputy Head of Technology at The Telegraph recently publishing the article “JPMorgan files patent for ‘bitcoin killer’ currency”.

So whats the motive? JPMorgan Chase & Co patent requests are uncertain, but it’s unclear why due to the lack of information at the ‘United States Patent and Trademark Office’ but it’s probably due to Bitcoin being well established.

So what do you think? Are corporate superpowers now looking to hijack and introduce their own crypo-currencies that are built from the ground up to accommodate their power hungry, profiteering and corrupted ideologies?

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Bristol hosting third Bitcoin Meetup

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts will be gathering in Bristol a week today (20/02/14) following the success of the previous meetups which took place in January and December.

The meetup is one of the biggest outside of London and will be taking place at 7:00 PM at the Watershed activity centre located on Canon’s Road, Harbourside, Bristol, BS1 5TZ(map). Be sure to load your smartphone wallet with some Bitcoins beforehand for practice with fellow enthusiasts.

The meetup will be an informal social affair for Bitcoin enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and anyone interested in or wanting to learn more about the digital currency. The event is hosted by Bitcoin expert Javier Marti, from BitcoinGlobalInvestments.com

So if you fancy chatting with some like-minded Bitcoiners, head on over to the Meetup page here and get your self down to Bristol.

Still not convinced?

Really good to see people from the last meetup as well as new faces! Passionate discussion, had a great time and looking forward to the next one….

Nice diverse friendly bunch of people, and a growing local scene

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Pheeva, a browser wallet so simple, even your Grandma could use it!

  • See bottom for quick interview with Lafe Taylor from Pheeva.

Pheeva is a portable cryptocurrency hot wallet that runs in the Chrome browser as a light-weight extension. It makes paying with Bitcoin so effortless anyone can do it.

The wallet enables users to securely load their hot wallet with Bitcoins, streamlining the process of purchasing goods and services straight from your Browser using available funds.

pheeva

Having said that Pheeva is not the first to bring such a service on the market. KryptoKit has been around for some time and is currently the main competitor.

One great feature that separates Pheeva from the competition is “Coin!Ds”. These are short urls for sending and receiving Bitcoins without having to remember public addresses. These are extremely useful for collecting donations over radio campaigns or podcasts because all you need to memorise is the “Coin!D” which could simply be ‘Oxfam’.

The Pheeva interface is light-weight and minimalistic, which means you don’t need a degree to operate it (thankfully). The extension quietly sits in your browser and is activated by clicking the logo which is visible in the menu bar for quick access.

pheeva bitcoin chrome wallet

Pheeva wallets are protected using AES-256 encryption. Access to the extension is also secured with a 4 digit PIN to protect you from those pesky work colleagues.

No doubt we will see great things on the horizon for Pheeva as they have done a wonderful job in condensing the process of paying for things with Bitcoin and streamlining the process as much as possible.

Interview with Lafe Taylor from Pheeva

 

Will you be supporting other crypto currencies in the future besides Bitcoin?

Yes. We have already added code to generate wallets for several alt-coins. We really want to be the go to hot wallet of choice.

What other features do you have planned for the future?

We are looking into creating a client-side mixing solution, to increase some privacy for wallet holders. We are also working on browser auth technology that will allow you use the wallet, as a sort of ticketing system to allow users access to certain web pages with the wallet being the access key.

What sets you aside from other browser wallets?

We have added a coinID system. Coin!Ds make it easy to remember, to share and recieve payments without having to give someone your enormous bitcoin address. We wanted to make it easy for people to share their wallet with others simply by sharing their id. It’s like getting your first email address.

– Right now the free chrome ext. allows you to create a name with a .phv suffix.
– Soon we will open up truly custom coin!Ds to those that become members in a cooperative we are in the process of forming.

Pheeva is avliable to down from the Chrome website here.

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Interview with core Bitcoin developer Gregory Maxwell

We caught up with Gregory Maxwell, the core Bitcoin developer regarding the current transaction malleability bug and Mt. Gox.

Are Mt. Gox blaming their own coding incompetence on yourself and the other Bitcoin developers?

It’s hard to tell what MtGox is doing or thinking as they are very poor at communications.

I was very surprised by their press release, it was completely out of the tone of the discussion I had with them last week. I was also pretty insulted by it, I sought them out to advise them that they had issues and what I believed them to be— as a pure act of helpfulness on my part— and I got nothing out of it, except their press release using the fact that they’d talked to me to straighten their somewhat misleading claims.

MTGox runs software they wrote themselves, they have no one else to blame for it but themselves.

Will updates from your end be pushed or will it be up to the exchanges?

Entirely separately from MTGOX, someone suddenly started dos attacking the network with mutated transactions about 24 hours ago. They’re a nuisance and gumming up some services, but not causing any loss of funds like mtgox experienced. MtGox’s issues were their own mistakes.

We’ll probably issue some updates to filter out the DOS attack, however.

How much damage has Mt. Gox caused to the community?

I think they’ve done more damage to the remaining goodwill the Bitcoin community had for them than anything else. Market prices sometimes just reflect the most nervous parties, so I’m not sure how much weight to give the impact there. Bitcoin itself works fine regardless of what price people are buying it at.

As someone who personally has some funds in MtGox I’d personally like to know how much they lost. Prior to their press release I’d assumed the amount must be small or internal controls would have caught it,
instead of people reporting it to them on chat. The intensity and character of their response leaves me worried that my initial estimates might have been incorrect.

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Passing the ‘buck’! Mt. Gox’s incompetence continues to cause Bitcoin chaos

Mt. Gox, the worlds largest Bitcoin exchange recently suspended customer withdrawals across all accounts, stating that funds will not be released until Bitcoin fixes a known bug within its protocol. As expected however this has forced a huge backlash from its users and the Bitcoin community at large blaming the exchange for lax security implementations. So who’s to blame, Mt Gox or Bitcoin?

The customer withdrawal suspension was initially due to a problem with the exchange’s own payment processing system, but the most recent statement released by Mt. Gox regarding the freeze puts all the blame on Bitcoin developers without holding itself responsible.

What has come to light very recently however is that Mt. Gox have known about the security flaw and bug within the transaction malleability since 2011(view here), courtesy of core Bitcoin developer Greg Maxwell.

Maxwell alerted the exchange and explicitly warned them of the possible flaw in their platform yet recent events suggest this advice went unheeded.

No doubt the claim made by the company is monumental. Essentially they are saying the bug makes it possible for an attacker to covertly spoof transaction details and make them seem like bitcoins were sent to a wallet when in reality they did not.

If Mt. Gox’s claims hold water and are as infamous as advertised this could be an epic blow to the future of bitcoin. If false however the exchange is likely to die.
Many within the Bitcoin community have stressed their anger at Mt. Gox and questioned why withdrawals have not being actioned for several months with the exchange now conveniently freezing itself whilst other exchanges continue to operate.

One exchange that seems to be pushing on despite this ‘bug’ is Kraken:

Well known security researcher Oleg Andreev has researched Mt. Gox’s claims and has confirmed that there is no bug in Bitcoin Itself.

“If you need a quick answer: there’s no bug in the Bitcoin itself. You may go to Bitstamp/Coinbase/BTC-E/Bitcoin-Central and buy more BTC with a huge discount before it gets back to $800-$900.”

It’s clear that Mt. Gox does not want to hold itself accountable and instead wishes to pin the blame on somebody else, even if that has to be the Bitcoin developers themselves. Due to the Bitcoin community being tech-savvy it seems the news will only weaken the confidence in the company and ultimately strike it from the top spot in the exchange world.

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Andreas M. Antonopoulos gives insight into the current Bitcoin chaos

We spoke to Andreas M. Antonopoulos, Bitcoin Entrepreneur and security systems expert regarding the current Bitcoin transaction malleability problem.

Are Mt. Gox trying to pass the blame onto the Bitcoin Developers? Will this cause irreversible damage to the currency ?

Mt. Gox was relying on an incorrect implementation, it appears other exchanges were also relying on incorrect implementations. These incorrect implementations were susceptible to confusion by relying on transaction hashes for *unconfirmed transactions* which cannot be and should not be relied on. Many other exchanges and services, including the one I work as CSO (blockchain.info) had a correct implementation and were therefore not affected by the known issue of transaction malleability.

The issue was known since 2011, and Gox was warned not to rely on transaction hashes that this was not the best practice and could lead to problems.

maxwell-quote

Their attempt to blame the bitcoin software was grossly irresponsible. In the end it will further discredit Gox and reveal their management incompetence. Gox is now a minority exchange that has repeatedly suffered issues related to poor quality control in their software development methodology and has compounded these issues with bad communication and attempts to shift the blame elsewhere.

They represent less than 20% of the exchange volume and after their most recent problems and subsequent communications, they will likely lose more customers. Meanwhile, bitcoin remains unaffected. No transactions were falsified, the network continues to operate normally, and the authoritative ledger contains a correct record of transactions. If Gox had used the authoritative ledger as their reference instead of relying on an unreliable identifier, they would not have been defrauded by customers or had to suspend withdrawals.

In other words, Gox was sloppy, then they blamed someone else. Then they were rightly corrected by several well informed participants and many of the core developers.

Today we are seeing malicious actors trying to flood the bitcoin network with such malformed transactions in an effort to find other exchanges with similar implementation errors.

Some exchanges have temporarily suspended withdrawals in order to ensure they can process everything accurately. It’s like a retail customer showing up at a customer service desk with a photoshopped receipt and trying to get a refund. Mt. Gox was fooled because they didn’t check the receipts against the blockchain.

Others are not fooled, but today they saw a flood of such attempts, as if retail shoppers showing up with shoeboxes of falsified receipts hoping to cash in on this problem. These other exchanges are now dealing with a flood of these which is delaying legitimate withdrawals and some suspended withdrawals in order to check their implementations

In about a week I expect all the exchanges will have robust and correct implementations, as the network has now been stress-tested. Some will resume quickly, Gox might take a bit longer to resume. In the end, the entire industry will be more resilient.

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Bitstamp freezes customer withdrawals due to denial of service attack

Bitstamp, the second largest Bitcoin exchange in the world by current trade volume, has frozen customer withdrawals due to an alleged denial of service attack.

The company appears to be in a state of disarray after Mt. Gox also suspended customer withdrawals late last week citing technical issues inline with transaction malleability.

Oleg Andreev, software developer and security expert explained the malleability issue:

If you need a quick answer: there’s no bug in the Bitcoin itself. You may go to Bitstamp/Coinbase/BTC-E/Bitcoin-Central and buy more BTC with a huge discount before it gets back to $800-$900.

In an official statement released by Bitstamp which owns 32% of the Bitcoin USD trade volume they said:

We’re confident everything will be back to normal shortly.

Currently it[Bitstamp] has suspended processing Bitcoin withdrawals due to inconsistent results reported by our bitcoind wallet, caused by a denial-of-service attack using transaction malleability to temporarily disrupt balance checking. As such, Bitcoin withdrawal and deposit processing will be suspended temporarily until a software fix is issued.

Bitstamp has confirmed the customers should not worry as no funds have been lost, suggesting that the Bitcoins have been securely stored in offline storage.

Customers have recently taken to the community boards informing others of their suspicions of Mt. Gox and various other exchanges prior to the official announcement last Friday due to some withdrawals taking months.

The effect of Mt. Gox has sent a shockwave through the Bitcoin community, with many people panic selling.

What is currently unclear and not present in the Bitstamp statement is when customers can access their funds.

At the time of writing the current Bitcoin price is just $665.31.

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Love thy Bitcoin, Church adopts cryptocurrency

St Martin’s Anglican Parish has become the first church in Britain to accept Bitcoin as a valid method of donation.

Traditionally, donations are made when a tray of some sort (usually gold plated) is circulated throughout the ceremony, enabling church-goers to hand over small sums of money to the church.

church donation tray

Such methods of raising money may be nearing the end of the line as religious institutions smell the coffee and adopt newer methods of collection. It is the 21st century after all!

This isn’t however the first time alternate methods of donation have been explored to reach wider audiences. Churches have in the past considered wirless card machines so as to increase the ways in which donations can be taken. Although this has, for the most part never taken off.

One Bishop said:

Using mobile phones in Hymn might be disrespectful but with the ever growing tech hungry nation, we can’t rely on cash donations.

This is undoubtedly an increasing problem for many institutions as more and more people carry less physical cash and instead turn to either plastic (cards) or more recently virtual currency to settle their purchases.

Worshippers in Sweden jumped at the opportunity last year and praised one Church for going cashless.

It seems Bitcoin could well be a breath of fresh air for many religious institutions as donors can leave larger sums of money anonymously which is currently impractical or not possible with the current banking system.

Reverend Mr Brice of St Martin’s Anglican Parish said:

Parishioners can scan QR codes in the church ceremonies with a smartphone to make anonymous donations.

 

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Interview with Tomas Alvarez CEO of Coincove

Say hello to Coincove, an exciting new startup that is ready to bring Bitcoin to the masses in Latin American (and convince them to swap their local money for better digital currencies).

The company is based in San Mateo and founded by dynamic-trio; Tomás Alvarez, Rodrigo González del Cueto and Hannah Kim. Names ring a bell? Thats because they are the founders of Wiitu, a bitcoin transferring service for families.

Coincove is currently operating in and concentrating on four Latin American countries. These are: Argentina, Mexico, Spain and Chile.

Bitcoin is currently taking the region by storm as could be seen through our previous interview with Fernando Paradiso of BitPagos who revealed that a massive number of local merchants were using the payment gateway.

We caught up with Tomás Alvarez, CEO of Coincove to find out more.

What funding has Coincove received so far?

Coincove is currently finishing up in a Silicon Valley accelerator (Boost VC) and are in the process of raising our seed round. This is all the information we can disclose at the moment.

With security vital in crypto currencies, what methods do you have in place to secure customers coin?

We can’t disclose the details of the security measures that we take (half the art lies in how you are doing it!), but we use the best security practices in the Bitcoin space to ensure that our customers’ wallets are safe. For instance, we keep the majority of our funds in offline wallets, we whitelist access to our server by filtering IPs, and all the passwords are encrypted in the database (you’d be surprised how many sites don’t do this). Additionally, to further protect our customers, we encourage them to use 2-factor authentication every time they log in.

What do you think will be your largest market in Latin America? Argentina due to inflation ?

That’s a very good question. At the moment, we are starting with Mexico as it is our home turf (two of our three founders are from Mexico) and it is a surprisingly big economy ranking at 11th biggest in the world–just after the UK. We’ve witnessed the Bitcoin demand in local Mexican markets skyrocket since a few months ago, so we believe that this is the perfect time to introduce our service to Mexico. We would be the first Mexican company to allow buying and selling Bitcoins within Mexico, so it is very exciting. We believe that other Latin American markets that show a lot of promise are Brazil and Argentina, as you mentioned, as well as Chile and Colombia. These are all markets that we hope to be exploring in the near future.

What makes you different than other exchanges in Latin America?

You’d be surprised at the small amount of exchanges that currently exist in this vast region, which is what makes Latin America an interesting region to explore. Additionally, we believe that our key differentiator is the simplicity and ease of experience that we provide on our site. We have designed our site to be a friendlier face of the typical Bitcoin-exchange model so that people do not have to be Bitcoin-savvy to interact with it. In essence, we have created a site that makes Bitcoin more accessible to the mass.

Are you fully legalised to operate an exchange in Latin America in terms of do you fear being raided by the Government?

We focused on Mexico for the moment precisely because of our familiarity with the legal landscape there, and we’ve been consulting with lawyers to ensure that we are in a solid legal position. However, as you may know, conditions in Latin America (and especially the Bitcoin world) can change a lot in very little time, so we are aware that we always have to remain alert to these changes and respond flexibly.

What funding methods can customers use to purchase Bitcoins?

At the moment, customers can either make deposits at bank locations or at over 10,000 point-of-sale locations across Mexico. We will soon allow online bank transfers as well as more locations for cash deposits.

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