Leading Japanese e-commerce platform Rakuten will transition its rewards program to a blockchain-based system featuring a company-developed cryptocurrency. Rakuten CEO Hiroshi “Mickey” Mikitani made this announcement at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, according to a TechCrunch report, explaining that the token would be called Rakuten Coin. Rakuten Coin will replace the Tokyo-based company’s current “Super Points” program, which has long been regarded as one of the most robust loyalty programs in the e-commerce ecosystem, and its customers have collectively earned approximately $9.1 billion in points over the program’s 15-year history. Mikitani did not announce a release date for Rakuten Coin, but he previewed that it will be integrated into all of the firm’s many subsidiaries, which include Ebates, PriceMinister, and Viber. At present, it is unclear whether Rakuten Coin will run on its own, company-controlled blockchain or whether it will be built atop another blockchain — such as Ethereum, Stellar, NEM, or NEO — using smart contracts.
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein might say that the investment banking giant does not have a “Bitcoin strategy,” but the company is now admitting that cryptocurrencies pose a business risk to the firm.
The firm made this disclosure in a document dated Feb. 26 and filed with the US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), explaining that its investments in blockchain- and cryptocurrency-associated startups — as well as its decision to facilitate Bitcoin futures trading for its brokerage clients — could adversely affect Goldman Sachs if weaknesses are found in the underlying blockchain protocols.
Indeed, despite Blankfein’s sometimes-hostile comments on Bitcoin, the firm has quietly built a portfolio that includes startups operating in the blockchain space.
Circle, to which it provided early-stage funding, operates a high-volume cryptocurrency trading desk and recently announced that it had acquired Poloniex, one of the larger cryptocurrency exchanges.
It has been announced that the Marketing Director of Adastra Marketing, Amelie Arras, will look to defend bitcoin’s crown in the upcoming Money20/20 Asia Payments Race. Mrs. Arras is hoping to repeat her performance from last year, where she defeated four other participants to claim victory for bitcoin in the Money20/20 USA Payments Race. Amelie Arras will look to defend bitcoin’s crown in the upcoming Money 20/20 Asia Payments Race, in which Mrs. Arras will attempt to cross Asia solely using BTC. The five-day race is scheduled to commence in Hong Kong on the 10th of March, during which Mrs. Arras will exclusively transact in bitcoin, before arriving at the Money 20/20 Asia Conference in Singapore. “My experience from the previous Payments Race showed me first hand that acceptance at a merchant level is not what I can rely on to win. Instead, I will be using bitcoin for what it was originally designed for, a peer to peer currency. Using the power and enthusiasm of the crypto community, I am determined to win the race again,” Mrs. Arras stated.
Czechs are more inclined to store value in cryptos than in euros, according to a new poll gauging attitudes toward currencies other than the koruna. When asked about their intentions to acquire foreign cash, twice as many respondents said they were interested in buying bitcoin than purchasing US dollars. Like many other nations, which do not have the luxury of emitting a “hard” national currency, Czechs may consider investing some of their savings in foreign, “convertible”, legal tender, like the dollar or the euro. Surprisingly, a new survey shows neither of these two is the number 1 choice for investment. The study, quoted by local media, was conducted among 525 people this month. Czechs are still wary of cryptocurrencies, according to the survey. Nevertheless, cryptos, like bitcoin and ethereum, have become the most popular currencies, when it comes to investment opportunities. Almost 11% of the respondents in an Ipsos poll admitted they were thinking about acquiring digital coins. Fewer Czechs said they would consider buying euros – 10.3%.
There’s never a bad time to be sending and receiving bitcoin, but right now is especially good. Fees are at the lowest in 18 months, with the average transaction value now under a dollar. This contrasts starkly with the latter quarter of last year, when rising fees peaked at $34. There’s a primary reason why fees have been dropping since then: with bitcoin too expensive to send, people simply stopped using it as currency. It’s not just the USD/BTC market that oscillates: bitcoin’s fee market follows suit. Due to various factors ranging from network usage to Segwit adoption and hashrate, fees can rise and fall significantly. Throughout 2017, that trajectory was largely an upward one, culminating, in December, with fees becoming infeasible. Transaction fees have been mercifully declining since then, hitting an 18-month low as of February 21, but given that daily transaction volume has halved in the same period, that’s not surprising. A standard six-block transaction can now be pushed through for as little as 15 cents. Bitinfocharts calculates a median fee of 52 cents, versus just over 1 cent for bitcoin cash. This reduction in transaction fees will not be felt by all bitcoin users however. Anyone withdrawing from an exchange will still be hit with standard fees. Binance and Kucoin, for example, set a flat rate of 0.001 BTC, or around $10.60 at current prices. As Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao pointed out in a recent tweet, though, exchanges have a case for charging above the base rate for the service they’re supplying. Whether they can justify charging upwards of $10 a time is a matter for debate though.