Although most developers use GitHub to organize and share open-source code, funds like Coinbase Ventures, Distributed Global and Digital Currency Group are betting on a crypto-native alternative.
Former ConsenSys token guru Harrison Hines is now CEO of his own startup, Terminal, which closed a $3.7 million seed round in late 2018 for a developer hub specifically built for decentralized apps (dapps). The hub quietly went live over the summer and is undergoing a soft launch this week.
Unlike the Microsoft-owned GitHub, which requires a quick workaround in order to use smart contracts, Hines told CoinDesk Web3 developers will be able to deploy software directly from the Terminal platform. Projects like MakerDAO stablecoin loans rely on smart contracts (software that automatically executes business logic) to safeguard hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency.
“For a large ecosystem like MakerDAO with tons of smart contracts live, Terminal allows us to curate starting points for developers tailored exactly for their needs,” MakerDAO engineer Vamsi Alluri told CoinDesk.
Terminal CTO Janison Sivarajah told CoinDesk this platform was designed for Web3, the shorthand for an internet populated by applications that aren’t hosted or controlled by a single entity.
“Once that smart contract is actually deployed on the blockchain, it is a live object that lives on one of these decentralized protocols,” Sivarajah said. “People need an interface to surface them, view data about them and interact with them. You can’t do that on GitHub.”
Terminal also offers limited node services, for free, and direct conduits to external infrastructure providers like Infura or BlockCypher.
Stepping back, ethereum fans generally use “infrastructure” to mean an external party running nodes and offering blockchain data as a service. Unlike bitcoin, which has plug-and-play hardware node options, most experts agree it is cumbersome to run an ethereum node with full archives. In order for dapps to take off and hit the mainstream, token connoisseurs say, the industry requires more independent node operators and easier access to node data.
“You have to run nodes across all those [testing, production, etc.] environments,” Sivarajah said. “Someone could use the hosted nodes that we provide … because that’s a lot cheaper and easier to get off the ground. But then you can point the production environment to your own infrastructure.”
To be clear, Terminal isn’t looking to compete with ConsenSys-owned API provider INFURA, which served 5,000 daily users as of July 2019, according to INFURA product manager Michael Godsey. Hines told CoinDesk his legal complaint against ConsenSys founder Joseph Lubin, alleging the former employer owed Hines $13 million in unpaid profits and benefits, was resolved amicably out of court.
“We are planning to, hopefully, get every ConsenSys project onto Terminal and using Terminal,” Hines said. “I do think there are opportunities for us to work with several of them in the future.”
Terminal’s freemium business model is predicated on the hope that, like GitHub, some developers will eventually pay for premium support services.
“Alerting and notifications are just one feature in Terminal, but it is a feature we have been exploring the most to assist 0x developers,” engineer Jacob Evans, of the exchange startup 0x, told CoinDesk. “Terminal also has a number of great features that will help support developers at the prototyping and hackathon stage. It’s critical that developers can play around and experiment efficiently.”
With regards to such experiments, Sivarajah said Terminal is running roughly seven different nodes to support projects using blockchains like xDAI, Rootstock and POA, in addition to private testnets.
“A contract on ethereum can easily be deployed on any of the other networks that use the EVM [ethereum virtual machine] blockchain,” Sivarajah said, estimating two-dozen networks currently use the EVM. “We will also see which other frameworks are gaining traction.”
Traction will be the deciding factor. Dapp.com data suggests no ethereum-based dapp currently attracts more than 2,000 daily users.
If you build it, will they come?
From the perspective of Distributed Global partner Johnny Steindorff, a Terminal investor, part of this relates to how much manual work is required to maintain reliable Web3 applications.
“I think middleware is one of the biggest present-day opportunities to drive mainstream [blockchain] development and adoption,” Steindorff told CoinDesk.
Indeed, BlockCypher CEO Catheryne Nicholson told CoinDesk that “running ethereum infrastructure is really painful.” Yet her company has thousands of customers, ranging from rogue developer teams to enterprises, paying for such ethereum API access.
With more companies providing affordable support services across the ecosystem, Hines said, startups can avoid that hassle and focus on their core competency. He added that Terminal is currently raising a Series A, with aims to eventually offer self-hosted versions of the platform for developers who prefer not to rely on centralized websites.
“Most developers need redundancy,” BlockCypher’s Nicholson said, referring to how teams need backups in case one ethereum API provider has a hiccup. “It’s not one company eat all. You need multiple players to make that ecosystem work.”
Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has
US Senators Coercing Libra Partners is Un-American: Coinbase CEO
Facebook’s plan to launch Libra came under further pressure after its partners Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, and Stripe announced that they were leaving the digital currency project. And as it turned out, there was some political pushing involved.
Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent letters to the chief executive officers of Visa, Mastercard, and Stripe, wherein they asked the trio to quit Facebook’s Libra project. The politicians iterated that the social media giant had failed to respond to regulatory concerns related to money laundering, terrorist financing, economic stability, and monetary policy. They further reminded the executives about Facebook’s track of record of misusing users’ data.
“Your companies should be extremely cautious about moving ahead with a project that will foreseeably fuel the growth in global criminal activity,” the senators wrote.
The language turned threatening as both Schatz and Brown warned Visa CEO Alfred F. Kelly Jr., Stripe CEO Patrick Collinson, and Mastercard CEO and president Ajaypal Singh Banga of consequences should they not quit Libra. The senators intimidated the trio that they would impose additional scrutiny if they decide to move against their recommendations.
If you take this on, you can expect a high level of scrutiny from regulators not only on Libra-related payment activities, but on all payment activities,” they wrote.
Coinbase CEO Bashes US Senators
Facebook did not provide any statement on the matter. But Brian Armstrong, the chief executive of San Francisco-based Coinbase cryptocurrency exchange, strongly objected to the way lawmakers went after Libra members. In a thread published on Sunday, Armstrong called the senators’ behavior “un-American,” adding that they both were resorting to “intimidation tactics.”
“[It] doesn’t matter what you think of Libra. If it’s not a useful tool or innovation, people won’t use it. Why the need for the intimidation tactics? This would be called anti-competitive/monopolistic behavior if any private company did it,” – Armstrong tweeted.
“Do we want to have a centrally planned economy, or let 1,000 ideas be tried in a free market to see which ones break through and deliver real value? Breakthroughs are by definition contrarian ideas, otherwise they would have already have been tried.”
Avivah Litan, vice president at Gartner Research, raised similar concerns. In her interview with CNBC, the analyst noted that governments are afraid of losing their authority to emerging technology projects like Libra. She also mentioned bitcoin, a non-sovereign asset, for scaring governments with its potential to replace all their monopoly.
“In the case of Libra, you replace central authority with task force authority and big tech authority. In the case of Bitcoin, you just replace all central authority,” said Litan.
Coinbase Eyes European Growth After Winning Irish E-Money License
Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has been granted an e-money license by the Central Bank of Ireland.
Writing in a company blog Saturday, Coinbase UK CEO Zeeshan Feroz said the exchange is one of the very first firms to receive the license from the central bank, following a Dublin office opening a year ago.
The license will also help open up EU and European Economic Area (EEA) markets for Coinbase customers, Feroz said.
Speaking on the announcement, state-sponsored business development agency IDA Ireland – which was set up to attract foreign investment to Ireland – called the move a net positive for the local financial industry
As CEO Mike Shanahan put it:
“Coinbase’s choice of Dublin for this operation reinforces the strength of Ireland as a destination for financial services companies, providing a consistent, certain, pro-enterprise policy environment for businesses to grow and thrive.”
Coinbase was granted a U.K. e-money license by the Financial Conduct Authority in March 2018, allowing the exchange to operate as a money service in the country.
While the U.K. is currently an EU member state, its government is currently attempting to leave the economic bloc via the so-called Brexit in coming weeks or months. If it goes ahead, the separation would render Coinbase’s local license of limited benefit.
Earlier this month, Coinbase gained access to the UK’s Faster Payment Scheme through ClearBank following a split with banking partner Barclays that temporarily caused deposit and withdrawal issues for users.
Bitcoin Exchange Coinbase Dives Into European Expansion, Reaches Milestone With Coveted E-money License
Coinbase, the leading cryptocurrency trading platform in the US, just scored a major victory for its expansion plans in Europe.
Regulators from the Central Bank of Ireland have granted the San Francisco-based exchange an e-money license, making it one of only a few companies in the space to obtain such approval.
The company says its latest milestone will allow it to expand its operations in Ireland and across some its fastest-growing markets. Coinbase first stepped into Ireland at the end of 2018 when it opened a new office in Dublin, a hotspot in the growing European digital economy.
Management says its expansion in Ireland represents a huge opportunity for Coinbase to grow its operations in Europe at large.
According to the announcement,
“[The approval from the Central Bank of Ireland] will also allow us to secure passporting for our customers across the EU and EEA. We are committed to ensuring that our customers have the same safeguarding and security as any regulated financial institution, and the approval of a second European regulatory authority demonstrates our position as the world’s most trusted cryptocurrency platform.”
Globally, the license will facilitate Coinbase’s ultimate mission of leading the new decentralized financial movement.
The company remains focused on challenging legacy banking by building a new open, crypto-based system that can more easily people around the world who have no bank accounts or are lacking affordable financial services.