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Stripe-Backed Stellar Places a New Bet on Blockchain in the Developing World (fortune.com)
89 points by serg_chernata on May 12, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 34 comments

I was kinda excited to see this and the price jump, because I thought I still had the 1,000 Lumens from when they were giving them away at launch. Turns out they accidentally corrupted all accounts created before some date in 2014, so my password and recovery code don't work and there's no way to recover. That doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

IIRC There were a very small number of accounts that were corrupted during our soft launch period. I think it was something like only the first 1000 wallets were affected, but I could be off... it was a long time ago. Did you happen to work for stripe at the time? I feel like it was only the prelaunch wallets we gave out during our client testing period that got hosed beyond recovery.

But other than that, most people who lost their accounts tend to have bad password management skills, frankly. They certainly could also be victims of bugs in our client... it turns out one of our too ambitious goals during our early days was building a banking-grade wallet experience that offered broad browser support with as few developers as we were. Our support queues however were a sobering lesson in how bad passwords are for security and usability and it was just too much for our community manager and us on the dev team to handle. Our bad... we were trying our hardest believe me.

I apologize if you got hosed because of a bug. I do know that all of my friends and family accounts (6 of the earliest accounts in the system post launch) were able to successfully upgrade to the new wallet and network as late as sunday of last week. They. like you I imagine, got their free lumens and then promptly forgot about the project. They all scrambled to update their wallets when the craziness was going on at the end of last week with lumens and they all upgraded fine.

I'd be happy to help you troubleshoot you wallet to see if we can recover you lumens... email me at scott@stellar.org and we can work through it privately if you like. I can't guarantee much, however... I'm presently starting on a leave of absence for the next month or so and so the time I can dedicate to support is pretty truncated at the moment.

Which service do I use to log in to the account I created when Stellar first launched?


Hmmm I just realized I got 6000 back in 2014 and they're now worth $220... I was able to get into my account just fine. Had to upgrade to lumens or whatever.

Likewise. This comment made me check. I have the coins in there but I can't move them? Says I need 20 XLM sent to me? This is weird.

Every account in stellar must keep a bond that "pays" for the storage they use in the distributed account database. This bond is represented by an enforced minimum balance on your account that scales with the number of sub entries for your account.

Practically: Most accounts can only spend down to their last 20 lumens, the most common bond amount for a minimal account. To "redeem" the bond and spend the last 20 lumens you have to issue a special "account merge" operation that is logically distinct from the normal payment operation.

....so why do I have 6000 XLM in there that doesn't count?

So the thing they gave for free back when it was worthless and they needed some free word of mouth is unaccessible for everyone who redeemed it now that it has some value? Certainly sounds like an accident :)

In my opinion, all crypto-currency ventures which rely on their token suddenly becoming money -- meaning it's liquid enough to absorb large sums in and out of traditional currencies -- will fail. Currently, only the Bitcoin market has sufficient depth to support a reasonable level of trade, since merchants -- as things stand now -- need to pay their bills in traditional currency.

It's a bit like creating a Snapchat/Instagram Stories competitor, claiming that you have a solution that lets everyone in the world chat with each other. All that needs to happen is that everyone switch to your protocol. And with money it's even worse, since people are not just risking incompatibility, but the loss of real wealth, in case things don't work out as intended for the users. The market, not the inventors, decides to what extent a given token can be used to transfer value, by doing market making at the exchanges which trade these tokens for whichever currency people's paychecks are denominated in.

Bitcoin becoming reasonably liquid is a damn-near miracle, in my opinion. I thoroughly doubt any crypto-currency that doesn't substantially improve upon Bitcoin will ever attract enough liquidity to become useful for tranferring value (and even in this case, I think it's much more likely that Bitcoin will just adopt whichever features that make this competitor superior).

> it's much more likely that Bitcoin will just adopt whichever features that make this competitor superior

since the bitcoin community continues to fail to adopt the most basic measures to do something about its scalability issue (transaction fees >> $1, confirmations times >> 1h), i highly doubt that this is likely. Just like with megacorps and startups, all the money in the world can't buy you out of internal divisions and politicking.

Bitcoin shares the same limitations in scalability as all other blockchain-based crypto-currencies. The only difference is that Bitcoin is so popular that its limitations, scalability-wise, are becoming obvious.

There is no easy fix to adopt, so nothing has happened. Raising the block size isn't a fix, it just pushes the decentralization/throughput-equilibrium further towards "throughput" and further away from "decentralization".

> pushes the decentralization/throughput-equilibrium further towards "throughput" and further away from "decentralization".

It's rare to see a crypto advocate admit that such a tradeoff exists!

It should be noted that our current financial system has the exact same limitation: an international bank transfer (SWIFT) costs roughly $35, which makes it entirely unsuitable for consumer-to-merchant transactions. This is fixed by using credit instruments to clear payments going from consumers to merchants, such as is done by VISA, MasterCard etc.

A similar (VISA-like) clearing system can be deployed on top of Bitcoin, thus making it behave exactly as our current financial system does today. The lowest layer (Bitcoins on the blockchain/USD in a bank account) acts as the store of value, while protocols on top of this layer are used to make consumer payments sufficiently cheap.

$35 is the retail charge for the transaction though, not what it actually costs - so e.g. within SEPA payments are free.

The difficult bit of retail payments is not clearing but fraud and disputes, which bitcoin tends to wash its hands of.

My bank charges 20DKK (~$3) for a SEPA transaction. I'd be really interested if you could show me a Danish bank that offers free SEPA transfers.

As for dispute resolution, I think it would be appropriate for this to be a third protocol layer -- on top of VISA-style clearing. I see no reason the clearing layer should handle this as well (and incorporating it into the Bitcoin layer would be true insanity, in my opinion). Nor do I see a reason it should be difficult. Costly, perhaps, but it's a simple matter of finding a mutually trusted third party, who won't release funds to the merchant until the consumer has received the goods.

"it's much more likely that Bitcoin will just adopt whichever features that make this competitor superior)." Yes. Particularly with Sidechains. Stripe is great but Stellar has huge headwinds.

Uh, Mt. Gox on your resume isn't a good thing. It was a horrible failure that cost a lot of people a lot of money and was revealed to have security practices not suitable for a small business, let alone a financial institution. So no, we shouldn't pay attention to this dime-a-dozen startup because it's Jeb McCaleb.

Pay attention because:

1. Core algorithm is based on consensus of vetted participants, rather than cheapest electricity -- Bitcoin.

2. Much of the early core code came from Graydon Hoare, designer of Rust.

3. Consensus algorithm endorsed by analysis from David Mazieres -- bcrypt, Stanford.

And no, I have no association of any sort with Stellar.

Business is mostly a series of failures, but failures are better than having done nothing.

as I understand, he sold mt.gox to its current owners long before the attack, which is also before they conducted a rewrite, that subsequently allowed for the attack.

yeah, about that.


The deal used a contract McCaleb and Karpeles worked out between them, without either of them using a lawyer. It included terms such as:

> the Seller is uncertain if mtgox.com is compliant or not with any applicable U.S. code or statute, or law of any country.

> The buyer agrees to indemnify Seller against any legal action that is taken against Buyer or Seller with regards to mtgox.com or anything acquired under this agreement.

It was only in April, after the handover, that Karpeles realised that 80,000 bitcoins (then worth $62,400) had already been missing when he bought Mt. Gox. McCaleb told him "maybe you don't really need to worry about it" and suggested he buy up more BTC to cover the shortfall, shuffle his internal accounts around, get an investor or just mine more himself - but didn’t offer any explanation of where the coins might have got to or how.

It's entirely unclear that McCaleb has the attention to detail robust financial systems require.

Well, would you want something like this run by someone who has learned that lesson, or by someone who hasn't? :)

Same thing with Ripple.

Nice to hear there are some actual news behind the price development of altcoins. The market has been maybe even too lucrative during the past few weeks. For example, my random purchase of Lumens with 20€ just two weeks ago is currently sitting at 180€.

What if the upward price pressure is actually people buying massive amounts of bitcoin to pay off new ShadowBrokers-based ransomware? And the corresponding rise in alts is the perpetrators using the alts to launder the ransom?

Here is a plausible explanation: People can't convert to local currency so they are investing in anything to diversify.


>>> why Bitcoin has been soaring: >>> Chinese exchanges are temporarily banned from margin trading, which has significantly cut down on the number of people shorting. (which is what held Bitcoin's price down for so long) >>> Bitfinex, one of the most high volume exchanges, lost the ability to withdraw fiat. This literally meant the only way to get funds off of it, was to buy Bitcoin.

That seems unlikely given the volumes of trading we've been seeing. We probably should have heard about a spike in ransomware last week if there is a causal relationship.

Disclosure: I work for stellar and I have no clue what caused the spike in trading and price.

Still doesn't prove causality of course, but there's an article on the front page at this very moment about a spike in ransomware. And most ransomware (and ransom in general) is paid quietly, not discussed publicly. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14324129

Yes, I'm well aware. And if you look at the dashboard for the botnet (https://intel.malwaretech.com/botnet/wcrypt/?t=24h&bid=all) it looks like we're dealing with ~80000 infected hosts.

Unless I'm reading things wrongs (and that certainly could be) it seems like the ransom from those hosts would still be several orders of magnitude lower than the new money that appears to be coming into the exchanges.

Could it have been spillover hype leading up to the activation of Segwit on Litecoin?

Sure, could be. I mean, from my perspective the whole term ICO has come out of nowhere and there could also be some bullshit hype money around that too. I hadn't heard the term until a couple months ago and now there are articles about my employer having done one.

I've given up trying to guess the markets in cryptocurrencies... I wouldn't have the first clue how to divine any accurate insight from their movement alone. To me, there has been tons of really weird phenomena in the behavior of the altcoin markets for a while now.

I could also just be stupid :)

How do the alts (other than zcash and monero) help launder bitcoin?

I guess if someone did BTC -> exchange A -> altcoin -> exchange B -> BTC that's theoretically traceable but fairly difficult in practice.

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