IOTA Is Not The Next Bitcoin

This is an impromptu commentary arising from my reading of the interesting Seeking Alpha article titled “The Next Bitcoin? Take A Hard Look At IOTA” by Quad 7 Capital. I posted a comment to the article with questions about what exactly is IOTA’s value proposition. Some of the reader comments on the article helped me but I still wanted more so I did some more digging and thinking. My commentary below is driven by trying to understand the cryptocurrency phenomenon and the macro-economic implications of the distributed ledger, and “block-chain” or “tangle” type technology as it relates to money.

Background: Bitcoin observations

Bitcoin is the first cryptocurrency that uses block-chain technology and a distributed ledger system to allow individuals to collect and use digital tokens to conduct transactions, and that has obtained extreme notoriety. The hype around Bitcoin and increasingly popular alt-coins and me-to-coins does not appear to match up with actual foreseeable durable practical utility as money. Sound money (currency) should be a stable store of value and efficient unit of account for transactions. So far, the promise of “naked” cryptocurrencies [1] such as Bitcoin do not appear to fit the bill for a new sound money system. Note, those that subscribe to the conventional economic orthodoxy probably are going to have trouble seeing the value of any cryptocurrency system that is adopting sound money principles. Some folks simply are not able yet to acknowledge that current centrally planned monetary policies may be damaging and a significant reason for the cryptocurrency phenomenon.

What I find important about the Bitcoin phenomenon is that it is based on the fundamental human desire of some to innovate and to be free; to be free of financial repression; to be free of financial repression by a sovereign authority [2]. However, the Bitcoin phenomenon appears to have morphed into a speculative mania divorced from economic and practical reality.

My sense is that the current Bitcoin phenomenon is now driven mostly by a speculative greed-based “greater fool” theory and “fear-of-missing-out” (FOMO). It currently is not about more efficient resource allocation or productivity, but rather is essentially an open Ponzi-like scheme where players all believe they are smarter than most of the others; and/or where the players believe they will just get lucky regarding timing for bailing out when there is a loss of confidence. The price of Bitcoin right now does not appear to be linked to a durable commensurate inherent utility of Bitcoin as a unit of account for conducting most transactions or as a long-term store of value. The Bitcoin speculation mania is driven by a positive feed-back loop reflexivity meme. Despite the flawed, unrealistic, fictional aspects of the narrative around Bitcoin there is enough of a resonating message that is reflexively driving the Bitcoin price up. The danger is that many speculators that get into Bitcoin will become addicted to or trapped in this “asset” via powerful psychological confirmation bias when price goes up and/or incapacitated by cognitive dissonance when price goes down.

What is an IOTA token?

The IOTA token is supposedly a layer of crypto technology (naked cryptocurrency) that sits on top of a base technology platform involving the IOTA tangle distributed ledger. The value proposition of the IOTA token is that it allows a user to conduct transactions on the IOTA tangle distributed ledger that assertedly has benefits over other block-chain distributed ledger systems (see above reference SA article). The IOTA user can be a human but for now is mainly autonomous IOTs (“internet-of-things” machines) transacting peer-to-peer transactions. The IOTA platform is designed to allow users to trade IOTA tokens or create their own non-naked tokens and trade the same. The concept of non-naked cryptos trading on a distributed ledger system is very interesting but beyond the scope of this article.

The IOTA token (cryptocurrency) is not a block-chain token and therefore is not created by mining a block-chain. All of the IOTA tokens have been created at inception with the “genesis” transaction site in the tangle ledger. The IOTA platform is based on a distributed “tangle” ledger that is different from a block-chain ledger system. The IOTA tangle ledger was created (started) with a genesis transaction site, that distributed all the tokens at inception to a number of founder site addresses, that then have been expanded upon by users to create the IOTA tangle ledger. Therefore, the activity of users of the system propagates the tangle distributed ledger without fees or miners, or creation of new tokens.

To propagate the Bitcoin ledger miners need to be induced to do computational work, by payment of fees paid in Bitcoin units. One of the problems with the Bitcoin system is that as more people use the system the slower it gets (the scalability problem) and the higher the fees become to process a transaction. In theory the IOTA distributed tangle ledger gets faster (and more secure) as more people use it. The cost of using the IOTA ledger to process a transaction is the cost of the user’s computational effort to verify two randomly selected existing prior tangle ledger sites (transactions). IOTA can be thought of as a flexible cooperative work-to-play platform that enhances the overall value of the system, via second order type network effect, that is the tangle ledger becomes more valuable because it is more secure.

IOTA may have superior utility to a Bitcoin (or other “naked” block-chain) cryptocurrency system because of its proposed costless scalability, among other proposed benefits. IOTA arguably could eclipse Bitcoin as a cryptocurrency because of IOTA’s superior utility for more efficiently processing transactions. My guess is that there are many value propositions that can be (will be) proposed that are based on a network effect, but it does not mean that the system will ever get adopted or displace an existing system/network effect. In any case, as we have seen from Bitcoin price action, there are crypto speculators that do not really care about fundamental practical utility of any specific cryptocurrency.

Right now, the cost of Bitcoin goes up because it becomes more costly to mine Bitcoins as more people mine Bitcoin (because of price escalation reflexivity in connection with the hashing algorithm), and not because more users use Bitcoin to conduct routine transactions. For IOTA tokens there is no cost of production because all the tokens already exist. The cost of IOTA is front loaded and deferred until dilution occurs presumably when the IOTA system founders cash out their stash of undistributed tokens. Bitcoin also has the problem of future dilution from dissemination of a large hoarded stash of tokens that were mined early on at very low costs when the crypto was created. Value of IOTA tokens are linked to the increased utility and become more valuable from first and second order network effects.

It seems to be a stretch to assert that currently Bitcoin value is associated with a true “network effect”. Bitcoin price goes up not because of enhanced use of the system for transactions, but rather because the price trend is steeply up at the moment and FOMO creates speculative demand. The concern for investors is that Bitcoin demand will vanish when speculators are tapped-out and/or lose confidence. There does not seem to be a sufficient base level of competitive practical utility for Bitcoin that will support any value proposition for Bitcoin when speculative price appreciation disappears, and users migrate to the numerous more utilitarian alternative cryptos or other tangible stores of value.

Unanswered questions about IOTA

What still is not clear to me is how the original finite pool of IOTA tokens is distributed and marketed to the public; or what prevents expansion of the pool in the future. And who stands to gain from the selling/distributing undistributed tokens. Also, there does not seem to be a reasonable simple direct trusted system for obtaining and holding IOTA tokens yet.

The above referenced Quad 7 Capital SA article does not explain how token distribution works beyond the genesis transaction, and does not explain how distribution will (or will not) benefit early or new adopters versus providing windfall gains to originators of IOTA. I reviewed the Popov/IOTA white paper and could not find relevant answers to my questions. Here is an excerpt of what I did find (at page 2):

https://static.seekingalpha.com/uploads/2017/12/18/16211862-15136420530375073.png

For those readers who are interested I found what appears to be an IOTA video presentation that provides some additional interesting information but also it did not answer my questions.

After writing this article I found a good SA article titled “IOTA – IoT Capable Technology And The Alternative To Blockchain” by Keyanoush Razavidinanithat provides a more technical comprehensive explanation of the block-chain in comparison to the IOTA tangle ledger. Also, the following excerpt from Razavidinani provides interesting comments on how the founder-pool of IOTA tokens may be distributed in the future.

As soon as official partnerships are announced and new investments into IOTA will be declared, a redistribution of IOTA tokens will begin, having major influence on the price. As stated before, all tokens have been mined and at the beginning only a few addresses contained the majority of tokens. It is interesting to follow the distribution of tokens, because one of the main conflict points of anyone reading this may be that the developers of IOTA make a big profit on their IOTA tokens selling them on the market. The market is trading with a fraction of available tokens and distributing all tokens once may seem illogical adding high amount of liquidity and devaluing the token.

Until there is clarification and dissemination of information by IOTA there will be uncertainty about the enterprise, investment risk and the taint perhaps of a Ponzi-like scheme.

The cryptocurrency revolution

The cryptocurrency phenomenon seems crucially linked to the recognition of the power and utility of block-chain and other distributed ledger systems that solve the double-spending problem. Another important driving force is the desire by many to be free – to be free of something – what that is specifically I will leave up to the reader to ponder. The cryptocurrency revolution is giving hope to the idea that via innovation there might be a way to secure a better more equitable, efficient and durable currency system based on sound money principles.

From time immemorial sovereign authorities have resorted to debasing the existing money supply – as a way of expropriating and redistributing wealth from the public [3]. The 2008 financial crisis was a very notable benchmark in exposing what some view to be extant whole sale massive combined governmental and institutional fraud in furtherance of the status quo. The rule of law and legal liability was effectively suspended as it relates to the “too-big-to-fail” financial players. The cryptocurrency revolution appears to be driven in large part by the sentiment that the powers at-be “saved the system” by simply papering over the problem with more printed easy-money.

If IOTA is to attract investors, it probably needs to articulate a clearer value proposition and a logical mechanism for action and adoption, that taps the human desire for freedom, liberty, sound money, and free-markets, and eschews the Ponzi-like modus operandi. An IOTA narrative needs to be compelling, simple and inexorably resonate both cognitively and viscerally with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, and goes beyond simply extolling how great it will be to have autonomous internet-of-things (IOTs) all seamlessly exchanging cryptos while babysitting humans. Just to be clear I think IOTA presents some very interesting concepts and I hope to learn more about how it might work as a practical investment opportunity.

Notes

1 A “naked” cryptocurrency as used in this article denotes a crypto that is not linked to tangible property rights or other exogenous bundle of legal rights.

2 The point of this article is not to debate whether there is or is not “financial repression” or debate the mechanism of action for such repression or explain the cause of the same. The intent is to identify that there is a public sentiment about “financial repression” and that it is a perceived reason for the cryptocurrency phenomenon. Obviously, the term “financial repression” might be viewed as unduly pejorative by some who believe in the conventional current economic theories and/or want to maintain the status quo monetary policies – that the organic cryptocurrency revolution might disrupt someday. Identifying and understanding the potential fundamental driving forces behind the cryptocurrency phenomenon is critical to assessing specific value propositions proposed by Bitcoin, IOTA or any other disruptive technology, and the investment potential therein for an investor.

3 I believe the extant debasement of currency is a problem (this is not a novel concern or concept). My concern is that debasement of the currency can result in inefficient resource allocation, unproductive consumption, an inequitable wealth gap, price inflation/stagflation, and/or currency collapse and a financial system reset, but this is beyond the scope of this article.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

In Silicon Valley, much-feared tax bill pays dividends for workers

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The U.S. tax overhaul is a boon to Silicon Valley technology companies like Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), which will enjoy big tax cuts and the chance to bring back billions of dollars from overseas at a reduced rate.

And contrary to the dire warnings of California officials, a large swath of Bay Area workers and their families stand to get a tax break as well, even with new limits on state and local tax deductions.

California has the highest state income tax in the nation, and Governor Jerry Brown has called the new tax bill “evil in the extreme.”

Nonetheless, many in Silicon Valley stand to benefit. Startup employees, freelancers and venture capital investors are among those who will get new tax benefits or keep those they already have, tax experts said.

Even some of the middle- and upper-income professionals who form the core of the technology industry workforce will still get significant tax cuts, while most others will see little change, they said.

The new $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions will have a less dramatic effect than feared because such deductions in many cases had already been rendered moot by the alternative minimum tax (AMT), a mechanism for assuring that the well-heeled pay at least 26 percent of their income in taxes.

“There is a lot of noise about workers in California, New Jersey, New York and Illinois (facing higher taxes), but 80 percent of our clients there were already paying the alternative minimum tax so they don’t benefit from the state and local deductions,” said Jack Meccia, a tax associate at financial planning firm Vestboard, which works with several hundred individuals in tech.

The new law alters the AMT in a way that vastly reduces the number of people who have to pay it, from more than 5 million to an estimated 200,000 next year, according to the Tax Policy Center. The AMT dynamics, combined with reduced overall tax rates and the doubling of the standard deduction to $24,000 should hold most Bay Area tax bills steady, said Bob McGrath, tax director at accounting firm Burr Pilger Mayer.

Estimates by three experts, using roughly similar assumptions, show that a home-owning couple earning a combined $250,000 in Silicon Valley would likely see an increase or decrease in their tax bill of a few hundred dollars.

A married couple with no children who rent a home and make a combined $150,000 would see a $3,900 tax cut, estimated Annette Nellen, who directs the master’s degree in taxation program at San Jose State University.

Low-income workers will see tax cuts too, though the dollar amounts are small.

Bob Emmett, a single, 73-year-old security officer who lives in San Jose, criticized the bill as “designed to help the rich.”

Nellen estimated that Emmett, who rents an apartment, has no children and earns $16 an hour in addition to some social security income, would see a $546 cut in taxes.

FILE PHOTO – The Google logo is pictured atop an office building in Irvine, California, U.S. August 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Critics of the tax bill note that the individual tax cuts will disappear after 2025, and that most of the benefits flow to the corporations and the wealthiest individuals, even if lower-income people get some tax relief.

Health insurance premiums for Californians are also likely to rise substantially as a result of the repeal of fines for those who refuse to obtain health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. And even if Bay Area residents mostly enjoy some tax cuts, they gain much less than those in low-tax states.

STARTUP WINNERS

Employees in Silicon Valley, the world’s startup capital, scored two major victories in the tax bill.

First, startup employees can hold off on paying taxes related to stock options they exercised. That can be a big help if a company is still private, since in that situation employees have to pay tax even before they can earn cash from selling shares.

Startup employees will also have more opportunity to exercise what are known as “incentive stock options” with less chance of being on the hook for the alternative minimum tax, according to Mark Setzen, a long-time certified public accountant in Silicon Valley.

Also coming out ahead are independent contractors, ranging from engineers to marketers to caterers, who stand to benefit from a new 20 percent deduction of business income.

Arun Sood, a freelance software engineer in San Francisco who makes about $150,000 annually, said he accrues few deductions because he rents his home, holds no debt and has no children. Now he gets a big new deduction and a lower tax rate.

“Looking at this selfishly, it’s going to be a positive impact,” said Sood, who has freelanced for Axios, Cisco and Macy‘s.

The tax plan mostly preserves a tax break for venture capitalists that had been in jeopardy. The so-called carried interest provision lets venture capitalists book the 20 percent fee they typically take on a profitable investment as a capital gain, which carries a lower tax rate than ordinary income, even though the venture investors do not put up any of their personal capital.

Now the capital gains rate will apply only to investments held at least three years — a limitation that venture capitalists said would come into play only occasionally.

Silicon Valley executives with high salaries will take home extra money, too, because language in the current tax law known as the Pease Limitation had already limited their deductions, said Andrew Mattson, a tax partner serving technology industry clients at accountancy Moss Adams.

Executives also may see base pay rise in coming years. The tax bill removes corporate tax breaks for performance bonuses, which is already leading companies to reconsider pay packages for chief-level executives, lawyers said.

Reporting by Paresh Dave, Heather Somerville, Jeffrey Dastin and Salvador Rodriguez; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Lisa Shumaker

It's Time to Take Magic Leap Seriously

The last time I visited Magic Leap founder Rony Abovitz at the company’s secretive Florida offices, he told me about the time he met Beaker, the meeping beeping scientist on the Muppet Show. Not the character Beaker, but the real Beaker. The guy was a film director at creator Jim Henson’s studio, Abovitz explained enthusiastically. “He’s tall, he looks just like Beaker and he acts like Beaker! You’re like, ‘How do I know him?’ And then you find out he was the influence behind Beaker, and it all sort of makes sense,” he said. Of the many celebrities Abovitz has met, Beaker was clearly a highlight.

“By the way,” he said. “The Muppet Show plus Star Wars equals Magic Leap in my head.”

In the absence of a product or even a prototype, this is the kind of wacky description we’ve had to work with in our efforts to understand Magic Leap over the last few years. The heavy dose of whimsy makes it almost too easy to write off the startup’s boastful promise to be a leading contender in the race to dominate augmented reality. After all, Microsoft began shipping its HoloLens headset to developers nearly two years ago, in March of 2016. By this point, tech’s big five all have their own version of an augmented reality Manhattan Project on the hunch that the next big computing platform will emerge from the fusion of physical and digital assets through a set of goggles. Why bet on this Florida startup with its quixotic founder when Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg and their peers are pouring resources into figuring it out?

The answer becomes apparent in this week’s announcement that, at long last, Magic Leap has unveiled a prototype and will make its headset available with developer tools in 2018. The goggles, dubbed the Magic Leap One, come with a controller and battery pack the size of my palm, and have a steampunk vibe. They’re sleek, with bug-eyed lenses, and a Rolling Stone preview suggests they’ll be expensive. Truthfully, there’s not much more information available. Developers haven’t tried them, so it’s impossible to compare them directly to other available prototypes. But what’s distinctive about these glasses is that they exist at all—that Magic Leap has finally come forth with evidence that its technology, which until now has only been seen by those of us who have signed lengthy and complicated nondisclosure agreements, will have form.

Right now, this is enough. As important as this next computing platform will be—Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe has even called artificial reality the final platform—to the way we conduct business, entertain ourselves, and generally communicate, it is many years out. Today’s version of augmented reality is restricted to Snap lenses and Pokemon Go or factory workers reading manuals through Google Glass. For AR goggles to take off, computing power must advance, batteries must shrink, and we must design the new applications that will give us reason to want to purchase a pair for ourselves. Only then will we have a market—or more likely, many types of markets—for this technology.

Magic Leap is among a small group of companies that have the resources and backing to develop products for this future. It has raised $1.9 billion so far, having closed its most recent round earlier this fall. Board members include Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Alibaba executive chairman Joe Tsai. The company has strong ties to Hollywood, and Steven Spielberg is reportedly an investor. It has inked entertainment-focused partnerships like one with Lucasfilm’s ILMxLAB (Magic Leap hired ILM cofounder John Gaeta in October). At the company’s helm is a proven entrepreneur; Abovitz sold a medical robotics company in 2013 for $1.65 billion.

Which brings us back to Abovitz’s office. In addition to a sculpture of Beaker, the room is cluttered with all sorts of toys and games and prizes, like the unicorn head propped atop a punching bag or the many lanyards from past Star Trek conventions. Each memento has a story, which Abovitz tends to recount in Star Wars metaphors and with regular references to Charlie Bucket’s golden ticket. Abovitz is a very different type of leader than the set of California CEOs rushing headlong toward tech’s future. He is gentle—a life-long vegetarian who showed me photos of one of his dogs the first time I met him, and who can always make room for a discarded pet in need of a home. His friends and colleagues describe him as a person with a heart that is big and soft and full. (Sometimes, too much so. As a manager, he shies away from conflict.) The science fiction he’s always spinning has happy endings.

Abovitz pairs this empathy with a grand vision for Magic Leap that extends well beyond the gaming device we saw this week. This prototype is a mere step on the road to an even more powerful computing breakthrough. “As I learn more about how the brain works, it’s just hundreds of thousands of tiny neural connections and each neuron is filled with tiny substructures, and those all might be incredibly powerful quantum computers themselves,” Abovitz told me last year. “Magic Leap is just functioning as training wheels to begin to unlock that.” Someday, he explained, we won’t need goggles to map digital assets to reality; we’ll be able to program our brains directly.

It’s possible that augmented reality will be the most important computing shift of our lifetime. Magic Leap’s position as the kooky outsider ensures that the first iterations of this technology won’t only reflect the limited perspective of already-anointed West Coast oligarchs. Yes, the company’s a little weird. Sure, it’s following an unconventional path. But given what’s at stake—the future of how we interact with our environments and each other—infusing a little Florida and stirring in a dose of Hollywood means we’ll get a technology that stretches beyond the prevailing tech groupthink. With this week’s prototype, it’s clear the company is on track to be a serious contender, en route to one possible version of the future: a Muppets-plus-Star Wars version that sounds damn appealing.

U.S. lawmakers seek temporary extension to internet spying program

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives are working to build support to temporarily extend the National Security Agency’s expiring internet surveillance program by tucking it into a stop-gap funding measure, lawmakers said.

The month-long extension of the surveillance law, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, would punt a contentious national security issue into the new year in an attempt to buy lawmakers more time to hash out differences over various proposed privacy reforms.

Lawmakers leaving a Republican conference meeting on Wednesday evening said it was not clear whether the stop-gap bill had enough support to avert a partial government shutdown on Saturday, or whether the possible addition of the Section 702 extension would impact its chances for passage. It remained possible lawmakers would vote on the short-term extension separate from the spending bill.

Absent congressional action the law, which allows the NSA to collect vast amounts of digital communications from foreign suspects living outside the United States, will expire on Dec. 31.

Earlier in the day, House Republicans retreated from a plan to vote on a stand-alone measure to renew Section 702 until 2021 amid sizable opposition from both parties that stemmed from concerns the bill would violate U.S. privacy rights.

Some U.S. officials have recently said that deadline may not ultimately matter and that the program can lawfully continue through April due to the way it is annually certified.

But lawmakers and the White House still view the law’s end-year expiration as significant.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, arrives for a Republican conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., December 20, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

“I think clearly we need the reauthorization for FISA, and that is expected we’ll get that done” before the end of the year, Marc Short, the White House’s legislative director, said Wednesday on MSNBC.

U.S. intelligence officials consider Section 702 among the most vital of tools at their disposal to thwart threats to national security and American allies.

The law allows the NSA to collect vast amounts of digital communications from foreign suspects living outside the United States.

But the program incidentally gathers communications of Americans for a variety of technical reasons, including if they communicate with a foreign target living overseas.

Those communications can then be subject to searches without a warrant, including by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill in November that would partially restrict the U.S. government’s ability to review American data by requiring a warrant in some cases.

(This story has been refiled to correct typographical error in headline)

Reporting by Dustin Volz and Richard Cowan, additional reporting by Timothy Ahmann; Editing by Chris Reese and Lisa Shumaker

Bitcoin: Coinbase Users Get ‘Cash’ Windfall

Coinbase, the most popular U.S. crypto-currency exchange, released “Bitcoin Cash” — a new currency created this summer and currently worth around $3,000 — into many customer accounts on Tuesday evening.

The decision came as a surprise since Coinbase had previously said it would deliver the Bitcoin Cash, which is owed to anyone who held bitcoin on or before August, early in 2018.

The move caused the price of bitcoin, which started the day around $19,000, to drop sharply. Shortly after Coinbase announced the news, the price fell below $16,000 but has since risen closer to $17,000 according to Coindesk.

Bitcoin Cash, meanwhile, has soared nearly 50% in the last 24 hours, from around $2,100 to a brief high of around $3,600, and is now the third most valuable digital currency after bitcoin and Ethereum.

Here is what the announcement looked like on Coinbase:

While the arrival of Bitcoin Cash amounts to a windfall for Coinbase customer, it also has the potential to create a nightmare when it comes to dealing with the IRS. As Fortune explained last month, some lawyers think Bitcoin Cash could amount to a taxable event like a dividend while others believe the tax obligation will only arise when they sell it.

A schism in bitcoin

The creation of Bitcoin Cash took place this summer following a bitter schism between bitcoin insiders. It’s essentially a clone of the original currency, which was created in 2009, but with “blocks” that are twice are as big. (Blocks are the units that make up a blockchain, a type of software that contain a permanent ledger of transactions).

When it arrived, Bitcoin Cash replicated every record found on the original bitcoin blockchain — including the existing distribution of bitcoin wealth. As such, everyone who possessed bitcoin received an equal amount of Bitcoin Cash.

Coinbase initially said it would not distribute the Bitcoin Cash, in part because it was wary of recognizing “forked” versions of the original currency. But following an outcry, and a threatened class action suit, the company relented.

Meanwhile, others who did not rely on a third party custodian like Coinbase to hold their bitcoin had immediate access to the Bitcoin Cash, and have been trading it in the market.

In the short term, the widespread distribution of Bitcoin Cash is likely to intensify the speculative mania surrounding crypto-currency, which some are warning is a bubble. In the longer term, Bitcoin Cash will also be a test of the viability of “forks” from the original bitcoin, including whether their proliferation will pose a threat to the larger market (one longtime bitcoin advocate notably called Bitcoin Cash a “dangerous trick“).

For companies like Coinbase, the arrival of forks also present engineering and security challenges that they must accommodate. In its blog post, Coinbase explained its decision to support Bitcoin Cash as follows: “We have been monitoring the Bitcoin Cash network over the last few months and have decided to enable full support including the ability to buy, sell, send and receive. Factors we considered include developer and community support, security, stability, market price and trading volume.”

This is part of Fortune’s new initiative, The Ledger, a trusted news source at the intersection of tech and finance. For more on The Ledger, click here.

Kubernetes 1.9 brings beta support for Windows apps

Video: Cloud computing: Is geography the next big challenge?

Earlier this year, Kubernetes knocked off the last of its rivals and became the cloud container orchestration program. And, since Amazon Web Services (AWS) has adopted Kubernetes, the container management program is available on all serious cloud platforms. So, it couldn’t be a better time for Kubernetes 1.9 to arrive.

This release boasts a richer feature set and improved stability. One highlight is that Apps Workloads application programming interface (API) is now stable and available for general use. This puts the DaemonSet, Deployment, ReplicaSet, and StatefulSet APIs together to form the foundation for long-running Kubernetes stateless and stateful workloads. The Batch Workloads API (Job and CronJob), however, are still in beta and not part of this effort and will have a separate path to GA stability.

Deployment and ReplicaSet, two of the most commonly used objects in Kubernetes, are also stable now. SIG Apps has applied the lessons learned along the way to all four resource kinds over the last several release cycles, enabling DaemonSet and StatefulSet to join.

The General Availability (GA) version 1 designation means these APIs and components have been hardened for production. It also means they come with the guarantee of long-term backward compatibility.

Kubernetes was originally developed for Linux systems, but there’s been a demand for Kubernetes to run Windows workloads as well. This is in addition to making Kubernetes available for Linux containers on Azure. Kubernetes for Linux on Azure has been around since February. Then, in October, Microsoft announced a dedicated Azure Container Service for Kubernetes. Microsoft showed its commitment early on by buying Kubernetes vendor Deis. Running Windows apps on Docker on Windows Server, while managing them with Kubernetes, is now in beta.

From its start, Kubernetes has supported multiple options for persistent data storage, including commonly used NFS or iSCSI, along with native support for storage solutions from the major public and private cloud providers. While more storage options have been added, adding volume plugins for new storage systems, however, has been a challenge.

Kubernetes developers are addressing this by adopting Container Storage Interface (CSI). This is a cross-industry standards initiative. Its aim is to lower the barrier for cloud native storage development while ensure compatibility. SIG-Storage and the CSI Community are collaborating to deliver a single Kubernetes interface for provisioning, attaching, and mounting storage.

In this release, CSI has been adopted in an alpha implementation. It must be explicitly enabled and is not recommended for production usage. The goal is to make installing new volume plugins as easy as deploying a pod. It will enable third-party storage providers to develop their solutions without the building it into the core Kubernetes codebase.

The Kubernetes developers are, as CoreOS engineer Eric Chiang blogged, the “Kubernetes project is committed to enabling feature development outside of core.” That’s because, as he said, “Certain kinds of new features, particularly those that integrate directly with cloud providers, have started to require an extensibility point, instead of being implemented in core. This lifts the burden off of an already huge codebase, while also offering the benefit of not favoring one distribution or cloud provider over another.”

Kubernetes 1.9 is available for download on GitHub. To get started with Kubernetes, check out these interactive tutorials.

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5 Finance Resolutions Your Business Should Make to Help You Save Money 2018

New year’s resolutions are popular this time of year, but the harsh reality is that most of the resolutions you and I make won’t fully happen. When it comes to your business, however, the payoff of sticking to, or not sticking to, your resolutions can have a much bigger impact than just a wasted gym membership. You want your business to grow and be successful in 2018, and you will do whatever it takes to make that happen.

So why not take some steps right now, and make some resolutions for your business to keep growing and developing into 2018?

This may sound easier said than done, especially when you are trying to juggle customer expectations, developing and reaching new customers, making sure you take care of taxes correctly, and fending off the competition. There is a lot you are already thinking about, but I’m going to focus on finance related resolutions for 2018.

At the end of the day, finance and financial fundamentals are what drive the majority of decisions, so why not focus on getting — you need to know your cash numbers to pay your bills.

Let’s take a look at some finance resolutions that will help your business next year:

1. Document and organize your cash flows.

This may seem like an obvious thing to do, but don’t forget the majority of small businesses fail due to a lack of capital and financing. Tracking the cash coming in, and out of, your business is, I would argue, the single most important you can do to improve the financial health of your business.

Two things you can start doing right now to improve your cash flows are 1) collect and clean up your receivables, and 2) maybe consider discount to encourage customers to pay sooner.

2. Make a debt repayment plan.

Debt payments, and the interest payments that are associated with them, can drain the agility and flexibility from your business. Debt, in and of itself, is not a bad thing — it can help you expand, grow, and develop your business, but you need to have a plan to pay it back.

Some things to consider when making this plan are 1) which debt has the highest associated interest, 2) what is your largest debt, and 3) is there any debt that is especially restrictive on your business via loan terms?

3. Formalize your pricing model.

You are surely aware that, in order to generate profits for your business, that your revenues have to exceed your costs, but how standardized are your prices? I know that, especially for a service business, that every client and project is different, but there are always some items that are the same.

The amount you charge per labor hour, any prices you pass along to customers, cost increases you assume, the rate of inflation, and how much your competition charges should be numbers you know off the top of your head.

4. Determine how you want to get paid.

Getting paid is always a great thing, but how you bill your customers, and how your customers pay you can make a big difference come tax time. As an entrepreneur, and especially if you are starting a new side hustle while holding down a fulltime job, you have several options for how you want to get paid.

Work with your CPA or tax professional to figure out if being paid as a 1099 employee, being classified as a freelancer, or doing work on a contract by contract basis will work best for you.

5. Do your taxes throughout the year.

As a CPA one of the top issues I see every year is when entrepreneurs get tripped up different kinds of taxes. Although taxes get a lot of coverage between March and April, if you run your own business you may very owe estimated taxes throughout the year. Adding on to this, your business might be impacted by the coming changes to the tax code depending on how your business is structured, where you do business, and what deductions you are currently taking.

Work with your CPA or tax professional to get a handle on what you may owe in 2018, what change might be coming, and what you can do to ease this transition — your bottom line will thank you.

Making resolutions for the new year is something you and I both do for ourselves, but it’s also something you should consider making for your business. Focusing on your finances, doing some research now, and drilling down to action items can make 2018 a financially fit year.  

China's Tencent, JD.com invest $863 million in online retailer Vipshop

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese social media firm Tencent Holdings Ltd (0700.HK) and e-commerce platform JD.com Inc (JD.O) on Monday said they will jointly invest $863 million in Chinese discount online retailer Vipshop Holdings Ltd (VIPS.N).

Tencent will invest $604 million in exchange for a 7 percent stake in Vipshop, while JD.com will invest $259 million for 5.5 percent. The investment amounts represent a 55 percent premium over Vipshop’s closing share price on Friday of $8.44.

“We look forward to providing Vipshop with our audiences, marketing solutions, and payment support to help the company provide branded apparel and other product categories to China’s rising middle class,” Tencent President Martin Lau said in a statement.

The deal represents a major alliance in China’s e-commerce market, where competition for retail brands between JD.com and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N) has grown increasingly fierce.

A JD.com sign is seen during the fourth World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China, December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Aly Song

It also comes as Tencent, which derives most of its profit from gaming and social media, pushes into retail, leveraging its relationship with JD.com and popular app WeChat. Last week it said it would buy five percent of Chinese department store operator Yonghui Superstores Co Ltd (601933.SS).

Tencent, Asia’s most valuable company with a market capitalization of $473 billion, is a major stakeholder in JD.com, and the two have recently upped cooperation on data and payments to better compete with Alibaba.

JD.com Chief Executive Richard Liu recently said roughly 100 Chinese apparel merchants had left the firm’s platform in the last quarter due to what he called “coercive” tactics by competing platforms.

“The strength of Vipshop’s flash sale and apparel businesses, as well as its outstanding management team, create clear and strong synergies with us,” Liu said in the statement.

After the Vipshop deal closes, Tencent will allow Vipshop to capture traffic from WeChat, and JD.com will integrate Vipshop features into its own app and assist the firm in reaching sales targets, the companies said.

Reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Christopher Cushing

Oracle Corp to buy Australia's Aconex for $1.19 billion

Sydney (Reuters) – Australia’s Aconex Ltd (ACX.AX) said on Monday it had received a A$1.56 billion ($1.2 billion), or A$7.80 in cash-per-share, buyout offer from U.S. software major Oracle Corp (ORCL.N), sending the target’s share price up 45 percent.

Aconex said in a statement its directors unanimously recommended the offer, with shareholders of the cloud-based project management company scheduled to vote on the bid at a scheme meeting in March next year.

The Australian company specializes in web-based project management software that allows input from different teams. Its technology has been used on global projects including the Panama Canal extension.

“Oracle’s offer of A$7.80 per share represents a significant premium and a high degree of certainty of value to shareholders through the cash offer and limited conditionality,” Aconex Chairman Adam Lewis said in a statement.

Aconex founders Leigh Jasper and Rob Phillpot, who both have holdings of just over 5 percent, declined interview requests on Monday.

The company has experienced massive share price fluctuations since listing in 2014 at A$1.90, and peaking at just above A$8.50 last year.

The share price rose 45 percent immediately after trading resumed on Monday to just below the A$7.80 cash-per-share offer.

Aconex, which focuses on construction projects, said it would be liable to pay Oracle about 1 percent of the deal’s equity value as a break-up fee under certain conditions which it did not specify.

Oracle said in a statement that the transaction was expected to close in the first half of 2018.

The proposed transaction was one of two major U.S.-Australian technology deals unveiled on Monday, with Australian data centre provider Metronode receiving a A$1.04 billion ($791.2 million) bid from U.S. company Equinix Inc(EQIX.O).

($1 = 1.3074 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Jonathan Barrett in SYDNEY. Additional reporting by Aaron Saldanha in Bengaluru, Editing by Stephen Coates

Apple Orders New Sci-Fi Series From Battlestar Galactica Mastermind Ronald D. Moore

For fans of high-end TV, Ronald D. Moore might not quite rank alongside creators like Mad Men’s Matthew Wiener or The Wire‘s David Simon – but he should. Moore was the mastermind behind 2004’s very serious, very good reboot of Battlestar Galactica, a series that arguably paved the way for everything from The Walking Dead to Westworld to, most obviously, Game of Thrones.

Now it looks like we’ll get a new space drama from Moore, thanks to Apple. Deadline reports that Apple has ordered an entire series to be created and written by Moore, along with two executive producers of the also-excellent Fargo TV series. Engadget reports that the series will “explore what would have happened if the space race between the United States, Soviet Russia, and the rest of the world hadn’t ended.”

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More important than the subject matter, the show’s pedigree suggests it will be full of deep characters, convoluted twists, and a fair bit of social commentary, putting it in the sweet spot for binge-worthy content that can attract broad attention as viewing habits shift from cable to streaming.

Apple has said it will spend $1 billion on original TV content, partly in response to a dramatic drop in iTunes’ share of online movie rentals in recent years. Apple’s first tentative steps into original programming, including the reality show Planet of the Apps, are included with an Apple Music membership, but Apple may also launch a new video service.

Sci-fi and fantasy series have been front and center in the streaming wars. So much so, in fact, that CBS recently anchored a big push for its All Access streaming service around a new Star Trek series – the franchise where Moore got his start.