Merry Christmas to one and all. As we hurtle through the tail end of 2019, and look to the bright lights of 2020, we note that last week was hardly a holiday. Google attacked crypto, Ethereum announced an emergency upgrade and much more. Here's what you need to know:
The winter cull
On Thursday, YouTube reversed a short-lived ban on crypto-related videos and issued a statement acknowledging its original move was “in error.”
The purge was noticed on Christmas Eve, and quickly spread from YouTube’s crypto community to Twitter, where, predictably, outrage ensued. "With over 100 videos removed & 2 strikes in 24 hours I have still not even received an email from you,” tweeted Alex Saunders, head of NuggetsNewsAU. “This is really scary. We've hired new staff. I have a wife & baby to support. I can't fix the problem if I don't know what I've done or who to communicate with."
Though a YouTube told Decrypt that the purge was an accident, and that it was reinstating the sites, many saw a disturbing anti-Web3 trend on display at the Web2 monopolist, Google, which owns YouTube. Indeed, it came to light that on December 20, the company’s Android Play Store had summarily booted MetaMask, the dominant Ethereum-based browser, without any real explanation. That decision is under review.
Has the Internet giant picked the wrong battle here? This is precisely the kind of heavy-handed, monopolist behavior that attracted many developers and activists to the burgeoning Web3 movement in the first place. Even the mild-mannered Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin stepped into the fray, disgusted that YouTube had deleted a video of him on the grounds that it was "harmful or dangerous content." Buterin tweeted that was "just...weird" before suggesting that the community needs an “alternative to YouTube.”
He later added: “Blockchains with a decent technical roadmap are an endangered species!”
An Ethereum hard fork. A Christmas Surprise?
Yet another Christmas Eve surprise created some excitement in Ethereum land: A hard fork that wasn’t supposed to occur until later in 2020 was being pushed forward and will now occur next week. The hard fork, known as “Muir Glacier,” will drop when block number 9,200,000 is mined, which block explorer site Etherscan predicts will be on Wednesday, January 2.
The news came as an unpleasant surprise to node operators, who were not looking forward to the holiday work attendant to the upgrade.
But the upgrade is critical and will delay the so-called “difficulty bomb,” a part of the network that notches up mining difficulty over time. If left unfixed, it would result in overly long transaction time and impinge on the usability of Ethereum. The whole mess was explained in an Ethereum Cat Herders post.
The emergency update comes less than a month after the previous hard fork, “Istanbul,” but is expected to keep the network in fine fettle for another 18 months—enough time for the blockchain to switch to the new Proof-of-Stake consensus mechanism.
China to expand cross-border financing platform
China’s Lu Lei, deputy head of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, said that the blockchain-loving country will be exploring a cross-border financing pilot project.
Lu said China is particularly focused on understanding “foreign exchange reforms to deal with cryptocurrency” and also explore “the construction of the foreign exchange regulation and technology system under the new situation.”
Last month, Chinese news outlet GlobalTimes said that China has expanded the pilot of its blockchain platform, which launched in March, to 19 of its 23 provinces. The platform has already processed 6,370 transactions and given out $6.8 billion in loans.
NUL and void
Hackers reportedly stole more than $476,000 of the cryptocurrency NULS last week. The NULS team said that the stolen loot, which belonged to the NULS team, has been permanently frozen and that the rest of the funds reached exchanges and “couldn’t be traced.”
Even worse, the team wrote that, “As a result of these conservative security measures, there may be some NULS assets inadvertently locked on one of the major exchanges wallets.”
The hackers got the funds by exploiting a security vulnerability in NULS’ “transaction signature verification logic”—since fixed—to trick the node into giving them 2,000,000 from the team’s personal supply.
But, just as the hackers were filling their Christmas stockings with stolen loot, the NULS team announced that “through the cooperation of some of the exchanges, we have obtained sufficient evidence against the perpetrators, and we will take legal action to hold them fully accountable.” Merry Christmas!