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商业 - 科技

比特币疯狂分叉,今年或分裂50次

彭博社 2018年01月28日

进行分叉的动机各不相同。一些支持者是为了改进比特币。别的人则打算迅速捞上一票。

比特币上帝(Bitcoin God)上个月“降临”。比特币披萨(Bitcoin Private)1月份“到货”。比特币隐私(Bitcoin Private)的发行日期……仍是个迷。

它们只是不断增长的所谓“分叉”中的几个。分叉是比特币的分裂,开发者克隆比特币软件后,再以新的名称和新的币种发布,而且有可能赋予一些新功能。通常,这样做的思路都是利用熟悉比特币的公众来大赚一笔,至少赚一笔虚拟货币。

据金融公司研究机构Autonomous Research金融科技策略全球主管莱克斯·索科林介绍,去年大概出现了19个比特币分叉,而今年最多有可能再出现50个。最终这个数字甚至还会更高,原因是比特币自动分叉网站Forkgen(forkgen.tech)已经投入运营,任何粗通编程技术的人都能通过这个网站推出克隆比特币。对冲基金经理阿里·保罗1月14日在推特上预测,新分叉将占比特币和比特币现金(Bitcoin Cash)目前价值的10%以上。

进行分叉的动机各不相同。一些支持者是为了改进比特币。别的人则打算迅速捞上一票。开发者通常会在所谓的“后挖矿”过程中获得一些新产生的比特币,但价格未必能长期保持不变。

加密货币通用钱包Coinomi允许比特币持有者在其中存放他们新分叉出来的比特币,该公司首席执行官乔治·基米沃尼斯说:“可惜,目前我们看到的大多数基于分叉的项目都更多地以捞钱为目的。回顾几年前的情况,我们或许会意识到它们只是那些被价格上涨蒙蔽了双眼的投资者孕育出来的变异体,而不是真的打算为区块链生态系统做贡献。”

基米沃尼斯预测,分叉可能很快就会让另一种更受欢迎的方法靠边站,后者被称为代币发行融资,也就是初创公司通过出售崭新代币来筹集资金。去年代币发行融资规模约为37亿美元,现在这个市场已经变得拥挤起来,规模较小的发行融资遇到了困难。

分叉的主要优势在于成为比特币这种全球最著名加密货币的“新芽”。在一次典型分叉中,现有的比特币持有人都有权获得分叉产生的新币种,从而有可能给这笔新资产带来众多用户。大多数新币种至少在名称上有一定的辨识度,因为它们的名字里都含有“比特币”字样。比如比特币钻石(Bitcoin Diamond),它的初始价格很高,但没能一直保持下去。

雷特·克赖顿正在准备即将出现的比特币隐私分叉,他在接受电话采访时说:“比特币分叉是一种新的山寨币。以后会出现一大堆比特币分叉,而且它们将开始取代一些排在前100位的山寨币。”比特币隐私做出的承诺是和原始比特币相比,它提供的隐私功能更多。

市场研究机构WinterGreen Research首席执行官苏珊·尤斯蒂斯指出,分叉可能还有助于在中国等禁止代币发行融资的国家筹集资金。

价值数十亿

几年前,创业者借鉴比特币的代码推出了其他加密货币,比如莱特币和后来的狗币。这些加密货币通过名字,也经常通过新功能让自己区别于比特币。不过,虽然目前狗币的市值为7.70亿美元,但新克隆出来的比特币现金和比特币黄金(Bitcoin Gold)已经超过了它。比特币现金去年8月份问世,CoinMarketCap.com的数据显示,目前它是价值第四高的加密货币,总市值约为280亿美元。

加密货币研究机构CryptoCompare首席执行官查理·海特说:“比特币现金很成功,势头相当强劲。现在其他交易者也想尝试一下,看看自己能否弄出同样的东西来。”

一次分叉往往可以让开发者以及运行和支持新软件的服务器“农场”赚到数百万美元。比特币黄金目前单价约为190美元,它的发行量为10万枚,所得资金用于支持自身生态系统和开发。创造该分叉的核心团队获得了大约5000枚比特币黄金。如果这些加密货币升值,对开发者来说也是福音。

矿工,也就是用自己的计算机和服务器进行加密货币交易的人,一直在帮助创造新币种,其目的是大赚一笔。区块链金融机构Bitbank和一些中国矿工是在比特币核心开发者杰夫·加齐克创造出联合比特币(UnitedBitcoin)时购置的设备,联合比特币2017年12月出现了分叉。和其他许多分叉一样,这个分叉可以用无法在比特币网络上和最先进计算机竞争的老设备挖矿。也就是说,如果联合比特币价格上涨,使用支持该币种的老机器的矿工就会获得高额收益。

小矿工

许多新分叉都想吸引家庭作坊型矿工,后者已经被产业化的服务器“农场”挤到了边缘位置。一些分叉允许用图形处理器(GPU)采矿,这就意味着只要有显卡,任何人都可以参与进来。

比特币利息(Bitcoin Interest)核心开发者尼克·杜利在电话采访中说,想象一下“设在车库里的矿机。每个人都有显卡,而且大多数人都买得起能挖到一定数量比特币的显卡。”

一些比特币初始分叉甚至又有了自己的分叉,比特币现金就即将衍生出比特币糖果(Bitcoin Candy)。

矿工的支持并不总是足以支撑价格。一位创造者发出的邮件显示,去年12月底出现的SegWit2x [B2X]分叉吸引了一万多名矿工。但比特币交易所Yobit.net的数据表明,B2X的价格持续下滑,12月22日以来其价值已蒸发逾90%。

Coinomi CEO基米沃尼斯指出:“我们把选择权交给用户,让他们决定自己打算使用哪种资产,不用哪种资产。我们并没有替他们做出决定。”(财富中文网)

译者:Charlie

审稿:夏林

 

Bitcoin God arrived last month. Bitcoin Pizza was delivered in January. Bitcoin Private’s issuance date is… still a secret.

They’re just a few of the growing stable of so-called forks — a type of spinoff in which developers clone Bitcoin’s software, release it with a new name, a new coin and possibly a few new features. Often, the idea is to capitalize on the public’s familiarity with Bitcoin to make some serious money, at least virtually.

Some 19 Bitcoin forks came out last year — but up to 50 more could happen this year, according to Lex Sokolin, global director of fintech strategy at Autonomous Research. Ultimately, the number could run even higher now that Forkgen, a site enabling anyone with rudimentary programming skills to launch a clone, is in operation. In a Jan. 14 tweet, hedge fund manager Ari Paul predicted more than 10 percent of the current value of Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash will reside in new offshoots.

Motives behind the efforts vary. Some backers try to improve on Bitcoin. Others seek a quick profit. Developers typically score a cache of newly minted coins in a process called post-mining. Yet prices don’t necessarily hold up for long.

“Unfortunately, most fork-based projects we see today are more of a sheer money grab,” said George Kimionis, chief executive officer of Coinomi, a wallet that lets Bitcoin owners collect their new forked coins. “Looking back a few years from now we might realize that they were just mutations fostered by investors blinded by numerical price increases — rather than honest attempts to contribute to the blockchain ecosystem.”

He predicts forking may soon sideline a more popular alternative, initial coin offerings, in which startups raise money by selling entirely new tokens. That market has gotten crowded after raising about $3.7 billion last year, and smaller offerings have struggled.

A fork’s main advantage lies in sprouting from Bitcoin, the world’s most famous cryptocurrency. In a typical fork, all existing Bitcoin owners are eligible for the forked-off coin — giving the new asset a potentially huge number of users. Most coins arrive with at least some name recognition, because they bake “Bitcoin” into their moniker. Take for example, Bitcoin Diamond, with a price that started off strong. It didn’t last forever.

“Bitcoin forks are kind of the new alt coin,” Rhett Creighton, who’s working on the upcoming Bitcoin Private fork, said in a phone interview. “We are going to see now a bunch of Bitcoin forks. And they are going to start replacing some of the top hundred alt coins.” Bitcoin Private promises to offer more privacy features than the original Bitcoin.

Forks can also help startups raise funds in countries such as China, where ICOs have been banned, said Susan Eustis, CEO of WinterGreen Research.

Worth Billions

Years ago, entrepreneurs drew on Bitcoin’s code to launch alternatives such as Litecoin and later Dogecoin, seeking to differentiate themselves in name and often in features. But while Dogecoin now has a $770 million market value, younger clones Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold already dwarf it. Bitcoin Cash, launched in August, is now the fourth most valuable coin, worth a total of about $28 billion, according to CoinMarketCap.com.

“Bitcoin Cash was successful, quite a lot of momentum,” Charlie Hayter, CEO of coin researcher CryptoCompare, said in a phone interview. “Now other traders try to see if they can pull off the same thing.”

A fork can often make millions for its developers as well as the server farms running and supporting the new software. Bitcoin Gold distributed 100,000 coins, currently worth about $190 apiece, to an endowment funding its ecosystem and development. About 5,000 of those coins went to the core team that created the fork. If the coins appreciate, that’s a boon for the developers as well.

Miners — whose computers and servers process cryptocurrency transactions — have been helping create new coins, hoping for fat rewards. Bitbank and some Chinese miners were instrumental when Bitcoin core developer Jeff Garzik created UnitedBitcoin, which forked in December. Like many other forks, it can be mined using older gear that can’t compete with state-of-the-art machines on the Bitcoin network. So if UnitedBitcoin takes off, miners with older machines that support it will be minting money.

Little Miners

Many of the new forks are looking to lure mom-and-pop miners, who’ve been pushed aside by industrial server farms. Some forks allow GPU mining, which means anyone with a graphics card can potentially participate.

Imagine “rigs set up in a garage,” Nick Dooley, a core developer of Bitcoin Interest, said in a phone interview. “Everybody has a graphic card, and most people can afford to purchase one that can mine a certain amount of coins.”

Even some of Bitcoin’s initial forks are getting forked, with Bitcoin Cash getting a proposed derivative, Bitcoin Candy.

Support from miners isn’t always enough to maintain a price. SegWit2x [B2X], a fork from late December, drew more than 10,000 miners, according to an email from one its creators. But B2X has been sliding, losing more than 90 percent of its value since Dec. 22, according to exchange Yobit.net.

“We provide our users with choices and let them decide which assets they are going to use and which not,” Coinomi’s Kimionis said. “We don’t make that decision for them.”

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