Google is opening up crypto. Just as the Californian search giant transformed the early internet in the late ’90s from something strange and sprawling into something you could navigate at the click of a few buttons, it has turned to the no less sprawling world of cryptocurrencies.
On February 5, it launched a range of new search tools as part of its BigQuery Public Datasets program. Now, any developer, entrepreneur, journalist or anyone else can search and analyze the blockchains of eight major cryptocurrencies, enabling them to detect patterns in transactions and relationships between addresses, for example.
And aside from providing us with a powerful way of understanding how cryptocurrencies are actually being used, these tools also mark what may be the beginning of Google’s further exploration of crypto. But while such involvement could bring crypto a few more big steps towards the mainstream, it raises the risk of centralization.
Now you can surf the blockchain(s)
Yet in addition to simply making the transaction histories of the above eight searchable, Google’s new release also lets users take advantage of Blockchain ETL (extract, transform, load), a new tool built largely by independent developer Evgeny Medvedev. As stated above, this lets users analyze transactions patterns and the relationship between addresses, and while this might not sound especially monumental, the ability to define patterns means that you can identify pretty much any kind of crypto-related behavior.
For instance, one example mentioned in Google’s blog is the detection of mining pools, based simply on checking transaction flows to and from addresses, while another could be the identification of trading bots that may be inflating the price of a cryptocurrency.
These are therefore powerful tools, and it’s likely that they’ll provide a growing stream of insights for anyone working on a new crypto project. This is the view taken by Dr. Mervyn G. Maistry, the CEO and co-founder of blockchain-services company Konfidio.
“Having a public database opens many opportunities for development,” he says. “The data can be turned into highly advanced blockchain analytics: distribution of assets across addresses, defining ownership of multiple wallets, qualitative and quantitative analysis of transactions, network current state tracking and analysis and much more.”
Another example provided by Google’s blog backs up this prediction. Google used the new tools to measure the Gini Coefficients – which measure the (in)equality of wealth distribution – of the eight currencies included in the BigQuery database, finding that “Dash is remarkably well distributed relative to all other cryptocurrencies examined here.”
Gini coeficient, top 10K balances Values range between 0.0 and 1.0, with completely distributed wealth (all members have the same amount) mapping to a value of 0.0 and completely accumulated wealth (one member has everything) mapping to 1.0.
Such insights will go a long way if developers want to build a new cryptocurrency or platform that’s more accessible to a wider audience. What’s more, Maistry thinks they’ll provide the perfect launchpad for Google to develop even more powerful tools, which will obviously have a positive knock-on effect on the quality of future crypto projects.
So Google’s new tools will no doubt have plenty of uses for developers of crypto- and blockchain-related projects. But what does the company’s delving into crypto mean for the industry on a deeper level?
“Google’s official emergence into the blockchain space reinforces the fact that tech giants have long realized the potential of blockchain tech,” explains Sky Guo, the CEO of the enterprise-focused smart contract platform Cypherium.
“More subtly, though, this move also suggests that the risk and suspicion surrounding the technology has generally softened, as the technical benefits of blockchain start to poke through into mainstream narratives.”
There is a belief among other industry figures that Google’s move towards crypto could also encourage other big corporations to follow suit, as suggested to Cryptonews.com by Rutger van Zuidam, the founder and CEO of the blockchain-focused innovation program Odyssey.
“Google’s official emergence into the blockchain world might also inspire banks, governments, and other traditional industry players to take a second look at the potential of open public blockchains, as well as their own privately owned infrastructure,” he says.
Of course, while Google’s increasing immersion in crypto might help bring about greater adoption and better platforms, there could be certain downsides, van Zuidam warns.
“We also have to be really careful when we build dependencies to large data-collecting entities. The whole point of working with blockchain is to decrease these kind of dependencies and to increase the sovereignty and privacy of the users.”
The risk of centralization (or at least an overdependence on a centralized organization) is something that other commentators warn against, with crypto expert and B9Lab founder Xavier Lepretre pointing out in conclusion that Google’s involvement will be a double-edged sword.
“Google’s blockchain discovery tools come with Google’s advantage: scale,” he says. “No doubt, plenty of developers will find ways to use, or even monetise, them. However, the tools also come with Google’s disadvantages, which are centralisation and the possibility of censorship.”
And even though Lepretre acknowledges that centralization makes sense in this case (since huge amounts of data need to be extracted by a trustworthy entity), it could ultimately undermine the decentralized ethos on which crypto has sold itself up until now.
The 22-year-old Finnish investor who was defrauded of 5,564 bitcoins in Thailand has agreed to withdraw his complaint against two key suspects.
According to the deputy commander of Thailand’s Crime Suppression Division, Chakrit Sawasdee, a complaint against prominent Stock Exchange of Thailand trader, Prasit Srisuwan, and a majority shareholder of tech firm Expay Software Co, Chakris Ahmad, was withdrawn on Tuesday by Aarni Otava Saarimaa as initially reported by Bangkok Post.
This means that the two businessmen will no longer face any charges in relation to the bitcoin fraud case as Thai law allows settlements with regards to fraud. However, Sawasdee could not provide information on how much changed hands in order to reach the settlement.
“My talks with them [the two businessmen] turned out to be very satisfactory but I cannot give any details now,” Saarimaa said after a meeting with Srisuwan and Ahmad last week.
Saarimaa had filed a complaint in January to the Crime Suppression Division after losing bitcoins worth 797 million baht or approximately US$24 million to a group led by the alleged mastermind of the scheme, Prinya Jaravijit.
Specifically, the Finnish investor was invited to invest 264.78 million baht (a little over US$8 million) in publicly traded stocks listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand and 92.69 million baht (approximately US$2.8 million) in Expay Software Co. Additionally, Saarimaa was also invited to invest 440 million baht (US$13 million) in Dragon Coin, a digital currency for the gambling industry.
The Finnish investor went on to transfer the amount in bitcoins to Prinya’s wallet but the money was not spent on the agreed investments. Instead, Prinya transferred most of it to family members who included his younger brother, famous Thai screen actor Jiratpisit Jaravijit, his father Suwit Jaravijit, his mother Lertchatkamol and his younger sister Supitcha Jaravijit.
After weeks of being on the run and reportedly holed up in the United States, Prinya has now indicated that he is ready to surrender. But while the date for the hearing of his charges had been set for September 17, he has requested a postponement through his lawyer.
His siblings Jiratpisit and Supitcha have been arraigned in court already though the police are yet to apply for the arrest warrants of his parents. Suwit Jaravijit and his wife Lertchatkamol are expected to be questioned further this week over the 90 million baht (US$2.7 million) that their son wired to their bank accounts.
We are the new economy news hub. 2100NEWS is the professional index, data, and tools provider in the digital asset space, offering Crypto Market Intelligence, providing the perspective you can trust and equipping you with information edge you need to stay ahead. (Real-time data of token issuers and news, analysis and commentary from community.) We are very excited to contribute to the evolution of the industry and build an ecosystem around our offering (the institutional-grade data infrastructure required to enable institutional investments in digital assets). We want our contributions (Contents and Tools on 2100NEWS.com) to be useful for helping investors.