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Bitcoin’s Scaling Debate: A Beginner’s Guide

Bitcoin's Scaling Debate has turned in a Cryptocurrency civil war.
Bitcoin's Scaling Debate has turned in a Cryptocurrency civil war.

This article will attempt to provide a non-technical, beginner friendly, and mostly drama-free explanation of Bitcoin’s scalability debate (and why should care about it), the solutions that have been proposed, and the current state of the debate.

If you are new to Bitcoin or Cryptocurrencies in general, you might have heard terms such as “scaling debate”, “segwit”, “Block size”, “on chain” and “off chain” thrown around. If you have asked someone to explain such terms, either in person or online, you may have been presented with impassionate speeches arguing for one side or the other, conspiracy theories, menacing glares or outright censorship.

(Block) Size Matters

Blocks are the literal building Blocks of the Blockchain, the technology underpinning Bitcoin and all other cryptocurrencies out there. As the name suggests, the Blockchain is a sequence of Blocks, each of which contains a finite number of digital transactions.

Blocks could have theoretically been any size; however, they were first set to a maximum size of 1MB to avoid spam and abuse of the Blockchain. How could the Blockchain be abused? I’ll give you two examples:

Bitcoin users can append data to each transaction they send, which is stored along with all transactions in the Blockchain. A user could thus send an infinite number of transactions between two of his or her own wallets and use each transaction to store a small amount of data, thus being able to use the Blockchain as free and secure cloud storage.

The second reason to implement a limit was to avoid being hit by DoS (Denial-of-Service) attacks. Much like in the first example, this consists of a user (or group of users) sending hundreds of thousands of transactions with the intention of creating a glut in the Network. If you have ever tried to access a website that is being hit by a DoS attack, you know that these are generally impossible to reach. Likewise, if the Bitcoin network were to be hit by DoS attacks, it would become unusable.

Therefore the 1MB limit for each Block was created. Since each Block could only hold a finite number of transactions, and users pay miners a small fee to mine a Block, the 1MB limit ensured that only worthwhile transactions were carried on the Blockchain. Bitcoin was able to chug along happily with 1MB Blocks until…

Bitcoin’s Scaling Problem

While Bitcoin was only being used by enthusiasts it never faced any problems with the cap on Block size. Blocks were rarely filled to above 70% of their 1MB capacity before being processed by the nodes on the Bitcoin network.

However, as Bitcoin adoption grew and everyone and their grandma wanted to get on the Crypto-action, the number of transactions increased exponentially. Suddenly, Blocks were filled to the brim and the Network started having trouble keeping up with the number of Blocks being generated. Users were forced to offer higher and higher fees to Miners to process their transactions first, or at least in a timely manner. Even with heftier fees, Bitcoin transactions were taking longer than ever to be confirmed and added to the Blockchain. At 1MB per Block, it is estimated that the Bitcoin network is able to process up anywhere from 3.3 to 7 transactions per second.

To put things in perspective, Visa claimed back in 2010 to be able to process up to 24,000 transactions per second.

The Bitcoin community started coming up with solutions that would allow Bitcoin to scale and function as a currency, and very early on the community split around two proposed solutions:

  1. A Block Size increase
  2. SegWit and second layer (or off-chain) solutions

Both of these solutions have their own merits so naturally a horrible debate broke out among the community, including name-calling, conspiracy accusations, death treats and more! For objectivity’s sake, we will gloss over this part of the story and just look at the solutions themselves.

Before we get in to the discussion of both solutions, it is important to note that both of these solutions are currently co-existing in the form of Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Core. If you owned any Bitcoin before August 2017, you are the proud owner of both Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Core. If you are looking into purchasing Bitcoin, you are now faced with a choice of which Cryptocurrency to buy, which will be guided by which solution you consider to be the better choice for Bitcoin long term.

Solution #1: Increasing the Block Size

One of the greatest merits of the Block Size increase solution is its simplicity. It’s both simple to understand but also simple to implement. After a relatively painless change to Bitcoin’s source code, the Bitcoin Cash network can now handle larger Blocks. Proposals revolve around a new 8MB limit, instantly increasing the network’s speed eight-fold, however as we mentioned before there are no hard rules around what a Block Size should be.

However, some have worried that increasing the Block size will eventually crowd out smaller miners and nodes. As the size of the Blocks increases, the computing power required to verify each one and the storage capacity required to store the Blockchain increases linearly.

Thus, very large Block sizes would crowd out all but the more affluent of miners, as they would be the only ones able to process them. The problem would be even more severe for Nodes, whose job is to store the Blockchain and are not financially incentivized to do so. This would lead to a centralization of hash power, which is anathema to most Bitcoin users, and a lack of nodes, imperiling the entire system.

Although this doom case scenario sounds terrible, it doesn’t appear that a Block size of 8MB is anywhere near as big to trigger such an event. What the maximum Block Size of Bitcoin Cash should be remains in question.

Another problem with increasing the Block Size was that it implied changing Bitcoin’s source code. Nodes and Miners would have to upgrade a newer version of the software, which would be incompatible with older versions still using 1MB Block Size. This is what is known as a hard-fork, as parties who decided not to upgrade the software would be unable to transact with those who did upgrade.

Solution #2: SegWit and Off-Layer Solutions

SegWit (which is short for Segregated Witness and is in no way related to the gyroscopic scooters used by mall cops everywhere) proposed handling the Scaling debacle in another way. Instead of requiring a mandatory software upgrade (and causing a hard fork), SegWit proposed separating the Witness Data files from the Blocks and making these visible only to parties running SegWit software. Non SegWit-ready software would still be able to see the transaction data within the Block, thus maintaining backwards compatibility, and SegWit-ready software would recognize the Witness data within the Block.

As a result, SegWit achieves a virtual increase in the capacity of the Blocks (of up to 4x) without mandating a software upgrade. This pleased everyone who was weary of any changes to the Bitcoin Software source code, while at the same time increasing transaction speed.

SegWit was activated on the Bitcoin (also known as Bitcoin Core, to differentiate from Bitcoin Cash) on August 24, 2017.
However, as this change by itself only increased transaction speed by 1.7-2x (remember the VISA network is at least 3,400x faster), SegWit also prepared the field for “second-layer” or “off-chain” transactions.

These transactions imply users and businesses committing their Bitcoin to a third-party clearinghouse which, as the name suggests, clears all the transactions between its intermediated parties by itself (thus they are off-chain transactions, referring to the Blockchain), decreasing the number of transactions (and thus fees paid to miners) processed and verified through the Block-Chain.

The most well-known second layer is the Lightning Network, currently being developed by a company called Blockstream.

The benefits of second layer transactions are well-defined, but so are the risks. For starters, although users would avoid paying fees to miners, they would find themselves paying fees to the clearinghouses or Second-Layers providers, and one can only speculate on which solution would be cheaper in the long run.

A much more serious problem is Counterparty Risk, which is the risk of one of these clearinghouses defaulting on their obligations to their users. Although these kinds of risks are routinely hedged by Insurers, the 2008-2009 financial collapse has shown that even the insurers themselves will fail, leaving everyone swimming naked in a low tide.

Which Side Should You Pick?

Let’s do a quick recap of how both Scaling solutions have thus been implemented:

  1. Bitcoin Cash implemented an increase in the Block size from 1MB to 8MB, and hopes to scale with further Block Size increases.
  2. Bitcoin (also known as Bitcoin Core) implemented SegWit and hopes to scale with Second-Layer or Off-Chain solutions.

If it isn’t obvious, two different groups stand to win if either solution is the dominant one, which explains all the vitriol surrounding the debate. Let’s spell it out:

  1. Block Size increases benefit miners by ensuring that all transactions (and thus fees) are processed (by them) on the Blockchain).
  2. Second-Layer solutions benefit the developers of these Off-Chain platforms, as they will be the ones processing (and thus receiving fees) for most of the transactions.

By now you may be wondering which side of the debate to pick. The answer is:


Smart investors don’t pick sides. They pick winners, sell losers, and hedge their bets.

If you think either Bitcoin or Bitcoin Cash will be the dominant Cryptocurrency in the future, your investments should reflect that. If you think both can co-exist in the future (and the number of Cryptos out there are an indication that they probably can and will, perhaps serving different purposes), then you should hedge your bets and invest in both.

Don’t let the vitriol, name-calling, conspiracy theories or a sense of belonging to a “tribe” influence your investment decisions. Be smart, weigh the pros and cons, and make a rational decision.

If you need help investing in Bitcoin or Bitcoin Cash, be sure to check our guide here.

Follow me @julioobregon


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CRYPTO TWITTER: Who you need to follow

CRYPTO TWITTER: Who you need to follow

Twitter is a must for anyone looking to keep up with the cryptocurrency industry. There is so much news coming out every single day that it can be tough to keep up with. To help out, I created a list of the top twitter accounts to follow with everything from trading, news, venture capital, content creators and relevant influencers in Crypto Twitter. This list will be updated from time to time. 

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For other resources check out the rest of our guides in the top menu. A guide to crypto exchanges, online crypto resources, beginners guide to wallets, beginners guide to masternodes, and a two part introduction to cryptocurrencies.

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The solution to Cryptocurrency Hacks: Quantstamp?

The solution to Cryptocurrency Hacks: Quantstamp?

Why have large industries, such as the finance and e-commerce sectors, not implemented a system that does not require trust in third parties, is immutable and easily verifiable like smart contracts and blockchains? There is natural fear in relying on very new systems like the “blockchain” to support processes that have not changed for decades. There is a feeling that the applications built on blockchains, “smart contracts”, are not sufficiently robust and safe to use for large scale projects. Cryptocurrency hacks are still holding the industry back. 

And really who can blame them, we’ve seen so many hacks in Ethereum’s smart contracts accounting for millions of dollars. The  and The DAO hack resulted in a combined loss of over $700 million. These incidents and more have created a negative perception of this new emerging technology. To increase the adoption of smart contract technology, it is increasingly important to maintain high levels of security and avoid being hacked.

The problem is that “Solidity”, the code used to write smart contracts in Ethereum, is very new and complex. There is a lack of programmers with experience in this language and too much demand in an industry that is growing more and more every day. The lack of quailed developers creates an environment where smart contracts are written in haste by unqualified programmers…they make mistakes and cryptocurrency hacks can cost millions. 

This is where QUANTSTAMP comes in      

Quantstamp is a protocol to ensure smart contracts. It focuses on securing the application layer working on top of protocols like Ethereum. It is the first scalable, verifiable security audit protocol designed to find vulnerabilities in Ethereum’s smart contracts.

Quantstamp aims to address these issues by offering a decentralized security audit platform. It uses an automated software verification system that can detect these bugs/ vulnerabilities before they get exploited and identify attacks as they happen. By using a series of active nodes, the required computing power is shared, adding both decentralization and redundancy. If a node falls, the network continues to operate, which guarantees that the smart contract is still protected. They also implement a bounty reward system for locating vulnerabilities, radically changing the incentives for bad actors to identify and report failures in exchange for a prize. 

The Audit Network

The Quantstamp audit network is a specialized network that connects developers, investors and users around a fully transparent audit test. The network enables automatic checks for vulnerabilities in smart contracts and rewards users who identify errors. The “tokens” of Quantstamp allow the platform to operate in a scalable and totally decentralized manner, providing rates for verifying/auditing contracts to the verifying nodes and rewarding them for locating vulnerabilities. 

90% of cryptocurrency hacks can be reduced greatly just by doing a few simple checks. The remaining 10% requires more in depth analysis by trained professionals.

The QSP Token 

Quantstamp raised $30 million total during their ICO and have become the first crypto project to be accepted into Y-Combinator. The QSP token has already been added to Binance, the largest alt-coin exchange in the world.  Quantstamp CEO has prioritized returning value to early investors and hodlers of the token with a proof-of-caring concept that air drops tokens with projects that they partner with for audits. So when Quantstamp audits a new project, QSP hodlers get rewarded with tokens from that project. 

A solution to cryptocurrency hacks

In the future I can imagine the Quantstamp logo on the page of any company working with smart contracts. The Quantstamp approval seal could give users and companies confidence that the code of has been audited and verified. I believe that companies like Quantstamp are incredibly important for smart contracts and blockchain based solutions to be adopted by the masses. Cryptocurrency hacks can and will be overcome when the industry adopts solutions like Quantstamp. 

  • Website: https://quantstamp.com/
  • WhitePaper: https://docsend.com/view/shcsmhe
  • Twitter: https://twitter.com/Quantstamp
  • Telegram: https://t.me/joinchat/FxIqAguKiGRujsxHpb_j0A

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Crypto Exchanges – Where to buy bitcoin

Where can I buy and trade bitcoin?

With so much news about bitcoin and cryptocurrencies lately, a lot of you may be asking yourselves “where can I buy bitcoin?” and trade this new digital asset class. This may vary depending on where you are located and what coins you want to buy. In this post I’m going to provide an overview on the largest crypto exchanges and compare and contrast them so you can decide which is the best fit for you.

One final piece of advice from us here at Crypto is Coming: Be sure to use google authenticator for 2 factor authentication as an added layer of security when using ANY of these platform. If you buy bitcoin through one of these companies, make sure to go to our wallets guide to find out the best  way to store your bitcoin safely.

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Kriptomat is a crypto-trading and e-wallet service officially licensed to operate within the EU. The exchange now offers 17 crypto-to-fiat pairs, a welcome feature for those who don’t wish to go through Bitcoin as a “middleman” currency in order to trade cryptocurrencies. With service and support in over 20 languages, the exchange is suitable for users from all over Europe. The cryptocurrencies currently on offer are Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Augur, Gnosis, 0x, OmiseGO, Enjin, Status, SunContract, Metal, Civic, Request Network, FunFair, PropyDash, Litecoin and Loopring. For more details check out Kriptomat review here.


Coinbase (Gdax)

Based in San Francisco, California, Coinbase is the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the United States in terms of users. Backed by silicon valley VC, and with a valuation of $1.6 billion, Coinbase has become the go-to platform for new customers looking to buy Bitcoin for the very first time. Recently they’ve added as many as 100k users per day. Coinbase offers a easy use platform for buying and selling Bitcoin, Ethereum or Litecoin via bank deposit or credit/debit card (with associated fees). Among exchanges Gdax offers real time trading (and lower fees). Interface is one of the best, but it has been known to go offline in times of extremely high volume, so take that into consideration when using the platform.

While Coinbase is currently limited in terms of the currencies that it has listed, the company has vowed to add more coins in the coming year. Support tickets may take a while to receive a response depending on the urgency as they are growing faster than they anticipated. Visit Coinbase


Based in the United States, Bitfinex is the largest crypto currency exchange in the world in terms of volume. Bitfnex offers trading for Bitcoin, as well as many of the largest and most well know alt-coins. Along with traditional spot trading, they also have margin trading, allowing users to trade with more capital than what they have in their account. The interface is one of the best in the industry although not exactly beginner friendly. Bitfnex allows crypto deposits for coins they support as well as wire transfers over a certain amount. They’ve recently come into question regarding their use of Tethers (USDT), a token backed by USD which facilitates that deposits on the platform, and have mentioned that a formal audit is on the way. Make sure to monitor this story in the coming weeks and months as it should shed light on the internal processes of the company. Visit Bitfinex


Based in San Francisco, California, Kraken is the largest Bitcoin exchange in terms of euro volume and liquidity. The exchange also has trading for Bitcoin in Canadian dollars, US dollars, British pounds and Japanese yen making it a great option for users wanting to buy bitcoin internationally. Kraken was the first Bitcoin exchange to have trading price and volume displayed on the Bloomberg Terminal. It was also first to pass a cryptographically verifiable proof-of-reserves audit. The platforms supports BTC as well as many large and mid market cap alt-coins. Kraken also allows margin trading and deposits via bank wire or BTC and other cryptos. The interface is possibly the worst among the large exchanges with a trading engine that constantly freezes and requires users to refresh the page. Take this into consideration when trading on this platform. Visit Kraken


Based in the United States, Bittrex is the 2nd largest alt-coin exchange in the world in terms of volume (just recently surpassed by Binance). It has hundreds of currencies and tokens available for trading and has become the most trusted alt-coin exchange by crypto traders in 2017. Bittrex supports crypto deposits for any currency they have listed and have said they will integrate margin trading soon. Bittrex support is generally more responsive than other sites, but still not up to most users’s expectations. The interface is very good, minimalistic, easy to use and has a pretty good trading engine. Although the site has recently experienced some loading issues with the extreme growth the crypto space is experiencing, this has not affected them too much. Visit Bittrex


Based in China, Binance is a new and up and coming crypto exchange that has recently gained popularity and acceptance among the crypto trading community and actually surpassed Bittrex as the #1 alt-coin exchange in terms of volume. They allow cryptocurrency deposits for any coin or token they have listed and have one of the fastest and most reliable trading engines on the market along with lower fees than their competition. The interface is very good, easy to use and rarely has any lag when loading pages. The support is somewhat lacking compared to other exchanges so it might take a while longer for users to enhance their verifcation on the site for increased withdrawal limits. Binance is currently the number 2 alt coin exchange in terms of volume behind only Bittrex. Visit Binance


A US exchanged based out Delaware, Poloniex was the top alt-coin exchange in the world as recently as March, 2017. They offer alt-coin trading, crypto deposits and have a large variety of currencies and tokens listed on their platform. You cannot buy bitcoin with USD on Poloniex. The interface is pretty good, on par with some of the other sites, but they started having customer support and site connectivity issues earlier this year, prompting the two companies listed above to surpass them in terms of volume and community acceptance. Some of the concerns with Poloniex include withdrawal issues and the trading engine freezing in key moments causing users to lose some trust in the company.Visit Poloniex


Xapo is incorporated in Hong Kong , has an office in Palo Alto, California and operates Worldwide. They provide both wallet and exchange services for Bitcoin with USD deposits through bank wire, credit/debit cards, some payment processors as well as BTC deposits.  They have a BTC debit card service and a great mobile app for android and iOS. Xapo places emphasis on security and  actually use a bunker in the swiss alps for storing private keys. Their online interface is simple and easy to use. A great place for new users to buy Bitcoin as well as one of the better online wallets to store Bitcoin. Visit Xapo


Kriptomat is a crypto-trading and e-wallet service officially licensed to operate within the EU. The exchange now offers 17 crypto-to-fiat pairs, a welcome feature for those who don’t wish to go through Bitcoin as a “middleman” currency in order to trade cryptocurrencies. With service and support in over 20 languages, the exchange is suitable for users from all over Europe.

The cryptocurrencies currently on offer are Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Augur, Gnosis, 0x, OmiseGO, Enjin, Status, SunContract, Metal, Civic, Request Network, FunFair, PropyDash, Litecoin and Loopring. These currencies can all be traded against the Euro and the exchange is open to all 508 million inhabitants of the EU.


Based out of London, CEX.IO offer exchange services for Bitcoin and Ethereum for users from most countries around the world. Currently they allow deposits via bank transfer and credit/debit cards and are registered with FinCEN which may give users an added sense of security. Their interface is beginner friendly but they do not have many different cryptocurrencies to choose from. CEX.IO may serve as an on-boarding platform from fiat currencies to BTC or ETH where users can initially enter crypto and then transfer over to other exchanges for a wider variety of alt-coins. Customer support is usually fast and done via email as well as extensive FAQ. Fees for the exchange are about industry average. Recommended for new users wanting to buy bitcoin internationally. Visit CEX.IO


Based in Hong-Kong, Bitmex is a real-time, cryptocurrency derivatives trading platform for professional investors. It provides currency futures trading, stock derivatives, and other financial products. Bitmex allows users to deposit in Bitcoin and trade Bitcoin and other large market cap alt-coins with the additional feature of futures trading (speculating on the future value of these assets). It operates in China, Europe, South Korea, and Japan as well as other selected non US countries. The site has a really good but not beginner friendly interface and a great trading engine, but lacks the liquidity when it comes to alt-coins. The advanced functionality of the platform, including futures trading, might scare off some users not accustomed to these types of markets.  Visit Bitmex



Based out of Hong Kong and trying to be the hottest cryptocurrency exchange by 2019 Kucoin is the latest hot exchange. Kucoin offers a great user interface and experience, good security through 2FA integration to trading, low trading fees and incentives for trading and holding the native coin Kucoin Share (KCS). You cannot send fiat to Kucoin so to start trading you must deposit one of the following: BTC, ETH, NEO, USDT, or BCH.

Kucoin is available to users worldwide and offers a load of trading pairs such as LTC/BTC, BTC/DASH, BTC/NEO, BTC/ETH, BTC/KCS, BTC/RPX, etc. As of this article Kucoin has a 24 hour volume of 75 million USD and is ranked 25th amongst other exchanges. Visit KUCOIN

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Crypto Wallets: What are they and how do I use them?

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As you have no doubt realized by now cryptocurrencies are not stored or maintained like your normal fiat (cash) currencies. No banks involved. Cryptocurrencies are stored on secure digital wallets that store public and private keys and interact with various blockchains. That means if you want use Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency you will need a wallet.

These wallets allow you to store, send and receive digital currencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, or Ripple. That may sounds easy enough, “I’ll just download a wallet and I’m in the game.” It’s not that easy, so I’m here to help you understand the differences and even compare a few.

Let us start with how a wallet works:

There are lots of misconception and misunderstanding about cryptocurrency wallets even though their use is prevalent. Crypto wallets are similar to your home safe. You have a key (or code), and you had better not lose that key as you could lose ownership of your valuables. Instead of a physical box crypto wallets are software programs that store your public and private keys. See, similar. Don’t lose your effing key! 😉

Private keys are essential. If you do not ‘own’ your private key, you technically do not control your cryptocurrency. Again…Don’t lose or share your key! Your private key looks something like this (This is not a valid key):


So do you remember we said wallets store, send and receive digital currencies, right? When a person sends you Ethereum (or whatever) you will need your private key to access the funds transferred and access your assets. This movement of assets from wallet to wallet, or wallet to cryptocurrency exchange is recorded on the blockchain and your wallet balance will reflect that.

How do you send and recieve?
Your wallet will have a public and private key/address. The public key is used to send and receive cryptocurrency and can be disseminated with others. If you wish to send cryptocurrency from your wallet to another address, or exchange, you will have to be provided an address to send to. It is very important you copy and paste the address correctly. Verify before you send.

Your private key is used with the public key to create a signature that cannot be forged. Your private kry must be kept a secret. Varys like secret. Eunuch like secret.

What type of cryptocurrency wallets are there?

You can download a wallet to your smartphone, you can create one online via a web browser, you can download a wallet and store it on your PC or you can buy a physical wallet. Wallets all come down to three categories: hardware, software or paper.

  • Mobile: A mobile wallet will run on your smartphone. Much like your PC security is high as only you control your smartphone. Same setbacks apply though: Hacked, virus or a stolen phone compromises your wallet. MyCelium is arguably one of the best mobile crypto wallets
  • Desktop: These wallets are downloaded and installed on your PC or laptop. Because the wallet installed on your pc or laptop, it can only be accessed from them. Desktop wallets offer a high level of security but if your computer gets a virus or is hacked your wallet could be compromised too. Bitcoin core is an example of a Bitcoin desktop wallet.
  • Online: Wallets that are on the cloud, web based. These are by far the most convenient wallets as it gives you the ability to access your funds it from anywhere. There are two main drawbacks to online wallets. If you recall from the beginning of this article I said “If you do not ‘own’ your private key, you technically do not control your cryptocurrency”?Online wallets store your keys online and are therefore not controlled by you. This makes them vulnerable to attach and theft. *IMPORTANT: Be certain to double check the URL for your online wallet (bookmark it) before entering passwords. There are a lot of phishing scams out there.
  • Hardware: By far the most secure method of storing your crypto loot. In this case your private keys are stored on physical device, not unlike a USB drive. While your HW wallet has to connect online to send and receive currency, they are stored offline which provide added security.***Important: We recommend you always purchase your hardware wallet directly from the manufacturer. Better to be safe than sorry. Also always record your written backups of your keys.
  • Paper: A paper wallet is a piece of paper that contains copies of the public and private keys that make up a wallet. Will generally also have a QR code for a quick scan. The benefit of a paper wallet? Simple: The keys are not stored digitally anywhere

Cryptocurrency Wallet Safety:

Wallet Type Security Level Example wallet
Desktop Medium Bitcoin Core, breadwallet
Hardware High Ledger or Trezor
Online Low MyEtherWallet, blockchain.info
Software Medium Mycelium, Jaxx
Paper Highest Paper, you fool

Ultimately it’s up to you to decide how comfortable you are with which type of wallet. I know many people who use a combination of two or three wallets. Do your research and review the products you plan to use. In a way selecting a cryptocurrency wallet is like selecting a bank to store your cash. You want: Security, peace of mind and confidence in the product.

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