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Sunday Review 07/04/2024

Mother Earth let her power come to the fore this week. On Wednesday, an earthquake of magnitude 7.4 hit Taiwan and neighboring countries. Tilting mountain rocks and shaking the foundations of several buildings in the county of Hualien, the incident was followed by over 50 aftershocks. It prompted tsunami warnings in Japan and the Philippines. The tremor was the most potent to hit the region in almost twenty-five years.

Two days later, the U.S. East Coast also got its share of tectonic plate movement when a 4.8 magnitude quake, the biggest one in 140 years, was felt between the New York area and Philadelphia.

Like the earth, markets are unpredictable and sudden in their activities. And the crypto market is the epitome of that instability. Bitcoin and Ethereum prices trembled slightly on Tuesday, with the former almost falling below $65 thousand and the latter dropping to $3,239. The way up is being paved down slowly, with BTC trading at $69 thousand and ETH at $3,400 this Sunday.

Market players are also known to cause commotion, and Binance, with the multiple legal cases it is fighting all around the world, is a prime example of that. The recently appointed CEO, Richard Teng, is trying to untangle the services provided by the crypto exchange. To help him with that, he appointed a new board of directors on Monday.

To avoid future troubles, Binance has flagged the Waves protocol for not complying with the minimum requirements to be listed. The layer-one blockchain, once considered the “Russian Ethereum”, was also delisted from OKX in February for the same reason.

In trying to “streamline the product offering," Binance announced this week that it is ending support for Bitcoin Ordinals on its non-fungible tokens marketplace. It picked an unfortunate time to do so, as BRC-20 tokens are a gift that keeps on giving - in March, their sales surpassed $514 million.

Base, Coinbase’s Level-2 blockchain, also doesn't support Bitcoin NFTs. In previous months, that might have been a setback to its growth, but now it doesn't matter, as the traffic on the network is chiefly due to meme-coin trading. Since the Dencun upgrade on its parent chain lowered the network fees from around 0.1 to 0.01 cents of a dollar, degens began flocking to the chain in search of gain in the meme-coin game. Last Sunday, the Base market reached an all-time high of $3.79 million.

One project propelling the growth of Base is layer three solution Degen. Powered by a token of the same name, the platform was built to power the trading of meme-coins. Since its launch, it has processed 10.5 million transactions and registered over 500,000 new wallets.

Ethereum’s co-founder Vitalik Buterin thinks that while having fun degen, investors can also be helping struggling communities. The developer published an incendiary blog post on Monday detailing his grand vision for Web3 - crypto communism. In this new world, the smart contract rules that govern the crypto chaos are "tweaked” to “create something more positive-sum and long-lasting.”

And if Buterin wants to tweak the rules so that they work towards world peace, the team of staking platform Lido is certainly regretting they created rules good enough so that the protocol would, at least, work. A faulty smart contract on its Solana staking platform is preventing users from withdrawing their staked Solana (stSOL) tokens, locking approximately $24.4 million worth of deposits on the discontinued staking service.

Who also decided to change some rules, but in a more relaxed fashion as they are not embedded in smart contracts, is the NFT gaming platform Munchables.

One week after launching, the project suffered a $62 million exploit that sparked concerns about centralization. The team quickly solved the issue by 1) getting the money back and 2) announcing they would tweak some rules to improve how the platform works.

The soon-to-relaunch Munchables platform might be getting a few users thanks to Telegram. The viral tapping game Notecoin significantly advanced Web3 space's onboarding ambitions by bringing over 25 million people to play it. The hype around it became so much that the messaging app is now promising to start minting real $NOT tokens soon, as opposed to the fake ones users have been rewarded with until now.

Ondo Finance is also bringing more users on-chain but with finance rather than games. The company’s strategy of combining traditional finance with blockchain by venturing into the tokenization of real-world assets (RWA) is proving successful, with its market value surging considerably.

In Web3, allowing users to interact with several chains takes a lot of work. It is, however, more rewarding. Too rewarding to be true. Wormhole launched its governance token $W on Friday, and its price dropped lower than the pre-market expectations of it being worth $1.5. The $2.7 billion market cap cross-chain platform had been criticized for being overvalued throughout the week. Definitely not overvalued is Uniswap, if judged by the reported user activity. The decentralized exchange surpassed $2 trillion in lifetime trading volume on Friday.

The new wave of users of decentralized projects is prompting Web2 companies to step up their game. Google, to which this migration of users poses an existential threat, is pursuing its attempt to gain a foot in the industry. The company has expanded a feature (before only available for Ethereum) allowing users to quickly search the balance and last update time of wallet addresses from several networks.

Tether too, knows how to make it in this market, and with the profits it has been collecting with USDT, the stablecoin issuer went shopping. It bought 8888.8888 BTC worth about $626.84 million, adding to its existing stock of nearly 65,000 BTC and making the firm the 7th largest holder of Bitcoin.

The company behind the number one stablecoin by market cap must continue to be sharp as it is about to get more competition. Ripple, the digital payment platform powered by the XRP token, announced the plans for its stablecoin on Thursday. The instrument, yet to be named, promises full parity with the dollar by backing with U.S. dollar deposits, short-term U.S. government treasuries, and other cash equivalents.

Ethena Labs also entered the lucrative on-chain dollar market, offering a synthetic dollar stablecoin that is not reliant on the traditional banking system. This week, users applauded the news that the platform was airdropping its governance token, ENA.

Stablecoins substantially threaten the monetary power of national central banks, which are trying to come up with their own digital currencies. In our Banking and CBDC Weekend Roundup, we discuss how the Bank of International Settlements is working on Project Agorá - a bid to connect different wholesale CBDCs and tokenized deposits of commercial banks on a unified ledger. We also say goodbye to Zimbabwe's revolutionary digital gold token plans, dropped in favor of more familiar paper currency.

A new week is around the corner, and if you don't have many fun plans scheduled don't bother. Crypto markets will provide enough entertainment to keep you busy.