As more and more people get familiarized with the basic concepts of blockchain, one of the most surprising facts most crypto enthusiasts learn is the fact that the large majority of cryptocurrencies have very limited privacy features.
Since privacy and anonymity are very contentious topics these days, it’s no wonder that privacy coins have gained so much popularity in the last few years, as they offer a high degree of anonymity and security in a decentralized manner.
Even though Bitcoin and various other typical blockchain projects have various privacy features, there’s still a lot that can be improved upon their original designs. Boasting similar characteristics and aspirations to those of Bitcoin, MimbleWimble is one project that aims to improve both privacy and scalability of the first blockchain implementation.
What exactly is MimbleWimble?
MimbleWimble was first announced in the summer of 2016, when a user under the pseudonym “Tom Elvis Jedusor,” published an interesting whitepaper on a Bitcoin research channel. Harry Potter fans should have picked up on the references by now, but for those who didn’t, Tom Elvis Jedusor is the name of Voldemort and MimbleWimble is a tongue-tying curse or spell that binds the target’s tongue to keep him and her from talking about a specific subject.
How it works
The protocol in question is designed as a slim-down version of the Bitcoin protocol and aims to improve scalability and privacy. Even though it’s stripped down, it claims to be an improvement on all the privacy properties of Bitcoin. The way it aims to do so is probably one of the most interesting facts about MimbleWimble.
Regarding how it tackles scalability, it’s safe to say that it does so in a very different way to a lot of other protocols. It focuses on creating new protocols which make running nodes a lot less resource intensive, conversely to other projects that focus on centralization and sharding/state channels solutions.
MimbleWimble is a UTXO-based system, not a State-based system which means it’s defined by inputs and outputs. Instead of focusing on ensuring a huge throughput, MimbleWimble addresses a less obvious aspect of scaling by aiming to eradicate inefficiencies rather than increasing the power.
MimbleWimble gets rid of old and unneeded transactions, unlike Bitcoin and Ethereum, for example, which both have insanely large ledgers. This means that the ledger is not burdened by historical data transactions which ensure that its size will always be mere megabytes.
The way MimbleWimble tackles the problem of privacy is also different from other projects. In short, the protocol combines various versions of several cryptographic “hack” designed specifically for Bitcoin.
For starters, MimbleWimble uses a so-called Confidential Transactions protocol, also deployed on Blockstream’s Liquid sidechain for Bitcoin. This protocol allows users to hide the amounts involved in the transactions (making the information available only to the involved parties – sender and receiver). It makes use of a cryptographic process called the Pedersen commitment.
CoinJoin is yet another procedure/protocol used by MimbleWimble, and it was originally proposed by Gregory Maxwell, an important Bitcoin Core contributor. This method combines various transactions into one big transaction, where all senders send money to all receivers. By combining CT and CoinJoin, MimbleWimble eliminates the need for traditional elements such as traditional signatures per transactions, as well as public keys and addresses.
Another very interesting aspect of MimbleWimble is the fact that it allows old and new transaction data to be canceled out against each other. This enhances the way pruning is done: old transaction data is deleted, new nodes don’t need to sync to the whole blockchain, and the data required by the nodes is growing at a much slower rate.
What about Grin and Beam?
As 2018 is coming to an end soon, the projects are close to realizing versions of the current MimbleWimble protocol. The two implementations are called Grin and Beam.
Grin is developed by a group of anonymous volunteer contributors. The project was started by a pseudonymous volunteer by the name of Ignotus Peverell (another Harry Potter reference). The programming language of choice is Rust and, just like Bitcoin, Grin will not feature an ICO and will not be maintained by any specific company or foundation. Since Grin doesn’t have a scripting language built-in, smart contracts seem highly unlikely, even though a tech called scriptless scripts might enable fairly similar functionality.
Grin is expected to launch somewhere in the early part of 2019, as it’s currently under heavy development and testing.
The second implementation of MimbleWimble is called Beam. Beam will be launched and maintained by a for-profit company, but the maintenance should be passed over to a non-profit foundation. The company will receive 20% of all newly mined coins for the first five years. There are still a lot of invariable and unknown elements regarding the future development of Beam. However, the project is scheduled to launch in December 2018.
Taking everything into account, MimbleWimble is definitely one of the “good projects” out there. The protocol is very promising, yet its future depends on how strong will the potential implementations be. Hence, until Grin and Beam officially see the light of day, MimbleWimble remains a very promising and interesting protocol, on paper at least.
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