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Leo Brunnhofer

Mina Protocol - An Introduction

"Mina is building a gateway between the real world and crypto — and the infrastructure for the secure, democratic future we all deserve."

The idea of blockchain technology is that power remains to many, not to a few. It should be held accountable by the users, and everyone should be able to enforce the rules. A decentralized structure allows the network to conduct trustless transactions. In Blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum, if a new participant joins, they have to deal with the whole history of transactions that ever happened. We are talking about hundreds of gigabytes of data (growing) here.

The Mina founders see a big problem there because it leads to the fact that not every participant can verify these loads of data themselves. The Bitcoin Blockchain already has 350 Gigabytes, and it is growing with every transaction made. Over time it will get harder for miners to store the whole transaction history of the Blockchain , needed for verification. Can we still speak of a decentralized network, if there is only a handful of miners with the needed resources left? Users need to trust powerful intermediaries, which leads to a decrease in decentralization while the influence of powerful intermediaries is growing and opens up to potential censorship.

Bitcoin Blockchain Size over time - Image via https://blockchair.com/
Ethereum Blockchain Size over time - Image via https://blockchair.com/

The Mina protocol offers a solution with an easily verifiable, constant-sized cryptographic proof. The Blockchain has a constant size of 22kb, no matter how many users are joining or made transactions. This fact makes Mina the lightest Blockchain in the world. Every user operates a full node and is participating in the consensus. Theoretically due to the small size, users can also run a full node on their phones. Mina claims to stand for

  • true decentralization
  • scalability and
  • security.

Let's have a closer look at the problems that Mina is going to solve.

Here is the full video review.

Mina  Protocol - Problems and Solutions

Traditional Blockchains grow very big from a data perspective.

Bitcoin (currently 350GB and growing) or Ethereum(now 250GB and growing) grows bigger and bigger with every transaction. The growing size can work against decentralization.

Mina has a fixed size of 22kb - forever. Developers and users have easy access and can verify from any device (even smartphones) without dealing with hundreds of gigabytes of history, making Mina a secure and trustless blockchain. All this is possible through recursive Zero-Knownledge Proofs.

Blockchains can not directly interact with the Internet.

The lack of having direct access to real-world information limits the utility of existing blockchains. Oracles help to access off-chain data.

Mina can privately interact with any website through Permissionless Web Oracles. Snapps can access any publicly available website and verify that data was on a website at a specific time.

💡 Snapp =  distributed application, which can verify the integrity of a piece of data without disclosing what it is.

Lack of privacy.

Users often do not have control over their data.

Mina keeps users in control of their data. Every user is a full node and can connect peer-to-peer, and there are now intermediaries needed, Zero-knowledge proofs make this possible.

Mina Protocol - Project details

"What attracted me was a small, scalable blockchain that's still independently verifiable on small nodes."

Naval Ravikant- Founder, AngelList & Mina Investor

Mina claims to be the world's lightest Blockchain, powered by its participants. Let's have a closer look.

If the technology works, the entire chain will always be about 22kb, making it the lightest Blockchain. 22Kb equals about ten to 15 tweets or 3500 words.  Due to the size of the Blockchain, every user can run a full Mina node even on their phone and connect peer-to-peer and take part in the consensus. There is no need for intermediaries, which is supporting the goal of true decentralization.

But how does this all work?

How does the Mina Protocol work?

The Mina protocol uses a solution that includes advanced cryptography and recursive zk-SNARKS to reach true decentralization at scale.

Zero-knowledge proofs - zk-SNARKs

Mina uses a cryptographic technique called zero-knowledge proofs (or zk-SNARKs). Zero-knowledge proofs dramatically reduce the amount of data each user needs to download to interact with the Blockchain. Instead of verifying the entire chain from the beginning, participants verify the network and transactions using recursive zero-knowledge proofs. Nodes can then store just this proof, as opposed to the whole chain. zK-SNARKS are capturing the state of the Blockchain as a /(not the actual Blockchain) and send it around

Mina is not the first Crypto project that is using zero-knowledge proofs.

ZCash is a digital currency using zero-knowledge proofs. Algorand is also using zk-SNARKs since their founder Silvio Micali  a scientist and co-inventor of zero-knowledge proofs.

💡 zk-SNARKS =  Succinct Non-interactive Arguments of Knowledge

Recursiveness

When each new block in the Mina network is created, a new zero-knowledge proof is created. This proof includes the proof from the previous state of the Blockchain, which itself includes a proof of the state of the Blockchain before that, and so on. By using this property of recursion, these proofs can contain an infinite amount of information while keeping the proof the same size.

You can compare this with taking a picture of an item, then taking another picture of the item, with the old picture in the background. Then you take another picture of another new item and the previous picture in the background, and so on.

Image via https://minaprotocol.com/

Proof of stake

Mina uses a proof of stake consensus mechanism.  The Mina team slightly extended and modified the Ouroboros Praos protocol for Mina's succinct Blockchain. The Mina proof-of-stake consensus protocol is called  Ouroboros Samasika.

Key features of the Ouroboros Samasika protocol are:

  • no limit on the number of block producers
  • minimum of stake requirement
  • no slashing

💡 Slashing - is a mechanism built into proof of stake blockchain protocols to discourage validator misbehavior.

Marketplace aka Snarketplace

Mina has a built-in peer-to-peer marketplace for the buying and selling of snark proofs. Snark workers keep the Blockchain at the fixed 22kb size by producing snark proofs. Block producers use their block rewards to purchase snark work from snark workers. The incentives are purely peer-to-peer, and dynamically established in a public marketplace, aka the snarketplace.

Snapps (SNARK-powered applications)

Snapps are a new kind of decentralized app powered by SNARKs. Snapps provide privacy by validating and sharing proofs with the network — rather than the data itself. Snapps can access verified real-world data from any website for use on-chain. They do this by interacting with HTTPS to create proofs that verify that the data was on the site's server at a specific time. These proofs are then shared with the Mina network. Snapps can also connect to other cryptocurrencies via simple full-node security-level bridges.

Ways to join Mina Community

Mina makes it very easy to participate; there are different options for you.

Join as a

Verifier

The idea is that most of the participants of the Mina network are capable of verifying. A Mina verifier just needs to download a zk-SNARK (around a few hundred bytes) and verify it.

Block producer

Mina block producers are comparable with Miners or Stakers in other Blockchains. Users who are staking Mina are rewarded with block rewards in $MINA if selected to produce a block. They also receive transaction fees.  Block producers can also be SNARK producers.

SNARK producer

Snark producers can help to compress data in the network by generating SNARK proofs of transactions. Those proofs can be sold to the Block producers for a bit of the block reward.

Mina Application Use Cases

Just a few examples of how Mina can be used.

Private Access to Internet Services

"Unprecedented privacy by validating and sharing proofs with the network — rather than the data itself"

Users can access online and on-chain services without sharing their data. Mina can deliver proof that the user is meeting specific requirements. There is no need for an intermediate that can be compromised.

Mina partner Teller Finance built an example **Snapp,** which is ready for use. A user can prove that their credit score is over a certain level, without revealing the actual score or the social security number. The Snapp, which connects to any website, produces proof (e.g., passing credit score threshold) and shares that proof with the Mina Network. The actual data, in this case, the actual credit score, is not shared. More details about the decentralized lending app are here.

💡 Snapps are a new kind of decentralized app powered by zk-SNARKs.

Permissionless Web Oracles

"Can access verified real-world data from any website for use on-chain."

Mina Snapps makes it possible for developers to use private, verified, real-world data from any website to build apps. Snapps can access a publicly available website. They can use, access, and protect sensitive information only by inputting the relevant proof to their application. There is no need for trusted (centralized) oracles or custom website integrations.

This makes it possible to use a successfully received transaction triggering another smart contract to trigger the release of Ethereum to the user's address. These features are in development.

All this works because Snapps can securely interact with a website to verify that data was on a website server at a specific time.

One Private Internet Login

Users can access a website privately without creating an account or having to reveal their data. Mina makes it possible to log in securely; no centralized service provider can block them. Any developer can integrate the private internet login into their service. This application is not live yet.

This use case works because users can create Snapp-based login accounts with their email addresses. The Snapp proves that the user owns the underlying email address without revealing it.

The $MINA Token

Ticker: $MINA

Traded on: Coinlist, OKEx, LBank, Gate.io, Kraken.io

The native currency of the Mina blockchain. Each $MINA token is divisible up to 9 decimal places.

Utility

  • Staking and produce Blocks
  • Exclusive currency on Snarketplace: Buy and sell SNARK proofs. Used by block producers and SNARK producers

Tokenomics

Initial Token Supply: 1.000.000.000 Mina

Initial Distribution

Image via Minaprotocol.com
Estimated Distribution after 4 years. Image via Minaprotocol.com

Distribution and Investment Overview - Mina Protocol

Fundraising history

Mina has raised $48.000.000 in four rounds since 2018.

Distribution and Investment Overview - Mina Protocol

Mina Token Performance - 5. July 2021

Price:  1,42$Circulating Supply: 166.200.997

MarketCap: $237,012,582

Market Cap Rank: #162

All time high: $9.09

All time low: $1.10

Roadmap and Events

After the kickoff in June 2017 and three years of development,  the Mainnet launched in March 2021.

image via coinlist

People

Board of Directors

image via https://minaprotocol.com/

Evan Shapiro - CEO (Twitter) - Founder

  • BS in computer science, Carnegie Mellon
  • MS, CMU Personal Robotics Lab
  • research HERB robotics platform
  • former software engineer for Mozilla

Izaak Meckler, CTO, O(1) Labs (Twitter, Linkedin) - Founder

  • mathematician and computer scientist
  • PhD student at UC Berkeley (cryptography)
  • former software engineer at trading firm Jane Street
  • contribution to numerous open-source projects including the Elm compiler

Tess Rinearson (Twitter)

Berlin / Seattle

  • VP of Engineering, Interchain GmbH
  • Core Developer, Tendermint

Sean Inggs

Cayman Islands

  • Fund Director and Joint Legal Counsel
  • International Management Services
  • corporate and investment funds attorney
  • BA from the University of Cape Town and an LLB from the University of the Witwatersrand.

Josh Cincinnati (Twitter)

  • Former Executive Director, Zcash Foundation

Jill Carlson (Website, Twitter)

  • Principal, Slow Ventures
  • Advisor at blockchain-based Ventures (e.g., Algorand, UMA)
  • MSc from Magdalen College, Oxford, and an AB from Harvard in Classics

Contributors

image via https://minaprotocol.com/

Joseph Bonneau, Assistant Professor, NYU Courant Institute (Linkedin)

Elizabeth Binks, Software Engineer, Chainsafe Systems

Hsin-Ju Chuang, CEO & Founder of Dystopia Labs (Twitter, Linkedin)

Paul Davison, Co-Founder & CEO, Clubhouse (Twitter, Linkedin)

Nikki Del Principe, Chief Strategy Officer, Melrose PR

Raneem Hamad, Account Executive, Melrose PR

Aidan Hyman, CEO & Founder - Chainsafe Systems (Twitter, Linkedin)

Erica Kang, Founder, Krypto Seoul

Akis Kattis, Phd Student, NYU Courant Institute

Zaki Manian, Principal Co-Founder, Iqlusion (Twitter, Linkedin)

Anna Rose, Zero-Knowledge Validator Co-Founder, Zeroknowledge Podcast Co-Host (Twitter, Linkedin)

Gregg Reynolds, Independent Software Developer

Amit Sahai, Director, Center for Encrypted Functionalities

Ryan Sears, Founder, Cali Dog Security (Twitter, Linkedin)

Kili Wall, Director of Media Relations, Melrose PR

Keally Weaver, CEO and Founder, Melrose PR (Twitter, Linkedin)

Leila Wolf, Account Executive, Melrose PR

Luke Youngblood, Founder & CEO, Blockscale (Twitter, Linkedin)

Claire Kart, Head of Marketing & Community, O(1) Labs (Twitter, Linkedin)

Emre Tekisalp, Head of Business Development, O(1) Labs (Twitter, Linkedin)

Bijan Shahrokhi, Head of Product, O(1) Labs (Linkedin)

Brandon Kase, Head of Product Engineering, O(1) Labs, (Twitter, Linkedin)

Joon Kim, General Counsel, O(1) Labs (Twitter, Linkedin)

Ben Ward, Head of Business Operations, O(1) Labs (Linkedin)

Aneesha Raines, Engineering Manager, O(1) Labs (Github, Linkedin)

Natasha Carter, Communications Manager, O(1) Labs (Twitter)

Kate El-Bizri, Visual Designer, O(1) Labs (Linkedin)

Christine Yip, Community Manager, O(1) Labs, (Twitter, Linkedin)

Nathan Holland, Protocol Engineer, O(1) Labs (Linkedin)

Carey Janecka, Product Engineer, O(1) Labs (Twitter, Linkedin)

Deepthi Kumar, Protocol Engineer, O(1) Labs (Twitter, Linkedin)

Sherry Lin, Marketing Manager, O(1) Labs, (Twitter, Linkedin)

Martin Minkov, Product Engineer, O(1) Labs (Linkedin)

Chris Pryor, Lead Product Designer, O(1) Labs (Linkedin)

Vanishree Rao, Protocol Researcher, O(1) Labs (Twitter, Linkedin)

Andrea Rodriguez, Marketing Coordinator (Twitter, Linkedin)

Nacera Rodstein, Operations Associate, O(1) Labs (Linkedin)

Matthew Ryan, Protocol Engineer, O(1) Labs

Paul Steckler, Protocol Engineer, O(1) Labs

Jiawei Tang, Protocol Engineer, O(1) Labs (Linkedin)

Andrew Trainor, Protocol Engineer, O(1) Labs (Linkedin)

The team looks great with a good mix. Maybe an experienced Marketing Manager and Product Manager is missing. O(1)labs is trying to hire more people, also with the mentioned skillset.

Investors

Image via https://minaprotocol.com/

The Mina Protocol has an impressive round of investors. Just to mentions some of them Polychain, Paradigm, Coinbase Ventures, Three Arrows Capital, General Catalyst, Accomplice, Metastable, Naval Ravikant, Bixin Ventures, and others invested in the project.

Polychain

since 2016

L: San Francisco

S: Seed

#Investments: 93

Founder: Olaf Carlson-Wee

#Bitcoin #Cryptocurrency #HedgeFunds #VentureCapital

  • Coinbase, Compound, Solana

Paradigm

since 2016

L: San Francisco

S: Seed, Early, Late

#Investments: 29

Founder: Fred Ehrsam, Matt Huang

#Blockchain #Cryptocurrency  #VentureCapital

  • Coinbase, BlockFi, Compound, Cosmos, Keep, O(1) Labs, Uniswap

Coinbase Ventures

since 2018

L: San Francisco

S: Early

#Investments: 104

Founder: Fred Ehrsam, Matt Huang

#Blockchain #Cryptocurrency  #VentureCapital

  • BlockFi, Compound, Dharma, Etherscan, Keep,  UMA, Rally, Near, Matic, Mina, Messari

Mina (Infrastructure) Partners

image via https://minaprotocol.com/

Mina is partnering with over 40 partners who are build and tools and functions for Mina.

  • DSRV Labs is building a Node Operator Dashboard
  • Figment Networks is building Data Hub and Hubble sites
  • Chainsafe is improving the networking stack
  • Gaunlet helps to assess the economics of Mina's consensus stack
  • BitCat works on an easy to use wallet for Mina users
  • ....

Community

  • 4600+ Unique Test Participants
  • 100+ Countries represented
  • 660+ Genesis Founding Members
  • 70+ Github Contributors
  • 100.000+ Social Media Followers

Summary

With the use of zero-knowledge proofs, Mina has the potential to put the crypto space upside down. Besides some other great inventions, the two killer improvements are the Blockchain size of 22kB and the fact that the Mina protocol can access and process the information on the public web without a centralized, trusted oracle. If the timeline and underlying technology can keep up with the claims and expectations, Mina can disrupt the space. We will watch the project closely and dive more profound in the following months.

The team looks great with a good mix from different areas of expertise. Maybe an experienced Marketing and Product Manager is missing. O(1)labs are trying to hire more people and the mentioned skillset, so maybe we see some new team members soon.

Also, the community seems to be very active and has a decent size already. Mina has 100.000+ followers on social media; there were more than 2000+ unique Testnet participants from over 100 countries. Over 1000+ Genesis Founding powering a full decentralization, and over 24.000 users are holding Mina at the moment.

Risks

It is still early in the project; the Mainnet launch was a great success, now we will see how the timeline and underlying technology is holding up with the high expectation.

We will have a close look at how decentralization, performance, and security are playing out. If all this is keeping up with the claims that were made, Mina has great potential.

Potential

The market cap of 233.000.000 $ (5. Jul 2021) is still small for a Layer 1 Smart Contract Platform. A market cap of two to ten billion (10 to 50 X) should be in reach within the following years, considering that the circulating supply is still relatively low.

Coinbase is an investor in Mina, so the chances to get listed on the Coinbase exchange are good, giving another boost. At the moment, only OKEx, Coin list, and Kraken are trading the $Mina token.

Vitalik Buterin is a big fan of zero-knowledge proofs, cooperation, and the possibility to use Mina on Ethereum would help to grow further.

To summarize everything, the potential is immense; the proof, if everything works as expected, lays ahead.

The Future is Bright

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