Mina Crypto (MINA) — A Light and Powerful Contender

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From Ethereum to Tendermint, most blockchains start out small, but can grow to thousands of gigabytes over time. In a blockchain, the degree of architectural decentralization increases with the number of nodes responsible for validating network transactions. In a typical blockchain, every new block that’s added to the chain makes it more expensive to operate a full node. A bridge between the real world and crypto, Mina Protocol is looking to revolutionize the blockchain industry with groundbreaking technology that promises cheaper transactions at lightning speeds.

What Is the Mina Protocol?

Formerly named Coda Protocol, Mina Protocol is currently the lightest blockchain in the world. Unlike cryptocurrency platforms such as Ethereum and Bitcoin, Mina’s size remains constant regardless of the number of transactions made on it. Today, Mina’s blockchain size is 22 KB, the same size as when it first started out. In comparison, the size of the BTC blockchain was 1.93 GB in June 2012, but has since ballooned to about 360 GB as of October 10, 2021. 

Apart from its 22 KB limit, Mina Protocol also incorporates a complex cryptographic tool called zero-knowledge proofs which further reduces the size of the blockchain, so that users can maintain a full node even with intensive use. Since it’s so small, any Mina user can deploy a full node on their smartphone. 

What Is MINA?

Native to the Mina blockchain, MINA tokens are needed to secure the network via staking/proof of stake (PoS). They are also used on Mina’s Snarketplace

Token holders can secure the network directly by PoS, and also by staking or delegating their tokens. Note that the protocol does not use the mechanism of slashing (loss of stake) to punish validator misbehavior. So, there’s no risk in locking in your tokens or delegating staking.

How Does the Mina Protocol Work?

The Mina Protocol uses a consensus algorithm derived from Ouroboros Praos (Cardano’s PoS consensus mechanism). 

The initial consensus mechanism has been modified to suit the specific characteristics of Mina, including the integration of zk-SNARKs (more on that below). This new version is called Ouroboros Samasika. The three actors of the network are as follows.

Verifiers

All nodes in the Mina network can verify the cryptographic proofs that are zk-SNARKs (see below). These proofs can be downloaded quickly since they weigh only a few hundred bytes each. They can also be verified in a matter of milliseconds.

Block Producers

Like miners in the Bitcoin network or stakers in a PoS network, block producers in Mina are responsible for collecting transactions and including them in blocks. The protocol rewards miners for their work via the inflation and collection of transaction fees. Block producers select transactions and generally go for those with higher fees to maximize their earnings. 

However, they must also provide SNARK, as the blockchain must remain “succinct.” For each transaction added to a block, the producer has to provide enough SNARK for an equivalent number of previously added transactions. Otherwise, the transaction would end up getting rejected by the other nodes for not following the rules of consensus

For example, if a block producer wants to add 10 transactions to the end of the queue, the producer must “snarker” 10 transactions from the beginning of the queue. Block producers can generate these SNARKs themselves, or buy them from nodes dedicated to their calculation. 

Snarkers

Snarkers are nodes in the network responsible for producing cryptographic evidence (zk-SNARKs). They assign a bid to each proof generated, while producers use the evidence to build their blocks. Block producers compensate Snarkers by paying for the bids with transaction fees. Snarkers can produce multiple proofs and compete with one another by bidding for the same transaction. 

It’s important to understand the market dynamic between snarkers and block producers. The snarker aims to sell their evidence, and they’re rewarded for it. The block producer is looking to get evidence at a low price, and pays the snarker via a special transaction called “fee to transfer.” Since the fee is paid on a per-batch basis, block producers prefer to buy SNARK in bulk.

The platform on which these activities take place is called the Snarketplace.

Zero-Knowledge Evidence and zk-SNARKs

To understand how Mina Protocol works, it’s important to first grasp the concepts of zero-knowledge evidence and zk-SNARKs. 

The acronym zk-SNARK is short for ”zero-knowledge Succinct Non-interactive ARgument of Knowledge”. A zero-knowledge proof (ZKP) is a cryptographic protocol which makes it possible to prove a transaction’s veracity without knowledge of the proposal itself.

In the case of zk-SNARKs, these recursive zero knowledge proofs are:

  • Succinct: The size of the generated proofs is very small at a few kilobytes.
  • Non-interactive: The protocol does not require interaction between the evidence provider and the verifier.

Mina Protocol then takes advantage of the amazing properties of zk-SNARKs to maintain its “succinct” blockchain.

Since they ensure anonymity, zk-SNARKs are an integral part of the Mina network. In fact, zk-SNARKs are widely used within so-called “anonymous” cryptocurrencies. For example, they’re used to ensure the confidentiality of transactions within the Zcash network.

zk-SNARKs can be thought of as immutable certificates. They make it possible to prove the validity of any operation on the network without actually knowing what it’s about. For any calculation sequence (such as the verification of transactions included in a block), one can simply produce a mathematical proof certifying that this sequence is correct. 

A SNARK makes it possible to verify that all the rules of the consensus protocol are respected: the validity of signatures and transactions, consensus as proof of stake, etc.

Blockchain Validation

Any Mina user can validate the blockchain. This technique makes it possible to “compress” the blockchain. Rather than check the entire transaction history of a block to validate it, full nodes verify cryptographic evidence and the Merkle tree associated with the latest state of the blockchain.

If the protocol uses one SNARK per block, the size of the chain would be reduced initially but increase linearly over time. Thereafter, proofs are generated from the existing ones: the function used to generate the SNARKs is recursive, keeping the size of evidence fixed.

Each new SNARK can be considered a “super-SNARK,” a super-proof generated from a chain of proofs. This is what makes it possible to validate the history of any transaction, from the genesis (original) block to the most recent block produced. A complete node can be synchronized with the entire Mina blockchain in just a few milliseconds.

Pros and Cons of Mina Protocol

Mina Protocol’s developers describe it as the ideal private gateway between the real world and crypto. This gives it an advantage over blockchains that do not interact with the open internet. 

Mina solves some common blockchain problems with Snapps, the DApps that power its network. Here’s what Mina’s Snapps enable you to do: 

  • Check the integrity of a dataset without knowing the details involved
  • Easily verify the accuracy of long and/or expensive calculations
  • Run a full node on your smartphone
  • Access real world data from any website for on-chain use

Here are the protocol’s main disadvantages: 

  • Developers are unwilling to patent ideas, leading to many forks based on technology and using the ideas as off-chain solutions for existing cryptocurrencies.
  • It cannot handle many transactions at a time. According to Mina founder and CEO Evan Shapiro, Mina has a speed of just 22 TPS. Although slightly better than Bitcoin, its handling capacity is a far cry from blockchains like Ripple (1,500 TPS) and Solana (50,000 TPS).

What Can Mina Protocol Be Used For?

  • End-to-end data privacy: Mina Protocol allows users to perform sensitive operations on the blockchain without disclosing personal information.
  • Permissionless web oracles: Developers can integrate multiple public data sources from the Internet into their decentralized applications without having to obtain permission.
  • Managing web identifiers: Mina can be used to access a site or an Internet service without users having to create an account or share personal data. In this case, Mina functions as an interface for anonymous access to any platform.

How to Buy MINA Crypto

You can buy MINA from top crypto exchanges. All you need to do is sign up for a wallet, wait for your identity to be verified, deposit funds into your account and make your purchase. 

Market Cap

As of this writing, there are approximately 276 million MINA in circulation, against a total supply of about 824 million tokens. MINA has a market cap of about $1.29 billion, with one MINA currently trading at $4.66. MINA currently ranks #84 on CoinMarketCap.

Source: CoinMarketCap|MINA

Is Mina Protocol (MINA) a Good Investment?

To gauge whether a cryptocurrency is a good investment, two factors should be taken into consideration: investor enthusiasm, and how helpful the blockchain’s power is in real life. When it comes to Mina Protocol, both aspects are adequately represented. The public sale of MINA tokens attracted far more investors than expected, and the market’s enthusiasm for the protocol cannot be concealed. Moreover, the prospects offered by this new architecture in terms of decentralization and scalability pave the way for developers to create applications based on privacy and control of private information. 

Although MINA was launched in March 2021, it only started being listed on exchanges from May onward. Since August, the price of MINA has increased by over 100% (see figure below). Although this isn’t an astronomical figure, it’s a good starting point for a cryptocurrency that’s fairly new to the (highly competitive) crypto market.

Source: TradingView|MINA/USDT

Closing Thoughts

At the moment, the Mina blockchain is the lightest of its kind. Not only is Mina Protocol designed to achieve optimal decentralization, but it also ensures the confidentiality of its users by preventing sensitive data from being revealed or leaked. Having said that, Mina is not perfect, as it does have some flaws and areas in which improvements are needed. Overall, with its novel concept and great potential, this blockchain/crypto is definitely on our to-watch list.

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