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What is Monero (XMR)
Monero is one of the leading privacy-focused cryptocurrencies and is supported by a large open-source community of developers and privacy proponents. A fork of the ByteCoin protocol launched in 2014, Monero is one of the CryptoNote coins -- a series of cryptocurrencies that rely on a suite of advanced cryptographic primitives to achieve privacy, decentralization, and fungibility.
Monero (XMR) features
Monero is a proof-of-work (PoW) cryptocurrency whose community places a large emphasis on decentralization, and multiple efforts have been made to make Monero ASIC-resistant. ASICs are specialized mining hardware for PoW networks that can lead to centralization of miners. As such, Monero has deployed soft forks of the network’s protocol to limit ASIC performance on the network.
The CryptoNote technology deployed by Monero makes it one of the most profound examples of privacy in the broader cryptocurrency market. The network uses cryptographic primitives such as Ring Confidential Transactions (Ring CTs), ring signatures, stealth addresses, and bulletproofs to mask transaction details at the blockchain level completely.
Monero’s governance relies on a ‘rough consensus’ model where proposals for network upgrades and developments are passed through a series of off-chain decisions by the core developers and the broader community.
Privacy Technology and The Monero Research Lab
Transactions on Monero are automatically private, meaning that the privacy technology employed works in the background and is not optional when sending or receiving XMR -- the native Monero coin.
At the blockchain layer, there are primarily 3 areas that need to be addressed to achieve anonymity and fungibility:
1. Transaction Origin
2. Transaction Destination
3. Transaction Amounts
Monero’s main privacy implementations address all 3 areas, and their recent integration of bulletproofs -- a form of zero-knowledge proof -- supplements the network’s privacy and efficiency further.
Transaction origins and destinations are masked in Monero by a combination of stealth addresses and Ring CTs. Stealth addresses are unique, one-time addresses created by the sender for a transaction on behalf of the recipient, providing unlinkability of addresses. RingCTs are an optimized form of ring signatures which muddle the key used to sign a transaction among a group of users -- making it computationally infeasible to discern the actual signer of a transaction.
RingCTs even enable the masking of transaction amounts with reasonable efficiency. To improve the efficiency and privacy assertions of Monero transactions, bulletproofs were implemented into the protocol in 2018, which have helped to reduce the large transaction sizes in Monero by up to 80 percent.
Confidential transactions are, on average, larger than standard cryptographic transactions (i.e., in Bitcoin) due to the commitments required to mask transaction details. While very new, bulletproofs in Monero are widely observed as a significant boost for the network.
The Monero Research Lab has published numerous academic papers on financial privacy and technology and plays an important role in the network’s future trajectory.
Mining and Decentralization
Monero relies on PoW consensus with a few optimizations focused on maintaining decentralization. The consensus algorithm deployed in the network is the CryptoNight algorithm, which is designed to support CPUs and GPUs, but not specialized hardware like ASICs. The Monero community has selected to be open in adapting the consensus algorithm to attempts by mining firms to build specialized hardware capable of mining on the network.
Monero also has a dynamic block size, meaning that the size of blocks in the blockchain is not fixed and they adjust based on network requirements.
Monero has a consistently decreasing block reward that creates a tail emission whose consequences are a perpetually decreasing rate of annual inflation to its supply.