These are the show notes for an episode of the Unchained podcast featuring the cryptocurrency Grin. Listen to the episode on Unchainedpodcast.com, or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, Pandora, Soundcloud, TuneIn, iHeart, Overcast, Stitcher, and many other platforms.
The origin story of Bitcoin is part of its appeal: an anonymous creator designs a currency and then vanishes — leaving behind mountains of digital gold, untouched.
That seemingly selfless act has made a near-religion out of Bitcoin and helped set it apart from the many other cryptocurrencies that have been spawned since.
A recently launched cryptocurrency has a similar allure.
The technology it’s based on was proposed in a white paper posted in the Bitcoin Wizards IRC chat by a programmer named Tom Elvis Jedusor (the French name for the villain Voldemort from Harry Potter series), who then vanished. Their proposal? A protocol called Mimblewimble, named for the tongue-tying curse in Harry Potter.
Afterward, another Harry-Potter-named anonymous developer, Ignotus Peverell, proposed the first cryptocurrency based on this technology, Grin.
Launched in January, Grin went live as similarly to Bitcoin as possible in an era when the hot new cryptocurrency usually mints a few new cryptomillionaires along with the first coins. It did not set aside tokens for the developers at that time, nor in any regular manner going forward, and none were pre-mined or created before the public had access to them. This philosophy was “a breath of fresh air” said, Daniel Lehnberg, one of the core team members, on the most recent episode of Unchained.
“It’s been a completely open source project by the community and funded by the community as well — any development funding received has been based on donations. There’s been no ICO, no pre-mine, no dev tax, there’s no anything that allocates funds through the protocol layer to the development team,” he said. “Instead it was fairly launched, so anyone who wanted to could mine it … and it’s open for anybody to use, and there are no incentives or special circumstances that benefit early adopters or early contributors more than anybody else.”
The coin aims, like the original Bitcoin white paper, to become digital cash or a medium of exchange. Michael Cordner, another team member who joined Lehnberg on the show, said that while the narrative around Bitcoin is now that it is digital gold, Grin could try for Bitcoin’s original goal. One of the ways it is doing that is to create new Grins in perpetuity, rather than having a hard cap on the number of coins total, as Bitcoin does. However, as I point out in the show, Grin’s perpetual emission rate of 1 Grin/second will, in effect, be like Bitcoin’s emission rate: high in relation to circulating supply in the beginning and then, over time, negligible in relation to circulating supply. So whether people treat it as a type of digital cash whose value may not go up long-term remains to be seen.
We also discuss the various strategies used to ensure Grin is private: “Amounts on the blockchain are completely obfuscated,” said Cordner. “Transaction structure is obfuscated and compressed.” And, when you use Grin, you don’t even have an address for your coins.
“A big part of privacy is hiding in crowds amongst your peers and because this is enabled by default on the core protocol, anyone using Grin is making harder for privacy to be leaked,” said Lehnberg.
We also talk about how Grin has solved for a problem that is plaguing many other blockchains, including Bitcoin’s: bloat. For blockchains like Bitcoin’s that keep all data on the ledger itself, it becomes harder and harder for new participants on the system to download that record afresh. Grin’s blockchain perpetually cuts out redundancies with a a technique called cut-through. So, for instance, if I send 10 Grins to Michael and Michael then sends 10 to Daniel, then the blockchain would only keep that 10 Grins went from me to Daniel.
While this fascinating technology and coin has certain inspired the crypto community, that doesn’t mean it’s been a breeze for the developers to raise the donations they need to work on the project. When talking about how one of these fundraising efforts stalled, I asked them if they should have used incentives in some fashion, in the way other projects have, rather than relying on the goodness of people’s hearts. “I’ve been called a fanatic or incredibly naive,” said Lehnberg. “I don’t really see another way of doing it that makes sense. … raising money in a different way, while you solve one problem, you create other problems: how do you allocate funds, how do you handle administration? It becomes a different game … and it’s not proven in the space that it yields better results.”
Check out the rest of this thought-provoking episode at Unchainedpodcast.com, or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, Pandora, Soundcloud, TuneIn, iHeart, Overcast, Stitcher, and many other platforms.