Mina protocol was created by computer scientists Evan Saphiro and Isaac Meckler. They have been close friends since high school and dabbling in cryptocurrency tech since 2011. In 2017 the pair realized that all cryptocurrencies in the market have the same fatal flaw. Every cryptocurrency has a blockchain that stores its transaction history. Each block in that chain has a standard size and new blocks are created at regular intervals.
For example, Bitcoin's block size is one megabyte and a new block is created every 10 minutes. Every time a new block is added to the Bitcoin blockchain this increases the size of the Bitcoin Blockchain by one Megabyte. Bitcoin miners need to store Bitcoin's blockchain history to make sure they're processing the correct transactions in order to earn BTC.
Evan and Isaac argue that it's only a matter of time before cryptocurrencies like BTC become so large that only a handful of miners and nodes will be able to store their transaction histories. This gradual centralization means that cryptocurrencies would become vulnerable to attack and manipulation. Cryptocurrencies have become so centralized that they would be no different from today's financial system.
At that time Isaac was studying his cryptography knowing it is possible to use zero-knowledge technology to compress the size of a cryptocurrency blockchain into the size of a few tweets. Realizing that they had found the solution to crypto's critical problem. Evan and Isaac co-founded a software company in San Fransisco called o1 Labs in 2017 to create the Coda Protocol. Coda Protocol relaunches as Mina Protocol in September 2020 because of in 2019 lawsuit by an enterprise blockchain developer called R3 which said Coda's name was too similar to its quarter blockchain.
o1 Labs develops and maintains the Mina Protocol, it's technically owned by the Mina Foundation a nonprofit in the Cayman Islands that was incorporated in February of 2021. The Mina main net went live in mid-March after nearly three years of development sponsored by some of the biggest Venture Capital in crypto including Multi Coin Capital, Polychain Capital, and Coinbase Ventures.
The Mina Foundation conducted the Mina token ICO in April and the Mina Token began trading at the end of May 2021.
Mina is the world’s lightest blockchain, powered by participants. Rather than apply brute computing force, Mina uses advanced cryptography and recursive zk-SNARKs to design an entire blockchain that is about 22kb, the size of a couple of tweets. It is the first layer-1 to enable efficient implementation and easy programmability of zero knowledge smart contracts (zkApps). With its unique privacy features and ability to connect to any website, Mina is building a private gateway between the real world and crypto—and the secure, democratic future.
Zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs) are a powerful cryptographic primitive that enables you to prove that you have a secret, without revealing it to anyone. ZKPs were invented by Shafi Goldwasser, Silvio Micali, and Charles Rackoff in 1985. Ever since ZKPs have been one of the most active areas of research in Cryptography. Moreover, recently, they are enjoying a significant impact on real-world applications, specifically on blockchain technologies. Zcash a pioneering blockchain project, employed ZKPs to achieve anonymity in financial transactions. At O(1)Labs, we are building CODA, the first succinct blockchain, using ZKPs. No matter how many transactions are recorded on the blockchain, the blockchain remains at most the size of a few tweets.
What are Zero-knowledge Proofs?
The purpose of zero-knowledge proofs is to convince someone you know something without revealing what that thing is. For example, you might want to convince someone that you know the solution to a puzzle without giving them the solution.
Let’s look at a particular puzzle to see how you can accomplish exactly this.
A Puzzle called 3-Coloring.
The 3-coloring puzzle can be described as follows. You are given a graph of nodes and edges (like in the figure below). The task is to find a “3-coloring” to the graph, which is a coloring of the nodes with three different colors in such a way that no two adjacent nodes have the same color.
A Zero-knowledge Proof for the 3-coloring Puzzle.
We will construct a ZKP protocol for the 3-coloring puzzle. Before that, let’s quickly recall the two properties we are looking for in the protocol.
A ZKP protocol between you and someone else — call her Verifier, must satisfy the following properties:
If you are cheating (i.e., if you do not know a 3-coloring), then Verifier should be able to catch you — this property is called soundness
Verifier should not learn anything about the 3-coloring — this property is called zero knowledgeness
Now, let’s try to construct a ZKP protocol, where, your proving and Verifier’s verifying procedures are as follows.
Proving: Imagine the graph drawn on the floor in a closed space. Per the 3-coloring you know, you would place the corresponding colored balls on the nodes. Then you would completely cover the balls with inverted opaque bowls.
Verifying: Then, Verifier comes and points at an edge of her choice. You would lift up the two bowls on either side of the edge. Verifier verifies that the balls revealed are of different colors. If they are not, you are caught cheating.
Now that we’ve defined our protocol, we want to check that it satisfies zero-knowledgeness and soundness (the property that you can’t cheat).
Note that no information about the 3-coloring is revealed to Verifier, since whatever Verifier viewed could be simulated by just picking two random, but differently-colored balls. Thus, this protocol provides perfect zero knowledgeness.
The native currency of the Mina blockchain. MINA tokens are required to stake and produce blocks on the Mina blockchain. They’re also the exclusive currency of the Snarketplace, which block producers and SNARK producers use to buy and sell SNARK proofs. Each MINA token is divisible up to 9 decimal places.
The native MINA token was designed to reduce computational requirements for developers when building applications on the Mina blockchain. Also, the MINA token is used to secure the Mina network. The MINA token is used as part of the Ouroboros Samisika Proof-of-Stake consensus mechanism. By staking the MINA token, nodes have a higher chance of being selected as a block producers. The chance of becoming a block producer is proportionate to the amount of MINA tokens staked.
The Initial Distribution MINA is up to 1 billion tokens. This number includes all of the categories of token recipients in the distribution schedule, except for block rewards, which are minted anew by the protocol with each block after its launch.
MINA is an inflationary currency with no supply cap. This decision was made in order to incentivize a high level of staking participation in the early years of the protocol, which will increase the level of decentralization. Mina’s “Supercharged Rewards” (discussed in a later section) also achieve this objective. Since staking is open to all tokens on the protocol (without the risk of bonding or slashing), any token holder is able to avoid getting diluted by staking or delegating.
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