Grin coin became famous almost overnight in January 2019. It created more buzz than any other cryptocurrency for a long time. Even Bitcoin maximalists seemed to be excited. What is Grin Coin and the technology behind it called Mimblewimble? This article is a Grin beginner’s guide. We explore the tech and the history behind it.
Table of Contents
What is Grin? A new privacy coin.
Let’s put Grin in the correct category first.
Cryptocurrencies can be roughly divided into three groups: platforms, tokens, and currencies. Platform category includes entire ecosystems like Ethereum, EOS, TRON, etc. Tokens are usually created for utility purposes inside one software. Pundi X and Basic Attention Token are good examples of those.
Bitcoin is obviously the most known currency. A cryptocurrency has its own blockchain and is created to serve as a digital currency. Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Dash are other examples of coins in this category.
There is also one very popular and known subcategory under currencies, which is titled privacy coins. A privacy coin hides the contents of each transaction and gives much-needed privacy to its user. Zcash and Monero are the best-known privacy coins.
Grin falls into the privacy coin category as well. It’s an implementation of a Mimblewimble protocol, which enables Grin some unique features.
Grin Coin and Mimblewimble
Grin is a unique project in many ways. The history of this coin goes hand in hand with the Mimblewimble protocol. There are also other references to the famous Harry Potter series. Yes, you read it correctly. Mimblewimble is a spell used to tongue-tie victims in the Harry Potter books.
It’s unknown why this particular spell was chosen for the name for a privacy protocol. Potter’s reference is no coincidence, though. This technology was originally presented by the nickname Tom Elvis Jedusor in 2016. This is the Potter character Voldemort’s name in the French language version.
– Protocol: MimbleWimble (tongue tying curse)
– MimbleWimble creator: Tom Elvis Jedusor (French name of Voldemort)
– Grin founder: Ignotus Peverell (invisibility cloak owner)
– Grin infrastructure: Vault713 (high-security vault at Gringotts)
What else am I missing? https://t.co/ZfEuO1lmoz
— Linda Xie (@ljxie) January 18, 2019
Tom Elvis Jedusor presented Mimblewimble’s white paper to the Bitcoin community in an IRC channel in August 2016. It was a solution to Bitcoin’s scalability issue, which was a hot topic at the time (and still is). Mimblewimble protocol had also privacy features.
Next, Tom Elvis Jedusor did what Satoshi Nakamoto had done years before. He disappeared. As many readers might know, Satoshi Nakamoto disappeared in 2010 and left the Bitcoin project for others to finish.
Many Bitcoin developers got excited about this new technology. Blockstream developer Andrew Poelstra wrote a more extensive white paper in October 2016. Just a few days later, the Grin project was started on GitHub by the nickname Ignotus Peverell – yet another Potter character reference by the way.
Now you might wonder if the name Grin is also a Potter reference. Yes, it is. The name Grin comes from the wizard bank Gringotts.
In practice, Grin coin and Mimblewimble have been developed hand in hand. This is a decentralized and community-driven project, which is the reason why so many Bitcoin maximalists have joined as well. Grin has never had an ICO and many developers are also anonymous.
The project caught the public eye on January 15th of 2019, when Grin MainNet was launched.
What is Mimblewimble?
The interest in Grin is very much based on the technology behind it. Let’s find out, what makes Mimblewimble so interesting.
To put it simply: Mimblewimble’s greatest feature is its ability to replace the technology used by Bitcoin with a lighter version. Bitcoin is using a bookkeeping model called UTXO. The downside of UTXO is the data usage, which starts to grow significantly when transaction amounts grow. The blockchain of Bitcoin has every single transaction ever done in it.
Each transaction in the Bitcoin blockchain is also more complicated under the surface than the average user sees in the wallet software. If you make one transaction of 10 Bitcoins to your friend, it might actually consist of 10 different outputs. Think if you handed 10 euros to your friend in cash using coins of 20 cents, 50 cents, and 1 euro.
Transactions have also unique digital signatures, which are used in validating them. The system must be able to check with every single transaction, that the sender has enough funds to create the output. The entire Bitcoin blockchain is needed to perform this check. Currently, the blockchain is about 250 gigabytes and growing fast.
Here is a video (which should start at 6:15) of how Mimblewimble solves this issue.
Mimblewimble protocol can shrink the data needed by leaving needless transactions out. In fact, all intermediate states of the ledger can be removed and only an updated summary is required to be stored.
It can also compress multiple outputs and inputs into one single key. As a result, a blockchain is created, which is much smaller than Bitcoin’s. It requires only 10% of the space compared to Monero, which is currently the leading privacy coin.
Compressing transaction data is a solution to scalability, but Mimblewimble enables also other features.
Mimblewimble’s privacy features
Mimblewimble enables also encrypted transactions. The technology used here is called CT – Confidential Transactions.
With the help of CT, sender and received addresses and transaction history are not stored in the Grin blockchain. There are also no public addresses used like in Bitcoin.
When two Grin wallets want to process a transaction with each other, so-called blinding factors are generated. In practice, the blinding factor is a random string that makes it possible to verify the transaction information.
The blinding factor includes an input key, an output key, and an excess key, which is in practice the amount of Grin coins the receiver is going to get. The excess key makes sure that the sender has these funds in possession.
Confidential Transactions technology puts Grin on the same level as competing privacy coins. The whole system is very lightweight with Mimblewimble and encrypted transactions don’t require massive computing power. This has been one of the main issues of privacy coins. Yet, each transaction can be verified without a doubt.
Grin coin mining – the good old Proof of Work
Grin has caught the attention of many Bitcoin developers and OGs recently. Decentralized governance, no ICO, no pre-mined coins for founders with Mimblewimble technology. On top of all, there’s also mining.
Grin coin is using the battle-tested Proof of Work consensus algorithm, which we all know from Bitcoin. PoW means, that the mining of each new block in the Grin blockchain is made using physical mining machines. There are some differences between PoW cryptocurrencies though since some of them use different hashing algorithms.
Bitcoin is using the famous SHA-256 hashing algorithm, which is also used by Bitcoin Cash. This means, that you can switch your miner between Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash without any problems. Other known hashing algorithms are Equihash (used by Zcash), Scrypt (Litecoin), and Ethash (Ethereum).
Grin has a bit different approach: it is using two hashing algorithms called cuckatoo31 and cuckaroo29. You can mine Grin coins using either one, depending on which is more profitable using the hardware in your possession. Grin has become popular due to the fact it can be mined with a GPU (Graphic Processing Unit).
GPU rigs were very popular in early 2018 when the altcoin boom was at its peak. Many invested in GPU rigs, which turned unprofitable due to the declining crypto prices. Now, these rigs can be used to mine Grin. It still depends on your location and electricity prices if it really makes sense to mine Grin.
We’ll probably see an ASIC miner for Grin in the future if the coin gains popularity. That’d make these rigs eventually obsolete.
Grin vs Beam
Grin coin was the first cryptocurrency implementation of the MimbleWimble protocol. The project started in late 2016. There is also another well-known MimbleWimble implementation in the market, called Beam. This rivaling project was launched about one year later than Grin.
Grin blockchain generated its first block on the 15th of January 2019. Beam blockchain was launched on the 3rd of January 2019. However, it didn’t get that much attention on social media. There’s also a reason for that.
Grin is a project favored by the Bitcoin community. It tries to be a clean, simple, and community-driven implementation of the MimbleWimble technology. Beam is run by a fintech company and it aims to be an enterprise solution.
Beam has the same ability as Zcash, meaning transactions can be done publicly or hidden (encrypted). Beam also has the option for the wallet to be audited.
There are also other differences between the projects. Grin is programmed using the language Rust, while Beam is using C++.
The two coins have also a different hashing algorithms. Beam is using Equihash, which is another connection to Zcash. There’s also a third similarity to Zcash, which many don’t like about Beam. The development team takes 20% of all the mining fees.
Beam and Grin are very different projects, even if they are both implementations of the MimbleWimble technology.
Investing in Grin coin
Grin MainNet was launched on January 15th of 2019. This is when the genesis block was created. The Grin blockchain is expanding fast because there is a new block generated every second. This also means that new Grin coins are generated every second.
On one hand, this is no different from any other mineable coins. There are new Bitcoins coming out of each block as well. The point is that Grin started from zero, just like Bitcoin. There was no ICO and no pre-mined coins.
When the genesis block was created, there was just 1 Grin coin. One second later there were two, two seconds later three coins, etc. Any investor with a brain understands that the inflation percentage is very high. It was high with Bitcoin as well in the beginning, but for a long time nobody was using and there were no exchanges to buy and speculate with it.
The good thing is that the inflation gets smaller every month. But it is still quite significant – at least compared to other investing options. This fact has also pushed the Grin price down slowly but surely all year even if the whole market has gone up about 50 percent (the article is written 4th of May 2019).
How to buy GRIN
If you want to invest in Grin coin, we recommend using BitForex, Gate.io, or KuCoin. These are not fiat-to-crypto exchanges, so you must buy for example Bitcoin with your fiat currency elsewhere. Coinbase is a very popular option for that. So, the path goes:
- Open a Coinbase account
- Buy Bitcoin from Coinbase
- Open a KuCoin account
- Move your Bitcoins from Coinbase to BitForex
- Buy Grin with Bitcoin
You should note that there aren’t any proven and reliable GUI wallets available for Grin yet, because the project is in so early stages. There is one by BitMesh, but you’d use that at your own risk. Hence, for now, you might have to keep the Grin coins in the exchange you bought them, which is not the optimal solution.
Hardcore Grin fans are running their own nodes, which require technical understanding and using command prompts.
One way to get Grin coins is to mine them. That is quite popular at the moment. There are also solutions available, which allow you to get your mined coins directly to BitForex. You can find lots of mining information from Google.
Grin was the most interesting project in early 2019. It’s also quite rare, that a project attracts so much attention from Bitcoin OGs. Many people see Grin as a testing platform for Bitcoin, which might eventually implement the MimbleWimble protocol as well.