What is Mina Protocol and the MINA Token?

Written by Ivan on Tech

Jun 05, 2021

Developed by O(1) Labs using non-interactive zero-knowledge proofs (zk-SNARKS), the Mina blockchain claims to be “the world’s lightest blockchain”. Mina Protocol, powered by the MINA token, was designed with user privacy in mind. Because the Mina blockchain is so lightweight, it makes it incredibly easy for users to sync to the network. As such, the barrier for entry to become a validator is extremely low when compared to many traditional blockchains. This is because the size of the Mina blockchain is static. Whereas most blockchains are continuously growing in size, the Mina blockchain remains static at around 22 kilobytes. In turn, this is helping to provide important infrastructure for the future of secure, democratic, decentralized finance (DeFi).

In this article, we’re going to explore Mina Protocol and the native MINA token. Also, we’ll discuss the Mina blockchain – the world’s lightest blockchain. Furthermore, we’ll look at the non-interactive zero-knowledge proofs (zk-SNARKS) that enables developers to create next-generation blockchain-based applications, known as Snapps.

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What is Mina Protocol?

With the launch of its mainnet taking place in March 2021, Mina Protocol claims to be “the world’s lightest blockchain”. Whereas many blockchains are several hundred gigabytes in size, the Mina blockchain is a mere 22 kilobytes. As traditional blockchains constantly increase in size, the Mina blockchain is static and will remain at a fixed size of 22 kilobytes. Also, because the Mina blockchain is the size of a couple of tweets, it is simple for users to sync and verify the Mina network. Powered by its users, Mina Protocol is creating a gateway between crypto and the real world, preserving the privacy of its users and providing key infrastructure for secure, democratic finance.

Accessibility is of paramount importance to Mina Protocol. Some blockchains are so computationally heavy that intermediaries are required to run nodes. However, since Mina is so light, anyone can become a network validator. Even as the blockchain scales, Mina will continue to be accessible to all. This is because Mina is built using a consistent-sized cryptographic proof with an uncapped number of block producers.

Furthermore, every user within the Mina network acts as a full node as part of Mina’s Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus mechanism. This gives all participants equal access to a robust, decentralized, and censorship-resistant blockchain. Moreover, Mina Protocol uses SNARK-powered decentralized applications (Snapps) to allow users to retain control of their data. This is achieved by validating and sharing proofs about the data, as opposed to sharing the data itself. Plus, logic and data computations take place off-chain, while being verified on-chain. This makes scalability straightforward, and large computations extremely cost-effective and efficient. Moreover, while many blockchain protocols don’t interact with the internet directly, Mina’s Snapps can interact privately with any website, without compromising on privacy.

Background

Mina was developed in 2017, by the verifiable computation company O(1) Labs as an open-source layer-1 protocol. The goal of the project was to stay true to the core value propositions of blockchain, creating a protocol that is simultaneously decentralized, secure and scalable.

Using advanced cryptography and recursive zk-SNARKs, the Mina team and developer community have designed a robust, stable blockchain platform that enables developers to build complex and powerful decentralized applications using smart contracts. These applications are known as “Snapps”.

The Mina Foundation

The Mina Foundation is a non-profit organization that plays the role of steward for Mina Protocol. Also, the Mina Foundation provides support and grants for contributors to the platform. Board members of the Mina Foundation include Josh Cincinnati, the former Executive Director at ZCash Foundation, Jill Carlson of Slow Ventures, Tess Rinearson of Tendermint, and CEO of O(1) Labs, Evan Shapiro.

Pickles SNARK

Pickles SNARK was launched in 2020 during Mina testnet 3.3. This enabled smart contracts to operate on the Mina blockchain. Moreover, Pickles allows developers to design and deploy private smart contracts with immense scalability.

Pickles SNARK requires no setup and was designed specifically for Mina Protocol to allow developers to build smart contract-based applications (Snapps) on top of the Mina blockchain (explained further on). 

The Pickles protocol has two components. Firstly, the core zk-SNARKS protocol offers recursive composition, and no trusted setup is required. Secondly, is the Pickles software development kit (SDK) with a library containing a wide array of high-level functionalities. The Pickles SNARK development tools also includes the Pickles Inductive Proof System.

Pickles core zk-SNARK protocol is an improvement on Mina’s previous protocol, the Groth16-based recursive SNARK. The core Pickles protocol is a combination of various optimizations, including a batching technique, created on top of Halo’s inner product argument. Moreover, the Pickles Inductive Proof System makes creating recursive proof systems more accessible to developers.

In short, reducing the 753-bit fields to smaller 255-bit fields has allowed for increased efficiency in both the hashing speed (approximately 8x) and the Verifiable Random Function (VRF) evaluation speed (nearly 16x). Furthermore, Pickles zk-SNARK increases the storage capacity of the ledger by around three times as much. 

Snapps

Mina has developed a new type of decentralized application (dApp). These SNARK-powered applications are known as “Snapps”. Snapps are Turing-complete SNARK-enabled apps built using zk-SNARKS. zk-SNARKS (Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge) is a type of zero-knowledge proof that delivers enhanced security and privacy.

Furthermore, Snapps will be able to operate using verified data feeds directly from the internet. This is because Snapps can verify data trustlessly and privately from any website signed with an HTTPS signature. Thus far, no other blockchain has been able to achieve this with the same levels of privacy and security.

Furthermore, Snapps can be used for a wide range of novel use cases. This includes private access to internet services and permissionless web oracles, Also, Snapps facilitates a single private internet login. Moreover, all of these applications are designed with user privacy in mind.

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The Mina Token

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 producer. The chance of becoming a block producer is proportionate to the amount of MINA tokens staked.

The MINA token was launched in June 2021. According to CoinGecko, the MINA token has a market cap of $546,955,885, trading at approximately $3.65 at the time of writing. Furthermore, the MINA token has a circulating supply of 150,013,663 tokens out of a maximum supply of 827,207,452 tokens.

CoinList Token Sale

The CoinList Community Sale event for the Mina token raised a record $18.75M, with the highest number of early investors the platform has ever seen! With more than 40,500 successful purchasers out of 375,000 registrations, this token sale indicates that demand for the MINA token is extremely high. Furthermore, the token sale event sold out in just four hours and was more than eight times oversubscribed! This token sale tops some of the biggest the platform has seen, including Filecoin and Flow blockchain!

Why use Mina – the “World’s Lightest Blockchain”?

Every day, people give up control of their data to big tech companies. These companies then use your data or sell it to target consumers, often without their knowledge or consent. Also, people give up their financial freedom by handing money over to banks and unaccountable financial institutions. Even elections are un-auditable and lack transparency.

A similar situation has arisen in the crypto space. Most blockchains rely on other people to validate transactions. Also, due to consensus mechanisms such as Proof-of-Work, running a full node often requires expensive hardware, and can be extremely costly to run. Furthermore, as blockchains grow in size, they become more expensive and require more electricity and computational power to validate transactions.

The power imbalances that cause so many people to give up control and trust third parties is what drives Mina Protocol to become a truly decentralized and robust blockchain-based financial ecosystem. Moreover, because the Mina blockchain remains consistently small in size, anyone can become a full node. This significantly lowers the barrier to entry by removing the need for expensive equipment to participate in the network.

Mina Protocol is secured by network participants. It enables any number of block producers to take part in achieving consensus. Also, as Mina Protocol uses delegating instead of staking MINA tokens directly to secure the network, nodes are not required to maintain constant uptime or stay connected to the network. Furthermore, although the weight of the blockchain is static, as the Mina blockchain grows, it still becomes more robust and secure.

Mina Blockchain – Summary

As the world’s lightest blockchain, Mina uses advanced cryptography in place of brute computing force. With advanced privacy features, and the ability to connect to any website, Mina Protocol is creating a “private gateway between the real world and crypto, and the secure, democratic future we all deserve”. Thanks to non-interactive zero-knowledge proofs (zk-SNARKS), and the MINA token, Mina Protocol is reimagining the way we interact online using blockchain technology.

Furthermore, Mina Protocol makes it easy for anyone to participate in the network, without expensive equipment. With a low barrier to entry for validators and a computationally efficient model, the Mina blockchain is changing the game for potential future blockchain developers. 

To learn more about zero-knowledge proofs in further detail, be sure to check out the Cryptography and Privacy Coins course at Ivan on Tech Academy! This course covers Bitcoin privacy foundations, plus various other types of privacy coins, from CryptoNote to Monero! There has never been a better time to educate yourself around this cutting-edge technology. Knowledge of blockchain became the number one in-demand skill in 2020 according to LinkedIn! 

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