Let us introduce you to Mina – the protocol that turned out to be the world’s lightest participant-powered blockchain. Its mission is to optimize the decentralization and scalability of the blockchain.
Since the introduction of Bitcoin (BTC), one issue that has bothered all blockchain networks is scalability. This has affected the energy consumption of blockchain networks, the cost and the time required to process transactions. While several blockchain networks have all offered solutions to the problem, they have all faced challenges due to their flaws. However, the Mina Protocol (MINA) changes that with its succinct blockchain idea.
History and founders of the Mina protocol
The Mina protocol appeared in 2017 by O (1) Labs. Its simple objective was to optimize the decentralization and scalability of the blockchain. It was originally known as Coda Protocol but had to change its name to Mina due to a trademark dispute with R3 for the name’s similarity to its Corda blockchain. The CEO of the company is Evans Shapiro, and other founding members of the team include Izaak Meckler, Brad Cohen, Emre Tekişalp and Vanishree Rao from O (1) Labs and Joseph Bonneau from New York University.
How the Mina protocol works
Mina Protocol’s claim to fame is the lightness of its blockchain. It’s even called a compressed blockchain, the first of its kind. Unlike other blockchains which require high computing power to process transactions, the node entry bar in this platform is quite low. As a result, it is possible for anyone to connect, sync, and check the channel almost instantly.
Mina’s underlying technology
On traditional blockchains such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, when a node joins, it is necessary to verify all the transactions that have taken place on the network (the complete history of the blockchain). With over 500 million Bitcoin transactions already totaling over 250 GB, it will take a regular computer several days to download and verify history. That is why it takes special devices with much higher computing power to run a full node that stores and verifies the blockchain.
Unfortunately, only a few people can afford this kind of device. Therefore, most Bitcoin users run a lightweight node or an ultralight node. It only checks block headers or even nothing at all and relies on a trusted server instead. The result is that the number of nodes on Bitcoin does not increase, and decentralization, one of the major goals of blockchain, is not really achieved while performance is also affected.
Mina is looking to change that by introducing a succinct blockchain. The latter is a decentralized payment system that offers constant verification time. This is possible because succinct proofs of state validity are added to each block. The entire blockchain is based on SNARKS – micro-crypto certificates in nodes that verify transactions. The entire blockchain network is only 22KB, which is the size of a few tweets. All it takes for Mina Protocol users to verify the entire transaction history is zero proof knowledge of zk-SNARK. It uses a proof of stake algorithm called Ouroboros Praos.
Main participants on Mina Network
There are three roles within the Mina network for participants to support the transparent functioning of the network. Each of these roles is properly prompted. They are as follows:
- Auditors. Many users on the network will be able to verify, because all it takes to be a verifier and get full node security is to download a zs-SNARK. It is only hundreds of bytes long and requires a millisecond of calculation process to verify.
- Block producers. In other blockchain protocols, this group represents stakes or miners. On Mina Network, they receive incentives in the form of network fees the user pays and other protocol distributions like bulk rewards and coinbase transactions. Individuals can also choose to delegate their participation to a block producer instead of betting directly. The role of block producers is to choose which transactions to include in a block. In other words, they will most certainly go for the transactions with the highest fees. But block producers have another role on Mina to keep the blockchain concise. For each transaction added to a block, they must SNARK an equal number of previous transactions so that their block conforms to consensus rules and is acceptable to other nodes.
- Snarkers. These are the network participants responsible for producing the zk-SNARKs needed to verify SNARK transactions. They post a fee and call for bids for their SNARKS, and if a block producer uses those SNARKs in a block, the block producer pays them from the transaction fees they earn. Since many Snarkers charge a fee, the block producer will usually go for the more profitable ones, so participants compete against each other to produce this.
Life cycle of a Mina transaction
A Mina transaction starts with the verifier running the transaction, after which it enters the mempool. At the same time, the Snarkers are proving themselves for new transactions without snarks. The next step is to choose the block producer to produce a block and select the most profitable transactions and an equivalent number of unspied transactions. Next, the block producer must purchase SNARKS from the SNARK order book that corresponds to these transactions. After that, the block producer can add a new block to the Mina blockchain. Then the queue status is updated with the addition of new transactions and the deletion of the snarked transactions. The block producer then updates the zk-snark for the blockchain, and the new block is validated.
The MINA token is the native cryptocurrency of the Mina protocol. It has been listed on various crypto exchanges such as CoinList, OKEx, and Kraken. But the token is not available to people in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan.
As of June 2021, the MINA token had an outstanding supply of 150,013,663 tokens out of a maximum supply of 827,207,452 tokens.
Advantages and disadvantages of Mina
The Mina protocol offers many solutions to the current problems faced by many blockchain networks, but it is not without its challenges either. Let’s have a better understanding of the pros and cons of Mina.
First, the idea behind the protocol itself is unique and solves most of the problems modern blockchains face. Second, the network is lightweight and allows devices with average computing power to be full nodes. In addition, several leading funds are supporting the project.
However, since the protocol is open source and is not patented, forks of technology may emerge in the future. Also, the existing version of the protocol does not support smart contracts.
The Mina protocol is still in its infancy, but it already offers potential solutions for scalability, high power consumption, and transaction cost on modern blockchains. It was one of the most anticipated projects of 2017 and turned out to be the world’s lightest blockchain powered by participants.