Has Mimblewimble left you tongue-tied? Unravel the mysteries of the protocol...

By Matthew Lam   May 19, 2019 3 Min Read

Harry Potter fans will immediately recognize that Mimblewimble is a reference to the tongue-tying spell from the series.  The name seems fitting since it illustrates how the protocol inherently protects the privacy of the parties involved in transactions since the Harry Potter spell was often used to prevent individuals from revealing certain secrets.  The origins of this protocol seem to mirror the mysterious origins of the of the original Bitcoin whitepapers that gave birth to the blockchain space. In 2016 a mysterious user using the name Tom Elvis Jedusor (French name of Harry Potter villain Voldemort) posted the link to the original Mimblewimble whitepaper in a Bitcoin developers chatroom and subsequently disappeared.  

In order to understand how Mimblewimble works, it's worth taking a step back to understand how Bitcoin transactions work. Bitcoin ensures that the funds are being sent from the appropriate sender's account to the designated receiver and that the funds are calculated properly, preventing coins from being created or vanishing into thin air. In order to do this, Bitcoin must reveal important information such as the public addresses of the sender and receiver as well as the amounts being transacted. Bitcoin is able to provide users with a certain level of privacy since addresses instead of names are used, however there are more and more ways that the true identity or location of the users behind the addresses can be identified. Many privacy coins have sought to grant users greater levels of privacy by adding on additional layers of cryptography, however this impacts scalability since transaction sizes increase as a result.

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Mimblewimble has found a way to increase privacy without impacting scalability. Using the rules of mathematics, Mimblewimble has found a way to mask the both the amounts being transacted as well as the addresses of the parties that are part of the transaction while allowing for outside parties to verify the accuracy of the transaction. It uses a method similar to those of CoinJoins that aggregates several transactions together so that it would be hard to identify what amounts are related to which transaction. This makes it so that transactions in a block seem like a mix of random inputs and ouputs rather than a detailed trail of transactions, allowing for scalability to be improved since blocks do not have to store entire sequences of transaction history. This method also increases the fungiblity of individual coins, an attribute Bitcoin was originally supposed to have, since it is much harder to differentiate each coin and to identify the history of each coin (since the full transaction history of funds are not stored and open to the public). This makes it so that the identifiers that make each coin unique from another are removed, bringing it closer to the nature of fiat currency where each unit is virtually indistinguishable from another in terms of their traceability.

Mimblewimble can be used both independently or as a side-chain to Bitcoin to improve on the inefficiencies of the current infrastructure. Grin and Beam are two projects that currently implement the Mimblewimble as independent protocols. Grin is a project that is more community-based and decentralized, with the development of the project mainly relying on donations and a community of volunteers.  One thing that makes it unique is that Grin's token supply is unlimited and inflationary, intending it serve as a medium of exchange rather than a store of value. Beam takes a more structured approach with a full-time team backing the development of the project and funding from venture capital.  It has a much stronger customer focus, laying out a comprehensive roadmap and tools that make for a more user-friendly experience. With the increased advantages that Mimblewimble brings, we will see its full impact the future of the cryptocurrency space.

 


About the author

Matthew Lam    📧
Passionate in blockchain and crypto research!




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