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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

A dive into Mina Protocol

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When developing blockchains, developers frequently have to choose between scalability, decentralisation, and security, three desirable characteristics that appear incompatible when combined into a single protocol.

It’s rare for projects to include more than two components that don’t require some degree of adjustment. This phenomena is referred to as the blockchain trilemma, a term developed by Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum, as the scalability trilemma.

A significant contributor to the bottleneck is the fact that decentralised systems expand in size as their user base grows. This is demonstrated by the success of leading projects such as Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Bitcoin employs a proof-of-work (PoW) consensus process that is decentralised and secure, but has a limited capacity for scaling. Ethereum is gradually transitioning from proof-of-work (PoW) to proof-of-stake (PoS), which is meant to scale better, but the original smart contract network has yet to attain a high degree of scalability — particularly given the current enormous gas prices associated with its DApps. Another top-five currency has similar issues — the XRP ledger grows extremely well, but it has been under fire from the crypto community for its lack of decentralisation and reliance on Ripple, the token’s issuing company.

However, one blockchain project is changing the norm. Evan Shapiro and Izaac Meckler, two computer scientists, came up with the Mina Protocol. Evan and Izaak have been buddies since high school, and they’ve been dabbling in Cryptocurrency since 2011. They didn’t take cryptocurrencies too seriously until the 2017 bull run when they recognised that all of them were afflicted by the same fatal flaw.

Enter Mina protocol

To make decentralised applications(DApps) function more effectively, Mina has developed a “succinct blockchain,” which is a compact and unique crypto architecture. The size of the Mina blockchain is meant to remain constant even as usage grows, making it the world’s lightest blockchain.

This means that when more users purchase a certain currency, the blockchain grows in size. However, Mina was able to come up with a brand-new approach to this dilemma. There is no limit on where you may access the Mina Protocol because it is only 22kb in size. This makes it easier to use and opens up new possibilities for app developers to create new apps using the Mina Protocol.

Mina is attempting to develop a distributed payment mechanism that allows users to natively validate the platform from the very first block. It’s referred to as a “succinct blockchain” in the company’s technical whitepaper.

The protocol leverages zk-SNARKs, a cryptographic proof that allows someone to authenticate information without disclosing that information, which uses zero-knowledge succinct non-interactive arguments of knowledge. However, in a large network, it may be impossible to allow users to track the platform’s origins all the way down to a single block. It’s because of this that Mina only does in-block computations of SNARKS, rather than the complete transaction history, which means end-users have to examine the compressed proof of that zk-SNARK-compressed.

MINA, the native currency of the Mina protocol, serves as both a utility coin and a means of trade.

How Does It Work?

Except for the way it conducts transactions, Mina resembles Bitcoin, however it also makes use of Ethereum’s account-based paradigm. Bitcoin’s blockchain maintains a list of unspent currencies, whereas Ethereum’s state is made up of account balances. This is where Bitcoin and Ethereum differ.

To verify that each block commits to the state, Mina employs an equivalent of a miner known as a prover (also known as a snarker). A form of PoS technique called the Ouroboros Samasika is used by Mina because it offers bootstrapping from a genesis block.

In a nutshell, blockchains have two primary functions: verify and update. The verification function interacts with consensus and the chain summary, but the update function does not.

To speed up transaction processing, the project employs a parallel scan state, which groups unverified blocks and distributes the work across parallel provers.

Core Mina Protocol Participants

Mina is all about disrupting the present blockchain ecosystem where most platforms include verifiers such as miners/stakers and light clients that function as third parties when validating transactions.

The decentralised network of Mina uses a different technique, with numerous contributors each handling a particular function.

The three key jobs include verifiers, block makers and snarkers.

Verifiers

Verifiers engage with zk-SNARKS that deal with validating the consensus information. Every Mina protocol user is a verifier, as long as their devices are capable of handling a 22 KB chain and can tolerate a few milliseconds of processing time.

Block Producers

Block producers take the form of stakers or miners and collect block rewards and transaction fee payments. Interestingly, the protocol doesn’t eliminate incentives that flow to block creators. Mina users can delegate their currencies to this group of members.

Apart from bundling transactions into blocks, block producers also have to SNARK an equivalent number of previously committed deals as failing to do so during block creation would lead to incomplete blocks and other nodes rejecting their validity.

SNARK trades are required if a block producer wishes to include ten transactions in their block. They can, however, create their own SNARKs or utilise those created by a subset of players known as snarkers.

Snarkers

Snarkers generate zk-SNARKs, which are used to validate transactions.

Block producers pay snarkers from the overall transaction fees they earn for introducing new blocks. They must, however, place bids in order to be eligible for the fees. Be aware that in order for the block producer to incentivize the snarker, their zk-SNARK must be utilised within the block they are creating.

The commercial economy is created when numerous snarkers may place bids on the same transaction at the same time. Block producers, on the other hand, are in for the profits and will choose the offer with the lowest fees. Thus, snarkers are forced to come up with low-cost SNARKS.

How Transactions Work On Mina

Let’s take a deeper look at the route a transaction goes through before finding a permanent record on the Mina blockchain.

  • The procedure starts with a user initiating a transaction, following which the trade travels to the mempool, a pool of legitimate but unconfirmed transactions.
  • Next, snarkers take control by creating proofs or SNARKS. Following that, a block producer (BP) is chosen to combine transactions into a block. Note that a BP sifts over the mempool for profitable transactions.
  • Then, the BP picks a SNARK according to the rules of the consensus method. Note that a block producer checks through the offers for the lowest-priced SNARK. Furthermore, the SNARKS order book for newly added transactions has been updated.
  • Next, it’s time to combine the SNARKS in a block, then add the block to the chain and update the network. Snarked transactions are deleted from the chain to help keep the size of the protocol consistent.
  • Then, the block producer improves the protocol’s zk-SNARKS.
  • Finally, the new block becomes immutably part of the chain.

Conclusion

The usage of zk-SNARKS enables the verification of the Mina protocol’s state without disclosing the blockchain’s contents, resulting in a censorship-resistant platform. Furthermore, zk-SNARKS tremendously help to maintaining a constant-size network, which provides scalability, security, and decentralisation. The inclusion of multiple essential participants such as snarkers, block producers and verifiers helps to keep different protocol functions streamlined.

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