Monero, which is one of the most popular cryptos for privacy protection, celebrated five years of existence last week.

Monero almost entirely developed by volunteers

Monero was launched in April 2014, as a wholly crowdfunded crypto since its inception. According to its contributor, Diego Salazar, together with its decentralized, and grassroots structure, it is almost entirely developed by some volunteers, that didn’t take any premine. They don’t even take the percentage for the block rewards. There wasn’t an initial coin offering or ICO, according to him. Salazar also estimated that depending on the availability and time of people, there is somewhere from 100 to 200 volunteers who work on the Monero project.

In addition to the project, it is not just about building the blockchain protocol. It is also about re-defining, as well as bolstering a global movement which is centered around digital privacy.

Salazar also commented that they are not only trying to make global internet money, but they are trying to teach people about the importance of things such as privacy. It is a powerful tool, and he thinks that it is an essential one in our age and day.

To this, one Italian developer, as well as Monero contributor “SerHack” released a free PDF version of the book called “Mastering Monero” in commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the coin. Originally published lately in 2018, the book has been fully funded by the community of Monero, and it teaches users who don’t use cryptocurrency the significance of the censorship-resistant and private transactions. The online community of the project further commemorated the anniversary with events, and a celebratory puzzle at one moment.

Although, it isn’t the only blockchain that boasts private on-chain transactions, it is definitely the largest among its kind by market cap boasting about $1 billion valuations. In those five years, the project undertook a few of the necessary upgrades in a bid to improve its project further on, including the ones aimed at bolstering transaction privacy and fungibility.

Obfuscating fund sources through ‘ring signatures”

From the beginning, Monero had the purpose of obfuscating fund sources through the so-called “ring signatures.” Through these ring signatures, the transactions are signed by one participant who is a member of a group, but with the purpose to make it hard to know who among the group contributed a specific digital signature.

But, at launch, pulling from transaction inputs called ring signatures of some random users was not mandatory. Crypto exchanges, as well as public mining pools, or some other individuals that did not care about preserving transaction privacy might opt to have a ring size of zero.

The researchers of Monero realized that with the large enough users’ number not obfuscating their transaction sources, the privacy of some other users risked being compromised.

That is why on the 22nd of March, 2016, Monero executed a hard fork to restrict all of the users to obfuscating their transaction sources through the minimum ring size of three. This actually meant that the users needed to pull from at least three other random transaction inputs in the network when they were making their transaction and collectively take part in strengthening the privacy levels of the whole blockchain.

Ring Confidential Transactions or RingCT

The second, as well as the most influential change in the history of Monero, was with ring signatures. Called Ring “Confidential Transactions” or CT, this upgrade executed through a solid form on the 5th of January, 2017. Then, it effectively added an additional level of privacy to the ring signatures as it obfuscated Monero transaction amounts.

RingCT’s activation meant that outside of not having the ability to identify transactions to a source or also an address, Monero made it virtually impossible to find the transaction amounts which were transferred.

The idea for RingCT actually came from one Bitcoin proposal, which was called Confidential Transactions, which the CTO of Blockstream, named Gregory Maxwell, proposed. It was at that time that it was re-purposed by Monero, to work with ring signatures.

But, RingCT made a substantial trade-off to scalability, when it came to improving the privacy of the Monero blockchain. The transactions before RingCT were only about three kilobytes. Moreover, they were about 10 times larger than the Bitcoin transaction. RingCT actually brought the numbers up to about 13 kilobytes.

To that particular point, “bulletproofs” – while still not improving privacy directly – are even seen as the significant improvement to the specific network. According to the contributor Justin Ehrenhofer bulletproofs reduced transaction size, as well as verification time on Monero by about 80%. From about 13 kilobytes to 1.5, the transaction size of Monero dramatically decreased in size, although right now it is still more significant, as well as more challenging to verify than Bitcoin transactions.

The technology, which was released in 2017, has been celebrated as a privacy breakthrough, and it was initially made for use on Bitcoin by the University College of Jonathan Bootle of London and Benedikt Bunz of Stanford. Ultimately, Monero also became the primary major crypto to go live with the technology through a hard fork, which happened on the 18th of October of last year.

Ehrenhofer noted that verification times on the network remain the biggest limitation of Monero right now. Ehrenhofer also hopes that future improvements to the protocol are going to find their way to increase ring signature sizes to host anonymity sets of more than 1,000 at some point.

From the perspective of Salazar, another future improvement to Monero, which he believes will come in the following several months, is the upgrade to the user interface, as well as experience of the network. He said that many things are redesigned from scratch like individual pages, the transaction history page, as well as the send and receive page.

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