🗞 NewsMonero, the popular privacy-centric cryptocurrency, has been successfully upgraded to use a cutting edge cryptographic technique called Bulletproofs. As a result of the upgrade, fees to move money on the 10th largest blockchain network fell by 96%, to an average 2 cents per transaction. Link.
If you're not familiar with Bulletproofs, it's a technology worth learning about. It allows the shielding of transaction amounts being sent, but not the sender or receiver. In Monero's case, sender and receiver are also shielded through separate techniques, and Bulletproofs are now used to securely verify the amounts. They replace a similar mechanism that was already in place, but was far less efficient. If all of this seems confusing, don't sweat it. Lucas Nuzzi pulled together an excellent explanation on Medium. Link.
Monero and Zcash are widely regarded as the top two privacy-centric cryptocurrencies, and it just so happens that Zcash is also getting an upgrade this week. The "Sapling" upgrade, which shipped in client software a number of weeks ago, will activate on the network sometime on Sunday, October 28th. Depending on when you read this, there's a good chance the hardfork has already taken place. As discussed in previous editions, Zcash uses another cutting edge cryptographic technique, called ZK-SNARKS, to achieve privacy. This upgrade makes verification of SNARK-based proofs significantly faster, which should make it much more practical for users to choose shielded transactions. I'll be watching closely to see if the upgrade goes smoothly. Link.
These are two of the most interesting projects in the crypto world right now. Both solve a real problem (privacy, fungibility) with fascinating technologies, and both have excellent developer teams that have executed impressively to date. It will be fun to see how they compete with each other moving forward, and how the tradeoffs made effects adoption. Is there room for two privacy coins in the long run?
Actually, as technically impressive as both projects are, it remains a very open question how big demand will be for any coin that puts privacy above all else. For one, it's honestly not clear how much most people value privacy in the first place. Venmo's global feed of who paid whom for what serves as an anecdote suggesting many users just don't care. Secondly, other cryptonetworks will certainly pursue upgrades that provide "good enough" privacy and fungibility. Bulletproofs itself was initially developed as an upgrade to Bitcoin by researcher Benedikt Bünz. It wouldn't be surprising to see them implemented for BTC in a few years, especially if they prove robust on Monero. That said, both Zcash and Monero are top tier projects, and both have a good chance of remaining relevant in the long term.