44. MINA Protocol: the lightest blockchain in the world!
The MINA Protocol is a layer-one blockchain that maintains a fixed size for its chain. We are talking about a size of 22 kilobytes. To do this, it uses a Zk- SNARKS implementation to create a fully decentralized and secure blockchain, with a particular focus on privacy.
MINA protocol – a bit of history to get you started…
The protocol was developed around mid-2017. Its goal was to create a secure and fully decentralized blockchain. Its originators were the 0(1) Labs development team. At the time, it was led by Evan Sharpio and Isaac Meckler. At the time Isaac developed the protocol, he was already researching cryptography with a particular focus on zero-knowledge proofs, which we call Zk-SNARKS (Zero-Knowedgle Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge).
When we get into the details of the protocol, we can confidently say that it goes back to an idea. What idea? It is difficult for a normal user to interact with the Ethereum network without trusting a third party. The architecture of most protocols consists of Full Nodes, which verify transactions on the network, and Lightweight Nodes, which rely entirely on their services to verify transactions.
The developers of 0(1) Labs have said enough. According to them, the above architecture is centralized. This makes the underlying blockchain (L1, e.g. Ethereum or Solana) less trustworthy. At the same time, it lowers a user’s security level when interacting with a particular protocol.
Sharpio and Meckler therefore explained that they would create a compressed and memory-efficient blockchain where virtually anyone could become a fully-fledged node. At the beginning, the project was called Coda. In 2020, the protocol was renamed, and the MINA Protocol was born. The 0(1) Labs team decided to launch the MINA Protocol Miannet on 23 March 2021.
MINA Protocol – definition
In the cryptocurrency industry, MINA is known as the lightest blockchain in the world. It owes this to its unique architecture. It uses zero-knowledge technology and a fixed blockchain size of 22 kilobytes. That is the size of a few tweets on Twitter. So imagine how small this size is.
The MINA Protocol also uses Zk-SNARKS zero-knowledge proofs in its operation. Bitcoin or Ethereum blockchains are constantly increasing their storage, with each block added. Verifying the entire transaction history on the blockchain is an important part of verifying the current consensus on the state of these networks. What does this mean? That full nodes must shop the entire history – from the Genesis block to the last extracted block. So, you can see that this puts pressure on storage capacity and creates a certain barrier to entry for new nodes, which must have a huge database if they want to be full nodes.
In the case of the MINA protocol, checking the current state of the network is only possible through a single recursive proof, which is 22 kilobytes in size. What does this look like in practice? Take a look.
One of the most important elements of the MINA are the Zk-SNARKs. These consist of fixed-size ‘snapshots’ that represent evidence of individual transitions in the consensus area of the network. Each time a new block is created, a snapshot of the block itself is taken. At the same time, a snapshot of the previous state is used as a background. Such a new frame is used as the background for the next block, creating a link between the changing states without requiring a large amount of computation by the network nodes. With such a unique design, it is possible to verify transactions without having to store the entire blockchain history. It also minimizes the need to provide the protocol with third-party access.
Zero-Knowledge Proofs (ZKP)
Zero-Knowledge Proofs (ZKPs) is a cryptographic technique that can be used to verify the veracity of a particular assertion without providing any relevant information about it. All for the sake of privacy.
Zero-knowledge proofs were invented in 1985 by Shafi Goldwasser, Silvio Micali and Charles Rackoff. Since then, zero-knowledge proofs have continued to evolve and are an important part of the cryptocurrency sector. Vitalik Buterin himself, founder of Ethereum, sees ZKP as one of the greatest innovations in the world of digital assets.
MINA consensus algorithm: Ouroboros Samasika
To reach consensus, all nodes must synchronize and agree on a common network state. MINA Protocol, to achieve such consensus, uses a modified version of Proof-of-Stake – Samasik’s Ouroboros. The technology is based on a consensus designed by IOHK (Input-Output Hong Kong) for the Cardano platform.
How does this consensus work? It assumes that all network participants have synchronized time. In free translation: they all have their virtual clocks synchronized when they produce new blocks.
In the MINA protocol, the time of block production is divided into epochs. Each epoch contains so-called slots, whereby an epoch in MINA has 7140 slots. A slot is a representation of a produced block. The production of such a slot takes about three minutes. According to these calculations, an epoch typically lasts 14 days.
In the PoS consensus mechanism, block producers are selected based on the number of coins we use. MINA works similarly – here we also have to use a certain number of our coins. The difference is that we can withdraw them at any time. Consensus Ouroboros selects block producers based on the number of coins used, but from an earlier time. And this is done at the time of the snapshot, i.e. at the beginning of the epoch. This way, validators can withdraw their coins at any time and do not have to wait several days for their coins to be returned.
Nodes in the MINA protocol
The MINA network has three types of special nodes that ensure the smooth operation of the network.
The first of these is the Snark Workers. These are network participants who create Zk- SNARK proofs to verify transactions. The proofs are published as offers and displayed on the SNARKetplace market. An acceptable minimum price for such crypto proofs is set there. Snark Workers compete to meet the requirements. The block producers buy Zk- SNARKS at the most attractive price and pay the Snark Workers a share of the reward for the underlying block.
The second node is the Validator Nodes. These are the nodes responsible for validating transactions. But also for adding new blocks to the blockchain. The validators are selected based on the number of MINA coins staked. In return for their work, they receive new MINA coins and transaction fees.
The third aspect of this architecture is the archiving nodes. These in turn are responsible for storing blockchain data in an uncompressed, so-called unSNARKed database.
Applications and smart contracts in the MINA protocol you should know about!
Applications in this protocol are also known as zkApps – otherwise known as Zero-Knowedgle applications. These are smart contracts developed by the MINA protocol and are based on zero-knowledge evidence.
In their operation, zkApps use off-chain computations. Such an algorithm enables complex off-chain calculations, and the user only pays a small fee for such a service. So, you can see that this is in stark contrast to the traditional blockchain, where smart contract calculations take place directly on the chain and a variable fee system is used.
Interestingly, the applications created in this way in the MINA protocol can also use data from different chains. Ultimately, they are made available to the blockchain anyway via zero-knowledge metadata. The result? Users’ own data on the blockchain is not publicly readable.
SnApps and Internet access
Most popular blockchains do not allow direct connection to the Internet. All for security reasons. The result? Most apps cannot use their full potential and even lose a lot of their functionality.
The MINA protocol for that? No problem! SnApps allow access to verified data and content hosted on verified websites. So, you can use the latest codes or important tools for IT solutions.
The MINA token is a native protocol token. The market capitalization of the token is approximately USD 435 million. There are currently about 765 million MINAs in circulation. Inflation is set at 12% for the first two years and will then be reduced to 7%.
The Mina token is used for online payments. The coin can be found on most exchanges around the world. As the protocol develops, interest in the MINA token is growing.
Using today’s lesson as an example, you can see that the MINA protocol is one of the most interesting blockchains on the cryptocurrency market. Granted – it still has a long way to go. But its features and the fact that it is “feather-light” are attracting developers and users.