In July 2016, a group of anonymous developers published a text file titled "MimbleWimble": a blueprint for a protocol that promised to bring Bitcoin back to its cypherpunk roots. The plan, based around scalability and anonymity, captivated the attention and support of researchers in the crypto space. Within a few months, the coding for the MimbleWimble protocol began.
Two networks have been designed to test MimbleWimble, and they've finally launched their mainnets in January 2019. Grin, the original network, has stirred hype within the crypto community recently – and not for its investing potential. How did an open-source coin with infinite supply, no stable funding, no addresses, and more Harry Potter references than we’re used to (Google "MimbleWimble spell") manage to be taken seriously?
In Part 1 of this Grin series, we discuss the story behind Grin: what it is, how it relates to MimbleWimble and Beam, who it’s for and how the community has reacted to it. Stay tuned for Part 2, which will explain Grin’s technical side: confidential transactions, CoinJoin, Cuckoo Cycle, how to mine it, its controversial monetary policy, and more.
MimbleWimble is a scalable, privacy-based blockchain protocol. It verifies that all transactions are valid without needing to store the entire history of the chain. Two payment networks have been created to test the network: Grin and Beam. This article focuses on the first.
Grin was the first design for an implementation of MimbleWimble. In development since 2016 and launched on January 15th 2019, Grin has been dubbed a coin for Bitcoin maximalists. The network uses no addresses and encrypts all amounts, and relies on Bitcoin's CoinJoin method and on confidential transactions to achieve its scalability and privacy goals (read more in Part 2). It is written in Rust and it uses two versions of Cuckoo Cycle as its PoW algorithm (an ASIC-resistant one and an ASIC-friendly one).
In the words of its pseudonymous developers, Grin is meant to be clean and minimal, relatively fast (one block per minute), and hold a fixed block reward of 60 Grins over time with a decreasing dilution. It is not trying to compete with Bitcoin or Ethereum – it’s trying to present an alternative.
Stay tuned for our upcoming Part 2, which will explain how Grin achieves anonymity and scalability, and more. You’ll find a Grin explorer here.
In August 2016, a user under the nickname "majorplayer" in the IRC channel #bitcoin-wizards linked to a text file that described MimbleWimble, a plan for a private-by-default, scalable upgrade for Bitcoin. This caught the attention of cryptography researchers, including Blockstream's Andrew Poelstra, a mathematician who wrote a more technically precise whitepaper for MimbleWimble and put it out in the same year.
Though originally the project was meant to be a sidechain for Bitcoin, there were limitations regarding the Bitcion scripting system, and around mid 2017 the developers testily decided the best way to test MimbleWimble with real users would be to launch a brand new cryptocurrency: Grin.
Grin's developers purposefully sought to avoid the prevailing altcoin models. True to cypherpunk principals, there were no ICOs, airdrops, nor pre-mining. "No funny business," as Igno Peverell, Grin's pseudonymous lead developer, said. The project was funded entirely by the community. Grin coin finally went live on January 15th 2019, almost two weeks after the launch of its competing implementation, Beam.
Grin and Beam are the two slightly different network implementations for MimbleWimble. Grin, with open source governance, no founders' rewards, a part-time team of donation-sponsored developers, and an organic community as its backbone, represents community-driven decentralization and the grassroots of crypto ideology. Meanwhile Beam, a VC-backed Israeli startup's reinterpretation of MimbleWimble, is more business oriented (a difference embodied by their branding esthetics), with a paid, full-time team of developers working on the project. In terms of funding policy, Beam is more similar to Z-Cash, while Grin is more like Monero.
Here is a summary of the differences discussed above and more:
It has been said that Grin and Beam are in friendly competition, though it sometimes resemble a more passive-aggressive relationship. Beam’s FAQ page innocently implies that Grin’s team is not “100% focused on the project” and states that “the technical decisions made by the Grin team are less practical and (do not use) proven technologies”. However, they add “That said, we have immense respect for Grin team and wish them success.” And for all we know, it’s true; Beam actually donated some BTC for Grin's security audit fund.
A major drawback of Grin as a cryptocurrency is that, as a side-effect of there being no addresses, transactions require both participants to be online in order to communicate. Some people have posited they might just run their wallets on servers that are continuously on; but this solution could eventually lead to centralization, which Grin was trying to avoid in the first place with its ASIC resistant PoW algorithm.
There’s also a problem with usability. Grin only offers a command-line wallet (for Linux, OSX and Windows), making it hard to access for the less tech-savvy.
Finally, MimbleWimble does not support scripts, and some users may consider this a defect, since scripts are what makes a blockchain programmable. It must be taken into account however, that being programmable is not one of Grin’s primary goals. As Poelstra explains, “the design philosophy of Grin is to be as simple as possible” (see from min 23). However, Grin’s Github FAQ page does link to messages from 2017 that claim scripting could be possible for Grin.
One widespread perception of Grin is that it'll be a coin for Bitcoin maximalists more than for investors. To paraphrase one crypto YouTuber, the tech underpinning Grin is more important than the "getting rich" part. Tuur Demeester, known Bitcoin maximalist and PoW backer, mentioned MimbleWimble and Grin as an exemplar of the elusive "good crypto asset" when he spoke as a guest on Laura Shin's Unchained podcast.
So MimbleWimble and Grin's code innovations make it attractive to a specific, techy crowd. But one look at Grin's landing page will convince anybody that much care has been put into its branding as well. The yellow smiley-face logo, the overall esthetic reminiscent of a late '00s pop-punk album, and the numerous Harry Potter references in the pseudonyms of the developers and in the name "MimbleWimble" itself, all make it clear that Grin is by and for a specific audience (younger millennials?). Meanwhile, Beam – with an esthetic much more similar to that of EOS or TRON – caters to the mainstream crypto crowd.
To top it all off, consider that Grin has been promoted as the coin that could bring back GPU mining. If any coin deserves to be called a "hipster coin", it's Grin.
Grin is an highly unique cryptocurrency. The team’s instinct for an open-source code, a grassroots structure and a monetary policy that focuses on hoarding-resistance and permits inflation (more on this in Part 2) have evidently put Grin on the map. In crypto forums and media outlets, Grin is represented as anything from cute but ineffective, to the coin that will save the original crypto dream. A mere three weeks from its release, it is way too soon to tell how adoption will pan out, but Grin is at least off to a promising start.
Thank you for reading,The Coin360 Editorial Team