While Bitcoin does seem to get the lion’s share of blockchain news, it is only one of an ever-expanding list of digital currencies. Known as altcoin, these alternative forms of cryptocurrency each have their own features and goals. For a roundup of some of the most popular altcoin, check out Beyond Bitcoin: A lineup of other cryptocurrencies.
One of the more whimsical altcoins is known as MimbleWimble whose developers are set on creating a new cryptocurrency.
This blockchain project gets its quirky name from a spell in the Harry Potter book series. It has been trying to attach itself to bitcoin since 2016. However, with its platform getting closer to being ready (and additional options like sidechains still in the works), its developers now argue launching a new cryptocurrency may be the most efficient way to test MimbleWimble with real users.
The project touts itself as a more scalable, more private blockchain, solving some of the issues which have been plaguing bitcoin of late. Despite the promise, launching a new cryptocurrency has usually been met with controversy.
With hundreds or more forms of altcoin launching and subsequently fading into obscurity in the past few years, some are now alleging these launches are actually all an elaborate fraud.
Thankfully, according to one MimbleWimble developer, the platform doesn’t intend to follow models that have previously proven problematic or harmful to investors.
Igno Peverell, the project’s pseudonymous lead developer, elaborated: “No ICO, pre-mine, or funny business.”
Instead, Peverell insists money for project development will likely depend on voluntary donations although the details of this arrangement are pending.
MimbleWimble’s open-source team has been continuously expanding and becoming more active thereby making significant steps forward. Still, the original goal of launching this project as a sidechain of the bitcoin network has remained a challenge.
MimbleWimble requires bitcoin’s existing scripting system be removed and as a result, the project has long been considered all but impossible to incorporate into bitcoin itself.
Furthermore, Blockstream mathematician Andrew Poelstra, one of the earliest advocates for MimbleWimble, and possibly its most visible proponent, agreed that launching a new cryptocurrency is the “simplest” option.
“It’s a very reasonable attitude and I’m glad that they’re pushing the research and design of MimbleWimble forward,” he explained.
On the other hand, Poelstra mentioned it might be possible to connect the network’s cryptocurrency, called grin, to bitcoin later on by using a mechanism he’s currently developing.
He elaborated to CoinDesk: “Although grin is starting from a different place than I would have preferred, it’s still moving in the right direction: toward improved privacy and scalability for bitcoin.”
Things are still taking shape for how those features are developing.
Because MimbleWimble isn’t able to use bitcoin’s scripts, it initially seemed the platform wouldn’t be able to support more complex transaction types like Schnorr signatures and Lightning Network which could boost capacity even further.
If grin has better privacy and scalability while still able to support many of the same features as bitcoin what advantages does bitcoin still have?
Peverell responded to this very question with sarcasm; he acknowledged that bitcoin still has the “largest market,” “most known brand” and “most active ecosystem,” thereby making for stiff competition.
Further, since bitcoin was upgraded to support Segregated Witness in August of 2017, it now can handle more advanced transaction types which are likely to keep developers busy innovating.
Peverell further argues that there are tradeoffs between the different approaches of each cryptocurrency rather than a winner takes all type scenario. “We’re not here to ‘kill bitcoin.’ We’re here to provide a radically different, private and scalable alternative that plays well with it,” he explained.
Developers have also been working on a code version of MimbleWimble, also called grin, since October of last year. That implementation has seen notable progress and includes a new cast of Harry Potter nick-named developers (including Antioch Peverell, Luna Lovegood, Seamus Finnigan, and Percy Weasley) joining ranks.
Despite the significant strides forward, there’s still a lot of work to complete before the team can launch the grin cryptocurrency, Peverell stressed. This work includes multiple rounds of testing. Additionally, the current code still needs to be fully fleshed out, reviewed, and tested.
“We now have a blockchain implementation that, while still naturally immature at this point, doesn’t have gaping holes anymore,” Peverell said optimistically but realistically.
By testing and bulletproofing the code, developers will crystallize an “alpha” release with which they will launch a testnet which would be a leap toward demonstrating to the cryptocurrency community that the platform’s underlying ideas really work.
Setting up the testnet means producing a first block, known as a “genesis block” after which volunteer testers will be able to mine the network and make test transactions.
“I’m hoping we’ll be ready before winter,” Peverell said in anticipation.