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How Mimblewimble Could Make Bitcoin Work Better

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Bitcoin

Mimblewimble claims to use a new cryptographic protocol that could revolutionize the way bitcoin works, making it more scalable and private.

The protocol generates a blinding factor that can prove ownership of bitcoins, making private keys unnecessary, and offering a solution to the need to balance bitcoin privacy against fungibility while also improving scalability, according to a white paper that appeared mysteriously on a bitcoin research site authored by a person using a pseudonym.

The author refers to himself as “Tom Elvis Jedusor,” a name taken from the Harry Potter novels.

Bitcoin’s Verification Challenge

Verification

Bitcoin is the first widely used financial system for which all the necessary data to validate the system status can be cryptographically verified by anyone, the white paper notes.

It accomplishes this by storing all transactions in a public database called “the blockchain.” Someone who wants to check this state has to download the whole chain and replay each transaction, checking each one as they go.

It would be easier if an auditor only had to check data on the outputs themselves, but this is not possible since they are only valid if the output is at the end of a chain of prior outputs. The whole blockchain has to be validated to confirm the final state.

Considering that the transactions are cryptographically atomic, the outputs that go into and emerge from every transaction are very clear. The “transaction graph” that results reveals a lot of information and is subjected to analysis by numerous companies whose business model is to monitor and control the lower classes.

This makes it very non-private and even dangerous to use.

Proposed Solutions

Some solutions to this have been proposed, Jedusor notes. Greg Maxwell discovered how to encrypt the amounts so that the graph of the transaction is faceless but still validates the sums. Maxwell also produced CoinJoin, a system for bitcoin users to combine interactively transactions, confusing the transaction graph.

Nicolas van Saberhagen developed a system to blind the transaction entries, further clouding the transaction graph. Shen Noether combined the two approaches to obtain the “confidential transactions” of Maxwell and the “darkening” of van Saberhagen.

These solutions would make bitcoin safe, Jedusor observes. But too much data can make things worse. Confidential transactions require multi-kilobyte proofs on every output. van Saberhagen signatures require every output to be stored forever, as it is not possible to truly tell when they are spent.

Maxwell’s CoinJoin needs interactivity. Yuan Horas Mouton fixed this by making transactions freely mergeable, but he had to use pairing-based cryptography which can be slower and harder to trust. He called this “one-way aggregate signatures” (OWAS).

OWAS combined the transactions in blocks. It could be possible to combine across blocks (perhaps with some glue data) so that when the outputs are created and destroyed, it is as if they never existed, Jedusor notes.

Then, to validate the entire chain, users only need to know when money enters the system (new money in each block as in bitcoin or Monero or peg-ins for sidechains) and final unspent outputs. The rest can be removed and forgotten.

Confidential transactions hide the amounts and OWAS to blur the transaction graph by using less space than bitcoin to enable users to verify the blockchain.

Mimblewimble prevents the blockchain from referencing all of a user’s information, Jedusor observes.

Confidential Transactions

The first step is to remove bitcoin Script. It is too powerful, so it is impossible to merge transactions using general scripts.

Instant transaction

Maxwell’s Confidential Transactions are enough (after some small modification) to authorize the spending of outputs and also to make combined transactions without interaction. This is identical to OWAS, enabling the relaying nodes to take some transaction fee or the recipient to change the transaction fee. Bitcoin cannot do these additional things.

In Confidential Transactions work, the amounts are coded by the following equation: C = r*G + v*H.

C is a Pedersen commitment, G and H are fixed nothing-up-my-sleeve elliptic curve group generators, v is the amount, and r is a secret random blinding key.

Attached to this output is a rangeproof proving that v is in [0, 2^64], so the user cannot exploit the blinding to produce overflow attacks, etc.

To validate a transaction, the verifier will add commitments for all outputs, plus f*H (f being the transaction fee that is given explicitly) and subtracts all input commitments. The result must be 0, proving no amount was created or destroyed overall.

To create such a transaction, the user has to know the sum of the values of r for commitments entries. Therefore, r-values (and their sums) serve as secret keys. If the r output values are made known only to the recipient, an authentication system exists. Unfortunately, by keeping the rule that commits all to add up to zer0, this is impossible since the sender knows the sum of all his r values, and therefore knows the recipient’s r values sum to the negative of that.

Instead, the transaction is allowed to sum to a non-zero value,  k*G, and require a signature of an empty string with this as key, proving its amount component is zero.

The transactions can have as many k*G values as they want, each with a signature, and sum them up during verification.

Creating Transactions

To create transactions, the sender and recipient do the following:

1) The sender and recipient agree on the amount to send. Call this b.

2) The sender creates a transaction with all inputs and change output(s), and gives the recipient the total blinding factor (r-value of change minus r-values of inputs) along with the transaction. The commitments sum to r*G – b*H.

3) The recipient chooses random r-values for his outputs, and values that sum to b minus fee, then adds these to the transaction (including range proof). Now the commitments sum to k*G – fee*H for some k that only the recipient knows.

4) The recipient attaches the signature with k to the transaction, and the explicit fee.

Creating transactions like this supports OWAS already. To demonstrate this, consider two transactions that have a surplus k1*G and k2*G, and the attached signatures with these. Then combine the lists of inputs and outputs of the two transactions, with both k1*G and k2*G to the mix, and it is again a valid transaction. From the combination, it is not possible to know which outputs or inputs are from which original transaction.

Because of this, the block format changes from bitcoin to this information:

1) Explicit amounts for new money (block subsidy or sidechain peg-ins) with whatever else data this needs. For a sidechain peg-in, it may reference a bitcoin transaction that commits to a specific excess k*G value.

2) Inputs of all transactions.

3) Outputs of all transactions.

4) Excess k*G values for all transactions.

Each is grouped together because it does not matter what the transaction boundaries are originally. In addition, lists 2, 3 and 4 should be coded in alphabetical order, since it is quick to check and prevents the block creator from leaking any information about the original transactions.

The outputs are now identified by their hash, rather than their position in a transaction that could easily change. Therefore, it should be banned to have two unspent outputs equal at the same time to avoid confusion.

Merging Transactions

Maxwell’s Confidential Transactions has already been used to create a non-interactive version of his CoinJoin. Another idea is needed. A non-interactive version of this is created to show how it is used with several blocks.

Each block can be seen as one large transaction. To validate it, add the output commitments together, then subtract the input commitments, k*G values, and the explicit input amounts times H. The transactions from two blocks can be combined to form a single block, resulting again in a valid transaction.

The difference is that output commitments have an input commitment equal to it, where the first block’s output is spent in the second block. Both commitments can be removed and still have a valid transaction. There is not even the need to check the rangeproof of the deleted output.

The extension of this idea, all the way from the genesis block to the latest block, shows that each non-explicit input is deleted with its referenced output. All that remains are the unspent outputs, explicit input amounts and every k*G value.

The entire mess can be validated as if it were one transaction by adding all unspent commitments output, subtracting the values k*G, validating explicit input amounts (if there is anything to validate) and subtracting them times H. If the sum is zero, the complete chain is good.

When a user downloads the chain, the following data is needed from each block:

1) Explicit amounts for new money (block subsidy or sidechain peg-ins) with whatever else data this needs.

2) Unspent outputs of all transactions, along with a merkle proof that each output appeared in the original block.

3) Excess k*G values for all transactions.

Bitcoin currently has about 423000 blocks, totaling around 80GB of data on the hard drive to validate everything. The data represents around 150 million transactions and 5 million
unspent, non-confidential outputs.

Each unspent output on a Mimblewimble chain is around 3Kb for rangeproof and Merkle proof. Each transaction adds around 100 bytes: a k*G value and a signature.

The block headers and explicit amounts are negligible. Added together this is 30Gb – with an obscured transaction graph and a confidential transaction.

Also read: Mimblewimble: A stripped down version of bitcoin improves privacy, fungibility and scalability 

Questions and Intuition

The following questions arise.

Q: If you delete the transaction outputs, the user cannot verify the rangeproof and may be a negative amount is created.

A: This is acceptable. For the entire transaction to validate, all negative amounts must have been destroyed. Users have SPV security only that no illegal inflation happened in the past, but the user knows that at this time, no inflation occurred.

Q: If you delete the inputs, double spending can happen.

A: In fact, this means someone may claim that unspent output was spent in the old days. But this is impossible, otherwise the sum of the combined transaction could not be zero.

An exception is that if the outputs amount to zero, it is possible to make two that are negatives of each other, and the pair can be revived without anything that breaks. So to prevent consensus problems, outputs 0-amount should be banned. Just add H at each output.

They all amount to at least 1 at present.

Future Research

Here are some questions that cannot be answered at the time of this writing.

1) What script support is possible? One would need to translate script operations into some discrete logarithm information.

2) Users are required to check all k*G values when in fact all that is needed is that the sum is of the form k*G. Instead of using signatures, is there another proof of discrete logarithm that could be combined?

3) There is a denial-of-service option when a user downloads the chain. The peer can give gigabytes of data and list the wrong unspent outputs. The user will see that the results do not add up to 0, but cannot tell where the problem is.

For now, maybe the user should just download the blockchain from a Torrent or something where the data is shared between many users and is reasonably likely to be correct.

Images from Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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3.9 stars on average, based on 8 rated postsLester Coleman is a veteran business journalist based in the United States. He has covered the payments industry for several years and is available for writing assignments.




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  1. Ade

    September 4, 2016 at 11:25 pm

    Is that you Dr Satoshi ?

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Bitcoin

Return of the Bitcoin Maximalist? Crypto Winter Luring Even More Institutional Capital than Before

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Bitcoin’s price crept higher on Saturday, as the leading digital currency found renewed support near $3,600 following a week of mostly tepid moves. Although the bear market is showing little signs of letting up, Grayscale has declared the return of the ‘bitcoin maximalist’ following a dramatic surge in investments during the fourth quarter. Could this mean that the worst of the downturn has passed?

Return of the Bitcoin Maximalist

Grayscale, the cryptocurrency asset manager most famous for the GBTC Bitcoin Trust, saw an influx of investment capital during the fourth quarter of 2018 – a period known simply as ‘crypto winter’ or ‘crypto nuclear winter,’ depending on who you ask. During the quarter, the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust brought in an average of $2 million per week, the company said in its most recent quarterly report. The number dwarfs the average weekly investment for all other cryptoassets, which stood at just $300,000.

The sheer dominance of bitcoin relative to its altcoin peers led Grayscale to declare the “return of the bitcoin maximalist.” Bitcoin attracted “the most capital within the Grayscale family of products despite further price declines in the digital asset market,” the manager said. “In the fourth quarter, 88% of inflows were into Grayscale Bitcoin Trust, while 12% were into products tied to other digital assets.”

Total investment into Grayscale products reached $359.5 million in all of 2018. The average weekly investment for all products stood at $6.9 million, with the Bitcoin Trust attracting $4.7 million of that total.

Profound Shift Underway?

The shift from retail to institutional investor was also highlighted in the quarterly report. Two-thirds (66%) of the total funds invested during the year came from the institutional investor class. A deeper dive into the investor profiles reveled that 40% of the total amount invested in the fourth quarter came from retirement accounts.

These data points – the rise of the institutional investor and the influx of retirement savers into the digital currency space – reinforce two important trends: (1) the average bear-market investor is patient (i.e., they have a multi-year time horizon); and (2) institutions are building strategic positions in crypto, having used the 2018 downtrend to bolster their positions.

Interestingly enough, it was just last week that Morgan Creek Digital, a leading crypto asset manager, announced that two pension plans became anchor investors in a $40 million venture-capital fund. In other words, retirement planners are beginning to view crypto as a long-term investment vehicle.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Virginia, which is where the two pension plans are located. Combined, they accounted for $21 million of the $40 million invested into Morgan Creek Digital’s fund. More on this story: Virginia Police Department Reveals Why its Pension Fund is Betting on Bitcoin.

BTC/USD Update

Bitcoin clawed back above $3,600 on most major exchanges Saturday even as trade volumes declined. The bitcoin price rose 1% to $3,603.76 on Bitfinex, where it was in close proximity to the 50-day moving average. A clean break above this level could generate sustained bids for the digital currency as it attempts to carve out a higher trading range. The relative strength index (RSI) shows the price has positive momentum, based on the daily chart.

At current values, bitcoin has a total market capitalization of $63.8 billion. That accounts for 52.6% of the overall market. The combined market cap of all assets was $121.2 billion, according to CoinMarketCap.

Disclaimer: The author owns Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.7 stars on average, based on 771 rated postsChief Editor to Hacked.com and Contributor to CCN.com, Sam Bourgi has spent the past nine years focused on economics, markets and cryptocurrencies. His work has been featured in and cited by some of the world's leading newscasts, including Barron's, CBOE and Forbes. Avid crypto watchers and those with a libertarian persuasion can follow him on twitter at @hsbourgi




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Analysis

Crypto Update: Another Spike Fails in Crypto-Land

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The major cryptocurrencies continue to follow the pattern which consists of sudden spikes followed by choppy sideways periods. Today, the top coins jumped higher, with the strongest currencies testing their recent swing highs, but the move quickly failed. The market continues to be dominated by low liquidity and the bearish long-term forces, making it difficult to make money trading the long side.

That said, the short-term break-outs, which were formed one week ago, remain intact and our trend model is also on short-term buy signals in the case of the relatively stronger coins. Despite the buy signals, traders should remain cautious with new positions, as the long-term forces continue to work against bulls here.

The leadership of last week’s move continues to be weak and without a new batch of coins hitting new short-term highs, it’s hard to see what could propel the market higher. The top 3 coins haven’t been able to pull their weight either, so odds clearly favor the continuation of the bear market from a broader perspective.

BTC/USD, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

Bitcoin remains stuck below the $3600 level despite today’s spike, and the bearish drift that started last week in the coin continues. BTC’s relative weakness is a negative sign for the whole segment, and although it’s still above the support/resistance zone just north of $3450, the long-term setup continues to point of the $3250 and $300o support levels.

That said, the short-term buy signal is still in place in our trend model, and traders could open small, speculative positions in BTC, with strong resistance zones being ahead near $3850 and between $4000 and $4050.

XRP/USDT, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

Ripple has also been showing relative weakness in recent days, and today it dipped back below the key $0.30 support/resistance level following the failed rally attempt. While the coin once again avoided a move towards the next main level of interest at $0.28, it is still likely to violate that level and test the August low near $0.26.

With that in mind, traders should stay away from XRP, with our trend also being on short- and long-term trend signals, and barring a move above $0.32, the immediate outlook is also negative, with further resistance levels ahead near $0.3550 and $0.3750.

Litecoin Tests $44 Level Again as Ethereum Clings to $120

LTC/USD, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

After settling down near the $41 price level, last week’s star LTC spiked as high as $44 today, but it failed to break-out above the key resistance zone. While the break-out remains intact and the MACD indicator still only points to a correction, the market-wide trends remain negative, and the previously leading coin hasn’t shown signs of relative strength in the last couple of days.

Traders could still hold their positions here even though a swing low is not yet confirmed, but strict rsik management rules should still be applied. A move back below $38 would trigger a downgrade in our trend model, which is still on a short-term buy signal. Above the initial resistance at $44, further levels are ahead near the recent swing high near $46 and at $51, while support below $38 is found near $34.50 and between $30 and $30.50.

ETH/USD, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

Ethereum has been trading in a narrow range today and the recent short-term swing high capped the rally attempt in the second largest coin. While the coin is still holding on to most of its gains from last week, trading well above the $112 level, the lack of bullish follow-through is a negative sign even regarding the short-term outlook.

The hostile long-term setup raises the odds of a failed short-term rally, and although pour trend model remains on a short-term buy signal, traders should only consider small, speculative positions here. The $120 level continues to be at the center of attention, with another strong resistance above that being found near $130, while further support is found in the $95-$100 zone.

Featured image from Shutterstock

Disclaimer:  The analyst owns cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but doesn’t engage in short-term or day-trading, nor does he hold short positions on any of the coins.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.7 stars on average, based on 465 rated postsTrader and financial analyst, with 10 years of experience in the field. An expert in technical analysis and risk management, but also an avid practitioner of value investment and passive strategies, with a passion towards anything that is connected to the market.




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Analysis

The “Accessibility Premium”: How Coinbase’s Overseas Expansion Could Affect Crypto Prices

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The accessibility premium refers to the affect on a cryptocurrency’s price when it is added to Coinbase. The $8 billion valued exchange is now looking to expand beyond its U.S-based institutional trading business to offer institutional services worldwide. Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and Litecoin may end up being the greatest beneficiaries. These cryptocurrencies could gain from increased accessibility; the new “Coinbase Effect”.

In 2018, as the exchange added more cryptocurrencies, some writers wrote about a perceived “Coinbase Effect”, like Ari Paul. They theorize about an “accessibility premium”, in which those crypto-assets that are more accessible rise in price. With Coinbase bringing crypto to worldwide investors, it could bolster demand for those coins that are listed on the San Francisco-based “Goldman Sachs of Crypto”. They would be more accessible. When a new cryptocurrency or token hit the exchange, traders might expect a bump in price. 

On May 3, 2017 Coinbase integrated Litecoin, resulting in a 30% increase in the price. When Coinbase listed Bitcoin Cash on December 19, 2017, trading on global exchanges skyrocketed. Bitcoin cash closed at $4,000. Two days prior, its price had been $2,200. Volume increased from $2.5 billion on December 18 to nearly $12 billion on December 20 for a 380% increase.

Coinbase added Ethereum on July 21, 2016, resulting in a modest 14% rally. Things changed when Brave browser’s token, BAT, launched on Coinbase. It declined in price. Further data is needed to know the truthful dynamics. By the time BAT was listed, the price of crypto had long since started a consolidation, leaving sentiment low.

Fast forward Q1 2019, and Coinbase is expanding overseas. It is laying down infrastructure for the long-term as it looks towards Asian markets, amid moves to attract international institutional money to cryptocurrency trading. (Coinbase’s product GDAX offers US-based institutional trading) New traders might find Coinbase’s familiarity welcoming. Higher volumes would be to expected for the cryptocurrencies offered by the Silicon Valley giant. 

So, the popular exchange is undergoing an extensive expansion. Coinbase customers residing outside of the U.S. can now trade without a domestic bank account. This could be a boon to the prices of cryptos offered by Coinbase, led by Bitcoin.

There has been discussion about the correlation between simplicity and demand. Opinions on the effect ease of use has on demand are not entirely aligned. As Donald Norman says in his book “Living with Complexity”:

… the so-called demand for simplicity is a myth whose time has passed, if it ever existed.

Make it simple and people won’t buy. Given a choice, they will take the item that does more.

Features win over simplicity, even when people realize that features mean more complexity. You do too, I’ll bet. Haven’t you ever compared two products side by side, feature by feature, and preferred the one that did more? …

Would you pay more money for a washing machine with fewer controls? In the abstract, maybe. At the store, probably not.

Ultimately, Norman argues for managed complexity. But, the demand for simplicity – or at least clarity – seems logical in a chaotic, complex world. In a blog on their website called “The Customer Demand for Pervasive Simplicity”, Cisco writes of this perception, and how it tailors its products towards this end.

A bastion of crypto-simplicity, Coinbase has long courted institutional investors in the U.S., but now its targets are clearly set on a global institutional book. The stage is set for crypto’s first truly global exchange, though Coinbase will need to first successfully assimilate into new countries, with their unique business practices languages, laws, and regulations. Currently, differing regulations in different countries keep crypto’s exchange ecosystem quite regional.

Coinbase holds 5 percent of all bitcoin, 8 percent of all ethereum, and 25 percent of all litecoin in circulation in cold storage. Its success overseas would likely underpin their prices if the “accessibility premium” holds true.

Marcus Hughes, recently appointed as lead counsel for Coinbase in the United Kingdom, has been tasked with overseeing cross-border expansion: “Coinbase takes the long view on bitcoin and wider cryptocurrency prices,” Hughes said, “We need to move beyond the speculation phase of bitcoin and cryptocurrency to the utility phase.”

He added: “The utility phase will mean bitcoin and crypto becomes more widely accepted and understood.”

This solidifies bullish sentiment from the exchange which will be strengthened should it be successful in its bid to attract ‘big money’, not just from a core user base in the U.S. but also from thriving crypto markets in countries such as Japan.

Coinbase reports that, “In the past twelve months, hundreds of crypto-first hedge funds have launched around the world, and many hundreds more traditional institutions have begun [actively trading digital assets]. High-volume clients across Asia will now have access to Coinbase’s flagship trading platforms for institutions. As part of this rollout, we now support inbound and outbound international (SWIFT) wire transfers, allowing Coinbase clients in Asia to fund their accounts from non-US bank holdings.”

Coinbase predicts a bright future for digital currency in Asia, it says, and looks to enter into a market that could help it to cement a role as one of the global leaders in crypto trading. But there remains a big question mark over cryptocurrencies, prominently over how regulation is going to play a role.

Marcus Hughes opines that this year will see a “massive change” for global bitcoin regulation. He says that Europe will gradually lead the way out of a “crypto winter” into regulated digital currency markets with more potential for long-term stability. But, in the short term, irrational trading might paint an entirely different picture. 

As we see Coinbase invest in the long-term it bolsters confidence in a currently inhospitable climate for bitcoin. Should prices continue to fluctuate market sentiment may dip, but it is the notion of institutional money that may serve to give cryptocurrency markets much-needed price stability. 

Image: David McBee, Pexels

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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5 stars on average, based on 2 rated postsJustin O'Connell is the founder of financial technology focused CryptographicAsset.com. Justin organized the launch of the largest Bitcoin ATM hardware and software provider in the world at the historical Hotel del Coronado in southern California. His works appear in the U.S.'s third largest weekly, the San Diego Reader, VICE and elsewhere.




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