By Evan Shapiro, O(1) Labs CEO & Mina Foundation Board Member
Three months ago, Mina’s mainnet launched. And two weeks ago, Mina’s token unlocked, and was listed on several exchanges.
Since then, we’ve gotten a lot of interest and many questions about the protocol. We know when a token first goes live, it can be a hectic time, so we thank you for your support during this period. We’ll be publishing a full retro soon of the token unlock, which we hope will be interesting to anyone following Mina’s unlock and listing.
Until then, I wanted to answer some questions that have shown up, on behalf of the Mina Foundation; some of these, frankly, are, at least in my opinion, pure FUD (the first one, definitely in any case). Some others are things that will take time to spread throughout the community, or we need to work on more regularly sharing updates for.
In any case, I hope these are useful, in both answering some questions, and getting at the vision of the project. I’m always happy to answer any questions, so let us know on Twitter, Discord, or our Telegram and I’d be glad to discuss.
On to questions:
I heard Mina depends on Google Cloud for storage. Is that true?
This is not the case. This seems to be confusion related to Mina’s archive nodes, an optional node type you can run, that can (further optionally) be run on Google Cloud.
Archive nodes on Mina are nodes that have chosen to hold onto the history of every account on the network. This, however, is an optional activity. Some of the people and groups running archive nodes have chosen to run these nodes on Google Cloud. Some run it on their own machines. Some are exploring putting the archive nodes on durable storage like Arweave.
Although some people are choosing to run archive nodes, running an archive node is optional for the Mina blockchain. All the network needs to get by are consensus nodes, which, thanks to Mina’s succinct zero knowledge proof, only hold onto current balances, and don’t need the full history. Think of it similar to your credit card — you don’t need the history of transactions to transact. The system just needs current balances to transact, while you may as an individual want to hold on to your own history of transactions.
Mina is therefore just as decentralized as Bitcoin, or Ethereum, from a node dependency perspective, with the potential to be even more accessible, as the set of current balances is much smaller than the full history of the chain (increasingly so, as time goes on). Additionally, for nodes not needing to participate in consensus, fully secure, decentralized access is possible with just the ZKP, and the data for the relevant account, in less than 22kb.
Between both of these, Mina’s consensus nodes won’t get larger and more difficult to run as time goes on, and users will always be able to get secure access. It’s the first time these properties have been possible on a blockchain, where operating a consensus node is sustainable, and users don’t have to fall back to centralized data providers to get access to a chain.
And yes, you can still run an archive node if you do want the full history of everyone’s accounts for whatever reason — no Google Cloud storage required.
I heard Mina’s TPS is very low. Is it true? How will it scale?
Mina’s current throughput limit is about 1 tps. This was an intentional choice, independent of what the architecture is actually capable of. When deciding what to work on, we’ve chosen to prioritize use cases and decentralization features over a high throughput.
This may be confusing, given the recent wave of high throughput projects. But if you look at the data, you see a different story. Tezos has recently just hit 1 tps after being out for years. Avalanche, which is seeing pretty substantial activity, is still averaging only 0.2 tps. Another project advertising high throughput, Elrond, is only at an average of 0.3 tps. At the peak of activity when Mina’s tokens started unlocking, Mina was clocking only 0.1 tps, well under our limit.
Given that, we face a question — do we focus the engineering hours to make Mina’s TPS a big number? Or, do we follow the data and work on solving for the decentralization problem and building use cases? We’ve chosen to go with the latter — which should optimize the time it takes Mina to launch what will likely be one of the first programmable platforms for zero knowledge proofs. TPS will follow after this, relatively easily, especially because Mina’s lightweight blockchain means that Mina doesn’t face the same tradeoffs between scale and decentralization as other blockchains.
What are the items coming up on Mina’s roadmap?
O(1) Labs, Mina’s ecosystem partner, and Mina Foundation are working together in focusing on Snapps, and getting tooling ready for developers so they can easily deploy them on Mainnet. Snapps will make ZKPs easily programmable, which will make privacy, off-chain verification, and arbitrarily large computations (Mina verifies constant sized proofs for all computations) available on Mina.
Between all of these features, I believe that ZKPs will open up a whole new landscape for cryptocurrencies. Just like how Ethereum opened up programmability for crypto, zero knowledge proofs will take privacy, verification, and scale to the next level for crypto.
Protocol-wise, Mina is currently on a cadence of protocol releases every 6 weeks. Each one improves the stability, performance, and featureset of the protocol. It’s almost at that time now, so you can expect to see a new release (with an extensive changelog) shortly!
Other teams and community members are building further infrastructure for Mina; these include wallets, new block explorers, applications of Snapps, dashboards, and other tooling. We’re working on a platform to collect and share more frequent updates from all of the different projects building on Mina; stay tuned for that soon!
What are the use cases with Mina?
I believe Mina’s trajectory will initially start with use cases that take advantage of ZKPs through Snapps, such as privacy for DeFi or trustless oracles. Then, it will involve eliminating tail risk to access crypto, through the small ZKP. And finally, if it reaches its full form, it will provide a highly scalable secure platform for the whole world to access crypto. I don’t expect this to happen overnight. But the technical capability is there, in the foundation of a sustainably efficient blockchain, powered by zero knowledge proofs.
We plan to share more frequent updates with the community and those interested in Mina moving forward. If you would like to stay updated, feel free to subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on Twitter.