14th November 2019

The Minima Protocol - Explained


Coding Background

Hello, so yeah, I'm the guy who came up with Minima. I’ve been a coder my whole life started on the ZX Spectrum, 25 years ago… 35 years ago and I've been coding ever since, Full Stack you know all of it. Actually started in the business world as a physics engine programmer for Xbox games, which was very similar actually in many ways to decentralisation and decentralised systems because in those days everything was done using maths and springs and local information so there’s a little connection there.

Crypto Story 

I fell into Bitcoin in 2012, fell in love with it as many of us did and just blown away by the technology, by Satoshi and by what Bitcoin was doing. For me, I think it changed, I think my attitude towards Bitcoin when the whole SegWit wars started, when Bitcoin cash [was introduced], when it occurred to me and it sort of became obvious to me that it wasn’t as decentralised as I thought it was, when it became obvious to make that actually the miners had a lot more power than I thought they had and I had a lot less power than I thought I had.

The Problems with Centralisation 

So what are the problems with this centralisation, well from a technical point of view centralisation brings in fragility into the system and it introduces points of failure… it introduces for a system like bitcoin the ability to attack the system in ways that are not what we wanted, so the only reason really that you want to be using a blockchain style system is for the anti-censorship, the hit you take from using a blockchain in terms of efficiency and throughput, you better be sure you are getting your money’s worth, because otherwise there is no point using it, and the real value proposition is in the anti censorship, so with the miners having frankly centralised to a very extreme degree this now started to become a problem and I'm sort of now of a zero/one opinion, you’re either decentralised or your not, your protocol is either a decentralised protocol or it isn’t and it’s clear to me that the Bitcoin protocol is centralising in the miners and no amount of clever maths and no amount clever crypto is going to stop that centralisation and there’s one way that this is going to end and that way is there is going to be one miner and then at that point the whole thing is over because you can attack the system, we already sort of at that stage, I’m sure the chinese government actually does own all the miners, I mean we’re not there yet you can’t even price Apple in Bitcoin, Bitcoin is still nothing its nowhere near big enough to be a problem but as soon as BP gets involved in the mining, as soon a proper large industrial mega corporation and its buying power stations to run the miners, the asic hardware that it pays a thousand times less for, there's simply no way of any of this home scene or any of these pooled mining is going to survive I’m sorry, it’s just going to be a couple of big boys and then they’re going to be the point of attack.

The Benefits of A Decentralised System 

So what you want is a decentralised system, you want a system is resilient, this is what the decentralisation gives us, you want a system where there is just that anyone can ever attack the system in a way that is, there are no single points of failure in the system, so you want to come up with the system that is decentralised, looking at bitcoin and what's happened. 

How Many Cryptocurrencies Have Forgotten The Main Reason We Were Here In The First Place: Decentralisation 

Now what I find interesting is that all the new chains seem to have forgotten about this, the only thing that matters is transactions per second, functionality, anonymity, blah blah blah, and actually they’ve forgotten the main reason that we were here in the first place which is the decentralised, anti-censorship resilient system that blockchains should be, so if you look at bitcoin, for instance, the factor that is centralising is the miners, so we’ve got to think to ourselves, how are we going to get rid of the miners, four years ago IOTA came out that showed us that it was possible to come up with a system, you know theoretically, I know it hasn’t turned out quite that way, but it was possible to get rid of the miners and to actually have the users powering the system themselves, I think that was the most exciting coin for me when it came out, as I’m sure it was for many of you.

How Minima Creates Equality in the Network by Utilising Mobiles to Ensure Decentralisation

So with Minima, I ask myself well look if we’re going to do this then clearly from the get-go every single user has to be the same, every single user has to run the software in the same way, with the same algorithm doing the same thing, there can’t be any single group of users that are entrusted or no third party which are asked to do something for the network, you can’t ask anyone to do anything because that centralises and once you start centralising it doesn’t stop and it doesn’t stop not because of the math but because of economies of scale and that is a problem that you’re not going to fix, so it was obvious to me at least that the only device that we all have access to and that we can use to run this network was your mobile phone, so it's like ok, we’re going to have to write a version of bitcoin that runs in full on your mobile phone.

How Each User Mines their Own Transaction to Produce a PoW Backed Blockchain

So the first thing you do is you say ok, PoW is objective, this whole PoS thing is not going to work it’s got to be PoW backed so let's just use the same systems and say that users are going to mine their transactions, instead of paying miners to look for blocks and mining in a centralised way, we’re going to say each user is going to mine transaction and then we’re going to add all of that PoW work and out of that we’re going to come up with our blockchain.

How Minima Get’s Rid of Centralised Miners By Allowing Users to Mine Their Own Transactions 

Now p-2-pool if anyone remembers that protocol which is still running is a pool system which does exactly that where lots of users do a small amount of work and interestingly because of the way the algorithm works you can actually add all of that work up and you can come up with big blocks which are the sum of all the small amounts of energy, minima users a similar system to that, instead of miners looking for blocks, we use users looking for transactions and mining those transactions for 10 seconds of work each, so that was the first challenge, got rid of the miners, said ok each user can mine the transaction.

How Minima Immensely Decreases the Size of a Traditional PoW Blockchain Databases - So That it Can Fit On A Mobile / The Big Book Analogy

The next thing you’ve got to do is you’ve got to fit it onto a phone, now clearly the database is big, these blockchains have huge big books, when I send a transaction on the bitcoin network, you send the transaction, the miner gets the transactions, he looks at the transaction, he goes to his big book of data and he goes ok and he flicks through the pages and he finds the page, and he goes ok yup this is a valid transaction, tick, it goes it a block,  you can mine it, all of the miners have got this book, that book just gets bigger and bigger and bigger, how can we get rid of this, well, what we can do is instead every miner and every user having a copy of every single transaction and every single balance and account you can think of it as saying I’ll give each user a page in the book and I’ll rip that page out and I’ll give it to the user, and every user just keeps the spine of the book, much much smaller, It’s actually one hash but it’s a hash tree, but each user keeps the spine and their page and when you want to spend your what you do is you send your transactions and you send your page which is a small amount of data and then every other user can see your page, they can check it, check that it fits the spine that everybody has, in a cryptographic way they can update the spine and that way he’s got this mined because he’s proved it to me, so now what we have is a system where instead of every user having a record of everyone else's money, each user only keeps track of his coins, so I’ll look after my coins and you can look after  yours, and we can all prove to each other that we have the coins that we say we have, so we’ve converted it into a proof of history of coins rather than actually having to have the entire database the whole time.

How Minima Allows Collaborating Users to Produce Enough PoW to Secure the Chain by Mining Their Own Transactions whilst Keeping their Database Small

So now we’ve got a system where the users can do the PoW, we can sum of all of this up and we can make it into a blockchain and we’ve got a minuscule database which is actually exactly the same as the big database but each user keeps different data, everybody's little database is different and it only looks after your coins, so if you lose your database you are losing your coins, you’re not losing my coins, I’m looking after mine and you’re looking after yours, so that’s basically there.

How Other Blockchains Have Failed To Be Complete From Their Inception

But what also got to think about which I see a lot in the current development of the coin, this idea that there are people working on the coin, I mean Bitcoin is much better at this than Ethereum if you ask me and I don’t know if you’ve got a hard fork in Bitcoin left frankly, but the idea that you keep updating the coin and keep changing the coin, this isn’t going to work for me, because there is always going to be in the thrall of whoever the current developers are, and this my issue with ETH 2 and I’m a smart guy and I look at the ETH 2 specs and I’m like … that’s tough stuff, there’s going to be 20 people on the planet on actually know how to do this and they’re going to be the ones who are able to decide, my big issue with this they’re saying one per cent two per cent, you know, who is deciding how is this going to be done, we’re all being swept along by them, so if you want to be a global base layer protocol you need to be finished, you need to be able to say here it is stamp boom, this is POP 3 it hasn’t changed, no wonder it’s taken over the world, this is HTTP, this is TCP IP, this is the UDP protocol, for these protocols that are the base-layer of the internet, don’t change, because you can’t update a protocol as soon as it gets to a certain size, that’s just not going to work, so it almost loops back and says well you can’t grow then, because you update invest time in it.

Minima In A Nutshell 

So what we’ve got with Minima is we’ve got a protocol that runs on your phone, that we all work together collaboratively, rather than competitively in the doing work and the transactions and the protocol itself is finished, so when I get to version one in the next 3 months, that’s it, it’s done, you know and all the scaling and all the clever stuff that you need to do has to be taken into account at the beginning.

How Minima is Quantum Secure 

So for instance, Minima is fully quantum secure, and when say this to people … the actual mathematics to do quantum secure signatures and   is known, it’s just a decision on your part whether you want to do it or not, and now clearly quantum computers are coming out in the next ten-fifteen years and so clearly if you want your protocol to finished and you want it to work in ten-fifteen years you better be ready for when that happens.

How Minima Has Eradicated the Issue of Block Size

Another issue is the block size, this idea that we’re going to have to hard fork block size changes in, that can’t be the way it goes, that’s going to have to be taken into account now, we’re going to have to have some system inbuilt in the chain now, that allows the block size to be dynamic, which Minima has.

How Paddy Has Designed Minima to Be What Bitcoin Initially Attempted to Be 

So what ended up with, the way I look at it, is we’ve ended up with the coin that I originally wanted, that I thought Bitcoin was going to be, a totally decentralised cryptocurrency where no single group or cartel of users have any influence over the network at all.

How Bitcoins Valitors Cannot Protect Users From Censorship, Instead Only A Few Centralised Miners 

Currently the mantra of all the coins is hey you’ve all got to run full nodes, so you’ve got bitcoin with millions of users and you’ve got 10,000 full nodes, and not only is it only 10,000 full nodes and not a million full node, but actually is slightly disingenuous if you ask me because its not actually a full node, it's not a full full node, it's a full validating node, it’s not actually involved in the construction of the chain is only involved in the validation and the rubber stamping and the work the miners do and so what this means is that validation isn’t even a defence against censorship there is nothing the validators to do to prevent censorship, the only users on the Bitcoin network that are involved in preventing censorship attack on the Bitcoin network are the miners, and now there is only ten of them and so we’ve totally forgotten about that and everybody's like no no no full validating is enough, and it’s like well it’s not really.

How Minima Validates and Constructs the Network Using Complete Nodes From Many Users Unlike Many Other Blockchains Moving in The Other Direction

Now what I want is a million complete nodes as I call them, and a complete node does everything, you know it does the validation and it does the construction and this is something that I don’t see anybody doing and in fact, the Tron’s, the NEO’s, the Hashgraphs, the Tezo’s, the Telegram, you know all of these chains have gone DPoS, gone for a smaller delegate base, gone for an even fewer constructors, which I find strange, what we want to do is to do it the opposite way, and so for me when we reach a million complete nodes, when we reach a network size that are not only validating but actually the chain, that’s it, it’s done, I'll be happy then.



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