Sorting Hat Time? MimbleWimble Weighs Own Blockchain Launch

Corin Faife
May 6, 2017 at 10:50 UTC
FEATURE

A team of anonymous Harry Potter-inspired developers has released a new outline for the development of the cryptocurrency anonymity project, MimbleWimble.

Named after a silencing spell from the famed Harry Potter book series, the project is now increasing its pace of development and looking to incorporate technology that the larger bitcoin network has been slow to adopt.

And though the project was first defined as an improvement to bitcoin, current developments (including the launch of an experimental MimbleWimbled-based blockchain called Grin) suggest that a standalone cryptocurrency could become the best way for the project to be realized.

Wizarding history

For those new to MimbleWimble, the project first came to light with a paper published in mid-2016 under the pseudonym Tom Elvis Jedusor — the alias of Lord Voldemort in the French version of the Harry Potter series.

Though relatively short at 2,000 words long, the paper struck a balance between a readable tone and a provocative and well-founded technical thesis: that bitcoin scripts should be abandoned in favor of a new method of recording transactions.

The shift would effectively allow for the added privacy of one-way aggregate signatures and a novel application of bitcoin developer Gregory Maxwell's confidential transactions across multiple blocks.

But, much like his namesake after the ill-fated attack on the infant Harry Potter, Jedusor disappeared not long after posting the MimbleWimble paper.

Subsequently a new team of developers took up the mantle to continue work on the project, incorporating contributions by notable figures in bitcoin, such as Blockstream's Andrew Poelstra.

And this is where the newest roadmap – given by a developer going by the name of another Harry Potter character, 'Ignotus Peverell' – originates.

Interaction not integration

Yet, given the emphasis on a new scripting language, it's perhaps unsurprising that the project continues to grow in a separate direction to that of the bitcoin network, despite involvement from its heavyweight thinkers.

The project is more likely to launch as a standalone project before any of its innovations are adopted into the bitcoin codebase, as Ignotus Peverell explained in an email interview with CoinDesk.

"MimbleWimble is different enough as a blockchain format that integrating it directly into bitcoin would be extremely difficult," Peverell said. "It could conceptually be added as part of the extension block proposal, but even then it would be rather difficult to preserve all of its advantages."

Extension blocks, an idea originally proposed a few years ago, were recently reintroduced as a third option in bitcoin's long-standing scaling debate. And because the protocols are vastly different, MimbleWimble is thinking about launching an alternative blockchain first.

But Peverell also said proposals based on the current direction of development, particularly the plan to use Blockstream's Confidential Assets system, gave hope for smooth interaction between bitcoin and a blockchain based on MimbleWimble.

He explained:

"[The paper] opens the door to hosting bitcoin as a native asset on the Grin blockchain. This would involve a peg on both chains, similarly to a sidechain, and one could transact with bitcoin directly on the Grin chain, which I think would be very cool."

Meanwhile, the Grin blockchain, theoretically faster and more efficient than bitcoin already, is likely to win even more fans if plans to port the functionality of the Lightning Network into it succeed.

While no concrete steps have been taken towards integrating Lightning so far, MimbleWimble developers are confident it will be feasible to implement. At these early stages, Peverell suggests there is a desire to explore and test as many options as possible in order to avoid making more complex changes at a later date.

"Due to the difficulties in doing large and significant modifications once a blockchain is launched, we need to think about those things in advance," he said.

The pseudonymous developer continued:

"From a technological standpoint, it's a good sign that it can be done. Finally, no one ever complains about having more ways to scale."

Hogwarts image via Shutterstock

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the origins of extension blocks. That has been corrected.

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