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A Brief Primer on Monero

Updated: Nov 26, 2019


When considering altcoins, Monero (ticker: XMR) stands out as one of the most significant cryptocurrencies to surface after the launch of Bitcoin. Typically, early competitors sacrificed some of Satoshi's currency’s core functionalities in order to achieve different goals – faster transactions, better scalability, usability, etc. In the case of Monero, the feature it has been optimized for is privacy.


Launched in 2014, it shares many of the hallmarks of your typical digital monetary system – a distributed ledger of transactions, a Proof-of-Work algorithm to append blocks to the ledger, and an open source codebase to which anyone, anywhere can contribute. Pseudonymous developer thankful_for_today can be credited with the concept of Monero, born out of the original BitMonero project.


Its market capitalization sits slightly north of $1bn, making it the 14th biggest cryptocurrency at time of writing. Valued at ~$50, it has come a long way from the days it was listed for less than a dollar, though has yet to come close to its early 2018 all-time highs of ~$495 per coin. Over the years, Monero has had hundreds of contributors, including notable developers like Riccardo “fluffypony” Spagni, Francisco “ArticMine" Cabañas or NoodleDoodle.


Okay, But Why Should I Care?

Unlike your typical ledger, Monero’s blockchain does not reveal transaction metadata – in Bitcoin, each unit can be traced back to its creation from mining. Anyone can load up a blockchain explorer and obtain a list of counterparties that a given address has interacted with (as well as a comprehensive list of amounts transacted). This isn’t to undermine the privacy of the Bitcoin system: its identifiers are pseudonymous, and good practice dictates that users never reuse addresses. That said, increasingly sophisticated techniques for analysis pose a threat to users that wish to operate in secrecy from the get-go, without the use of any transaction-obscuring tools.


Monero isn’t quite so transparent. In fact, thanks to the magic of ring signatures, outside observers are unable to determine the sender, destination or even amount transacted, unless they have the requisite keys. A byproduct of this is that each coin is fungible, meaning that two units cannot be distinguished from one another as they are functionally identical (and are not linked to past transactions, as in other systems).


Other key differences include an ASIC-resistant mining algorithm, no fixed block size, and no capped supply, but anonymity is by far its most valuable selling point. This ‘privacy by default’ approach has seen the cryptocurrency adopted widely by those that need an additional layer of confidentiality in their transactions. Many postulate that its popularity is largely due to its usage on darknet markets (for buying and selling drugs, guns or services) or by criminals seeking to transact in a manner that evades surveillance – of course, it’s also an appealing tool to the everyman that necessitates financial privacy.


Monero’s greatest strength may also be its greatest weakness: many vociferously defend a right to privacy (it’s not criminal, after all), but government bodies – particularly when it comes to finances – have very little tolerance for assets that cannot be easily scrutinized from a regulatory perspective. As a result, privacy coins are low-hanging fruit for legislators to target, and many exchanges avoid listing them for this reason.


If you’re a BTSE user, however, you’re in luck. We’re big fans of Monero – it’s the only privacy coin that has stood the test of time, shows healthy development efforts, and remains one of the most prominent and unique cryptocurrencies to date. In fact, such is the extent of our appreciation for the privacy coin that we’ve decided to make it available to you on the platform, both for spot and futures trading.