Mina is a L1 blockchain based on zero-knowledge proofs with smart contracts written in TypeScript. Mina is a "lightweight" smart contract platform with aspirations to be a global payment system. It aims to address the scalability issues present in existing blockchains where the cost to verify the blockchain grows proportionally with total transaction throughput.
Mina claims to be the first cryptocurrency protocol with a succinct blockchain by adopting zk-SNARKs, a type of succinct cryptographic proof, as its consensus mechanism. Each time a Mina node produces a new block, it also generates a SNARK proof verifying that the block was valid. All nodes can then store the small proof, as opposed to the entire chain. By not having to worry about block size, the Mina protocol enables a blockchain that is decentralized at scale. No matter how much the usage grows, the blockchain always stays the same size - about 22kb (the size of a few tweets), according to Mina. This means participants can quickly sync and verify the network.
Mina uses a Proof-of-Stake (PoS) mechanism known as Ouroboros Praos to reach consensus, which builds off prior work published by IOHK, one of the companies developing Cardano. It was designed to be simple and allow anyone to participate proportionally to the amount of stake in the protocol.
The goal of Mina is to design a decentralized payment system that offers efficient verification of system history from genesis without relying on any external advice. This is achieved by the following properties:
- A formal notion of a “succinct blockchain”
- Generic functionalities modeled as replicated state machines using incrementally computable SNARKs
- Concrete implementation of a payments system called Mina
- Ouroboros Samasika, a provably-secure PoS consensus protocol that is adaptively secure and offers bootstrapping from genesis
- Parallel scan state to improve transaction confirmation time beyond the limits otherwise imposed by the proof construction
- Performance evaluation report of executing the protocol involving a public community
$MINA is the native utility token of Mina Protocol. Users can exchange $MINA like any other cryptocurrency, or choose to stake their $MINA to earn a reward while securing the network. The token will be used to pay for transactions, and new $MINA will be minted to pay block producers for creating new blocks. This incentive mechanism will be critical for the various participants to co-ordinate and work together in a decentralized manner.
Besides being the network’s native token, $MINA may be used to transfer value, act as collateral, or anything that a digitally-native store of value is capable of. O(1) Labs envisions the token being used in novel, yet-to-be-imagined ways by applications built upon the protocol.
Mina Protocol was founded by Izaak Meckler and Evan Shapiro in 2017 and created by the team at O(1) Labs. Evan Shapiro and Izaak wanted to make a protocol that could effectively be both decentralized and scalable. Izaak was studying cryptography at Berkeley for a PhD at the time and learning about zkSNARKs.
After years of testing and development, Mina Protocol was launched on its mainnet in March 2021. In April 2021, the Mina Foundation was created to be in charge of the Mina Protocol. It managed to raise $18.75 million in seed funding.
On Oct. 24, 2019, Corda blockchain developer R3 filed a lawsuit against O(1) Labs over the Coda Protocol name, claiming it was too similar to R3's Corda trademark. In light of the lawsuit filed, O(1) Labs rebranded the network to Mina on Sep. 29, 2020.
In addition to running as a PoS blockchain network, the Mina Protocol uses what’s called “Proof of Validity” to cut down on file size and minimize the computing power required by nodes to participate in network consensus. The zk-SNARK acronym stands for “Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-interactive Argument of Knowledge.” Zk-SNARKs are essentially snapshots of blockchain metadata, rather than the entirety of a dataset for each individual transaction. As the blockchain becomes larger, these zk-SNARK “snapshots” or blockchain summaries contain a proof of its validity based on metadata, rather than the full blockchain history. These snapshots can serve as proof of the data’s validity, without requiring access to the full blockchain history. Since such a structure means that Mina nodes are processing smaller data sizes, running nodes can be more viable for a wider demographic, and can therefore help promote a more democratic and decentralized network.
Mina believes that as long as the blockchain is valid, then the snapshots will be valid. That means that a longer chain history can be held in a smaller file size. As the blockchain grows, new zk-SNARKs are to be made based off of existing zk-SNARKs so as to maintain an efficient dataset operating on the Mina blockchain.
Unlike BTC, MINA is an inflationary token with no maximum supply cap. Token holders can stake or delegate their tokens to receive their share of the inflation. It is not necessary to lock or bond tokens in order to do this. In total there is 1 billion MINA tokens distributed at launch. These will unlock fully over 8 years. During the first year of Mainnet, accounts with lock ups will receive block rewards equal to an annual inflation of 12%. This rate will decrease over time to 7% and then it is thought the figure will be voted on by MINA holders.