Monero (XMR) is an open-source cryptocurrency created in April 2014 that focuses on fungibility, privacy and decentralization. Monero uses an obfuscated public ledger, meaning anybody can broadcast or send transactions, but no outside observer can tell the source, amount or destination. Monero uses a Proof of Work mechanism to issue new coins and incentivize miners to secure the network and validate transactions.
Unlike many cryptocurrencies that are derivatives of Bitcoin, Monero is based on the CryptoNight proof-of-work hash algorithm, which comes from the CryptoNote protocol. It possesses significant algorithmic differences relating to blockchain obfuscation.
In particular, the ring signatures mix the spender's input with a group of others, making it exponentially more difficult to establish a link between each subsequent transaction.
Also, the "stealth addresses" generated for each transaction make it impossible to discover the actual destination address of a transaction by anyone else other than the sender and the receiver. Finally, the "ring confidential transactions" mechanism hides the transferred amount.
Monero is designed to be resistant to application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) mining, which is commonly used to mine other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. It can be mined somewhat efficiently on consumer grade hardware such as x86, x86-64, ARM and GPUs.
In 2014 Bitcointalk forum user known as thankful_for_today forked the codebase of Bytecoin into the name BitMonero, which is a compound of Bit (as in Bitcoin) and Monero (literally meaning "coin" in Esperanto). The release of BitMonero was very poorly received by the community that initially backed it. Plans to fix and improve Bytecoin with changes to block time, tail emission and block reward had all been ignored, and thankful_for_today simply disappeared from the development scene. A group of users led by Johnny Mnemonic decided that the community should take over the project, and five days later they did while also changing the name to Monero.
Due to its privacy features, Monero experienced rapid growth in market capitalization and transaction volume during the year 2016, faster and bigger than any other cryptocurrency that year.
On January 10, 2017, the privacy of Monero transactions was further strengthened by the adoption of Bitcoin Core developer Gregory Maxwell's algorithm Confidential Transactions, hiding the amounts being transacted, in combination with an improved version of Ring Signatures.
The operators behind the May 2017 global ransomware incident WannaCry converted their proceeds into Monero. In June, The Shadow Brokers, the group that leaked the code used in WannaCry, started accepting payments in Monero.
As of May 2018 Monero was led by 7 members, 49 developers and 3 researchers, with the unofficial figurehead of pseudonymous Luigi1111.
In the first half of 2018, Monero was used in 44% of cryptocurrency ransomware attacks.
In July 2018, the Change.org Foundation took advantage of Monero's mining network by creating a screensaver that mines Monero to raise funds. In November that same year, Bail Bloc released a mobile app that mines Monero to raise funds for low-income defendants who can't otherwise cover their own cash bail.
In April 2017 research highlighted three major threats to Monero users' privacy. The first relies on leveraging the ring signature size of zero, and ability to see the output amounts. The second, described as "Leveraging Output Merging", involves tracking transactions where two outputs belong to the same user, such as when a user is sending the funds to himself ("churning"). Finally the third threat, "Temporal Analysis", shows that predicting the right output in a ring signature could potentially be easier than previously thought.
The Monero development team had addressed the first concern in January 2017, prior to the actual release of the research paper, with the introduction of Ring Confidential Transactions (RingCT) as well as mandating a minimum size of ring signatures in the March 2016 protocol upgrade. Monero developers also noted that Monero Research Labs, their academic and research arm, already noted and outlined the deficiency in two public research papers in 2014 and 2015.
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