What is Monero: Like Bitcoin, But Private

CoinW Exchange
5 min readJan 16, 2024
Photo by Moose Photos/Pexels

Imagine a private Bitcoin blockchain. That’s Monero, a cryptocurrency prioritizing privacy above all else. Unlike its transparent counterparts, Monero hides the sender, receiver, and amount of every transaction, making it the go-to digital cash for those seeking financial anonymity. Think of it as secure, untraceable money for the internet age i.e. money without a “paper trail.”

What is Monero?

Monero is a prominent example of a privacy coin, a category of cryptocurrencies designed to prioritize user privacy and anonymity. Unlike traditional cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, which operate on a transparent ledger, Monero employs advanced cryptographic techniques to obscure transaction details.

Monero’s roots trace back to 2014, emerging from the ashes of Bytecoin, another privacy-focused coin. Recognizing the weaknesses of its predecessor, Monero implemented ring signatures and stealth addresses, pioneering a level of fungibility (interchangeability) unseen in the crypto world.

Monero (XMR) is currently one of the top 40 largest cryptocurrencies with a market cap of $2.9 billion.

How Does Monero Work?

Monero’s design lies in its cryptography. Transactions utilize sophisticated techniques like ring signatures, where a user’s signature blends with others, making it impossible to identify the true sender. Stealth addresses further cloak the recipient, generating unique one-time addresses for every transaction, protecting their identity and address balances.

Monero’s privacy features rely on several crucial technologies:

  1. Ring Signatures: Firstly, it uses a technique called ring signatures to obscure the source of a transaction. In a typical cryptocurrency transaction, you can see the sender’s address, receiver’s address, and the amount sent. However, with Monero, multiple public keys are used, making it challenging to determine the actual sender.
  2. Ring Confidential Transactions (RingCT): RingCT is an additional layer of privacy in Monero. It hides the transaction amount by using cryptographic techniques. This means that even the transaction amounts are not publicly visible on the blockchain.
  3. Stealth Addresses: In traditional cryptocurrencies, the recipient’s address is visible on the blockchain, allowing anyone to track incoming transactions to that address. Monero employs stealth addresses, which generate a one-time address for each transaction. This makes it nearly impossible to link a transaction to the recipient.
  4. Dynamic Block Size: Monero adjusts its block size dynamically based on the number of transactions in the network. This helps in accommodating a varying number of transactions and ensures that the blockchain remains scalable and responsive.

In summary, Monero’s privacy features are achieved through the use of ring signatures, RingCT, stealth addresses, and ongoing developments like Kovri. These technologies work together to provide a high level of privacy for users, making it more difficult for transactions to be traced back to specific individuals or addresses.

Use Cases for Monero

While Monero is often associated with the dark web, its use cases extend far beyond anonymity-seeking individuals. Legitimate reasons for embracing Monero’s privacy include:

  • Financial privacy: Protecting individuals from financial surveillance and discrimination based on their transaction history.
  • Business transactions: Shielding trade secrets and sensitive financial data during business deals.
  • Whistleblower protection: Enabling secure communication and financial support for individuals exposing malpractices.

Latest Developments: Keeping Privacy at the Forefront

Monero’s development community is constantly innovating, with recent milestones including bulletproofs upgrade, which improves transaction efficiency and privacy by reducing cryptographic proofs sizes through zero-knowledge proof technology.

The Davynov protocol helps to improve fungibility by making ring signatures indistinguishable from regular signatures.

Finally, technologies like Kovri and Lelantus aim to increase scalability to handle increased transaction volume without compromising privacy. Kovri, for example, is designed to hide both the IP addresses of users and the transaction details. This would make it much more challenging to associate a transaction with a specific user.

Monero Competitors

When it comes to competitors, Monero occupies a unique space in the cryptocurrency landscape. While other coins compete for market share based on speed, scalability, or smart contract functionality, Monero focuses solely on privacy, making direct comparisons more complex.

However, several projects offer varying degrees of confidentiality, posing potential alternatives for users seeking privacy-focused digital assets. Here are some of Monero’s key competitors:

  • Zcash: Similar to Monero, Zcash offers optional privacy for transactions through its zk-SNARKs technology. However, unlike Monero’s mandatory privacy, Zcash transactions can be publicly viewed in a “transparent mode” if desired.
  • Dash: Offers optional privacy features like PrivateSend and CoinJoin,but its overall level of anonymity is considered less robust than Monero’s.
  • PIVX: Another privacy-focused coin with features like zerocoin mixing,though its adoption and market cap are significantly smaller than Monero’s.

Monero Controversies

While Monero’s privacy is hailed by its supporters, it also attracts criticism:

  • Dark web association: Its use on dark web marketplaces fuels concerns about illegal activities like drug trafficking and money laundering.
  • Regulatory scrutiny: Governments and financial institutions raise concerns about Monero’s potential for facilitating criminal activity (as it does most other cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin)
  • Mining centralization: Despite ASIC resistance, concerns remain about potential mining pool centralization, leading to potential privacy vulnerabilities.

Monero Price History

Monero price history (Source: CoinMarketCap)

Monero has experienced significant volatility throughout its history. It launched in Aug 2014 at a price of $0.21, thereafter charting explosive growth in 2017 during the overall crypto bull run to to hit $419. It then plunged following a market correction in 2018, losing over 90% of its value from this peak. In May 2021, it hit an all-time high of $517.62, before falling again to stabilize between $130 to $180 in 2023. Currently, in Jan 2024, Monero (XMR) is trading at $158.

How to Buy Monero

CoinW offers both spot and futures trading for investors to choose from. For beginner crypto buyers, however, spot trading is the recommended way to buy crypto given its simplicity and straight-forwardness. Here is how to buy Monero (XMR):

  1. Go to the CoinW homepage, log in (or register if you are new), and click on “Spot.”

2. On the Spot page, click on the mini hamburger icon as shown in the first red box, then enter XMR into the search bar. The XMR/USDT trading pair will appear.

3. Select Market Order, key in the amount of USDT you want to spend to buy XMR, then click “Buy XMR.”

Conclusion

Monero is a unique cryptocurrency redefining the concept of financial privacy. Understanding its technology, use cases, and controversies is essential for forming an informed opinion about its role in the future of digital finance. Whether it emerges from the shadows to become a widely accepted currency alongside Bitcoin, Ethereum and other major cryptos, or remains a niche asset for privacy enthusiasts, Monero’s impact on the financial landscape is undeniable.

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