Webmining and Mimblewimble
Every once in a while, I like to check in on the state of cryptocurrency. I have zero skin in the game -- $10 worth of Monero from mining in 2020 -- but I've always been fascinated by the twelve-year history of this both revolutionary and weird internet-based currency.
Here's some of the things I (and maybe you) have missed in recent years:
I apparently missed the rise, fall, and death of webmining. People wrote programs that ran in the background of your web browser, and used your unused cycles to mine crypto. Webmining gained favor in ~2017, caught on with unscrupulous people who figured out ways to attach the miners to browsers without end-user's consent, started falling apart in 2019, and just about died in 2020.
Nowadays, if I look up the older webmining programs, they are all either dead (coinhive), built on obscure altcoins that nobody uses (coinimp, webdollar), or works at ~5% of an actual miner's power (minero.cc).
Crypto developers are always looking for ways to better streamline and secure their networks. For example, if you want to download the Bitcoin ledger, I hope you have a third of a terabyte available. This ledger includes every transaction ever made in Bitcoin, from the first ones in 2009 down to today. This means that if you know someone's bitcoin address, you can search the ledger for all their transactions.
A couple of years ago, someone created a crypto technology that fixes both the issue of overly-bloated ledgers and peudo-anonymous ledgers: Mimblewimble. Named after the Harry Potter tongue-twisting spell, this tech hides the addresses of transactions, and also routinely shaves off the older transactions in a ledger to keep it small.
While Mimblewimble has the ability to be adopted onto larger coin networks, it currently only exists on a pair of smaller altcoins: Beam (#317 in Market Cap as of 4/14/21) and Grin (#474). As time goes on, will Mimblewimble see larger-scale adoption? Time will tell.