What Is Monero?

Monero is a digital currency that offers a high level of anonymity for users and their transactions. Like Bitcoin, Monero is a decentralized peer-to-peer cryptocurrency, but unlike Bitcoin, Monero is characterized as a more anonymous or privacy-oriented digital cash.

Key Takeaways

  • Monero is a popular blockchain-based cryptocurrency, or altcoin.
  • Monero has several privacy-enhancing features that improve upon Bitcoin.
  • Like Bitcoin, Monero is open source and created from decentralized, grass-roots development.

Understanding Monero

Monero was created as a grassroots movement with no pre-mine and no VC Funding, and launched in April 2014 as a fork of Bytecoin. A fork occurs when an original cryptocurrency is split into two to create another version, which is made possible due to the open source formats prevalent in most cryptocurrency designs. Most forks are formed to address flaws of the parent currency and to create better alternatives.

Monero’s popularity in the crypto world has been rising mostly due to its anonymization characteristic. All cryptocurrency users are given a public address or key which is unique to each user. With Bitcoin, the recipient of the coins has the coins transferred to their address which they have to divulge to the sender. The sender can see how many bitcoins the recipient has once they have knowledge of the fund recipient's public address. Through the Bitcoin blockchain, all coins transferred from the sender to the recipient are recorded and made public.

Transacting with Monero, however, does not give the sender a window view of the recipient’s holdings, even though the sender knows the recipient’s public address. Monero transactions are unlinkable and untraceable. Coins sent to a recipient are rerouted through an address that is randomly created to be used specifically for that transaction.

The Monero ledger, unlike blockchain​, doesn’t record the actual stealth addresses of the sender and recipient, and the one-time created address that is recorded is not linked to the actual address of either party. Therefore, anyone examining Monero’s opaque ledger wouldn’t be able to track down the addresses and individuals involved in any past or present transaction.

Monero Features

Monero also has a feature called the ring signature, which obfuscates the sources of funds so that they are virtually untraceable to the parties involved in the transfer. The ring signature ensures that every Monero transaction between two parties is grouped with other multiple transactions that occur among other unrelated parties.

This means that the recipient’s funds are mixed in with other Monero users’ transactions, and moved randomly across the list of transactions, making it exponentially difficult to be traced back to the source or recipient. The ring signature also decrypts the actual amount involved in any transaction. Note that the ring signature is different from the mixing and coinjoin anonymization technique adopted by other cryptocurrencies vying for anonymity.

Finally, Monero has a distinct way of handling transactions by splitting the amount transferred into multiple amounts, and treating each split amount as a separate transaction. For example, a user who transfers 200 XMR (Monero’s currency unit) to a buyer would have the amount split into say, 83 XMR, 69 XMR, and 48 XMR, totaling 200 XMR.

Each of these is treated separately and a unique one-time address is created for each of the split figures. With the ring signature, each of these split amounts is mixed in with other transactions which of course, have also been split, making it extremely difficult to identify the exact mix of 200 XMR that belongs to the recipient.

The currency symbol for Monero is XMR, and the plural of Monero is Moneroj.

Monero, Privacy, and Popularity

Monero allows for transparency based on the users’ discretion. All users have a "view key" that can be used to access an account with the corresponding private key. A user can give their view key to selected parties with limitations in place such as access to view the account holdings but without the ability to spend any funds held in the account; access to all historical and current transactions; or access to only specific transactions in the account. Selected parties include parents who may need the view keys to monitor their kids’ transactions and auditors who the user would like to give access to audit their account holdings and worth.

In addition to the view key, users also have a "spend key" that authorizes a selected entity that the user shares the key with to spend or transfer funds from the account. Like the view key, the spend key is 64 characters long and consists of alphabets and numbers.

The popularity of Monero has grown, not just for the intent of engaging in illegal activities in the underground market, but also for individuals who simply want to be able to acquire goods and services online anonymously or discretely without leaving a digital "paper trail."

Article Sources
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