There are Harry Potter fans and then there is Alexander Zaidelson. The CEO of Beam is a big Harry Potter fan — so much so that he built his company on top of MimbleWimble — named after one of the spells of Potter lore.
BlockTelegraph caught up with Zaidelson to take a closer look at Beam, transaction privacy, and the work behind its latest launch.
- Your team has its own interesting tech background. Share that.
We’ve put together an incredible team behind Beam that merges some of the top blockchain engineers in the field with a leadership and advisory team that has a wealth of experience actually building and executing. Combine that with an incredible technology and we feel very confident about the future of our project and our ability to continuously build, innovate, and work directly with our community.
- How are Bitcoin and Ethereum transactions not private?
Bitcoin, Ethereum and many other cryptocurrencies maintain an open public ledger to keep the transaction records. Every transaction relates to one or more wallet addresses. While the name of the address’ owner is not saved on the blockchain, it is usually known at least to the counterparty of the transactions.
Imagine that somebody pays you a hundred bucks, and just by virtue of this fact you can immediately see how much money they have? Well, that’s exactly what happens on public ledger cryptocurrencies – once Alice sends some coins to Bob, Bob now has Alice’s address and can log to any of the freely available blockchain explorers and see how much money Alice has in her wallet, what amounts she is getting.
Moreover, the public blockchain presents a great opportunity for large-scale data analysis, and there are several companies that are doing a great job at that.
- What is behind the Mimblewimble name?
The name Mimblewimble comes from the name of a spell in the Harry Potter universe. It is the literal incantation of the spell, better known as the “The Tongue Tying” curse. It is used as a defensive spell to prohibit an individual from revealing a secret about something particular.
The connection to blockchain technologies comes in 2016 when an anonymous developer named “Tom Elvis Jedusor” – an anagram of the French way to say “I am Voldemort,” the antagonist in the Harry Potter universe – released a protocol named Mimblewimble. The goal of this protocol is to resolve scalability and privacy issues on the blockchain.
- What is Beam and why was it created?
Beam is an implementation of the Mimblewimble Protocol that we was started in early 2018. Our goal for Beam is to help fulfill the dream of using cryptocurrencies as viable replacement for fiat money by making it usable in real life life for both individuals and businesses.
Today, the crypto universe is quite complicated and not easily accessible by the majority of digital consumers, which is the result of several concerns, including privacy and scalability. We created Beam because we believe that unless these two concerns are addressed, the cryptoverse will have a limited future. Do we really believe a business or an individual could use a non-scalable and non-private crypto currency? Who would like their financial history to be public? It’s unthinkable. Beam solves this issue by providing a truly private environment based, and, not less importantly, an option for compliance that will be developed in a later stage.
- What is the difference between Beam and other privacy coins like Monero and Zcash?
Compared to Beam, both Monero and Zcash are using fundamentally different technologies, and have addressed privacy in their own way. Monero uses ‘Ring Signatures,’ where additional data is attached to each transaction to obfuscate the source, destination and amounts. This significantly increases the size of the blockchain.
Zcash achieves the goal of hiding source, destination and amount by sing the zk-SNARKs protocol. By default, transactions in Zcash are public, and the zk-SNARKs tech only comes to play if the user chooses to make a transaction private.
Both Zcash and Monero take the basic architecture of Bitcoin and add sophisticated obfuscation to it, resulting in much larger blockchain size that hurts scalability. We estimate that Zcash blockchain size is around 5.3KB per transaction, Monero’s is around 3KB per transaction (down from 15KB before the last upgrade) – significantly bigger than Bitcoin’s 0.62KB.
Beam’s solution is different. Mimblewimble cut-through mechanism is used to keep the blockchain small. This cut-through removes all the intermediate statuses of UTXOs, essentially leaving only unspent outputs on the blockchain. As the result, the blockchain does not grow with the number of transactions, but rather grows with the number of UTXOs, which is much slower. We estimate that Beam blockchains will be at least 3 smaller than Bitcoin’s, which means that our overall blockchain size should be well below 70GB when Beam reaches Bitcoin’s scale. This will make it possible to run a full node on smaller devices, greatly democratizing the network. And, we have more ideas in store on how to reduce this more.
An additional major difference is that we are designing Beam to not only offer confidentiality, but also optional Compliance. Beam users will be able to create one or more Auditor keys which can be distributed to the parties of their choice, such as accountants, auditors, or even tax authorities. Using these Auditor keys, the auditing party can review the transactions recorded on the blockchain, and verify that the list of transactions is complete. A key differentiator between Beam and our competitors is that this feature is optional, and cannot be enabled retroactively.
- How do you plan to build a community around your project?
We already have a fantastic group of early supporters for Beam which include developers, miners, and just people excited about what we are building.
We have enthusiastic Beam ambassadors around the world organizing meetups and events that bring curious people into our project.
Our goal is to also make mining on our network accessible for everyday people, so we have intentionally built our platform to be easily usable by the everyday computer user.
- How do people get Beam tokens?
The only way to currently get Beam tokens is by mining for them! We have worked very hard on our Mainnet Launch, so that nearly anyone with access to a computer anywhere in the world can mine Beams. All you need is one of the supported GPUs. At launch, only solo mining will be available, but a lot of people are planning to release Beam mining pools very soon.
We also expect to introduce our ‘Atomic Swap’ feature soon, which will allow for all Bitcoin hodlers to buy Beams directly.