What is Monero: The Well-Encrypted Coin

Monero has done it again, with a price spike in September, replaying the phenomenal gains of 2016 to a higher price level. But why is this anonymous coin so popular?

Monero is the "secure, private, untraceable currency." Which means that only you have information about the transaction- all other observers of the blockchain see encrypted data about the transactions. Compare this to transparent cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Litecoin, where you can observe the addresses that send and receive funds, and sometimes even track them to the person's internet identity.

Monero appeared in April 2014 and was initially named BitMonero. The name is Esperanto for "money."

The Monero Morass

Looking into the sunny cryptocurrency story of 2017, Monero looks almost venerable. But its appearance is a morass of reddit scandals, sock puppet accounts and a group of cryptographers and developers hiding their identity.

It seems like the CryptoNote team rushed in to introduce Bytecoin, which had a 82% pre-mine and evidence pointing to the creation of a fake blockchain.

But then Monero was introduced- and the community took over, instead of the lead developer. So that is why Monero is now famous and well-accepted, and MonetaVerde and DuckCoin, while built on the really smart CryptoNote technology, are all but useless, along with several other coins.

So this is a cautionary tale that for any new or old coin, not only technology matters but the quality of developers and the community. For Monero, there are other PR disasters, such as usage on black market sites. But the community is always trying to foster organic growth and link the coin to legitimate vendors.

This StackExchange posting has the long and detailed story on how Monero was built, with a mix of smarts, scandals and an attempt at scamming. It may be too technical, but it is a good cautionary tale on the pitfalls in the world of cryptocurrencies.

The Monero TeamThe new Monero team that replaced developer thankful_for_today. The team includes core developer fluffypony (Ricardo Spagni) and David Latapie.

And while those developers, along with Riccardo Spagni, built Monero out of interest and considered it just a test back in 2016, this year, more than $1 billion is at stake.

The Monero Price Spike

Back in 2016, Monero was called a bubble when it went from $0.50 to around $13. And almost all of the gains happened around August and September. Then 2017 happened and all cryptocurrencies gained speed. Monero was left in the shade, until it doubled in value in 24 hours at the end of August. And since then, it has kept its new positions around and above $100, while Bitcoin prepared to vault $5,000.

The recent spike coincides with talk of the possibility for the IRS to study closely the Bitcoin network.

Monero Markets

The Monero price spike may be explained by one of the strongest factors for the gains in the cryptocurrency market- South Korean buyers. More than 47% of daily trading volume belongs to Bithumb, against the South Korean Won. The price effect was immediate, given that the trading pair was introduced on Bithumb on August 27th.

And as analysts have recently noticed, part of the reason Koreans are buying up cryptocurrencies is the nuclear situation in North Korea.

The trade on Bithumb is three times more active than that on Poloniex. And indeed, without Asian buying, Monero would have remained a hobby horse for fluffypony and a relatively minor price force compared to Bitcoin and Ethereum.

The Monero Technology

Monero ensures anonymity by using ring signatures. It groups transactions with other multiple transfers from unrelated parties, making it hard to trace it back to the original recipient. Imagine posting a letter- it is easy to read the sender and receiver address from one single letter. But once letters are pooled into the mailman's bag, it is impossible to look at, or trace, any individual letter. You could not glean a person's correspondence from looking at the mailman's bag.

Compared to Monero's approach, Bitcoin senders and receivers may as well be sending their messages through notes pinned to a public whiteboard, where everyone can see them.

And Monero has yet another layer of security- it splits each transaction into random sections, giving it a unique address. Imagine if all your letters were separated into sheets and then carried to the recipient.

The Monero Community

If you want to learn more about Monero, there is a robust community that shares information on the project with complete transparency. For technical issues and questions, the Monero StackExchange channel offers the perfect solutions. (https://monero.stackexchange.com/)

One important addition for Monero is that it would soon be running a version of LocalBitcoins, making it possible to buy Monero anonymously for cash with limited online records.

More details could be found on the Reddit channel.

For a more detailed academic approach, the Monero Research Lab (https://lab.getmonero.org/) holds the work of academics who devote their time to cryptography and to improving the Monero project.

The Verdict on Monero

Monero holds many valuable technological ideas and has solid minds behind it. Regarding market price, it has attracted enough investment, but now mostly depends on Asian sentiment. The relatively higher price may slow down mainstream adoption, but the privacy features are outstanding compared to other currencies.

If you like the way this token has established itself, despite the initial conflict upon creation and the usage on DarkNet sites, Monero is relatively easy to purchase. It is available for cash for European users on Kraken. It is also available through Changelly, by using another coin or token.

The Monero community is also a good source of learning about the world of cryptocurrencies. The core team and other advocates are generally critical of the ICO hype and the usage of cryptocurrencies for fast gains instead of organic growth.