There seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding BEAM and Grin.
Since the projects were first announced, they’ve generated a lot of interest within the cryptocurrency community. The promise of secure, scalable, next-generation cryptocurrencies is an enticing one. As BEAM and Grin have started taking their first steps as live implementations of the MimbleWimble protocol, however, questions have begun to come up about what each project aims to do, how they aim to do it, and the groups behind them. These are all very good questions that I had myself, and the following is a summary of everything I’ve found over almost a month of research. To have any hope of understanding BEAM and Grin, however, you first need to understand MimbleWimble, the protocol that both projects are built on.
What is the MimbleWimble protocol?
MimbleWimble (MW) was first proposed in an elegant paper authored by an anonymous user and posted in a Bitcoin developer chat room in 2016. The basic idea behind MW is that much of the transaction data currently stored on blockchains is unnecessary and reveals too much information about the sender and receiver. MW makes it possible to confirm that a transaction is legitimate while hiding the amount of currency transferred as well as the identities of both the sender and receiver. The protocol also implements an idea known as CoinJoin (or the dandelion spreading protocol) that represents transactions between multiple users as one transaction. For example, if person A sends money to person B and person B then sends some to person C, the blockchain would simply show a transaction between person A and person C. This is a technically impressive feat that involves some very cool cryptography; if you’re into that sort of thing, give this article a read.
For the rest of us, however, here’s the key takeaway: MW allows the blockchain to store far less data while still being able to ensure that transactions are valid. It does this by hiding the transaction amount and sender/receiver identities, as well as condensing transactions between multiple users. These techniques also greatly increase the anonymity of transactions on MW and make it a natural platform for the next generation of privacy-focused coins.
Now that you’ve got an understanding of what MW is, let’s talk about BEAM and Grin in more detail.
What is BEAM?
BEAM’s mainnet went live on January 3rd of this year. Its core development team consists of seven full-time developers as well as a marketing and management team, all of whom are employed by Beam Development Ltd. BEAM had no premine or ICO, which means that the developers didn’t set aside a lump sum of coins before launching their project. BEAM aims to provide secure, private distributed ledger technology (DLT) to businesses.
Instead, they chose to establish a treasury that receives 20 BEAM for each block that is generated for the first year and 10 BEAM per block for years two through five. After year five, the treasury will stop receiving coins. The team behind BEAM believes that this funding model aligns their best interests with those of the end users.
An important point to make here is that while there is a team dedicated to developing BEAM, the code is still open source; you can check out the github here. While I’m talking about technical stuff, I may as well lay it on thick: BEAM uses a modified equihash proof of work (PoW) mining algorithm and is coded in C++. Equihash is the algorithm behind Zcash and C++ has been around for over 40 years, which means that BEAM’s technical foundation is rock solid.
Blockchain and Mining
As far as the blockchain goes, a new block is generated roughly once a minute and contains information from approximately 1000 transactions. The block reward is 80 BEAM per block mined for the first year, 40 BEAM for years two through five, and 25 BEAM for years six through nine. Starting year 10, the mining reward will be cut in half each year until year 133 (2152) when new coin generation will stop. BEAM has a capped maximum supply of 263 million coins which means that it is a deflationary asset — its value goes up over time.
Another appealing aspect of BEAM is its ASIC resistance, which will be achieved through two mining algorithm changes in the first year. After the first year, however, there aren’t any plans to implement further ASIC-resistance measures, though the equihash algorithm does have some inherent ASIC mining resistance . If you aren’t familiar with ASIC miners, give this summary a quick read.
While ASIC resistance is an important feature, the speed of a cryptocurrency’s network is absolutely critical. BEAM can currently do around 17 transactions per second , which is in the same neighborhood as Ethereum. At the current transaction rate, BEAM is not ready for widespread use. Instead, it’s being used as a store-of-value, though future off-chain upgrades like the implementation of the Lightning network are expected to bring the network speed up to levels that can handle mass adoption.
In addition to the advantages that MW provides any coin built on top of it, BEAM provides features that make it more appealing to businesses. The first is opt-in auditability, which will allow companies (or individuals) that are in a transaction to have a third party verify the legitimacy of the transaction. The opt-in part of that term means that both parties will have to agree to make the transaction auditable, preventing misuse of this feature. Second, BEAM allows users to have confidential assets, which means that users will be able to transfer assets on the blockchain without revealing the identity or contents of those assets. One potential use case of this function that comes to mind would be the transfer of a project portfolio between a marketing firm and a product manufacturer.
As far as consumer-focused features go, BEAM currently has desktop wallets for Windows, Linux, and MacOS – support for Android, iOS, and hardware wallets is scheduled for mid-2019.
BEAM also recently released a roadmap for 2019 that details some very ambitious goals; you can check it out here .
Now that I’ve beat this horse thoroughly, let’s move on to Grin.
What is Grin?
Grin was the second project to be built on top of the MW protocol, launching its mainnet on January 15th. Its mission is to provide a “private and lightweight” implementation of the MW protocol. Much like BEAM, Grin had no premine and no ICO.
In contrast to BEAM, however, Grin has only one paid developer who is supported entirely by donations; all other coding is done by community members (check out the GitHub here ).
Grin is coded in Rust and runs on the Cuckatoo32+ and Cuckaroo29 algorithms which are both PoW. If you want an in-depth explanation of the algorithms, check this article out. In another departure from BEAM’s approach, Rust and the PoW mining algorithms used by Grin are relatively cutting edge; Rust has been around since 2016 and the Cuckatoo and Cuckaroo algorithms were developed specifically for Grin.
Blockchain and Mining
Let’s talk about some more mining stuff: Grin generates a block roughly every minute and has a block reward of 60 Grin. This reward is not currently set to decrease, meaning that Grin has an infinite supply (much like traditional currencies like the US dollar) and is inflationary; the value of each coin will decrease with time as supply increases.
Like BEAM, Grin was intended to be ASIC-resistant. Grin aimed to achieve resistance by emphasizing system memory over processing power in its algorithm which would have eliminated the advantage of single-chip ASIC miners. Unfortunately, ASIC miners have begun to integrate external memory chips, which eliminates most of the ASIC resistance this approach would have given Grin.
Grin can handle around 10 transactions per second , which is enough to support the early stages of the project, but not enough to support mass adoption. Like BEAM, Grin will need to increase this number in order to survive. While I haven’t been able to find anything that discusses how the Grin devs plan on doing this, it’s a pretty safe bet that the upgrade will come in the form of an off-chain solution like the Lightning network.
Grin currently has wallets for Linux and Windows as well as a web wallet. Currently, there are no plans for any kind of mobile wallets and only rumors about hardware wallet support. I do want to mention that there are no known technical barriers to Ledger or other hardware wallets adding Grin to their supported asset list; it’s simply a matter of demand and publicity.
As of January 29th, there is no publicly available roadmap for Grin.
One protocol, two very different projects.
MimbleWimble solves some key issues that have been facing cryptocurrency since Bitcoin’s inception, those being network speed, privacy, and controlling the size of the blockchain. While the two projects share their underlying protocol, BEAM and Grin take very different approaches implementing MW. BEAM presents itself as a polished, well-defined business with a clear direction for the future. This makes it more appealing to its target market of large business and helps explain the startup model that the project is following.
DigitalBits is a protocol layer Blockchain designed to help facilitate mass market liquidity of various digital assets and integrate with existing apps to drive market-adoption of Blockchain technology. Applications utilize DigitalBits technology to facilitate mass market liquidity of various digital assets.
Grin is currently presented as an open-source, community-funded descendant of Bitcoin. By its nature, Grin is more able to adapt to the desires of the masses; the large, dedicated community behind Grin is an asset that should not be overlooked and will play a large role in determining the fate of the project. I have my reservations about the funding and development models that Grin is currently relying on, but it’s still far too early to say whether these will be the downfall or the saving grace of Grin.
I can see a bright future for both of these projects, and I look forward to seeing where they end up and how they get there.
Want to learn how to mine BEAM and Grin?
Check out this guide for BEAM.
Stay tuned for Grin, it’s in the works!
I am not a financial planner. The information in this article is not financial advice. Don’t forget to do your own research and take everything you read with at least a grain of salt.