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History of Monero

#monero #history
~5 min read by pluja, 2024-03-28

Bitcoin enthusiasts frequently and correctly remark how much value it adds to Bitcoin not to have a face, a leader, or a central authority behind it. This particularity means there isn't a single person to exert control over, or a single human point of failure who could become corrupt or harmful to the project.

Because of this, it is said that no other coin can be equally valuable as Bitcoin in terms of decentralization and trustworthiness. Bitcoin is unique not just for being first, but also because of how the events behind its inception developed. This implies that, from Bitcoin onwards, any coin created would have been created by someone, consequently having an authority behind it. For this and some other reasons, some people refer to Bitcoin as "The Immaculate Conception".

While other coins may have their own unique features and advantages, they may not be able to replicate Bitcoin's community-driven nature. However, one other cryptocurrency shares a similar story of mystery behind its creation: Monero.

History of Monero

Bytecoin and CryptoNote

In March 2014, a Bitcointalk thread titled "Bytecoin. Secure, private, untraceable since 2012" was initiated by a user under the nickname "DStrange"1. DStrange presented Bytecoin (BCN) as a unique cryptocurrency, in operation since July 2012. Unlike Bitcoin, it employed a new algorithm known as CryptoNote.

DStrange apparently stumbled upon the Bytecoin website by chance while mining a dying bitcoin fork, and decided to create a thread on Bitcointalk1. This sparked curiosity among some users, who wondered how could Bytecoin remain unnoticed since its alleged launch in 2012 until then2 3.

Some time after, a user brought up the "CryptoNote v2.0" whitepaper for the first time, underlining its innovative features4. Authored by the pseudonymous Nicolas van Saberhagen in October 2013, the CryptoNote v2 whitepaper5 highlighted the traceability and privacy problems in Bitcoin. Saberhagen argued that these flaws could not be quickly fixed, suggesting it would be more efficient to start a new project rather than trying to patch the original5, an statement simmilar to the one from Satoshi Nakamoto6.

Checking with Saberhagen's digital signature, the release date of the whitepaper seemed correct, which would mean that Cryptonote (v1) was created in 20127 8, although there's an important detail: "Signing time is from the clock on the signer's computer" 9.

Moreover, the whitepaper v1 contains a footnote link to a Bitcointalk post dated May 5, 201310, making it impossible for the whitepaper to have been signed and released on December 12, 2012.

As the narrative developed, users discovered that a significant 80% portion of Bytecoin had been pre-mined11 and blockchain dates seemed to be faked to make it look like it had been operating since 2012, leading to controversy surrounding the project.

The origins of CryptoNote and Bytecoin remain mysterious, leaving suspicions of a possible scam attempt, although the whitepaper had a good amount of work and thought on it.

The fork

In April 2014, the Bitcointalk user thankful_for_today, who had also participated in the Bytecoin thread12, announced plans to launch a Bytecoin fork named Bitmonero13 14.

The primary motivation behind this fork was "Because there is a number of technical and marketing issues I wanted to do differently. And also because I like ideas and technology and I want it to succeed"14. This time Bitmonero did things different from Bytecoin: there was no premine or instamine, and no portion of the block reward went to development.

However, thankful_for_today proposed controversial changes that the community disagreed with. Johnny Mnemonic relates the events surrounding Bitmonero and thankful_for_today in a Bitcointalk comment15:

When thankful_for_today launched BitMonero [...] he ignored everything that was discussed and just did what he wanted. The block reward was considerably steeper than what everyone was expecting. He also moved forward with 1-minute block times despite everyone's concerns about the increase of orphan blocks. He also didn't address the tail emission concern that should've (in my opinion) been in the code at launch time. Basically, he messed everything up. Then, he disappeared.

After disappearing for a while, thankful_for_today returned to find that the community had taken over the project. Johnny Mnemonic continues:

I, and others, started working on new forks that were closer to what everyone else was hoping for. [...] it was decided that the BitMonero project should just be taken over. There were like 9 or 10 interested parties at the time if my memory is correct. We voted on IRC to drop the "bit" from BitMonero and move forward with the project. Thankful_for_today suddenly resurfaced, and wasn't happy to learn the community had assumed control of the coin. He attempted to maintain his own fork (still calling it "BitMonero") for a while, but that quickly fell into obscurity.

The unfolding of these events show us the roots of Monero. Much like Satoshi Nakamoto, the creators behind CryptoNote/Bytecoin and thankful_for_today remain a mystery16 17, having disappeared without a trace. This enigma only adds to Monero's value.

Since community took over development, believing in the project's potential and its ability to be guided in a better direction, Monero was given one of Bitcoin's most important qualities: a leaderless nature. With no single face or entity directing its path, Monero is safe from potential corruption or harm from a "central authority".

The community continued developing Monero until today. Since then, Monero has undergone a lot of technological improvements, migrations and achievements such as RingCT and RandomX. It also has developed its own Community Crowdfundinc System, conferences such as MoneroKon and Monerotopia are taking place every year, and has a very active community around it.

Monero continues to develop with goals of privacy and security first, ease of use and efficiency second. 18

This stands as a testament to the power of a dedicated community operating without a central figure of authority. This decentralized approach aligns with the original ethos of cryptocurrency, making Monero a prime example of community-driven innovation. For this, I thank all the people involved in Monero, that lead it to where it is today.

If you find any information that seems incorrect, unclear or any missing important events, please contact me and I will make the necessary changes.

Sources of interest