Privacy is something we all value, but some value it far more  than others. Transacting in cryptocurrency has its inherent advantages,  but not all cryptocurrencies are totally private or secure.Let's look at  Bitcoin for example. Before Bitcoin became mainstream, people were  using it on the dark web to buy drugs, guns, organs and just about  anything else you could imagine. Unfortunately for those individuals who  used Bitcoin for nefarious transactions, the FBI managed to keep an eye  on wallets and trace transactions back to real humans – after all,  Bitcoin is only pseudo anonymous.In the aftermath of Silk Road, we saw a number of privacy focused cryptocurrency project spring up, giving us  the likes of Monero, Dash, NAV Coin and ZCash.

While each of  these projects have their own merits, there always felt like there was something missing – dApps. Decentralized Applications, or dApps for  short, became a thing on the Ethereum network, giving developers the  chance to create applications ranging from games to banking platforms  built on top of the Ethereum network. However, Ethereum isn't a privacy  focused network, meaning that every dApp on the network could have its  transactions traced back to users and wallets – not an ideal scenario  for privacy minded individuals.As it stands, dApps mostly use a  non-private cryptocurrency and network to power them.

Meanwhile  privacy focused cryptocurrencies are simply currencies that rely heavily on centralized organizations to implement integrations for them. Combining the two worlds of dApps and privacy focused cryptocurrencies  keeps the user in control by developing a permissionless ecosystem that  is cheap and easy to use.To fill that niche, Particl created its own  privacy focused blockchain network that allows dApp developers to create  truly private dApps. Earlier this week, it celebrated its 2nd birthday,  and it kicked off the celebrations with a hard fork that added two  features that make the network incredibly private as well as cost effective.

Adding Ring CT to the Network

RingCT  isn't exactly a new concept. It was first developed for use in the cryptocurrency world by Monero and was added to the Monero mainnet back  in January 2017. RingCT works by taking a user's transaction and mixing  it with a number of other outputs from the blockchain network. These  outputs are added together in a way that makes them identical, meaning  any one of the outputs could plausibly be the real transaction. Next up,  a key image is added to the transaction to prevent users from double  spending. The miners on the network have a list of every key image ever  used, so if the same one pops up, that transaction is ignored.

By building a network that has cryptographically sound privacy  mechanisms into every part of the transaction, users can interact with  privacy-focused dApps without needing to understand how it works. Simply  put, RingCT makes transactions untraceable and unlinkable. As the  crypto space moves to a more decentralized model, having a project that  is focused on privacy dApps can create an entire private, decentralized  economy.

Monero has been using RingCT for quite some time now,  but it functions slightly differently. Despite being built using the  same research that was conducted by Andrew Poelstra and a team of  Bitcoin developers, there is a difference in codebase. This means that  while the principles remain the same, the RingCT integration had to be  built virtually from scratch in order to work on the Bitcoin codebase.  Interestingly, Veil uses the exact same Bitcoin codebase implementation of RingCT, but it added it to its mainnet before this project managed to  do so. The difference in launch time for the RingCT implementation is  down to testing. By rushing the deployment stage, Veil could have  overlooked potential bugs in favor of being the first to cross the  finish line after forking the code.

Drawbacks of Ring CT dApps

While  dApps using RingCT is an incredible opportunity to add privacy back  into our lives when Libra and the US Government seeks to take it away,  there is a risk that it could be used by bad actors. For example, if a  terrorist group decides to develop a messaging dApp on a network with  RingCT active, then there would be no way for Homeland Security to  monitor what they're up to. So, while RingCT provides us with an  incredible opportunity to recover our privacy and personal lives, it  also provides people with the chance to become a bad actor. Some form of filter on the dApp market place, such as human verification of apps,  would be a great starting place for any network hosting RingCT dApps.

Additionally,  by making all transactions completely private and anonymous we open up a  can of worms that is illegal shopping on the dark web. The FBI managed  to shut Silk Road down thanks to the public nature of Bitcoin  transactions. If you remove this public transaction ledger, then you are  essentially giving criminals a very easy way to buy and sell goods  without fear of ever being caught. It would make tracking these  individuals and gangs very difficult, harder than if they used fiat  cash.

Cutting Costs with Bulletproofs

The second upgrade the Particl network got on its 2nd birthday was  Bulletproofs. The Bulletproofs integration we've seen go live on this  network is similar to the Monero integration, but it's been reworked  significantly owing to the different codebase. When Monero activated  Bulletproofs back in October 2018, it managed to cut transaction costs  by 96%. Now, in theory Bulletproofs can save 70% over regular range  proofs, but this figure can often end up being significantly higher, as we saw with Monero.

By adding Bulletproofs, it's evident that the team is planning ahead  and preempting spammy dApps clogging the network with transactions. In  July 2018, we saw rogue dApps spam the Ethereum network, sending gas  fees to a fresh all-time high. By implementing Bulletproofs, the issue  of rising network fees should never be too much of a problem. Sure, a  rogue dApp could hijack the network, meaning your transactions would  take a bit longer to go through, but costs would never rise to an unruly  level as we saw with Ethereum. Planning for major dApp usage isn't  easy, and numerous projects have lost a lot of developers over the rules  and codebases used to control this excessive traffic.

Bulletproofs are Bulletproof

When  it comes to Bulletproofs, there are virtually no drawbacks from the implementation. Following the implementation of Bulletproofs on Monero,  it takes around 26.3 ms to verify a 2-output transaction - in a test  environment. Using the old style range proofs on the Monero network  would take around 96 ms. That means that Bulletproofs only take around  27% of the time that a regular range proof would take. Developers work  on cool solutions like Bulletproofs that take full advantage of the  latest technology to make blockchain networks as fast and scalable as  possible. While Bulletproofs do make it cheaper for a bad actor to spam  the network, it won't result in a decrease of anonymity. Sometimes these developers can work absolute magic and create integrations that have  virtually no drawbacks.

Using Bitcoin Codebase for Ease of End User Development

One great thing about projects like Particl is that they're trying to make  life easy for developers by using the flexible Bitcoin Core codebase. By  doing this, not only are the networks able to benefit from Bitcoin's stability and security, but it also allows developers to fork products, services and technology development from the Bitcoin developer community  and port it to a more private network. In fact, this is the first  example of a blockchain network using the Bitcoin codebase to add RingCT. Should this network wish to add anything new to the network that Bitcoin already has some version of, the team can fork the existing  code and modify it to suit their needs. Any project running the Bitcoin  codebase can take advantage of this incredible feature. This is why any new crypto projects should consider the benefits of using the Bitcoin  codebase over any other codebases out there.

Looking at it from the other side of the coin, if Bitcoin  developers discover any features or adaptations that work well on other  projects using the Bitcoin codebase, the developers can easily fork them  and implement it. Let's say 5 years down the line, Bitcoin decides to  add some form of privacy option to transactions. Bitcoin developers  could borrow the RingCT integration, tweak it and plug it into the  Bitcoin code. As well as making Bitcoin more private, Bitcoin developers could also borrow the Bulletproofs integration to help cut transaction  fees – a feature that would be very useful during peak transaction  times.

Designed to Complement Bitcoin

Rather  than positioning itself as a direct competitor to Bitcoin, like we've  seen from a number of blockchain projects, this particular project is  focused on complimenting Bitcoin and working alongside it. By building  on top of the Bitcoin code, this incredible project is able to leverage  what Bitcoin is developing and merge it with top shelf privacy and cost  saving solutions like RingCT, Bulletproofs, stealth addresses and  confidential transactions.In fact, Andrew Poelstra, Director of Research  at Blockstream, and a number of other Bitcoin developers worked hard on  the research that was then used by Monero and Particl to develop and  implement the Bulletproofs integration. Without this key research, time  and dedication from Poelstra and his fellow Bitcoin developers,  Bulletproofs wouldn't be the way it is today.

A report from Quarkslab that covers Bulletproofs goes into great detail about the incredible  work carried out by this team. This project is taking the best parts of  the Bitcoin network and adding them to a scalable and privacy focused  network that allows developers to create powerful dApps. Think along the  lines of a network that is the product of Bitcoin, Ethereum and Monero  all rolled into one. Privacy is something that's a part of our rights as  humans, so when you're building a dApp, or looking to use a new killer  dApp, consider using a blockchain network that is privacy focused.

About the Author

Elizabeth Levine is an NYC-based writer and entrepreneur that writes about crypto and blockchain technology.

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