What Is Grin?
The Grin homepage describes grin as a cryptocurrency that "empowers anyone to transact or save modern money without the fear of external control or oppression."
Most other cryptocurrencies make similar promises to enable seamless, cross-border payments without central oversight. But what makes Grin different from most other cryptocurrencies is a set of privacy features that are intended to add extra layers of anonymity and security.
One of those features is the deletion of most historical transaction data, which helps prevent the tracing of grin transactions. Another is that grin transactions are routed through a random set of nodes before being recorded on the blockchain, which also makes it much harder to trace the ultimate source and destination of transactions. The ability to aggregate transactions, as well as to exchange money without using wallet addresses, provides even more enhancements.
All of these features place Grin in the family of so-called “privacy coins,” or cryptocurrencies that are designed with enhanced privacy features built in. Other well-known privacy coins include Monero, Beam and Zcash, which come with various special features of their own to obscure transaction histories and prevent abuse.
Grin vs. Other Privacy Coins
At a high level, many of Grin's privacy features are not especially unusual. Although the technical details behind their implementation in Grin are somewhat different, concepts like aggregating transactions or minimizing the amount of transaction data that is permanently recorded are present in other privacy coins.
The concept of address-free transactions, however, is more novel. Critics might contend that grin transactions still require some details that could be traced to individuals; for instance, a snooper might be able to profile a Grin user based on the application that the individual uses to send or receive grin. Still, cryptocurrency addresses are the most obvious and universal way to trace someone's transaction history; by taking them out of the picture, Grin at least makes transaction tracing harder, albeit not impossible.
Also notable is that Grin developers have placed a strong emphasis on decentralization and scalability in designing the coin. In an effort to prevent a small group of investors from exercising outsized control over the project, Grin does not distribute coins at a steep discount to early adopters via an ICO, as many other crypto projects do. In addition, by minimizing the transaction data that is recorded on the Grin blockchain and establishing a fixed rate of rewards for miners, Grin can theoretically avoid the scalability problems that have afflicted cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, which has struggled to maintain fast transaction rates as its blockchain has grown larger and larger.
Will Grin's attention to scalability and decentralization prove enough to set Grin apart from the many other privacy coins that are now trading on crypto exchanges? Time will tell, although early indicators suggest that investors are excited by Grin.