Ethereum Adds CryptoNote-like Ring Signatures [Pre-Alpha]

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There has been a lot of Ethereum focused news lately, so it isn’t surprising this tidbit went mostly unnoticed. Development has started on adding a CryptoNote-like ring signature to the Ethereum platform, potentially giving Ethereum users similar anonymous capabilities to CryptoNote powered coins like Monero.

Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin made the announcement last week on Reddit, posting the github addition and sticking around to answer any questions by the Ethereum Community, but the news went largely unnoticed by media outlets.

As Vitalik is quick to point out, it is what he calls an “early Alpha” stage, but I think from the perspective of a regular user, it should be considered even earlier than that, as it would take developer-level knowledge to get running properly, and even then, it would be dependent on enough participants actively using it in order to be effective. Of course, even under ideal circumstances, the system is untested and cannot be consider secure until it has been.

However, it does seem like it was implemented fairly easily and the code to do so looks fairly straight forward and clean, a testament to how powerful and fungible Ethereum’s programming language, Serpent, is.

This development, however, does not completely eliminate the need for anonymous coins like Monero. The ring signature technology has not been built into Ethereum itself and has instead (as is typical in Ethereum) been added as another layer on top of Ethereum. Each block in the Ethereum blockchain is limited to 3.1m gas or 31m Ether. If this protocol were implemented into the base protocol and turned on by default, it would limit Ethereum’s scalability.

While Buterin and others mentioned that the price could be brought down significantly using systems already developed for Ethereum, it is unlikely that this will ever be a default-on, virtually free service, as is typical in coins designed to do specifically this. Instead, Buterin foresees a usecase where Ethereum mixers are built on top of the Ethereum blockchain, allowing for trustless mixing services.

How that fits into Ethereum’s larger scale plans involving complex transactions and DACs and everything else remain to be seen. But these are two powerful technologies and I’m sure they will find a use.

We will have more on Ethereum as Oliver Carding continues to file reports from his time at Devcon.

[Photo Adopted From: Schmuck von Carl Dau]