Mina is a "lightweight" smart contract platform with aspirations to be a global payment system. It aims to address the scalability issues present in existing blockchains where the cost to verify the blockchain grows proportionally with total transaction throughput. In these cases, the cost of running a network node eventually exceeds the resources available to most real-world users.
The goal of Mina is to design a decentralized payment system that offers efficient verification of system history from genesis without relying on any external advice. This is achieved by the following properties:
- A formal notion of a “succinct blockchain”
- Generic functionalities modeled as replicated state machines using incrementally computable SNARKs
- Concrete implementation of a payments system called Mina
- Ouroboros Samasika, a provably-secure PoS consensus protocol that is adaptively secure and offers bootstrapping from genesis.
- Parallel scan state to improve transaction confirmation time beyond the limits otherwise imposed by the proof construction.
- Performance evaluation report of executing the protocol involving a public community.
The project began in mid-2017. Evan Shapiro and Izaak wanted to make a protocol that could effectively be both decentralized and scalable. Izaak was studying cryptography at Berkeley for a PhD at the time and learning about zkSNARKs.
Their thesis argued that it’s difficult for the average end-user to access Ethereum without trusting a third party that runs a full node. Ethereum developers tend to use services like Infura or Alchemy for app development. o(1) Labs, the development firm behind Mina, regarded these as centralization points that 1) make the underlying blockchain less trustworthy and 2) create an unideal user interface and developer experience. The team wanted to keep storage costs low on Mina so that anyone could run a full node.
The team believes that Mina has a chance at succeeding where prior blockchains have not: as a payments use-case. They’re making Mina more accessible to developers—potential to run a full node inside of a web app or an IoT device—so they hope to see many diverse use-cases.
Mina uses a Proof-of-Stake (PoS) mechanism known as Ouroboros Praos to reach consensus, which builds off prior work published by IOHK, one of the companies developing Cardano. It was designed to be simple and allow anyone to participate proportionally to the amount of stake in the protocol. Bandwidth requirements are low to facilitate a high level of inclusivity.
On Oct. 24, 2019, Corda blockchain developer R3 filed a lawsuit against (o)1 Labs over the Coda Protocol name, claiming it was too similar to R3's Corda trademark. In light of the lawsuit filed, o(1) Labs rebranded the network to Mina on Sep. 29, 2020.