Last week, on May 14, 2019, Reuters published an article that aimed to highlight the features and characteristics of the cryptocurrency Monero (reuters.com/article/us-crypto-currencies-altcoins-explainer-idUSKCN1SL0F0). We want to say thank you for working on a series of stories that covers alternatives to Bitcoin, and for choosing Monero as the first one!
That indicates a recognition of Monero as a top competitor. We appreciate your putting the effort and talent into this story and would like to share a few points of feedback. This information is meant to complement the existing article and serve to help Reuters and other reporters write more complete stories on Monero in the future.
For a story that “examines the features and characteristics of some of the alternatives to bitcoin that have grabbed the attention of developers, investors and regulators,” it arguably over emphasized the criminal use of Monero and under presented the features and characteristics that make Monero great and popular. Some details to highlight this point:
- Monero’s white paper demonstrates that Monero was built as an immediate response to the inherent privacy issues of Bitcoin (getmonero.org/resources/research-lab). One of the essential features of cash is fungibility, the ability to exchange any one unit of a currency for any other. The privacy enhancements of Monero make it much more fungible than Bitcoin, which in turn makes it better digital cash. Future articles should describe the fungible nature of Monero as a defining characteristic.
- Monero has the third highest code contributor count of all cryptocurrencies, led only by Bitcoin and Ethereum (coingecko.com/en?view=developer) <-filter list by Contributors. Monero has an all-time 547 code contributors openhub.net/p/monero. This is an undervalued statistic that speaks loudly to how Monero has grabbed the attention of developers.
- We have also made a SWOT analysis that looks at many of the features and characteristics of Monero, which you are welcome to explore: monerooutreach.org/stories/monero_swot_analysis.php
In the ‘Why’s it gaining attention?’ section of the article, the main emphasis is on criminal uses. We would like to add examples of the multitude of other reasons Monero has gained attention:
- Since inception, and particularly over the past year, Monero has made significant improvements to the underlying code, making it more efficient, faster, and more user friendly, getmonero.org/blog.
- Monero is a leader among ‘privacy coins’ (which could more accurately be called ‘fungible coins’) and has contributed to academic research that is at the tip of innovation in the cryptocurrency space. Monero’s researchers are leading an annual privacy conference that will cover a multitude of topics in that regard: monerokon.com
- The community has demonstrated its values are in no way aligned with criminal activities and has focused efforts on representing Monero at conferences like DEFCON, which is a premier annual conference that hosts computer security experts, government agents, and engineers. This year we are also attending the Human Rights Foundation’s Oslo Freedom Forum, which hosts dissidents and supporters from oppressed countries. Our representatives will focus on how Monero can be used to empower oppressed individuals. meetup.com/blockchangers/events/261421414
- Lastly, the article mentions ‘cryptojacking’, while neglecting to discuss the issue of botnets in general and how they are a problem with computer operating systems. Monero cannot control the security of operating systems, which would be primarily responsible for eliminating botnets. We cannot prevent immoral people from using good technology for bad things, just as hammer manufacturers cannot prevent criminals from using hammers as weapons.
We appreciate the section about law enforcement and regulators, and would like to add some additional details:
- Just last week, FinCEN issued new guidance on cryptocurrencies that would be particularly relevant here (fincen.gov/sites/default/files/2019-05/FinCEN CVC Guidance FINAL.pdf). Their guidance matches the recommendations made by the legal experts at Coin Center, who have publicly advised US congress on these matters, and clearly indicates that regulations are not a risk to Monero (coincenter.org/entry/fincen-s-new-cryptocurrency-guidance-matches-coin-center-recommendations).
- An important feature of Monero that applies to regulation is the public view key, which provides any end user control over others viewing transactions, which can be useful for a number of things, one of which being to make regulators happy by enabling audits (getmonero.org/resources/moneropedia/viewkey.html).
We would further like to take this opportunity to discuss two key features in a bit more depth.
First, the concept of fungibility.
Many reporters and cryptosphere influencers talk about privacy a lot. Privacy relates to a broader macro-scale concept (that of the currency as a whole) called fungibility. You are invited to read about this concept and why for centuries it was deemed important enough for economic activity that fiat currencies are all fungible by law -- literally this is enforced by legislation. A decent introduction to its historical precedence: reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/1qomqt/what_a_landmark_legal_case_from_mid1700s_scotland
Fungibility and privacy are essential with respect to your neighbors, family, friends, employers, and business competitors. In today’s legacy financial system we enjoy a lot of privacy (you don’t see the accounts of anyone you transact with). This privacy is only broken by law enforcement upon suspicions of illicit activity. But, day to day, you and I can transact and it would not imply visibility into one another’s bank account balances and activity.
Bitcoin is fully transparent. Any teenager with an internet connection can know more about you -- if you are a Bitcoin user -- than law enforcement today if you are a fiat user. Monero is not transparent. Hence, Monero is not a ‘privacy coin’, it is a ‘fungible coin’ that is simply trying to replicate the mutual privacy we have with one another in our legacy financial system, the financial system that makes free societies possible. Bitcoin and similar transparent coins represent a huge step back from what open society has given us, and Monero was created as a response.
Our second topic we’d like to highlight is the existence of so-called “view keys” in Monero.
While most articles focus on the private aspect of Monero, very few mention the existence of view keys. It would make any future article about Monero more complete to highlight this feature.
A view key is associated with an address and allows anyone holding it the ability to audit the address without being able to spend the funds. For instance an NGO can publish its view key along side its donation address, and the entire world can audit the donations received. It allows businesses and individuals to comply with certain regulations, those that require visibility.
Again, it is a feature that mimics what we have today with cash and the fiat financial system. The IRS does not need to have continuous visibility into your accounts to do its job (you would probably find that worrying), but if they contact you and ask you to show or prove something, with Monero you can. This mechanism is baked in to the Monero code, and we would love to see it mentioned more often as it is important to making Monero a truly global tool.
We appreciate Reuters and other reporters taking the time to read this and we hope you will consider this information when writing future stories, to help tell the complete story of Monero. Thanks for reading!