The Verge platform and its cryptocurrency treat privacy on the blockchain as the focal point of their efforts. The reason for this is the fact that the Verge team saw this field as the most lacking aspect of what the blockchain can offers its users. They claim that this is particularly evident in case of Bitcoin, whose privacy-related flaws served as a call to arms for the Verge developers to try to correct them with their own cryptocurrency.
In response, the Verge team built a new blockchain that is supposed to support their cryptocurrency’s ambition to become a capable competitor among other “privacy coins” such as Monero, Dash or Zcash. In order to make itself stand out in this increasingly crowded segment, Verge went after implementation of technologies such as I2P and Tor which have already gained recognition as tools of choice for those who want to stay anonymous online.
For the creators of Verge, the privacy of transactions taking place on the blockchain should be approached as a regular “right”. This means that people should have an opportunity to choose not to have their transactions tracked, just like those who have no problem with that can choose to continue ignoring this issue.
Bitcoin originally promised anonymity and decentralization as its selling points which failed to materialize fully due to what the Verge team perceives as innate weaknesses of its public ledger model. Since the information on transactions are public, they can be used to track any balance and transaction records to a persons involved in them. There is also an issue of “IP leakage”, meaning that sufficiently persistent malicious attacks can be used to link a person’s IP address with the bitcoin transactions made by such a user. With this level of transparency, Bitcoin arguably compromises its usefulness to large business as well opens doors for hacking attacks resembling those which the bank accounts are regularly exposed to, it is argued in the Verge’s “blackpaper”.
The dangers of the use of this ledger model by the cryptocurrencies are not limited to financial transactions only. A whole range of parties such as government institutions, the companies working with customer analytics and other stakeholders are able to access the public blockchain and P2P networks in search of the users’ IP addresses and other sensitive data. At the same time, the centralization of blockchain led to the creation of trading ecosystems which wholly depend on vulnerable computer resources controlled by few individuals. In addition to slowing down the transaction confirmation time and making the related fees go higher, these centralized systems are in danger of becoming single points of failure.
By allowing the users to choose whether to make these transactions traceable or not, Verge arguably wants to avoid the trap of having a cryptocurrency which becomes “too private” for its own good by attempting to bypass the public ledger altogether. Doing so may create a problem instead of solution, since the public ledgers can serve as the source of proofs of transactions, particularly for the bookkeeping purposes.
Tor (in full: “The Onion Router”) is an anonymity network which allows for masking of its users’ IP addresses. In essence, Tor routes one’s connection between several computers on the network instead of doing so through a single internet service provider. At the same time, Tor does not use proxy servers to process a specific user’s data, but rather relies on connections made by other TOR users. Due to the fact that the network has several million users at the global level who all share their IP addresses, it is rather difficult to identify where the original request, message or a piece of data has been sent from on the internet. In this manner, Tor users prevent their online activities from being traced and scrutinized.
Verge aims to use this technique to achieve the same effect for the transactions taking place on its blockchain, as well as for making the connections on equally it anonymous. In other words, Tor should help the Verge make transactions on its platform more difficult to trace to any particular IP address. At the same time, peer-to-peer communication between various layers on the Verge blockchain network can be put behind the wall of anonymity.
This is done in the following manner: Tor enables the encryption of data which includes information on the destination nodes. These information are sent through a virtual network consisting of random Tor relays, each of them in charge of decrypting just enough of these data to identify their source and the next destination. Once the data reach the final relay, they are decrypted in full and sent to the intended destination without revealing the source address. Verge’s wallet integrates Tor technology with the goal of reducing the probability of successful tracking of transactions made with it, either by hackers or various governmental institutions.
In addition to Tor, Verge uses I2P anonymous overlay network to make its privacy-focused features more convincing. Designed as a sort of separate network existing as a part of the World Wide Web, I2P is a free and open source solution aimed at freeing P2P communication from the dangers of censorship. I2P encrypts traffic coming from the user and forwards it to the network consisting of thousands of computers across the globe. The network routes are constantly created and updated, eliminating the need for using a trusted directory for getting information on them.
The absence of routing based on a directory means that I2P network can avoid traffic disruptions and congestion. Data packages are dynamically routed with the use of separate outgoing and incoming tunnels. This means that information a user sends to another PC or website are relayed by using a different path from the one the user gets in response. A person attempting to track the information sent in this manner would only get an incomplete package without the ability to track its source and destination.
Verge integrated I2P technology as part of its architecture in order to offer its users the option to route their transactions through I2P network. In this manner, all transactions taking place on the Verge blockchain achieve a degree of privacy by having its I2P system “anonymize” the data which is being sent on the network. This data is sent to and from the Verge users with the help of I2P routers and tunnels, i.e. the peers which forward it in a single direction. So, in case a user on the Verge network wants to send his data to another client, this message passes through the set of dedicated outbound tunnels linked to the recipient’s inbound tunnels.
In addition, I2P uses distributed hash tables (DHTs) which function as distributed databases for the storage and retrieval of data which are linked to specific keys in the network made up of peer nodes. These nodes can join and leave the network whenever they want as well as establish coordination for storing data in the network without the need for the central authority. DHTs are also highly scalable based on the distributed mechanism which links the content with hash values. Distribution of data among the peer nodes also eliminates the need for each node to have a copy of the entire ledger.
The final piece of the Verge’s privacy-dedicated technological arsenal is the Wraith Protocol. This protocol is being implemented at the moment and once the process is completed it should allow the users on the Verge network to choose between making transactions on public or private blockchains.
Those who opt for public blockchain can use the benefits of increased speed and better transparency that come with it. At the same time, private transactions with the Wraith Protocol will not be viewable on the public ledger. This is made possible with the combination of Tor and stealth addresses. These addresses grant additional security by making it obligatory for the sender of XVG coins to generate a random single-use address for the recipient in this transaction. At the same time, only the intended recipient i.e. the owner of the stealth address can claim these funds. Stealth addresses cannot be traced back to a specific address on the blockchain by any party other than the sender and recipient.
Verge also works on implementing the Elliptic Curve Diffie Hellman (ECDH) cryptographic protocol which makes it possible for the senders and recipients to share mutually agreed keys and transaction signatures without the involvement of the third parties.
The XVG cryptocurrency is intended to become a part of the global payment system which the Verge envisions as being fast, anonymous and cheap. In addition to its core wallets, the coin also uses Electrum wallet which was originally intended for Bitcoin. This wallet supports offline storage of tokens as well as passphrase recovery and multisignatures. Whenever XVGs are sent, a sender can use his private offline key for the transaction. Transactions are broadcast from connected PCs that do not have access to the user’s private keys.
Verge has enabled the option of messaging payment, meaning that the users can make transactions via Twitter, Discord or Telegram services. Transactions involve using the recipient’s username, with the bots handling transactions and storing funds in the holding addresses. The recipient is sent a message describing the way in which the funds can be claimed.
Mining XVG is available with the application of either of five proof of work mechanisms which run on different algorithms: Lyra2rev2, Scrypt, X17, blake2s and myr-groestl. The difference between them rests on some of them being more suitable for the mining with GPUs and the others favoring the ASIC hardware.
Verge offers 30-second block time allowing it to support up to 100 transactions per second at the moment. With the planned implementation of the RSK smart contract platform, Verge hopes to increase this number to 2000 transactions per second.
As of November 2018, Verge has had a market cap of USD 208 million, down from its historic high amounting to more than USD 3 billion in late 2017. The number of XVG coins is capped at 16.5 billion, with about 15 billion of being in circulation as of today. The currency is regularly available for trading on the crypto exchanges such as Binance and Bittrex.
The history of the Verge project does not start with a particular company or individual. Verge started out as a community-based project running on the services provided by volunteers from various parts of the world. Its history started with Dogecoin, a “joke coin” whose name was an inspiration behind the Verge’s original name of “DogeCoinDark” back in 2014.
The platform was rebranded in 2016 when it got its current name. Verge made headlines in 2018 after it was announced that the project entered an official partnership with the Canadian IT company MindGeek which is best known for its ownership of popular adult entertainment website Pornhub.
Verge was also the target of two hacking attacks in 2018. Following the first attack, the project underwent hard fork, only to suffer the second attack soon afterwards. The Verge team now claims that all the glitches within the platform have been ironed out in an effort to mitigate the reputation damage the currency suffered in the aftermath of these incidents.
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