Nano (XRB) is a digital currency designed to provide fast transactions, zero fees and a high level of scalability. Originally known as RaiBlocks, it uses a combination of blockchain and directed acyclic graph technology and assigns every account its very own blockchain.
As a result, Nano has developed a solid following in the crypto community. To find out how this digital currency works and whether you should consider buying any XRB, read on.
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What is Nano (XRB)?
Nano is a digital currency that aims to offer an effective, viable alternative to fiat currencies. Using a unique block-lattice structure (more on this below), Nano promises several key advantages over other payment currencies, including the following:
This makes Nano an attractive option for peer-to-peer transactions and micropayments, and the team’s stated mission is to become a global currency. Nano has reached its maximum supply of 133,248,290 NANO, with the full complement of Nano tokens in circulation. Nano tokens were originally distributed via a captcha-based faucet distribution system, but this ended in October 2017.
Nano or Raiblocks: What's in a name?
When it was originally launched in 2017, Nano was known as RaiBlocks – which is why you’ll still see it referred to using the ticker symbol XRB on exchanges. However, on 31 January 2018, RaiBlocks became Nano as part of a comprehensive re-branding.
Why the new name? Nano was chosen as part of the Nano team’s plans to target mainstream adoption. As explained in the official re-branding announcement, “Feedback from the community suggested that improvements could be made to better resonate with the public and a mainstream audience.”
Following the announcement, the price of XRB rose 20% in 24 hours.
The majority of cryptocurrencies use blockchain, the distributed ledger technology made famous by bitcoin. The major competitor to blockchain is a data structure called directed acyclic graph (DAG), which is used in projects like IOTA and ByteBall.
What’s unique about Nano is that it combines blockchain technology with DAG, a structure which sees individual transactions directly linked to one another rather than grouped together for processing in blocks. This so-called “block lattice” architecture is designed to offer the best of both worlds – the scalability of DAG and the security of blockchain – while avoiding some of the drawbacks of each approach.
How Nano works
If you’ve got a solid understanding of digital currencies, you’ll probably know all of the basics of blockchain. If you’re new to this sort of thing, check out our beginner’s blockchain guide for a quick rundown.
As we touched on above, Nano combines elements of blockchain with a DAG, or directed acyclic graph, algorithm. Under this structure, each Nano account has its own blockchain that stores its transaction and balance history. This is known as an account-chain and only the owner of the account controls it. Each account-chain can be updated asynchronously of the rest of the Nano network.
When an account owner sends some XRB, a “send block” is added to their account-chain and updates their balance. The receiving account then adds a “receive block” to its account-chain to update its balance. As a result, the most recent block on any chain contains that account’s current balance. This in turn allows the Nano system to remain lightweight and ensures faster processing speeds than many other digital currencies.
Proof of work or proof of stake?
Most cryptocurrencies rely on one of two main consensus algorithms, proof of work or proof of stake. However, Nano relies on a hybrid model known as delegated proof of stake (DPoS).
When there’s a disputed transaction under this system, Nano has delegates who vote on which transaction should be verified as valid. This removes the risks and problems associated with mining, such as centralization and mining attacks, and because all delegates must hold a stake of XRB, this incentivizes them to act in the network’s best interests.
Nano use cases
What can Nano be used for? The team singles out several potential use cases:
Peer-to-peer payments. Nano lets you quickly pay friends, family and others, whether paying the rent or splitting a restaurant bill.
Micropayments. The fact that it has zero fees also makes Nano a suitable choice for small payments, for example paying an online subscription.
Trading cryptocurrency. With instant and zero-fee transactions, Nano could be extremely useful for cryptocurrency traders looking to buy and sell other digital coins and tokens.
Business to customer. Nano can offer fast checkout for customers and quick access to funds for businesses, and both parties can benefit from the absence of transaction fees.
Nano team and history
Nano was developed by Colin LeMahieu, a software engineer with prior experience at tech giants like Dell and AMD. He founded RaiBlocks in 2014, launched the currency in 2015 and turned his attention to the project full time in 2017.
In the whitepaper introducing Nano, LeMahieu outlines three core drawbacks of bitcoin that he wants to overcome:
Poor scalability, including high transaction fees and minimal transactions able to be processed per second
High latency, with an average conformation time of 164 minutes
Power inefficiency, with the bitcoin network consuming a substantial amount of power per year
LeMahieu is currently Nano’s lead developer and focuses on the development of the currency’s core protocol. For details on the rest of the team behind Nano, check out the Team page on the coin’s website.
What’s next for Nano: the roadmap
Rather than a one-page graphical timeline of milestones for the year ahead, Nano’s roadmap is more of a living website. While there are no dates listed, it does detail all of the areas the Nano Core Team is working on as part of its mission to “become a global currency with instantaneous transactions and zero fees over a secure, decentralized network”. At the time of writing in May 2018, these areas include the following:
Exchange integration guides to make it easier than ever for exchanges to offer and support Nano
Creating simple, well-written developer documentation that includes code examples, reference implementations and applications
The initial infrastructure prototype review of a horizontally scalable cloud infrastructure for merchants, exchanges and financial service providers, designed to promote widespread adoption of Nano
Alpha testing of Nano “Plug & Pay” point-of-sale platform for vendor and mobile terminals
A focus on expanding into global markets, particularly building out Asian and South American-focused communities
Working to create fiat on-ramps to make it simple and secure for people around the world to obtain and use Nano
Ledger Nano S support
Testing of desktop wallet and iOS and Android apps
Development of smart cards, which are capable of signing Nano transactions directly and providing secure storage of XRB
Consolidating the four types of blocks in the Nano protocol – send, receive, change and open – into one type of block known as Universal Blocks
Ledger pruning to reduce database size
What to watch out for
The first key issue you need to consider is that Nano is up against some stiff competition from a host of other payment coins. Bitcoin may be far less functional than Nano in a number of ways, but it’s still got a level of brand recognition that no other crypto can match. Throw in others like Litecoin, Dash and Bitcoin Cash, and it’s clear that Nano isn’t going to just waltz in and achieve widespread adoption without a fight.
It’s also worth pointing out that there are other projects at various stages of development that could offer everything Nano does, including fast transactions and no-fee or low-fee transfers, as well as a host of other uses. Once platforms like IOTA and Cardano reach later stages of development, they could also pose a threat to Nano’s potential growth.
In February 2018, the news that 17 million XRB, 10% of the total supply, had gone missing from cryptocurrency exchange BitGrail sent shockwaves through the crypto community. It’s not yet entirely clear whether the fault for the hack lies with lax security measures from BitGrail or due to an issue with Nano’s blockchain, with both parties pointing the finger at one another.
In fact, in April 2018, the Nano Foundation announced that it would sponsor a legal fund to provide all victims of the hack with equal access to representation.
One of the key things in Nano’s favour is simplicity. In a world full of complicated and overly technical projects that are a little beyond the comprehension of the average Joe, Nano is simply a payment coin based on solid fundamentals – instant, feeless transactions and impressive scalability.
However, Nano does face an uphill battle for mainstream acceptance in an increasingly crowded marketplace, so gaining acceptance as a legitimate payment method in as many places as possible will be crucial to its success.
Tim Falk is a freelance writer for Finder, writing across a diverse range of topics. Over the course of his 15-year writing career, Tim has reported on everything from travel and personal finance to pets and TV soap operas. When he’s not staring at his computer, you can usually find him exploring the great outdoors.
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