Rather than apply brute computing force, Mina uses advanced cryptography and recursive zero knowledge proofs to deliver true decentralization at scale.
In theory, blockchains are designed to be held accountable by its users. When anyone can enforce the rules by validating an irrevocable public ledger — power remains in the hands of the many, not the few. This decentralized structure is what allows the network to conduct trustless transactions.
But in practice, this hasn’t been the case. With legacy blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum, when a new participant joins, they have to check every transaction since the beginning of the network to verify correctness — which amounts to hundreds of gigabytes of data. Most people can’t afford the computing power it takes to verify these heavy chains on their own and are forced to trust increasingly powerful intermediaries. This means most folks can no longer connect peer-to-peer — causing decentralization to suffer, power dynamics to shift, and the network to become more vulnerable to censorship.
Mina offers an elegant solution: replacing the blockchain with an easily verifiable, consistent-sized cryptographic proof. Mina dramatically reduces the amount of data each user needs to download. Instead of verifying the entire chain from the beginning of time, participants fully verify the network and transactions using recursive zero knowledge proofs (or zk-SNARKs). Nodes can then store the small proof, as opposed to the entire chain. And because it’s a consistent size, Mina stays accessible — even as it scales to many users and accumulates years of transaction data.
But how do zk-SNARKs work? They capture the state of the entire blockchain as a lightweight snapshot and send that around — instead of the chain itself. It’s like sending your friend a postcard of an elephant, instead of a massive live animal. When the next block in the network is created, it takes a snapshot of itself — with the snapshot of the previous state of the blockchain as the background. That new snapshot will in turn be used as the backdrop for the next block, and so on and so on. Rather amazingly, while it can contain proof of an infinite amount of information, the snapshot always remains the same size.
Coming full circle, the world’s lightest blockchain empowers inclusive consensus. Our modified Ouroboros proof-of-stake protocol maximizes inclusivity in consensus. On Mina, all participants act as full nodes and anyone can take part in consensus, secure the blockchain and hold Mina accountable.
And that’s how Mina will deliver true decentralization, scale and security.
Here, we’ve organized our favorite go-to resources so you can explore more about how Mina works.