Review of Nano (formerly RaiBlocks): The Instant, Zero-fee Currency

Nano is the cryptocurrency project that was formerly known as RaiBlocks. In contrast with many of the other technologically complex crypto projects, it’s is refreshingly simple in its mission:

“Instant Transactions – Zero Fees – Infinitely Scalable
Digital currency for the real world – the fast and free way to pay for everything in life”

There’s nothing complex going on here. No smart contracts, child chains, AI neural networks or cross-chain happenings. It’s just a simple, straightforward project with some interesting technology to back it all up.

Nano review - logo

Nano has evoked a lot of excitement and dedication among its proponents because it takes on some of the fundamental challenges addressed by blockchain technology in a way that brings powerful, unique benefits.

Some of the most devoted users have even called Nano the best pure cryptocurrency currently available, although we would say that could be open to debate.

The first unique feature of Nano is that it isn’t even based on blockchain technology. Instead it uses Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG) technology along with a block-lattice architecture.

Because of its choice of algorithm and architecture Nano doesn’t face issues with scalability and transaction speed like its blockchain brethren. Instead it has its own different challenges.

Below I’ll take a closer look at the challenges faced by Nano, some of the recent developments in the project, the Nano roadmap, and offer a few thoughts on what the future might hold for Nano.

Nano Review: The BitGrail Disaster

Nano has one luxury in that future development is not as urgent as it is for most blockchain projects. Naturally there are still important issues to be faced, and improvements that can be made. However there’s no sense with Nano that they have some grand vision that’s simply being blocked by one huge problem that defies resolution.

For Nano the biggest challenge is increasing user adoption, followed by building out the infrastructure. Getting on more exchanges would also be good since it helps with user adoption.

And this is why the project has rebranded from the old tech-sounding RaiBlocks name to the short, sweet Nano name. Users must have seen it as a good thing, because the coin price jumped 41% in 24 hours following the rebrand.

Sadly that rebrand and price jump were subsequently killed by the news of a $170 million hack through the Bitgrail exchange.

The hack was damaging in itself, but as it occurred in conjunction with the start of the 2018 slide in the overall cryptocurrency markets the coin has continued sliding lower.

Nano replied immediately expressing concern over the issue and set up a legal fund for victims. Bitgrail was shutdown and remains shutdown as police investigated the crime. Then the accusations began.

Bitgrail blamed the hack on faulty Nano code, while Nano denied there were any security holes in its code and blamed the lack of security on the Bitgrail platform.

Colin LeMahieu, the lead developer for Nano was quoted as saying:

“The BitGrail situation is extremely unfortunate, but it has not impeded the project. As far as protocol development and overall project milestones are concerned we have continued to move forward.”

And the project has continued moving forward, but in the meantime there has also been a class-action lawsuit brought against Nano.

Why sue Nano?

Basically Bitgrail has already said they have nothing left, so suing them would be pointless. Instead the lawsuit claims Nano knew there was a problem at Bitgrail and failed to distance itself from the exchange.

The claimants want Nano to hard fork the coin so they can recover their coins.

Needless to say its unprecedented and how it all ends could have implications for cryptocurrencies for years to come.

As it stands the Nano coin dropped as low as $1.07 in mid-August, but has been recovering since and just three weeks later has more than doubled to $2.36.

It seems the user community is getting behind Nano again, and the Bitgrail hack is finally fading into history. This is very good news.

Nano Review: The Nano Roadmap

The 2018 drop in Nano’s price can’t be blamed fully on the coin or the project as it occurred along with a broad based drop across all cryptocurrencies.

And the promise of Nano remains. And this is being re-discovered by users and newly discovered by investors. In fact, it’s very possible that the most devoted Nano users have been buying in at these excessively low prices. If you believe in the future of the project this has been a great time to buy more.

Nano has recently released an update roadmap which you can see here. These are some of the highlights:

Nano review - development

Nano ReviewAdoption

The “Adoption” section of the roadmap includes several subsections, and deals with getting more people and organizations using Nano. With the Nano team currently developing a “plug-and-pay” scalable cloud network infrastructure there are some areas that will tie in with this future feature.

For example, there is a “plug-and-pay” point of sale (POS) system that is currently in its alpha testing stage. The user base of Nano is very excited over this development, but there have been no firm dates announced for the release of the final product, and most users agree that it will be quite some time before the planned POS integration occurs.

Adoption can be much faster through a synch with existing POS systems, and honestly this would be a game changer. Such integration with existing systems could be the first step that allows Nano to begin taking market share from the major online payment processors such as Stripe and Paypal.

Also included in the “Adoption” section is a plan to create better onramps for fiat currencies. This is a necessity if Nano wants a simple to use platform that can be used by anyone, anywhere on the globe. However, the section is a bit vague at this point and the statement admits that it could be slow going when it comes to the addition of fiat currencies.

Finally there is a plan for Global Markets and increased adoption by exchanges. Nano has been making good progress here, being listed early in 2018 by Binance, OKEx, Nanex and KuCoin. Obviously greater exchange market inclusion means greater access for users and investors.

Nano Review: Wallets

Nano review - wallets

“Wallets” is the next section of the roadmap, and this is one area where Nano has been hard at work. This past June the Ledger Nano S finally added support for the Nano coin, which was a huge win for the team.

June also saw the release of the native Android and iOS wallets by The Nano Wallet Company, and July had the desktop version released.

These wallet s have been created and released in the hopes that they will create a new wallet experience for Nano users. Both the desktop and mobile versions of the wallet have undergone extensive development and testing, and the user community was understandably very excited by the release.

The following features are being included in the newly released wallets, or have been promised to be added soon:

  • “Bootstrap” process will be under 30 minutes for most on Desktop, dependent on network bandwidth (Mobile light wallets are instant)
  • Friendly user-experience for users of any level
  • A secure experience for sharing accounts across multiple devices
  • OS-level security mechanisms (fingerprint, facial recognition, etc.) where applicable
  • QR codes for quickly transferring Nano between accounts

A final section in the “Wallets” section is the Smart Cards subsection. This is another feature that is highly anticipated by the user community.

The Smart Cards will greatly improve the user experience.

Smart Cards are just what they sound like. Small pocket sized cards that will allow for secure authentication and authorization for spending Nano or even other currencies. Once Smart Cards are released and paired with POS integration the future of crypto is here. This will allow people to send, receive and spend their cryptocurrencies, even if they have no idea how the technology behind them works.

There is no definite date stated for the release of Smart Cards, but I’m sure there will be huge benefits tied to them once they have been released. For example, they are both familiar and convenient, which will help adoption greatly. In addition they’ll be an inexpensive way to store cryptocurrencies, while still being quite secure. And finally, they will be integrated with existing POS systems, making them easy to use.

Nano Review: Protocol

The first subsection under “Protocol” is the development of Universal Blocks. The community had been waiting anxiously for this development, because others are dependent on Universal Blocks.

There’s no longer a need to wait.

With the release of Nano v11 Universal Blocks are now fully supported.

Universal Blocks are an upgrade that combined the four previous block types into one block type. This will increase the efficiency of the network, improve security and will help developers and exchanges by giving them an easier way to construct blocks.

Universal Blocks were a prerequisite for the next item in the “Protocol” section, and that’s Ledger Pruning.

Ledger Pruning will allow for a much smaller database size, increasing the efficiency of the network. Ledger Pruning is now under development, but there’s no deadline set for the implementation yet.

Vote Distribution is another subsection being addressed currently. This is meant to keep the network as decentralized as possible, and the Nano team is currently discussing the issue and taking recommendations from the user community.

One aspect that the team wants to maintain is keeping the voting weight of individual nodes low. It’s been estimated that there are over 1,500 nodes currently, which is pretty good, but obviously when talking decentralization improvements can always be made.

There’s no deadline for the Vote Distribution issue, but once the internal proposal review has been completed it will be released to the developer and contributor community for approval.

The final section in “Protocol” deals with security.

Using the HackerOne platform, a company that employs white-hat hackers, Nano is testing the Nano Protocol, desktop & mobile wallets, and other official Nano services to discover and resolve any security vulnerabilities that may exist.

Additionally, Nano has been meeting with multiple candidates to perform an audit function for the platform. The Auditor must have significant background in consensus algorithms, cryptography, and computer science, which has provided somewhat of a challenge.

Nano Review: Conclusion

It’s obvious that the Nano team has put together a solid plan for moving forward into the future. It’s also obvious when looking at the roadmap that the project remains in a very early stage.

The goals that are being worked for on the platform are huge in scope, and will take years to achieve, if they’re ever met. Each item on the roadmap is being actively pursued and worked on, it isn’t just a list of things the team would “like to have”.

The Nano team is very dedicated and very active in pursuing the goals of the project.

So the question remains – Is it worth investing in Nano?

On the one hand you need to realize that Nano is an ambitious project, and not something that will be quickly achieved. You have to accept that obstacles will occur, and be willing to look beyond those obstacles to the ultimate goals.

If this is your way of thinking about Nano, then you’ll see that it could be one of the cryptocurrencies left standing as all the others fall to the side of the road.

It should also keep you cautious about the project. Wherever you find such enthusiasm over an unfinished project you have to accept that failure is a possibility.

And yet it does appear that the team is getting back on track. And the downturn in crpytocurrencies in 2018 may have been a blessing, giving the developers some needed breathing room to pursue their goals without undue pressure from the community.

That’s obviously an optimistic view, and an easy one to take if you were an early adopter, but not everyone was so lucky.

The more pessimistic perspective leaves users unsatisfied and looking for things to change dramatically.

This pessimistic group has no patience for the legal issues faced by the Nano team, nor have they been pleased with delays in the release of wallets. There have been many threads on Reddit and other cryptocurrency forums from this group of users indicating the Nano dev team may not have their priorities straight.

This perspective contends that the Nano team needs more focus on the business and operational aspects of the project. Because at the end of the day this is a business, and the people who invest in the business, while they may believe strongly in the vision, also want to make a profit.

Idealism is great, but profits are better as far as most people are concerned.

Nano does not want to see a huge base of dissatisfied users. This cannot help the project move forward.

Unfortunately many of the detractors won’t admit that the bear market in cryptocurrencies also has a good deal to do with the current depressed price.

The good news is the recent bounce in price has quieted some of the complaints, and people are getting back to focusing on the technology and the potential that Nano brings to the table.

Given the focus of the project and its goals of “Instant Transactions – Zero Fees – Infinitely Scalable
Digital currency for the real world – the fast and free way to pay for everything in life” Nano could very well be one of the best pure cryptocurrency plays currently in development.

With the recent release of wallets and the recovery in price we’ve seen sentiment over the project improving. Additional adoption would also go a long way, but it looks as if the project is putting its past troubles behind it and regaining the trust and enthusiasm of its backers.