A new cryptocurrency ecosystem claiming to be “the world’s lightest blockchain” has ostensibly grown to become one of the largest layer 1 testnets by peer count in the industry.

Speaking Cointelegraph on March 24, the developers behind Coda Protocol said that phase three of the network’s testnet launch has now drawn over 400 users — with 300 users signing up to stake, and 143 maximum concurrent users.

When compared with data from block explorers for other testnets — as well as anecdotal information from professional validators — Coda claims this peer count already makes it competitive with established testnets such as Celo, Solana, Cosmos, and Cardano.

Privacy and low bytes

The Coda Protocol, created by software development firm O(1) Labs, uses recursive zk-SNARKs, or zero-knowledge proofs, to improve scalability and operate as a “tiny, portable” blockchain that can be downloaded on smartphones and browsers, or integrated into decentralized applications.

As reported, zk-SNARKs are a cryptographic primitive that can sever any tractable piece of data between two parties over a public medium, such as a blockchain. They are therefore commonly used to enhance digital privacy for transactions using cryptocurrencies, as with the anonymity-focused altcoin Zcash (ZEC). 

Yet beyond their privacy potential, they are also, as Coda’s developers emphasize, extremely lightweight, and therefore well suited to lighten the overall data size of a given blockchain.

The Bitcoin (BTC) blockchain has a current blockchain size of roughly 260,900 MB — with nodes needing to download the entire chain in order to verify that it is correct and reach consensus. 

Such resource-intensivity, Coda’s developers argue, places increasingly high barriers to entry for participant nodes, compromising decentralization and potentially rendering the network more vulnerable to a 51% attack. In trying to tackle this problem, they write:

“What we’ve done with Coda is replace that whole transaction history with a lightweight, zero-knowledge proof (recursive zk-SNARKs), which is only about a kilobyte, or the size of a few tweets, so you only need to look at that small proof to know that the current state of the blockchain is correct.”

In this view, the lighter a blockchain, the larger and more inclusive the pool of eligible validating nodes can be.

Token distribution to incentivize community engagement

Alongside its testnet launch, Coda has rolled out a token program called “Genesis,” distributing 6.6% of all tokens to founding members to prepare them to become block producers on the network. The team has reportedly already received 1,300 applicants wanting to join Genesis and has onboarded 40 founding members to its first cohort.

Among these members is Libra Association founding member and blockchain infrastructure provider Bison Trails, as well as Figment Networks — a validator on the decentralized Ethereum-compatible network Skale.