Meet Tumblebit: The Unlinkable Payment Hub

There are lots of development projects in the bitcoin space. One of them may help the cryptocurrency’s fungibility significantly. A proof-of-concept called Tumblebit has the bitcoin community excited because it may provide a trustless anonymous payment hub.

Also read: Remittance-Demanding Countries Dominate Bitcoin Searches in 2016

The Progression Towards a Fungible Digital Asset

ip_monitoring_alertingPrivacy and fungibility is an essential foundation to many members of the bitcoin community. However, blockchain surveillance has increased quite a bit with many companies such as Elliptic, Chainalysis and more building tracking software. The firms are also working directly with law enforcement and governments worldwide who seek to learn how to monitor cryptocurrency transactions.

Currently, all transactions on the bitcoin blockchain can be tracked unless the user utilizes tools that obfuscate the process. Making use of Tor and bitcoin mixers is a well-known method of confusing surveillance practices. However, the mixers available are centralized and rely on third parties to help shuffle the coins. Existing applications that mix coins in this manner are Coinjoin, Joinmarket, and Coinshuffle. Just recently a new idea called Tumblebit which claims to shuffle coins more anonymously has been added to the discussion.

Tumblebit was announced on August 29 proposing a roadmap for the future of the tumbling platform. The team of researchers who introduced the proof-of-concept consisted of Ethan Heilman, Leen AlShenibr, Foteini Baldimtsi, Alessandra Scafuro and Sharon Goldberg. The authors of the white paper came from three universities: Boston University, George Mason, and North Carolina State. The paper gives credit to David Chaum’s ecash as a source of inspiration.

What is Tumblebit?

tumbit-svgTumblebit is basically a decentralized trustless mixer that works with the bitcoin protocol. Working as an unlinkable payment hub the platform aims to enable anonymous, off-chain transactions in real time. The platform will deploy RSA assumption and ECDSA standard security practices which will provide anonymity and unforgeability within transactions. Furthermore with Tumblebit’s off-chain method the protocol claims to scale efficiently.

“TumbleBit also serves to scale the volume and velocity of bitcoin-backed payments,” explains the Tumblebit white paper. “Today, on-blockchain bitcoin transactions suffer a latency of ten minutes. Meanwhile, TumbleBit payments are sent off-blockchain, via the Tumbler, and complete in seconds. (Our implementation completed a payment in 1.2 seconds, on average, when T was in New York and A and B were in Boston.)”

It is important to note Tumblebit isn’t ready and remains in its earliest phase of development. The team highlights the Github code is being tested and not at all ready for production. The current roadmap details there will be code safety and testing, server features, wallet compatibility, operational concerns, monitoring, and eventually an alpha release.

Tumblebit Development is in the Works

The Tumblebit protocol is an exciting development in the bitcoin space with big aspirations. The importance of a privacy tool such as this is becoming necessary as blockchain surveillance continues to rise. Tumblebit hopes to provide anonymous transactions instantly using the bitcoin network as opposed to privacy-centric altcoin implementations. The code is being worked on by Ethan Heilman and others as we speak and testing has already begun.      

“We have implemented our TumbleBit system in C++ and Python, using LibreSSL as our cryptographic library,” details the Tumblebit developers. “We have tumbled payments from 800 payers to 800 payees; the relevant transactions are visible on the blockchain.”

Many within the cryptocurrency community hope to see this project move forward as the subject has been quite popular in discussions and at conferences like Scaling Bitcoin Milan.

Until this protocol is developed, users must rely on existing and fairly centralized tumblers and mixers for the time being. Many other bitcoin privacy-centric protocol discussions are also taking place within the community covering subjects like peer-to-peer encryption, Schnorr signatures, and other means of obfuscation.

What do you think about the Tumblebit project? Let us know in the comments below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Tumblebit, and Pixabay. 

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