Viacoin Review: The Original Micropayments CryptoCurrency
Viacoin (VIA) is a cryptocurrency that has been around since 2014 but has recently received a renewed interest from the community.
Viacoin was built off of the Bitcoin protocol and like Bitcoin, it was created as decentralised peer-to-peer transactional currency. However, there are quite a few things that make Viacoin unique in its own right. These include such as its hashing algorithm and its mixed mining.
However, with so many "Bitcoin like" cryptocurrencies out there, can Viacoin really compete?
In this Viacoin review I will take an in-depth look at the project including its technology, development and roadmap. I will also take a look at the long term use cases for the token and its potential for long term adoption.
ViaCoin & the Scrypt Algorithm
Viacoin uses the same Scrypt consensus algorithm that is used by Litecoin. The developers chose this algorithm because at the time it was considered an ASIC-resistant algorithm. When compard to the SHA-256 algorithm used by Bitcoin the Scrypt algorithm was known to lower the effectiveness of ASIC mining significantly.
That is no longer the case since several companies have developed ASIC units capable of mining Scrypt based coins. This has removed the ASIC-resistance of the algorithm.
Viacoin & Merged Mining
Viacoin is one of just a small number of cryptocurrencies that have implemented Auxiliary Proof-of-Work, also known as merged mining. This is a consensus method that allows two different coins to be mined at the same time.
The process works by a secondary coin (in this case Viacoin) piggybacking on the hash power of a larger and more established chain. In most cases miners have decided on Litecoin as the more established chain and merge mine Viacoin with Litecoin.
There are a number of advantages conveyed through merged mining. One is that merged mining is more resource friendly and efficient, since miners don’t need to use additional electricity to mine both blockchains and collect rewards from both.
The secondary chain also benefits from increased security due to the increased hash power of the more established chain. And the established chains don’t suffer from bloat by including hashes from the secondary chain.
While electricity is saved with Auxiliary Proof-of-Work there is more development work required to implement merged mining. There is also ongoing maintenance to support merged mining for the mining pools and miners.
Lightning Network & Segregated Witness
Viacoin has adopted support for the Lightning Network and for Segregated Witness (SegWit). Even without Lightning Network and SegWit Viacoin is 25 times faster than Bitcoin, thanks to its 24 second blocktimes. However, adding SegWit and Lightning Network support has helped the network scale even more effectively by opening off-chain payment channels and by reducing transaction sizes.
One immediate benefit seen is in atomic swaps, and Viacoin was the very first cryptocurrency to implement Peter Todd's OP_CHECKLOCKTIMEVERIFY BIP 65 proposal. Now Viacoin holders can use cross-chain atomic swaps to exchange Viacoin directly for a number of other cryptocurrencies without having to go through any of the centralized exchanges. A few of the coins supported for atomic swaps include Bitcoin, Decred, Litecoin and Vertcoin.
Having been launched in 2014, Viacoin has seen many changes and developments over the years. And despite it being a relatively unknown coin it continues to see heavy development. As previously mentioned, it was the first cryptocurrency to implement atomic swaps. It has also recently added several useful features that will help on the transactional side of Viacoin, making it more user friendly and functional.
These recent feature introductions include:
- Support for the Ledger Nano S, Ledger Blue and Trezor hardware wallets;
- Support for General Bytes ATMs, making Viacoin available on over 1,250 ATMs in more than 40 countries;
- BTCPay Server support which makes Viacoin an available payment option when creating a self-hosted payment processor;
- Introduction of a Viacoin CoPay multi-signature wallet;
- Viacoin Core alternative implementations in Golang, .NET and Java.
In addition to all the recent new features launched, the upcoming roadmap is packed with new features that should be soon available on the Viacoin blockchain and network. We cover this in the Roadmap section below.
The Viacoin Team
The Viacoin project was started in July 2014 by Bitcoin Core developer BTCDrake. Soon after another Bitcoin Core developer Peter Todd joined the project as an advisor.
Both left Viacoin in September 2016 and it was taken over by a 21-year old developer known as Romano. While some initially thought him too young to lead the project, he has done an excellent job leading Viacoin into the future.
Other than the fact that they have been consistently meeting their deadlines and goals, not much is known about the current Viacoin development team, since they all use their GitHub aliases.
Unlike most other projects all you’ll find on the “Team” page at Viacoin are some hand drawn cartoon-like visages and links to GitHub, LinkedIn and Twitter profile pages. They have largely been given a pass on their anonymity and secrecy however in light of their dedication to the development of Viacoin.
Viacoin (VIA) Token
The Viacoin token with the ticker symbol VIA went live on July 18, 2014 at a price of $0.102205, and by August of the same year it was trading at $0.40 for a return of 400%. By August of 2015 the price of VIA dropped to $0.004 for a loss of roughly 99%!
The price of VIA remained flat for almost two years until it finally showed signs of life in 2017 as the entire cryptocurrency market began rising. It followed the bull trend in the market and reached an all-time high of $6.84 on January 8, 2018. Since then the price has seen a steady decline along with the broader crypto market and as of January 8, 2019, exactly one year after hitting its all-time high, VIA is trading at $0.326422.
The implementation of atomic swaps gave VIA a boost in 2018, even with the bear market in crypto. It will be interesting to see if VIA rises rapidly with the rest of the market. With atomic swaps already working VIA could potentially become a viable alternative to Bitcoin and Litecoin if their networks become congested, slow and expensive.
Those interested in doing so can still mine VIA if they like, but with nearly all of the coins already created the rewards are so low it really isn’t worth it. This means your best choice for obtaining VIA is to buy it from one of the exchanges that offers VIA. Fortunately you have plenty of options in this regards.
The best exchange for buying VIA is Binance as it holds roughly 60% of the total trading volume. You can use BTC, ETH and BNB to purchase VIA at Binance. Bittrex also has a decent amount of volume in exchanging BTC for VIA. And a smaller exchange called Coinroom has roughly 25% of the trading volume in VIA. Coinroom is a good choice for many as you can exchange fiat currency (USD, EUR, GBP, PLN) for VIA.
When it comes to storing your VIA you’ll find a number of good options have been created by the Viacoin team. The Core wallet is a strong and secure option, and it’s available for Linux, Windows and OSX. There’s also a Copay mobile wallet that was released just recently. And if security is your top priority both the Ledger and Trezor hardware wallets support Viacoin.
One of the best ways to get a sense of how much work is being done on a project is to take a look at their GitHub repository. Code commits are a rough guide as to how much the developers are building on the protocol and pushing new features.
So I decided to look into the Viacoin GitHub repos to take a look at how the developers are doing. Below are the code commits over the past year for the two most active repositories.
As you can see, there has been quite a bit of development on the go and this is encouraging. Furthermore, this is only two of the Viacoin repositories with countless others that are being worked on. This clearly shows that although Viacoin is an established project, it is still actively being worked on and improved.
You can also keep up to date with the latest from the project on the Binance information portal. This is because towards the end of last year Viacoin joined the V label of projects that is run by Binance. This means that the information that you see on the Viacoin page on Binance is updated and managed by the team themselves.
This frenetic pace with which the developers are working on could make sense when viewed in conjunction with the ambitious plans that the team has on the roadmap. While there were a number of goals that were met in 2018, there are still some other projects and improvements that require a bit more work and development.
For example, the team says that they are about 80% of the way when it comes to the completion of the updated Viacoin core 0.16 wallet. This will include HD wallets by default as well as improve on a number of bugs and implement other optimisations.
When it comes to the lightning network implementation, the team says that they are about 90% there. This is the Viacoin Lightning Network Daemon (LND) that will be complete implementation of the lightning network node. The developers are of the view that this will be faster and cheaper than Bitcoin's LN implementation.
There are also a host of other projects that are being worked on. Below are some of the most important features that that are on the ViaCoin roadmap in the upcoming year:
- Viacoin Éclair which will allow you to run your own Lightning Network node and make Viacoin payments over the Lightning Network. Eventually there will also be a Viacoin Éclair wallet to fully utilize the Viacoin Lightning Network;
- Viacoin Samourai wallet to keep all your transactions and identity private and secure;
- Schnorr signatures to support native multisig and reduce both bandwidth and storage;
- Rootstock Smart Contracts are an Ethereum compatible platform with a two way peg that will allow Viacoin to use smart contracts.
- Styx anonymous transactions which are untraceable and anonymous payment hub for Viacoin. You can read more about the Styx protocol in the project's whitepaper.
- MAST or Merkelized Abstract Syntax Trees) which will allow node interaction with Merkle trees. MAST will essentially allow for complicated smart contracts to be created on the VIA blockchain without clogging it up. This could help the blockchain scale without impacting on speed
It will be interesting to see how much the developers are able to get done in the first half of 2019. If they are able to complete some of their most important updates then it could see some renewed community interest in the project.
Viacoin isn’t the most well-known or popular peer-to-peer transactional digital currency, but it makes a good compliment to the well known Bitcoin and Litecoin transactional coins. This plays to Viacoin’s strengths since the addition of atomic swaps means it can be quickly, easily and freely exchanged with Bitcoin or Litecoin when their networks become too congested. And thanks to merged mining you can mine and earn Viacoin simultaneously with Litecoin.
It isn’t a guarantee, but Viacoin could become increasingly popular as cryptocurrency adoption grows and users need to take advantage of the atomic swap capability of the token. We also like the rapid adoption of SegWit and Lightning Network by Viacoin, as well as the rapid development cycle the coin has seen since Romano became the led developer for the project.
There is some competition with Viacoin. IOTA and other Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG) projects have an advantage with their nearly instant and free transactions, but the DAG technology remains largely untested compared with the blockchain technology of Viacoin.
Viacoin is one of the older cryptocurrencies, and it looks to be around for a much longer time as it remains ahead of many other projects and ties its fortunes to some of the top transactional cryptocurrencies.
Disclaimer: These are the writer’s opinions and should not be considered investment advice. Readers should do their own research.