Snowball: The Effort to Bring Privacy to Every Bitcoin Wallet

Developer Ben Woosley was watching the Hong Kong protesters when he saw something interesting: They were using Bluetooth technology to dodge the internet, allowing them to create a mesh network for organizing and messaging while avoiding intrusion.

To create their mesh, the protestors used an app and software development kit, or SDK, called Bridgefy to bypass normal Internet connections. Woosley wondered about the implications of this decentralized, disconnected technology for bitcoin. The problem, he found, was that even though crypto was theoretically resistant to censorship, in practice it was easy to knock out the network by turning off the internet.

To solve this, Woosley created a Bluetooth-based network, Snowball, to make it easier to make private bitcoin transactions, and based his technology on the concept of CoinJoins.

CoinJoins?

CoinJoins are one of the main bitcoin privacy technologies. They are used to scramble several transactions together to hide all parties’ tracks. The Wasabi bitcoin wallet makes CoinJoins easy to use but, since CoinJoins are more difficult and expensive than normal bitcoin transactions, they only make up a small portion of the total bitcoin transactions despite having been around for years.

Woosley wants to try to make privacy easier with a variant of CoinJoins called PayJoins.

“That’s the main element of the project, making PayJoins easy, where you don’t need to need to know that they’re occurring,” he said.

The goal is to get the technology to “snowball” ensuring that every transaction will at least have the option of traversing the mesh network if the internet is unavailable.

How it works

It all started in a blockchain hackathon in Wyoming. Woolsey was there because of a “fascination with cowboy culture.” Woosley and fellow bitcoin developer Justin Moon teamed up for the multi-day event and explored what kind of product they wanted to make.

“Bluetooth is the most commonly available wireless technology, in every phone. The ubiquity…

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