How a South African became the lead developer of Monero



Riccardo Spagni – better known as “fluffypony” in the world of cryptocurrency – is the lead maintainer of the Monero blockchain project, and lives in Plettenberg Bay.

Spagni has been involved in various endeavours and startups across traditional and cryptocurrency-related industries, and recently launched a new blockchain protocol called Tari.

The protocol aims to revolutionise the digital asset industry by providing a trustless, decentralised platform for trading, managing, and using digital assets, built on the security of the Monero blockchain.

Tari will be stewarded by a team of developers at a new blockchain incubator based in Johannesburg.

Mining Bitcoin

Spagni has a background in informatics, logistics, and software development, making him a prime candidate for blockchain technology development.

After spending many years in software development, he started a successful business in the import/export industry with his wife, which gave him the freedom to tinker with Bitcoin in early 2011.

“I began by mining Bitcoin, but I eventually realised mining was of little interest to me because it is difficult to do in a South African context,” said Spagni.

“My electricity grid was not amazing or cheap.”

He then moved on to building tools for miners, including a suite of cryptocurrency mining utilities and a flat-packable GPU mining frame which he sold.

“That was really interesting, because it exposed me to a lot of the problems that GPU miners have, along with exposing me to a whole world of scam coins.”

“In around 2012, a whole bunch of scam coins were popping up,” he said.

“Everyone was mining them and they were buying my kit, so that was a fun adventure.”

This culminated in Spagni discovering Monero in 2014.

Monero hard fork

“The Monero white paper was written by a guy using the pseudonym Nicholas van Saberhagen, I don’t know who he is,” said Spagni.

“He wrote the white paper and disappeared. And then Monero was launched by someone called “thankful_for_today”, which is also clearly not his real name.”

Spagni said in the days following the public launch of the blockchain, thankful_for_today acted as a sort of benevolent dictator with the community following his decisions.

However, after about three weeks he had begun pushing the community to implement changes they did not agree with.

“It was on one particular issue where he knuckled down and said I don’t care what the community wants, we’re doing this,” said Spagni.

Thankful_for_today had pushed the burgeoning Monero community to be merge-mined with ByteCoin, which Spagni refers to as “an obvious scam coin”.

They were adamant on proceeding, despite the lack of agreement from the community, he added.

“Myself and six others forked the codebase and said we don’t care what he does – we will not implement that.”

“And the community chose the new fork as it didn’t have a crazy wackjob forcing us to do things.”

New blockchain

Spagni and other Monero developers had hard-forked the blockchain to create two incompatible implementations, although the chain that had added support for merged mining with ByteCoin did not last long following the loss of its community.

“It was kind of messy, and he still maintained his implementation for six months after that before eventually disappearing.”

After forking the blockchain, Spagni and the other core developers continued to maintain the code and eventually began to add new features.

“None of us really wanted an altcoin of our own, but we didn’t want the technology to die,” said Spagni.

Monero is now one of the biggest cryptocurrencies in the world, offering private and anonymous transactions maintained by a decentralised network of miners and a legion of developers.

It was ranked as the 12th biggest cryptocurrency in the world, with a market cap of $2.8 billion, on 23 May 2018.

Now read: No, this is not the first cryptocurrency ATM in South Africa





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