Launched in late 2014, OpalCoin has learned a lot from its predecessors. It utilizes the X13 scrypt mining algorithm until block 15,000, when proof-of-stake takes over. It has a block time of only 90 seconds, and with no pre-mine or initial coin offering, it’s difficult to accuse it of being a get-rich-quick scheme.
Opal is named after the rare gemstone, which is naturally opaque. Opacity is a recurring concept in OpalCoin, a visual metaphor for its built-in privacy features. Users can create opaque addresses, a derivation of stealth addresses which masks the recipient with a secret key shared between he or she and the sender. This can make tracing the flow of opalcoins impossible.
The experiment took off in December, when Opal joined SuperNET, a collaborate group of decentralized projects. SuperNET brings guidance and shared resources like Telepathy, the anonymous network by BitcoinDark. It’s now tradable at various cryptocurrency exchanges including Bittrex.
What really sets Opal apart, however, are the decentralized services they offer. It’s accompanied by an encrypted peer-to-peer network, which uses Telepathy to facilitate the anonymous sharing of data. Users can send messages to their contacts without revealing their IP address.
Opal is now taking this a step further with the transfer of more complicated data. Instead of just transferring messages, users can now transfer files like photos, music, videos, and more as development continues. While nothing is stored on the cloud, it will function like a shared drive, with files placed on one client-side appearing on the other.
They’ve also announced the inclusion of colored coins in the next couple weeks, which is meant to enable smart property and contracts on the Opal blockchain. Much like Bitcoin’s implementation, non-currency data is inserted into the inputs and outputs of transactions. This “colors” the opalcoins with other attributes; they can represent property titles, domain names, software licenses, or other cryptocurrencies.
Anyone can color a coin; you can thereby issue assets on the blockchain, and back them with the promise that you will redeem them. If combined with Opal’s P2P network, they could theoretically be redeemed automatically, triggering a client-side application to transfer over things like Namecheap domains or game accounts. If we connect property like phones, laptops or smart vehicles to the P2P network, each one’s functionality could be controlled by its colored coin holder.
For now, Opal is aiming for a centralized exchange, to which any client on the Opal network could connect. It will allow the trading of smart property, digital rights, and other cryptocurrencies. The long-term goal, however, is a fully decentralized exchange for trustless trade.
They’re taking things one step at a time, but once established, the Opal exchange will be coded to fully utilize the colored coins protocol. Like many Bitcoin 2.0 solutions, they inevitably hope to both decentralize and automate the issuance, transfer and sale of smart property on the blockchain. Time will tell if Opal can hold its own, or turn out to be another altcoin.