Will IOTA Users Stop 'Losing' Their Coins Now?
‘Lost’ tokens still exist and still belong to their rightful holder. Confusion should end with the launch of Trinity Wallet.
Things haven't always been easy for IOTA. Since the decentralised internet-of-things foundation was launched in 2015, it's been accused of possessing a small handful of bugs (that weren't always bugs), and a significant minority of its users have had their MIOTA tokens stolen as a result of using (unsafe) websites to generate new 'seeds' (i.e. passwords).
And it would seem that, recently, its token holders have been having a different kind of problem: they're checking into their wallets, only to find that their MIOTAs have all vanished.
However, as with many of the other 'problems' affecting IOTA, the issue stems less from a flaw in the platform's design and more from a misunderstanding of how this platform actually works.
The case of the missing MIOTAs
The latest issue has made intermittent appearances ever since MIOTA was first listed on the Bitfinex crypto-exchange in June 2017. It became more prevalent recently after April 29, when the cryptocurrency had increased to USD 2.03 from about USD 1.09 at the start of the month.
The following complaint – posted to Iota's own forum on April 29 – is fairly typical, underlining the sense of exasperation and panic some MIOTA holders have experienced:
"All my IOTA disappeared [sic] from my wallet. It’s seems like an ongoing problem for many people. IOTA should take this issue way more seriously and establish [a] dedicated person to resolve this issue."
The same issue has turned up more recently on the IOTA GitHub "Issues" page and in the IOTA sub-Reddit, with users expressing the same kind of frustration and also the same lack of understanding of what they could do to solve their problems:
"Hi 2 months ago, I bought 150 iota and transferred it to my wallet, but after about 2 hours, my entire inventory was thrown to another account and my balance was zero. No one except myself has access to my account information. Has [sic] I been hacked?"
However, while those who seemingly take pleasure in IOTA's apparent difficulties (and there are many on social media) might rejoice at such distress, there is in fact a very simple explanation for the 'disappearing' MIOTA.
Since early-to-mid 2017, the IOTA team has been running routine snapshots of the Tangle, which is the IOTA platform's blockchain-less distributed ledger. As Ralf Rottmann, a member on the Board of Directors at IOTA Foundation, explains in a blog post, these snapshots effectively decrease "the size it takes for nodes to save the entire Tangle (to disk)," thereby enabling the Tangle to operate more efficiently.
One side-effect that snapshotting has is that, by erasing parts of the Tangle's transaction history, a user's wallet may not find past transactions when logging back in, and may therefore end up reporting that the user has no funds. This is what happened on April 29, and what has happened on numerous occasions in the recent past.
Nonetheless, ‘lost’ tokens still exist and still belong to their rightful holder, who simply has to log into the RECEIVE section of their wallet to begin generating new addresses until their funds are recovered.
There is, in other words, no real issue here, except one: that too many traders are buying MIOTA tokens without sufficiently understanding what IOTA is and how it works. They've been exposed to the growing hype surrounding IOTA and the ability of MIOTA to buck recent declines in the crypto-market, and they've understandably sought a piece of the pie for themselves, without realising that IOTA is bit different from other crypto-platforms.
In many ways, this kind of misapprehension is an allegory for IOTA's life up until now. People have misunderstood it, users have treated its security too casually, and intentional design choices (at least according to IOTA) have sometimes been framed as vulnerabilities. Added to this, the IOTA Foundation arguably hasn't done enough to communicate its platform's differences and particularities to the public, and it has arguably produced a platform that isn't entirely user-friendly for the average layperson interested in crypto.
While this may all be true, there are signs that IOTA is beginning to take the issue of its own complexity more seriously. On May 29, it launched its much-anticipated Trinity Wallet, which promises a more "user-friendly" experience, and which more importantly is “stateful.” This means that, after several months of confusion for certain under-informed users, they finally won’t have all their transaction histories deleted after a future snapshot.
IOTA didn’t respond to a request for comment for this story.