A new cryptocurrency network launched earlier this year by a group of Stanford graduates claims to have what it takes to succeed where Bitcoin has failed: a way to bring crypto to the masses, and without the energy-guzzling blockchain that damages the environment.

The Pi Network is a new type of “social cryptocurrency” that the Standford PhDs and graduates behind it—Nicolas Kokkalis, Chengdiao Fan, and Vince McPhillip—say is so lightweight and easy to use, it’s designed to run on mobile phones.

And, while it launched mere months ago on Pi Day (March 14) of this year, the team behind the Pi Network claims that the project just weeks ago surpassed 500,000 installs, with active members in more than 180 countries.

It’s growing popularity, according to McPhillip—Pi’s head of community, is a result of the network’s relative “accessibility.” In an interview with Decrypt, McPhillip explained that Pi, unlike Bitcoin, is powered by the strength of its users’ “social networks.”

Bitcoin, he said, remains largely inaccessible to most people because Bitcoin mining is expensive and it requires extensive technical know-how to participate. But what’s worse, McPhillip said, are the carbon emissions that stem from that mining and the effect that has on the environment.

“Bitcoin’s proof-of-work consensus protocol relies on nodes using lots of electricity in competition to be the first to solve a math equation,” McPhillip explained. Pi, on the other hand, is built on the Stellar Consensus Protocol (SCP), which “depends on the involvement of several nodes to ‘vote’ on transaction validity,” he said. “The communication entailed for nodes to come to consensus requires far less computing power.”

The Pi Network is comprised of what its team refers to as “security circles.” These are groups consisting of different users that have been vouched for by their peers. And once deemed trustworthy by other members of their groups, these users are permitted to validate future transactions on Pi’s blockchain. 

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McPhillip says that this is what keeps the Pi Network safe and funds on the network secure: users are selected for inclusion in social circles based on their trustworthiness and by proving themselves to fellow members, and those who are admitted have shown a willingness to play by the rules and a commitment to the network’s security.

Additionally, Pi members can mine new tokens directly from their smartphones, a relatively low-cost process that requires minimal battery power, according to McPhillip. After three mining sessions, members can start building their own security circles, which are typically comprised of roughly three to five members that the miner trusts not to execute fraudulent transactions.

“Today, in the beta phase, individuals attest that members of their security circles are trustworthy every day they check into the application,” McPhillip explained. “As we approach testnet and mainnet, we are also designing mechanisms that ensure people have something at stake when they vouch for each other.”