What Does Anon Mean in Crypto: Should People Stay Anonymous?

Published: April 19, 2024 | Last Updated: October 7, 2023

Markos Koemtzopoulos

Markos Koemtzopoulos is the founder and main writer of ElementalCrypto. He has been a lecturer at the University of Nicosia on cryptocurrencies and DeFi and has taught two courses on crypto and blockchain technology.

In the world of cryptocurrency, the term “anon” or “anonymous” originally referred to the concept of privacy and the ability to conduct transactions without disclosing one’s identity. Later on, the term evolved to mean anyone in the crypto community who does not reveal their name. In this article, I will walk you all you need to know about the meaning of Anon in crypto circles.

Usage of Anon

A common way to use Anon is to say “anons” instead of “people”. For example:

“This is a tip for all you anons out there.”

Here are some further examples from Twitter (now “X”) below

anon example tweet 1
anon example tweet 2
anon example tweet 3

Why does the crypto community prefer to be Anonymous?

Remember when Google came out?

It was one of the first companies where how you dress doesn’t matter. All that mattered was the code they produced.

And to produce code you don’t need to dress fancy and you don’t need to take people out to dinner.

Your output can be objectively judged.

It’s either good or bad.

This new way of working was adopted across Silicon Valley.

How you dress doesn’t matter.

It is what you do that matters.

Hold the thought.

About 10 years later Bitcoin emerged.

Suddenly you had this system where you could perform transactions with a digital asset without anyone knowing who you are.

The entity who created Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto is itself anonymous. No one knows who created this beautiful code.

Read What is Bitcoin and how does it work for a detailed deep dive.

Developers loved the idea of anonymity.

Once again here was an opportunity for anyone to participate without other community members having to know precisely who you are.

All the code was open for anyone to see.

Hence in a culture very similar to Silicon Valley’s, in crypto, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, or who you know.

You can now be anonymous and produce code to run some of the world’s most important financial infrastructure of the future.

Visit any of the crypto Discord servers or telegram chats today and you will see that most people have chosen to remain Anon.

Staying anon is also very popular with NFT communities where your profile pic is an NFT rather than a picture of yourself.

NFT collector Punk 6529 is one of the most famous Anon profiles on Twitter. Yet nobody knows who he is in real life.

nft anon

Anonymous vs. Pseudonymous

The most common way people stay anonymous in crypto is by adopting a username or Twitter handle and using that in all their interactions on social media, YouTube video streams, and podcast interviews.

A more apt description is to say that transactions on blockchains are pseudonymous.

A pseudonym is a fake name.

For example, bitcoin transactions are associated with a public key. Hence Bitcoin transactions are pseudonymous rather than anonymous.

Bitcoin explorers such as Blockstream.info and btc.com allow you to see the transaction history of any public address on the Bitcoin blockchain.

If anyone were to ever connect your wallet address with your name then everyone would know your financial transaction history.

In fact, most cryptocurrency exchanges are required to collect personal information on their customers.

The process is known as KYC (Know Your Customer) and AML (Anti-money laundering) and is a requirement by regulators in most countries.

So it’s not that Anons don’t have a name but rather that they have a fake name.

But the term anon is what caught on in popular crypto culture as the term pseudonymous is more nuanced.

Can you be anonymous in crypto?

Most blockchains allow you to be pseudonymous. But some blockchains allow for complete anonymity.

Digital assets, such as Monero, Zcash, and Secret, employ advanced cryptographic techniques to obfuscate transaction details, making it more difficult to trace the flow of funds and link them to specific individuals.

In addition, people who wish to stay anonymous use tumblers and mixers such as Tornado Cash which make it impossible to see where crypto coins originated from.

Also note that when you use a wallet you are not required to provide any personal information.

When you sign up for a wallet account you won’t even be required to provide an email address.

Famous crypto anons

  1. 0xngmi is the founder of DeFi Lamma a data analytics platform for crypto coins. 0xngmi even declared a bounty of 1 ETH for whoever was able to dox him (see what is doxxing for what that means) but no one ever managed to.
  2. Another infamous anon was @0xSifu, the treasury manager of a DeFi protocol called Wonderland. Turns out his real name was Omar Dhanani and he was a convicted criminal who had spent time in jail for financial fraud. The crypto community was not too happy about that when they found out.
  3. The Yuga Labs founders were originally anonymous. This is the creative team behind BAYC Apes and Ape Coin. The founders later revealed their identities.
  4. Olympus DAO founder Zeus wants his OHM currency to replace the dollar and the world’s reserve currency. He too remains Anon to date.
  5. Zachxbt is a popular crypto detective who frequently exposes other anons and frauds. To date, his identity remains unknown.
  6. Satoshi Nakamoto. The most central figure in crypto yet no one has any clue who this person who created Bitcoin is.

Best practices on staying anon in crypto

0xngmi has written a manual with best practices on how to stay anonymous.

Here is a summary of how to go about it

Tips for Staying Anonymous in Crypto:

  1. Online Persona: Create a unique online persona, preferably with a theme like anime, that you’ll use consistently to avoid revealing your identity.
  2. Device Separation: Use separate phones and computers for each identity. If that’s not possible, use different user accounts to minimize the risk of exposing your true identity.
  3. Browser Separation: Avoid using the same browser for both anonymous and non-anonymous activities. Consider using virtual machines or tools like Qubes and Whonix for strict separation.
  4. Account Separation: Do not mix accounts or profiles between your anonymous and regular identities. Be cautious when sharing links or using social media.
  5. Remove EXIF Data: Ensure that EXIF data is removed from any images or screenshots you share online. Use tools like VerExif to do this.
  6. VPN or Tor: Use a VPN or Tor to mask your IP address when conducting anonymous activities online.
  7. Minimize Tracking: Prevent tracking by disabling JavaScript, using privacy extensions like Privacy Badger, and using browsers like Brave that offer enhanced privacy features.
  8. Be Cautious with Links: Avoid sharing links between your anonymous and regular accounts, as this could expose your true identity.
  9. Understand Your Threat Level: Assess your need for anonymity. Determine whether you are protecting your identity from the government or from friends and family.
  10. Limit Friends: Be selective about whom you interact with online and avoid sharing too much information with others.
  11. Speech Patterns: Modify your speech patterns, vocabulary, and emojis to avoid revealing your unique writing style.
  12. Secure Your Funds: When dealing with cryptocurrency, use services like Tornado Cash or Monero to obfuscate your transactions.
  13. Timezone Ambiguity: Try to maintain ambiguity about your timezone by scheduling events in UTC or GMT and avoiding time-related leaks.
  14. Voice Anonymizer: Use a voice anonymizer like Voicemod on Windows to protect your identity during voice calls.
  15. Vtubing: Consider using Vtuber avatars to hide your video feed during calls, but be cautious with webcam settings.
  16. GitHub Anonymity: Spoof your commit details and time to maintain anonymity on GitHub. Use different GitHub accounts for various activities.
  17. Email Privacy: Use privacy-focused email services like Tutanota or Mailfence to protect your email communications.
  18. Phone Separation: Separate identities on your phone using apps like Island or consider using a second phone for anonymity.
  19. OS and Hardware: Consider privacy-focused operating systems like Tails OS or use hardware with no known backdoors for maximum security.
  20. Secure Domain Registration: Ensure whois records for your domains are private and provide fake information when registering domain names.
  21. Twitter Anonymity: Avoid using your personal information for Twitter verification and be cautious about logging into your anonymous account and personal one in the same browser.
  22. VPN Selection: Choose a trustworthy VPN service like Mullvad or IVPN for added privacy.
  23. Usernames: Generate usernames randomly to avoid association between different online identities.
  24. Discord Nitro: Acquire Discord Nitro through cryptocurrency transactions rather than linking personal payment methods.
  25. Buying with Crypto: Use cryptocurrency for purchases on websites with gift cards like coincards.com and bitrefill.com.
  26. Real-Life Identity: Keep your anonymous identity separate from your real-life persona. Create a believable backstory if necessary.
  27. Tor vs. VPN: Understand the difference between Tor and VPN and choose the one that aligns with your privacy needs.

Alternative meanings of “anon”

  • Anonymous is also a popular hacktivist collective known for its cyber-attacks against governments and corporations. Hacktivist collectives are groups of hackers fighting for a specific cause. For example, another popular group the Lizard Squad collective asks for ransom after DDoS attacks at gaming-related sites.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous refers to the popular social support group for quitting alcohol.

Anonymity and privacy

By dissociating identities from transactions, cryptocurrencies can offer a higher level of privacy compared to traditional financial systems.

This privacy has strong implications, such as protection against targeted advertising, data breaches, and the tracking of personal spending habits.

Anonymity ensures that individuals have control over their personal information and can choose when and how much of it to disclose.

Moreover, anonymous transactions in cryptocurrency can also provide protection against internet censorship and government surveillance.

In countries with strict financial regulations or oppressive regimes, individuals may face limitations on their financial freedom or even human rights.

By using anonymous transactions, individuals can bypass these restrictions and maintain complete control over their finances.

What are anon coins?

Anon coins or cryptocurrencies are those that offer enhanced anonymity.

Various cryptocurrencies implement different methods to achieve anonymity, such as zero-knowledge proofs, ring signatures, and confidential transactions.

Each of these technologies aims to obfuscate transaction details and protect the identities of users involved in the transactions.

However, it is important to note that while anon coins may offer enhanced privacy features, they are not completely immune to scrutiny.

Law enforcement agencies have become increasingly adept at tracing transactions.

Here are some of the popular anon cryptocurrencies:

Monero (XMR)

Monero is a privacy-focused cryptocurrency that uses ring signatures to provide a high level of anonymity.

Ring signatures allow for the mixing of multiple participants’ transaction outputs, making it difficult to determine the true sender of a transaction.

Monero also implements stealth addresses and confidential transactions to further enhance privacy.

These features combined make Monero one of the most popular choices for users seeking strong anonymity.

Zcash (ZEC)

Zcash is another cryptocurrency that prioritizes privacy through the implementation of zero-knowledge proofs.

These proofs allow the verification of transaction data without revealing any sensitive information.

Zcash transactions can be shielded, ensuring that the sender, receiver, and transaction amount remain anonymous.

However, it is important to note that not all Zcash transactions are fully shielded by default, and users need to specifically select the shielded transaction option.

Dash (DASH)

Dash is a cryptocurrency that utilizes a mixing feature called PrivateSend to enhance privacy.

PrivateSend allows for the mixing of transactions, making it challenging to trace the origin of funds.

By combining multiple denominations of coins from different sources, Dash users can obfuscate the trail left by individual transactions.

Pros and Cons of Staying Anon in Crypto

Pros

  1. Privacy Protection: Anonymous transactions allow individuals to keep their financial activities private, shielding them from potential targeted attacks, surveillance, and identity theft.
  2. Financial Freedom: Anonymity empowers individuals to retain control over their funds, protecting them from censorship and enabling transactions without intermediaries.
  3. Fungibility: maintain fungibility within cryptocurrencies, ensuring that each unit is interchangeable and equal in value. See What Is Fungibility in Crypto for more.
  4. Protection Against Data Breaches: minimize the risk of personal data breaches and associated misuse.
  5. Avoidance of Personalized Advertising: Anonymity reduces the chances of receiving targeted advertisements based on personal spending habits and preferences.

Drawbacks

  1. There is more room for fraud.
  2. You lose the reputation and trust signal. If you see a new crypto protocol with anonymous founders it can come across as kind of sketchy.
  3. Can be used for illicit transactions.
  4. Anonymous developers and founders are likely to scare off institutional investors

Up Next

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what is a degen in crypto

At its core, a ‘degen’ is an abbreviation for ‘degenerate.’ In the context of crypto, it refers to an individual who engages in high-risk and speculative activities, usually involving trading and investing in trending cryptocurrencies. Read more.

Markos Koemtzopoulos is the founder and main writer of ElementalCrypto. He has been a lecturer at the University of Nicosia on cryptocurrencies and DeFi and has taught two courses on crypto and blockchain technology.

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