In the past thread on ZKPs or Zero-Knowledge, we spoke at length about what ZKP is all about and how it has revolutionized scaling of the decentralized ecosystem. In this thread today, we shall look at the projects which have been stimulating the adoption of zero-knowledge proof. Though the majority of the L2s have preferred optimistic roll-ups because their architecture is quite simple to deploy when compared to a ZKP, we shall look at a few projects which have done unparalleled work to allow ZKPs to rise with time.
Top Projects on ZKPs to Drive Enterprise Level Adoption of Blockchain
Enterprises are desperately vying to deploy the decentralization aspect in their modus-operandi, but it is the scalability and secrecy which has hindered adoption. StarkEx, a Layer 2 or L2 scaling solution has endeavored to improve scalability and privacy of the blockchains through the introduction of SNARKs or zero-knowledge succinct non-interactive argument on knowledge.
StarkEx uses lightweight cryptographic hash-functions that helps in restoring computational integrity which is pivotal for scaling the blockchain ecosystem. For example, suppose if we transcend in time and look at mainstream adoption of blockchain where we see decentralized ATMs competing with TradFi. At such times, the need for computational integrity will be felt at the maximum.
Building an entire ecosystem that ensures computation without the intervention of a third party but with the same level of trust requires futuristic computational prowess. StartEK has already achieved that through its battle-tested integration of ZK-starks that do not require a trusted third party to set up the ZKP systems. Hence, it is being widely used by exchanges and DeFi protocols to scale their ecosystem. At the moment, DiversiFi and DyDx have used StarkEx to scale up their operations with minimum gas costs and higher scalability.
However, the trade-off of StarkEX is the computational Integrity bolstering commerce. Though most of the public blockchains do achieve this; they compromise the scalability and privacy of operations.
Composability with the Ethereum chain is a pressing concern that has obstructed the adoption of ZK technology in business operations. Most businesses have trusted the Ethereum Network for its decentralization, security and hack-proof track record. However they do have a concern while hosting their operations on the main-chain. StarkNet, a general purpose ZKP allows faster deployment of dApps on its ecosystem. StarkNet pushes for integrity of computation through the use of level 2 cryptographic proofs and modern Algebra.
On top of this, StarkNet is also providing the same composability level as Ethereum allowing developers to further speed up the development process and come up with advanced solutions as and when required. Along with this, StarkNet provides true anonymity by not letting the user’s identity be derived from public keys and supporting multi-calls or multiple transactions in one single call to settle the accounts. Hence it significantly reduces flow of data from the off-chain computational layer to the main parent chain, which is Ethereum.
Polygon has been leading by example when it comes to developing and building ZKP projects to make sure that their dream of onboarding the next billion users to Ethereum doesn’t go unanswered. For that reason, Polygon Technologies have directed all the focus towards scaling the Ethereum chain. Their $1 billion corpus investment to develop revolutionary ZK projects like Miden, Hermes, Zero and Nightfall have already steered their ambition towards the right direction.
Miden, which was rolled out in 2021 is already making headlines. As a STARK based ZKP, Miden aims to provide 1,000 to 2,000 TPS which shall move higher to even 20,000 TPS once sharding goes live on Ethereum. Miden will cut dependency on third party validators with ready to deploy solutions. At the same time, it will be using lean cryptography which would make it resilient to quantum attacks in the near future. The Miden Virtual Machine will support arbitrary programs which will eliminate cryptographic complexities and allow developers to quickly design and deploy the system.
Such an upside is decisive for the adoption of ZKP because the narrative that floats at present is developing the ZKP solution is complex and commands a lot of resources. Through Miden, Polygon aims to solve that complexity by introducing Solidity compatible EVM smart-contracts streamlining quick deployment.
4- Polygon Zero
Polygon Zero is another ambitious project which shall outsmart all other ZKPs that are capable of scaling TPS. The Plonky2 recursive SNARK will take only 170 milliseconds for generating a recursive proof to the transaction. Due to such a feature, ZERO ZKPs will be giving very tough competition to its competitors in terms of latency and fees.
They would be much lower since the blobs of data will be created and destroyed in no time to free up space and reduce toxic waste for better scaling the Ethereum base layer.
Another trade-off of the Zero ZKP is its ability to run solidity codes transpiled into ZK Bytecodes making it compatible with the Ethereum ecosystem and ensure quick deployment of the solution.
5- Polygon Hermez
There’s a new buzzword lately in the crypto scape: Zk EVM or Zero Knowledge Ethereum Virtual Machine. Since Hermez has already achieved unprecedented feats by becoming the very first decentralized ZKP on Ethereum mainnet, Hermez 2.0 is poised to further solidify that claim. Under Hermez 1, Polygon has already touched 2,000 TPS, but there’s more room for improvement that Hermes 2 will accomplish.
Right at the moment, developers have to face real challenges when allowing ZKP to directly communicate with the Ethereum mainnet. Or put simply, one has to develop everything from scratch which adheres to EVM compatibility. Hermez 1.- ZkEVM will execute Ethereum transactions in a fully decentralized and transparent way.
Once this would roll, it would eliminate users and Dapp frictions that happen when interacting with ZKPs and the main-layer of ETH. Hermez 2.0 will be using the proof-of-efficiency( P-o-E) because the P-o-D or Proof-of-Donation model was vulnerable to attacks at the bootstrapping levels. Since if a donating verifier goes rogue, it leads to a delay.
Hence the team chose the PoE model since it ensured permissionless opportunity to produce the L2 batches and kept the right balance between overall validation effort and the value in the network. Furthermore, Hermez 2 also introduces zkASM which helps in taking complete control in the development and design of the architecture in the manner that the project demands, instead of an already cookie cutter approach provided. In this way, new projects need not have to struggle since they already have a pre-built infrastructure from where they can make adjustments and scale up their operations. These aspects make Hermez 2.0 a revolutionary solution for scaling the projects while maintaining the same degree of security provided by the Ethereum mainchain.
6- Polygon Nightfall
At the moment, Optimistic roll ups have been deployed across 75% of DeFi; but they do struggle with the withdrawal time which is seven days. Polygon’s core aim is to give very high grade security and scalability solutions to enterprises. Hence they came up with Nightfall which will introduce the perfect amalgamation of ZKPs and Optimistic roll-ups to impart privacy, scalability and gas cost optimization to the users.
The privacy preserving roll-ups that Polygon has introduced in Nightfall only reveal the time and date of the transaction. Whereas, the optimistic rollups assume every transaction to be valid; however, it does allow the challenging period to validate the authenticity of the transaction. In this way, Polygon, through Nightfall, has been instrumental towards empowering SCM or Supply Chain Management, NFT markets and blockchain mixers to scale up their operations. Ernst & Young E & Y is already in talks with Polygon and they have empowered EY Opschain and EY Blockchain Analyser using the Polygon Nightfall ZKPs.
Metis has been another key driver from the Polygon family which has been designed in such a way to help optimistic roll-ups occupy center stage when it comes to scaling the ETH’s base layer. As you can see in the opening of this blog, Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Ethereum has been quite favoring ZKPs when compared to Optimistic rollups.
His major concern however was the withdrawal time for funds since optimistic roll-ups take more than 7 days and by that time, the funds are locked within the smart-contract. The objective of Metis ZKP is to completely disrupt that model with a new noble solution.
In the new validation model as proposed by the Metis ZKP, there will be a multi-party fraud detection system. Due to this mechanism, an additional layer of security will be created while finalizing the transaction which is called the Metis Ranger System.
Under the Metis Ranger system, the validators/rangers are given specific blocks as samples. These rangers first audit the transaction and provide validity proofs first-in hand before the mainchain validators can challenge the transaction. Due to this process, the validation and withdrawal times that took weeks on the layer 1’s or mainchain could be completed in hours and minutes to scale up the use of optimistic roll-ups in scaling requirements.
8- ZK Sync
What’s the biggest challenge in the blockchain space? Answering to the blockchain trilemma: (i) Decentralization (ii) Security (iii) Scalability. If you deep dive into L1s, all of them face the same challenge. Though Algorand claims to have solved the Trilemma, yet the claims remain subject to contention since everyone can become a validator on PPoS consensus of Algorand but the Round Robin validator selection goes to the highest staker.
ZKs have solved the scalability challenges but their process remains much debatable. For example, most of the validators cannot participate in validating the entire transaction volume. As a result of this, the problem of censorship, DD-o-S and centralization looms larger.
Through Zk Sync, a new way of validating the transaction will be made possible.. There will be validators and guardians with the validators given the role to pack the transaction in batches and they need to submit security bonds which are always higher than the txs they validate. In this way, it makes the transactions safe. At the same time, to check that validators do not go rogue by controlling the network, the guardians who are majority token holders choose the validators in random manner.
These guardians need not have to run the computation on high-end computing devices. They can choose to control a fraction of the network with even a basic laptop; thus making the process of validation completely decentralized due to no entry barrier. On top of this, they are also not eligible for slashing, hence more people would join to make the ecosystem completely decentralized. That’s how ZK Syncs are functioning to provide true decentralization, security and scalability to the main chains.
Loopring has been instrumental towards simplifying trading in cryptocurrencies with a complete non-custodial and highly anonymous set-up for traders. The project also aims to solve the challenges of liquidity, scalability and user experience through the use of ZKP. In the Loopring operational mode, in order to scale DEX or Decentralized Exchanges, Loopring is introducing a hybrid model of ZKP.
In the Hybrid ZKP model offered by Loopring, order-messaging will be handled off-chain, whereas, and settlement will happen on-chain on a real-time basis with no delays.
Loopring will use the ZKP that will relay information to the mainchain by the prover that they have done some computation. The Merkle-trees will display the complete transaction history and a smart-contract will be checking the same to provide real-time data sets to the mainchain for recording transactions.
In this way, Loopring aims to completely revolutionize trading through DEX where the order model will be fast, efficient, economical and completely non-custodial in nature. Along with this, Loopring introduces the standalone exchange contracts which will make transactions completely secretive providing adequate privacy to the users; thus allowing different DEXes to cooperate using the ZKP model to exchange information and execute trades. They can do so using the same exchange contract which shall stimulate liquidity and faster settlements as and when required to scale decentralized exchanges.
Though we say that Ethereum and BItcoin blockchains are heavily decentralized, they come with a downside for those who want to run the full-nodes. They need to download the complete full node from the Genesis Block to the day they wish to run the full-node. This creates an entry barrier since Bitcoin blockchain has a 437 GB block size and Ethereum has 1 TB. Mina ends up as an amenable choice to resolve this problem.
It is the world’s lightest blockchain running a 22KB block. To ensure scalability and high throughput, the Mina blockchain uses the Ouroboros Samasika consensus mechanism that uses a modified PoS model. However, to further scale the ecosystem, Mina uses the SNARK mechanism to validate the transactions. However this SNARK is unlike the others talked about.
The SNARK validators open a SnarketPlace. On the Snarketplace, they publish the ZK proofs on the Snarketplace and block producers will be bidding for the Snark Proofs. The most competitive bid wins the auction and they need to share a part of their block produced rewards with the SNARK workers/validators. In this way, the system remains truly decentralized, scalable and incentivizing for anyone to enter and exit the system.
Mina has envisaged a new economic model which maintains anonymity, economic incentives and even scales the ecosystem through the use of ZKPs.
Stay Tuned since we will be posting more threads that shall cover all other nuances of ZKPs and how they will shape the future of blockchain. Follow Zeeve for more updates on blockchain technology and Web 3.