Zcash's zk-SNARKS May Help Ethereum Scale Faster Than Plasma

  • zk-SNARKS technology may allow the Ethereum network to scale more effectively than the Plasma upgrade (alone).
  • Ethereum's developers are now focusing more on zk-SNARKS as a viable scalability solution for the cryptocurrency platform.

Ethereum’s (ETH) developers have explored many different ways in the past few years that could potentially help to effectively scale the cryptocurrency platform’s blockchain. At present, the Ethereum development team appears to be focusing more on zk-SNARKS technology - as it could be used to develop a viable scalability solution.

As CryptoGlobe reported in late September, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin had said that Zcash’s zk-SNARKS technology could be integrated into Ethereum’s codebase, and that it would allow the crypto’s network to process 500 transactions per second (TPS).

Should this happen, then it would be a significant improvement as the Ethereum blockchain is (currently) only able to handle 15 TPS. In late October, Buterin had said that Ethereum 2.0 (“Serenity”) was “really not so far away.”

The Ethereum 2.0 ("Serenity") Upgrade

According to Ethereum’s developers, the Serenity upgrade will include:

  • Successful transition from current proof-of-work (PoW) to proof-of-stake ("Casper"),
  • Scalability ("sharding"),
  • Virtual Machine Improvements (EWASM)
  • Improvements to cross-contract logic
  • Improvements to protocol economics

In addition to the planned upgrades mentioned above, there were many discussions related to using zk-SNARKS technology during the 4th annual “builders” conference (DevCon4).

Commenting on how zk-SNARKS could be used to help the Ethereum network scale, Stefan George, the chief technical officer at Gnosis, a decentralized prediction market platform, told Coindesk

More and more people understand what the possibilities are. Even beyond zero-knowledge, it's also a great scalability tool that ethereum is missing, and we can use it without waiting.

Stefan George

zk-SNARKS Is "More Decentralized" Than Plasma

George added that a zk-SNARKS based scalability solution could be deployed much faster compared to Plasma (“a technique for [quickly] conducting off-chain transactions” in order to reduce network congestion), and it is also more decentralized than the latter.

Proposed by Buterin and Joseph Poon, the co-author of Bitcoin’s (BTC) Lightning Network whitepaper, the Plasma upgrade involves moving computations for smart contracts off of the main Ethereum blockchain.

Although a lot of research has been done and developers have tried many different implementations of Plasma, the efforts so far have not been successful.

At Devcon4, David Knott, a plasma researcher at OmiseGo, had described a “minimal viable plasma” implementation as having restrictive “time constraints, [was] horrible for UI, and is vulnerable to network congestion."

Kelvin Fichter, another plasma researcher at OmiseGo, told Coindesk that one of the most common problems with Plasma may be addressed by using zk-SNARKS technology.

DApps Running On Plasma May Use zk-SNARKS

Fichter explained that decentralized applications (DApps) running on a Plasma-based network could utilize zk-SNARKS to verify transactions on the main Ethereum blockchain - without requiring sidechains or any other second-layer solution.

He said:

[zk-SNARKS] solve what we were solving with crypto-economic assumptions with just straight up with cryptographic assumptions. It means we have to worry about a lot less.

Kelvin Fichter

Moreover, zk-SNARKS could enhance the privacy of transactions on a Plasma-enabled Ethereum network.

However, Fichter noted: “purely zero-knowledge systems and making use of zero-knowledge systems in plasma is still a little bit far away. There's work that remains on 'Do we make hash functions cheaper?' and once we get to that point, we are going to see an explosion of zero-knowledge applications."

$107 Million Startup Digital Asset Incorporates Smart Contracts Into HyperLedger Framework

Digital Asset, a New York-based firm that has received over $100 million in total funding in order to develop a platform for “reducing settlement latency and counterparty risk,” announced a couple weeks ago that it had open-sourced DAML “under the Apache 2.0 license.”

According to its official website, the Digital Asset Modeling Language (DAML) is a software development stack created specifically for writing secure smart contracts. The DAML software development kit (SDK) is now available for download.

An “Exclusive Smart Contract Language” For “Common Domain Model”

Additionally, the management at Digital Asset noted in its blog post, published on April 16, that ISDA, which is the “standards body for the derivatives market,” revealed recently that DAML is “the exclusive smart contract language” for their “Common Domain Model” (CDM).

The CDM is “an industry data standard for booking and representing over-the-counter (OTC) derivative products and the events that occur on these products throughout their lifecycle.”

As mentioned in Digital Asset’s announcement, they’ve recently open-sourced a “reference library and [supporting] application.” The Digital Asset management team also announced this month that it has been working with developers and researchers at VMware, in order to “integrate DAML” with their enterprise-grade blockchain platform, called VMware Blockchain.

In addition to launching these initiatives, the team at Digital Asset has revealed it has also been collaborating with “fellow Hyperledger members” through a Blockchain Technology Partners (BTP) program. This will reportedly involve “integrating” the DAML runtime environment with Hyperledger Sawtooth.

Developing Software On Modular Platforms

According to Digital Asset, the Hyperledger Sawtooth is a complete modular platform for creating, deploying and managing distributed ledger technology (DLT)-based networks. The New York-based tech firm also noted that Hyperledger Sawtooth complies with standards and requirements specified in the DAML framework.

As detailed in the post, Hyperledger Sawtooth’s “Transaction Processor has a very flexible approach towards roles and permissions, for example, and is based on a very natural DLT network topology of fully distributed peers. DAML is based on a permissioned architecture and Hyperledger Sawtooth can be configured to be permissioned without requiring special nodes.”

Abstracting Implementation Details

DAML is used to define and write smart contracts in a manner that creates an abstraction. This is done so that certain blockchain-specific implementation details are hidden from end-users, such as the type of cryptography scheme used and the technical methods of data distribution.

One of the main reasons for using abstraction is to allow developers to program through a user-friendly API. Moreover, code written using DAML support allows software architects to easily migrate applications from one platform to another without having to rewrite a lot of code.