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.
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.
[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.
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."