On Monday (June 10), Amrit Kumar, President and Chief Scientific Officer of blockchain startup Zilliqa, announced that smart contract functionality had gone live on the Zilliqa mainnet and explained why this was a big deal "not just for Zilliqa, but for the blockchain infrastructure industry as a whole."
What Is Zilliqa?
Zilliqa is a "a scalable, secure public blockchain platform." More importantly, it is one of the first public blockchain platforms that has already implemented sharding; on its testnet, Zilliqa has managed to achieve a thoroughput of over 2,828 transactions per second (TPS).
This is not Visa-level speed (around 24,000 TPS), but it is much faster than, say, Ethereum (20 TPS), Dash (48 TPS), Litecoin (56 TPS), and Bitcoin Cash (on average, up to 61 transactions per second). Zilliqa says that this kind of speed "enables new use cases that have high-throughput demands that were not previously possible on legacy public blockchain platforms."
What is interesting about Zilliqa's scalability is that "the throughput scales almost linearly as the number of nodes scales, ensuring that Zilliqa’s capacity can continue to grow to meet demand." This is known as linear scaling.
In case you are wondering where the name Zilliqa comes from, here is how "The Not-So-Short ZILLIQA Technical FAQ" explains it:
"ZILLIQA is a play on silica. Just as silicon powers the computing industry, the team hopes ZILLIQA will power the next generation of high-throughput applications."
Zilliqa uses Proof of Work (PoW) for "miner verification to prevent Sybil attacks" and Practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance (pBFT) for consensus. This gives Zilliqa "a far lower energy footprint" than legacy proof-of-work blockchains (such as Bitcoin and Litecoin). The Zilliqa team says that it might one day "replace PoW with a stake-based mechanism for Sybil resistance," but it would "still continue using pBFT as the underlying consensus protocol."
Zilliqa's Smart Contracts
The language used for creating smart contracts on the Zilliqa platform is called "Scilla" (short for Smart Contract Intermediate-Level Language). The fact that this is "a functional programming language that allows for static checks and formal verifications" makes it easier for developers to "conduct thorough checks to ensure that their smart contracts behave as intended."
It should be noted that unlike Ethereum's smart contract language, Solidity, Scilla is not Turing-complete. Here is the Zilliqa team's rationale for this decision:
"... not all applications require a Turing complete language. Moreover, Turing complete languages are hard to reason about and hence prone to bugs. A non Turing-complete language becomes amenable to formal methods-based verification because of its simplicity."
One implication of Scilla's lack of Turing-competeness is that it is not possible to have a smart contract that has infinite loops or unbounded recursion. This means that you can't have "a dApp that talks to another dApp non-stop" (e.g. "a smart meter that communicates with a smart grid non-stop").
In a blog post published earlier today, Zilliqa's president said that the following are the main features of Zilliqa smart contracts:
- Scilla has been designed with formal verification in mind;
- Scilla comes with a set of static code analyzers that can be "very helpful in detecting bugs in contracts before they go live";
- Scilla has been designed such that "different operational components of a contract such as computation and communication (with other contracts) are handled in a very clean manner hence eliminating any complex interleaving"; and
- Scilla comes with a set of safe standard libraries (for things such as performing arithmetic operations).
How the ZIL Price is Doing
At press time, according to CryptoCompare, ZIL is trading at $0.02307, up 1.27% in the past 24-hour period. Zilliqa is the 42nd most valuable cryptoasset with a market cap of around $200 million.
Over the past six months, the ZIL price is up around 72%.