A method of cryptographic operation pioneered by Zcash has been tipped by Vitalik Buterin as a potential scaling solution for the Ethereum network.
The Ethereum network has come under increasing criticism in recent months regarding its inability to scale effectively. Despite retaining its position as the second crypto to bitcoin it the token has been suffering badly in the bear market and recently seen a mass sell-off by ICOs, hinting at negative prospects for its future. Many of the complaints leveled at the network include the apparent user-unfriendly nature of its dapps as well as its inability to scale. Network updates have been a long time coming and chains like EOS are (very) slowly posing more of a threat to the network’s dominance.
Writing on a research blog on Staurday (September 22nd), Vitalik suggested however that a solution pioneered on the Zcash network could hold the answer to Ethereum’s scaling problems.
Zk-snarks stands for “Zero-knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge” (yeah, don’t worry about that) and is a method of cryptography, part of which allows large amounts of information to be compressed into what is called a “succinct proof”, which remains the same size regardless of the amount of input there is.
Buterin wrote that this tech could be used to massively scale up network capacity, as much as 500 transactions per second without needing to rely on layer 2 solutions like Plasma, Raiden or Truebit.
“We can actually scale asset transfer transactions on ethereum by a huge amount, without using layer 2s that introduce liveness assumptions (eg. channels, plasma), by using zk-SNARKs to mass-validate transactions.” Wrote Buterin
This method would essentially employ a node (known as a “relayer node”) to act as an aggregator of transactions. These would then be passed on in bulk for verification by the other nodes. This node would not need to be anything special or different from other regular nodes and such a method could lead to increases of “~24x for ETH transactions and ~50x for ERC-20 transfers.”
Whilst a Zk-SNARKs solution would require a significant amount of computing power to implement, Buterin expressed his confidence that it could be improved by developers.
“… at this point it’s widely known that optimizing snark/stark provers is super-important so I’m sure there will be more and more software engineering work going into it over time.”
A scaling solution for the network is sorely needed as increased fire is turned upon it for its lag. Afri Schoedon who is communications officer at Parity tweeted on Thursday (September 20th) “stop deploying dapps to ethereum. We are running at capacity.” With networks like EOS posing more and more of a threat to Ethereum’s dominance, the clock is ticking for the network to be seen to implement much desired solutions sooner rather than later.
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Alex has been putting words on paper since he was old enough to hold a pen; when he bought his first bitcoin in January 2017, those words discovered their place within crypto as well. He holds a master’s degree in international relations from Leiden University in the Netherlands, and his special expertise lies in European cryptocurrency regulation.