Is ZK proof the answer to Bitcoin’s Ordinal and BRC-20 problem?
The Bitcoin (BTC) network has faced a litmus test in recent weeks due to the increased demands for Ordinals and BRC-20 tokens written onto the prominent blockchain.
The resulting increase in fees and transaction congestion has left the wider Bitcoin community frustrated, given that some BRC-20 tokens involve meme tokens that have attracted billions of dollars in capital in recent weeks.
The Ethereum ecosystem has benefited from the development of scaling solutions that have provided huge improvements in network capacity and processing power. Zero-knowledge proofs (zk-proofs) in particular have made headlines in recent months, with a number of projects adopting the scaling technology.
Cointelegraph spoke exclusively with Eli Ben-Sasson, co-founder of StarkWare and pioneer of zk-STARKs (zero-knowledge Scalable Transparent Argument of Knowledge), to explore whether the technology could be the answer to Bitcoin’s latest challenge.
Zk-proofs are cryptographic protocols that allow a party to prove that a statement or data is true without revealing any information. The technology ensures privacy and security while adding capacity to blockchains in particular, by reducing the computational load needed to verify transactions and other data and information stored on the chain.
Related: zk-STARKs vs zk-SNARKs explained
The renowned mathematician and cryptographer credits Bitcoin with starting his journey of exploration around the promise of validity, cryptographic proofs and zero-knowledge proofs to improve blockchain technology. Highlighting the “deeply intertwined” nature of the scaling solutions and blockchains, Ben-Sasson summarized the potential for zk proof to benefit the Bitcoin network:
“Proofs of validity and STARKs allow you to very effectively use the integrity of mathematics to extend the integrity path that a blockchain covers to invite everyone to participate and add more capacity to the network.”
Bitcoin’s blockchain will continue to act as an inner circle of integrity, while zk-proofs expand the origin of integrity and bring in more capacity, creating what Ben-Sasson described as a “positive flywheel” effect:
“The more capacity you bring, the more social features can be used, even if it’s money, you can do micropayments, or you can add new things if you allow smart contracts. And then there is more trust in the system and that adds more value.”
Ben-Sasson reiterated his belief that the Bitcoin network could see greater integrity and efficiency from the mathematical benefits that proof of validity provides. He added that the likes of Bitcoin developers Greg Maxwell, Gavin Andresen and Mike Hearn had been early proponents of STARK’s transparent proof of validity and privacy, which requires no trusted setup and remains quantum secure.
Related: Ordinals and BRC-20 Will Disappear Within Months, Says JAN3 CEO
The potential for Bitcoin, which functions primarily as decentralized hard money, to allow more general forms of computation and social functions remains a point of discussion for the community. For Ben-Sasson, the potential of incorporating zk-proofs is clearly driven by market demand for additional functionality on top of Bitcoin powered by BRC-20 tokens:
“For it (BRC-20) to really have the level of integrity offered by Bitcoin, there has to be a hard fork that allows these things to be verified and validated and have the integrity of Bitcoin. And that’s a big decision and a big point of debate.” »
As previously reported by Cointelegraph, the ZeroSync Association is a newly formed startup developing zk-secure powered tools that allow users to validate the state of the Bitcoin network without having to download the blockchain or rely on a third party for verification.
ZeroSync’s Proof of Validity allows users to verify Bitcoin’s chain state instantly, removing the need to download over 500GB of blockchain data currently required to sync a Bitcoin node.
ZeroSync co-founder Robin Linus told Cointelegraph that the proof of chain state does not directly solve network congestion, but will remove the need for users to download inscriptions that have blocked the Bitcoin blockchain.
However, zk proof remains promising in alleviating current network congestion. Linus said ZeroSync has also developed a Bitcoin client-side validation protocol called zkCoins, which allows the processing of up to 100 token transactions per second:
“It uses inscriptions, but the chain footprint is much lower than BRC-20, and it doesn’t inflate the UTXO set.”
Linus added that a SNARK (Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge) verifier on Bitcoin’s main layer could enable a whole range of scaling solutions, including zk rollups, trustless bridges to sidechains as well as the potential to link BTC to zkCoins to improve privacy and increase throughput:
“It’s great to see Proof of Validity gaining more influence in the Bitcoin community now. People have already started discussing a new opcode on the bitcoin-dev mailing list.”
Linus also noted that other Bitcoin layer-2 scaling solutions such as Lightning Network, Fedimint and Chashu, which are privacy-preserving custodians based on Chaumian eCash, have seen increased interest following network congestion powered by Ordinals and BRC-20 minting.
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