NEAR and Polygon Partner to Launch zkWASM

The NEAR Foundation and Polygon Labs have announced a collaborative effort to develop a zero-knowledge (ZK) prover for Web Assembly (WASM) blockchains. This initiative, termed “zkWASM,” is poised to bridge the gap between WASM-based chains and the Ethereum ecosystem, as revealed in a joint announcement on November 8, 2023.

zkWASM stands as a revolutionary prover in the realm of blockchain technology. It aims to enable WASM-based networks to integrate seamlessly into the Polygon ecosystem, marking their first-ever participation. The primary motivation behind the creation of WASM, a binary instruction format, was web browsers. However, its utility has expanded to potentially serve as a compute engine for blockchain networks, offering an alternative to the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM).

The integration of zkWASM into Polygon’s Chain Development Kit (CDK) is a pivotal aspect of this collaboration. The CDK empowers developers with tools to create customized blockchain networks based on their specific needs. With the inclusion of zkWASM, developers will gain the capability to design WASM networks and incorporate them into the broader Polygon ecosystem, which includes the Ethereum mainnet itself.

This partnership signifies a major step for NEAR in its integration with the Ethereum network. Illia Polosukhin, co-founder of NEAR Protocol, emphasized that “NEAR is integrating more with Ethereum by innovating in new research frontiers, and the shared expertise of NEAR and Polygon will expand the ZK landscape and defragment liquidity across chains.” This approach is expected to improve liquidity for users and enhance the overall efficiency of the NEAR network.

One of the most significant advantages of the zkWASM prover is its impact on NEAR validators. By employing the zero-knowledge proof method, the computational overhead involved in confirming a shard is significantly reduced. This reduction in computational demand is projected to lead to “better scalability and increased decentralization” for the NEAR network, according to the joint statement.

Polygon is concurrently working on developing a multichain ecosystem, known as “Polygon 2.0.” This new system will feature bridges operating on zero-knowledge proof-based transition mechanisms, facilitating the transfer of assets across different chains.

The development and expected launch of zkWASM next year marks a significant leap towards creating a more secure, interoperable, and scalable Web3 ecosystem. This partnership between NEAR and Polygon exemplifies the collaborative spirit in the blockchain community, driving innovation and integration across different platforms and technologies.

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Scroll Launches zkEVM Mainnet

On October 17, 2023, Scroll, an open-source, community-centric Ethereum scaling solution, unveiled its mainnet, marking a pivotal stride towards augmenting scalability and propelling developer adoption on the Ethereum blockchain. This comes after two years of extensive development and stringent testing, utilizing zero knowledge (zk) proofs to offload computation from the primary blockchain, thereby addressing the challenges of rising network traffic and costs on Ethereum due to its burgeoning user and project base.

Scalability Unleashed

Employing zk proofs, Scroll has innovated a mechanism that significantly boosts transaction throughput, by expediting transaction processes and slashing costs, heralding a new chapter in Ethereum’s scalability. The proprietary bytecode-level Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) compatible zkEVM, delivers a near-identical user experience to Ethereum, enabling developers to effortlessly migrate their existing Ethereum projects onto Scroll, with zero requisite modifications to the codebase. This exemplifies Scroll’s dedication to scaling Ethereum without sacrificing either security or decentralization.

Security and Community at the Forefront

Scroll’s co-founder, Haichen Shen, emphasized the paramount importance of security, mentioning a holistic approach towards it, backed by a robust internal security team and multiple audits, retaining its open-source ethos from its inception. Over a year of triumphant testnet runs preceded the mainnet launch, with the recent Sepolia testnet alone registering over 900,000 wallet addresses and six million transactions within a two-month span. The mainnet mirrors the Sepolia testnet operations, which will persist as a developmental staging ground.

Collaborative Endeavors and Future Aspirations

Scroll, since its establishment in 2021, has been nurturing an open-source, scalable ecosystem via its zkEVM, while preserving Ethereum’s reputed security features and the community’s decentralization ethos. In the forthcoming period, Scroll eyes the launch of a decentralized prover network and a decentralized sequencer, further advancing its commitment towards a decentralized framework. The project’s collaborative efforts with the Ethereum Foundation’s Privacy and Scaling Explorations (PSE) group have also been notable, contributing to nearly half of the PSE zkEVM codebase.

The mainnet launch is expected to initially cater to onboarding infrastructure providers, gradually extending to global developer communities, fostering the creation of Web3 products, and ushering more users into the Ethereum fold. Scroll’s mission aligns with the broader vision of major value transfers occurring on Ethereum’s Layer 2 solutions, driven by enhanced user and developer experiences.

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Reddit to Discontinue Blockchain-Based Community Points Program

In a bid to prioritize scalable reward programs, Reddit is terminating its blockchain-based Community Points program, a decision that has garnered significant attention in recent days, according to Techcrunch. The system, conceived to incentivize positive engagement among users, will cease operation by early November 2021.

Program Overview

Launched in 2020, Community Points were awarded to users who actively contributed to certain subreddits, thereby encouraging enriched content and dialogue. The points, essentially Ethereum tokens, were stored in Reddit’s Vault, a designated cryptocurrency wallet. Once rewarded, these points were immutable, neither Reddit nor moderators could revoke them. Points could be spent on exclusive features such as memberships unlocking distinctive badges and animated emojis.

Post expenditure, points were “burned” and showcased alongside usernames in the corresponding subreddits as a reputation marker. The blockchain foundation of the program facilitated users to exhibit their “reputation” virtually anywhere online, embedding it on other platforms or apps. Even if users faced a ban on Reddit, their points remained intact on the blockchain, albeit losing access to their Vault, rendering the points futile.

Scaling Hurdles

Reddit initially utilized the Ethereum platform for the pilot program. However, the high transaction costs and limited bandwidth of Ethereum posed significant challenges. The official Community Points page mentioned, “Putting all Reddit users on the main Ethereum network, for example, would be infeasible and prohibitively expensive.” Consequently, in 2022, Reddit transitioned Community Points to Arbitrum Nova, a layer built atop Ethereum, aiming for enhanced scalability through ultra-low-cost transactions, increased energy efficiency, and robust security. Despite these adjustments, scaling the Community Points proved an insurmountable challenge for Reddit.

Impact and Reactions

The termination of Community Points has impacted the value of associated tokens drastically. Post-announcement, tokens such as MOON, BRICK, and DONUT witnessed a sharp decline over 60%. Users reported substantial losses, with some pointing to suspicious transactions conducted shortly before the announcement.

Alternate Reward Systems

Reddit has since shifted focus towards other community incentives like the Moderator Rewards Program and the Contributor Program. The latter allows eligible users to convert Reddit gold and karma into real cash. Under this program, users attaining at least 10 gold within a 30-day span are qualified for a monthly withdrawal. Those with over 5,000 karma can earn $1 per gold.

Tim Rathschmidt, Reddit’s director of consumer and product communications, emphasized the platform’s ongoing efforts to enhance community governance and empower communities and contributions. The objective now is to invest in and develop products that are simpler to adopt and understand, providing similar benefits to the discontinued Community Points program.

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Bitfinex and Polygon zkEVM Facilitate Tether Gold Transactions

On Wednesday, October 11, 2023, cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex announced the enablement of Tether Gold (XAUt) transactions through the Polygon zkEVM transport layer. The new functionality, which became effective from 03:00 PM UTC on the said date, allows Bitfinex customers to deposit and withdraw Tether Gold on the platform utilizing this advanced Layer-2 (L2) Rollup solution.

Following the integration of XAUt onto Polygon zkEVM, this initiative embodies a significant stride toward enhancing transaction efficiency and security. Polygon zkEVM, being in its Beta phase, is acclaimed for its Zero Knowledge (ZK) scaling solution, akin to the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). This equivalency implies that the extensive array of existing smart contracts, developer tools, and wallets can function seamlessly on this layer, thereby broadening the horizon for digital asset transactions and applications.

Polygon zkEVM is engineered to drastically reduce transaction costs by leveraging the prowess of ZK proofs, an aspect that is crucial for the XAUt transactions on Bitfinex. The reduction in transaction costs is achieved through a minimized zkSNARK footprint size in L1, which in turn lowers the total cost of usage for end-users, culminating in an enhanced user experience.

Moreover, the framework promises high performance marked by fast network finality and frequent validity proofs, courtesy of Polygon Zero technology, which is termed as the fastest ZK proof in the world. The Recursive STARK protocol further propels extreme scalability, enabling developers to create a diverse array of decentralized applications (dApps) for varied user experiences.

The security facet of Ethereum is inherited in the L2 realm with an added advantage of L2 batching for scaling. ZK proofs play a pivotal role in ensuring transaction validity and shielding user funds from potential threats. The assurance that the stored information remains immutable adds another layer of trust and reliability to the framework.

The XAUt-Polygon-zkEVM contract address for these transactions is 0xa7Bd526e698a7EE6261982607D7B64cc8e7be0ef. The contract serves as a bridge for these assets on the Polygon zkEVM, devoid of issuance or redemption by Tether. Bridged versions of Tether tokens are categorized as third-party services and technology as per Tether Gold’s Gold Token Terms of Sale and Service.

Despite the correlation, Polygon PoS and Polygon zkEVM are distinct chains. Users are urged to exercise caution and ascertain the accuracy of the token contract address and the chain used for transactions to avert potential complications.

In essence, the collaborative endeavor between Bitfinex and Polygon aims to streamline and secure Tether Gold transactions, reflecting the ongoing efforts to foster a more flexible and secure digital asset ecosystem.

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Polygon Co-Founder Proposes zk-Powered ApeChain

On October 11, a proposal titled “AIP Idea: ApeChain – A zk-Powered Polygon Layer-2 to Support ApeCoin Growth” was presented by Sandeep Nailwal, Co-Founder of Polygon Labs, to the ApeCoin DAO community. The proposition entails the creation of a zero-knowledge powered Layer-2 (zk-L2) network, termed “ApeChain,” employing Polygon’s Chain Development Kit (CDK) to bolster ApeCoin ecosystem’s expansion. The endeavor would encompass a dedicated ApeChain constructed and sustained by an Implementation Partner, alongside collaborative efforts with Polygon Labs and a development fund from ApeCoin DAO to nurture the progress of ApeCoin-integrated ventures and ApeChain-related public assets.

The ApeCoin community has recognized the necessity for ApeCoin to transition to its own chain for enhanced scalability, a sentiment echoed by Yuga Labs around 18 months prior. While an ApeCoin-specific chain’s deliberation continues, this proposal steps in to recommend a dedicated ApeChain using Polygon CDK, which facilitates developers in launching their Ethereum-based zk-powered L2 networks effortlessly with a focus on modularity.

ApeChain aims to provide a dedicated, cost-effective, and ultra-premium blockspace for ApeCoin DAO and its members, potentially offering sequencer fees and staking rewards to network validators, thereby addressing the scalability issue. Chains developed using Polygon CDK have witnessed significant adoption due to its flexibility in scaling Ethereum while ensuring maximal decentralization and security.

With an extensive network of decentralized applications (dApps) and millions of daily transactions, Polygon’s architecture stands as a robust and stable Ethereum L2 scaling solution. The proposal suggests that ApeChain will provide an efficient, secure, and decentralized execution environment for ApeCoin DAO projects, propelling the ApeCoin ecosystem towards remarkable growth.

The estimated cost for developing, deploying, and maintaining ApeChain is projected at approximately $200,000 annually from ApeCoin DAO. The proposal underscores the critical juncture ApeCoin DAO is at, and by deploying ApeChain using Polygon CDK, it continues to stride towards its mission of evolving into a decentralized protocol layer for community-led initiatives advancing culture into the metaverse.

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Ethereum’s Layer 2s Break New Ground in Scalability

Ethereum has marked a commendable 22% upsurge in its value as of September 2023, surpassing many substantial smart contract blockchains, according to Will Ogden Moore‘s article on Grayscale blog. The escalation is significantly credited to the advent of Layer 2 solutions (L2s) which have been instrumental in bolstering Ethereum’s scalability, rendering the network 100 times more cost-effective for its users. The endorsement of this paradigm came with the launch of BASE, a Layer 2 blockchain on Ethereum by Coinbase in August 2023. This development not only accentuates the growing credence in the Ethereum ecosystem but also extends the dissemination of decentralized applications to over 100 million Coinbase users. Concurrently, leading Layer 2 blockchains on Ethereum, namely Optimism and Arbitrum, have overstepped large Layer 1 blockchains like Solana in Total Value Locked (TVL), inching Ethereum closer to becoming the predominant Layer 1 blockchain if this trajectory persists.

The essence of Layer 2s emanates from the burgeoning need to augment Ethereum’s scalability. The analogy of a congested highway necessitating express lanes mirrors Ethereum’s scenario that propelled the genesis of Layer 2s. As transaction volumes swell, the network grapples with the scarcity of block space and surging gas fees, which peaked at an average of $196 per transaction by May 2022. This surge not only impinged on the user experience due to high costs and time inefficiency but also positioned Ethereum (~14 transactions per second) far behind competitors like Solana, capable of handling up to eight thousand transactions per second.

Layer 2 solutions ameliorate Ethereum’s inherent issues by processing transactions from decentralized applications, batching them, and transmitting a condensed version back to the main network for settlement. This mechanism drastically trims fees, up to 100x less than on the main chain, enhancing the usability and transaction capacity of the Ethereum ecosystem while buttressing its network security. Additionally, the incremental activity on Layer 2s reciprocates value to Ethereum with every transaction fee shared between the L2 and Ethereum network, alongside a minuscule burn of the total ETH supply, enriching the ETH value.

August witnessed a pivotal development with Coinbase launching its Layer 2 scaling solution, BASE, on Ethereum, extending the reach of dApps built on BASE Layer 2 to over 110 million users in the Coinbase ecosystem. BASE’s launch has already shown a notable upturn, surpassing Ethereum and other Layer 2 competitors in daily transactions within a month, and further propelled by the viral growth of decentralized application While presently centralized, BASE has expressed a progressive decentralization roadmap, aligning with the broader vision of Ethereum’s Layer 2 scalability agenda.

The previous months have seen a consistent rise in the usage of Layer 2 scaling solutions, with the aggregate daily active addresses on Layer 2 outpacing leading Layer 1s. The TVL metric also reflects a burgeoning trust in Layer 2s like Arbitrum and Optimism, which have surpassed Ethereum’s Layer 1 competitors Solana and Avalanche. The launch of the ARB token in March 2023 further entrenched Arbitrum as a leading Layer 2, boasting a TVL of $1.69 billion, only behind Tron and Ethereum.

While Layer 2s are pioneering in scaling Ethereum, they are at nascent stages of decentralization, posing certain risks. The predominant model involves a single entity running a “sequencer” for processing and batching transactions on Layer 2s, which could potentially lead to adverse outcomes such as outage risks. However, the progressive decentralization plans shared by most Layer 2s aim to mitigate such risks over time.

Despite the general consensus of a crypto market downturn since 2022, Ethereum’s ecosystem is burgeoning, courtesy of the Layer 2 solutions. The Layer 2 paradigm not only validates Ethereum’s model but also propels value to ETH, attracting more users and developers. With BASE, Coinbase is potentially paving the path towards mainstream adoption of Ethereum-based decentralized applications. The collective advancements in Layer 2s, despite the inherent centralization risks, are deemed to foster competition and innovation, positioning Ethereum to further cement its dominance in the smart contract blockchain realm.

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Binance Research: Ethereum’s Roadmap for Scalability and Decentralization

Ethereum, the blockchain that transitioned to a Proof-of-Stake model, is far from done with its upgrades, according to a report by Binance Research dated September 4, 2023. The report highlights Ethereum’s focus on scalability and decentralization, with Layer-2 solutions and Danksharding being key components.

The transition to Proof-of-Stake is merely a “significant milestone,” the report states. Layer-2 solutions are gaining traction as evidenced by a “257.7% YTD” increase in mainnet data publishing fees in 2023. These solutions are seen as the most efficient route to scalability.

Danksharding, a new concept introduced in the report, aims to make Ethereum a scalable and unified platform for settlement and data availability. Proto-Danksharding (EIP-4844) serves as its precursor, introducing “blob-carrying transactions.”

Blobs, another concept highlighted, operate on a multi-dimensional EIP-1559 fee market. They offer a more cost-effective solution for Layer-2s compared to the current calldata space. Key components like Data Availability Sampling and KZG Commitments are part of the path to Danksharding, aiming for “centralized block production with decentralized trustless block validation.”

On the state management front, Verkle Trees are identified as critical for Ethereum’s move towards statelessness. They enable nodes to validate blocks without storing the entire state database. High disk space requirements, a barrier to universal node access, are being addressed through history expiry (EIP-4444).

Other notable upgrades include Single Slot Finality, Distributed Validator Technology, and Secret Leader Election, which aim to refine Ethereum’s architecture further.

The Binance Research report provides a comprehensive look into Ethereum’s future, emphasizing its ongoing efforts to balance scalability with decentralized validation. With various upgrades in the pipeline, Ethereum aims to solidify its position as a robust blockchain platform.

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Ethereum Layer 2s See Surge in Popularity in Q1 2023

Ethereum layer 2 networks, including Optimism, Arbitrum, and Polygon, saw a surge in popularity in Q1 2023, according to a report from Web3 development platform Alchemy. The report, titled “Web3 Development Report,” cites data from Dune Analytics and shows that Ethereum users bridged over $635,000 worth of crypto assets to these networks from January to March, a significant increase of 44% over the fourth quarter of 2022 and 518% over the first quarter of 2022.

The growth in bridged assets may have been driven by successful airdrops from Optimism and Arbitrum in Q1 2023, as suggested by the Alchemy report. Additionally, layer 2s saw greater activity from developers, with the deployment of smart contracts related to layer 2s increasing by 160% compared to Q1 2022, despite a 30% decrease from Q4 2022.

Layer 2s have been offered as a solution to Ethereum’s scalability problem, which has been causing high gas fees since as early as 2020. By enabling more transactions to be processed off the main Ethereum network, layer 2s can significantly reduce the fees required to interact with the blockchain. As a result, users are increasingly turning to these new scalability solutions.

This trend is reflected in the broader Ethereum ecosystem, with increased developer interest observed in Q1 2023. According to the Alchemy report, Ethereum software development kits (SDKs) such as Ethers.js, Web3.js, Hardhat, and were downloaded 1.9 million times in the first quarter of 2023, an 8% increase from Q1 2022. Downloads of the MetaMask SDK, a tool used to develop apps that can interact with Ethereum wallet MetaMask, also increased in each month of the first quarter.

The crypto industry is coming off the back of a steep downturn in trading volume and crypto prices during 2022, with scandals like the UST depegging and FTX collapse causing many investors to shy away. However, despite this negative sentiment, users still flocked to these new scalability solutions.

While layer 2s have proven to be a useful tool for improving Ethereum’s scalability, some experts have argued that sharding the Ethereum network will also help to cut down on gas fees. Sharding involves breaking up the Ethereum network into smaller, more manageable pieces, allowing for more parallel processing of transactions. Ultimately, a combination of solutions will likely be necessary to address Ethereum’s scalability challenges and keep up with growing demand.


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EOS EVM Mainnet Launch Improves Interoperability Between EOS and Ethereum

The EOS Network Foundation (ENF) has announced the beta launch of the EOS EVM mainnet, a significant milestone towards bridging the gap between two major blockchain ecosystems, Ethereum and EOS. The EOS EVM mainnet emulates Ethereum’s Virtual Machine (EVM) and enables developers to deploy decentralized applications (DApps) written in Solidity, the programming language used by the vast majority of web3 developers.

The ENF team has identified Ethereum’s scalability issues as a challenge for mass-scale DApp deployment, which is why they have launched the EOS EVM mainnet. The team aims to leverage the performance of the EOS Network to address this challenge, while also combining the resources of the Ethereum community. According to Yves La Rose, founder and CEO of the EOS Network Foundation, the launch of EOS EVM paves the way for an interoperable future. He emphasizes that EOS EVM is a significant milestone that represents the network’s commitment to a multi-chain future.

La Rose adds that the EOS EVM mainnet offers developers access to lower fees and faster transactions of the EOS network. This is an important development as the Ethereum network is expecting more adoption after the most recent Shapella upgrade. To keep up with this adoption, projects have been prioritizing the implementation of EVM compatibility within their networks. For example, Astar Network recently launched smart contracts that support two virtual machines, including EVM and the WebAssembly Virtual Machine. This allows for the creation of new multichain applications within their network.

In addition, Polygon’s zkEVM, a zero-knowledge rollup scaling solution, released its beta version on March 27. This technology mimics the transaction execution environment of the Ethereum mainnet, allowing DApps to scale with higher performance. With more and more blockchain projects prioritizing EVM compatibility, it’s clear that the future of interoperability between different blockchains will rely heavily on this technology.

In conclusion, the launch of EOS EVM mainnet is a significant step towards improving interoperability between EOS and Ethereum. By combining the resources of the Ethereum community with the performance of the EOS Network, developers can deploy Solidity-based DApps on a high-performance platform with lower fees and faster transactions. As other projects like Astar Network and Polygon also prioritize EVM compatibility, it’s clear that this technology is becoming an important part of the blockchain ecosystem.


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ZeroSync to Bring ZK-Proofs to Expedite Bitcoin Validation

ZeroSync Association, a Swiss-based nonprofit organization, is pioneering the use of zero-knowledge proofs (ZK-proofs) for the validation of the Bitcoin network. ZeroSync’s open-source tooling allows users to validate the state of the Bitcoin network without having to download the entire blockchain or trust a third party for verification.

The organization is developing and maintaining software that enables succinct ZK-proofs on the Bitcoin blockchain. The group uses StarkWare’s proprietary Zero-Knowledge Scalable Transparent Argument of Knowledge (zk-STARK) validity proofs to generate succinct ZK-proofs for the Bitcoin network.

The use of ZK-proofs by ZeroSync promises to overhaul the process of verifying the Bitcoin blockchain. Node operators currently have to download a large amount of data to synchronize the correct state of the Bitcoin network. However, with ZK-proofs, ZeroSync aims to generate valid proof and verify the latest state of the blockchain almost instantaneously.

While ZK-proofs have been a revelation for the Ethereum ecosystem, powering several layer-2 scaling platforms, ZeroSync’s announcement highlights the promise of ZK-proofs for blockchain scalability and privacy by providing “almost-fixed-size” proofs verifying large computations.

ZeroSync is pioneering the application of ZK-proofs for the Bitcoin network, with the organization describing Bitcoin’s relative simplicity and the Unspent Transaction Output (UTXO) model as a unique value proposition for applying recursive proofs. ZeroSync notes that the ZK-Proof tools do not require consensus changes or additional trust assumptions for the Bitcoin network and its users.

The organization is building a software development kit that will allow developers to generate custom validity proof for specific use cases without requiring in-depth domain expertise. The kit will enable users to implement ZK-proofs for specific use cases while also ensuring compatibility with Bitcoin’s rules and regulations.

ZeroSync’s tool is currently in the prototype state but has the ability to prove the validity of individual assumed valid blocks, which verify all Bitcoin rules except for scripts. The team also has a working in-browser demo verifier for STARK proofs of Bitcoin blocks.

ZeroSync is using the Cairo programming language, pioneered by StarkWare, to create STARK-provable programs for computations. The organization is building a client for fast initial block download and implementing the first complete proof of Bitcoin consensus. The client will allow users to sync a full node without making code changes to Bitcoin core.

Geometry and StarkWare initially funded the ZeroSync Association, but the organization is establishing a nonprofit entity to enable ongoing development and maintenance from stakeholders within the Bitcoin community.

Overall, ZeroSync’s tooling will revolutionize the validation process of the Bitcoin blockchain, bringing ZK-proofs to the forefront of the Bitcoin ecosystem. The use of ZK-proofs will enable Bitcoin users to validate the state of the network more efficiently and securely, without having to trust third-party verifiers.


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