All blockchain projects have some core characteristics, such as decentralization, security and transparency. But a huge drawback for many blockchain users is its ability to provide privacy in a transparent public ledger. But how can you have both transparency of transactions and the anonymity of users? This is where ZK proofs come in.
What is ZK Proof?
Zero knowledge proofs are a type of cryptographic proof used in privacy-preserving applications. They allow one party to show knowledge of a particular piece of data to another party without revealing the actual information.
In essence, it allows you to validate that a transaction or piece of information is genuine without knowing anything else. This makes ZK proofs widely used in applications such as secure transactions, communications and identity verification.
How Does A ZK Proof Work?
The ZK proof typically involves three steps:
- Setup: The prover and verifier agree on the algorithm or function that will be used to verify the proof. This could be a hash function, mathematical formula or an encryption algorithm.
- Interaction: The prover first generates a statement that they want to prove. Next, they use the algorithm to prove the statement is true. The proof is often a series of computations that transforms the original data into a simpler statement to prove. The prover then sends the proof to the verifier, who checks its validity using the agreed-upon algorithm.
- Verification: If the verifier determines that the proof is valid, they accept the statement as true. The verifier does not learn anything else about the data or information being proven beyond what is necessary to establish its validity. This means that the proof is “zero-knowledge” – the verifier can accept the proof without any additional information.
The above steps are for interactive zero-knowledge proofs, which require communication between the prover and verifier. Other types of proofs do not require communication between the two parties.
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Advantages of ZK Proof
ZK proofs enable a platform to communicate and store significantly lesser information. This greatly reduces bandwidth usage and increases the speed at which transactions can be validated, increasing scalability.
ZK proofs employ complex hash functions or mathematical expressions to generate proofs for data. These are virtually impossible for any individual or system to crack, making the system highly secure against threats.
Lower Transaction Costs
Reducing the amount of information that has to be shared with the main blockchain also reduces the processing time of a transaction. Lower processing time means payments can be made at much cheaper rates than before.
Zero knowledge of the information also helps cement privacy and anonymity on the blockchain. Since no additional information is being shared, malicious actors cannot access it to trace individuals.
Use Cases for ZK Proofs
There are several zero-knowledge proof crypto use cases, such as
Crypto exchanges everywhere require trades and swaps to be conducted in real time. This guarantees that the price users see is the price they pay for tokens. When this is done at scale, the most effective tool for fast and scalable decentralized exchange performance is to use ZK proofs for transactions.
Online gaming platforms can use ZK proofs for a variety of tasks. They can be used to prevent cheating and demonstrate that no changes have been made to the game’s code. Gambling and card game platforms can use ZK proofs to show that outcomes are not rigged. Finally, microtransactions can be conducted faster and more securely.
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Supply Chain Management
As seen above, real-time data availability and limited information transfer can benefit several applications. This includes supply chain management, which gains from up-to-date access to information and does not require full information to perform these tasks.
Finally, using ZK proofs in ID verification is perfect to preserve privacy without reducing the power of platforms. It blends privacy and overall security to create a safe environment for all parties involved.
Types of ZK Proofs
ZK-SNARKS have two key features – they are succinct and non-interactive. The first shows that these types of proofs are small and can be verified in a single computation. Non-interactive also tells us that there does not need to be any communication between the prover and verifier.
ZK-STARKs are similar to ZK-SNARKs, but there are a few key differences. First, STARKs are more scalable than SNARKs, because they can prove complex statements without compromising on the size of the proof or the time taken to verify it. Second, they do not require a trusted setup between the prover and the verifier.
These kinds of proofs are primarily used in privacy-preserving blockchains. They allow users to make efficient, small-sized and secure transactions as they do not require a trusted setup.
How to Participate in ZK Proofs?
Setting up a ZK Proof Wallet
Getting started with ZK-proof platforms is simple. First, pick the token you want to transact with and acquire a crypto wallet that supports them. For example, if you want to transact in MATIC or LRC, you can use any wallet that supports ERC-20 tokens.
Participating in ZK Proof Transactions
Next, transactions work the same way as any other crypto payments. Simply choose the wallet you want to send tokens to, enter the number of tokens and confirm the transaction. Such transactions should only take a few seconds to be finalized.
Staking and Governance in ZK Proofs
As mentioned above, there is very little difference in the process of using ZK-proof platforms. Thus, you can perform staking and governance directly through your wallet or the platform’s website just like any other crypto.
Future of ZK Proofs
Advancements in ZK Proof Technology
Since proofs can be based on a large variety of mathematical functions, improvements in hardware and software may lead to more complex variants of ZK proofs. This will lead to faster and more secure proofs in the future.
Integration with Other Blockchain Platforms
Most of the platforms that use ZK proofs are layer 2 scaling solutions for blockchains like Ethereum. Integrating this feature into the base Ethereum blockchain may lead to much higher performance for the platform.
Potential Impact on the Blockchain Industry
If ZK proofs become easier to implement and integrate with base blockchains, layer 2 solutions may lose their purpose. This would significantly consolidate blockchain networks as they no longer need to rely on outside assistance.
Summary of Key Points
ZK proofs can be used in secure transactions, communications, and personal identity. The process can be interactive or non-interactive, with zk-SNARKs, zk-STARKs, and Bulletproofs being the most common types of ZK proofs. These proofs offer numerous advantages, including increased scalability, improved security, lower transaction costs, and enhanced privacy. Several industries can use ZK proofs, such as decentralized exchanges, gaming platforms, supply chain management, and identity verification.
Final Thoughts on ZK Proofs
Zk proofs are among the most important innovations in blockchain technology. They blend together efficiency and privacy to create platforms that service millions of users without any compromise. Further innovations will only improve how well ZK proofs can benefit both old and new crypto platforms.
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