Mina Foundation CEO: Zero-knowledge proofs become the killer feature of Web 3

Since last year, trends have shown that zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs) will play an important role in the future of cryptocurrencies and Web3 for scalability and user permissioned privacy. This is exciting as this lays the groundwork for Zero Knowledge (ZK) rollout in the crypto ecosystem (fits my proposed timeline and my early 2021 predictions :) ) and lays the groundwork for being the killer feature of Web3.


Web3 is a widely used term, but its definition is vague. Optimistically, its best definition is that Web3 will provide the decentralization of Web1, and the richness of Web2, while addressing many of Web2’s drawbacks.

Web2 has a lot of problems: centralization leads to hacking, data breaches, ruthless exploitation of users, and no one disputes it. These are systemic problems.

Web3 brings user-centric values, decentralization, and cryptography that promise to solve some of these problems.

Optimistic final definitions aside, I think Web3 today is really just the user experience of accessing cryptocurrency from the web, and the ecosystem built around it. It opens up many exciting possibilities; decentralized finance, NFT marketplaces, and decentralized organizations, to name a few.

However, it is missing some key components needed to have a wider impact.

Web3 and Privacy

Under Web2, we’re used to a federated privacy model. In this architecture, we preserve the privacy of personal information of network participants in general, while entrusting the right to privacy to the specific entities we interact with.

While this opens up design space for personal data processing, it also introduces significant counterparty risk. Data breaches, monetization of private data, and the permanent availability of leaked data are all significant flaws of this architecture.

On the other hand, Web3 does not have features that apply to private data. While this means it doesn’t have to deal with Web2’s privacy shortcomings, this component has also been missing so far. In Web3, you are not interacting with a centralized entity, you are interacting with a decentralized network. While this does remove the downsides of shared data and counterparty risk, interacting with decentralized entities also presents new challenges in how to achieve trust in this new environment.

Changing this and introducing privacy features will be essential if Web3 is to be competitive in a wide range of applications. Otherwise, it would not be suitable for numerous use cases such as banking accounts, online shopping, identity, social networking and business transactions, or would create a worse privacy environment than Web2 when moving to cryptocurrencies for other improvements.

Web3 and security

Web2 has other obvious problems of concentration of power, and in addition to loss of privacy, there are many other undesirable consequences for users. In theory, Web3 has a huge opportunity to eliminate this pitfall, rather than declaring the rules of its system in decentralized code.

However, today’s cryptocurrencies do not realize this potential. If you are running a full node, you get the full, mathematically guaranteed cryptographic security provided by the cryptocurrency. However, running a full node is not feasible for most cryptocurrencies or users. It requires expensive hardware and requires downloading and staying connected to a massive 100 GB blockchain.

This paradigm problem is especially evident in Web3. Encrypted clients running in browsers cannot handle these demands.

As such, Web3 today relies on centralized entities that need to be trusted to operate, and these intermediary connections are relayed to the decentralized network behind Web3. This is worrying because it replicates many related patterns that already exist in Web2. Heading into the new year, Moxie Marlinspike describes this in detail in an article — the few centralized services that act as intermediaries in this space are replicating the same model as Web2, only on a larger scale. Combined with the aforementioned privacy concerns, these entities have super ISP power to read and control access to all data, which is a disaster for user sovereignty.

These entities, like Infura and Alchemy, are a weak point in Web3’s decentralization opportunities. Users in Venezuela and Ukraine recently found their access to Infura censored. While these powers have so far been limited to specific regions, if these access points become a tool for governments to control cryptocurrencies in general, and entrepreneurs at these access points give favored projects over others, and generally withdraw from Web3 We wouldn’t be surprised if we made a profit.

The impact of zero-knowledge proofs

These security and privacy issues are technical issues. Fortunately, zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs) neatly solve these problems. In terms of privacy, ZKP allows users to privately share information to the decentralized network, while the data is authenticated, providing security guarantees for the network. In terms of security, ZKP can guarantee that the data that users receive from the network is authentic, without trusting a third party.

This also starts our usual pattern in Web2 of sharing trusted information with applications. But the decentralization of Web3 also eliminates the possibility of betrayal of trust by applications common in the centralized world of Web2.

In terms of privacy, we can think about the possibility of ZKPs on authentication issues. Suppose we want to create a collection of NFTs, and each person can only own at most one NFT in the collection. Simply doing so requires users to disclose their identities. With ZKP, however, users can show proof of their unique identity without revealing their specific identity. In a Web2 environment, a centralized entity is required to track users to ensure their uniqueness. In general Web3, users are required to disclose their identities and corresponding NFTs. Whereas in Web3 with ZKP, this can be done completely privately, with all the same guarantees one would expect.

And in terms of security, we can imagine a world of cryptocurrencies where most financial states are accessed through the web. With ZKP attesting on-chain state, DeFi users can be confident that the account state they see on the network truly matches the on-chain state, ensuring security. From a user’s perspective, this is similar to the transition from HTTP to HTTPS, minus the risk of censorship.

The new functionality of ZKP is not only suitable for opening up Web2 functionality to Web3, it will also greatly expand the range of new possibilities available to Web3. Here are some buildable ZKP-enhanced applications:

  • Everyone can own one NFT in a group
  • Allows tweet authors to generate NFTs from their tweets in a decentralized manner
  • Users can prove ownership of a subset of NFTs without revealing which specific NFTs they own
  • Generate non-transferable NFTs to identify real-world or digital achievements (like I’m a major contributor to open source projects)
  • Twitter users can create DAOs for followers
  • Anonymous voting to unlock the DAO
  • Connecting existing financial data to the crypto world to help bootstrap DeFi
  • The large number of enhancements provided by ZKP will be a huge breakthrough for Web3, allowing Web3 to provide a better experience than Web2. While Web2 struggles with sensitive user data and privacy, Web3 will win with ZKPs. It will address one of the biggest pain points for users of the centralized web and accelerate the push to move to Web3 beyond what we can do with DeFi, NFTs or other emerging waves.
  • In short, if we want to create a new, decentralized internet, we will need security, scale, and privacy—zero-knowledge technology is the best solution.

Why 2022

Which brings us to the question, why now? One reason is that Web3 has seen massive growth over the past 12 to 18 months, creating an environment for further experimentation and development.

At the same time, now is a good time for zero knowledge (ZK), as the technology is now ready to be used in the field. Technological improvements made in 2020 allow for a wider rollout of Zero Knowledge in 2021, bringing ZK Rollups to widespread attention as the primary tool for scaling. 2021 also sees further technical improvements to ZKP’s verification and proof performance — Mina’s SNARK Kimchi is 4 – 6 times faster than last year, while maintaining its lightweight and efficient proof size.

Following ZK’s witness to the above cryptographic developments, 2021 could see a massive development of ZK programmability products. ZK programmability means ZK goes beyond scaling, zkRollups or zkEVM. In the next step, we will bring a more powerful dapp that takes full advantage of ZK’s core functionality, which we call zkApp.

In 2021, O(1) Labs released an early version of the Mina zkApp. This is the first time developers have been able to write ZK in a widely used language (Typescript, etc.). O(1) held its first workshop and hackathon for Mina’s ZK smart contracts not too long ago in December 2021, with more planned for this year. At Mina, we see a huge opportunity to unlock all the potential that ZKP offers developers through the programmability of ZK.

With SnarkyJS supporting simple ZK programming, developers are already building with it, and the Mina to Ethereum zkBridge is taking shape, and soon we’ll start seeing all the ZK application examples mentioned above deployed on Web3.

Whether it’s Mina launching the first batch of applications, or more industries adopting ZK technology more widely, ZK will be added to the Web3 DAPP in 2022.

Other relevant zk forecasts for 2022 and beyond

The ZK era in crypto has begun, and it will have a huge impact on Web3. I think this year we will also witness the following things:

  • As Web3 takes off, we’ll see a growing need for privacy and security from users. ZKPs will be the most promising tools to help users take control of their data and selectively share personal information. This will bring another massive migration of users to Web3 and further weaken Web2-based networks.
  • ZK applications will roll out first in the most obvious areas: voting and private identity management and rollups will play a major role in this development.
  • At least one zkEVM will be in beta by the end of the year
  • At least one major tech company will announce a related collaboration with ZKP — it’s too early for a product, but a team formation or major research effort will take place.
  • In addition to this, we are also seeing a broader rollout of ZKP timelines taking center stage right now. After revisiting, I predict we’ll see it unfold as follows:
  • Before 2020 — laying the technical foundation
  • 2020 — The underlying cryptography reaches a functional tipping point
  • 2021 — ZKPs emerge and see how they will break through (see last year’s forecast)
  • 2022 — Disruption starts and takes off as ZKPs start to be a big part of differentiated offerings, scaling, and more
  • 2023/2024 — Disruption in full swing as ZKPs become a major component of product growth
  • 2024/2025 — applications leveraging ZKP and ZKP platforms dominate
  • 2025/2026 — Generalization of ZKP and ZKP-driven platforms

Some final thoughts

As zero-knowledge proofs and cryptography become mainstream for building a scalable, privacy-preserving, and secure Web3, we will have an opportunity to build technologies that truly empower users.

Fortunately, we see in Web3 a vision of value-based product execution. We can see that cryptocurrencies have accomplished some feats such as the transition from PoW to PoS. We look forward to achieving even more as cryptocurrencies have a more profound impact on the world. At Mina, we are excited to continue to drive this participant-driven culture and look forward to building the future together with our community.

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:https://coinyuppie.com/mina-foundation-ceo-zero-knowledge-proofs-become-the-killer-feature-of-web-3/
Coinyuppie is an open information publishing platform, all information provided is not related to the views and positions of coinyuppie, and does not constitute any investment and financial advice. Users are expected to carefully screen and prevent risks.

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