'500 Transactions a Second': Vitalik Says Zk-Snarks Could Scale Ethereum

A form of cryptography pioneered by zcash might help scale ethereum "by a huge amount," says founder Vitalik Buterin.

AccessTimeIconSep 24, 2018 at 12:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 8:24 a.m. UTC
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A form of cryptography pioneered by zcash might help scale ethereum, the founder of the platform Vitalik Buterin said on a research forum Saturday.

Named zk-snarks, Buterin wrote that by using the tech, ethereum can potentially scale "by a huge amount," up to 500 transactions per second, without relying on layer-two scaling solutions, such as Plasma or Raiden. As detailed by CoinDesk, zk-snarks allow for large batches of information to be compressed into so-called succinct proofs, which remain the same size regardless of the amount of inputs.

Buterin wrote:

"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."

Continuing, Buterin describes a method that includes a "relayer" node, a kind of computer that performs the task of aggregating transactions in exchange for transaction fees.

"Anyone can be a relayer; there is no assumption of even an untrusted special 'operator' existing," Buterin added.

As a result, he estimated that such a setup could lead to gains of "~24x for ETH transactions and ~50x for ERC-20 transfers."

The proposal comes at a time when pressure is mounting on ethereum researchers to find ways to increase the transaction capacity of the platform. For example, a tweet by Parity communications officer Afri Schoedon on Friday urged developers to "stop deploying dapps to ethereum. We are running at capacity."

In response, Buterin tweeted that zk-snark scaling solutions might alleviate the pressure faced by the ethereum blockchain.

In Saturday's forum comments, Buterin also said that, while aggregating transactions with zk-snarks is computationally intensive, the technology is likely to improve in the future.

"I understand that the above requires some quite heavy duty computing work on the part of the relayers," Buterin wrote, concluding:

"But 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."

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