"We need a first step toward more privacy," Vitalik Buterin, founder of the ethereum blockchain network, said Wednesday.
In a new HackMD post, Buterin detailed a design to help obscure ethereum user activity on the blockchain. More specifically, Buterin proposed a "minimal mixer design" aimed at obfuscating user addresses when sending fixed quantities of ether (ETH).
According to Buterin, users can transact in one of two ways. "The default behavior" is to send and receive ether from a single account, which, of course, also means that all of a user's activity will be publicly linked on the blockchain. Alternatively, users can transact through multiple accounts or addresses. However, this too isn't a perfect solution to obfuscating user activity on the blockchain.
"The transactions you make to send ETH to those addresses themselves reveal the link between them," detailed Buterin in his post.
As such, by creating two smart contracts on ethereum – "the mixer and the relayer registry" – users can opt-in to making private transactions on the ethereum blockchain through what is called an anonymity set.
Buterin told CoinDesk in a follow-up email:
Buterin added that the design does not require any changes to ethereum on a protocol level but could be something implemented by a group of users today.
To this point, Eric Conner, product researcher at blockchain startup Gnosis, noted that a key strength of Buterin's proposal was precisely its ease for integration.
"Strengths are it gives us a solid privacy solution if users want it," Conner explained. "The goal is to make a solution that can be easily integrated into current wallets."
At the same time, the design proposed by Buterin does require users to pay a fee – called gas cost – in order to send private transactions. However, for the use cases that Buterin envisions in his mind the fee won't be a major deterrent for users.
Buterin tweeted about the design:
Vitalik Buterin image by Christine Kim for CoinDesk
CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by Block.one; both companies have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk offers all employees above a certain salary threshold, including journalists, stock options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.