Polygon, StarkWare Tout New 'Circle STARKs' as Breakthrough for Zero-Knowledge Proofs

Circle STARKs are supposed to accelerate the proving process for zero-knowledge rollups, according to a white paper published by Polygon Labs and StarkWare.

AccessTimeIconFeb 21, 2024 at 7:30 p.m. UTC
Updated Mar 8, 2024 at 9:54 p.m. UTC
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  • "Circle STARKs," the new cryptographic proofs, are supposed to make transactions faster than cheaper than under the current technology.
  • The revelation marks a collaboration for Polygon Labs and StarkWare, typically rivals in the race to scale the Ethereum blockchain ecosystem with layer-2 networks.

The blockchain teams Polygon Labs and StarkWare, nominally rivals in the race to build leading layer-2 networks atop Ethereum, have come together to build a new type of cryptographic proof called "Circle STARKs" designed to make transactions faster and cheaper than under the current technology.

The teams hailed the new proofs as a breakthrough for zero-knowledge rollup technology, which is used to create auxiliary layer-2 networks that can process transactions more efficiently than on a base blockchain like Ethereum.

According to a press release seen by CoinDesk, the new Circle STARKs are supposed to accelerate the proving process for rollups, thus enhancing the scalability and the efficiency of blockchains.

In the proving process, a bunch of layer-2 transactions are bundled together and then passed back to the Ethereum mainnet blockchain, posted in what is known as a “validity proof.”

A STARK proof is a type of validity proof, and was invented by StarkWare co-founder Eli Ben-Sasson. The new Circle STARK proofs are supposed to finalize much faster than the current STARK proofs do.

StarkWare has been in the news this week because it's the primary developer behind the layer-2 blockchain Starknet, whose controversial airdrop of the native STRK tokens instantly gave the project a market capitalization north of $1 billion. Polygon's MATIC tokens boast a market cap around $8.5 billion.

“This really is coming to play in Plonky3, which is our new proving system,” Brendan Farmer, co-founder of Polygon, said in an interview with CoinDesk. "It's really, really simple. This just leads to much faster proofs. We expect like seven-to-10x improvement."

Plonky2 is the current proving system for Polygon, and was introduced in January 2022.

The ultimate benefit is lower transaction fees to users and the ability to prove more types of applications, Farmer said.

The collaboration between StarkWare and Polygon Labs might come as a surprise, since the two teams are often competing against each other in the wider Ethereum scaling landscape. The timing of the release of Circle STARKS is unspecified but the whitepaper, published on Wednesday and authored by Ulrich Haböck of Polygon Labs, along with David Levit and Shahar Papini of StarkWare, is currently available online.

“I think this will lead to the most efficient proving systems for a while,” Eli Ben-Sasson, co-founder of StarkWare, said in an interview with CoinDesk. “Undoubtedly there will be more breakthroughs and even further improvements. I don't think this is the end of anything, but it's a very important next step and milestone.”

UPDATE (Feb. 21, 19:49 UTC): Adds author names of whitepaper in.


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Margaux Nijkerk

Margaux Nijkerk reports on the Ethereum protocol and L2s. A graduate of Johns Hopkins and Emory universities, she has a masters in International Affairs & Economics. She holds a small amount of ETH and other altcoins.

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