Zk-Starks Are the Next Logical Evolution of Privacy-Centric Features for Blockchains

Most cryptocurrency users are more than familiar with the concept of zk-snarks. Although such technological tools may improve overall cryptocurrency privacy, there is a new contender on the block. zk-starks, as the concept is known, will serve as a trustless solution allowing any blockchain in the world to provide anonymity services to users. It’s an interesting concept that deserves a closer look.

What is the Deal With Zk-starks?

While the concept of zk-snarks is pretty interesting, the technology still seemingly requires a significant amount of trust. That is more than fine with some people, but there are others who will look for truly anonymous and trustless solutions first and foremost. Although it remains to be seen if such things can even be achieved in the first place, the concept of zk-starks certainly shows there is room for improvement in the future.

zk-snarks are a technological feature we see in Zcash which will also be implemented in Ethereum at some point. Most people may not know zk-snarks are based on a complex concept which was first concocted over three decades ago. Zero-knowledge proofs allow users to verify whether statements are correct without receiving more than a true-or-false piece of information. It sounds very simplistic, but getting the concept right has proven pretty difficult.

Bringing this idea to blockchain-based currencies has also proven somewhat tricky. In fact, the first currency to make some progress in this regard is ZCash, although it is often criticized for its reliance on a “trusted setup”.  Then again, the ZCash developers never said their implementation was perfect by any stretch of the imagination. In its current form, there is a very real chance the ZCash implementation is subject to tampering, which is not what anyone likes to see.

Even to this day, the ZCash code is still being audited and modified to make the implementation better. zk-starks are seemingly the new evolution of this anonymity-focused concept, according to a group of Monero enthusiasts. It is a very bold claim and one that will require significant evidence to be backed up, to say the least. If this concept is viable, it will be not only faster and more secure, but also cheaper and more scalable. There is a lot of potential in this solution, although no one should expect to see this concept come to market in the near future either.

Indeed, we have no real idea how zk-starks are supposed to work in the first place. Only one aspect of the concept has been disclosed to the public so far, which shows there are still more questions than answers at this point. We do know the zk-starks solution will remove the need for a master key associated with this implementation. Right now, zk-snarks still require such a key, which may or may not be destroyed.

In a way, it is not entirely surprising to see Monero enthusiasts coming up with such a solution that may trump other privacy and anonymity solutions available today. Monero has a major leg up over other currencies as it is the only currency to effectively achieve privacy and anonymity to this day. That being said, there is always a need for better features and more privacy, which is where zk-starks could come into the picture. It will be interesting to see whether or not any major collaborations come to be in this regard.