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Are ZK-proofs the answer to Bitcoin’s Ordinal and BRC-20 problem?

Are ZK-proofs the answer to Bitcoin's Ordinal and BRC-20 problem?


The Bitcoin (BTC) network has faced a litmus test in recent weeks due to the increased demands of Ordinals and BRC-20 tokens being inscribed onto the preeminent blockchain. 

The resulting increase in fees and transaction congestion has left the wider Bitcoin community frustrated, considering that some BRC-20 tokens involve meme tokens that have attracted billions of dollars in capital in recent weeks.

The Ethereum ecosystem has benefitted from the development of scaling solutions that have brought massive improvements in network capacity and processing ability. Zero-knowledge proofs (zk-proofs) in particular have grabbed headlines over the past few months, with a number of projects adopting the scaling technology.

Cointelegraph spoke exclusively to Eli Ben-Sasson, the co-founder of StarkWare and the pioneer of zk-STARKs (zero-knowledge Scalable Transparent Argument of Knowledge), to explore whether the technology could be the answer to Bitcoin’s latest challenge.

Zk-proofs are cryptographic protocols that allow a party to prove a statement or data is true without revealing any information. The technology assures privacy and security while adding capacity to blockchains in particular, by reducing the computational load needed to verify transactions and other data and information stored on chain.

Related: zk-STARKs vs. zk-SNARKs explained

The renowned mathematician and cryptographer credits Bitcoin for starting his journey of exploration around the promise of validity, cryptographic and zero-knowledge proofs to improve blockchain technology. Highlighting the “deeply entwined” nature of the scaling solutions and blockchains, Ben-Sasson summed up the potential for zk-proofs to benefit the Bitcoin network:

“Validity proofs and STARKs allow you in a very efficient way to use the integrity of math to extend the orbit of integrity that a blockchain covers to invite anyone to participate and add more capacity to the network.”

Bitcoin’s blockchain will continue to act as an inner circle of integrity, while zk-proofs extend the origin of integrity and bring in more capacity, creating what Ben-Sasson described as a “positive flywheel” effect:

“The more capacity you bring, the more social functions can be used, even if it’s money, you can do micro payments, or you can add new things if you allow smart contracts. And then there’s more trust in the system and it adds more value.”

Ben-Sasson reiterated his belief that the Bitcoin network could see greater…

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