Mapping the ZK ecosystem: Polkadot 💮

In this second chapter, we will explore the Zero Knowledge ecosystem on Polkadot.

In our previous Mapping the ZK ecosystem series volume, we covered Cosmos. Now, we will explore the state of Zero Knowledge Tech in another close-to-home ecosystem: Polkadot.

As with Cosmos, Polkadot is a very special community for us. We have long been in the set on Kusama and on the Kusama Governance Council. We run a number of validators on Polkadot, and a collator on Moonbeam and are always exploring new networks to validate on in the future.


The state of Zero Knowledge on Polkadot

Dotsama is becoming a growing ecosystem for privacy projects. According to parachains.info, thirteen projects are actively working on privacy solutions, although most of these are in a relatively early phase of development. We have identified at least five projects working with Zero Knowledge (ZK) technologies specifically and it is great to  see the evolution of this space. 


Some additional trends we have observed: 

1) most of the privacy and ZK work is being done on the parachain level

2) larger networks with traction are for the most part missing privacy-preserving dApps.

 

For example, we only identified one privacy project on Moonbeam (Mystiko Network).  To encourage more of this type of development, we launched in July 2022 an initiative on Moonbeam – Privacy on Moonbeam – which will focus on bringing privacy devs to Moonbeam and Dotsama.


Manta, the biggest player in the room

Manta Network is, without a doubt, the biggest ZK project on Polkadot. Although Manta is not yet live in the Polkadot ecosystem, Calamari, it’s canary network, has been active on Kusama for some time. Both networks aim to become the “privacy-as-a-service” providers for the broader ecosystems. They offer, among other things, the ability to shield (or make private) any parachain asset. 

Calamari, as of right now, has over 29,000 active wallets. It only offers the testnet version of MantaPay, an on-chain multi-asset shielded pool using zk-SNARKs. On the other hand, Manta Network is still under development and is rumoured to be launching in Q1 2023. 

Recently, Manta and Calamari have had several important highlights. According to their latest update, their prover speed reached a 10x speed advantage over the industry standard ZCash (Sapling), which translates to a reduction of ZKP generation speed from 30 to 2-5 seconds in the latest version released in Q3.

 

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Kilt, preserving ID privacy with ZKPs.

Although it’s not a 100% ZK focused project, Kilt has always envisioned having ZKPs as part of its stack, as mentioned in their initial whitepaper

That vision came to reality with a collaboration between Fractal, Kilt and Polkadex back in January 2021. The three organisations came together to “create a decentralised KYC system for exchange customers.” In that partnership, Polkadex would use a ZK proof of identity obtained from the KILT blockchain to solve the problem of order matching with identified individuals. That said, there has yet to be an official update on the status of the collaboration. 

A more recent implementation using Kilt DID (Decentralised Identity) capabilities, and ZKPs is the zkID.app built by zCloak, which proves the identity of users stored on Kilt without revealing any other information.


zCloak, ZK as a Service

 

zCloak will leverage XCM to offer its ZK computation “Cloaking space” to other public blockchains in the ecosystem and beyond. Their Cloaking Space computation paradigm is possible thanks to a zk-STARK Virtual Machine that provides a private and scalable computation environment for Web 3.0.

They have already completed the test phase on Rococo and are waiting to enter a Parachain auction to compete for a slot on the Polkadot relay chain. They already have partnerships like the one mentioned above and another with Litentry, a chain specialising in Decentralised Identity. 


Mystiko Network, Privacy as an SDK (PaaS) provider

Deployed on top of Moonbeam, Mystiko offers an SDK for L1s, L2s, bridges, wallets, and dApps to launch privacy-preserving features powered by ZKPs. Although it’s not native to Moonbeam, its positioning is aligned with the network’s vision of creating an interoperability hub. 

Mystiko aims to become a base layer – in other words, a Web3 standard for those applications that want to boost privacy and scalability due to their design of EVM-compatible rollup and zk-SNARKs for transactions. They also support Ethereum, BSC, Polkadot, Solana, Avalanche, Polygon, Near and Terra. Mystiko is integrated with Axelar, which further increases its interoperability potential.


ZeroPool, from Eth to Dot.

Natively built on Ethereum and currently building on Polkadot’s Rococo, ZeroPool is a Web3Foundation-funded, multichain application that offers atomic swaps and a common anonymity set. They have a very scientific product offering, all stemming from the project they started at ethDenver. 

According to their latest update, they are researching moving to PLONK, targeting radical acceleration of computation. However, they have been affected by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.




Zerochain, a privacy layer for Substrate

Although it’s not a parachain, Zerochain provides blockchains built on Substrate with the opportunity to protect the user’s identity and sensitive data stored on-chain. It combines two Zero Knowledge protocols, Zether and Zcash, with Substrate. 

Its main goal is to “provide a secure and efficient confidential and anonymous payment protocol for fungible assets.” It’s still in the development phase, according to parachains.info.  


Conclusion

While not all the projects mentioned in this article are native apps to Polkadot or parachains, the diversity of these privacy applications being deployed within the ecosystem at all levels is undoubtedly exciting. Also, the fact that Polkadot is attracting multichain privacy protocols is positive and reflects something in Dotsama DNA – that is the focus on interoperability. 

One trend developing across the blockchain space but also taking place heavily on Polkadot is the Decentralised Identification (DID) solutions. Uniquely, in this ecosystem the very inception of these solutions are heavily tied to privacy technologies and thinking. 

Of course, even though these chains, apps and solutions offer a bright path towards a more private and user respecting future, more development and teams entering the fray is still needed to really take this effort to the next level. 



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