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Breakpoint 2023: ZK on Solana: Private Solana Programs

Published on 2023-11-09

An exploration of zero-knowledge proofs for enhanced privacy on the Solana blockchain.

The notes below are AI generated and may not be 100% accurate. Watch the video to be sure!


At the Breakpoint 2023 conference, experts discussed the integration of zero-knowledge proofs, also known as ZK, into the Solana blockchain to enable private transactions and smart contracts. Unlike the commonly discussed application of ZK in roll-ups for scalability, Solana-based projects light protocol and elusive aim to provide privacy solutions. By leveraging ZK, these projects allow for private account creation, asset holdings, and smart contract interactions that maintain transactional privacy while proving the legitimacy of the actions taken. The conversation also covered the importance of privacy in the context of both web2 and web3, the evolution of trust from centralized entities to cryptographic proof, and glimpses into the future of privacy technology on blockchains.

Key Points:

The Basics of Zero-Knowledge Proofs and Privacy

Zero-knowledge proofs are a groundbreaking technology that enables one party to prove a statement's truth to another without revealing any information beyond the validity of the statement itself. In Solana's privacy-focused applications like elusive, ZK proofs allow for the creation of private accounts and interactions with smart contracts whilst maintaining the user's anonymity. Unlike traditional web2 privacy, which relies on centralized entities for data encryption, ZK proofs use mathematical verification to protect identities and transactions on the blockchain, fostering trust in the system's integrity.

Light Protocol and Private Solana Programs

Light protocol is designed to enhance developers' ability to create private Solana programs, known as PSPs. These programs operate similarly to standard Solana programs but with the addition of private state transitions alongside the public ones. Currently available on Solana's DevNet, PSPs are expected to significantly influence sectors like DeFi and gaming by enabling private trade execution and on-chain gaming mechanics such as fog of war or hidden information in card games, without relying on off-chain servers.

The Role of Privacy in Web3 and Comparisons with Web2

Privacy in the web3 ecosystem is often compared to the privacy expectations users have from their web2 experiences. Discussants highlighted that mainstream users expect privacy as a basic feature, something that web3 has struggled to deliver by default due to the public nature of blockchain transactions. Transitioning to web3 privacy through ZK proofs does not rely on centralized parties for data protection, instead offering cryptographic proofs of privacy and accuracy, as demonstrated by the increase in privacy-focused smart contracts and applications.

Future of Privacy and Adoption Challenges

Looking ahead, the consensus amongst panelists was that integration and user adoption present more significant barriers to privacy in web3 than technical challenges. With ZK proofs already making considerable strides, the main focus should be on improving user experience and establishing effective bridges between existing and privacy-focused applications. This means creating an environment where users can interact with their favorite protocols privately without having to think about the underlying privacy mechanisms, and on the adoption side, identifying and incentivizing unique use cases for privacy technologies.

Facts + Figures

  • Zero-knowledge proofs allow for privacy without revealing more than the validity of a statement.
  • By using ZK, elusive enables private transactions and interaction with smart contracts on Solana.
  • Light protocol allows for the creation of Private Solana Programs (PSPs) that integrate private state transitions.
  • The upcoming Solana update 1.17 is critical for light's private state functionality.
  • DeFi and gaming are two sectors that could greatly benefit from ZK privacy enhancements.
  • Current privacy methods in web2 involve centralized entities that control data encryption.
  • Privacy in web3 aims to eliminate centralized trust, relying on cryptographic math instead.
  • The discussants highlighted a greater need for user-friendly applications of ZK technology.
  • Integration and user adoption are seen as bigger hurdles than technical challenges for privacy in blockchain.
  • The panel predicts that most transactions on Solana could be encrypted using zero-knowledge proofs in the future.

Top quotes

  • "Zero-knowledge is really nice in the sense that it allows you to prove that a statement is true without revealing anything other than the fact that that statement is true."
  • "The most basic primitive that we have on Solana for proving that you're able to execute a transaction is the signature."
  • "Light protocol enables developers to build private Solana programs."
  • "Privacy in Web3 isn't all that different from privacy in Web2."
  • "Instead of having to trust the company... Instead all you have to do is trust math."
  • "It's mainly an adoption problem at this time."

Questions Answered

What are zero-knowledge proofs and why are they important in blockchain privacy?

Zero-knowledge proofs, or ZK proofs, are cryptographic techniques that allow someone to prove the truth of a statement without revealing any other information. This technology is essential for blockchain privacy because it enables private transactions and smart contract interactions, ensuring users' anonymity on public blockchains.

How is Light Protocol enhancing privacy on Solana?

Light Protocol enhances privacy by allowing developers to create Private Solana Programs (PSPs). These are smart contracts that have both public and private sections, meaning they can execute transactions and store information privately, using ZK proofs to maintain integrity without revealing sensitive data.

How does privacy in web3 differ from privacy in web2?

Privacy in web3, enabled through technologies like ZK proofs, differs from web2 as it does not rely on centralized entities to protect user data. Instead, web3 offers a decentralized model of privacy, where trust is placed in cryptographic algorithms and mathematical proofs rather than corporate promises.

What are the potential use cases for ZK proofs on blockchains?

Potential use cases for ZK proofs on blockchains include private trade execution in decentralized finance (DeFi), secure and private gaming experiences that can run entirely on-chain, and secure verification of personal information like residency or identity without exposing detailed personal data.

What is the future outlook for blockchain privacy?

The future of blockchain privacy is expected to integrate zero-knowledge proofs more deeply, making a significant portion of transactions on blockchains like Solana private and secure. The main challenges lie in user adoption and finding compelling use cases that motivate people to use these privacy features.

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