Polygon ZK Day Recap: Polygon Zero Reveal and Panel Talk With Vitalik

Polygon’s zk day event hosted in partnership with ETHGlobal on Dec. 9 was jam-packed with Zero Knowledge goodness. If you are interested in this technology and what it can do for Ethereum, check this out.

The 3.5-hour ZK tour de force included the announcement of a $400 million deal with pioneering ZK startup Mir and a demo of the new Ethereum scaling solution. Our collaborators at EY showed off Polygon Nightfall privacy-focused rollup. Polygon Miden gave a technical tour of their STARK-based rollup. The team at Polygon Hermez gave a sneak peek under the hood of their zkEVM engine. Oh, and Ethereum’s co-founder Vitalik Buterin joined the panel discussion - oof!

Polygon is so bullish on the future of ZK, we made it a centerpiece of our strategic vision in the Zero Knowledge Thesis published in August. As part of that mission, we have committed $1 billion, a significant portion of our treasury, to our ZK-related efforts. With the addition of Mir, Polygon is on its way to becoming the leading blockchain platform and onboarding the first billion users to Ethereum.

“We truly believe that ZK is the ultimate frontier which can bring Internet level scale to blockchains,” Polygon’s Co-Founder Sandeep Naiwal said at the event. “This puts Polygon right in the lead of the entire ZK scaling effort.”

Also read: ZKVerse: A Gentle Introduction to Zero Knowledge Proofs

The recording of the event is available online, but we’ve done the heavy lifting and picked the best parts for you here.

Polygon Zero

We kicked off with a presentation from the newly formed Polygon Zero, previously Mir. Brendan Farmer noted that, historically, a tenfold increase in computing speeds has unlocked radically new applications. The Mir team managed to achieve a 100-times speedup applying a technique called recursion to ZK proofs. Here are some highlights:

  • Generating ZK proofs is expensive for rollups that support general applications and even more so for those that support EVM compatibility because the word size is 256 bits. 
  • Recursion allows proofs to be generated faster, and more transactions to be verified per proof.
  • When Mir was started in 2019, it took 2 minutes to generate a recursive proof.
  • The team has broken a new record with a 179 millisecond recursive proof on a MacBook Pro. And it works natively on Ethereum.
  • Plonky2 is a new proving system based on PLONK, FRI and proprietary Mir technology that offers 100-times speed up for proofs on Ethereum.
  • It is fully transparent and does not require a trusted setup.
  • It costs 1M gas to verify.
  • The goal is to allow developers to compile their existing Solidity code and run it on the zkEVM.

Polygon’s ZK-verse

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Paul Brody, the global blockchain leader at EY, and his colleague Chaitanya Konda explained how Nightfall 3 combines Optimistic Rollups with ZK cryptography to enable private transfers and payments at scale:
Polygon Miden’s Bobbin Threadbare laid out what general purpose STARK-based ZK rollups can do for the Ethereum ecosystem:
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Polygon Hermez has been building the engine of a zkEVM and Jordi Baylina took the stage to give an update on their work:
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Scaling, Privacy and the Future of ZK

Polygon is now in an enviable position to encourage collaboration between some of the leading minds in the ZK space, Mihailo Bjelic, Polygon’s co-founder, said in a panel discussion. But Polygon has no intention of becoming “ a closed-source ZK powerhouse,” he said. The $1 billion allocation for ZK goes well beyond Polygon’s own efforts to cover everything that is directly or indirectly related to ZK scaling solutions. That means offering extensive grants and publishing tools that are required for the ecosystem in general.

Another advantage of having multiple ZK solution solutions in-house is that it offers an opportunity to introduce some standards, Mihailo said. While each of the projects has a unique core, there are a lot of components and tools that are shared. And there is also overlap with other products like Polygon SDK and Polygon PoS. Standards will significantly speed up development and make all the solutions more bulletproof, he said.

“We are being very cautious with standards. We don’t want to impose any sort of constraints because this is a phase of high-intensity exploration and innovation,” Mihailo said. “What we want is for things to happen organically.”

One key piece of the puzzle is zkEVMs, Vitalik said on the panel. This general purpose infrastructure makes fully EVM-compatible ZK Rollups possible and also enables better lite clients of the Ethereum chain. Another important challenge is creating cross-rollup bridging infrastructure, he said.

Polygon’s ZK efforts are now focused primarily on scaling because it is the most pressing need in the Ethereum ecosystem, Mihailo said. Once that need is relieved, we can move on to applications around privacy.

“There is no magic bullet and it's more true for privacy than scaling,” Vitalik said. “With privacy, you need to start thinking more explicitly about who owns a particular piece of data.”

Possible applications of privacy are secret ballot elections in DAOs, anti-DOS and anti-spam measures and proofs of regulatory compliance that don’t require companies to disclose all of their private information. Games can also see a lot of use cases, provided tools get to the point where regular developers can just pick and use them.

Polygon now has the resources, reach and network effects to encourage innovation that can make all of that possible, Mihailo said. Much of that was enabled by Ethereum. 

“We owe the Ethereum community and Layer 1 a lot. I think this is a perfect time for us to start giving back,” he said. “We are really just starting. Expect a lot of great things from our side.”

While this particular party is over, our ZK journey has just begun. So check out our blog to keep up with the most exciting experiments in this space.

Let’s bring the world to Ethereum!

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