Why Zero-Knowledge Proof has become so important

Zero-Knowledge Proof (ZKP) will mark an important milestone in the evolution of blockchain and Web3. A recent study shows how adopters use ZKP and what to expect.

The age of information technology continues to advance in spurts, and the current rise of blockchain is one of its most compelling trends. It turns out that the long-stable public-key cryptography technology contains capabilities that have yet to be discovered. Blockchain is a reinvention of secure communication technology. When the histories of the internet and blockchain come together, we can see how many sophisticated forms of online interaction have grown. Zero-knowledge proof is an important part of blockchain technology. As the understanding of Zero-Knowledge Proof (ZKP) progresses, unexpected use cases are discovered and new tools are developed. Therefore, ZKP is likely to be part of many applications and industries. A study conducted by the Mina Foundation gives clues as to what to expect.

Web3 and Blockchain

Some may be tempted to consider Web3 a strange offshoot of traditional computing, but that would be a mistake. We should consider Web3 as a key area for future computing applications. Web3 doesn’t replace conventional information technologies, it supersedes them.

ZKP, an applied complexity theory

At its highest level, Zero-Knowledge Proof allows you to prove that you know something without revealing what you know. The privacy implications are obvious, but ZKP is also important for scalability. When one uses a zero-knowledge proof to perform an expensive computational task, one can usually reprove the proof without having to do a new computation. In a sense, zero-knowledge proofs follow naturally from complexity theory and cryptography. Much of modern encryption (of the asymmetric type) relies on complexity theory, since asymmetric security relies on the use of functions that can be implemented in one form, but not in another.

Because of this, mathematics is the major obstacle to understanding ZKP. Fortunately, it is possible to understand conceptually how zero-knowledge proofs work without having to know what a quadratic residue is. However, for those interested, we can say that a squared residual of y, for a value z, is: . This somewhat esoteric concept was used in one of the first articles on Zero-Knowledge. Much of cryptography is built on exploring the edges of mathematics (especially factorization and modulus) to find useful properties. Encapsulating ZKP’s complex mathematical calculations in easy-to-use libraries is the key to widespread adoption. There are thousands of interesting things you can do with these kinds of one-way functions. In particular, one can establish shared secrets in open networks, a capability on which modern secure communications rely. Zero-Knowledge asks the following question: is it possible to use similar kinds of intelligent calculations to prove something while keeping the information hidden? The answer is yes.

ZKP apps and protocols

Today, zero-knowledge proofs are constructed by showing that a given computation has taken place. Protocols such as ZK-SNARK and ZK-STARK are two important examples of protocols that provide this proof in a digestible format. When one has ZKP abilities, one can assert that something is true and others can accept it with a high degree of probability. Zero-Knowledge Proof is a form of probabilistic proof. These proofs are complex, which presents an additional challenge to make them resistant to attacks. That is why development in this area is slow. However, zero-knowledge proofs continue to grow in power and are now able to present many claims in a relatively compact format. Expanding what can be proven and diversifying the systems into which this evidence can fit are key areas of research. Another area of ​​research is to simplify deployment as much as possible.

ZKP and the Future of Blockchain

The Mina Foundation has done some interesting research on the importance of ZKP in the blockchain industry. In particular, the Foundation asked blockchain users and developers about the use of ZKP in their sector. Privacy and performance are the two main drivers of ZKP adoption. Just over 30% of respondents identified privacy as the most important use case for Zero-Knowledge Proof. Whenever an exchange between parties requires proving that something is true and one can introduce zero-knowledge evidence to do so, confidentiality increases. This is neither simple nor easy, because the proofs themselves and their integration into communication protocols are difficult. However, confidentiality is an important standard of ZKP. The day may come when important proofs, for example proof of a person’s citizenship, will be carried out using the ZKP.

Regarding privacy, Evan Shapiro, CEO and Founder of the Mina Foundation, said, “We have seen a lot of Zero-Knowledge for improving scalability, especially for Ethereum, but ZK’s programmable applications for privacy will be one of major concerns for developers. in 2023.” Shapiro also said he is “particularly excited about zkIdentity and the potential for DeFi applications to use ZK to enable Know Your Customer (KYC) compliance processes without collecting or storing sensitive customer data. user.” Overall, Zero-Knowledge Proof can make systems more secure by exposing less information on their activities, which means less chance that information is exploited for nefarious purposes. One of the interesting findings from the Mina Foundation survey is that the majority of users rely on protecting their financial information with ZKP (54.5%). Perhaps this result is not surprising, but it should be compared with 48.5% of users who want to protect the confidentiality of their personal data from governments. The strong demand for protection of financial information from government scrutiny does not go unnoticed by tax officials. At the same time, the urge to disclose as little information as possible to a centralized government while paying its legal taxes is a perfectly legitimate right of a free citizen. ZKP systems can be applied to taxation. Proving what you owe without disclosing anything else could be a case of using zero-knowledge disclosure.

Another important part of ZKP is performance optimization, named by 18.2% of participants in the Mina Foundation study as the most important feature of ZKP. Zero-Knowledge Proof can prove the validity of a calculation in a compact form and thus reduce the number of times this calculation needs to be performed. The MINA blockchain uses this feature to summarize transactions on the blockchain, which improves performance and ultimately makes the system cheaper. Business performance and reduced fees are often seen as critical factors for blockchain’s long-term viability. When asked what the most important applications of blockchain are, 46% of respondents to this survey said that privacy and scalability are both important. In short, the future of blockchain may depend on ZKP’s contributions to making systems more secure and efficient.


Zero-knowledge proof is at the frontier of cryptographic research. It promises to improve both the scalability and security of cryptographic systems. These improvements have huge implications for the future of blockchain and, by extension, the wider world of distributed computing. There is much work to be done to discover and realize the promise of zero-knowledge, and that work is well underway. It is a safe bet that Zero-Knowledge Proof will have a major impact on information technology in the coming years.

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