Co-authored by Jonathan Rouach
Zero Knowledge Proofs are real and in production, and ZCash are battle testing the first zkSNARK implementation, but the use of ZKP is expanding beyond cryptocurrency, to Enterprise: QED-it, IBM, Stratumn, R3 and more. The question we keep asking is why should clients trust a vendor? Are ZKPs secure? Those big questions require the effort of more than a single company; with the ZKProof Standardization effort we can concentrate all industry efforts on the same technology and tools, making sure they are secure and interoperable. There’s actually a precedent from which we got inspired: the Fully Homomorphic Encryption Standardization effort.
So we picked up the task and took the idea of a ZKP standard to our Scientific Advisor, Shafi Goldwasser, with whom it resonated. She helped us get the ball rolling by connecting us with Muthu Venkitasubramaniam, who had also initiated a parallel effort. The first call with the Steering Committee was an exciting moment for us, where we saw the effort taking off. The goal was to plan the first standardization workshop in less than 4 months.
We supported the steering committee with the logistics so it could concentrate on the main task: defining the scope and content of the first workshop. Even so, the team wanted to avoid the workshop being seen as a “QED-it event”, and we have put a lot of effort to ensure that we, as organizers, did not impose our own agenda. We had a lot to bring to the table, but we knew that so did all academics and company representatives who were invited.
The steering committee decided on three initial tracks: security, implementation and applications. Each was tasked with writing a document that would bring together the knowledge and opinions of the participants. However, writing in groups is not easy, so the steering committee recruited track chairs that would coordinate the different tracks and lead the document writing effort. The main challenge for them was to find a balance between preparing the documents before the event while leaving enough flexibility for the ZKProof participants to freely define the content.
After a great deal of intense preparation, everything came together! The workshop had attracted some 70 of the top researchers and practitioners in the field. We were excited to be in Boston and began with an informal dinner the night before the event, where we bonded over steak and wine. The deep and technical conversations made us start seeing the fruits of the planning.
The workshop was a historical event, with keynotes by our advisor Shafi Goldwasser and by Ran Canetti, and with presentations by Jens Groth, Andrew Miller, Sean Bowe and our own Eran Tromer, Kobi Gurkan and Daniel Benarroch. Beyond the brainstorming in the workshops, the companies shared their work on ZKP, which reinforced the idea that we need this effort and it is needed now.
What did we achieve?
First of all, look at all these smiling faces, we think there’s now a ZKProof community, and we’re very proud to be part of it!