5 Predictions for SNARKS in 2020 [Part 1]

By Pranay Mohan

So far, we’ve mostly been focused on what has already come to pass, with issues focusing on the events and people that shaped SNARKs in 2019. 

Now, we turn our attention to the future - to our predictions for what 2020 and beyond hold for this technology. 

Prediction 1: SNARK proving time will continue to decrease 

SNARKs are a revolutionary technology, but face a performance limitation in the fact that provers (in other words, the party generating the SNARK) need to have a non-trivial amount of computational power. This constraint matters in terms of the accessibility and democratization of the technology. For low-powered devices (such as mobile phones) to be able to generate proofs, we must reduce prover time and computational requirements.

Our first prediction for 2020 is that we will see proving time decrease. We’re seeing improvements in the form of SNARK provers being developed for GPUs, in that they are massively parallelizable. This is just the first step in showing how consumer hardware can be optimized for generated SNARKs.

Concurrently, there is a Cambrian explosion of research around SNARK constructions, and researching has proving time squarely in their targets. By way of example, we were able to take SONIC’s proving time and reduce it drastically with Marlin and PLONK. 

When this is realized and mobile phones are able to create SNARKs, we will see a revolution of trust that will allow anyone to seize control of their data and their digital rights in a way that is not possible today.

Prediction 2: More of today’s existing protocols will adopt SNARKs on layer 2 and new protocols will emerge that are SNARK-native. 

Both Ethereum and Tezos are starting to experiment with Layer 2 SNARKs. What this means is that these protocols are finding ways to use SNARKs as a verification mechanism for computations that happen off-chain. 

Here’s an example of how SNARKs might provide benefit in this scenario: If I want faster settlement off ledger, I can process transactions using a web server or a sidechain. Then, when I want to settle it on a main chain, I can simply provide a SNARK proof as a succinct representation to show my processing of the data was honest. Companies like Matter Labs are spinning up to implement this in detail, and address the various challenges that accompany it.

Additionally, since SNARKs represent computations as reductions in the form of arithmetic circuits, some operations that are easy to do in the real world are hard and intensive inside a SNARK. This explains why so many protocols are settling for Layer 2 usage.

That said, we predict that more protocols will begin implementing SNARKs natively, as well. By starting with SNARKs in mind from Day 0, protocols are able harness SNARKs’ power on Layer 1, the base chain. See Zcash and Coda (that’s us!) for examples. We’re biased, but we believe that the potential represented by SNARKS on layer 1 is nothing short of living up to some of the most fundamental promises of blockchain technology. 

Stay tuned for our next issue, where we will be sharing our other 3 predictions for 2020.