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Aztec launches private smart contracts as Ethereum rollup

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Aztec, a privacy protocol developing on Ethereum, announced on Monday the launch of its second iteration, promising private transactions and smart contracts while being cheaper than standard transfers.

The layer two solution adopted by Aztec relies on zkRollups, similar to Loopring or ZkSync. All these protocols rely on zero knowledge proofs to help Ethereum scale, but come with different benefits and focused use cases.

Loopring focuses on the decentralized exchange experience, while ZkSync aims to be a generalized layer two protocol that could boost Ethereum’s transaction throughput.

Aztec, in comparison, makes a heavy focus on privacy while still allowing a certain degree of scalability. The team says that the rollup can reach 300 transactions per second while allowing shielded ERC-20 token transactions and private interactions with decentralized finance protocols. Users would be able to trade on Uniswap and other exchanges as part of a pooled contract, similar to how it works in Incognito, a cross-chain privacy protocol.

The stated throughput is a far cry from potential figures on other zkRollup solutions, but it is still well above Ethereum’s maximum theoretical throughput of 40 transactions per second. As Cointelegraph highlighted earlier, privacy always carries a performance cost. Tom Walton-Pocock, the CEO of Aztec, told Cointelegraph that its limit primarily has to do with potential mass exits: “In order to guarantee that users can withdraw from our rollup, all of the encrypted data generated by a transaction must be posted on chain as call data.”

One of the innovations introduced by Aztec is Noir, a private smart contract language. This could let developers send private transactions and use on-chain cryptographic routines while benefiting from privacy. “The main purpose of Noir is to incorporate data privacy,” Walton-Pocock said. The rollup also features social recovery by default, and has several usability benefits like human-readable accounts.

The network is currently live on the Ropsten testnet with no specific indications as to its mainnet release, though Walton-Pocock alluded to a launch before the end of the year.

Layer two technologies are often seen as the next step in Ethereum evolution, allowing to carry some of the burden off the main network while sharding is still being developed.

Competition is fierce in this segment, with the first solutions like OMG Network’s Plasma having reached production. Smart contracts on layer two, which could help DeFi scale, have still largely eluded developers. Solutions like Optimistic Rollups and some types of zkRollups are poised to solve that problem, but are still relatively far off from a full launch.

Update, 4 P.M. UTC:  The article was updated with additional commentary.



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Ethereum researcher Virgil Griffith files motion to dismiss North Korea conspiracy charge

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Virgil Griffith, the former Ethereum Foundation researcher accused of conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, filed a motion on Thursday to dismiss the charge against him on the grounds that prosecutors from the Southern District of New York have failed to properly state Griffith’s crime. 

Griffith, 37, was arrested by FBI agents on Nov. 28th, 2019 following a presentation at a conference in North Korea in April. 

Prosecutors allege that at the conference Griffith rendered services to the North Korean government in the form of “valuable information” he provided to DPRK officials, and that he “participated in conversations” about how to use blockchain technology to avoid sanctions. 

Griffith, meanwhile, contends that his presentation was a “highly general speech based on publicly available information.”

Thursday’s motion to dismiss the charge now hinges on whether or not planning and giving this presentation can be interpreted as a conspiracy to violate sanctions. 

In the motion, Griffith argues that because he was not paid for his attendance and was not under contract as a consultant, he was not providing a “service” to the DPRK, and that his speech is protected from U.S. government prohibition under the First Amendment. 

Additionally, Griffith argues that his presentation explicitly falls under an exemption in the International Emergency Economic Powers Act for the sharing of “information” and “information materials.” 

The motion added: 

“If the speech Mr. Griffith purportedly gave is not ‘information,’ then nothing is.” 

As Cointelegraph has previously reported, Griffith’s case has divided the crypto community. 

In December, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin defended Griffith, saying:

“I don’t think what Virgil did gave DPRK any kind of real help in doing anything bad. He delivered a presentation based on publicly available info about open-source software. There was no weird hackery ‘advanced tutoring.’ […] Virgil made no personal gain from the trip. […] I hope U.S.A. […] focuses on genuine and harmful corruption that it and all countries struggle with rather than going after programmers delivering speeches.”



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Ethereum’s Ongoing Breakout Suggests a Move to $500 Is Possible

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  • The price of Ethereum currently trades for $420.
  • This price is $100 higher than the September lows and around 15% higher than the coin was trading last week.
  • ETH is expected to push higher in the weeks ahead as it surmounts pivotal technical levels on a short-term basis.
  • Analysts are eyeing a move to $500 as $420 holds as support.

Ethereum Expected to Move Towards $500 as Key Levels Are Passed

Ethereum has undergone a strong rally over the past few days as Bitcoin has gained steam. The price of ETH currently trades for $420, $100 higher than the September lows and around 15% higher than the coin was trading at last week.

ETH is expected to push higher in the weeks ahead as it surmounts pivotal technical levels on a short-term basis.

One crypto-asset trader shared the chart below on October 22nd. It shows that because ETH is moving past the “major resistance” of $420, it could be cleared for a move to $500.

Chart of ETH's price action since the start of July with analysis by crypto trader Cactus (@TheCryptoCactus on Twitter).
Source: ETHUSD from TradingView.com

The expectations of a move to retest the year-to-date highs near $490 have been echoed by other market participants.

Jonny Moe, a crypto swing trader, shared the chart below after the move higher. Like the aforementioned chart, it shows that ETH’s recent move to the upside is technically important due to the resistance levels the coin is crossing

“Nice break above the $395 flat top on $ETH. ETH doesn’t always give throwbacks, so a $395 throwback is certainly possible before higher, but I wouldn’t be on it. Otherwise, this looks good for a run back near the $490 highs.”

ETH2 Around the Corner

Ethereum’s strong price performance comes as the ETH2 upgrade, also known as Serenity, has drawn closer.

In a blog post, ConsenSys developer Ben Edgington said that the ETH2 Deposit Contract is expected to be published this week. The publishing of this contract will confirm that the Beacon Chain Genesis, which will launch ETH2 officially, will launch in the next few days.

“Basically, as I understand it, we are good to go: deposit contract in the next few days; beacon chain genesis 6-8 weeks later. (This is not an official statement!). Meanwhile, be careful out there. Many fake deposit contracts and Launchpad front-ends will erupt in the coming days. Look out for the official anouncements: do not send Eth to random contracts; this is not DeFi.”

This upgrade is expected to boost Ethereum’s value proposition as it will give the coin the ability to be staked, restricting supply. On a long-term basis, ETH2 is expected to result in long-term bull trend as the upgrade increases the network’s usability.

Featured Image from Shutterstock
Price tags: ethusd, ethbtc, ethusdt
Charts from TradingView.com
Ethereum's Ongoing Breakout Suggests a Move to $500 Is Possible





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Chainlink brings Verifiable Randomness to Ethereum mainnet, keeps other chains in sight

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Chainlink’s verifiable randomness function, or VRF, has made its way to the Ethereum (ETH) main net. VRF will provide a decentralized source of randomness for the project’s decentralized ecosystem. 

A trusted source of randomness is essential for many applications, such as those in the gambling and gaming industries. Chainlink’s co-founder Sergey Nazarov told Cointelegraph that many blockchains  beyond Ethereum, such as the gaming-focused Matic Network, are interested in deploying the project’s VRF:

“I know that we have anywhere between 10 and 20 users announced as already using it from the time it was in testnet only. And I know a number of people have already used it for one or two things on mainnet. And I also know that a number of the chains that we’re integrating into, interestingly enough, whether they’re gaming-focused or not, already have people lined up to use it when we’ve finalized our integration to that chain.”

Sample use of Chainlink VRF. Source: Chainlink.

As with the function’s testnet deployment, the first use-case of VRF on the Ethereum mainnet is a gamified application that incentivizes users to save money called PoolTogether. Its co-founder, Leighton Cusack, shared his thoughts on the importance of having a trusted source of randomness:

“The V3 PoolTogether Protocol creates a true “money lego” for no loss prize games. An essential component of this is generating randomness. Using Chainlink VRF lets us move away from a less secure and centralized system to a decentralized one.”

VRF is a computationally intensive application which is more costly in terms of Ethereum fees than regular Chainlink oracles. According to Nazarov, the team has been working on VRF for a couple of years. He noted that a lot has changed in the Ethereum landscape during that interim:

“But then the gas price dynamics were very different and there were a lot more games on Ethereum. So interestingly enough, I think what’s going to happen with Chainlink VRF, it’s now going to successfully launch with a number of users on Ethereum mainnet. But those are the users that are still on Ethereum for gaming. And many users for gaming have now started to move to other more gaming-specific, which is then also where we’ll have Chainlink VRF soon as well.”

Integration with other EVM-compatible blockchains is relatively straightforward for Chainlink’s VRF, said Nazarov. He believes that, though the initial adoption of this technology will come from the blockchain space, sooner or later it will bridge into other industries. At the moment, many of these already employ their own reliable methods of generating randomness, and are not especially eager to go through the hurdles of adopting a decentralized alternative. Nazarov supposed that a major scandal could change all of this:

“Once in a while in the gaming industry, you see these kind of flashes of concern from users, you see some gaming sites somewhere frontrunning users from inside the gaming site, or you see a scandal with some gambling thing that’s regulated but some employee still was playing the game and they still were able to win against other players. And I think whenever those happen, those bigger firms do start to seek additional solutions.”



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