Ethereans are currently participating in the biggest ever ceremony for zk technology that will become part of an upgrade of the network itself.
The Power of Tau, Trusted Setup, dank and protodank but always sharding, and EIP number number, are just some of the esoterics of this ceremony.
But the good news is that you don’t have to be a coder to participate. You can actually be a complete normi and still feel like you can also take part in what until now was fairly exclusive, for people like Peter Todd or Zooko Wilcox-O’Hearn and others, whom in 2014 we imagined were in some sort of a dark room chanting things to perform the trusted setup ceremony of the launch of Zcash, the very first such ceremony.
As it turns out, in many ways it is both simpler and cooler than that. You just go to the ethereum site, and enter your contribution.
We randomly typed on the keyboard and we don’t know what we typed because we can not see it, and so we’ll never remember this because we don’t even know just what it is to remember.
Making it a good contribution on our part, but there could always be someone or something listening or logging somehow, including man in the middle attacks of the website itself.
They have audited it to minimize any such chances and there are different implementations. After the 13th of March in addition they will start accepting special contributions. The key here being for just one contribution to not be logged, hacked, to not be known.
That’s the power of Mr Tau, this being Greek for secret. Our contribution will be linked to whoever comes after, the 20,001 contribution, and links the 20,000 prior contributions, in a chain of sort.
The simple illustration is you input 5, then the second contribution inputs 15, and we have a final string or private key of 75.
It does not have to be a number, it can be letters, but if they don’t know what we typed or we don’t know what they typed, then there’s no way to know the final string as it would look like 5 x X = X, an impossible equation to solve.
You time this by 20,000, and just one unknown contribution is enough to make the final string an actual secret.
If it is an actual secret, then all is fine. If however someone could know all the 20,000 inputs of people across the globe in different implementations, including their mouse movements and their browser quirks, including the Raspberry Pis that some are using and other special implementations, then they could hack funds in the second layer/s that use the proto or dank sharding blobs once the upgrade goes live.
Making it a lot of ifs in some ways, and in some other ways, there’s a sequencer run by the Ethereum Foundation that organizes the ordering of these taos, although apparently we can verify that, and it’s online so in theory it is conceivable some very resourceful and committed entity is getting all the inputs, but they only need to miss once and maybe the bots themself will ensure they do because they can be very temperamental can’t they, these computers.
So trust in bots, or solar flares as ethereum’s co-founder Vitalik Buterin once joked, because there isn’t much more you can do really as this has to be done.
“Using anything other than KZG (eg. IPA or SHA256) would make the sharding roadmap much more difficult,” Buterin said.
All this is to partition transactions. There will be two types of transactions, the normal ones and new ones that have blobs – chunks of data.
These will be separate, although part of the consensus layer, the Beacon chain, and will mainly be used by second layers that can dump all their compression there, allowing them to scale significantly.
That’s to the magical 1MB per block, to start with, and eventually 16MB as is thought of now.
These are ethereum blocks, so 1MB every 12 seconds, not 10 minutes. In bitcoin terms it’s 60 MB blocks.
And all this is so that we can delete these blobs, this second layer data, every two weeks, thus facilitating scaling while not noticeably affecting nodes resources.
“In the long run, adopting some history expiry mechanism is essentially mandatory,” Buterin says.
As it happens, the long run is here already with this in effect being the first pruning implementation in eth.
Rather than sharding, although it still keeps that name and it is thought eventually it will turn into it, protoDankSharding basically just adds a new transaction format that you can delete.
All these taos therefore only affect the blobs. The current eth functions remain as they are. So even if bots don’t do their job over months, the trusted and proven base blockchain keeps being a good boy.
Second layers that don’t use a trusted setup in addition have the choice of not using blobs. They can keep using calldata instead, which is base chain and so permanently stored.
These blobs however will eventually have what is called data availability sampling. That’s in some ways a method similar to how we deal with contraband whereby you don’t check every single lorry, but have random inspections. Here too nodes don’t download all the data, but verify through sampling.
That should allow for significant more scaling and sort of cost free scaling, making these blobs potentially an important part of second layers.
When exactly we should expect any of this is not too clear. There have been prototypes, but a full on implementation and actual upgrade is probably at least a year away.
Second layers currently however are not necessarily hurting for scaling as such, more than adoption, so there’s no hurry and a year or so from now may be just in time.
And it may well be a year before our contribution to this ceremony is accepted because it says 1830 people are waiting in the lobby to have their contribution accepted, and chances are only 3% that ours will make it in the next hour.
Some have waited for days and even more than a week to finally get randomly picked. We probably won’t wait considering there have been so many contributions, but participating was illuminating to show just how this trusted setup works.
This is also the first time there has been direct wide community input in an upgrade, with a POAP given to participants that sign through MetaMask.
The ceremony will continue until the upgrade itself is ready, so for months. There will be a break after the 13th of March for special contributions. Once they are over, normal contributions will continue until the implementation is ready.
18,509 have already contributed as of writing. With 2,000 on the queue, that makes it more than 20,000 less than two weeks since this launched on January 13th 2023.
That goes to show just how much attention ethereans are actually paying and how fairly big the number of active participants has become for so many to already contribute their tau.