What Is zk-SNARKs and How Does it Work?

What Is zk-SNARKs and How Does it Work

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zk-SNARKs (Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge) is a method for proving the validity of a statement without revealing any information about the statement itself. It allows for the verification of the authenticity of a statement without requiring any interaction between the prover and verifier and without revealing any information about the statement.

A specific implementation of zk-SNARKs is zk-Bulletproofs which improves upon the efficiency of the original SNARK construction, making it possible to use in practical applications.

A practical example of zk-SNARKs is in the cryptocurrency Zcash. Zcash uses zk-SNARKs to allow for “private” transactions, where the sender, receiver, and amount of the transaction are all hidden. This is done using a zk-SNARK to prove that the transaction is valid without revealing any information. This way, users can transact on the Zcash blockchain while maintaining their privacy.

Benefits of zk-SNARKs

There are several benefits to using zk-SNARKs:

  1. Privacy: zk-SNARKs allow verifying a statement without revealing any information about it, making it useful for privacy-sensitive applications like cryptocurrency transactions.
  2. Non-Interactivity: zk-SNARKs are non-interactive, meaning that the prover and verifier do not need to communicate with each other during the verification process. This makes it more efficient than other methods that require interaction between the parties.
  3. Succinctness: zk-SNARKs are “succinct,” meaning that the proof generated is relatively small compared to the proven statement. This makes them more efficient than other methods that generate larger proofs.
  4. Verifiability: zk-SNARKs are verifiable, meaning anyone can check the proof’s validity without knowing the information is proven.
  5. Scalability: zk-SNARKs can be used to prove the authenticity of a large number of statements at once, which makes them useful for scaling decentralized systems.
  6. Anonymity: zk-SNARKs can be used to prove that a certain action has been done without revealing the identity of the person who did it.
  7. Compliance: zk-SNARKs can be used to prove compliance with certain regulations or rules without revealing sensitive information.

Zk-SNARKs Drawbacks

While zk-SNARKs have many benefits, there are also some drawbacks to using them:

  1. Complexity: zk-SNARKs are based on advanced mathematics and cryptography, making them difficult to understand and implement.
  2. Resource-intensive: The setup of the zk-SNARKs system can be resource-intensive, requiring a large amount of computational power and storage.
  3. Trusted setup: The initial setup of a zk-SNARKs system requires a “trusted setup,” in which a trusted third party generates and distributes the necessary parameters for the system. This can be a security concern, as if the parameters are not generated securely, it could be possible for someone to create fake proofs.
  4. Limited applicability: zk-SNARKs can only be used to prove the authenticity of a statement, not to disprove it. This limits the types of problems that can be solved using zk-SNARKs.
  5. Slow verification process: Verifying a proof with zk-SNARKs can be slow compared to other forms of authentication; it can be time-consuming and complex.
  6. Not yet widely adopted: zk-SNARKs is a relatively new technology that has yet to be widely adopted outside specific use cases like Zcash. This can make it difficult to find developers with experience working with them.

Some of these drawbacks are being addressed by ongoing research and development, for example, in the zk-SNARKs optimization and improvements in the trusted setup phase.


zk-SNARKs (Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge) and zk-STARKs (Zero-Knowledge Scalable Transparent Argument of Knowledge) are both zero-knowledge proof systems, but they have some key differences:

  1. Complexity: zk-SNARKs are based on advanced mathematics and cryptography, making them difficult to understand and implement. On the other hand, zk-STARKs are considered simpler to create and understand.
  2. Proof size: zk-SNARKs proofs are much smaller than zk-STARKs proofs, which can make them more efficient for some applications. However, zk-STARKs do not require a trusted setup, which reduces the potential for malicious actors to create fake proofs.
  3. Verification time: zk-SNARKs have a faster verification time than zk-STARKs.
  4. Transparency: zk-SNARKs hides the statement being proven, while zk-STARKs provide transparency, as anyone can check the proof without knowing the statement.
  5. Security: zk-STARKs are considered more secure than zk-SNARKs because they are not vulnerable to the same types of cryptographic attacks.
  6. Adoption: zk-SNARKs are more widely adopted than zk-STARKs, and have been used in production systems like Zcash, while zk-STARKs are still in the research and development phase.

Some projects try combining the benefits of both systems, for example, by using zk-SNARKs for privacy and zk-STARKs for security and transparency.

In Summary

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Zk-SNARKs is a technology that enables one party (the prover) to prove to another party (the verifier) that a statement is true without revealing any information about the statement. This is possible by using advanced mathematical proof and encryption.

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