We are glad to have Amrit Kumar, President and Chief Scientific Officer at Zilliqa to answer some questions for us today.
How would you describe the main pillars of the project?
Zilliqa is a high-throughput public blockchain platform designed to deliver performance, scalability, and security. When we started our journey in 2017, when Zilliqa was designed from scratch – we envisioned a blockchain that would be able to handle thousands of transactions per second, something no other public blockchain was capable of at the time (and something most blockchains struggle with to date).
Our 2017 whitepaper which proposed sharding as a solution to the scalability issue – became a defining feature of the Zilliqa blockchain in time. Today, following our successful mainnet and smart contracts launch – we have a blockchain that addresses the industry ‘trilemma’ of security, scalability and decentralisation with its robust infrastructure, and a commercial team that is driving enterprise adoption across various industries to enable a more inclusive and open financial ecosystem around the globe.
Here are some of Zilliqa’s core features at a glance:
- Sharding in practice: By dividing the network into parts, the distributed labour associated with PoW-based consensus allows multiple transactions to be processed in parallel, resulting in higher throughput and greater operational efficiency, while preserving decentralisation and security. This approach to scalability enables scaling as the number of participating nodes increases. In January 2019, we became the first public blockchain platform to successfully utilise sharding as a scaling solution in blockchains.
- Zilliqa is powered by a peer-reviewed and safe-by-design smart contract language called Scilla. Using functional programming design principles (as in OCaml) allows it to be more friendly towards static checks and formal verification.
- Eco-Friendly Dual mining: Zilliqa uses a consensus mechanism which reduces the ecological footprint of mining. Only 1 minute out of every 2-3 hours is needed to mine ZIL, allowing one to dual-mine other chains at the same time.
- Growing ecosystem: Zilliqa has grown as a community-based project. Our network of miners, developers, token holders, supporters and partners have been with us throughout our journey and helped us accelerate adoption through their feedback and contributions. Over 60 project teams from over 20 countries have contributed to Zilliqa’s ecosystem. This number will further grow now that we’ve got in place our ecosystem development programme called ZILHive (which features grants, accelerator and education initiatives) and explore staking services to reward our users and grow our seed nodes.
Thanks to our enterprise-ready platform and our strong network of supporters and partners, we are leveraging blockchain to transform the way people live, work, pay and play.
About the team and supporters, what are your strengths?
Zilliqa is steered by global experts, a team that includes scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, venture creators and financial leaders. Today, Zilliqa is made up of 25+ core team members with diverse skillsets:
- The Platform team designs, constructs and manages the main infrastructure of the Zilliqa platform.
- The Language team designs and maintains the smart contract language and tools.
- The Growth team leads research and analysis on market needs and pain-points, and identifies opportunities to drive adoption of the Zilliqa platform.
- The Marketing and Communications team makes sure Zilliqa’s value, identity and story is highlighted to all our stakeholders and across all prominent platforms.
- The Usability team develops toolchains, testing frameworks, easy-to-access documentation, developer tutorials and other resources. In addition, we have 10 advisors covering a wide spectrum of experience in programming languages, finance, blockchains, marketing and communications. As the team and brand grow, we have our community of supporters to thank. We are here today because of these incredible people who studied our offering, asked us the right questions, and decided we were worth championing, building on and investing in. These faces from all walks of life have come to represent the kaleidoscope that is Zilliqa and its dynamism, diversity and big vision.
Thinking about the future, do you have any roadmap with relevant upgrades or partnerships?
Yes, our latest roadmap here outlines what we’ve got in store. There’s much going on across the technical, growth and marketing pipeline for Zilliqa. Even amid the economic turbulence, we’re seeing right now, Zilliqa is blazing forward on all fronts.
Some recent updates:
- We released our “Zilliqa Improvement Proposal” on staking services. As a fundamental part of the programme development, we’re setting up feedback hubs for developers across Github and Reddit. Once we incorporate these, we hope to build our seed nodes further and make Zilliqa more rewarding for all its users. Link
- We launched an engagement platform called Zillacracy to be run by the community, for the community – taking our decentralisation game one step further! Through this forum, which will be co-governed by various community members – people can sign up, contribute to their project of choice or even suggest new projects (technical or non-technical) and seek collaborators, and get the chance to win $ZIL as rewards! This is part of our move to further grow our global community and encourage creativity and participation from all. Please do check out: www.zillacracy.com
Since its launch, we have seen a lot of buzz on twitter and people have already begun working on great projects. We’ve received about 30 project proposals so far!
- We announced a new partnership with Switcheo to build a non-custodial, decentralised exchange (DEX). With the new Zilliqa DEX, Zilliqa token holders and traders will have the ability to tap into digital assets on the Ethereum blockchain for the first time, essential to bolstering the growth of Zilliqa’s ecosystem. This new DEX will utilise a Uniswap-like exchange model along with an atomic swap protocol, enabling traders to undertake automatic digital asset exchanges without the need for centralised intermediaries. In addition, users will be able to contribute to liquidity pools allowing for consistent market-making while enabling them to earn a cut of transaction fees. More here.
All our latest updates and partnerships are also outlined in our monthly newsletters which can be found on blog.zilliqa.com
What’s the added value of zilliqa in comparison with other competitors?
Zilliqa’s technical prowess, its relentlessness and drive in the face of all market conditions in this volatile and evolving industry, and the brilliant experts at its helm makes it one-of-a-kind.
Zilliqa brings robustness, security and a ‘trust’ element that is much required by enterprises who are still trying to decode the world of blockchain.
- The company started out in the National University of Singapore (NUS) campus, with the intention of addressing a key issue of scalability. Over time, this has turned into one of our core value propositions. The platform is based on an on-chain solution called sharding, which is a “divide and conquer” technique where nodes and transactions are allocated into groups and processed in parallel. This ensures that the network is not prone to additional security vulnerabilities and maintains its decentralised state. Because the network scales linearly as it grows, this provides Zilliqa with a network speed of 2,828 transactions per second, rivalling other existing platforms in the market.
- This technique helps Zilliqa balance the golden trilemma of security, decentralisation and scalability which forms the core principles of blockchain. Other firms have found it extremely challenging to achieve this balance. This is part of what gives Zilliqa its competitive edge in the industry.
- We use a modified version of the Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus protocol to ensure decentralisation without making it too costly for miners. We thus have a more eco-friendly, cost-effective model of mining, whereby they only need to perform approximately 12 hours of PoW each month for Sybil attack prevention and to establish node identities. In comparison, the cost of mining on other blockchains such as Ethereum, are 9x more costly than Zilliqa.
- We follow a security-first approach. In order to provide an infrastructure that is safe for all ecosystem and enterprises users (businesses, developers and entrepreneurs) Zilliqa comes with a new smart contract language called Scilla, which is secure-by-design and formally verifiable. What this means is that using Scilla, developers can easily write and express the business logic while being assured that their smart contracts are not prone to known bugs and are typesafe.
How are you aiming to provide scalability to your service?
Zilliqa began as an academic study focussing on addressing the key issue of scalability in blockchain – which it has done through the successful execution of sharding on its mainnet platform.
Based on our initial tests on the testnet, Zilliqa is capable of achieving over 2,828 transactions per second.
However, we believe scalability is more than just about the number of transactions processed per second. There are numerous projects in this ecosystem which will all compete on different approaches to achieve high throughput.
How your recent partnership with Elliptic can help in “enterprise adoption” of the Network?
Security is at the heart of blockchain adoption, and the key to mitigating risks by making the user experience safer. Zilliqa understands its importance and thus partnered with Elliptic, whose investigative risk management and forensic AML compliance software are well known in the market for making cryptocurrency transactions safer, more accountable and transparent.
Elliptic’s software suite can analyse and track crypto-asset transactions of all tokens on the Zilliqa network (such as ZIL and XSGD) right through to their source. Such due diligence mitigates the risks of money laundering or any criminal activity that could take place on the blockchain. Users can rest assured that their funds are not being used for any illicit activity.
The integration of Elliptic and Zilliqa is thus another step forward in establishing the legitimacy of the digital economy. When security and compliance are firmly in place, more people will build on and participate within the Zilliqa ecosystem – driving mainstream enterprise adoption.
How sharding technology helps in increasing transaction rate and do you think you can compete with VISA TPS?
When using sharding, the blockchain network is divided into several smaller components or “shards” which can process transactions in parallel. Think of it as a “divide-and-conquer” strategy. As a result, the transaction rate in Zilliqa increases as the mining network expands.
With Zilliqa’s robust technical systems, in time we can rival traditional centralised payment methods such as VISA and MasterCard. In fact, with a network size of 10,000 nodes, Zilliqa can enable a throughput which matches the average transaction rate of VISA and MasterCard with more cost efficiency for merchants.
What competitive advantage does “Scilla language” have over the other ones?
The purpose of designing any new programming language is usually to simplify work for developers with enhanced functionalities that are convenient to use. I describe this in detail in the Scilla Design Story blog here. When object-oriented programming languages came into the pictures, it became easier to reuse parts of a code. Languages such as Java simplified memory management. Similarly – Scilla was designed with safety in mind.
It is critical to ensure that smart contracts deployed on a blockchain are bug-free and safe – especially given the multiple parties involved in the creation of a smart contract who could be malicious. To prevent such users from interacting with transactions from stealing money.
Enabling greater security at the language level, smart contracts developed with Scilla are amenable to formal verification, allowing developers to leverage mathematical proofs in order to ensure that contracts are provably correct and abide by security standards.
In fact, you can visit our free, interactive website learnscilla.com. This website helps people learn coding on blockchain in a systematic and comprehensive way.
How is your network’s Practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance (pBFT) bet
Zilliqa utilises Practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance (pBFT) for consensus within each shard. The classic pBFT algorithm by Castro and Liskov operates on the requirement that only two-thirds of all nodes in a consensus group must agree on a given change in state before it can be committed across the entire network. It assumes that some portion of the nodes in a network are hostile. Thus, every node is required to verify transactions independently, then share the results with all other nodes to reach consensus. However, this is feasible when the consensus group is small (>50 nodes). When the group becomes larger – to say 600 + nodes – the picture changes altogether.
Zilliqa uses several techniques developed in recent academic papers to improve the efficiency of the classical pBFT protocol. One is the multi-signature protocol that reduces the number of signatures from n to 1 and hence reduces the size of the agreed-upon block. To learn more, please read this blog.
We chose pBFT over Nakamoto-style consensus protocol because it offers various benefits as a solid way to reach consensus in Zilliqa – it can leverage small shard sizes, it is computationally cheaper, it can provide finality to the consensus decision, and has low reward variance.
On the Zilliqa platform, pBFT validators are chosen randomly and in an egalitarian manner. As long as someone has the capital and know-how to run Proof-of-Work (PoW), they can participate on Zilliqa, which chooses to allocate 600 validators per shard (as opposed to the usual 21 validators that other networks go with PoS systems) to mitigate corruption of shards. Compared to PoS systems, PBFT with PoW as in Zilliqa does not assume a rational adversary. PBFT works in the Byzantine model and hence can handle stronger adversaries.
Thank you for your time, always a pleasure having you with us.