The Bitcoin Private foundation has announced that they will be awarding a series of $150,000 grants to projects researching various aspects of cryptography and cybersecurity. The foundation is looking to sponsor projects lasting anywhere from three months to one year, and the grants will be distributed on a rolling basis.
This is not the first time that a cryptocurrency foundation has offered research grants. In January, Vitalik Buterin, the creator of Ethereum, announced that the Ethereum Foundation would be subsidizing research into increasing the scalability of the Ethereum blockchain. Buterin said network scalability was “perhaps the single most important key technical challenge that needs to be solved in order for blockchain applications to reach mass adoption.” The amount of the subsidies offered by the Ethereum Foundation will be anywhere from $50,000 to $1,000,000.
Bitcoin Private (BTCP) is a dual-blockchain fork of Bitcoin and ZClassic (ZCL). The fork snapshot occurred on February 28th at BTC block height 511,346 and ZCL block height 272,991. Anyone holding either BTC or ZCL at those block heights can claim BTCP at a 1:1 ratio of both coins, assuming the coins were held in a wallet that allows private key exportation. For example, if one owned 10 ZCL and 1 BTC, they are eligible to claim 11 BTCP.
Since ZClassic is far less expensive than BTC, news of the fork sharply increased the demand for ZCL, as investors hoped to capitalize on the fork. This sudden increase in demand caused ZCL’s price to skyrocket from $1.83 on December 1st to $188.97 by February 20th. However, once the snapshot occurred, ZCL’s price dropped just as dramatically due to massive selloffs. At the time of writing, ZCL is valued at $5.18.
Bitcoin Private utilizes “zero-knowledge succinct non-interactive arguments of knowledge,” referred to as zk-SNARKs or zero-knowledge proofs, to allow for “shielded transactions,” in which participants are kept entirely anonymous, with no address or transaction balances appearing on the blockchain. Zero-knowledge proofs allow the validity of transactions to be proven without revealing any information that could be used to track either the sender or receiver.
Edward Snowden said zero-knowledge proofs “may be the future of private trade.” Vitalik Buterin said, “Personally, I think zk-SNARKs are a hugely important, absolutely game-changing technology. They are the single most under-hyped thing in cryptography right now.”
Zk-SNARKS were first implemented by the cryptocurrency Zcash (ZEC) in 2016. ZClassic is a hard fork of Zcash, which eliminated the 20% “founder’s tax” of Zcash. Bitcoin Private hopes to combine the brand recognition and widespread adoption of Bitcoin with the privacy solutions of ZEC/ZCL, essentially bringing zk-SNARKS to all Bitcoin users.
The potential research directions suggested by the Bitcoin Private foundation include: Enhancing the privacy of lite clients such as Electrum, bridging the gap in usability between bitcoin script and zk-SNARKS, increasing the efficiency of zk-SNARK generation, and improving anonymity on the peer-to-peer network.
While it is still too early to make any definite predictions regarding Bitcoin Private, it is likely that as scrutiny of the Bitcoin blockchain increases, more and more cryptocurrency users will recognize the inherent value of zero-knowledge proofs, which will fuel widespread adoption of BTCP as the preferred means of confidential transactions.