I've mentioned it quite a bit, but one of the missing infrastructure pieces for cryptocurrencies and blockchains is privacy. Many of the existing blockchains have been developed with openness and transparency first and foremost... but these are not necessarily great things to have for a fungible currency. There are a few (Monero and ZCash) that are built as privacy first currencies, but they suffer from the lack of smart contracts that have allowed for such an explosion in Ethereum and other EVM dApps.... and these vast dApp use cases are where we will see most of the user adoption and interesting applications of distributed ledgers.
There are a number of other projects that are also offering privacy as a service, but these are mostly existing on other blockchains and are not backed by the security of the Ethereum mainnet. So, it is with some interest that I heard the news of Aztec Network launching as a L2 on Ethereum.
So, what does Aztec bring to the table that isn't already provided by existing L2s... well, the answer is pretty obvious, privacy in addition to scalability... built upon zero-knowledge proofs (PLONK/SNARK).
At the moment, they have a working dApp where you can bridge across ETH, DAI and renBTC from Ethereum mainnet to exchange for tokenised zk versions of the same. From there you can send on L2 and return back to mainnet shielded completely by the zero-knowledge proofs that hide your transaction details from prying eyes.
So... lets have a look around and test out the first dApp to operate on Aztec Network. zk.money is the bridging dApp that connects the L2 and Ethereum mainnet, and it also handles the L2 transactions that take place between accounts on the L2.
To start off with, you will need to sign a few proofs to set up your L2 account. Your account will be attached to a L2 username that is user chosen, and to prevent mass spamming of network usernames, choosing a username requires that at least 0.01 ETH is bridged to the L2. There are a few proofs to sign, but only a single actual bridging transaction that is required... so, nothing too onerous. From memory, the total ETH fee was quite low for the paid (non-signing) transaction... on the order of 5 USD at today's prices. I must have gotten lucky during a bit of a Ethereum usage lull. I guess it was in the evening and on the weekend... I hadn't really thought about it, I just had some time before a concert to nerd out and try out some thing!
One little snag is the fact that it takes bridged assets about 6 hours to be ready to use on the L2 in the form of zkETH (the bridged version of ETH). That could be a little unpleasant if you want to use it immediately... on the other hand, once it is there, then it is more than easy enough to use. But it means that you need to plan a little bit ahead to keep that zk balance funded and ready to use!
At the moment, the ability to send ETH from user to user and wallet to wallet without leaving traces of the transaction is pretty cool... but by itself, it isn't that useful. Where things are starting to become interesting is the release of Aztec Connect... a set of tools that allows Ethereum DeFi protocols to harness Aztec's rollup... which means that DeFi transactions on the mainnet can be done cheaply and PRIVATELY! Wow... I'm really looking forward to this being rolled out to as many DeFi protocols as possible... I'm hoping that some of the big players are looking at this... and given that there was a favourable interest tweet from Vitalik, it would be hard to not think that these privacy tools aren't on the radar of all the major DeFi dApps!
So... not huge amount of things to do at the moment... but the potential is definitely there, and the need for privacy is definitely unmet at the moment. Could this be the L2 that solves both scalability AND privacy?
Handy Crypto Tools
Ledger Nano S/X: Keep your crypto safe and offline with the leading hardware wallet provider. Not your keys, not your crypto!
Binance: My first choice of centralised exchange, featuring a wide variety of crypto and savings products.
Kucoin: My second choice in exchanges, many tokens listed here that you can't get on Binance!
FTX: Regulated US-based exchange with some pretty interesting and useful discounts on trading and withdrawal fees for FTT holders. Decent fiat on-ramp as well!
MXC: Listings of lots of interesting tokens that are usually only available on DEXs. Avoid high gas prices!
Huobi: One of the largest exchanges in the world, some very interesting listings and early access sales through Primelist.
Gate.io: If you are after some of the weirdest and strangest tokens, this is one of the easiest off-chain places to get them!
Coinbase: If you need a regulated and safe environment to trade, this is the first exchange for most newcomers!
Crypto.com: Mixed feelings, but they have the BEST looking VISA debit card in existence! Seriously, it is beautiful!
CoinList: Access to early investor and crowdsale of vetted and reserached projects.
Cointracking: Automated or manual tracking of crypto for accounting and taxation reports.
Stoic: A USD maximisation bot trading on Binance using long-term long strategies, powered by the AI/human system of Cindicator.
StakeDAO: Decentralised pooled staking of PoS assets.
Poloniex: One of the older regulated exchanges that has come into new ownership. I used to use it quite a lot, but have since stopped.
Bitfinex: Ahhh... another oldie, but a goodie exchange. Most noted for the close affiliation with USDT and the Basic "no-KYC" tier!