by Eli Ben-Sasson, President and Co-Founder of StarkWare Industries
Blockchain is an incredibly exciting technology with boundless possibilities. It is also broken. We need to fix it so it can live up to its potential and do the most good in the world.
Let me explain. Blockchain promises to transform how we interact socially and financially. We are already seeing it improve the transparency and security in all sorts of areas from financial exchanges and identity management to data storage and supply chain tracking. We’ve barely scratched the surface of what blockchain can do.
Yet there is a major problem with blockchain: it doesn’t have the bandwidth to handle the volume of traffic going through it today, let alone in the future. The world’s biggest blockchains are essentially giant traffic jams. This congestion makes blockchain expensive to use because transaction fees are calculated based on supply and demand. As transaction fees climb higher and higher, blockchain becomes less accessible to a wider audience, and great ideas that could be realized with the technology end up gathering dust instead.
But there is a growing movement to make blockchain more accessible, affordable and scalable for everyone to use—and I believe we are on the verge of a transformative moment.
Unlocking The Potential Of Open-Source Blockchain Technology
Thirty years ago, when I was a computer science PhD student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, I had no idea that the theoretical mathematics I was studying would be useful beyond the halls of academia. At the time, my mathematical research in the area of cryptographic proofs didn’t have practical applications.
It wasn’t until I attended a blockchain conference a decade ago that I saw my esoteric research in a new light. Cryptographic proofs allow you to demonstrate the validity of information at a fraction of the normal cost, and when combined with blockchain technology, it has enormous potential to improve the integrity, security and efficiency of computations.
It’s been a gratifying and humbling journey to apply the cryptographic protocols I co-invented – STARKs – to real-life challenges and to see a global community of bright, creative people start to make it their own. My co-founders and I created StarkWare as a traditional business, selling technology that improves blockchain efficiency by bundling large numbers of transactions and writing them to the Ethereum blockchain in the space normally needed for one or two transactions. We’ve had great success with this approach, but now we are making that technology available to anyone who wants to use it on Starknet, a network that is permissionless, meaning anyone can use it for whatever they want. Soon all of the tech will be open-source—which aligns with the values we share with the wider blockchain community.
I believe in the true decentralization of blockchain technology, meaning that everyone must be able to access and build on it. Like the internet, blockchain should be owned by everyone and no one. Tomorrow’s apps will be powered by blockchain, and we will all benefit from more people participating in shaping and improving the technology.
I’m astounded by the innovative ways people all over the world are using open-source technology to build blockchain applications. In February 2023, we are hosting a blockchain community conference in Tel Aviv, and in the weeks leading up to the event, I’ve been reflecting on two key opportunities I see as this community grows:
When blockchain is congested and expensive to use, it’s not a viable option for many creators. But if the cost of each transaction goes down dramatically, scalability becomes far more feasible. Researchers, developers and entrepreneurs who have been waiting to pursue or expand their ideas will no longer be limited by these financial concerns.
2. Empowering People
The beautiful thing about emerging technology is that we don’t know what the future will hold. We didn’t know how much the world would change when the first smartphone was released, and we’re now waiting to see exactly what open-source blockchain technology will help us achieve.
But one thing is for sure: it won’t be used just to help the rich get richer. It has the power to give all people, regardless of location, socioeconomic status or background, the tools they need to build the ideas they have been dreaming about. I’ve been honored to play a role in this movement to fix blockchain and bring it to a broader audience. I can’t wait to see what comes next.