First announced in 2016, Zcash has been working to perfect their own iteration of a second-layer protocol; One that would function much like the Lightning Network, but bring the privacy that is synonymous with Zcash. This iteration is known as BOLT. This acronym stands for ‘Blind Off-Chain Lightweight Transactions’. After two years of development, Dr. Ayo Akinyele has published this work on GitHub.
Although the Lightning Network brings a higher level of privacy than transactions currently taking place on the Bitcoin blockchain, there is always room for improvement. Zcash believes they can do better. While the Lightning Network makes use of onion-routing to obscure transactions trails, it does nothing for hiding the opening/closure of payment channels on the main chain. Matthew Green and Ian Miers saw this as a problem and got to work on BOLT. In a paper released by the pair, they describe the inner workings of the protocol. Essentially, by employing the use of zero-knowledge proofs and blind signatures, privacy is attained. While the original paper was written by this duo, Dr. Ayo Akinyele has spent the last two years working on the code.
Adaptation & Roll Out
In a recent interview with CoinDesk, Dr. Ayo Akinyele touched on multiple key points regarding his work in BOLT.
One of the most intriguing benefits to the BOLT protocol, is that it is based off of Zcash. Originating from Zerocoin (an extension of BTC), the privacy coin shares much of its underlying code with industry leaders like BTC and LTC. This means that adaptation of the code to allow for interoperability between chains is possible. In doing so, the privacy features afforded to Zcash could be utilized by Bitcoin and Litecoin. Speaking on the topic with CoinDesk, Dr. Ayo Akinyele commented, “The next step is to retrofit these properties to bitcoin and litecoin on the lightning network, probably as a shielded transaction option, similar to what zcash offers now.”
To achieve this, though, baby steps must be taken. Looking to mimic the launch of the Lightning Network, Dr. Ayo Akinyele is hoping to launch a test net for his protocol. Only after months of use on this test-net, will the protocol be launched for real-world use. In the same interview with CoinDesk, Dr. Ayo Akinyele stated, “It would be awesome to deploy this, similar to what lightning had done, and allow people to test on the testnet and then gradually get toward the mainnet.”
News of this development comes at a time when authorities appear to shying away from privacy coins. Although not immune to the bear market that the industry finds itself wading through, Zcash has managed to see some industry adoption in 2018. They were listed on the Winklevoss run exchange, Gemini earlier in the year. Due to the ability of Zcash to essentially toggle their privacy features on and off, authorities appear to be more comfortable working with the currency than others such as Monero.
Recognizing both the potential of the Lightning Network, and the necessity of bolt, Dr. Ayo Akinyele has been working relentlessly to bring each to Zcash. With his continued dedication, we may just see each of these protocols working in unison one day. Scalability and privacy all rolled into one.