In recent months, the Ethereum ecosystem has made considerable strides in several key areas, including scaling, UX, and privacy.
The rising Tornado Cash privacy tool is one of Ethereum’s brightest stars on the lattermost front, and now the much needed solution is almost ready for the big time.
Primed for Posterity
zk-SNARKs are powerful, in that they allow people to prove the validity of information to others without having to actually reveal the underlying information. In the context of Tornado, these constructions demonstrate users have deposited ETH and thus can withdraw an equivalent amount in anonymous fashion.
The catch? A “zero-knowledge” system like Tornado needs what’s known as a Trusted Setup Ceremony, or TSC, to securely ensure the parameters of its zk-SNARKs indefinitely.
While Tornado’s been in its infancy, its builders retained controlled of the system’s smart contract with a multisig and conducted an initial TSC with one machine. The plan all along, though, has been to make Tornado totally tamper-proof and to run a large public TSC to complete the tool’s infrastructure for the future.
That final TSC launched on May 1st and ran for 10 days, allowing users from around the world to contribute computation power to the effort. In an announcement post on May 13th, the Tornado team confirmed the ceremony had concluded successfully and had become the biggest the cryptoeconomy has seen yet:
“With a record 1114 contributions this was by far the largest Trusted Setup Ceremony to date. By comparison, all other trusted setup ceremonies had less than 200 participants. Just as we hoped, everything went smoothly and we would like to thank the Ethereum Community for their support and participation.”
With that ceremony now out of the way, Tornado is now verge of becoming completely decentralized and trustless. However, one major step remains before these characteristics can be provably guaranteed forever.
Projects like Uniswap are beacons of decentralization in the Ethereum ecosystem because no one can interfere with their admin-less smart contracts. These contracts will run forever in this way, all the while provably resistant to manipulation by their creators.
Now that Tornado’s final TSC is done, the project’s next major milestone will be when its creators relinquish control over its smart contracts for good, a la the model of Uniswap. And that milestone is notably coming soon, as the Tornado team explained this week:
“In just a few days, after we ensure that everything works as intended, we will set the operator address to
0x0000000000000000000000000000000000000000so that no one ever will be able to modify it. This will make tornado.cash fully trustless, decentralized and forever unstoppable!”
Once this move is done, Ethereum’s privacy scene will instantly become that much more mature. It’s not that Tornado wasn’t interesting or promising before now, but rather that the tool will have actualized its full potential and thus become tangibly practical for use in the wider cryptoeconomy.
Will the Bitcoiners Come?
Right now, Tornado supports mixing for ETH, as well transactions around the Dai, cDai, USDC, and USDT stablecoin projects.
It’s possible the Tornado team will build more expansive mixers in the future or that other teams will take up that task. Regarding the latter possibility, it’ll be interesting to see if Ethereum mixers pop up that are focused on the slew of tokenized bitcoin offerings, e.g. tBTC, that are gaining traction around Ethereum lately.
The Bitcoin community generally loves privacy, so will Tornado-like smart contract mixers be enough to win some over to tokenized BTC? Only time will tell for now.