Stanford Blockchain Weekly Summary of Theoretical Practicality, ZK, Modularization, and Current Development Status of Bitcoin Ecosystem

Author: LianGuaiul Veradittakit

Translation: Deep Tide TechFlow

August 26th to September 1st was Stanford Blockchain Week, a week-long series of conferences, summits, and events. In addition to the main academic conference, there were many other summits this year, including the Blockchain Application Stanford Summit (BASS) hosted by the Stanford Blockchain Club, the Starknet Summit in San Francisco, and academic workshops focused on consensus, MEV, DAO, and many other related activities. In this article, we will explore three key trends during this week and what they mean for the entire industry.

Trend 1: Optimization of Zero-Knowledge Proofs in Theory and Practice

Unsurprisingly, a large part of the conference focused on Zero-Knowledge Proofs (ZKPs). The optimization of existing ZKP solutions was a core theme of SBC itself, with one panel discussing breakthroughs such as efficient folding schemes like HyperNova and Protostar. In addition to these, other academic presentations focused on applying zkSNARKs to more efficient batch Merkle proofs and formal verification of ZK circuits.

Moreover, the interest in driving ZKP research is not limited to the academic community at Stanford. During this week, several startups from the Stanford Blockchain Accelerator showcased new applications of ZKPs in various fields. For example, Nexus Labs and Modulus Labs used ZKPs for verifiable computation, Ironmill and Succinct proposed use cases in new development tools and infrastructure, and Nocturne and Hinkal demonstrated applications for private transactions.

The ZKP ecosystem is gradually becoming more specialized, with different companies focusing on specific parts of the ZK process, whether it is connecting applications to provers, providing ZK proofs for specific verticals (such as Modulus’ artificial intelligence), or offering other enhanced integration tools. This specialization may indicate that the industry is gradually evolving into a modular and complex process, highlighting the growing maturity of ZKP as a technology. Of course, all of this is being done at a steady pace of academic breakthroughs, such as the new folding schemes proposed at SBC, which open up new use cases and create a symbiotic relationship between ZKP theory and practice.

Trend 2: Achieving “Plug-and-Play” Composability through Increased Modularity

Modularity has become a hot topic and growth trend in the past few months, with different companies focusing on specific tasks within the blockchain technology stack (such as ordering, execution, data availability) rather than having one massive blockchain responsible for everything. However, modularity itself is not necessarily the end goal; instead, the goal is to create a more composable technology stack, a “plug-and-play” design space that allows developers to experiment and fine-tune blockchain stacks for any set of requirements.

This “plug and play” spirit was reflected in Professor Ed Felton’s speech on Stylus about Arbitrum on BASS. The project aims to unify the execution environment of EVM and WASM code, enabling smooth interaction between smart contracts and WASM code. This allows for the creation of WASM “libraries” from which EVM contracts can call functions, resulting in a more composable development experience. Other interesting developments in modularization to improve composability include Chainlink’s CCIP, which attempts to create industry-defined interoperability standards, and Celestia’s speech discussing the history and future of modular blockchains.

It is worth noting that many of the projects driving this trend at Stanford are larger and more mature companies (such as Arbitrum, Chainlink, Celestia, Starkware), which are already industry leaders. While smaller companies like Stanford’s startup Caldera are also dedicated to this trend, composability seems to be more relevant for projects seeking to establish or consolidate their ecosystem advantages, trying to attract developers to use their technology stack. This is a positive move for the entire blockchain industry, as increasing emphasis on composability through a “plug and play” approach reduces the entry barriers for new developers and allows for more customizable technology stacks to be applied to a wider range of use cases.

Trend 3: Revisiting the Bitcoin Developer Ecosystem

The third interesting trend during the Stanford Blockchain Conference is the renewed focus on the development and future of the world’s oldest blockchain, Bitcoin. During BASS, there was a specific emphasis on the Bitcoin ecosystem, both from a developer and technical perspective, as well as from a cultural perspective. In addition to Professor David Tse’s speech on the Babylon Bitcoin staking protocol, there were multiple panel discussions featuring speakers from Ordinals, Taproot Wizards, Bitcoin Startup Labs, Bitcoin Magazine, and others, discussing the innovative future of the Bitcoin ecosystem, especially post-Ordinals.

Perhaps one of the most interesting and unique viewpoints was the defense of Bitcoin Ordinals art (such as Raresats) by Erin Redwing, Chief Operating Officer of Ordinals. She argued that if Bitcoin is “digital gold,” then the artwork engraved by Ordinals is equivalent to “digital jewelry,” just as most ordinary people indirectly interact with gold through “art and jewelry.” Additionally, the cultural and technological changes brought by Ordinals and other new projects seem to have reignited the interest of many Ethereum developers in the Bitcoin ecosystem, bringing their expertise in designing Ethereum DApps, token economics, and implementations to Bitcoin, potentially reviving the ancient ecosystem of Bitcoin.

However, it is still too early to assert whether we are in the midst of a true “Bitcoin renaissance.” It is well known that Bitcoin is a conservative ecosystem, and its community’s attitude towards cultural and technological changes is at most indifferent, if not hostile. Nevertheless, the potential development of the Bitcoin ecosystem is still worth paying attention to, even if only from the perspectives of transaction volume and cultural recognition.


The above three trends regarding the progress of ZK, the achievability through modularity, and the development of the Bitcoin ecosystem, are far from exhaustive in describing all the research and innovation being conducted at Stanford University. From new research on consensus mechanisms that lay the foundation for future L1 or L2 solutions, to transaction and MEV modeling techniques that could enhance analysis tools, and to new cryptographic primitives, Stanford Blockchain Conference (SBC) demonstrates the diversity and vitality of this industry. Unlike many other industry summits or academic conferences, SBC and its affiliated meetings cleverly synchronize and integrate the industry with research, creating a vibrant alliance composed of startups, mature protocols, and the academic community, all dedicated to driving the blockchain field forward and building a better decentralized future.

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