How Mina’s zkApps Can Build a Private Gateway between the Real World and Crypto

Mina's zero knowledge smart contracts, zkApps, bring important capabilities which will help us build a private gateway between the real world and crypto — and the secure, democratic future we all deserve. Let's explore three ways how.

Updated Feb 6, 2023

At Mina, our ambition is to design technology that empowers people. To rebalance the scales and give anyone with a smartphone the power to participate — without compromising their personal data, without having to trust any intermediaries, without being beholden to centralized players. In order to accomplish this, we need to get everyone permissionless access to crypto, and then give them the tools to build or use powerful, user-first systems and applications.

There are several Mina characteristics that make this possible.

  • You may know that Mina is the world’s lightest blockchain — weighing in at a consistent 22kb thanks to advanced cryptography and recursive zk-SNARKs. And because Mina is so light, it can be powered by participants. Every user is a full node and can connect peer-to-peer without the need for intermediaries. Developers and users can directly and quickly access and verify the network. This makes Mina protocol permissionless to access — and more secure and trustless than any other chain.

But there are two other inherent capabilities you might not know about. These strengths directly address some of the biggest challenges limiting blockchain’s real-world utility and impact. And they come from Mina’s application layer which is home to a powerful, user-centered, decentralized SNARK-powered app — or zkApp.

  • Other blockchains don’t interact with the internet. That means real-world information is off limits to blockchain applications, limiting their scope and utility. But Mina’s zkApps can privately interact with any website and access verified real-world data for use on-chain. So developers can use real-world data in computing and decision-making to change the way we live and work — without ever compromising privacy. And users can not only access the chain in a permissionless way, but they can safely bring all of their data with them.

  • Our economy is built on powerful centralized players demanding personal information for access to essential services. Users have no control and no alternative to handing over their data in exchange for participation in the modern world. But Mina’s zkApps can keep users in control by validating and sharing proofs about their data — rather than the data itself. Even to those counterparties who are requesting it.

So, in summary…

Mina Solves (at least) Three Problems

These three features make Mina a powerful tool — but what are we building with it?

Three Ways zkApps Can Realize Real-World Applications

Mina’s zero knowledge smart contracts, zkApps, bring important capabilities such as privacy and off-chain computation which will help us build a private gateway between the real world and crypto. Here are some ways how or watch this video to learn more.

01 / End-to-End Data Privacy: From Online to On-chain

What is it? Users can access critical on-chain services without sharing their personal data. Instead, they use Mina to access their online data and to prove that they meet the requirements of service providers. No need for a trusted enclave that can be compromised. No data vulnerabilities, end-to-end.

What problem does it solve? Today, all crypto services function exclusively within the on-chain world, and separately from the online world. That means for all its growth and interest, DeFi can only put idle crypto assets to use – because at present, there is no way to leverage the online presence of billions of people without exposing their personal data and violating their privacy for all to see in perpetuity. So while DeFi is supporting the financialization of the on-chain world, its current design severely limits its utility and undermines its potential to drive financial services innovation and open access to anyone around the world.

What’s an example? A user can prove that their credit score is above 700, according to a trusted source (like Credit Karma). Not even the counterparty requesting the credit score would see the user’s actual score, and there’s no need for the user to share their social security number.

How does it work? A zkApp connects to the source website and produces a proof about data on that website (essentially leveraging Mina’s permissionless web oracles, see below). The proof reveals only the fact (e.g., the user’s credit score passes the threshold), not the data itself. The zkApp shares the proof with the Mina network and then sends the verified proof to the counterparty via an encrypted transaction.

Why is it a better solution? On most chains, counterparties receive actual user data. On Mina, counterparties receive proofs – not the data itself. And chains that tout privacy features require users to share their data with a trusted enclave (a blackbox hardware solution) — but these are known to have vulnerabilities and can leak data when they fail. With Mina, users never have to share their data with anyone or any entity. Instead, only the user’s local machine can access their data to create a proof.

What’s the status? Demo in use. Today, through our partnership with Teller, you can use zkApps to connect to the Credit Karma website and prove that your credit score is above a certain threshold. Soon, you’ll be able to connect to other websites to prove your score, and much more.

02 / Permissionless Web Oracles.

What is it? With Mina’s zkApps, developers can leverage private, verified, real-world data from any website to build decentralized apps. They can input any information that is publicly available on the web (without needing that website’s permission). And they can access, use and protect sensitive data by only sharing the relevant proofs. No need for trusted oracles or custom website integrations.

What’s an example? This would enable a user to send a payment transaction to their friend, triggering a smart contract to release Bitcoin to the user’s address. Or if a Tweet reaches a specific number of likes, it triggers a smart contract to mint an NFT.

How does it work? zkApps interact with HTTPS to create proofs verifying that the data was on the site’s server at a specific time.

Why is it a better solution? Others like Chainlink expose sensitive user data to counterparties. Mina keeps that data private. Chainlink also requires source websites to be “turned on” in order to connect. Mina allows you to connect to any public HTTPS site without needing an agreement.

What’s the status?  In development. Mina’s ecosystem partner, o1Labs, is making great progress which you can follow in the monthly ecosystem updates.

03 / One Private Internet Login.

What is it? Users can access any internet website or service privately — without creating an account and handing over their personal data. Instead, they log in securely with Mina. No centralized service provider can block them. And developers across chains can integrate this private, secure option into their services.

How does it work? Users create zkApp-based login accounts on Mina using their email. The zkApp proves to the website that the user owns the underlying email — without ever revealing the actual address. Using zkApps on top of accounts makes private cross-app interoperability and private facts possible.

Why is it a better solution? MetaMask works within the crypto ecosystem. Mina works across the internet. Apple offers users a centralized login, but one that is not private or censorship resistant. Mina’s solution is trustless, private and censorship-resistant.

What’s the status?  Concepting complete. Mina builders are now welcome to explore this use case and receive support for its development via Mina Foundation grant programs.

At Mina, we believe it’s time to own our future. To rebalance the scales and give anyone with a smartphone the power to participate, build, exchange and thrive on their own terms. That’s why we created the world’s lightest blockchain. And that’s why we’re using that blockchain to build a private gateway between the real world and crypto—and the infrastructure for the secure, democratic future we all deserve.

If these ideas interest you, we hope that you join us on mainnet where you can run a node and soon build your own zkApps.

About Mina Protocol

Mina is the world’s lightest blockchain, powered by participants. Rather than apply brute computing force, Mina uses advanced cryptography and recursive zk-SNARKs to design an entire blockchain that is about 22kb, the size of a couple of tweets. It is the first layer-1 to enable efficient implementation and easy programmability of zero knowledge smart contracts (zkApps). With its unique privacy features and ability to connect to any website, Mina is building a private gateway between the real world and crypto—and the secure, democratic future we all deserve.

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