Protocol Labs, innovative research, development and deployment lab for network protocols announced a research collaboration with the Ethereum Foundation on 19 April.
Protocol Labs conveyed that this embrace comes as a requirement to develop at least one efficient, secure and usable Verifiable Delay Function (VDF) construction. VDFs are a relatively new technology that can protect systems relying on the generation of random values from manipulative strategies or compromise.
Protocol Labs cited on the novelty of VDF as –
“VDFs are a recent addition to the set of cryptographic primitives – the first proposed constructions were published in June 2018. At a high level, a VDF is a function that takes at least some amount of time, the “delay,” to generate an output (even if you throw a bunch of processors at it), but whose output can be verified quickly and easily.”
The network protocol firm added that although VDFs are quite new, they are being widely used in blockchain research. VDFs have been used in proofs of replication, leader election in consensus protocols, and randomness beacons added to many other applications. Protocol Labs expressed that VDF construction would be a major innovation in applied cryptography and distributed systems. Such applicability could scale beyond blockchain.
Protocol Labs further added that more research was necessary to design secure and efficient VDF constructions that can be used practically. A vital area of concern that must be addressed was acceleration through specialized hardware. Protocol Labs emphasized that for most VDF constructions till date, entities with access to custom hardware generated outputs faster. Such a system hinders the security of protocols that rely on VDFs.
In February, there were two scheduled upgrades for the Ethereum network. The news touched upon the essence of network upgrade conveying that such processes tweak existing Ethereum protocols to improve the system. There was highlight about the complexity of this process considering that the underlying infrastructure was decentralized. Cooperation from the blockchain community and the developers was essential.
Protocol Labs expressed that VDFs would be tremendously useful as cryptographic primitives. However, the firm noted that a lot of work was pending to realize the gain. Both the partners were engaged in exploring the use of VDFs for their respective protocols. From a broader domain perspective, VDFs are poised as innovative tools in the hands of cryptographers and decentralization projects. Finally, there were evaluations into the feasibility of building specialized hardware to run a VDF.