Thousands of attendees recently gathered at the National Western Complex in Denver for ETHDenver 2023 to learn about the current and future cryptocurrency ecosystem.
John Paller, founder and CEO of ETHDenver, told Cointelegraph that 15,000 people attended the ETHDenver main event.
Although ETHDenver drew a diverse crowd, many students from top universities attended the event, showcasing new solutions to advance the cryptocurrency and Web3 industry.
Developers focus on user experience, security, and privacy
Gil Rosen, president of the Stanford Blockchain Accelerator — a program that connects students and founding alumni of Stanford University in the blockchain space — told Cointelegraph that he believes that current Web3 technology platforms are generally inefficient. “These platforms often lack privacy preservation, are extremely difficult to develop (especially complex applications), and are even more complex to use,” he said.
Given this, Rosen mentioned that the students attending ETHDenver 2023 seemed to be focused on creating tools for developers, and solutions to simplify the user experience and privacy. “These features will allow future applications to be easily built and fully capable. This is what the teams that are part of the Stanford Blockchain Accelerator are primarily focused on this year,” she said.
For example, Rosen noted that Stanford’s “0xPass” team was on hand at ETHDenver 2023 to demonstrate how account abstraction could be used in the future to allow Web3 wallets to be externally controlled by smart contract code. This feature would mean that wallet owners would no longer have to sign every transaction. The release of the new ERC-4337 standard will enable use cases such as account abstraction.
Kun Peng, an advisor to 0xPass and a Stanford professor of Web3 entrepreneurship, told Cointelegraph that while several projects were demonstrating how the ERC-4337 standard could be used for account abstraction, 0xPass is unique in that it has built a software development kit ( SDK) to simplify the implementation of the account abstraction. He explained:
“This SDK will provide decentralized apps with a significantly better authentication and integration experience. As a result, the Web3 market will expand to “regulars” who do not want to use private key wallets. This feature will enable the use of social logins for authentication, the same login for multiple wallets, password recovery and much more.”
As best-in-class wallet experiences have become essential, ETHDenver 2023 also saw a lot of talk about zero-knowledge proofs (ZK-proofs). For example, the Modulus Labs Stanford team spoke at zkDAY Denver – a side event focused on ZK testing – about zero-knowledge approaches to verifying artificial intelligence (AI) models. As AI becomes more widely used, it will be crucial to verify accurate information using cryptography.
Ryan Cao, CTO at Modulus Labs, told Cointelegraph that applications built on the existing smart contract ecosystem are limited in their capabilities. He explained that Modulus Labs has created a solution to allow offline calculations to be checked for compliance with certain AI traits.
For example, Cao explained that Modulus had built a proof-of-concept that is a fully autonomous, AI-based on-chain trading robot that can make predictions about the price of Ether (ETH). According to Cao, this could allow the AI to make cryptographically fair decisions. He said:
“At zkDAY we demonstrated an on-chain AI game called ‘Leela vs. the World’, in which players stake to compete against a hyper-intelligent AI chess bot. The game is fully on-chain, and the bot’s decisions of AI are carefully verified using cryptography. In other words, players can bet with or against the game knowing that no one can secretly change the outcome in their favor.”
In addition to privacy applications using ZK-proofs, the participants demonstrated various security solutions. Tianzuo Zhang, a master’s student at China’s Tsinghua University and a student ambassador for the Algorand Foundation university program, explained to Cointelegraph that he is building a security-defending app to mitigate the damage that decentralized applications (DApps) could suffer from various sources. security threats.
Known as “HoneyDApp,” Zhang shared that the project was one of the winners of the “OpenZeppelin Bounty” contest, which was held during ETHDenver’s BUIDLWeek.
According to Zhang, HoneyDApp uses Defender OpenZeppelin – a secure trading platform for smart contracts – to detect and identify attacks against DApps. In addition, Zhang noted that the “honeypot” protocol could catch attackers before they can do significant damage.
Such a solution can be critical, as Zhang explained that the risks of cyberattacks and vulnerabilities are becoming more common with the rise of Web3 DApps. “HoneyDApp becomes important as it provides a proactive security solution that can detect, respond to, and defend against attacks. It limits damage and reduces risk to the project,” he says.
Although many students showcased solutions at ETHDenver this year, university programs focused on advancing Web3 are likely to drive innovation.
For example, Polkadot – a Web3-focused blockchain project – will launch its third iteration of the “Polkadot Blockchain Academy” (PBA) with the University of California, Berkeley, from July 10 to August 10, 2023.
Pauline Cohen Vorms, director of the Polkadot Blockchain Academy, told Cointelegraph that the PBA has already taught courses at the University of Cambridge and the University of Buenos Aires. She noted that this is the first time that PBA courses will be taught at a US university.
According to Cohen Vorms, PBA aims to educate and support the next generation of blockchain engineers and developers. He added that the PBA curriculum is led by Gavin Wood, founder of Polkadot and co-founder of Ethereum. “PBA is not only focused on the Polkadot ecosystem. Our intention is to provide a solid foundation of blockchain and Web3 that can be applied to different projects.”
While it is difficult to predict what students will focus on building in the PBA at Berkeley, Cohen Vorms shared that the courses will focus on the fundamentals of cryptography, governance options, interoperability between blockchain networks, and the tools available for help developers build their own blockchains and parachains.
Rosen added that Stanford students are primarily focused on building infrastructure, developer tools, and security tools and analytics mitigation for institutional and enterprise use cases, all with a focus on simplifying the user experience. And she added:
“Most developers today are building for the 90% of current Web3 users and developers, whose use cases were often exchanges, decentralized finance, and non-fungible social tokens. But these will probably make up 10%. of future users. So I think student developers need to focus on the broader use cases now, and not be so focused on the current user base that was drawn in by the last bull market.”
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