Introducing the Cipher ParaTime

The all-in-one privacy-enabled ParaTime for the Oasis Network.

We’re excited to introduce the Cipher ParaTime, a new, smart contract environment coming to the Oasis Network. As of today the Cipher ParaTime is officially in Testnet phase, with a pool of avid validators setting up nodes and sleuthing for bugs before the Mainnet release in October 2021. The Cipher ParaTime will bring a host of new features and capabilities to the Oasis Network — but before we dive into Cipher lets take a step back and review the Oasis architecture as a whole.

A Multitude of ParaTimes

Part of what makes the Oasis Network so fast comes from its fundamental design. Most notability, consensus operations (e.g. maintaining an immutable ledger) are separated from compute operations. Similar to chains like Polkadot, this allows many compute environments (called ParaTimes) to exist in parallel — each writing their own transactions to the Consensus Layer. Anyone can build a ParaTime, and they can be customized to fit each developers unique needs.

Today, there are two ParaTimes available on the Oasis Network.

  • The Parcel ParaTime: A custom designed ParaTime used to support Oasis Labs’ Parcel SDK. Parcel is a simple API interface that allows developers to store data, access confidential compute technology, and eventually mint data-backed NFTs.
  • The Oasis-Eth ParaTime: An EVM compatible ParaTime designed to support DApps ported from the Ethereum to the Oasis Network. The ParaTime has better performance and gas fees nearly 99% cheaper than Ethereum.

Meet Cipher: A Confidential ParaTime

Cipher is a powerful new ParaTime coming to the Oasis Network. Developed alongside the community by the Oasis Protocol Foundation, Cipher will bring a host of new features and capabilities to the Oasis Network. Here’s a snapshot of what’s coming to Cipher over the coming months:

  • Fully decentralized node operators operating the ParaTime from around the world
  • Native support for Oasis ROSE tokens to pay gas fees and for easy integration in DeFi DApps
  • A bridge to the Ethereum network for easy swaps
  • A WASM based smart contract environment with support for Confidential smart contracts

With Cipher we aim to provide top-tier smart contract support while giving developers full access to confidential compute. This means that data will be able to remain confidential on chain, unlocking a host of new use cases such as privacy-enabled DeFi.

Example Use Case:

The privacy technology made available by the Cipher ParaTime, has the power to not only better secure data, but also revolutionize the DeFi space. DeFi today is limited by high fees, self-motivated traders, and a lack of a reputation system or identity. Using both confidential compute as well as a lightweight, scalable design, the Oasis Network can enable lower fees, prevent front-running, and allow for the creation of identities with user-controlled data.

This powerful combination of private, scalable smart contracts has the potential to unlock new use cases like under-collateralized loans, and private automated market makers. With under-collateralized loans for example, individuals could upload sensitive financial data — allowing them to establish their creditworthiness and providing assurances to a lender that they will pay their debts. This allows lenders to offer under-collateralized loans for the first time on blockchain, unlocking entirely new markets and expanding DeFi to a mainstream audience.

Product Roadmap

This week, Cipher launched on testnet with a pool of node operators. During the testnet phase, node operators will configure their setups while testing the network for bugs and vulnerabilities. Rewards will be given out to node operators based on a variety of challenges designed to strengthen the ParaTime. For information on the Incentivized Testnet check out our blog here.

Cipher, and its various features, will rollout over the coming months. Here’s an overview of the product roadmap:

If you’d like to learn more about Cipher or the Oasis Network, visit our community Telegram or join our Slack channel.

Behind the Name

The Cipher ParaTime name pays homage to the field of cryptography and the Oasis Network’s focus on data privacy. In cryptography, a cipher is an algorithm for performing encryption or decryption. “Cipher” comes from the Arabic word “sifr” which means “nothing” or “zero.” The word came to Europe along with the Arabic numeral system. As early codes substituted numbers for letters to hide a word’s meaning, these secret codes became known as ciphers. If you solve a cipher, you break the code and can understand the underlying hidden message. Ciphers, and cryptographic codes more broadly, have been used since the dawn of modern civilization to ensure that important information is kept private and secure.

We hope the Cipher ParaTime will continue this tradition by enabling the next generation of privacy-preserving applications. We look forward to working with our community of node operators to launch the Cipher ParaTime and set the foundation for a better internet.

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