Polygon Miden: Transaction Model

Polygon Labs
April 28, 2023
Polygon Solutions
Image source: Dribbble

Polygon Miden, a ZK-optimized rollup that extends Ethereum’s feature set, will complement existing zero-knowledge solutions aiming to become the internet's value layer.

This post is the second in a series meant to introduce Polygon Miden, the motivations behind its design, and the one-of-a-kind features it offers. 

Last month, the Polygon blog outlined Polygon Miden’s goals and core features. What follows will focus on the core concepts of Polygon Miden: Accounts, Notes, and Transactions. 

In Polygon Miden, there are accounts and notes, both of which can hold assets. Transactions can be understood as facilitating account state changes. Basically, they take one single account and some notes as input and output the same account at a new state together with some other notes. This is quite different from what we see on Ethereum, and it allows Polygon Miden to extend Ethereum’s feature set. 

Accounts Store Assets and Code

In Polygon Miden, accounts hold assets and define rules of how these assets can be transferred. This is quite similar to how accounts work on Ethereum, but there are some important differences.

First, on Polygon Miden, every account has code, whereas, on Ethereum, externally owned accounts (EOAs) do not. That means all accounts on Polygon Miden are smart contracts—the concept is called Account Abstraction. That leads to a better user experience and safer wallets—imagine the ability to rotate keys, rate limit, social recovery, among others.  

On Ethereum, only ETH balances are stored locally in the accounts. This means that the account’s data structure is the only place where information about the account’s ETH balance is stored. In contrast, on Polygon Miden, all assets are stored locally in the account. This provides privacy and scalability. If you recall, on Polygon Miden, users can keep the account data private. Information about what assets or code a certain account holds does not need to be visible to others. 

How does this provide scalability? Storing assets locally allows any token transaction to touch only one account, which is needed for concurrency. In contrast, ERC20 tokens on Ethereum are smart contracts that store a list of accounts that own the contract’s token and the respective balance. The owner of an ERC20 token needs to change that contract to transfer the token. On Polygon Miden, tokens are not stored in a public list. 

Third, Polygon Miden’s account IDs are just 8 bytes long, whereas Ethereum’s account addresses are 20 bytes long. It should be easier to remember fewer characters. This is possible because every account has code. There is no need to tie the public key to the account’s ID, where there are other methods to authenticate.

Accounts Communicate Using Notes

This is similar to the Actor Model in distributed systems. As described in the overview of Polygon Miden, the Actor Model is an approach for achieving concurrent state changes in distributed systems. Actors play the role of little state machines, meaning each actor is responsible for their own state. Actors have inboxes to send and receive messages to communicate with other actors. Messages can be read asynchronously. After reading a message, an actor can change its state. Notes in Polygon Miden function like messages.

In Polygon Miden, accounts communicate with one another by producing and consuming notes. Notes are messages carrying assets that accounts can send to each other—a note stores assets and a script that defines how this note can be consumed. This script allows for more than just the transferring of assets. 

The concept of notes is a key difference between Ethereum’s Account-based model and Polygon Miden, which uses a hybrid UTXO- and Account-based state-model. 

Consider the following: On Ethereum, sending $5 from one account to another means taking $5 out of your wallet and putting it directly into the receiver's wallet. When you have the other person’s wallet in your hand, no one else can put something in there—there is a global lock. 

On Polygon Miden, there are bills, or notes. In this mental model, you take a $5 bill out of your wallet and put it into a lockbox. Regardless of what happens next, you are $5 poorer. For someone to retrieve the bill, she needs to know the lock's combination. And if she does, she can put the bill in her wallet. Your action (putting the bill into the lockbox) and her action (taking the bill from the box) are distinct. 

Transactions: Producing and Consuming Notes 

When accounts consume or produce notes, we call that a transaction. A transaction is always executed against a single account, and it causes a state change in that single account.

That means, sending an asset from one account to another requires two transactions: one transaction to create the note and another transaction to consume that note by another account. 

Think of the above example: When you put the $5 bill in the lockbox, that’s your individual state transition and the first transaction. However, when this second person takes the $5 bill from the lockbox, her own individual state transition has occurred, plus $5. These are the two transactions for transferring one asset in Polygon Miden. This second person could even open several lockboxes simultaneously and “consume” all bills in one transaction.

Here are some compelling things that can be done with this transaction model: 

  1. Transactions can be executed and proven locally because they only involve one single account. This provides privacy and lowers the costs of complex computations because there is no re-execution by several network participants.
  2. Furthermore, until another account has consumed a note, the creator of that note can update it. Updating a note can be done by revealing a hashed part of the note’s script. A note’s script could say, “Consume this 5 ETH AND send Bob 10 MATIC OR 0x213 …”. Then, if no one consumes this note, the creator could reveal “0x213 = Consume this 5 ETH AND send Bob 9 MATIC”. In our analogy, you can update the lock. Think of market makers updating an on-chain order book for free and in no time.
  3. Another interesting wrinkle is that if a note is sent to the wrong address, the creator could recall it. Think of those many users who accidentally sent something to the wrong address on Ethereum or Bitcoin. On Polygon Miden, the creator of a given transaction can configure it such that a note can be recalled if it hasn’t yet been consumed.

Transactions Involving Public Shared State

Ok, so Polygon Miden accounts can locally execute and prove their transactions because a transaction only changes its own state. But what if a public state is involved? Imagine there is a Uniswap-like contract—which is simply another account—that changes after it consumes and produces some notes. This change must be visible to all other users because it affects their exchange rate. 

Basically, an account that needs its state to be public cannot execute and prove its transactions locally. Those network transactions must be executed and proven by the Polygon Miden operator. In this case, Polygon Miden works similarly to all other ZK Rollups, where specialized provers create the proofs of valid state transitions. 

Let’s look at the architecture of how two accounts can swap tokens with a Uniswap-like contract. From left to right, we can break down this sequence into discrete phases.

Token Swap Initiation

  1. Acct1 and Acct2 want to trade on a Uniswap-like contract
  2. Tx1 creates Note1 and can be locally executed by Acct1
  3. Tx2 creates Note2 and can be locally executed by Acct2

Uniswap Execution

  1. In Tx3, Uniswap consumes Note1 and Note2 (and all the other notes that are in its inbox) and creates Note3 and Note4 in the same transaction
  2. Because Uniswap’s state must be publicly visible, this state change is performed by the Polygon Miden operator 

Token Swap Finalization

  1. Acct1 and Acct2 now get their swapped tokens back
  2. Tx4 consumes Note3 and can again be locally executed by Acct1
  3. Tx5 consumes Note4 and can again be locally executed by Acct2

What’s To Come

There will be more updates as Polygon Miden moves toward a public testnet, as well as deep dives into its state and execution models. What will likely emerge are the dimensions of an elastic, general-purpose ZK rollup that is optimized for high-throughput, computation-heavy applications where privacy is also a priority. 

For the latest, check the Polygon Labs blog and tune in to the social channels for everything in the Polygon ecosystem. And if you’re interested in (or perplexed by) Zero Knowledge, follow the dedicated ZK handle for Polygon, @0xPolygon, and head over to the ZK forum

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