Ren — The Evolution of a Protocol

Introducing our broader vision for Ren from its beginnings as Republic Protocol

From Republic Protocol’s inception in 2017 to date, our team’s focus has been to build the best possible protocol for trading large volumes of digital assets securely — facilitated through decentralized dark pools. Many significant milestones have been reached so far including: deployment of the network on mainnet, the launch of the RenEx Beta Dark Pool, the launch of the WBTC initiative, successful BTC to ETH/ERC20 atomic swaps conducted on mainnet, public release of Darknodes, and the participation of a community that continues growing in strength.

Throughout this time, privacy has consistently been at the core of what we are building. After all, a dark pool must have a way to achieve privacy in its hidden order book. For Republic Protocol, the way to achieve this privacy has been a bespoke secure multiparty computation (sMPC) engine. However, throughout our progress, community and stakeholder feedback has indicated that to realize the full potential of the dark pool, complete end-to-end privacy is needed at every stage of the user journey: keeping balances private, keeping order matching private, and even keeping on-chain settlement private. In response to this, we have evolved our sMPC engine into something more flexible and more powerful and begun research into suites of techniques and tools to achieve this end-to-end privacy. This culmination of these elements will become something far more powerful: Ren, an ecosystem of unstoppable privacy.

Our vision for Ren is to enable a world of privacy preserving applications. Ren will power a new kind of trustless distributed computation — one where all applications are run in secret — preserving the privacy of all users and data.

Ren is the evolution of the technology that underpins Republic Protocol, in its most useful and general form. It becomes something much bigger than Republic Protocol and will empower developers to build decentralized and trustless applications, with a distinct focus on financial applications. Using our own newly developed secure multiparty computation protocol, all of these applications will run in complete secrecy.

Check out our new Litepaper.

Ren

Ren is a complete privacy stack built for the digital era of finance, providing a modular architecture designed to suit the privacy needs of any financial application, be it centralized or decentralized. As such, Ren will initially have three core components to advance the state of private decentralized finance, and to provide a standard economic layer for future applications to leverage:

  • A zero-knowledge transaction layer will make it possible to store and transfer tokens from any blockchain without exposing wallet balances or transaction amounts.
  • An interoperability layer will extend zero-knowledge transactions and make it possible to execute trustless swaps between blockchains in secret, and to bridge tokens from one blockchain to another.
  • A dark pool layer will provide secret order matching engines that work with orders known only to their owner, allowing users to open orders without exposing the price or volume to anyone, including the exchange.

Ren will also become open to more general development, allowing developers to build any kind of privacy preserving applications that can be stand-alone, or can integrate with these financial components.

Check the new Litepaper for more information on each of these core components.

RenVM

RenVM is the technology that underpins the entire Ren stack. RenVM is a virtual machine for performing any decentralized computation in complete privacy by leveraging a combination of secure multiparty computations and zkSNARK. RenVM can execute general purpose programs, using inputs from multiple different users, without revealing information to the users or to the Darknodes powering the virtual machine.

The initial approach while building Republic Protocol was to create a bespoke sMPC solution specialized for dark pools. However during the process of building the order matching engine using sMPC, we discovered that design limitations restricting the implementation of important dark pool functionality could be overcome if we created a general purpose virtual machine that was powered by our latest advancements to sMPC technology. This guided us towards building RenVM.

RenVM is designed to replace perfectly trusted third-parties, providing the equivalent functionality, but using a decentralized network of Darknodes instead of a centralized trusted entity. In the context of dark pools and the supporting tools and applications: RenVM lets us build an order matching engine that is faster and supports more order types, as well as settlement layers that are privacy preserving and interoperable between blockchains without the locking of funds that occurs in atomic swaps.

For the wider ecosystem of developers, RenVM has far reaching implications. Eventually, we will open RenVM to developers and begin an entirely new era of applications that can execute in complete privacy, supported by an existing ecosystem of sophisticated privacy preserving finance layers.

During 2019, RenEx will be migrated onto RenVM and Darknodes will be paid for the network, compute, and storage resources contributed to it. Furthermore, Darknodes will be able to earn fees from all kinds of applications that are built on RenVM. A deeper dive into the technology behind RenVM will be discussed in our upcoming Developer Series blogs.

Ren in 2019 and beyond

The following progression details key components of the Ren ecosystem tools as they will be completed. Each step marks a significant milestone towards achieving the comprehensive decentralized finance ecosystem that is Ren.

The coming year will be a busy time for our team as we continue to pioneer technology that has far-reaching implications. With Ren as the foundation for a decentralized privacy preserving virtual machine and ecosystem, it will be capable of providing services offered by any current centralized entity in a completely trustless manner. As the ecosystem grows, and the core components are completed, Ren will introduce development tools to support the open development of private applications of any kind, as well as new products, paving the way for unstoppable privacy.

Onwards and upwards,
 — Taiyang Zhang