From Milestones to Masterstrokes: StarkWare’s Year in Review

STARK-tech as the secret sauce that helps dApps scale and thrive on Ethereum — today and tomorrow.

StarkWare
Published in
7 min readDec 27, 2023

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TL;DR

  • Starknet set the foundations to be the home for complex, computational-hungry, and innovative DeFi platforms, onchain games, dynamic NFTs, and more.
  • Starknet continues to have the fastest-growing dev ecosystem among all L2s (and a few L1s).
  • StarkWare open-sourced key elements such as Stone Prover, Starknet sequencer, and Papyrus full node in 2023.

Read on to learn about our highlights and the overall progress of the Starknet ecosystem in 2023.

Decentralization & Community Expansion

L1 limitation of scale, UX, and high costs have made creating successful onchain games nearly impossible. But with the maturity of Validity Rollup technology, the promise of onchain games is finally being delivered.

As a result, the number of projects building fully onchain games on Starknet boomed over the past year. Some examples include Influence, a grand-strategy MMO set in a distant asteroid belt with a player-owned open economy, Shoshin, a user-programmable fighting game, Realms, a fantasy-strategy game, and Loot Survivor, a survival-strategy game.

This year, we also saw the launch of Dojo, a decentralized gaming engine built by the Starknet community, which simplifies key elements required for game building. Other components like ECS, Sozu, Torii, and Katana aid game development and deployment.

  • The Starknet Decentralization Roadmap

The Starknet ecosystem took several strides in 2023 toward fulfilling the Starknet decentralization roadmap. Published in October 2023, this canonical paper outlines the values on which the ecosystem was created, how the transition process to a decentralized Starknet will look like, the decentralized network architecture, and the plan towards a fully open-sourced software stack.

  • The Devonomics Pilot Program

Starknet’s founding vision recognized that developers are central to the network’s
mission of scaling Ethereum while retaining Ethereum’s core principles of decentralization, transparency, inclusivity, and security.

That’s why, in December 2023, and in accordance with this vision of decentralized governance, the Starknet Foundation, in collaboration with StarkWare, launched the Devonomics Pilot Program. A first-of-its-kind program among L2s, Devonomics distributes over 1,600 ETH to Starknet dApp and Core Developers who have contributed to Starknet’s expansion and adoption. The distribution is done via a novel mechanism that aims for fairness, inclusivity, and transparency.

The end goal of Devonomics is to bolster developer participation in decision-making and the future operation of Starknet.

STARK-Tech: Reaching New Heights

  • Leading the Pack

STARK-Tech continues to scale Ethereum and provide apps with the ability to grow their audience and activity at low costs. StarkEx passed $1 trillion (yes, you read that right) in cumulative trading, and Starknet, during several weeks in 2023, scaled more activity on Ethereum than all the other L2s combined.

Moreover, in 2023, Starknet’s developer ecosystem grew by 14% to become the 8th largest crypto developer community, the largest developer ecosystem among all L2s.

The release of Starknet Alpha v0.12.0 marked the beginning of a quantum leap forward in providing enhanced performance and scalability, featuring a 10x increase in throughput. Three key ingredients contributed to this improvement: Cairo VM in Rust (part of a year-long collaboration between LambdaClass and StarkWare), Blockifier, and Papyrus, all benefiting from the power of Rust.

Innovating on Ethereum

In ground-breaking research that used cryptographic proofs and block hashes, Herodotus collaborated with StarkWare to prove Ethereum blocks all the way back to the Genesis block. Until this point, the only records developers could access in a trustless manner was the history of the past hour. However, by leveraging Herodotus’s storage proofs solution and StarkWare’s powerful SHARP (SHARed Prover) system, developers can now retrieve — in a chain-native and provable way — all Ethereum block hashes back to the Genesis block.

By doing so, this accomplishment achieves the goals of EIP-2935 — a way to access historical block hashes older than 256 blocks in a chain-native way, and unlocks new use cases for Defi and more.

Open-Sourcing Time — Setting New Bars for Protocols

In keeping with its vision to facilitate decentralization on Starknet, StarkWare open-sourced various key components of its tech stack to empower developers. Here are some of the key elements that were open-sourced:

The upgrade from Cairo Zero to (the new) Cairo in January brought 2023 in with a bang. A major milestone in the evolution of Cairo, the Turing-complete programming language for efficiently writing provable programs, this new release made Cairo dev-friendly, allowing for writing safer code while also being more expressive.

Cairo also introduced Sierra, a new intermediate representation that ensures every program that Cairo runs can be proven. This makes Cairo particularly well-suited for use in a permissionless network like Starknet, where it can provide robust DoS protection and censorship resistance. To learn more about Cairo, read here.

A Rust implementation of a Starknet full node, Papyrus was launched to provide the foundations for the new Starknet Sequencer, which dramatically enhances Starknet’s throughput. In line with StarkWare’s ongoing move to open-source the Starknet stack, Papyrus was provided open source under the Apache 2.0 license and joined other Starknet full nodes — Pathfinder, Juno, and Deoxys — which were built by external teams in the ecosystem.

Built on the foundations of Papyrus, the new open-sourced Starknet sequencer became available under the Apache 2.0 license and was designed and developed to boost throughput and level up Starknet’s performance. The vital first stop in a user transaction’s journey to STARK scaling, sequencers order the transaction and produce blocks to be converted into a proof for Ethereum.

StarkWare open-sourced its battle-tested and powerful Stone (STARK one) Prover under the Apache 2.0 license. In doing so, StarkWare allows builders to use this robust battle-tested prover and build their proving systems around it for whatever cause they choose. It also allows more eyes to review the code and offer optimizations, improve its quality, help detect bugs, and provide transparency.

Appchains on Starknet: The Home of Innovative dApps

Public networks offer composability and ecosystem benefits, but for some apps, a dedicated scaling solution can offer specific benefits that cannot be implemented on the public network. Starknet appchains are making notable strides forward, with the first Starknet appchain already in production. Here are a few milestones we saw in 2023:

In July 2023, Paradigm, the largest institutional liquidity network in crypto, launched Paradex, a crypto-derivatives exchange and the first appchain on Starknet. The launch demonstrated Starknet’s ability to cater to the needs of apps that require heavy computation, low costs, and custom specs, all while retaining self-custody.

The smart contract behind this new, beta-stage perpetual trading platform was written in Cairo by the Paradex team within only six months.

The launch of Madara, a sequencer built by Starknet’s exploration team and community members, was a game-changer for projects and developers interested in creating customizable and efficient appchains.

By using the Substrate framework, Madara amplifies the capabilities of the Cairo VM, leading to provable, secure, and flexible programs. Madara offers developers special features, including support for potential onchain privacy, streamlined interoperability across various chains, and robust execution.

Madara is paving the way in dApp development by delivering cost-effective, scalable, and customizable solutions in the blockchain domain and already has many projects using it to enhance their apps with scalable infrastructure, high throughput, and unprecedented control.

One of the Starknet ecosystem’s main goals is to provide developers with decentralized, open-sourced tools that empower them to create scalable and secure projects. Starknet has the most decentralized rollup stack, including lots of key infrastructure built by multiple independent teams.

Community Engagement & Events

While creating programs to benefit our existing community members, StarkWare continued expanding the Starknet community by holding countless meetups, workshops, hacker houses, and events. Two of the events that stand out most are StarkWare Sessions and StarkWare Summit.

  • StarkWare Sessions — Over the course of two days, StarkWare hosted more than 1,000 attendees from all over the world, crypto ecosystem, and walks of life. Designed to bring the ever-expanding StarkWare community together to meet, collaborate, and learn, the event exceeded our wildest expectations and served as a promising beacon for the future of the Ethereum and Starknet developer community. Relive the magic of all the discussions and workshops on our YouTube channel.
  • Starknet Summit — In August, hundreds of participants flew into San Francisco to meet the faces behind the Twitter handles and Discord IDs of the vast STARK ecosystem.

Vision for the Future

StarkWare aims to lead the way in developing the most innovative solutions for scaling Ethereum.

STARK-tech has proved itself to be the secret sauce that allows amazing use cases to scale and thrive and turning Starknet into a hub of creative apps with complex logic such as fully onchain gaming, perpetuals, dynamic NFTs, and more.

Throughout 2023, StarkWare supported the Starknet ecosystem with tools for building blockchain applications by providing unlimited scaling needs at low costs. In parallel to those accomplishments, StarkWare made significant strides toward supporting developers and other members of the ecosystem, under its goal of expanding decentralization on Starknet.

By introducing innovative technology and processes, and open-sourcing key elements of its tech stack, Starknet became the fastest-growing L2 (by number of devs) in the industry and continues to expand. Going into 2024, expect StarkWare to build on these amazing achievements and bring more ideas to Starknet’s thriving ecosystem.

Make sure to join the discussion on Discord and follow StarkWare and Starknet on X.

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