Doubling Down on Open Source at RISC Zero

November 9, 2023

Today, we have achieved significant milestones in the maturity and security of our most advanced technologies, and we are thrilled to announce that we will be open-sourcing them to the global community of developers eager to build with zero knowledge (zk). This is not only a technical milestone, but also a philosophical milestone for the project. We’re proud to make significant contributions to the public goods in zk, and to live our values of transparency, agency and integrity.

In upcoming versions leading up to 1.0 of the RISC Zero zkVM, these components will be released under the Apache2 license:

  • High-Speed Recursion: Build lightning-fast, scalable, and private computing systems with sub-second proof recursion.
  • Proof Composition: Verify one zkVM proof inside another zkVM application.
  • STARK to SNARK Wrapper: Easily bring your applications onchain with the ability to minify our STARK proofs.

High-Speed Recursion

With the release of continuations in May of this year, developers gained access to a powerful and novel technology which circumvents the computational limits common in alternative zero knowledge STARK and SNARK solutions. With this early release of continuations developers could automatically write ZK programs of any length, without any special configuration or development complexity. Recursive continuations preserves the convenience of this first version with the added benefit of constant size proofs, a first in the industry.

Proof Composition

While the ability to generate a standalone proof is a marvel of modern computer science and math, proof composition enables developers to go a step further. This simple to use API enables developers to “compose” or programmatically verify one proof inside another, a useful primitive in blockchain construction and countless other applications.

STARK to SNARK Wrapper

RISC Zero’s zkVM is enabled by the company’s powerful STARK-based proving system. While the high degree of flexibility enabled by STARKs is essential to the function of the zkVM, such proofs are notoriously difficult to verify on-chain due to their size and storage costs. SNARKs, on the other hand, are small and relatively cheap to verify. To realize the best of both worlds, the team developed a Groth16 wrapper which converts zkVM proofs in SNARKs for efficient on-chain verification. Such a proof was recently verified for the first time on Ethereum’s Sepolia testnet. After ongoing testing and a third-party audit are completed the SNARK wrapper source code will again be open sourced, enabling any team or developer to build and deploy ZK-powered blockchain applications with RISC Zero.

The addition of these features to our pioneering ZK proving system and VM equips developers with all the necessary tools to swiftly bring innovative new products and features to market.

Open Source Philosophy and Guiding Principles

Zero-knowledge cryptography is a transformative technology that provides new levels of privacy, security, and resilience to individuals and companies across the world. It’s a new technology paradigm, and, accordingly, we believe it's critical that ZK development be guided by principles of OSS. The open-source ethos has always been a core part of our DNA at RISC Zero, and it always will be. The founding team and I have a long history of contributing to open source communities and we plan to continue. We're committed to ensuring developers around the world can build and deploy with the confidence permissive OSS licenses provide.

We also wanted to open source these in a responsible way, in line with secure software development practices. That meant extensive external audits and security reviews prior to open sourcing the code to millions of developers worldwide. As we continue to mature the software, we will make the audits available for public review, and share more details about our secure development process that we follow. 

RISC Zero is guided by a set of core values, and together, with the community, we’re committed to making decisions in line with these. 

  • Transparency: We champion open systems that allow for scrutiny and improvement.
  • Agency: We believe in enabling users to leverage our technology as they see fit.
  • Integrity: Our commitment to our users and stakeholders drives us to release powerful technology when it's ready and when it makes sense.

We couldn't have reached this milestone without our passionate community of developers, collaborators, and supporters. Your participation is the fuel that keeps this engine running and together, we will continue to mature this software and realize the promise of zk cryptography at scale. We can't wait to see what we'll build together next.

See our newly open-sourced components in our repo: and join our Discord.

Check out Bonsai to request an API key and start building today: