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Introduction

In 2019-2022, web3 proved product-market fit. DeFi, DAOs, and NFTs gained traction in ways that translated clearly into demand for blockspace and applications.
However, demand is only one side of the equation; supply of applications and infrastructure is the other. To date, most efforts to relieve those supply constraints have focused on increasing the amount of premium blockspace available at competitive prices (scaling). That focus, while yielding some successful approaches, leaves unsolved the challenge of unifying user and developer experience into one environment. Projects and applications are isolated in their own worlds, with no clear technical paths to unifying the environment.
Without scaling, smart contracts and dApps will remain trivial, but without a unified, end-to-end execution environment, developers (and by extension, users) are doomed to frustration. Instead of hours, days or months, the gap between idea and execution can be years. We've burned the ships of web2 centralized infrastructure and devops; now, we are alone in a forbidding new frontier without proven tools to fall back on.
"That which unifies the computing environment" has a name: operating system. An operating system must abstract across heterogenous hardware and software components, exposing them as a single API to programmers and users. A web3 operating system must combine networking, identity, databases, authentication, and software distribution. There is currently only one serious, production-ready operating system that meets these critera: Urbit. Urbit, in turn, is only missing one piece: rich, seamless read/write access to global blockchain state.
Enter Uqbar.
Uqbar, a Zero Knowledge Rollup (ZKRU) execution layer and smart-contract platform, is a three-dimensional entrant in the web3 space:
  1. 1.
    For the Urbit OS, Uqbar will be its blockchain, running on the OS, running and proving arbitrary high-level code.
  2. 2.
    For Ethereum, Uqbar will be its execution layer, where users bridge tokens and NFTs to transact efficiently and expressively.
  3. 3.
    For the web3 dApp layer, Uqbar will be the execution environment for building natively networked applications.
Uqbar's secret weapon is Urbit. For the past ten years, Urbit has steadily improved in performance and capabilities. It is now a functional social platform, but is also ready to become much more. Uqbar is a metaphorical final kernel module or "driver" for the (very literal) Urbit operating system. The unique structure of Urbit's native assembly language, Nock, allows this "driver" to be secured by our proprietary ZK verifier, Zock. The combination of these primitives will teleport ZK dApp devs from the lowest level of the computing stack to the highest.
Ethereum urgently needs this unified execution layer. A ZKRU contract on the Ethereum L1 will make Uqbar a safe haven for owners of (valuable) ETH assets who want to unlock their capabilities in a rich user environment. By "unlock," we mean not only transferring assets and swapping them for other assets, but using them with an application layer for Web3 that does not yet exist. It does not exist on Eth L1 because of the aforementioned limitations; limitations, not to settlement, but to computation. This application layer is only slowly taking shape on L2 rollups because most chains tacitly assume that making computing cheaper is the main problem the execution layer needs to solve. If an execution layer is not also an execution environment, development of applications will remain slow even if transactions become fast.
While the EVM provides a proven, secure baselayer, developers who come to us will be in a new world: we won't let them track the EVM on our carpets. In this regard, Uqbar takes an opposite approach to alt-L1s that port the EVM to drive adoption. We let the base layer do what it does best: secure settlement, consensus, and generalized data availability. In turn, we do what we do best: provide a beautiful operating system overlaid on that base, engineered to spark joy in devs and users.
As such, all of our ZK-verifiable smart contracts will be written in Hoon, a functional typed programming language (the Urbit OS's equivalent of C). ERC-20 and ERC-721 tokens sent up to the safety of Uqbar will be guaranteed by the contracts setting up the ZKRU; beyond that, we want no traces of Solidity in our domain. We know that other projects will bet everything on writing ZK Solidity transpilers...we look forward to beating them once on efficiency and generality (thanks to Zock), again on DevX and security (thanks to Hoon), and a third time on UX, once devs see how easy it is to build networked apps with Hoon.
Uqbar is coming.
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