Nillion: The Web3 Project that Might Outrun the Blockchain!

    Just as we thought that decentralized technologies have reached their peak by introducing the blockchain, new projects are emerging as ways to surpass the decentralized ledger. A new Web3 project has surfaced by the name of Nillion that is building a non-blockchain decentralized network for sharing and storing data. While the blockchain decentralizes finance, Nillion decentralizes all data. It also promises a fast computation of secured data and storage that cannot be done with the blockchain. 

    As a Web3 startup, the Nillion project has already secured $20 million in an oversubscribed round led by Distributed Global. The company has also attracted over 150 investors including AU21, Big Brain Holdings, GSR, HashKey, and OP Crypto. 

    Gathering that much attraction must be for something really big. So what is the Nillion project and how could it compete with the blockchain? 

    What is Nillion? 

    Nillion is a startup founded back in 2021 by several founders including ex-Uber, IndieGoGo, and Hedera Hashgraph workers and executives from Coinbase and Nike. The company has over 40 workers and it’s currently developing the Nillion project. 

    The Nillion project focuses on building a web infrastructure for securing storage and data calculations. Although Nillion is not blockchain-based, the model still uses decentralized peer-to-peer technology that can fall under the Web3 umbrella. The core cryptographic technology of the project is the mathematical model Nil Message Compute (NMC) which was developed by the company’s chief scientist Miguel de Vega. 

    Nillion’s NMC model will revolutionize how nodes in a decentralized network work together in a non-blockchain way, yet still be decentralized, trustless, and permissionless. The key difference is that the Nillion nodes will not run immutable ledgers that record transactions like how the blockchain functions. Instead, the NMC model will allow nodes to “secure computation in a fault-tolerant” manner. 

    This new technology promises a public utility of data storage and computation that provides fast, secure, private, and chain-agnostic processing. However, the Nillion project does not aim to overthrow the blockchain, since its objective is to supercharge existing blockchains and offer network services that use the NMC model that outruns the typical SMPC protocol. 

    What is SMPC?


    Before we truly understand how the Nil Message Compute NMC works to power the Nillion project, we should take a look at how the blockchain utilizes the SMPC protocol. Secure Multi-Party Computation (SMPC) is a cryptographic system that allows the computation or algorithms to distribute across different devices in a private form. That means no individual party can know the other party’s data. In the blockchain, nodes compute a function by only using the output, keeping the input data private. In order for nodes to communicate with each other, the SMPC protocol utilizes inter-node messaging. However, this messaging system creates a strain on the SMPC’s practical use since it slows down performance. 


    What is NMC?

    Unlike the SMPC used in the blockchain, the Nil Message Compute cryptographic system allows nodes to communicate with each other without the need to send messages. That means that the NMC solves the scalability problem that the blockchain faces due to performance issues. For example, the calculation of 1 million multiplications would take an SMPC protocol up to 28 hours because nodes must exchange information to compute outputs. While the NMC system can run computations nearly as fast as a client-server speed.

    Okay, but how does it work? Instead of regular encryption,  Nillion’s NMC takes arbitrary data and particularizes it into smaller unrecognizable particles. These particles of data are then distributed across a network of nodes. The nodes run computations on the data and return the results to the end-point for reconstruction. So, in order to avoid faulty reconstruction of data, the NMC will use a verifiable secret-sharing mechanism on outputs to verify the reconstructed data. 


    Nillion Benefits the Blockchain 

    Although Nillion is a separate technology for processing data, it also builds on existing blockchain technologies and provides a variety of benefits for their expansions. 

    To guarantee the final consensus of which blocks get added to the blockchain, inter-node messaging leads up to network congestion and high gas prices. What Nillion provides is decentralized processing that can effectively speed up transaction validations. Nillion also adds the addition of private computation, which the blockchain is not able to do. Such secure decentralized processing can open up doors for many industries to shift their data from centralized to decentralized systems. 

    Nillion’s Post-Quantum Security 

    Nillion utilizes an Information-Theoretic Security protocol that is resistant to any hackers or adversaries with unlimited resources and time. The ITS system is considered the highest level of data security since hackers do not have the sufficient amount of information to break it. To simplify things, Nillion doesn’t use regular encryption for security. In fact, the technology used can be resistant to any future development in computing such as quantum computers. 

    In order to understand this concept better, let’s look at how regular encryption works. Encryption uses difficult mathematical problems to ensure security by transforming into unrecognizable data. For example, it is well known that public keys are a one-way function. This means, it is almost impossible to reverse-engineer the private key from the public key. No matter how massive the computational power is, there is no way to break the encryption of a private key. However, quantum computers can. Quantum computers are a much-developed kind of computing processing that can decode mathematical problems much faster than a regular computer. 

    So how does Nillion is a post-quantum security system? Since NMC technology doesn’t use regular encryption, it doesn’t rely on computing power in the first place. Instead of encrypting data, the data divides into unrecognizable particles that don’t reveal the underlying information. Thus, making encryption obsolete in the future. 

    Nillion vs Encryption

    Possible Security Threats 

    There is a way to unveil the particularised data if a hacker took over many nodes within the network. If an individual got hold of a certain percentage of nodes, it could unveil the data by following the particles to certain data. However, Nillion solves this problem by making a financial requirement imposed on all node operators. The node operator will have to stake NIL tokens in order to run it. Therefore, it will be financially infeasible for an individual to take up several nodes. 

    Nillion Capabilities

    Nillion will be able to: 

      • Transfer Data: Using the NMC nodes, Nillion will be able to transfer data with the ITS protection. Hacking will be near impossible since data will be as particles to across a network of nodes. 
      • Storage: NMC node can store data with the highest protection. Users can store their private keys using this technology.
    • Processing: Nillion can process data with an ITS system where NMC nodes can be instructed to sign a transaction without reconstructing a user’s private key. 

    Is Nillion the Future of Data Processing?

    It looks like Nillion is a generational leap from the predecessor technology of data processing SMPC. The new data processing model NMC may be the very thing that will revolutionize how decentralized system store and share information in a non-blockchain approach. The great thing about the Nillion project is that it doesn’t negate already existing blockchains, but builds upon them using ITS systems. It’s early to tell whether or not this project will succeed but considering its non-encryption methods. However, it might be a huge step in the evolution of technology. 




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