zkEVMs Launch on Mainnet

MAR 30, 2023 • 6 Min Read

Amey Dandawate + 1 other Cryptunez Amey Dandawate




🔍 zkEVMs Launch on Mainnet

Over the past few months, Optimism and Arbitrum have dominated the Ethereum layer-2 landscape. These two leading optimistic rollups have been able to effectively incentivize usage via airdrops. However, ZK-rollups are beginning to make their entrance into the market. Over the past week, Polygon and ZkSync have launched their EVM-compatible, ZK-rollup solution on mainnet. Since then, the total amount of gas spent on Ethereum to settle layer-2 activity has spiked by 4x from 4% to hit an all-time high of 18%.

All layer-2 projects essentially record transactions on a separate chain (the layer-2). These are “rolled up” into a single transaction, which is then settled on Ethereum (the layer-1). By doing this, the gas cost is shared among all transactions, leading to cheaper fees. However, layer-2 networks differ in the ways in which they process and settle the transaction bundles on Ethereum.

Much of the layer-2 conversation so far has centered around Optimism and Arbitrum. These are classified as optimistic rollups (ORUs) because the transactions are assumed to be valid. Users are given enough time (usually a week) to claim any fraudulent transactions by posting a fraud proof. If their claim is successful, the rollup re-executes the transaction and updates balances accordingly. This method lets them avoid posting a proof of validity on Ethereum every time, which leads to cheaper fees. On the other hand, the dispute period when users can claim fraudulent transactions means that you can’t withdraw assets from the rollup immediately. ORUs are also compatible with EVMs which means existing dApps can easily deploy on them.

Then there’s another type of layer-2 network: zero-knowledge rollups (ZKRs). While these rollups also settle bundles of transactions on Ethereum, they only send a summary of changes caused by the transactions, instead of sending each individual transaction. They’re able to do this because they produce a validity proof that demonstrates that the summary of changes is indeed correct. This method lets them avoid posting the hefty transaction data on Ethereum, only opting to post the validity proofs. Since these can be finalized instantly, there is no waiting period before users can withdraw assets. The tradeoff is that validity proofs need to be posted every time, not just when a transaction is disputed. Since prover costs are high and require specialized hardware, this impacts their scalability. New advances have also wrapped EVM computation in zero-knowledge proofs, allowing for the launch of zkEVMs.

We cover rollups in more detail in our guide to rollups, published exclusively for Delphi Pro members in August 2022, but unlocked for all readers here.

Vitalik Buterin has previously said that he believes ZKRs will be the ultimate winners in the battle for Ethereum’s scaling solution. At an ETH Seoul event held last year he said, “In the longer term, ZK-rollups are eventually going to beat optimistic rollups because they have these fundamental advantages, like not needing to have a seven-day withdrawal period.

Over the past week, two notable projects have launched their zkEVM: Polygon and zkSync. The Polygon zkEVM and zkSync Era have launched on mainnet. In fact, the first transaction on Polygon zkEVM was sent by Vitalik who wrote “A few million constraints for man, unconstrained scalability for mankind.” and then set the gas limit to 69420. ZkEVMs execute EVM smart contracts in a way that is compatible with the validity proof computations on ZK rollups.

The main difference between Polygon zkEVM and zkSync Era is that Polygon announced EVM-equivalent rollup, while zkSync announced EVM-compatible rollup. EVM-equivalent rollups have less friction than EVM-compatible. This allows existing EVM-compatible smart contracts to work on Polygon zkEVM without changing languages or tooling, whereas zkSync Era requires projects to be compiled using its LLVM-based compiler. While such an implementation requires more technical tooling for apps, it enables zkSync Era to offer a range of features including native account abstraction, hyperchains, and data compression.

While zkSync Era has stated there are no plans to launch a token, many users are speculating about a future airdrop when the network decentralizes. Polygon zkEVM is expected to share fees with MATIC stakers. Polygon zkEVM has also implemented a new type of consensus mechanism called Proof Of Efficiency (POE) that splits the batch-creation process between sequences and aggregators to increase decentralization and network security.

While most of the attention currently is on optimistic rollups, following successful onboarding incentive campaigns, zk-rollups are also making strides toward developing a vibrant layer-2 ecosystem. As Ethereum’s ultimate vision materializes, the L2 wars are one of the most captivating stories to follow.

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Meme via @cz_binance.

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Amey Dandawate + 1 other Cryptunez Amey Dandawate