StarkNet, zkSync, Polygon zkEVM, and Scroll are four main ZK-Rollup projects aimed towards growing the Ethereum ecosystem.
The Race to Scale Ethereum Using zkEVM Rollups
As Ethereum strives for widespread acceptance, ZK-Rollup technology has emerged as a viable competitor for scaling the blockchain, cutting transaction costs, and increasing throughput. Crypto Briefing analyzes down four key ZK-Rollups that are presently under development and are compatible with the Ethereum Virtual Machine, each of which promises different benefits within the Ethereum ecosystem.
Dealing with Ethereum’s Transaction Fees
Ethereum is experiencing scalability issues. The high cost of utilizing the network, which has become an existential concern for the blockchain, is perhaps the single most significant impediment to mainstream Ethereum adoption. The growth of DeFi protocols and NFTs has raised the need for Ethereum block space. In 2019, most transactions cost a few cents, but during the top of the 2021 bull run, operations such as minting NFTs on the blockchain would frequently cost hundreds of dollars. As a result, many retail market players discovered that they had been priced out of the network and switched to alternative networks such as Solana, Avalanche, or Binance Smart Chain.
Despite a drop in network activity owing to market circumstances, basic operations like ETH transfers now cost between $2 and $3, well above Ethereum developer Vitalik Buterin’s ideal aim of less than $0.05 per transaction.
Rollups are a method of alleviating congestion on the Ethereum blockchain. This is because they process data off-chain and transmit transactions back to Ethereum rather than depending on the main chain to execute the computational data of each transaction. With rollups, Ethereum just needs to validate the proofs and not the complete data set, freeing up block capacity. Rollups also allow consumers to group transactions together, allowing them to divide gas fees.
ZK-Rollups, also known as ZK-Rollups, employ cryptographic proofs known as ZK-SNARKS (“zero knowledge succinct arguments of knowledge”) to demonstrate to the Ethereum mainnet that a transaction was completed. Even though the underlying facts would take a lengthy time to study, these zero-knowledge proofs can be confirmed rapidly.
Some ZK-Rollup projects in the works have stated their goal to be compatible with the Ethereum Virtual Machine, allowing Ethereum developers to import their smart contracts without altering them. However, as Buterin highlighted in a recent blog post, not all zkEVM projects are constructed the same way: some prioritize comprehensive EVM composability, while others prioritize quick throughput.
zkSync, created by Matter Labs, is one of the most anticipated zkEVM projects. zkSync is a pioneering initiative in the field of zkEVMs, boasting 2,000 transactions per second, a 10-minute processing time between the rollup and Ethereum mainnet, and no upper bound restriction on the value the rollup can securely manage.
StarkWare’s StarkNet is another prominent zkEVM challenger. While StarkNet’s original coding language is Cairo, a team is working on a coding translator called Cairo transpiler, which means that, like zkSync, the rollup will eventually be Solidity-compatible rather than EVM-compatible.
However, the parallels cease there. StarkNet employs a unique type of cryptographic evidence known as STARKs (“scalable transparent arguments of knowledge”). ZK-STARKs are potentially more secure than ZK-SNARKs, but they need more gas and take longer to verify. StarkWare is the primary driving factor behind the development of STARK-based technologies.
Polygon is an Ethereum scaling solution with a flexible architecture that allows developers to design and link Layer 2 infrastructure to the Ethereum network, such as Optimistic Rollups and ZK-Rollups. Polygon paid $250 million for the ZK-Rollup project Hermez Network in August 2021; a year later, the company revealed that it was building on its own ZK-Rollup, Polygon Hermez, which would function with its Proof-of-Stake Matic chain. Polygon Hermez was dubbed Polygon zkEVM last month and declared that it will join the mainnet in early 2023.
The ZK-Rollup aiming for the best integration with the EVM is Scroll. A relatively new project, Scroll can be considered truly EVM-equivalent; the only meaningful difference between the two is the runtime environment, meaning the subsystem in which contracts are executed. However, the high composability comes at the price of a significant computational overhead, which indicates Scroll’s performance could be weaker than that of zkSync, StarkNet, and Polygon.
The Ethereum Foundation’s Privacy and Scaling Explorations team, as well as an undisclosed effort linked with ConsenSys, are also investigating ZK-Rollups. Though research may add to current projects rather than necessarily leading to new ones, recent advances in zero-knowledge proof technology may result in several ZK-Rollups in the Ethereum ecosystem. Though the Ethereum network still has a long way to go in terms of scalability, the advent of new zkEVM projects should help both developers and consumers by providing more options for various use cases.