A look into zkSync’s evolution and their product offerings
The buzzword “Layer 2” has been doing the rounds for the past year, with solutions such as Optimism and Arbitrum stealing the spotlight. Yet, the tides are changing, and more people are now taking notice of zero-knowledge (zk) rollups. Specifically, zkSync seems to be making headlines due to their recent support of the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), which was previously unavailable. However, with this introduction, zk-rollups are now turning heads and fueling a whole new narrative in the space.
What is zkSync?
Before plunging into the depths of zkSync, let’s first understand what it’s all about. Like Optimism and Arbitrum, zkSync is a layer 2 solution for Ethereum, created to address Ethereum’s high transaction fees and slow speeds. It uses zero-knowledge rollups to bundle transactions together off-chain, reducing their cost before pushing the transaction proofs back to Ethereum. This approach ensures security and verification by the Ethereum Mainnet.
Central to ZK-rollups is the concept of zero-knowledge proofs — a cryptographic tool that validates a transaction without disclosing any specific details about it. This approach’s true elegance lies in moving most of the computational workload off-chain, with the base layer only needing to verify the proof.
As its name implies, zkSync Lite is a stripped-back version of what we now know as zkSync Era, primarily designed to facilitate basic payment solutions through its zk-rollup architecture. While it doesn’t boast Ethereum Virtual Machine compatibility, zkSync Lite’s strength lay in its simplicity. It performed tasks like swaps and transfers swiftly at a low cost, a feature that was highly appreciated at the time.
However, this simplicity also brought about its limitations. Without EVM compatibility, its uses outside of token swaps and transfers were considerably restricted. Most dApps are heavily reliant on smart contracts, and without the capacity to process them, zkSync Lite fell short. But this was far from a setback for zkSync; instead, it paved the way for the birth of zkSync Era, marking the next phase in their mission to achieve mass adoption.
In case you haven’t been introduced to zkSync Era, let’s get you up to speed. Think of zkSync Era as the advanced sibling of the previous version, a zkEVM rollup designed to interact smoothly with zk-proofs and execute smart contracts. What this means is that the prior constraints of zk-rollups, particularly their limited smart contract support, are now things of the past. For developers wanting to build on zk-rollups, this is a significant leap forward, meaning they can now shift their EVM-compatible dApps over to zkSync Era, enjoying the benefits of lower fees and costs, all the while retaining the security and decentralized aspects that Ethereum is known for.
Let’s do a quick comparison of the differences between zkSync Era and Optimistic Rollups:
- Imagine optimistic rollups as a trusting friend who believes all transactions are valid unless someone points out otherwise. This is what we call using ‘fraud proofs’. But zkSync Era, like other zk-rollup protocols, behaves more cautiously. They use ‘validity proofs’ that ensure all transactions are legit right off the bat. Because of this, some argue that zk-rollups come across as more secure. Unlike their optimistic counterparts, they don’t use game theory to validate transactions, and therefore, can’t be swayed to act otherwise.
- When we talk about transaction costs, all layer 2 solutions promise a better deal than Ethereum’s Mainnet. Yet, if we compare them, zk-rollups usually come out on top against optimistic rollups. Why? Simply because they only need to post validity proofs. For example, all trading and oracle update transactions in the same block come with zero data availability costs. However, it’s not a one-sided race. Recently, Optimism released their ‘Bedrock’ upgrade, slashing their already low fees by around 40%.
- Speaking about capital efficiency, optimistic rollups, due to their game theory underpinnings, require a mandatory 7-day settlement period. This unfortunately means users can’t instantly withdraw from optimistic rollups and are left hanging for a week. Sure, there are workarounds, like using liquidity providers, but they’re not foolproof and don’t work for everyone. ZkSync, however, bypasses this issue and sorts out settlements within just a few hours.
Let’s take a moment to dive into zkPorter — Matter Lab’s latest creation that takes zk-rollup scalability to a whole new level. While zkSync Era is already impressive, zkPorter will elevate it further. How? By serving as an off-chain data availability solution, enabling seamless interaction between accounts and smart contracts from both ends.
This essentially moves data storage from the Ethereum Mainnet, off-chain. You might be wondering how this could be secure? Enter ‘Guardians’. These are users who stake their yet-to-be-released zkSync tokens to sign blocks confirming data availability, operating under a Proof of Stake (PoS) model. Misconduct leads to slashing, keeping guardians in check. A key component here is that these guardians, despite their responsibilities, can’t touch your funds, making this solution all the more secure. They can only freeze the zkPorter state (freezing their own stake).
To summarize, zkSync offers faster and cheaper transactions compared to the Ethereum Mainnet through its zk-rollup technology. With zero-knowledge proofs, transactions are bundled off-chain and verified on the Ethereum Mainnet.
zkSync Era introduced EVM compatibility, expanding its use cases to smart contract execution. It provides enhanced security, faster settlement times, and capital efficiency. Matter Lab’s zkPorter further advances scalability by off-chain data storage, ensuring security through “Guardians.” Ultimately, zkSync is revolutionizing Ethereum’s scalability and usability inherent issues.