zkSync: The Next Step in Ethereum's Evolution

zkSync: The Next Step in Ethereum's Evolution

The Ethereum blockchain, known for its significant role in the proliferation of decentralized finance (DeFi) smart contracts and the widespread adoption of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), has always been at the forefront of innovation. These advancements have enhanced the network's utility, making it a key player in the blockchain arena. However, the growing popularity and complexity of transactions on Ethereum have highlighted issues related to scalability and transaction costs.

In a significant move towards addressing these issues, Ethereum transitioned to a proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus mechanism, marking a major advancement in the network's evolution. This transition has not only made the network more energy-efficient but also set the stage for further scalability improvements.

Alongside these developments, Ethereum has been actively exploring and integrating Layer 2 scaling solutions such as zero-knowledge rollups (zk-Rollups), including technologies like zkSync, and Optimistic Rollups. These technologies are designed to increase transaction throughput and efficiency on the Ethereum network while maintaining robust security.

zkSync, in particular, facilitates efficient interactions with the Ethereum mainnet. It offers a decentralized approach for users to conduct transactions, with the benefit of significantly lower fees compared to the primary Ethereum layer. The introduction of zkProofs, which underpins zkSync, addresses the crucial challenges of transaction speed and cost.

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What is zkSync

ZkSync is a cutting-edge layer 2 scaling solution for Ethereum, enhancing throughput and reducing transaction costs through the innovative use of zk-rollups, or zero-knowledge rollups. It's a technology that processes a large number of transactions off the Ethereum mainnet and consolidates them into a single transaction. This consolidation is crucial for reducing the load on the main Ethereum blockchain, thereby increasing scalability and maintaining the same level of security.

In simple terms, zkSync's approach involves taking multiple transactions off the mainchain, computing and storing most data off-chain (on layer 2), and then recording only the processed data on the Ethereum mainnet. This method significantly alleviates the burden on the underlying Ethereum network.

Matter Labs, co-founded by Alex Gluchowski and Alex Vlasov in 2018, spearheaded the development of zkSync. They launched zkSync 1.0 in June 2020, offering fast and cost-effective transactions. However, this initial version lacked support for EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine) smart contracts. Addressing this, zkSync 2.0 was released in October 2022 with enhancements including EVM compatibility and support for ZK smart contracts, marking a significant evolution in the protocol, now known as zkSync Era.

ZkSync's operation hinges on zero-knowledge proofs (ZK proofs), a cryptographic technique where one party can prove the validity of a statement to another without revealing any additional information. zkSync Era utilizes this technology in its ZK-rollup scaling technique, performing computations off-chain and consolidating these transactions into a single batch. The operator then generates a zero-knowledge proof for each batch's validity, submitting it to the Ethereum mainnet. This system allows Ethereum nodes to verify the batch's correctness as a whole, rather than processing each transaction individually.

Further enhancing its capabilities, zkSync Era has developed zkEVM, which is EVM compatible and integrates zero-knowledge technology. This advancement enables developers to migrate existing Ethereum smart contracts and applications easily, fostering a seamless transition to this more efficient layer 2 solution.

Layer 2 solutions like Polygon, Optimism, Arbitrum, and Immutable X also aim to scale Ethereum. Each offers unique approaches to enhancing scalability, security, throughput, gas fees, and functionality. While no single solution is all-encompassing, rollups like zkSync are striving to improve these features comprehensively.

In summary, zkSync represents a significant stride in Ethereum's scaling efforts, offering a sophisticated blend of speed, cost-efficiency, and security, all while maintaining Ethereum's foundational values of decentralization and user autonomy.

Benefits of zkSync

Hyper Scalability

  • Enhanced Throughput: zkSync amplifies Ethereum's transaction capacity from 14 transactions per second (TPS) to over 2000 TPS.
  • zk-Rollup Technology: Utilizes zk-rollups to aggregate multiple transactions into one batch, enabling simultaneous verification of several transactions, which significantly speeds up processing.

Low-Cost Transactions

  • Off-Mainnet Processing: Transactions are processed off the main Ethereum network and batched for validation, reducing the need for individual gas payments.
  • Affordability: This batching method results in significantly lower transaction costs compared to traditional on-chain transactions, making zkSync ideal for microtransactions which were previously not feasible due to high gas fees.

Mitigating Network Congestion

  • Off-Chain Processing: By handling transactions off-chain, zkSync effectively reduces the burden on Ethereum’s network.
  • Faster Confirmations: This leads to quicker transaction confirmations, enhancing user experience and efficiency, especially during periods of high network demand.

Secure and Trustless Transactions

  • Zero-Knowledge Proof System: zkSync uses ZK proofs to validate transactions without revealing sensitive data, ensuring privacy and security.
  • Resilience Against Threats: This method safeguards against potential security threats, providing a secure and trustless environment for transactions.

In summary, zkSync introduces a transformative approach to Ethereum's scalability, cost-efficiency, congestion management, and security, positioning it as a critical solution for advancing blockchain technology and cryptocurrency transactions.

Challenges of zkSync

zkSync's consensus mechanism, which includes Byzantine Fault Tolerance (pBFT) and Delegated Proof-of-Stake (DPoS), is designed to enhance transaction speeds on the Ethereum network. However, these mechanisms present a delicate balance between efficiency and decentralization.

Consensus Mechanism: Security vs. Centralization

  • Byzantine Fault Tolerance (pBFT) and DPoS: These are integral for quick transaction processing in zkSync. pBFT is known for its efficiency in reaching consensus even in the presence of faulty nodes, while DPoS allows for more scalable consensus by delegating stake-based voting power to a smaller number of nodes.
  • Centralization Concerns: The use of these mechanisms, particularly DPoS, can potentially introduce elements of centralization. This is because a smaller group of nodes can gain significant control over the network, which might compromise the decentralized and trustless ethos that is a cornerstone of blockchain technology.

Wallet and Exchange Integration

  • Layer-2 Network Support: Major wallets and exchanges are increasingly accommodating layer-2 solutions like zkSync. This integration is crucial for broader adoption and user convenience.
  • Synchronization Challenges: A potential issue arises when these wallets and exchanges are not fully synchronized with the layer-2 networks. Users could inadvertently send transactions to the layer-2 network when they intend them for exchanges. This misdirection can lead to the possible loss of funds, as the layer-2 network may not recognize these transactions.
  • User Awareness and Interface Improvements: To mitigate this risk, enhancing user interfaces for clearer network distinction and increasing educational resources about layer-2 networks are essential. Wallets and exchanges can implement safeguards to warn users before executing transactions that might be at risk.

In conclusion, while zkSync offers significant advancements in transaction speed and efficiency for Ethereum, it is crucial to carefully manage the trade-offs between centralization risks and consensus efficiency. Additionally, improved wallet and exchange support and user education are essential to ensure safe and seamless interaction with layer-2 networks like zkSync.

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zkSync token

As of now, zkSync does not have its own native token. However, there are expectations within the investor community regarding potential developments in this area, particularly in relation to the platform's use of zero-knowledge proof systems.

Future Token Prospects:

  • Token Creation for Staking and Validation: Information available on zkSync's official website suggests plans to introduce tokens that investors could use for staking purposes and to participate as validators in the zkSync network.
  • Anticipated zkSync Airdrop: The company has also hinted at a possible airdrop for zkSync, aimed at rewarding its users and dedicated supporters. This airdrop is speculated to have certain parallels with previous ones like the Optimism airdrop.

Community Expectations:

  • User Optimism: The zkSync user base is showing a keen interest and optimism about these developments, especially since details have been published on the company’s official tokenomics page.
  • Potential Impact on Ecosystem: The introduction of a native token and the execution of an airdrop could have significant implications for the zkSync ecosystem, potentially increasing user engagement and network participation.

While zkSync presently lacks a native token, there are strong indicators of future token-related initiatives, including staking, network validation opportunities, and an airdrop, all of which are generating considerable interest among the platform's users and supporters.

DApps on zkSync

The zkSync ecosystem is experiencing notable growth. This expansion is evidenced by the fact that over 100 projects are now operating on zkSync, highlighting its growing influence and potential in the blockchain space. Here's an overview of some of the notable decentralized applications (DApps) utilizing zkSync technology:

Curve:

  • AMM Pioneer: Curve, known for popularizing the automated market maker (AMM) model, has extended its services to zkSync.
  • TVL Comparison: While Curve’s total value locked (TVL) on zkSync might be lower compared to other blockchain protocols, the platform's presence signifies zkSync's increasing recognition and potential for growth.

ZigZag:

  • Decentralized Exchange: ZigZag operates as a noncustodial order book exchange on zkSync, leveraging the zk-Rollup technology for spot trading.
  • Token Swapping and Trading: Investors can swap tokens and engage in spot trading directly from their wallets, with the added advantage of no extra charges or gas fees, thanks to zk-Proof technology.
  • Interoperability: ZigZag has implemented a bridge to facilitate seamless connections between zkSync and the Ethereum blockchain.

Yearn Finance:

  • Investment Strategies on zkSync: Originally popular on the Ethereum blockchain, Yearn Finance has expanded to offer its investment strategies on various platforms, including zkSync.
  • Accessibility via Wallets: Users can access Yearn Finance's yield-compounding platform through Argent, a wallet provider, on the zkSync network.

Taker Protocol:

  • DAO-Based Platform: Taker Protocol is a decentralized autonomous organization focused on providing a liquidity framework for cryptocurrencies, synthetic assets, and NFTs.
  • Diverse Financial Services: It supports a range of activities including crypto lending and borrowing, as well as NFT lending and renting.

Mute.io:

  • DAO-Driven AMM: Mute.io operates as an automated market maker exchange, IDO, and farming protocol, fully utilizing zk-Rollup technology.
  • Enhanced Speed and Privacy: The platform offers fast transactions and eliminates typical gas fees, while also improving privacy through zkSync technology.

The diverse range of DApps operating on zkSync, from AMMs like Curve and Mute.io to investment platforms like Yearn Finance and liquidity providers like Taker Protocol, demonstrates the versatility and robustness of the zkSync ecosystem. This growing network is not only enhancing transaction efficiency and reducing costs but also expanding the possibilities within the DeFi space.

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