Polygon’s adoption of zero-knowledge proofs raises the pressure in the scalability race

Layer 2 goes bold to increase transaction speed and reduce fees

Polygon just made a bold move – it leveraged zero-knowledge (ZK) technologies, a cryptographic breakthrough, to scale Ethereum as the network prepares for its biggest upgrade ever.

On July 20, Polygon opened up the code for zkEVM, its Layer 2 rollup that uses zero-knowledge technology. The rollup, a layer 2 chain offering low-cost, high-speed Ethereum transactions, is fully compatible with Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) smart contracts. Polygon describe as “the first EVM ZK L2 equivalent”.

Same as Ethereum

“You can build on Polygon zkEVM the same way you would on Ethereum,” Polygon wrote in a blog post. “You can deploy any Ethereum smart contract. Any tool that works with Ethereum will work on Polygon zkEVM.

Polygon added that a testnet for zkEVM will be live soon.

Polygon’s existing Proof of Stake sidechain has a total locked value of $1.8 billion, according to DeFi Llama. Its native token, MATIC, is the 12th largest crypto asset with a capitalization of nearly $7 billion, according to CoinGecko.

Scalability has long been Ethereum’s biggest hurdle in its quest to become the Internet’s settlement layer of value. While Ethereum can currently process 10 transactions per second, its developers hope to scale the network so that it can handle up to 10 million transactions per second and support online economic activity around the world.

Bobby Ong, co-founder of CoinGecko, told The Defiant that zkEVM solutions are essential to help scale Ethereum and are “a much-needed addition to support the next bull cycle.”

“It looks like these three teams are competing to go first as there is definitely a first mover advantage in gaining market share. It will be an exciting time to see how these teams compete!” he said.

Low Cost Layer 2

Rollups have become the current main solution for scaling Ethereum. They work by aggregating transactions executed on a low-cost Layer 2 network, which are then submitted in batches for validation on Ethereum’s base layer. During a recent appearance on The Defiant Podcast, Justin Drake of the Ethereum Foundation estimated that rollups could scale the network up to 100 times.

Arbitrum and Optimism, the two leading Layer 2 scaling solutions by total value locked (TVL), both take advantage of optimistic rollups. These aggregations assume transactions are accurate but allow network participants to challenge them, as validators submitting inaccurate transactions risk losing important collateral.

In contrast, zero-knowledge technology offers increased speed and privacy, with just the time and date a transaction took place published on the blockchain and only counterparties able to access other data. A December blog post by Ethereum Chief Scientist Vitalik Buterin described ZK rollups as a critical part of Ethereum’s scaling roadmap for years to come.

EVM equivalence

Polygon revealed zkEVM on the same day that development teams Matter Labs and Scroll announced their own equivalent EVM rollups powered by zero-knowledge proofs. The notion of “EVM equivalence” was launched by Optimism with its Bedrock upgrade in May.

Scroll also announced that it was looking for external testers to participate in the pre-alpha testnet for their own zkEVM-based deployment on July 20. The solution is developed in partnership with the Ethereum Foundation.

Material laboratories claims that its new zkEVM deployment, zkSync 2.0, is actually “the first zkEVM deployment”, tweeting that the solution will launch on the mainnet in 100 days.

According to L2beat, the first iteration of zkSync is currently the sixth largest accumulation with $64 million locked in the network. Although zkSync is EVM compatible, it is not fully equivalent to EVM, which means that developers working with Solidity – Ethereum’s native programming language – may need to make changes to their required code to comply. deploy on the network.

Cam Crossley, an analyst at web3 venture studio NotCentralized, highlighted the growing competition among development teams to launch the first ZK-rollup that offers full compatibility with the Ethereum virtual machine.

Scaling Solutions

Crossley highlighted the ease with which Ethereum developers can deploy existing code to rollups that offer full EVM equivalence, noting that rival ZK-based rollups that only offer partial EVM compatibility have struggled to win. market shares.

“While StarkWare launched its universal zk deployment, StarkNet, earlier in the year, the main barrier to entry here has been convincing developers to learn Cairo, Starkware’s newly developed programming language. As a result, StarkNet currently secures [less than] $1 million from TVL,” Crossley told The Defiant.

How Zero-Knowledge Proofs Became Ethereum’s Magic Bullets

Crossley added that bullish rollups are “hampered by slow pullbacks that typically take several days to settle on L1 Ethereum.”

Competition between teams working on ZK rollups is heating up, with Polygon co-founder Mihailo Bjelic dismissing claims by Polygon rivals about EVM equivalence. He tweeted that Scroll only supports part of the opcodes and criticized the lack of open-source code for zkSync 2.0 stating “we don’t know much”.

Toghrul Maharramov, senior researcher at Scroll, fired back, Tweeter that Polygon zkEVM is not a zkEVM. “Ignore the marketing, ask to see the code,” he said.

Last August, Polygon announced a strategic pivot and $1 billion allocation for research and development of zero-knowledge scaling solutions. Polygon merged with scaling solution ZK Hermez in a $250 million deal the same month, with the project now culminating in release in zkEVM.
Polygon also unveiled a hybrid ZK and Optimistic rollup in May in partnership with “big four” financial services firm Ernst & Young, and launched a zero-knowledge technology-based identity solution in March.

Donald E. Patel