Original title: The Endgame for zkSync: AMA with Alex, Co-founder and CEO of Matter Labs
Original author: IGNAS | DEFI RESEARCH
Original source: IGNAS | DEFI RESEARCH
Translation: MarsBit, MK
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In previous discussions with team members from Polygon, Avalanche, Solana, and Near, the significance of L1 in the L2 era has been a focus of mine.
However, this time, I had the privilege of interviewing Alex, the co-founder and CEO of Matter Labs, the team behind zkSync L2 solution. Unlike my previous guests from Layer 1 projects, Alex provided insights from the perspective of a Layer 2 builder.
So, what is the meaning of L1 in the L2 era?
As we all know, L2 solutions aim to increase the scalability of Ethereum, providing faster transaction speeds and reduced fees. It was for these reasons that L1 protocols were launched a few years ago, especially when rising Ethereum gas fees made dApps on the mainnet almost unusable.
But as L2 becomes more popular, what is the future of L1? Are they on the verge of obsolescence, destined to evolve, or do they possess qualities that L2 solutions cannot replicate?
Earlier, I had insightful discussions with Sanket from Polygon, Luigi from Avalanche, Michelle from Solana, and Kendall from Near, and you can find the full AMA on my blog.
In this AMA, we will explore:
Has Ethereum won the L1 game?
What sets zkSync Era apart from other Layer 2 solutions?
What are the future plans and visions of zkSync?
What exciting things are coming up for the zkSync community?
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What is zkSync Era?
zkSync is an Ethereum L2 scaling solution developed by Matter Labs that uses zero-knowledge rollup technology.
zkSync 1.0 was released in June 2020 and, although lacking smart contract functionality, achieved a TVL of over $170 million on major assets such as ETH and USDC. The enhanced zkSync 2.0 was launched in October 2022 with Ethereum Virtual Machine compatibility and support for multiple programming languages, including Solidity.
As of February 2023, zkSync 2.0 became the “zkSync Era” and fully launched on the mainnet on March 24, 2023. This release, along with the introduction of Polygon zkEVM, marks a significant transformation in the L2 space, bringing competition to Optimistic Rollups.
According to DeFillama data, zkSync currently hosts 78 dApps with a TVL of $128 million. However, the total value locked in zkSync Era has already reached $409 million (L2Beat data).
zkSync has consistently maintained a leading position in terms of transaction count per block, which is an important indicator of on-chain activity.
In the Layer 2 era, what is the purpose of L1? Do you agree with Sanket’s (Polygon) view that Ethereum has already won the competition for L1?
Recently, there has been news about Celo proposing a transition from an independent L1 blockchain to Ethereum L2. Does this mean that L2 is the future and most alternative L1s will either transition to L2 or disappear completely?
There are certain things that only L1 can achieve and are crucial for the value created by blockchain, especially decentralization, resilience, and censorship resistance. The role of L1 is to excel at performing these tasks, and it is evident to me that no one does it better than Ethereum.
Other aspects, including scalability, privacy, and user experience, can and will be addressed by L2 solutions, and the comparison with L1 is irrelevant. So yes, I absolutely believe that Ethereum has won the competition for L1.
zkSync Era is currently receiving a lot of attention. However, before Era, you launched zkSync Lite (previously known as zkSync 1.0). What are the differences between the two?
Will you continue to develop zkSync Lite and promote its ecosystem, or will the focus primarily be on zkSync Era?
zkSync Lite is the first fully functional zero-knowledge rollup on Ethereum. It is a specific application chain for payments, and building a general-purpose ZK stack has always been an important iteration of zkSync’s ultimate vision and mission (as outlined in its introduction post five years ago).
Our current focus is entirely on Era, striving to build a highly scalable value internet and ZK stack.
What sets zkSync Era apart from other Layer 2 solutions?
With the increasing number of optimistic rollups such as Arbitrum, Optimism, Base, and zk rollups like Polygon zkEVM, why would dApps choose to build on zkSync Era over any other L2 solution in the market?
ZK technology has already won: zkEVM has been implemented on the Ethereum mainnet, while optimistic EVM rollup has not been able to achieve permissionless fraud proofs. The significant advantage of ZK rollups makes optimistic technology outdated (at least for EVM), and the teams building them should transition as soon as possible.
Here are the benefits obtained from any ZK rollup (compared to optimistic rollup):
Trustless security guarantees. Regular users may not fully understand the risks associated with fraud proofs, but trustless security guaranteed by pure mathematics is crucial for institutions, rather than relying on “optimistic on-chain police”.
Faster native bridging between chains. In a multi-chain world, waiting 7 days for transactions is absurd, so optimistic rollup isolates itself from the massive network effect formed by the interconnected ZK rollups.
However, zkSync Era (and our overall ZK stack) is not just a ZK rollup. We have an optimized architecture that fully leverages the superpowers of ZK technology. So far, the most important one is the ability to publish state differences instead of transaction inputs. Among all existing EVM L2 solutions, zkSync is the only ZK rollup (another one being Starknet, which is incompatible with EVM) that uses state differences.
In practice, state differences enable the following functionalities:
Cheap native account abstraction. zkSync Era is the only L2 with native account abstraction at the protocol level. This means that any account (including MetaMask accounts) can enjoy gasless or protocol-subsidized transactions, convenient features such as paying fees in any token, etc. But due to state differences, Era also makes AA transactions much cheaper than other on-chain transactions because expensive inputs (such as custom signatures from biometric signers) do not need to enter the chain.
Fundamentally more efficient Oracle. With state differences, the Oracle can be updated frequently, possibly once per second, with negligible cost overhead. In comparison: on a rollup that publishes transaction inputs, the Oracle updates every 20 minutes and incurs millions of dollars in annual fees.
Cheap on-chain privacy. With state differences, recursive proofs do not need to enter the chain, so privacy protection protocols can remain as cheap as ordinary transactions.
zkPorter in the works. This will be a fundamental shift in how blockchain systems operate. Imagine seamlessly interoperating an ultra-secure ZK rollup with an ultra-cheap sidechain, sharing the same address space.
Speaking of Polygon zkEVM… A few weeks ago, Polygon tweeted that zkSync copied their code without attribution and made misleading accusations about original work.
You publicly responded, denying the accusations of lack of attribution. What are your thoughts on these accusations, and how do you envision future collaboration or competition with the Polygon team?
My response provided a detailed explanation. Open source is amazing, especially because it allows for collaboration between competitors and accelerates technological progress, which is always beneficial for end users.
Everything we have built for zkSync has been released under permissive open source licenses. We are happy to see the Plonky2 team improve upon our RedShift build, and we look forward to seeing others use different parts of the ZK stack and contribute for others to use.
What excites the community about the future of zkSync? Are there any major updates or significant announcements coming up? We are eager to hear about the major milestones on your roadmap.
We are in the final stages of fully transitioning zkSync Era to Boojum, our new efficient proof system. This will unlock the superpowers I mentioned earlier:
Fundamentally more efficient Oracle.
On-chain cheap privacy.
In addition, there will be many exciting projects launching on zkSync Era in August and September, but I don’t want to spoil their announcements!
What is the ultimate plan and vision for zkSync?
Our vision is a world where trustless, permissionless, inclusive blockchain technology dominates and empowers billions of people. We recently detailed this vision in the ZK Credo Manifesto.
Technically, to achieve this goal, we need to build a highly scalable architecture we call the “Value Internet.” Think of it this way: just as the internet can meet arbitrarily high user demands by adding more servers and data links without inherent limitations, the Value Internet must be able to meet arbitrarily high user demands by adding more computing and storage capacity in a way that doesn’t compromise its fundamental properties and values.
Just as the entire internet cannot run on a single data center, the Value Internet cannot be built on a single monolithic blockchain, no matter how powerful. The only realistic path forward is a multi-chain world, but with fast, cheap, and trustless seamless connections between any two on-chain addresses. Technically, the only technology capable of providing this functionality is ZK proofs. Here is a deep technical explanation of why and how it works.
zkSync’s contribution to this ultimate vision is the ZK stack: an open-source framework for building modular Hyperchains connected by ZK-powered Hyperchains, enabling ZK Rollups and Validium for scalability and validity verification.