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ZK Rollups: The Promising Solution to the Blockchain Trilemma

Updated: Apr 24, 2023



The Blockchain Trilemma


Blockchain technology has long been plagued by the "trilemma" problem: a tradeoff between security, scalability, and decentralization. This means that it is difficult to achieve all three of these properties simultaneously on a blockchain network. However, the emergence of zero-knowledge rollups (ZK rollups) is transforming the trilemma, allowing blockchain networks to achieve both scalability and security without sacrificing decentralization.



The blockchain trilemma: a tradeoff between security, scalability, and decentralization. Source: zk-Spark


What are ZK rollups?


ZK rollups are a type of layer 2 scaling solution that uses zero-knowledge proofs to verify transactions off-chain. This means that transactions can be processed more quickly and efficiently, while also maintaining the security and privacy of the blockchain network. ZK rollups can be used on any blockchain network, and they are particularly useful for Ethereum due to the high transaction costs and slow processing times on the main Ethereum blockchain.


Advantages of ZK rollups


ZK rollups have several advantages over other layer 2 scaling solutions. They are highly scalable, as they can process thousands of transactions per second without putting a strain on the main blockchain. They also offer high security, as the zero-knowledge proofs ensure that transactions are valid without revealing any sensitive information. Finally, they are decentralized, as the transactions are verified by a network of nodes rather than a single entity.


Three Most Popular ZK rollup Solutions


There are three main solutions based on ZK rollups that are gaining popularity: StarkNet, Polygon zkEVM, and zkSync Era. Each of these technologies has its unique features and benefits that make it a promising solution for scaling blockchain networks. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at each of these ZK rollup technologies, exploring their underlying technology, use cases, benefits, and drawbacks.


StarkNet


StarkNet is a ZK rollup technology that offers several unique benefits for scaling blockchain networks. One of the most significant advantages of StarkNet is its use of STARK proofs, which provide strong security guarantees while also being efficient and scalable. STARK proofs are a type of zero-knowledge proof that does not require a trusted setup, making them more secure and trustworthy than other types of zero-knowledge proofs.


StarkNet's key advantages lie in its scalability, low transaction fees, and support for fully functional smart contracts on the Ethereum network. Unlike other ZK rollup technologies, StarkNet can support complex dApps without the high gas fees and slow transaction times associated with the Ethereum network. While it uses the Cairo programming language for smart contracts, this provides some benefits such as formal verification, but may not necessarily be considered an advantage over other programming languages used by other ZK rollup technologies. Overall, StarkNet's unique combination of features make it an attractive option for developers looking to scale their dApps on Ethereum.


StarkNet also offers a high degree of flexibility, allowing developers to customize their rollup according to their specific needs. This includes the ability to choose their own consensus mechanism, as well as the ability to customize the security and privacy parameters of their rollup.


In addition to its unique technological advantages, StarkWare, the company behind StarkNet, has a team of world-class researchers and developers with a deep understanding of cryptography, zero-knowledge proofs, and blockchain technology. They have also partnered with several leading blockchain projects, including Immutable X and dYdX, to bring their ZK rollup technology to a wider audience.


StarkNet has also gained support from several prominent investors in the blockchain space, including Paradigm, Sequoia Capital, and Coinbase Ventures. This support has helped to fund the development of the technology and bring it to market faster.


Finally, StarkNet has a vibrant community of developers and enthusiasts who are working to build a range of decentralized applications (dApps) on the platform. These include everything from decentralized exchanges (DEXs) to gaming platforms and more. This strong ecosystem of developers, investors, and community members is a key advantage of StarkNet, as it helps to ensure the long-term viability and success of the platform.


The StarkNet ecosystem. Source: StarkNet Ecosystem


Overall, StarkNet's use of STARK proofs, support for fully functional smart contracts, and high degree of flexibility make it a promising solution for scaling blockchain networks. As the blockchain space continues to grow and evolve, it will be interesting to see how StarkNet and other ZK rollup technologies continue to develop and adapt to meet the needs of developers and users alike.


Polygon’s zkEVM Solution: Mainnet Launch


In response to Ethereum’s issues with scalability, Polygon has developed ZK-rollups technology, which has the potential to significantly increase Ethereum's transaction processing capabilities. Polygon's journey towards becoming a leading blockchain platform has taken a significant step forward with the launch of the zkEVM public mainnet beta on March 27th, 2023. This development is a significant milestone in Polygon's efforts to address Ethereum's scalability issues.


Polygon’s announcement of zkEVM public mainnet beta. Source: Polygon


zkEVM is a layer-two solution that uses zero-knowledge proofs to bundle multiple transactions into a single batch, reducing the number of transactions on the Ethereum network and increasing its processing capabilities. This technology has been hailed as a "holy grail" or “end game” for Ethereum's scalability challenges and is expected to revolutionize the blockchain industry.


The launch of zkEVM beta on Polygon's mainnet marks a significant achievement for the company, which has been working tirelessly to develop this technology. With this launch, Polygon is now offering a highly scalable and cost-effective solution that can handle thousands of transactions per second at a fraction of the cost of traditional Ethereum transactions.


As the blockchain industry continues to evolve, solutions like zkEVM will play an essential role in addressing scalability issues. Polygon's focus on developing this technology has put them at the forefront of the blockchain ecosystem, and the launch of the zkEVM beta is a testament to their commitment to providing innovative and accessible blockchain solutions.


Here are some of the milestones zkEVM has hit along the road to Mainnet Beta according to Polygon:


✅ Over 84,000 wallets


✅ Over 300,000 blocks produced


✅ Over 75,000 ZK proofs generated


✅ Over 5,000 smart contracts deployed


✅ Two public, third-party audits


✅ Six months of battle-testing on public testnets


✅ Passed 100% of Ethereum test vectors that apply to a zkEVM


✅ Proof generation time down to almost two minutes


✅ Cost for generating a proof for a large batch of transactions down to about $0.06


The launch of zkEVM public mainnet beta is a significant milestone for the blockchain industry. With this technology, we can expect to see significant improvements in speed, security, and affordability, and Polygon's efforts are sure to pave the way for a more efficient and accessible blockchain infrastructure. As the world becomes more reliant on blockchain technology, solutions like zkEVM will be critical to the continued growth and success of the blockchain ecosystem.


zkSync Era


zkSync Era is a Layer 2 scaling solution built on top of the Ethereum network that uses ZK rollups to enable fast and secure transactions. One of the main advantages of zkSync Era is its instant finality, which means that once a transaction is included in a rollup block, it is immediately considered final and cannot be reversed. This is in contrast to the Ethereum network, where transactions can take several minutes to be confirmed and are subject to the possibility of being reverted if a competing transaction is included in the blockchain first.


Another key advantage of zkSync Era is its low fees. Because transactions are processed off-chain and then periodically committed to the Ethereum network, users can avoid the high gas fees associated with on-chain transactions. This makes it an attractive option for users looking to save money on transaction fees, especially during periods of high network congestion.


In addition to its fast and low-cost transactions, zkSync Era also offers support for Ethereum-compatible smart contracts, making it a flexible and versatile scaling solution. Developers can use the same Solidity programming language and development tools they are already familiar with to build dApps on the platform. This makes it easy for developers to migrate their existing Ethereum applications to zkSync Era, without having to learn a new programming language or development environment.


Overall, zkSync Era's fast and secure transactions, low fees, and support for Ethereum-compatible smart contracts make it a promising solution for scaling the Ethereum network. As the demand for decentralized applications continues to grow, it will be interesting to see how zkSync Era and other ZK rollup technologies continue to evolve and adapt to meet the needs of users and developers alike.


Meed: Evaluating ZK rollup Tech for the Future


Super Ultra is developing Meed, a web3 loyalty rewards program that aims to revolutionize the way businesses engage with their customers. Meed empowers any business with enterprise-quality loyalty tools using Web3 technologies.


To meet Meed’s ambitions to grow as a platform, it has become clear that the platform needs to be able to scale to meet the needs of its users. To accomplish this, Meed evaluated different ZK rollup technologies to determine which one is most suitable.


While each of the ZK rollup technologies has its unique strengths and benefits, Meed is ultimately looking for a solution that can scale rapidly while maintaining a high degree of security and trust.


Pierre Estrabaud, Lead Blockchain Developer at Super Ultra had the following to say:


With the remarkable breakthrough in zk-rollups technology, we have reached the 'end-game' of blockchain scalability, elegantly solving the blockchain trilemma. Now that we are properly geared, we can finally move beyond the 'Ethereum killer' competition, to fully focus on the next crucial step: mass-adoption.
My guess leans towards EVM-compatible solutions, as they have by far the largest developer community.
This gives Polygon Labs zkEVM and Matter Labs zkSync a significant edge with potentially many more dApps and users available, and that's where we're looking at Meed for our coming deployment. Hopefully, the future will validate our decision!

Conclusion


As the blockchain industry continues to evolve, solutions like ZK-rollups will play an essential role in addressing scalability issues. With ZK-rollups, the future of Ethereum and other blockchain platforms looks brighter than ever before. ZK rollups are transforming the trilemma for blockchain networks, offering high scalability, security, and decentralization, making them a promising solution for a wide range of blockchain applications. While it is hard to predict the future and each of the three ZK rollup options have unique advantages, we believe that Polygon zkEVM and Matter Labs zkSync are top contenders as we work towards achieving mass adoption of blockchain-based loyalty rewards programs with Meed.



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