Some of the biggest names in decentralized finance, including Uniswap, Sushi, Maker and Curve, are set to launch March 24 on zero-knowledge proof roll-up zkSync Era.
The Ethereum layer 2 scaling network has finally opened to users in alpha after four years in development, enabling faster and cheaper transactions. It is the first Ethereum Virtual Machine compatible zk-Rollup to launch on mainnet (competitor StarkWare uses a bespoke language called Cairo), allowing most Ethereum DApps to simply port over with very few changes.
Between 32 to 50 projects are expected to go live on March 24 or over the weekend, including Balancer, Pyth Network, Mute, Redstone, Graph and Argent. Banxa, Yearn Finance, Celer, Chainlink, Aragon, Woo Network and Tracer DAO are also porting to the network.
“Friday for us is the big one, it’s full launch alpha,” Anthony Rose, the head of engineering for zkSync developer Matter Labs, told Cointelegraph earlier in the week.
“But the systems are super complex and there's a million other things we want to do.”
While zkSync Era can provide scaling "orders of magnitude" greater than Ethereum’s current 10 to 12 transactions per second (TPS), Rose said it would offer “tens of TPS” initially and scale up as demand requires.
The project launched its “fair onboarding alpha” on Feb. 17, allowing projects to port over and test out security and optimizations. Matter Labs said it spent $3.8 million on security testing, seven independent security audits and a bug bounty program to reduce the risk of any incidents.
What is a zk-Rollup?
Zk-Rollups — which include zkSync, Scroll and solutions from Polygon, StarkWare and Consensys — compute transactions away from the Ethereum blockchain while providing a tiny cryptographic proof that is written as a single transaction back on Ethereum showing that a bundle of other transactions has been carried out correctly. zkSync also employs recursion, which generates a proof showing a batch of other proofs (each representing many transactions) have been carried out.
Zk-Rollups can enable virtually instant withdrawals, giving them an advantage over optimistic-rollup layer 2s such as Optimism, where withdrawals take a week. However, zkSync Era will impose a 24-hour waiting period initially as a security precaution.
“The reason being is if you have some critical bug that has somehow got through the many different audits and security mechanisms and somebody completely drains the protocol, this is obviously a disaster for everybody involved,” he said. The waiting period is likely to be reduced to an hour within weeks.
Native account abstraction
zkSync has also enabled native account abstraction, meaning every account in the network is a “smart account” that can utilize two-factor authentication (2FA), social recovery, autopay transactions and more via smart contract wallet providers like Argent.
"This was and probably still is my favorite feature,” Rose said, explaining that it’s an improvement on Ethereum’s ERC-4337 implementation and will help remove the “jankiness” for new crypto users getting into the space.
"Scalability is fine, the infrastructure needs to be there. But it needs to come with a user experience that can also scale."
Not decentralized yet
zkSync Era will not be fully decentralized on launch, so the team can implement fast fixes for any security or technical issues. However, a time lock will later be implemented so that the Security Council and community can sign off on decisions.
Like competitor StarkWare, zkSync relies on a centralized sequencer and prover, which are faster, but provide a centralized point of failure. Running a prover, however, requires the purchase of expensive hardware or renting cloud capacity at $10,000 a month, which makes decentralizing that aspect of the network tricker. Underscoring the challenge, the decentralized version of StarkWare is called StarkNet and is currently running at a paltry 0.11 TPS.
Rose said a new proof system was already being developed that substantially reduces hardware requirements and should be available on mainnet this year.
“So the idea for us is to get through this, then start talking about how we upgrade the proof system to be such that we can be meaningfully decentralized,” he said.
“There's lots of hard problems to solve to make the systems real.”