After four years in development, the Ethereum layer 2 scaling network, zkSync Era, has opened to users in alpha, enabling faster and cheaper transactions. Between 32 to 50 projects, including some of the biggest names in decentralized finance such as Uniswap, Sushi, Maker, and Curve, are set to go live on March 24 or over the weekend.
ZkSync Era is the first Ethereum Virtual Machine compatible zk-Rollup to launch on mainnet, allowing most Ethereum DApps to simply port over with very few changes. The network can provide scaling “orders of magnitude” greater than Ethereum’s current 10 to 12 transactions per second (TPS), offering “tens of TPS” initially and scaling 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, the team behind zkSync Era, 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.
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.
ZkSync Era 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.
The network 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 requires the purchase of expensive hardware or renting cloud capacity at $10,000 a month, which makes decentralizing that aspect of the network tricker. A new proof system is already being developed that substantially reduces hardware requirements and should be available on mainnet this year.
Overall, zkSync Era represents an important step forward for Ethereum, which has been grappling with scaling issues for years. The network’s launch on mainnet has the potential to significantly reduce gas fees and enable faster and more efficient transactions, benefiting not only DeFi projects but also other Ethereum-based applications.