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Zero-Knowledge Pioneer StarkWare Launches Layer 2 Rollup Network

StarkWare unveiled a new layer 2 rollup network powered by zero-knowledge proofs.

Zero-Knowledge Pioneer StarkWare Launches Layer 2 Rollup Network

StarkWare, the team that pioneered zero-knowledge-based rollups in 2018, has launched the mainnet alpha of StarkNet — the team’s much anticipated Layer 2, zero-knowledge (ZK) rollup network.

The alpha launch was revealed on Nov. 29, with the release initially supporting general computation and composability.

StarkWare describes StarkNet Alpha as a “permissionless decentralized rollup operating as an L2.” They claim the network can offer decentralized applications (dApps) “unlimited scale” for computation without compromising the composability or security of its underlying settlement chain Ethereum. It does so with its in-house ZK-STARK cryptographic proofs.

Enterprise Adoption

ZK-STARK proofs combine the privacy of zero-knowledge with the scalability of rollups to offer a Layer 2 scaling solution for Ethereum that could offer the privacy benefits, low fees, and transactional throughput needed to attract greater enterprise adoption.

Zero-knowledge-based protocols verify transactions without making any data except the time and date of execution publicly accessible on the blockchain, with transactional counterparties exclusively able to access detailed information concerning a specific transaction.

Developed in the 1980s, zero knowledge technology struggled to find product-market-fit until Zcoin and later Zcash revived the tech in a blockchain context in 2016. Despite the privacy benefits offered by said networks, StarkWare said in its March 2018 whitepaper that existing ZK-based protocols had failed to achieve “both transparency and exponential verification speedup.”

Rollups offering improved scalability and reduced on Ethereum by settling transactions on L2 and bundling them in batches onto Layer 1. 

Rollup Network

The technology has been heralded for its potential to scale the Ethereum network and alleviate high fees. Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin described rollups as having taken the place of sharding in the network’s immediate roadmap for scaling Ethereum and Ethereum 2.0.

In 2018. StarkWare pioneered the use of zero knowledge proofs in the context of L2 rollups. Rollups offer increased speed and scalability by performing transactions on Layer 2 that are bundled for verification on the main Ethereum chain. 

Earlier this month, Polygon announced it will launch a zero-knowledge STARK-based rollup network in the future.

StarkWare stated that users should expect StarkNet’s Alpha version to see “changes, fixes, and improvements,” and that the alpha release is yet to be audited. The team “may delay such an audit” until the network has matured sufficiently, it added.

StarkNet Alpha was previously launched on a public testnet in June. StarkWare notes that its applications have settled more than 50M transactions worth $250B from 2020. The firm also raised $50M at a valuation of $2B led by Sequoia Capital, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm, in mid-November.

StarkWare plans to follow the lead of Optimism and Abritrum with their respective L2 deployments by initially launching the network with a single sequencer. StarkWare also plans to  maintain a whitelist for developers to ensure they understand the risks associated with building on an alpha release.

StarkNet Alpha will initially launch without fees. However, a fee mechanism will be introduced alongside the network’s next upgrade, which is slated to go live in a few weeks. StarkWare’s roadmap also notes that a governance token will be launched in the future.