zkSync to Launch 'Baby Alpha' V2 as Skeptics Decry Marketing Hype
Matter Labs Says Network is First 'Product Ready' Rollup with ZK-powered EVM
By: Samuel Haig •Dive
Matter Labs is poised to deploy zkSync 2.0 to the mainnet on Friday but skeptics questioned whether the iteration was ready for prime time.
For weeks, Matter Labs has been promoting the Layer 2 blockchain network V2 as the first ever “product-ready” rollup with a zero-knowledge-powered Ethereum Virtual Machine.
But not everyone is convinced by zkSync 2.0’s claim to have launched the first ever production-ready ZK-EVM rollups. Critics said Matter Labs launched a heavily gated version of the network, with public access third-party dApps likely still months from going live.
“ZkSync 2.0 Mainnet will go live on Oct. 28, but for one month nobody other than Matter Labs team will be allowed to use it,” said WagameEth, an Optimism governance delegate.
Steve Newcomb, chief product officer at Matter Labs, defended the rollout’s messaging. “We just have a large ecosystem that wants to celebrate that we are simply shipping code and proving we are walking the walk,” he told The Defiant,
The episode highlights how critical this technology is to scaling Ethereum. Zero-knowledge proofs have been described as the holy grail in that quest, and no existing rollup solution has delivered an EVM-equivalent Layer 2 leveraging the technology.
While arcane and technical, zero-knowledge proofs are important to understand because the technology may fulfill Ethereum’s promise of becoming a mass market system for DeFi. ZK-EVMs are expected to increase settlement speeds and lessen transaction fees.
Key to the technology is the EVM, an engine powering Ethereum’s smart contract execution. EVM-equivalence means devs are able to port their code from Ethereum’s mainnet to a Layer 2 solution without needing to make meaningful changes.
By deploying zkSync’s second iteration, Matter Labs is looking to claim the title of being the first team to deliver a ZK-EVM on Ethereum’s mainnet. Those are serious bragging rights in the race to scale Ethereum.
Steven Goldfeder, the co-founder of OffChain Labs, criticized Matter Labs for promoting zkSync 2.0 as the first mainnet zkEVM in its current form. He said it muddies the narrative surrounding zkEVM development, and places pressure on competitors to also embellish their progress in marketing.
Newcomb pushed back. “Haters are just going to hate and if Steven wants to hate on zkRollups for shipping a milestone that’s on him. Our response is to simply ship code and ship our mission,” said Matter Labs product head.
‘Haters are just going to hate and if Steven wants to hate on zkRollups for shipping a milestone that’s on him. Our response is to simply ship code and ship our mission.’
Indeed, the zkSync 2.0 roadmap says the network’s first mainnet launch is its “baby alpha” release, during which no external projects will be live on the network.
The documentation said that it will put the system through a series of real-money stress tests to verify that zkSync 2.0’s production system is “working correctly and performing as expected” during the baby alpha phase. Third-party audits will also be completed during the phase.
The project will then transition to its “fair launch alpha” phase next month, allowing ecosystem partners to deploy on the network and test their code.
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Public access to zkSync 2.0 will remain limited during this period, with Matter Labs planning to open the network to the public with its “full alpha” launch at the end of the year.
Karl Floersch, the CTO of OP Labs told The Defiant that it is “extremely difficult” to develop a new proof system, adding it is not surprising that Matter Labs is proceeding with a phased launch for zkSync 2.0.
“Mature rollup systems have their own forms of training wheels,” he said. “Building production ready technology that can secure billions of dollars is challenging and takes time. All zkEVM progress is good progress, and we’re excited to incorporate open-source proof systems into the OP Stack in the future.”
Rollups are the leading solution for scaling Ethereum. They work by bundling together transactions executed on Layer 2 before submitting them in batches for validation on Ethereum’s base layer.
Optimistic rollups emerged as Ethereum’s dominant Layer 2s over the past year. Optimistic rollups assume transactions are accurate but allow seven days for network participants to contest them before they are submitted to mainnet.
Validators found to be submitting inaccurate transactions at risk of losing significant collateral. Arbitrum and Optimism, the top two Layer 2 scaling solutions by total value locked (TVL), both leverage optimistic rollups.
Zero-knowledge proofs offer enhanced speed and privacy compared to Optimistic rollups, and do not require a dispute period before transactions are submitted to the mainnet.
Only the time and date at which a transaction occurred is published to the blockchain when validating using zero-knowledge proofs, and only counterparties able to access further data relating to a specific transaction.
However, Optimistic rollups sacrifice some scalability gains to ensure greater EVM compatibility. Optimistic claimed to have achieved full “EVM-equivalence” with their optimistic rollups in July following the Bedrock upgrade.
Floersch told The Defiant that Optimism is open to adopting zero-knowledge proofs in the future.
“Because the OP Stack is modular, we’ll be able to swap out our proof system, meaning Optimism can eventually support zero-knowledge proofs,” Floersch said. “In future iterations of the OP Stack, developers will be able to easily swap out fault proofs for a zero-knowledge proof.”
When Polygon, Matter Labs, and Scroll began racing to develop the first zkEVM in July, Polygon appeared the likely frontrunner.
The team allocated $1B towards developing ZK-powered scaling solutions last August. Since then, Polygon unveiled an identity service powered by ZK-proofs in March, and launched the mainnet beta of Nightfall, a hybrid optimistic and zero-knowledge rollup, in May.
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However, Matter Labs claimed that zkSync 2.0 would be live on mainnet in 100 days, prompting a heated rivalry between the teams.
On Oct. 10, Polygon launched a public testnet for its zkEVM rollup, tipping that DeFi heavyweights Aave and Uniswap will be among the first protocols deploying to the testnet. “We’re the first zkEVM to reach public testnet with a source code available ZK proving system.” Polygon said.
Scroll also upgraded its pre-alpha testnet on the same day, enabling smart contract deployment. Scroll said it will soon follow up by launching a permissionless testnet that is open to all users.
Matter Labs hit back on Oct. 18, announced they had deployed validity proofs live on testnet, and that zkSync 2.0 was “a fully working end-to-end zkEVM running on a public testnet.”
While the first version of zkSync offers zero-knowledge proofs, its lack of EVM compatibility stifled adoption and development on the network. L2beat estimates zkSync has a total value locked of $62.4M, a fraction of Optimism and Arbitrum’s 10-figure TVLs.
Despite critics playing down the significance of zkSync 2.0’s baby alpha launch, Matter Labs is gearing up to host a rich DeFi ecosystem once the network completes its full alpha launch.
On Oct. 13, Matter Labs announced that Chainlink’s data feeds will be available to zkSync 2.0 developers.
On the same day, the Uniswap community voted in favor of deploying its v3 exchange on zkSync 2.0. A port of Uniswap v2 also launched on the zkSync 2.0 testnet on Oct. 13. Matter Labs said Uniswap v3 will go live on zkSync 2.0 within a few weeks after its mainnet launch.
Uniswap v3 is the leading DEX by trade volume, processing more than $1.4B worth of trades in the last 24 hours, according to CoinGecko.
On Oct. 27, Matter Labs said Sushi’s DeFi suite will also launch on zkSync 2.0. Sushi is the 16th ranked DeFi protocol with $824M locked in its smart contracts, according to DeFi Llama.