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Exploring zkSync: An introduction to rollups and layer 2s

Even for those still relatively new in the space, the “Blockchain Trilemma” would still ring a few familiar bells. A trifecta of decentralization, scalability, and security, the “Blockchain Trilemma” suggests that blockchains, in their current iteration, are constantly vying for the most suitable balance between the three without compromising any one factor in the process.

Scalability, in particular, plays an important role in ensuring the mass adoption of blockchain technology. Achieving high transaction speeds at affordable costs is the primary gateway for the technology to hit critical mass and meaningfully enter the stage of global adoption.

In this article, we take a closer look at the different types of Layer 2 (L2) scaling solutions and how zkSync actually works.

What is zkSync?

zkSync is a Zero-Knowledge (ZK) scaling solution that allows users to perform on-chain activities such as swaps and NFT mints with lower gas fees and at faster transaction speeds.

Users are able to bridge their assets of value, such as NFTs or other tokens, from the Layer 1 (L1) Ethereum chain on to the L2 ZK environment and interact with them there via DApps as a subset of the user’s intended activity on the Ethereum L1 chain. Users may then bridge their assets back on to the L1 chain should they wish to after they have performed their intended activities.

While this may initially sound like an unnecessary detour for users who simply want to perform basic functions on the blockchain such as minting NFTs or swapping their tokens, the zkSync L2 ecosystem boasts a far less frictitious alternative for users, primarily in the form of lower gas fees and faster throughput. Transaction fees are designed to be predictably low (90 – 95% less than that of the Ethereum L1 chain); confirmations can be reached within just a few minutes; and transaction fees can even be payable in the currency of the transferred token.

How does zkSync work?

In the presence of low TPS and high transaction fees on most L1 blockchains, it is nigh impossible for the global population to meaningfully interact with blockchain technology in a meaningful and scalable way. How then does a massive layer one (L1) blockchain such as Ethereum achieve scalability without compromising its existing properties of decentralisation and security to meet the needs of a global population?

The answer presents itself in the form of L2 rollups.

There are two primary types of scaling solutions: optimistic and ZK rollups. Both of these rollups or scaling solutions aim to create a L2 execution environment that solves general user problems such as transaction fees. However, there are a few key differences between the two, particularly within the realms of transaction speed and security.

What are Optimistic rollups?

Optimistic rollups rely upon the publication of massive amounts of publically-available information to verify transactions on the chain. With this information, a “challenge window” is opened up for other validators and users to publish a “challenge” against a transaction that displays suspicious information, indicating potential malicious activity. This verification method, however, is that time is required for this “challenge” window to be made available.

Typically, Optimistic rollups entail a challenging period of 7 days, meaning that if a user wanted to bridge their tokens from an L2 environment back to an L1 chain using an Optimistic rollup, there may be no transaction finality of up to 7 days.

What are ZK rollups?

Where Optimistic rollups largely rely upon the keen eyes of users and validators to approve transactions, ZK rollups like zkSync on the other hand, instead rely upon cryptogrpahy and mathematical proofs to verify the authenticity of transactions.

What this comparatively means is that ZK rollups tend to have a far higher transaction speed as opposed to Optimistic rollups, and can process transactions as quickly as mathematical proofs can. Even Vitalik Buterin has endorsed the advantages of ZK rollups in the long-term, indicating in his opinion in August 2022 that ZK-Rollups would eventually surpass Optimistic Rollups in the future.

Optimistic rollup vs ZK rollup: How do the two compare?

Admittedly, ZK-Rollups are far from perfect. For starters, they are still in a fairly nascent stage of their development, and while they may be able to process transactions at a faster pace, most tend to lack an Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), making it challenging for developers to operate decentralised applications such as DeFi protocols.

zkSync however, is taking the necessary steps to counterract and remedy this problem.

What is zkSync 2.0?

While zkSync 1.0 was mostly devised to serve as an application-specific rollup targeted at payments, such as lowering costs for token swaps and NFT minting, zkSync 2.0, whose alpha phase was launched in October 2022, aimed to engineer a general execution environment mimicking that of the EVM.

What is a General Execution Environment?

With zkSync2.0, developers were able to recompile their smart contracts or L1 applications that used programming language such as Viper and Solidity into the L2 execution environment without any change to the base code.

zkSync2.0 Roadmap that is targeted at developers and improving UX

“zkSync2.0 still retains the existing bridge functions available on zkSync1.0,” Anthony Rose, the Head of Engineering at Matter Labs, the company behind zkSync said in a TwitterSpace AMA on 26 January 2023.

“However, zkSync2.0 comes with the added benefit of facilitating the building of DApps in a L2 environment. Essentially, any applications that can be built in EVM can also be built on our L2 virtual machine, opening the doors to a world of hyperscale and L3 architecture.”

This means that developers, in particular, will be able to deploy and build DApps on zkSync within an environment that neither suffers from scalability issues, nor from composability problems. Currently, zkSync2.0 is still in a nascent alpha stage, which will soon transititon towards a “fair onboarding alpha”, where developers will be able to bring their applications on to the L2 VM environment, providing sufficient time for developers to properly deploy their protocols and tools on the chain before the entire system goes publicly live.

What is Account Abstraction?

Additionally, zkSync also aims to cater for account abstraction as a means of onboarding more into the web3 space. According to Anthony Rose, account abstraction is key in providing a less fictitious manner for more people to interact with applications on the blockchain. He claims that one of the major goals for zkSync moving into 2023 would be to allow users to interact on the blockchain without even knowing about it. In the same way that web2 users need not know about HTML or HTTPS when surfing the web, Anthony believes that zkSync will be able to provide the same seamless interactivity for users using account abstraction.

Currently on the Ethereum blockchain, users need to be aware of what it is that they are signing, as it may not be immediately apparent that a contract signed could be malicious towards them. Further, seed phrases could not be recovered in the event that they are lost by the user.

“The UX (user experience) today is not sufficient for millions of users to engage with blockchain in a serious way,” Anthony explains. “We aim to achieve a state of abstraction away from the underlying blockchain code to the extent that users don’t even need to recognise the blockchain underneath when they interact with it and use tools or applications on it.”

In this fashion, zkSync envisions the ability for user accounts to be transformed into smart contracts themselves, which potentially allows for a greater degree of customisation and flexibility while also improving the overall user experience.

How secure is zkSync?

In the wake of multiple exploits and security breaches within the industry, zkSync has taken additional steps to ensure that security audits are conducted following every major update, with the most recent being conducted in late August 2022 by ABDK Consulting and another by OpenZepplin. Additionally, zkSync also offers comprehensive Bug Bounty Programs that incentivises the public to report any critical flaws in the system, including issues that may lead to the substantial loss of funds, inaccessibility to upgrades, or enforced exodus mode.

How to add zkSync Mainnet to Bitkeep Wallet?

As an official project parter of zkSync, you may easily add zkSync mainnet to your Bitkeep wallet list conveniently by tapping on the network selection option at the top right hand corner of your home screen, before selecting “+ Add a Network” and entering “zkSync” in the search field.

Select the zkSync network to onboard on to the mainnet

You may also opt to explore the various DApps available on zkSync Through Bitget Wallet (Previously Bitget Wallet (Previously BitKeep))’s DApp section and wallet, by tapping “DApp” at the bottom of your wallet home screen:

Some notable mentions of the DApps partnered with the zkSync ecosystem are Orbiter Finance, a bridging platform, as well as Gitcoin, a crowdfunding platform for up-and-coming web3 protocols and projects.

Explore zkSync with Bitkeep Wallet today!

About Bitget Wallet (Previously Bitget Wallet (Previously BitKeep))

Bitget Wallet (Previously Bitget Wallet (Previously BitKeep)) is a decentralized multi-chain digital wallet that provides an all-in-one solution for a comprehensive portfolio of services, including an integrated NFT Marketplace, wallet function, swap services, DApp Browser, Launchpad, and Daily Column – which features regular insights into promising DeFi projects. It offers reliable and secure asset management and trading services to more than 8 million users worldwide, covering 168 countries in North America, Europe, and Asia and is the top-rated wallet on Google Play globally, surpassing even Metamask. Bitget Wallet (Previously Bitget Wallet (Previously BitKeep)) currently supports over 250,000 types of cryptocurrencies across over 80 chains, including major ones such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Polygon, BNB Chain, Fantom, and Solana.

Bitget Wallet (Previously Bitget Wallet (Previously BitKeep)) places a strong emphasis on user security, incorporating DESM encryption for the storage of users’ private keys to ensure an additional layer of security to safeguard user funds.

Follow Bitget Wallet (Previously Bitget Wallet (Previously BitKeep)) on Twitter to stay updated on the latest developments, and let Bitget Wallet (Previously Bitget Wallet (Previously BitKeep)) be your premier gateway into the web3 space.

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