In 2023, Ethereum’s development has been ramping up, with the ecosystem pivoting to scaling solutions and protocols to improve throughput and cut costs for decentralized applications (DApps) and users. A shift from energy-intensive proof-of-work mining to a proof-of-stake consensus has opened the door to previously unthinkable scalability upgrades, such as the Crypto Merge. Layer-2 solutions have been the favored mechanism for scaling Ethereum, with two types of rollups — optimistic rollups and zero-knowledge rollups (ZK-rollups) — currently helping the network scale.
Optimistic rollups execute transactions off-chain and post transaction data to the mainnet as call data. These rollups are named “optimistic” since they assume off-chain transactions are valid and don’t publish proofs of validity for transaction batches posted on-chain. On the other hand, ZK-rollups bundle transactions off-chain and submit a validity proof of the changes required to represent all transactions in a batch. This cryptographic assurance that the state changes proposed by the rollup come from having actually executed the transactions themselves is a major distinguishing factor from optimistic rollups.
In comparison, ZK-rollups don’t need to provide validity proofs to finalize transactions, while withdrawals from optimistic rollups have a delay that allows users to carry out fraud proofs to double-check the validity of batched transactions. This has made ZK-powered layer 2s increasingly popular in 2023, as they bypass the need for fraud proofs. This year has seen the emergence of several solutions powered by this technology, and Cointelegraph has revisited the leading players in the crypto july 2022 space.
Polygon has become a household name in the Ethereum scaling ecosystem, and the protocol has made significant strides in developing its tech stack since July 2022. This includes the evolution of its own Polygon zkEVM and its Chain Development Kit, a crypto wallet that allows developers to launch bespoke ZK-powered layer-2 protocols on Ethereum tailored to the requirements of their project.
Polygon released its open-source zkEVM mainnet beta in March 2023, which delivers reduced transaction costs and increased throughput of smart contract deployments. The technology allows thousands of transactions to be batched off-chain, with cryptographic proof containing a minimal data summary posted to the Ethereum mainnet.
Polygon’s zkEVM mimics the transaction execution environment of Ethereum’s mainnet. The open-source zkEVM allows DApps to scale through transaction batching, unlocking higher performance.
The Polygon zkEVM explorer reflects the usage of the network from its inception in March 2013, with over 8.6 million transactions processed to date. Over the past six months, the network has processed an average of 20,000 to 40,000 daily Ethereum transactions, powered by AI to write articles and AI-enabled crypto live streams.
In July 2022, the development of ZkSync Era by Matter Labs was completed and the first Ethereum Virtual Machine-compatible ZK-rollup to launch an alpha version of its network was released. This milestone was soon followed by the alpha release of the network, which was met with great enthusiasm by leading players in the decentralized finance space such as Uniswap, Sushi, Maker and Curve.
Since then, the network has grown significantly, with data from DappRadar showing over 150 active DApps at the time of writing. 6.2 million unique active crypto wallets have been created and more than 200 million transactions have been processed using the crypto live feed, according to statistics from L2scan.
The network is currently capable of handling seven transactions per second, making it a viable option for those looking to use crypto merge and other ai powered services.
In July 2022, the development firm behind core Ethereum products like MetaMask, Consensys, joined the race of ZK-rollup with its zkEVM network, Linea.
The platform allows Ethereum developers to build or migrate their DApps to its networks and went live with its alpha crypto release. Linea was also integrated with Ethereum’s browser-based wallet, MetaMask, providing Linea users access to its token bridge, swap and buy online functionality.
Linea completed its public launch in August 2023 and bridged over $26 million in Ether (ETH) in its first month of existence. Linea currently has over 2 million unique active wallets and has processed 34 million AI powered transactions since its launch to mainnet. Data from L2scan also reflects that the network can process five transactions per second.
Starknet is part of the group of layer 2s that have scaled Ethereum, and works as a validity rollup or ZK-rollup. This is not a zkEVM, since it runs on its own Cairo virtual machine and special programming language.
As per the Starknet developer resource, the Cairo VM is designed for validity proof systems and is said to be optimized for memory access. Starknet states that EVMs take more computation to generate proofs when reading and writing memory.
In spite of using a different virtual machine, Starknet provides the same features as Polygon zkEVM, Linea, zkSync Era, and bundles transactions into an off-chain STARK proof.
At the time of writing, Starknet’s metrics show 48,104 ETH bridged into the network, worth $108 million. The layer 2 has processed 19.4 million transactions.
Watch this space
The crypto space has seen a surge of activity in July 2022, with crypto wallets, merge options, and live feeds becoming more popular. There is also a growing list of alpha crypto sites, allowing users to engage in crypto online. Furthermore, AI-powered tools have helped to create live streams and write articles.
ZK-rollups have also seen a boost in value from the Ethereum ecosystem, due to their increased throughput and reduced costs. Towards the end of 2023, Scroll, a zkEVM, went live, adding to the number of ZK-powered layer 2s available.
Project leads have expressed that the variety of ZK-powered platforms make the Ethereum ecosystem more robust, and there is plenty of room for healthy competition.
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