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ZK-Rollups: Comprehensive review and comparison of leading projects

Mar 6, 2024
ZK-Rollups: Comprehensive review and comparison of leading projects
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Ethereum, a blockchain that has undergone revolutionary changes, has faced serious scalability challenges due to increasing demand. However, thanks to advanced technologies such as ZK-Rollups, Ethereum can now process many more transactions per second, reduce gas costs, and improve scaling efficiency.

This article highlights some of the most notable projects on the Ethereum base that use ZK-Rollups. Each project stands out with its unique characteristics, emphasizing the flexibility and capabilities of ZK-Rollups as a second-level scaling tool.

Contents:

ZK-Rollups: Comprehensive Overview and Comparison of Leading Projects - news

What are ZK-Rollups

ZK-Rollups are a second-level scaling technology for Ethereum, employing zero-knowledge proofs to aggregate multiple transactions into a single proof. This proof is then published on the main Ethereum network. As a result, every operation within a ZK-Rollup is guaranteed to be accurate, eliminating the need to re-verify each one individually on the blockchain, thus reducing the need for computational resources. This contributes to the following factors:

  • increasing network throughput;
  • reducing congestion;
  • lowering transaction fees.

ZK-Rollups effectively move computational processes outside the blockchain, leaving only the necessary data in the network itself, leading to a significant reduction in gas costs. The features of this technology include maintaining a high level of security and ensuring data availability in the network, allowing users to withdraw funds even if the ZK-Rollup level is unavailable.

A distinctive feature of ZK-Rollups over other second-level solutions is their full compatibility with Ethereum, allowing developers to use already familiar tools and approaches. ZK-Rollups also guarantee the execution of transactions: once included in a rollup, they cannot be canceled.

Ultimately, ZK-Rollups represent one of the most promising solutions to the scalability issues of the Ethereum network, offering users the following advantages:

Advantages
1 Fast and cost-effective transactions
2 Maintaining core security principles
3 Preserving decentralization

Various platforms, including lending and credit services, as well as decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges (DEX), have expanded their capabilities to numerous chains. This implies their support for multiple secondary levels based on ZK-Rollup technology, providing users with opportunities to reduce transaction costs and speed up their execution and final confirmation.

Polygon

Launched in 2017 as Matic Network, Polygon was created by a group of Ethereum developers, including Sandeep Nailwal, Anurag Arjun, Jaynti Kanani, and Mihailo Bjelic.

Polygon's operation is based on the use of ZK-Rollups to improve scalability, overcoming typical limitations such as lengthy processing times. Polygon's innovative approach to recursive proofs eases these issues. Unlike traditional ZK-Rollup blockchains, which generate proofs for individual transactions, Polygon can generate proofs for an entire array of transactions before sending them to the main Ethereum network.

Polygon stands out with its unique ZK-Rollup architecture, making the network faster and more accessible compared to other ZK-Rollup scaling methods by eliminating the need for specialized equipment for validation. For example, in the developing Polygon Zero network, the size of some proofs is only 45 KB, significantly reducing the load on performance compared to other scaling solutions.

The distinction of ZK-Rollups from Polygon lies in their full compatibility with Ethereum, allowing developers to use existing skills and tools without the need to learn new programming languages, unlike other second-level solutions such as StarkNet.

Polygon operates by creating multiple “commitment chains,” which resemble sidechains but perform a different function and are secured by the main Ethereum network's security.

ZK-Rollups: Comprehensive Overview and Comparison of Leading Projects - news

StarkNet/StarkEx

StarkNet and StarkEx are developed by Starkware, founded in 2017 by Alessandro Chiesa and Eli Ben-Sasson.

StarkNet operates as a decentralized second-level network using ZK-Rollup technology. Unlike Polygon, working with StarkNet requires developers to learn the Cairo programming language instead of Solidity, which may create additional challenges for newcomers in this field. However, efforts are underway to develop transpilers that allow code to be translated from Solidity to Cairo and from other popular programming languages to facilitate this transition.

Like other ZK-Rollup-based solutions, StarkNet aggregates numerous second-level transactions into a single Ethereum transaction, which helps increase transaction efficiency and reduce gas costs.

The same developers also created StarkEx — a separate blockchain system. StarkNet is focused on the development of open dApps, whereas StarkEx offers a scalable SaaS solution aimed at decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges (DEX), helping them reduce costs and increase transaction processing speed and liquidity.

StarkEx supports a wide range of tokens, including ETH, ERC-20, tokens from other EVM-compatible chains, as well as popular ERC-721 NFTs. Additionally, work is ongoing to add functionality for off-chain minting of semi-fungible dynamic NFTs ERC-1155. Since its launch on Ethereum in mid-2020, StarkEx has become one of the leading second-level solutions by Total Value Locked (TVL), supporting a wide array of dApps and protocols.

ZKSync

ZKSync was developed by Alexander Vlasov and Alex Gluchowski of Matter Labs, who launched this technology in 2020.

ZKSync is designed for high-speed transactions (up to 2000 transactions per second) while reducing gas costs and ensuring high security. This Layer-2 scaling solution for the Ethereum network is distinguished by its ability to quickly withdraw funds back to the main Ethereum Layer-1 network. Notably, ZKSync is the only ZK-rollup protocol fully compatible with EVM, simplifying the migration of existing smart contracts from Ethereum without the need for modifications to ZKSync, significantly reducing development time.

While ZKSync shares certain features with StarkNet and StarkEx, a key difference lies in the type of verification technology used. ZKSync employs SNARK technology (succinct non-interactive arguments of knowledge), unlike StarkEx, which uses STARK (scalable transparent arguments of knowledge).

ZK-SNARK requires a one-time setup process with trusted setup, creating potential for centralization and reducing trust. Conversely, ZK-STARK uses a system verifiable with public randomness, eliminating the need for trust and potentially offering quantum resistance, unlike SNARKs, and promising better scalability. This highlights certain limitations of ZKSync compared to StarkNet.

Among the well-known projects implemented on the ZKSync platform are Argent, Gitcoin, Yearn Finance, Gnosis Safe, Snapshot, Tally, and 1inch Network.

ZK-Rollups: Comprehensive Overview and Comparison of Leading Projects - news

Immutable X

Immutable X, launched in 2020 based on Ethereum, offers developers Layer-2 solutions for creating fast and secure NFT and blockchain games. This platform provides APIs and tools for easy development, enabling game developers to embed complex economies and ensure ownership of in-game assets through features such as free minting and fast transactions.

Immutable X also supports token trading platforms, ensuring maximum liquidity and safe, cost-effective trading. The choice of Ethereum as the foundation is due to its security and widespread use.

The platform uses the ZK-Rollups mechanism to bundle transactions, reduce gas costs, and increase processing speed, while offering two Layer-2 solutions: StarkEx for batch processing transactions and Immutable zkEVM for developing smart contracts compatible with Ethereum, with high performance and low cost, particularly suitable for gaming applications.

Loopring

Loopring is a Layer-2 protocol for decentralized exchanges (DEXs) based on Ethereum, enabling thousands of transactions per second while reducing gas costs and enhancing security through the use of Zero-Knowledge Proofs (ZKP). This technology increases efficiency by aggregating multiple transactions into a single proof, which is then verified on Ethereum, significantly improving throughput and reducing costs.

Loopring also offers its non-custodial trading platform, Loopring Exchange, for secure and efficient DEX transactions without gas fees.

The protocol incorporates zk-Rollups, allowing transactions to be executed off-chain while still keeping transaction data on the Ethereum blockchain, thereby ensuring lower costs and higher liquidity compared to centralized exchanges.

Loopring uses its native token LCR to reward network participants, providing advantages of centralized exchanges in a decentralized context, thereby accelerating the adoption and efficiency of blockchain technology within the Ethereum ecosystem.

Conclusion

The use of advanced technologies, particularly ZK-Rollups, offers a solution to the scalability issues of the Ethereum blockchain. It's noted that many renowned projects are already implementing this technology to increase transaction speed, reduce costs, and strengthen security on the Ethereum network.

As these innovations continue to develop and improve, they promise to fully unlock Ethereum's potential, making it more accessible and efficient for a wide range of users and developers. Thus, the future of Ethereum seems closely linked to further development and implementation of ZK-Rollups.

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