Alex Gluchowski: In the Long Term, Both Optimistic Rollups and zkPorter will be Replaced | EDCON 2021 Interview

As we know, Ethereum has long been faced with high cost and low TPS, which are the main driving forces of the current Layer 2 solutions. ZKSync, the ZKRollup-based L2 solution launched by Matter Labs, is one of the most high-profile solutions. ZKSync has been integrated into multiple platforms to provide users with fast and low-cost L2 payment experience. For example, more than 80% of the grants in the recent round of Gitcoin donations were made through ZKSync! Recently, Matter Labs announced their ZKSync 1.x upgrade and ZKSync 2.0 plan, and have attracted a lot of attention from the Ethereum community.

EDCON 2021, the Community Ethereum Development Conference hosted by Unitimes, will be held from June 25 to June 27, 2021! We have conducted an interview series ahead of EDCON 2021, and we are honored to have Alex Gluchowski, co-founder and CEO of Matter Labs, and also our previous EDCON speaker, with us to talk about zkSync, Rollups, and the future trends!

1) Please briefly introduce Matter Labs.

Alex Gluchowski: Matter Labs is a mission-driven company focused on fairness, inclusion, and resilience in blockchain technology. We do this by using math and cryptography to better secure systems dependent on trust or economic incentives.

2) As we know, zkSync is an Ethereum Layer 2 solution based on Zk-Rollup technology. At present, zkSync has been integrated with many applications, such as Ethereum-based donation platform Gitcoin and wallet applications like imToken and Argent, etc. zkSync features a fast and low cost L2 payment experience for Ethereum users. How does zkSync do this?

Alex Gluchowski: zkSync offers higher transaction throughput by using zk-SNARKs to verify transactions in batches rather than one by one.

In zkSync, transactions are put into rollup blocks, and when each block is full, zkSync has a layer 1 smart contract that will receive:

  • the new state root
  • a zero knowledge proof that the state transition is correct
  • in calldata, a data availability guarantee: data necessary to reconstruct changes incurred by the rollup block

This information is bonded together by passing in as inputs: the previous root hash, new root hash, and sha256 hash of the calldata as inputs to the zero knowledge proof.

Ultimately, throughput, and therefore speed and cost, of layer 2 transactions are bound by the amount of data needed to be published to Ethereum. Because zk-SNARKS are used to validate all transactions, zkSync only needs to post to Ethereum the bare minimum needed to reconstruct state. Additionally, zkSync publishes even less by only posting the final state of each account, which can result in major optimizations. For example, if there were 1000 price oracle updates, zkSync only needs to publish 1.

3) Matter Labs recently announced the zkSync 1.x update. What new user experience will this update bring? How is it different from the current zkSync 1.0?

Alex Gluchowski: Currently, anyone can integrate with zkSync 1.0 using our payments SDK available in many languages, most notably javascript/typescript and rust.

In May, zkSync 1.x will come with NFTs, permissionless token-listing, and swaps. Users will be able to mint, transfer, and atomically swap NFTs on layer 2 and withdraw them to layer 1. We will also begin integrating with exchanges so users can onboard directly onto zkSync layer 2 and begin swapping.

4) zkSync 2.0 is said to be your next generation smart contracts platform, which will introduce a new holistic architecture that offers a mix of zkRollup and zkPorter accounts, with zkPorter claiming to offer 20,000+ TPS.

Matter Labs claims that zkPorter offers more security than Optimistic Rollups, but Vitalik Buterin disagrees, arguing that the off-chain data availability of zkPorter has a lower security level. How would you defend zkPorter’s off-chain data availability?

Alex Gluchowski: It’s simple. In an optimistic rollup, however difficult, an attacker can steal all the funds inside the optimistic rollup. In zkPorter, an attacker is only able to freeze funds, which means they need to consistently give up ⅔ of the staked zkSync token supply. There’s a huge upside in attacking one, and you lose money in attacking the other. Which one do you try to attack?

There are other arguments from both sides, but they are largely theoretical, such as the ease of renting/buying hashpower and coordinating communities to fork. You can read arguments made by Vitalik Buterin and Alex Gluchowski in the Reddit post.

Ultimately, it is important to remember zkPorter is a temporary measure for the long-middle term. There are millions of people in the world that desperately need relief from hyper-inflation and corrupt governments. And they need it now. In the long term, both optimistic rollups and zkPorter will be replaced with a combination of zkRollups, other applications of zero knowledge proof technology, and advanced data sharding, which offers even greater scalability with Ethereum-level security.

5) Another significant change brought by zkSync 2.0 is the support for Solidity and EVM-based programming model and composability. Does this mean that DeFi applications on Ethereum will be able to migrate easily to zkSync 2.0? Are you already in the process of talking with some projects in migrating into zkSync 2.0?

Alex Gluchowski: Yes! The ease of migration will be the same as that of optimistic rollups.

Yes! In addition to Curve, which already has an up and running testnet, Aave, Balancer, and 1inch are also investors in our most recent funding round.

6) Compared to other Rollup solutions, such as Optimistic Rollup based Optimistic Ethereum adopted by Synthetix and Arbitrum to be used by Bancor, as well as ZK-Rollup based StarkNet which is being developed by Starkware, what are the advantages that zkSync 2.0 will offer to attract DeFi applications?

Alex Gluchowski: zkSync 2.0 is not unique in what it offers, it is the combination of everything it offers that makes it unique, and ultimately, the best. There is no system with all three:

  1. EVM Compatibility

2. Security of Ethereum

3. High Transaction Throughput

zkSync 2.0 has a state tree where half is zkRollup and half is zkPorter. zkRollups inherit Ethereum’s security, while zkPorter offers exponential throughput by securing data availability with Proof of Stake via the zkSync token. The breakthrough is in the interoperability and composability of both sides, which gives the user the choice between the side with the highest security in the entire layer 2 ecosystem and the side with the lowest fees in the entire layer 2 ecosystem.

And of course, with the zkEVM, zkSync 2.0 will offer portability of Solidity code and ECDSA signatures.

7) Could you tell us more about zkSync Token? How do zkSync Token stakers (or Guardians) reach consensus?

Alex Gluchowski: The zkSync token will be used for staking to secure data availability for zkPorter accounts. We call these zkSync token stakers Guardians.

We are in the middle of working on an L2 consensus algorithm. For zkPorter, consensus among Guardians is not necessary as signatures for blocks can be collected asynchronously.

8) Many current L2 solutions (including Rollups and others) offer the possibility of an outbreak of the Ethereum L2 ecosystem. What are your expectations for the future of the Ethereum L2 ecosystem? The current prevailing view is that it is unlikely that there will only be one dominant L2 network in the future, so the issue of composability in L2s and cross-L2s demand arise. What is your opinion on that?

Alex Gluchowski: If there is no predominant L2, it will be both good and bad.

Why it is good is analogous to why Ethereum has many clients: Geth, OpenEthereum, Nethermind, Besu, and Trinity. There is strength in diversity because it reduces the chance of single points of failure. If the L2 implementations also have many distinguishing features, protocols have a better chance at finding the one most suitable for them.

It’s bad because it makes composability and interoperability more difficult. And also some fractionalization of liquidity over all platforms. But there are many people designing solutions for this.

9) How do you think sharding will combine with the Rollup solutions (especially zkSync) in the future? What will be the outcome?

Alex Gluchowski: The scalability of rollups is ultimately limited by the need for data availability to be guaranteed through the publishing of calldata on Ethereum. ETH2 data availability sharding combined with zkSync’s zkRollup will result in the cheapest transactions without any compromises in security.

The same concerns of the previous question on multiple L2’s also apply to having multiple shards. But by the time ETH2 data sharding is live, the problem of crossing between L2s, shards, or chains will most likely be solved already.

10) Recently, the NFTs mania is undoubtedly the spotlight in the crypto field, which has attracted more people’s attention to the whole crypto industry. zkSync also plans to enter the NFTs field. Some people believe that bubble exists in the current NFTs mania, and the price of NFTs has been pushed up excessively. What is your opinion? What do you think of the future prospects of NFTs?

Alex Gluchowski: It is our goal to make zkSync the most user-centric rollup, and NFTs have clearly demonstrated their usefulness and demand. We are very happy to be releasing NFT functionality in zkSync 1.x so users can mint, transfer, and swap NFTs for low fees and no compromises on security.

The NFT art movement is focused on bringing the power back into the hands of the creator: perpetual revenue (royalties) and ownership rights, but also censorship resistance and timelessness. But it’s not just the creators, we are beginning to see a paradigm shift into a new creative ecosystem that is more sustainable and easy to use: an infrastructure of transparency and provable scarcity. The creator economy will continue to flourish, but this time, the creators will finally be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

NFTs started with art but continue to take on infinite more applications where non-fungibility is inherent. I’m excited!

That is the main content of this interview. Thanks a lot to Alex Gluchowski! If you have any other questions, please let us know in the comments section and we’ll forward them to Alex. In the near future, we will continue to bring you other exciting interviews from EDCON speakers, so stay tuned!

Last but not least, EDCON 2021 is coming, and early bird tickets are available now! Visit the conference website for more information~




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