Ethereum Scaling Platform zkSync v2 Goes Live Amid Controversy

Matter Labs pitches zkSync v2 as the “first” network of its kind to launch on Ethereum, but its competitors aren’t buying the hype.

AccessTimeIconOct 28, 2022 at 6:50 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 29, 2023 at 12:03 p.m. UTC
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After a 100-day countdown, Matter Labs released a long-awaited second version of its Ethereum scaling platform, zkSync, on Friday.

In the lead-up to the much-hyped “Baby Alpha” launch, zkSync – an Ethereum “rollup” network that offers users the ability to transact quickly and cheaply without sacrificing security – faced a volley of criticism from skeptics and competitors wary of its most audacious technology claims.

In particular, criticism has been leveled at Matter Labs’ marketing, which positions the zkSync v2 platform as the first of its kind to “launch” on Ethereum’s mainnet – beating out fast-approaching competitors from Polygon and Scroll.

Though the platform is technically going live on Ethereum’s main network, its features will be extremely limited for the time being. On its official road map, Matter Labs said the Baby Alpha launch would not be open to external projects, and would instead be a way to run zkSync’s systems “through a series of real-money stress tests that will help us verify the production system is working correctly and performing as expected.”

A “Fair Launch” open to outside teams will, according to the road map, take place in the coming months.

Although access to zkSync’s v2 network will be heavily gated for now, it is the first of a trio of upcoming zkEVM projects to launch in some form on Ethereum’s mainnet. All of the projects aim to offer compatibility with any Ethereum smart contract, and they promise to offer massive security and efficiency advantages over the network’s incumbent scaling solutions.

What is zkSync?

With the Ethereum community’s embrace of a rollup-centric road map, most activity on the network in the coming years is expected to go through layer 2 rollup platforms – quick and cheap networks that sit atop Ethereum as an answer to its exorbitant fees and sluggish speeds.

zkSync is a “zero-knowledge” (ZK) rollup – a kind of layer 2 network that bundles up user transactions and then passes them down to Ethereum so they can be written to its ledger. ZK-rollups use complex cryptographic proofs to prove that the data they pass down to Ethereum has not been tampered with.

Unlike the previous version of its rollup, zkSync’s v2 platform will be fully compatible with all Ethereum smart contracts – the bite-sized computer programs that power apps on the blockchain.

Responding to critics

At the core of the criticisms of zkSync are questions around whether its zk-SNARKs – the complicated mathematical proof system that is supposed to make the whole network tick – actually exist.

zkSync’s proof system is supposed to make its system more secure than scaling platforms such as Polygon PoS and Ronin – so-called sidechains that pass data to Ethereum without allowing actors on the layer 1 base network to check for correctness.

Steven Goldfeder, the chief executive of Offchain Labs, which creates a competing platform to zkSync called Arbitrum, claimed earlier this month that there was no evidence that zkSync’s prover technology worked as claimed.

“We are NOT 12 days away from the first zkEVM on mainnet in any meaningful way,” he tweeted in reference to zkSync. “If you read the fine print [...] their testnet still doesn't have zk-proofs enabled (!!),” he continued.

Matter Labs disputed these claims to CoinDesk, however. “We would simply point to the fact that we have shipped our end-to-end prover exactly as defined with public verification and that we have shipped it exactly on schedule as outlined in our public road map – milestone 3,” Steve Newcomb, Matter Labs’ chief product officer, told CoinDesk in an interview.

“Tweets like [those from] the founder of Arbitrum are simply false and are a bad look for our entire space,” he continued. “We would love to see an industry standard for open source, for mainnet releases and many other areas – it would prevent false claims.”

zkSync has $62 million locked in the first version of its platform, which was limited to specific kinds of blockchain applications. This number is expected to increase with the more generalizable zkSync v2 platform.

In comparison, the leading layer 2 platforms – “Optimistic rollups” from Arbitrum and Optimism – currently comprise around 80% of Ethereum’s layer 2 ecosystem and hold a combined $3 billion in total value locked.

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Sam Kessler

Sam is CoinDesk's deputy managing editor for tech and protocols. He reports on decentralized technology, infrastructure and governance. He owns ETH and BTC.


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