In a recent post, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin delved into the of zero-knowledge Ethereum Virtual Machines (zk-EVMs) at Ethereum's base layer, which could expedite the verification process without sacrificing decentralization and security.
According to Buterin, the use of zk-EVMs could execute smart contracts on the blockchain through ZK proofs.
Buterin emphasized "multi-client philosophy," which fosters decentralization at the protocol level. Introducing zk-EVMs at Ethereum layer 1 would result in a third type of client, joining "consensus" and "execution" clients. The consensus client employs proof-of-stake to ensure agreement among network nodes, while the execution client processes new transactions using standard EVM and maintains an up-to-date copy of the blockchain state.
In weighing the pros and cons of treating layer 1 protocols as a "clearinghouse" by transferring most activities to layer 2, Buterin cautioned that layer 1-based apps could become "economically nonviable." Furthermore, small funds may get "stuck" if gas fees escalate.
Buterin elaborated that an "open" zk-EVM system would necessitate different clients with distinct zk-EVM implementations, wherein each client awaits a proof compatible with its implementation before validating a block. This approach would preserve the "multi-client" paradigm and facilitate the development of new clients, further decentralizing Ethereum at the base layer.
According to Buterin, zk-EVMs might be the solution to "The Verge," an aspect of the Ethereum roadmap aimed at simplifying base layer verification. Although the zk-EVM could create data inefficiency and latency challenges, Buterin believes these obstacles are surmountable.
The implementation of the zk-EVM ecosystem would simplify the process of running a full Ethereum node. As Buterin explained, Ethereum blocks would be smaller, and anyone could operate a fully verifying node on various devices, including laptops, phones, or browser extensions, all while maintaining the benefits of Ethereum's multi-client philosophy. The core argument here, at least in Buterin's stance, is the effective decentralization of political power, especially in the case of DAOs and emerging Ethereum-based and Ethereum-compatible projects.
Significant strides have been made with , which recently open-sourced its zkEVM to the Polygon mainnet on March 27. The move promises to decrease transaction costs and increase the throughput of smart contract deployments. Other organizations, such as StarkWare, ConsenSys, Scroll, , and , are also working on zk-EVM scaling solutions.
Buterin's contemplation of zk-EVMs at Ethereum's base layer showcases a commitment to balancing scalability with the platform's core values of decentralization and security. As layer 2 solutions progress and zk-EVMs move closer to implementation, the Ethereum ecosystem wloud also, by extension, experience significant advancements in efficiency, accessibility, and decentralization.
Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.