Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin wants zero-knowledge Ethereum Virtual Machines (zk-EVM) to be built on the first layer of Ethereum to speed up the verification process on the base blockchain.
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Buterin explained in a post on March 31 that it is possible to integrate a zk-EVM into the base layer without compromising decentralization and security. The technology enables Ethereum Virtual Machines to execute smart contracts on the blockchain with ZK proofs.
Ethereum was developed with a “multi-client philosophy” to ensure decentralization at the protocol level, Buterin explained. By integrating zk-EVM into layer 1 of Ethereum, it would be the third type of client.
“Once that happens, zk-EVMs will become a de facto third type of Ethereum client, just as important to network security as execution clients and consensus clients are today.”
The other two clients are “consensus” and “execution“. The consensus client implements proof-of-stake to ensure that nodes on the network agree, while the execution client listens for new transactions being streamed to the network, executes them on standard EVMs, and keeps a copy of the last one. Blockchain state.
In championing the idea of zk-EVM verification on the Ethereum base layer, Buterin first considered the pros and cons of treating layer 1 as a “clearing house”, shifting almost all activity to layer 2.
He claimed that many Tier 1-based applications would become “economically unviable” and that small funds – worth a few hundred dollars or less – could be “stuck” if gas fees grew too large.
Buterin explained that zk-EVMs would have to be “open” in the sense that different clients would have different zk-EVM implementations, and each client would wait for a proof of compatibility with its own implementation before accepting a block as valid.
He prefers this approach because it would not abandon the “multi-client” paradigm, and an open zk-EVM infrastructure would also ensure that new clients could be developed, further decentralizing Ethereum at the base layer.
Buterin said that zkEVMs could be the solution to “The Verge,” a part of the Ethereum roadmap that aims to make verification easier at the base layer.
Buterin acknowledged that the zk-EVM infrastructure could cause latency and data inefficiency issues, however, he said those challenges would not be “too difficult” to overcome.
If the zk-EVM ecosystem is implemented, it would make running a full node on Ethereum even easier, Buterin explained:
“Ethereum blocks would be smaller than today, anyone could run a full verification node on their laptop or even on their phone or within a browser extension, and all this would happen while preserving the benefits of the multi-client philosophy of Ethereum.”
Polygon, Ethereum’s Layer 2 scaling platform, has made considerable progress with its zk-EVM, which was recently opened to the Polygon mainnet on March 27, promising lower transaction costs and a increased performance of smart contract deployments.