What is Ethereum zkEVM? Why is it important?

Paigambar Mohan Raj
Source: DeGate Team, Medium

A zero-knowledge Ethereum Virtual Machine (zkEVM) is a type of virtual machine which requires zero-knowledge proof to verify a program. A zero-knowledge proof or zero-knowledge protocol is a method through which one person may convince another party that a particular assertion is true, without any additional information.

zkEVMs run on top of the Ethereum network. They process transactions, pile them up and pass them back down to Ethereum’s layer 1 mainnet. These roll-ups take a significant load off the ETH blockchain network. This results in cheaper and faster transactions.

The Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) is not one piece of hardware or software. Instead, it is a combination of rules, standards, and software packages. When a host of computers run similar software, this set of standards results in a network.

Early ZK-rollups were limited to straightforward token exchanges and payments since they couldn’t carry out smart contracts. ZK-rollups are now beginning to support Ethereum dApps thanks to innovation that was previously thought to be years away.

Ethereum Virtual Machine: Equivalent vs Compatible

Being EVM-equivalent means that the experience of developing in the system is the same as developing on the Ethereum network. Developers have the same tools and structure as the ETH mainnet.

On the other hand, EVM-compatible means that the experience is not the same as the ETH network. The same tools and frameworks might not be available as those on the ETH blockchain. But nonetheless, the programs can run on the EVM.

Polygon recently launched its zkEVM and claimed that it was EVM-equivalent. However, users complained that the experience was not identical to the Ethereum blockchain and hence should not be called EVM-equivalent.

Why is a zkEVM important?

There are several advantages of a fully functional zkEVM.

Firstly, it allows for secure scalability. Ethereum’s throughput difficulties can be resolved using EVM-compatible ZK-rollups without compromising network security. The constraints of the Ethereum consensus mechanism do not apply to ZK-rollups. Thus it leads to faster execution speeds.

Secondly, zkEVMs will reduce transaction costs. Since the veracity of state transitions is already ensured by validity proofs, ZK-rollups can afford to post less information to Ethereum.

Moreover, zkEVMs ensure faster finality and capital efficiency.

Utilizing the network effects is the main motivation for creating EVM-compatible zkVMs. The largest smart contract platform in the world, Ethereum offers a sizable ecosystem that benefits both developers and projects.

Developers have access to a wealth of tooling, documentation, and code libraries that have been rigorously tested and verified. The network effects of Ethereum cannot be utilized by projects or development teams if a new zkVM is built that is incompatible with Ethereum’s infrastructure.