Vitalik Buterin’s Plan to Boost Security and Decentralization with zk-EVMs

Vitalik Buterin is enthusiastic about implementing zero-knowledge EVMs on Ethereum’s primary layer, enhancing the underlying blockchain’s verification process.

Buterin stated in a post on March 31st that it is feasible to incorporate a zk-EVM on the base layer without compromising safety and decentralization. This technology enables EVMs to execute smart contracts on the blockchain utilizing ZK proofs.

According to him, the philosophy of Ethereum is to have multiple clients to maintain decentralization at the protocol level. If zk-EVMs are integrated into Ethereum’s layer 1, it will result in the addition of a third type of client.

Ethereum’s Client Trifecta

Once this occurs, zk-EVMs become a third type of Ethereum client, just as vital to the network’s safety as the execution and consensus clients. The consensus client utilizes PoS to ensure node agreement. In contrast, the execution client listens for new transactions broadcast to the network, executes them in standard EVM, and maintains a copy of the blockchain’s most recent state.

At first, Buterin evaluated the advantages and disadvantages of making layer 1 a “clearinghouse” by shifting all activity to layer 2. He indicated that various applications reliant on layer 1 would become “economically nonviable” and could become stuck if gas fees escalated excessively.

Additionally, Buterin explained that zk-EVMs must operate as separate clients since each client has its own zk-EVM implementation and requires proof that it is compatible with its specific performance before validating a block.

He favors this approach as it doesn’t abandon the “multi-client” model. Additionally, an accessible zk-EVM infrastructure will ensure the creation of new clients, further decentralizing Ethereum at the foundational level.

Revolutionizing Ethereum verification

The integration of zkEVMs could potentially resolve “The Verge,” a facet of the Ethereum roadmap aimed at simplifying verification at the foundational level.

Buterin acknowledged that implementing zk-EVM infrastructure could result in issues like data inefficiency and inactivity, but he believes these challenges can be easily overcome.

Implementing the zk-EVM ecosystem would make it even simpler to run a full node on Ethereum. According to Buterin, Ethereum blocks would be smaller than present, allowing anyone to operate a fully verifying node on their laptop, phone, or browser extension. All of this will be achieved while maintaining Ethereum’s multi-client philosophy.

Polygon, a scaling platform for Ethereum’s layer-2, has made significant advancements by introducing its zk-EVM to the Polygon mainnet on March 27th. This move aims to reduce transaction costs and increase the efficiency of intelligent contract deployments.

ConsenSys, zkSync, StarkWare, Scroll, and Immutable have all implemented comparable scaling solutions utilizing zk-EVM technology.

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