Buterin believes the enshrined zkEVM method, which returnes functions to L1, is the next course of action as “light clients” get stronger.
Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has made a case for taking some functions away from Layer-2 networks or rollups, back to the main Ethereum chain. This “enshrined zkEVM” (zero-knowledge Ethereum Virtual Machine) method is a direct opposite of his previous campaign years ago, which sought to transfer computational load from the main Ethereum chain to Layer-2 networks.
Buterin previously touted major support for Layer-2 networks that bundle transactions for off-chain processing before bringing them back to the main chain. A proven method for improved scalability, the adoption of Layer-2 networks was a major point Buterin made at a 2020 conference when fees on the network were skyrocketing. Now, these Layer-2 services, including zk-rollups, from several projects that have gained some success with decongesting the Ethereum blockchain. However, they may be in jeopardy if Buterin’s proposals gain widespread popularity and adoption.
The Enshrined zkEVM Method
In a recent blog post, Buterin notes the importance of light clients, which are light nodes that run stripped-down client software. These light clients request data only as necessary instead of independently verifying changes made to blockchain data by keeping their copy of the data. Generally, the light client, or light node, downloads actual block contents only occasionally, mostly only processing block headers.
Buterin argues that with time, especially as their functions and data increase, these light clients will get more powerful such that they can fully verify layer-1 transactions like the layer-2 networks.
“At that point, the Ethereum network will effectively have a built-in ZK-EVM,” wrote Buterin.
The “zk,” or zero-knowledge proof, is a cryptographic protocol that allows one party to prove to another party that a transaction is correct, without offering any specific transaction details. On the other hand, EVM is Ethereum’s entire engine. It powers the environment and manages the blockchain, enabling smart contract functions. The EVM is an essential part of client software used to run Ethereum nodes.
Layer-2 networks like Polygon, Scroll, and Matter Labs use zero-knowledge proof. Some of these platforms are major stakeholders in decentralized finance (DeFi), which Ethereum powers more than any other blockchain. Consequently, these platforms could lose some steam because of Buterin’s enshrined zkEVM method.
Layer-2 Roles After Implementation
Buterin then explains the function of layer-2 projects if zk-EVMs are enshrined and become part of the original protocol. According to him, these projects “would still be responsible for many important functions.” Some of these functions include fast pre-confirmations, MEV mitigation strategies, and extensions to the EVM. Furthermore, Buterin says the enshrined zkEVM method would also handle “user and developer-facing conveniences.” He wrote:
“Layer 2 teams do a lot of work attracting users and projects to their ecosystems and making them feel welcome; they are compensated for this by capturing MEV and congestion fees inside their networks. This relationship would continue.”
Buterin’s comments on Ethereum come as the blockchain’s native Ether token climbs 4.6% to $2,275, according to CoinMarketCap data. Last week, ETH hit an 18-month high at $2,353, with hopeful investors eyeing a $3,500 target.