Vitalik Buterin, the co-founder of Ethereum, has suggested implementing zero-knowledge Ethereum Virtual Machines (zk-EVMs) on the Ethereum base layer to accelerate the verification process on the blockchain. Buterin’s proposal seeks to solve “The Verge,” a part of the Ethereum roadmap that aims to make verification at the base layer easier.
In a post on March 31, Buterin explained that it is possible to integrate a zk-EVM on the base layer without compromising on 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. By integrating zk-EVMs at the Ethereum layer 1, it would be the third type of client, along with the consensus and execution clients.
Buterin considered the advantages and drawbacks of treating the layer 1 as a “clearinghouse” by pushing almost all activity to layer 2. He concluded that many layer 1-based apps would become “economically nonviable” and that small funds worth a few hundred dollars or less may get “stuck” in the event that gas fees grow too large.
Buterin prefers the zk-EVM approach because it wouldn’t abandon the “multi-client” paradigm, and an open zk-EVM infrastructure would ensure that new clients could be developed, which would further decentralize Ethereum at the base layer. In his post, Buterin explained that zk-EVMs would need to be “open” in that different clients each have different zk-EVM implementations and each client waits for a proof that is compatible with its own implementation before accepting a block as valid.
The implementation of zk-EVMs at the Ethereum layer 1 could cause data inefficiency and latency issues, but Buterin believes these challenges would not be “too hard” to overcome.
In conclusion, Buterin’s proposal for zk-EVMs on the Ethereum base layer seeks to accelerate the verification process while maintaining decentralization and security. The integration of zk-EVMs at the Ethereum layer 1 would be the third type of client and ensure that new clients could be developed, further decentralizing Ethereum at the base layer. The proposal is not without its challenges, but Buterin believes that they can be overcome.
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