Before delving into the article’s development, let’s set the context;
ZK-EVM is a technology that combines the concepts of Zero-Knowledge and Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). To better understand this technology and its representing abbreviation, let’s say Zero-Knowledge is like if you are the only one who knows the recipe for the best cake in the world and you want to share it, but you don’t want to reveal all the information. Instead of disclosing all the ingredients, you could use a “zero-knowledge proof” approach to demonstrate that you possess the knowledge without actually revealing it. It’s a way of proving that you have information without disclosing that information. On the other hand, Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) is the environment where smart contracts of the decentralized blockchain platform Ethereum are executed. It’s like a “virtual computer” that interprets and executes commands written in Ethereum’s programming language.
Now, if we combine both concepts, ZK-EVM refers to an enhanced version of the Ethereum Virtual Machine that utilizes zero-knowledge proofs to increase privacy and scalability of transactions on the Ethereum network. This enables secure and private computation and execution of smart contracts without revealing sensitive information. An example of using this technological innovation on the blockchain is to prove that you are over 18 years old without revealing your actual age to an entity. By using ZK-EVM, you could generate a proof demonstrating that you are of legal age without the need to disclose your exact age. The party requesting this information would only see the proof that you are of legal age without knowing other details about you such as your place of birth, address, or parents’ names.
MULTICLIENT SYSTEMS FOR OPEN NETWORKS
The multiclient philosophy of Ethereum, which involves having multiple implementations of Ethereum, has been crucial over time to maintain the network’s security and decentralization. In contrast, we have ZK-EVM systems (which utilize zero-knowledge proofs to verify the execution of smart contracts) emerging as a new way of validation on the Ethereum chain.
As ZK-EVM becomes more relevant, questions arise about how it will interact and fit into the multiclient philosophy. Currently, there are several ZK-EVM implementations under development, so we will see if the technical challenges outweigh the potential benefits. I discuss the relevance of political decentralization in the context of blockchain technology, where the political power of developers comes into play when proposing protocol changes, potentially leading to power concentration and discrimination in blockchain usage.
One option to consider is restricting activity on Layer 1, thereby forcing the majority of transactions to move to Layer 2. This could increase scalability, but it may also impact existing applications and make verification more challenging for users. Another option worth considering is using ZK-SNARK verification on Layer 1 to ensure protocol execution and consensus. However, this option presents challenges such as latency and data inefficiency in verification. Proposed solutions such as consensus rounds and data aggregation protocols are on the table. Whatever option gains more weight among the various approaches to this implementation, it should prioritize maintaining the multiclient paradigm and fostering innovation in the ecosystem by allowing multiple ZK-EVM implementations.
Undoubtedly, the multiclient philosophy reduces the risk of catastrophic errors by having multiple software implementations. It improves security by avoiding reliance on a single client (potential errors can be mitigated more quickly and with less impact on the network) and offers greater resistance to attacks by applying an additional protective layer to clients that may have the same vulnerabilities. We will see how this ongoing innovation in the environment and the solutions applied on the fly address the challenges that will undoubtedly stress the system. However, it will also mature and improve the system. Consensus failures, high technical complexity, resource-intensive costs, or poor coordination can undermine the beneficial aspects of Ethereum’s multiclient.