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Unlocking Ethereum’s Potential: Vitalik Buterin’s Vision For ZK-EVMs

Ethereum Founder, Vitalik Buterin, has suggested using ZK-EVMs to make Ethereum blocks smaller in size and easier to verify. In a recent blog post, Buterin highlighted the importance of the rise of ZK-EVMs in validating the Ethereum chain. 

ZK-EVMs are expected to become a third type of the network’s client, just as important to the network’s security as execution clients and consensus clients. 

The multi-client philosophy of Ethereum’s decentralization, which serves both technical and social benefits, will be challenged by the interaction between ZK-EVMs and the multi-client philosophy. 

Today’s main issue with the network is its difficulty verifying layer 1, leading to a low number of users running their nodes. It is where the ZK-SNARKs come in; they can verify layer 1 and make it easier to verify not only on laptops but also inside phones and other chains.

Options To Make Ethereum Blocks Smaller & More Verifiable

Buterin suggests two options for addressing this issue. The first solution proposed by Buterin is to constrict layer 1 by reducing the gas-per-block target from 15 million to 1 million. It would force most user activity to move to layer 2 protocols, while layer 1 would act as a clearinghouse for layer 2 protocols. 

Although this approach could work, it has several important weaknesses, including backward compatibility and verification cost issues.

The second solution proposed by Buterin is to use ZK-SNARKs to verify layer 1 itself. Specifically, a type 1 (fully Ethereum-equivalent) ZK-EVM can be used to verify the EVM execution of a layer 1 Ethereum block. 

ZK-SNARKs have been under development for years and are already actively being used by layer 2 protocols called ZK rollups. Once ZK-EVMs are used to verify execution on layer 1, they will become a third type of Ethereum client, just as important to the network’s security as execution clients and consensus clients are today.

However, this solution also presents technical challenges, such as creating a “multi-client” ecosystem for ZK-proving correctness of ETH blocks. Buterin believes that the benefits of verifying layer 1 using ZK-SNARKs outweigh the challenges. 

He argues that this approach would allow users to actually verify that the chain follows the rules and enable the Ethereum protocol to be easily verified on laptops, phones, and even inside other chains.

Nevertheless, the verification problem facing Ethereum is a major issue that needs to be addressed to maintain the decentralized nature of the blockchain. Buterin’s proposals of constraining layer 1 or using ZK-SNARKs to verify layer 1 are potential solutions, each with strengths and weaknesses. 

Ultimately, the Ethereum community will need to come together to decide which solution is the most appropriate for the long-term success of the blockchain.

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