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  • Writer's pictureMustafa Hourani

Exclusive Interview with Taiko, a Leading Type-1 ZK-EVM

The challenges and opportunities with zero-knowledge (ZK) technology and how Taiko, a type-1 ZK-EVM, is building an efficient solution to scale the Ethereum blockchain

At Academy Ventures, we believe that zero-knowledge (ZK) solutions are poised to play a crucial role in the scalability of various public blockchains in the coming months and years. ZK not only enhances privacy, but also opens up new possibilities for more efficient interoperability on blockchains, thereby allowing for greater scalability. The demand for secure scalable solutions in the space will continue to grow and ZK solutions are positioned meet this demand, and are likely to be at the forefront of innovation in the blockchain industry.

This week, we are excited to announce that we met with Ben Wan, the Community Manager at Taiko. We conducted an interview with him to learn more about their ZK-EVM project, challenges with implementation, and the future of ZK. We hope that this interview can inform our community about the potential (and limitations) of this widely discussed topic in the space right now.

Let's dive straight in!

There are several ZK-EVM projects out there like ZKsync and Starknet, how is Taiko different?

"Before talking about the difference, we first need to be aware that there are different types of ZK-EVMs, as described in the article written by Vitalik Buterin. There are currently 4 types if you exclude the nomenclatures in between. For all intents and purposes, the greatest difference is that with the exception of type 1, all of the others require some modification to Ethereum or the EVM. Taiko is developing a Type 1 (Ethereum-equivalent) ZK-EVM. This means Taiko aims to have Ethereum equivalence on Layer 2 (L2). Its purpose is to allow developers and users of dApps developed for Ethereum Layer 1 (L1) to be used on Taiko’s L2 without any changes. As a result, dApps can be easily deployed to L2, inheriting Ethereum's security while incurring lower transaction fees than on L1. Other types (types 2 through 4) make a tradeoff between Ethereum-equivalence in favor of generating ZK proofs more quickly or more cheaply.

Another difference is that Taiko aims to be fully decentralized from day 1 by being permissionless, meaning anyone with the required hardware will be able to participate in the proposing and proving process on L2.

To summarize the difference, Taiko aims to replicate Ethereum L1 exactly as is into our rollup, whereas others modify certain aspects of Ethereum or EVM."

Can you talk about the tradeoff between decentralization and security vs. scalability on the Ethereum blockchain?

"Ethereum's consensus mechanism, Proof of Stake (PoS), which was formerly Proof of Work (PoW), uses a large number of nodes to validate and record transactions. This is what gives Ethereum its security and decentralization. This does, however, have a limit on scalability because a lot of nodes are required to process each transaction, which slows down transaction processing times and raises the cost of executing transactions on the network."

How does Taiko achieve scalability while maintaining decentralization and security?

"In general, there are 2 ways to improve scalability:

The first is on-chain which means that the Ethereum blockchain itself is updated to increase the amount of data and thus the number of transactions that can fit into each block.

The second is off-chain which commonly refers to L2 where transactions are moved to a separate layer and processed in batches before sending it back to the Ethereum L1 as a single transaction.

Taiko achieves scalability while maintaining security and decentralization through the use of ZK-EVM and rollup technology.

Rollups batch transactions and guarantee that as long as the L1 (data availability layer) exists, users can reconstruct the L2 state and exit the rollup by forcing a transaction on L1. Using compression, every batch can have thousands of transactions submitted to Ethereum that includes a cryptographic proof with minimal data that is verified by a contract deployed on Ethereum L1. ZK-Rollups thus allow certain network participants to simply verify a validity proof, rather than executing every transaction. Decentralization is maintained by ensuring that the main participants (proposer, provers and nodes) can be run by a multitude of parties."

What are the limitations forcing many ZK-Rollups to be application specific, rather than general purpose?

"The main limitation is that each smart contract or dApp needs to be written or adapted specifically to work within the constraints and design of the ZK-Rollup. It is much easier to design ZK circuits that perform specific tasks, which cover the vast majority of what users will do with a particular application, making it application specific. This means that ZK-Rollups are not always compatible with every type of smart contract or dApp, and integrating with existing codebases may require significant engineering effort.

Creating a general-purpose rollup requires designing a ZK circuit for each individual EVM opcode, which was previously thought to be computationally challenging. Some EVM opcodes are problematic because they are not ZK-friendly. This means that even the fastest computers would take an inordinate amount of time to prove.

The development of new proving systems, such as PLONK, reduces the number of operations required to construct a proof, making it more efficient to generate proofs for ZK unfriendly computations. Other mechanisms such as parallel proving also speeds up the proof time, resulting in more general-purpose friendliness."

How does Taiko use ZK-EVM to develop general purpose rollups?

"The ZK-EVM uses validity proofs to prove the correctness of the EVM computations on the rollup. Taiko implements a ZK-EVM that supports every EVM opcode, resulting in a ZK-EVM circuit validity proof. This bytecode compatibility means that all Ethereum tooling integrates seamlessly with Taiko, without developers requiring code changes. The actual ZK-EVM circuits we use and contribute to are an open community effort, involving the Ethereum Foundation and others.

For a general-purpose rollup, as opposed to an app-specific rollup, users must be able to force the inclusion of any arbitrary transaction, not just ‘exit’ transactions. From the proposed blocks, provers generate SNARK proofs asserting the validity of L2 transactions and blocks. Taiko enables this by being permissionless and decentralized from day one which means all valid transactions are processed.

Overall, Taiko uses ZK-EVM to develop a general purpose rollup by leveraging the succinctness and verifiability of zero-knowledge proofs to ensure the integrity of off-chain computations, while also improving the scalability of the Ethereum network."

What are some key milestones and events to look forward to in 2023 with Taiko?

"We will release further testnets that will include tokenomics and the ZK proving components in the coming months. This will make it possible for the community to contribute more realistically by testing transaction speeds, costs, running nodes, serving as proposers or provers, and for developers to evaluate our protocol and architecture by putting their dApps into use and stress testing the environment. Additionally, you will definitely see and hear more from Taiko at conference events and hackathons throughout 2023. Watch out for more exciting developments by following our announcements on Twitter and Discord or swing by the events and say hello if you are in the neighborhood!"

What are some good resources for a college student looking to learn more about ZK?

" would be a great place to start to learn more about ZK-rollups and how this benefits the ecosystem. There are other more in-depth great articles here. Attending conferences and workshops related to cryptography and blockchain technology would provide opportunities to learn from experts in the field and network with others interested in ZK. And of course who can forget youtube for not only simple explanations but even recordings from event presentations."

What advice would you give a college student looking to pursue a career in the ZK domain?

"You should have a keen interest in computer science, mathematics and cryptography. These principles form the basis of ZK and will continue to drive advancements in this field. Keep yourself up to date by participating in hackathons, conferences, workshops, online communities, and other events to get acknowledged for your accomplishments and find career opportunities. Above all, have fun while doing it!"

Closing Remarks

To conclude this week's inside scoop on ZK-EVM, we would like to thank Ben Wan and the rest of the Taiko team for their time and valuable insight.

To learn more about Taiko and follow their updates, we've linked their website and contact information below for your convenience.


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