Polygon zkEVM: Ethereum’s Leading zkRollup Blockchain?

Is the Polygon zkEVM all it’s cracked up to be?

A woman together with a man wearing Polygon t-shirt running on an infinity shaped road below floating light blue Ethereum signs.

With the Polygon zkEVM, Polygon (MATIC) is adding another weapon to its arsenal and reinstating its claim as the ultimate Ethereum (ETH) scaling ecosystem. Polygon’s zkEVM network aims to offer users unmatched security and minimal gas fees, outperforming other scaling solutions.

Despite their considerable resources, Polygon Labs isn’t the first crypto team to release a zero-knowledge rollup to boast EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine) functionality. In fact, on-chain metrics suggest that the Polygon zkEVM is playing catch-up, falling behind other players in the Layer-2 Race.

Is the Polygon zkEVM truly the future of Ethereum scalability? How is the new network different from the existing Polygon PoS network?

What Is Polygon zkEVM?

Polygon zkEVM is a Layer-2 network that combines two powerful technologies to boost blockchain scalability and security. Using zero-knowledge proofs and industry-standard Ethereum Virtual Machine, the Polygon zkEVM is touted as ‘the next big thing.’

Tweet showing Vitalik sign the first tx on Polygon zkEVM

Source: Twitter

The network was brought to life in March 2023 when Vitalik Buterin signed the first transaction on the new blockchain. Inspired by Neil Armstrong, the Ethereum co-founder etched “A few million constraints for man, unconstrained scalability for mankind” into the Polygon zkEVM mainnet forever.

How Does Polygon zkEVM Work?

To better understand how Polygon’s shiny new blockchain works, let’s briefly break down its two key features.

Zero-knowledge validity proofs are a creative way to show someone you know sensitive information without actually revealing the content of the information itself. This provides users greater security and privacy while taking advantage of a more scalable network.

Polygon zkevm diagram highlights how transactions are batched and rolled up

Source: Polygon Labs

In the case of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, zkRollups enable a network to batch up groups and transactions and prove they’re valid without revealing what the transactions actually are. These transactions are sent back to the Ethereum blockchain, where they’re settled using the network’s famed security.

In its most basic terms, the Ethereum Virtual Machine is essentially the operating system of the Ethereum mainnet. It allows users to write smart contracts and deploy dApps and services on-chain. By running an EVM blockchains can host Ethereum-based applications. This helps users and developers interact with the network in a familiar environment.

Combining these features, the Polygon zkEVM gives users the best of both worlds. They enjoy the scalability of a Layer-2 network and EVM-equivalence, with the privacy and security of Ethereum zkr ollup technology.

Polygon zkEVM vs. Polygon PoS Mainnet

While both networks aim to scale Ethereum, their methods are slightly different. 

Polygon PoS is a sidechain that is EVM-compatible. It runs parallel to the Ethereum mainnet and is secured by a Proof-of-Stake consensus mechanism. Gas fees on the network are paid in MATIC, the native token of the Polygon ecosystem.

Polygon zkEVM is a network built on top of the Ethereum blockchain. It uses zero-knowledge architecture to speed up processing times while benefitting from the security of Ethereum’s consensus. Gas fees are paid in ETH, not MATIC.

Instead of being EVM-compatible, the network aims to be EVM-equivalent. Let me explain what this means.

According to Polygon Labs, the ultimate goal is not EVM compatibility. Compatible means that the network can operate within the confines of Ethereum’s broader ecosystem. Existing dApps and developer toolsets can still be ported over but might require slight code changes to avoid bugs.

EVM equivalence suggests that Polygon zkEVM offers users an identical environment and experience while benefitting from improved scalability. Polygon Labs argues that the best way to scale Ethereum is to become its equal rather than simply operating within its limits.

Polygon zkEVM Competitors

For all its hype and excitement, Polygon is not the only crypto project exploring zkEVM networks. ZkSync actually beat Polygon Labs to market and released their mainnet a few days before the Polygon zkEVM went live.

On-chain metrics indicate that zkSync is by far the more popular network. Within two weeks of the launch of both blockchains, zkSync has attracted $72M in TVL (Total Value Locked). In contrast, the Polygon zkEVM has only accrued $1M in TVL.

zkSync TVL chart

Source: DeFiLlama

Polygon zkEVM TVL

Source: DeFiLlama

In that wasn’t enough, almost ten times more users have bridged over to zkSync compared to Polygon zkEVM. While zkSync is home to over 300,000 unique wallet addresses, the Polygon zkEVM mainnet beta is lagging behind with only 32,000 unique wallets.

Though this could be considered a grim indicator for Polygon Labs, this staggering difference might be due to speculation around a possible zkSync token airdrop. Airdrop eligibility is often given to early supporters who bridge to new chains and provide liquidity in DeFi applications.

In any case, both zkRollups pale compared to other Ethereum scaling solutions. Optimistic rollups like Arbitrum and Optimism are clear winners in the Layer-2 adoption race, with millions of unique wallets and billions of dollars in TVL.

What Can I Do On Polygon zkEVM?

If you’re familiar with the Polygon PoS network or any other EVM blockchain, the Polygon zkEVM has similar use cases. The blockchain is used to store and transfer cryptocurrency in self-custodial accounts.

The network is also home to a variety of open-source DeFi applications like decentralized exchanges and lending platforms. NFT marketplaces are emerging, with several early collections vying for prominence in a relatively uncharted network.

How Do I Connect to Polygon zkEVM?

Hopping over to the Polygon zkEVM mainnet is easy and only takes 10-15 minutes. Head to the official Polygon zkEVM Bridge site and connect your Web3 wallet. The Polygon zkEVM RPC will usually automatically add and configure itself to your wallet.

Polygon zkEVM bridge UI

Source: Polygon zkEVM Bridge

If you’re still struggling, head to Chainlist, search for Polygon zkEVM, and manually add the network to your wallet.

Remember that the network uses ETH as a native gas token, so you’ll need to bridge some Ether and keep some in reverse to pay your gas fees while you explore the network.

Polygon zkEVM Pros and Cons

Launching an exciting new blockchain network always comes with overwhelming claims of ‘revolutionary, new paradigms’ and ‘game-changing technology.’ Let’s cut through the noise and look at the facts.

Pros

  • Solid reputation – Polygon Labs is one of the most reliable teams in the blockchain industry with a history of delivering high-quality products. They’ve secured partnerships with some of the world’s largest companies, like Starbucks and Meta,, and helped incubate hundreds of emerging crypto projects through ecosystem grants. 
  • EVM-equivalence – The network is EVM-equivalent, making it an ideal environment for users and developers to bridge over from Ethereum, the most popular Layer-1 blockchain.
  • Scalability – The zkEVM promises high transaction throughput and minuscule gas fees. According to Quicknode, users should enjoy transaction finality in 2-3 seconds and transaction costs of around $0.000084.
  • Zero-knowledge proofs – Zkproofs bring greater security and privacy to blockchain. Being able to validate transactions without needing to disclose sensitive details about the transaction opens many doors in decentralized finance.

Cons

  • Low adoption rates – The launch of the Polygon zkEVM was a hotly anticipated catalyst for the Polygon ecosystem. However, the lack of users has arguably been anticlimactic. Polygon Labs needs to find some way of incentivizing network use. 
  • Competitive niche – Ethereum scaling is one of the biggest pain points in the industry. Alternative zkEVM networks like zkSync dominate Polygon zkEVM regarding user adoption, while optimistic rollups like Arbitrum and Optimism are light-years ahead. 

On the Flipside

  • All the excitement and discussion shouldn’t detract from what is arguably the largest service in the Polygon Labs ecosystem. The Polygon PoS sidechain is still one of the industry’s largest networks, driving mass adoption through incredible partnerships with top Web2 companies.

Why You Should Care

Zero-knowledge validity proofs are certainly an innovative use of blockchain technology. The competition between Ethereum scaling solutions might be stiff. Still, Polygon Labs has a history of success, and despite a slow start, their zkEVM is expected to host exciting new applications in the Web 3 world.

FAQs

What is a zkproof?

A zero-knowledge proof is a system where someone can prove they know something without revealing the specific information. For example, you can prove to someone you know a computer’s password without telling them what it is.

What is the gas token for Polygon zkEVM?

The gas token used to pay transaction fees on the Polygon zkEVM network is ETH. This is not to be confused with MATIC, the gas token of the Polygon PoS chain.

How fast is Polygon zkEVM?

According to the Polygon Labs team is infinitely scalable, boasting high transaction throughput and 2-3 second transaction finality.

What is EVM?

EVM stands for Ethereum Virtual Machine. It’s essentially the engine and operating system of the Ethereum mainnet. It manages the state of the blockchain and supports smart contract development.

This article is for information purposes only and should not be considered trading or investment advice. Nothing herein shall be construed as financial, legal, or tax advice. Trading forex, cryptocurrencies, and CFDs pose a considerable risk of loss.

Author
Finn Miller

Finn Miller is a New Zealand-based blockchain writer for DailyCoin who specializes in simplifying complex blockchain topics. He is experienced in crafting whitepapers, researching on-chain data, and advising emerging crypto projects, and uses his unconventional approach to learning and passion for knowledge to provide cornerstone educational content for readers of all levels. When not exploring the depths of DeFi, Finn can be found exploring his other passion, the great outdoors.