Vitalik’s recent post on classifying zkEVMs prompted discussions over specific implementations but did not dive into the best implementation. Although this is a question full of nuance from a technical standpoint, the best implementation regarding market success is more straightforward. Of course, every implementation will eventually find a market fit, but at the moment, there is a niche that hasn’t been filled and will likely succeed in the short-to-medium term.
This is the sweet spot in zkEVM development: a zkEVM as Ethereum compatible as possible while reaching the market as fast as possible. This is likely a Type 2 or 2.5 zkEVM according to Vitalik’s classification. Currently, only two zkEVM teams are building towards this goal: Scroll and Polygon, but zkSync is likely to end up at this type of system at a later date.
Why is Ethereum compatibility important? As it currently stands, most active users are on EVM-compatible blockchains.
By leveraging existing developer tooling, EVM dApps, and infrastructure, zkEVMs can avoid the cold-start problem. A zkEVM with a familiar development environment will allow an ecosystem to develop much faster. Blockchains without EVM compatibility have less adoption. A healthy, mature ecosystem follows the path outlined below.
A common way to solve this cold start problem is by incentivizing developers by injecting capital into the system, but it is not long-term sustainable. The end goal of this strategy is to kickstart the flywheel and let network effects carry it after the initial capital injection. This has worked better for EVM-compatible blockchains, as it also leverages the nearly-decade-old tooling and developer network effects that already exist.
While both strategies are viable, having EVM support is much cheaper and becomes self-sustaining much faster.
Therefore it is likely for zkEVMs with close-to-Ethereum compatibility to end up with a majority of the ZK Rollup market share, independent of technical superiority or capital thrown at it, at least in the medium-term.
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