zk-rollup battle: zkSync vs. StarkWare

To say that zk-rollup will be a big success is an understatement. Two projects have been working on this technology for many years, and the time for them to shine is about to come. What are the opportunities in this? What is the difference between them? When will the tokens be released? This is a tweet comparing @zksync and @StarkWareLtd:

I declare in advance that this is such a big topic and I am trying my best to master this knowledge. But I may take some shortcuts or make some mistakes when explaining. Please feel free to correct my mistakes in the comments to make this tweet more precise.

There are already a lot of detailed resources explaining what zk-rollup is and how it differs from optimistic rollup. So in this article, I mainly focus on the basic intuitive reason behind zk-rollup and the difference between the two main players in the zero-knowledge proof expansion solution track, namely @zksync and @StarkWareLtd.

Intuitive reason: Ethereum is what we call a “monolithic” blockchain. Because consensus, execution, and data availability all happen on the Ethereum blockchain. This is unsustainable (because it means that all nodes must perform these three functions), which is why a single Ethereum blockchain cannot be expanded.

To achieve expansion, Ethereum must develop towards a “modular” blockchain. This means only using the blockchain for what it does best: consensus, and outsourcing the work of execution and data availability (DA) to off-chain.

But how should we transfer the work of execution and data availability while ensuring its inherited L1 security? Through zk-rollup, thousands of transactions are packaged into a single, mathematically verifiable zk proof, and only this proof is stored on the chain.

Now let’s compare @zksync and @StarkWareLtd. I will try to use concise language as much as possible and compare from these perspectives: the team and the initial stage, technology, data availability, financing and backing supporters, current products and roadmaps, personal views, and our opportunities.

Team and early days of establishment

The StarkWare team was established in May 2018. Its team is composed of world-class cryptographers and scientists. The core member is the former chief scientist of Zcash, who has pioneered and innovated in the zero-knowledge field for many years. They have published many academic papers and are implementing them into a real product Starknet.

The other is @zksync, whose team Matter Labs was established in December 2019 with Alex G. as its co-founder. I can’t find out more about the information behind the team members, but the technological breakthrough brought by ZkSync 2.0 illustrates this point: they have the temperament of a cross-industry person and are highly efficient.


Both projects have a similar architecture. There will be a rollup smart contract inserted into the Ethereum blockchain to store the zk proof of the L2 state transition. In addition, there will be two options for data storage to provide power for the network.

Prover (prover): a small number of nodes responsible for heavy work. They are responsible for calculating all transactions and aggregating them into a concise zk proof. They run on specialized hardware (can be considered a black box). What we do know is that they cannot forge false zk proofs on a mathematical level.

Validator: A large number of nodes responsible for anti-censorship. They verify the validity of the proof submitted by the prover. Everyone can run this type of node, and no specific hardware is required.

In addition, both projects had to compete to overcome a major technical problem, namely to create a universal zk proof system. Who can provide the best solution is the king of this track. Because until now all zk circuits are application-specific integrated circuits, that is, different zk circuits are implemented according to different applications. This means that every application has a zk-rollup and is not compatible with EVM. Guess what everyone, @zksync and @StarkWareLtd both did it, but using different technologies.

StarkWare: They use cryptography based on STARKs certification. This technology was invented by the StarkWare team and has two main advantages over SNARKs (the technology used by zkSync):

  • “T” refers to “transparent” (transparent), which means that the system does not need to trust settings;
  • The speed of generating STARKs certificates is 10 times faster than that of SNARKs.

The problem with STARKs is that their technology is not as mature as SNARKs, and if it achieves Turing completeness, it will be difficult to be compatible with EVM. StarkWare has created a specific programming language Cairo to run autonomous programs supported by STARKs. However, since few people are willing to learn a new programming language to execute smart contracts, the StarkWare team is now working with the Nethermind team to create a code translator Warp, so that Solidity smart contracts can be seamlessly converted to Cairo so that it can be seamlessly converted to EVM compatible.

zkSync uses the zk system based on SNARKs certification (especially PLONK). Therefore, the entire security of the system relies on a set of trust settings (Multi-party Computation Ceremony) launched in the fall of 2019. It involves many well-known crypto insiders, including Vitalik Buterin.

At least one participant is honest, then the system can be proven safe. So I don’t think “trusted settings” can be used to refute the argument that zkSync’s SNARKs are slower than STARKs, despite the many optimizations made by the zkSync team. But the zkSync system achieves EVM compatibility in a more natural way than STARKs. In fact, smart contracts (almost) can be converted one by one by the zkSync compiler, which makes Solidity a “first-class citizen” of zkSync. So there is no need for an intermediary language or special translator.

zk-rollup battle: zkSync vs. StarkWare

Data Availability (DA)

zk-rollup removes the pressure of transaction calculation from L1, allowing Ethereum to expand to a maximum of 2000-3000 tps. This sounds great, but it’s not enough. Under the “rollup only” scheme, the pressure of DA remains on L1, and transaction data is written into L1 through calldata.

DA is very important. With it, users can see what happened to their transactions on Etherscan. If there is no DA, the execution of user transactions becomes a black box. If users are more inclined to choose cheap transaction fees instead of the ability to track transactions directly on L1, this is fine. In other words, users must be provided with choices.

Users either choose to write their transaction data on L1, but the fee will be higher; or choose a particularly cheap fee, but they need to trust some entities on L2 to ensure the availability of transaction data. In this way, the pressure of L1 storage DA is gone, and zk-rollup can be expanded to 20,000-30,000 TPS.

StarkWare: Solve the DA problem through the Volition system. Volition allows end users to choose between the rollup scheme (data availability on the chain) and the validium scheme (data availability off the chain) for each transaction.

In the validium scheme, the off-chain DA is provided by a centralized “data availability committee” (DAC) to provide security assurance, and the DAC is composed of some prestigious cryptographic entities. This sounds really centralized, but…this is a compromise solution for users to choose voluntarily to meet their needs for ultra-low transaction fees.

zk-rollup battle: zkSync vs. StarkWare

The use case of zkSync to solve the DA problem is zkPorter. This is a fragmented infrastructure that works seamlessly and in parallel with zkSync’s zk-rollup solution. Think of zkSync rollup as shard 0 that guarantees DA on the chain. Then every other shard can choose a different DA strategy and store transaction data off-chain.

The main difference between StarkWare’s Volition and zkSync’s zkPorter is: in the Volition solution, users can choose the data storage method based on each transaction, while in the zkPorter solution, users can choose the transaction settlement method based on each account (zkPorter accounts can only be accessed through off-chain DA way to generate transactions). In addition, zkPorter’s off-chain DA system is more decentralized, because its DA is motivated by the “Guardian” of the zkSync native token to provide security, rather than a centralized “DAC”.

zk-rollup battle: zkSync vs. StarkWare

Financing and backers


  • $6 million seed round conducted in May 2018 (Pantera/Naval/Vitalik)
  • $30 million in Series A financing in October 2018 (Paradigm/Sequoia/Cb Ventures)
  • A US$75 million Series B financing in March 2021 (Paradigm/3AC/Alameda)
  • $50 million Series C financing in November 2021 (Paradigm/3AC/Alameda)

So far, StarkWare is valued at US$2 billion. This is a world-class level of financing, with many well-known investors. Some tycoons and members of the Ethereum Foundation have participated. Vitalik himself reviewed most of the articles published by StarkWare. How can this fail?


  • A round of financing worth 6 million in March 2021 (Binance/Cb Ventures/AAVE/Balancer/Curve)
  • 50 million Series B financing in November 2021 (Horowitz/Placeholder/Crypto.com, etc.)

Compared with StarkWare, there are not so many well-known investors, and it looks like a large-scale Defi/CEX encrypted family financing. We recognize every project, and they unite very well. A very important point is that the success of zk-rollup will depend to a large extent on the addition of the DeFi protocol and the direct integration with CEX.

So I am very optimistic about the rapid collection of zkSync ecosystem.

zk-rollup battle: zkSync vs. StarkWare

zk-rollup battle: zkSync vs. StarkWare

Current products and roadmap

The evolution of StarkWare is amazing, because they have relentlessly turned their top cryptographic papers into real innovations. Their roadmap is as follows:

zk-rollup battle: zkSync vs. StarkWare

They first launched StarEx, which I think is equivalent to the “Planets” phase of their roadmap, and allows the creation of permissioned, application-specific zk-rollups supported by Cairo and STARKs. If the reader is still unclear, think about dydx, Immutable, Deversifi, etc. Because they are the 3 main applications supported by the production version of StarkEx. So far, StarkEx has processed more than 5 million transactions through these applications, valued at more than 250 billion U.S. dollars. The efficiency of StarkEx has now been proven, and StarkWare has quickly moved to the “Constellations” phase of the roadmap.

On November 29, 2021, they released the Alpha version of StarkNet’s mainnet. StarkNet is the universal zk-rollup that we expect without permission and multi-application. Initially, StarkNet will be driven by a centralized prover, and applications will need to apply for a whitelist to be deployed in order, just like Optimism. Therefore, their plan is to develop the ecosystem and gradually decentralize StarkNet to achieve the “Universe” phase of the roadmap.

The roadmap of zkSync can be summarized as the following 4 steps. The first phase corresponds to the zkSync 1.0 launched in June 2020, which is roughly equivalent to a zk-rollup without smart contract integration. Users can send and receive tokens. Despite the lack of composability, promising projects have been deployed on version 1.0. All parameters indicate that interest in zkSync 1.0 has grown exponentially.

zk-rollup battle: zkSync vs. StarkWare

The second phase of the roadmap started with the launch of zkSync 2.0 on the mainnet. It contains everything we expect: zk-rollup that is fully compatible with EVM and has smart contract composability. ZkSync 2.0 was originally planned to be launched on the mainnet in August, but it was delayed due to some technical difficulties. Those problems are now being resolved on the test network. In October, zkSync announced some of its recently completed technical details and deployed a test network similar to AMM (uniswap) to verify its EVM compatibility. Matter Labs’ delayed release to ensure LLVM/Solidity compatibility can be frustrating at first. But it will help every Ethereum tool and dependency to achieve local integration in zkSync 2.0.

Personal views and our opportunities

StarkWare really shines. This is the most promising infrastructure project I have seen recently. It has a star team, world-class innovation and a top management lineup. Also, their goal is not just to create a zk-rollup, they are considering all issues. I talked about Cairo and Warp above. But they are also working hard to bring true randomness to Ethereum through Veedo, to achieve L1 and L2 communication through conditional transactions, batch-long lightning loans and other genius technologies. Their idea of ​​using “distributed AMM” to solve the liquidity fragmentation problem between L1 and L2 is exciting. They see more global issues.

Reference article:


The only technical problem I have found for StarkWare is the integration of Solidity through the Warp translator. StarkNet was first optimized for Cairo, and added the Solidity translator on this basis. I am not a technical person, but I am worried that “Solidity translation” will not be so convenient and may cause compatibility issues with some smart contracts. Other questions are: What opportunities does it bring to us ordinary users? StarkWare is already valued at US$2 billion and has no plans to release tokens fairly.

On the other hand, I appreciate that zkSync puts the community first and emphasizes Solidity as the first citizen. Their entire technology relies on the EVM development experience without any trade-offs, which may allow them to gain a lot of adoption.

zkSync is also deeply integrated with the current DeFi/CEX market, which is very helpful for the settlement and adoption of future protocols. Regarding the opportunities we have obtained, zkSync has announced that they will choose to release native tokens, and they will conduct a fair release or may airdrop at some point in the future. This is certainly a good thing for the community, but I feel that the native tokens of zk-rollup will be over-consumed because everyone is waiting… I also look forward to StarkWare launching native tokens at the “Universe” stage because they need to The network is decentralized and provides incentives to the prover. In short, my opinion is that in terms of zk-rollup, the most impressive is StarkWare. But zkSync has a grassroots community/open source atmosphere, which is more attractive to me.

One last personal note: in terms of opportunities, perhaps we should shift our attention from the native tokens of rollups to emerging projects that will find user groups on these rollups. Ethereum is a paradigm shift, and projects that try to replicate the order book model on the chain are quickly replaced by the AMM environment that is more suitable for this new environment. Similarly, zk-rollup is also a paradigm shift for Ethereum, and maybe (just maybe) copying the AMM model on rollup is also a mentally retarded idea. Maybe the lock-up amount will not become an important indicator on rollup. Maybe CLOBs are another thing worth considering…

These are some blurted ideas, but what I want to express is that perhaps the best opportunity is to use rollup to do things that are impossible on L1, not to copy what already exists on L1.

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:https://coinyuppie.com/zk-rollup-battle-zksync-vs-starkware/
Coinyuppie is an open information publishing platform, all information provided is not related to the views and positions of coinyuppie, and does not constitute any investment and financial advice. Users are expected to carefully screen and prevent risks.

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