ZK-Rollup: Comparing zkSync and StarkWare

We compare zkSync and StarkNet – two prominent ZK-Rollups with the goal of scaling the Ethereum network. What is ZK-Rollup? What is the difference between zkSync and StarkNet? What are SNARKs and STARKs? Today we take a look at the answers to these questions, while also exploring each protocol’s respective roadmap and ecosystem.

Executive summary:

  • prerequisites
  • background
  • ZK-Rollup
  • ZK-Rollup vs.Optimistic Rollup
  • zkSync vs.StarkNet
  • EVM compatibility
  • Comparison of Ecosystems
  • Development Roadmap
  • Summarize


To be able to best understand this article, one should first have a solid understanding of blockchain fundamentals and layer 2 scaling.


zkSync and StarkNet are two of the largest Layer 2 (L2) solutions leveraging ZK-Rollup technology to scale the Ethereum network.


Before we discuss ZK-Rollups, we should first understand what zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs) are and how are they used in Rollups? In cryptography, a zero-knowledge proof or protocol is a method by which a party (The prover) can prove to another party (the verifier) ​​that a given statement is true, while avoiding disclosing additional information beyond the fact that the statement is true.

In the case of ZK-Rollup, a sequencer node batches hundreds of Rollup chain transactions, generates a SNARK or STARK proof (more on this later), and publishes these transactions to the first layer. Known as proofs of validity, these proofs cryptographically verify transactions before their status is published on the Ethereum mainnet.

ZK-Rollup vs.Optimistic Rollup

ZK-Rollup: Comparing zkSync and StarkWare

Compared to Optimistic Rollup, ZKP allows ZK-Rollup to have negligible withdrawal latency and a higher level of security, since we do not need to wait for the fraud prevention window to close or rely on the honesty of transaction validators.

In addition to these advantages, ZK-Rollup has the potential to support private transactions in future iterations. Projects like Zcash and Aztec Network have implemented ZK-proof privacy features, and zkSync has also publicly stated its intention to make their transactions more private in the future.

Compared with Optimistic Rollup, ZK-Rollu theoretically has advantages in transaction per second (TPS) cap, transaction termination time and security. However, they fall short when it comes to EVM compatibility. These properties of ZK-Rollup lead Vitalik Buterin to believe that Optimistic Rollup may be superior in general-purpose EVM computations in the short term. But in the medium to long term, as the technology improves, ZK-Rollup will prevail in all use cases.

zkSync and StarkNet

Now that we have an intuitive understanding of how ZK-Rollup works, we can start our zkSync and StarkNet comparison tour.

zkSync V1 is the SNARK proof Rollup protocol released by MatterLabs to the Ethereum mainnet in June 2020. MatterLabs released the first EVM-compatible ZK-Rollup zkSync V2 on the Ethereum testnet in February 2022.

StarkNet is a STARK proof Rollup protocol released by StarkWare Ltd. on the Ethereum testnet in November 2021. The protocol was released to the mainnet later in the same month in Alpha version 0.4.0.

A key difference between zkSync and StarkNet is that they use different verification protocols, called SNARK (Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge) and STARK (Scalable Transparent Argument of Knowledge).


The fundamental difference between SNARKs and STARKs lies in their setup process, scalability, and the resistance of quantum computers to attacks.

ZK-SNARKs have to go through a trusted setup phase in which we have to trust a small group of developers not to manipulate code or leak vulnerability information. This setup only needs to be done once and poses no major security risk, but it breaks its decentralization.

On the other hand, ZK-STARKs use publicly verifiable randomness to create a trustless verifiable system, thus eliminating the need for a trust setup. STARKs are also currently quantum resilient, while SNARKs have the potential to be cracked by quantum computer attacks.

Finally, ZK-STARKs are also more scalable than ZK-SNARKs in computational speed and size, potentially 10x faster. However, a current disadvantage of ZK-STARK is that the technology is not very mature, which limits its generality.

EVM compatibility

Since zkSync and StarkNet use two different methods, they also differ in EVM compatibility. zkSync V2 claims to be 99% EVM compatible with Solidity and Vyper, and needs to be compiled into the intermediate language Yul and then compiled into zkEVM bytecode via LLVM. Additionally, zkSync supports their ZKP-optimized Rust-like language Zinc, which can be compiled directly to bytecode using LLVM. However, Zinc is not currently Turing-complete and its development has been halted since September 2021 due to zkSync’s focus on Solidity compatibility.

ZK-Rollup: Comparing zkSync and StarkWare

On the other hand, StarkNet does not currently develop EVM compatibility. To deploy smart contracts on StarkNet, developers need to learn Cairo, a programming language built by StarkWare for STARK verifiable programs. Alternatively, smart contract developers can choose to convert their Solidity code to Cairo using Warp developed by NetherindEth. But there are still some Solidity features that are not supported by the transpiler and are far from being EVM compatible with zkSync V2.

StarkNet and StarkEx

We’ve probably heard of StarkEx, another major technology from StarkWare. StarkEx is not a ZK-Rollup, but a customizable second-tier SaaS (software as a service) that uses STARK proofs to provide massive scaling for applications.

To avoid confusing the two, the easiest way is to keep the following in mind:

  • StarkNet is a generic Rollup chain. StarkEx is a toolkit specially designed for applications.
  • StarkNet extends Ethereum. StarkEx expands decentralized exchange.
  • StarkNet allows interoperability between dapps, but StarkEx does not.

It is important to understand the difference between the two because while it is common for DApps using StarkEx to be included in the StarkNet ecosystem, metrics such as TVL are completely independent.

Comparison of Ecosystems

Now let’s take a look at the respective ecosystems of StarkNet and zkSync. Below is a graphic comparison.

ZK-Rollup: Comparing zkSync and StarkWare

As of July 12, 2022, zkSync’s (V1 & V2) TVL is $57 million. The entire protocol is also 100% open source, and their Github repository currently has 1.4k stars and over 350 forks. Their infrastructure is mostly built with Rust and Typescript. There are currently 112 dapps built on zkSync, 10 of which are on mainnet. Some notable projects on zkSync include Zigzag, Argent, etc.

StarkNet’s TVL is currently around $635k, with 78 dapps in development and only a few on mainnet. Unlike other well-known Rollup protocols, StarkNet is currently non-open source and its infrastructure is built with Cairo. Some well-known protocols on StarkNet include ArgentX (a Web3 wallet developed by Argent for StarkNet) and Orbiter Finance (a decentralized cross-Rollup bridge).

When comparing their performance on social media, zkSync has around 87K followers on Twitter and a similar number of members on Discord and Telegram.

ZK-Rollup: Comparing zkSync and StarkWare

As we can see, the ecosystems of zkSync and StarkNet are far less mature than those of Optimistic Rollup protocols like Optimism and Arbitrum. However, both zkSync and StarkNet have strong communities of users and developers that are promising.

Development Roadmap

In the short term, a major milestone for zkSync will be their V2 Alpha mainnet launch, which currently has no specific release date. Long-term plans for zkSync include full decentralization, zkSync token airdrops, and the implementation of privacy-preserving smart contracts. As part of the decentralization plan, their future tokens will be staked in order to become validators on the zkSync network.

StarkWare’s short-term goal is to upgrade their Alpha mainnet in preparation for the stable release. Their long-term goals are threefold: build usability, improve performance, and decentralization.

StarkWare believes that they have achieved the first goal, and their development is currently focused on improving throughput, transaction costs and latency issues. StarkWare also recently released their decentralization proposal, which includes an announcement of an airdrop of StarkNet tokens scheduled for September 2022. StarkNet tokens will be used for system governance, transaction fee payments and participation in StarkNet’s consensus mechanism.

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:https://coinyuppie.com/zk-rollup-comparing-zksync-and-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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