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Polygon Commits to Q1 zkEVM Mainnet Launch, Polygon PoS Set to Hard Fork This Week

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Polygon has accelerated efforts to eke out its place as a scaling solution in the broader blockchain space, evidenced by recent bullish developments around the ecosystem. The layer-two scaling network has specifically stamped out its status thanks to its comprehensive suite of scaling tools geared towards enhancing transaction efficiency on the Ethereum blockchain notwithstanding the bear market. These have come in the form of zk roll-ups, modular frameworks, and privacy solutions either in development stages or already live. In addition to its Supernets and ID solutions, the network has reported progress on others like Polygon Village, Polygon Hermez, Polygon Edge and Polygon Nightfall – the latter in mainnet beta.

During the 5th edition of the Ethereum Community Conference held in July 2022, Polygon announced it is working on its EVM equivalent ZK-rollup, Polygon zkEVM, whose mainnet launch it targeted for early this year. The team provided the next update when it launched the first public testnet for the zk prover in October, which featured one proof per batch.

Polygon in final testnet ahead of zkEVM mainnet integration in Q1

This week, the network assured that it remains on track to deliver on the objective within the first quarter. Polygon deprecated the first testnet on Jan 13, noting that it had achieved 86,142 verified transactions and 20,000 wallet addresses. In the second (ongoing) testnet that went live in December, recursion, a method that enables a single zk proof to attest to the validity of multiple proofs (and subsequently, transactions), was introduced to further condense each batch into a single, bite-sized proof. By recursion, the zkEVM brings progressive changes to both throughput and reduced latency, in contrast to the otherwise usual tradeoffs in time and space.

Using recursion raised throughput and cut latencies

Initially, it was believed that zkEVM technology would take up to 10 years to gain momentum in the market. However, recent advancements in layer-2 scaling solutions and fast finality protocols have led to accelerated developments. Polygon considers its zkEVM the ultimate solution for scalability and cost efficiency on the Ethereum network. David Schwartz, the project lead of Polygon's zkEVM and Polygon ID, recently remarked on releasing the first complete source code for an EVM-equivalent zkProver. This zkProver, he said, has passed all Ethereum vector tests with a success rate of over 99%, adding that the process of completing validity proofs for conventional user transactions has turned out to be a challenging and rewarding effort for his team.

Schwartz also highlighted that the main divergence between Polygon's zkEVM and other zk-rollups is the focus on natively scaling the Ethereum ecosystem, as opposed to simply scaling transactions and enhancing performance in a different VM format. This approach aligns with the Type 2 zkEVM classification described by Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin in August 2022, which emphasizes full compatibility with existing Ethereum applications while making minor modifications to facilitate easier development and faster proof generation. Polygon now awaits the results of a security audit before it can eventually launch on the mainnet.

Polygon Labs lines up a PoS hard fork to manage gas fee surges and reorgs

In a separate development, Polygon Labs put forward a proposal for a network hard fork on Jan 17, intending to mitigate the effects of transaction fee spikes and chain reorganizations on the Polygon network. The community has been discussing this upgrade which is part of efforts to enhance the technical capabilities of the Polygon sidechain.

The hard fork aims to adjust the “BaseFeeChangeDenominator” from 8 to 16, affecting the rate at which the base fee for a transaction change based on the current demand for block space. This is expected to alleviate gas price surges when the network experiences high demand. The Labs team advised that these spikes won't cease entirely; rather, they'll be smoothed out for “a more seamless experience.” The second upgrade of this hard fork targets improved security of the Polygon network against chain reorganizations, also known as “reorgs.”

These happen when a new version of the blockchain is temporarily created by diverging from the previous version, potentially bringing confusion and difficulties in verifying transaction completion. To tackle this problem, the developers intend to implement measures to decrease the amount of time required for block finality in regard to verifying successful transactions. The upgrade advances decreasing the sprint length from 64 to 16 blocks, which will lower the chances of secondary or tertiary validators producing blocks, resulting in fewer reorgs.

To learn more about Polygon, visit our Investing in Polygon guide.

Other developments

Mastercard partners with Polygon to dispatch a Web3-centered artist incubator

Polygon CEO Ryan Watts announced last week via Twitter that it has teamed up with New York-based financial services provider Mastercard to empower artists in Web3. In a statement, Mastercard's chief marketing and communications officer said the Mastercard artist accelerator program aims to unlock unmatched opportunities for the next generations of digital creators. The collaboration program will leverage Polygon to introduce these creators to Web3 tools and provide them with the necessary skills to boost their careers in a digital economy.

Artists joining the incubator program will learn to mint their NFTs, grow their fan bases, and boost engagement. They will also gain knowledge on how to promote new mainstream products and maximize their earnings by cutting out the middleman. Mastercard is already engrossed in the music industry, being the official financial services partner of the GRAMMYs. The payments processing firm released a themed album around mid-last year to enhance its commitment to music fans and emerging talent. Polygon's partnership with MasterCard comes four weeks after competing financial services provider Visa teased auto-payments on Ethereum in a technical paper explaining this vision of crypto auto-payments.

Novel automated payments for self-custodial wallets on Ethereum

Visa envisions a world where crypto enthusiasts can use their self-custodied cryptocurrencies to set up recurring payments for bills, just as one can schedule these charges in the traditional banking system. The payments firm detailed in the paper that it intends to leverage the Ethereum blockchain to introduce these auto-payments using the Account Abstraction feature. Account Abstraction was previously floated as EIP-86 by Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin and has been included in other proposals, such as EIP-1337.

Though the concept is yet to come alive, its realization would eliminate the need for centralized entities to support these programmable crypto payments. Visa's proposal assumes a future with much more optimistic conditions than the current market. The firm's head of Central Bank Digital Currencies and protocols, Catherine Gu, told Forbes that blockchain must retain as high a performance as it has today if the technology is to support payments in the future. Gu added that Visa continues exploring technology around “blockchain primitives and protocols surrounding things that will be potentially important for payments.”

Leveraging Account Abstraction for programmable crypto payments

The Ethereum blockchain does not natively support programmable pull payments at a basic level due to the fact that automated smart contracts cannot request transactions. Instead, user accounts must manually initiate and sign off on transactions, which is precisely the case for self-custodial wallets. Visa acknowledged that while automatic payments can be easily set up using bank accounts or custodial cryptocurrency wallets, this type of payment is more difficult to execute on cryptocurrency blockchains.

This inherent difficulty is what prompted the adoption of the Account Abstraction concept – it merges the functions of user accounts (Ethereum-based wallets) and smart contracts into a single Ethereum account called a ‘delegable account'. This new account functions similarly to a smart contract, enabling users to arrange payments at scheduled recurring intervals. This eliminates the otherwise necessary intervention of the user.

The main concept behind this approach is to expand the programmable rules for the validity of transactions to include a pre-approved list of authorized parties. This technique allows the user to delegate the ability to instruct their account to initiate a push payment to a pre-approved automatic payment smart contract. In other words, Account Abstraction enables users to authorize a pre-approved execution function to initiate payments on their behalf. Visa also revealed it has already successfully implemented the delegable accounts on the Ethereum layer 2 StarkNet (supports Account Abstraction). StarkNet's implementation only checks whether a transaction originated from a specific address rather than the norm for concrete accounts – verifying whether the transaction arrived with a properly signed signature.

To learn more, check out our Investing in Ethereum guide.

Sam is a financial content specialist with a keen interest in the blockchain space. He has worked with several firms and media outlets in the Finance and Cybersecurity fields.