Welcome to Modular Media, a weekly newsletter covering news, updates, educational content, and more within the modular ecosystem.
Subscribe to get issues sent directly to your email every Tuesday, and also, make sure to follow us on Twitter for daily modular updates!
You can check out our previous newsletter issue here.
📣 News and Announcements
Scroll Alpha Testnet Launch
While most of the recent zkEVM talk has been centered around Polygon & zkSync over the past couple of months, there’s been one project quietly building its own zkEVM, Scroll.
Last Monday, Scroll announced the launch of their zkEVM Alpha testnet on Goerli. This essentially means that any user can add the Scroll zkEVM network to their wallet and start playing around with some of the dapps that have already been deployed.
To recap, a zkEVM adds zero-knowledge cryptography to the Ethereum virtual machine. While ZK tech is mainly used for scaling purposes (viewed as the holy grail for Ethereum scaling), it also allows for privacy capabilities. Privacy is not only important for us individual users, but for businesses that want to keep their company data private.
Today, StarkWare is probably the team best known for its use of ZK technology, as they’ve had a working zkVM for some time now (see StarkEx & StarkNet). However, StarkWare doesn’t use the EVM, but rather its own architecture (CairoVM & Cairo programming language), which in turn leads to its own set of tools.
Adding ZK tech to the EVM lets developers add scalability to their dapps, translating to high speeds and low fees for us users, while being able to utilize the Solidity programming language and existing tools like Metamask. This means existing Solidity-based dapps will be able to easily port their code to Scroll.
zkEVMs were expected to be years away. However, we now have three different projects expected to release a permissionless version of their zkEVM on mainnet this year (Scroll, Polygon & zkSync).
For anyone interested in playing around with Scroll’s testnet, simply:
Add the Goerli testnet network to your wallet
Request testnet ETH from a faucet
Add the Scroll zkEVM network to your wallet (make sure it’s the correct one!)
Head over to Scroll’s bridge interface and bridge your testnet ETH from Goerli to the Scroll network
& that’s it, you can start playing around with some of the dapps currently running on the zkEVM testnet, like Uniswap or Tic-Tac-Toe!
For a complete breakdown of how to onboard to the Scroll network, check out this guide - shoutout to @Gaurangtorvekar for the amazing guides!
This is Scroll’s last big milestone before they reach full mainnet launch. Congrats to the entire Scroll team!
One of the biggest headlines to come out of ETHDenver this past week was the launch of ERC-4337, which means we're a step closer to account abstraction.
Not to get confused with EIPs, which are hard forked into the actual protocol, ERCs are smart contracts that hold standards by which developers follow. The biggest example of an ERC is ERC-20 tokens, which set the standard for how fungible tokens are created on Ethereum.
As mentioned, ERC-4337 introduces Account Abstraction, which “allows users to use smart contract wallets containing arbitrary verification logic instead of EOAs as their primary account”. In short, this means we can start adding logic to our individual wallet accounts (2FA, FaceID, etc.).
There are two Account types on Ethereum, Externally Owned Accounts (EOAs), and Contract Accounts. Today, we use EOAs, which are controlled by private keys, however, account abstraction introduces contract accounts, which are accounts controlled by a smart contract rather than a private key.
Because accounts are represented by smart contracts, developers are able to add their own logic, enabling end users to benefit from extra security features. To be a little more specific, there are three major components that go into our account’s security: Authentication, Replay protection, and Payment. With contract accounts, you can abstract away some of the features that go into these three components, whether that means adding a recovery method, adding multiple signers to your account, etc. You can watch this great presentation about ERC-4337 to learn all about this new standard and what exactly is being “abstracted away.”
Some account abstraction use cases include:
Social recovery: use a separate wallet (the ledger in your vault) to recover access to your lost wallet
Session keys: you can have different keys for different purposes within one account. So, you can use one key to interact with a game using your assets, and another to actually sell/trade your game items.
Paymasters: allows teams to choose a separate account to take care of gas fees, as opposed to having the end platform users pay (gasless transactions by having the dapp itself pay for fees)
Authentication: add 2FA, FaceID, Social log-in, or any other form of authentication mechanism, & much more!
Account Abstraction has been highly anticipated for some time now. Over the following year, we should expect existing smart contract wallets like Argent and Braavos expand to multiple chains, as well as Metamask and other traditional Ethereum EVM wallets to add account abstraction support. Plus, what is even more exciting is that we’ll probably see other EVM networks like Arbitrum, Optimism, and Polygon add support too!
There are tons of use cases that are enabled by account abstraction, If you’d like to dig deeper into the subject, we recommend this amazing paper written by Cami.
AltLayer’s 100 Flash Layers Campaign Begins
March 3rd marked the official launch of AltLayer’s “100 Flash layers” campaign, where 100 selected developers are able to test the rollup launchpad by each launching their own rollup.
To recap, Altlayer is building a system of disposable, optimistic rollups, or as they refer to them, “Flash Layers”. Using their dashboard, users will be able to deploy their own custom, no-code rollup in just ten minutes. They currently support rollups on Ethereum and other EVM chains but will expand to other environments in the future.
From February 10-28th, they allowed anyone to apply for a chance to be among the 100 people/teams to try the rollup launchpad. Now that registrations are out of the way, the 100 chosen experimentoors have until March 10th to launch their own disposable rollup. Those who were chosen for the campaign should have received an email by now.
There are several use cases for disposable, or short lived rollups, mostly revolving around the gaming/NFT space. For example, disposable rollups can be used by individual NFT collections that want to have their mint take place on its own environment, thereby removing congestion, which then removes gas wars. Or by builders who want to launch their own mini or Indie game. The point is to use flash layers for projects that don’t need to be running a chain for more than a certain period of time (Yuga launching Dookey Dash on its own short lived rollup for example).
Since the campaign started, there have been several deployed public rollups for users to interact with, including the “Dragon Eyes” NFT collection launch, and “Mother Staker”, an ERC-20 token staking platform.
For anyone interested in testing out AltLayer, here’s a complete set of public projects you can start using. To learn more about the campaign you can check out this article.
Rollkit Adds Bitcoin DA to Its Modular Stack
On March 5th, just two days ago, Rollkit announced the addition of Bitcoin as a data availability (DA) layer option for the rollup stack.
Rollkit is a modular rollup framework that enables developers to choose between different features in order to build their own custom, sovereign rollup, and now, they just gave builders an option to deploy their rollups using Bitcoin as the underlying data availability solution.
This means that with Rollkit, developers can now build a sovereign CosmWasm, EVM, FuelVM, etc. powered rollup that utilizes Bitcoin DA, thereby connecting these respective communities to Bitcoin. In fact, here’s a demo of the EVM running on Bitcoin as a sovereign rollup!
As a reminder, there are three layers that go into a blockchain: execution layer, settlement layer, and DA/Consensus layer. A monolithic chain includes these three components into a single layer, whereas modular chains separate them into their own layers.
Rollkit enables developers to plug in custom execution and data availability layers in order to create the rollup best suited for their own particular dapp. For example, it allows developers to choose their preferred virtual machine (EVM or SVM), gas token (pay gas in ETH, USDC, etc), along with any other features for their execution environment, as well as their own data availability solution. Celestia was the first DA solution to be added to the stack, but just two days ago, Bitcoin was added as another option, enabling developers to start building sovereign rollups on Bitcoin.
There’s been a lot of talk & debate going on in crypto Twitter regarding this recent announcement, but regardless of what anyone thinks, at least people are talking about rollups on Bitcoin now. You can check out the complete article to learn more.
About ten days ago, Polygon released the official docs for Polygon ID docs, an identity solution that relies on zk-proofs, enabling users “prove their identity without the need of exposing their private information.”Here’s a quick summary:
Polygon ID relies on verifiable credentials (VCs), which are the actual documents that “represent any type of information related to the individual/enterprise/object.” This could be a license, a car title, birth certificate, or anything else you want to have proof of owning, without: A) actually having to carry the physical document, or B) show the actual contents within that document. Of course, we’ll be able to use our own individual Polygon ID wallets to hold our VCs.
There are three core pieces within Polygon ID:
Identity Holder: you, me, or anyone else that holds the VCs within a Polygon ID wallet.
Issuer: the person or organization that issues the VCs to users (a DMV issuing your license, your doctor issuing your medical documents, etc.)
Verifier: the person who verifies the proof of your VC. This could be a bartender verifying you’re over the age of 21 for example, and because Polygon ID uses zk-technology, you won’t even have to show your birth date, just the proof of VC ownership (a QR code)
Now let’s look at some of the use cases Polygon ID enables:
Lending: A lending protocol could integrate the ID solution to enable uncollatoralized lending.
Ticketing/Events: Enable NFT collectors to start attending token gated events wqithout having to actually carry their wallet that holds their NFTs with them. Yuga could offer VCs for ape ownership, carry that proof (not the JPEG) in your Polygon ID wallet, and use that VC to access the event.
Polygon ID has been in development for several years now, but it looks like starting this year, we’ll start seeing this new tool be used across the Polygon ecosystem. Polygon ID was originally known as the Iden (Identity) protocol, and was founded by the same original team behind Hermez, or what is now referred to as Polygon zkEVM. As a reminder, Polygon acquired Hermez, along with the team and their identity solution about a year ago, in what was part of their $1B effort to expand their zk stack.
We’re excited to see what developers build over time with Polygon ID. For anyone interested in learning more about this, you can check out the complete Polygon ID docs here.
More News & Updates
Fuel gets a new look
Curio announces the launch of their own game dedicated rollup on Caldera
Great Wyrm leverages Caldera to launch their own gasless rollup, Wyrm Chain
ChainSafe makes proposal to bring privacy to ENS domains using the Aztec Network
In preparation for their zkEVM launch, Consensys integrates Hop protocol, to serve as a bridge from Goerli to testnet once it officially goes live to the public
“The next chapter of Saga is arriving”
Looks like Osmosis is one step closer to adding BTC security to their network, thanks to a recent proposal by the Babylon team
NodeSet releases the first set of details for Project Hyperdrive, Rocket Pool’s L2 blockchain.
Introducing the Mantle Grants Program, aimed at expanding the Mantle ecosystem through milestone based funding
Another update to Polygon website, now featuring learning material, building resources, community tools, and more
The Robinhood wallet is now available for anyone with an IOS device! Any user can now download the Robinhood Wallet. As of today, users can deposit/withdraw from Ethereum, Polygon, and Binance. Token swaps are only available on Polygon & Binance though.
StarkNet Social launches their testnet. You can learn more about that here.
It looks like Australia is one step closer to having their own central bank digital currency (CBDC), as the Reserve Bank of Australia just announced an upcoming pilot phase to launch a digital version of the Australian dollar. Also looks like it’ll be done using StarkEx technology, which would be huge for the StarkWare ecosystem - first VISA, now this.
Axelar announces their new interoperable VM
ETHDenver attendees were able to experience using the zkSync Era zkEVM for the first time, while getting free food at the same time!
JokeDAO announces their deployment on zkSync Era
zkSync announces collaboration with WorldPay Global, the largest global payments acquirer
📚 Discussions and Education
EigenLayer broke CT with their whitepaper announcement. This isn’t all that surprising, since the project has made waves across the industry for months.
It is well worth a read - but we know how busy everyone was at ETHDenver - so here are our 5 favorite threads about the whitepaper to scroll through while recovering from the week:
Let’s zoom in on Eli’s thread. He and the Stratos team did an excellent analysis of EigenLayer, covering everything from the team and revenue projections to a Q&A style breakdown of key risks. It really makes you feel like you’re thinking in the trenches with them.
Here’s one of their projections, showing how EigenLayer could become a multi-billion dollar protocol:
Are zkEVMs overrated?
zkEVM hype has largely been around which rollup project was “first”, but Paul Razvan Berg hints at a different question: do zkEVMs deserve the hype to begin with?
He says no - they are overrated - and mostly points to Micah Zoltu's argument that VMs designed to be proven are better. The EVM was definitely not designed to be proven.
Micah makes two main points. He says it’ll be hard for zkEVMs to:
Be cost competitive
Have good developer UX (e.g. loops are hard to prove)
No surprise - ZK teams don’t agree. Here are some of their responses:
Polygon zkEVM has ~ L1-equivalent UX and proving costs of $1.90 per hour (not very costly)
Teams have gotten around developer UX hurdles like proving loops
Being able to port battle tested smart contract code is good developer UX
It appears the basis of Micah’s argument is outdated, which he’s willing to concede.
L1 valuations and sustainability
Vance Spencer claims that many L1s are overvalued and unsustainable. And at first glance it seems obvious that they are - a 230,000x multiple is insane.
But does that mean we should write them off completely?
Not sure. Like any startup, protocols will balance growth vs. monetization. Growth can mean a number of things - mindshare, users, etc. - even if users are temporarily subsidized.
The key word, though, is temporarily. If you want to stick with the corporate analogy, each protocol needs a monetization strategy that eventually gets executed. If you want to think about it in a more nuanced and crypto-native way, check out Jon Charb’s recent article.
So which L1s have plausible strategies?
There are arguments to make for some. Cosmos Hub, for example, has interesting demand drivers for both growth and monetization:
Cosmos narratives gaining momentum
Replicated Security gives ATOM a value accrual mechanism
Cosmos Hub alignment with modular ecosystem
If you want to take this exercise a few steps further, Polynya created a pretty comprehensive framework that can be mapped to any protocol:
More Discussions & Education
@jbaylina explains why ZK rollups are not bottlenecked by provers
@toghrulmaharram clarifies why ZK provers aren’t bottlenecks, agreeing with @jbaylina 👆
@TaschaLabs hosts Sreeram from EigenLayer to discuss how restaking can scale PoS and change staking yield on Ethereum
@stonecoldpat0 writes an article discussing numerous different rollup designs
Messari compares the time to finality (TTF) of popular blockchains
Bankless hosts the OP Labs founders to discuss Base
Bell Curve releases an episode discussing Base
Eclipse explains how EigenLayer impacts rollups and modular blockchains
@dannyryan reflects on his experience building Ethereum - the good and bad
0xResearch hosts Tim Beiko to discuss the evolution of Ethereum
Delphi Digital creates a graphic comparing the three types of bridges
Polymer Labs introduces the concept of “modular interoperability” for messaging across chains
Polygon breaks down the EVM-equivalent attributes of their zkEVM
@lightcoin explains how sovereign rollups on Bitcoin would work
Labrys explains how Ethereum rollups work in depth
@anthonykrose explains how Matter Labs approached the open-sourcing of zkSync Era
@Cryptocito hosts Neel from Eclipse to discuss IBC enabled Solana VMs
@mevtiger illustrates how challenging the MEV problem space can be
@seunlanlege explains state proofs and other cryptography concepts in simple terms - plus how they relate to light clients and modular architecture
@DrewVdW writes an article offering perspective on the future of block building
@colludingnode describes three ways sovereign rollups with centralized sequencers can ensure censorship resistance
@odin_free creates an updated Starknet ecosystem graphic
@DefiIgnas compares the current state and future outlooks of Optimism and Arbitrum
@binji_x explains the importance of attestations in blockchain and the world around us
OP Labs writes an article explaining how their Bedrock upgrade will bring significantly lower fees (47% lower) to mainnet
Messari illustrates how Babylon chain leverages Bitcoin security
Blockworks Research points out the many benefits of Account Abstraction
@RennickPalley explains what Monetary Premium is and where value will accrue in modular blockchains
@nico_mnbl creates a list of informal ZK jargon
Saga writes an article explaining how their token model serves developers who want commoditized and dedicated blockspace
@DavideCrapis writes a post on the Ethereum research forum about latency arms race concerns in MEV design
@sreeramkannan proposes the idea of optimistic rollup “watchtowers” using EigenLayer
@0xshake proposes the idea of a decentralized sequencer using Cosmos SDK and IBC
That's all for this week! Thanks for reading 🧱🎬