The Inscriptions Craze: A Test of Ethereum Rollups

In the world of Ethereum, the emergence of zero-knowledge proof-based Ethereum rollups has marked a significant step forward in enhancing blockchain scalability and efficiency.

Recently, these Ethereum rollups faced a unique challenge as the phenomenon of inscriptions gained popularity across various EVM-based networks. Inscriptions, which typically involve storing metadata of tokens or NFTs on blockchains, offer a more cost-effective alternative to smart contracts, thanks to their lower gas requirements.

This trend of using inscriptions has surged across multiple networks, including Ethereum layer-2s, Avalanche, and Solana. However, it primarily revolved around speculative trading of low-value assets, leading to network congestion and operational disruptions that kept protocol developers busy finding solutions.

One notable feature of zk-rollups like zkSync, StarkNet, and Polygon’s zkEVM is their ability to distribute the cost of generating validity proofs across multiple transactions. Unlike many other blockchains, their usability becomes more cost-effective as they scale.

Why zk-Rollup Costs Decrease with Volume

To understand why zk-rollup costs decrease with increasing transaction volumes, let’s delve into the mechanics of zero-knowledge proofs and how these rollups work.

Zk-rollups utilize cryptographic techniques like ZK-STARKs to validate transactions off-chain before bundling them into batches for submission to the Ethereum mainnet. This batching reduces the number of on-chain transactions, leading to significantly lower gas fees. As the batch size grows, the cost per transaction decreases, showcasing economies of scale.

For instance, zkSync Era, the largest rollup by total-value locked (TVL), upgraded to STARK-based proofs, significantly increasing its transaction handling capacity. While Ethereum’s mainnet averages around 15 transactions per second (TPS), zkSync Era can theoretically handle up to 2,000 TPS.

Both zkSync Era and Arbitrum, with the most TVL at $2.4 billion, experienced the impact of the inscriptions craze, accounting for about 60% of all transactions over the past week. This phenomenon served as a real-world experiment in Ethereum rollup scaling, leading to downtime for both networks.

However, zkSync’s response to surging demand highlights the effectiveness of zero-knowledge rollups in increasing Ethereum’s throughput. By compressing data and processing transactions in batches, more transactions can fit into a single proof, reducing costs.

The traffic did cause issues for zkSync’s RPC services and block explorer, prompting lessons learned from Matter Labs. Other Ethereum scaling solutions, such as Polygon’s POS chain, also handled increased traffic well.

In conclusion, the recent inscriptions craze demonstrated the scalability and efficiency of zero-knowledge proof-based Ethereum rollups, paving the way for Ethereum’s continued growth and adoption in the future.