Who's winning the Layer 2 tug-of-war in the Ethereum playground?
As the dust settles, according to L2beat, Arbitrum and Optimism emerge, pulling ahead with their impressive TVLs and market shares. With $5.6B and $2.6B in TVL, capturing 54.50% and 25.30% of the market respectively, they're not just playing—they're leading after substantial airdrops. Hot on their heels is Base, a Layer 2 solution developed by the centralized exchange (CEX), Coinbase. Other contenders like Mantle, developed by Bybit, and promising solutions like zkSync and Starknet, are also vying for a spot in this competitive arena.
At this time of growth and transformation, Manta Network has emerged as a notable contender. Historically, Manta began its journey as a Layer 1 blockchain built on the substrate framework of Polkadot. While continuing to build and evolve within the Polkadot ecosystem, Manta Network has also expanded its horizons by introducing a Layer 2 solution tailored for the Ethereum network, thereby broadening its scope and applicability.
Their recent product launch, Manta Pacific, serves as their Layer 2 solution for Ethereum. This raises the question: Can Manta compete against the established Layer 2 solutions and those yet to be released?
In this article, we will delve deeper into the intricacies of the Manta Network. Supported by influential backers such as Binance Labs and other prominent figures in the industry, Manta Network is not merely another name in the Layer 2 arena. Furthermore, its specialized design for zero-knowledge (ZK) applications showcases its commitment to advancing the next generation of secure and efficient platforms, ensuring both robust security and enhanced user experience.
II. What is Manta Network?
Before diving into Manta Network, it's essential to grasp the concept of zero-knowledge proofs. To simplify:
Imagine you have a secret box that only you can open, and inside is a toy. Your friend wants to know if there's a toy inside, but you don't want to show them the toy directly. Instead, you give them a hint or do something that proves there's a toy inside without actually revealing it. They believe you because of your hint, even though they never saw the toy. This is similar to how zero-knowledge proofs work. It's a way to prove you know something without revealing the actual information.
The concept of ZKPs is also technically well explained in one of our previous articles here.
Manta Network began its journey in late 2020 as a passion project addressing privacy issues that resonated deeply with its founders. The core team, consisting of Victor, who was studying for his Masters in Economics at Harvard, Kenny, an MBA student at MIT, and Shumo, who was involved in the smart contract systems for Algorand, converged in Cambridge, MA. Together, they recognized the pervasive problem of on-chain privacy. Their hypothesis led them to interview 400 individuals in the blockchain space, revealing that almost 75% of respondents hesitated or avoided blockchain transactions due to privacy concerns. This insight was groundbreaking, as it quantified a previously undiscussed challenge in the blockchain space.
In terms of milestones, Manta Network has made significant strides. They published a report on on-chain privacy sentiment, which caught the attention of industry figures like Gavin Wood, the founder of Polkadot. Their technical journey saw them initially align with the Polkadot and Kusama ecosystems, receiving a grant from the Web 3 Foundation. 2021 marked a pivotal year for Manta, with the launch of Calamari Network on Kusama and significant fundraising efforts, including two private rounds led by Polychain and CoinFund. Their vision and commitment to on-chain privacy have been further solidified by the support and investments from industry leaders and the broader community.
Technically, Manta Network stands out as a multi-modular ecosystem tailored for zero-knowledge (ZK) applications. At its core, the network is designed to bring programmable privacy to the web3 space, addressing the dual challenges of scalability and privacy that have become paramount in the decentralized world.
Two primary components drive the Manta ecosystem:
- Manta Atlantic: A ZK L1 chain, Manta Atlantic provides programmable privacy for web3 and ensures compliant on-chain privacy.
- Manta Pacific: A modular L2 for Ethereum DApps using ZK-proof technology. It includes an SDK and ZK library, allowing easy integration for developers. Apps on Ethereum can transition to Manta Pacific with the benefit of reduced gas fees and improved scalability.
Zero-Knowledge Proofs in Manta Network
Manta Network's architecture is deeply intertwined with zero-knowledge proofs, particularly zk-SNARKs (Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge). zk-SNARKs are a form of ZKPs that allow for swift verification times, making them ideal for scalable systems like blockchains.
Within Manta Network:
- Transaction Privacy: Manta employs zk-SNARKs to ensure that while transactions are recorded and verifiable on the blockchain, details like sender, receiver, and amount remain confidential.
- Universal Circuits: Manta's Universal Circuits leverage ZKPs to provide a generalized framework for a wide array of ZK applications, abstracting the underlying cryptographic complexities.
- MantaPay Protocol: This protocol uses zk-SNARKs to facilitate private transactions, generating proofs of transaction validity without revealing transaction specifics.
By harnessing the power of zero-knowledge proofs, Manta Network offers a blend of transparency and privacy, ensuring that users can transact securely while maintaining the confidentiality of their data.
Manta Pacific’s importance
EVM-native applications are in high demand due to Ethereum's popularity. Yet, there's a gap in integrating zero-knowledge (ZK) proofs with these apps. While the need for privacy and scalability in DApps is clear, few solutions integrate these with Ethereum effectively.
Current market solutions face issues like:
- Scalability: Many platforms can't efficiently handle a large number of transactions.
- High Gas Fees: Network congestion, especially on Ethereum, leads to high transaction costs.
- Development Complexity: Adding ZK features to DApps is often complex and requires expertise.
Manta Pacific emerges as a response to these challenges. As a modular L2 designed specifically for EVM-native DApps, it leverages ZK-proof technology to offer both scalability and privacy. The platform's software development kit and ZK library simplify the development process, allowing developers to integrate ZK features without delving into the complexities of cryptography. Furthermore, being EVM-native ensures that applications on Ethereum can easily transition to Manta Pacific, benefiting from reduced gas fees and enhanced scalability.
Manta Pacific has strategically aligned its operations with renowned projects, namely Celestia and Optimism. Celestia contributes a modular blockchain framework that emphasizes data availability, whereas Optimism offers scalability enhancements for the Ethereum network. The integration of Manta Pacific with these entities augments its functional capabilities, facilitating efficient data management and transactional optimization.
Furthermore, in the vast landscape of Layer 2 solutions, Manta Pacific distinguishes itself with a set of unique features and capabilities tailored to address the pressing challenges of the decentralized ecosystem. Its design and functionalities are a testament to its commitment to bridging the gaps in the current web3 infrastructure.
Economical Gas Expenditure: A salient feature of Manta Pacific is its ability to significantly curtail gas fees. By streamlining transactional processes and harnessing the power of ZK-proof technology, it allows users to conduct transactions at a substantially reduced cost relative to conventional Ethereum-centric platforms.
Compatibility with Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM): Manta Pacific's architecture is inherently EVM-native, ensuring that developers acquainted with the Ethereum framework can seamlessly transition their decentralized applications to Manta Pacific without necessitating extensive alterations.
Tangible Application Scenarios: Manta Pacific transcends theoretical advantages by catering to tangible use cases in the decentralized domain, ensuring operational efficiency and security.
Progression to a Multi-Modular Framework: Manta Pacific's design is dynamic, with plans for future expansion to encompass additional modules, thereby broadening its support for diverse ZK applications.
III. Key Features & Achievements
Manta's Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Manta Network's core differentiation lies in its advanced cryptographic techniques that enable programmable privacy. By leveraging zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs), Manta ensures that transactional data remains confidential, while still being verifiable on the blockchain. This dual capability addresses the inherent trade-off between transparency and privacy in traditional blockchain systems.
Manta's Universal Circuits are a technical marvel in the realm of ZKPs. They provide a generalized framework that can support a wide array of ZK applications without the need for custom circuit generation for each application type. This not only reduces the computational overhead but also streamlines the deployment process. By abstracting the underlying cryptographic complexities, Universal Circuits allow developers to focus on application logic, while the circuit handles the ZK functionalities. The end result is efficient, privacy-preserving applications that can be rapidly integrated into the Manta ecosystem.
At a technical level, MantaPay is more than just a payment system. It's a sophisticated protocol that employs zk-SNARKs (Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge) to facilitate private transactions. When a user initiates a transaction through MantaPay, the protocol generates a proof that the transaction is valid without revealing any specifics about the transaction itself. This ensures that while the transaction is recorded on the blockchain, the details (such as sender, receiver, and amount) remain obfuscated, providing a robust layer of financial privacy.
The Manta Network is steered by founders Victor Ji, Shumo Chu, and Kenny Li, each bringing a unique set of skills to the table. Victor Ji, with a Masters in Economics from Harvard, offers a deep understanding of blockchain's economic potential. Shumo Chu's involvement with Algorand's smart contract systems showcases his technical prowess. Kenny Li, an MBA candidate from MIT, infuses business strategy into the mix. Meeting in Cambridge, MA, their shared curiosity about on-chain privacy birthed Manta Network. Their combined expertise, backed by data-driven research and strategic collaborations, positions Manta Network at the forefront of on-chain privacy solutions.
Achievements and Milestones
Manta Network, under the helm of P0x Labs, has made significant strides in the decentralized ecosystem, marking its presence with a series of accomplishments, strategic partnerships, and product launches.
Growth and User Adoption
Manta Network has showcased impressive growth metrics since its inception. The network has minted over 300,000 zero-knowledge “soulbound” tokens, which are tokens designed to be permanently bound to a specific address on a blockchain, providing a high degree of security. Furthermore, Manta Wallet, the network's native wallet, has garnered over 200,000 installs. Ecosystem projects under Manta, such as ReadOn, Dmail, and AsMatch, have collectively amassed over 1.5 million users, integrating zkSBT (zero-knowledge soulbound token) functionality for enhanced user privacy.
Manta Network, steered by P0x Labs, reached a remarkable valuation of $500 million. This achievement was further underscored by a successful $25 million Series A funding round. Leading investors in this round included crypto-focused Polychain Capital and China-focused venture firm Qiming Venture Partners. Other notable backers encompass Alliance, CoinFund, SevenX Ventures, and Binance Labs.
Manta Network's growth has been bolstered by strategic collaborations. The network has secured investments and support from industry leaders such as DeFiance, Alameda, Hypersphere, Spartan, and Convergence. Individual blockchain pioneers like Stani (founder of Aave) and Maki (formerly of Sushi) have also invested in Manta, showcasing their belief in the network's vision.
Manta's offerings have been well-received in the blockchain community. Developers have started building consumer-facing applications on Manta Pacific, with notable examples being zkHoldEm, an on-chain and private Texas Hold ’em game, and zkMe, a protocol for private and verified credentials.
As of now, there has been no official announcement regarding the tokenomics of $MANTA. This absence of clarity might suggest that the release of their Layer 1 product could be further down the road. It's essential for potential investors and community members to remain patient and stay tuned for updates.
IV. My thoughts
Personally, I've been impressed by Manta Network's dedication to integrating Zero-Knowledge Proofs (ZKPs) into its platform. When I compare it to other Layer 2 solutions, especially ZkSync, Manta Network seems to have a more comprehensive application of ZKPs. The team's academic backgrounds, notably from esteemed institutions like Harvard and MIT, further bolster my confidence in their technical depth.
Some might find it odd that Manta Network has both Manta Atlantis (L1) and Manta Pacific (L2 of Ethereum). But personally, I think it's a brilliant move. Manta Atlantis, as an L1, has its own foundation, handling transactions and smart contracts in its unique way. On the other hand, given Ethereum's massive popularity, Manta Pacific, as an L2, bridges the gap, focusing on EVM-native apps and solving Ethereum's pesky gas fee issues. In my opinion, by having both an L1 and an L2, Manta Network is positioning itself to offer anything for everyone.
However, a strong technical foundation is just the beginning. The real test is in attracting both developers and users, especially in a saturated market filled with Layer 2 solutions. Regarding Manta's tokens, they're still unlisted. While I won't make predictions, it's worth keeping an eye on Manta's announcements, especially given the possibility of an airdrop.
I believe that predicting the exact future of the market or any specific project is a challenging endeavor. But, in my opinion, our most effective approach is to thoroughly understand platforms like Manta Network. This way, we're better equipped to spot and seize opportunities as they present themselves.