Guide to zkSync Era: Bridges, DeFi, NFTs, and More

All eyes are on zero-knowledge EVM networks and one of the hottest zk-rollups is zkSync Era. In this guide, we dive into what it is, how to get started, and explore DeFi, NFTs, and other applications.

What is zkSync?

Developed by Matter Labs, zkSync Era is a zero-knowledge rollup (zk rollup) for scaling Ethereum.

The main advantages of zkSync Era are:

  • Ultra-low fees: up to 100 times lower than Ethereum, even lower than optimistic rollups

  • High-speed, nearly instant transactions

  • Security of the Ethereum mainnet

  • Ease of use: looks and feels like the Ethereum mainnet

Like any other Layer 2 network, zkSync performs transactions outside of the Ethereum blockchain.

As a rollup, zkSync Era regularly submits batches of these transactions as a summary on the mainnet blockchain. However, unlike optimistic rollups (e.g., Optimism or Arbitrum), zkSync Era verifies the correctness of transactions and then produces validity proofs (aka zero-knowledge proofs). Once the proofs for a block are submitted, its transactions are considered final.

While currently zkSync validators are run by Matter Labs, the goal is to eventually achieve decentralization.

From the user and developer perspective, zkSync Era Era is made to look and feel like the Ethereum mainnet. It’s fully EVM-compatible. Smart contracts are written in Solidity or Vyper, and deployment requires no permissions. You pay ETH for gas — and don’t need much because transactions are very cheap.

zkSync Era Lite vs zkSync Era Era

There are currently two versions of zkSync Era: Lite and Era.

zkSync Lite (formerly simply zkSync Era 1.0) is the first version of the network, which launched in 2020 and supported only some EVM applications.

zkSync Era is the second version, launched in March 2023 with full support of all EVM applications. This should be treated as the primary version going forward. It’s the one you should use if you’re looking to get into the zkSync Era ecosystem.

Getting started with zkSync

You can use zkSync Era with the same address as for the mainnet Ethereum, but in many wallets, you need to first manually add the network.

zkSync Era is now fully supported in Zerion Wallet along with 10+ other networks meaning you can:

  • Track your ETH, USDC, and other tokens as well as dozens of DeFi positions

  • Find the best route to bridge and swap tokens

  • Record your zkSync Era transaction history in an easy-to-read, filterable way

  • Track and display all your zkSync NFTs.

Once you get some assets on zkSync Era Era in your Zerion Wallet, they will automatically appear in your portfolio. You will be able to easily connect to dapps, sign transactions, and do everything else, just like on the mainnet Ethereum.

Portfolio tracking for zkSync in Zerion Wallet and the Zerion web app
Portfolio tracking for zkSync in Zerion Wallet and the Zerion web app

If you already have assets in another wallet, you can connect that wallet to the Zerion web app and see portfolio tracking in action.

If you import your wallet (into Zerion mobile app or the extension), you’ll get even more powers: connecting to dapps, signing transactions, and revoking permissions.

Regardless of the wallet you use, you must first bridge ETH to zkSycn to pay for gas.

Bridges

Bridging (or transferring) locks up some assets on the mainnet Ethereum (or another network from which you bridge) and releases the same asset on zkSync Era. The speed of this depends on the original network — for example, it could take over 15 minutes to bridge from the mainnet.

In addition to the official zkSync Era bridge, there are many alternative cross-chain bridges and bridge aggregators, including

  • Bungee.exchange — powered by Socket, Bungee helps to find the cheapest and fastest bridge, letting you also swap tokens in the same transaction;

  • Cbridge by Celer Network — a cross-chain bridge where you can also provide liquidity and earn fees. The bridge also supports many non-Ethereum networks, including Aptos, Sui, Cosmos, and more, although not all routes are possible for zkSync Era;

  • Orbiter Finance — an L2 bridge for transfers across various zkEVM networks.

Zerion bridge aggregation (also powered by Socket) can also help you to find the cheapest and fastest bridge. You can even receive assets in another address.

Zerion helps to find the best bridge for zkSync
Zerion helps to find the best bridge for zkSync

A major advantage of Zerion Wallet is that you can also bridge into zkSync Era from mobile. Here’s what it looks like:

Bridging to zkSync on mobile with Zerion Wallet
Bridging to zkSync on mobile with Zerion Wallet

Once you have some ETH on zkSync, you can start exploring its various dapps.

DeFi on zkSync

SyncSwap, the biggest zkSync DEX, offers dozens of liquidity pools
SyncSwap, the biggest zkSync DEX, offers dozens of liquidity pools

zkSync Era Era already has a thriving DeFi ecosystem with many decentralized exchanges and other applications.

Always remember that all of this is risky. Many teams are anons. Even audited smart contracts could have errors. So please do your own research before aping with meaningful amounts.

Decentralized exchanges

  • SyncSwap — the leading DEX on zkSync Era by the total value locked (TVL). There are over 60 pools, including stablecoin pairs. For the biggest ETH pools, the yield is in the low double digits. However, most LP providers and traders probably also hope to qualify for a possible SyncSwap airdrop.

  • SpaceFi — more than just a DEX, this DeFi hub also offers a launchpad, yield farming with juicy APY, and NFT with additional staking rewards. There is also a bridge between EVMOS and zkSync Era. And all of this is tied to the protocol token, SPACE.

  • Mute.io — a DEX with limit orders, farms, and rewards. The platform already has its native utility token, MUTE. Liquidity providers can lock some of their LP tokens in ‘amplifier’ farms to earn 25-35% APY in MUTE and the pool’s tokens. MUTE is also distributed as trading rewards to the top 1000 traders.

  • KyberSwap — an OG DEX and DEX aggregator that has seamlessly integrated the majority of liquidity on zkSync, bringing competitive APRs for liquidity providers and superior rates for traders. They will also deploy their Elastic liquidity protocol, and with that, potential farms with incentives. So you may want to keep an eye on it.

Lending

zkSync Era boasts several liquidity protocols that let you deposit and borrow assets.

  • EraLend — a decentralized lending protocol that aims to optimize capital utilization and reduce risks associated with external liquidity and oracles. You can deposit ETH, USDC, or SyncSwap USDC WETH LP tokens and then borrow the other tokens. All actions also earn reward points ahead of the TGE. Warning: On July 25, the protocol experienced a security breach, so it’s best to wait until it’s all sorted out.

  • ReactorFusion — based on Compound, it offers liquidity markets for ETH and USDC. Both deposits and loans earn rewards in RF, the native token that can be staked to earn a triple-digit APY.

Other

If you want to do most zkSync Era DeFi things on one platform, rhino.fi can help you. It’s an aggregator that offers bridging, swapping, and investing by integrating various other protocols.

There are plenty of other DeFi applications on zkSync Era, including perpetuals platforms such as Satori and Onchain Trade, yield aggregators like Kannagi, and more.

However, most of these apps and protocols are new and have low liquidity and TVL. Always do your own research before committing meaningful amounts to new protocols.

NFTs on zkSync

Track and display zkSync NFTs with Zerion
Track and display zkSync NFTs with Zerion

zkSync Era supports NFTs just like any other major Layer-2 network.

The difference is that cheap and near-instant transactions enable new NFT experiences. For example, CryptoMaze is building a whole NFT ‘ecosystem’ with onchain games, live experiences, mints, allowlists (of course), and many other things.

There is space for launching new NFT collections on zkSync. Web3 development framework ThirdWeb already supports Era, making it easy to configure and deploy all kinds of smart contracts for NFTs.

Alternatively, you can launch collections without any coding on OpenMeta, an NFT marketplace that supports zkSync Era. OpenSea and other leading marketplaces are not yet deployed on zkSync Era, but that will likely change as the network grows and more people join.

To express your identity on zkSync Era, you can also grab a .zk domain. Similar to ENS, zkSync Era Name Service is an NFT domain service that offers human-readable handles instead of regular addresses that start with 0x.

Generally, it pays to be early and experiment with things instead of waiting for the majority to arrive.

What’s next

zkSync Era is a rapidly growing network. As we have seen, it already has a thriving DeFi ecosystem and an emerging NFT space with various marketplaces and tools.

The easiest way to get started with zkSync Era is with a wallet that fully supports the network — Zerion Wallet.

Here’s how to start using zkSync Era with Zerion Wallet on mobile:

  1. Install Zerion Wallet

  2. Create a new wallet or import your existing wallet by seed phrase or private key

  3. You will need some ETH on the mainnet to bridge to zkSync Era

  4. Open the built-in dapp browser in Zerion Wallet and connect to portal.zkSync Era.io/bridge/

  5. Tap ‘Connect wallet’

  6. Select how much ETH you want to deposit to zkSync Era and tap ‘add funds’

  7. Approve the transaction

  8. That’s it! Once the transaction is validated on the mainnet, you will see ETH on zkSync Era in your Zerion Wallet and can start exploring the rest of the network

The steps are the same for the Zerion extension if you are already whitelisted for it — you can check that by installing it and entering your address or ENS.

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