Lens is excited to announce the Lens Network infrastructure that will support decentralized social spaces designed for mass adoption.

Our vision is to make social spaces more open and fair. Openness means that there are no restrictions at the protocol level – everyone can connect to the network and participate. Fairness means everyone can benefit from social spaces, without concerns of censorship, and through more evenly distributed monetization opportunities.

To lay a scalable foundation for the future of social spaces, we chose to develop the next generation of Lens on what we believe is the most robust and future-proof technology — zkSync’s ZK Stack.

Once we succeed, digital social spaces will no longer be fragile and prone to centralization by social media giants; the user-centric internet will become the new norm.

Onchain Networks

Social media networks today trap users in walled gardens controlled by corporate giants. These companies hoard user data on private servers, limiting user control and ownership. Switching platforms in web2 means starting over, requiring a massive time investment to rebuild your social capital. This lack of data ownership and control not only creates a high switching cost for users and hinders competition and innovation, but is unfair.

Onchain networks disrupt this model. Data is distributed across a network of computers, making it difficult for one entity to control it. This empowers users with ownership of their social media identity and connections. With onchain social networks, users can freely move their data and connections across social media applications. This decentralized approach fosters an environment with less censorship and more freedom of expression at the network level.

We’ve seen the effectiveness of decentralization in securing financial value. Blockchain creates a public, transparent, and tamper-proof record. Each entry is linked to the previous entry and verified. Within this network, economic incentives ensure data remain reliable, readily available, and resistant to censorship. These incentives and networking design ensure that instead of trusting social media giants with the empty promise, “don’t be evil,” well-designed onchain networks simply can’t be evil by their design.

Scaling a Decentralized Social Network

Historically, onchain networks have struggled to support the high transaction throughput required by mainstream consumer applications. There is a challenge in building systems that are decentralized, secure, and scalable. To achieve all three, trade-offs are usually required. In an attempt to artificially increase scalability, onchain networks have been forced to make compromises that weaken security or decentralization. This has been referred to as the blockchain “trilemma” by Vitalik Buterin.

Networks usually charge the same security costs regardless of the nature of the transactions. This poses a fundamental challenge. It is the reason social networks haven’t been able to leverage onchain security at scale.

As a result, developers have chosen between scalability, security, and cost. For social networks, it's important to ask ourselves whether social networking transactions require the same security and data integrity as financial transactions.

While social transactions may not require the same degree of security as financial transactions, fair and open social spaces do require that users are secured against data monopolies and walled gardens. Onchain security shifts the power from corporate networks to users. When users own their social capital, they become “liquid citizens,” able to take their social capital (identity, content, and relationships) with them to whatever social space they choose.

Addressing the Blockchain “Trilemma” for Social Spaces

Ethereum provides the base security for applications, supporting a high level of composability and programmability that comes with the EVM. More recently, rollups, for example, optimistic rollups (Optimism and Arbitrum) and zero-knowledge (ZK) rollups like zkSync Era, have scaled Ethereum. ZK rollups have several advantages compared to optimistic rollups, including more advanced data compression techniques for compressing data posted and verified on L1.

Despite significant transaction cost-benefits offered by rollups, especially with the EIP-4844 update, scaling social interactions still presents challenges. With optimistic rollups, data must remain relevant and accessible for a period of time to check against fraud proofs. This can become costly on L1s. Rollups excel with financial applications like DeFi precisely because they inherit L1's strong security, which ensures ultimate transaction recording. Even if a rollup is compromised, L1 data can expose fraudulent transactions and initiate a process to recover funds from the Ethereum network. While social use cases don't require full rollup state security from Ethereum, some level of security inherited from Ethereum is essential to ensure data integrity.

Further scalability can also be reached horizontally with solutions such as hyperchains from zkSync that communicate seamlessly using ZK proofs to simultaneously verify each other’s state and process transactions independently. They connect to a common bridge on Ethereum, achieving security, while remaining decentralized and low cost, achieving millions of secured transactions per second. This breakthrough paves the way for onchain social networks to scale for mass adoption, solving the ‘blockchain trilemma’.

Validiums and Volitions

Validium is a scaling solution that computes and posts state transitions compressed and batched with ZK compression techniques to Ethereum, while posting the state itself into a separate data availability location. By keeping costs down, Validiums are great for social networks that are sensitive to pricing.

Validium’s modular approach, which separates security and data availability in combination with ZK compression techniques, ensures that social transactions apply sufficient security for social network data integrity, yet remain scalable.

Zk Rollups, in turn, should be able to scale higher than this diagram in the future; ZK rollups are higher on DAUs than Optimistic rollups. With ZK, users can trust that if another chain verifies their proof within the same proof system, their state is correct. With Optimistic rollups, there are trust assumptions with other chains leading to a waiting period of seven days which limits the horizontal scalability that ZK rollups benefit from

Financial transactions are also essential to everyday social networking and require security. The benefit of onchain is that it provides programmable financial rails out of the box. These financial rails can support decentralized social networks and redistribute economic benefits more fairly, creating a better onchain economic engine for creators, users, and developers.

Volition is a scaling setup that enables two different transaction policies on the same scaling infrastructure. Validium can be used for social transactions that post state transitions to Ethereum while storing the state on a DA provider, and a rollup policy can be used for financial transactions that settle the whole state on Ethereum while maintaining synchronized interoperability.

Lens Network based on a Hybrid Architecture

Lens is excited to announce the Lens Network scaling infrastructure that will support decentralized social spaces designed for mass adoption. Built on the ZK Stack, Lens Network will be able to handle simultaneous instant transactions while ensuring data integrity. Lens Network will initially launch as an EVM-compatible Validium chain secured by Ethereum and convert, in a 3-phased rollout, to a Volition network built with zkSync’s ZK Stack – the modular, open-source framework based on the zkSync Era code.

Phase 1: Seed - Validium on Ethereum

Phase 1 establishes the initial infrastructure to achieve scalability. The Lens Network uses Validium to ensure user social activities are always verifiable. At the same time there is a need to enable a variety of use cases essential for social networks, including both private interactions (such as, for example, those of email) and public social interactions (for example, those of posts), as well as public financial transactions. Private interactions within the Lens Network will use Validium as a DA and both public and private social transactions use provable CRUD access controls on the node level based on users' public and private key cryptography.

Validium batches all transactions and generates a ZK proof that all state changes are valid. This proof is submitted to Ethereum, ensuring the network's integrity.

Phase 2: Grow - Introducing the DA Provider

In Phase 2, Lens Network creates separate and synchronous public and private Validium chains to support various social network use-cases with variable levels of private and public interactions. The public Validium chain uses a data availability (DA) provider to guarantee the security of public state data. The private transactions within the private Validium relies on a self-secured system where the private Validium’s DA keeps underlying data at the discretion of the user. These transactions are verified by preparing batches of proofs submitted to the Ethereum blockchain for verification without the data being revealed publicly.

Phase 3: Bloom - Full Circle with Volition

Phase 3 boosts security and user control for transactions through the combination of ZK rollup and Validium technologies. The main change is that Ethereum will secure financial transactions within the public rollup component. Users can choose to secure financial transactions, more securely with Ethereum DA while opting to secure social transactions on Validium that settles on to a separate DA location. Private transactions for private use cases are handled on a separate instance. Later, Lens Network will implement more advanced verification techniques using ZK proofs without users requiring to reveal additional data they own by posting ZK proofs.

The Next Generation Lens Protocol – A Cross-Chain Hub

A new version of Lens Protocol will be developed and launched on Lens Network, which will act as a social networking hub for the entire Lens user base. The new version of Lens Protocol will not only become a shared social network but also function as a cross-chain protocol, hosting its main hub on Lens Network with zkSync. Instances of this new version of Lens Protocol can also be deployed on other EVM networks (and non-EVM networks). Our goal is for developers to build their social applications on any of the supported networks and connect – via technology such as CCIP – with the Lens user base across networks.

Users and applications can keep using the existing Lens Protocol and later migrate to Lens Network or stay on the existing network. For those applications that wish to migrate, the Lens team will support smooth migration for an expected transition period.

Major UX Improvements

Lens Network is designed to offer a smooth user experience on par with familiar web2 applications while providing next-generation ownership and monetization capabilities. From the start, users can expect gasless and signless transactions (leveraging Account Abstraction) with embedded wallet support. Bridging across various networks will also be effortless, and transactions will feel instant thanks to subsecond completion times. This focus on user experience aims to attract mainstream users and create more open and fair social spaces that everyone can enjoy.

Join the Discussion

We hope to inspire developers to build new experiences on this scalable architecture.

We have opened a LIP discussion to engage community feedback. Please contribute to the discussions here.