Vitalik Buterin says Ethereum layer-2 solutions will become more diverse and specialized
The Ethereum layer-2 ecosystem continues to expand and diversify, according to Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin in a recent blog post. As new scaling solutions emerge, Buterin predicts increasing heterogeneity in layer 2 designs based on specific security and cost tradeoffs.
Rollups, validiums, sidechains, and other layer-2 constructions offer different balances between decentralization, security, and scalability. Financial applications demand the highest security guarantees, while social media and gaming can accept some downtime in exchange for lower fees.
Buterin notes that projects transitioning from independent layer-1s to Ethereum layer-2s will likely take a gradual, multi-stage approach. Moving all activity to a rollup at once would hurt usability, but waiting too long risks missing the opportunity. Centralized projects and niche layer 1s also want enough decentralization for added security assurances without sacrificing high throughput.
How differing layer-2s interact with Ethereum
Validiums rely on zero-knowledge proofs to ensure correct computation without storing all data directly on Ethereum. This saves costs compared to rollups, but validiums face data availability risks if operators fail to make data available. Rollups guarantee users can always withdraw funds to the Ethereum mainnet.
Disconnected systems like sidechains offer even lower costs but require trust in a small set of validators. Hybrid approaches are also emerging, such as validiums that allow users to pay for periodic Ethereum data availability.
Buterin emphasizes the importance of external chains maintaining tight links to Ethereum. This reduces security risks when bridging Ethereum-native assets and enables shared account abstractions across chains.
Validating bridges can provide validium-level security, proving correct state transitions. However, handling edge cases like 51% of attacks requires a social commitment to coordinate upgrades. Reading Ethereum data and reverting when Ethereum reverts is also critical. Chains that only read Ethereum’s finalized blocks avoid some complexity but give up functionality during periods of low finality.
Overall, Buterin sees merit across a spectrum of layer-2 designs. Applications will continue tailoring solutions to their specific security, scalability, and decentralization needs. However, maintaining connections to Ethereum provides benefits regardless of the architecture. He believes that, as technology progresses, projects can strengthen their ties to Ethereum in stages over time.
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