Ethereum co-founder, Vitalik Buterin, recently shared his view on whether development should focused on the layer 1 or layer 2 functionalities in blockchains. He presents his point by mentioning that debates regarding the scaling of blockchains is common, in circumstances, such as sharding or block size increases as layer 1 solutions and payment channels or Plasma as layer 2 solutions.
he tradeoff has so far shown itself most in the scaling debates, with block size increases (and sharding) on one side and layer-2 solutions like Plasma and channels on the other, and to some extent blockchain governance, with loss and theft recovery being solvable by either the DAO fork or generalizations thereof such as EIP 867, or by layer-2 solutions such as Reversible Ether (RETH).
Layer 1 solutions are built into the layer of the blockchain itself whereas the layer 2 solutions are built on top of the blockchain without changing any rules of the blockchain. He wrote about the tradeoffs that come along with it and suggested what is to be done about it.
Vitalik Buterin states, “I do think that as blockchains become more and more mature, layer 1 will necessarily stabilize, and layer 2 will take on more and more of the burden of ongoing innovation and change.” He further goes on to explain why he said so. The primary reason being the layer 1 solutions require ongoing protocol change. And, “…base layer protocol change requires governance, and it has still not been shown that, in the long term, highly “activist” blockchain governance can continue without causing ongoing political uncertainty or collapsing into centralization,” he added.
Vitalik Buterin believes it is a “bad idea” to build features into the base layer of the blockchain. He writes, “…it would create a high level of governance overhead as the platform would have to continually discuss, implement and coordinate newly discovered technical improvements.”
Vitalik Buterin argued that due to the constant change was seen in spaces like these, it is a “bad idea” to build features into the base layer of the blockchain. He described these as having a “high level of governance overhead” as those in charge would have to change it constantly to keep in line with developments in its respective space.
To prove his point, he shares that even “Ethereum’s limited level of application-specific functionality, precompiles, has seen some of this effect.” He further adds that several blockchains like Zcash are moving toward BLS-12-381, and Ethereum need to fork again.
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According to him, the solution is layer 2 execution engines. It will be done by utilizing technologies such as zero-knowledge proofs in order to process transaction of assets that’s sent to a bridge contract.
Buterin wrote, “…it’s the responsibility of the users of that specific execution engine to make sure that it is sustainable, and if they fail to do so the consequences are contained to within the users of that particular execution engine.”
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