Plasma: A Revival for Ethereum’s Layer 2 Scaling Solution
Plasma, a once-prominent Ethereum layer 2 scaling solution, could see a resurgence in the near future. Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum, believes that teams currently working on zero-knowledge Ethereum Virtual Machines (EVMs) should revisit Plasma as a potential solution.
Invented in 2017, Plasma is designed to divert data and computation off-chain, while still maintaining certain on-chain functions such as deposits, withdrawals, and Merkle roots. However, it was overshadowed by optimistic and zero-knowledge (ZK)-rollups due to their lower client-side data storage costs and superior security properties.
Buterin, in a recent Twitter post, stated that while rollups remain the “gold standard,” Plasma is an “underrated design space” that shouldn’t be overlooked. He believes that Plasma can offer significant security upgrades for chains that would otherwise be validiums.
Validiums, like Plasma, move data and computation off-chain but utilize ZK-proofs to validate transactions. However, Plasma uses fraud proofs, which are slower in comparison. Buterin argues that advancements in ZK-proofs, such as validity proofs, have addressed the previous limitations of Plasma, making it a more viable scaling solution.
Before the emergence of ZK-proofs, Plasma faced challenges when adapting to applications beyond payments. However, with the progress in the technology, Buterin sees an opportunity to explore this design space further and develop more effective constructions to simplify the developer experience and safeguard users’ funds.
Various iterations of Plasma, such as Minimal Viable Plasma, Plasma Cash, and Plasma Cashflow, have been developed to overcome these limitations and expand its use cases.
Polygon Labs, a firm focused on Ethereum layer 2 scaling, implemented Plasma in 2019. However, they have since adopted several other solutions. The decline in popularity of Plasma was also influenced by the announcement from Plasma Group, a nonprofit research firm, that they would cease working on Ethereum-based scalability in January 2020.
Buterin’s endorsement of Plasma has already had an impact on the market. The token of OMG Network, which utilizes Plasma, experienced a 28.6% price surge to $0.78 shortly after his post. However, it has since fallen by 14.3% to $0.67.
As the Ethereum layer 2 ecosystem continues to evolve, Buterin expects a diverse range of technological approaches to be adopted. By revisiting Plasma and leveraging the advancements in zero-knowledge technology, Ethereum could potentially find an effective and secure scaling solution.