Ethereum fans are celebrating the news that Ethereum scaling solution, Optimism, is now set to launch on the network’s mainnet next month, ahead of schedule. But what does this mean both for Ethereum and its users?
“Mainnet in March. Scaling is coming to Ethereum,” commented SetProtocol product marketing manager Anthony Sassano on the latest announcement by Optimism: the team has said that they’ll be launching arbitrary contract deployment on mainnet in March instead of public testnet, with details to follow.
So what’s the big deal? Layer 1 (L1) is the base protocol (the Ethereum blockchain), while Layer 2 (L2) is any protocol built on top of Ethereum. Optimism is an L2 scaling solution, which allows for the Ethereum mainnet to be ‘unburdened’ from the great number of transactions it has to process. It uses optimistic rollups to achieve lower fees and latency, as well as greater throughput compared to Ethereum L1 alone. The team behind Optimism was funded by venture firm a16z (Andreessen Horowitz) back in November – a round that enabled the latest Optimism hires and with them, expedited timeline, the team said.
“I’m not sure if people realize how huge a deal this is. Moving from L1 Ethereum to optimistic rollups is like going from dial-up to broadband,” argued Redditor frank__costello, adding that L2 solutions are likely to have a greater impact on the end-user than Ethereum 2.0. “No more crazy gas fees, no more waiting for transactions to get mined.”
Furthermore, unlike the already existing L2 solutions, some of which are sidechains of Ethereum, some state channels, either prompting centralization questions or are unable to scale smart contracts, Optimism utilizes rollups, much praised by Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin. He said that “that rollups will be the dominant scaling paradigm for at least a couple of years,” proposing “rollups on top of sharding” for ETH 2.0.
Rollup is a scaling technique that keeps transaction data on-chain in a compressed form, with the computation pushed off-chain, leaving the computation, such as signature verification, contract execution, zero-knowledge (ZK) proof execution, and others, to be verified in a ZK-Rollup or Optimistic Rollup. These would theoretically allow more transactions per second (TPS) – thousands compared to the current tens. Once Phase 1 of ETH 2.0 is introduced, the number will go as high as 100,000 TPS, Buterin suggested.
It is estimated that existing dapps on Ethereum can simply copy/paste their code to Optimism and migrate to it starting March, while Coinbase wallet already offered support for the solution.
Additionally, a16z described Optimism as “an extension of Ethereum, [with] adherence to Ethereum development paradigms, [which] results in a very easy transition for developers, wallets and users.”
Ethereum supporters are also arguing that this means death for a number of other chains, naming Binance Smart Chain, Polkadot (DOT), Avalanche (AVAX), and Solana (SOL) as a few. Others added that it’s the competition, such as Cardano (ADA), that has accelerated Ethereum scaling.
And as this was developing, Ethereum core developers are looking at April 15 as the date for the upcoming Berlin hard fork. This upgrade encompasses five Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIP), including updates to gas cost efficiencies and the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). The first testnet in the series is expected to fork in the first half of March.
At the time of writing (12:57 PM UTC), ETH trades at USD 1,636 and is down by 4% in a day and 11.5% in a week. It rallied by 23% in a month and 516% in a year.