Vitalik Buterin Proposes Revival of Plasma to Enhance Ethereum’s Scalability

In a recent blog post titled “New Applications for Validium EVMs: The Return of Plasma,” Ethereum’s co-founder Vitalik Buterin expressed his belief that Plasma could supplement the existing rollup-based layer-2 solutions to further expand the scalability of the world’s leading blockchain network. This statement was made on November 14th, accompanied by Buterin’s keynote presentation at L2Days during the Ethereum community’s Devonnect Conference in Istanbul, Turkey, running from November 13th to 19th, 2023.

Plasma, a solution co-created by Vitalik Buterin and Lightning Network programmer Joseph Poon, gained immense prominence in the blockchain programming community upon its announcement in 2017.

According to the Ethereum Foundation’s explanation, Plasma functions as a sidechain attached to the Ethereum mainnet, employing off-chain transaction processing and validation of transaction blocks independently. It utilizes fraud proofs to ensure transaction accuracy, akin to the functionality of rollup-based layer-2 solutions.

Crucially, a Plasma chain inherits Ethereum’s security rather than existing independently like other sidechains developed on the ETH platform. Buterin believes that Plasma introduces an alternative scalability avenue for Ethereum, decoupling itself from Data Availability issues, unlike layer-2 rollups, thus providing additional choices for projects. However, between 2018 and 2022, Plasma fell into oblivion due to limitations such as high data storage costs and constraints in fundamental technology, restricting its utility primarily to payment-centric projects.

Nevertheless, the emergence of validity proofs, also known as zk-SNARKs, presents a new opportunity for Plasma to demonstrate its potential, Buterin commented. Aside from addressing operational cost concerns and payment applications, validity proofs could render Plasma compatible with EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine) and the dApps operating on Ethereum.

Yet, the Ethereum co-founder didn’t overlook the limitations that the Plasma approach still retains, notably the inability to ensure security for all users.

In conclusion, Vitalik Buterin emphasized that “Plasma is an underrated design.” He acknowledged that while rollup-based layer-2 solutions remain the “gold standard” for scaling Ethereum, Plasma offers an alternative approach to circumvent the Data Availability challenge and assists validium projects in exploring additional potential.

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