Home / Ethereum / A Survey Of Second Layer Solutions for Blockchain Scaling, Part 2

A Survey Of Second Layer Solutions for Blockchain Scaling, Part 2

ETHNews examines one of the 2d layer answers lately being advanced to help in making blockchain era extra scalable, particularly, plasma and sharding.

In January, ETHNews revealed an editorial surveying one of the primary 2d layer answers being explored in reference to the Ethereum and Bitcoin blockchains. This piece continues that exploration.

“Second layer” is a time period used to indicate all of the platforms and protocols that host or procedure knowledge in order that the bottom layer blockchain in a community does not must.

Base layer blockchains, like any blockchains, can simplest have compatibility a certain quantity of knowledge into every block. This function, whilst vital, has the impact of restricting what number of transactions the community can procedure in a given time period. By offloading process from the primary chain onto 2d layer platforms, builders can lend a hand blockchains take care of considerably extra transactions. In different phrases, 2d layer answers can liberate blockchains to do extra stuff. 

For a fuller clarification of related terminology and of why 2d layer answers subject, please discuss with part one. For explanations of even more second layer solutions, stay tuned for part three.

Note: The solutions detailed in this article are mostly theoretical at the moment; they have not yet been implemented on platforms open to the public.


Among the second layer solutions currently being pioneered, plasma has been one of the most talked-about. In this configuration, there are many blockchains that branch out from one another in what Joseph Poon, who co-wrote the foundational paper on Plasma with Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin, describes as a tree-like formation.

To establish a plasma network, one must publish a set of smart contracts, also known as EDCCs, to the main chain, which lay out the rules that will govern the tree of Plasma blockchains. In the parlance of Poon and other developers, a plasma blockchain that branches off of the base layer (or off of another plasma blockchain) is called a “child chain.”

In a plasma blockchain, the “validators” (whose role is akin to that of miners on the main chain) report the activity taking place on a child chain to the base layer. However, rather than providing the main chain with a full list of all the transactions verified on that child chain since its last block was mined, they deliver to the base layer a “blockheader hash” (a string of characters cryptographically derived from information related to the latest block’s contents) saving precious space there.

If other users believe that a validator has misrepresented what happened on a plasma chain, they can submit fraud proofs containing contradictory data. If a fraud proof successfully disproves a validator’s representations, that plasma chain will be rolled back to the last block that has not been successfully disputed, meaning that the transactions which occurred after the last validated block will effectively be undone.

Because a Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus mechanism would be used to verify transactions on plasma blockchains, one would have to deposit funds into a plasma EDCC in order to become eligible to be a validator. If a validator submits an invalid block, they are stripped of these funds.

If users suspect untoward activity on a child chain where they have some funds, they can simply take their tokens and jump from that child chain onto the “parent chain” from which it branches. If necessary, they can repeat this process ad infinitum until they’re all the way back on the main chain.

To borrow a metaphor from Poon, a tree of plasma chains is like a court system in which higher courts can overturn the rulings of lower courts, and the base layer functions as the supreme court. It would be inefficient for the supreme court to hear every case, but avenues exist through which any case can reach the supreme court.


In a sharding system, users are siloed in “shards,” blockchains that act as “galaxies” unto themselves, which communicate with the main chain but are distinct from it.

This way, rather than millions of users conducting all their transactions on the base layer, as is currently the case, there are many shards, each of which supports thousands of users and processes their transactions internally. These walled-off galaxies are maintained by a single “validator manager contract” (VMC) on the main chain.

In early implementations, communication across shards is expected to be impossible.

Would-be shard validators (sometimes referred to as “collators”) deposit their stakes with the VMC (like plasma blockchains, shards will abide by a PoS consensus mechanism). The size of their staked deposit determines their likelihood of being selected as a validator. This selection happens “pseudorandomly.”

Validators are tasked with creating “collations” (essentially “blocks” in sharding lingo) for a particular shard over a specified period of time. Any validator can be selected to create collations for any shard, and they are to be selected shortly before the period begins, giving them minimal opportunity to hatch nefarious schemes to cheat that shard’s users.

Validators need only create collations relating to the shard for which they’ve been selected, saving main chain miners and shard validators alike significant computational power and disk space compared to what is required by the system currently in place on the Ethereum network.

Don’t forget to visit ETHNews in the near future for part three of this series.

Adam Reese is a Los Angeles-based writer interested in technology, domestic and international politics, social issues, infrastructure and the arts. Adam is a full-time staff writer for ETHNews and holds value in Ether and BTC.

ETHNews is committed to its Editorial Policy

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