In the effort to enhance the scalability of Ethereum, developers have been actively constructing mechanisms known as “rollups” that function more efficiently atop the foundational blockchain.
While these rollups have captured significant market share, a lesser-known scaling solution called Plasma deserves more attention, according to Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin. Despite losing popularity since its introduction in 2017, Buterin suggests that it is now opportune to explore Plasma, particularly with the upcoming launch of ZK networks this year.
Role of ZK-SNARKs in Plasma’s Resurgence
In a recent blog post, Buterin said that Plasma is an “underrated design space.” Despite initially taking a backseat to roll-up technology because of constraints in client-side data storage and adaptability beyond fundamental payments, Plasma is now gaining renewed interest.
Buterin’s thesis centers around leveraging the advancements in validity proofs, particularly ZK-SNARKs, which, according to the exec, could help Plasma potentially overcome its previous limitations.
Plasma is a class of blockchain scaling solutions that enables all data and computation, except for deposits, withdrawals, and Merkle roots, to be kept off-chain. The largest challenge of making Plasma work for payments, client-side data storage, can be efficiently addressed with validity proofs, according to Buterin.
Moreover, validity proofs offer a diverse set of tools that enable the creation of a Plasma-like chain running an Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). While the security assurances of Plasma may not cover all users due to the inherent difficulties in extending Plasma-style exit games to various complex applications, a substantial portion of assets could still be practically secured.
“Plasma can be a significant security upgrade for chains that would otherwise be validiums. The fact that ZK-EVMs are finally coming to fruition this year makes it an excellent opportunity to re-explore this design space, and come up with even more effective constructions to simplify the developer experience and protect users’ funds.”
Various iterations, including Minimal Viable Plasma, Plasma Cash, and Plasma Cashflow, have emerged from the initial concept of Plasma. Polygon Labs, the company behind Ethereum layer-2 scaling, adopted Plasma in 2019 but has since integrated several alternative solutions.
The shift away from Plasma was influenced in part by the decision of Plasma Group, a nonprofit Ethereum research organization, to halt its work on Ethereum-based scalability in January 2020.
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