Key Takeaways

  • Vitalik Buterin has published a new piece discussing how block production across blockchains will likely remain centralized even as rollups see wider adoption.
  • Buterin says that Ethereum will be able to use bypass channels and other techniques to regulate the block production market.
  • He added that it could “take years of refinement and audits” until crypto users feel comfortable to store their assets on a Layer 2 rollup.

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The Ethereum co-founder has high hopes for the future of rollups. 

Vitalik Buterin Discusses the Future of Rollups

Vitalik Buterin has published a new blog post discussing rollups and blockchain scalability. 

The 1,500-word piece, titled “Endgame,” focuses on how the technology can be used to make block production more decentralized. Buterin says that the average “big block chain” today tends to have high block frequency, block sizes, and transaction speeds, but also ends up becoming highly centralized due to the high node running costs associated with creating big blocks. Many Ethereum competitors such as Solana boast fast transaction times but require expensive hardware to run nodes, which has led to criticism over its degree of decentralization. 

Buterin goes on to explain that rollups, while improving block validation, still lead to centralized block production, and that there are two likely outcomes from a rollup-centric world: one where “everyone migrates” to a single highly scalable rollup, or one where network activity is spread across multiple solutions. 

In both instances, Buterin says, block production will still be centralized because of “ the network effects within rollups or the network effects of cross-domain MEV.” However, he also notes that techniques like committee validation, data availability sampling, and bypass channels can be used to regulate the block production market. 

The post makes direct reference to Ethereum, noting that the network is “very well-positioned” to adapt to a rollup-centric environment because it is specifically planning to integrate rollups as part of its roadmap. “Ethereum is open to all of the futures, and does not have to commit to an opinion about which one will necessarily win,” an excerpt reads, referring to the two possible scenarios in which one or several rollups thrive.  

Other “big block chains,” Buterin writes, will have to make a choice about whether to work toward achieving decentralized block production and censorship resistance. 

Buterin has long discussed how Layer 2 rollup solutions are set to become a key part of Ethereum’s path to scalability. Rollups of today come in two flavors: Optimistic and Zero-Knowledge. Optimistic Rollups like Optimism and Arbitrum bundle transactions and carry data off-chain to improve transaction speeds and gas fees, though they are subject to a seven-day dispute period for withdrawals. ZK-Rollups such as Starkware’s StarkNet, meanwhile, generate cryptographic proofs to prove that transactions are legitimate when sent back to the base chain. 

Ethereum’s Layer 2 rollup solutions have gathered momentum in recent weeks as the network suffers from ongoing gas fee issues. Many Ethereum-native DeFi projects have begun launching on Optimistic Rollups, while StarkWare’s StarkNet went live on mainnet last week. Still, Buterin says it will take “years of refinement and audits” for people to feel comfortable about using EVM-compatible ZK-Rollups to store their crypto assets. 

Buterin’s post lands amid a period of intense volatility for Ethereum and other Layer 1 blockchains. ETH crashed 17% below $4,000 Friday during a market-wide selloff, while other lower cap coins suffered bigger losses. It’s since posted a recovery, trading at $4,207 at press time. It currently accounts for about 20.73% of the global cryptocurrency market. 

Disclosure: At the time of writing, the author of this feature owned ETH and several other cryptocurrencies. 

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