Vitalik Buterin & Joseph Poon Propose New Scaling Solution For Ethereum: PLASMA



We've all witnessed the recent Bitcoin fork on August 1. The whole reason for this procedure was to scale the network, which means to improve its transaction speed and efficiency.
Now, Ethereum is planning to do the same and is looking into different scaling solutions.

Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin and Lightning Network co-author Joseph Poon have just released a possible solution:

Introducing the scaling plan "Plasma"!

“We propose a method for decentralized autonomous applications to scale to process not only financial activity, but also construct economic incentives for globally persistent data services, which may produce an alternative to centralized server farms.” -[Plasma Whitepaper](http://plasma.io/plasma.pdf)



Why is a Scaling necessary for Ethereum ?

The ethereum network can't effectively support many users right now. It's too overcrowded.
Similar to the issues that Bitcoin faced, the technology is simply not ready for the sudden high demand and the growing amount of users.
The results are that transaction times are increasing and the fees for smart contracts are also rising.
There have already been several other proposals to solve this problem, but Plasma has been the most popular one yet (which is probably due to the famous names involved with the project!)


So what's the solution?

The solution for the scaling problem is to minimize the data on the blockchain.
Right now, all transaction data is stored on the blockchain - and obviously, that's a lot to handle and is slowing down the network.
That's why these scaling solutions propose technologies that reduce the amount of data directly stored on the blockchain, and instead stores them off-chain.

"Large apps can’t run solely on-chain and likely never will. They need off-chain scaling solutions. While it’s tricky to make accurate estimates when combining scaling improvements, it’s conceivable we could see a 100x improvement by the end of 2018, which would allow a 1–10m user app.”

-Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam on the Ethereum Scaling debate


What is Plasma? How does it work?

At the core, Plasma is similar to SegWit which has just been integrated into Bitcoin to help scale the network as well.
The main principle is that unnecessary data from smart contracts is eliminated, and that only "merkelized commitments" are stored on the public Ethereum Blockchain.

Plasma achieves this by creating "Baby Blockchains" that run on top of the root Blockchain but store the information separately from it - therefore allowing an increased transaction speed.

img

The system connects "child" blockchains to the "main" blockchain with something called "fraud proofs." It's similar to the Lightning Network, an idea Poon put forth a couple years ago for bitcoin, in that it's a top-layer interacting with a core blockchain below. While the Lightning Network was limited to work strictly for payments, Plasma extends the idea to more complex computations, like ethereum smart contracts.

-CoinDesk

“As only merkleized commitments are broadcast periodically to the root blockchain (i.e. Ethereum) during non-faulty states, this can allow for incredibly scalable, low cost transactions and computation. Plasma enables persistently operating decentralized applications at high scale.”

-Plasma Whitepaper


What's next for Plasma?

For now, Plasma is nothing more than a proposal in form of a whitepaper from Buterin and Poon.
We'll have to wait and see how the Ethereum community feels about this possible scaling solution, and if they want to implement it.
Plasma has the potential to not only revolutionize Ethereum's blockchain technology, but many other tokens as well!
OmiseGO for example, a promising fin-tech startup that wants to make banking more convenient through blockchain, has already stated that they'd use Plasma.
Personally, I think that Plasma really has the potential to become an accepted scaling solution - especially considering who proposed it.
We have just witnessed how positive the Bitcoin Scaling turned out, and I think we will probably experience something similar with Ethereum soon.

img


What are your thoughts on Plasma and the Ethereum Scaling debate ?




Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5



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Long live ether, Awesome summary.

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Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it.

cleared up a few things for me, thanks for sharing @sirwinchester!

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Thank you, I'm glad my post could provide some new info!

Nice Plasma looks great!

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Thank you!
Yes it has a lot of potential. Let's see if the community wants to implement it.

Many apps cannot leverage the arch proposed which will be even more restrictive than current apps.

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Hm, true. I guess the system still needs to be simplified.

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well written article which cleared a lot of things regarding etherium scalling issue. Thanks for sharing.

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Nice post, thank you for keeping it short.

I am sad and concerned about this.
The way the white paper is written, its contents does not bring me any joy...
As a developer: if we use a blockchain it is also to communicate with each other. Now, you have to go to blockchain X,Y,Z because the needed information is only inside, you just have this "signature" at the root blockchain. It will be not very nice to work with.
The Map/Reduce framework works well only for dataflow style applications with few states. Also, someone will have to pay for all those additional blocks.

I see a block chain has a commodity for storage and/or computation, who will win: cheapest transactions/storage/computation, simplicity to build applications, throughput, scalability, security.

I do not see that in Ethereum in the near future. Sure it will keep momentum thanks to ICOs, and many actors pouring money into. But this is not an exciting future for me.

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Hmm. Yes I can understand your concerns.
I guess we will have to wait and see how this proposal would turn out in real life, and how the community reacts to it.

Ethereum Plasma sounds cooler than Bitcoin Lightning..

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