Plasma is a Lightning Network for Ethereum. Ethereum has a serious difficulty with scalability – it is a fact. If Cryptokitties-mania makes your blockchain slow and expensive, you need to do something with this. And Vitaliy did – together with Joseph Poon, he presented Plasma. But it was almost a year ago. What is the essence of Plasma and where is it now?
In simple words – Plasma is a series of contracts which runs on top of a root blockchain. The root network contract processes only a tiny amount of commitments from child blockchains that are able to do an incredibly large amount of computations in most cases. The commitments are broadcasted periodically to the root blockchain from the child one. If you still don’t understand, let us remind you who Joseph Poon is. He is co-creator of Lightning Network. What is LN – it’s a system of payment channels, which send only result (total balance) of all transactions to the root blockchain. Plasma is the Lightning Network for Ethereum. But what is Ethereum? It is a system of smart-contracts. So, Plasma creates smart-contract, which means that all data will be operated in a child blockchain (like channel in LN), and only the results are sent to the root blockchain.
Plasma - Ethereum
No, Plasma it’s not a magic elixir for Ethereum’s scalability problem. There are a lot of technologies which can help this blockchain – sharding, Raiden network and Plasma among them. Also, Casper with its hybrid PoW/PoS algorithm. Even Bitcoin can solve the scalability problem in complex – using Lightning Network and implementing SegWit. Why can’t Ethereum take it as an example? Let’s review the Plasma technology. According to the whitepaper, «Plasma is composed of two key parts of the design: Reframing all the blockchain computation into a set of MapReduce functions, and an optional method to do Proof-of-Stake token bonding on top of existing blockchains with the understanding that the Nakamoto Consensus incentives discourage block withholding.
This construction is achieved by composing smart contracts on the main blockchain using fraud proofs whereby the state transitions can be enforced on a parent blockchain. We compose blockchains into a tree hierarchy, and treat each as an individual branch blockchain with the enforced blockchain history and MapReducable computation committed into merkle proofs».
The better way to imagine Plasma’s blockchain hierarchy is a tree. Root blockcain – is a trunk. And as the trunk gives life and energy to branches, the root blockchain (Ethereum), supported by miners, gives security and proofs flowing. Also, the root blockchain plays a role of Supreme Court from which all subordinate courts derive their power. It is also has an analogy with a tree – if there is not enough water or minerals the trunk decides to dry some branches. If some blockchain has fraud symptoms it will be closed and penalized. It’s interesting that each child blockchain can have its token to stimulate the validators to keep the chain active and to provide fraud security. The fraud proofs ensure that all state transitions are validated. Also, these fraud proofs enforce an interactive protocol of fund withdrawals.
So, what is the release date of Plasma in Ethereum? Vitalik didn’t say. But in March 2018 he presented some update – if before all users were required to download and validate all data from smart contract in the test Plasma system, in the new version they will be able to generate «Plasma coins» by sending a deposit to the contract. It’s much simpler – you just need to track the tokens that you have created within that system. But still – no one knows when it will be implemented in Ethereum. What’s better for Ethereum: Plasma or Raiden? Newcomers, reading cryptowiki (bitcoinwiki?), can be confused of many technologies, mentioned with Ethereum scalability problem. One of them is Raiden Network, compared with Plasma. But it is wrong. First of all, Raiden Network is a project with its own coin and Plasma is a technology. Do we need to continue? The Raiden Network is an already working service for transferring tokens via an off-chain network.
Blockchain in blockchain
Trolls already made some memes that with Plasma you can «create blockchain in blockchain in blockchain within root blockchain». But, actually, they are absolutely right – it is how Plasma working with blockchains. And the same said in its whitepaper.
Plasma technology still has many perspectives in Ethereum society. Some companies already announced their plans to use it. We have mentioned Raiden Network and their token RDN, on the website of which it is said that Plasma implementation just will be a complement to their product. Also, OmiseGo project wants to use Plasma. It is a payment platform and cryptocurrency exchange, which are named to be decentralized. The team, with Joseph Poon in it, promised to create the SDK wallet in the fourth quarter of 2018. Don’t forget about BANKEX – they have released a Plasma Protocol compatible private blockchain aimed to make ETH send/receive transactions cheaper and faster.
Last, but not least - Altcoin.io. And again – these guys want to launch a really decentralized cryptocurrency exchange, using the Plasma technology. So, we think, this Vitalik’s offer to scale Ethereum just needs some time and the developer’s work.