What is Plasma and What Will It Do For Ethereum

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What is Plasma?

Plasma has been lauded as the Ethereum saviour since first being announced back in 2017. However, almost three years later, we’re still waiting for it, but what exactly is Plasma and what will it do for Ethereum?

The Problem with Ethereum

Before you understand what Plasma is and what it will do for Ethereum you first need to understand what the problem with the Ethereum blockchain is.

Like all decentralized blockchains, Ethereum is suffering with slow transaction times. When you make a transaction with your ETH, you broadcast it to the network, and a miner will pick up your transaction, verify it send it to the nodes, who then send it back to the miners before they add it to the blockchain.

The problem is that many others are sending transactions at the same time, and the more popular it gets, the more transactions will be sent, and for now Ethereum can only handle up to 15 transaction a second, which is pitiful if you compare it to a centralized server like Google.

What is Plasma?

Imagine a blockchain that processes transactions, and alongside it there are many other blockchains, all part of the main chain processing transactions within the Ethereum network.

This is Plasma. Each chain that works with the main blockchain is known as a child chain, and each child chain transacts for the main chain, and communicates if and when it needs to with the main chain.

Think of it as a family tree. Each child chain can produce saplings, and they all work in the same way, each and every chain easing up transactions on the main chain, and each child chain structure communicates and interacts efficiently with the main chain.

There’s no limit to how many times you could split these chains, so when implemented the ability for Ethereum to scale literally has no ceiling.

How does Ethereum Plasma work?

If Ethereum is to realize itself as a world computer, or a platform for the decentralized web 3.0, you have to minimize trust. Meaning a child chain must be as trustless as possible, and work within its own protocol, but one that is also aligned to work within the Ethereum protocol.

Every child chain is basically a smart contract that can be customized to complete different tasks. They can all run independently, and every company can run their own child chain if necessary.

It becomes possible then that company can run their own chain as a private chain. Only hashes from the child chain would be submitted to the main chain, meaning it would free up a lot of data transaction, and ultimately freeing up space for transactions on the main Ethereum chain.

What are the components of Plasma?

Plasma is basically a construction of blockchains in a blockchain. The state of each child chain is committed to the Ethereum main chain, and each chain will submit small packages of data about its state to the root chain.

A child chain can run independently, and will only need to connect with the main chain if there is something wrong. Example, if somebody tries to game the system, the transaction data will be passed to the root chain, and the bad actor will be penalized. This is known as fraud-proof.

Plasma also uses MapReduce, which spreads out the work across the blockchains and then takes the result and configures the data. MapReduce is also compatible with other on chain scaling solutions, which ultimately increases capacity on the base layer and increases security and performance.

An Example of How Plasma Will Work on Ethereum

Say you want to transfer something on a child chain. Hashes are committed on the chain and added to a local block, before being committed to the Ethereum main chain. If anyone can prove any data on the block is invalid the transfer to the main chain will be rolled back.

Ethereum scaling solutions are underway

Rather than being a system of payments, it’s better to think about Ethereum Plasma as a court system, and the main chain as the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court doesn’t need to look at every smart contract, because each court on the child chain is sufficient. However, if a malicious actor tries to game the system, the Supreme Court will intervene. Such a system facilitates high-volume, low-cost dApps.

When Will Plasma Be Released?

The exact date Plasma will be released is still unknown. It is under constant construction and many developers from different dApps are working on it, but it’s not expected to launch until at least early 2021.

It is frustrating waiting for Plasma. It’s now almost three years since it was announced, and release dates have been pushed back a few times. But perfection takes time, and it is such a complex system, and one that isn’t just an operating system, but an operating system with an underlying economy. Added with the fact it is decentralized, it is obvious it will take longer than standard protocol upgrades.

Plasma is a blockchain of blockchains. All working for the common good under the leadership of the main chain. It allows for incredible scale, so when it finally launches, it will help Ethereum become the platform for the web 3.0.

Author: Tommy Limpitlaw

When I came up with Ethereum, my first first thought was, 'Okay, this thing is too good to be true.' As it turned out, the core Ethereum idea was good - fundamentally, completely sound

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