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What is Polygon (MATIC) Network?

Polygon is a layer 2 scaling solution for Ethereum.

May 24, 2023

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Polygon is a layer 2 scaling solution for Ethereum.

What is a layer 2? (I’ll answer it soon). Meanwhile, It provides a framework for building and connecting multiple parallel chains to Ethereum. What kind of framework? and how does allowing multiple chains solve the scalability issue? Polygon is a sidechain infrastructure that operates alongside the Ethereum mainnet. Wait, what is a sidechain?

A sidechain is an independent blockchain that operates alongside the main blockchain (Ethereum Mainnet). It has its own set of rules and features but is still connected to the main chain, enabling assets and data to be moved between the two chains.

Let’s dive deep into

How sidechain works:

  • Sidechain creation: First, Polygon allows developers to create their own side chains or use existing ones within the network. These side-chains as mentioned are compatible with Ethereum.
  • Asset Transfer: How will a user use this sidechain? Users can lock their assets, such as Ether (ETH) or any ERC-20 tokens, on the Ethereum mainnet and then move them to a specific sidechain. The process is often referred to as “bridging”. Why lock? By locking the assets on the mainnet, users ensure that they cannot be spent or transferred on Ethereum while they are being utilized on the sidechain.
  • Sidechain Operations: Once the assets are bridged, users can perform transactions, execute smart contracts, and interact with dApps within that specific sidechain.
  • In simple terms, let’s assume you have to go from city A to city B, and there is only one road (ETH mainnet). Since there is only one road there is a huge traffic. It will take a lot of time and patience for us to reach B. Is there any other option? Yes, take a different road that a few of us are aware of (Sidechain). Since a few people know about that road, you’ll reach B faster.)

    Note: This is an overly simplified way to explain a sidechain.
  • Security and Consensus: While the sidechain operates independently, it still leverages the security of the Ethereum mainnet. This is achieved through a technique called “checkpoint”. Periodically, the state of the sidechain is recorded on the Ethereum mainnet, creating a checkpoint that ensures the integrity of the sidechain’s transactions and prevents malicious activities.
  • Interoperability: Sidechains within the Polygon network can communicate and transfer assets with each other. Additionally, users can bridge their assets back to the Ethereum mainnet whenever they choose to do so.

How does the Sidechain help in Scalability?

  • Parallel Processing: By offloading a significant portion of the network’s transaction load to sidechain, the main blockchain (Ethereum Mainnet) is relieved of congestion, allowing for increased scalability. Sidechains can handle a high volume of transactions independently, operating with their own consensus mechanisms and processing capacity.
  • Consider consensus mechanisms as a solution to a problem. There can be more than one solution for a problem. Like in DSA (Data structure and Algorithms) we can have a solution that runs way faster than others and achieve the same result. If sidechain can make use of fast algorithms they can validate the same transaction but at faster execution speed.

  • Faster Transaction Confirmation: Sidechain typically has faster block confirmation times compared to the main blockchain. Users experience reduced waiting times, enabling a more efficient and responsive user experience
  • Lower Transaction Fees: Since side-chains operate independently, they can optimize their fee structure and consensus mechanism to achieve cost-effective transactions.
  • Enhanced Scalability Options: With sidechains, the overall capacity of the blockchain network is expanded. Developers have the flexibility to create side-chains that are specifically optimized for certain use cases or transaction types. This specialization allows for targeted scalability improvements.
  • (For e.g., a sidechain can be designed to handle high-frequency trading, gaming transaction, or microtransactions efficiently)

Since the transactions on Polygon’s side-chains are recorded on the Ethereum Mainnet, the bottleneck remains the same. It’s important to understand that the scalability improvements offered by Polygon’s side-chains can still have a significant impact. Here’s why:

  • Aggregated Transactions: Sidechains on Polygon can handle a large number of transactions before submitting a summarized version of those transactions to the Ethereum Mainnet.
  • Instead of each individual transaction being recorded on Ethereum, sidechains can aggregate multiple transactions into a single transaction or a smaller set of transactions. This reduces the load on the Ethereum network.

  • Reduced Transaction Cost: because the transactions are bundled and summarized.
  • Layered Scaling: Polygon’s approach can be seen as a layered scaling solution. The Ethereum mainnet acts as the foundation layer, providing security and decentralization, while Polygon’s side-chains serve as a secondary layer that optimizes scalability and efficiency (That is why Layer2). This layered approach allows for a balance between security and scalability, leveraging the strength of both layers.

Plasma

Plasma is a layer 2 scaling solution that enables faster and more scalable transactions on blockchain networks. It was proposed by Vitalik Buterin, the co-founder of Ethereum, and Joseph Poon in 2017.Here’s how Plasma works:

  1. Parent Chain and Child Chains: In the Plasma framework, there is a parent chain (usually the main blockchain) and multiple child chains or plasma chains. The parent chain acts as the security layer, ensuring the finality and integrity of the child chain transactions.
  2. Merkle Tree and Commitments: Each child chain in Plasma maintains its own set of transactions, which are stored in a Merkle tree structure. Instead of including all the transaction details on the parent chain, only a summary or commitment of the child chain transactions is periodically submitted to the parent chain. This commitment is called a “block header”.
  3. Fraud Proofs: Users on the child chain can challenge invalid transactions or any fraudulent behavior by submitting proofs to the parent chain.
  4. Exit Mechanism: Plasma allows users to “exit” the child chain and move their funds back to the parent chain.

Polygon currently offers a variety of layer 2 scaling solutions beyond Plasma. These include solutions like Optimistic Rollups, zkRollups, and other techniques for scaling and enhancing the performance of Ethereum

It’s important to note that while Plasma offers scalability benefits, it also introduces certain trade-offs. For instance, the reliance on fraud proofs and the need for users to exit the child chain within a defined period can introduce complexities and potential risks.

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