Every few years, the internet experience is upgraded with new standards that provide better performance, resulting in a greater capacity for new applications and broader technology usage. However, base-layer tech adoption can be a slow and strenuous process. Similarly, blockchain technology’s progress has also faced its fair share of sluggish advancements.
For instance, the introduction of IPv6 in 1998 offered better routing than IPv4 without packet fragmentation, but it required manufacturers to roll out new compatible devices like routers and WiFi chips. This process took years for mass adoption, and the same can be said for blockchain technology.
Mustafa Al-Bassam, co-founder of Celestia Labs, likens the inefficient progression of blockchain technology to the implementation of HTTPS on the Empire podcast. He argues that the blockchain field has been stuck in a “monolithic layer-1 loop,” where each time incremental improvements are made to the execution environment, a new layer-1 is launched.
Commencing with Ethereum in 2015, this cycle of layer-1 innovation has been continuous, with protocols such as EOS, Cardano, Solana, Avalanche, Sui, and Aptos following suit. Al-Bassam questions the sustainability of this cycle and proposes an alternative solution.
He is skeptical of the consistent introduction of new layer-1s that offer incremental improvements, especially since they tend to replicate applications from their predecessors. Al-Bassam posits that Ethereum’s “rollup-centric roadmap” might not be sustainable in providing scalability.
Instead, he suggests the creation of rollups that don’t necessitate layer-1 reconfigurations. Rollups can be built on top of networks and iterated without the need for tedious base layer rebuilds.
Preston Evans, Sovereign Labs’ chief scientist, provides his perspective on the current state of monolithic blockchain development. He believes that the infrastructure being built will allow everyone to have a decentralized computer at home, though it’s unclear what users will do with these new machines.
In conclusion, the continuous flow of new layer-1s in the blockchain field raises concerns about sustainability. Creating rollups that build upon networks could be a potential way forward, without necessitating constant base layer modifications. This approach opens up the possibility for more exciting use cases and potentially faster mass adoption of blockchain technology. However, only time will tell if this strategy will be a more viable alternative to the existing layer-1 innovation cycle.