Scaling 101 - Plasma
By Block Society
Plasma is a second layer scaling update that is proposed to be implemented on Ethereum’s blockchain. It uses ‘child’, ‘parent’ and ‘root chains’ to allow for global financial market levels of scaling. There is much confusion over what Plasma is and how it could operate in the market. Plasma development has slowed as of late and is becoming less fashionable in the crypto world to talk about. Today we will do a small dive into plasma and see what exactly it is.
Think of a tree where the ‘root chain’ is the trunk of the tree. Currently all that we know about the tree is this trunk. If you travel up the trunk you begin to see branches form. ‘Parent’ chains are the branches that connect into the trunk. Travel down one branch and you might find twigs popping up out of the branches. ‘Child’ chains are the twigs join-in at the branches. For a twig to join into a branch or a branch to join into the trunk, all that needs to take place is a contract that must be fulfilled. If there are disputes about how the branch chain is growing (Transaction disputes) there are layers of governing or judicial authority that each level has. The closer to the root, the more arbitration power that chain has. For example, If there is a dispute about transaction data on a ‘child’ chain, it rises up to the ‘parent’ chain to be settled.
Parent and Child chains can be designed in ways that make them more efficient or more secure depending on their intended use-case. For example, they can be designed with large blocks and small signatures so they are quickly signed into the Ethereum chain or they can use specific security protocols baked into their smart contracts to make them more secure.
There is a working version of Plasma on the market right now, Plasma Cash. It only works, however, with Non-Fungible Tokens, NFTs (Cryptokitties is an example of an NFT). NFTs are not a very useful method of transaction for most of today’s transactions. Non-fungibility means that the token is unique, not an asset that is treated the same as other assets. For all intents and purposes, Bitcoin is fungible, cash is fungible, 1 BTC = 1 BTC, $1 = $1. NFTs don’t have this 1 to 1 property. Causing inefficiency and a lack of breadth in use cases.
It may look like a long road ahead for Plasma, but there are many projects being built that are trying to crack it’s issues. OmiseGo is one of the major contributing projects to Plasma development. Follow them to see the latest breakthroughs.