Remaining Optimistic - The Daily Gwei #212

We may have hit a bump in the road but we're still on track.

In my layer 2 overview piece yesterday I noted that I believed that Optimism would delay their open mainnet launch that was originally promised for March until April. Well unfortunately they announced yesterday that they have delayed it for even longer than that until sometime in July of this year.

I want to start off by saying that I completely sympathize with this incredibly difficult decision that the Optimism team has had to make. There’s nothing worse than putting out a public release window for your extremely hyped up product only to have to delay it 3 months (which is effectively an eternity in crypto). I did want to note though that what Optimism delayed was the release of their public mainnet - that is, the implementation of their tech that would allow anyone to build on it permissionlessly. The Optimism that is live on the Ethereum mainnet today is centralized and only smart contracts that have been whitelisted by the Optimism team are able to be deployed to the network.

So given these facts, what can we expect in the lead up to the public mainnet release in July? Well, if we read their announcement post carefully, we can probably expect quite a lot. I still think we’ll see Uniswap deployed to layer 2 in May with v3 as one of the whitelisted projects, Synthetix will keep continuing through their phased rollout on Optimism and I’m sure we’ll see some of the other dozen projects that Optimism has in the pipeline go live as well. This may actually work out really well for Optimism because by the time they have a public mainnet there will hopefully already be a bustling layer 2 ecosystem for new projects to tap into.

Of course, Optimism isn’t the only layer 2 scaling solution in town and I talked about a lot of the other solutions in yesterday’s piece so I won’t rehash them here. Though what I will say is that this delay is probably going to cost Optimism some market-share given the other similar solutions (especially Arbitrum) seem to be further along in their roadmap to a public mainnet launch. The rat race really is now on for different layer 2 ecosystems to capture as much application market-share as they possibly can which will of course lead to some short to medium term fragmentation. I think this is inevitable but with bridging solutions such as Connext and Hop Protocol I believe that it won’t be a problem for very long.

I think it’s always good to keep in mind that building this technology is hard because it’s all based on bleeding edge research. Another thing to note is that this is all done out in the open - could you imagine if the public had complete transparency of the entire development cycle for the original Apple iPhone? Think about how many times it was iterated on, how many times features were cut, how many delays there were - now apply full transparency to that and imagine how much pressure that would’ve put on the builders. Now, I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses for Optimism but I strongly believe that context is always important in these situations and I also believe that we should remember that there are real humans building this technology.

All in all, this was a sobering announcement from Optimism that will of course only further feed into the “Ethereum can’t scale” narrative that competitors like to perpetuate (even though there are plenty of layer 2 solutions live today). While this is annoying to deal with in the short-term, I don’t think it really matters in the long-term as what really matters is the actual technology and the applications that will be enabled by it. The layer 2 ecosystem on Ethereum is still brighter than ever and we really are just getting started.

Have a great weekend everyone,
Anthony Sassano

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All information presented above is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as investment advice.