Social Scalability - The Daily Gwei #332

It matters more than you think.


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I write and talk about Ethereum scaling a lot these days and I’m sure the reasons for this are pretty obvious by now. Though, Ethereum scaling is a broad topic - it includes layer 1, layer 2, sidechains and more on the technical side but also has a “social scalability” aspect to it that I believe is just as important.

“Social scalability” is not something that gets talked about nearly enough in this ecosystem even though I believe it’s a critical aspect of crypto systems. Without a strong and scalable social layer, crypto-networks/ecosystems tend to fall apart and/or get bogged down by constant infighting over trivial topics. Within Ethereum, there is currently a bit of elitism around layer 2’s (rollups) vs sidechains which has led to some drama within the community. Though, as Scott alludes to above, to fend off competition and allow for the onboarding of new users (who don’t want to pay $50-$100 for a Uniswap trade), we need to embrace all scalability solutions - layer 2 or otherwise.

I think the most obvious example of this elitism and infighting has been around Polygon (a project of which I’m an advisor to - just for disclosure here). Back in May I put together my thoughts on Polygon in a tweet thread and more specifically, their PoS chain and how while it technically isn’t a ‘layer 2’ protocol, it should still be thought of as an Ethereum scaling solution for a number of other reasons. The main reason was around this “social scalability” that I mentioned above and the crux of my tweet thread was that the Polygon team and ecosystem are socially and politically aligned with Ethereum so even if the PoS chain isn’t a layer 2, we should still view it as something like an “allied nation” to Ethereum. On top of this, the Polygon team are actually building all types of other products that will help Ethereum scale - including their own layer 2 rollups such as Polygon Hermez.

The final thing to mention here is that every scaling solution has trade-offs - from additional trust assumptions (upgradable contracts) to centralized bridges (funds can be stolen) to centralized sequencers (can censor/front-run transactions). Just because a certain solution can be secure and decentralized in theory, doesn’t mean that an implementation of it will reflect that. For example, both Arbitrum and Optimism’s layer 2 networks are currently centralized because their development teams are the only ones who are able to run sequencers and the contracts that run the networks are upgradable. The L2Beat website actually has an amazing ‘Risks’ table that shows the various risks of each layer 2 that’s currently live on Ethereum (and if you click into each project, you can learn more about each risk).

I’ve said it plenty of times before but scaling Ethereum is not going to happen overnight - it’s a marathon that will take several years and will probably continue into perpetuity as we onboard more users throughout the decades. It is in the Ethereum ecosystems best interest to embrace all scaling solutions whether they be technically scalable or socially scalable because if we don’t, our chances of long-term success may be significantly diminished.

So let’s stop the elitism & infighting and instead - let’s build!

Have a great weekend everyone,
Anthony Sassano


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