Cover photo

Block Bytes #1: Understanding the Layers of this Advanced Technology

Introducing the different layers of blockchains and their respective purpose.

Blockchain technology has come a long way from its original purpose in cryptocurrencies and is now revolutionizing countless industries. Bitcoin, the pioneer of Layer 1 blockchains, wasn't even initially recognized as such. After Bitcoin, more blockchains hit the scene, gaining traction and adoption. However, even with these advancements, the fundamental structure of decentralized networks grapples with the universal challenges of decentralization, security, and scalability. This is where Layer 2s step in. They're a rising tech, based on the idea that blockchains struggle when they're asked to do too much.

To get a solid grip on blockchain technology, let's dissect its layers and delve into the intricacies of its multi-tiered architecture.

Layer 1: The Foundation of Blockchain

At the core of the blockchain ecosystem lies Layer 1, representing the fundamental protocol and the underlying blockchain network.  It encompasses the fundamental protocol and the underlying blockchain infrastructure. Bitcoin and Ethereum stand as the most prominent examples of Layer 1 blockchains. These networks boast their own native tokens and handle critical functions such as validating transactions and executing smart contracts.

However, when it comes to user experience, transaction speed and cost become pivotal considerations. Layer 1 blockchains typically entail higher costs and slower transaction speeds. This is primarily due to the fact that each transaction must undergo validation on every node within the network, a process that demands substantial resources. Additionally, the demand for transactions often surpasses the capacity of Layer 1 networks, further driving up costs.

In response to these challenges, Layer 2 blockchains were developed. They serve as an innovative solution by streamlining the transaction process, diverting certain elements away from the main blockchain. This results in a significant acceleration of transaction validation and subsequently reduces transaction costs. Layer 2 solutions achieve this by either distributing the transaction processing workload to other networks or by enhancing the base-layer network itself through code updates.

Layer 2: Scaling Solutions for Enhanced Efficiency

Recognizing the need for scalability and improved transaction throughput, Layer 2 solutions have emerged. These are protocols and technologies built on top of Layer 1 blockchains to extend the capabilities of the base layer. Layer 2 solutions enable off-chain transactions, allowing for faster and more cost-effective processing. 

 Within a Layer-2 network, transactions and smart contracts are processed on the underlying blockchain. This resolves any disputes and achieves consensus on the state of the layer-2 network, ultimately cementing it to the underlying blockchain.

Layer-2 networks are where fast execution of transactions and computations occur. Their methods for achieving high throughput may vary significantly. However, a common thread among all layer-2 environments is the requirement to furnish the base chain with some form of cryptographic and verifiable "proof" regarding the integrity of the proposed state change, either before it occurs or after the fact.

Examples of Layer 2 Solutions:

1. Lightning Network (Bitcoin): A well-known Layer 2 solution for Bitcoin, the Lightning Network enables rapid micro-transactions by creating payment channels between users.

2. Optimism (Ethereum): Optimism is a Layer 2 scaling solution for Ethereum, utilizing Optimistic Rollups to enhance scalability while retaining compatibility with existing smart contracts.

Layer 3: Application

You might be surprised, but yes, there's a Layer 3!

Layer 3 blockchains are specialized networks tailored for specific applications, built on top of existing Layer 1 blockchains such as Ethereum. These networks provide a dedicated environment for a single decentralized application, allowing it to operate independently with its own set of rules and incentives.

In essence, Layer 3 blockchains provide a crucial solution to one of the primary challenges faced by decentralized applications: scalability. By offering a dedicated environment for a single application (DApp), these networks can be tailored precisely to meet the specific requirements of that application, resulting in enhanced throughput and overall performance.

Unlike Layer 1 blockchains, which handle multiple applications simultaneously, Layer 3 networks leverage application-specific protocols and consensus mechanisms. This enables efficient processing and accelerates transaction speeds, ultimately elevating the user experience. Moreover, Layer 3 networks offer developers a broader range of capabilities, allowing for greater complexity in smart contracts and decentralized applications.

Developers have the freedom to customize the rules and protocols of their decentralized applications to meet precise requirements. This includes designing consensus mechanisms, governance models, and economic incentives that align perfectly with their application's objectives.

Additionally, Layer 3 networks facilitate seamless communication and data exchange between different decentralized applications. They establish standardized protocols and interfaces, creating a more connected and collaborative ecosystem.

Furthermore, Layer 3 networks enhance privacy and security by allowing each application to operate in isolation. Developers can implement specific privacy features and encryption mechanisms to safeguard sensitive data and prevent unauthorized access.

A tangible example of a Layer 3 solution is Orbs, a blockchain network that employs a three-tier architecture. This architecture harnesses the security of Layer 1 chains, the scalability of Layer 2 solutions, and its own dedicated smart contract deployment layer. The result is a significant enhancement of Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) compliant smart contracts, demonstrating the tangible benefits and potential of Layer 3 blockchains in addressing scalability issues and advancing blockchain technology.

Should blockchains adopt every layer? - Considerations for Layer Adoption

1. Security: Each layer introduces its own security considerations. Layer 1, being the base protocol, is critical for overall network security. Layer 2 solutions must be designed to maintain the integrity of Layer 1.

2. Interoperability: Layers must be compatible and able to communicate seamlessly. Standards for interoperability play a crucial role in the effectiveness of multi-layered blockchain systems.

3. Community Consensus: The adoption and implementation of new layers require consensus among developers, miners, and stakeholders. This ensures that changes align with the goals and values of the blockchain community.

Conclusion: Navigating the Blockchain Landscape

As we delve into the intricate layers of blockchain technology, it becomes evident that each tier plays a vital role in shaping the future of decentralized systems. Layer 1 serves as the bedrock, providing the essential infrastructure for transaction validation and smart contract execution. Its challenge lies in balancing decentralization, security, and scalability.

Layer 2 swoops in to optimize efficiency, addressing the limitations of the base layer. By streamlining transaction processing, it significantly enhances speed and reduces costs, revolutionizing user experiences. Examples like the Lightning Network and Optimism showcase the power of Layer 2 solutions in action.

Looking ahead, Layer 3 introduces a new realm of possibilities. Tailored for specific applications, these networks promise improved scalability, customization, and interoperability. The Orbs blockchain network stands as a testament to the potential of Layer 3 in enhancing smart contract functionality.

Adopting these layers comes with its considerations. Security remains paramount, with each layer introducing its unique set of challenges. Interoperability and community consensus further ensure the seamless integration and evolution of blockchain technology.

In this multi-tiered landscape, collaboration and innovation will be the driving forces propelling blockchain into a new era of efficiency, security, and accessibility. As we continue to unravel the potential of these layers, we pave the way for a more interconnected and decentralized digital future. The journey has just begun, and the possibilities are boundless.

We, from Blockchain at NTU, thank you for being part of this enlightening journey and extend a warm welcome to the enthralling universe of blockchain!

NOTE: Articles written by Blockchain at NTU ARE NOT FINANCIAL ADVICE!

Written By:
Gideon Patrick Manik
Researcher of Blockchain at NTU Club AY23/24

Social Media Links:
| Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Linkedin | Discord |
| Telegram Group | Telegram Channel |

Collect this post to permanently own it.
Blockchain at NTU logo
Subscribe to Blockchain at NTU and never miss a post.
  • Loading comments...