Ethereum’s rollups are ‘gold standard’ but Plasma needs a revisit — Buterin

The early Ethereum scaling solution Plasma, according to Vitalik Buterin, was “underrated” and provided a “significant security upgrade” for chains that would otherwise be validiums. Plasma, a once-famous Ethereum layer-2 scaling solution, should be reconsidered by teams working on zero-knowledge (ZK) Ethereum Virtual Machines (EVMs), according to Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin. Plasma, which was created in 2017, redirects data and processing — with the exception of deposits, withdrawals, and Merkle roots — to an off-chain environment.

It was surpassed by optimistic and ZK-rollups, which provided lower client-side data storage costs and security attributes that “cannot be matched,” according to Buterin in a Nov. 14 X (Twitter) post. Buterin stated that while rollups remain the “gold standard,” Plasma is a “underrated design space” that should not be overlooked. “Plasma can be a significant security upgrade for chains that would otherwise be validiums,” Mr. Buterin said.

“This year, when ZK-EVMs finally come into existence, it is an excellent time to revisit this design space and devise even more effective constructions that simplify the developer experience and protect users’ funds.” Validiums, like Plasma, use ZK-proofs to validate transactions while off-chain data and computation are used. 

Buterin suggested that advances in ZK-proofs, such as validity proofs, overcome Plasma’s previous shortcomings, making it more viable as a scaling solution. Adapting Plasma for purposes other than payments was also an Achilles’ heel for Plasma before ZK-proofs became ubiquitous, Buterin admitted. Buterin anticipates that the Ethereum layer-2 ecosystem will evolve with a variety of technology options.

In addition to Plasma Cash, Plasma Cashflow and Minimum Viable Plasma, other iterations have also evolved from Plasma. The Ethereum layer-2 scaling company Polygon Labs implemented Plasma in 2019, but has since incorporated several other solutions. The movement away from Plasma was partially attributed to Plasma Group, a nonprofit research firm announcing that i would cease working on Ethereum-based scalability in January 2020.

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