State of the ETH: Researcher Karl Floersch Gives New Plasma Primer

If sharding, Casper, and Plasma are Ethereum’s Holy Trinity when it comes to scaling, then Plasma is arguably the “Father.” Notably, though, Plasma is perhaps the least understood of these in-the-works scaling solutions. To that end, Ethereum researcher Karl Floersch has just published an insightful overview of Plasma’s minimum viable project (MVP).

Floersch: “A Quick Plasma MVP”

Floersch takes a hands-on approach in the Ethereum community, being a persistent purveyor of helpful open-source resources. On the final day of 2017, for example, the researcher caused a stir by releasing unprecedented instructions for the alpha Casper FFG testnet.

Floersch’s at it again accordingly, as he’s now published a Plasma MVP overview on YouTube (with corresponding slides) to succinctly explain “the first easily implementable full Plasma specification,” as he calls it.

At a time when little is popularly known about Plasma and when many crypto investors lambast one another with charges of being generally misinformed, Floersch’s overview and similar helpful efforts like it are much needed — not only in the Ethereum ecosystem, but in all the top cryptoverse communities.

Plasma 101

Floersch dubs Plasma “massively scalable.” Per his estimations, the MVP of the specification alone can help power the Ethereum network’s throughput to upwards of 1,000 transactions per second. He also adds that more mature versions of Plasma should be able to boost that number from 1,000 into the millions.

Since Plasma chains are derived from smart contracts on the Ethereum mainnet, PETH tokens come into play. Floersch notes that these tokens have “strong security guarantees” because 1) they can’t be double spent, 2) they can’t be withheld, and 3) they “can always be redeemed on the root chain.”

Also notable is that Plasma operators send “Plasma blocks” to the root chain to be confirmed.

As his presentation progressed, the young researcher illustrated five different pertinent scenarios, ranging from how exactly Plasma operators create blocks to how theoretical users can mitigate invalid Plasma blocks:

A collection of different Plasma scenarios that Floersch explains.

As such, Floersch spent much of the latter half of the presentation explaining how various attack vectors could be mitigated on Plasma chains.


Floersch’s Final Considerations

The researcher closed out his primer by providing some last thoughts.

He said Plasma’s trustworthiness was “established by […] Limiting possible actions” and “Imposing costs for bad behavior.”

He also concluded by saying Plasma’s great benefit is that it exponentially cuts down on the amount of information that must be stored on Ethereum’s root chain. Incoming and outcoming ether balances are the only things that Plasma stores itself.

It all sounds very interesting, of course. But there’s no question Ethereum’s top researchers will need to keep making tangible advancements toward scaling, lest they eventually succumb to the tide of promising upstart smart contract plays that are gunning for dominance themselves.

What’s your take? What do you make of Ethereum’s proposed scaling solutions? Sound off in the comments below.

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