Launching a bunch of layer-2’s is not a viable solution to blockchain scaling, says Solana’s Yakovenko

Asynchronous solutions create information asymmetry and break composability, Yakovenko says


Anatoli Styf/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks


Polygon, Arbitrum, Optimism, Base…the list of layer-2 solutions goes on — and seems to be getting longer.

Solana co-founder, Anatoly Yakovenko, believes that most of the layer-2 chains emerging, primarily on Ethereum, won’t serve as sustainable scaling solutions in the long term.

“They fragment the user base. So the UX becomes very, very complicated.”

On the Lightspeed podcast (Spotify/Apple), Yakovenko gives an example from his experience working in Web2 company, Dropbox. “We had one giant MySQL database for all the folders because as soon as you start fragmenting them, [it] becomes very hard to create links between different users of different folders.”

“Tracking consistency between two different databases is a major pain in the ass. You would have to synchronize everything through the [layer-1].”

The fragmentation, at a large enough scale, causes “massive composability” and user experience problems, according to Yakovenko. “You have to re-sync through the [layer-1] and that’s going to create the same kind of cost.”

“That’s very, very difficult to deal with,” he says.

Yakovenko uses the example of NFTs to illustrate the problem. “You can’t have an NFT in every rollup. It actually can only be bridged to one,” he says. “If I want a specific NFT, the marketplace where it’s sold is the marketplace that I need to buy in — and it can only exist in one of those.”

By creating different states, layer-2s break up the composability of marketplaces for a particular NFT, Yakoveko explains. “That’s the fundamental challenge with [layer-2s].”

It’s an unavoidable trade-off, he says. “You get a performance benefit because you create this single global lock around a state and then you can work on it asynchronously from everything else, but you’re creating a very hard composability challenge.”

What about just one layer-2?

Theoretically, a singular layer-2 solution, rather than the current variety that exists in the Ethereum ecosystem, would simplify the composability problem, Yakovenko says. 

“You take [Solana Virtual Machine] that runs as many things in parallel as it can,” he explains. “It always increases hardware capacity to meet the demand.” 

“Then, you take all the data and you dump it into danksharding” which ideally would be, he says, the “perfect implementation of a [data availability] layer that tries to maximize its [data availability] system.”

“So you have one [layer-2], one bandwidth-optimized system. That’s basically what Solana is,” he chuckles. “Solana itself can asynchronously execute all the programs, and then pick forks separately in a separate pipeline from execution of the programs.”

“All the forks are quickly picked,” he says, “but then these bigger systems can execute on the programs. You can then do batch [zero-knowledge] verification, if that’s what you need. All that stuff is all doable on Solana.”

Yakovenko notes that a “fundamental difference” persists between Solana and multi-layered chain solutions. “There’s not going to be a demand for Solana to do danksharding because that really breaks that idea of information synchrony across the world.”

“I don’t want to split the data availability,” he says. “Even though you might be able to get an improvement in bandwidth there, it actually does still have a trade-off.”

Yakovenko believes in the necessity of a system that actively avoids asynchronous solutions. “When I submit one bit here,” he says, “it’s equally observed in Singapore and Brazil, everywhere in the world, as fast as physics allow, because that actually creates value for the world.”

The goal, Yakovenko explains, is to minimize “information asymmetry between any two players.”

“It allows for fair markets to exist,” he says. “That’s the one core use-case that you really can’t optimize away with all these other systems.”

“The idea of having a single rollup that can take up all of the bandwidth of the data availability layer, whether it’s Solana or Celestia or Ethereum,” he says, “that idea is something that I think a lot of the engineers agree is probably the more efficient design.”

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