A spicy salvo launched in the monolithic vs modular debate

“The whole point of a public blockchain is lost if you are not resistant for the worst-case scenarios,” Polynya says


Solana founder Anatoly Yakovenko | Montinique Monroe for Blockworks


As blockchains scale, the cost of transactions and blockspace falls. The 2022-2023 bear market has been characterized by a continuous build out of infrastructure, to lay the groundwork for future growth. 

Yet arguments about the best way to scale abound, they often fall into one of two camps.

One is “modular,” with its standard-bearers Ethereum and Cosmos. The other is “monolithic” which has come to be dominated in the crypto zeitgeist by Solana — although they prefer the term “integrated.”

An essay published Friday by pseudonymous Ethereum advocate Polynya critiquing monolithic blockchains, while not mentioning it by name, has been interpreted by many as a veiled critique of Solana.

The critique comes against a backdrop of swelling interest in the network spurred by a significant price surge in Solana’s native crypto asset (SOL), which is up 140% in the past month with a market cap approaching $25 billion​​​​.

While often praised for its high transaction speed and low fees, Solana has faced criticism in the past for network instability, including outright outages, and high hardware requirements to operate validating nodes​​.

Responding to perceived shortcomings, Anatoly Yakovenko, co-founder of Solana, has acknowledged some network flaws, but contends the Solana community has worked diligently to mitigate them.

Yakovenko views these challenges as part of the network’s growth, likening them to historical issues faced by other major networks like Ethereum and Bitcoin.

Plans include the mid-2024 launch of Firedancer, the first independent validator client software for Solana (Ethereum has 5), which is expected to increase throughput to as much as a million transactions per second (TPS) in the future.

Yakovenko, responding to Polynya’s specific critique, argued the natural growth in computing power coupled with falling costs as hardware becomes commoditized will handle Solana’s needs with aplomb.

Loading Tweet..

Polynya’s essay also advocates for advanced technologies like validity proofs and data availability sampling to address scaling demands, predicting “every single monolithic blockchain seeking scale will upgrade to tech like validity proofs and data availability sampling or be risk [obsolescence].”

Solana developer Mert Mumtaz, CEO at Helius and co-host of Blockworks’ Lightspeed podcast, responded that Solana could embrace both vertical and horizontal scaling.

Loading Tweet..

Polynya further lamented the crypto industry’s disproportionate focus on infrastructure over user onboarding  — and a dearth of applications with product-market fit — which Mumtaz derided as the pot calling the kettle black.

Loading Tweet..

In response to criticism, Polynya published an addendum post on Sunday in which they acknowledge the tone of the original essay was a bit harsh, but noted “content only gets attention in crypto if it’s provocative.”

Monolithic chains that integrate modular components, such as validity proofs and data availability sampling, would be a welcome change, Polynya argues, suggesting they would no longer be “monolithic” because “per my definition you no longer need all nodes to naïvely reprocess all transactions to verify integrity.”


Ultimately, this dispute revolves around the question of what is the modus operandi of using a blockchain?

“The whole point of a public blockchain is lost if you are not resistant for the worst-case scenarios,” Polynya wrote. “[10,000 nodes] is not enough, and we should strive to have 100,000 nodes in different types of places across the world. We need nodes at homes, schools, government offices — in large cities, in villages, in Chile, in Papua New Guinea, and eventually in space.”

Solana currently has between 2,000 and 3,000 nodes.

“It’s perfectly fine to have a monolithic blockchain today, the technology to push past its crippling limitations did not exist 5 years ago,” Polynya concludes, with the caveat that the industry will “inevitably converge” on a design using validity proofs and data availability sampling.

“This is the only currently known way for the blockchain world to achieve our endgame of global scale, all verified on our mobile phones.”

Polynya further warns against continued “Ponzifying” of dapps. “As an industry, collectively, we must invest in consolidating our existing applications which have product-market fit, before traditional incumbents catch up and take away market share,” they said in Sunday’s denouement.

Updated, Nov. 20, 2023 at 9:52 am ET, with additional context.

Start your day with top crypto insights from David Canellis and Katherine Ross. Subscribe to the Empire newsletter.


Upcoming Events

Salt Lake City, UT

WED - FRI, OCTOBER 9 - 11, 2024

Pack your bags, anon — we’re heading west! Join us in the beautiful Salt Lake City for the third installment of Permissionless. Come for the alpha, stay for the fresh air. Permissionless III promises unforgettable panels, killer networking opportunities, and mountains […]

recent research

Screen Shot 2024-05-16 at 14.53.45.png


Loss-versus-rebalancing (LVR) is arguably Ethereum DeFi’s biggest problem, and thus reducing LVR is fundamental to the success of Ethereum. This report dives into the world of LVR. We uncover its importance for AMM designers, discuss the two major mechanism design categories and various projects developing solutions, and offer a higher level perspective on the importance of AMMs in general.


Yesterday saw Congress’ upper chamber side with the House on a measure aimed at overturning SAB 121


Oklahoma’s new crypto bill will go into effect in November of this year


The deposits hit a $20 million cap in just 45 minutes


Twelve Democratic Senators voted in favor to pass the resolution Thursday


Pump.fun is “aware” that bonding curve contracts on Pump.fun were exploited, and has since paused trading


Some investment pros are mulling crypto allocations between 1% and 10% and seeking ex-BTC exposure for interested clients