Plasma is an ongoing development of the Ethereum second-layer scaling solutions. After state channels, Plasma will be the second completely deployed scaling solution on the Ethereum mainnet.
What is Plasma?
Plasma is a structure that facilitates the development of child blockchains using the main Ethereum as an arbitration and trust layer. Plasma is primarily being created to meet the demand for specific uses cases that are unavailable on the current Ethereum network.
Understanding Child Chains
The underlying goal of both plasma and state channels is the same, where they try to divert as much transaction bloat off away from the main Ethereum chain as possible.
In case of disagreements, the child chain state update can be reverted to the Ethereum network. The same applied to cases if a user wants to pause transacting on the child blockchains.
On the features front, child blockchains can digest on varying complexity. They are given the ability to have their consensus algorithms, their block sizes, and confirmation times. Their design is relatively flexible for each application. Moreover, some developers are researching the possibilities of child chains within a child chain, and so on.
How secure is Plasma?
As mentioned, Plasma maximizes the use of the Ethereum network as an arbitration layer. In suspect of a malicious part, users can always regress to the main Ethereum chain as a trusted source.
Another feature is that the main Ethereum blockchain and the child chains are connected via ‘root contracts.’ Root contacts are simply smart contracts on the Ethereum network containing the rules guiding each child chain.
Root Contracts and its Necessity
The most important component in the plasma network is the existence of root contracts. Root contracts as a bridge allow users to seamlessly move between the main Ethereum chain and the child chains. As a matter of fact, all assets must be created through the main Ethereum.
Thus, no malicious activity on the child chain can ever be reverted to the main Ethereum chain. For instance, if a user moves some crypto-collectible tokens onto a child chain, they can anytime withdraw from the child chain and the asset on the main chain, only if the user proves they didn’t spend them.
Drawbacks of Plasma
The only considerable drawback of Plasma is the duration taken for the withdrawal of funds. Plasma users must wait for a predetermined arbitration window that typically lasts 7-14 days, while state channel users can instantly withdraw their assets.
The growing congestion in the Ethereum network leads to the creation of frameworks such as state channels and Plasma, which drastically eased the overcrowding in the network. Plasma will allow users to transact with lower fees and higher throughput and help developers scale their dApps. This, hence, can be an excellent opportunity for Ethereum to reach the masses.
Furthermore, the combination of plasma and state channels can help produce a leveraged product. In fact, the developers are already working on building state channels within the child chains. With this implementation, users will incur significantly less or no fee while transacting in the network. Cheers!