It’s been awhile since I last wrote an article and it seems fitting that I begin writing again with a true winner in Matic Network. For those of you who aren’t familiar with my articles this piece is intended to get you familiar with the project, what its about, and some reasons as to why people are excited for it, so what is Matic Network?
In their words “a sidechain based scaling solution for public blockchains” which uses an adapted version of the plasma framework to accomplish those tasks. That may not mean much right now but the plasma framework is the basis for what makes this project interesting and it along with scaling is where we’ll be starting in order to get an understanding of how the Matic Network (Matic) fits into the Ethereum ecosystem.
Most people in crypto today are aware that many projects suffer from an issue known as “scalability” or difficulty handling all of the transactional volume that is processed on-chain. That volume comes from basic transactions or dApps (decentralized applications) that are executing contracts on-chain. Ethereum has been the poster child for scalability issues (for better or worse) since the “Crypto Kitties” dApp brought the blockchain to a grinding halt.
To go about fixing scaling or lack of transaction throughput for a blockchain there are two approaches which are denoted as either layer 1 or layer 2 solutions. Layer 1 solutions are comprised of changes to the main chain itself and these usually require a hard fork. An example of a layer 1 type of change is Bitcoin Cash. Then there are the layer 2 solutions which use off-chain technology or side chains in order to take some of the transactional load. An example of a layer 2 solution that many people know of for Bitcoin is Lightning Network.
Plasma is also a layer 2 solution and in fact the co-creator of Lightning helped Vitalik Buterin to design plasma framework.
Okay thats all cool but what really IS plasma? In layman's terms Plasma is a framework that developers use to create dApps that are side chains off of the Ethereum main chain. Every side chain that is created is linked back to the main Ethereum chain by a smart contract. Through this design the side chains will be able to operate at a very fast rate but also maintain security through the smart contract and its relation to the Ethereum main chain.
All of the side chains created off of the Ethereum main chain are full fledged blockchains in their own right and have their own consensus mechanisms at play. In our case, Proof-of-Stake (PoS) is used by Matic side chains for consensus. Now, because that side chain with its own operating consensus is a child chain its still bound by the rules of the parent chain and has to check in with it every so often to let it know that it’s still following all the rules. Those check ins are known as “commitments” and they are broadcasts across the entire Ethereum network of the state of the side chain.
In order to accomplish that task, since with the design I’ve described would require a check of the entire side chain and its application, plasma uses what’s known as merkle trees and merkle proofs to validate the side chain to the main one. Merkle proofs validate a small piece of data, such as a hash signature, to validate the entire file.
What we then have is an almost entirely independent blockchain that’s tethered to the main Ethereum chain that can operate at an incredible speed, still be bound by the security measures of Ethereum.
The first implementation of this framework was known as plasma minimum viable product (MVP). Plasma MVP was introduced by the creators of plasma as well as David Knott. With that implementation, the group was able to design a working side chain system that used UTXO and Proof of Authority in order to function. That was a first step only though as UTXO limits what the side chains are capable of performing.
The next implementation is MoreVP or More Viable Plasma and it’s what Matic is truly derived from. MoreVP makes changes to what’s known as the “exit priority” for side chains and it the changes made in MoreVP help to increase the speed by which the side chain can operate.
What Matic has done is devised a system that employs an Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) compatible virtual machine on each chain essentially making it so any EVM smart contract can be deployed on Matic.
Additional Plasma Framework Resources
Hackernoon intro - https://hackernoon.com/plasma-8bba7e1b1d0f
Plasma Whitepaper - https://plasma.io/plasma.pdf
Plasma MVP - https://ethresear.ch/t/minimal-viable-plasma/426
LearnPlasma MVP - https://www.learnplasma.org/en/learn/mvp.html
To continue, Matic is derived from MoreVP and the critical change between Matic and other plasma implementations is its virtual machine that’s EVM compatible. To learn more about what EVM is and how it works please see this link.
Other implementations of the plasma framework primarily had used UTXO and that restricts the side-chains to be used as payment channels. With the EVM, a Matic side chain is capable of performing anything that a smart contract can making Matic a programmable sidechain. What that means is any type of dApp can be deployed using a Matic sidechain and not absolutely crash the Ethereum chain due to high traffic. In addition, a Matic sidechain can still be used in the more traditional sense as an off-chain payment channel.
Matic already has a couple of high profile dApps being developed on it including the Decentraland (ticker: MANA) Marketplace. Other dApps include Cryptostaw which is Venmo with Ethereum and DAI, Chainbreakers, a strategy-rpg game in the Decentraland universe, and Dappos a point of sale dApp for retail. From Matic itself there is wallet with native WalletConnect support that will allow users to have a metamask-esque wallet that syncs across multiple devices. That wallet is also available on the App Store and Play Store. To learn more about the Matic Wallet please see this article from the Matic team about its launch.
Matic Chain Details
Moving back to some of the more mundane details; Matic launched its first testnet in September and was able to to achieve 7,000 TPS on a single sidechain with internal testing with the possibility of using multiple chains for horizontal scaling. Which shows that Matic can provide at least some of the speed necessary in order to begin competing with other payment processors (Visa does 45,000 TPS) and dApp load.
As I stated earlier in the article Matic makes use of Proof-of-Stake for its consensus mechanism. That however is only half of the design. Matic makes use of dual-design structure for its blockchain in order to maintain security and speed. In this design, there is a Block Producer layer and a checkpoint. The checkpoint layer makes use of PoS while the Producer layer is there to make blocks at a goal of 1 block per second. Each producer is selected by those nodes in the checkpoint layer.
From the above picture the design of how Matic will work in relation to Ethereum becomes clear. A Matic sidechain has block producers, which are selected by the checkpoint layer to crank out blocks at 1 per second. These are then checked by the checkpoint layer and committed to the Ethereum main chain. What that design gives Matic is “a high degree of decentralization by achieving finality on the main chains using the checkpoints and fraud proof mechanisms.”
Lastly, I wanted to mention that Matic is really chain agnostic meaning that while Matic is deployed to work and run on Ethereum it is capable of offering support to additional basechains. Through that support Matic would be interoperable as well as scalable since it can link several blockchains together through its system.
The last point about Matic that I wanted to cover was partnerships. Matic has had a lot of coverage recently thanks to the groups that are publicly interested in the Matic project. The main one being Coinbase.
Back on April 30th Matic announced via Twitter that the group had secured investment from Coinbase Ventures and would be integrating US Dollar Coin into the Matic sidechain. Naturally this move has led to all kinds of speculation regarding Matic being listed on Coinbase. While a Coinbase listing doesn’t seem to mean as much as it once did. Attention and investment from Coinbase is definitely a compelling reason to keep tabs on Matic.
Other partners include, MakerDAO the organization behind DAI, the Ripio Credit Network, and Coral.
As always here’s a list of helpful links that can help you learn more about Matic Network
Website - https://matic.network/
Whitepaper - https://whitepaper.matic.network
Litepaper - https://matic.network/matic-litepaper.pdf
Matic Docs (wiki) - https://docs.matic.network/
Matic FAQ - https://docs.matic.network/faq/
Once again this article is meant to serve as an introduction to Matic and the technologies that make it an interesting project. For a full overview I suggest reading this article by the Matic team.
Matic is definitely a project that will be remaining on my radar and I’d go as far to say that based on what I’ve read to write this article that it would warrant a long term investment as opposed to simply trading. It stands to solve several issues that have plagued Ethereum for a couple years now along with adding functionality to other chains in the process. Looking forward, the next milestone from the team to be on the lookout for is mainnet launch which has been stated as Q3 or early Q4 by the Matic team in the Matic FAQ.
Thank you for reading today’s article! As always follow me on here or on Twitter @thant1194 in order to stay up to date on all my articles as I release them. I am not associated with the Matic team and am not currently a holder of their token. (I’ll probably end up giving the wallet a try here in the next couple days though). Thank you again for reading. I have to return some video tapes.