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Solana vs Ethereum Debate ft. Anatoly & Toghrul

By Superteam

Published on 2023-01-22

Anatoly Yakovenko and Toghrul Maharramov debate the future of blockchain scalability, exploring decentralization, economic security, and trustless bridges in this in-depth discussion.

The notes below are AI generated and may not be 100% accurate. Watch the video to be sure!

The Great Blockchain Debate: Solana vs Ethereum

In a spirited and enlightening debate, Anatoly Yakovenko, co-founder of Solana and CEO of Solana Labs, faced off against Toghrul Maharramov, a researcher at Scroll, to discuss the future of blockchain technology. Moderated by C-node, a researcher at Switchboard, this debate delved into critical topics such as decentralization, economic security, trustless bridges, and the potential for Layer 3 solutions. The conversation provided valuable insights into the differing approaches of Solana and Ethereum in tackling the challenges of blockchain scalability and security.

The Purpose of Blockchain Technology

Both Yakovenko and Maharramov agreed on the fundamental purpose of blockchain technology: to provide censorship-resistant platforms for applications and value transfer. Maharramov emphasized the importance of this technology for people living in countries with limited freedom of speech, stating:

"For people who grew up in countries and places that are not the most democratic and don't really have free speech, that's something that allows them to basically express themselves and interact with things online without some overlord dictating what they should do."

Yakovenko highlighted the power of self-custody and cryptography in empowering individuals:

"The really cool thing is you know right now maybe it's like a million people per day that actually use all these chains combined. It's a very small number of humans. Imagine a hundred million people or a billion people that are all just have the power to do this to go online."

Decentralization and Node Requirements

One of the key points of discussion was the ideal size and requirements for full nodes in a blockchain network. Yakovenko argued for a more flexible approach, stating that node size should be "as small as possible for the tasks that it's doing," but also emphasizing that capacity should not be limited to keep node size down.

Maharramov, on the other hand, advocated for a more constrained approach, suggesting that there should be a cap on hardware requirements to ensure wider accessibility:

"From my line of thinking, the requirements should be the hardware requirements should be as low as possible. So essentially as many people as possible should have the ability to validate the chain fully."

This difference in philosophy highlights the ongoing debate in the blockchain community about the trade-offs between scalability and decentralization.

The Role of Economic Security

The debate touched on the concept of economic security in blockchain networks. Yakovenko argued that economic security is somewhat of a false belief, emphasizing instead the importance of valid state transitions accepted by full nodes:

"There's only valid state transitions like are accepted by full notes. So your full note like an example that always give because it's much simpler to understand is you have circle which is the issue your USDC and you have your USDC that you own and the private key that you've stored securely in cold storage even if a hundred percent of the network is corrupt or the underlying token that secures the network went to zero there's nothing an attacker can do to convince circle to transfer your USDC out your dollars out without your signature."

Maharramov, while agreeing to some extent, pointed out the relevance of economic security for censorship resistance and light client security:

"I think economic security is relevant for censorship resistance. So the more validators you have staking the more value you have state that the harder it is for an attacker to actually censor blocks."

The Challenge of Trustless Bridges

Both participants agreed on the inherent challenges in creating truly trustless bridges between blockchains. Yakovenko explained the fundamental issue:

"Let's say I bridge them no matter what that bridge is I deposit my dollars into this bridge and then based on some scheme whether it's economic economic we secure with NPC and a whole bunch of really cool tech I get a wrapped asset out and I hold that thing that entire system that did the conversion if that thing is corrupt they can literally take my dollars send them to circle and get a wire out and now my wrapped asset is worthless because there's no way I can I can get my dollars out."

Maharramov concurred, adding that while bridges can be trust-minimized, they cannot be completely trustless:

"There is no way to interact with a blockchain without having any trust assumptions whatsoever. But how I define trustlessness in the context of blockchains is essentially if you run a full node that's a trustless interaction with with with the chain anything light clients anything added on top of it is already not trustless because you have additional trust assumptions."

The Potential of Validiums

The conversation shifted to the topic of Validiums, a type of Layer 2 scaling solution. Maharramov explained that Validiums could be suitable for certain use cases, particularly in gaming applications where full security guarantees might not be necessary:

"I think there are certain use cases for example and a lot of gaming applications, etc. You just don't need the full security. It's not required and assuming that the committee that stores the data is decentralized enough. I think it's a perfectly fine solution."

However, he cautioned against using Validiums for high-value applications handling billions of dollars. Yakovenko questioned the necessity of blockchain technology for such use cases if they don't require full security guarantees.

The Need for Layer 3 Solutions

The debate also touched on the potential need for Layer 3 solutions in blockchain ecosystems. Maharramov argued that Layer 3s are likely inevitable, not necessarily due to throughput limitations, but for application-specific optimizations:

"L3s are inevitable not because of the fruit but I think for but for now should be more than enough that the other all of should be able to handle it but more for application specific specific things so for example if you're running an NFT base game you don't need the composability and it will be too expensive to settle directly on Ethereum."

Yakovenko, however, emphasized the importance of understanding the upper limits of throughput requirements:

"You need to put an upper limit unlike what the expected throughput is or you're gonna design something in this the mark you're not gonna design for the right thing like Google and Google does about like 80 to 100 thousand searches per second they're not investing and building a system that does 10 million searches per second because that's just not what the market needs."

The Future of App-Specific Chains

The discussion concluded with thoughts on whether applications should launch their own chains. Yakovenko predicted a shift between apps launching their own chains and some becoming generic smart contract platforms:

"It's gonna bisac but I think any like the the chains that are like become smart contract platforms are gonna run into the exact same scalability challenges that every like everyone is running into and then they're gonna have to make some hard choices whether they go the ethereum route or the salamara or go the binary and find a smart chain route just crank up the settings and let 50 of the nodes never be in sync because they just can't catch up."

Maharramov suggested that the need for app-specific chains depends on the requirements for synchronous composability:

"If you need synchronous composability as an application you would unrun or launch an app chain because even if let's say you launch it in a form of a app specific roll up the composability is in every case is going to be asynchronous."

Solana's Approach to Scalability

Throughout the debate, Yakovenko consistently emphasized Solana's approach to scalability, which focuses on maximizing the amount of useful information synchronized across the network while minimizing hardware costs. He argued that this approach eliminates the need for Layer 2 solutions on Solana:

"We need all we need fee markets to work. Otherwise that whole premise falls apart. So they have there I don't see any reason why they wouldn't work like any engineering reason and in that system you don't need all twos from a like an engineering perspective unless you have you're building a market that doesn't actually care about global synchronization."

This philosophy stands in contrast to Ethereum's approach, which sets an upper limit on hardware costs and then works around that constraint through Layer 2 solutions.

Ethereum's Scaling Roadmap

Maharramov provided insights into Ethereum's scaling roadmap, discussing the role of roll-ups, sharding, and potential Layer 3 solutions. He explained how Ethereum aims to maintain decentralization while increasing scalability:

"For the roll-ups even though we can increase the hardware requirements for them relative to the L1 you would still need to keep them at a certain level you can't just say yeah, just run a bunch of super computers and call it a day."

This approach reflects Ethereum's commitment to maintaining accessibility for validators and full node operators.

The Importance of Local Fee Markets

Both participants agreed on the importance of local fee markets for blockchain scalability. Maharramov praised the concept:

"From my perspective, I really like the idea of local fee markets. I think I think it's a great thing to have regardless of whether you have roll-ups or gone and they should work I see no reason why they shouldn't work."

However, he expressed some reservations about the user experience implications of such systems.

Challenges in Blockchain Gaming

The debate touched on the challenges of implementing blockchain technology in gaming. Both participants acknowledged that many current blockchain games could likely run on traditional databases. Yakovenko pointed out:

"If it's a game that doesn't trans doesn't have the digital user own digital items like it can run on a database. It is really not a web3 game at that point."

Maharramov suggested that there might be niche use cases for blockchain in gaming, such as creating provable historical records or achievements, but questioned the broader value proposition.

The Role of Cryptography in Blockchain

Yakovenko emphasized the revolutionary aspect of blockchain technology in making cryptography accessible to consumers:

"Even like the going beyond self custody. Just the idea that like an individual now has very consumer grade cryptography that can sign signatures and they can transmit them it was really really hard to do before Bitcoin."

This democratization of cryptography enables new forms of coordination and value transfer that were previously impossible or impractical.

The Importance of Censorship Resistance

Both participants stressed the importance of censorship resistance in blockchain systems. Maharramov highlighted recent events to underscore this point:

"With the recent or not a cast situation it demonstrates how how much censorship resistance is important and how we can essentially be completely disinterminated from a ruling over a single country or a single group of people that are powerful."

This emphasis on censorship resistance underscores one of the fundamental value propositions of blockchain technology.

The Challenge of Secure Key Management

The debate touched on the challenges of secure key management in blockchain systems, particularly for validators. Yakovenko pointed out:

"Every voting system has to have a hot key for voting not hot keys responding to automatic requests from packets from the internet and the game or use a ledger to vote every time you need to vote for a block you need to sign a ledger turns action like have a human in the loop or something like that. That just doesn't work."

This highlights the ongoing tension between security and practicality in blockchain consensus mechanisms.

The Role of Multiple Clients

Both participants acknowledged the importance of having multiple client implementations for blockchain networks. Yakovenko praised Ethereum's approach in this regard:

"A lot of the cool stuff that Ethereum folks have done in the early days and like to combat this is like building multiple clients stuff like that so something that we're focused on as well with fire dance here."

This diversity of clients helps to increase the overall security and resilience of the network.

The Potential of Zero-Knowledge Proofs

While not a central focus of the debate, both participants expressed excitement about the potential of zero-knowledge proofs in blockchain technology. Yakovenko described them as "magic," highlighting their potential to open new possibilities in blockchain applications.

The Importance of Practical Security Measures

Throughout the debate, both participants emphasized the importance of practical security measures over theoretical guarantees. Yakovenko pointed out:

"The very likely attacks in areas the cost to acquire the tokens are free because you have like a remote code execution in the software you have some misconfig you know like somebody makes it very easy to launch nodes on AWS and there's that thing that's like a fuck right like and then you have like these like very very dumb easy scalable human things that seem great that have a you know a misconfiguration and like that's the attack vector."

This highlights the need for blockchain projects to focus on real-world security challenges rather than just theoretical models.

The Future of Blockchain Scalability

While Solana and Ethereum take different approaches to scalability, both Yakovenko and Maharramov agreed that improving blockchain scalability remains a critical challenge for the industry. The debate highlighted the ongoing tension between maximizing throughput and maintaining decentralization, with each project making different trade-offs to achieve their goals.

As the blockchain industry continues to evolve, it's clear that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to scalability. The approaches taken by Solana and Ethereum represent different philosophies in addressing this challenge, each with its own strengths and trade-offs. The ongoing development and competition between these approaches will likely drive innovation in the blockchain space, ultimately benefiting users and developers alike.

In conclusion, this debate between Anatoly Yakovenko and Toghrul Maharramov provided valuable insights into the current state of blockchain technology and the challenges that lie ahead. As the industry continues to mature, the ideas and approaches discussed in this debate will undoubtedly play a crucial role in shaping the future of decentralized systems.

Facts + Figures

  • Solana focuses on maximizing the amount of useful information synchronized across the network while minimizing hardware costs.
  • Ethereum's approach sets an upper limit on hardware costs and works around that constraint through Layer 2 solutions.
  • Both Solana and Ethereum rely on at least one honest node for security.
  • Economic security is relevant for censorship resistance and light client security in blockchain networks.
  • Truly trustless bridges between blockchains are currently impossible to achieve.
  • Validiums could be suitable for certain use cases, particularly in gaming applications where full security guarantees might not be necessary.
  • Layer 3 solutions are seen as inevitable by some, not necessarily due to throughput limitations, but for application-specific optimizations.
  • Google processes about 80 to 100 thousand searches per second, which provides a reference point for blockchain throughput requirements.
  • Local fee markets are seen as important for blockchain scalability by both Solana and Ethereum researchers.
  • Many current blockchain games could likely run on traditional databases, questioning the need for blockchain in some gaming applications.
  • Multiple client implementations are important for increasing the overall security and resilience of blockchain networks.
  • Zero-knowledge proofs are seen as a promising technology with the potential to open new possibilities in blockchain applications.
  • Practical security measures are emphasized over theoretical guarantees in blockchain security.
  • The blockchain industry is still working on improving scalability while maintaining decentralization.

Questions Answered

What is the main difference between Solana's and Ethereum's approach to scalability?

Solana focuses on maximizing the amount of useful information synchronized across the network while minimizing hardware costs. This approach eliminates the need for Layer 2 solutions on Solana. In contrast, Ethereum sets an upper limit on hardware costs and then works around that constraint through Layer 2 solutions like roll-ups and sharding. This fundamental difference in philosophy leads to distinct trade-offs in terms of scalability, decentralization, and network design.

Are truly trustless bridges between blockchains possible?

According to both Anatoly Yakovenko and Toghrul Maharramov, truly trustless bridges between blockchains are currently impossible to achieve. While bridges can be trust-minimized, they always introduce some level of additional trust assumptions compared to interacting directly with a blockchain through a full node. The core issue is that bridged assets rely on the security and integrity of the bridge mechanism itself, which can potentially be compromised.

What is economic security in blockchain networks?

Economic security in blockchain networks refers to the financial incentives and disincentives that help maintain the network's integrity and resistance to attacks. While Yakovenko argued that economic security is somewhat of a false belief, Maharramov pointed out its relevance for censorship resistance and light client security. Economic security is typically achieved through mechanisms like staking in proof-of-stake systems, where validators have a financial stake in the network's proper functioning.

Why are local fee markets important for blockchain scalability?

Local fee markets are seen as important for blockchain scalability because they allow for more efficient allocation of network resources. By implementing localized fee structures, blockchains can better manage congestion and prioritize transactions based on their urgency and value. Both Solana and Ethereum researchers agree on the importance of local fee markets, although there are concerns about the potential complexity in user experience that such systems might introduce.

What role do zero-knowledge proofs play in blockchain technology?

Zero-knowledge proofs are seen as a promising technology with the potential to significantly enhance blockchain capabilities. They allow for the verification of information without revealing the underlying data, which can be useful for privacy-preserving transactions, scalable computation, and more efficient data storage. Both Yakovenko and Maharramov expressed excitement about the potential of zero-knowledge proofs to open new possibilities in blockchain applications.

Are Layer 3 solutions necessary for blockchain scalability?

The necessity of Layer 3 solutions is debated. Maharramov argued that Layer 3s are likely inevitable, not necessarily due to throughput limitations, but for application-specific optimizations. These could be particularly useful for applications that don't require full composability with the main chain. Yakovenko, however, emphasized the importance of understanding the upper limits of throughput requirements before designing such systems, suggesting that Layer 2 solutions might be sufficient for most use cases.

How important is censorship resistance in blockchain systems?

Censorship resistance is considered a fundamental value proposition of blockchain technology. Both participants stressed its importance, particularly for individuals living in countries with limited freedom of speech. Blockchain systems aim to provide platforms where users can interact and transact without the risk of interference from centralized authorities, making censorship resistance a critical feature in the design of these systems.

What are the main challenges in implementing blockchain technology in gaming?

The main challenges in implementing blockchain technology in gaming include questions of necessity, scalability, and user experience. Many current blockchain games could likely run on traditional databases, raising questions about the value proposition of blockchain in gaming. Additionally, the need for synchronous composability and the management of digital assets owned by users present unique challenges. While there may be niche use cases for blockchain in gaming, such as creating provable historical records or achievements, the broader value proposition remains debated.

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