Crypto 101: EVM Chains and Ethereum Layer-2

Show Notes

Blake: Welcome back to the show everyone, we are back after a little hiatus, but we thought we'd start one off with a bit of a deep dive into what Andreas knows about all of these EVM chains. He's working with these every day in so it's cool to kind of get your thoughts on what they are and the ins and outs of each one. Starting more broadly, what is an EVM chain?

Andreas: Yeah, so the way I usually explain it is: I say that an EVM is a copy of Ethereum. So, it means that you can add it to Metamask. So, if something is an EVM, Metamask can connect to it and it means it can have similar smart contracts. It will have its own Uniswap, its own Aave, its own Convex, its own everything. So, it means all EVMS can run all smart contracts and defi programs that are written for Ethereum.

Blake: So, everyone's always talking about decentralization on Ethereum and Bitcoin, but are any of these EVM supported chains actually decentralized?

Andreas: Right. So, when Ethereum came out, we being the Bitcoiners would complain a lot how it not was decentralized enough that was more or less proven with the DAO Hack where Vitalik pretty much just rolled back some changes to Ethereum. But after that, Ethereum has gotten very decentralized. At least it feels like that to me. I don't think Vitalik or anyone can just turn it off tomorrow. But if you look at the new EVMs, yeah. I mean, there are so many we can list a few. What you notice happens a lot is the development is completely centralized. So, there is a company, they raised money from all these VC firms and they make the EVM. So Binance Smart Chain is made by Binance and clearly, no matter what they say, the software is being made by people paid by Binance and they can just turn it off. They can censor transactions. They can change their rules. They can, they can do anything. But that makes sense for Binance Smart Chain, which has the word Binance in it. But if you do the other ones, we'll have for example, Polygon, which is an EVM that used to be called Matic. This one, they just turned off when it has bugs.

Blake: Yeah…

Andreas: It just turns polygon off, which if you come from Bitcoin or even Ethereum, that doesn't make any sense. Like how do you turn off? It's like, oh, we turned off Bitcoin, there are some Bugs with Bitcoin. This is not working today. That's never gonna happen. But on these EVMs, that is just all the time. They just turn them off and they have centralized bridges to move the assets to, and from the chain many of them, which they also turn off just all the time. I wouldn't say they're terribly decentralized. Maybe Avalanche could be a little decentralized, I guess. We'll have to see. If there's a critical bug can they turn it off? Or does it just continue?

Blake: I guess, looking at the EVM compatible chains, you've got the ones that you've worked on anyway with, you've got Avalanche, Fantom, Binance Smart Chain. Smart BCH and more. In terms of those, do you think they do pose a threat to Ethereum L2s and Ethereum?

Andreas: I don't think so. I think the best, the one with the best chance, if anyone has any chance at all, would be Avalanche. Emin is a genius and he has a really good team, they've worked on this forever. So, there are things about Avalanche that make it really fast and it scales. We've seen now they have unique features. They have this charting feature called subnets where certain games, I believe it's Crabada, runs on its own shard. So it is its own part of the network. So, when there's a lot of users playing Crabada, they do not bring down or slow down Avalanche, it's isolated. And yeah, I think Avalanche works really well. Fast, really fast blocks, very, very stable by design, when this gets congested, it's supposed to react by the fee is going up slightly and the performance remaining  the same. Which to me, is some voodoo magic because on Ethereum that is not the case.

Blake: Then you've got the Ethereum layer-2 solutions. So, the ones that are already out and live in the market, you've got Optimism and Arbitrum, which I know you've worked on. What are your thoughts on those two as solutions?

Andreas: Yeah. So, from the layer-2s, there is a really excellent interview that Vitalik did on some other podcasts. We can try to find it. A link to it where he talked about all these layer twos. It seems right now that there is Arbitrum and Optimism, which are called optimistic roll ups, which means that they pack together transactions and they store them on Ethereum.

Blake: Right. Okay.

Andreas: And in the interview, Vitalik said, you can get a performance increase from this. So, you know, you can get like, I think he said 30% more scale or something. I've been using Optimism myself, the fees are substantially cheaper, but it's a layer-2. It's his own chain. So, you will have to use Uniswap, not on Ethereum, but on Optimism. The currency of both networks will be Ether. Because Optimism doesn't have a shitcoin, but it's a separate network that just happens to use the security of Ethereum. And so it's Optimism / Arbitrum. It seems like Arbitrum has more users, but the people in the know, such as Ameen and some others, they seem to prefer Optimism.

Blake: That's very interesting. You've also got Polygon, which has been around for a while which people call layer two. We were discussing this earlier and you were saying it's kind of an interesting one. What are the differences with Polygon?

Andreas: Yeah, I, I had to actually Google this one because they are going to market as an Ethereum layer-2, because that is what everyone wants. We were promised that five years ago or something and it's just simply not here. So I think what they're doing is they're calling themself, Ethereum layer-2. Then it’s like we have this problem and they say we are the solution. But in as far as I can tell all the Polygon, Fantom, and all of these, it's just like Ethereum with no mining. And they claim to get some kind of security by storing the hatches of their blocks on the Ethereum chain. But it's a separate network with their own shitcoin, controlled by a single company with all of this decentralization theater. Where they're like “oh no, we have a DAO with some keys and they sign and we can't tell them what to do”, but they're all investors. 

Blake: I know you've been looking a bit at zkSync. Vitalik has been quoted in the past saying that that might be the thing which really pulls this  together. Obviously, they still have to deliver, it's in testnet right now. But if it does go live without any hiccups and they've come out, they reached what they promised. Do you think that that can really help Ethereum going forward?

Andreas: Yeah, yeah, I was looking at zkSync very briefly and it was currently in version one, which is live. Like, you can go and use it right now. I think you should go and use it. You should bridge some of Ethereum over to ZK sync one, because if there's ever an airdrop, if these people make a coin, which they should do you may get something. We found on their discord, there's a channel called like “Wen Airdrop?” or something.

Blake: Yeah. We should say there is no token at the moment.

Andreas: There's not, we'll see about this one. So anyways, I didn't spend that much time on it, it was not easy, because it was not EVM compatible in the sense that you could not connect your Metamask to it, which sucks. I just want everything to be the same but have some technical difference. Right. But then I looked it up and zkSync version two is in test on a Testnet. So, not using real money and it is EVM compatible. You can, you'll be able to use MetaMask. And then I guess they'll have a Uniswap. As Vitalik said in the interview, the potential performance gain from using ZK, which is zero knowledge proofs is massive. It's sort of like unbounded, as we would say in programming, it's hard to know how much you could scale. It could be this massive improvement. So, that's where I would, well, not put my money because it doesn't have a coin, but that's where I would be. I've been looking at it.

Blake: That's very interesting. That wraps it up. Remember guys, if you want to bridge between any of these EVM compatible chains or a bunch of other stuff, check where you can see Andreas's work in action. And yeah, get farming some yield or whatever you want to do on different chains. We'll see you next time.

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