Optimism – Ethereum’s ‘All or Nothing’ Play

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  • Optimism, an Ethereum layer 2 solution, is set to launch this month
  • The protocol should help reduce gas fees and transaction times
  • In many ways it is a ‘make-or-break’ play for Ethereum

Optimism is one of the Layer 2 solutions to the scaling problem that has plagued the network since the crypto boom of 2017, and its anticipated rollout this month is in many ways a make-or-break moment for Ethereum. A successful mainnet launch will massively ease the burden on the hugely overcrowded network and ensure that the DeFi movement continues to have its home there, but anything less than a resounding success could see developers and projects leaving the platform to further their aims, and those of DeFi in general.

“No More Crazy Gas Fees”

Optimism is a Layer 2 Ethereum solution that should mean, in the words of one Redditor, “No more crazy gas fees, no more waiting for transactions to get mined.” It actually started development back in 2018, but in a mark of the complexity of the problem it is only now at mainnet stage. With $25 million in Series A funding received from Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) in November, there is clearly a lot of…er…optimism that the protocol will be the solution to Ethereum’s scaling woes.

In an ideal world, the Optimism mainnet will work as expected, with fees on the Ethereum network massively reduced and the transaction speed increased. This will allow Ethereum to fend off the barbarians at the gates and continue to be the premiere decentralized platform. There will likely be a little adjustment needed from exchanges and platforms, but this would be easily managed in a space that is changing all the time anyway.

Uncomfortable Time if Optimism Fails

The alternative is almost unconscionable from Ethereum’s point of view. If Optimism were to fail then this could be the moment where the barbarians break down the gates and come rushing in, ransacking the Ethereum network for its most prized jewels. DeFi lending platforms, exchanges, NFT marketplaces, and the rest could all start looking for alternatives if Optimism isn’t able to scale the Ethereum platform to the same degree as the likes of Cardano, Matic, and EOS.

So far Ethereum has managed to get away with being slower and more expensive than the rest thanks to its first mover advantage, but with the DeFi movement ready to burst into the mainstream, it needs a platform that can cope with what could be about to hit it. The unstoppable force of decentralized commerce is already butting up against the immovable object of Ethereum’s lack of scaling, and in this case we can readily predict the outcome.