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Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin Discusses the Potential of Layer-3 Protocols

Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin, who is among the popular innovators in the crypto and blockchain industry, has again shared some lofty ideas about Layer 3. While the emergence of layer 2 protocols brought a lot of benefits to smart contract platforms, Vitalik Buterin and Starkware, a group of smart cryptographers, are advocating for layer 3 protocols.

Computation and data are the two main factors hindering blockchain scalability. Layer 2 solutions like zero-knowledge Rollup technology (zk-Rollup) and fraud proofs or zero-knowledge succinct arguments of knowledge (zk-SNARK) have been instrumental in improving scalability. Vitalik Buterin believes that layer 3s will bring advanced and customized scaling and functionality like privacy. 

In a recent publication where he also shared his three visions for a triple-layered blockchain architecture, he said, “If we can build a layer 2 protocol that anchors into layer 1 for security and adds scalability on top, then surely we can scale even more by building a layer 3 protocol that anchors into layer 2 for security and adds even more scalability on top of that.” 

The Ethereum co-founder suggested that a roll-up that gives quadratic scaling could be stacked on top of itself to give exponential scaling. However, he noted that this simple idea of building a sustainable layer-3 solution might not be a very simple task, citing that there’s always something in the design that’s just not stackable, and can only give you a scalability boost once.

In line with this, Buterin supported the layer-3 idea proposed by Starkware. In Starkware’s ideas around layer-3s, they aren’t just stacking rollups on top of rollups. Instead, the second layer and the third layer are for different purposes. This is what makes Starkware’s idea more sophisticated while Buterin stated that “some form of this approach may well be a good idea – if it’s done in the right way.”

Related: Ethereum’s Vitalik Explains Benefits of Zero-Knowledge Rollups (zk-rollups) after Polygon Rolls Out zkEVM

Buterin’s “Layer 3” Visions 

In stating the potential use cases of layer 3 protocols, the Ethereum creator mentioned that while existing layer-2 solutions like Arbitrum are focused on improving scalability, layer 3 (L3) would aim at providing customized functionalities like privacy. Here, he wrote that “there is no attempt to provide “scalability squared”; rather, there is one layer of the stack that helps applications scale, and then separate layers for customized functionality needs of different use cases.”

Secondly, Buterin stated that scaling solutions offered by layer 2 protocols are for general purposes while layer 3 (L3) would be designed for customized scaling. According to Vitalik Buterin, the different forms of customized scaling will include specialized applications that compute without the use of the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) and “rollups whose data compression is optimized around data formats for specific applications, etc.”

“L2 is for trustless scaling (rollups), L3 is for weakly-trusted scaling (validiums). Validiums are systems that use SNARKs to verify computation, but leave data availability up to a trusted third party or committee. Validiums are in my view highly underrated: in particular, many “enterprise blockchain” applications may well actually be best served by a centralized server that runs a validium prover and regularly commits hashes to chain. Validiums have a lower grade of security than rollups, but can be vastly cheaper,” Buterin added. 

Read Also: The Merge Activated; Ethereum is Now a Proof-of-Stake Blockchain


On the whole, the Ethereum creator dismissed the layer-3 idea of stacking the same scaling scheme (roll-up) on top of itself, stating that it will not work. “A three-layer architecture where the second layer and third layer have different purposes, however, can work. Validiums on top of rollups do make sense, even if they’re not certain to be the long-term best way of doing things,” he concluded. 

To make further contributions to the crypto sphere, Vitalik Buterin, the co-founder of Ethereum (ETH), the largest smart contract platform, is on the course of launching a book centered on crypto and blockchain technology. The book titled “Proof of Stake” is a compilation of Buterin’s writings made over the past decade and is said to be “a crucial contribution to the development of a new technology that will impact all our lives,” by Laura Shin. The launch date of the book is September 27.

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Ndianabasi Tom
Ndianabasi Tom
Ndianabasi Tom joined the crypto and blockchain industry in 2019. He is an all-rounded crypto content writer. He mostly covers industry news, developments, and other educational resources. He believes that proper crypto awareness is instrumental to achieving mass adoption.

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