The most important news about the op coin Explanation of the Optimism 2022 , the optimism coin (op) seeks a practical path towards decentralization
There is a hard truth that doesn’t come up often when discussing Layer 2 (L2) protocols: every large L2 project has a trusted party that can implement protocol upgrades. Currently, this is the central point of centralization for almost everyone, including us. If upgrade keys are compromised, all assets deposited in the L2 protocol will be at risk.
Alt L1s with overlapping assets on Ethereum are vulnerable to similar devastating attacks. Relying on L1’s security guarantees to avoid this is an essential part of L2’s vision. But we’re not there yet—in a sense, everyone’s still selling the dream.
Let’s talk about the risks that L2 projects make to keep upgrade keys, how Ethereum itself has avoided those pitfalls, and how we can follow suit.
The most important news about the op coin Explanation of the Optimism 2022 coin project
Central second layer case
The best encryption techniques can’t save you if your password is your password. So what is the weakest link in L2 space?
You guessed it: upgrading the keys. Every major L2 has some form of instant upgrade on their L1 contracts. This is fine because it allows projects to ship improvements and bug fixes, but it also ultimately means that a trusted third party has a one-sided opinion of L2 credits.
This begs the question: What is the point of having proofs of error or correctness if at the end of the day security can simply be bypassed by upgrades?
We don’t mean to take away from the incredible work that Tier 2 teams are doing to drive the latest in decentralized scalability technology. We’ve made great strides – just take a look at our first-ever recently launched, next-generation bug-proofing bounty! Instead, it’s a reminder that there is no evidence of productivity wrong/correct for L2s ready today.
There is a need for this intermediate stage to exist – producing these complex protocols is not easy – but we also need to talk about the realistic path to giving away the keys and achieving a truly decentralized L2 vision.
Why L2 is not decentralized
A necessary evil
Before jumping into the solution, let’s first define the problem: The reason all L2s have upgrade keys is that writing complex, bug-free code is very difficult. Each new line of code is a new opportunity to introduce an error.
In cryptography, where a single vulnerability can disrupt a project, we have to be very careful. This means short and simple code. Code reduction lies at the heart of the optimism philosophy; The primary incentive was to upgrade the EVM Equivalency. (Even then, bugs can still sneak through the cracks.)
The truth is that any fatal flaw in a decentralized level 2 would be catastrophic: by design, smart contracts would enforce them with the full “security” of L1. Without upgrade keys as a last resort, there would simply be no recourse. This sets an incredibly high standard.
Look at Ethereum
Ethereum itself is a great case study in decentralized security, which we can use to judge the difficulty of writing L2 error-free. Throughout its history, Ethereum has had a lot of bugs made, discovered, and fixed, sometimes resulting in unintended hard forks (trust us, that’s not fun).
Despite multiple critical bugs, Ethereum has remained largely available throughout its life. At just two years old, Ethereum came close to experiencing a real outage during the Shanghai DoS attacks. Given how common blockchain outages are today, this is a pretty impressive achievement.
At this point, we can be pretty confident that Ethereum L1 will not go down or get hacked. We need to reach the same level of confidence at level 2 so we can give up the upgrade keys. So what is the secret of Ethereum? Can we follow in his footsteps while we work to properly secure L2?
A practical path towards decentralization
Ethereum’s success in minimizing security and maximizing uptime hasn’t been stupid luck – due to the fact that Ethereum has strategically created a multi-client ecosystem with many distinct applications that overlap.
This approach to security relies on the fact that errors are not linked between implementations. In other words: if one implementation has a certain error, it is possible that another application will not suffer from the exact same error.
This way, even when there is a failure, you can get rid of the buggy client in favor of clients that are working properly. This redundancy is key to ensuring Ethereum’s high availability.