If you have ever used Ethereum-based dApps, you’re likely familiar with, at times, outrageously high gas fees and long waiting times. It’s not surprising that the Layer-2 ecosystem around Ethereum has been thriving as users try to get off the expensive mainchain.
One scaling solution that has done exceptionally well in recent days is Polygon. That is why we decided to feature it in our blog. Note that it’s not necessarily a comparison of equals because Polygon is primarily seen as a scaling solution to — initially- Ethereum (other chains in the future). But in a sense, it functions similarly to a Layer-1 blockchain.
Let’s start with the basics.
What is Polygon?
When you head to the Polygon website, you’ll find the following description:
“Polygon is a protocol and a framework for building and connecting Ethereum-compatible blockchain networks.”
The idea behind Polygon is to address challenges such as low throughput, poor user experience, and the fragmented landscape of EVM-compatible blockchains. EVM = Ethereum Virtual Machine.
The team has created various solutions to enable devs to connect across chains. We can broadly categorize their solutions into:
Now you might wonder, what is the Polygon chain already in use and integrated with platforms such as OpenSea?
Answer: That is the Polygon PoS chain
The team created the Polygon PoS chain as a Proof-of-Concept that their idea works in practice. (From now on, for this post, we will use Polygon PoS and Polygon interchangeably). Today, it has settled over 1.3 billion transactions, boasts 130 million unique wallets, and has an active user base of 2.7 million.
It’s safe to say that this Proof-of-Concept has been a success story. In the following, we will contrast the Polygon PoS chain with Minima.
Polygon: The PoS chain consists of three different layers.
Minima: Minima also boasts three layers, but the tasks are very different from what nodes in the Polygon ecosystem handle.
Both chains have a three-layer architecture. However, Polygon relies on the Ethereum main chain for its security, whereas Minima is a stand-alone blockchain.
Polygon: As the name suggests, it runs on a Proof-of-Stake consensus algorithm based on Tendermint. Users can either become a validator themselves if a slot is available or delegate their stake to current validators.
If one wants to run a validator, one needs the following
The minimum stake is 1 Matic, but as validator slots are limited, there’s no way of knowing if/when one will be able to become one of them.
It’s essential to add that overall, there are 100 validators at any given time. Only 100 individuals/entities validate and construct the Polygon PoS chain.
Minima: We rely on a variation of Proof-of-Work, called Tx-PoW. Instead of having big mining firms control our chain, everyone contributes only a little work which adds up to entire blocks’ worth of work. Everyone on Minima is equal, running the same software. No need for an initial stake or even expensive hardware.
In fact, all you need to run an entire validating and constructing node is an android phone.
While Polygon is limited to 100 validators, Minima already has thousands of node runners validating and constructing the chain. If you care about decentralization, look how easy it is to run a full node. 👀
Polygon: In the architecture sections, we mentioned checkpoints. These are basically snapshots of the current chain. It includes the Merkle root hash of all the blocks created during that interval. The nodes validate the hash and attach their signature.
One node is responsible for collecting all these signatures for specific checkpoints and then commits them to the Ethereum mainnet for storage. Checkpoints are essential because they provide finality on the main chain (Ethereum) and proof-of-burn whenever someone withdraws their assets.
Storage requirements are kept comparatively low by requiring nodes to only store the blocks from the previous to the next checkpoint. This enables them to run on low-cost machines and eventually on mobile devices.
Nevertheless, a full validator needs 1 TB SSD. 💾
Minima: Unlike Polygon, there is no storage of checkpoints to an external blockchain. Minima uses an MMR (Merkle Mountain Range) database. To ensure that the chain remains small enough to be stored on mobile devices, we constantly reduce the size of the blockchain. This process is also known as pruning.
Consequently, nodes don’t keep the full transaction history but a hashed version of it. Additionally, they store the proof paths that prove the existence of their coins. By requiring users to only store the bare minimum, we ensure that the blockchain history won’t ever exceed the storage capacity of small devices.
Polygon: According to the Polygon team, the PoS chain can support up to 65,000 transactions per second.
Minima: On Layer-1, Minima can process 5 transactions per second. Taking Layer-2 into account, the number jumps to 40 million, limited only by the hardware people are using.
While it would seem that Polygon is better at first glance because it is faster, that might be too short-sighted. Or are 100 validators really enough to call it decentralized?
Polygon: Polygon is powered by its native token, Matic. When first launched, the entire chain was known as Matic until a rebrand to Polygon in 2021. Nevertheless, the Token continues with the previous name. Matic is used for paying for fees, staking, and voting in governance decisions.
At the moment, validators and delegators can earn roughly 12% APR on their holdings. Overall, the maximum supply is capped at 10 billion.
The staking rewards will eventually end, as they are just thought of as a mechanism to seed the network before transaction fees gain traction.
Minima: Minima also has a native asset called $MINIMA which will be used in MiniDapps to pay for transaction fees and more. Our model is deflationary. The maximum supply of Minima is capped at 1 billion tokens, and a burn mechanism will reduce the overall supply of Minima over time.
The burn is natively part of the protocol and will kick in whenever demand is high to regulate on-chain traffic and prevent spam. 🔥
Polygon: One argument quoted by the Payments company Stripe when questioned on why they decided to integrate USDC payments based on Polygon was the low carbon footprint.
While Polygon is consuming little carbon due to its energy-efficient Proof-of-Stake mechanism, it also relies heavily on Ethereum for storage, so it’d be only fair to add that to the equation.
And another aspect of sustainability is ensuring that the network is available now and in the future without major disruptions.
The latest bug in Polygon might serve as a wake-up call. In March this year, an issue with the latest Tendermint implementation caused a 13-hour downtime. During these 13 hours, anyone with assets on Polygon couldn’t do anything with them. A blockchain is not supposed to be offline. It does point to a team that is still in control in the background. Otherwise, it would be harder to coordinate validators to stop constructing the chain collectively.
Of course, these types of events are hard to deal with for businesses as well. Imagine every time a bug has to be fixed; they will have to update the entire infrastructure built on top of it.
Minima: It’s worth mentioning that we are in testnet, with more than 50,000 full nodes that are running our protocol without any major bugs. Our take on sustainability is making running a node very accessible and possible with little electricity. This empowers node runners to choose energy sources sustainably.
We believe that true decentralization is sustainable because it will ensure that a network does never go down or that one party takes control. We are aiming to launch with 1 million nodes, a point at which our team will cease control over the network.
When launched, Minima will be complete. There will be no changes to the underlying blockchain, which will have CIOs mind’s at ease when it comes to actually deploying on it.
Overall, it’s quite clear that Polygon itself is not a stand-alone solution but still relies on the Ethereum mainchain. Minima, on the other hand, is an entire native blockchain ecosystem. Polygon optimizes for speed and UX, whereas Minima is focused on providing what so far is really missing: true decentralization.
Note that it’s also entirely feasible to create sidechains like Polygon on top of the Minima blockchain.