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Getting to Know Polygon’s Sandeep Nailwal

2022-05-11

Sandeep Nailwal discusses all things layer 1, layer 2 

When it comes to Ethereum scalability, one name rules them all. Once again, from the comfort of my Berlin office, I eagerly awaited my next guest to join our Google Meet. On my screen pops up Sandeep Nailwal, co-founder of Polygon and one of the industry’s biggest names. 

After following the Polygon story since its creation, meeting Sandeep is a somewhat surreal experience. With years of questions bubbling in my mind, I knew exactly the topic at hand: will layer 2 still be necessary in a future full of layer 1 networks? 

It’s a bold question, but I wanted my answers from the source. As part of our build-up to Binance Blockchain Week 2022, our team had scheduled Sandeep for a one-on-one interview. Whether he expected an in-depth discussion on the need for layer 2, I don’t know. Nevertheless, that’s what Sandeep got.

If you’re not familiar with Polygon, then let me briefly explain. Polygon provides a layer 2 solution combatting Ethereum’s high gas fees and slow transactions. The Polygon network uses a Proof of Stake sidechain, allowing users to complete transactions quickly, with finalization occurring on Ethereum later.

For more information, make sure to head to our What Is Polygon (MATIC)? | Binance Academy Binance Academy article.

Getting to the bottom of layer 2’s future

Polygon is easily the most famous layer 2 solutions out there. But times are changing, and we're now seeing a massive influx of new, independent blockchains that claim to be scalable, secure, and decentralized.

With Sandeep at hand, there seemed no better place to start than the future of layer 2. Will we even need layer 2 networks now we have layer 1s with improved scalability, security, and decentralization? Without missing a beat, Sandeep quickly turned the question on its head.

“Which layer 1 is scalable and secure and decentralized? Can you name me one? Can you name me one right now?”

The blockchain trilemma has been a problem since the beginning of crypto technology. And although we’ve come a long way in improving aspects of scalability, security, and decentralization, a proper solution still isn’t here. While I mentioned the likes of Solana, Fantom, and Avalanche as possible answers, Sandeep wasn’t convinced.

“Even after [Avalanche] had one-tenth of Ethereum’s transactions, the Avalanche chain started having $10 and $8 transactions. That's not scalable. Fantom already has its own issues. We have seen Solana go down at least five, six, even ten times with the network unusable.” 

“And probably unless there is zero-knowledge technology and some other things can come in, there will never be a blockchain, which can be infinitely scalable.”

The idea of a layer two solution has inherently, in my mind, been to solve the problems of layer one. However, Sandeep offered a new way to look at the relationship between layers 1 and 2. Layer 1 ultimately provides a deep layer of security. There’s no need for a “war” between layer 1 and layer 2. In fact, they both provide complementary services

“My honest understanding is that layer 1 is not supposed to be scaled. Layer 1 [should] be extremely decentralized, extremely censorship-resistant, and extremely secure”. Sandeep’s view seemed self-explanatory for a network that relies so heavily on Ethereum. His key message seemed to be that layers 1 and 2 have a symbiotic relationship and cannot survive without one another.

With this in mind, I probed further into interoperability and connectivity. The rise of cross-chain has been huge, and there’s plenty more to explore. So while layer 2 relies on layer 1, can’t we instead create a network of layer 1 blockchains that provide a similar experience to Sandeep’s explanation?

“This is a very valid question. There are a thousand different, separate chains, right? Which are different layers [and zones] of security. You can hop from one place to another. 

You don't even know whether it's being run by three validators, two validators, one validator. If you [go] there without knowing, as a user, you can't do due diligence on all the chains’ security.”

So while there is a usefulness of having different chains for multiple applications, Sandeep points toward having a single zone of security rather than many. For this reason, Ethereum acts as the perfect base to correct a network of interoperable and cross-chain compatible sidechains.

“We believe in a multi-chain future. But we believe that the future is multi-chain on top of Ethereum.”

Since 2017, Polygon has been a significant crypto player in technological innovation and popularity. Many investors may only be familiar with the project from investing in MATIC or even using a Polygon-based DApp.

So while many are interested in the project’s technology, others likely only know Polygon as a brand. When it comes to this point, Sandeep has no qualms. “For end users, I don't think [understanding our technology] even matters. And one of our goals is that in three to five years, we want blockchains to be completely invisible.”

“If after five years you are having this interview and asking people what is a better layer 1 and better layer 2, then we all have failed as a collective industry.”

If you’ve followed the Polygon journey long enough, you may even remember their name change from MATIC. As a final treat to finish our chat, I finally found out the reason behind one of crypto’s biggest rebrandings. 

“At Matic, we were doing one kind of layer 2 solution. At Polygon, we said that we would be approach agnostic, and we were going to do multiple chains. So, this was not only a simple name change but a scope expansion from our side, and we wanted the community to register it.”

And on a lighter note, it seemed that Sandeep also needed to address some football-related confusion. Not everything is always technically minded. 

“[What happens if] 10 years from now… some people say Matić because there’s a football player named Matić. It's a very famous surname in Serbia.”

Explore the world of layer 2 with the Polygon ecosystem 

With almost five years of innovation under its belt, there’s a vast amount to explore when it comes to Polygon. It’s not just the Polygon chain that’s on offer either. The team is already building a full suite of solutions comparable to what Amazon Web Services offers Web2 developers.

Polygon Avail will provide general-purpose, scalable data availability, and Polygon Edge allows projects to build application-specific blockchains from scratch. There’s also the recently announced Supernets for plug-and-play custom networks and a number of zero-knowledge projects concentrating on network congestion and privacy issues.  

If you’d like to hear more about the project and its relationship with the Web3 world, you can also rewatch Sandeep’s appearance from this year's Binance Blockchain Week

Our day one panel talk How far Away are we from a true Web3 experience? takes a forward-looking approach at what we can expect from tomorrow’s Web3 potential.