Ethereum (ETH)’s scaling challenges have led to exorbitant gas fees that are increasingly excluding people from using the network to access decentralized finance (DeFi) applications or to mint non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Fortunately, there are layer-2 (L2) scaling solutions that are addressing Ethereum’s scalability woes by taking weight off the main chain. Optimism, for example, is a layer-2 scaling solution that is helping Ethereum run computations off-chain and only publish transaction data on-chain in a bid to drastically reduce gas fees.
Read on to learn more about Optimism and how to use the layer-2 protocol to save on Ethereum transaction fees.
What is Optimism?
Optimism is a layer-2 scaling protocol for the Ethereum network. The scaling solution works by moving transactions and computations from layer-1 (L1) onto a second layer, thus reducing transaction fees and increasing network throughput.
Layer 1 (L1) is the base protocol (the Ethereum blockchain), while Layer 2 (L2) is any protocol built on top of Ethereum.
Since the transactional data is broadcast onto the Ethereum mainnet, the structural integrity of the network remains intact. However, Optimism allows you to transact in milliseconds and save up to 10x on gas fees.
From a developer’s perspective, you get to reuse programming languages on Ethereum with little to no changes in the code.
Optimism uses Optimistic Rollups, which rely on aggregators to compile batches of transactions off-chain and transmit them to a smart contract on-chain via fraud proofs. Conversely, fraud proofs prevent invalid state transitions from happening.
To ensure deterministic smart contract execution between the mainnet and L2 layer, Optimism uses OVM (Optimistic Virtual Machine). This is an Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM)-compatible execution environment designed for use in layer-2 solutions.
The OVM feature acts as a repository for OVM contracts and ensures any functionality between L1 and L2 remains consistent. In other words, any action executed on Optimism is eventually mirrored in L1.
Remember, Optimism is EVM-compatible and, therefore, allows for seamless and near-instant transfers from L1 to L2. However, transactions going from L2 to L1 will take roughly a week to allow for potential fraud proofs.
With the OVM 2.0 upgrade, which occurred in November, EVM equivalence was introduced to Optimism, bringing it to almost 1:1 parity with Ethereum. EVM compatibility required Optimism to continuously modify, even reimplement, lower-level code that the layer-1 supporting infrastructure relies upon.
On the other hand, EVM equivalence bridges the gap between Ethereum’s L1 infrastructure network effects and the L2 execution environment. This upgrade makes Optimism in complete compliance with the base Ethereum protocol.
How to use Optimism to save on Ethereum gas fees
The easiest way to start using Optimism is through the popular Ethereum wallet MetaMask. Here’s how!
1. Open your MetaMask wallet browser extension.
2. Select the dropdown ‘Ethereum Mainnet’ at the top of the wallet.
3. Should Optimism not appear in your list, choose ‘Add Network.’
4. Add the following details:
- Network name: Optimistic Ethereum
- RPC URL: https://mainnet.optimism.io
- Chain ID: 10
- Currency: ETH
- Explorer: https://optimistic.etherscan.io
5. Click ‘Save,’ and you will be connected to Optimistic Ethereum.
To start holding and using Optimistic Ethereum tokens, you will need to bridge your ERC-20 assets to Optimistic Ethereum using the Optimism Gateway.
To access the Optimism Gateway, access gateway.optimism.io, connect your MetaMask wallet and swap your tokens from the mainnet onto layer-2 in the same way you would swap tokens on a decentralized exchange (DEX) like Uniswap (UNI).
With the ETH bridged into Optimism, you can interact with protocols in the same way as on the main chains, inheriting Ethereum’s structural integrity and features.
Dozen of dapps (decentralized applications) have already adopted Optimism to provide a more affordable user experience to their users.
Here is a list of popular Optimism-supported applications:
- Perpetual Protocol
- Coinbase Wallet
- Encrypted Ink
- Trust Wallet
- Circular Art
- Dope Wars
- Optimistic bunnies
- Optimistic Loogies
Gas fees on Optimism
According to Optimism’s team, baseline user transactions are between 10-50x cheaper and are expected to improve over time. However, the baseline costs are just a benchmark. There are capacity constraints on Optimism that must be controlled by a variable cost.
The control is through the Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) 1559 pricing mechanism where should demand rise, the protocol will increase fees until daily transactions fall back within the limit. Note that gas is affected by several factors, such as gas price and gas consumed by the transaction.
To learn more about how to reduce Ethereum gas fees using an L2 solution, check out the first piece of our layer-2 scaling solution covering Arbitrum.