Layer 2 And Layer 1 Blockchains - What Is The Difference?

Layer 1 Blockchains

Blockchain technology has undoubtedly revolutionized our perception of data storage and transactions. Characterized by its decentralized structure, secure features, and distributed network of computers, blockchain technology has paved the way for a new era in information storage — one that is secure, immutable, and transparent. Blockchain technology's potential is vast, and its applications extend far beyond the realm of cryptocurrencies. However, as the use of blockchain technology has rapidly escalated, it has given rise to different layers of blockchains. These layers, often called Layer 1 and Layer 2 blockchains, each possess distinct characteristics and use cases that set them apart. As the foundational layer, Layer 1 blockchains are the underlying protocols on which other applications are built. They provide the primary structure for the decentralized network, supporting the fundamentals of blockchain technology, such as immutability, decentralization, and security. Layer 2 blockchains, also known as second-layer solutions, are built with Layer 1 blockchains as their basis. They aim to enhance the scalability and efficiency of the base layer by handling transactions off-chain and only interacting with the Layer 1 blockchain when necessary. This article examines the core differences between Layer 1 and Layer 2 blockchains. We will examine their unique features and the challenges they aim to address, providing some examples of each. This comparison will prove invaluable for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the multi-dimensional world of blockchain technology.

What Is Layer 1 in Crypto?

Layer 1 refers to the underlying central blockchain architecture in the context of blockchain technology. In essence, Layer 1 is the foundational layer, encapsulating the core protocol of a blockchain system. Think of it as the ground level of a skyscraper upon which all other floors (layers) are built. Cryptos like Bitcoin and Ethereum are prime examples of Layer 1 blockchains. They provide the basic structure and rules of the network, including the consensus algorithm, the creation of new blocks, and the method to verify and record transactions.

Technical Aspects of Layer 1

There are two primary technical components of Layer 1 in a blockchain: the consensus algorithm and the transactional protocol.

Consensus Algorithm:

This formula is how the network agrees on a single version of the transaction history. Bitcoin uses Proof of Work (PoW), where miners provide solutions to complicated mathematical problems to add new blocks to the blockchain. Ethereum, on the other hand, is transitioning from PoW to Proof of Stake (PoS), where validators are chosen to create new blocks calculated on the amount of crypto they hold and are willing to stake as collateral.

Technical Aspects of Layer 1

There are two primary technical components of Layer 1 in a blockchain: the consensus algorithm and the transactional protocol.

Consensus Algorithm:

This formula is how the network agrees on a single version of the transaction history. Bitcoin uses Proof of Work (PoW), where miners provide solutions to complicated mathematical problems to add new blocks to the blockchain. Ethereum, on the other hand, is transitioning from PoW to Proof of Stake (PoS), where validators are chosen to create new blocks calculated on the amount of crypto they hold and are willing to stake as collateral.

Transactional Protocol:

These rules dictate how transactions are verified and recorded on the blockchain. It includes how data is structured and stored, how cryptographic validation works, and how network nodes communicate.

Limitations of Layer 1

While Layer 1 blockchains offer a secure and decentralized network, they have limitations. The most significant challenge is scalability. As transaction volumes increase, the network's speed can decrease, leading to higher transaction fees. Slowing down is a common issue with Bitcoin and Ethereum, where increased network usage has resulted in higher costs and slower transaction times. Moreover, Layer 1 blockchains often have limited functionality. They are primarily designed to record transactions, and while Ethereum introduced intelligent contracts (self-executing contracts with agreement terms directly written into code), the capabilities are still restricted compared to what we could achieve with more advanced layers. Layer 1 in crypto refers to the fundamental blockchain layer. It provides the core protocol, including the consensus algorithm and the transactional protocol, which governs how transactions are processed and recorded. Despite their limitations, Layer 1 blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum have revolutionized how we think about financial transactions and contracts, paving the way for developing subsequent layers to address these issues. These rules dictate how transactions are verified and recorded on the blockchain. It includes how data is structured and stored, how cryptographic validation works, and how network nodes communicate.

Advantages of Running a Layer 1 Blockchain

Layer 1 blockchains, often referred to as the base layer of blockchain technology, offer several substantial advantages, which primarily derive from their innate characteristics and the core design of the technology. These benefits include network security, interoperability, and decentralization.

Network Security:

One of the most notable advantages of running a Layer 1 blockchain is its heightened security. These blockchains are constructed using complex cryptographic algorithms that ensure the secure transfer of data and transactions. Every transaction on the network undergoes a rigorous verification process and is immutably recorded on the blockchain, reducing the risk of fraud and tampering. Additionally, as Layer 1 blockchains are public and transparent, any suspicious activity can quickly be addressed. PlasBit leverages this high level of security for payment solutions such as crypto debit cards, which benefit from our security measures and the inherent robustness of the core blockchain technology.


Interoperability is another crucial advantage of Layer 1 blockchains. Due to their foundational layer status, Layer 1 blockchains are built to be interoperable with various applications and platforms. This ability to communicate and interact with different systems makes them highly versatile. They are a common ground for decentralized applications (dApps), enabling seamless transfers and interactions between blockchain-based systems. This interoperability enhances the overall functionality and utility of the blockchain network, fostering innovation and driving adoption.


Perhaps the most fundamental advantage of Layer 1 blockchains is their decentralized nature. By design, these blockchains lack a centralized authority, ensuring that power and control are distributed across the network. This decentralization results in a democratic and transparent system where all participants have equal access and say. Consensus processes transactions, eliminating the need for intermediaries and reducing potential points of failure. This decentralization also enhances privacy, as users control their data and transactions.

What is Layer 2 in Crypto?

Layer 2 in crypto is often called the "second layer" or "off-chain" solution, designed to address the scalability and functionality constraints of Layer 1 blockchains. Layer 2 solutions operate on top of Layer 1 protocols, enhancing their capabilities without altering their foundational structure. They function as sidechains, running parallel with leading blockchains like Ethereum and interacting with assets via bridges.

Technical Aspects of Layer 2

Layer 2 solutions expedite transactions by conducting them off-chain, only using the underlying Layer 1 for final settlement. This mechanism significantly reduces network congestion and transaction costs, enabling more transactions per second. There are many examples of Layer 2 technology in action.

Lightening Network:

One of the most renowned Layer 2 solutions for Bitcoin is the Lightning Network. It facilitates off-chain micropayments by establishing payment channels between users. These channels allow multiple transactions between participants without needing each transaction to be recorded on the main blockchain. Only the final balance from the series of transactions is recorded on-chain, leading to improved scalability and decreased transaction fees. Building on the Lightning Network's reputation as a leading Layer 2 solution, it's important to note that it's not just for Bitcoin. It is an open protocol layer that leverages the power of blockchain and smart contracts to facilitate instant payments across a network of participants. The technology behind this Layer 2 solution is geared towards overcoming the scalability issues of Bitcoin and other similar cryptocurrencies, which are Layer 1 blockchains. The Lightning Network's ingenious use of payment channels allows users to transact freely and frequently with each other, reducing the burden on the main blockchain. Thus, it addresses one of the main problems of Layer 1 blockchains - limited transaction throughput. By only committing the final state of transactions to the blockchain, it achieves faster transaction speeds and lower fees, making it an ideal solution for micropayments. This system improves scalability and unlocks new potential for blockchain technology in everyday transactions.

Rootstock (RSK):

Rootstock (RSK) also stands out as a prominent Layer 2 solution. RSK brings the much-needed smart contract functionality to Bitcoin, a feature associated initially with Ethereum. This innovation is a game-changer as it successfully merges the robust security features of Bitcoin's network with the flexibility and versatility of Ethereum's smart contracts. RSK operates parallel to the Bitcoin blockchain as a sidechain solution, enabling more complex transactions without clogging the primary network. This facility ensures that Bitcoin serves its primary purpose efficiently while broadening its use cases by incorporating smart contracts. However, the integration of RSK is not without challenges; it requires careful implementation to ensure user trust and seamless interaction with the Layer 1 blockchain. Despite these potential hurdles, RSK represents a significant step forward in enhancing Bitcoin's capabilities and in the overall evolution of blockchain technology.

Limitations of Layer 2

Despite their advantages, Layer 2 solutions also have limitations. The primary challenges revolve around trust and user experience. For instance, specific solutions require users to trust a third party to correctly execute transactions, thereby adding a potential point of failure. Layer 2 solutions have emerged as a critical element in the blockchain ecosystem, helping to overcome the limitations of Layer 1 blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum. These solutions pave the way for a more efficient and versatile blockchain infrastructure by enhancing scalability and functionality.

Layer 1 and Layer 2 Blockchains

Layer 2 Rollup Solutions

Rollups are Layer 2 solutions that bundle or "roll up" many transactions into a single transaction, reducing the amount of data stored on-chain. Optimistic rollups and zk-rollups form the two types. Optimistic rollups presume all transactions are valid unless proven fraudulent, while zk-rollups utilize zk-SNARKs to provide cryptographic proof of transaction validity. The complexity of zk-SNARKs makes them more challenging to implement than Optimistic Rollups. They are best suited for simple transactions such as transfers, while complex operations like smart contracts are currently more efficient on Optimistic Rollups. Optimistic Rollups and zk-rollups present viable Layer 2 solutions that enhance blockchain scalability. Their choice of use will depend on the specific needs of the blockchain network and the trade-offs between latency, complexity, and transaction throughput.

Optimistic rollups:

Optimistic Rollups are a promising Layer 2 solution that boosts the transaction throughput capacity of a blockchain network while reducing costs and latency. The fundamental principle behind Optimistic Rollups is a presumption of honesty. They operate on the optimism that all transactions are valid unless proven otherwise. This approach allows them to bundle numerous transactions into one and then process them on the mainchain. Optimistic Rollups achieve this by running computations off-chain and submitting a result summary to the mainchain. This summary, known as a "rollup," significantly reduces the data stored on the blockchain, thereby increasing its capacity. However, if a transaction within a rollup is deemed fraudulent, a challenge period is initiated where other network participants can dispute the validity of the rollup. The rollup is rejected, and the fraudulent party is penalized if found invalid. This system enhances the scalability of blockchain networks by facilitating more transactions per second, reducing network congestion, and lowering transaction fees. However, it also introduces a latency period for transaction finality, as transactions are not confirmed until the conclusion of the challenge period. Despite the latency drawback, Optimistic Rollups are becoming an increasingly popular Layer 2 solution for their ability to foster a high-throughput, low-cost blockchain environment.


On the other hand, Zero-knowledge rollups (zk-rollups) use a different method to validate transactions. Zk-rollups leverage cryptographic proof techniques, specifically zk-SNARKs (Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge), to ensure the validity of transactions. In a zk-rollup, all funds, data, and rules are stored on-chain, but computation and storage are conducted off-chain. Transactions are bundled into a single proof and submitted on-chain. However, unlike Optimistic Rollups, zk-rollups don't require a challenge period. Instead, transaction validity is cryptographically guaranteed through zk-SNARKs. This cryptographic proof ensures that only the network accepts valid state transitions, making it nearly impossible for fraudulent transactions to exist within a rollup. Zk-rollups offer significant scalability improvements, enabling thousands of transactions per second while maintaining high security, as all data is available on-chain.

Case Study: Polygon's Layer 2 Solution on Ethereum Network

Polygon, formerly Matic Network, is an Indian blockchain scalability platform that has emerged as a successful Layer 2 solution on the Ethereum network. Despite Ethereum's robust features and wide acceptance, it has been fraught with scalability issues, leading to high transaction fees and slow speeds. Polygon's inception and success can be attributed to its ability to mitigate these issues while capitalizing on Ethereum's solid foundation.


The Ethereum blockchain network, while revolutionary, has been plagued with scalability issues due to its high usage and number of active crypto wallets. This scenario has led to slower transaction speeds and increased transaction costs, making it difficult for businesses and individuals to adopt Ethereum for their daily transactions.


Polygon provides a scalable, low-cost, and efficient solution to Ethereum's scalability issues through its Layer 2 sidechains. It uses a combination of Plasma Framework, PoS (Proof of Stake), and sidechains to achieve high-speed transactions at a fraction of the cost on the Ethereum network. Polygon's multi-chain system also ensures that the security and decentralization of Ethereum are not compromised.


NFT (Non-Fungible Token) marketplaces, decentralized exchanges, and gaming platforms have widely adopted Polygon's Layer 2 solution on the Ethereum network. It currently processes over 7 million daily transactions, significantly more than Ethereum's 1.2 million. One of the most notable examples of Polygon's success is its partnership with the Decentraland project, a virtual reality platform built on Ethereum. Decentraland shifted to Polygon to overcome Ethereum's high gas fees and slow transaction speeds. The transition to Polygon has resulted in significantly lower costs and faster transactions for Decentraland users, improving user experience and fostering platform growth. Polygon's success as a Layer 2 solution on the Ethereum network highlights the importance of scalability and efficiency in blockchain technology. Its ability to enhance Ethereum's capabilities without compromising security and decentralization demonstrates the potential of Layer 2 solutions. As scalability issues continue to pervade Layer 1 blockchains, Layer 2 solutions like Polygon are likely to play a crucial role in the evolution and adoption of blockchain technology.

Layer 1 and Layer 2 Blockchains: The Future

Layer 1 and Layer 2 blockchains are cornerstones of the blockchain architecture, each with its unique strengths and uses. As we gaze into the future of the crypto world, both layers appear to hold great promise. Layer 1 blockchains are fundamental and the backbone of decentralized finance, powering everything from payments to smart contracts and decentralized applications (dApps). Take Ethereum, for example, which allows ETH purchased with a PlasBit card to be seamlessly transacted and embedded into smart contracts on the Ethereum network. This layer forms the foundation of blockchain technology, providing robust security, interoperability, and decentralization. Moving up the stack to Layer 2 blockchains, we notice the focus shifting towards scalability and additional features. These chains are poised to be the go-to solution for applications demanding high throughput, such as decentralized exchanges and gaming applications. Layer 2 solutions, including rollups, are designed to enhance the blockchain's scalability, thereby enabling much larger transaction volume at reduced costs. But this is not to say that Layer 2 solutions are the panacea for all scalability issues. There is a possibility that Layer 2 could become redundant if Layer 1 manages to increase its transaction processing capabilities significantly. Furthermore, Layer 2's security could become a liability if malicious actors manipulate transactions, leading to severe network disruptions and even system-wide collapses.

Balance Between Scaleability and Security

There is a critical need for a delicate balance between scalability and security in blockchain development. It's a delicate dance that requires careful choreography to ensure both these elements work in harmony, creating robust and advanced cryptocurrency systems capable of withstanding threats. For example, companies engaging deeper with blockchain technology by running nodes can bring numerous benefits in control and customization. Running a node enhances security, providing additional protection against potential threats. It also fosters decentralization, an essential feature in the blockchain world that ensures no single entity controls the entire network. Running a node also offers advantages such as increased privacy, censorship resistance, and sovereignty. It enables crypto companies to play an active role in the consensus process, directly influencing network development. Additionally, it offers improved transparency, enhancing trust among users and stakeholders. For example, PlasBit runs its own Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Tron nodes, reassuring customers of our use of technological innovations for everything from secure crypto wallets to wire transfers.

Exploring Crypto Technology First-hand

We encourage crypto enthusiasts of all levels to build on their knowledge by getting comfortable making transactions using coins such as those mentioned above. Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), and Tron (TRX) are available via our crypto exchange and can be stored in our wallet. Using crypto regularly is the first step to fully understanding the groundbreaking technology that underpins it. These coins are also popular amongst holders looking to build and hold a solid crypto portfolio.

Blockchains Layers Contributions to the Crypto Ecosystem

Blockchain technology has revolutionized the way we view data storage and transactions, and its layered structure has been integral in addressing challenges such as scalability and efficiency. Layer 1 blockchains form the bedrock of this technology, providing the fundamental structure and advantages such as immutability, decentralization, and robust security. These blockchains serve as the foundational protocols upon which other applications are built. Despite their robustness, they struggle with scalability and high transaction fees. Layer 2 blockchains like Polygon have emerged as a solution to these issues, operating on top of Layer 1 blockchains to enhance transaction speed and scalability while relying on Layer 1 for security and finality. They offer a compelling balance between efficiency and security, making them a vital component in the evolution of blockchain technology. As we move forward, understanding the nuances between these layers is paramount in leveraging the full potential of blockchain technology. Whether it's Layer 1's robust security and decentralization or Layer 2's scalability and speed, each layer contributes uniquely to the efficiency of the blockchain ecosystem, ensuring a secure, transparent, and efficient future for data storage and transactions.

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