The 2023 Competition: Layer 1 Competitors to Ethereum

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In the landscape of Layer 1 blockchains, often referred to as "L1s," have emerged as a dynamic force in the world of cryptocurrencies. Ethereum, the pioneer of smart contract platforms, set the stage for the rise of these Layer 1 blockchains. Over time, Ethereum has faced competition from a multitude of projects aiming to dethrone it as the dominant Layer 1 blockchain. This article delves into the evolution of Layer 1 blockchains, the current state of the market, and the factors crucial for analyzing their success.

I. The Rise of Layer 1 Blockchains

The Evolution of Blockchain Technology

The journey of Layer 1 blockchains began with the limitations of Bitcoin, the first and foremost cryptocurrency. Bitcoin, designed as a peer-to-peer electronic cash system, was not initially equipped to support complex decentralized applications. Developers, recognizing the need for a more versatile platform, embarked on a quest to create alternate digital currencies on top of Bitcoin. However, Bitcoin's restricted scripting language and reluctance to add complex features hindered these efforts.
Enter Ethereum. Launched with the revolutionary concept of a Turing-complete programming language, Ethereum expanded the realm of possibilities for decentralized blockchains. This marked the inception of Layer 1 blockchains as we know them today.

Ethereum's Role in the Rise of Layer 1s

Ethereum's journey was characterized by prioritizing decentralization over scalability, leading to congestion and skyrocketing gas fees during periods of high adoption, such as the ICO boom in 2017 and the DeFi summer in 2020-2021. This scalability challenge prompted the emergence of alternative Layer 1 blockchains, including EOS, Tezos, and Cardano, which raised substantial funds by promising faster and more scalable architectures.

The Alt L1 Narrative

The alt Layer 1 narrative gained momentum during these boom periods, as Ethereum's limitations spurred enthusiasm for alternative solutions. Fundraising for these Layer 1 projects peaked, signifying a growing appetite for blockchain innovation. However, Ethereum has proven resilient, maintaining its status as the dominant Layer 1 blockchain.

II. The State of the Market

Market Capitalization: Ethereum's Dominance

Ethereum's supremacy is evident in its market capitalization, commanding over 55% of the total market cap among the top 50 Layer 1 blockchains. This statistical dominance establishes Ethereum as the leader in this competitive arena.

User Metrics: Active Users and User Growth

While user metrics are often considered a driving force behind valuation, Ethereum lags in active users compared to competitors like Tron, BNB, and Polygon. Some blockchains, like Polkadot and Cardano, boast minimal active users but maintain high valuations. This suggests that, in terms of user adoption, several Layer 1s have surpassed Ethereum.

Developer Metrics: Active Developers and Their Significance

Developers play a pivotal role in assessing network health, as they maintain and enhance the protocol layer while building use cases on top of Layer 1 blockchains. Ethereum leads its peers in the number of active developers, showcasing its robust developer ecosystem.

Liquidity Metrics: Total Value Locked (TVL) and DEX Trading Volume

Ethereum holds a commanding position in liquidity metrics, with a substantial share of Total Value Locked (TVL) and significant DEX trading volume. This liquidity dominance has persisted since the summer of 2022, reinforcing Ethereum's leadership.

Introduction to Layer 2 Solutions

Layer 2 (L2) solutions have emerged as a critical component of blockchain scalability and usability. These solutions, often referred to as "L2s," are designed to address the limitations of Layer 1 blockchains, such as Ethereum, by enhancing their capacity to process transactions and smart contracts. L2s are not a replacement for Layer 1 blockchains but rather a complementary layer that sits on top, providing various benefits.
L2 solutions come in several forms, with the primary goal of improving throughput, reducing transaction costs, and enhancing the overall user experience. They achieve this by moving some of the computational work and transaction processing off the Layer 1 blockchain, thereby alleviating congestion and scalability issues.

Role of Roll-ups in Ethereum's Scaling

One of the most prominent categories of Layer 2 solutions is roll-ups. Roll-ups are a class of L2 solutions that aim to scale Ethereum's capacity while maintaining its security and decentralization. They do this by batching multiple transactions into a single transaction on the Ethereum blockchain, which reduces the load on Layer 1 while still benefiting from its security and consensus mechanisms.
Roll-ups are particularly well-suited for use cases that require high throughput, such as decentralized exchanges (DEXs), non-fungible token (NFT) marketplaces, and gaming applications. By aggregating transactions off-chain and submitting a single proof to Layer 1, roll-ups significantly enhance Ethereum's efficiency.

Overview of Optimistic Roll-ups

Optimistic roll-ups represent a subset of roll-up solutions and have gained significant traction within the Ethereum ecosystem. They operate on the premise of assuming that transactions are valid by default, allowing for fast and cost-effective off-chain processing. However, in the event of a dispute or suspected fraud, a challenge mechanism can be triggered to ensure security.
Optimistic roll-ups have already demonstrated their potential in terms of active users and Total Value Locked (TVL). Projects like Arbitrum and Optimism have seen rapid adoption, attracting a growing number of users and decentralized applications (DApps). These solutions offer a seamless experience for users, as they retain the benefits of Ethereum's security while providing near-instant confirmation times and reduced gas fees.

Upcoming ZK Roll-ups

While optimistic roll-ups have taken the spotlight, Zero-Knowledge (ZK) roll-ups are poised to play a significant role in Ethereum's scalability roadmap. ZK roll-ups offer a different approach to Layer 2 scaling by leveraging advanced cryptographic techniques to ensure the validity of transactions. This means that ZK roll-ups provide strong security guarantees without relying on an optimistic assumption.
ZK roll-ups are expected to further improve the scalability and efficiency of Ethereum by enabling higher transaction throughput and even lower gas costs. Projects like zkSync and StarkWare are at the forefront of ZK roll-up development, and their implementation on Ethereum is anticipated in the near future.

Coin base's Optimistic Roll-up (Base)

Coinbase, one of the leading cryptocurrency exchanges, has entered the Layer 2 space with its optimistic roll-up solution called "Base." This development underscores the growing importance of Layer 2 solutions in the broader blockchain ecosystem.
Base aims to provide a user-friendly and secure experience for cryptocurrency traders. By utilizing optimistic roll-up technology, Coinbase can offer faster and cheaper transactions to its users while maintaining the security standards expected from a reputable exchange. Coinbase's entry into the Layer 2 arena not only benefits its users but also contributes to the overall adoption and acceptance of Layer 2 solutions.


While predicting the future of Layer 1 blockchains remains challenging, Ethereum appears poised to maintain its leadership position. Its dominance is rooted in decentralization and a vibrant ecosystem. Among alternative Layer 1 blockchains, Solana stands out as a promising candidate to challenge Ethereum, thanks to its architectural differences and vibrant community. In the ever-evolving crypto landscape, remaining adaptable and open to change is key, as new technologies and innovations continually reshape the competition.

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