Introducing Levitation Protocol: The Future of ZK Scaling

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August 30, 2023

Build without Limits, Only On SKALE

SKALE Network

Blockchain technology at the macro level has introduced a number of amazing ideas and products; but it has also changed the way that many think about finance, ownership of digital assets, and has even enabled countries to change the way they implement national currencies and stores of value.

However, for the developers breathing and building every day; blockchain comes with a number of difficult and often annoying limitations that require sacrifices to be made elsewhere in a product. A few of these common limitations are gas fees (regardless of how low they are), data restrictions (e.g transaction size limits), and interconnectivity to other ecosystems.

Due to the decentralized nature these limitations can cause some very noticeable and negative results onto a final product. The following article discusses how SKALE enables developers to build without these common limits by exploring the typical blockchain limitations; as well as some of the newer or common “solutions” that SKALE naturally solves.

Common Blockhain Limitations

Gas Fees

Gas fees are a common theme on most blockchains. Gas fees exist on blockchains to incentivize miners and validators to process transactions and propose new blocks. However, gas fees create immediate friction not commonly found on most traditional applications such as social media, email, and even many games.

This is one of the largest barriers to entry for users, however, something often overlooked is the limit this places on developers. For example, when building on a network where the average gas fee is $0.10; developers often choose to limit the amount of transactions their application actually makes to the blockchain due to constant cost associated back to the user. If a user pays a transaction fee each time they enter a new game or make a post to a social platform; the costs associated start to add up deterring users. 

Additionally, the gas token must be taken into account during user onboarding. Players for a blockchain game often cannot just click play, but first must go to a centralized exchange (CEX) or a fiat on-ramp to purchase the gas token with their credit card or bank account in order to then play the game. This contrasts with many of the most successful platforms and applications ever built.

Looking even closer at technical decisions made; most blockchains are public and accessible to anyone with a wallet and the gas token. Smart contracts -- whether in Solidity or otherwise -- often use logic to enable contract owners or certain accounts to have administrative functionality. This functionality is common when adding users to whitelists for certain functionality, minting tokens for off-chain actions, or updating game assets. However, the more the state changes on-chain the more expensive these operations become. Developers often choose to do less on-chain to reduce costs in the long term. This is commonly seen with games who only choose to do a single NFT contract and put no additional state or assets on the chain. 

SKALE is built to solve these issues with its unique architecture that enables full support for the Solidity language; while utilizing the gas token -- SKALE Fuel or sFUEL -- as a security measure only. sFUEL has no economic value and is provided to SKALE Chain owners to distribute to users and other developers as needed in small amounts. Users no longer have to purchase assets in order to start interacting with an application. They also do not need to worry about spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on gas fees because the gas has no value to it. SKALE is 100% free at the base layer while developers can optionally add transaction fees for certain actions if they so choose. Zero gas fees also open up the doors for developers to push more to the chain themselves and store more on-chain in general. A gaming project may have a leaderboard that they manage through a centralized database and server. The zero gas fee model means they can either push the leaderboard 100% on-chain immediately and use other contracts to manage updating the values; or they can choose to use a hybrid approach where they can use a centralized server and associated actions to update the state enabling a more public ecosystem to their users. 

Gas fees are limited, just not on SKALE.

Data Restrictions & Scaling Limitations

Gas fees are very limiting to developers; but so are restrictions on what data can actually be put on chain. If looking at blockchain from a more general view it could be considered as an alternative to a database and server combination. While it may not always be the right solution to replace both of these; having an in-game token stored in a database can be solved by using an ERC-20 token on-chain and customizing it to meet the needs of a game.

However, most blockchains have restrictions on the size of the transaction.With blockchains imposing a maximum gas limit per block, this means the size of a transaction cannot exceed the maximum gas limit of a block. Additionally, if blockchains with a smaller block gas limit had very large transactions that would consume entire blocks; the gas prices would skyrocket and cause large delays in transaction processing resulting in a drastically reduced TPS.

Ethereum for example has a target block size of 15 million with a maximum block size of 30. The size can increase and decrease based on network demand. An example of a popular smart contract interaction is minting an NFT. Projects use non-fungible tokens to represent in-game assets, collectibles, and more; however, looking at a number of popular Ethereum mints on Ethereum the gas usage of these transactions is variable. With a target block gas limit of 15,000,000 that leaves room for only 60 concurrent transactions at 250,000 gwei; or even fewer if a few higher gas transactions are done.

Other layer two’s such as Polygon and Optimism also have a 30,000,000 block gas limit.

All of these solutions regardless of the value of the gas greatly reduce the ability for developers to have large transactions be pushed on-chain. This greatly limits developers flexibility and ability to use blockchain for more than just basic assets.

SKALE solves all of the issues above with multiple solutions that all come standard at the chain and network level. The first is with a much larger block gas limit at the chain level of 268435455 which is a ~794% increase. This offers developers the opportunity to think in a more traditional sense and put more and more data and actions on chain.

Additionally, because SKALE is a multi-chain network there are a number of clear advantages SKALE offers to developers looking to take advantage of blockchain. The first is that the gas limit per chain does not have any correlation to the gas limit on other chains. SKALE Chain A can be running at maximum load for each and every block and all the other chains in the network do not have to worry about having fewer resources, rising gas fees, or a slow down in transaction processing as they are all running independent of each other. The second being that the collective gas limit of the entire network (i.e the max compute in gas used at one time) is not actual ~268 million, but ~268 million x N where N = the number of SKALE Chains. This means the collective capacity of the network continues to increase linearly with the number of SKALE Chains.

Service Flexibility

In a traditional application developers may wind up with a number of services running in production -- many of which may not even be controlled by the company. Examples of these include payment processing services and social logins which would then be connected to the companies website, mobile applications, servers, databases, etc.

When looking at blockchain based applications the blockchain can either replace or extend one or even many existing services. This is commonly seen with games that have embraced digital assets. Their game remains mostly the same with the same servers, databases, and other core infrastructure remaining while they extend the database and server with the blockchain where the storage and compute for the NFTs can be stored on-chain. 

However, when looking at building on blockchain; developers often have to add more than just the blockchain to their technical stack. They often include a number of additional services like IPFS for File Storage, a node provider to handle connection to the blockchain, various SDKs as well as possibly multiple blockchains if users need to bridge in the gas token.

Looking at adding NFTs on a layer 2 (L2) of Ethereum would result in the following additional services for most projects: IPFS, node provider for Ethereum or other EVM (for token onboarding), node provider for the L2, possibly integration of Metamask or other since creating background signers isn’t as simple of a process when dealing with a gas token that has economic value.

On SKALE adding NFTs is a very simple process. Deploy an NFT contract on the SKALE Calypso NFT Hub, add background signers using the relevant SDK to your application and store them locally on the client, drip sFUEL into user wallets as needed, and optionally allow them to connect another wallet to transfer assets out. The files and graphics can be stored either directly within the smart contract (thanks to zero gas fees and the large block gas limit) or they can be stored on-chain on the on-chain file storage native to SKALE Chains.

Additionally, as mentioned above SKALE chains can talk to each other with zero gas fees or to Ethereum Mainnet with gas fees. This means that assets can be minted on Calypso and moved invisibly to the SKALE Nebula Gaming Hub or even exist on both chains at the same time. If projects are targeting more of the Web3 native audience they can also tie into the SKALE Europa DeFi Hub and let users bridge their ERC-20 tokens in from Ethereum using the native SKALE Bridge. 

Instead of requiring half a dozen resources just to get up and running; the SKALE Chain itself can provide a developer with almost everything they need. Developers can still choose external resources like IPFS or other file storage solutions and can extend and work with other SKALE Chains if they want.

When it comes to adding a small amount of blockchain to an existing application or even migrating an entire Web2 application to Web3; SKALE can either seamlessly be integrated into your existing technological stack or be used as the primary source of storage and compute allowing developers to migrate away from their more traditional computing services. Developers no longer have to build within the Web3 box, but instead can pick and choose how to integrate blockchain technology to successfully meet their needs regardless of the size and scope.

Solutions to Blockchain Issues

As blockchain continues to mature and be used more and more creatively; various solutions have been proposed to solve many of the common issues that developers on SKALE do not have to worry about. The newest proposed solution looks to reduce the onboarding complexity for users by enabling paymasters to cover the cost of transactions. This could be viewed as subsidizing gas fees in an effort to make blockchain operate more like a traditional Web2 application. When building on SKALE, the limitations that developers face have naturally been resolved since day one (1) on SKALE. Learn more about account abstraction vs SKALE.

Another interesting problem that developers often find themselves dealing with is accessing external data sources on-chain. This may be pulling price data from a centralized exchange or pulling ownership data of an NFT from the Ethereum Mainnet. This usually requires a solution commonly known as an Oracle. Oracles (which come in many different forms and products) enable developers to access external data on-chain. However, these often come at a price and require the trust of another network entirely. SKALE has an oracle natively built into each and every SKALE Chain that uses the security of the network's consensus to handle access data on other EVM blockchains or external data sources. 

Start Building without Limits

Blockchain technology is incredible and every project is innovating and providing developers new tools to solve problems. The SKALE architecture is a one-of-a-kind solution that enables developers to build in Web3 or migrate at their own pace without worrying about the limitations of the blockchain. Building in blockchain has introduced some amazing projects to the world however. Building on SKALE has the potential to bring about not just amazing technology, but mass adoption owing to the idea that you can finally build on blockchain without limits.

Get in touch with SKALE here.

About SKALE

SKALE is the world's fastest blockchain, designed for fast, secure, user-centric Ethereum scaling. SKALE chains offer zero gas fees to end-users and have advanced features such as on-chain file storage, interchain messaging, zero-cost minting, ML/AI smart contracts, and enhanced security features.

The SKALE network enables developers to deploy their own EVM blockchain in minutes without sacrificing speed, security, or decentralization. Welcome to the SKALEverse.

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