What Is Superchain? Understanding How Superchain Governs and Works in One Article


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    What Is Superchain? Understanding How Superchain Governs and Works in One Article
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OP Chain has become a catchy term recently. What is an OP Chain? And what is Superchain? How do Superchain and OP Chains relate? How does Superchain operate and manage?

What is Superchain?

Superchain is a new concept introduced by Optimism. It aims to integrate isolated Layer 2 blockchains into a single interoperable and composable system by maintaining the OP Stack codebase as a public good. In this process, the idea of blockchain can become abstract, and the interoperable blockchain network can be seen as a unit, like a store, with each OP Chain resembling a product, i.e., interchangeable computational resources. Each OP Chain is built by OP Stack and governed by Optimism Collective.

To visualize their relationship, think of Ethereum as the underlying infrastructure, the Superchain as a mobile app store, and OP Chains as applications in that store. Similar to downloading apps, users use OP Chains based on their needs. Optimism Collective functions like an operating system, coordinating resource allocation among apps (OP Chains) using sequencers, which allow apps to transfer data from the app store to the infrastructure for storage and confirmation. This requires the Superchain to: 1) share L1 blockchains; 2) build a shared bridge for all OP Chains; 3) create sequencers with complete OP Chain configuration options; 4) enable cross-chain messaging; 5) reduce OP Chain deployment cost for scalability.

How Does the Superchain Govern and Work?

Next, we'll explore how the Superchain governs and works. The Superchain has designed an interconnected network of OP Chains, where each OP Chain can choose to join a sequencer and interact in batches with Ethereum L1 through the Chain Factory.

Sequencing options for OP Chains include self-sequencing, sequencers provided by Optimism Collective, and decentralized sequencing services. Self-sequencing creates a new revenue model, allowing developers to earn fees and Maximal Extractable Value (MEV) from the chains they publish. Decentralized sequencers, while serving multiple rollups, incentivize operators through cryptographic economic mechanisms. Shared sequencers enable atomic and trust-minimized cross-chain rollup communication, as nodes produce blocks on various chains simultaneously. In its early stage, the Superchain's sequencing model involves auctions, where potential sequencers pay the network for sequencing rights and earn a share of fees and MEV. Sequencers may also share part of their fee revenue with the Retroactive Public Goods Fund (RPGF).

The Chain Factory is a bridging smart contract on Ethereum L1 managed by Optimism Collective. This bridge contains all chain-related configuration information, such as chain ID and gas limits, allowing it to unlock the following features: 1. Operation nodes on any given OP Chain can deterministically derive the states of all OP Chains within the Superchain; 2. Contract addresses on each chain can be computed before deployment and allowed for on-chain activity before joining the Superchain, which can be helpful for testing or experimenting the execution environment before it is integrated into the proof system.

The security of interactions between OP Chains and Ethereum is maintained by the proof system, separate from rollup, also known as chain derivation. Specified L2 chains are computed by sequencers and validators who inject L1 block data, L2 transaction data, and new deposits from L1. Sequencers process transactions, build blocks, and publish compressed block batches to L1. Validators track sequencers and challenge them with fraud proofs once invalid outputs are detected.

Why Has Superchain Emerged Now?

Optimism's Superchain, in a certain sense, is similar to the cross-chain ideals of Polkadot and Cosmos, despite the difference in technical paths. The market has seen concepts that compete with, or even try to replace, Web2; why has the Superchain attracted so much attention?

Back in 2017, the blockchain industry was experiencing fierce competition among public chains. There were many criticisms of Ethereum's shortcomings, and new public chains mushroomed as Ethereum killers. However, as the market went through bullish and bearish cycles, Ethereum has surged ahead in the competition. Many began to believe that public chains would eventually consolidate into a single winner, with Ethereum being the strongest contender to challenge Web2. 2017 saw intense rivalry among blockchain technologies, but not all theories were translated into practice. Ethereum, with its transition to a Proof of Stake (PoS) mechanism and completion of its Shanghai upgrade, has implemented a range of leading Layer 2 projects to effectively address its scalability and other issues. Moreover, given the development of other public chains, the market has increasingly high expectations for Ethereum.

As mentioned in Optimism's article, if Ethereum aims to compete with Web2 giants and gain a hold in the future internet landscape, it needs to have internet-level scale, something that no current scaling solution or L1 supports. Meanwhile, multi-chains have their own problems. Ethereum's L2 solutions have pushed user experience to its limits, but they are still far from achieving global-scale adoption and remain inadequate to support decentralized networks. Therefore, a paradigm shift is necessary for the industry to support hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of blockchains in the future.

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