What is Polygon (Matic)?

Beginner Jul 19, 2021

Key Takeaways:
— Popular blockchain networks like Ethereum are overcrowded and expensive to work with.
— Polygon is a Layer 2 solution designed to solve all of Ethereum’s critical problems, making crypto accessible to everyone.
— If blockchain and crypto are becoming easier to interact with, mass adoption would probably follow.

Just heard of layer two solutions and their revolutionary potential? Then this would be the perfect time to explore Polygon!

Take a moment to picture a congested highway, thousands of cars going under five miles per hour. Now imagine you’re on a high-speed train that runs parallel to the freeway, happily zooming past a bunch of disgruntled drivers. 

Adding to the hot mess, the drivers sitting in traffic spent a lot of money on gas, and they’re all in a race to go nowhere, fast. 

But you’re smarter than them. You only spent $20 on a train ticket to get to where they’re all going. However, it’s taking half the time and it’s a safer mode of travel, statistically speaking.

Welcome to Layer 2 solutions for blockchain.

A secret shortcut

Ethereum is the world’s most popular blockchain network because it was built to do something that Bitcoin’s protocol could not: run dApps and smart contracts. Perhaps the best thing to ever happen thanks to blockchain, dApps let developers and users directly interact with blockchain tech.

More than just handling the buying or selling of crypto, dApps can be used to build cool stuff using Ethereum’s network; they are also why we get to enjoy NFTs. Uniswap, OpenSea, and CryptoPunks are all examples of dApps. Now imagine how many applications are being queued up and sent to Ethereum’s blockchain, 24 hours a day, racing to be approved by the network’s validators.

Polygon (formerly called Matic) is a secret shortcut known in the crypto industry as a Layer 2 Scaling Solution. But this sounds kinda complicated; it’s an intimidating name for such a phenomenal yet straightforward concept. That’s why it’s best to think of all layer 2 solutions as nothing more than a shortcut for getting around Ethereum’s “waiting lines.”

In short, Layer 2 protocols are designed to tackle Ethereum’s problems while still being completely compatible with Ethereum. 

Polygon, the problem solver

We now know what L2 solutions do, but we are curious beings, so it’s critical to understand why they are doing it. Why are Ethereum-alternative networks like Polygon starting to dominate the crypto market?

Polygon is perhaps one of the most popular L2 providers around and a great model to learn more about the importance of these scaling solutions. Formerly named Matic (though its native token still bears the name Matic today, yes we know, it’s complicated), Polygon took on the challenges that plague Ethereum to create a far better user experience for crypto adopters. In fact, the team at Polygon was one of the first to bring off-chain solutions to Ethereum.

Thanks to Polygon’s sidechain, Ethereum can scale significantly without making any sacrifices in terms of decentralization. Off-chain solutions offer cheap, near-instant transactions that are ultimately settled in batches on the main network. 

But, Solving what exactly?

Some of the critical problems that Polygon set out to solve include Ethereum’s low throughput (transactions per second), high gas fees, and of course, its network traffic in general. But most importantly, Polygon wants inclusivity. Ethereum’s transaction costs and gas fees have left millions of users out in the dust; it’s just not affordable to most people.

Overall, Polygon enhances the user experience on the blockchain by facilitating cheap, instant transactions while also being compatible with other blockchain networks and tokens. The Polygon network was built relatively fast since the team was racing to put out its Layer 2 solutions that the DeFi community desperately needed. 

Some of the common L2 solutions you might hear about include protocols like ZK rollups, Optimistic rollups, sidechains, and Polygon’s PoS (proof of stake.) But this is a story for another day since these protocols all have unique and fascinating architecture behind them.

However, that is not to say that it is perfect; Polygon runs its own separate nodes, and there are only a handful of them that secures the network. In a sense, that makes Polygon less of a decentralized protocol, similar to Binance Smart Chain

Innovation, for everyone

Ethereum’s high gas fees have always driven its users to explore sidechain options like Polygon. 

Sidechains like Polygon are picking up steam very fast, since thanks to their tech, you get the best of both worlds. You are freeing yourself from the high fees of networks like Ethereum while still being able to reap all the core benefits of blockchain. 

If your interest has been piqued, Ledger’s got your back! You can check out how to easily migrate your holdings from Ethereum to Polygon by watching this super handy video. After all, why sit in traffic when you could be in the fast lane?

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