On To New Beginnings

Plasma Group Blog
Published in
8 min readJan 9, 2020

Happy new year, all! This week marks the first anniversary of Plasma Group. It will also be the last. We will continue performing the highest leverage actions for the community that we can. This means we will be evolving.

We see Ethereum entering a new chapter, and we’re so proud to have been able to contribute to that progress. A year ago, scalability research felt like the most pressing need to us, so we threw everything we had into accelerating it. It is amazing to see the multitude of competent teams pushing production plasma into reality now. This shift from research to implementation means that our mission as a research organization must shift as well.

Scalability is still a priority — but another critical issue has become clear to us: the problem of funding and sustaining public goods. As we solidify our vision for our next steps, this issue weighs heavily on our minds. It played a large role in our year as a nonprofit releasing un-monetized content to the public domain.

For now, a concrete step we can take toward this goal is to re-seed our remaining runway. We will be donating the entirety of what we have left to Gitcoin. We believe Gitcoin is doing some of the most critical and underrated work not only in the blockchain space but also in the greater space of public goods.

Finally, we’d like to present to you our final research contribution as Plasma Group, reflect on a year of scalability progress, and share our outlook for the future.

Optimistic Game Semantics

Before we go, we have one last research contribution to pass on. This time, we are sharing our work on Optimistic Game Semantics, formerly known as the Optimistic Virtual Machine — a set of conceptual underpinnings which motivates the possibility of a single piece of software that can run many L2 constructions under a single, unified theory. For us, this represents a “culmination of generalizations” — from the dozens of plasma flavors to composable L2s, Optimistic Game Semantics shows how one day, all L2 constructions might build on the same foundation. In other words, even when the flavors vary, the ingredients are shared.

You can find the paper here.

An Eventful Year…

The path was not always straight — not without the occasional red herring — but every misstep makes the way forward clearer, and overall we are thrilled with the progress that L2 has seen in the past year.

Some of Plasma Group’s own finest moments included:

  • Creating the first ever Plasma Cashflow implementation
  • Opening the door for applications on plasma with our generalized plasma spec
  • Organizing the premier Scaling Ethereum conference from which many research breakthroughs emerged for lots of teams
  • Coining Optimistic Rollup and demonstrating the viability of fully fledged smart contracts on L2 with our Unipig demo

The Future: Public Goods

After a year of progress, we are incredibly optimistic about the future of scalability. The biggest trend we see today is a shift towards implementation. Many hard problems have been solved, and viable, production-ready implementations are finally on the rise. Across the ecosystem, the efforts are too many to count.

Sleepy Kelvin

We’re eager to get to work on the next urgent problem facing the community we love. We still have a lot that we need to figure out! But we’re not done working for this community, so stay tuned — you’ll be hearing from us again very soon. It’s certainly not a problem we’ll be sleeping on.

Thank you all for a tremendous year.

Xuanji Li, Alex Attar, Ben Jones, and Eva Beylin hacking away at ETH New York

Importantly, none of this was done in a vacuum! We have many people to thank and recognize for their contributions to both our work and the general L2 effort:


Ethereum Foundation
The EF has and continues to do incredible work for the ecosystem. They are a backbone of one of the greatest communities ever. We have benefited greatly from the resources that the EF has provided to us — the leadership of Aya, experienced words of wisdom from Albert, and the many brilliant folk who work at the EF whom we have had the opportunity to learn from.

OmiseGO was among our earliest supporters, and without them we wouldn’t have had the start that we did — not just their financial and moral support for Plasma Group, but also the groundwork they laid in manifesting and memeing plasma and their continued conviction in moving it forward. Audits on the first version of the OMG Plasma Framework, which took inspiration from Plasma Group’s [work on predicates], are nearly finished. It’s exciting to see our work being used in the wild, and it’s also a testament to OmiseGO’s commitment to the kind of cross-pollination that makes this space so special.

Pandia Jiang, Founder — EDCON, Linktime, Unitimes
Pandia was our very first donor. She has been a pillar in the global Ethereum community and a valuable resource to us — from making introductions to advising us on managing dynamics in a distributed team. We have benefited greatly from the community work she has done across borders and it was her faith in us that bootstrapped the team and propelled us into our very first testnet release of Plasma Cashflow. She has been a tireless advocate of decentralization and a great inspiration to our own mission.

As a fellow NYC based company, Consensys have been unbelievably supportive, warm and welcoming. They’ve lent us space, dev time, and constant encouragement. That a company could grow to such a scale without ever straying from the philosophy that contributing to the success of the whole doesn’t negate the success of the individual is really extraordinary.

Consensys has done so much legwork to bringing visibility and talent into ethereum and we thank them for that.

Gitcoin’s CLR grant rounds brought many people together to support Plasma Group and lots of other worthy projects. Those donations helped keep us going, but it’s not just the money: it’s a sense of community and a show of support. The validation that we received from seeing so many members of the community contribute was just as valuable as the money they gave. As leaders in exploring and executing novel strategies for sustainably funding public goods, we believe Gitcoin is doing critical work for the community that every single person benefits from.

Besides being our biggest CLR donor, Matic has been incredibly supportive of our work on predicates. They helped spread the word about our predicates framework and included it in an implementation of their own. We’re so grateful for their contribution to the L2 scalability effort through their word on sidechains, and proud to have worked alongside such a fantastic team for the past year.

Status was another one of our earliest backers. The support of a project that so embodies the open source ethos means a great deal to us. Status has never wavered from their commitment to individual sovereignty, freedom of expression, and open infrastructure. These values and the tools that put them into practice are exactly what we work so hard to build strong foundations for.

Collaborators & Contributors

We’ve always loved the Uniswap team and their incredible style. It was a blast to collaborate with them on UniPig. We are so proud of our friends for the work they’ve done and the ethos they embody.

We were fortunate enough to contract Whiteblock’s unbeatable team of fantastic engineers. Their incredible responsiveness and lightning grasp of the architecture earns a big gold star from us. We highly recommend Whiteblock to any blockchain team that wants access to some big brains.

Abbey Titcomb
Between gigs at a VC firm and Radicle, Abbey crushed heaps of research with us. Nobody throws a more powerful punch than Abbey. We miss having her firepower close to us, but we are all so lucky to have her as part of the community.

Alex Attar
We first got the opportunity to work with Alex at ETH Denver where he blasted through contracts for the first Generalized Plasma implementation with us. He has been an incredible friend to all of us, and we can only hope to match the level of support he has shown.

Cryptoeconomics Lab
Whether it’s the pure dev firepower of Syuhei, or Yuriko’s clean research and writing, we’ve been impressed time and time again by the brilliance of the members CEL team. We have thoroughly enjoyed working with them to hone our understanding of plasma and we have high hopes for their bright future.

Dan Robinson
The Karoke King and Poppin’ Polymath. We can’t believe that we had the stupendous fortune of having him as an advisor this past year. The breadth and depth of his knowledge astounds us every day.

Eva Beylin
We asked Eva to help organize the premier Scaling Ethereum conference. She ended up pulling the entire thing together in record time. Because of her deep expertise in crypto and her penchant for efficiency, many attendees stated it was the best conference they’d ever been to. We agree ❤

Georgios Konstantopoulos
Georgios the Greek Enigma has always been a source of invaluable feedback and inspiration for our research work. He doesn’t just hustle, he is Hustle itself and we aspire to get on his level.

Megan Knab
If anybody needs a crypto tax accountant or bookkeeper, Megan’s company Veriledger will be your holy grail. We are thankful to Megan for subduing our tax and financial panic with ease, patience, and obvious expertise.

Mikerah Quintyne Collins
Mikerah was also critical to the success of the Scaling Ethereum conference, and she’s always been an inspiration to us with her grit, candor, and creativity. You can check out some of her awesome work on mixnets here.

Tas Dienes
Thanks to our advisor Tas, we made far fewer boneheaded decisions than we would have otherwise. He’s been a rock of wisdom for us, and we are deeply grateful for his support.

Meeseeking & Other Anonymous Twitter Friends
We’re not sure who you are, but every time you all tweet about our work, donate to our gitcoin grant, or encourage others to support us, the whole team gathers around one screen to read your words and we attack the day with renewed vigor.

Thank you for your support, for following our work, engaging with our posts, and giving us words of encouragement. Random acts of kindness and support have been critical to our motivation. Even the little likes and re-tweets on our posts have brightened our days significantly, as we’ve slogged through complicated research problems that sometimes felt insurmountable.

We hope that we can continue to earn your support. Cheers to the future!