The Problem: Bridge protocols don’t enable users to bridge between Layer 2s
Crypto holders should be able to use their tokens whenever they want, across any set of blockchain networks.
Ethereum gets you security, but it is a very expensive layer. The benefit of Layer 2 networks is that they are more scalable – fees are lower in L2.
Unfortunately, users cannot move funds directly between Layer 2 networks.
Interoperability for tokens among different chains in web3 is a critical technical problem with crypto bridges today.
Bridging between Layer 2 networks is impossible
For example, users can’t go directly from from Optimism to Arbitrum, no matter what bridge they use.
In order to move tokens between these layer 2 networks, users are forced to take a multi-step process, bridging back to Layer 1 from Optimism before moving their funds to Arbitrum.
You can try it to see for yourself.
As shown below, after adding both Arbitrum Network AND Optimism Network to my wallet and going to the Arbitrum Bridge, its clear that the only connection possible is to go between Layer 1 and Layer 2.
Layer 2 direct jumps don’t exist (yet).
Current Functionality: Bridging from Ethereum to Layer 2 is simple
Bridging from Ethereum Mainnet any one of the Layer 2’s is pretty simple and straightforward.
For example, a user’s first experience exploring the Optimism ecosystem (covered in this post) is pretty straightforward:
The Ethereum –> Optimism bridge allows for funds to be transferred quickly, letting the user get started with dapps like NFTs, DeFi, and more.
Similarly, bridging from Ethereum Mainnet to Arbitrum is pretty easy.
Users use a service like Chainlist to connect to any number of different Layer 2 blockchain networks directly, without manually typing in the network ID and other information.
Optimism and Arbitrum are just two examples – Chainlist offers hundreds of connectable networks – an overwhelmingly large amount of software to explore.
Improving crypto bridges will reduce fees for users
The fact that a user can’t move funds between two different rollups without sending funds back to Ethereum Mainnet not only makes the user experience more cumbersome, but it means users pay higher fees.
The bridging process requires two additional transactions on Ethereum Mainnet, instead of a single transaction on Layer 2 between networks.
This multi-step process ultimately requires more gas.
At this point, the ability to move funds between layer 2 networks is an aspect of UX that is missing, and is a big gap in crypto.
The ideal UX features simply have not been built out yet.
Poor user experience is the nature of emerging technology
When you are exploring the frontier of emerging technology, some difficulty of use should be expected.
To put things into perspective, this lack of user functionality is part of what makes crypto most exciting.
If the UX was perfect and every blockchain app was easy to use, then crypto would already be mainstream.
When you are using emerging technology before other people, it is going to be clunky and difficult to use.
We are early; blockchain technology still has so much un-realized value. This is part of exploring and seeing tech trends before everyone else.
We Need to Enable Users to Migrate Between Layer 2 Blockchains
The good news, is that interoperability problem currently exists within similarly EVM compatible blockchains.
Because Layer 2 networks share protocols with Ethereum’s foundational Layer 1, the challenge should be solvable.
The Ethereum ecosystem, with the EVM protocol fundamentals, was made for this type of universal compatibility… shared components allowing protocols to integrate.
Axelar Network seeks to solve interoperability
We know its possible. Still, bridging between Layer 2’s is a feature that is not yet present in web3.
One network focused on this is the Axelar Network.
On the recent Zero Knowledge podcast episode, Sergey Gorbunov discussed how to make layer 2 protocols more interoperable.
Sergey shared information about how Axelar is focused on interoperability, making it easy for users to migrate between chains.
He mentioned that by building service layer protocols on top of the core networks, end to end flows between applications will be easy and seamless for users.
This will also enable bridging between Ethereum L2s so that users don’t have to go back to the main chain.