The Case for Rollups: A Beginner's Guide

Dec 20, 2023


The Case for Rollups: A Beginner's Guide

Dec 20, 2023


The Case for Rollups: A Beginner's Guide

Dec 20, 2023

The Case for Rollups: A Beginner's Guide

The Case for Rollups: A Beginner's Guide

The Case for Rollups: A Beginner's Guide

In the rapidly evolving world of blockchain, rollups have emerged as a novel solution for scalability and efficiency. But what exactly are rollups, and why are they pivotal for the future growth of Web3 projects?

The Scalability Challenge

The evolution of Web3 ecosystem is consistently hampered by a critical scalability hurdle. At the heart of this issue are traditional monolithic networks like Ethereum, which, despite their pioneering status, are mired in inefficiencies.

As a result, Web3 projects building on top of large L1’s face several key challenges:

  1. Prohibitive Transaction Fees: As these networks struggle with high usage, transaction fees skyrocket. This becomes a significant financial bottlenecks for users and developers, particularly in scenarios where frequent and cost-effective transactions are essential.

  2. Slow Processing Times: Functionality of real world applications is often undermined by the sluggish transaction processing.

  3. Limits at the Base Layer: In its present form, Ethereum has a limited throughput, resulting in a transaction processing rate that falls notably short of the actual demand.

These challenges highlight a critical disconnect between the ambitions of Web3 and the capabilities of its underlying infrastructure. Rollups, as a Layer 2 solution that we will dive into in detail, offer a vital bridge to overcome these barriers, unlocking efficiency and scalability essential for the future of Web3 projects.

How Rollups Improve Scalability

Rollups work by executing transactions outside of the main Layer 1 chain (off-chain), but posting the transaction data back on-chain in a condensed form. By matching multiple transactions into a single package (rolling them up) and handling them off of the main chain, rollups significantly increase transaction throughput and decrease network congestion.

As a simple analogy, think of how Layer 1 chains often face congestion similar to a crowded city grid with every individual driving their own car, leading to traffic jams, more time in the vehicle, and more money spent on gas. Rollups act like a bullet train, batching commuters (transactions) together in mass off of the main roads, while still arriving at the same destination safely. This process in turn exponentially reduces traffic and cost while increasing speed.

Other Scaling Solutions (And why they miss the mark)

Asides from rollups, developers have additionally been focusing on several other scalability solutions:

  • Sidechains: Independent blockchains linked to a main chain, with their own consensus mechanisms/security

  • State Channels: Off-chain transaction channels, only recorded during opening and closing for efficient processing

  • Plasma Chains A framework for building scalable applications by creating “child chains”, which are anchored to the main Ethereum blockchain

While each of these concepts have their particular use cases, they miss the mark in several categories.

  • Due to sidechains being entirely independent, they require their own security and consensus mechanisms, and often force compromises on decentralization.

  • While state channels provide the benefit conducting multiple transactions off chain (quickly and cheaply), they have a limited set of participants enforcing rules, increasing the possibility of malicious behavior.

  • Although plasma chains operate very similar to rollups by taking transactions off the main blockchain, they face challenges with complex exits and data availability.

In contrast, rollups offer a unique blend of scalability, security, and efficiency. As the transaction data is posted to the main Layer 1 chain, rollups inherit the security of the Layer 1’s consensus mechanism, and often offer much simpler bridging on and off chain.

Types of Rollups

To bundle (or "roll up") transactions, rollups rely on one of two mechanisms:

  • Optimistic: This approach assumes transactions are valid by default. Transactions are only verified if someone flags a potential error. While this improves speed, there is a waiting period for transaction times to be finalized.

  • Zero-Knowledge (ZK): This approach uses cryptographic proofs up front, ensuring transactions are valid without exposing private data.

To learn more about the comparison between these two types, read our post on the topic here.

Rollup Usecases


By aggregating trades and interactions, rollups drastically reduce transaction costs and latency, helping increase user participation and liquidity. These scaling solutions de-risk from gas fee spikes and network outages through a scalable, dedicated transaction layer. They can further introduce trustless bridging options to securely bring funds and users to the new chain, with inherited security from the layer one

On-chain Games:

Heavy gas fees often inhibit minting and trading activity. A customized rollup can toggle gasless transactions — allowing users to come in without having to externally buy ETH before interacting with the game. While Ethereum can only handle 10-transactions per second, rollups can handle thousands, supporting millions of players.


At its core, a rollup is an immutable, inexpensive, fast, and secure tracking mechanism. Sectors like supply chain, healthcare, and legal/compliance are turning to rollups for a more optimized data management solution. With further customizations made possible by sequencer-level permissions and inherited L1 security, they become an incredibly viable backend for Web2 information processing.

The Future of Infrastructure

The introduction of rollup frameworks, which enable developers to design and deploy dedicated rollups built with the same underlying technology as leading general purpose rollups like Optimism and Arbitrum have created a window to the “endgame” for crypto infrastructure - a network of performant, modular blockchains secured by Ethereum, built using Rollup-as-a-Service platforms like Caldera.