What Is Polygon & How To Use It
Polygon is the leading platform for Ethereum scaling and infrastructure development. Its growing suite of products offers developers easy access to all major scaling and infrastructure solutions: L2 solutions (ZK Rollups and Optimistic Rollups), sidechains, hybrid solutions, stand-alone and enterprise chains, data availability solutions, and more. Polygon’s scaling solutions have seen widespread adoption with 3000+ applications hosted, 1B+ total transactions processed, ~100M+ unique user addresses, and $5B+ in assets secured.
Its core component is Polygon SDK, a modular, flexible framework that supports building and connecting two major types of solutions:
- Secured chains (aka Layer 2 chains): Scaling solutions that rely on Ethereum for security instead of establishing their own validator pool. Polygon will support other major Layer 2 solutions such as Optimistic Rollups, zkRollups, Validium, etc, thus basically becoming a one-of-a-kind “Layer 2 aggregator.”
Secured chains are a good fit for (1) applications that require the highest level of security and (2) startups, i.e., young projects and communities that have not yet established a sufficiently decentralized and secure validator pool.
- Stand-alone chains (aka Sidechains): Sovereign Ethereum sidechains normally are fully in charge of their own security; that is, they have their own validator pool. Stand-alone chains offer the highest level of independence and flexibility, with the tradeoff of a normally lower level of decentralization and security. These chains’ architecture can be adjusted so they at least partially inherit security from Ethereum. One good example of such architecture is the Matic POS Chain which uses Ethereum for validator staking and periodical finality checkpoints.
Stand-alone chains are often a good fit for (1) enterprises, (2) projects that do not require the highest level of security, and (3) established projects with strong communities (capable of running a sufficiently decentralized and secure validator pool).
Polygon effectively transforms Ethereum into a full-fledged multi-chain system (aka Internet of Blockchains). This multi-chain system is akin to other ones such as Polkadot, Cosmos, Avalanche, etc., but with at least three major upsides:
- It is able to fully benefit from Ethereum’s network effects. This is because it is built as an integral part of the Ethereum ecosystem, while the aforementioned projects are competing ecosystems built from scratch.
- It is inherently more secure. Polygon uses Ethereum, the most secure and battle-tested programmable blockchain in the world, as the economic hub and source of security. In contrast, the competing projects use recently launched and less expressive chains for this purpose.
- It is more open and powerful, primarily in terms of the architecture types it can support. This is because (1) Polygon is built on Ethereum, so it can trivially incorporate basically any scaling or infrastructure solution from the Ethereum ecosystem, and (2) it fully adopts, and was designed with one of its main goals being, Ethereum’s ethos of open innovation.
What Is Layer 2?
Layer 2 refers to a secondary framework or protocol that is built on top of an existing blockchain system. The main goal of these protocols is to solve the transaction speed and scaling difficulties faced by the major cryptocurrency networks.
For instance, Bitcoin and Ethereum are still not able to process thousands of transactions per second (TPS), and this is certainly detrimental to their long-term growth. There is a need for higher throughput before these networks can be effectively adopted and used on a wider scale. In this context, the term “layer 2” refers to the multiple solutions being proposed to the blockchain scalability problem. Two major examples of layer 2 solutions are the Bitcoin Lightning Network and the Ethereum Plasma. Despite having their own working mechanisms and particularities, both solutions are striving to provide increased throughput to blockchain systems.
In a broader sense, layer 2 protocols create a secondary framework, where blockchain transactions and processes can take place independently of the layer 1 (main chain). For this reason, these techniques may also be referred to as “off-chain” scaling solutions.
One of the main advantages of using off-chain solutions is that the main chain doesn’t need to go through any structural change because the second layer is added as an extra layer. As such, layer 2 solutions have the potential to achieve high throughput without sacrificing network security.
In other words, a great portion of the work that would be performed by the main chain can be moved to the second layer. So while the main chain (layer 1) provides security, the second layer offers high throughput, being able to perform hundreds, or even thousands, of transactions per second.
How To Use Polygon
When it comes to holding your assets in a wallet, there are two options, hardware wallets and software wallets.
MetaMask is the most popular software wallet. Hardware wallets like Trezor and Ledger are also good options, but these wallets must be purchased individually.
Most sites may have integrations with MetaMask, but not directly with hardware wallets yet. So if you want, you can just keep your assets within your hardware wallet, but using MetaMask allows you to interact with other Web3 websites and Dapps.
To get started with your MetaMask wallet, begin by downloading it at https://metamask.io/ and installing the extension in your browser.
After adding the extension, MetaMask will automatically open. You can also make sure it’s easily accessible in your toolbar by clicking the jigsaw icon in the top-right of the screen, and hitting the pin icon. MetaMask will then walk you through the setup of your wallet.
An integral part of this process for creating a custodial wallet is your seed phrase (sometimes referred to as your Secret Recovery Phrase). The Secret Recovery Phrase is the key to the wallet. If someone has the key, they have complete access to the wallet. MetaMask does not keep the keys: you are the custodian of your wallet. MetaMask will never ask for your Secret Recovery Phrase, even in a customer support scenario. If someone does ask for it, they are likely trying to scam you or steal your funds. So be sure to keep this extra safe place (NOT ON A COMPUTER).
Once complete, you will be given an Ethereum address. You can then send funds or NFTs to this address and the wallet will hold them for you. MetaMask will also show you which assets you hold, how much of them you have, and enable you to send those assets to other wallets.
One of MetaMask’s most exciting features is connecting to decentralized applications, or Dapps. Think of Dapps as traditional websites that you can access in your browser, but that have a special portal built into them that links them to the Ethereum network. In order to interact with that Ethereum functionality, you need to have a wallet connected to the Dapp portion of the website. That’s where MetaMask comes in.
Many websites that have Dapp functionality will have a button somewhere on the site that says ‘Connect wallet’, or ‘Connect to Dapp’ or even just ‘Launch app’. Clicking the correct button should launch a set of interactions that end up with your MetaMask wallet being connected to the Dapp you’re on.
For additional security, many people choose to use hardware wallets. Hardware wallets must be purchased individually — and always directly from the vendor to avoid scammers.
MetaMask allows you to connect a Trezor or Ledger wallet. This allows you to:
- Check your account balance (ETH or Tokens).
- Sign transactions — For ex. Send ETH and ERC20 tokens and collectibles, deploy contracts, etc.
- Sign messages
To connect your hardware wallet to MetaMask, start by unlocking your MetaMask. Then, select the icon on the top-right corner and select “Connect Hardware Wallet.” Choose Ledger or Trezor, then click connect. And, lastly, confirm the account you want to interact with.
Once you successfully connect your account, it will behave just like any other MetaMask account, with the difference that you need to have your wallet plugged in for signing transactions or messages.
The Polygon Network
Once your assets are successfully on the Polygon Network, it operates much in the same way as any assets on the Ethereum Network. There are a few key differences, though:
First, your wallet address for your assets on the Polygon Network will be the same as your wallet address for your assets on the Ethereum Network. So if you don’t see your assets there, make sure you are looking at your wallet while selecting the right network. If you wish to transfer your assets from the Polygon Network to the Ethereum Network (or vice versa), you must do so using the Polygon Bridge.
Next, all gas fees on the Polygon Network are paid in MATIC. So, be sure your wallet has some MATIC if you want to make any transactions with it. Additionally, using the Polygon Bridge may require ETH as well.
Lastly, not all wallet addresses are Polygon compatible. For example, many exchanges do not yet support Polygon. So if you want to send assets on the Polygon Network to an exchange, make sure that they can receive assets on the Polygon Network first, or bridge them back to the Ethereum Network first before transferring.
The Polygon Bridge allows users to quickly transfer ERC tokens and NFTs from Ethereum to the Polygon sidechain, or vice versa.
To learn more about how to use the Polygon Bridge, please click here.
Note: This is not to be confused with the ASK Bridge, which is a separate bridge used to help Permission users migrate their ASK from the legacy Permission Network to the Polygon Network. Do not try to migrate your ASK from the Permission Network using the Polygon Bridge. Only after migration of your ASK using the ASK Bridge can you use the Polygon Bridge.
Information about how to use the ASK Bridge will be available shortly.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual, product, or for any investment strategy. It is only intended to provide education about the cryptocurrency industry. Nothing in this post constitutes investment advice or any recommendation that any cryptocurrency, product, or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. Do your own research thoroughly about cryptocurrency transactions, products or before making any investments of any kind.