Introduction to Layer-2 smart contracts

Layer-2 blockchains are a transformative force for the Ethereum network, accelerating transactions at a lower cost. They supercharge smart contracts while inheriting the mainnet's security. Here's an overview of this vibrant ecosystem — a game changer for dApps. 

Significance of Layer-2 Smart Contracts

Scalability limitations prevent Ethereum from fully meeting the demand for smart contracts. Layer 2 (L2) addresses these imperfections, making self-executing agreements more performant and cost-efficient. 

L2 solutions operate on top of the primary chain (Layer 1). By offloading some of the mainnet processing, these blockchains revolutionize smart contract development and use. 

Ethereum L2 ecosystem. Source: thirdweb

Layer 2 vs. Layer 1: Benefits

Compared to Ethereum's primary layer, L2 smart contracts unlock diverse advantages for a myriad of use cases. 

Higher throughput 

L2 solutions offload transactions from the main blockchain, reducing congestion and accelerating contract execution. As a result, decentralized applications (dAapps) can handle more transactions without losing efficiency. 

Lower cost

L2 transactions are significantly cheaper than on Ethereum, which is crucial for businesses seeking to cut operational expenses. For users, this translates into a more convenient and cost-effective experience. 

Following the Dencun upgrade in March 2024, transaction costs on L2 blockchains plunged dramatically — by 50-99%. At press time, the average fees on Optimism and Arbitrum are below $0.01, compared to roughly $0.44 for Ethereum gas.

L2 fees as of June 14, 2024. Source:


By default, all L2 solutions are interoperable with Layer 1, allowing developers to leverage Ethereum's infrastructure and reach a broader community of users and apps.

Faster confirmation

With the need for on-chain interactions minimized, smart contracts on L2 have shorter transaction confirmation times. Acceleration boosts the usability and responsiveness of dApps.

Security and privacy

L2 blockchains leverage the security of Ethereum, which has around 1 million validators and over $100 billion worth of stakes. It is a trustworthy and robust dApp environment with enhanced privacy features safeguarding sensitive data.

Ethereum staking stats as of June 14, 2024. Source: Dune

Enhanced user experience 

L2 smart contracts are designed with the user in mind. By eliminating delays and reducing gas fees, they improve dApp interactions. 

Higher scalability, lower costs, and speed are not just technical benefits; they are real-world advantages that change the way we interact with blockchain technology.

Layer-2 Solutions for Smart Contract Development

Prominent L2 solutions offer unique approaches to addressing smart contract scalability. Ethereum developers should refer to Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIPs) as a standardized framework. Adherence ensures compatibility with other platforms and projects. 

State Channels

These communication channels save time by connecting participants directly without needing a third party, like a miner, to confirm transactions. Multi-sig technology temporarily seals a portion of the blockchain, and the final state of the channel is added to the blockchain once the transaction is approved.

Zero-Knowledge Rollups (ZK Rollups)

Offloading transactions from the main blockchain, ZK rollups create validity proof, which is the only thing it requires. As a result, the gas fees decline. This cryptographic proof is called a Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge. 

Optimistic Rollups

Unlike ZK rollups, Optimistic counterparts rely on fraud proofs. Simply put, aggregators publish minimal data on Layer 1 while assuming it is correct. If the transaction is valid, nothing else is needed. Otherwise, the main blockchain requires a fraud proof. The Optimistic Rollup performs it and penalizes the sender if the transaction is proven to be fraudulent.

How Optimistic Rollups work. Source: Chainlink


This Layer-2 framework enables the creation of child chains, each with its consensus mechanism, connected to the primary blockchain. Plasma supports scalability and customization for a wide variety of use cases, including DEXs, gaming, and dApps with unique consensus needs.


These blockchains interoperate with the main blockchain, existing separately from it. They provide development flexibility and help decrease congestion on the primary chain. 

Sidechains form a solid foundation for dApps needing unique governance mechanisms or consensus algorithms. They are versatile and have been used for tasks ranging from private enterprise needs to cross-chain asset transfers. 

Smart contract development process 

The development process for Layer-2 solutions involves using various technologies, such as Optimistic Rollups, zk-Rollups, and Sidechains. In terms of language, Solidify is the preferred choice. 

Tests should be written before development to provide a clear target and ensure the contracts aren't limited to previously written code. Otherwise, they may overlook incorrect behavior and edge cases. 

Step 1. Explore

Developers should explore each solution's use cases and strengths, such as throughput, implementation difficulty, and development libraries, to make the right choice. They need suitable writing, testing, and deployment tools. 

Step 2. Code

Coding must be guided by the standards of the chosen solution, which usually involves contract compatibility with the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). 

Bugs may have severe repercussions, with multiple points of potential failure. Hence, some developers keep complexity proportional to necessity. By simplifying contract logic, they also make their contracts easier to audit, maintain, and upgrade. 

Step 3. Test

Testing is a crucial step in spotting and eliminating vulnerabilities. Layer-2 solutions typically have dedicated testnet environments so developers can redefine their code and make it more secure. 

The goal is to ensure the contract meets the originally defined requirements — its functionalities, desired behaviors, and the conditions it must handle.

Step 4. Deploy 

Depending on the project stage, smart contracts may be deployed on the mainnet or testnet of the L2 solution. Role-based access models for administrative control are recommended, as they eliminate a single point of failure that cybercriminals may exploit.

Step 5. Integrate

Embedding smart contracts into apps or services ensures a seamless user experience, which is more efficient and cost-effective than on Layer 1. 

Contracts fetching prices on-chain require reputable oracles. This integration ensures accurate, tamper-resistant price data, as DEX getter functions are susceptible to flash-loan attacks. 

Layer-2 smart contracts on Bitcoin 

Although Ethereum is the go-to platform for smart contracts, Bitcoin also has its own dedicated layer. For instance, the Stacks blockchain enhances the utility of the most decentralized and secure blockchain without altering its core protocol.

Using Proof-of-Transfer (PoX) consensus, Stacks leverages Bitcoin's Proof of Work to secure its network and enable smart contracts. The latter interact with Bitcoin state and transactions directly.

Bitcoin’s L2 ecosystem. Source:

To sum up

The advent of smart contracts on Layer 2 is instrumental in driving dApp performance for a more efficient blockchain future. These contracts provide multiple advantages, improving Ethereum's scalability, costs, speed, security, and user experience overall. The L2 technology is making waves for the right reasons, and it promises to lead in a new era of smart contract development.