Layer 2 vs. Layer 3 Blockchains: All You Need to Know

Layer 2 vs. Layer 3 Blockchains: All You Need to Know

Layer-3 blockchains are built on top of Layer-2 solutions, providing additional functionality, interoperability, or performance enhancements to the underlying blockchain infrastructure. Here’s how they compare with Layer-2 and Layer-1 networks.

Blockchain technology has evolved dramatically since the birth of Bitcoin. While the original Bitcoin blockchain was envisioned by its creator Satoshi Nakamoto, as a way to support fast and decentralized digital payments, Vitalik Buterin made blockchain more versatile with Ethereum. With smart contract functionality, Ethereum and several new-generation blockchain networks have evolved into decentralized computing platforms, supporting dApps across several sectors. 


Over the years, there has also been considerable interest in the mainstream adoption of blockchain technology, especially among enterprises. However, one of the most significant drawbacks standing in the way of greater acceptance of this technology and the crypto industry is the scalability of blockchains. 


The need for more efficient, scalable solutions has led to the development of various unique layers, namely Layer 2 and Layer 3. This article will explore these blockchain scaling solutions, their operations, differences, and the shift from Layer 1 to Layer 2 and Layer 3 in the blockchain ecosystem. 


What Are Blockchain Scaling Solutions?

Blockchain scaling solutions refer to techniques aimed at enhancing the capacity of a blockchain network to process more transactions. It becomes crucial as growing users cause increased demand for processing, impacting the network's speed and efficiency.


They address the inherent limitations of blockchain networks, particularly in terms of transaction speed, capacity, and efficiency. These solutions aim to enhance the scalability of blockchains to accommodate a growing user base and increasing transaction volumes.


Dive deep into layer 1 and layer 2 blockchains


How Do Scaling Solutions Work?

Blockchain scaling solutions are critical for blockchain networks to meet the demands of a growing user base and various use cases, from cryptocurrencies to decentralized applications (dApps) and beyond. They ensure that blockchain technology remains practical and accessible on a global scale.


Scaling solutions, particularly layer 2 and layer 3, aim at transactional efficiency without compromising security. Here's a brief overview of how different types of blockchain scaling solutions work: 


Layer 1 Scaling Solutions 

Layer-1 scaling involves changes to the underlying blockchain protocol. This can include increasing block sizes, optimizing consensus algorithms, or accelerating block confirmation rates. These changes enhance the network's capacity and speed. Layer-1 scaling solutions include Bitcoin's SegWit, sharding, parallel processing, and increasing the block size. 


Layer 2 Networks 

Layer-2 solutions are implemented on top of the base blockchain layer. They improve scalability by conducting transactions off the main chain, reducing congestion. Examples include the Lightning Network for Bitcoin and various rollup solutions for Ethereum.


Layer 3 Blockchains 

Layer 3 blockchain scaling solutions aim to take blockchain technology to the next level by offering enhanced scalability, interoperability, and cost-efficiency. They build upon the foundations laid by Layer 1 and Layer 2 solutions, making blockchain networks more adaptable to future demands.



Sharding is an on-chain scaling solution. It divides the blockchain into smaller partitions or shards, each capable of processing transactions independently. This parallel processing significantly increases the network's throughput.


Off-chain Scaling 

Some scaling solutions move transactions off the blockchain entirely. They enable users to transact peer-to-peer without burdening the main chain. This reduces congestion and enhances speed. The Lightning Network is a prime example of this approach.


Hybrid Approaches 

In practice, many blockchain networks employ a combination of these solutions. They implement Layer-1 optimizations while also utilizing Layer-2 technologies to strike a balance between security and scalability.


What Is a Layer 3 Network, and How Does It Work?

The concept of Layer 3 Blockchain networks comes from the need to build a more secure, interoperable, and scalable blockchain infrastructure. While both Layer 2 and Layer 3 solutions aim to scale the blockchain network, Layer 3 is more about connecting various blockchains and facilitating seamless communication between them. 


Layer 3 networks operate on top of Layer 2 solutions, connecting multiple Layer 2 networks and allowing transactions across different blockchains, which traditional Layer 2 solutions do not achieve.


Here are the key features of Layer 3 scaling solutions: 


Enhanced Scalability 

Layer 3 networks bring even greater scalability to blockchain systems. They achieve this by optimizing consensus mechanisms and data structures, enabling higher throughput and transaction processing capabilities. 


Blockchain Interoperability 

Layer 3 solutions often focus on improving interoperability between different blockchain networks. They enable seamless communication and data transfer between disparate blockchains, enhancing the overall user experience. This interoperability is crucial for the growing blockchain ecosystem.


Low-cost and High-performance 

Layer 3 solutions are designed to be low-cost and high-performance, offering blockchain projects more choices for scaling. They aim to strike a balance between efficiency and affordability, making blockchain technology more accessible.


Decongesting the Main Chain 

Like Layer 2 solutions, Layer 3 solutions help decongest the main blockchain by processing certain transactions and operations off-chain. This reduces network congestion and transaction fees, improving the user experience. 


Enhanced Layering 

Layer 3 solutions work in conjunction with Layer 2 protocols. They can resolve fragmentation issues in the crypto space by combining Layer 2 scalability solutions with Layer 3 protocols for enhanced interoperability. 



Some Layer 3 solutions, like rollups, enable transactions outside the base layer and then upload them to Layer 2 blockchain protocols.


Layer 2 vs. Layer 3 Networks: The Differences 

The primary difference between Layer 2 and Layer 3 networks is their operational focus. Layer 2 emphasizes increasing transaction speed and reducing fees within a single blockchain, whereas Layer 3 focuses on interconnecting blockchains, thus fostering a blockchain web of sorts. It builds a 'network of networks, enhancing the entire blockchain ecosystem instead of a singular blockchain. 


Layer 3 blockchains differ from Layer 2 blockchains in several key ways:


  1. Role and Functionality: Layer 2 is a base layer built on top of another blockchain system, often Layer 1. Layer 3, on the other hand, is an advanced layer that typically focuses on hosting decentralized applications (DApps) and executing specific functions.

  2. Scalability vs. Advanced Applications: Layer 2 is primarily known for facilitating scalability among blockchain networks and protocols. Layer 3 can include by blockchain-based applications, including decentralized finance (DeFi), games, and distributed storage apps.

  3. Parameters vs. Execution: Layer 2 often defines the parameters and specifications for blockchain operations, while Layer 3 focuses on executing specific tasks and running applications. 

  4. Base Layer vs. Advanced Layer: Layer 2 is a foundational layer for blockchain systems, while Layer 3 is typically built on top of Layer 2 or other existing layers. 

  5. Protocol vs. Applications: Layer 2 often involves protocols built on top of the base blockchain, while Layer 3 focuses on real-world applications, including gaming, DeFi, and other services. 


How Are Layer 3 Blockchains Different From Layer 1 Blockchains?

Layer 3 blockchains differ from Layer 1 blockchains in terms of their roles and functionalities within the blockchain ecosystem:


  1. Base vs. Built-on: Layer 1 is the foundational layer of a blockchain network, serving as the base layer upon which other layers are built. Layer 3, on the other hand, is an advanced layer built on top of layer 2 or other existing layers.

  2. Parameters vs. Execution: Layer 1 defines the fundamental parameters of the blockchain, such as consensus rules and data structure. In contrast, Layer 3 focuses on executing specific functions, often enabling blockchain-based applications, games, or services.

  3. Scaling Capabilities: Layer 1 blockchains are the foundational blocks of the blockchain ecosystem but may lack the inherent capabilities for extensive scaling. Layer 3 solutions often introduce scalability features and innovations to address this limitation.

  4. Underlying Technology vs. Protocols: Layer 3 networks often enable the development of blockchain-based decentralized applications (dApps), games, and services. They provide a higher functionality level than Layer 1, which primarily focuses on securing the blockchain.


Layer 1 Blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum focus mainly on security and decentralization but face issues with scalability. Layer 3 blockchains, on the other hand, retain the security of Layer 1 while also ensuring scalability and interoperability, bridging multiple Layer 2 networks together.


Layer 1 vs. Layer 2 vs. Layer 3 Blockchain Scaling Solutions 


Layer 1 Scaling Solutions

Layer 2 Scaling Solutions

Layer 3 Scaling Solutions


Base layer of a blockchain network.

Overlaying network on top of Layer 1.

Hosts decentralized applications (DApps) and executes specific functions.


Provides the foundational framework.

Enhances scalability and adds features.

Hosts real-world applications and executes tasks.


Defines basic blockchain operations.

Processes operations outside of Layer 1.

Executes tasks specific to applications.


Security and basic blockchain functionality.

Scalability and additional features.

Hosting applications and specialized functions.


Primarily with Layer 1.

Interaction between Layer 1 and Layer 2.

Interaction with applications and Layer 2.


Ethereum 2.0, Bitcoin’s SegWit

Bitcoin Lightning Network, Arbitrum, Optimistic Rollups

Polkadot, Cosmos, Chainlink


Best Layer 3 Network Protocols to Watch 

Here are some notable Layer 3 blockchains and their contributions:


Cosmos (IBC Protocol) 

Cosmos employs the Inter-Blockchain Communication (IBC) protocol, a Layer 3 solution, to enable secure communication and data transfer between various blockchains within its ecosystem. This interconnectivity enhances the usability of blockchain networks and supports dApps. 


Popular IBC chains and protocols include Akash Network, Axelar Network, Kava, Osmosis, Band Protocol, Evmos, Fetch.AI, and Injective



Polkadot is a prominent Layer 3 blockchain known for its interoperability features. It operates as a multi-chain network, allowing different blockchains (parachains) to connect and share assets and data. Polkadot's Layer 3 architecture facilitates cross-chain communication, creating a robust ecosystem of interconnected blockchains. 


Notable examples of Polkadot parachains include Acala, Moonbeam, Parallel Finance, OmniBTC, Astar, Clover Finance, Kapex Parachain, and Manta Network. 



While often considered a Layer 2 solution, Chainlink has Layer 3 characteristics as an oracle network. Chainlink connects smart contracts with external data sources and real-world events, expanding the capabilities of decentralized applications. 


Some leading blockchain networks that leverage Chainlink’s oracle network include Ethereum, Avalanche, Optimism, and Polygon. Some dApps operating on BNB Chain and Polkadot also leverage Chainlink’s oracle services. 



Superchain Network, also known as the "Open Index Protocol," is a blockchain-based protocol focusing on decentralized data indexing and organization. Superchain provides a decentralized indexing solution for blockchain data. It organizes on-chain data in a manner that promotes decentralization and accessibility.


The platform is designed to align with the principles of Web3, which emphasizes decentralized and open systems. Superchain aims to shift away from the centralized models of web2 towards decentralized design. Superchain's primary use case revolves around organizing and indexing on-chain data, which can have applications in various sectors, including DeFi, NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), and more.



Orbs is a Layer 3 blockchain focusing on scalability and compatibility with Ethereum. It achieves this by introducing a hybrid consensus mechanism and facilitating EVM-compliant smart contracts. This Layer 3 blockchain aims to address the scalability issues faced by Ethereum, enabling dApps to run efficiently. 


Orbs works with existing Layer 1 (L1) and Layer 2 (L2) solutions, including popular blockchains like Ethereum, TON, Polygon, BNB Chain, Avalanche, Fantom, and more. It operates as a Layer 3 blockchain, utilizing a Proof-of-Stake consensus mechanism for efficient and secure transaction processing.


Closing Thoughts 

The evolution from Layer 1 to Layer 3 in blockchains symbolizes the growth in blockchain technology, driven by the need for enhanced scalability and interoperability while maintaining security. Layer 3 blockchains, focusing on creating a network of networks, are on the frontline, shaping a blockchain future that could be faster, more secure, and truly decentralized.