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What Is Arbitrum?
Arbitrum is a layer-two blockchain for Ethereum using optimistic rollups as scaling technology. It processes transactions on its proprietary sidechain and relays the new chain state to the Ethereum mainnet. This allows Arbitrum to achieve a throughput of up to 40,000 transactions per second at a significantly lower gas cost than on the Ethereum mainnet.
In a nutshell, optimistic rollups mean that a transaction is executed on Arbitrum and only its output is recorded on the L1 chain. The name optimistic rollup can be decoded in the following way:
Rollup: the transactions on Arbitrum are rolled up into one transaction recorded on the ETH mainnet. This saves gas costs and avoids mainnet congestion.
Optimistic: the rollups are optimistic because they are assumed to be correct and valid (i.e., no double spending). Nodes are incentivized to submit only valid transactions. A transaction's validity can be challenged for up to seven days.
Since transactions are not computed on the Ethereum mainnet, a minimal amount of data is needed for state storage and computation. As a result, Ethereum is less clogged and gas fees decrease. Arbitrum allows running EVM-compatible smart contracts and is secured by the Ethereum mainnet.
Arbitrum vs Optimism vs ZK-Rollups
Arbitrum is not the only L2 solution using optimistic rollups. Optimism (OP) is another layer-two chain that launched its OP token in June 2022 with an airdrop. Arbitrum and Optimism share many similarities:
Validators stake ETH and have an incentive to act honestly.
Rollups are optimistic because they are assumed to be valid at the time of the transaction.
Both have full nodes, accumulating layer-one transactions, and validator nodes monitoring the chain state.
Both relay only the calldata with the hashes of confirmed rollup blocks to the mainnet.
DApps on both chains can select their own validators. Since transactions are validated locally instead of by all nodes, nodes have to communicate less with each other, increasing transaction throughput.
Their main differences are:
Optimism uses single-round fraud proofs, Arbitrum uses multiple-round fraud proofs. Put simply, Optimism executes transaction proof in one round on the layer-one chain, Arbitrum does this in several rounds off-chain.
Optimism is EVM-compatible. So is Arbitrum, but Arbitrum also has its own Arbitrum Virtual Machine (AVM).
Optimism has a Solidity compiler, Arbitrum supports all EVM programming languages.
As you can see, the differences are mostly technical and of little interest to the everyday user. Arbitrum, however, boasts a significantly bigger ecosystem with more total value locked (TVL) ($1.5 billion vs $300 million) and more active DApps.
There are also a couple of differences between Arbitrum and ZK-rollup solutions:
Arbitrum argues it will achieve lower gas fees in the long run because ZK-rollups need to submit cryptographic proof to the L1 to validate their transaction. This is more complex and thus costlier.
Optimistic rollups are always EVM-compatible; ZK-rollups are not (according to Arbitrum).
Optimistic rollups have trustless visibility, but not all ZK-rollups do, so some transactions may not be traceable from start to finish.
Arbitrum admits that bridging is a better experience on ZK L2s because there is no seven-day waiting period to withdraw funds to layer one.
Arbitrum Team, Investors and Roadmap
Arbitrum is started by Offchain Labs, a development company from New York founded by Ed Felten and Steven Goldfeder is behind the development of Arbitrum. Offchain Labs has received a total of $123.7 million in three investment rounds from 2019 to 2021.
An initial seed round in 2019 raised $3.7 million and was led by Pantera Capital. The Series A round in April 2021 raised $20 million, with the Series B in August 2021 raising another $100 million from Lightspeed Venture Partners and other investors like Polychain Capital, Ribbit Capital, Redpoint Ventures, Pantera Capital, Alameda Research and Mark Cuban.
The Arbitrum Beta Mainnet launched in May 2021, followed by the mainnet launch in August 2021 and sidechain support in Q1 of 2022. There are currently more than 80 DApps running on Arbitrum. According to Arbiscan, Arbitrum boasts over 720,000 unique addresses as of June 2022 and is growing fast. Between 50,000 and 100,000 transactions per day are processed, and Arbitrum has almost $1.5 billion in total value locked.
Arbitrum Token and Potential Airdrop
Arbitrum does not have a token yet. However, considering that its competitor Optimism launched its OP token with an airdrop, Arbitrum will likely introduce an Arbitrum native token in the future. If you want to be eligible for an Arbitrum token airdrop, you should bridge to the Arbitrum ecosystem and use some of the Arbitrum DApps listed below. Here is also our guide to airdrops called What Are Crypto Airdrops.
SushiSwap (SUSHI) is a decentralized exchange (DEX) that launched as a fork of Uniswap. It is one of the biggest decentralized exchanges on the market and has a total value locked of over $300 million on Arbitrum. Users can swap different tokens, borrow and lend, and provide liquidity all without giving up custody of their funds.
GMX is a decentralized spot and perpetual exchange that prides itself on its low swap fees and deep liquidity that guarantees trading with zero slippage. GMX differs from traditional order book models in that it does not support trading pairs. It instead provides liquidity through its multi-asset GLP (GMX Liquidity Provider) to execute trades. Users trade against the automated market maker (AMM), which gets prices through an oracle.
The price of the GLP tokens is derived from the total value of the assets in the pool divided by the total supply. When the liquidity provider adds assets to the liquidity pool, they mint GLP tokens and when the liquidity is removed, these GLP tokens are burned. Thus, fees are reduced when the supply of an asset in a pool is low, providing an incentive to add the asset to the pool.
Furthermore, GLP holders receive esGMX, which can be converted to GMX tokens after one year. They also receive 70% of the platform’s revenue. GMX tokens can be staked to receive esGMX, a 30% share of the platform’s revenue, and multiplier points for GMX. This intricate token design and staking incentives allowed GMX to become the second-biggest protocol on Arbitrum with over $300 million in total value locked.
Curve (CRV) is a stablecoin DEX and one of the most important exchanges for swapping stablecoins. It was one of the first exchanges that popularized the AMM model. Curve is available on nearly every relevant blockchain and boasts a TVL of over $150 million on Arbitrum, making it one of the biggest protocols of the ecosystem.
Uniswap (UNI) is a decentralized exchange and one of the biggest DEXes by TVL in DeFi. Although it has significantly less TVL on Arbitrum than its rival Sushiswap, Uniswap came up with the AMM principle that allows users to trade without a counterparty and only against a liquidity pool controlled by a smart contract. On Arbitrum, Uniswap has a TVL of over $50 million as of June 2022.
Balancer (BAL) is another DEX, which uses shared pools and smart pools for token swapping. Balancer works similarly to Uniswap and Curve and enables anyone to create token pools with automatically adjusted pool weights. Its TVL on Arbitrum is smaller than that of its competitors, but Balancer still boasts over $15 million in total value locked.
The Best Arbitrum Bridge
Synapse (SYN) is a cross-chain bridge connecting several L1 and L2 blockchains. Cross-chain multi-party computation validators secure the Synapse bridge and the ecosystem is powered by the Synapse token — SYN. The Synapse DAO employs SYN as an incentive for liquidity providers to enable the protocol’s cross-chain functionality and as a subsidy to pay for gas expended by network validators. Synapse is one of the most important bridges to Arbitrum besides the official Arbitrum bridge and has a TVL of almost $30 million.
The Best Lending Protocols on Arbitrum
The best lending protocols on Arbitrum are:
dForce: a DeFi infrastructure protocol.
Stargate Finance: a fully composable liquidity protocol.
Aave: a popular money market.
Vesta Finance: a lending protocol.
dForce (DF) strives to provide DeFi infrastructure in web3 through lending, trading and staking services. dForce is a community-driven DAO with dForce USD (USX) as a stablecoin at the heart of its protocol matrix. This algorithmic stablecoin implements a pool-based and vault-based model with a hybrid interest rate policy. It is powered by protocol-to-protocol integrations and a cross-chain bridge to facilitate its adoption. dForce also provides lending, staking, trading, and bridge services as part of its all-in-one DeFi infrastructure solution.
Stargate Finance (STG) is a fully composable liquidity protocol. It allows users to transfer assets across blockchains and access the protocol’s unified liquidity pools with instant guaranteed finality. Stargate’s key products are cross-chain transfers, liquidity provision to its omnichain protocol, yield farming for STG rewards, and staking to receive veSTG, the protocol’s governance token. Stargate Finance has over $100 million in TVL on Arbitrum.
Aave (AAVE) is a DeFi money market protocol and lending platform that allows users to borrow and lend different crypto assets. Users can deposit their crypto assets in different liquidity pools and earn interest on them or borrow against their existing crypto holdings as collateral. Aave is one of the biggest lending protocols in decentralized finance and boasts over $30 million in total value locked on Arbitrum.
Vesta Finance (VSTA) is a lending protocol allowing users to obtain maximum liquidity against their crypto collateral without paying interest. Users can deposit several cryptocurrencies as collateral and mist VST, a USD-pegged stablecoin.
The Best NFT Marketplace on Arbitrum
Treasure DAO (MAGIC) is an NFT marketplace that wants to bridge the gap between NFTs and DeFi. Its Bridgeworld metaverse is the protocol’s flagship product, which offers DeFi functionality like staking and mining MAGIC tokens, providing liquidity, and trading NFTs on the marketplace. Treasure DAO is also working on an increasing number of partnerships with other DeFi protocols and NFT projects.
The Best DApps on Arbitrum
Some of the best DApps on Arbitrum include:
Dopex: a decentralized options protocol.
Beefy Finance: a yield aggregator.
Sperax USD: a hybrid algorithmic and crypto-collateralized stablecoin.
Jones DAO: an options liquidity protocol.
Dopex (DPX) is a decentralized options protocol. It aims to maximize liquidity provision while keeping losses for option writers to a minimum. Dopex implemented a rebate system for losses based on exercised options for every epoch. Options writers receive rebates based on their percentage losses and are paid in the protocol’s rebate token rDPX. This allows options writers to engage in sophisticated trading strategies that go beyond regular hedging. Dopex also boasts constant innovation in the form of its Atlantic options and has partnerships with several DeFi protocols like OlympusDAO and Jones DAO.
Beefy Finance (BIFI) is a multi-chain yield optimizer platform, where users can earn compound interest on their crypto assets. Beefy Finance deploys user funds locked in vaults across the DeFi ecosystem and applies several investment strategies to ensure the maximum possible yield. The BIFI token is the “dividend-eligible” revenue share in Beefy Finance that token holders earn profits with.
Sperax USD (USDs) is an algorithmic stablecoin and crypto-collateralized stablecoin hybrid. It boasts an 11% auto-compounding APY. Its SPA governance token can be staked to receive protocol fees and a share of USDs auto-yield and staking incentives.
Jones DAO (JONES) is a yield-maximizer and liquidity protocol for options. It is built on top of Dopex and enables one-click access to options strategies for users that do not want to manage their options investments themselves. Jones DAO offers vaults for multiple assets and risk profiles.
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