Layer 1 vs Layer 2 Blockchain: Understanding the Differences

In this article, we will explore the differences between layer-1 and layer-2 blockchains, their use cases, and their place in the crypto industry.

Blockchain technology has revolutionized the way we conduct transactions, exchange value, store data and interact with infrastructures. However, with the growing demand for faster and more efficient solutions, some additional technologies have emerged that are important to know.

What is Layer 1?

Layer 1 refers to the base layer of a blockchain network. This layer is responsible for creating the basis of blockchain infrastructure and executing its core functions. In other words, L1 is the backbone of a blockchain network and determines its fundamental features, such as security, scalability, and consensus mechanism. The most famous examples of L1 chains include Bitcoin, Ethereum, Binance Smart Chain, Solana, and Avalanche, etc.

What is Layer 2?

Layer 2 is an additional layer built on top of the base layer of a blockchain network. This layer is designed to enhance the performance and functionality of the blockchain by offloading some of the processes from the base layer. L2 solutions are built to improve the speed, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of blockchain transactions. Examples of Layer 2 solutions include Lightning Network, Polygon, and Rollups technologies (such as Optimism and Arbitrum).

Differences Between Layer 1 and Layer 2

The primary difference between L1 and L2 is the functions they perform in a blockchain network. L1 blockchains serve as the underlying infrastructure of the network, while L2 solutions provide additional features, functionality, increased capacity and efficiency. Some other key differences between L1 and L2 are:

  • Security: L1 blockchains are more secure than L2 solutions because they are designed to be immutable and resistant to tampering. On the other hand, L2 solutions are less secure because they rely on the security of the underlying L1 blockchain.
  • Scalability: L1 blockchains are known for their scalability limitations, which can result in slow transaction times and high fees during peak usage. L2 solutions, however, are designed to enhance the scalability of L1 blockchains by enabling off-chain transactions.
  • Consensus Mechanism: L1 blockchains use their own consensus mechanism to validate transactions and maintain the network. L2 solutions, on the other hand, rely on the consensus mechanism of the underlying L1 blockchain.

Use Case Differences

Both L1 and L2 blockchains have unique use cases in the crypto industry. Common use cases for L1 blockchains include:

  • Creating new chains and tokens
  • Building decentralized applications (dApps)
  • Storing and transferring digital assets

L2 solutions, on the other hand, are designed to complement L1 blockchains and improve their performance. Thus, L2 solutions include the following scenarios:

  • Off-chain transactions
  • Faster and cheaper micropayments
  • Scalable dApps


Layer 1 and layer 2 blockchains serve different functions in the crypto industry. L1 blockchains provide the underlying infrastructure for the network, while L2 solutions enhance its performance and functionality. While both L1 and L2 have their unique use cases, they work together to improve the overall efficiency, scalability and adoption of the technology. The industry continues to evolve and it will be definitely interesting to see how existing layers and new ones will solve the neverending challenges the crypto field faces and how will their security and risk management frameworks will turn out to be.