Base is 'permissionless,' says Coinbase's Jesse Pollak

Quick Take

  • Coinbase protocols lead Jesse Pollak addressed concerns about the centralization of Base. 
  • Pollak claimed that the Layer 2 is permissionless and that Coinbase lacks unilateral control over upgrading contracts on the network.

Coinbase protocols lead Jesse Pollak responded to concerns about the centralization of Coinbase’s Layer 2 blockchain, Base, taking to X (previously Twitter) to clarify the network's "permissionless" nature.

In response to a social media post by Gnosis founder Martin Köppelmann on Base’s lack of fraud proofs, Pollak said that Base is permissionless — and that Coinbase does not have unilateral control over upgrading contracts or the ability to censor transactions on the Optimistic rollup network.

Pollak’s comments come in response to concerns that Coinbase might have undue influence over Base — a secondary layer that performs off-chain computations intending to facilitate faster and cheaper transactions while maintaining the security advantages of the Ethereum mainnet.

“Coinbase does not have ‘full control’ over Base and cannot unilaterally upgrade contracts or land invalid output proposals (which would be the two ways transactions could be modified or reversed),” Pollak said, referring to the process of attempting to include or execute invalid transactions within the blockchain network.

This suggests that Coinbase may have implemented a measure to reduce its control over the network, according to Martin Köppelmann, who said the Coinbase team would need to provide more details. 

Incubated by Coinbase, the Base network is built on Optimism’s software stack, known as the OP Stack. The network opened for public use on the mainnet last week, and users have already bridged more than $200 million to the network, per L2Beat data.

Base's permissionless nature was 'non-negotiable'

By saying that Coinbase cannot “land invalid output proposals,” Pollak emphasized that the Base network is designed in a way that prevents even the operator — in this case, Coinbase — from unilaterally rejecting any transactions or changes that do not comply with the network’s rules. “That [lack of ability to unilaterally upgrade contracts] was non-negotiable for our public launch and reflects our commitment to ensuring Base remains open, permissionless, and decentralized,” Pollak added.

Pollak also likened Base to other rollup blockchains that have yet to decentralize their networks with the help of incorporating fault proofs and decentralized contract upgrades. “That said, like other OP chains, the current systems’ upgradability and challenging authorizations are still permissioned — there’s much more work to do on Base and OP Stack decentralization, particularly getting live fault proofs and safer contract upgrades,” Pollak stated.

Currently, Coinbase is the sole entity operating the Base network’s sequencer — a specialized node that plays a critical role in transaction ordering and data availability on a Layer 2 network. Critics say this makes it centralized. However, it’s notable that almost all Layer 2 chains follow the same design.

The sequencer's ordered list of transactions is crucial, as it allows for the verification of the transaction history. While this helps allow the network to verify transactions, it may also raise concerns about centralization. Different implementations of Optimistic rollups might include measures from Coinbase to mitigate these concerns, such as decentralizing the role of the sequencer or implementing additional checks and balances.

Pollak further stated that more details regarding Base’s decentralization will be shared in the coming weeks. This follows his comment last month that Coinbase was committed to implementing decentralization for the Base network.

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