I read an article that mentioned OpenSea as the largest and most successful NFT marketplace. It's my habit when I see something like this to go search for the hallmarks of a product throwing around the word "blockchain" hoping you'll find the word synonymous with "distributed." OpenSea is luckily open about the way it's built.
On the front-page you can find a Resources tab that says something about a "Gas-free marketplace." This makes me immediately suspicious. In Ethereum gas is what you "pay" nodes to do work for you in the network. If nobody's getting paid then how is the network maintained?
The thing underlying it is something called Polygon. I'd never heard of this one. It appears to be another fork of Ethereum, but this time with the goal of bridging different blockchains together.
Reading a little into it I'm a bit suspicious of the word "bridge" here, because it appears to be uni-directional. They've set up an easy system for you to convert Ethereum into Polygon.
One of the major features listed for Polygon, however, is "sovereignty." This is explicitly meant for running private blockchains. Which means anything you do on this isn't verified by "the blockchain," just some single company's blessed nodes.
In this use-case using a cryptocurrency at all is just marketing fluff. The concept of publicly exposing a verified ledger isn't interesting or novel. It was the act of distributing the verification of this chain that's novel to cryptocurrencies.
Because of this polygon, as it's advertised by OpenSea, seems like a scam. It's a centralized system masquerading as a decentralized one. None of the documents about being "gas-free" say anything about what you're giving up. There's an adage about this: If you're not paying, then you aren't the customer.
I decided to look more into the Polygon bridge itself. This part, by itself, doesn't feel like a scam. They've essentially created a new token type (MATIC) which is used to represent each bridged currency, so it is bidirectional in a way.
What actually seems to happen is something more like this:
On the main chain, you create a MATIC token which encodes some amount of ETH and costs gas. When you want your money back, this MATIC token is cashed in for ETH and some gas is paid.
I'm looking more into how these tokens are organized to make cash-out part work on the main chain. As I'm conceptualizing it now there must be a locked in value for the amount of ETH that MATIC can represent.
We come here in search of a place to express our thoughts outside of the direct control and surveillance of unaccountable, mega-corporations. There is no common theme that binds us other than these being the bonds we've chosen rather than those that have been chosen for us.