Ethereum could use a much better system for charging transaction fees from its users, the network’s chief architect Vitalik Buterin argued in a widely circulated essay published Thursday.

Buterin’s post, which laid out a path toward a more customized and equitable system, immediately garnered reactions from two principal groups: Ethereum users, who expressed their excitement at the prospect of lower fees on the network’s costly mainnet; and Solana users and developers, who noticed that Buterin’s proposal sounded an awful lot like the Solana network’s own fee model.

“It’s certainly a Solana-esque approach,” Mert Mumtaz, a prominent Solana builder and the co-founder and CEO of infrastructure startup Helius Labs, told Decrypt.

So just how similar is Buterin’s “multidimensional gas fees” proposal to Solana’s “local fee markets”?

Gas fees refer to the transaction costs that blockchain users pay to the network. This system is in many ways what gives tokens like Ethereum (ETH) and Solana (SOL) their value. You need ETH to pay gas if you want to do just about anything on the Ethereum network, just like you need SOL to do things on Solana. When there’s a lot of activity on the network, gas fees go up. And when there’s less activity, gas fees go down.

In some ways, Solana’s current gas fee structure and Vitalik’s “multidimensional gas fees” proposal stem from the same philosophy: In the name of fairness, different types of on-chain transactions should cost different amounts, depending on demand. But in practice, leaders of both networks appear to have different ideas about how to implement such a philosophy—leading to a potentially significant difference in user experience.

Solana currently operates on a “local fee markets” structure, wherein gas fees are calculated on a per-account basis, project by project. In this system, spikes in gas fees due to network congestion are effectively quarantined to specific projects.

For example, a spike in gas fees induced by a hot Solana NFT mint should only impact users who are interacting with that project—users elsewhere across the entire Solana network should be unaffected. (There is currently some disagreement within the Solana community about whether local fee markets actually work as effectively as intended, in part due to the hyper-congestion that can occur in crowded mini-gas ecosystems.)

But Solana’s setup makes a clear contrast to Ethereum—where demand for wildly popular NFTs has previously clogged the entire network, sending gas fees skyrocketing for everyone. 

The “multidimensional gas fees” concept proposed by Vitalik Buterin does seek to make Ethereum transaction costs more equitable. But it doesn’t appear to outline a boutique system like Solana’s, in which every individual project on Ethereum would become its own siloed gas ecosystem. 

Instead, multidimensional gas on Ethereum would only distinguish between different macro categories of effort required to complete network transactions, Ethereum core developer Marius Van Der Wijden told Decrypt. For example, computation, storage, and calldata might fetch different premiums at a given moment, depending on demand. Different on-chain transactions consist of different ratios of those categories of computing. 

Per Buterin, Ethereum’s Dencun upgrade, which went live in March, constituted the debut of such a system by sending layer-2 data, the sort that comes from layer-2 networks like Arbitrum, to “blobs.” Blobs feature different prices and different limits than the rest of an Ethereum block. 

At a macro level, expanding multidimensional gas to differentiate between more computational categories might improve Ethereum’s efficiency, and in Buterin’s view, significantly increase scalability of the network’s mainnet. 

But it likely wouldn’t insulate Ethereum users from spikes in network volatility induced by trending projects—it’s not that boutique in design.

So, all that is to say: Solana and Ethereum maximalists, fear not. There will still be plenty of differences to pick apart.

Edited by Andrew Hayward

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