What are the next steps for Ethereum after the merge? CoinMarketCap Academy takes a look at the Ethereum upgrade roadmap.
is finally in the history books.
And upgrade they will!
In this article, we'll look at the next steps for the Ethereum network.
The Merge was only the first step
in Vitalik Buterin's (hopefully not evil) master plan to build Ethereum
into a "decentralized world computer." It focused on reducing the network's energy consumption and changing its consensus mechanism
, but it did not really help with scaling. Ethereum is still stuck at around 15 transactions per second
But luckily, Vitalik has a (hopefully brilliant) master plan to 5000x'ing Ethereum's capacity to over 100,000 transactions per second.
Here it is:
This flowchart is the TL;DR of how Ethereum plans to scale, so let's take a detailed and non-technical look at how Ethereum plans to upgrade its network.
has switched Ethereum’s consensus mechanism from PoW to PoS. In simple terms, this means the network will be able to support even more validators, while other benefits include being much more environmentally friendly and reducing the issuance of ETH dramatically. But, there is still some work to do, for example, enabling withdrawals for staked ETH and single slot finality.
The Surge will be the first upgrade and the one most avid Ethereum followers will be familiar with. It tackles increasing Ethereum's scalability through sharding
. Vitalik Buterin has praised sharding
in the past and explained why it is a viable scaling solution for Ethereum’s roadmap.
Sharding splits databases to process them more quickly. For instance, instead of 1,000 validators validating 1,000 transactions, you would split the transactions in five batches of 200 and have them validated by 200 validators each. This form of horizontal scaling is technically easier to do than speeding up a single machine.
Increasing the demand for validators’ computing power of validators would make the network automatically more centralized, since contributing would only be available to those with the most powerful hardware. Instead, Ethereum will split the network into different shards.
However, sharding comes with its own set of security and composability issues. The network will deal with it through future upgrades like EIP-4844
. Ethereum aims to ship sharding some time in 2023
In an updated version of the roadmap, rollup scaling is broken into two phases, basic and full rollup scaling.
A new section in the updated roadmap tweeted by Vitalik, the Scourge is designed to ensure reliable, fair and credible transaction inclusion, and solve MEV issues. It will incorporate extra-protocol MEV markets to keep the transaction marketplace as fair as possible.
When these steps are completed, the Ethereum blockchain is predicted to grow at a mind-boggling pace. Once 100x more data can be processed, 100x more data will need to be stored.
If validators need to store a full record of the Ethereum state, and this state grows at tens of TB per year, validation will become attainable to only a selected few. This is essentially the problem many high-speed chains like Solana
run into. However, what Ethereum wants is validation to be open to as many parties as possible.
Thus, the goal is "stateless validation," where validators are not constrained by hardware requirements to participate.
This stateless validation will happen through a highly technical concept called "Verkle Trees." The idea is to shift the current Merkle Trees
(a way of securing the verification of a block's content) to a new and more compressed form. This will yield a 10x improvement in the amount of data needed to store the Ethereum blockchain.
If you're feeling really adventurous, you can check out this Verkle Trees MIT Presentation
and the Ethereum Statelessness Roadmap
for highly technical explanations of this concept.
In short, the Verge aims to make verifying blocks easy. Besides Verkle trees, the goal is to arrive at a fully SNARKed Ethereum. That is, any validator should be able to download a fixed amount of data from the blockchain, perform a few basic computations, verify a SNARK and be done.
With Ethereum upgraded to a stateless version, it can purge old state data and reduce the amount of data needed that validators need to store.
Instead of storing the full history of the blockchain, validators will be required to store only one year, according to EIP-4444
. Put simply, the old data will still be available, but validators will not need to work with it.
EIP-4444 also targets for removal of other unnecessary or bloated features of the Ethereum Virtual Machine. A summary can be found here
The end goal is to simplify the Ethereum protocol and eliminate technical debt and limit costs of participating in the network by clearing old history.
The Splurge is a "best of the rest" of everything else the Ethereum community wants to build into the blockchain. It includes:
- Reducing MEV by separating the proposer and builder roles when constructing blocks.
- Improving access to data across shards and improving the efficiency of validation proofs.
- Delegating control over externally owned accounts to a smart contract (EIP-3074).
- Removing the need for consensus-layer agreement on protocol changes (EIP-4337).
This list is non-exhaustive and will probably be added to over time.
The Merge was the big and exciting Ethereum upgrade of 2022, but not necessarily the most important change overall. The Ethereum network now enters a stage of incremental improvements, led by the elephant in the room that is scalability.
Coupled with L2 scaling, we can expect Ethereum to look completely different and boast many more capabilities until 2025 when the network aims for "completion."
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