Ethereum researcher: Where are we headed in the future?

24-02-21 09:00
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Original Title: Rollup-Centric Roadmap (2024 version) (mike+stokes version) (From The Vault)
Original Authors: Mike, Stokes
Original Translation: Kate, Mars Finance


Since Vitalik published the "Rollup-Centric Ethereum Roadmap" on paper, more than three years have passed. Although there have been significant changes during this period, as the Ethereum community continues to move forward along this path, the vision is like fine wine that ages well. The launch of the beacon chain, the merge, withdrawals, and the upcoming proto-danksharding fork reflect the outstanding performance of individuals and teams who contribute to the protocol in engineering, research, and coordination. However, as 2024 approaches, the noise is louder than ever before. We believe it is worth restoring the "Rollup-Centric Roadmap" with an updated worldview. Modern problems may require new solutions.

We don't start with the problem and evaluate which one is the most urgent or worth focusing on, but suggest starting with values. Although this may seem dogmatic and disconnected from reality, we believe it is useful in answering the question of "what is the right problem to solve?" We use the "past, present, future" structure to provide an overall view of the protocol's evolution. Section 1 (Past) outlines the recent history of Ethereum. Section 2 (Present) emphasizes the key issues of today. Sections 3 and 4 pause the timeline to focus on what Ethereum does well (Section 3) and what Ethereum hasn't tried to do (Section 4). This multipart interlude lays the foundation for the forward-looking plans presented in Section 5 (Future), which we divide into the near term (2024 Prague/Electra fork [§5.1]) and the medium term (next 3-4 years [§5.2]).

Finally, we want to emphasize that this article only represents the author's point of view. The expressed opinions do not represent EF's "official" point of view (even mentioning this feels audacious, but for caution's sake, we still did it). The goal of sections 1-4 is objectivity, as we lay the foundation for the more subjective ideas described in section 5.

Chapter 1 - A Brief History of Ethereum


The content is:


Before looking to the future, let's take stock of the current state of Ethereum and how we got here. In the 3.5 years since Vitalik published the classic work "The Ethereum Roadmap Focused on Rollups" in October 2020, a lot has changed. Upgrading the protocol as a "milestone" of progress, we focus on the "key points" of each consensus upgrade. For a detailed list of execution layer upgrades and EIPs for each branch, please refer to the Ethereum history page.

· [December 1, 2020] - Origin of Beacon Chain

In the last month of this year, we got our first beacon chain block in just 35 seconds (we may need to adjust the slot time to 0, 12, 24, 36, 48 instead of 11, 23, 35, 47, 59 (slide 41), but oh well).

Please see the announcement.

· [October 27, 2021]-Altair

This fork requires an update to the validator incentive mechanism and an increase in support for lightweight clients. It also serves as a "test fork" for the consensus layer in preparation for the merge.

Please refer to the consensus specification and annotation specification.

· [September 15, 2022] - Bellatrix / Paris

"Merge". Ethereum is now fully proof-of-stake.

Please refer to the consensus specification, annotation specification, and execution specification.

· [April 12, 2023] - Capella/Shanghai

"Withdrawal". A small fork to close the Proof of Stake mechanism loop.

Please refer to the consensus specification, annotation specification, and execution specification.

· [March 13, 2024 (estimated)]——Deneb / Cancun

"Proto-danksharding (EIP-4844)". Upgrade data sharding.

Please refer to the consensus specification and execution specification.

At this reduced granularity, the basic principles of the upgrade path are clear.

From December 2020 to April 2023 (approximately 2.5 years), core developers and researchers conducted the Proof of Stake Marathon™. The level of engineering, research, coordination, and collaboration achieved in this merger is still astonishing, and in fact, it went so smoothly that it demonstrated the technical excellence of the community.

From early 2023 to today (1 year), the community's focus has shifted to the release of proto-danksharding (EIP-4844). "Dencun" represents the first step in expanding Ethereum by reducing the data cost of L2. Although this upgrade has proven to be complex, the endpoint is in sight - the mainnet fork date is March 13, 2024.

• Allocation. Although we believe that Proof of Stake is Ethereum's correct consensus algorithm + Witch Protection, it is undeniable that having seven years of Proof of Work is a great token allocation mechanism.

• Lindy. Through its long-term existence, the Ethereum network has proven its antifragility, creating trust in network tokens and their value propositions.

• Utility. We like to compare Bitcoin to digital gold and Ethereum to digital oil. After all, Ethereum's gas token powers the Ethereum network.

• Currency attribute. Unlike its simulated counterpart (extended oil analogy), Ethereum also has currency attributes (mortgage assets in DeFi, digital commodities and accounting units for economic security, exchange media for the entire ecosystem), which can expand its value and give it a "currency premium". The candidacy of Ether as a "Internet commodity currency" remains strong.

• Value is a necessary condition for security. The core principle of the "ultra-robust currency" theory is that the security of the network depends on the value of Ether assets. We believe this to be true. If Ethereum's goal is to become a settlement layer for a multi-trillion dollar economy, then the tokens that represent the security of these settlements must have value.

• Network effect. Liquidity, existing applications and developers, EVM, rapid adoption of L2, etc., all contribute to the strong network effect of Ethereum assets and the entire Ethereum ecosystem.

The above content is neither comprehensive nor definitive. These points highlight the differentiating elements of Ethereum. When we now turn our attention to the "non-goals" of the protocol, this enumeration is particularly relevant. According to our estimation, focusing on the following aspects would be "missing the forest for the trees," even if it brings short-term benefits.

Section 4 - What has Ethereum not attempted?

"You went preaching again." If this is your current attitude, then this section is prepared for you. In contrast to what Ethereum is good at, we are also trying to determine the explicit non-goals of the Ethereum network (in our view).

1. Provide the most user-friendly L1 execution

• This is a crucial starting point, because the roadmap centered around rollup is *explicitly* aimed at pushing user activity to L2. By sharding data instead of execution, Ethereum takes a stubborn stance that L1 execution may still be expensive and unsuitable for daily transactions.

• The resulting example - when application layer developers complain about long slot times and high fees, the fact remains that Ethereum L1 does not intend to become a place for application development. Designing Ethereum as the "best DA and settlement layer for L2" may directly contradict the desires of L1 application developers. For example, reducing slot times (purely hypothetical) would greatly improve the user experience of L1 transactions, but would harm the individual staking community. This seems not worth making such trade-offs.

• However, this does not mean that Ethereum should actively make L1 execution worse. Because L1 still provides mandatory transaction execution support for L2, it is still reasonable to ensure that transaction processing is done on L1, which is important. Discussions about increasing gas limits may be helpful.

2. Provide the cheapest DA layer

• This is important because the alternative DA layer and "modular" blockchain narrative continue to gain momentum. The alternative DA layer does not use any magical technology that cannot be used by Ethereum. Instead, they do not intend to establish and cultivate an ecosystem of individual stakers.

• The resulting example - Ethereum will not expand byte by byte at the same rate as these networks, because Ethereum is unwilling to compromise on maintaining bandwidth (and computing) requirements to meet the reasonable demands of individual stakers.

• However, Ethereum's goal is to continue to be the "Manhattan" of the block + blob space. It is crucial to scale the blob space fast enough to maintain efficiency without compromising security. Ethereum has already occupied the position of "catbird" and benefited from it. The existing liquidity, composability, applications, and network effects of L2 are very strong. Ethereum DA should continue to provide the best value for Rollup in terms of security and price.

3. Operate like a startup

• As mentioned above, Ethereum has true decentralized governance. Due to the existence of multiple consensus and execution clients, application developers, infrastructure providers, application layer service providers, researchers, educators, and others, many "players" with potential conflicts of interest have a say in the protocol's future. Ethereum governance cannot and should not attempt to mimic the operational efficiency of companies/startups with clear organizational hierarchies and centralized decision-making.

• The resulting example - network upgrade is a challenging task. Many external parties complain about delays between upgrades, lack of specific timelines, and the ACD process, but this ship is working according to plan! Recall §1.

• However, Ethereum should still strive for effectiveness and efficiency within the decentralized governance mechanism. While the protocol must eventually solidify (protocols change slowly in practice - see IPv4/IPv6), there are still clear improvements to manage the network's long-term viability. Ethereum should avoid premature ossification due to politicization and continue to execute its roadmap projects.

* Walked off the stage. * Although we believe the previous section is not controversial (plug your ears to avoid screaming), we allow it to lean towards more subjective areas. The next part enters the mature opinion area. But this is necessary. In the case of limited resources, difficult decisions must be made about the future of Ethereum. We have expressed our views on the Prague/Electra fork (§5.1) and the midterm (§5.2).

Part 5 - Looking to the Future


Upon waking up, I feel very optimistic.

If you are still here, thank you for your continuous support. We finally feel capable of solving the problem of "looking forward". That's the significance of a roadmap, right? This article about the rollup-centered roadmap, along with today's understanding, aims to build the future of Ethereum based on the previously mentioned content:

• Acknowledge the historical perspective outlined in §1.

• Regarding the current understanding of Ethereum as mentioned in §2.

• Keep consistent with the special features of Ethereum highlighted in §3.

• The goals that Ethereum did not attempt to achieve are assumed in §4.

Before this, we have always been objective and focused on facts. On the contrary, opinions on how Ethereum should move forward belong entirely to the subjective field. The following are the author's views, so they are biased - please note. However, we believe that it is best to try to express our views while listening to other opinions. "Strong opinions, loosely held."

Implement Verkle Tree and Max Effective Balance. These two upgrades have received widespread support, which is beneficial for individual stakers and ideally will be shipped soon.

The path to the final destination of the single slot is determined. This route depends on the number of goals around the Ethereum validator and the decisions made regarding the modifications issued (see Anders' recent work [1,2]).

To deal with the impact of centralized pledging, re-pledging, and the significant uncertainty brought by LST + LRT (which may be the most important task).

Finally, Ethereum is defined by the community. There have been many changes since 2020, but the "people" have not changed. In addition to any technical direction emphasized above, it is crucial for the project's success to set aside "alliances", politics, and zero-sum thinking, while striving to continue to be the most open and welcoming community.

Thank you for reading.

3. An unmentioned fact about PeerDAS is that during specific hard fork periods, it does not need to be rolled out in every client that implements the interface. Once everyone has "said" PeerDAS, clients can safely choose which blobs to download. A client that downloads all blobs is actually a "super node". For more information about PeerDAS, please refer to Francesco's documentation.

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