Ethereum’s Upgrade: Explaining How It Works

The second-largest cryptocurrency in the world, Ethereum, has transformed the environment for decentralized apps and fueled the billion-dollar decentralized financial services industry. Even with widespread support, it still has issues with resilience, cost, and accessibility. 

By addressing these issues and offering solutions, the Ethereum roadmap seeks to set the platform up for widespread adoption through scheduled updates. Ethereum has a bright future ahead of it.

What Is the Ethereum Roadmap For?

One of the main barriers to onboarding new users on Ethereum, a global coordination platform, is its poor transaction rates and hefty fees during periods of severe congestion. A blockchain must be scalable to support additional users while maintaining optimal network performance. The blockchain trilemma, which asserts that optimizing for two of the three essential components decentralization, scalability, and security is unachievable, is shown while addressing Ethereum’s scaling issues. This implies that a safe, completely decentralized blockchain cannot grow in size.

To address these challenges, Ethereum must remain adaptable while pursuing an optimal balance of decentralization, scalability, and security. It must also adapt to the constantly changing nature of crypto and integrate new features, assets, and applications. The roadmap exists to track the Ethereum upgrade, ensuring it remains cheaper, easier to use, more secure, and futureproof. This roadmap aims to make Ethereum more secure, affordable, and user-friendly.

How Are Ethereum Upgrades Decided On?

Ethereum, a decentralized and open-source network, is not controlled by a single entity. The roadmap for upgrades typically comes from Ethereum researchers and developers, but anyone can suggest changes by creating an Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP). The community of developers and researchers reviews, debates, and potentially implements the EIP. 

EIPs grow out of discussions on major Ethereum forums or the EthR&D Discord, maturing into specific ideas for improvements. The roadmap is subject to change as new information, ideas, and technologies become available. For instance, the previous plan to scale the network through sharding has been replaced by dank sharding, which integrates ‘blobs’ of data into Ethereum blocks.

What Changes Are Coming to Ethereum?

Danksharding

Danksharding is a proposed solution to make Ethereum transactions cheaper and faster, focusing on Layer 2 solutions, specifically blockchain rollups. This allows the Ethereum network to process bundled transactions without permanently storing all data.

Scalability

As previously mentioned, scalability is a major issue for Ethereum to address. Thus, the Ethereum roadmap features several planned upgrades to that end.

Verkle Trees

Verkle trees, a data structure combining vector commitment and Merkle Trees, enable Ethereum to use stateless clients, enhancing scalability by requiring minimal storage space for verifying new blocks, and enabling the use of stateless clients for node upgrades.

Single-Slot Finality

The Ethereum block finalization process currently takes 15 minutes, but the introduction of single-slot finality (SSF) aims to make it more efficient by allowing blocks to be proposed and finalized in the same slot.

Security

Every day, attackers try to find new ways to exploit the Ethereum network and its users. Ethereum is exploring the following features to provide top-notch security and keep attackers at bay.

User Experience

Blockchains need to improve their UX design and customer experience to appeal to non-technical users and advance decentralized applications. Account abstraction, a class of upgrades, is part of this need, supporting smart contracts natively on Ethereum. 

This will enable features like batching transactions, recovering accounts if keys are lost, and having someone else pay for gas. This will bring the technology to more users and advance the next generation of decentralized applications.

Proposer-Builder Separation (PBS)

PBS divides block-building and block-proposal tasks among validators, allowing block builders to create blocks and present them to the block proposer. 

The proposer chooses the most profitable block without seeing its contents and pays a fee to the builder before sending it to peers, preventing transaction censorship and facilitating the Danksharding upgrade.

Clever Cryptography

The proof-of-stake consensus mechanism exposes the list of upcoming block proposers, allowing them to map their IP addresses, making them vulnerable to attacks like DOS. 

However, clever cryptography prevents the identity of the current block proposer from being made public.

Where are we on the Ethereum Roadmap so far?

Ethereum has improved its network with several updates over the past nine years, the most significant of which being the Merge and Shanghai.

What Was the Merge?

The energy-intensive Proof-of-Work consensus process used by Ethereum was replaced with the more effective Proof-of-Stake (PoS) mechanism on September 15, 2022, when the Merge was introduced. 

A PoS-based variant of the mainnet called Beacon Chain was introduced by developers in December 2020 as a secure means of testing new features and reconfigurations. With the Beacon Chain’s connection with the mainnet in September 2022, Ethereum formally adopted the PoS consensus method throughout its ecosystem.

What was the Shanghai Upgrade?

The Ethereum Shanghai Upgrade, sometimes referred to as the Shapella upgrade, signaled the protocol’s dramatic switch from PoW to PoS. New advancements and the removal of staked Ethereum from the Beacon Chain were made possible by this hard fork. 

Before this, prizes and locked-up ETH could not be withdrawn by Beacon Chain stakes. Validators might, however, access their ETH holdings and cash out their prizes on April 12, 2023.

What was the Dencun Upgrade?

The Dencun Upgrade, launched on March 13th, aims to reduce costs for layer-2 transactions and improve data availability on Ethereum. It introduces “proto-dank sharding,” the first step to scaling the network through dank sharding. 

This introduces data blobs, or ‘Binary Large Objects’, which can be attached to blocks to minimize data storage permanently on Ethereum. This approach reduces data storage costs and transaction fees for users by automatically deleting data in blobs after a fixed period.

What’s next on the Ethereum Roadmap?

Now, the Ethereum network is preparing for more upgrades to advance its capabilities. Here’s what’s next in line for the blockchain:

Prague/Electra Upgrade

The Dencun upgrade will enable developers to focus on the Prague/Electra upgrade (Pralectra), which is still under debate among core Ethereum developers. Pralectra could be a series of smaller EIPs focusing on adding new features to the network, such as EIP-6110, which would improve Ethereum’s security and stability by changing the way it processes validators’ deposits. 

Alternatively, Pralectra could be a major protocol upgrade that adds Verkle Trees to the blockchain’s execution layer, a milestone in the Ethereum roadmap for scalability. The specifics of Pralectra’s focus are still being determined.

The Future of Ethereum

The financial industry has transformed because of cryptocurrency, especially Ethereum, which offers a decentralized, secure, and permissionless substitute for established banking institutions. 

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