Ethereum Could Soon Launch Its First Casper Testnet

An experimental consensus algorithm that's long been proposed as a pillar of the ethereum protocol could soon see its first testing.

Nov 17, 2017 at 6:45 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 7:10 a.m. UTC

Ethereum developers are looking to use code for their experimental Casper proof-of-stake protocol as the basis for a new test network.

During a core developer meeting today, ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin said that not only is Casper ready to be tested, but that it could provide a security boost when testing code across clients. It's a prospect that could come as a relief to developers, particularly those working on projects that must interface with the network's varied client offerings.

This is because the only cross-client test environment, Ropsten, is currency built using proof-of-work (like the main ethereum network), and because there are so few miners supporting that particular chain, it's a frequent target for attack. The remaining testnets, Rinkeby and Coven, use a proof-of-authority protocol to help remove these threats, but the lack of interoperability is far from ideal for some developers.

And while Casper itself isn't ready for wide-spread adoption – let alone integration on the main ethereum chain – it might be the prime time to start testing it out, some suggested in the meeting.

"If we realistically want to roll out Casper in whatever hard fork, then eventually people need to start implementing it," argued developer Peter Szilagyi.

The meeting confirmed that Casper has a full Python implementation and that it has undergone some minor testing. 

Looking ahead, there are also security questions that arise from using Casper as the basis for testnet. However, Buterin argued that this could be resolved by designating the network's ether to a team of elected delegates – a move that would, in part, mirror the current proof-of-authority system, which is governed by a select few.

The meeting's participants ultimately decided to conduct research toward a new test environment, to be led by ethereum developer Piper Merriam along with representatives from the Parity, Geth and Casper development teams.

And while there are evidently a few problems that need to be worked out, Szilágyi emphasized the importance of "fun" in a testing environment, stating:

"Maybe it would be nice to have a test network that people actually want to use."

Scary balloons image via Shutterstock

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