Proposed Ethereum Roadmap Would Activate Its Biggest Upgrades Together

A developer meeting Friday saw ethereum's developers discuss a proposal that would see two of its most anticipated upgrades update together.

Jun 15, 2018 at 6:05 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 8:04 a.m. UTC
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The developer team behind ethereum is considering possible changes to a planned rollout of new technology upgrades.

Addressing rumors that such plans are now under review, ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin told a meeting of the platform's open-source developers Friday that the idea is that the team might seek to alter the sequence in which Casper and sharding, perhaps its two most-anticipated updates, are activated.

Rather than releasing sharding and Casper separately, Buterin said, new advancements in research might enable both upgrades to activate together. (The idea is Casper might be released on a sidechain, or shard, rather than as a smart contract, as previously proposed).

"This is a substantial reworking of the intermediary steps in the roadmap, but of not the final product," Buterin said.

Casper, ethereum's long-planned consensus algorithm proof-of-stake, promises to be more energy efficient and egalitarian than its current proof-of-work system, while sharding could hold the keys to scaling the system to a massive number of transactions. In this way, Buterin stressed that, if enacted, the technologies would combine to create a version of the protocol that could be orders of magnitudes more efficient.

Buterin said:

"This design can basically scale up to the theoretical maximum."

As detailed by CoinDesk, the current version of Casper (Casper FFG) is being tested in the form of a smart contract, named EIP 1011, on ethereum software clients. However, a result of today's meeting, such development could cease in favor of the new design.

"As someone who has been working on this, it took a second to digest and to be comfortable moving forward with, but I am totally okay with this, and think it gets us where we want to be sooner rather than later," author of EIP 1011 Danny Ryan said in the meeting.

In light of the news, ethereum developers also appeared open to the idea the platform's next hard fork, named Constantinople, might not include any Casper-related changes.

Rather, a hard fork will likely occur within the next five months, that focuses on "improvements that we have smoothed out and ready to go, unrelated to that," ethereum developer Nick Johnson said.

Key advantages

According to Buterin, combining the shift with sharding would come with several advantages.

"The development of the one system will be much more directionally en route to what we expect the final later stage sharding system to look like," Buterin said.

Plus, by bringing the first version of Casper onto a shard, the deposit required to participate in securing the network will be reduced significantly, from 1,500 ETH, Buterin's most recent estimate, to 32 ETH.

Due to this lowered figure, Buterin said, "regular individuals participating in staking directly becomes much more viable." Buterin also said that the new model would allow Casper to go live without disturbing the ethereum blockchain itself.

"The Casper component is somewhat more separate from the main chain. That means it can be developed less intrusively in some ways, it can be developed as a separate chain and can have its own rules," Buterin said. "There's a much clearer wall between those systems."

Sharding developer Justin Drake echoed these points.

"It allows to unlock new functionality which radically changes the performance properties of the design," Drake said.

Drake also mentioned that there are security advantages for the new system. For example, such a system would allow for an "atomicity" between nodes on Casper and sharding, increasing the security of both systems. "You can't be a casper validator without also being a sharding validator," Drake said.

The developer continued to state that there are advantages to bridging the Casper research team and the sharding team together.

He said in the meeting:

"In general, there will be more unity between Casper and sharding, and the teams lobbying these projects. I think that's good, there will be more networks effects there."

Circuit board via Shutterstock

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