Vitalik Buterin hasn’t let the coronavirus crisis and ensuing market mayhem hold up development on Ethereum 2.0—the platform’s mammoth scaling project. On Wednesday, the Ethereum cofounder tweeted his vision of what lies ahead in the next five to 10 years.
Ethereum is the second biggest blockchain platform after Bitcoin, by market cap. It’s in the midst of huge changes which, over the next few years, should make it scalable, and capable of supporting many more users.
But it won’t be easy.
The long road to Ethereum 2.0
Five to 10 years is a lifetime in the volatile and fast moving crypto space. Buterin maintains it will be worth it—not just for scalability, but for security too.
The biggest change is that Ethereum is moving from proof of work (PoW) to proof of stake (PoS). This changes the way in which new Ethereum blocks are created and how the network is run. (For a comparison of the two consensus methods, see here.) Switching to PoS, Buterin maintains, will make attacking the network more costly.
The roadmap he presented shows a bird’s eye view on the Ethereum network as it will evolve—in Buterin’s mind. Half of it looks at the current state of Ethereum and focuses on making sure it continues to improve. The other half deals with Ethereum 2.0.
Phase 0 gets the blockchain ready for the switchover to PoS. Phase 1 is when it actually makes the switch. At this point it enables an interesting technology, called rollups, that could help Ethereum support more transactions.
“Eth2 is all about scale”
At this point, Ethereum 1 and the new, PoS blockchain will merge together and become one blockchain (with all of the past transactions stored on it).
Then, we get to the main tenets of Ethereum 2.0. This is where advanced cryptography will come in, including potential quantum resistant cryptography. Other tools will be introduced to make the network offer more capabilities.
In Wednesday’s tweet thread, Buterin was also careful to emphasize that the new roadmap was subject to change as new technology or information came to light. And he added that it reflected only his own views.
Buterin underlined an increasing focus on maintaining compatibility, to ensure a smooth transition to Eth2, together with a “solid shift from ‘blue sky’ research—trying to understand what is possible—to concrete research and development.”
Answering criticisms about Ethereum’s complexity hindering its ability to scale, Buterin insisted that “many of the changes are actually in the direction of reducing complexity.” Not that it comes across in the roadmap.
Six ways Ethereum 2.0 hopes to improve on Bitcoin
Challenged on how Eth2 could be better than Bitcoin, Buterin posted a six-point riposte.
Top of the list were sharding and Zero Knowledge Proofs (ZKPs). Sharding is a way of splitting the blockchain up, making it a lighter load for those keeping the network running. Zero knowledge proofs are experimental privacy technologies that make it easier to send anonymous crypto transactions.
Buterin said these two factors would make the network cheaper to use, especially compared to Bitcoin. And they would help it to accommodate more transactions. “Eth2 is all about scale,” he insisted.
He also argued again that PoS will be a superior consensus mechanism—when it’s built. But with a five to 10 year roadmap, that’s easier said than done.