The Merge is on the verge of becoming reality. And mounting expectations of a new, more powerful and cleaner Ethereum have sparked a most welcome rally across DeFi in the last week.
But even after The Merge is done, Ethereum will only be halfway home. For starters, the network will next undertake a process called The Surge.
That was the key message delivered by Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum’s chief scientist and co-founder, at a conference in Paris on July 21.
Speaking before an audience of Ethereum developers, entrepreneurs, and users, Buterin said the network’s transition to Proof-of-Stake from Proof-of-Work will be “complicated.” He shared a raft of insights and details on what’s to come.
“The Ethereum protocol today is undergoing a long and complicated transition toward becoming a much more robust and powerful system,” said Buterin. He estimated that after The Merge, Ethereum will have completed approximately 55% of its roadmap.
The Merge will usher in a 90% reduction in new Ether issuance and a more than 99% increase in the network’s energy efficiency.
Buterin said that the transition to Proof of Stake will reduce new ETH issuance from 5M per year to 166 times the square root of total deposits annually. Buterin elaborates that in the event 1M ETH is staked, yearly issuance will be 166,000, and if 100M ETH is staked, issuance will only go up to 1.66M.
More than 13M Ether is currently staked on the Eth2 Beacon Chain, according to Staking Rewards.
PoS will also introduce Data Availability Sampling (DAS), which will allow the blockchain to operate without requiring that a single node process the entire chain. Buterin describes the upgrade as fascinating from a blockchain perspective, but “totally common sense” from the point of view of broader distributed systems.
“Nobody would even consider building a version of BitTorrent where everyone has to download every movie. But that’s how blockchains work today,” he said.
Buterin added that the objective of DAS is to combine the security properties provided by blockchains with “the distribution that you see in peer-to-peer networks where you actually have different parts of the network responsible for different parts of the data.”
Looking past The Merge, Buterin stressed that the protocol is in the midst of disruptive upgrades that will achieve “long-term gains” at the expense of “short-term pain.” He said that he hopes Ethereum will begin to “settle down” once the upgrades are complete.
Have to Slow Down
“Right now, I think we’re entering into this period of rapid change where the capabilities of Ethereum are increasing rapidly,” Buterin said. “At some point, the rate of change of the Ethereum protocol is going to have to… slow down… it doesn’t necessarily mean that Ethereum ossifies completely, but it does mean that it looks somewhat more like a system that optimizes for safety and predictability, and less like an ecosystem that optimizes for impressing and dazzling people.”
Buterin added that pursuing decentralization is harder when rapid protocol changes are taking place and the complexity of the system is high. “The simpler and slower-changing the protocol, the easier it is to decentralize.”
In the future, Ethereum’s Layer 1 can “optimize for being safe,” while its Layer 2 will facilitate “rapid iteration and action,” he said.
The next milestone on Ethereum’s roadmap following The Merge is ‘The Surge’, which will introduce sharding and provide additional data space intended to make rollups “up to 10 times cheaper.”
Rollups have emerged as the dominant Layer 2 scaling solution for Ethereum, with more than $3B currently secured by top L2s Arbitrum and Optimism, according to L2beat. They work by bundling together transactions on a fast and cheap second layer chain before submitting them to Ethereum’s base layer mainnet for batched verification.
“Ethereum today can process about 15 to 20 transactions a second, [post-surge] Ethereum, including the rollups, including the sharding, according to math it’s going to be able to process 100,000 transactions a second,” predicted Buterin.
After The Surge will come ‘The Verge’, which will introduce verkle trees and stateless clients to make Ethereum more lightweight. Buterin said that after The Verge, “you will be able to verify Ethereum blocks and even be a validator without having hundreds of gigabytes on your disc, which is great for decentralization.”
The Purge will come next, which will delete old history from the network to further simplify the Ethereum protocol and reduce the amount of hard drive space required by validators. Buterin hopes that after the upgrade, nodes will no longer be required to store the history of the blockchain.
Finally, the roadmap will arrive at The Splurge, which Buterin describes as introducing “all of the other fun stuff” that can further improve the functionality and efficiency of the network.
Looking past the present roadmap, Buterin hopes that more work and resources to be allocated toward making it easier for home stakers and smaller scale validator pools, as well as for users to be able to run a full node on light hardware.
“I personally still want mobile phone staking to eventually be possible.”
Other future upgrades Buterin notes are optimizing for quantum resistance once quantum computing is a reality, increasing transaction space to support zero-knowledge-based EVMs if they work well, and being open to future improvements in cryptography that could significantly improve efficiency or simplicity.