Vitalik Buterin Explores Ethereum Protocol Enhancement Strategies
Ethereum's co-founder, Vitalik Buterin, in a blog post dated September 30, 2023, delved into the ongoing discourse around protocol enhancements concerning Layer 1 (L1) and Layer 2 (L2) solutions. Initially, Ethereum was driven by a minimalistic approach, focusing on a simple core protocol while enabling functionalities through protocols built atop it. However, recent discussions have leaned towards incorporating more features into the core protocol to address various needs like digital asset exchange, privacy, and account safety among others.
Early Minimalism Philosophy
The early design aimed for a 'clean, simple and beautiful protocol,' minimizing enshrined logic in transaction processing. This minimalist approach was particularly targeted at addressing scaling and account abstraction. Back in 2015, these concepts were aimed at reducing the protocol's intrinsic complexity, with scaling envisioned as a maximally abstracted form that seamlessly extended Ethereum's capabilities.
Account Abstraction Challenges
Buterin recounted challenges faced with account abstraction proposals, notably EIP 86, which sought to simplify transaction processing but inadvertently introduced complexity. The complexity, as highlighted, emanated from the change in responsibility, pushing more logic onto miners (now block proposers) in the transaction acceptance process.
The Shift Towards Enshrinement
The discourse has since shifted towards enshrining certain functionalities to address inherent challenges. For instance, ERC-4337, an extra-protocol solution, aimed at making transactions cheaper by reducing EVM's overhead. However, the medium-term roadmap for ERC-4337 suggests enshrining parts of it into the protocol for better gas efficiency and censorship resistance.
The Case of ZK-EVMs
Zero-Knowledge Ethereum Virtual Machines (ZK-EVMs) were also explored as potential enshrinement targets. These are vital for verifying EVM execution within ZK-SNARKs, and the discussion revolves around leveraging Ethereum's social consensus for handling bugs and upgrades in L2 ZK-EVMs.
Buterin also discussed enshrining proposer-builder separation (ePBS) due to the rise in Miner Extractable Value (MEV) and the emergence of specialized block builders. The in-protocol enshrinement of ePBS could potentially mitigate trust assumptions tied to new actor categories like relays, which are part of extra-protocol solutions like MEV-Boost.
Private Mempools and Liquid Staking
The discourse extends to enshrining private mempools to combat frontrunning and exploring in-protocol functionalities for liquid staking to mitigate centralization risks. These enshrinements aim to address specific user demands and system inefficiencies while considering the trade-offs involved.
Lastly, the blog touched on the enshrinement of precompiles to expedite specific cryptographic operations. The push for new precompiles, like secp256r1, seeks to improve wallet security through trusted hardware modules.
In summary, Buterin's post reflects a nuanced examination of Ethereum's protocol enhancement strategies, weighing the trade-offs between minimalistic design and enshrining additional functionalities to meet evolving user needs and system demands.
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