Ethereum 2.0 is coming soon, and it could increase by a thousandfold the Ethereum network’s capacity to process transactions.
That was the message Vitalik Buterin, the cofounder of Ethereum who more than anyone else represents in the mind of the public the world’s second-largest blockchain, shared with an audience in Prague this week. Now called Serenity, the upgrade formerly known as Ethereum 2.0 promises to make the network faster, more secure, less energy-intensive, and capable of handling thousands of transactions per second.
Serenity, said Buterin, is “the world computer as it’s really meant to be, and not a smartphone from 1999 that can process only 20 transactions a second.”
In a highly technical talk at Devcon, the annual Ethereum developer conference, Buterin recounted the tortuous path that efforts to upgrade the network have taken. Time and again Buterin and his colleagues were forced to recalibrate their timeline for development, as they got bogged down with distractions like the infamous DAO hack, which led to a network split that Buterin compared in his talk to the Hindenburg disaster. They also found themselves pursuing overly complicated dead ends such as “super-quadratic sharding.”
"The world computer as it's really meant to be, and not a smartphone from 1999 that can process only 20 transactions a second."
The road to proof-of-stake began in 2014, Buterin said, but Ethereum today still uses a proof-of-work mechanism for achieving network consensus and confirming transactions, as bitcoin does.
Serenity will see Ethereum finally switch from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake, a model in which people and organizations holding ether will “stake” their own coins in order to maintain the network, and will earn block rewards for doing so. In 2018, Ethereum’s core developers decided to abandon the half-measures of the hybrid model they had been working on and instead set out on a path that would initially take longer, but would deliver “a proof-of-stake and sharded blockchain with the properties that we’re looking for,” said Buterin. (Sharding is a way for computers in a blockchain to share the job of verifying data on the network, thus increasing overall efficiency).
Ethereum development won’t end with Serenity. Issues of transaction fees and governance will remain, said Buterin. He and other core developers have already begun mapping out future tweaks to the proof-of-stake model, along with other technical improvements.
After Buterin left the stage, another speaker talked about “onboarding the next one million developers” to the Ethereum network—a massive expansion of Ethereum’s already big tent. Such a dramatic increase in the number of people involved in building the network is necessary, leaders say, for the blockchain to fulfill what they see as its revolutionary potential.