a16z talks to Danny Ryan of the Ethereum Foundation: Where is the Ethereum road after the merger?

Ethereum is about to usher in the largest upgrade in its history, “The Merge”, which will switch from a proof-of-work (PoW) to a proof-of-stake consensus (PoS) mechanism. The “merger” is considered the first phase of an Ethereum upgrade that will deliver improvements in security and sustainability. It is worth noting that this upgrade does not include the long-awaited sharding, the ultimate solution for scaling Ethereum.

In this context, a16z conducted an exclusive interview with Danny Ryan, a researcher at the Ethereum Foundation who participated in this upgrade. The first part of the interview focused on how the “merger” brings security and stability to Ethereum.

In the second part of the interview, Danny Ryan also talked about the long-awaited future upgrades for users, including Danksharding, Stateless Ethereum, and security updates for Miner Extractable Value (MEV). Not only that, but he explains how a years-long effort has led to new ways of researching and testing future upgrades.

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a16z: You mentioned earlier that after the Ethereum “merge”, there will be a possibility that some miners will fork and continue to try to use the old chain. But in fact most people will be involved in the process of “merging”. As a researcher at the Ethereum Foundation, what role did you play in this process? And how was such a massive upgrade coordinated? 

DANNY RYAN: I started working on proof-of-stake (PoS) about five years ago and knew that ethereum was going to get there someday. The Ethereum community has always been trying to move forward, do the right thing, and build a long-lasting protocol, not just for the moment.

So people got a hunch early on that PoS would be better and more secure than PoW, and got really excited about it. Until about five years ago, when they realized that proof-of-stake mechanisms were becoming more and more feasible, they became both excited and anxious, partly because the Ethereum community idea was about to be realized, and partly because of the sensitivities question.

In order to smoothly promote the upgrade, the Ethereum Foundation, research teams and customers have been working hard to find solutions. In this process, we often encounter some difficult problems, such as whether the solution that touches the gray area is the right choice? Do it now or later? It can be said that every decision is difficult, and the Ethereum Foundation has played a role in assisting and coordinating it. We help developers to develop together, solve censorship issues, facilitate dialogue, and set progress and prioritization.

But at the end of the day, on most projects, the role of the Ethereum Foundation is to help the protocol become more sustainable, scalable, and more secure while decentralizing. Therefore, in terms of technical work and community coordination, our focus is mainly around promoting better information transfer, research and dialogue, so that the many members involved in R&D, engineering and the community can continue to advance the project development and participate in decision-making.

a16z: The Ethereum community has grown over the past five years, and after the “merger” it will theoretically become more decentralized. What are your thoughts on the upgrade process going forward? Is it possible that the upgrade will be coordinated through some kind of Layer1 DAO?

DANNY RYAN: As far as I know, the Ethereum community does not conduct on-chain voting or any form of token voting and upgrades, but users themselves decide what protocol to run.

Generally speaking, these protocols have broad consensus, but sometimes divergence occurs, such as Ethereum and Ethereum Classic. But at the end of the day, what kind of protocol you want to run is your rights, the rights of the community, and the rights of all users. Generally speaking, we don’t interfere because everyone is trying to make Ethereum better, and there is not much conflict on the core content.

Therefore, I do not expect the emergence of some formal technical mechanism to restrict free development, but instead hope that the entire process can continue to develop and change in this loose governance. In my opinion, this kind of governance involving researchers, developers, and community members alike is also a good option.

Indeed, you’ve mentioned that the Ethereum community is getting bigger and bigger and decisions are starting to get harder and harder to make and implement. However, I personally think that’s a feature of this stage at the moment.

I think from an application and user reliability standpoint, a lot of Ethereum protocols may need to be fixed rather than changing all the time. As a result, it became more and more difficult to govern the community and implement decisions, and at times I felt like I was running in a weight vest with weights strapped to my ankles and wrists. Over the next few years, there are still critical things to be done, and getting things done is going to get harder and harder.

Vitalik Buterin proposed the “Functionality escape velocity” theory, that is, Layer1 is used to provide security and reliability, and Layer2 is used for fast iterative operations. Once Layer1 is strong enough, the rest can be handed over to Layer2. Eventually we will stop making rapid changes to the protocol and use systems like Layer2 to add more functionality to the Ethereum ecosystem, expand and leverage in an infinite number of ways, with enough data available to handle massive transactions.

I think it’s going to get harder and harder to get things done, but it’s what we have to do

After PoS, where is the Ethereum road?

a16z: Ethereum has been migrating from PoW to PoS for a long time. Sharding should be the first to start, but according to the development of the ecosystem, the transfer of PoS consensus mechanism may happen first. What else will the Ethereum ecosystem have to do along the way? In addition, during the transfer of the proof-of-stake consensus mechanism, are there other upgrades that may occur?

DANNY RYAN: First of all, there could be many reasons why Ethereum prioritizes moving to a proof-of-stake consensus mechanism. One is that the fees required to pass the proof of work are too high, and this matter must be stopped as soon as possible; the other is that Ethereum needs to be expanded, especially now that there are many Layer 2s in the market.

So, if Ethereum has 10-100 times the network capacity, then it can focus on other things and get other work done, like “unifying” two different systems today: the beacon chain and the current Ethereum mainnet.

However, a few other things affected the Ethereum Proof of Stake migration timeline, as I mentioned earlier – the EVM issue. Centralization and other security issues arise when you start thinking about where the Ethereum Virtual Machine is going. Over the past 12+ months, Ethereum developers have done a lot of research looking to optimize Layer 1 to alleviate some of these issues.

Also to emphasize: the sharding roadmap and “danksharding”, the whole network structure is actually simplified when you assume these highly incentivized MEV participants exist. Some external actors have changed not only how developers think about network security, but also how protocols are built.

If you assume that these highly incentivized participants are willing to do something because of MEV, then suddenly you have this third-party participant consensus, and this situation has the potential to cause some bad things to happen, but It will also stimulate new design types.

By the way, the developers at the Ethereum Foundation have built some new upgrade testing tools so that the next upgrade will be more about writing tests than thinking about how to test it.

a16z: Are developers still actively discussing and researching stateless Ethereum?

DANNY RYAN: Yes, accounts, contracts, balances actually have a state, and these are the states of Ethereum. Given their position in the blockchain, there is a state of reality, and over time , the state also grows linearly. If you increase the gas limit, Ethereum’s state growth gets faster – so, that’s a problem.

If gas grows faster than the memory and hard drive space of consumer machines, it means users can’t run Ethereum nodes on home computers and consumer hardware, raising security and centralization issues. Also, as some members of the Ethereum client GETH team mentioned, the fact that Ethereum’s state is constantly growing means that they have to constantly optimize the client, and the difficulty will increase.

Stateless Ethereum and related research directions are a potential solution. In fact, executing a block on stateless Ethereum does not need to verify the state of the entire block. For example, when executing the block function, you can set a Hide input.

For example: I need pre-state, I need block, then I get post-state to know if block is valid.

For stateless Ethereum, it is possible to embed state requirements (including accounts and other things needed to execute a particular block) into blocks, and prove that these states are correct. This means that executing a block and checking the validity of Ethereum only needs to have the block, which is really good, we can have full nodes that don’t necessarily have a full state.

Stateless Ethereum expands the range of nodes: I may have a node that is fully validating but has no state, I may have a node that only keeps the state relevant to me, or I may have a very complete node (with all the state in it).

Building stateless ethereum is actively underway, and as far as I know, a testnet has already started to test, and we will also test some other interesting things in sync. However, the Ethereum upgrade will have some priorities. Compared with stateless Ethereum, the demand for distribution and Layer 1 expansion is higher, so the expansion may be given priority.

Having said all that, it’s hard to say which upgrade will start first. We have “proto-danksharding”, which seems to be a gradual scaling approach, maybe this upgrade will be prioritized, followed by a stateless ethereum upgrade, and finally full distribution. I think for the problem of state growth, Ethereum has to have a solution path and it has to be fixed, and while the Ethereum state problem is not a priority and won’t weaken Ethereum’s influence in the next few years, this problem has to be solved .

a16z: After the “merger” of Ethereum, what upgrades will there be? Will there be a clean upgrade? Will it be separated from the “Shanghai” upgrade? When did Ethereum introduce sharding?

DANNY RYAN: “Shanghai” may be the name of the fork after the merger of Ethereum. During the merger phase of Ethereum, it may not be possible to withdraw the funds that you have pledged for nearly two years, although at the beginning Ethereum did hope that after the merger of Ethereum, It is possible to support the withdrawal of pledged ETH, but over time and considering the complexity of the merger, developers should choose to “walk in two steps” and complete the merger first, without adding additional withdrawal functions for the time being.

I am very, very, very hopeful that the “Shanghai” fork will be able to withdraw money – because this is the first upgrade after the merger of Ethereum, and this is a commitment that Ethereum has made before, and it also involves a lot of money, I Don’t expect any issues, lots of testing and lots of other work.

I think there are many other improvements to the EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine) that could be applied to this system – different math and different scalability, better version control in the EVM, and other features. EVM optimization needs a “relief valve”, work on optimizing EVM has been on the sidelines for years, developers have invested too much time on merges and other upgrades, but people really want to see some ethereum can make some Small, scalable upgrades.

So after the merger, ethereum will either proto-danksharding (which will lay the groundwork for ethereum to implement distribution and help ethereum get more capacity), or lower gas fees – which is easy but not a really sustainable solution .

Therefore, I hope to see two things in the “Shanghai” upgrade of Ethereum: support for pledged ETH withdrawals, and expansion of the Ethereum network.

But the question is: where is the future of Ethereum? It’s hard to say. If Ethereum can indeed make some progress in the “Shanghai” upgrade, it will undoubtedly be a very good addition to Layer 2; or, if it still can’t meet the needs of Layer 2, then at least the “Shanghai” upgrade will be a full danksharding Lay a good foundation.

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:https://coinyuppie.com/a16z-talks-to-danny-ryan-of-the-ethereum-foundation-where-is-the-ethereum-road-after-the-merger/
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