Buterin Discusses Ethereum’s Future
Speaking to a packed main room at the EthCC conference in Paris Thursday, Buterin discussed how Ethereum is undergoing several significant changes that will ultimately improve the system in the long term. Buterin opened the 40-minute presentation by discussing Ethereum’s “long and complicated transition,” but added that the network was moving toward becoming “a more robust and powerful system.”
Buterin broke down Ethereum’s forthcoming changes into four phases that he first discussed on Bankless earlier this year: the Merge, the Surge, the Verge, and the Purge. The Merge refers to the network’s transition from Proof-of-Stake, which is expected to ship sometime around September 19. The Surge refers to the addition of 64 shard chains, which are expected to reduce congestion on the main chain by distributing traffic. The Verge pertains to the addition of stateless clients aimed at making the network more decentralized, and the Purge involves removing historical data in a bid to streamline the network.
In reference to the Proof-of-Stake upgrade, otherwise known as EIP-3675, Buterin said that Ethereum would be roughly “55% complete” following the Merge. Another major protocol upgrade Buterin highlighted was EIP-4444, a proposal focused on storing historical data in execution clients. “Because people value scalability, you can’t rely on nodes to store everything,” he said, before namechecking The Graph, BitTorrent, and block explorers as potential sources for storing data in the future. Buterin also mentioned EIP-1559, the fee burning model that was introduced in August 2021 to make gas fees more predictable. “EIP-1559 was amazing. It changed a lot, but it changed how we think about transactions,” he said.
Once the various changes are implemented, Buterin said, Ethereum will potentially be able to process 100,000 transactions per second (rather than the 15 or so it handles today), while Layer 2 rollups could become three times cheaper as the network becomes more scalable.
Short-Term Pain, Long-Term Gain
While Buterin spoke at length about the changes, he added a caveat. “There’s a lot of stuff happening, but that doesn’t mean that we should go this way forever,” he said, noting that he thought Ethereum would need to “settle down” in the future.
“The capabilities of Ethereum are increasingly rapidly,” he said. “But the rate of change is going to have to slow down.”
Buterin said that the network would have to optimize for safety and predictability and referred to what he called “the escape velocity thesis,” arguing that Ethereum of the future may become sufficiently developed that it does not require any more major overhauls. “It’s similar to Turing Completeness… if you have a computer that’s powerful enough, you can build almost anything on it.”
Summarizing Ethereum’s future, Buterin said that he expected the network would have to contend with “short-term pain, long-term gain” as it prepares for the Merge, the Surge, the Verge, and the Purge. “There is this pain that happens once, but basically future generations will be very thankful,” he said.
The fifth edition of EthCC is taking place this week in Paris. The three-day event has welcomed a variety of speakers from projects within the Ethereum ecosystem, including the likes of Lens Protocol, Polygon, Optimism, and UMA.