What is Danksharding?
Danksharding is an Ethereum rollup scaling method where transactional throughput is increased by providing extra storage space for rollup transactions. Danksharding is a key feature of the second phase of Ethereum’s scaling roadmap called The Surge.
Danksharding is named after Ethereum researcher Dankrad Feist who proposed it. It is an upgrade on the old Ethereum scaling plan called sharding, which proposes dividing layer one (L1) into multiple shard chains.
What does danksharding mean for the Ethereum roadmap? Let’s find out.
Danksharding vs. Sharding
Developers had originally planned on scaling Ethereum through sharding, which was going to split the L1 chain into 64 shard chains. Each shard chain would have a unique set of validators and would process transactions individually.
However, as rollups emerged as the go-to way to scale Ethereum, the sharding roadmap was abandoned. The introduction of rollups reduced the need for shard chains as transactions were processed directly on the rollup chain.
Danksharding was introduced to complement Ethereum’s rollup-centric roadmap. The most distinct feature of danksharding is the introduction of temporary data blobs, which will allow rollups to process more data (meaning more transactions).
Let’s read about it in detail in the next section.
Danksharding Explained: Temporary Data Blobs
Danksharding is still a work in progress. The first step toward realizing its full potential is through the introduction of temporary data storage blobs in a process called proto-danksharding.
Although proto-danksharding is only considered a “stopgap” solution, understanding it will allow readers to fully grasp the definition of danksharding.
Proto-danksharding will introduce a new type of transaction which will allow rollups to store transaction data in temporary blobs. The data in these blobs will not be accessible by the EVM (meaning lower gas fees) and will be automatically deleted after a fixed period (less than three months).
The main rationale behind this Ethereum upgrade is that rollup transaction data need not be available on-chain forever. The data needs to be available just long enough for anyone to check and verify the transactions posted on Ethereum.
Instead, the transaction data can be deleted from nodes after a fixed time period so that Ethereum nodes are not required to store large amounts of data. The onus of storing the entire history of transactions will fall to third-party solutions.
It is expected that the temporary data blobs attached to each Ethereum block will increase from one in proto-danksharding to 64 in full danksharding.
When will Danksharding Take Place?
Proto-danksharding is only the first step to full danksharding. While proto-danksharding is expected to be completed soon, full danksharding will only be achievable after proposer-builder separation (PBS) is implemented on Ethereum.
Proposer-Builder Separation (PBS)
PBS is required to support validator decentralization. As the data processed by Ethereum expands with the realization of danksharding (64 temporary data blobs are expected in full danksharding), it will become increasingly more expensive for validators to operate.
Without PBS, validators will be required to invest in powerful hardware to cope with the extra blob data. The high cost will increase the barrier to becoming a validator and therefore hurt Ethereum’s decentralization.
What PBS does is that it separates a validator’s task of proposing and building a block. In this setup, specialized block builders take up the responsibility to carry out expensive computational work.
Once builders compile a block, they broadcast it to “proposers,” who choose the next block to be added to the blockchain.
Any validator can cheaply and quickly check whether the block built by the builder is valid and honest. Misbehaving block builders will be ejected from the network, and their stakes will be slashed.
“All roads lead to centralized block production with trustless and decentralized validation,” said Jon Charbonneau, research associate at Delphi Digital in a research note.
Data Availability Sampling (DAS)
Another criteria needed to achieve full danksharding is the implementation of data availability sampling (DAS).
DAS is a method that will allow validators to quickly and efficiently check blob data. Using DAS, validators will only need to sample a small and randomly selected subset of the total data to make certain that the blob data was available and correctly committed.
“Data availability is the assurance that full nodes have been able to access and verify the full set of transactions associated with a specific block. It does not necessarily follow that the data is accessible forever,” said web developer Corwin Smith in a blog post for Ethereum.
According to Ethereum developers, full danksharding is still “several years away.”
The Ethereum community lauded the danksharding plan for its simpler design and decentralization empowering properties over the original sharding plan.
However, we should keep in mind that blockchain technology is evolving at an incredibly fast pace, and change in the Ethereum scaling roadmap may come with the emergence of new innovations.