Ethereum Roadmap: How Will It Achieve Global Scale to Become a World Computer?

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Ethereum's roadmap showcases a strategic plan to address crucial issues like high gas fees, security and privacy concerns, and centralization. Through a number of stages, it aims to implement rollup-centric scaling, enhance privacy, and simplify the protocol. By leveraging innovative solutions like L2 rollups and smart contract wallets, Ethereum strives to achieve global scalability and become a powerful decentralized world computer, enabling widespread adoption and revolutionizing various industries.

With ‘The Merge’ done and dusted, Ethereum (ETH) is preparing for its next big upgrade called ‘The Surge.’ The plan has been laid out to address the widely-discussed issue of high gas fees.

So, what is the Ethereum roadmap? In this article, we take a closer look at the blockchain’s future plans to solve its issues related to gas fees, security, privacy, and centralization.

Ethereum Roadmap: Merge, Surge, Scourge, Verge, Purge, and Splurge

According to Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum’s roadmap is split into a few stages.

Stage Name Goal
I The Merge Move to proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus
II The Surge Rollup-centric scaling to 100,000+ transactions per second
III The Scourge Avoid centralization and other protocol risks from maximal extractable value (MEV)
IV The Verge Verifying blocks to become “super easy”
V The Purge Simplify the protocol and reduce the costs of running network nodes
VI The Splurge “Fix everything else”

How Will Ethereum Achieve Global Scale?

Ethereum is working to bring an open and permissionless experience to the myriad of decentralized applications (dApps) built on top of it. These applications range from crypto exchanges to digital collectible shops, real-life asset tokenization platforms, and data platforms.

Buterin has listed three major technical transitions that Ethereum needs to undergo to become a global phenomenon.

Scaling via Rollups

Ethereum’s strategy is to achieve global scale via roll-ups. A rollup is a layer-two (L2) chain that exists on top of a primary blockchain (L1). These rollups process transactions on the L2 chain, batch them together, and publish the bundled transactions on the L1 chain. The roll-up bundles transactions into groups so that gas fees do not have to be paid for each transaction.

Advertisements

Gas fees on Ethereum are notoriously high, often ranging from $3 to $4 during normal conditions. There have been instances where ETH gas fees skyrocketed to over $50. Such exorbitant fees pose a significant barrier to Ethereum’s mainstream adoption.

Smart Contract Wallets

Wallets are the gateway to the crypto and Web3 worlds. However, the adoption of crypto wallets is handicapped by its cumbersome onboarding processes. The crypto industry is also associated with wallet hacks and thefts that have seen users lose thousands of dollars in cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

The upcoming Ethereum upgrades will introduce smart contract wallets. Onboarding and account recovery is expected to become smoother. Transferring cryptos across different blockchain networks is expected to be easier.

Privacy transition

Ethereum will continue to champion user privacy. The roadmap will see upgrades that will aim to ensure “privacy-preserving funds transfers.”

Buterin has hinted at a future where a user goes from having one address per chain to one address per transaction. However, this is still a work in progress due to the complexities involved.

Recap: Completed Merge and Shanghai Upgrades

Ethereum completed its long-awaited move from proof-of-work (PoW) to proof-of-stake (PoS) in 2022.

What did Ethereum achieve with The Merge?

  • Marked the start of a multi-phase scaling roadmap for Ethereum;
  • Increased decentralization by lowering the barrier to entry for transaction verifiers and block creators;
  • Added crypto economic security to the protocol via penalties (eg. slashing);
  • Reduced energy consumption by 99%;
  • Reduced circulating ETH supply by introducing staking.

In the first half of 2023, the Shanghai (aka Capella) upgrade went live. The upgrade enabled the withdrawal of staked ETH from the blockchain.

Staking is now less risky as the ETH tokens are not locked up and can be withdrawn at will.

Next Up on the Ethereum Roadmap: The Surge

Let’s focus on the most immediate step on the roadmap – The Surge – which will focus on scaling Ethereum by making gas fees cheaper.

Originally, sharding was seen as the way to scale Ethereum.

Sharding is the process of splitting the Ethereum blockchain into multiple chains so that subsets of validators are only responsible for processing a fraction of the total data at a time.

However, the updated roadmap states that the more efficient way to scale Ethereum is through L2 rollups. This is where EIP-4844 comes in.

EIP-4844: Proto-Danksharding

EIP-4844 is also known as proto-Danksharding. The upcoming Ethereum upgrade will introduce a new way for rollups to add cheaper data to blocks.

It should be noted that L2 rollups like Optimism and Arbitrium have reduced gas fees on Ethereum. However, it is not rare to have gas fees above $1 per transaction on these rollups. Developers want to make gas fees on Ethereum rollups “as cheap as possible for users.”

Proto-Danksharding will introduce temporary data blobs to each block that will allow rollups to process transactions more cheaply.

As we know, rollups batch transactions off-chain and then post them on Ethereum in a compressed form to reduce the gas paid on each transaction. To prevent dishonest activities, rollup transaction data has to be available for honest actors to check whether the state of the transactions is correct. However, the history of transactions does not need to be available forever. It can be discarded after verification is complete.

Ethereum’s blog states:

Right now, rollups are limited in how cheap they can make user transactions by the fact that they post their transactions in CALLDATA. This is expensive because it is processed by all Ethereum nodes and lives on the chain forever, even though rollups only need the data for a short time.

The temporary data blobs that proto-Danksharding will introduce will store the history of roll-up transactions only for a fixed time period (1-3 months), after which it will be automatically deleted. A “prover” will have to challenge any dishonest transaction within this window.

Moreover, the data stored in the temporary data blobs will not be accessible by the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). This means the EVM stores and processes less data resulting in lower gas fees.

According to Buterin, Ethereum will look to community projects to store the entire history of rollup transaction data.

What Is Danksharding? The Final Goal

Proto-Danksharding is only a stepping stone in order to reach the end game – Danksharding.

Think of Danksharding as proto-Danksharding on steroids. The temporary data blobs will increase from one per block in proto-Danksharding to 64 per block in Danksharding.

However, to get to this stage, there are several upgrades that Ethereum has to implement. According to the Ethereum website, Danksharding is “several years away,” while proto-Danksharding “should arrive relatively soon.”

Ethereum Roadmap: Long Path Ahead

If we learned anything from The Merge is that Ethereum upgrades tend to take longer than expected to implement. This is because of the arduous testing and planning that developers run to ensure that upgrades are implemented as smoothly as possible. There are billions of dollars and millions of users at stake.

The road ahead is no different. There is no blueprint for most of these upgrades as it has never been done before. In a blog post about Ethereum’s roadmap, Buterin noted the path ahead as “challenging” and called for the need for “intense coordination.”

Listing L2 scaling, smart wallet transition, and privacy transition as Ethereum’s long-term goals, Buterin explained:

It’s not just features of the protocol that need to improve; in some cases, the way that we interact with Ethereum needs to change pretty fundamentally, requiring deep changes from applications and wallets.

The Bottom Line

There is optimism and confidence within the Ethereum community. The “non-eventful” Merge in 2022 highlighted the efficiency of the work of Ethereum developers, given how smoothly Ethereum’s biggest upgrade to date went.

For now, we patiently await the day when Ethereum gas fees become cheap enough to compete with traditional finance.

Advertisements

Related Reading

Related Terms

Advertisements
Mensholong Lepcha
Crypto & Blockchain Writer

Mensholong is an experienced crypto and blockchain journalist, now a full-time writer at Techopedia. He has previously contributed news coverage and in-depth market analysis to Capital.com, StockTwits, XBO, and other publications. He started his writing career at Reuters in 2017, covering global equity markets. In his free time, Mensholong loves watching football, finding new music, and buying BTC and ETH for his crypto portfolio.