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What’s Next For Ethereum? Part 2: The Rest 

With withdrawals bringing an official close to the Merge chapter in Ethereum history, what’s next for Ethereum? In the final part of this two-part series, I dive into what’s next outside scalability upgrades as the focus turns to how to scale while promoting decentralisation, tackling censorship challenges and improving the user experience. 

Key Takeaways

  • Part 1 covered how scalability remains one of the highest priorities.
  • The rest of the roadmap can be summed up as enabling scalability while reducing complexity and ensuring low resource requirements.
  • A focus is on promoting decentralisation while tackling censorship challenges and improving the user experience.
  • The roadmap has differing impacts if you’re a user, holder or non-holder.

Part 1: Why The Immediate Focus Is Scalability 

Part 1 dove into why scalability is the highest priority. Major upgrades targeting scalability will reduce fees on Ethereum’s scaling networks and have significant implications for Ethereum. The long-term goal is to implement this initial scaling fix at a broader scale to see larger scalability gains. 

Collective Shift: Ethereum Roadmap Part 1

What Does It All Mean For You? 

Understanding the roadmap can put you in an advantageous position to understand changes before they hit the news headlines. 

Its impact on you depends on whether you’re; (i) a user or (ii) a holder, (iii) a non-holder; 

As a user 

  • You may see reduced fees to use Ethereum & potentially save ETH on gas. 
  • Changes to staking could open up new opportunities to access a better yield by easily becoming a shared validator. 
  • You may also notice a better wallet experience 

As an ETH holder 

  • It shows Ethereum is finally scaling. 
  • Ethereum lost market share to other smart contract platforms due to high fees; fees are set to reduce sub-one cents on roll-ups. 
  • Ethereum is on its way to solving critical issues with many future catalysts to promote decentralisation, combat censorship, and improve the user experience. 
  • A reminder of the risks and added complexity. It could be multiple years away from completing significant upgrades. 

As a non-ETH holder 

  • With Ethereum finally scaling, will Ethereum capture the market share it lost? 
  • Questions may grow over how many alternative smart contract blockchains can survive alongside a scaled Ethereum ecosystem. 

So What’s Next Outside of Scalability 

Scalability upgrades will be a significant focus for the rest of the year, but that isn’t all that’s happening. 

A core goal of the rest of the Ethereum roadmap is to manage complexity while scaling the network without increasing the number of resources to remain decentralised 

The Ethereum “roadmap” is split into other areas (discussed in part one). Below is a refresher: 

The Surge Scaling Ethereum. 
The Scourge Tackling centralisation risks, promoting decentralisation and protecting against censorship. 
The Verge It makes verifying Ethereum easier and less costly 
The Purge A ‘clean-up’ phase to simplify Ethereum and clear old data. 
The Splurge Everything else. Optimisations to ensure a smooth Ethereum and user experience upgrades. 

The roadmap is also expected to change* 

Promoting Network Decentralisation & Defending Against Censorship (The Scourge) 

A big part of the roadmap is promoting network decentralisation and making Ethereum resistant to censorship. The focus here is 2 core components (i) Proposer-Builder Separation (PBS) and (ii) Distributed Validator Technology (DVT). 

Now let’s break down these 2 confusing names because it’s simpler than you might think. 

Proposer Builder Separation (PBS) 

PBS is a significant upgrade tackling centralisation challenges and is a crucial step to enable Ethereum’s next steps to scale. For this guide, it’s not critical to understand the nitty gritty of what PBS is, but it’s more important to note what it does

PBS separates the different roles to validate Ethereum, enshrining these new roles into the network. PBS is important because it tackles centralisation weaknesses due to how Ethereum works post-merge. 

An interim solution was created to fix centralisation issues (MEV Boost); however, this solution is still too centralised but will do while Ethereum delivers PBS. 

  • Currently, tons of value is leaked for the user (MEV), creating a poor user experience. If a user wants to trade $100 into a cryptocurrency, they won’t get the best price and often lose value to others. 

What’s the impact? 

  • Makes the full realisation of Ethereum’s scalability upgrade possible (danksharding) and lowers the barriers to creating a node. 
  • Bakes in more fairness, so less value is leaked for users, and there will be no centralising software that could disrupt the network. 
  • Ensure no funny business happens when validating the network and promotes censorship resistance. 

When will it come? 

  • It’s widely expected PBS won’t happen anytime in the next 12 months—we’ll know much more once Ethereum’s Cancun upgrade brings initial scalability (hopefully) later this year. No prototypes are live yet, and it’s still in the design stage. 

Distributed validator technology (DVT) 

DVT is an area on the roadmap to help reduce the technical barriers to staking and securing Ethereum. 

  • At the moment, if a user wants to stake and secure Ethereum, they have to do it themselves or stake it with centralised validators from an exchange or Lido. 
  • The latter can lead to centralisation risks. 

All you need to know is that DVT will allow users to pool capital together and share a validator to make the distribution more even while retaining security. 

What’s the impact? 

  • DVT could dramatically increase the number of people who participate in ETH staking. Its goal is to maximise decentralisation. 

When will it come? 

  • Two projects are currently working on this. 
  • Obol Network launched its Alpha Release in April and targeted a public mainnet release by year-end. 
  • is expected to launch on mainnet by year-end.  

Make Verifying Ethereum Super Easy (The Verge) 

Here, the focus is on making the way Ethereum is verified much easier. This is perhaps one of the roadmap’s most confusing and jargon-filled sections, which will introduce many technical upgrades. 

The title is misleading because the upgrade to enable this is quite complex as it introduces a new technology that I won’t dive into (zk-SNARKS, Verkle Trees). 

Don’t worry about these terms; ignore them. The main thing you need to know is it will allow users to become network validators without storing extensive amounts of data and improve verifying the network. 

What’s the impact?

It will reduce the amount of data validators have to store and allow validators to verify the network without storing the whole blockchain history. It marks further decentralisation of the network but does introduce a whole host of new challenges and technical complexity. 

When will it come?

Testnets are already up and running but require significant testing. We could see progress made in 2024. 

Simplify Ethereum & Limit Costs of Participation (The Purge) 

Maintaining decentralisation will also be a primary goal of this roadmap section. The goal is to lower the storage requirements to participate in validating the network, much like the previous ‘Verge’ focus. 

The current problem is as activity rises, the amount of memory and resources to verify the network increases. This goes hand in hand with decentralisation because it could become too costly for your average Joe to verify the network. 

The solution is an upgrade known as ‘Stateless Ethereum’. 

Think of ‘state’ as a snapshot of the current balances of all users on Ethereum. Understanding the state is essential because, without it, no one knows who is owed and whether someone has the coins to spend. 

Old network history will be purged, reducing the space needed to participate in the network by not requiring nodes to store history. 

  • History Expiry (EIP4444) will introduce these changes and delete historical data to keep resource requirements low. 

What’s the impact? 

It will make it so Ethereum can continue scaling without forcing all nodes to store the entire state forever. It’s critical for not only scalability but also decentralisation. 

When will it come? 

No ETA, as it requires ‘The Verge’ upgrades to move forward. 

Everything Else (The Splurge)  

The splurge part of the roadmap focuses on everything else that may not fit into the other areas.  

Things we’ll see here include: 

  • Changes to Ethereum’s fee burn (EIP 1559) 
  • Improvements to Ethereum’s Virtual Machine 
  • Reduce barriers to running a node 
  • Improving the user experience via Account Abstraction. 

Account Abstraction (AA) 

AA is a significant theme in the roadmap to make the wallet and user experience much better. 

Currently, the wallet experience is very confusing, clunky, requires many clicks and is not as safe as it should be. It also requires the user to take on complex key management. 

AA creates a new type of wallet that can bundle transactions together, process automatic payments, and a more convenient wallet recovery. 

  • Imagine using your wallet to play a game without giving permission to other crypto-assets/accounts or signing a message every 30 seconds. 

What’s the impact? 

  • Dramatically improves the user experience by reducing the number of signings, increasing security and moving beyond seed phrases. 
  • For Ethereum to reach mass adoption, there must be a straightforward, frictionless way for users to take custody of their assets and data safely without understanding complex key management. 

When will it come? 

  • AA is already on the way, with an Ethereum upgrade EIP 4337 deployed in March 2023, providing the foundation. Ethereum L2 networks such as Argent on StarkNet, zkSync Era or Polygon zkEVM are already building in AA natively. 
  • However, more upgrades are required to make them more decentralised and permissionless. 

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