After Bitcoin, Ethereum is the world’s second most popular blockchain platform. Blockchain has become an increasingly attractive piece of technology for the financial industry, both for its secure transactions, and the lightning speed at which transactions are processed. However, this is not all there is to blockchain technology, at least not where Ethereum’s co-founder, Vitalik Buterin is concerned.
During the Ethereum Foundation’s annual conference, Devcon3, hosted this year in Cancun, Mexico, Buterin addressed the audience to mainly discuss his vision for the future in something he called a “modest proposal.”
Last Thursday, the co-founder unveiled a plan which is three to four years in scope to evolve the technology. The plan has been designed to address some concerns and bring about several technical updates to the platform. According to Buterin, his primary issues would be to address the platform’s scalability, that is to say, Ethereum’s capability to conduct transactions at scale, at optimum speed and efficiency.
According to Buterin, the volume of transactions sent via Ethereum on a daily basis is much more than the developers initially anticipated and has increased over the last few years.
To facilitate this growth, and encourage future growth, Buterin emphasized that his primary concern in the future would be to find a way that would lessen the cost of storage, especially since the system is conducting more transactions than ever before, and rapidly expanding. To date, there are no real solutions to solve the issue of scalability, at least according to Buterin. The developer stated that although there is a mass of so-called solutions available, none of them addresses the problem sufficiently enough. Buterin noted that this would be a very challenging obstacle to face.
Despite the obstacle, Buterin believes that he has already found a viable solution by using a method known as “sharding.” Sharding refers to a process of splitting up the total amount of data into compartments and allocating specific nodes to process certain kinds of data. This means that each node would only be responsible for a fraction of the data, allowing each node to function at optimum speed and capability. In theory, the system is perfect as it is entirely self-reliant. The theory suggests that each node will depend on the entire node system and communicate data to one another. In other words, the system would be entirely accountable to itself.
However, there are several risks involved when it comes to sharding, most notably the fact that nodes could become compromised and start communicating false data to one another. To address this, however, Buterin has designed an entirely new sharding system that is notably different from previous systems. Buterin’s proposed new system would entail dividing the Ethereum system into different types of shards. The primary shard would be what we currently know as the Ethereum network. However, this shard would become supported by other shards, or “universes” as Buterin called them.
According to Buterin, once you have supporting shards or universes, the transactions will be significantly faster. Also, having separate shards would allow developers to implement and test specific system changes, while the primary shard would remain unchanged, stable, and intact. Other cryptocurrencies have experienced similar issues in scalability, most notably Bitcoin. Buterin believed that this new system would put an end to the problems the blockchain community is currently facing.
While sharding is Buterin’s main concern, it is not the only one. The developer listed some other improvements he intends to make on the network, including upgrading the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), as well as a project called eWASM which would allow users to run Ethereum from their browsers. Details on the suggested upgrades have been made available on Ethereum’s Github page.