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The Future of Ethereum Part 2: Casper, Sharding and eWASM



In the first part, we covered everything we need to know about the glacial age of Ethereum, the difficulty bomb and the changes to the rate of inflation of Ethereum planned for the October update in Constantinople.

Now that you have a thorough understanding of the current state of development of Ethereum and plans for the immediate future, we can take a look at the long-term plans of the platform, in particular the highly anticipated 2.0 update of Ethereum , which focuses on Casper, sharding and eWASM.

These changes are going to completely remodel the Ethereum network and could kick off a new wave of growth for the platform.

Let's go inside!

Casper and the transition to the pole test

The most anticipated part of Ethereum 2.0 is probably the long awaited platform test algorithm (PoS), Casper. The transition of Ethereum to the test of the stake was motivated by two main concerns: the waste of energy and the centralization of mining.

Energy waste in proof of mining work

One of the most frequent critiques of cryptocurrencies is the extreme waste of energy deriving from the extraction of work trials (PoW).

This is a mining system used by Bitcoin, Ethereum and many other coins in which miners compete with one another using powerful computers to try and find the answer to a complex computational puzzle. The first miner to solve the puzzle has the right to add a new block to the blockchain and is rewarded with neophytes and transaction fees.

PoW mining was initially implemented to add real economic costs for the addition of blockchain blocks. The malicious actors are dissuaded from trying to manipulate the blockchain because it is prohibitively expensive to do so.

The problem with this system, however, is that as Ethereum and other PoW cryptocurrencies have become larger and more valuable, so have the costs and energy costs of mining operations. It is difficult to get updated numbers, but recent estimates show that the amount of electricity used in the Bitcoin sector alone is close to half a percent of the world's total energy consumption per day.

Critics call this an obvious waste of energy, and it seems that the Ethereum Foundation is in agreement. One of the main positive aspects of the new Casper PoS system is that it will drastically reduce the energy costs of extracting Ethereum, while maintaining or even increasing network security.

As for how Casper will increase network security, much of this has to do with creating a decentralized miners network.

Mineral centralization

At the dawn of Bitcoin and Ethereum, network participants were able to successfully extract new blocks using normal GPUs. As explained above, however, mining has become significantly more difficult over time.

This increase in difficulty is due to two factors: the growing complexity of the Ethereum extraction algorithm and the advent of vast mineral pools.

Mining pools are exactly what they look like: organizations that allow individuals to pool their resources to increase their chances of successfully extracting new blocks. The idea is quite innocent, but a handful of mining wells have become so large and powerful that they now dominate the Ethereum network.

The following chart shows the effect that mining pools have had on the number of distinct miners on the Ethereum network:

ether miners distinct.pngSource: Etherchain.org

As you can see, the number of distinct miners has fallen dramatically since the birth of Ethereum. Today, Etherchain estimates that the Ethereum network is managed by less than 70 miners, which means that Ethereum is actually quite centralized from a mining perspective.

The centralization of mining activities poses numerous health threats to a blockchain network, the largest of which is called a 51% attack. A 51% attack is a blockchain vulnerability present if a single mining organization (or a collusive group of organizations) controls 51% or more of the hashing power of the network. Basically, any organization with such control of the network would be able to manipulate the blockchain, spend two coins and destroy the integrity of the network. Users would be at the mercy of the control organization and other miners would not have the power to overturn them.

Clearly this is a problem, and it is one of the main reasons why having a decentralized network of miners is so important.

How is Casper different?

As stated above, Casper is a test mining algorithm (PoS). PoS differs from PoW in several ways.

Rather than requiring miners to invest in mining hardware for an attempt to dig new blocks, PoS systems instead require miners to invest (or "bet") money on the network. Users interested in mining on Ethereum will be required to wager exactly 32 Ethers to be added to the validator pool. From there, the validators will have to propose and vote for new blocks of transactions. According to Rocket Pool, "Validators are rewarded with interest on their deposits if they follow the rules of the protocol and if they act dishonestly, their deposits are penalized".

In this way, Casper will completely remove the high costs of electricity from the existing PoW system. At the same time, Casper will also lower the barrier to entry for individuals or groups who would like to participate in the extraction of Ethereum. 32 The ether currently holds about $ 7,500, which is significantly less expensive than the costs of hardware and electricity needed for an individual to participate in the extraction of PoW. This drop in costs should lead to more people taking part in the extraction of Ethereum, which will in turn produce a more widely distributed network of miners.

Sharding: the scalability solution of Ethereum

The second major feature that is presented as part of Ethereum 2.0 is a scaling solution called sharding. Currently, Ethereum processes around 15 transactions per second (TPS), which severely limits the platform's ability to provide services to a large audience. Compare this with VISA, which operates at an average of 1600 TPS, and the limitations here are clear.

One big reason why Ethereum and other blockchain transactions are so low per second (Bitcoin, for example, an average of about 7 TPS) is because blockchains have to process each transaction in sequence. According to Rocket Pool, "from the point of view of scalability, the current Ethereum blockchain is a single pipe that all transactions must be transferred." What we will do is increase the number of "pipes".

More specifically, the sharding will allow to split the Ethereum blockchain into smaller pieces called shard.

Each fragment will essentially be its small blockchain that performs the Ethereum test of the stake protocol. The fragments will be in constant communication with each other and with the main chain of Ethereum, but each fragment will be able to process and validate the transactions independently. This structure will effectively allow the Ethereum network to process many transactions simultaneously, rather than having to validate them sequentially.

Rocket Pool estimates that the potential number of fragments could be over 1000, which could bring the speed of the Ethereum network to around 15,000 TPS.

eWASM

The last major component of Ethereum 2.0 is called eWASM. Described as a standardized "set of instructions", eWASM will soon be integrated into Ethereum as a replacement for the existing Ethereum virtual machine (EVM).

The EVM allows anyone, anywhere in the world, to use the decentralized applications of Ethereum, if it is given enough time and memory. Basically it guarantees that the applications work for everyone.

eWASM, which is currently under development by engineers from Google, Mozilla, Apple and Microsoft, will act in the same way by offering several updates to the EVM. According to Rocket Pool, eWASM should be faster, safer and more portable than EVM. eWASM also offers additional benefits, including multi-language support beyond Ethereum's robustness, which should make it easier for developers to create Ethereum applications.

Conclusion

It should be clear that these are fundamental changes that come to the Ethereum network. Each of the above updates has the potential to greatly increase the speed and efficiency of Ethereum. Many in 2018 have doubts about whether Ethereum and its development team have what it takes to remain the world's number one platform, or whether younger and more elegant platforms like EOS could simply outperform the old king. Ethereum 2.0 will be the last test.

This concludes part 2 of our two-part series on the future of Ethereum. If you read both sides, you are now updated on what we can expect from Ethereum in the coming months and years. The features described in Part 1 will be introduced in the October update of Constantinople, while the features described in this article have vague timelines: Casper should be released in 2019, while the sharding is set for 2020.

If you want up-to-date information on the development status of Ethereum 2.0, you can follow the Ethereum Github here.


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