Vitalik Buterin’s New Proposal for Ethereum
Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has proposed a way to reduce the load on the Ethereum blockchain and make its proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus “considerably simpler and lighter.”
On Dec. 28, Buterin proposed a method of reducing the number of signatures that validators are required to make to keep the network running, thus reducing load.
The Challenge of High Validator Numbers
Ethereum currently supports a very high number of validators, around 895,000, to try to achieve decentralization and allow regular people to participate in staking.
However, this approach comes with major technical downsides as it requires the network to process a significant number of signatures, around 28,000 per slot, “which is a very high load,” Buterin noted.
Balancing Load and Quantum Resistance
Buterin emphasized the need for a balance, pointing out that supporting this load entails several sacrifices, such as limiting quantum resistance, complicating forking, and scaling signatures through zero-knowledge proofs (SNARKs).
He also pointed out that the current system doesn’t fully achieve the goal of enabling ordinary people to participate, as the 32 ETH minimum to become a validator is still too high for many.
A Moderate Solution
Buterin advocated moving to a moderate solution with around 8,192 signatures per slot, significantly lower than the current 28,000. This would allow major technical simplification, improve quantum resistance, and still keep the total slashable ETH high.
Buterin suggested three potential approaches: relying entirely on decentralized staking pools, a two-tiered system with “heavy” and “light” staking, and rotating participation with accountable committees.
The key advantage would be setting the future signature load at a manageable level, making protocol and infrastructure development much easier.
Ensuring Sustainable Development
“The future load of the Ethereum protocol becomes no longer an unknown,” he said. This approach allows future increases in signatures-per-slot through hard forks, but only when technology can handle a larger number efficiently.
In May, Buterin warned of the dangers of “stretching” Ethereum’s consensus past its core functions of validating blocks and securing the network.