The future of Ethereum: «the gas crisis» and sharding in 2020

The latest news did not bring joy to supporters of Ethereum: develop key update is delayed, and the system is in the midst of the «gas crisis».

This term is included in the turnover due to the ongoing growth of transaction fees, for the payment of that use the so-called «gas» (gas), consisting of «micro-particles of ether» (ether). If you exclude the lyrics, in fact, this crisis is similar to the overload of the blockchain of Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency suffered until the beginning of 2018, when the introduction of SegWit and a drop in the overall excitement around cryptocurrencies has led to a gradual decrease of the commissions to a minimum level. But Ethereum has yet to cope with this problem.

In last Monday, the users of the Ethereum spent 5 862 ETH or $2.7 million to send the transaction, which is an unprecedented high amount of available network data. Who is to blame? In part — one Chinese exchange FCoin, which seems to overload the blockchain for its controversial business model, but it was, in fact, only the last straw.

This issue was recently raised by Vitalik Baleriny. At the last session of TechCrunch Buterin criticized centralized exchanges, reaching that wished them «burn in hell». He said

«I certainly hope that centralized exchanges will burn in hell as long as possible».

His negativity was due primarily to the practice of charging excessive amounts (from $10 to $15 million) for the token listing on the stock exchanges.

Taylor Monaghan (Monahan Taylor), CEO of MyCrypto, in his Twitter account reminded users of more effective methods of establishing transaction fees when using the second largest of the blockchain in the world.

«It’s good to remember what the gas actually is, how it works, and why it is necessary … and why this model is not needed,» wrote
Monaghan.

The price of gas used as a measure of computing EVM (in fact, that users pay for network usage) varies depending on demand. And this demand appears to be growing to unprecedented levels. While in December, the game CryptoKitties
was a real stress test for Ethereum, the cumulative costs of gas at the time was less than half the level of last week, and signs of improvement have not yet seen.

«Gas prices right now do not look very good,» warns
Eth Gas Station, the primary resource for measuring operations with gas Ethereum. The report noted that users need to pay $3.20 for the transaction, which will be adopted, or will have to wait for the adoption unit to 30 minutes.

The situation over the past week in General adjusted — transaction fees become smaller relative to the peak last Monday, but the developers are still exploring ways to solve the problem of volatility of commissions, since such crises are repeated with enviable regularity for any surge in user activity.

Although transaction costs point to the larger issue of scaling (as soon as the network reaches its limits, transaction fees increase), you can take steps to reduce commissions before Ethereum will move to a more scalable architecture.

Often the fee grow due to the imperfections of tools, including algorithms for the pricing, from time to time fail, and errors from users.

Gas war

Chinese exchange Fcoin recently attracted the attention of the community in connection with their new model of making a profit, which includes the distribution of free tokens to users trading on the platform. As reported
previously, the model was successful – in the past month, the maximum daily trading volume on the exchange reached $5.6 billion – the amount in excess of total turnover of the largest stock exchanges.

However, over the past network congestion Ethereum is partly what currently FCoin holds a daily contest in which users vote for the listing of the token by re-introducing the token on the stock exchange.

As a result, this prompted the developers of tokens to the hands (airdrops) on many accounts, causing hundreds of thousands of transactions. This step was not very well received within the community Ethereum.

«At the moment in the «gas» burned $240 000,» wrote
Twitter founder Fresco Roy Huang (Roy Huang). «If you are satisfied with this madness, that you came into the industry for the wrong reasons».

Monahan echoed this comment, describing what is happening on the stock exchange «absolutely disgusting voting mechanism», encouraging Sybil attack is a kind of spam attack that floods the network with fake accounts.

This resulted in network congestion that caused that the researcher Ethereum Castonguay Philippe (Philippe Castonguay) was called «war of the gas prices» in which users are forced to fight for inclusion in blocks, offering a higher Commission.

The consequences of this are numerous: fees for the transaction increase, some transactions fail because of poor commissions, and other users, due to despair or by negligence, to pay huge transaction fees, which increases the fee for all others. It even makes the advanced users to collude with miners to reduce the transaction fee.

Correction pricing

The developers emphasize that there are ways to improve the situation for all users. Work was carried out, which may improve the situation in both the short and long term.

For example, Griff green (Green Griff) has created a proposal based on the research of Alexei Akhunova, in which the Ethereum uses a technique inspired by Bitcoin a technique called «Child Pays for Parent» (CPFP) («Child pays for parent»).

Instead of processing transactions one account individually, the miners can sort the transaction and demand higher fees, processing them simultaneously. This can be useful for «super users», such as exchanges that send many transactions at once.

The founder of Ethereum Vitalik Buterin has also developed a proposal, which simplifies the algorithm of gas pricing that makes it easier to predict what should be the correct price of gas. Subsequently, this simplified algorithm can eliminate mistakes today market gas pricing. But its widespread implementation requires that all users have upgraded their wallets.

On the other hand, the proposal of green requires only that a code was adopted by the miners. It does not require hard forks to improve the efficiency of the network. Green said:

«It adds a feedback loop that can help everyone to prioritize transactions.»

The more important question

However, in the center of all this history is the more important question of scaling the entire blockchain of Ethereum in accordance with user requests.

«The recent spikes in gas prices are actually just a reflection of the fact that the blockchain Ethereum is close to the maximum throughput already for some time,» said Castonguay, «They show that people routinely use the Protocol and the Ethereum need to scale».

However, a complete solution for scale-out such as sharding, is still far-reaching experimental technologies and their implementation dates are constantly shifting to the right.

Ethereum 2.0: Casper in 2019, sharding in 2020

Despite the uncertainty with the timing of implementation for scaling Ethereum, some information about the development of the transition to PoS and sharding is still there. Justin Drake (Justin Drake), the developer of Ethereum, a worker on the technology, said that the update with a complete transition to Proof of Stake (PoS) Casper may appear next year, although the community was expecting to see him at the end of 2018.

Drake explained that Casper and sharding were originally combined in the release of Serenity and was named Ethereum 2.0, but he expected that Casper will be out first. As for sharding, Drake said that its implementation is divided into two phases. The first phase can be implemented in 2020, while the second will be implemented only in 2021. This statement contradicts the words Vitalik Buterin, which as recently as may said that the deployment of sharding «is not far off». Perhaps two years, he said not so long but it is unlikely that the users will agree with this.

Drake also said that they continue to work on Ethereum 3.0, but are at a very early stage of research. According to him, this update will have superquadratic scaling.

As you know, sharding splits the nodes of a global network into groups (segments) so that each group of nodes has the same bandwidth as the current network of Ethereum. Then they are connected to each other via cross-links, therefore the network remains a single and gets practically unlimited scalability depending only on the total number of full nodes in the network.

Superquadratic sharding makes all of the above, but in a segmented chain. For example, Ethereum currently has 160,000 nodes and they all handle the same transaction. Let’s say you have divided them up into 160 groups of nodes 1000 nodes each. The current bandwidth, Ethereum is about one million transactions per day, and therefore, in segmented-chain throughput of the entire blockchain will be 160 million transactions per day, or 111 111 transactions per second.

If this segmented chain will work as expected in 2022 or possibly in 2025, you can split these 1000 nodes with 10 groups of 100 nodes each. In the end we will get more than a billion transactions per day, or almost a million per second, with the current number of nodes.

If Ethereum will be able to handle this number of transactions, probably will be companies and individuals who want to start the nodes, though, because they need only a laptop. This is due to the fact that the operator of the end node there will be no difference between starting the knot today and the time when the network will be segmented or segmented quadratic, since each node will still handle about 1 MB of data every ten minutes as at present. However, for the network the difference will be huge because of the incredibly greater capacity and all this while maintaining decentralization and security. The main problem then will become only the expansion of the size of the blockchain and the need to back up or truncate at the user nodes.

These far-reaching plans do not eliminate the need to act now. However, the developers of Ethereum haven’t said anything about plans to release the second part of the release, Metropolis — Constantinople, which is still expected in late 2018 and is preparatory to the full transition to PoS. The first part of Metropolis, called Byzantium, was released in October last year, but delayed development of the second indecent, and in fact is still in its infancy.

Meanwhile, Constantinople is expected to be significant innovations, including elements of the Casper Protocol, which for several months working on a test network. In addition, in April they published a specification for Casper FFG, implying the transition to hybrid mining PoW+PoS and reducing rewards miners to 0.6 ETH for the block. At that time it was expected that hardwork would be held in about five months, i.e. in September or October. And only after it will start phase II development — Casper CBC’s full transition to PoS mining. But now the developers continue to remain silent on the release date for Constantinople, which probably means another delay.

Patience is not infinite

It is now clear that the introduction of Ethereum 2.0 will have to wait, so developers will have to cope with the problems of using ad hoc solutions. There are problems of scaling and optimization expands the pool of those who can help improve the network. On the other hand, the constant delay in development may lead to an outflow of users of Ethereum in competing projects, which can run the same technologies much earlier.

For example, in EOS throughput of several thousand transactions per second is actually implemented, and the main stumbling block remains the problem of control bloccano. Progress and project development Rchain involving Vlad Zamfir — previously one of the key developers of Ethereum. Its blockchain can be launched already in September, and initially will run its own implementation of Casper. Chinese users can pull the «Chinese Ethereum» NEO, as well as its share of the market claimed by the project Tezos, a beta version of which was launched in the beginning of the month, despite continuing disagreements within the team and the dissatisfaction of the users KYC-checks.

Competition among platforms smart contracts and tokenization is becoming more stringent, and developers of Ethereum will soon have to seriously fight for the preservation of the leading positions, despite strong support from the corporate segment.

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