Ethereum’s Community Issues Need Fixing Before Upgrades
The Ethereum Blockchain Platform has been listed by Medium as one of the blockchain platforms to watch in 2019, noting that it has been dominating the smart-contract realm since 2015. It also notes that the platform has thousands of courses for developers, tutorials, and stack overflow answers, making it one of the most active communities that work together on protocol development and improvement proposals. Of course, there are also the issues as well, such as poor scalability – but that can be fixed with upgrades.
Even though the platform has exhibited a vibrant and strong community, an article by Decrypt Media titled Decrypt Guide: The Future of Ethereum, points out that there have been tensions in the community. While some in the community are looking for more leadership, there are others who want less. The tensions in the community can be highlighted by several occurrences, but Igor Artamonov, the founder of ETCDEV sums it up well. He stated in December 2018 in relation to a struggle behind ETC and ETCDEV,
“That's probably hard to understand from outside of ETC, but it was a result of growing tensions in the community. By that moment we came to different groups, one was ETCDEV, which was focused on the technology aspect exclusively, and others, who were interested in more ‘price effective' actions.”
“We were working independently, on our individual budget, and ETCDEV and I personally were hard to influence. I had never asked for money from a community or other groups, for these 2.5 years (until last week). Also we never [showed] intentions to get control of the ETC blockchain, so the blockchain itself had no owner.”
There are other instances, which have been pointed out by the article as well. For example, Afri Schoedon seems to favor parity over unity in the Ethereum community. This ultimately leads to the question of community tensions aside, what developments could occur for Ethereum.
The first, as pointed out by the article, is that sharding may lead Ethereum to be lighter and faster. Currently, there are thousands of dApps on Ethereum, making it one of the most widely used. As a result, Ethereum must store a great deal of data and produce blocks faster than bitcoin. Sharding is the solution to this issue. Sharding also may enhance the number of transactions that can be processed on the network at any point in time. Right now, it can handle 7-15 transactions per second, but with more shards, it could process a great deal more per second.
Ethereum is still working on the sharding process and has released a roadmap. Even though there have been delays, timeline extensions, and priorities seem to have changed, the featured upgrade, called Constantinople, is still poised to be released this year.
A second development that users may look forward to is plasma, which may be able to reduce the blockchain’s load. Plasma refers to a payment process in which payments are effectuated using cryptography, which ensures the safety of transactions. The payments are not shown to the main network when they are made, but rather, they are sent offline and once it is settled, it will then be uploaded to the blockchain. Plasma also uses smart-contracted created “child-chains” that are connected to the main blockchain and operate on their own. The more people using plasma means that strain on Ethereum will be reduced.
The third development is a new consensus mechanism, which may be able to alter Ethereum’s workings. The consensus, called proof-of-stake, is a way for the network to transition away from proof-of-work. The newer consensus is poised to save more energy because there is no need for Ethereum mining. Without the largescale machines running all the time, there is no energy drain. At this point though, it should be recognized that proof-of-stake is still described as an experiment, which means that there is no telling how it will continue to operate and whether it can sustain itself into the future. The mechanism is also going through an upgrade, called ProgPOW, which prevents ASIC miners from mining blocks on the network.
A fourth development is Ewasm, which is the new hard drive that Ethereum is set to get. Ewasm is an implementation of web assembly, which operates online applications. Four web browsers can operate the technology as well, making it accessible for most users. Developer Lane Rettig stated about the upgrade that,
“Ethereum is at the point where it’s transitioning from a clunky homebrew custom build job that we’ve been riding around our farm to a real racecar that we can take out on the highway and open up.”
These are the main ways in which Ethereum may experience some upgrades. However, there is also an alternative option, which is to charge storage fees on the network. The idea, proposed by Buterin, is called “state rent.” As of yet though, there has been no such implementation, even though the idea was proposed in 2018.