Users and developers of the world’s most used blockchain have been embroiled in fierce debates over its carbon footprint since its inception. And now, new breakthroughs will finally allow this blockchain to dramatically cut its energy use within a year, or even sooner.
Ethereum and its rival Bitcoin both operate using a system called proof-of-work, which requires a global network of computers to operate continuously. Software developers on the Ethereum platform have for years been looking for ways to transition this blockchain to a new system called proof-of-stake, which uses a completely different approach to increase the reliability. network security, while eliminating carbon emissions.
This change – which was delayed by complex technical flaws – failed to arrive in time to save the crypto world, which was in the midst of the biggest upheaval ever seen after Elon Musk’s announcement. Tesla will stop accepting Bitcoin car payments because the energy usage for that process is too high. The Bitcoin network currently uses more energy per year than Pakistan or the UAE, according to data from the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption index. However, this metric does not represent Ethereum’s energy usage.
“Moving to proof-of-stake has become an urgent matter for us because of the growth of crypto in general and Ethereum in particular over the past year” – Vitalik Buterin, the inventor of Ethereum, said in an interview. He hopes to be able to implement the aforementioned change by the end of this year, while others say it will start in the first half of 2022. This timeline is up to a year earlier than expected last December.
“I’m sure one of the biggest problems of blockchain will be gone once proof-of-stake is complete.” – said Buterin. He has been calling on developers to learn about this transition since his blockchain launched in 2015.It was great”
The change will certainly help push up the price of the Ether cryptocurrency – which is needed to use Ethereum – as environmentally-conscious investors notice its remarkably low carbon footprint. Much of the criticism of the proof-of-work mechanism comes from young investors (millennials) and investors who uphold positive environmental, social, and regulatory (or ESG) standards. .
“It’s hard to ignore that the ESG trend will become very important” – according to Wilson Withiam, an analyst at Messari who specializes in blockchain protocols.”If you look for Ether as an investment, it is not besieged by such criticisms”
Pantera Capital, an early Bitcoin investment firm, agrees. “Ethereum has a large ecosystem of decentralized financial applications with rapid growth” – Dan Morehead, founder of Pantera, wrote in a letter to investors on May 10.Combining the two, we think Ethereum will continue to achieve the same market share as Bitcoin.”
The transformation that Ethereum developers are making is a huge project. They created, tested, and deployed a completely new solution to secure their network, while maintaining the existing blockchain. Then, when the time is right, they will merge the existing blockchain into a new architecture that uses proof-of-stake to validate transactions. This transition will also greatly increase the speed of transactions that Ethereum can process, making it better compete with well-known payment networks like Visa or Mastercard.
Vitalik Buterin talks about ETH 2.0
Proof-of-work uses capital costs to purchase and maintain computer hardware and electricity to run them in the form of financial investments that need to be paid by the participants processing on the network, called miners. In return, the first miner to validate a Bitcoin or Ethereum chain of transactions will eventually be rewarded with free Bitcoin or Ether.
The system has been criticized for years, most recently by Elon Musk, who called the mechanism’s energy-consumption trends “insane”.
In proof-of-stake, the Ether cryptocurrency will replace hardware and electricity as the capital expenditure. A user needs to spend a minimum of 32 Ether to “stake” on the new network. The more Ether a user stakes, the higher the chance they will be selected to process the next chain of transactions, which results in a free Ether as proof-of-work, only twice as much. little.
To date, there have been over 4.6 million Ether staked on what is known as a beacon chain, worth around $11.5 billion at today’s price of $2,503/ETH. This means that once proof-of-stake goes into effect, the only electricity costs will come from the servers hosting the Ethereum nodes, similar to any company using cloud computing.
“No one talks about Netflix’s environmental footprint, because they only run on servers” – according to Tim Beiko, development coordinator on the new network of the Ethereum Foundation, in charge of setting up the fund and overseeing the development of the Ethereum protocol.
Danny Ryan, a researcher at the organization, says that Ethereum’s proof-of-work uses 45,000 gigawatt hours per year. With proof-of-stake, “you can authenticate a blockchain with just a normal laptop“- he said.My estimate is that you will see a power consumption of only 1/10,000th of the current Ethereum network”
One of the first breakthroughs came from the developers who created a system where contracts on Ethereum could be executed off the main chain, called “roll ups”. This takes a lot of pressure and requests off the main platform network, and also means that the network will need to make fewer changes.
The next hop is associated with roll ups. The transition to the new Ethereum, called ETH 2.0, will cause the network to split into 64 geographies, known as “sharding”. Transactions on one shard will be identical to the main network which links to all other shards, making the overall network much faster. However, this is also a complex issue, a difficult security question, and it is slowing down the transition.
Once roll ups can be used for transactions, that means shards only need to store data, Beiko said. In the previous model, the sharding system had to be up and running before Ethereum could move to proof-of-stake. But now there is no need for that anymore.
“Sharding from very complicated to not too complicated” – Beiko said.It is no longer a roadblock”
Roll ups are limited by the amount of data linked to the blockchain they can contain, Buterin said. This used to be a problem before developers realized that shards could store data.
“If you can release data on-chain, which you can do with shards, the scale will be greatly increased.“- Buterin said.
Beiko says proof-of-stake has made significant progress, as demonstrated by a recent test run in which transactions on the existing Ethereum blockchain were successfully merged into the proof-of-stake system. .
“I am much more confident than a month ago“- he said.There are a bunch of dilemmas to work out, but the underlying architecture is already there and quite promising“.