The most recent Ethereum All Core Developers meeting has outlined tentative dates for the upcoming mainnet hard fork, Dencun. However, these dates are contingent on the absence of major issues, and Ethereum developers are targeting the following schedule for the public testnets:
- Goerli: Jan. 17
- Sepolia: Jan. 30
- Holesky: Feb. 7
Notably, this marks the final inclusion of Goerli in the testing phase, as the network is slated for deprecation.
The meeting also delved into discussions about the subsequent upgrade, tentatively named Prague/Electra. The Ethereum community is currently contemplating whether to prioritize a comprehensive core feature, potentially requiring a year of development, or opt for an upgrade structured around several smaller improvements, which could be achievable by late 2024.
A decision on this matter is expected in the new year. In the meantime, here are some of the improvements to keep an eye on in 2024 following the Dencun hard fork.
EIP-4844, also known as Proto-Danksharding
This stands as the prominent feature within the Dencun EIPs, which garnered significant media attention in 2023.
Learn more: Ethereum’s upcoming upgrade prioritizes advancements in data handling
The upgrade is poised to “significantly decrease the expenses associated with data availability across all layer-2s,” shared Eli Ben-Sasson, the co-founder of StarkWare, with Blockworks. This development is eagerly awaited by Starknet to enable users to enjoy reduced costs.
It holds a pivotal position at the forefront of what Lucas Henning, the Chief Technology Officer of Suku, a Web3 wallet developer, describes as “a year marked by revolutionary improvements for Ethereum.”
“[EIP-4844] represents a transformative enhancement,” stated Henning, predicting a substantial reduction of up to “100x” in gas fees for rollups, as reported by Blockworks.
Learn more: Core developers eliminate the possibility of a Dencun fork this year
Account abstraction takes center stage.
At the forefront of Henning’s considerations are advancements leveraging account abstraction, particularly ERC-4337 and its extension, ERC-6900.
ERCs, a subset of EIPs, specifically concentrate on token standards within the Ethereum ecosystem. They establish guidelines for token implementations to ensure seamless interoperability. Unlike certain EIPs that necessitate modifications to the core protocol, ERCs typically do not demand a hard fork.
Launched in March, ERC-4337 aligns with the concept of account abstraction, marking a significant shift for end-users, according to Henning. He envisions account abstraction revolutionizing wallet interactions, making gasless transactions standard and secure social logins the prevailing practice. This transformation is set to fundamentally reshape the Ethereum user experience.
Traditionally, Ethereum encompasses two account types: externally owned accounts (EOAs) controlled by private keys and contract accounts managed by their code. Account abstraction blurs this distinction, enabling users to establish accounts that function more akin to smart contracts.
This innovation enhances both user experience and security, accommodating intricate account logic, such as multisig wallets or social recovery of lost keys.
In the case of ERC-6900, it introduces the concept of “delegated transactions.” This standard, not requiring modifications to Ethereum’s mainnet consensus, empowers users to delegate the authority to execute transactions on their behalf. For instance, this enables a single approval for a batch of actions, streamlining processes and reducing complexity.
EIP-1153, also known as transient storage opcodes.
As part of Dencun, this proposal seeks to introduce a novel mechanism for managing temporary or transient storage during the execution of smart contracts.
In the conventional Ethereum framework, storage operations are permanent and entail gas consumption. This proves inefficient for temporary data that doesn’t require persistence beyond a single transaction.
EIP-1153 introduces an opcode (operational code) designed to empower smart contracts to utilize transient storage—storage that is automatically cleared at the conclusion of transaction execution.
Despite efforts by the Uniswap team to include EIP-1153 in Shapella, they encountered challenges in garnering sufficient support among core developers to reach a consensus. Anticipated to play a pivotal role in enhancing the capabilities and efficiency of Uniswap’s upcoming v4 protocol, this upgrade enables temporary storage, thereby reducing gas costs associated with data storage during contract execution and providing developers with greater flexibility in crafting smart contracts.
Furthermore, by alleviating the reliance on permanent storage and mitigating state bloat, EIP-1153 contributes to the overall scalability of the Ethereum network.
EIP-4788, also identified as Beacon block root commits.
Picture Ethereum as an extensive library divided into two primary sections: the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) section, resembling a reading room where individuals execute smart contracts, and the Beacon Chain section, acting as the library’s catalog system, overseeing the whereabouts of all books (consensus and coordination of the Ethereum network).
Before EIP-4788, these sections operated somewhat autonomously. The EVM section lacked direct access to the current catalog, relying on indirect methods to comprehend Beacon Chain activities.
EIP-4788 suggests incorporating a “Beacon Block Root” (a summary or hash tree root of the parent block) into each EVM block.
This transition is akin to moving from an antiquated card filing system in a library—inefficient and occasionally inaccurate—to a system with a real-time, accurate, and direct link to the main library database.
In this contemporary library, every alteration to the catalog (Beacon Chain updates) is instantly relayed to readers (EVM), ensuring they consistently possess the most current information. Readers can trust that they receive the latest data, aligning library operations (e.g., executing smart contracts) more closely with the overall catalog system (the state of the consensus layer).
This transformation occurs in a trust-minimized manner, eliminating the need for external oracles to supply this data and consequently reducing potential points of failure or manipulation.
The amendment is particularly advantageous for liquid staking protocols like Lido, smart contract-based bridges, and restaking solutions. It enables these protocols to directly access vital data such as validator balances and states from the consensus layer, augmenting their security and operational efficiency.
EIP-4788 effectively introduces a protocol-level oracle, disseminating Ethereum’s consensus state across the mainnet.
Misha Komarov, founder of Nil Foundation, deploying a zkOracle for Lido, hailed it as “definitely helpful.” He emphasized its importance for integrating the consensus layer state root within application logic, enhancing security through the zkOracle design.
Learn more: A new Ethereum rollup adopts a zero-knowledge approach to sharding.
EIP-5656, also known as the MCOPY opcode.
The Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) functions through a set of opcodes that govern various operations.
EIP-5656 introduces a novel opcode named MCOPY, aiming to streamline the process of copying data in memory during the execution of smart contracts.
In the current EVM framework, copying extensive data segments can prove inefficient and expensive with the existing opcodes. MCOPY presents a more efficient approach, anticipated to reduce gas fees associated with such operations while enhancing overall performance.
The expedited memory operations translate to swifter contract execution, providing developers with additional tools to optimize their smart contracts—especially beneficial when handling sizable data structures or intricate operations involving memory manipulation.
EIP-6780, also identified as the “restrict SELFDESTRUCT” proposal.
In Ethereum, the SELFDESTRUCT opcode enables a smart contract to erase itself from the blockchain.
Upon execution, this opcode erases the contract’s code and storage from the state while transferring the remaining ether to a designated address.
Despite its functionality, the SELFDESTRUCT feature has introduced various challenges, including complexities in state management and potential security vulnerabilities.
The proposal to restrict SELFDESTRUCT aims to enhance Ethereum’s state management, promoting a more stable and predictable blockchain. This adjustment is pivotal for the network’s long-term scalability and maintenance, streamlining the process for future Ethereum upgrades.