Buterin advises against overburdening the Ethereum consensus

Simar Marwaha
Simar Marwaha
Published on May 22, 2023 08:17 AM

Buterin claims that a certain group of these tactics might expose the ecosystem to "high systemic risks" like faults or a purposeful 51% attack.

Buterin advises overburdening the Ethereum consensus
Source: Forbes

In a long blog post, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin warns against "stretching" the consensus of Ethereum beyond its essential roles in verifying blocks and maintaining network security. 

Blocks are verified via the proof-of-stake system used by Ethereum consensus, which was introduced in September 2022 with "the Merge."

Avoid overwhelming the Ethereum consensus, says Vitalik Buterin

Co-founder of Ethereum Vitalik Buterin issues a lengthy blog post cautioning against "stretching" Ethereum's consensus beyond its fundamental functions in ensuring network security and confirming blocks. The proof-of-stake technique employed by the Ethereum consensus, which debuted in September 2022 with "the Merge," is used to verify blocks.

Buterin stated that leveraging Ethereum's network consensus for additional purposes might pose "high systemic risks to the ecosystem" and should be discouraged and resisted in a blog post titled "Don't overload Ethereum's consensus" on May 21. The simplicity of the blockchain was essentially encouraged by the co-founder of Ethereum.

Buterin pointed out that over the years, a number of suggestions or concepts have circulated that recommended leveraging the Ethereum social consensus for various reasons, such as pricing and data oracles, re-staking programs, and employing layer-1 soft forks to restore layer-2 projects should they encounter problems.

"Since the blockchain's core has the most economic weight and the largest community watching it, there is a natural urge to try to extend the core with more and more functionality, but each such extension makes the core itself more fragile."

According to Buterin, a certain subset of these strategies might expose the ecosystem to "high systemic risks" like flaws or a deliberate 51% attack.

Making ETH/USD pricing oracles that ETH holders or validators may be paid to vote on, which might lead to a "fork out the bad participants' money" if there is disagreement, is one example of a high-risk practice. He acknowledged the need for improved oracles, though, and suggested a case-by-case strategy because different issues are "inherently so different" from one another.

Overall, Buterin stated that operating a validator becomes more expensive, difficult, and risky with each rise in the "duties" of Ethereum's consensus.

Application-layer initiatives Be careful when "taking actions that risk increasing the scope of blockchain consensus to anything other than verifying the core Ethereum protocol rules," he said. To sum up:

Instead, "we should maintain the chain's minimalism, support re-staking uses that do not appear to be extending the role of Ethereum consensus, and assist developers in finding alternative methods to achieve their security objectives."

In September of last year, the Ethereum consensus algorithm changed from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake. Additionally, the Shapella update on April 12 marked the first time staked Ethereum was made available for withdrawal. This explains why the largest smart contract network in the world is paying more attention to validator duties and security issues.


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