Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has put forward a suggestion to streamline the Ethereum blockchain, aiming to simplify its proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus mechanism. This proposal, made on December 28, focuses on reducing the number of signatures required by validators, thereby lightening the network’s load.
Reducing Validator Signatures for Efficiency
Ethereum’s current framework involves a substantial number of validators, approximately 895,000, to maintain decentralization and allow broader participation in staking. However, this large number of validators necessitates processing a significant volume of signatures, around 28,000 per slot, which imposes a hefty load on the network.
Buterin’s proposal involves reducing the number of signatures per slot from 28,000 to about 8,192. This adjustment would not only simplify technical aspects but also enhance the blockchain’s resistance to quantum computing. Despite this reduction, the total amount of ETH at risk of slashing (a penalty mechanism to ensure validator compliance) would remain high, between 1-2 million ETH.
Proposed Approaches for a Lighter Ethereum
Buterin outlined three potential methods to achieve this reduction: relying solely on decentralized staking pools, implementing a dual-tier system featuring both “heavy” and “light” staking, and introducing a rotating participation model with accountable committees. These strategies aim to manage the digital signature load more effectively.
Benefits of the Proposal
The primary advantage of Buterin’s proposal is the ability to predict and manage future signature loads, simplifying protocol and infrastructure development. This clarity would enable developers to incrementally increase the number of signatures per slot through hard forks, but only when technological advancements assure that the network can handle the increased load efficiently.
In May, Buterin had cautioned against overburdening Ethereum’s consensus layer beyond its fundamental roles of validating blocks and securing the network. His latest proposal aligns with this viewpoint, seeking to optimize Ethereum’s efficiency while maintaining its core functionalities.