Danksharding and Beyond: Ethereum's Strategies for Achieving Scalability and Security
Ethereum is a decentralized platform that utilizes smart contracts and enables the creation of decentralized applications (DApps). It is built on a decentralized, open-source blockchain that runs smart contracts: applications that run exactly as programmed without any possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud, or third-party interference.
One of the major goals of Ethereum is to scale computing and secure decentralized verification. To achieve this, it has developed a Rollup-centric roadmap and is focusing on data sharding as a solution. Data sharding involves dividing the database into smaller, more manageable parts called shards, which can be stored and processed in parallel. This allows for greater scalability as more nodes can process the data simultaneously.
One design that was initially considered for Ethereum's data sharding was the use of individual shard block proposers and committees for each of the platform's 64 shards. In this design, each shard would have its own block proposers and committees, randomly selected from the validator set and assigned to each shard chain. These proposers and committees would be responsible for verifying the availability of data in their own shards. However, this design was ultimately abandoned due to its complexity and the introduction of attack vectors.
Shuffling validators between shards can be difficult, and introducing tight synchronization assumptions can be challenging. Without these assumptions, it is difficult to guarantee that voting will occur within a single slot, as beacon block proposers would need to collect votes from all independent committees, which could be delayed. Additionally, this design introduces unnecessary complexity and a worse user experience.
Instead of this design, Ethereum is now focusing on a design called Danksharding. Danksharding involves validators performing data availability sampling (DAS) to confirm that all data is available and a dedicated block builder creating a large block that includes this data. This design also includes innovations such as proposer-builder separation (PBS) and weak statelessness to improve scalability and security further.
PBS involves separating the responsibilities of block proposers and block builders, with the former responsible for proposing a new block and the latter responsible for building it. This separation of roles allows for more efficient block production and reduces the potential for centralization.
On the other hand, weak statelessness refers to a system where the state is only partially persisted, allowing for greater scalability by reducing the amount of data that needs to be stored and processed.
In addition to these innovations, Ethereum is also addressing the miner extractable value (MEV) issue, which could lead to centralization. MEV refers to the ability of miners to extract value from the blockchain by manipulating the order of transactions. Ethereum has implemented various designs to mitigate the harm of MEV and prevent centralization, including the use of gas pricing strategies and MEV scavengers.
Gas pricing strategies involve setting a higher gas price for transactions that are more likely to be impacted by MEV, thereby incentivizing miners to include them in blocks. MEV scavengers, on the other hand, are specialized transactions that scan the blockchain for instances of MEV and attempt to extract it for the benefit of the network.
Overall, Ethereum's ambitious roadmap aims to optimize both the platform's settlement and data availability layers while making it easier to validate the blockchain. By leveraging the security of Ethereum and innovations such as Danksharding, it aims to achieve scalability without sacrificing decentralization. The use of PBS and weak statelessness, as well as strategies to address MEV, all play a role in this goal.