Ethereum 2.0 has been “coming real soon now” for a couple of years now. There is a prototype running, and the current plan is to go live early in 2020.
The new version is-ahem-not compatible with the current and widely used Ethereum . Uh, oh!
The new version has a bunch of “innovations”, including sharding and Proof of Stake consensus. The latter is much more efficient than classic Nakamotoan Proof of Work, but possibly not really Nakamotoan at all.
“Sharding” is a good idea that has been in widespread use since forever. It will make things more efficient, and might reduce latency. I’m not sure it is very Nakamotoan, though.
Of course, there are numerous other changes, including changes to the data structures and, because of sharding, transactions cannot be atomic any more. It will be necessary to use locking to implement something like two phase commits. This is another great idea that has been used since at least the beginning of computers. It’s also a pain in the butt, and easy to get wrong.
As Christine Kim reported from Ethereum’s Devcon, the biggest problem is that the new code and the old code will run at the same time, and there will be two separate blockchains . I.e., there are two, incompatible ledgers today, and this will continue to be true for years.
There is worrying talk about “bridging” the two ledgers, though this always, always, always creates bugs and security hazards. Ethereum Emperor Vitalek Buterin has go so far as to suggest regular votes to approve “manual interventions”, which I assume means hacking the ledger to “fix” oopsies. This ain’t Nakamotoism, and I have to doubt that it will work.
So, you could say Ethereum 2.0 isn’t so much an upgrade to Ethereum as a competitor to it.
This kind of situation is extremely familiar to software engineers. The first version always needs to be redesigned, and this often means throwing away the old and starting over. Been there, done that. (That’s why we generally consider V1.0 to be a throw away and don’t bet the ranch on it not changing). Customers don’t like it, so you have to work hard to make it worth their trouble.
But this stuff is totally not the way cryptocurrency software has been done. A lot of users don’t know or can’t know about these details. And, frankly, many users will see little difference in the new stuff, at least in the short run. So why bother with it? And if users don’t upgrade, then the old ledger keeps going, splitting off from the new. Uh, oh!
This all doesn’t bode well for Ethereum. How ever great Ethereum might be, it’s probably not great enough to have two different versions of it out there at the same time. Worse, it looks like Ethereum 2.0 will continue to be a roiling cauldron of uncertainty, continuous upgrades and changes.
Coinfloor won’t be the only one to decide to just say “no”, and wait until the dust settles . It’s hard to know what the right thing to do is, so many will decide to walk away.
This may be Ethereum’s last New Years.
Software is hard and failure is always an option.
The “bad” news for Ethereum is that they are being grown up and realistic these days, which is hardly the way to pull down the coveted Crypto Tulip of the Year. This may knock them out of this year’s competition.
- Ian Allison (2019) UK’s Oldest Crypto Exchange to Delist Ethereum and Focus Solely on Bitcoin. Coindesk, https://www.coindesk.com/uks-oldest-crypto-exchange-to-delist-ethereum-and-focus-solely-on-bitcoin
- Christine Kim (2019) 5 Takeaways on Ethereum 2.0 From Vitalik’s ‘Beast Mode’ Blog Posts. https://www.coindesk.com/5-takeaways-on-ethereum-2-0-from-vitaliks-beast-mode-blog-posts