The new revision of the Ethereum 2.0 roadmap: What updates have been added and when can they be implemented?
On December 2, shortly after the long-awaited release of Ethereum 2.0, the founder of the platform, Vitalik Buterin, announced an updated roadmap. At first glance, it does not differ much from the previous version of March.
However, it provided some clarity about the current progress and the next steps, giving an indication of how soon a complete transition to the Proof-of-Stake and the launch of Sharding can be expected. Only one spoiler: The full implementation of Ethereum 2.0 will not come soon.
Formally Ethereum 2.0, but not yet
December 1st marked a fundamental event for the entire crypto industry, as the first block of the new Ethereum network was generated, the one that the developers had been preparing to carry out for the last few years. It is expected that Ethereum 2.0 will become a super-fast and reliable version of the previous Blockchain, all thanks to the so-called Sharding and the transition to the Proof-of-Stake or PoS consensus algorithm.
In fact, the upgrade that came out under the name of Ethereum 2.0 is not quite what its namesake claims to be, and the Beacon Chain, its first phase, is actually Phase 0. The Beacon Chain is needed exclusively for the development and testing of innovations that, if successful, will be introduced into the main network of Ethereum 2.0.
Therefore, the second update is more fundamental, since the platform will finally stop doing Proof-of-Work or PoW and will be fully supported by Stakeholders. In short, Phase 0, also known as the Beacon Chain, lays the foundation for the implementation of staking and sharding in the next update, or as the Ethereum team figuratively explains, serves as „a new engine“ for the future spacecraft.
Although Ethereum formally changed to version 2.0, the network still depends on the miners‘ computing power. The developers also launched PoS in parallel to gradually recruit the necessary stakers to ensure the stable operation of the network. Praneeth Srikanti from the investment team of ConsenSys Ventures discussed the structure and functionality of the Beacon Chain with Cointelegraph:
„The new Beacon Chain functions in Casper’s PoS for itself and for the Shard chains, and would ultimately be the management of the validators, the election of a block proponent for each Shard and the organization of groups of validators (in the form of committees) for voting on proposed blocks and managing the consensus rules“.
Srikanti added that the PoS mechanism is already in place in the Beacon Chain and requires certificates for shard blocks and PoS votes for Beacon Chain blocks. The network is now ready enough for users to join and become validators. To do this, they need to have 32 Ethers (ETH) in their accounts, blocked for transfer and exchange until the network is fully migrated to the new features.
The rewards that validators receive for supporting the new Blockchain will also be blocked until the next phase is released, which means that validators will probably not be able to access their funds before 2021 or 2022. Commenting on how the Ethereum 2.0 roadmap changes may affect stakers, Jay Hao, CEO of OKEx, told Cointelegraph:
„Although users will most likely have to wait longer until they can remove their ETH from the staking, there are still many advantages to ETH staking. For starters, stakkers are supporting the move to ETH 2.0 and the ETH community. They will earn generous rewards when they retire, and it is always possible (especially in this fast-paced industry) that other solutions will appear to accelerate this new timeline.
The implementation of sharding – another unique invention of Ethereum, thanks to which the network will be able to provide services to hundreds of millions of users – will also be available only in future versions of the Blockchain. It is expected that there will be 65 of them in the new Ethereum network, with the Beacon Chain acting as a control Blockchain. The paradox is that Sharding does not apply to the Beacon Chain, which will actually be the focal point of the network.
The current progress
The Ethereum development team has been repeatedly criticized for not meeting deadlines and for constantly delaying updates. So what is the real situation at this time? Judging by the progress bar that the Ethereum developers have added to the new roadmap, the implementation of the second update is not expected to happen anytime soon.
Work on the most important tasks necessary for a complete transition to a new network – namely, the implementation of the Eth1/Eth2 merger – is in its early stages, with about 15% completed. Things are more positive on the frontier of change, with about half of the work already done, judging by the progress bar.
The good news is that the new roadmap is missing Phases 1.5, 2 and others that were present in previous versions of the document. This means that a complete transition to a new network can be expected sooner and that the next phase will be the final one, combining all the most important updates. Previously it was expected that sharding chains would appear in phase 1, and only after that, in the second phase, SNARK/STARK transactions would be possible. Now, all these updates are expected to be released in Phase 1, and some progress has already been made towards that end.
The organization of the work of the teams has also changed from step to step in parallel. The new roadmap suggests that the execution of each task is organized autonomously and is not interrupted in case of difficulties with the other segments. In other words, different teams can work on different tasks at the same time, which can speed up the transition to the new network.
Some of the tasks can be expected soon, as indicated in the roadmap. In particular, the developers have already done the bulk of the work to implement EIP 1559, which aims to stabilize the cost of network commissions and gas re-evaluation. In addition, the launch of the EVM384, which will enable faster operation of the Ethereum Virtual Machine, is in the process of transitioning to a more advanced version called the „Ethereum-flavored WebAssembly,“ or Ewasm.
Interestingly, Ewasm is the only major implementation missing from the new roadmap. It will probably come as part of the upgrade called „VM upgrades“, and its implementation will not take place in the next phase. Ewasm is expected to manage the work of the smart contracts and make the network more decentralized.
Among the second layer solutions that advance scalability and security, such as SNARK/STARK operations, post-quantum cryptography and the launch of CBC Casper -an enhanced version of the protocol that will mark the final transition of the network to the staging model- are still some of the solutions that are likely to appear much later.
When will Eth2 be fully launched?
If we look at how quickly the relevant updates were implemented in the previous versions of the Ethereum roadmaps, it turns out that the planned and actual release dates are at least one year apart. For example, according to estimates made by the developers of the large software company Blockchain ConsenSys in May 2019, the launch of the Blockchain Beacon Chain was supposed to take place in 2019.
As for the release of Ewasm, the large-scale launch of the machine is supposed to happen in 2020 or 2021. This means that it should not be expected to occur before 2021 to 2022, the time frame that coincides with the time frame set by the Ethereum development team for the launch of the Ethereum 2.0 core network.
Still, the full scope of work that needs to be done before the Ethereum 2.0 Blockchain is fully completed may make it challenging to make predictions. In the meantime, some suggest that upgrade releases may be delayed for an even longer period of time. YouTube’s crypto blogger Boxmining recommended adding one or two years to previous estimates, suggesting that the market will only see Casper and Sharding in full glory in 2022 to 2023.
A more pessimistic forecast suggests that it could be years before the market sees the final version of Ethereum 2.0. Himanshu Bisht, head of marketing at Razor Network – which operates on a PoS consensus algorithm – told Cointelegraph that such a time frame is realistic: The Ethereum Mainnet will have to ‚merge‘ with the Beacon Chain at some point. This will be the beginning of a new phase of the Ethereum ecosystem in a true sense. However, we may not be able to see this before February 2022.
Nir Kshetri, a professor at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and a research fellow at Kobe University, agreed that the transition from Ethereum 2.0 will likely take considerable time. According to him, updating the EVM is a challenging process, as he also told Cointelegraph:
„Organizations are likely to be effectively locked into the EVM and it is difficult to break the self-reinforcement mechanism. There are already millions of existing smart contracts and huge amounts of tools and languages, optimizations. In addition, convincing Ethereum users that PoS is safe is a challenge of another magnitude“.
Paolo Ardoino, CTO of the Bitfinex exchange, told Cointelegraph that the complete transition to Ethereum 2.0 could take three years, although he does not rule out faster development:
„I think that after this initial phase, the pace of development of Ethereum 2.0 is likely to improve during the next year. We wonder if the full transition of Ethereum 2.0 will be completed within three years, but we expect token transfers to be available before then.“
On the other hand, a streamlined organization of Ethereum customer operations and developer work, as well as immense community support, can significantly reduce the time frame of the roadmap. Overall, as the Beacon Chain Explorer shows, the deployment of the new PoS network is progressing successfully. At the moment, more than 33,000 users have become stakers, with almost 1.1 million ETH staked so far.