Ethereum Foundation 10th AMA Highlights Validator Set, Randomness, DVT, Technical Direction

Ethereum Foundation 10th AMA Highlights

Compilation: GaryMa Wu On Blockchain

On July 12th, the Ethereum Foundation research team conducted its 10th AMA on the Reddit forum. Community members could leave comments and questions in the post, and the research team members would provide answers. Wu summarized the relevant questions/technical points discussed in this AMA as follows:

1. Validator Exit: Validators are allowed to trigger an exit from their execution layer (0x01) by withdrawing their deposit. If the balance is less than 16 ETH (due to penalties for laziness or confiscation events), the validator will be kicked out of the protocol. Is the threshold of 16 ETH too low?

This is mainly related to the EIP-7002 draft. It is understood that several research and development developers, including Danny Ryan, jointly released the EIP-7002 draft, aiming to allow validators to trigger an exit to the beacon chain by withdrawing their deposit from their execution layer (0x01). Since validators have two keys, the active key and the withdrawal key, currently only the active key can initiate the validator exit. This means that in any non-standard custody arrangement, the holder of the withdrawal key cannot independently choose to exit and start the withdrawal process. In order to ensure that the withdrawal key held by EOAs and smart contracts can control the staked ETH without trust, this specification allows the withdrawal key of 0x01 to trigger the exit. This proposal will facilitate the development of liquidity staking and distributed validation, further promote the decentralization of the beacon chain, and better manage risks such as private key loss or the disconnection of the DVT validator from the majority of shared keys.

2. Random Number Problem: RANDAO + VDF

RANDAO is a way to generate random numbers. For example, if there are 10 students in a class, and the teacher wants to randomly select one student to give a reward to, the teacher asks all the students to simultaneously provide a random number. The teacher adds up the 10 random numbers and takes the remainder when divided by 10. The remaining number indicates the selected student. However, from the operation process of RANDAO mentioned above, a problem can be found. If a student cheats and provides a random number after the other 9 students have provided theirs, the student can choose a number that is most advantageous to themselves based on the information of the 9 random numbers provided by others, so that the final result points to themselves. Therefore, the effective operation of RANDAO requires the introduction of anti-cheating mechanisms, which means that everyone needs to provide their answer at the same time. This is where VDF comes into play. VDF stands for Verifiable Delay Function, and the important characteristic of this function is that the calculation process to obtain the result cannot be parallelized, meaning it cannot be accelerated. However, after obtaining the result, the computation required to verify the result is very small. VDF is implemented through hash functions, and the slow computation and fast verification characteristics of hash functions are consistent with the properties of VDF. (Excerpt from )

However, the research team members stated that the ultimate economic benefits of attempting to exploit this “last proposer” vulnerability may not be ideal, and such deceptive behavior may seriously damage the reputation of validators.

3. Is SSV (Key Sharing Validator) and DVT (Distributed Validator Technology) necessary for Ethereum?

With Ethereum’s staking amount exceeding 20% and facing the centralization risk of potential node operators, two research team members have expressed that these technologies may be a “must-have” solution in the short to medium term.

Justin Drake stated that his recent thoughts have changed partially, as in the long term, if one-time signatures can be achieved, the importance of these risk challenges will significantly decrease. However, it may take decades to achieve one-time signatures, so DVT will be a more effective solution in the short to medium term.

One-time signatures are a special type of cryptographic signature where the private key can only be used to sign one message. It can solve many long-term problems in the blockchain field and provide numerous advantages, such as removing penalties, perfect finality, and trustless liquidity staking.

4. Maximum Effective Balance: Increasing the upper limit (32 ETH) of validator staking can reduce the number of validators in the network, thereby achieving faster transaction finality (single-slot finality). For example: 1) Keep the upper limit of 32 ETH unchanged, but limit the number of network validators; 2) Consider including the number of validator attestations in the voting weight.

Option 1 will lead to a market for trading existing validator qualifications, introducing potential serious security risks.

Option 2 will change the security model of the protocol and reduce the difficulty of attackers reorganizing the chain.

In recent times, there have been proposals in the community to increase the maximum effective validator balance from 32 ETH to 2048 ETH to help reduce the growth of active validator sets.

5. Current progress of Single Secret Leader Election (SSLE):

Vitalik stated that SSLE is currently still in the research stage. Since the non-secrecy of the current leader has not been proven to be a problem, the priority of SSLE will be relatively low.

PS: In the current beacon chain, the proposers selected for each slot are publicly revealed in advance, which makes them vulnerable to DoS attacks. The latest solution encrypts and hides this process, so only the proposers know their own identities, effectively mitigating potential risks.

6. Are there any updates to Ethereum’s technical roadmap?

Vitalik stated that most of it is progressing as scheduled, but there are also adjustments to the priority order. For example, due to the MEV-Boost vulnerability in April, which led to malicious validator attacks by MEV Bots, the priority of implementing Protocol-Level Proposal Builder Separation (PBS) will be increased. Concerns about potential security risks introduced by re-staking will also increase the priority of optimizing and simplifying the solo staking experience.

In addition, in terms of the overall direction, the priority needs to be given to things that can effectively help many ecosystem-level issues, such as implementing friendly cross-L2 for ERC-4337 smart wallets and improving gas efficiency.

7. Can EIP4844 solve the liquidity fragmentation problem of L1 and L2s?

The immediate composability of zk-rollups (which may not be achievable between OP Rollups) does not depend on the completion of EIP4844. There is a huge design space for this kind of composability and coordination between zk-rollups, and one possible solution is to have a dedicated minimal zk-rollup as a liquidity aggregator.

8. Has Justin Drake’s idea of Based Rollups to solve the sorting problem of Rollups (sorting on L1) been implemented?

Based Rollups (also known as L1-sorted Rollups) means that the sorting of the Rollup network happens on the L1 it is based on (usually the Ethereum network). More specifically, in the case of Ethereum, this means that searchers, builders, and proposers on the network all participate in the sorting of the Rollup network.

Compared to traditional Rollup networks that handle sorting themselves, Based Rollups have many advantages. Firstly, they rely on Ethereum for transaction sorting, so they can benefit from the activity on Ethereum. When we discuss the risks of different Rollups above, we find that many problems may arise if sorters or validators fail, but for Based Rollups, this risk does not exist unless there is a problem with the Ethereum network. In addition, there are advantages such as decentralization and no need for tokens.

One of the Layer 2 zkEVM projects, Taiko, will be released in the form of Based Rollups.

Some people may confuse Based Rollups with sharing the memory pool with L1, but that is not the case. Rollups will have their own memory pool.

9. Concerns about the centralization risk of block builders?

Justin Drake stated that the current block builder market is already highly centralized (see The main risk of centralization for block builders is censorship. Currently, a good solution is partial block auctions, such as inclusion lists, proposer suffixes, corrections to proposer suffixes: pre-commitment, encrypted memory pools, MEV destruction, etc.

10. If the number of validators exceeds 1 million this year, can the mainnet operate stably? How many validators can the mainnet currently support?

Currently, the client teams indicate that the mainnet can support approximately 1-2 million validators. The developer community is also exploring related areas, such as the next testnet Holesky, which will have 1 million validators.

11. Will the Ethereum Foundation be dissolved? What will be the endgame of the foundation?

Justin Drake stated that the Ethereum Foundation does not have any income and some meetings are also non-profit. They also do not use the ETH in the treasury for staking and earning revenue. If the Ethereum Foundation’s treasury is depleted, funding may come from two sources:

● Financing infrastructure for public products within the ecosystem;

● Relatively low Ethereum L1 budget;

12. What are your thoughts and suggestions on the lack of mature technical solutions for cross-rollup transaction execution?

Vitalik believes that the use case for synchronously executing cross-rollup transactions is not very high. Asynchronous cross-rollup transaction execution is acceptable and has many use cases. Synchronous cross-rollup transaction execution feels more like a profound and defined area. If we figure it out, it will definitely improve market efficiency to some extent, but otherwise, we can completely do without it.

13. If rollup performance hits a bottleneck in the future, is it possible for Ethereum’s previous phase two shard to return to the stage?

Justin Drake said that executing shards does not provide more scalability. Additionally, the bottleneck of rollups is data, not execution. In fact, we can consider each rollup network as an execution shard.

As long as L1 EVM implements SNARKified (The Verge phase of the Ethereum roadmap), Ethereum will have an enshrined rollup (a rollup with some kind of consensus integration on L1). It can be said that Ethereum has an execution shard on the L1 consensus level. Once the arduous work of SNARKifying is completed, in the L1 EVM, making the SNARK verification logic itself public as an EVM opcode becomes relatively easy. This enables an infinite number of enshrined rollups, which, at the Ethereum consensus level, act as execution shards of the main network, combining scalability with the same level of security as the main network.

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