Vitalik EthCC Speech Summary Account Abstraction Will Completely Change Wallet Interaction Methods

Vitalik's EthCC speech Account Abstraction to revolutionize wallet interactions

Author: Intern, TechFlow

On July 17th, the Ethereum Community Conference (EthCC) was officially opened in Paris, and Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin gave a public speech, once again endorsing smart contract wallets, with the theme of the history and future of account abstraction.

This year, Vitalik has frequently expressed his support for smart contract wallets based on account abstraction. For example, in a Twitter AMA in June, when asked about the comparison between MPC (EOA) wallets and smart contract wallets, he believed that MPC-based EOA wallets have fundamental flaws because they cannot revoke keys, and smart contract wallets are the only choice.

In Vitalik’s view, account abstraction is “very elegant” because it does not require changes to the underlying protocol like previous upgrades.

Account abstraction itself is a relatively abstract concept.

Currently, Ethereum accounts are tightly coupled with key pairs to the extent that they are essentially the same thing. That is, if you control the private key, you control an account.

Account abstraction decouples the entity (account) in the EVM from the entity (key pair or signer) that owns the mobile assets. As long as a CA supports specific features (such as signature verification), it can be an account.

Account abstraction essentially allows users to define the security model of their accounts, making Ethereum more suitable for different use cases.

For example, this feature allows users to set their own transaction verification rules, such as multi-signature requirements or spending limits. They can also make their accounts compatible with future cryptographic algorithms.

Vitalik describes account abstraction as allowing Ethereum accounts to be controlled by smart contract code instead of private keys.

His vision is that in the future, everyone will switch from current EOA wallets to smart contract-based wallets. If successful, managing crypto wallets will become as simple as managing email accounts.

Early stages of account abstraction

Vitalik stated that the idea of allowing code to control accounts instead of just keys has been present in Ethereum’s design from the beginning.

The Ethereum Yellow Paper outlined two types of accounts: externally owned accounts (controlled by private keys) and contract accounts (managed by smart contract code). However, there were some challenges in implementing account abstraction in the early stages.

In the first proof-of-concept version of Ethereum, it was optimistically assumed that users would adopt multi-signature wallets more. However, this did not happen immediately, and multi-signature wallets made deposit detection for exchanges more difficult. There were also complexities in paying miner fees from smart contract wallets. The original vision was that all transactions would be simple “calls,” but issues like non-unique transaction hashes made the problem difficult.

Evolution of Account Abstraction

Over the years, the Ethereum community has iterated on various ideas for account abstraction. Suggestions have been made around standardized signatures, the use of “breakpoint” opcodes, and restricting access during transaction verification periods. However, progress has been slow due to the complexity of changing the underlying protocol and concerns around providing proof of stake. It wasn’t until 2020 that a concrete account abstraction EIP (Ethereum Improvement Proposal) was proposed.

Independent projects such as the Gas Station Network and Argent Wallet have driven further innovation. They have found creative ways to enable meta-transactions and abstract accounts using only smart contracts. However, solutions relying on “wrappers” also have drawbacks, such as higher transaction costs for each transaction.

It wasn’t until later that EIP-4337 was proposed, which provides a universal account abstraction standard using only smart contracts, avoiding changes to the underlying protocol.

The Ethereum (ETH) upgrade will allow users to create non-custodial wallets as programmable smart contracts.

This will unlock many features, such as easy wallet recovery, transactions without signatures (meaning lower transaction fees), and team wallets (also known as multi-signature wallets).

According to Vitalik, this upgrade could be one of the major catalysts for global Web3 adoption. “One of the key properties that we want blockchains to have is the ability to give you money before you sign up,” he said.

He said the idea is to allow users to receive any tokens, such as stablecoins, in their smart contract wallets and be able to pay gas fees without converting their holdings to ETH.

To enable these types of wallets and transactions to be broadcasted, the latest account abstraction upgrade will enable “payment masters,” allowing users to pay gas fees with any tokens they are transacting with.

EIP-4337 also includes a signature aggregator, allowing multiple signers to join together with only one being used for the transaction.

Vitalik said, “This is a pretty big deal,” especially in Rollups where signatures take up a lot of space.

Ethereum L2 solutions, such as Arbitrum or Optimism, batch transactions together and verify them off the Ethereum mainnet.

Account abstraction will allow signature aggregation. In simple terms, this will allow for more data compression, resulting in cheaper computation, and according to Vitalik, “86 times cheaper.”

Furthermore, this is not the only Ethereum upgrade currently underway. Proto-danksharding or EIP-4884 is also in progress. It has quickly become a major focus of network development as it lays the foundation for a new data type that will significantly reduce costs and make data usage more efficient.

Finally, Vitalik states that for efficiency and censorship resistance, there is increasing desire to directly incorporate partial account abstraction (such as ERC-4337) into the protocol. He also highlights the importance of ensuring a smooth transition for old EOA users and integrating biometric signers and other innovations.

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