Last year, Ethereum got an updated roadmap. How’s it doing, where’s it going, and how does SafeStake fit in?

Daniejjimenez
SafeStake
Published in
7 min readFeb 6, 2024

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by Daniel Jimenez and Chris Isaac (ethstak3r.eth)

In late December 2023, Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum’s co-founder and a key player in its continued development, posted a tweet “by popular demand” with an updated diagram of the Ethereum PoS roadmap.

The updated Ethereum Roadmap

This new roadmap is broken up into six parts labeled: The Merge, The Surge, The Scourge, The Verge, The Purge, and The Splurge. We thought it would be interesting to take a look at what each of these six parts contain and talk about how and where SafeStake’s DVT platform fits into this new vision for Ethereum.

So, without any further delay, let’s dive in!

The Ethereum Roadmap for Dummies

The Merge

As we already know, this first phase of updates to the Ethereum blockchain refers to the transition from a Proof of Work (PoW) consensus mechanism to Proof of Stake (PoS).

On September 15, 2022, Ethereum successfully changed engines mid-flight and network security moved from miners to validators without a hiccup. Immediately and quite noticeably, the blockchain reduced its energy consumption by 99.95%, which we believe will have a profound effect over time as mainstream adoption takes place.

Now, the main objective of the latest roadmap update is clearly pushing the network in the direction of a more decentralized proof-of-stake consensus, with DVT (Distributed Validator Technology)-based staking protocols and pools, like SafeStake, as the main way to get there.

When we look at the new roadmap, we can see that distributed validators, one of Safestake’s cornerstones, are at the forefront. But, what are distributed validators and why was DVT created in the first place?

For starters, staking natively on Ethereum only allows a validator to run on a single node. And, of course, anything that must run on one single machine is prone to single points of failure. If the machine running the validator goes offline, the validator also goes offline. The Ethereum protocol simply does not allow for validator redundancy and fault tolerance.

We can see proof if we look at past attempts by solo stakers to manually create a redundant node for their validator. All instances have resulted in double attestations, where the validator attests twice in an epoch, resulting in slashing and removal from the network. So, why does Ethereum behave this way?

The network’s built-in security views the double attestation as a threat and takes action against the offending validator or validators. More validators taking part in the same slashable offense increases the penalties for each validator, even if there was no malintent on the part of their owners or operators.

The combination of risks including validators going offline and missing attestations, slashing/loss of funds, and private key security is too great a deterrent for many, and Ethereum stays niche instead of going mainstream.

However, there is an L2 solution. DVT (Distributed Validator Technology) solutions, like SafeStake, provide a safe and secure way around the limitations of the Ethereum protocol. DVT solutions, like SafeStake, split a single validator private key into multiple shares and employ a multi-sig construct. This allows multiple parties, known as operators, to use the key shares to reach consensus and sign messages (attest) on behalf of the validator. With DVT, validators become distributed and decentralized, running on multiple nodes without breaking any Ethereum protocol rules.

SafeStake’s DVT employs a four (4) operator node construct, where only three (3) out of four (4) nodes managing a validator are needed to produce a signature equivalent to the original validator private key. One node in this operator committee can be offline or compromised and it will not affect the validator’s performance, providing stakers with maximized staking rewards.

Additionally, the validator private key is no longer doing the work for the validator and is not required to be online and exposed 24/7/365. Instead, the private key can be kept securely offline in cold storage.

The updates in The Merge also reference SSF, or single slot finality specifications, however this topic is still under debate on ethresearch. It is here that Buterin explains the issues with processing large numbers of signatures from a “very high” number of validators and the need to change this approach.

He smartly points out that going all-in on decentralized staking pools using distributed validator technology (DVT) will allow for the minimum validator deposit size to increase to 4096 ETH and achieve an upper-end limit of 4096 validators. Smaller stakers, like solo and retail stakers, can still earn rewards for securing the network, but they must do so by joining a distributed validator staking pool.

If all happens as Vitalik envisions, the decentralized and permissionless SafeStake operator node infrastructure will prove to be a vital component to its success. SafeStake operators are spread out geographically and can run their nodes as they see fit as long as they meet minimum performance and uptime requirements.

The Surge

The Surge contains updates focused on scaling the network via accumulations and data fragmentation. In the updated roadmap, some changes also relate to rollup scaling.

Here, the goal is very clear: increase transactions per second (TPS) to over 100,000 in the long term to make L2s faster and cheaper and open the door for mainstream adoption.

In this phase, one of the significant updates is Ethereum Leaf, an L1 zkEVM that will be instrumental in making the validity of monolithic execution layers provable.

Additionally, proposed enhancements, like EIP-4844 (Proto-Danksharding) that aim to reduce data availability costs across L2 solutions and reduce gas fees by up to 100x, are expected to be implemented later this year.

The Scourge

As the updated diagram indicates, the redesign of this phase aims to mitigate centralization woes and focus on liquid staking and MEV. As we have seen, some liquid staking protocols and other L2’s have gained notoriety recently for “subtracting” from Ethereum’s decentralization.

Concerning large, rather centralized liquid staking pools, SafeStake will play an essential role by offering them the ability to add a layer of decentralization without needing any additional coding. Out-of-the-box, SafeStake supports any Ethereum validator by splitting the keystore file into shares. In SafeStake Stage 2 (coming later this year), operators running nodes for large staking services can become initiator operators by depositing 4 ETH to run a pooled validator on their node to achieve even higher levels of decentralization.

For the problem of centralization in the Maximum Extractable Value (MEV) arena, SafeStake is planning to enable a new protocol, called Validator Extracted Value (VEV), along with a distributed validator oracle that will diversify the MEV market and minimize censorship in this area.

The Verge

This phase aims to make block verification easier and allow for a more organized and effective node and data structure. Here, the thought process is simple — more organization will reduce Ethereum’s congestion and help achieve network scalability.

The Purge & The Splurge

In The Purge, the goal is to simplify the protocol by eliminating technical debt and limiting network participation costs by removing or cleaning up old history and purifying old data to make the network more efficient.

In addition to EIP-4444, it is expected that EIP-6780 (restrict SELFDESTRUCT) will be implemented here to better manage state size and address security vulnerabilities, to increase the network’s scalability and stability.

Finally, while The Splurge is intended to be the final upgrade phase, implementing minor updates to resolve issues from the previous upgrades, it is expected that one of its upgrades, ERC-4337 (Account Abstraction), will actually be implemented sometime this year. Account Abstraction is focused on the concept of smart accounts and will have significant improvements for end users, including gasless transactions and secure social logins.

Final Thoughts

The updated Ethereum roadmap that Vitalik Buterin released does not differ all that much from the original one, with the notable exceptions of: Single Slot Finality, rollup scaling, redesigning The Scourge, increasing the L1 gas limit, shrinking the state expiry, VDFs, and of course, the proclamation that the Ethereum of the not-so-distant future will be powered by distributed validators (DVT).

In this context, SafeStake aligns perfectly with Vitalik’s vision of a more resilient, accessible, and decentralized Ethereum.

CALL TO ACTION!

Safestake is in its final phase of testing before it launches on Ethereum mainnet. We invite you to become part of our amazing journey!

Get ready for mainnet by test driving SafeStake on Holesky now! SafeStake makes it easy and fun to run a distributed validator or operator node. Operators can start earning $DVT rewards now and validators will begin earning rewards when SafeStake mainnet launches.

Also, be sure to join our communities on Telegram and Discord for camaraderie, tech support, and to stay updated on the latest happenings at SafeStake.

Together, we can build a more decentralized future for Ethereum!

About SafeStake

SafeStake is a pioneering technology company focused on revolutionizing Ethereum staking. With its cutting-edge, decentralized Distributed Validator Technology (DVT), SafeStake provides an ultra-secure, fault-tolerant environment for Ethereum validators, maximizing staking rewards and minimizing penalties. SafeStake is committed to driving the growth, innovation, and decentralization of the Ethereum network while ensuring the security and prosperity of its participants.

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