Ethereum Casper Update: Vitalik Buterin’s Tweet Storm
That year Twitter became relevant again: Ethereum Education?
Vitalik Buterin gave us an unusual way to learn about Casper and to clear some things up in the form of bite-size Tweets that read like Casper aphorisms. It begins here on August 15th, 2018.
So finally now a use case for Twitter’s integration with Medium. Here indeed is a more humane use of Twitter as compared with POTUS or Elon Musk, though it’s not the most intuitively easy material to follow.
Read at your own risk and keep that Ethereum glossary handy.
Note: Casper Clarity synopsis at the end.
Casper on Ethereum
Vlad’s History of Casper, Chapter 5.
Casper Clarity Synopsis
So people actually wrote entire articles on Buterin’s tweet storm on Casper, and EthNews said something I found a bit amusing.
If there’s an open secret in the crypto space, it’s that no one knows what’s going on.
These young blockchain engineers truly do speak their own language. New fledgling followers, tech journalists, bloggers and that strange new breed of crypto journalists, HODLers, and Ethereum and decentralization hipsters all pray for relevance and clarity — and you know, little things like scalability from public blockchains soon.
Ethereum has a foundation, it has an elegant trustworthy open-source feel to it. Unfortunately, it does not have thought leaders who are good at summarizing what they are up to in short video summaries, or plain English, for that matter. It’s like an urban dictionary of wtf sharding, state channels or PoS even means.
The Casper protocol is of course one of the planned upgrades to the Ethereum network that has started. When they talked with TechCrunch they did mention that Casper and Sharding (along with Constantinople hard fork) would have many phases that would amount to years of a timeline. In theory, this essentially gives newer 3rd Gen dApp platforms ‘time to catch up’.
There’s no question that Ethereum has by far the dominant ecosystem for daily active developers and ICOs — which I think at this stage of public blockchains is what matters most. You could even argue that in the entire cryptocurrency market cap, Bitcoin and ETH have what amounts to a duopoly in relevance and impact on crypto prices in the space. That’s a weird statement considering altcoins and crypto are supposed to represent an era of decentralization.
In a world of crypto profiteers and downright frauds, Vitalik Buterin stands out as a borderline GenZ-Millennial person to follow, one who feels truly authentic and embodies the spirit of decentralization best. This is a blockchain engineer of the most adorable geeky and pure variety I think you might ever find. While Google literally tried to hire him as an intern this year, a story that I found hilarious, he’s literally building the Microsoft of public blockchains, if you will. It really has the most credibility to be the “world computer” — something DFINITY has oddly half-stolen with their iteration of the internet computer.
A Really Rough Timeline
- Essentially this Russian-Canadian programmer first noted that Ethereum’s proof-of-stake, or PoS, (now called Casper) research began in January 2014.
- Back then, Ethereum’s PoS algorithm was called Slasher. Casper started with “suboptimal” slasher, but they evolved it.
- Vlad Zamfir joined mid 2014 — and according to Buterin, the decision to significantly increase the deposit amount was made after a recommendation from VZ, a Mathematics graduate from Canada’s Guelph University.
- Buterin then noted that during late 2014, Ethereum’s development team tried to solve the problem of “long range attacks”.
- When “consensus by bet” didn’t work out, new approaches were taken. CbB basically meant a scenario where consensus by bet would allow validators to “make bets on which block would be finalized, and the bets themselves determined which chain the consensus would favor.” It was flawed by design constraints and was ultimately deemed too risky.
- Simultaneously, Zamfir had been “heavily researching mechanism design” for various algorithms to determine whether they could be used to effectively solve potential problems on the Ethereum network.
- They thus went on to innovate “an overlay on top of any PoW or PoS or other blockchain to add finality guarantees.” Where is the Ethereum glossary when you need it, eh?
“Finality is a very significant advancement: once a block is finalized, it is secure regardless of network latency (unlike confirmations in PoW), and reverting the block requires >= 1/3 of validators to cheat in a way that’s detectable and can be used to destroy their deposits. Hence, the cost of reverting finality can run into the billions of dollars. The Casper CBC [Correct by Construction] and Casper FFG approaches both achieve this, though in technically different ways.” — VB (CryptoGlobe)
Casper CBC (more elegant theoretical properties)
- Casper CBC was proposed and created by Vlad Zamfir while Casper FFG has been mainly developed by Buterin.
- CBC and FFG intend to achieve the same goal, but they are “technically different.”
- On December 31st, 2017, a testnet that implemented Casper FFG as a smart contract on the Ethereum blockchain was released.
- The source code for this was written using the Python programming language, not Solidity (Ethereum’s own programming language).
FFG (easier to implement)
- Ethereum’s developers found that FFG “had made some things easier, but it made other things harder”.
- Basically, using this version of the FFG would make it very difficult to make more upgrades to the Ethereum network.
- Fast forward 6 months, work on FFG was abandoned: let’s “instead pursue full Casper as an independent chain, designed in such a way that integrating sharding would be much easier.”
- Sharding: notably, Sharding is another one of Ethereum’s planned upgrades to its network in order to address its scalability problem.
- Ethereum devs then figured out a way to significantly reduce the time it takes to process or confirm transactions.
“The main trade-off between FFG and CBC is that CBC seems to have nicer theoretical properties, but FFG seems to be easier to implement.”
VB recently said:
Recently, I am spending a lot of time working on the proof-of-stake and sharding protocols. This is what the Ethereum research community is focusing on more than anything else at this point.
Since roughly only 40% of the top 100 altcoins are considered having real actual products and use cases so that many believe that there’s still residual hype around crypto that doesn’t accurately represent the space, VB’s skepticism is actually a sign of integrity here.
Even with Bitcoin’s price correction, the $200 Billion crypto market cap still probably inflates the real innovation that’s occurring in the nascent space of public blockchains and dApp platforms. Around 35% of altcoins have literally already failed and disappeared.
Privacy and security, what the blockchain were supposedly able to solve, aren’t perfect either in the current platforms. From crypto exchanges to crypto wallets being hackable, to phishing fraud schemes to problems of governance and “decentralization” pretenders, it’s really quite a messy state of crypto in 2018. That’s not stopping a steady stream of ICOs in 2018, it’s just favoring high-quality projects where more are failing.
So this is the stuff blockchain history is made up of, where Ethereum feels like some ancient world computer and devs in their 20s feel like grandfathers of the Taoism of crypto. Hard to imagine Ethereum would feel like that just a few years after it was founded.