A Few Thoughts on Devcon4

Cyrus Younessi
Nov 9, 2018 · 4 min read
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Background

Devcon is the annual conference run by the Ethereum Foundation. It is designed to consolidate all of the research efforts from the previous 12 months and explain them in a cohesive manner. Normally, Ethereum research is scattered across many different platforms and is not particularly easy to follow. It can be a bit overwhelming to stay up to date with announcements on gitter, reddit, telegram, twitter and discord. Devcon, however, serves as a central hub for those who want to be apprised of recent developments, but lack the necessary time to scavenge for updates. This year was no exception, as thousands of developers and users came together to discuss new findings and thoughts on the crypto space.

Development

The overwhelming focus this year was the continued development efforts on scalability and dApp development. Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin gave yet another reassuring keynote, something he is known for by now. In this case, he chose to give some context on the recent delays of Casper and sharding, Ethereum’s new consensus algorithm and scalability solution. Simply put, there are numerous challenges when it comes to building truly decentralized networks. For starters, the variant of Proof of Stake they are implementing has never been attempted before. Similarly, sharding is an incredibly complex endeavor and requires a complete re-architecture of the entire Ethereum protocol. Even though the last 3 years did have some unfortunate dead ends, they were able to iterate based on their findings. Fortunately, Vitalik now claims they’ve passed a turning point. The bulk of the remaining work is on implementation rather than unsolved problems. Sometime in late 2019 or early 2020 I believe we can expect a mainnet launch.

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MyCrypto Founder Taylor Monahan speaking on UX challenges

Scope

Devcon was massive. Not only in the number of people (3000+), but also the amount of content to consume. From scalability and privacy to UX and governance, the Ethereum Foundation brought in a lot of experts in the space. But what really struck me was the amount of non-Ethereum talks given. The technical diversity was impressive and representative of the bridges the Ethereum Foundation has built with other teams. Ethereum researcher Justin Drake gave a wonderful talk on Verifiable Delay Functions (an improved way of injecting a random number generator into a blockchain) and announced a joint partnership with Filecoin to fund needed hardware research. The Zcash team had several speaking slots regarding SNARKs on Ethereum, another avenue towards improved scalability. It’s becoming clear that the Ethereum community is a collaborative effort across many different cryptocurrencies.

Conclusion

Devcon was an extremely well-run conference, and I was constantly amazed by the quality of the content and people. What I experienced last week was the Ethereum vision I signed up for: a collaborative effort to push forward individual freedoms in a focused yet decentralized fashion. I’m pretty excited for the future if we can continue going down this path.

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