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Vitalik Buterin Sets Decentralization Milestone for Ethereum Rollups

Ethereum's decentralization goals just got more demanding

Ethereum co-founder, Vitalik Buterin, envisions a pivotal advancement in blockchain decentralization by the end of this year, setting a high standard for Ethereum's layer-2 scaling solutions. In a recent blog post dated March 28, Buterin reflects on the future following Ethereum's significant Dencun upgrade, which notably reduced transaction fees for rollups, enhancing layer-2 efficiency. 

This upgrade marks a strategic shift from the rapid progress of layer-1 (L1) developments to a phase where the focus intensifies on refining the Ethereum network's scaling efforts. Buterin articulates this transition as moving from a "zero-to-one" challenge to an era of incremental improvements, with an emphasis on augmenting blob capacity and rollup efficiency.


Highlighting the critical role of rollups in Ethereum's scaling strategy, Buterin asserts the necessity for stricter ecosystem standards. He advocates for projects to achieve at least "stage 1" in decentralization—defined by enhanced security and scaling, yet not fully decentralized—to be recognized as rollups within the Ethereum ecosystem.

The road to enhanced rollup standards

Buterin urges the Ethereum community to uplift the criteria for what constitutes a rollup, aiming for substantial decentralization progress by year's end. 

He emphasized in his discourse:

"By the end of the year, I think our standards should increase and we should only treat a project as a rollup if it has actually reached at least stage 1," 

This call to action reflects a deliberate stride towards solidifying Ethereum's infrastructure, where stage 1 signifies a level of decentralization that assures both security and scalability, albeit not achieving full decentralization, which Buterin denotes as stage 2. Currently, a scant number of layer-2 projects meet these rigorous benchmarks, with only five listed on L2beat attaining either stage 1 or 2, and merely Arbitrum achieving full Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) compatibility. 

Buterin's blueprint for Ethereum's scaling trajectory includes important enhancements such as implementing data availability sampling and optimizing layer 2 solutions through data compression and optimistic execution. These steps are crucial for propelling Ethereum towards a future where "rollups truly are backed by code," and intervention is minimal, reserved only for scenarios where the code fundamentally conflicts with itself.

Next steps for Ethereum's layer-2 scaling

Buterin outlines a forward-looking path for Ethereum's scalability and decentralization, underpinned by the network's recent advancements. 

He compared, marking the transition to more profound infrastructure changes: 

"In 2022, Ethereum was like a plane replacing its engines mid-flight. In 2023, it's replacing its wings," 

Presently, Ethereum navigates "The Surge" phase of its upgrade roadmap, focused on rollups and data sharding enhancements for scalability. Anticipating "The Scourge," the next phase emphasizes censorship resistance, decentralization, and mitigating protocol risks associated with Miner Extractable Value (MEV). Buterin underscores the necessity for developers to adopt a 

"2020s Ethereum" mindset, prioritizing layer-2 scaling, privacy, account abstraction, and novel community membership proofs. He concludes with a vision of Ethereum's evolution beyond a mere financial ecosystem, towards a "much more thorough independent decentralized tech stack." 

This holistic approach aims not just at technological refinement but at fostering a robust, decentralized community, paving the way for Ethereum's ambitious future.