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Vitalik Buterin Suggests 5 Measures That May Help Reduce the Block Size

Buterin shares his vision of a streamlined Ethereum network

Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin, alongside the Ethereum Foundation, is spearheading efforts to refine Ethereum's infrastructure for a future focused on rollups. On February 5th, Buterin, together with Ethereum Foundation researcher Toni Wahrstätter, unveiled a forward-looking strategy aimed at reducing Ethereum's maximum block size. 

This initiative is part of a broader "rollup-centric roadmap," devised to enhance the blockchain's efficiency and scalability. The duo's insights were shared in a blog post, highlighting the critical need for optimization as the effective block size has doubled in the past year. This increase, they note, is largely due to the rising use of Ethereum for Data Availability (DA) and emerging trends like Inscriptions. 

Buterin and Wahrstätter's analysis opens a dialogue on reimagining blockchain space utilization to pave the way for more sophisticated data handling in the future.

The challenges of optimizing block space

The drive to streamline Ethereum's block space is not without its challenges. As Vitalik Buterin and Toni Wahrstätter point out, the blockchain's effective block size has nearly doubled within a year, a testament to Ethereum's growing role in supporting rollups and new applications like Inscriptions. 

This expansion, while indicative of Ethereum's versatility and adoption, brings to light issues of inefficiency and potential congestion within the network. The Ethereum Foundation's blog post elaborates on this predicament, shedding light on the pressing need to recalibrate how block space is utilized.

"This might be a result of more and more rollups starting to use Ethereum for DA and trends like Inscriptions," 

With the current trajectory, the concern is not just about accommodating this growth but doing so in a way that aligns with Ethereum's long-term vision for a rollup-centric ecosystem, ensuring sustainability and scalability.

Proposed іolutions to уnhance Ethereum's уfficiency

In response to the challenges of block space optimization, Vitalik Buterin and the Ethereum Foundation researcher Toni Wahrstätter have articulated five innovative solutions aimed at reducing Ethereum's maximum block size, thereby fostering a more efficient blockchain ecosystem. These solutions range in complexity and approach but share a common goal: to ensure Ethereum's scalability and responsiveness to the demands of a rollup-centric future.

Increasing calldata cost:

The simplest of the proposed measures involves raising the gas cost for calldata from 16 to 42 gas units. This adjustment is projected to decrease the maximum block size from 1.78 megabytes to a more manageable 0.68 megabytes, simultaneously allowing for an increase in the block gas limit. However, Buterin highlights a potential downside, noting, "This disincentivizes using calldata for data availability and would negatively impact apps like StarkNet that require large calldata for on-chain proofs."

Balancing сalldata and opcode costs: 

An alternative suggestion entails increasing calldata costs while reducing the costs associated with other opcodes, ensuring a balanced approach that mitigates the impact on applications reliant on extensive calldata.

Capping calldata per block: 

Another approach, as outlined in Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP)-4488, proposes a cap on calldata per block. Though this could streamline block size, it risks disincentivizing the use of calldata for data availability, affecting certain applications.

Creating a separate calldata fee market: 

Introducing a distinct market for calldata fees, akin to the handling of data blobs, could dynamically adjust calldata pricing based on demand, potentially increasing gas limits. This solution, however, introduces complexity in analysis and implementation.

EVM loyalty bonus: 

The final idea revolves around providing an "EVM loyalty bonus" to offset the costs for calldata-heavy applications, encouraging efficient use of the Ethereum Virtual Machine.

Buterin and Wahrstätter conclude that while a simple increase in calldata cost might be straightforward, it risks being too blunt an instrument. Conversely, creating separate fee markets could add undue complexity. They advocate for a nuanced solution that balances increased calldata costs with incentives for efficient calldata use within the EVM, reflecting Buterin's ongoing commitment to optimizing Ethereum's infrastructure.