The Future of Ethereum in Focus

The recent Devcon 3 conference in Cancun, Mexico gave the public a chance to hear about the future of ethereum straight from the creator’s mouth.

Russian – Canadian developer Vitalik Buterin took to the stage in this flagship conference to tell the world about the upcoming plans for the platform and its ether digital currency. The 23 year old programmer was dressed informally as he advised that they had been quietly working away on the details for the future of the blockchain platform.

Buterin spoke of a “modest proposal” that contained details of the next 3 or 4 years’ work in progressing this network with ongoing technical development. This included the most detailed look yet at the process known as sharding that is one of the keys to the long term success of ethereum.

He also looked at some of the potential problems that could lie ahead and talked about the issue of scalability for developers working on it. Ethereum stores details of everything that happens on the network so there is a need to find a way to store all of this information in a cost-effective way.

Buterin has been looking at this issue or a while and has talked about it before. However, he took the opportunity of mentioning this challenge again and to attempt to get ethereum developers to work together to find a long-term solution.

He said that the activity levels on this network is now “order of magnitudes larger” than a couple of years ago, with over 20,000 nodes now in the blockchain network. The developer suggested that this means that ethereum is getting close to its current limit, calling scalability “probably problem number one” as well as a “very significant and hard challenge”.

Is Sharding the Solution?

However, Buterin also mentioned that sharding is the most likely way of overcoming this problem. In this way, the data would be split up into smaller subsets to take up less space. It isn’t as easy to do in practice as that description perhaps makes it sound, though.

Buterin is looking into a new kind of sharding approach that would work both in terms of scalability and governance. In this way, ethereum would be divided up into a number of shards, which Buterin described as being “universes”.

This would allow for changes to be tried out and then implemented a lot more quickly on the smaller shards than is currently the case with the overall Ethereum system. He also talked about making changes to the technology that is used to make the smart contract code and the project that would let people run ethereum in an internet browser.

In terms of market price, ether currently has a market capitalisation of $28.2 billion, which makes is second to bitcoin in the cryptocurrency world. The number of transactions carried out have fallen fairly sharply over the last few days, as the market appears to have entered a quieter period.

The price of ether currently sits at just under $300 (£229) with analysts still divided between those who expect more rises and those who are less optimistic.

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