Vitalik Buterin Expresses Concern Over Overstretching Ethereum Consensus

The Ethereum community is abuzz with the latest blog post from Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin.

In the blog post, the Ethereum co-founder has made his apprehensions about overloading Ethereum consensus with non-core functionalities crystal clear, advocating for a focus on preserving the blockchain’s minimalistic design.

On May 21, Buterin stressed that such activities carry “high systemic risks to the ecosystem and should be discouraged and resisted.”

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Buterin highlighted that, over time, numerous proposals had been introduced suggesting the use of Ethereum’s social consensus for various purposes. These ranged from price and data oracles to re-staking initiatives and even using Layer-1 soft forks to rescue Layer-2 projects in case of trouble.

In his blog post, Ethereum co-founder stressed:

There is a natural urge to try to extend the blockchain’s core with more and more functionality because the blockchain’s core has the largest economic weight and the largest community watching it, but each such extension makes the core itself more fragile.

The co-founder identified several techniques within these proposals that could potentially bring “high systemic risks” to the ecosystem. As one of the examples of high-risk scenarios, the man cited the creation of ETH/USD price oracles, susceptible to bribes, leading to disagreements and potential “fork out the bad participants’ money.”

While acknowledging the need for improved oracles, Buterin suggested a case-by-case examination, given the diverse nature of the challenges each poses.

Buterin opined that any increase in Ethereum’s consensus “duties” would inadvertently escalate the costs, complexities, and risks of running a validator. Summarizing his stance, Buterin stated:

We should instead preserve the chain’s minimalism, support uses of re-staking that do not look like slippery slopes to extending the role of Ethereum consensus, and help developers find alternate strategies to achieve their security goals.

With the Ethereum consensus mechanism’s transition from Proof-of-Work to Proof-of-Stake and the recent release of staked Ether (ETH) for withdrawal following the Shanghai upgrade, it’s easy to understand why validator roles and security risks are in the spotlight.

Buterin’s words serve as a wake-up call for the Ethereum community, emphasizing the importance of balance and careful consideration when making modifications to Ethereum’s core functionalities.