What I learned from Ethereum Devcon5 – Waltermeowot


The Ethereum Foundation Devcon is the most important annual gathering of developers, designers, and researchers in the Ethereum ecosystem. This year’s Devcon5 in Osaka, Japan is the 5th Devcon, and as in past years, it is a bellwether of what to come in Ethereum.

Note: My company, Second State, was invited to give a talk at Devcon5, where we showed off the world’s first toolchain to compile and deploy Solidity smart contracts on the official Ewasm testnet. Learn more about Second State’s smart contract innovation and developer tools @Devcon5.

In Devcon4 in Prague last year, there was great optimism about ETH 2 (Serenity), as well as Ethereum scaling solutions generally known as Plasma. The overall sentiment in Prague was that we have finally figured out how to build scalable decentralized smart contract platforms. However, fast forward to Osaka in 2019, much of optimism is gone. ETH 2 is still under intensive research. Many experiments in the past year had not produced the results we hoped for.

In Osaka, most people seem to agree that the entire ETH 2 effort requires a reboot. There was very little information about the launch of ETH 2. The lack of concrete ETH 2 news and concrete plans is perhaps the most significant news from Devcon5. CoinDesk published a controversial article on this subject on the very first day of the conference.

With ETH 2 still perhaps years away, there is now renewed focus on making the Ethereum blockchain we have today more usable for application developers. For example, it will attempt to reduce the bloat of state data on nodes by making changes to gas fees, instituting a “state rent”, and optimizing node client storage.

There are also discussions about launching the next generation WebAssembly-based Ethereum Virtual Machine (known as Ethereum flavored WebAssembly, or Ewasm) on the ETH 1.x blockchain.

That could significantly improve application developer experience on Ethereum. However, the Ewasm toolchain and execution engine are still work-in-progress.

One of the contributions my team at Second State made was to create the world’s first toolchain to compile and deploy Solidity smart contracts on the official Ewasm testnet. Our toolchain is based on the LLVM infrastructure, making it future proof. You can read more about our effort to improve the EVM experience.

The Ethereum Classic (ETC) blockchain is the original ETH 1.x blockchain. It remains committed to PoW consensus while trying to maintain compatibility with ETH 2 at the application layer.

With ETH 2’s move to PoS and multi-chain architecture (sharding), it is possible that ETC will inherit the ETH mining community and become a PoW store-of-value token in the ETH 2 ecosystem.

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