Vitalik Buterin: Exploring Ethereum’s New Techniques for Faster Transaction Confirmations

Vitalik Buterin: Exploring Ethereum's New Techniques for Faster Transaction Confirmations

Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has detailed new techniques aimed at reducing transaction confirmation times on the Ethereum network, according to a recent post on his blog The proposed methods include single-slot finality and rollup preconfirmations, which aim to enhance user experience by significantly speeding up transaction confirmations.

Overview of Existing Ideas and Techniques

Ethereum’s current consensus mechanism, known as Gasper, employs a slot and epoch architecture. This involves validators voting on the head of the chain every 12 seconds, with finality achieved after 12.8 minutes. However, Buterin notes that this approach is complicated and the finality time is too long for practical use.

Single-slot finality (SSF) is proposed as a solution to replace the existing architecture. Inspired by Tendermint consensus, SSF aims to finalize blocks before the next one is created. This would significantly reduce the finality time, although it would require validators to publish two messages every 12 seconds, a load that might be challenging for the network to handle.

Rollup Preconfirmations

Ethereum has been following a rollup-centric roadmap, focusing on supporting data availability and functionalities that layer 2 (L2) protocols can utilize. Rollups and other L2 solutions can offer users the same level of security as the Ethereum base layer (L1) but at a higher scale. However, these L2 solutions often require faster confirmation times than the current 5-20 seconds offered by L1.

To address this, Buterin suggests decentralized sequencing networks where a smaller group of validators would sign off on blocks more frequently. This approach, however, has been slow to develop in a decentralized manner. As an alternative, Justin Drake has proposed a shared Ethereum-wide preconfirmation mechanism known as based preconfirmations.

Based Preconfirmations

The based preconfirmation approach leverages the sophistication of Ethereum proposers, incentivizing them to offer preconfirmations-as-a-service. Users can pay an additional fee for an immediate guarantee that their transaction will be included in the next block. If proposers fail to meet this promise, they face penalties.

This method provides guarantees to L1 transactions and can be extended to L2 transactions if rollups are integrated into the mechanism. This could significantly improve the user experience by reducing the need to wait for transaction confirmations.

Future Prospects

Buterin envisions a future where single slot finality and rollup preconfirmations are implemented together. Techniques like Orbit SSF could reduce the number of validators signing per slot, potentially increasing slot times to 16 seconds while maintaining the goal of reducing the 32 ETH staking minimum.

For some applications, a 12-second block time is sufficient. However, for applications requiring faster confirmations, a slot-and-epoch architecture remains essential. Buterin outlines three strategies for L2s:

  1. Adopting a technology and value-based approach.
  2. Using a server with blockchain scaffolding.
  3. Implementing a hundred-node fast chain with Ethereum providing extra security and interoperability.

Ultimately, the goal is to explore the design space of slot-and-epoch architectures more fully, especially those like Orbit SSF. This will provide better options for both L1 and L2 users, simplifying the job of L2 developers and enhancing the overall Ethereum ecosystem.

Image source: Shutterstock

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