Why Ethereum should be enshrined in core protocol

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Why Ethereum should be enshrined in core protocol

Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Ethereum, recently wrote a detailed blog post exploring the question of which features should become official parts of the Ethereum protocol versus being built on top of it. Buterin explains that Ethereum strove to maintain its base layer as simple and minimalist as possible in the early days. It aligned with Unix's philosophy of creating uncomplicated, flexible software. Ethereum aims to provide a solid base for decentralized applications, with most functions implemented through smart contracts built on top.

However, some have argued that more features should be directly enshrined in the core protocol. Buterin describes it as making something that is fundamental to the official Ethereum specification that client developers must implement. The alternative, 'de-enshrining', involves removing a feature from the base layer and pushing it out to be handled by smart contracts instead.

Buterin analyzes the pros and cons of enshrining several potential features. Enshrining can bring efficiency gains, more robust security, and censorship resistance. It is also a risk that it will make transactions more expensive, over-complicating management, and reduce flexibility to meet unanticipated user needs, he said.

Buterin analyzes this debate using account abstraction as a case study. The proposals such as EIP-86 were aimed at making transactions just simple VM calls, reducing protocol complexity but increasing miner responsibilities. More recent proposals like ERC-4337 still come outside the protocol but may later enshrine components for efficiency and security.

Liquid staking could reduce centralization risks and open more staking options, but challenges around governance remain.

Engraving features can enhance efficiency, security, and censorship resistance. It can also over-extend the Protocol's governance and make it too rigid for unanticipated user needs.

How the community may be fractured on enshrining.

The Ethereum community is grappling with different opinions on this question. Pragmatists may prioritize enlargement features that provide clear benefits to users today, even if it's complicated to govern. purists contend that largely minimizing the base layer preserves Ethereum's vision as a decentralized application platform.

Businesses and institutions desire features that enhance their use cases quickly enshrined, while decentralization advocates fear that risks unaccountable control by privileged groups. Developers desire a more robust base layer functionality to ease app development, but security researchers warn enshrinement may lock in suboptimal technical choices.

As Buterin points out, navigating these tradeoffs will grow more complex as expectations of Ethereum diversify and scale. However, discussing core principles anchors the conversation as progress compels reassessment. The open'soft forking' process of Ethereum enables continued evolution based on emerging community priorities. As Ethereum progresses toward its ambitious goal, Buterin's post provides a valuable framework for weighing options and building alignment as it moves toward its ambitious vision.