Investigating “stateless” or “stateless” customers for Ethereum is considered critical to the long-term health of the network. Despite all the advances, some fundamental restrictions prevent them from being used in practice.
At the Unitize conference, Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum, gave an up-to-date picture of the latest advances and problems in the transition of stateless people.
In summary, Stateless clients provide a way to enable nodes to fully participate in validation without having to manage all of the previous blockchain history. The status represents all current balances, the smart contracts code and their respective data.
Each new block only makes very small changes to the status, but all have to be checked across the entire blockchain, making it a very inefficient process. Stateless customers are at the heart of the Ethereum 1.x initiative, which aims to keep the existing chain in a usable state. Research also has important implications for Ethereum 2.0:
“In an Ethereum 2.0 sharding context, stateless clients are generally mandatory because nodes between different shards are quickly reorganized.”
Buterin also noted that stateless clients are also being investigated on other blockchains, including Bitcoin. Stateless clients use cryptographic techniques to only calculate and verify status changes without having to keep the status in memory. However, cryptography is still imperfect.
The problems with creating tests
The current state-of-the-art solution relies on Merkle tests to validate the condition through the concept of a witness that contains information about parts of the state that have changed. However, due to the current inefficiencies in Ethereum, the technology has several major disadvantages that can result in a maximum token size of 405 megabytes per block.
The optimizations could reduce the size of the token to a maximum of two megabytes and an average of 600 kilobytes, but that’s still way above the current Ethereum block size of about 50 kilobytes.
The alternative that Buterin is currently focusing on is polynomial commitments, a test system that relies on polynomial functions to represent data. Due to some cryptographic properties, you can only use a small token to validate “many values”.
However, he explained that this approach is a major problem. Merkle’s tests are easy to partially update because of their tree-like structure, but polynomial compromises require a complete change of the entire curve, which would make the kernel calculation costly.
There are a variety of possible solutions to this problem, including, for example, a hybrid “Verkle Tree” model that combines polynomial obligations into a tree-like structure.
The ongoing investigation
Buterin found that every possible solution has its own problems that need further investigation. At the end of his presentation, he said:
“”There are many sophisticated arithmetic techniques that we can use to reduce these core sizes to such an extent that the additional data that stateless clients have to download is no longer so large. However, much research and refinement is still needed, and this is something we will actively appreciate as the academic research community provides more help. “
The presentation suggests that stateless clients may not be able to enter Ethereum soon, as they depend on advances in crypto research. Currently, Ethereum’s transaction capacity is being deliberately limited due to concerns about making the blockchain too heavy for average devices.
For the average user, this means that gas prices are likely to remain high for the foreseeable future unless demand falls to a lower level or second-tier solutions fill this gap.