Takeaways From Berlin During The Merge
The Obol team just wrapped up a week in Berlin for DappCon’22, EthBerlin3, and The Merge. The main takeaway? The drive to create a decentralized future has never been greater, and we’re committed to doing our part.
The graffiti-covered walls and underground techno clubs of Berlin made a perfect backdrop for the Ethereum community that met in the avant-garde city during The Merge. It was easy to feel bullish about where Ethereum is going and there were many kudos to give for those that got us to this moment. However, those that came to Berlin also realized that The Merge is not only a finish line, but also a starting point of a lot of work still left to be done. That motivation carried through all the events of the week.
An exciting week in Berlin
DappCon 2022, hosted by Gnosis, kicked off the week with many talks and workshops about the important improvements that need to be made to Ethereum post-Merge. There were sessions about MEV, dapps, infrastructure, regulation, and much more. One of the key improvements that need to be made is scaling and decentralizing the consensus layer via DVT. Our team spent the 3-day conference educating the community about the current state and importance of DVT. Although many were not familiar with the tech primitive, all understood its future impact.
(A huge shout-out to the DappCon team for putting on such a great event!! The quality of speakers and attendees was off-the-charts. It made for an awesome environment to learn.)
Then, on Thursday morning CEST, it was time for one of the biggest moments in the history of Ethereum—The Merge. Watching from our hotel rooms, we saw PoW Ethereum hit TTD and successfully swap consensus to PoS. This was followed by a virtual cheer upon the finality of the first post-Merge block. The entire Ethereum community deserves a ton of credit for the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that went into this moment.
Equally fitting, once the moment passed, the Obol team, and entire community, went back to work to solve the next set of challenges.
On Friday, that process kicked off with EthBerlin3, one of the best-run hackathons in the Ethereum ecosystem (made more incredible by the self-organized group that runs this event each year without compensation). Over 700 hackers built close to 100 projects spanning counter-surveillance, freedom to transact, even the odds, and infrastructure tracks.
Obol was deeply involved in this event by sponsoring the hackathon and continuing our work of furthering DVT adoption. We held a workshop to test the limits of DVT by starting to build the largest DV cluster in the world with a successfully-run 10+ node DKG. It was important to see the high interest in enabling better stake resiliency and decentralization, with many people eager to learn more.
In the end, six incredible projects took home awards. A HUGE congrats for the amazing effort put forth.
A bit congrats to all of the winners Dandellion++ (@elizabethereum @dapplion @caymannan), Cryptohub, NFT Are live in Berlin, The Athens Protocol, ZK Compression, and RSociety! https://t.co/UazJLWamoe— Obol Labs (@ObolNetwork) September 19, 2022
What we learned
Throughout the week, the Obol team attended many sessions and had numerous discussions with attendees of both events. Here are some of the important things we learned.
The Merge was a huge step, but more needs to be done to scale Ethereum in order to become the world computer.
Moving to PoS allowed Ethereum to cut energy consumption by 99.9% and paved the way for future throughput improvements. However, work needs to be done at the execution, data, and consensus layers to continue to improve scalability.
While there is general knowledge of Optimistic and ZK Rollups, there needs to be increased awareness of projects focused on scaling the data and consensus layer. The adoption of the BLS12-381 in 2019 allowed Ethereum to scale to 100k to 1M validators, but more needs to be done to further decentralize Ethereum staking. At DappCon and EthBerlin, the Obol team began the critical work of raising awareness of DVT as the scaling solution for consensus.
Centralization is a very real concern. There needs to be a concerted effort to push for decentralization.
70% of all stake on the Ethereum network is controlled by 4 operators, and there is risk post-Merge that centralization will only increase. Combine this with the fact that 90% of all execution clients are controlled by only two implementations, and you get a recipe for high centralization and correlation risk.
Ethereum is built and incentivized to promote decentralization (just look at how slashing penalties increase with other recent slashing events). Potential centralization of the network puts all participants in danger. In addition to scaling Ethereum, there needs to be a concerted effort to invest in technologies and structures that improve decentralization in the network. DVT is also a solution to this important problem, by allowing stronger resiliency, stake decentralization, and client diversity for each node of a DV cluster.
Regardless of the bear (or bull) market, the buidl culture in Ethereum is alive and well.
Although we are currently in the midst of a heavy crypto bear market and the Eth price didn’t get the post-Merge bump that some had hoped for, the energy to continue building and innovating in Ethereum is alive and well.
The breadth of projects that came out of EthBerlin3 spanned validator privacy to private on-chain governance to a decentralized pornhub. Interest and attention in scaling solutions like DVT were at an all-time high, evidenced by the constant flow of traffic to our Obol booth at both events.
The team came out of Berlin more enthusiastic than ever about the future of innovation in the space, and we are eager to provide the necessary infrastructure and scale to make all this innovation possible.
Where do we go from here?
With the completion of The Merge, DVT becomes the next big primitive to deliver on Vitalik’s Ethereum roadmap.
Awesome to see Distributed Validator Technology (DVT) on the top of @VitalikButerin POS Ethereum roadmap. DVT will become critical to network in a post merged world.— Collin Myers - IS HIRING!! (@StakeETH) December 2, 2021
Below is a thread on DVT, why it matters, and an applied use case through what we are building @ObolNetwork
The Obol team will be hard at work to push DVT on all fronts; getting the tech ready for mainnet, driving adoption with initial implementation partners, and educating the community on the importance of the primitive.
We will be providing many avenues for anyone interested to learn more and get involved. As for the next event? Come catch the team at DevCon VI in Bogota from Oct. 11-14! We will be delivering talks on DVT, chatting with people, and of course handing out some really exclusive (and freakin cool) swag. Come find us there!!