What is Serenity, what are the plans for Ethereum 2.0, and when will it happen?
Ethereum’s history has been one of consistent improvements and upgrades to the core protocol. After February’s Constantinople upgrade and the upcoming Istanbul hard fork, the Ethereum community is approaching Serenity, the eventual and final iteration in Ethereum’s evolution. Serenity — explained in detail in Vitalik’s 2018 Devcon speech — will take place in multiple stages, each estimated a year apart from each other. Ethereum 2.0 — as Serenity is also known — is being guided by five design principles: Simplicity, Resilience, Longevity, Security, Decentralization. The gradual approach to Serenity is meant to ensure all principles are developed and upheld, further positioning Ethereum as a market leader in blockchain-based solutions.
But First — Istanbul
Before Serenity, Istanbul is currently the last planned hard fork after the Constantinople upgrade in February of this year. Istanbul is estimated for October 2019, and there are currently 11 EIPs proposed for inclusion in the fork, including EIP 1057 [ProgPoW].
The issue of ProgPoW has been heavily discussed in the Ethereum community for a while. The EIP proposes switching the protocol’s mining algorithm to ProgPoW, an algorithm that reduces the advantage ASICs have over GPUs in mining efficiency. ASICs (Application-Specific Integrated Circuits) and GPUs (Graphics Processing Units) are both pieces of hardware used to mine crypto. ASICs are highly-specialized pieces of hardware that can typically mine crypto more efficiently and thus yield a greater profit. They are, however, coin-specific, meaning a Bitcoin ASIC is only applicable to the Bitcoin blockchain and an Ethereum ASIC is only applicable to the Ethereum blockchain. Though effective, ASICs are costly and harder to come by, potentially leading to centralization risks if the mining pool becomes limited to those who are able to get their hands on ASICs (so the argument goes). GPUs, by contrast, are general purpose computation tools, and can be used for complex calculations for a number of computational use cases. In contrast to ASICs, GPUs can be used to mine any coin and are generally widely available. They do not, however, carry the same specialized computing power as ASICs, and therefore are typically less efficient and less profitable than ASICs. If approved, EIP 1057 would implement the ProgPoW algorithm, which is an ASIC-resistant algorithm, effectively removing the efficiency ASICs have over GPUs and rendering them equally effective at mining Ether, and consequently ensuring the decentralization of the network (again, so the argument goes). The Ethereum core devs appear to be in general support of ProgPoW, but have launched third-party audits of the algorithm before making a final decision.