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‘Solving the scalability challenge’: Vitalik Buterin lays out Ethereum’s post-Merge road map

Ethereum cofounder Vitalik Buterin at ETHDenver in February 2022.
Michael Ciaglo—Getty Images

After many years and much hype, the Ethereum Merge is over, and the shift to proof of stake is finally complete.

So, what’s next? “Solving the scalability challenge,” Ethereum inventor Vitalik Buterin said at the 2022 Messari Mainnet conference on Sept. 23.

To do that, Buterin mentions a near-term focus on sharding as it pertains to transactions. Sharding is a “multiphase upgrade to improve Ethereum’s scalability and capacity,” as defined by the Ethereum Foundation, and it would split the network into partitions called shards and “reduce network congestion and increase transactions per second.”

When summarizing the main goals of the Ethereum road map, Buterin has consistently pointed to adopting proof of stake and sharding, and did so again at Mainnet. “Proof of stake is finally here, but sharding is the next step, and that isn’t quite here yet,” he added.

Sharding could come into play in 2023 during a series of upgrades that Buterin and the Ethereum community are calling the Surge.

“It’ll still take a while to get there,” Buterin said, but “unlike the Merge, the Surge will be much less of a single event. It’ll be something that happens in lots of stages, where each of those stages provides some concrete value.”

Here’s what to know about what’s ahead for Ethereum.

Surge, Verge, Purge, Splurge

Following the Merge, other Ethereum upgrades happening in parallel include the Surge, Verge, Purge, and Splurge.

“At the end of this road map, Ethereum will be a much more scalable system,” Buterin said at the July Ethereum Community Conference (EthCC) in Paris. “By the end, Ethereum will be able to process 100,000 transactions per second.

The Surge, as mentioned earlier, focuses on scaling Ethereum with Layer-2 solutions like sharding and rollups, which bundle transactions executed off-chain to improve speed and lower fees.

The Verge will bring what’s called “verkle trees,” where a larger amount of data can be stored in a smaller proof—and, in turn, can allow for smaller node size.

The Purge—much unlike the horror movie of the same name—is less scary than it sounds. It will empty out historical data and free up space to, again, reduce network congestion.

And the Splurge will include “miscellaneous but important extras” to ensure all past upgrades run smoothly.

Other than a rough estimate for the timing of the Surge upgrades, the timeline for completion of all is TBD—but likely over several years.

“But, definitely after all of it, Ethereum will basically be in a place where the protocol doesn’t need to change, [and] everything can be done at Layer-2,” Buterin said during a press conference in August.

Even still, “that’s far away,” he said. “That could be 10 years from now, it could be 20. It could be 30 years from now.”

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