The centralization of nodes within the Ethereum network has emerged as a major issue that needs to be addressed, according to Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum. Currently, the majority of active Ethereum nodes are being operated through centralized web providers like Amazon Web Services. This has raised concerns among many experts who argue that relying on these centralized providers exposes the Ethereum blockchain to the risk of a centralized point of failure.
Speaking at Korea Blockchain Week, Buterin highlighted the need to solve the problem of centralization in order to ensure the long-term decentralization of the Ethereum network. He identified six key problems that need to be addressed, with the issue of node centralization being a significant aspect. Buterin emphasized the importance of making it technically easier and more affordable for individuals to run nodes. He suggested that statelessness, a concept that removes the dependence on centralized service providers to verify network activity, is a crucial technology in enabling this.
The Ethereum Foundation has also recognized the significance of statelessness in achieving true decentralization. They believe that node operators should be able to run Ethereum on modest and inexpensive hardware for decentralization to be realized. Buterin pointed out that statelessness is a fundamental part of the Ethereum roadmap, with steps already being taken in “The Verge” and “The Purge” stages. In fact, the long-term plan includes the ability to run fully verified Ethereum nodes even on a mobile phone.
However, Buterin acknowledged that these technical concerns are unlikely to be resolved in the immediate future. He stated that it could take a considerable amount of time, ranging from 10 to 20 years, to address these challenges.
Aside from statelessness, Buterin identified other important steps to diminish Ethereum centralization. These include simplifying documentation, reducing barriers to distributed staking, enhancing the security of staking, and making it more convenient to stake Ether (ETH) in general. But ultimately, Buterin stressed that the most pressing concern for Ethereum is achieving higher levels of scalability.
Ethereum scaling protocols, particularly zero-knowledge (ZK) rollups, have emerged as a dominant method to enhance scalability. ZK-rollups have been widely praised within the Ethereum community for their potential to improve throughput on the main Ethereum chain by moving computation and state storage off-chain.
In conclusion, the issue of node centralization poses a significant challenge to the Ethereum network, and Buterin believes that it is crucial to make running nodes cheaper and more accessible to address this problem. While statelessness is a key aspect of the Ethereum roadmap, technical solutions to achieve it may take a considerable amount of time. In addition to statelessness, other measures such as improving scalability through protocols like ZK-rollups and addressing convenience and security concerns related to staking Ether are also important steps towards decentralization. By addressing these issues, the Ethereum network can ensure its long-term viability as a decentralized platform.