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Ethereum Foundation 2020 Spring Update

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Ethereum Foundation 2020 Spring Update


To the users and the builders,

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Ethereum’s future is bright, and this year we are seeing much of that future come to life as the Ethereum ecosystem builds on a foundation laid by dedicated research and development over the last years.

This update will focus on how the Ethereum Foundation aims to help further Ethereum’s progress, on what we’ve been working on in terms of allocations and more, and on why our outlook is brighter now more than ever.

Who we are, and where we’ve been

The focus of the Ethereum Foundation’s work as a non-profit remains only on doing what is best for Ethereum. And we remain aware that what began as a small open-source project in 2014 grew into the biggest community in the industry. Ethereum’s unique advantage is what we last year referred to as the global collection of developers, entrepreneurs, researchers, and passionate users that make up our ever-growing family.

We often aim to work on the things that either only the Foundation can do, or that it can do better than others to support Ethereum and its community. But thanks to this ecosystem of participants, we must begin with a thank you for elevating yourselves and for further decentralizing Ethereum each day. To all that have continued to build in the face of unique challenges: your accomplishments and ability to reach milestones have been and continue to be breathtaking. And to those users that have helped over the last year to explode activity around real-world applications already thriving on Ethereum: your support and engagement inspire us to work even harder to maximize Ethereum’s potential.

With that, we’ll outline below how the Ethereum Foundation will further its work as a resource allocator, and talk about how that process works. As an advocate for Ethereum both within our ecosystem and to the outside world, we’ll also cover how and where to follow the latest progress, all in the year that we’ll realize the long-awaited beacon chain launch and proof of stake on Ethereum.

Where we’re going, how we get there

The Foundation itself is more akin to a bazaar than it is a cathedral. That means that every release and function that exist under the “EF” label are really different groups and teams acting in various capacities to help to move Ethereum forward. This is how we view Ethereum as well, and just as Ethereum has multiple layers, so does the Ethereum Foundation’s portfolio of allocations.

With that in mind, today we’re going to speak a bit about how those allocation decisions are made.

As a whole, no single or centralized distribution method has been a cure-all for the many recurring research and development teams, community building efforts, or independent builders that we support. This has become clear through a great deal of iteration over time that has helped us to develop a multi-pronged approach to allocating resources.

Let’s dive in by imaging the entire budget allocation process as a layered cake that helps us to make decisions. Here’s how it works.

Type A: Recurring Support

Areas of recurring support are our first stop, and the most familiar process for most readers. Some supported teams included here, like Geth and Solidity, represent where things began. Others, like Eth1.x and Stateless research, the EF’s Eth2 Research team and formal verification (among others) came later but are essential for Ethereum to succeed. Also under this branch are administrative and operations roles, like the people behind the ESP team, communications and community, or administration and legal.

There was a time when the EF was home to these and other (most) supported Ethereum projects, but the Foundation’s purpose has changed alongside the larger ecosystem. Today, these teams fit into a category of support that EF is best-suited to provide at this time.

In the last two years, the Foundation has given more autonomy to Type A teams over their own budgets. We think that this structure better reflects how supported teams are actually operating as teams.

Each year, teams are asked to submit roadmaps and budget proposals, while others work to evaluate and approve their asks by evaluating their own needs. Think of this as a system of checks and balances where there are few enough for us to work together on a personal level. This way, we see which projects are working, what needs help, where the most progress and new achievements can be made, and what types of support help teams reach those goals.

Elsewhere, we’ve pushed opportunities outward as stated on previous occasions, taking an ecosystem-wide approach that helped to remove the line between internal and external. This helps us to minimize our operational footprint, and avoid having too much sway over developmental progress.

As time progressed, this outward movement has taken on a few different forms, resulting in the other types of allocation that we’ll speak to today. Each of these can generally be thought of as ecosystem support. To help manage the next area of focus, Type B funding, the aptly-named Ecosystem Support Program (ESP for short) leads the way.

Type B: Public Grant Process


A bit more on the ESP team!

Since the EF Grants Program evolved into the Ecosystem Support Program, the definition of resources has expanded to include both financial and non-financial support. Their aim is to allocate resources where they will have the biggest impact on Ethereum’s growth and adoption.

Recently, the Ecosystem Support Program: Allocation Update detailed how we allocated grants to external teams in 2019. Going forward, allocation updates will be posted quarterly, with the Q1 update already live. The ESP team will also be making an effort in the coming months to share more about how non-financial support is allocated, and how teams have made use of these resources!

One of the most important functions of ESP is to expand access to support, using a public inquiry process to discover and engage new projects. The Ecosystem Support team evaluates proposals that come in through the public inquiry form, incorporating peer review, discussions with the applicant, and expert advisors as needed to form a plan to help teams succeed. When making decisions about allocations, financial and otherwise, the ESP team digs into everything from timeline, execution and team structure, to available alternatives, potential milestones and impact forecasts in order to find the right fit. In short, ESP’s decisions move through a more thorough process than ever before, designed to help projects at any stage of completion to refine their ideas and connect with the support they need.

Of course, it’s hard to imagine that all needed “ecosystem support” allocations could be initiated through incoming public inquiries, which are by definition reactive. There will inevitably remain neglected areas and unfulfilled needs in the Ethereum ecosystem that require a more proactive approach that builds on our experiences with both Types A and B to create something new, which brings us to Type C.

Type C: Delegated Domain Allocations


Imagine an example where a new and potentially game-changing Layer 2 scaling solution gains steam, but it suffers from an initial lack of organization and funding. In Type C, this new area of focus would be called a “domain”, and the tool available to us in this case is to “delegate” to one or more confidence-inspiring domain experts the allocation and milestone-setting abilities that they need to make progress, whether they work for the EF or not.

These domain experts can identify specific problems to solve, and connect with builders to get work funded through grant-based allocations. Importantly, they can do so without EF onboarding new teams, and with a more proactive, targeted, and collaborative approach than is feasible for the open grant process.

Each domain tends to begin with smaller budgets and grants, such as those for the local grants programs last year in South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, but these can grow in size over time. Examples of more mature domains include applied zero knowledge work, eth2 coordination, developer experience, the Ethereum.org project, and more.

While Type B and C represent a diverse range of allocations, frankly, our team will always have blindspots in what we lead on — this is something that no organization can overcome on its own. So what about everything else? That’s where you come in.

Type D: Third Party Funding

Redistribution to independent funding models and groups can help us to even further decentralize our allocation process. While we’re proud of how refined and targeted our efforts are becoming, redistribution helps funds reach where some of the EF’s teams may have never known they needed to go.

Examples here include community driven grant matching, like Gitcoin’s CLR rounds (where you can help to decide how funding is distributed) and DAO funding, like Moloch. Third party allocators fit into Type D too. These include our support for UNICEF’s Crypto Fund, which selects and distributes funds to projects that their team works to identify, and to ETHGlobal, which retains independence and redistributes funds via hack bounties, among other activities. Admittedly, it’s still early-days for Type D, but our work in these areas are well underway.

While this may appear experimental or radical to some, there are many members within the Ethereum ecosystem that have long sought out ways to guide funding efforts, and now some of their decisions have already opened new doors.

Some of this work is complementary to EF’s other funding types, but may have been edge cases not covered by Types A-C, while other pieces may be controversial or even competitive. But while we have an opinion on how the initial funding decisions are made (in an initial transfer to a DAO, for example), what’s decided after this point is in your hands, which has been a net-positive in terms of innovation and participation.

We know that we must also ensure allocation accountability along the way, which can be challenging, but we can overcome those difficulties by diversifying how we fund. Examples include smaller initial disbursements to identify strong performers, and diversification of sources like those to DAOs and matching programs. Together, these approaches help to limit areas of risk like popularity contests and groupthink, and help us to reach a healthy equilibrium.

Working together

A high-level view of these efforts have helped us to see that, while every allocation-type has its benefits and limitations, they are symbiotic and help to create a stronger funding model together.

Type A

↑: As the only area that is by default recurring, this allows teams to comfortably focus on long-term roadmaps.

↓: Not everything can be solved through hiring and team-building in a fast moving ecosystem, since teams often have a long-term focus.

Type B

↑: Inquiry-based allocations can be more diverse and targeted.

↓: Not everything can be covered through reactive grants, and the team is limited by what is received from across the ecosystem.

Type C

↑: Allows for more proactive prioritizing by those with the expertise, with added flexibility to boot.

↓: These projects are often experimental, and the rate of Type C funding can be limited by EF’s capacity to identify appropriate needs and fits.

Type D

↑: People-powered, and where we see things trending over time.

↓: Highly experimental, with a delay in measurable impact/return for Ethereum.

Each option that we have available to us helps EF to more effectively empower others to innovate, and as we’ve matured, the distribution of our cake has continued to evolve too:

As you can see above, prior to the launch of the EF Grants Program (a precursor to ESP) in 2018, nearly all funding was geared toward “EF teams”. In 2018, substantial allocations were made to invest in quality work in areas determined to have the greatest need. This helped to create a firmer foundation, on top of which the energy and sheer number of new contributors could be more sustainable into the future. We’re glad to see that some of that timely decision-making is now paying off as big changes soon come to life on the public network.

In short, while gradual shifts toward Type B, and later to Types C and D are relatively new, they are the start of a trend that will continue in the near-future, and we know that it’s for the better.

What’s ahead in 2020?

This year, the Foundation is in a position to comfortably meet or exceed the commitment made last May. Specifically, we’ll likely fall within the range of 25-40 million USD in total allocations, depending on the need of the ecosystem, the number and quality of ESP applicants, and progress in scaling our new allocation types.

Our support for efforts related to eth2 will also continue to ramp up as needed. Additionally, our funding for eth1.x related research and development remains firm at this critical moment, and we recognize (just as some of eth2’s progress relies on Stateless Ethereum) that we can’t focus on one without the other.

On our resources, the Foundation has available to it about 0.53% of all ETH at the time of this post. This number has steadily decreased since the launch of the network years ago as we’ve continued to spend in line with our mission to grow and advance the network and ecosystem.

Follow the journey, or come along

Keep up to date with Ecosystem Support

Beginning this year, we’re increasing communication around the assistance provided by the ESP, including highlighting milestones and updates from supported projects.

To share all of this, the team launched a major update to the ESP website. These changes improve the information that was already available, and add new sections to make it easier to follow along:

  • On the featured projects page you can learn more about some of the projects we’ve supported
  • The front page is your source for the latest news on the program
  • A new “wishlist” includes some of the areas for support on which we’re focusing in the near future.

New sections will update and rotate regularly, and there are more additions in the pipeline, so make sure to keep an eye out for updates. To stay up to date on even more current events, follow @EF_ESP on Twitter, and sign up to get ESP news to your inbox!

And of course we want to fund quality work that helps Ethereum to grow and thrive, and we’d appreciate your help to identify those builders and teams in need of support. If this applies to you or someone you know, we invite you to get in touch today.

More from supported teams

We also invite all fans of Ethereum to keep up to date on the progress of network-level efforts through multiple new series right here on the EF Blog, brought to you by the researchers and developers that are bringing the future of Ethereum to life.

The eth1.x Files, with Griffin Ichiba Hotchkiss

Learn more about what’s happening with Ethereum today, Stateless Ethereum research and more.

Recent Updates:


Eth2 Quick Update, with Danny Ryan

As the title implies, follow along for the latest news and breakthroughs on eth2 leading up to the launch of the beacon chain.

Recent Updates:


Validated – Staking on eth2, with Carl Beekhuizen

It’s about time to put your Ether to use in a whole new way. Learn more about staking on eth2 and the science behind it with regular updates including those below.

Recent Updates:


and more…

And stay tuned for more for continued supported-team updates from other EF-supported efforts, and find the latest release here!

Over the last year, more and more essential teams have continued to populate our distributed ecosystem, and we’re proud of the strength that comes from having a distributed network without a center. But as an entity, we’ll continue our work to provide opportunity for everyone to create without enveloping each project under one large tent. In the year ahead, we’ll witness the launch of eth2, which will be powered by multiple clients — all of which will have been built and maintained by independent teams.

until then…

We’ll primarily keep our heads down and continue our work in and around the Ethereum ecosystem, but expect to hear more about new programs and new ways to get involved soon! For now, keep posted to the EF Blog and @Ethereum, dive into the new Ethereum.org community page, and get ready for big news coming soon from the Scholars and Devcon teams too.

And if you’re interested in seeing something that we haven’t covered today, just ask! Whether you have questions, concerns, asks or recommendations, feel free to reach out to press@ethereum.org with your suggestions. We’ll get back with feedback or with external resources from a large community that continues to produce incredible material that we want to support, and we even may publish a Q&A in the months to come with some of what’s received.

Until then, our focus will remain on performing where we’re needed most, and on doing what only the EF can. We can’t wait to see where your work and the rest of this year takes Ethereum, and we hope to see you all along the way.

🦄





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Ethereum

eth2 quick update | Ethereum Foundation Blog

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Ethereum Muir Glacier Upgrade Announcement


Although the internet has been more quiet than usual, we’ve been super busy hacking away on eth2! Between Devcon5 and keeping our heads down to work, it seems we’ve left the community in the dark on a couple of items. Here’s a quick update to fill in the gaps.

Deposit Contract

Although the deposit contract has been written, tested, and formally verified, we are working to allow the BLS standardization to stablize prior to launch. One goal of eth2 is to be easily interoperable with other blockchains and systems in general, and to that end, we do not want our BLS signatures to go the way of keccak (whoops!).

The BLS Standard (BLS Signature, Hash to Curve) has reached a point of stability recently with a number of blockchain teams on board (Eth2, Chia, Filecoin, Algorand, etc). There is an IETF meeting in November at which we expect the draft to be even more cemented. That said, official standards can take quite a while so those involved plan to signal public support for the draft and have a “blockchain agreement” to use the standard as drafted regardless of its final form in IETF. That way, if it becomes the keccak of signatures, we won’t be there alone. 🙂

Fortunately, the deposit contract does not need to be put into production until we near Phase 0 launch, so this focus on standardization is not expected to have any effect on the Phase 0 launch date.

Eth2 Testnets

If you follow ethresearch, the specs repo, or any of the many workshops at Devcon, we have altered the sharding proposal in such a way to greatly improve developer and user experience — cross-shard communication between all shards at every slot. To facilitate this improved design, we have to modify the Phase 0 spec a bit. To do this with limited disruption to Phase 0 development and testnets, we’ve gone the simplifying route — the removal of crosslinks entirely from Phase 0 (they were stubbed anyway). This change is coded and under final review here and is expected to be released for development within the week.

We expect multi-client public testnets to launch soon after this simplifying change is completed, for this update to aid Phase 0’s progress to mainnet, and ultimately to make Phases 1 and 2 easier to ship.

Eth2 testnets are coming! Individual clients are in the process of spinning on some nets for both private and public consumption. Many clients are just getting their eth1-to-eth2 machinery in place so these single-client testnets are useful in initially testing that component. On these nets there will be some limited cross-client testing, but will be largely stable due to having a majority single-client.

Once clients adequately test larger single-client nets and once they have time to incorporate the Phase 0 changes, we will be full speed ahead on public multi-client nets. We’re just as excited about this as you are and will be publishing more info on participation (staking your eth) in both testnets and mainnet shortly. Casper is indeed coming.



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eth2 quick update no. 2

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eth2 quick update no. 2


Welcome to the second installment of eth2 quick update.

tldr;

  • Spec release of v0.9.0 — Tonkatsu to ensure Phase 0 development can continue unimpeded.
  • Work continues in ironing out the details of the modified Phase 1 proposal.
  • Quiet client development focused on eth1 -> eth2 infrastructure, general hardening for production, and optimizations.

Tonkatsu Release

As promised on the latest eth2 call, we pushed things forward to release v0.9.0 release — Tonkatsu. This release is largely simplifying with respect to Phase 0. The goal here is to remove any portions of Phase 0 that are opinionated about Phase 1 to ensure Phase 0 development can continue unimpeded regardless of the work-in-progress modified sharding proposal.

Read the release notes for more info.

Ongoing Phase 1 Redesign

As mentioned in the last eth2 quick update, we are almost certainly taking a new and simpler direction for Phase 1. The new sharding proposal facilitates “crosslinks” for all shards at each slot. This drastically simplifies communication between shards and will result in a much better and simpler developer/user experience come Phase 2.

Previous cross-shard communication (approximate)

sharding-new-proposal

New shard design proposal

To support this new proposal, the total shard count to start must be reduced from 1024 to the new estimate of 64, with the intention to scale up the number of shards over time (~10 years) as standard resources available to consumer laptops increases. The following are the primary reasons for the requisite reduction in total shards:

  • Each shard induces an attestation load on the network and beacon chain at each slot rather than at each epoch
  • Each committee must be of a minimum safe number of validators. If there are too many committees per epoch due to high shard count, then there couldn’t possibly be enough 32-ETH validators to safely allocate enough to each committee

[EDIT: the following paragraph was added after initial release of the blog post in response to some discussion on reddit]

To achieve a similar scalability as the previous proposal, target shard block sizes are being increased 8x, from 16kB to 128kB. This provides the system with greater than 1 MB/s of data availability which synergizes well with promising L2 schemes such as ZKRollup and OVM. The network safety of these larger shard block sizes are justified by recent experimental research done on the existing Ethereum network.

Much of the EF research team’s focus in the past few weeks has been around vetting and ironing out the details of this new proposal. For more details, check out the work-in-progress PR or some of the Phase 1 issues.

Quiet, yet effective client development

Eth2 clients continue to quietly develop. As discussed on the latest eth2 call, effort is being put into handling deposits from eth1, generally hardening clients for production, optimization of state transition and BLS implementations, cross-client fuzzing, networking monitoring tooling, and more! Larger single client testnets are in the works as well as continued cross-client experimentation.

Now that v0.9.0 has been released, clients are updating their state transition logic to pass the new test vectors and are introducing the simple attestation aggregation strategy.



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Eth2 at ETHWaterloo: Prizes for Eth2 education, tooling, and research

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Ethereum Muir Glacier Upgrade Announcement


For the first time ever, the Ethereum Foundation will be sponsoring a range of hacker prizes related to Eth2 at a major hackathon.

With Eth2 development proceeding rapidly, there are now many discrete areas of work that a team of motivated hackers can complete over a weekend. The bounties below include useful educational tools for Eth2 development, necessary tooling, and valuable research.

Members of Eth2 teams will be available remotely during the hackathon to answer questions from hackers and provide advice related to these prizes.

The EF will offer 5 prizes of $1,000 each, for projects that tackle any (or more than one!) of the following ideas:

Education


Tooling

  • Implement the proposed BLS key standards (EIPs 2333, 2334, 2335) in a language of your choice (suggestion: one of the eth2 client languages)
  • Fast viz: Given just a single BeaconState, visualize the last events and validator registry state (suggestion: use lodestar code to work in the browser)
  • Attestation surround/double vote checker (suggestion: look at eth2.0-pm repo issue 63)
  • Attestation pool: make a bare bones tool that listens on the attestation aggregation subnets and global net, and show what’s there (suggestion: start with logging received attestations)
  • Beacon node load balancer: implement a validator API that proxies traffic to any healthy up-to-date beacon node (suggestion: take existing http proxy, and focus on the nodes health status)
  • Netstats2: log/visualize the health status of a list of eth2 testnet nodes (suggestion: prysm or lighthouse testnet, start with simple api queries like latest block)
  • Merkle multi proof builder: check out simpleserialize.com and the tree visualization. This could be enhanced with checkboxes in each node to interactively create multiproofs with (suggestion: start with a simple proof encoding format – Cayman Nava and Proto will be available to help on the ETHWaterloo discord)
  • Validator tracking: a service that you can point at a validator and it notifies you if the validator is offline.

Research


Interested in other bounties or prizes offered by the Ethereum Foundation?

Here are a few other bounties currently live:

Ethereum.org Gitcoin Bounties


Legendre PRF

  • The Legendre pseudo-random function is an extremely MPC-friendly one bit PRF. This PRF is currently slated to be used in the proof of custody scheme in Phase 1 of Eth 2.0, as it is the only known method to make the proof of custody possible in a shared secret setting. To encourage more research about this PRF, the Ethereum Foundation has set out a series of bounties here: legendreprf.org/bounties

STARK-Friendly Hash Challenge

  • The Ethereum Foundation has asked StarkWare to recommend a STARK-Friendly Hash (SFH). The StarkWare hash challenge is a public competition aimed at evaluating the security of current proposed SFH candidates. The challenge is proposed at four security levels: low-security, medium-security, target-security, and high-security in multiple scenarios. See starkware.co/hash-challenge for more details about the competition and how to get started.





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