Ethereum’s 6 biggest accomplishments of 2020 (and 5 disappointing moments)

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The yr 2020 has been nothing in need of spectacular for Ethereum. Between Ethereum 2.0 and the search for scalability, the decentralized finance explosion, and the successes of interoperability and cash settlement — simply to call a number of — the richness of narratives underpinning Ethereum has arguably surpassed Bitcoin itself. Whereas Bitcoin is the dependable, stoic uncle, Ethereum might be described because the maverick cousin of the crypto world.

However after all, a unstable surroundings hits laborious each methods. Peaks of pleasure and success nearly must be counterbalanced by troughs of disappointment and failure.

Ethereum had loads of each this yr, and it’s helpful to reminisce and spotlight main occasions that formed the challenge in 2020.

The largest achievement: Ethereum 2.0 launch

Ethereum 2.0 has been the dominant story of the challenge since even before its precise launch. The improve promised two main enhancements: transferring away from proof-of-work consensus, which was seen as wasteful, and introducing scalability by a method referred to as sharding.

Sharding, in a nutshell, creates a set of parallel blockchains which can be coordinated by a reference chain, referred to as the Beacon Chain. In 2020, we lastly noticed the launch of the Ethereum 2.0 Beacon Chain, enabling Ether (ETH) staking for the primary time.

The launch occurred on Dec.1 and not using a hitch. Progress was palpable all year long, with several testnet iterations.

The formal pre-launch testnet, referred to as Medalla, was launched on Aug. 4. Whereas it wasn’t an ideal begin, the team drew invaluable lessons from the experience and steadily fastened all of the bugs and points that cropped up.

The launch was an unquestionable success for Ethereum, because it lastly marked the official begin of an improve that was 5 years within the making. “I feel we’ve been delighted with the way it’s gone,” mentioned Ben Edgington, ConsenSys product proprietor for Ethereum 2.0 shopper Teku, in an interview with Cointelegraph.

After years of growth, the groups have been anxious to ship one thing tangible. “The need to ship in 2020 emerged by consensus amongst the groups. And yeah, we dedicated to it,” Edgington mentioned. “The ‘when Eth2’ meme has been round for a very long time and we have been eager to maneuver on from that and display that we are able to meet a goal.”

Nonetheless, Edgington reassured that there have been no corners reduce throughout growth. “If we [had been] conscious of great flaws, we wouldn’t have pushed on the premise of merely a date,” he mentioned.

The roadmap guarantees a quicker scalability timeline

Regardless of launching Section 0, a lot stays to be accomplished to really feel the sensible advantages of the brand new blockchain.

The group was historically extra excited concerning the later phases: Section 1, which might introduce the primary type of sharding for knowledge storage, and Section 2, which might make sharding totally usable by decentralized functions constructing on Ethereum. Someplace alongside the way in which, the present Ethereum 1.0 blockchain would have been merged as a shard and proof-of-work would have been phased out.

Throughout 2020, the Ethereum growth group converged on another imaginative and prescient: the rollup-centric roadmap. Rollups are a class of layer-two solutions promising to scale blockchains by taking away a lot of the computational burden

Nevertheless it’s not simply concerning the rollups. As Edgington defined, the idea of phases and linear growth has been fully outmoded by a extra versatile strategy:

“Section 0 hasn’t modified, that’s accomplished. However now we’re constructing the remainder in parallel. So there’s been a decoupling between the sharding for scalability and the merger of Eth 1.0 and Eth 2.0. To allow them to be labored on in parallel and it might occur that the Eth 1.0 merge occurs first, or sharding occurs first. They are often delivered independently of one another.”

All of which means Ethereum 2.0 would possibly grow to be much more thrilling prior to anticipated — supplied, after all, there are not any important delays.

The success of DeFi and its constructive impact on Ethereum

Whereas Ethereum’s base layer noticed sluggish however fixed progress, DeFi has taken the crypto world by storm in 2020 — and most of it, by far, has been on Ethereum.

In the course of the “summer season of DeFi” and 2020 as a complete, we’ve seen many large achievements: Uniswap became one of the highest volume exchanges on the planet, greater than $13 billion in worth entered the Ethereum ecosystem within the seek for yield, and fully grassroots initiatives based mostly on decentralized autonomous organizations became heavyweights in the crypto space.

DeFi’s significance has, thus far, come not a lot from what it does however the way it implements monetary infrastructure. Ideas like composability, the place one protocol effortlessly integrates one other, or noncustodial buying and selling and lending have confirmed their potential this yr.

For Ethereum itself, the truth that DeFi infrastructure nonetheless stays stubbornly certain to its software layer cements the blockchain’s potential. In a future the place DeFi grows even additional, Ethereum is thus far poised to reap the advantages.

The ugly underside of the DeFi growth: Blockchain congestion

The domination of DeFi has had one clearly destructive affect on Ethereum: the weakening of most different kinds of DApps. Whereas one might maybe justify paying $50 to interact with a smart contract that grants some type of yield, this can be a a lot much less enticing proposition for getting an in-game merchandise or different smaller interactions.

Ethereum suffered its worst congestion but in the summertime of 2020, owing to a mixture of DeFi, stablecoin use and a few alleged Ponzi schemes. That led to a sharp drop in activity for blockchain gaming and plenty of different DApp classes that beforehand thrived on Ethereum.

Edgington has a bittersweet feeling about DeFi’s dominance, noting:

“Three or 4 years in the past, there was an enormous imaginative and prescient about what Ethereum might do as a social base layer. All kinds of id options and issues like that, that are simply being pushed out by DeFi due to the rising fuel prices on Eth 1.0. And I’m hopeful that when we’ve loads of out there bandwidth on Eth 2.0, we’ll have the ability to help a a lot wider vary of options that transcend DeFi.”

Fixing the congestion with layer-two applied sciences

Medium-term scalability options based mostly on layer-two know-how, together with Plasma and rollups, all made strides this yr. Networks based mostly on Plasma, spearheaded by OMG Network and Matic, have been launched this yr after a number of years of growth.

Rollups promise even higher platforms that may enable DeFi sensible contracts. Zk-Rollups, within the type of Matter Labs’ zkSync and Loopring’s decentralized change, noticed totally practical launches in 2020. Optimistic Rollups, one other kind of second layer, printed a number of proofs-of-concept and is making regular progress for a 2021 launch.

The following yr will doubtless mark the adoption stage of totally developed layer-two options.

ProgPow and the governance hell of Ethereum

The ProgPoW proposal, which sought to alter the mining algorithm to eradicate specialised ASICs, generated commotion and bitter political battles within the community in February.

For Edgington, governance is a transparent Achilles’ heel of Ethereum. “If we need to discuss negatives of Eth 2.0 or the challenges forward, then governance is written in capital letters on the high of the listing.”

The ProgPoW debacle highlighted a worrying dynamic for the way forward for the challenge: its incapacity to formally reject or settle for contested proposals. The controversy raged for 2 years, seemingly ending solely on account of sheer exhaustion.

Edgington is nonetheless optimistic that the group will start addressing governance points:

“Now we have to begin converging and pondering by how governance round Eth 2.0 developments appears like, and the way will we intersect with Eth 1.0 governance? And maybe there’s a possibility right here to do a little bit of a reset and take care of a few of these questions.”

A quick however notable incident: Miscommunication ends in a series cut up

Ethereum briefly suffered an unintentional laborious fork this yr. For a number of hours on Nov. 11, there were two Ethereum networks, every with its share of nodes and mining energy. Notably, the node supplier utilized by many Ethereum builders, Infura, was caught on the minority chain.

The issue occurred when builders for a serious Ethereum shopper, Geth, fastened a validation bug with out notifying anybody of the difficulty. Some researchers unwittingly triggered the bug, leading to older software program — together with Infura’s — to be caught on one other community. This might have resulted in cash being stolen from exchanges or different critical penalties.

The incident triggered discussions about correct disclosure of future bugs of this magnitude, as the difficulty was hidden to keep away from evil actors exploiting it. Most group members argued that main ecosystem gamers needs to be made conscious of such points sooner or later.

Ethereum turns into Bitcoin’s largest second residence

An sudden development of 2020 has been the phenomenon of tokenized Bitcoin (BTC) on Ethereum. Between Wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC), RenBTC and tBTC, there’s now greater than 134,500 BTC bridged to Ethereum, value over $2.7 billion.

Bitcoin’s native layer-two options such because the Lightning Community, Liquid Community and RSK mixed maintain nearly 4,100 BTC, or $84 million.

The rise of tokenized Bitcoin on Ethereum was swift, spearheaded by Wrapped BTC being adopted throughout most main DeFi protocols and exchanges. Regardless of being a centralized tokenization resolution, the market clearly spoke in favor of utilizing Bitcoin on the Ethereum blockchain.

Ethereum turns into the first venue for Tether (and different stablecoins)

In an analogous vein to Bitcoin, stablecoins noticed fertile floor for planting their roots on Ethereum. For Tether (USDT), its ERC-20 iteration left all competing blockchains within the mud because the yr progressed. USDT has persistently been the most important fuel guzzler on the Ethereum blockchain, the place greater than 12 billion USDT is presently situated.

Mixed with different stablecoins reminiscent of USD Coin (USDC), Binance USD (BUSD), Dai, Paxos Customary (PAX) and others, there’s greater than $17 billion in tokenized {dollars} on Ethereum. The following closest competitor is Tron, with its $6.4 billion USDT provide.

A foul yr for Ethereum conferences

The cryptocurrency trade has remained comparatively shielded from the pandemic and its aftershock. However occasions in the actual world have nonetheless left their mark on the crypto scene, and nowhere is that extra obvious than with Ethereum’s conferences.

Again in early March, many distinguished Ethereans have been gathering in Paris for EthCC, in any other case often known as the Ethereum Group Convention. The convention ended up being probably the most well-known COVID-19 superspreader event in the crypto industry, with at the least 17 confirmed circumstances amongst its attendees.

Many different occasions wanted to be held nearly or canceled. Most notably, the Ethereum Basis canceled its Devcon event this year and rescheduled it for August 2021.

Curiously, Edgington was not fully sad with foregoing custom this yr. “In fact, I miss seeing everyone. However then again, we’ve bought loads of work accomplished this yr which may not in any other case have been accomplished,” he mentioned.

The yr of the sensible contract hacks

With the rise of DeFi, there has additionally been a rise in opportunistic hackers who’ve drained sensible contracts for thousands and thousands of {dollars} at a time.

A few of the most notable hacks this yr have been the three exploits against bZX, the $25 million hack of dForce, Balancer’s $500,000 loss and the four hacks in just one week in November. A few of these blur the traces between a hack and market manipulation, however total, 2020 has highlighted the various attainable pitfalls of managing cash by sensible contracts.

Writing safe software program is difficult, and Ethereum’s programming language, Solidity, does probably not assist. The language’s documentation features an in depth listing of safety finest practices that might result in the lack of funds if not heeded. Ethereum sensible contracts may also be coded in one other, safer language referred to as Vyper, however this language isn’t significantly widespread. With extra experience below the builders’ belt, 2021 ought to hopefully see fewer impactful hacks.

The Ethereum influencer scandal

Within the later phases of the DeFi growth, round September, airdrops have been all the fad. Uniswap’s “stimulus check” of $1,200 was probably the most well-known, however there was additionally Meme, whose extra unique airdrop ended up being worth $650,000 at one point.

It seems that some Ethereum influencers attempted to recreate a similar path to riches by launching FEW, a token referencing the favored Twitter meme of including “few perceive” to a tweet that supposedly says one thing intelligent.

Leaked Telegram conversations advised that a number of the group’s extra lively individuals noticed it as a option to make a fast buck by leveraging their mixed follower depend. Following the leak, some have been fast to distance themselves from the challenge and downplay their participation.

No matter intentions the group might have had, the leak shortly put an finish to the FEW challenge and resulted in a big hit to the fame of these concerned.