Buterin Introduces Beacon Chain Contracts on Ethereum

Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin has proposed modifications to the beacon chain, a proof-of-stake based blockchain at the heart of the Ethereum 2.0 system. 

One of the most anticipated events of 2019, the launch of Ethereum 2.0, is now again on the news, as its core infrastructure will be redesigned. Buterin’s latest proposal, known as the beacon chain, will simplify how decentralized applications (dapps) are deployed on the Ethereum network, making it also easier for software manufacturers to build them. Prysmatic Labs, for example, is one the many teams building software to simplify the Ethereum blockchain. Speaking to CoinDesk, Raul Jordan, co-lead at non-profit Prysmatic Labs said: “The idea here is that basically on the beacon chain, you’re going to be able to deploy these little worlds that summarize how a blockchain works, how a state transition works, [and] how a smart contract works.” This will make it “a lot easier for application developers, people building on [ethereum],” without needing to adjust to the complexities of a new blockchain platform. Jordan added: “You can have an execution environment for bitcoin. You can have an execution environment for ethereum. You can basically create your own little custom blockchain world and have that be what people transact with.” In order to restrict the deployment of multiple beacon chain contracts and “bloating” the chain, the contracts might be expensive, but the details remain unclear.  

In his beacon chain proposal, Buterin said: “The general ethos of the proposal is to have a relatively minimal consensus-layer framework that still provides sufficient capabilities to develop complex frameworks that give us all of the smart contract capabilities that we need on top as a second layer.” 

In 2014, Buterin had said: “We will either solve the scalability and consensus problems or die trying.” And as he added this year, “There is no significant unsolved theoretical problem left for Ethereum 2.0.” 

What is the beacon chain contracts? 

The beacon chain is a new, central, proof-of-stake blockchain that coordinates hundreds of Ethereum blockchains, known as “shards,” in the Ethereum 2.0 system. Jordan explained the function of the beacon chain: “Instead of having one giant machine run transactions one at a time…we can split it up across tons of machines across the world and run them in parallel.” But, with Buterin’s update, it will also “store specialized smart contracts called beacon chain contracts.” 

Clarifying the difference between standard smart contracts and beacon chain contracts, Will Villanueva, a researcher for Ethereum Venture Capital studio Consensys, explained: “These contracts are not analogous to regular smart contracts you would deploy for your application on Ethereum 1.0. Those would live within the shard chains. In contrast, beacon chain contracts will represent execution environments or transaction frameworks as a whole.” As Coindesk noted, “these beacon chain contracts would specify all the rules for computation and smart contract execution including transaction fees, associated gas costs, and more.” 

Buterin’s proposal has been welcomed as promising by Will Villanueva, who said in his article “A Journey Through Phase 2 of Ethereum  2.0,” “This approach is a general paradigm shift and may take a bit to really grasp and digest. However, its strength lies in the fact that it provides a high degree of flexibility. It should make it simpler to introduce changes in the future as research continues.” 

Sources: Ethereum.org, Coindesk, Mycryptopedia, Consensys 

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