The three-day Community Ethereum Development Conference (EDCON) kicked off in Toronto this morning. The nonprofit conference series, organized by the Ethereum application developer and consultancy firm LinkTime, is meant to serve as a type of Ethereum-specific TED Talk. Here, the technicalities of Ethereum's most advanced research are discussed alongside broader social and governmental issues as the platform continues to take shape.
Notably, this year's schedule features talks on the latest developments in Ethereum's switch to full proof-of-stake with Casper, while also promising more details on scalability solutions like sharding.
After an introductory presentation featuring Ethereum co-founder Mihai Alisie, Joseph Poon (co-author of both Ethereum's Plasma whitepaper and Bitcoin's Lightning Network whitepaper) gave a brief presentation on "Systemic Security and Mitigations for Mass Exits," a topic of increasing importance for people who write EDCCs (also known as smart contracts).
Poon's talk focused on adding time as a variable in contracts, which he said affects both block capacity and gas limits. Backdropped by shades of Ethereum purple, Poon said, "I think we remember the days when CryptoKitties increased the gas costs to an incredibly high amount, where things started breaking down. If we have more complex contracts involving time, if you have difficulty getting your transaction in, it could be that your window has expired and your transition has become too expensive."
Poon explained that while the research he was presenting wasn't a solution for "inherent gas costs on the blockchain," it did attempt to destroy the incentive for bad actors to exploit similar scenarios in the future.
Later, CEO of Parity Technologies Jutta Steiner reiterated the company's commitment to Ethereum going forward, despite the Parity multisig wallet freeze that occurred last November. "While Parity itself does not own any of the affected wallets," stated Steiner, "to know that our users are unable to access their funds through an error in our code is an immense burden to the company. We are sorry, and we remain committed to helping all of those that have, through bugs or hacks, lost access to their Ether."
Vlad Zamfir also discussed forthcoming Casper developments and foreshadowed what is expected to be a deep-dive technical talk on Casper CBC (correct by construction) on Friday. He gave a brief synopsis of how research is done to design consensus protocols and how these are used to incentivize the ecosystem to accomplish Ethereum's end goals. Zamfir spent the rest of his time discussing distributed systems and how to secure them using consensus protocols, including those designed specifically for Casper, like the Friendly Finality Gadget. Referring to different levels of latency finality, overhead, and node amounts, Zamfir explained how Ethereum's future consensus protocols "each let us explore the whole trade-off triangle when we can only have two of three nice things." He then affirmed, "All of our protocols let us explore the triangle in all three directions."
The day concluded with a panel discussion on one of the ecosystem's hottest issues: scalability. Developers shared their personal concerns, ranging from Zamfir's near disbelief that blockchains can even be scaled to Vitalik Buterin's worries about "shard cross links, random beacons, hash onions, full proof-of-stake, data availability…that sort of stuff."
Tomorrow's agenda features talks from Ethereum co-founders Joseph Lubin and Gavin Wood, as well as a subconference covering technical topics in greater depth. The event is being livestreamed on YouTube.