Those who made the trip to Shanghai for Devcon2, were treated to an action-filled day of forward-thinking presentations from leaders all over the world in Ethereum and blockchain technology.
Ethereum already leads the blockchain space. In terms of transaction speed, energy efficiency, ease of use, the availability of user and developer tools, a great leadership team, thriving community, and real-world applicability and legal and regulatory foresight, Ethereum has maintained its innovative structure. It’s certainly distanced itself from other blockchains which have (assumed) dominance in the crypto space and are often associated with specific evasive use-cases that Ethereum wants to step away from. But Ethereum is not just about fast, efficient, scalable and near zero-cost value transfer. Ethereum’s major distinguishing feature is its virtual machine (the EVM) which enables blockchain programmability or “smart contracts”. That’s where the main utility and value of Ethereum technology will come from in the future. As we look forward, we realize we are moving beyond the traditional blockchain technology which has led us here and served us so well. All of this innovation is made even more apparent at this year’s second annual Devcon2 event.
The opening day of Devcon2 was awe inspiring. The highlight for me was Vitalik’s “Mauve Revolution” overview of Casper and the relentless progress of Ethereum moving from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake. Vitalik’s “Mauve Revolution" presentation showed that the limitations previously associated with Ethereum technology have been addressed: privacy (particularly at the base protocol layer), scalability (moving from dozens of tx/sec to millions), cost (it currently costs ~$360,000 a day to run the network) and high transaction latency (currently 14 seconds).
Vitalik didn’t just talk about the roadmap and future of Ethereum over the coming months and years. He also spoke very highly of the recent work done by Ethcore and Parity. Parity is a “lightweight” Ethereum client which, as Vitalik explained (to those who didn’t know already), takes advantage of Merkle Tree hashing which allows for efficiently verifiable proofs that a transaction was included in a block without requiring high-performance hardware.
The availability of a fast and efficient lightweight client has opened up a wide range of possibilities for wearable devices, and low power, single board computers, and (most importantly) IoT devices. The Internet of Things is a market sector that’s growing rapidly. Bob Summerwill, Vancouver-based Ethereum Foundation developer wowed the audience with a photograph of his very cool desk which featured his own Java ring (Google it), Raspberry Pi, oDroid, C64 and Atari. He even managed to get Ethereum running on a Raspberry Pi Model A board!
Porting of EVM to Wasm
Ethereum is at the cutting edge of next-generation web and it was made clear while listening to Martin Becze and Alex Beregszaszi when they presented their panel, “Ethereum <3 WebAssembly.” (EVM2wasm is available at https://github.com/ewasm/evm2wasm.)
There were so many other exemplary presentations. One from Dr. Philip Daian of Cornell University (project page: initc3.org) who works on smart contract research, presented "Writing Secure and Correct Smart Contracts". He made a number of very important points to the community on formal verification/specification of Ethereum code, the role of escape hatch/kill switch functionality in real-world mission-critical systems, and bug bounty schemes to incentivize defenders and remove financial incentives from attackers. Heiko Hees’s presentation of the Raiden network applied to Ethereum was also very well received. Ethereum now meets and exceeds similar networks running on rival blockchains. Raiden for Ethereum currently works and will be available to the public very soon.
Socializing was in full swing after the event, with numerous people networking at the rooftop Vue Bar. The networking opportunities at Devcon2 are one of the reasons developers, corporations, banks, government agencies, legal experts, academics, etc. come to this event. This is the place to be if you want a high concentration of Ethereum domain experts who all share big hopes and dreams for the future. Tomorrow night, the official Devcon2 party takes place at Upmarket Bar Rouge by the Bund where there are many more opportunities for Ethereum leaders to have fun and unwind from the buzz of the conference venue.