What is EIP-4844?
Ethereum recently completed its largest upgrade to date, known as “The Merge” which transitioned the network from Proof-of-Work (PoW) to Proof-of-Stake (PoW) — reducing Ethereum’s energy consumption by ~99.95% and making it much more environmentally friendly, in the face of concerns around the blockchain’s environmental impact.
But another issue that remains unresolved, and one of the greatest blockers to the mass adoption of Ethereum, is the blockchain’s notoriously high gas fees — which refers to the transaction fees that users must pay to transact on (and interact with) the blockchain. When on-chain activity increases, these fees can also increase dramatically — making it expensive to transact on the blockchain, and thus inaccessible to many.
In the Ethereum Foundation’s efforts to improve the chain, and to solve its high gas fee problem, EIP-4844 was proposed to reduce transaction fees and increase throughput (or the amount of transactions that a blockchain can process) — and as an interim solution before the full implementation of sharding on the Ethereum blockchain.
In this blog post, we’re going to dive into everything you need to know about EIP-4844, the “proto-danksharding” mechanism that it aims to implement, and why it’s important in moving the chain forward. But before we get into proto-danksharding, we must understand what danksharding means.
What is danksharding?
Sharding is a technique used to increase the efficiency and scalability of a blockchain network. It involves dividing the network into smaller units, or "shards," allowing each shard to process transactions in parallel. This allows the network to process more transactions per second and reduces the strain on individual nodes, making the network faster and more efficient.
Danksharding is a simpler version of sharding (which the Ethereum network used in the past) that focuses on storing large amounts of data in one place. These large amounts of data are called "blobs," which are currently used by Layer 2 rollup protocols to handle lots of transactions.
What is EIP-4844 (aka “proto-danksharding”)?
Proto-danksharding, proposed in EIP-4844 (EIP stands for “Ethereum Improvement Proposal”), is a precursor to the much more difficult task of implementing a full “danksharding” system to the Ethereum network — while also aiming to reduce the cost of gas fees by 10-100x.
The main new feature of proto-danksharding is a new type of transaction called "blob-carrying transactions." These transactions are similar to traditional transactions, but they also include a large piece of data called a "blob." These blobs are generally quite large, but they can be cheaper than equal amounts of call data. Additionally, the data in the blob is not accessible for Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) execution and can only be viewed as a commitment to the blob.
Proto-danksharding's data size is limited to 1MB per slot, as clients and validators still need to download the entire contents of the blobs, instead of the full 16MB. However, there are still significant scalability gains to be made since the data does not compete with the conventional gas usage of existing blockchain transactions.
How is proto-danksharding (EIP-4844) different from EIP-4488?
EIP-4488 is an earlier, simpler attempt to solve the same issue of data organization on the Ethereum network, by implementing two rules:
- A limit of 10MB/block, plus an additional 300 bytes/transaction
- Reducing call data gas costs from 16 gas/byte to 3 gas/byte
The hard limit is a straightforward way to ensure that an increase in the average amount of data doesn't lead to a decrease in performance. EIP-4844, on the other hand, focuses on reducing the gas costs of call data as a short-term solution — which will become redundant once full sharding is implemented and blobs are used on the Ethereum network.
While the two improvement proposals are similar, they are not competing & both bring benefits to the Ethereum network. EIP-4488 can help solve the high costs of using rollups, while EIP-4844 is a necessary step to implementing full sharding (& aligns with the overall sharding roadmap) but may take some time to implement due to its technical complexity.
Concluding thoughts: Why is EIP-4844 important?
The Ethereum network is not yet ready to fully implement a sharding system — which is where EIP-4844, or proto-danksharding, becomes a massive step forward towards a full upgrade to danksharding.
As we discussed, proto-danksharding is a proposal that aims to implement the basic concepts and set the foundation for danksharding — primarily through a new type of transaction called a “blob-carrying transaction.”
The timeline of when EIP-4844 will be implemented is still TBD, but it’s the next upgrade that the Ethereum Foundation will prioritize after “The Surge” — which is slated for the second half of 2023. Check out the Ethereum Foundation's ongoing work in making proto-danksharding a reality on the EIP-4844 website!
We hope this blog post has helped you better understand what EIP-4844 (or proto-danksharding) is, how it works, and why it's an important step forward to making the Ethereum blockchain more scalable, efficient, and accessible for all.
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