Ethereum (ETH) co-founder Vitalik Buterin has said it is still possible to reduce Ethereum’s complexity while improving its functionality. The statement comes as some developers have recently complained about Ethereum’s complexity.
In a recent blog post titled ‘The roads not taken’, Buterin looked into some of Ethereum’s “forks-in-the-road.” He said that the developers team “had a tradeoff between something more complex and something simpler,” noting that sometimes they chose the simpler thing, but at times, they reach for the more complex thing.
For instance, he mentioned the Gasper proof of stake (PoS) version, which Ethereum is soon going to merge into, saying that it is complex but a very powerful system. In comparison, there are much simpler and weaker versions of PoS that could have been good candidates, but they don’t offer the advantages of Gasper.
“The reason why Gasper is more complex than these algorithms is simply that it tries to accomplish much more than they do,” Buterin said. “But if we had been more modest at the beginning, we could have focused on achieving a more limited set of objectives first.”
Buterin detailed that Ethereum has been struggling between two visions: one that values safety and simplicity (like Bitcoin (BTC)), and another that intends to make Ethereum a highly performant and functional platform for building advanced applications.
“My personal dream is to try to achieve both visions at the same time,” he said, adding that it would take a long time and a great deal of effort to achieve this goal. However, he noted it is still possible to reduce complexity going forward.
“Today, there are a lot of things we cannot change, but there are many things that we still can, and there is still a path solidly open to improving both functionality and simplicity,” he said.
Buterin also claimed some Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIPs) have historically proved it is possible to reduce complexity. For instance, he said EIP-150 managed to reduce security concerns for contract developers by making the call stack depth limit no longer relevant.
Buterin’s in-depth blog post is ostensibly a response to some of the developers’ worries about Ethereum’s increasing complexity.
Péter Szilágyi, a software developer at Ethereum, has recently claimed that complexity has never decreased in Ethereum’s history. He warned that complexity “has the nasty effect of causing cascading failures,” overloading people too much, losing capacity, and leading to an even larger load.
“As good as it feels that we’re approaching The Merge, I must emphasize that Ethereum is not going in a clean direction,” Szilágyi had said. “Tangentially it’s achieving results, but it’s also piling complexity like there’s no tomorrow.”
According to Szilágyi, the root cause for increasing complexity is the disconnection between the research and the developer teams. He said the former has to “only” dream up elegant, standalone, ideas, while “the latter needs to juggle every single idea that was ever introduced, whilst surgically expanding the dimensionality of the space.”
Meanwhile, Muneeb Ali, co-founder of the open-source smart contract platform for Bitcoin Stacks, a layer-1 blockchain that allows for the execution of smart contracts, has suggested that Ethereum could aim for two layers instead of its current vision of creating a simple, safe blockchain that is also capable of being home to advanced applications.