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Vitalik Buterin Issues Warning About Restaking Ethereum

By: illustrious
May 22, 2023 8:16 AM EDT
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In a recent blog post, Ethereum's co-founder, Vitalik Buterin, aired concerns regarding the potential for complicating Ethereum's consensus mechanism, particularly around the proposed practice of restaking. Buterin expressed his apprehensions about measures that might unnecessarily introduce risks into Ethereum's ecosystem and overcomplicate the roles of Ethereum validators beyond their central duty of verifying the protocol's core rules.

Restaking, a mechanism being developed by companies like Eigen Layer, expands Ethereum validators' responsibilities to include securing external chains. However, Buterin warned that this broadening of duties could introduce new risks, potentially jeopardizing the network's safety.

Keeping Blockchain Consensus Minimalistic

Buterin's post stressed the importance of caution when application-layer projects aim to broaden the "scope" of blockchain consensus beyond the validation of essential Ethereum protocol rules. The extensive Ethereum validator set, the largest among all proof-of-stake chains, has prompted the development of systems that leverage this network security to protect third-party chains. While innovation is generally welcome, Buterin argued that a cautious approach is paramount.

The Risks of Restaking

The Ethereum co-founder highlighted that, although restaking could be used for low-risk activities, there are scenarios where it could risk the mainnet's security. A significant concern is the possibility of Ethereum validators facing slashing on third-party chains - a punitive measure reserved for validators involved in activities such as mismanagement of their stake or incorrect processing of transactions. Buterin suggested that Ethereum should maintain its minimalistic design and support re-staking uses that do not risk extending the role of Ethereum consensus.

Buterin's concerns were met with agreement by Sreeram Kannan, co-founder of Eigen Layer. Kannan acknowledged that Eigen Layer should steer clear of constructing complex financial primitives via restaking, as such endeavors could "spiral out of control." He also confirmed that Eigen Layer is committed to extending validator functionality beyond Ethereum without introducing "slashing," thereby avoiding unnecessary complexity and maintaining Ethereum's security.

An Oracle Too Far?

Buterin's post also voiced reservations about a proposal from Gnosis founder Martin Köppelmann for an "ultimate oracle," another application that might exceed Ethereum's core protocol rules. Oracles are crucial within the realm of smart contracts, as they supply off-chain data. But intertwining the security of these data feeds with Ethereum's stake could heighten systemic risks and add to the ecosystem's complexity, according to Buterin.

The Ethereum co-founder proposed that any such extensions or "duties" added to Ethereum's consensus mechanism could amplify the challenges and risks of operating a validator. Buterin emphasized that these additional roles would require validators to exert significant human effort in monitoring, running, and updating software to ensure their adherence to any new protocols.

In conclusion, as Ethereum continues to evolve, maintaining its simplicity and security remains a top priority. Despite the exciting potential of innovations like restaking, a cautious approach should be taken to prevent unintentional harm to the network.

Always experimenting.

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