Alongside the Ethereum Foundation’s official roadmap, which organizes the platform’s development plans along four goal-oriented themes, since 2021, founder Vitalik Buterin has published his own annual road map in parallel.
Continuing the tradition, on December 30 Buterin published the latest version of his Ethereum Roadmap, highlighting upgrades slated to transform the network in 2024 and beyond.
Although they differ in form and function, alternative roadmaps proposed by Buterin and the Ethereum Foundation are aligned on their general purpose: outlining Ethereum’s technical progress and plans for the future.
The Foundation’s schema features four themes: improving user experience, enhancing security, driving down transaction costs and future-proofing the Ethereum (ETH) network. Meanwhile, Buterin’s model is based around five overarching development goals. These are dubbed The Merge, The Surge, The Verge, The Scourge and The Purge.
Because the Foundation’s approach is open-ended, pointing to abstract goals rather than specific targets, measuring progress can be difficult. The community may agree that a given upgrade has enhanced Ethereum’s user experience or security, for example. But such improvements are better conceptualized as a journey than a destination.
On the other hand, Buterin’s roadmap identifies key stages in Ethereum’s development, making it easier to assess how far the platform has come and how far it still has to go before each one is complete.
According to one interpretation, The Merge was a single event that occurred on September 15, 2022. It was then that the Ethereum mainnet linked with the proof-of-stake Beacon Chain consensus layer.
However, Buterin’s roadmap sees the Merge as a more extensive change to Ethereum. It now embodies network participants’ collective adoption of a new consensus mechanism. It also represents the ensuing changes needed to overcome current challenges and to realize the full potential of proof-of-stake.
In 2023, Ethereum’s Shanghai/Capella upgrade enabled users to withdraw staked ETH for the first time.
The next Proof-of-Stake milestone identified by Buterin is the development of single slot finality (SSF). This should reduce the number of 12-second slots it takes to finalize each transaction from between 64 and 95 to just one.
Writing that “SSF is the easiest path to resolving a lot of the Ethereum PoS design’s current weaknesses”, Buterin also highlighted the technology’s security benefits. He often touts it as the best way to grow Ethereum’s validator count.
Many of the ongoing Ethereum upgrades identified in Buterin’s roadmap have remained the same since 2022. However, the network has reprioritized some areas to reflect it’s evolving needs and the current state of research.
For instance, Buterin has reduced the emphasis on Variable Delay Function (VDF) and State Expiry. These are two concepts Ethereum researchers are working on but may still be years away from realizing.
Meanwhile, new priorities have been added to the roadmap. For example, Buterin highlighted “deep crypto” and delay-encrypted mempools as two areas for exploration that could help advance Ethereum’s long-term progress.