Key EIP Needed In Hard Fork

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In a recent call to the Ethereum community, Ryan Berckmans, a seasoned member, investor, and engineer within the Ethereum ecosystem, has raised an urgent alarm regarding the potential for catastrophic failure within the Ethereum network if the upcoming Pectra hard fork does not incorporate Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) 7251, known as “maxeb.” This proposal seeks to address a critical vulnerability in the network’s ability to handle an increasing number of staked ETH by allowing for greater consolidation of validators.

A Catastrophic Scenario For Ethereum

Berckmans took to X (formerly Twitter) to voice his concerns, stating, “Ethereum’s next hard fork, Pectra, should include EIP-7251 (“maxeb”)…Without maxeb in pectra, Ethereum has no realistic line of defense against the possibility of staked ETH % growing to ~50%+ before a future ~2026 hard fork after pectra.” He underscores the gravity of the situation by pointing out the consequences of inaction, “Well, without maxeb, the worst-case scenario is potentially catastrophic for Ethereum.”

EIP-7251 proposes to increase the maximum effective balance for validators from the current limit of 32 ETH to an unlimited amount. This adjustment is designed to mitigate the risks associated with an overly fragmented validator pool, which could, in turn, compromise the beacon chain’s stability.

The need for such a measure is underscored by Berckmans’ explanation of the technical challenges facing the network: “Base layer experts advise that if staked ETH grows to ~50%+, that will result in severe-to-fatal beacon chain instability. It wasn’t designed for so many validators.”

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Berckmans further elaborates on the technical impracticality of modifying the beacon chain within the timeframe of the Pectra hard fork to support a higher percentage of staked ETH, stating, “I’m told that simply fixing the beacon chain to natively support 50%+ staked ETH is totally impossible for pectra. A longer-term solution is still in the research phase.”

Implications Of “Maxeb”

The proposal is not merely a stopgap measure but a strategic enhancement to reduce the number of validators without compromising the network’s decentralized ethos or altering its monetary policy. Berckmans emphasizes, “Happily, EIP-7251 maxeb is more or less ready to go and achieves this goal of reducing the # of validators while not being a monetary policy or issuance change.”

He also dispels concerns that EIP-7251 might disproportionately benefit large staking operators or alter the network’s reward structure: “maxeb does not change issuance or staking rewards…maxeb is not a monetary policy change…maxeb does not help the ‘rich get richer’.”

Moreover, Berckmans highlights the operational benefits that maxeb offers, particularly for staking operators who currently manage multiple validators: “The offchain operational incentive to consolidate comes from (i) maxeb automatically, passively reinvests staking rewards, completely removing the need to make new transactions to stake every 32 ETH of rewards, and (ii) maxeb can reduce devops costs and complexity for staking operators by letting them run one validator instead of dozens or tens of thousands of validators.”

Berckmans concludes with a call to action, emphasizing the critical nature of this decision for Ethereum’s future: “If we don’t include maxeb in pectra, we might be faced with a potentially disastrous situation in which we have to choose between the beacon chain falling over (Ethereum breaks) or making an emergency large change to monetary policy (heavily reducing staking rewards) to shrink the number of validators. Let’s protect Ethereum by including maxeb in Pectra.”

BTC And ETH Community Clash

Despite the technical rationale behind EIP-7251, the proposal has elicited critical reactions from the broader crypto community, particularly among Bitcoin supporters. Checkmatey, Glassnode’s Lead On-chain Analyst, offered a critical view, remarking,

Folks still wonder why ETH is not viewed at the same institutional grade, high resiliency status as BTC. In part, it might have something to do with ‘catastrophic failure’ modes not being accounted for, […] Quite alarming when a proof-of-stake network is designed such that it becomes unstable when **checks notes** too many people stake…?

At press time, ETH traded at $3,770.

ETH price holds above the 0.618 Fib, 1-week chart | Source: ETHUSD on TradingView.com

Featured image created with DALL·E, chart from TradingView.com



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