Forbidden to ban: Buterin wants to make Ethereum an anti-censorship world

Vitalik imagines a solution to censorship – The network Ethereum recently made a transition to its consensus mode. Thus, it has moved from Proof of Work to Proof of Stake. However, this transition has launched a series of debates about its decentralization and its resistance to censorship. Obviously, Vitalik Buterin could not sit idly by and looked into the problem.

Centralization and censorship on Ethereum

On September 15, the update The Merge has been deployed on Ethereum. This aimed to make move the network from Proof of Work to Proof of Stake. Although this update has been long awaited by the Ethereum community, it has not had only positive impacts.

Indeed, a fortnight after his deployment, the researcher Toni Wahrstatter revealed a phenomenon of censorship on the network.

How block production works on Ethereum

Before going into detail, you have to understand how this new version of Ethereum works.

Following the transition to Proof of Stake, the network is broken down into two main entities:

  • The execution layerwhich represents all applications on Ethereum;
  • The consensus layerwhich operates the Proof of Stake and ensures the validation of the blocks.

Each of these entities works thanks to a software commonly called client. Thus, there exists different customers for the execution layer and the consensus layer. Obviously, these two types of clients communicate with each other to operate the system.

These two entities interact in the following way. Transactions take place at the execution layer and are sent in the mempool. Execution layer clients (mostly geth) will fetch pending transactions, form blocks with those transactions, and offer those blocks to consensus layer clients. Consensus layer clients will be responsible for verify and validate these blocks.

At least, that’s how it goes off MEV.

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The case of MEV

the MEV where Maximum Extractable Value represents the maximum value which can be extracted when producing a block. This value is derived from modifying, adding or deleting transactions in a block.

Thus, with a network in Proof of Work, rather than letting miners dig into the mempool, users had the possibility of using the tools developed by Flash Bots. This allowed them to offer transactions directly to miners to optimize MEV.

However, this model has now evolved with the move to Proof of Stake and the creation of Mev Boost.

Without going into too much detail, Mev-Boost allows validators to access a marketplace of blocks already built by software called block builders. These ready-to-use blocks have already been optimized with respect to the MEV.

Subsequently, these blocks are sent to another program called ” Relay or Relay. These relays will then identify the most profitable block and propose it to the validators of the consensus layer. The latter will then finalize the work by verifying and adding the block to the chain.

Note that there are many different relays, operated by different entities (company, foundation, etc.). It should also be noted that the actors operating relays also operate Block Builders.

Censorship spawned by Mev-Boost on Ethereum

Back on topic. As we introduced earlier, researcher Toni Wahrstätter has identified an important censorship problem in the production of blocks.

Thus, he discovered that the Mev-Boost relay operated by the company FlashBots Systematically Censors Transactions Related to the Tornado Cash Protocol.

Evidence of systematic censorship of Tornado Cash transactions by FlashBots Relay.

Although this phenomenon only represents 23% of blocks, this is still alarming. Indeed, we are in a situation of censorship at the level of block production, an unacceptable situation for an ecosystem that advocates resistance to censorship.

Unsurprisingly, this problem was quickly at the heart of community debates.

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Vitalik imagines a solution to the censorship problem

On October 1, Vitalik Buterin decided to do his part by publishing a article entitled “To what extent can we constrain the manufacturers without imposing heavy burdens on the applicants? » aimed at presenting ways to put an end to this censorship.

In his article, he explains that one of the methods could be to restrict the power that Block Builders have.

“Instead of builders having full power to build the entire block if they win an auction, builders would have more limited power. This power should still be enough to capture almost all of the MEV that could be captured, and it should ideally still be enough to capture other PBS benefits, but it should be weakened to limit the possibility of abuse. »

In other words, Vitalik offers no longer allow to the Block Builders of decide the entirety of a block. Thus, he wants to allow them to decide only part of the content of the blocks. And for this, it offers several methods.

Include Lists

The first method proposed by Vitalik aims to create inclusion lists or inclusion lists. For this method, the to propose (the validator who has been selected to propose a block) provides a list of transactions that should be included in the block by the Block Builder. Thus, the Block Builder must add these transactions, unless it can produce a compound block entirely with other transactions.

Therefore, a block builder that maximizes profits will not encounter constraints. In effect, add additional transactions to its block will not impact the Builder. In parallel, if the block is already filled, the Builder will have to choose between these transactions and others, the constraint will be deactivated. According to Vitalik, “ this does not affect the inclusion of said long-term transactions, as a series of full blocks can only be supported briefly.

Explanatory diagram of inclusion lists.
Explanatory diagram of inclusion lists.

However, if a builder has a desire to refuse to include specific transactions that he disapproves of or has an incentive to exclude, that builder would be compelled not to participate in the auction. »

The suffix of the validator via pre-commitment

This method allows the validator in charge of producing the block to create a suffix for the block. In practice, the validator will precommit a set of transactions he wants to include.

For its part, the Block Builder creates its block and submits it to the validator. The validator will then add the suffix made up of all the transactions it wants to include and which have not been added by the Block Builder in the block.

Diagram of how suffixes work.
Diagram of how suffixes work.

“The builder would see no information about the validator’s intentions when constructing a block, and the proposer would be able to append any transactions the builder missed to the end. »

Unfortunately, none of these solutions are perfect. Thus, Vitalik Buterin considers that it could be interesting to set up a third party actor.

“The simultaneous need to minimize the powers and information available to the builder, and the burden placed on the validator seem to clearly indicate the need for a third player in the block production pipeline (unless we take the bull by the horns and accept that builders have the right to see the opt-in list, and therefore discriminate against particular transactions included in the same slot). We should start thinking more deeply about how this is going to be handled. »

As we can see, there is no magic solution to the censorship problem on Ethereum. However, developers can explore avenues for minimize the problem and reduce the power of Block Builders.

Obviously, The Merge also had positive impacts on Ethereum. Thereby, since switching to Proof of Stake, block time has decreased by nearly 10%thereby increasing the number of blocks produced each day.

Since The Merge, Ethereum increases the production of blocks! Want more good news? $20 in USDT awaits you on Bitget! To get this bonus,register quickly on the platform and make a trade. Limited-time offer, reserved for the first 1000 subscribers (commercial link, see conditions on the official website).

John R. Zepeda

I have extensive experience working as a content writer in the areas of cryptocurrencies and finance, where I create interesting pieces that both inform and engage their audiences.

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