blockchain association SEC clarity

The Blockchain Association has called on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to issue more formal guidance on cryptocurrencies. As such, it has outlined a proposed regulatory framework based on previous SEC comments.

Through a post on Medium, The Blockchain Association attempts to codify language issued by the SEC’s Corporation Finance Direction William Hinman. Titled The Hinman Token Standard, Blockchain Association suggests the following guidance:

“A project should meet the standards for decentralization if it more decentralized than the Bitcoin or Ethereum networks on June 14th, 2018.”

The logic behind this statement stems from Hinman’s clarification in June 2018 that bitcoin and ethereum were not considered securities. It follows that if bitcoin and ethereum were sufficiently decentralized on that date, then other projects should aim to meet that standard.

“This uncertainty has a stifling effect on investment”

The SEC has yet to issue any formal guidance on the issue. However, it has shut down various crypto projects and initial coin offerings (ICOs) it deemed illegal.

Further, the SEC chairman Jay Clayton publicly said: “I believe every ICO I’ve seen is a security.”

If cryptocurrencies are considered securities, they will be subject to much more stringent investor regulations. As the Blockchain Association explains, “we must know when tokens qualify as securities and when they do not so innovators know which regulatory regime applies.”

The contradicting statements and lack of clarity is stifling creativity and forcing promising startups out of the US.

“More decentralized than the Bitcoin or Ethereum networks on June 14, 2018”

The Blockchain Association’s proposed guidelines suggest the SEC stick to its conclusion that Bitcoin and Ethereum are sufficiently decentralized. Future policymaking should use this starting point as a foundation, they urge.

The association argues that this is a reasonable starting point with room for a somewhat centralized leadership when required.

Other proposals suggest implementing The Howey Test to cryptocurrency projects. The Howey Test outlines the definition of a security or investment contract and circles around the expectation of profit from a particular promotor or third-party.

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crypto layoffs erik voorhees shapeshift

Edit: This list of crypto layoffs was updated on January 14th to include the latest restructures.

Crypto Winter has hit hard. The sharp downturn in cryptocurrency prices has forced blockchain companies to take drastic measures to ensure their sustainability. Late in 2018, crypto startups began to announce layoffs and restructures, including some of the biggest names in blockchain. Here’s what we know so far:

ShapeShift (third of staff)

Crypto exchange ShapeShift is the latest to announce layoffs which will hit 37 employees – a third of its staff.

In a passionate and honest Medium post, CEO Erik Voorhees said: “It’s a deep and painful reduction, mirrored across many crypto companies in this latest bear market cycle.”

Like many blockchain companies, ShapeShift’s balance sheet is comprised of cryptocurrencies, leaving them significantly exposed during the downturn. After rapid growth of 3,000% in 2017, ShapeShift expanded to include market tracker coincap.io and hardware wallet KeepKey. Voorhees cites a lack of focus on the recent decision to downsize: “they were pulling our attention in too many directions.”

Voorhees ended his statement with an apology to his former employees: “I am sorry this happened. Your confusion, your sadness, your anger… all of it is understandable, and I am sorry to put you through it. Your contributions — of effort, of personality, of experience — remain part of our fabric.”

ConsenSys (up to 60% of staff)

ConsenSys is a startup incubator for Ethereum projects. CEO Joseph Lubin was a co-founder of Ethereum and since moved on to foster Ethereum startups.

However, ConsenSys is now re-evaluating its future. Initial reports emerged in December that ConsenSys would lay off 13% of staff. However, further rumors point to a much larger restructure involving the layoffs of 50-60% of its workforce.

In a statement, Lubin said: “Our first step in this direction has been a difficult one: we are streamlining several parts of the business including ConsenSys Solutions, spokes, and hub services, leading to a 13% reduction of mesh members.”

In its bid to fund the next generation of Ethereum projects, ConsenSys reported burn rate was $100 million.

Bitmain (up to half of all staff)

Bitmain is the biggest name in cryptocurrency mining. The company has even filed an initial public offering (IPO) to list itself on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

However, crypto winter has hit Bitmain hard. It closed its research and development arm in Israel late last year. Rumors then began to circulate that half of all staff were at risk.

The rumors spread to social media network MaiMai (China’s version of LinkedIn) to which a verified Bitmain employee wrote: “It’s affirmative. The layoff will start next week and involves more than 50 percent of the entire Bitmain’s headcount.”

The layoffs are reportedly in Bitmain’s non-core departments such as artificial intelligence.

Steemit (70% of staff)

Steemit is a blockchain-based social media and blogging platform. Similar to Medium, but contributors are paid in cryptocurrency for their writing.

The platform laid off 70% of staff in 2018. Founder and CEO Ned Scott cited “the weakness of the cryptocurrency market, the fiat returns on our automated selling of STEEM diminishing, and the growing costs of running full Steem nodes” for the decision.

He also explained the need for sharp focus on the core product before expanding: “In order to ensure that we can continue to improve Steem, we need to first get costs under control to remain economically sustainable.”

Kraken (57 staff members)

Kraken is one of the oldest and largest cryptocurrency exchanges. It’s also considered one of the most secure. However, the exchange is not immune to falling prices and lower volume on its platform.

The company cut 57 staff members from its Halifax office in Canada in 2018. However, the company maintains it is still “aggressively hiring” in many areas of the business.

Huobi (exact figures not disclosed)

Another of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, Huobi, released a vague statement about “optimizing” its staff. Although exact figures have not been disclosed, this is widely assumed to mean broad layoffs and restructure at the company.

Coinfloor (most of its 40 employees)

London-based Coinfloor is the oldest crypto exchange in the UK. It reportedly cut most of its 40 staff members in October 2018 in response to low volume. 

CEO Obi Nwosu said “We are currently working on a business restructure to ensure that we focus on our competitive advantages in the marketplace… As part of this restructure, we are making some staff changes and redundancies.”

Spankchain (more than 50% staff)

Spankchain ran a successful ICO, launching a coin to fund an adult entertainment platform. But when the coin’s market cap dropped from $190 million to just $6 million, the company was forced to rethink. It cut its employee and freelancer base from 20 to 8. 

Blockfolio

Blockfolio, a crypto portfolio tracker, has cut staff from 41 to 37 in an effort to restructure the company. Despite a recent $11.5 million injection of funding, Blockfolio has refocused its operations, putting an affiliated venture called Datablock on the backburner.

340 UK Blockchain Companies Shut Their Doors

Sky News in the UK scoured the Companies House and Open Corporates database and discovered that 340 blockchain or cryptocurrency companies in the UK closed down in 2018.

The harsh market conditions are forcing companies in the space to rethink their strategies, refocus, and concentrate on their core business. Let’s hope we see fewer headlines like this in 2019.

blockchain artwork

The world’s first blockchain auction took place last year.

A 31.5% stake in Andy Warhol’s painting 14 Small Electric Chairs was tokenized and sold to bidders who could pay with bitcoin, ethereum, or a native cryptocurrency ART. Each token share was determined by a smart contract on Ethereum. 

Is this fractional ownership system the future of artwork auctions?

The gallery behind the initiative, Dadiani, thinks so: “For the first time ever high-value, blue-chip art works will be available for everybody to own utilizing the unique [blockchain] platform.”

75% of Auction Houses Are Looking Into Blockchain

According to one of The European Fine Art Fair Reports from 2017, called TEFAF Art Market Online Focus, 75% of auction houses are looking into offering some sort of blockchain technology within the next five years.

The tokenization of assets is a huge theme across the blockchain industry. And, alongside real estate, the art world is among the first to embrace the revolution.

artwork blockchain stats

But Why Blockchain and Artwork? 

Let’s dig into some stats and think about it. 

Issue #1.  Even though art is considered a great investment, there’s no consistent data on value

The Mona Lisa was evaluated at $100 million back in 1962. More than 50 years later, in 2017, ERGO insurance specialists now estimate that figure at $750 million – $1 billion considering inflation and other factors. 

But there are only a handful of masterpieces in the world. So, the overall return on investment is quite unpredictable. Even the data points from different market players are entirely inconsistent.

For example, a well-known art expert, Melanie Gerlis, who combined “all the research on the broad market points to an average compound return on investment-grade art” came up with 4% annual return.  

Warhol blockchain artwork

When the researchers from Stanford Business School tried to do the math and analyze data from 1972 to 2010, they found out that the return was closer to 6.5%. And The Blouin Art Sales Index, popular amongst art dealers database, estimates a 10% annual return. For reference, the average yearly return from the S&P 500 was about 11.46% from 1988 to 2018. 

Even experts not sure about the changing value in fine art. How are average folks suppose to deal with all that?

By recording auction and gallery sale prices on an immutable, transparent blockchain, we could theoretically bring some clarity to art values over time.

Issue #2. Investing in art is not easily available to the general public. Selling art is easier for dead geniuses. 

Works by 52,105 artists appeared at fine art auctions in 2017 according to the Art Basel and UBS’s The Art Market | 2018 report. But only 1% of those names accounted for 64% of the sales (works priced and sold higher than $1 million per pop). 

According to the same report, nearly all artworks up to $1 million declined in value. On the contrary, the market for works priced over $1 million increased. The number of items sold in that segment grew by 76% along with the 50% value increase.

Successfully investing in art is therefore limited to those who can afford million-dollar auction prices.

Artwork on the blockchain

Apart from the price, think of the transaction fees. There’s no “fair” price for art. It’s just a matter of what are you agreeing to pay as a buyer plus fees (those are sometimes negotiable), that can reach up to 25% depending on the price of the piece. And don’t forget about the ongoing costs of purchasing such a valuable lot – insurance, video surveillance, top-notch security system, etc. 

All that means that you’ve got to have a couple of millions of dollars to spare if you are really into purchasing some fine art. And it’s not clear when you’ll be able to sell your acquisition in case you urgently need your money back. Those investments are amongst the most illiquid. 

Blockchain auctions, like Andy Warhol’s 14 Small Electric Chairs, could change this. By tokenizing a fractional share of expensive paintings, anyone can get into art investing, even with a small amount.

Issue #3. Fraud and lack of transparency 

The art market is not as regulated as more traditional investments classes. There is more temptation to do things wrong. And even when you deal with the most authoritative galleries and auctioning houses and paying the highest fees, there’s still a risk of fraud.

Let’s remember Christie’s case. Christie’s has reportedly sold forgeries from La Horde by Ernst Max to Heinrich Campendonk’s Girl with a Swank. More than that, The Independent claims that at least 20% of the paintings held by world-class museums are fake. 

But imagine, what if there was a database with the history of ownership and proof of the authenticity for all the pieces of art ever existed? Doesn’t it ring “blockchain” to you? 

Who’s Leading the Artwork Blockchain Evolution?

The revolution is already happening. At the moment there are two main types of players in the field: 

  • Those solving infrastructural problems – e.g. recording and verifying artwork authenticity on a blockchain, creating a service solution those tokenizing artwork. 
  • Those democratizing fine art as an investment – e.g. companies selling fractional ownership of artwork via token sales or auction.

Here are some of the biggest players:

Blockchain App Factory

Blockchain App Factory is somewhat equivocal and mysterious. They provide an extraordinary number of services (due diligence, creating of a token, auditing, and legal services for assigning a value for the token).

ArtWallet

ArtWallet is a “blockchain-based ecosystem” which aims to verify the authenticity of artwork by tracking its ownership, history, and provenance on a blockchain. Their whitelist is opening soon.

Monegraph

The much more open and clear Monegraph allows artists to register their works on the publicly verifiable Bitcoin blockchain. It provides users with a certification of authenticity for the tokens, representing pieces of art.

Blockchain Art Collective

Blockchain Art Collective also aims to track and prove artwork authenticity. It tags artwork with a tamper-evident, NFC-enabled Certificate of Authenticity, complete with timestamps, to a blockchain. (Blockchain Art Starter Kit starting at $20).

blockchain art collective

Verisart

Verisart was founded by Robert Norton, the former CEO of Saatchi Art & Sedition Art. It strives to build evidentiary infrastructure for artworks and collectibles that are verifiable by anyone based on a public blockchain. 

Artory

My personal favorite from this list is Artory. Founded in 2016 by Nanne Dekking, the former chairman of Sotheby’s, the company tracks provenance of fine artwork and collectibles. Due to his background, Dekking has some aces up his sleeves, so in November Artory partnered with Christie’s New York to sell $318 million Barney A. Ebsworth collection and keep the transactions data recorded on its blockchain. 

Maecenas

Maecenas is the company that powered the sale of 31.5% ownership of Andy Warhol’s piece last summer. Maecenas is currently working to organize a second auction, this time featuring Picasso. The auction is preliminarily scheduled to be held during the 1st quarter of 2019. 

Masterworks

Masterworks was founded by Scott Lynn, who has been a passionate art collector for more than 15 years and accumulated a pretty impressive selection of Abstract Expressionism including Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, and Barnett Newman. And now Masterworks offers a clear framework for its users along with well-researched analytical data about the investment in fine arts.  The team has acquired Warhol’s “1 Colored Marilyn (Reversal Series),” and at the moment of writing 97% of it has been reserved by retail investors. A minimum investment of $1,000 will give anyone 50 shares of an artwork. Payment can be made via bank transfer (for the citizens of the US and Canada) or via credit card (5% fees applied). The next on the Masterwork’s selling list is Claude Monet. 

Masterworks blockchain artwork

TheArtToken (TAT) 

TAT was issued by Swarm, a non-profit provider of open infrastructure for digital securities. The project’s team already owns a pre-funded art collection of $4.1 million value and currently is in the process of its own token sale that is due to end at the middle of January 2019. Each token sold represents partial ownership of a Post War & Contemporary Art collection. It is stored in a Swiss bonded warehouse and managed by FineArtDigital AG.

R.A.R.E Digital Art Network

R.A.R.E is a company selling digital artwork. Using blockchain technology, each piece of digital artwork can be given a unique identity or a limited run. It brings scarcity and value to digital artwork that was never possible without blockchain.

Snark

Snark is selling “atoms,” which represent fractional ownership of Eve Sussman’s acclaimed video 89 seconds at Alcazár. 

Conclusion

As mentioned before at BlockExplorer, tokenization of real assets is something I am very excited about. For now, the only thing that’s left to do is to relax and observe how all of those startups will bring the technologies of the distributed ledger to a new level of adoption at least in the art space. 

Baby steps. 

How long will it take to allow anyone in the world to purchase a share of an authentic Rembrandt or Van Gogh in a matter of a couple of clicks from a mobile device? Go ahead and share your predictions in the comment section below.

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Ripple XRP

Euro Exim Bank will be the first bank to use Ripple’s cryptocurrency service xRapid. The London-based bank will actively use XRP to source liquidity and settle cross-border payments.

It’s a major development for Ripple. As reported by Block Explorer, a handful of Ripple’s partners in the finance world now use xRapid, but most are money-transfer services. None have a banking license. 

Euro Exim Bank is the first official bank to flip the switch to xRapid.

What is xRapid?

xRapid is Ripple’s flagship service that uses XRP as a bridge currency to speed up cross-border payments.

Tests have reported 70% savings and almost instantaneous settlements.

xRapid is a solution to the outdated foreign exchange system which takes days and incurs high fees.

Learn more: What is xRapid (Everything You Need To Know About Ripple’s Crypto Service)

While Ripple now has more than 200 banking partners, only a few are actively using xRapid. The companies include Mercury FX, Cuallix, Catalyst Corporate Credit Union, and Viamericas. 

“Dozens of banks” will be using xRapid by the end of 2019

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse has previously boasted that “dozens of banks” will be using xRapid by the end of 2019. But XRP holders have been disappointed by the lack of fully-licensed banks switching over to the cryptocurrency service.

Alongside the Euro Exim announcement, Garlinghouse also revealed that four additional companies will tap into xRapid: JNFX, SendFriend, Transpaygo, and FTCS.

“We’re beginning to see more customers flip the switch and leverage XRP”

During the announcement Garlinghouse expanded on Ripple’s progress: 

“In 2018, nearly 100 financial institutions joined RippleNet, and we’re now signing two—sometimes three—new customers per week. We also saw a 350 percent increase last year in customers sending live payments, and we’re beginning to see more customers flip the switch and leverage XRP for on-demand liquidity. At the end of the day, our goal is to make sure our customers can provide excellent, efficient cross-border payments experiences for their customers, wherever they are in the world.”

Euro Exim Bank director, Kaushik Punjani, said: “We have designed, tested and are implementing both xCurrent and xRapid in record time, and we look forward to the benefits these will bring our customers.”

Further reading: What is Ripple XRP (Absolutely Everything You Need to Know)

Ethereum scaling roadmap casper, plasma, sharding

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While the Ethereum roadmap isn’t definitively laid out, there are many important updates planned to take place in 2019. We can also expect to see more of the research that has taken place over the past two to three years begin to enter preliminary testing phases and eventual implementation on mainnet. Without further ado, here’s what you should know about Ethereum’s development efforts in 2019 and beyond.

How Will Ethereum Scale?

Ethereum has already accomplished a lot as a blockchain protocol since its initial project development began in 2014. With thousands of decentralized applications (dApps) built on top of Ethereum, it’s the clear leader of ecosystem creation amongst blockchain projects. However, a number of newer blockchain projects are beginning to challenge this. EOS, POA, and Steem are all excellent examples of blockchains that also have a number of native applications.

In early 2019, there are a number of challenges that remain unresolved for Ethereum. The primary focal point of Ethereum in the immediate future is clearly on improving Ethereum’s scalability. 

Ethereum transactions scaling
When Ethereum transactions increase, the network slows down and fees increase. A scaling solution is needed.

Making an exact timeline for when we should expect to see these solutions implemented can be difficult. Nonetheless, it’s good to use estimated time frames based on various sources to show how close (or distant) Ethereum’s upgrades are.

The Ethereum Roadmap at a Glance

UpgradeDateDetails
Raiden Red EyesDecember 2018Off-chain solution for faster and cheaper transactions.
Constantinople hard forkJanuary 16th, 2019Lays the technical groundwork for significant scaling projects in the future.
PlasmaTBDThe introduction of “child” chains off the main Ethereum blockchain for faster and cheaper transactions. Similar to how the Lightning Network works on Bitcoin.
Caspermid-2019Ethereum’s main scaling goal. Casper is the shift from Proof-of-Work to the more efficient Proof-of-Stake.
Sharding2020-2021Partition the existing blockchain into smaller pieces known as shards.
Serenity (aka Ethereum 2.0)2019-2021The culmination of Casper and Sharding will create “Ethereum 2.0.”
Ethereum 3.02022-2025Implementation of a ‘super quadratic sharding’ solution which could facilitate one billion transactions per day.

Before we look at the roadmap in more detail, let’s also give some context to where the project is today.

Ethereum 1.0 (July 30, 2015 to Present)

Classifying the various Ethereum versions can be tricky. This is because the project isn’t the same as it was during its mainnet launch in July 2015. Plus, there are two commonly-accepted classifications. 

First, you’ll find that the Ethereum blockchain in early 2019 is still referred to as ‘Ethereum 1.0’. Ethereum 2.0 is referred to as Serenity. The official Ethereum Wiki page shows that Serenity is technically classified as Ethereum v4, and its release date is to be determined. 

Some major development milestones of Ethereum 1.0 include:

Olympic (v0, released in May 2015)

Frontier (v1, released in July 2015)

Homestead (v2, released in March 2016)

Metropolis (v3 aka vByzantium released in October 2017). 

Metropolis (v3.5 aka vConstantinople) will be released in January 2019. 

Raiden’s Red Eyes Launched on Ethereum Mainnet (December 21, 2018)

Although this technically happened in 2018, it’s still an important and recent achievement on the roadmap to reaching greater scalability for Ethereum. In sum, the Red Eyes protocol allows for quicker transaction completion times through payment channel technology, which takes place off-chain. 

Some innovative features of Red Eyes include single and multi-hop transfers, REST API with endpoints for all functionalities, rewritten and more gas-efficient smart contracts (e.g. only one contract per token network), recoverability in case of an irregular shutdown of the Raiden node, and the integration of the Matrix transport protocol for messaging. 

raiden network
The Raiden network

Still, the current version of Red Eyes has a few known issues to be aware of. For example, third parties are currently unable to monitor channels on behalf of nodes or to pathfinding services. It also isn’t possible to do atomic swaps or upgrade smart contracts with Red Eyes. 

The only way to upgrade the network is to close all channels and redeploy a new smart contract and reopen the channels. Additionally, Raiden’s blog post mentions numerous security notes. Some known issues include a compromised user system, a full disk, blockchain congestion, and chain reorganizations. 

Once fully deployed, Raiden is designed to enable the Ethereum blockchain to process one million transactions per second and make transactions significantly cheaper to complete than before. 

Three 1,000 ETH Grants (December 2018)

In December 2018, Vitalik Buterin sent 1,000 ETH grants to three different blockchain companies: Prysmatic Labs, Sigma Prime, and ChainSafe Systems. Even though this was positive news, it actually led to mixed reactions from members of the blockchain community. 

For example, one VC investor stated that Ethereum is “missing ship dates [and] are lacking basic operational leadership.” A CEO of a crypto project said, “Ethereum has taken its lead for granted for too long (2 years). Needs increased focus and urgency on scalability to reclaim its narrative. Move fast or die slow.”

Whether or not you agree with these criticisms, it’s safe to say that most of Ethereum’s innovations are still listed on the future roadmap, and a lot of work is needed to sustain its position as a leader in blockchain and crypto. With that being said, here are some future events to look forward to.

Metropolis, vConstantinople (January 16, 2019)

Constantinople is the first major Ethereum update of 2019 and quite possibly the most important since the October 2017 update. Constantinople marks a hard fork of the Ethereum blockchain. After this update is released, members of the community will have to decide whether to run the old network or switch to the new one. 

Lane Rettig, an independent developer, has called Constantinople a “maintenance and optimization upgrade.” While these changes aren’t all that big from an end user’s perspective, they do present new opportunities as well as challenges overall in several key areas. For example, upgrades implemented with Constantinople should make it easier for the Ethereum team and projects building on top of Ethereum to continue on tackling scalability issues in the future.

Constantinople will include the following five EIPs (Ethereum improvement proposals): 

EIP 145 introduces a more efficient method of information processing known as Bitwise shifting. According to the EIP145 proposal notes, it costs around 35 gas to do a shift using arithmetic. However, this solution introduces an Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) native operation that only costs 3 gas. This results in a 91.4% savings in gas costs. 

EIP 1052 provides a solution for optimizing large-scale code execution on Ethereum. More specifically, this functionality returns the keccak256 hash of a contract’s bytecode. It improves upon the design of the EXTCODECOPY opcode. As a result, large contracts that only require the hash will be cheaper to process.

EIP 1283 is based on EIP 1087. This proposal aims to help smart contract developers by reducing gas costs related to changes made to data storage.

EIP 1014 is utilized in state-channel use cases that involve counterfactual interactions with contracts. It allows interactions to (actually or counterfactually in channels) be made with addresses that do not exist yet on-chain.

EIP 1234 is the somewhat controversial proposal that reduces the block mining reward issuance from 3 ETH down to 2 ETH. This will change Ethereum’s underlying economic policy.  It also delays the introduction of the “difficulty bomb” for 12 additional months. The difficulty bomb is a piece of code which will eventually increase the difficulty level of puzzles in the mining algorithm used to reward miners with ETH.

Plasma and Plasma Cash (TBD)

Even though it’s up for debate, most consider Plasma to be an on-chain scaling solution. This is due to the fact that Plasma relies upon the inherent security of the Ethereum blockchain. 

Plasma chains have the ability to be better than ordinary sidechains due to increased security and easier accessibility. For example, if a Plasma sidechain breaks, funds are still secure thanks to the main chain. Meanwhile, users can also withdraw funds from a Plasma sidechain to the main chain at any time with balances from the last valid block. 

Ethereum plasma diagram

Back in September 2018, OmiseGo Director of Engineering Kasima Tharnpipitchai outlined updates about providing a Plasma solution for Ethereum at a meetup event in Warsaw. On October 8, 2018, the OmiseGo team released the fifth Plasma update. Although Plasma hasn’t been added on top of the Ethereum mainnet, there has been a lot of progress towards this goal. For example, the Plasma team arrived at Devcon4 with an internal testnet, a Plasma MVP, and the first dapp built on OmiseGO. 

Plasma Cash is another solution that’s supposed to be even more efficient than Plasma. However, this is still in the research phase as of the beginning of 2019. The OMG team has been working with other researchers to simplify an atomic swap protocol which utilizes Vitalik Buterin’s atomic swaps and defragmentation work. 

Loom Network is another blockchain project that has been working on developing similar Plasma solutions to improve the scalability of the Ethereum blockchain.

Casper (mid-2019)

Casper is Ethereum’s pure Proof of Stake consensus algorithm. Why the change to Casper? Simply put, Proof of Stake blockchains are typically more scalable than Proof of Work blockchains. Additionally, there are growing concerns over the environmental impact of cryptocurrency mining operations. 

As of the beginning of 2019, transactions on the Ethereum blockchain are still reliant upon Proof of Work. This means that cryptocurrency miners play a big role in verifying the accuracy of transactions. When Ethereum switches to Casper, transactions will be validated with staking. 

Originally, the core development team decided to come up with two phases of Casper (FFG and CBC). FFG was supposed to be a hybrid PoW/PoS solution. Meanwhile, Casper CBC was designed to be a pure PoS. In 2018, however, the Ethereum team scrapped this two-phase Casper approach and decided to focus solely on Casper CBC. Here is an excellent article (with diagrams) that demonstrates how Casper CBC should work.

proof of stake vs proof of work
Source: Block Geeks

Sharding Updates (2020 and 2021)

In basic terms, sharding aims to securely partition the existing blockchain into smaller pieces known as shards. This solution, like most others on this list, is something that many non-Ethereum blockchain developers and researchers are also working on. 

When it comes to implementing sharding on a mainnet, Ethereum won’t be the first. This title will likely go to Zilliqa upon the release of its mainnet on January 31, 2019. However, Ethereum’s sharding implementation isn’t too far down the road. According to various estimations from developers, we should expect the Ethereum blockchain to implement phase one of sharding sometime in 2020 and phase two sometime in 2021. 

Serenity a.k.a. Ethereum 2.0 (2019/2020)

Earlier, we mentioned that Ethereum is still in version 1.0 as of the beginning of 2019. So when will Ethereum 2.0 be released? This is still difficult to say exactly. That’s because Ethereum 2.0 is generally considered to be a combination of Casper CBC (full PoS) and sharding. As stated above, Casper will likely be ready mid-2019. 

Meanwhile, sharding for Ethereum won’t be initially implemented until 2020. In that sense, it’s easier to think of the move to Ethereum 2.0 as the culmination of two separate upgrades and not something that will have a single release date.

Ethereum 3.0 (2022 to 2025)

While Serenity (Ethereum 2.0) is still on the horizon, the core Ethereum team is already working towards Ethereum 3.0. This mostly involves research, rather than implementation. As to be expected, objectives that are further along in the roadmap have broader time frame ranges. 

This is because delays or even circumstances that speed up the current projects or the future development of Ethereum 3.0 could take place.

Super quadratic sharding is a major part of Ethereum 3.0. As this site explains it, “So say, Ethereum currently has 16,000 nodes and all of them are currently processing the same transactions. You split that into 160 node groups of 1,000 nodes each. Ethereum’s current capacity is around one million transactions, so in this sharded chain its capacity would be one million x 160.”

Once everyone is confident in the capabilities of the sharded chain, it’s possible that, sometime between 2022 to 2025, Ethereum can split those 1,000 nodes each into 10 groups of 100 nodes each. This would make it possible to process one billion transactions per day with Ethereum. 

Conclusion

Ethereum continues to make progress on its roadmap goals for 2019 and beyond. Much like any project, there will likely be a few speed bumps along the way. However, a large group of core developers and an ecosystem of independent developers and projects building infrastructure for Ethereum is what continues to accelerate innovation.

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