Ethereum developers, node operators, and users find themselves in a contentious debate following Vitalik Buterin’s recent proposal to increase the gas limit on the Ethereum network.
On January 11, Buterin suggested a “modest” 33% gas limit increase to enhance network throughput. While the idea has its merits, it has also sparked concerns among key stakeholders within the Ethereum ecosystem.
Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum and a prominent figure in the cryptocurrency space, proposed a 33% increase in the gas limit on Ethereum. This adjustment would raise the limit from the current 30 million to 40 million, with the goal of potentially improving network throughput.
The rationale behind this proposal is to enable more transactions per block, theoretically increasing the overall capacity and throughput of the Ethereum network.
Concerns raised by developers
Despite the potential benefits, Ethereum developers have voiced their concerns. Marius van der Wijden, an Ethereum developer, highlighted one significant issue in a blog post titled “Why increasing the gas limit is difficult.”
He pointed out that the primary concern is the rapid growth of the blockchain state, which includes account balances and smart contract data. Currently, the state requires approximately 267GB of storage, and increasing the gas limit would cause this size to expand even more quickly.
Wijden acknowledged that storage is relatively inexpensive, so the size may not be problematic for most users. However, he cautioned that accessing and modifying such a large state would become increasingly slower over time, and there are currently no concrete solutions to address this growing challenge.
Higher gas limits would also lead to longer synchronization times and pose challenges for building diverse Ethereum clients.
Gnosis co-founder Martin Köppelmann echoed these concerns, emphasizing that increasing the gas limit would also lead to higher bandwidth requirements.
Ethereum team lead Péter Szilágyi joined the chorus of voices expressing reservations, acknowledging that while increasing the gas limit might have benefits, it would also come with downsides, including faster state growth, slower synchronization, and an increased potential for denial-of-service (DoS) attacks.
The gas limit and its significance
The gas limit on the Ethereum network refers to the maximum amount of computational work and gas required to execute transactions or smart contracts within each block. It is critical to ensure that blocks do not become overly large, which could negatively impact network performance and synchronization.
Amid the ongoing debate, several potential solutions have been proposed to address the challenges of increasing the gas limit. One notable proposal is the Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP)-4444, which aims to tackle the expiration of chain history.
By implementing this upgrade, Ethereum developers hope to mitigate the long-term growth trends of the blockchain state.
Another solution is EIP-4844, which improves rollup data availability using ‘blobs.’ This proposal could contribute to managing the increased data load more efficiently, potentially alleviating some of the concerns raised by developers and stakeholders.
The Ethereum community remains divided on the issue. While some argue that the increase in the gas limit is necessary to accommodate the growing demand for transactions and applications on the network, others contend that the potential downsides, such as state growth and synchronization challenges, must be carefully considered.
In response to the ongoing discussions, software developer Micah Zoltu emphasized enabling real-world users to run Ethereum nodes on everyday machines. He suggested that the goal should not be limited to running nodes on specific hardware configurations but should instead focus on ensuring broader demographic accessibility to Ethereum nodes.