Vitalik Buterin, a co-founder of Ethereum, has highlighted the significant problem of node centralization in the Ethereum network. He argues that solving this issue involves simplifying and reducing the cost of running nodes for individuals.

Currently, many of the 5,901 active Ethereum nodes are hosted by centralized web providers like Amazon Web Services. This reliance on centralized services raises concerns about centralization and possible vulnerabilities in the network.

Distribution of Ethereum nodes from web service providers. Source: Ethernodes

During Korea Blockchain Week, Buterin identified six key challenges essential for addressing centralization. He stressed the significance of resolving the node centralization issue in preserving Ethereum’s long-term decentralization.

Addressing Ethereum Centralization through Statelessness

Buterin specifically pointed out that simplifying the process of running nodes is crucial in this regard. He also highlighted the importance of statelessness as a critical technology for achieving this goal.

Currently, running a node demands extensive data storage, often hundreds of gigabytes, but stateless clients can enable node operation with minimal resources.

Statelessness, in this context, refers to reducing reliance on centralized service providers for verifying network activity. Achieving true decentralization in Ethereum necessitates enabling node operators to run the network on modest and affordable hardware.

While statelessness is a significant part of Ethereum’s development roadmap, Buterin acknowledged that these highly technical challenges are unlikely to be resolved in the immediate future. He stated, “Addressing these technical issues will be a gradual process, possibly over a decade or even two.”

Diverse Strategies to Tackle Ethereum Centralization

Apart from statelessness, Buterin highlighted other important steps to combat Ethereum centralization, such as simplifying documentation, lowering barriers to distributed staking, enhancing staking security, and making the staking process more convenient overall.

However, he emphasized that Ethereum’s most immediate concern is achieving greater scalability. Currently, Ethereum’s scaling protocols primarily rely on zero-knowledge (ZK) rollups, which are considered a crucial tool for enhancing scalability. ZK-rollups optimize the main Ethereum chain’s throughput by moving computation and state storage off-chain.

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