Ethereum’s next upgrade: Prague-Electra (Pectra)

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What is the Ethereum Prague-Electra (Pectra) Upgrade?

The Ethereum Pectra upgrade is a combination of two separate upgrades: Prague and Electra. The Prague upgrade targets changes in the network's execution layer, while the Electra upgrade affects the consensus layer. Together, these upgrades are collectively known as "Pectra."

Following the "Dencun" upgrade, which combined the Deneb and Cancun upgrades and was implemented in March 2024 to reduce transaction fees for layer-2 solutions and enhance Ethereum scalability, the Pectra upgrade is the next significant milestone in Ethereum's development. Scheduled for the first quarter of 2025, Pectra aims to incorporate new features to enhance the user experience (UX) on Ethereum.

Ethereum Upgrades Post-Merge

One of the potential inclusions in the Pectra upgrade is Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) 3074. Approved in April 2024, EIP-3074 introduces code changes to improve Ethereum wallets, enabling users to batch transactions and sign them in a single step, similar to smart contracts. Additionally, EIP-7251 is set to increase the staking limit for validators from 32 Ether (ETH) to 2,048 ETH, allowing for more efficient resource allocation in staking and validation processes.

Other possible enhancements include Peer Data Availability Sampling (PeerDAS) to scale rollups and the EVM Object Format (EOF) to boost smart contract security and developer experience on both layer 1 and layer 2. Developers are also debating whether to replace EIP-3074 with EIP-7702, which aims to improve account abstraction compatibility, and considering a patch for EIP-2935 to address historical block hash handling.

Pectra Upgrade Features and Benefits

EIP-7251: Increasing the Staking Limit

As of June 2024, Ethereum validators are limited to a maximum effective balance of 32 ETH. To stake more, providers must operate multiple validators, each staking 32 ETH. This requirement can strain the network’s communication layer. The Pectra upgrade will raise the staking limit to 2,048 ETH, allowing staking providers to consolidate their stakes into fewer validators, reducing network messaging and potentially improving efficiency and performance.

PeerDAS/Rollup Improvements

PeerDAS will extend the "blobs" introduced in EIP-4844, a new method for optimizing transaction data storage on Ethereum layer-2 networks. This enhancement increases block space and reduces transaction fees by allowing blob-carrying transactions, which include additional off-chain storage data, to lessen the burden on the main Ethereum chain.

EVM Improvements

EOF and other planned improvements to the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) will enhance the UX, developer experience, and performance on both layer 1 and layer 2.

Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIPs)

EIPs are vital to Ethereum’s development, outlining potential new features, improvements, or processes for the blockchain network. They include technical specifications and serve as a "source of truth" for the community. EIPs are proposed, debated, and, if successful, implemented as network upgrades like Dencun and Pectra. Anyone in the community can create an EIP, and the authors are responsible for gaining community consensus and documenting differing opinions.

The Ethereum Development Roadmap: Prague/Electra Upgrade Timeline

Following the Dencun upgrade in March 2024, the Pectra upgrade is set for 2025. This is part of Ethereum’s post-merge roadmap, which follows a five-step process outlined by Vitalik Buterin: Merge, Surge, Verge, Purge, and Splurge. Developers opted to delay Pectra’s release until after Devcon in November 2024 to better monitor the upgrade’s implementation.

After Pectra, the next upgrade will likely focus on "Verkle trees," a new data system that will allow Ethereum nodes to store large data volumes with smaller proof sizes and lower hardware requirements. This upgrade, expected after Pectra, is seen as more substantial and is part of the "Verge" stage in Ethereum's roadmap. Verkle trees promise significant improvements, such as near-zero hard disk space requirements for staking nodes and almost instant synchronization, enhancing UX and user-facing light clients

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