Ethereum, the leading blockchain platform, is exploring significant changes aimed at improving decentralization and alleviating consensus overhead. The proposed adjustments come as a response to the prevailing two-tiered staking structure in the Ethereum ecosystem, where node operators and delegators play distinct roles.
Node operators, responsible for running nodes and staking capital or reputation, coexist with delegators who commit ETH with no specific obligations other than bringing collateral. This two-tiered system largely originates from the popularity of staking pools offering liquid staking tokens (LSTs), exemplified by projects like Rocket Pool and Lido.
The current Ethereum landscape faces two key issues. Firstly, concerns exist about centralization risks among node operators, as the mechanisms for selecting them lack decentralization. Secondly, the Ethereum Layer 1 network handles a substantial number of signatures, especially as it approaches single-slot finality. The network, however, doesn’t fully leverage this load due to the prevalence of liquid staking.
To address these concerns, Ethereum is considering solutions. One approach focuses on making delegators more integral to the network’s decentralization and security. This could be achieved by enhancing delegate selection powers through improved voting tools within pools, fostering competition between pools, and potentially implementing enshrined delegation at the protocol level.
Additionally, Ethereum is exploring ways to involve delegators in consensus participation, offering a lighter but meaningful role. This could be realized through various methods, such as random selection for signing off on slot heads or acting as inclusion list providers for block validation. These roles aim to prevent node operator majorities from engaging in censorship.
While these changes could be implemented at various levels, from staking pool features to protocol-level adjustments, the ultimate goal is to empower more Ethereum stakeholders and reduce the network’s consensus overhead.