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Brightlander Bjorn Kaag – A Trip to DevCon4 in a Techie Snapshot

Let me introduce myself. I am Bjorn Kaag, founder of Argosonic and a new Brightlander since October 2018. Last week I had the pleasure to go to DevCon4 with a press badge, the yearly “family reunion” of Ethereum developers. My initial reason to join was to check out the community and determine, for myself, whether or not the Ethereum community is up to the task of developing groundbreaking blockchain and smart contract related technologes further? During 4 days, in a wonderful autumn Prague, an audience double the size of last year presented 6 diverse tracks for discussions on scalability, security, privacy, developer experience, UX & design, as well as Society & Systems.

Although we were a team of two, it was impossible to check out every session. The discussions were always civilized. Some questions were answered by engineers with a refreshing, youthful openness, even when they confirmed failures and weak spots, and always followed by proposals for solutions. In the developer experience track, one startup company presented over 10 ICO errors so that others could avoid their mistakes. The community was addressing topics ranging from funding and developer grants, privacy needs versus CBDC (Central Bank issued Decentralized Currencies), societal challenges, required law reform, reversible ICO rules to prevent exit scams – to name a few. Every day they held coding workshops; it was inspiring to see many new tools that did not exist last year.

The keynote presentation from Vitalik Buterin, one of the Ethereum co-founders, discussed research results on 5 topics; Proof of Stake (PoS aims to reduce energy usage and counter miner centralization), scalability by sharding (important to be able to process more transactions per second), VM improvements with EWASM (important to reuse Web3 technologies for faster development and execution), improvements in cross contract logic (abstraction supports easier assurance of smart contract finality) and improved smart contract economics (improved instruction set reduces a contract’s gas consumption). Ethereum 2.0 has now been renamed into the “Serenity release” and is planned to be released from 2019 in several release steps. According to Vitalik, Serenity is a new block chain with a link to the existing Proof Of Work chain. Expected features of Serenity are pure PoS consensus, faster time for synchronous confirmation (8-16 seconds) and “economic finality” (10-20 minutes), fast VM execution via EWASM and 1000x higher scalability. Many developers on DevCon4 expect that Casper will delay “a bit more” during test. However, they find this is better than rushing forward – which would risk a network split.

One of the main topics is governance: who decides future directions? The Ethereum Foundation announced they are taking a step back to allow others to participate. At present there are already 9 major players directing Ethereum’s future. They jointly work to create safe places for discord and encourage outspoken opinions so others can participate.

All in all the DevCon4 showed a growing audience. At this phase the Ethereum ecosystem is still not ready for 1 billion + users. It will take some more time, but it is good to see there are ever more brilliant heads in the game. If you want to know more details I can send a long read and we can always have a coffee chat.