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Ethereum: The four EIPs of the Berlin hardfork

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It is well known that the Ethereum blockchain has been the most widely used blockchain in the world for months and is also the one that generates the most fees. However, the Ethereum network is becoming too expensive and needs urgent changes in order to continue its ascent. At the moment there are preposterous fees that reach 200-300 dollars for a simple swap on a DEX or 20-30 USD for a transfer between two wallets. It is clear that with these limits Ethereum could lose users, which is why the core devs continue to work hard to improve the entire network. The next update is called Berlin and consists of 4 main changes. Let’s have a look at them!

The Berlin Upgrade Overview

For several months now, developers have been planning the next update to the Ethereum protocol, dubbed Berlin. This update, which follows the previous Istanbul and Muir Glacier upgrades, will be implemented at block number 12,244,000, or approximately April 14th. What’s new with Berlin?

This upgrade will implement four EIPs (Ethereum Improvement Proposals), namely EIP 2565, EIP 2929, EIP 2718 and EIP 2930.

This is a highly technical update, the new features of which are of little interest to the basic user. Certainly, the attention of the Ethereum community is more captured by the update – probably in summer – that is expected to introduce Basefee (EIP1559), the indirect effect of which would be to make Ethereum more deflationary.

Berlin’s technical complexities are more difficult to understand for the user who is interested in the simple use of dApps. Despite the difficulty of the technicalities, we will try to summarize in a few words the new features coming with Berlin.

EIP 2565: “Modexp gas cost”.

EIP 2565 was proposed by six developers in March 2020. It aims to evolve the EIP 198 proposed by Vitalik Buterin in 2017. Indeed, EIP 198 introduced a wide variety of cryptographic algorithms, enabling the generation of different types of signature verification, e.g. RSA signatures.

For its part, EIP 2565 aims to reduce the gas cost of EIP 198-related functions so that they are closer to the gas cost of other possible operations on Ethereum. In practice EIP 2565 promotes the use of a wider range of cryptographic operations in smart contracts.

EIP 2929: “Gas cost increases for state access opcodes”

Proposed by Vitalik Buterin in October 2020, this EIP serves to increase the gas cost of certain Solidity methods. These methods include SLOAD, CALL, BALANCE, EXT and SELFDESTRUCT. In practice, these functions will see their gas cost increase when they are called for the first time. The cost will then be reduced to 100 gas during subsequent calls.

This increase in gas cost will mitigate one of the main DDoS attack vectors on the Ethereum network. Although prices had already been increased in the past, this move has not yet completely eliminated such attacks.

EIP 2718: “Typed transaction envelope”

Proposed by Micah Zoltu in June 2020, this EIP introduces a new type of transaction: “envelope transaction“. In concrete terms, it is an “envelope” to facilitate the management of different types of transactions. This proposal will also make the addition of new transaction types less complex.

The problem that EIP 2718 solves is this: new transaction types are difficult to add to Ethereum because they must be backwards compatible with all other transactions, reducing their options and increasing their complexity. The new “envelope transactions” should eliminate this unfavourable trade-off, and EIP 2930 will be the first example.

EIP 2930: “Optional access lists”.

Proposed by Vitalik Buterin and Martin Swende in August 2020, it consists of reducing gas during the execution of certain functions. Once implemented, this EIP will introduce a new type of transaction, which may contain an “access list “: this will be a list containing the addresses and storage keys that the function intends to access.

This list will make it easier for clients to execute the function, and will also reduce the cost of gas. As we have seen, the Berlin update will not include any changes relevant enough to draw the attention of the entire community. It almost seems as if it is passing by in silence.

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