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Ethereum's Four Development Stages

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In this article, we look at the birth of the Ethereum blockchain network and the four major development stages.

Table of Contents.

  1. Introduction.
  2. Ethereum's Four Development Stages.
  3. Summary.
  4. References.

Introduction

Once Bitcoin was released and people saw its impact and limitations, Ethereum developers tried to move beyond the exchange of value and store of value functionalities. They also had to choose between building on top of the existing Bitcoin blockchain or starting a new blockchain. The former choice meant that they would not only adopt Bitcoin's powerful model but had to live with its limitations and instead of focusing on adding new ideas, they would be focused on working around Bitcoin's limitations. That is, Bitcoin faced scalability issues because of the limited set of transaction types, and block sizes among others which meant that additional functionality was only possible by adding off-chain layers which negated the advantages of a public blockchain such as security, immutability among others.

Off-chain transactions are transactions processed outside of the main blockchains using layer 2 protocols(lightning network) to circumvent on-chain issues. This way transactions are cheaper and faster. Also, the blockchain can scale because on-chain traffic is low.

They negated the advantages of a public blockchain because there were projects that needed more freedom and flexibility while operating on-chain. To solve this the latter option(developing a new blockchain) was chosen.

In 2013 Vitalik Buterin proposed a generalized approach to the Master coin team - the master coin was an overlay protocol that extended Bitcoin offering smart contracts functionality. The proposal allowed more flexibility and scriptable contracts to replace the Master coin contract programming language. However, this new language was turing-incomplete. Towards the end of the year, Vitalik Buterin published the Ethereum white paper. Unlike its predecessors, Ethereum was turing-complete and extended the functionality of the blockchain beyond the exchange of value between parties.

From then on, Vitalik Buterin and Dr. Gavin Wood developed the idea of Ethereum into what it is now. Ethereum was a general-purpose blockchain, the first of its kind that allowed a developer to write an application without the need to implement the backend(peer-to-peer networking, consensus algorithms, and halving mechanisms among others). Ethereum provided a deterministic and secure programming environment for Dapps(Decentralized Applications).

Ethereum's Four Development Stages

In July 2015, the first Ethereum block(genesis block) was mined. The project was open-sourced and public just like Bitcoin. Anyone could join the blockchain and participate in blockchain activities. On launch, Ethereum had 11.9 million ether coins pre-mined for the crowd sale.
Ethereum's development was planned over four stages. At each stage major changes to the protocol were implemented, major changes also included hard forks which changed the underlying blockchain functionality.

The four stages of Ethereum's development are:

  1. Frontier
  2. Homestead
  3. Metropilis
  4. Serenity

Frontier
This model is similar to the Bitcoin model. It consists of an interface to mine Ether - Ethereum's native cryptocurrency, A way to upload contracts to the blockchains, and how the uploaded contracts are executed.
The main purpose of this stage was to get the mining operations and ether exchanges started.
It involved a community of Ethereum miners who initialized their nodes(mining rigs) to the environment was live and other developers could start testing their decentralized apps. For a developer to host a Dapp, he/she would need to acquire Ether which they could use to upload their software onto the Ethereum blockchain.

This was a command-line based, no user interface was being used because its only purpose was to merge ethers, and upload and execute smart contracts which could be done on the command line.

Highlights during this stage;

  • Users could exchange Ether for Bitcoin with other users on trade exchanges.
  • Users owning Ether could use it on the frontier network.
  • Miners could configure and start their mining rigs.
  • Developer could test their Dapps.

Homestead

This stage followed the frontier stage and was launched in March 2016. It was extensively tested and classified by the developers are stable and safe. Unlike the previous stage where Ethereum was not all that safe, this stage worked to make sure the network was safe.
At this stage, many protocol improvements were introduced which impacted the speed of transactions on the network.
More blocks were also created. This stage laid the foundation for the next stages in Ethereum's development.

The user interface being used here was still a command-line interface.

Metropilis

At this stage, a fully-featured user interface that could be used by non-technical users is to be reached. We will have a Dapp store where functional fully-featured, well-designed Dapps that demonstrated the full power of Ethereum were to live. This means that any person could download dapps that don't require the full copy of the blockchain to be downloaded locally.

At this stage, smart contracts are also to be automated.

Metropolis implemented two intermediate steps, namely;

  • Byzantium
  • Constantinople

Serenity

This is meant to be the final phase of Ethereum's development where the Proof-of-Work(PoW) consensus mechanism is to be replaced with the Proof-of-Stake(PoS) consensus mechanism. This is because the former wastes a lot of energy, as miners compete to solve the network-specified puzzle, a single miner is selected as the winner, meaning that the rest of the miners wasted their computational resources and electricity mining. The proof of stake mechanism is whereby miners are given the opportunity to mine the next block based on the coins they stake. They are referred to as validators.

In this case, instead of wasting electricity, miners/validators simply have to hold coins that are native to the blockchain(Ether). In this case, the higher the number of coins one stakes, the higher the probability of being selected as the next block validator.

This stage also makes the network faster, secure, more efficient, and easier for beginners to understand and adopt.

This stage is meant to increase the network difficulty of mining while slowing down block creation until the network is completely unusable.

Summary.

Ethereum is an open-source public blockchain-based distributed computer and operating system with smart contract functionalities.

In July 2015, the first Ethereum block(genesis block) was mined.
Ethereum development consists of four stages, these are Frontier, Homestead, Metropilis and Serenity.

Off-chain transactions are transactions processed outside of the main blockchains using layer 2 protocols(lightning network) to circumvent on-chain issues.

Ethereum's Four Development Stages
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