Sunday, November 29, 2020
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Failure to Launch: Devs Need Another Trial Run for Ethereum 2.0

In brief

  • The Spadina testnet focuses on genesis for Ethereum 2.0.
  • A lack of user participation combined with technical issues and user confusion meant the testnet didn’t start as hoped.
  • Developers will run another trial, Zinken, next week.

Spadina, the intentionally short-lived Ethereum testnet and “dress rehearsal” for Eth2 genesis, ran into some problems when it launched today.

As a result, Ethereum 2.0, the forthcoming proof-of-stake network, will need at least one more dress rehearsal, said Danny Ryan, the developer spearheading the testnet efforts.

Spadina is a short-term testnet specifically for trialling genesis, or the creation of the first block, on Ethereum 2.0. The second-largest blockchain network is moving from proof-of-work consensus to proof of stake. And, along with it, theoretically, to a less-congested blockchain with lower gas fees. 

Spadina is separate from the ongoing Medalla testnet, a general sandbox meant to represent an up-and-running version of the proof-of-stake network. By contrast, Spadina replicates the beginning of that new network. Testing out its creation is important because before the proof-of-stake chain can get up and running, at least 16,384 “validator” nodes must be running the network and have collectively deposited over half a million ETH.

The testnet proved useful, spotlighting some areas for improvement. 

The first area? Low participation. Coupled with “confusion” and “invalid deposits,” as Prysm Labs noted, the result was a “bad look for this ‘genesis rehearsal.’”

Though testnets are, by their very nature, less used than full-fledged blockchains as they lack much utility for non-developers, Ryan said, “Small errors in the client release process [greatly] exacerbated this problem, resulting in ~1/3 participation in the first few epochs.”

So, the blockchain didn’t start correctly.

Prysm said that should be no problem to deal with. “The issue with finality was not a critical bug nor a consensus error, but rather something due to configuration parameters which can be fixed with a release,” it reported.

After that, everybody needs to head back and try again. Thus, Ryan and others in charge of Eth2 testing have scheduled another dress rehearsal, known as Zinken, late next week.

For that to be successful, Ryan said testnet participants need to up their game: “As this is a dress rehearsal, we ask you to take genesis seriously. Only make deposits for vals you intend to run, and if at all possible, be attentive in the 24 hours leading to genesis — upgrading your node if necessary.”

Or, if Ethereum devs are convinced the actual production is going to be a hit, they can always just stage another dress rehearsal.

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