A Strategic Suggestion to Boost Ethereum's Throughput
Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has put forward a proposal for a "modest" increase in the Ethereum gas limit during a Reddit "ask-me-anything" (AMA) session organized by the Ethereum Foundation's Research Team on January 10. Buterin's suggestion to raise the gas limit to 40 million from the current 30 million represents a significant 33% increase, aiming to enhance the network's throughput.
Understanding the Gas Limit and Its Impact
The gas limit is a critical component of the Ethereum network, representing the maximum amount of gas that can be expended on transactions or smart contract executions in each block. This limit, which has remained unchanged for nearly three years, ensures that blocks are not excessively large, preserving network performance and synchronization. Validators can adjust the gas limit within certain parameters as they produce blocks, balancing network capacity and performance.
The Rationale Behind the Increase
Buterin's proposal comes in the context of Ethereum's evolving usage and adoption since its inception in 2015. The average gas limit at Ethereum's genesis was around 3 million gas, and it has gradually increased over time. By increasing the gas limit, more transactions can be included in each block, theoretically enhancing the overall network capacity. However, this also brings additional burdens on hardware and potential risks, such as network spam and attacks.
Current Gas Prices and Network Fees
As of now, the average gas price on Ethereum is about 35 gwei, or $1.89 per transaction, with higher costs for complex smart contract operations, as per etherscan.io. Gas fees have been rising since the beginning of 2024 and reached a high of 150 gwei in May 2023, largely driven by the inscriptions craze.
The Ongoing Scalability Debate
The proposal to increase the gas limit reignites the ongoing scalability debate within the Ethereum and Bitcoin communities. As network fees surged amid another round of inscription hype in November, users and developers are continually seeking solutions to balance network efficiency, capacity, and cost.
A Delicate Balancing Act for Ethereum
Vitalik Buterin's suggestion for a gas limit increase underscores the delicate balancing act Ethereum faces as it scales to accommodate growing demand and complexity. While increasing the gas limit offers potential improvements in throughput, it also requires careful consideration of the network's stability and security.