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Vitalik Buterin warns against overloading Ethereum consensus

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Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has published a lengthy blog post warning of the dangers of “stretching” Ethereum's consensus past its core functions of validating blocks and securing the network.

Ethereum consensus is the process whereby blocks are validated by the proof-of-stake mechanism implemented in September 2022 with “the Merge.” In a May 21 blog post titled “Don’t overload Ethereum’s consensus,” Buterin warned that using Ethereum’s network consensus for other things could bring “high systemic risks to the ecosystem and should be discouraged and resisted.”The Ethereum co-founder was essentially promoting the preservation of the blockchain’s minimalism.Don't overload Ethereum's consensus: noted that over the years, a number of proposals or ideas had floated around that suggested using the Ethereum social consensus for other purposes, such as price and data oracles, re-staking initiatives, and using layer-1 soft forks to recover layer-2 projects should they have issues.However, Buterin said that a certain subset of these techniques could bring “high systemic risks” to the ecosystem such as bugs or an intentional 51% attack.

Some high-risk examples include creating ETH/USD price oracles in which ETH holders or validators can be bribed to vote on, which may result in a “fork out the bad participants' money” if there is disagreement.

He however acknowledged a need for better oracles, proposing a case-by-case approach because various problems are “inherently so different” from each other.Overall, Buterin said that any expansion of the “duties” of Ethereum's consensus increases the costs, complexities, and risks of running a validator. Related: Buterin weighs in on zk-EVMs’ impact

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