Verkle trees promise superior Ethereum solo staking benefits, says Vitalik Buterin

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Ethereum solo stakers and network nodes stand to benefit from the implementation of Verkle trees, according to Vitalik Buterin.

The Ethereum co-founder touted the benefits of the technological upgrade to Ethereum’s protocol in an X post. Verkle trees are anticipated to enable “stateless validator clients,” with Buterin noting its functionality to allow staking nodes to run with “near-zero hard disk space and sync nearly instantly.”

Buterin previously outlined a five-step, gradual process that will bring the smart contract blockchain to what he described as the endgame of Ethereum’s development. This came after the highly anticipated activation of the Beacon Chain, which saw Ethereum shift to proof-of-stake consensus in September 2022.

Related: The Ethereum Merge is completed: Here’s what’s next

Verkle trees form part of the roadmap, which Buterin shared in late 2022. Five keywords encapsulated the ongoing development phases. The Merge, Surge, Verge, Purge and Splurge outline the technical details of different development milestones.

Verkle trees sit under the Verge umbrella, the third stage of Ethereum’s development plan. This step involves the introduction of Verkle trees, which will optimize data storage and node size. Buterin outlined the technical details of Verkle trees in its Ethereum Improvement Proposal documentation published in 2022.

Verkle trees serve a similar function to Merkle trees, which total all transactions in a block and produce proof of the entire set of data for a user looking to verify its authenticity:

“The key property that Verkle Trees provide, however, is that they are much more efficient in proof size.”

Verkle trees use similar tree-like structures to Merkle trees, but a key differentiator is that nodes use a particular type of hash called a vector commitment that is passed to sub-nodes. Vector commitments will provide meaningful, long-term benefits to the Ethereum network.

The main benefit of Verkle trees is to help Ethereum achieve statelessness, which would be the eventuality that sees nodes verifying blocks no longer needing to store the state of Ethereum.

Verkle trees allow for smaller proof sizes, which can be contained within each block of the Ethereum blockchain. The result allows nodes to verify any block using the data contained in the block itself.

A range of new types of functionality will result from the implementation of Verkle trees, including lower hardware requirements to run Ethereum nodes which is expected to improve decentralization of the network. New nodes can also join the network almost instantaneously, with the ability to quickly sync with the network.

The development of Verkle trees is ongoing, and implementation of the Ethereum protocol will require a number of changes. This includes a new data structure to save the network’s state, a new gas accounting model, a strategy to migrate Ethereum’s state from Merkle to Verkle trees, new cryptography primitives and new fields at the block level. 

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