EIPs: Everything to Know
By Beluga Research September 11, 2023
- An Ethereum Improvement Proposal, or EIP, is a standard for proposing and implementing changes to the Ethereum network
- EIPs undergo a rigorous review process involving community feedback and technical analysis before being implemented into the Ethereum network
- These enable enhanced functionality, community involvement, transparent decision-making, iterative development and security enhancements
- EIPs can also lead to fragmentation, complexity, implementation challenges, contentious proposals and the risk of unintended consequences
An Ethereum Improvement Proposal, or EIP, is a standard for proposing and implementing changes to the Ethereum network. EIPs provide a standardized way for developers and the Ethereum community to discuss, document and implement new features, protocol upgrades or changes to Ethereum's functionality. EIPs are categorized into different types, ensuring a structured and transparent development process for the Ethereum ecosystem.
A Brief History
EIPs were inspired by Bitcoin Improvement Proposals (BIPs) in the Bitcoin community. EIPs were adopted to foster collaboration and innovation within the Ethereum ecosystem. The first EIP, known as "EIP-1," was introduced in late 2015 by Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum's creator. Since then, numerous proposals have been put forth by developers, enthusiasts and stakeholders.
EIPs: Everything to Know
An EIP is a document that proposes a change or improvement to the Ethereum network. It serves as a formalized way to communicate ideas, solutions and modifications within the Ethereum community. EIPs cover various topics, including protocol upgrades, new features, standards and guidelines.
Each EIP follows a specific format, providing essential details and justifications for the proposed change. The document includes an abstract, a motivation section, a specification, and a rationale. These sections help readers understand the purpose, implementation and potential impact of the proposed improvement.
EIPs are categorized into three types: "Standards Track," "Informational" and "Meta." Standards Track EIPs propose changes that require network-wide consensus and implementation. Informational EIPs provide information or guidelines without proposing specific changes. Meta EIPs focus on the process, organization or tools related to EIPs themselves.
Once proposed, EIPs undergo a community-driven review process. The proposal is shared on the Ethereum GitHub repository, where developers and community members provide feedback. This open discussion allows for a thorough evaluation of the proposal's technical feasibility, benefits and risks.
After the review process, EIPs go through the following stages: "Draft," "Last Call" and "Final." During the Draft stage, the proposal is refined based on feedback. The Last Call stage indicates readiness for implementation and allows the community to voice concerns. The Final stage signifies acceptance and implementation into the Ethereum network.
EIPs play a crucial role in shaping the Ethereum ecosystem by enabling community participation, fostering innovation and ensuring continuous improvement. They provide a structured and transparent framework for proposing and evaluating changes, allowing stakeholders to contribute to the platform's evolution.
To understand the purpose and importance of EIPs, one must first come to understand the basic concept of Ethereum. Ethereum is a decentralized blockchain platform for executing smart contracts and creating decentralized applications (dapps). It uses a cryptocurrency called "ether" (ETH) and is secured through proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus.
EIPs propose and discuss changes to the Ethereum protocol. They cover various topics, including technical standards, protocol upgrades, improvements to the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) and modifications to transaction and smart contract handling. EIPs can be minor modifications or major overhauls, depending on the proposed changes' scope and impact.
One unique aspect of EIPs is an open and transparent nature. Anyone can submit an EIP, and the Ethereum community can review, discuss and provide feedback on the proposals. This openness promotes collaboration, innovation and community involvement. EIPs are typically hosted on GitHub, where developers and enthusiasts can examine, comment on and track them.
There are three types of EIPs: Standards Track, Informational and Meta. Standards Track EIPs propose changes to the Ethereum protocol, including new features or modifications, while Informational EIPs provide guidelines, but do not propose protocol changes. Meta EIPs focus on the EIP process, organization or tools.
When an EIP is submitted, it undergoes a review process involving community feedback, technical analysis and consensus building. The EIP author addresses concerns or questions raised during the review. Once an EIP gains sufficient support and consensus, it can be implemented into the Ethereum network through a network upgrade, known as a "hard fork."
Implementing an EIP requires coordination among developers, node operators and the Ethereum community. Proposed changes must be thoroughly tested and compatible with existing infrastructure and Ethereum's long-term vision. EIPs with significant changes or upgrades often go through multiple iterations and testing phases before deployment on the mainnet.
- Enhanced Functionality . EIPs enable the addition of new features and functionalities to Ethereum. This allows developers to continuously improve the platform and introduce innovative solutions for various use cases. EIPs have facilitated the integration of smart contracts, decentralized applications (dapps) and other advancements that have expanded Ethereum's capabilities.
- Community Involvement . The use of EIPs foster community involvement and inclusivity. They provide an open forum for developers, stakeholders and Ethereum enthusiasts to contribute ideas and expertise. This collaborative approach ensures that decisions about Ethereum's evolution are shaped by the collective knowledge and consensus of the community, rather than a single entity.
- Transparent Decision-Making . EIPs follow a transparent decision-making process. Proposed improvements are publicly discussed, allowing stakeholders to review, comment and provide feedback. This transparency ensures that decisions prioritize the best interests of the Ethereum ecosystem. It also promotes accountability and prevents power concentration in the hands of a few individuals or organizations.
- Iterative Development . EIPs enable an iterative development process. Instead of making sweeping changes all at once, Ethereum can evolve incrementally through the implementation of individual EIPs. This approach allows careful consideration of each proposed improvement and reduces the risk of introducing disruptive changes that could negatively impact the network. Iterative development also facilitates a smoother transition for developers and users.
- Security Enhancements . The use of EIPs can address security vulnerabilities and enhance the overall security of Ethereum. By proposing changes that improve the underlying protocol or introduce new security features, EIPs help protect user funds and prevent potential security breaches. The transparent nature of the EIP process also allows security experts to review and audit proposed changes, further strengthening Ethereum's robustness.
- Fragmentation . The decentralized nature of EIPs can lead to fragmentation within the Ethereum community. With numerous proposals, achieving consensus to determine which improvements to implement can be challenging. This can result in competing factions and disagreements, potentially causing delays in decision-making.
- Complexity . EIPs can be complex and require a deep understanding of the Ethereum protocol and underlying technologies. This complexity can be a barrier for developers and community members without the necessary technical expertise to fully comprehend and contribute to the discussion. It can also make it challenging for non-technical stakeholders to assess the potential impact of proposed changes.
- Implementation Challenges . While EIPs provide a mechanism for proposing improvements, implementing these changes can be challenging. Technical considerations, backward compatibility and coordination among stakeholders can introduce complexities and delays. Coordinating upgrades across the decentralized network of Ethereum nodes requires careful planning and execution.
- Potential for Contentious Proposals . EIPs can give rise to contentious proposals that generate heated debates within the community. Disagreements over proposed changes can lead to divisions and conflicts, potentially hampering progress and slowing down Ethereum's evolution. Resolving disputes in a decentralized manner requires extensive community engagement and consensus-building efforts.
- Risk of Unintended Consequences . Implementing changes through EIPs carries the risk of unintended consequences. Even well-intentioned improvements can have unforeseen impacts on the network, smart contracts or existing applications. Thorough testing, auditing and evaluation are essential to mitigate these risks, but there is always a possibility of unforeseen issues arising after implementation.