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10 July 2020

Ethereum developers disagree on launch date for ETH 2.0's Phase 0

The Ethereum Foundation held its fourth Reddit AMA on Ethereum 2.0 today, and the top question on everyone’s mind was (unsurprisingly) “when Phase 0?”

The responses from various EF contributors were mixed. Researcher Justin Drake said a practical release date for Ethereum 2.0’s Beacon Chain would be early Jan. 2021, given the work required to coordinate multiple production-ready clients. While pivoting to a single-client approach could speed up development, Justin warns it would result in an over-reliance on a single implementation since the first-mover advantage among clients is strong.

But fellow researcher Danny Ryan and Vitalik Buterin were adamant that Phase 0 would (and perhaps, should) arrive before the end of 2020. Vitalik defended his stance by saying that the Beacon Chain won’t have “any critical applications depending on it until Phase 1,” which lowers the practical risks of launching earlier. Therefore (in Evan Van Ness’ words) there’s no reason to run these testnets for months and months. A few production-ready clients might be more than sufficient at launch.

The actual launch date will depend on the success of Phase 0’s multi-client testnets. The Altona testnet, which launched last week with four clients onboard (Lighthouse, Nimbus, Prysm, and Teku), will be the penultimate public testnet stage. The final round of testnets could launch next month, and the EF team would like to see each chain run smoothly for 2-3 months before moving onto Phase 0’s genesis. If all goes well, a Q4 launch date for the Beacon Chain is not out of the question.

But as one Vyper developer puts it, “tech engineering and schedules go together like oil and water.” Testing and debugging take time, especially when dealing with a highly complex and unprecedented migration that places billions of user funds at stake. The pent up demand for Phase 0 was palpable in the AMA. However, it might be unwise to rush the process no matter how close developers are to the finish line. In the words of Vitalik: “doing better now will indeed pay off for decades.”

Why it matters: - While prospective stakers and Ethereum enthusiasts might hate to see a longer development timeline, Justin’s comments shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. In April, Afri Schoedon, one of the developers behind the ETH 2.0 testnets, said 2021 is a more reasonable timeline for Phase 0. But it’s hard to ignore that potentially pushing back the launch date embraced by the public has resulted in some bad Twitter optics. - Any further Ethereum 2.0 delays coupled with Ethereum 1.0’s current fee woes should breathe some life back into the Ethereum Killer narrative, which recently lost some ground to the DeFi frenzy. Tom Shaugnessy put it best when he said, “the time between now and viable layer 2s on Ethereum is the window for a programmable competitor to gain market share.”

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Ethereum 2.0 developers released the technical specifications for the latest and perhaps the last Phase 0 multi-client testnet on Wednesday. This testnet, codenamed Medalla, will be the fourth such network launched by Afri Schoeden and crew, following the likes of the late Schlesi and Witti as well ...

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