Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) To Be Replaced By eWASM Making The Ethereum Network Smarter And Stronger


The Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) is responsible for the functions of one of the largest cryptocurrencies, Ethereum (ETH). It has been executing numerous tokens, dapps, DAOs, and digital kittens over the past few years.

The EVM has its language, the EVM bytecode, which is a raw, 256-bit string of information that has been at the heart of every operation in the blockchain. The code is set to be rewritten due to some issues in the network.

Even though the EVM has been carrying out its functions, it has not been doing it as well as expected. This has led to the creation of eWASM, which will work in a similar fashion to the WASM used by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

The machine eWASM has been designed in such a way that it can support not just the Ethereum programming language, Solidity but also others. The tool is said to come with some enhanced functions that will further upgrade the Ethereum network.

The update is set to be implemented alongside other changes in the Ethereum network called the Shasper. The Shasper update will take care of the scaling problem of the network while also rewriting the mining code to prevent ASIC miners from mining ETH.

Even though the network has yet to mention the date of release, eWASM development has been moving forward, with the testnet launch set to take place at Devcon 4, the ethereum developer conference, in Prague in October.

EVM is not as clean as it should be

Even though EVM has been wonderful over the past few years, it is no longer useful considering the fact that the crypto industry continues to move at a very fast pace.

Since EVM makes use of 256-bit bytecode, smaller computations have to be converted to 256-bit strings before the EVM can process them. This is an operation that Lane Rettig, an ethereum developer, believes is irrelevant.

Nick Johnson, an ethereum core developer agrees with that point, noting that the Ethereum network has been developed by those with deep knowledge of computer science but no experience in terms of building broadly useable products.

He believes that the EVM is more theoretical than practical, and wasn’t built with real-world implementation in mind.

WASM code to rectify the error

The WASM code, however, has been designed with production in mind. Rettig pointed out that the code operates close to the hardware instruction and this gives it the edge.

It would allow developers to use multiple languages, depending on the one they are most comfortable with.

The elimination of precompiling is an added advantage for eWASM. Whenever precompile happens, a system-wide upgrade, or hard fork, is needed and those upgrades or forks usually present problems.

That isn’t the case with eWASM as the code of the smart contract can just be rewritten and just redeployed, thus doing away with system upgrade or hardfork.

EVM still has supporters

Despite the positive impact WASM is expected to have on Ethereum, there are some who still criticize it. Ethereum core developer Greg Colvin is one of those people as he been devoted to the EVM’s upkeep for years.

He had earlier been working on developing an improved version of the machine dubbed EVM 1.5 but lost his funding support along the way from the non-profit Ethereum Foundation. This decision didn’t go down well with him.

He believes that the fact that eWASM makes use of compilers could see it become a single point of failure for attackers. He also doesn’t believe that eWASM smart contracts could replace the need for precompiles.

Both Colvin and Rettig agree that the best-designed tech in computer science is usually the ones that don’t perform very well.

Conflicts in release

Ethereum developers are gathering more support for the eWASM, with plans to deploy the testnet before the ethereum developer conference, Devcon4, in November. The release of will is very close to the Shasper upgrade.

Developers will need to up their game and attend to the research that underpins those changes, before focusing on eWASM. However, the progress of either one seems quite unpredictable.

There is bound to be confusion in terms of building the client, according to Rettig. That lack of clarity is something that didn’t go down well with Calvin. He believes that regarding EVM, there are some performance issues that would be easy to improve on.

The changes have however been left unattended to due to the change in Ethereum’s roadmap.

This uncertainty stems from the fact that a community is working without any central leadership. Rettig believes that no improvement is wasted in terms of Ethereum. He added that sharding upgrade would lead to several virtual machines supported on the network.

eWASM is expected to open ways to increase interoperability. The code has been built in a World Wide Web standard, thus ensuring that adding in-browser support for an ethereum light client would be easy.

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