Ethereum Dencun upgrade: unlocking scalability with EIP-4844

As one of the leading platforms for smart contracts and decentralized applications (DApps), Ethereum faces a crucial hurdle that's been hindering it from mass adoption since day one: scalability. As user numbers and network activity rise, transaction speeds slow down and gas fees skyrocket, making widespread use of it difficult during peak transaction periods. However, the upcoming Ethereum Dencun upgrade sparks hope with the introduction of numerous Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIPs). One such groundbreaking proposal is EIP-4844.

Known as Proto-Danksharding, EIP-4844 promises to significantly reduce transaction costs and improve overall data throughput. Curious as to how the Ethereum Dencun upgrade will accomplish this? From exploring Proto-Danksharding in detail to understanding how this will translate to greater scalability for the Ethereum network, here's everything you need to know about the upcoming Ethereum Dencun upgrade that's scheduled for March 13, 2024.

What is the Ethereum Dencun upgrade?

As a long-awaited part of "The Surge" in Ethereum's roadmap, the Ethereum Dencun upgrade tackles the network's scalability challenges. These challenges include bottlenecks in transaction throughput and data management. Like the Merge and Ethereum Shanghai upgrades that came before, the Dencun upgrade introduces various EIPs, with EIP-4844 being the most notable.

Headlined by Proto-Danksharding, the Ethereum Dencun upgrade unlocks exciting possibilities for Ethereum. These include the following benefits:

  • Faster transactions: Imagine lightning-fast decentralized finance (DeFi) trades or near-instantaneous non-fungible token (NFT) purchases. Faster transactions attract more users and developers, building a vibrant ecosystem for all.

  • Lower fees: Thanks to Proto-Danksharding, there'll be significant fee reductions, making Ethereum more accessible for everyone as users will no longer need to pay exorbitant gas fee

  • Scalability unleashed: With the introduction of the framework for sharding, the road is paved for future enhancements leading to a more scalable and adaptable Ethereum that's ready for mainstream adoption.

What is EIP-4844 Proto-Danksharding?

Also known as Proto-Danksharding among Ethereum enthusiasts, EIP-4844 represents progress towards Ethereum's ambitions of full sharding, where the Ethereum blockchain is divided into smaller, parallel processing units called shards. Although Proto-Danksharding isn't full-on sharding, it helps lay the fundamental groundwork by introducing data blobs. These data blobs act like temporary storage containers for bulky transaction data. In a bid to free up space and network bandwidth for essential information processing, these blobs are stored off-chain.

An in-depth look at EIP-4844 — Dencun's headline proposal

Contrary to popular belief, Proto-Danksharding isn't the Ethereum Foundation's first attempt at scaling Ethereum. Earlier solutions like state channels and plasma offered some relief, but faced limitations like low liquidity and user experiences that felt more like complex puzzles than intuitive interactions. Additionally, concerns arose regarding potential trade-offs between decentralization and security in those earlier approaches. Fortunately, Proto-Danksharding builds upon these efforts by offering a more comprehensive and efficient solution. It avoids the need for intricate sidechains and instead uses rollups, a powerful scaling technique that keeps critical data secured on the main Ethereum chain while processing transactions off-chain. This innovative approach unlocks several key advantages:

Increased transaction throughput

Proto-Danksharding enables parallel processing of transactions, significantly increasing the Ethereum network's capacity to handle more transactions per second. According to blockchain experts, EIP-4844 is expected to potentially increase the network's capacity from 15 transactions per second to hundreds, significantly reducing wait times and improving overall user experience. This can have the knock-on effect of faster transactions and smoother overall network usage.

Reduced gas fees

High gas fees have often been a barrier to entry for everyday users and developers. Proto-Danksharding's off-chain processing significantly reduces the computational effort required for each transaction, potentially leading to dramatic fee reductions. This can open up the Ethereum ecosystem to a wider audience and makes it more accessible for everyday users and developers, fostering broader adoption and innovation.

Maintained security and decentralization

Unlike state channels and plasma, Proto-Danksharding doesn't compromise on the core principle of decentralization. By keeping essential data secure on the main Ethereum chain, it preserves the network's integrity and reliability. Additionally, the rollup design applies the security of the main chain through cryptographic proofs, making sure transactions remain verifiable and unalterable even though processed off-chain.

Sustainable scalability

Designed for efficient data handling and resource usage, Proto-Danksharding lays the groundwork for future improvements and refinements by getting the idea of sharding started with data blobs. This paves the way for Ethereum to maintain its scalability as user activity and network demand continue to grow over time, guaranteeing a sustainable future for this leading platform for Dapps and DeFi.

Explaining the five pillars of the Ethereum Dencun upgrade in detail

One concern you might have about Ethereum Dencun is the number of EIPs involved. We've already covered EIP-4844, so here's a brief rundown of the other EIPs that are part of the upcoming Ethereum upgrade.

EIP-1153: the Forkless Frontier

EIP-1153 promises to allow upgrades to occur without the need for hard forks, providing smoother transitions and maintaining network stability.

Imagine upgrading software without restarting your computer. That's the essence of EIP-1153, aptly named "The Forkless Frontier." Before, introducing changes to Ethereum required hard forks, splitting the network into two versions. This was disruptive and could lead to temporary instability like the situation we saw with the DAO fork in 2016. EIP-1153 introduces a new upgrade mechanism that allows changes to be implemented gradually, without forking. This approach minimizes disruption while improving network stability.

EIP-4788 and State Receipts Vouchering

EIP-4788 improves communication between the consensus and execution layers, enhancing overall network efficiency and security.

The Ethereum network operates on two layers: consensus (validation) and execution (processing transactions). Communication between these layers is crucial for efficient operation. EIP-4788 introduces "State Receipts Vouchering," a mechanism that improves communication by creating vouchers containing essential information about transactions. These vouchers are lighter in information load and more efficient than full-state data, allowing for faster communication and reducing the workload on the consensus layer. This would be similar to sending a summary instead of the entire document, saving time and resources.

EIP-5656 and MCOPY Opcode

EIP-5656 introduces a new instruction for memory copying, which improves the performance of smart contracts, ultimately making them run faster and more efficiently.

Smart contracts are the programmable building blocks of Ethereum applications. EIP-5656 introduces a new opcode called "MCOPY," which optimizes how smart contracts handle memory operations. This might sound technical, but it essentially means smart contracts can copy data more efficiently. This translates to faster execution, lower gas costs, and ultimately, more efficient and cost-effective smart contracts.

EIP-6780 and SELFDESTRUCT Gas Metering

EIP-6780 revises the gas metering for the "SELFDESTRUCT" function, making sure of accurate gas costs associated with the self-destruct operation.

Gas costs can be tricky to navigate, especially with smart contracts that use the "SELFDESTRUCT" function. Before EIP-6780, gas costs for this function were based on assumptions about the contract's state after self-destruction. This could lead to inaccurate calculations and security vulnerabilities like reentrancy attacks, where an attacker exploits the function to trick a smart contract into executing twice and stealing funds. With the introduction of EIP-6780, gas costs are correctly calculated regardless of the smart contract's state before self-destruction. This strengthens the security of smart contracts and represents a significant step towards robust and secure smart contracts on the Ethereum network.

The positive attributes of Layer 2s

The Ethereum Dencun upgrade is expected to bring about notable changes, particularly for Layer 2 (L2) solutions.

The main aspect of this upgrade includes Proto-Danksharding, which allows rollups to add cheaper data to blocks. These transactions are expected to lower the cost of sending funds and speed up Ethereum's ability to handle a larger number of transactions. This helps both users and developers of L2 solutions because it makes Ethereum a more attractive platform overall.

More specifically, the Dencun upgrade is expected to decrease rollup transaction costs by up to ten times. This decrease will improve the financial feasibility and expandability of rollups, increasing the tool's attractiveness for implementing new and intricate applications. Additionally, the upgrade will benefit various L2 platforms in the Ethereum community, including Polygon (MATIC), Arbitrum, Optimism, COTI Network, Mantle, and Metis.

These platforms will likely see improved performance and reduced costs, further solidifying Ethereum's position as a leading blockchain for developing DApps, DeFi applications, gaming platforms, and on-chain trading.

The Dencun upgrade also promises to triple Ethereum's data availability — a particularly beneficial development for solutions like Polygon zkEVM. This increase is expected to significantly lower the cost of data availability for ZK rollups, addressing a critical challenge these technologies face.

Many commentators expect these advancements to make Ethereum more attractive for developers and users of related platforms, while also providing a competitive edge against other Layer 1 (L1) blockchains, such as Solana, that aim for lower cost and higher efficiency.

The likely impact of Ethereum Dencun


With reduced congestion and lower fees, Proto-Danksharding opens doors for developers to build more complex and scalable applications. Imagine DeFi protocols with near-instantaneous settlements or NFT marketplaces with millions of listings without performance issues. The Dencun upgrade unlocks creative possibilities and fuels innovation within the Ethereum ecosystem.

DeFi users

Imagine swapping tokens, lending crypto, or participating in yield farming at a fraction of the current cost and with near-instantaneous confirmation. Proto-Danksharding paves the way for a more user-friendly and accessible DeFi experience, attracting new participants and boosting overall adoption.

NFT creators and collectors

Faster and cheaper minting, buying, and selling of NFTs could revolutionize the market. Artists can reach a wider audience and monetize their creations more efficiently, while collectors can enjoy a smoother and more affordable experience.

Miners and validators

While their reward structure might adapt with network changes, overall, Dencun strengthens the Ethereum network, potentially leading to increased transaction volume and long-term value growth. Additionally, new opportunities might arise for validators participating in securing the data blobs.

Ultimately, the entire Ethereum community stands to gain from this transformative network upgrade, shaping the direction of decentralized finance and beyond.

The Ethereum roadmap post-Dencun upgrade

The Dencun upgrade, scheduled for March 13, 2024, marks a significant milestone in Ethereum's evolution. After rigorous testing and community feedback, it's expected to unlock the transformative potential of Proto-Danksharding and significantly increase transaction throughput. However, it's crucial to remember that this is just one of the first few steps on the path to full sharding. A quick peek at the Ethereum roadmap will tell us that the Ethereum Dencun upgrade is a major milestone in Ethereum's march towards sharding. Once it's implemented, other Surge initiatives with further technological advancements and upgrades will be implemented throughout the rest of 2024, so Ethereum progresses towards a more scalable and efficient network.

Where are we on the Ethereum roadmap and what's next for Ethereum?

As of the current state of Ethereum pre-Dencun upgrade, we're currently at The Surge portion of the Ethereum roadmap, which emphasizes upgrades related to scalability by rollups and data sharding. With the final solution to scalability yet to arrive, only time will tell as to when the Ethereum Foundation will be able to achieve and complete the vision of The Surge as planned by Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin and the team.

With that in mind, Ethereum still has to go through the following phases to fully execute its roadmap:

  • The Scourge (which introduces upgrades related to censorship resistance, decentralization, and MEV-related protocol risks)

  • The Verge (which focuses on upgrades related to block verification)

  • The Purge (which looks at upgrades related to reducing computational node running costs and protocol simplification)

  • The Splurge (which considers upgrades that don't fit into the aforementioned categories)

Final words and next steps

With its groundbreaking Proto-Danksharding technology, the Ethereum Dencun upgrade is just the beginning of a thrilling chapter for Ethereum. While it promises faster transactions, lower fees, and a significant boost in scalability, it's crucial to remember that the implementation of EIP-4844 and the other EIPs are merely the first step on a journey towards achieving Ethereum's end goal of full sharding. Beyond Dencun, blockchain enthusiasts will be happy to know that the Ethereum Foundation has an exciting roadmap filled with further upgrades and innovations in store for the crypto scene's leading smart contract platform. These include stateless clients and "stateless Ethereum", which will continue to push the boundaries of scalability and security.

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FAQs about the Ethereum Dencun upgrade

Is the Ethereum Dencun upgrade secure?

Yes, rigorous testing and security measures make sure that only authorized validators can access data blobs. Prior to being successfully executed on the Holešky testnet, the Dencun upgrade was also run on the Goerli and Sepolia testnet.

How will the Dencun upgrade affect existing Ether holders?

Besides providing better user experiences and a more secure protocol, Ethereum end users aren't required to actively participate in an upgrade, nor are they required to do anything to secure their assets. Ethereum node operators will need to update their clients to prepare for an upgrade.

What are the potential risks of the Dencun upgrade?

As with any major upgrade, there's an inherent risk of unforeseen issues. These include unintended delays and network outages for the Ethereum network.

What's next after the Ethereum Dencun upgrade?

According to the official Ethereum roadmap, there are four more phases for Ethereum to go through before it's considered a complete project. These include the Surge, Verge, Purge, and Splurge, alongside various complementary upgrades and bug fixes.

How will the Dencun upgrade impact ETH's price?

There'll likely be near-term volatility once the Dencun upgrade is implemented on March 13, 2024 as FOMO buyers compete with "sell the news" traders. However, the overarching view is that the Dencun upgrade's success will positively influence Ethereum's long-term value as the Ethereum Foundation successfully executes its Ethereum roadmap.

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