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The Beacon Chain’s role will change over time but it’s a foundational component for the secure, sustainable and scalable Ethereum we’re working towards.
The Beacon Chain will introduce proof-of-stake to Ethereum. This is a new way for you to help keep Ethereum secure. Think of it like a public good that will make Ethereum healthier and earn you more ETH in the process. In practice, it will involve you staking ETH in order to activate validator software. As a validator you'll process transactions and create new blocks in the chain.
Staking and becoming a validator is easier than mining (how the network is currently secured). And it's hoped this will help make Ethereum more secure in the long run. The more people that participate in the network, the more decentralized and safe from attack it will become.
This is also an important change for another upgrade: shard chains.
After Mainnet merges with the Beacon Chain, the next upgrade will introduce shard chains to the proof-of-stake network. These "shards" will increase the capacity of the network and improve transaction speed by extending the network to 64 blockchains. The Beacon Chain is an important first step in introducing shard chains, because they require staking to work securely.
Eventually the Beacon Chain will also be responsible for randomly assigning stakers to validate shard chains. This is key to making it difficult for stakers to collude and take over a shard. Well, it means they have less than a 1 in a trillion chance.
The Ethereum upgrades are all somewhat interrelated. So let’s recap how the Beacon Chain affects the other upgrades.
The Beacon Chain, at first, will exist separately to the Ethereum Mainnet we use today. But eventually they will be connected. The plan is to "merge" Mainnet into the proof-of-stake system that's controlled and coordinated by the Beacon Chain.The merge
Shard chains can only safely enter the Ethereum ecosystem with a proof-of-stake consensus mechanism in place. The Beacon Chain will introduce staking, paving the way for the shard chain upgrade to follow.Shard chains
Become a staker
Staking is live! If you want to stake your ETH to help secure the network, make sure you’re aware of the risks.
Run a consensus client
Ethereum needs as many clients running as possible. Help with this Ethereum public good!