Ethereum Improvement Proposals, or EIPs, are an intrinsic part of the Ethereum blockchain network. EIPs describe technical specifications responsible for the network’s evolution, functionality, development, and consensus-building methodology within the platform’s community.
EIPs are technical documents that describe the fundamental standards or protocols for the Ethereum ecosystem, and can address a wide variety of factors in the network. For example, they can illustrate improvement models that Ethereum’s development committee may undertake or provide clarification on existing features or codes, fundamental contract standards, monetary policy, and client APIs.
The first Ethereum EIP-001 repository was launched on October 27th, 2015, by its core team of developers: Vitalik Buterin, Hudson Jameson, and Martin Becze.
The primary goals of EIPs are to propose new features and upgrades, seek technical inputs from community members, document and implement community decisions, and track the implementation process.
Along with implementing more technical aspects, EIPs are also responsible for achieving a consensus in the governance of the Ethereum ecosystem. Anyone can take part in the decision-making process and debate whether or not an upgrade should be adopted and implemented as a standard in the network. Core EIPs typically need to achieve a broader consensus in the network compared to non-core EIPs. EIP implementors are responsible for checking the current status of the proposals.
Overall, EIPs promote open collaboration among community members and help developers to make improvements within the blockchain space.
All technical modifications, upgrades, and application standards within the Ethereum network has to go through the EIP process, where the author needs to achieve community consensus and document nonconforming opinions.
All core ideas and protocols of the EIP process go through the following steps:
- Ideation — This is the pre-draft stage and is not recorded in the EIP repository.
- Draft — After the ideation stage, the EIP author and EIP editor will come up with a properly formatted formal draft that is included within the EIP repository.
- Review or Last Call — This is the stage when the draft is reviewed by the team. It is the final review stage. If the draft needs further modifications, it will be re-sent to the “review” stage. This stage lasts for 14 days.
- Final Call — This is the final standard where the draft has already been approved, but is open for minor changes or clarifications.
- Stagnant/Deferred — If the EIP remains stagnant in the “Review,” “Last Call”, or “Final Call” stage for more than 6 months, it will be considered stagnant.
- Withdrawn — An EIP proposal that is withdrawn cannot be resurrected. If the team decides to pursue the idea, they have to develop a new proposal.
- Living — A living EIP is continuously updated, and has not reached its final stage.
There are three broad classifications of EIPs:
Standards Track EIPs
These EIPs affect almost all Ethereum implementations. They impact the fundamental operational features of the Ethereum network, such as functionalities, consensus protocols, application standards, transaction or block validations, and application interoperability within the Ethereum network. They are also needed to launch new token standards in the community. Standards Track EIPs include:
Standards Track EIPs can be further divided into the following sub-categories:
Networking: Suggest improvements in the network protocol in the Ethereum Subprotocol and the devp2p (EIP-8).
Interface: Include improvements in the API/RPC standards and specifications.
ERC: Include token standards, application-level standards, contract standards, and wallet formats.
Meta EIPs include processes that change off-chain elements of the network, procedures, decision-making processes, guidelines, and modifications in tools and the Ethereum environment. They generally require the consensus of the community at large.
Informational EIPs propose guidelines and information to the Ethereum community, but those guidelines do not need to be implemented. They do not propose new features to the network, and as such these EIPs do not require community consensus.
- EIP-20 token standard — This is one of the most popular EIPs in the Ethereum ecosystem. It was created to implement the ERC-20 token standard. This EIP protocol allows developers to build their own tokens by using a set of standard APIs and rules.
- EIP-721 token standard — This EIP is a non-fungible (NFT) token standard that allows all transactions and ownerships of digital and physical assets to be validated through Ethereum smart contracts.
- EIP-1155 token standard — EIP-1155 is a multi-token standard. It outlines an interface and smart contracts that can include non-fungible (ERC-721), fungible (ERC-20), semi-fungible tokens, and tokens of any other configuration.
- EIP-137 — This is the Ethereum Domain Name Service ( ENS). Developed by Ethereum’s core developers Nick Johnson and Alex Van de Sande, it is Ethereum’s own domain system. The ENS generated readable addresses, similar to web addresses, that are easy to use and can be used for branding products online.
- EIP-3675 ( Ethereum Merge) — One of the most prominent and important EIPs, EIP-3675 proposed the Ethereum “Merge” from the Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus mechanism to the Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus protocol, which is an important landmark for the Ethereum community.
- EIP-1559 (gas fees): The EIP-1559 made fundamental changes to the gas fee structure of the Ethereum blockchain.
Ethereum Improvement Proposals play a key role in the evolution and development of the Ethereum blockchain network. EIPs are dynamic, flexible, inclusive, and open the door to anyone who wants to participate in the development of the network.