Coinbase confronts client diversity risk following Nethermind bug

Ethereum’s Nethermind client software saw a bug that pulled validators offline


Artwork by Crystal Le


Coinbase is looking into ways to address client diversity concerns following an outage that affected 8% of Ethereum validators. 

Ethereum’s Nethermind client software — a tool that is used to connect validators with blockchain networks — saw a bug that pulled validators offline. 

Although the bug was resolved within four hours, concerns about client centralization on Ethereum began to surface. 

Specifically, users flagged that if client software Geth — Ethereum’s most popular execution client used by 84% of validators — were to shut down, then Ethereum itself would stop finalizing. 

Read more: Liquid Collective pitches efficiency standards for Ethereum validators

“When a minority client fails, the penalty is losing [ether] ETH at the same rate as you gained it, but if Geth fails because it instantly stops the chain from finalizing, the penalty is much harsher,” Labrys, a Web3 development company in Australia, wrote in a post on X. 

Coinbase Cloud nodes currently rely solely on client software Geth, as does Binance and Kraken. Following urging from community members, a Coinbase Cloud spokesperson told Blockworks that Coinbase is actively assessing alternative execution clients.

“We believe that client diversity helps the health of the Ethereum network. As industry leaders, we are committed to helping our customers participate in the crypto-economy safely and securely,” a Coinbase spokesperson said.

They note that, to date, Geth has been the only execution layer client software that has met its technical requirements.

Read more: Parallelized EVMs are gaining popularity, but they won’t scale blockchains alone

“Many other operators on the network have reached the same conclusion, which is part of the reason why 84% of Ethereum validators run Geth. However, the tide is turning,” Coinbase Cloud wrote in a post on X.

It added that “alternative execution clients have come a long way, and so we are conducting an updated technical assessment with the goal of adding another execution client to our infrastructure.” 

It is expected that Coinbase will share an update on alternative execution client solutions in late February.

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