In the realm of cryptocurrency, a novel concept known as “restaking” is gaining traction, challenging the need to construct individual security mechanisms from scratch. At its core, restaking revolves around the reutilization of ether (ETH) tokens that have been “staked” as collateral on Ethereum, the world’s second-largest blockchain, to guarantee security. These staked tokens can then be repurposed for smaller networks and applications.

The primary objective of restaking is to streamline the process for blockchain developers launching new projects. By repurposing already staked tokens, developers can avoid the high costs and complexities associated with assembling their own groups of operators or “validators” to ensure the security of their systems.

For Ethereum stakers – those who deposit ETH tokens to bolster the blockchain’s security – the prospect of restaking tokens on other projects beyond Ethereum presents an opportunity for additional income. Currently, about 23.4 million ETH (valued at around $43 billion) have been staked on Ethereum, with approximately 730,000 validators, as reported by the blockchain tracker

A notable pioneer of restaking is EigenLayer, founded in 2021 by the University of Washington’s Sreeram Kannan. The protocol successfully launched its “Stage 1” on the Ethereum network after a two-month testing phase. In the lead-up, EigenLabs, the developer behind EigenLayer, secured $50 million in a Series A fundraising round, following a previous $14.5 million seed round.

EigenLayer’s protocol simplifies the process of initiating new projects, providing a solution for those historically challenged by establishing trust networks. Brianna Montgomery, the head of strategy at EigenLayer, highlighted how the protocol facilitates the creation of projects that historically required arduous trust-building processes.

However, restakers could potentially face “slashing” penalties – deductions from staked deposits – raising concerns about conflicts of interest that might jeopardize Ethereum’s consensus. Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin raised these apprehensions in a May 2023 blog post, noting the potential “high systemic risks to the ecosystem.”

Buterin advocated for the preservation of Ethereum’s minimalism rather than expanding its core functionality, emphasizing caution to avoid extending Ethereum consensus beyond its intended scope.

How Restaking Operates:

EigenLayer’s approach to restaking expands the decentralized trust of ETH stakers on Ethereum to other systems. In its “Stage 1” launch, the protocol supports the liquid staking of Lido stETH, Rocket Pool ETH (rETH), and Coinbase Wrapped Staked ETH (cbETH).

Stakers opt in by granting the EigenLayer smart contracts the authority to impose additional slashing conditions on their staked ETH, thereby extending cryptographic security. This process resembles the concept of “merged mining” on the Bitcoin blockchain, where computational power is applied to another blockchain to enhance security.

EigenLayer’s approach enables the purchase of pooled security from validators, creating a marketplace for staking. Notably, EigenLayer has developed its own protocol for “data availability,” streamlining transaction data confirmation for layer 2 networks and “light clients.”

As demand for the protocol grows, EigenLayer continues to raise its staking capacity, with users eagerly participating. The protocol’s recent increase in restaking capacity led to quadrupled total value locked (TVL) within two days of the announcement. This reflects the burgeoning interest in EigenLayer and the restaking concept among cryptocurrency enthusiasts.

Vitalik Buterin’s essay on restaking and EigenLayer underscored the importance of managing risk and aligning with Ethereum’s long-term interests. This initiated a thoughtful dialogue about restaking’s implications and how to navigate potential challenges while safeguarding Ethereum’s integrity.


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