ERC-4337: Revolutionizing Ethereum User Accounts
















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ERC-4337: Revol...


ERC-4337: Revolutionizing Ethereum User Accounts

7 mins read / updated on Thu Jan 25 2024


The Ethereum Improvement Proposals, or EIPs, outline various standards, including core protocol specifications and contract standards, for the Ethereum platform. Among these, the Ethereum Request for Comment (ERC) represents a specific category of EIP, establishing application-level standards like contract and token guidelines. For an EIP to evolve into an ERC, it must receive authorization through on-chain governance.

ERC-4337 is the most recent ERC standard introduced on the Ethereum mainnet, marking a significant step towards achieving the much-anticipated concept of account abstraction. While initially referred to as EIP-4337, this proposal, first introduced in 2021, received authorization to transition into ERC-4337 in 2023.

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Understanding ERC 4337 better

ERC-4337 is an Ethereum standard, distinct from token standards, designed to elevate user accounts into smart accounts. Technically speaking, it serves as a tool for account abstraction.

So, what does abstraction imply in this context?

Abstraction might refer to the generation of new, innovative ideas for user accounts, aligning with Ethereum’s visionary goals outlined under EIP-4337 or the current ERC-4337. Alternatively, it might signify a departure from traditional account management methods, such as those employed by MetaMask. This implies moving away from a focus on seed phrases, individual transaction signatures, and an excessive dependence on private keys.

To put it plainly, ERC-4337 aims to integrate smart contract functionalities directly into Ethereum wallets. It seeks to blur the lines between wallets and smart accounts, envisioning them as multifaceted entities capable of executing various tasks, managing multi-factor authentication, initiating and maintaining crypto subscriptions, and beyond – all through programmable code.

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What is Account Abstraction?

Account abstraction is an innovative concept where smart contracts become first-class citizens in the Ethereum ecosystem, evolving into user accounts themselves. These 'smart wallets' can independently execute transactions, make decisions regarding transaction fees, and specify who pays these fees. This unprecedented model opens up an extensive set of advanced functionalities, including multi-signature transactions, decentralized account recovery options, and a theoretical resistance to quantum attacks.

ERC-4337 and Account Abstraction: Drawing the Distinction

While ERC-4337 accounts grant the capability to execute functions and offer greater control over transaction fee payment options, they don't embody the concept of complete account abstraction. Ethereum's co-founder, Vitalik Buterin, articulated this nuance, stating, "What ERC-4337 fundamentally offers towards account abstraction is a decentralized fee market for user operations engaging with smart contract wallets."

In essence, ERC-4337 functions more like a transaction relayer. It empowers users to orchestrate transactions in an off-chain order book, which are later relayed as final transactions to the blockchain. In contrast, genuine account abstraction aims to revolutionize how Externally Owned Accounts (EOAs) interact with the Ethereum blockchain at its core.

Achieving such functionalities would necessitate comprehensive upgrades to Ethereum's consensus protocol—a significant and complex undertaking. Although ERC-4337 represents a crucial stride towards this objective, the full realization of Ethereum account abstraction remains on the horizon.

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ERC 4337's interaction with the Ethereum Network

For years, the Ethereum community has been striving to realize the concept of account abstraction. Prior to EIP-4337, another notable proposal, EIP-2938, was introduced with the aim of achieving account abstraction, but it entailed changes at the consensus layer. ERC-4337, however, navigates around this need.

This is achieved through the introduction of a high-layer pseudo-transaction object termed 'UserOperation.' This concept bears resemblance to rollups, as both encompass various iterations of the bundling concept. In the ERC-4337 framework, users transmit UserOperation objects into a distinct mempool.

'Bundlers' are tasked with assembling these objects into a cohesive transaction destined for inclusion in a blockchain block. These bundlers shoulder the gas costs for these aggregated transactions and, in return, receive fees from the execution of individual UserOperations. In function, bundlers mirror the role of validators—they selectively include objects based on a fee-prioritization rationale.

Additionally, ERC-4337 introduces new functions, such as 'validateUserOp,' facilitating the dual role of a wallet as a smart contract. Moreover, a novel contract, known as the 'EntryPoint,' is introduced to act as a security checkpoint for the execution of these newly integrated functions.

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The need for ERC 4337

Unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum operates on an account-based model, and it has two different types of accounts: Externally Owned Accounts (EOAs) and Contract Accounts, each governed by a distinct set of rules. Current cryptocurrency wallets, primarily EOAs, are limited in their capacities due to these constraints. ERC-4337 aims to blur the lines between these two account types, converging their features into a single, more versatile account model. This is poised to revolutionize the possibilities and functionalities that a crypto wallet can offer, thereby enhancing user experience in the decentralized world.

What Are the Benefits of ERC 4337?

ERC-4337 aims to achieve the following goals:

  • Account Abstraction: This allows users to have a single account with functionalities of both smart contracts and EOAs.
  • Decentralization: It allows any so-called bundlers to participate in the process, ensuring broad involvement.
  • Avoid Consensus Changes: ERC-4337 can be adopted quickly as it does not necessitate changes at the Ethereum consensus layer, which is focused on scalability-oriented upgrades.
  • Enable Innovative Use Cases: This includes aggregated signatures, setting daily transaction limits, emergency account freezing, whitelisting, and privacy-preserving applications.
  • Save Time and Gas: Bundlers can package UserOperation objects into one transaction, resulting in time and gas savings.

Potential Uses of ERC-4337

ERC-4337 could dramatically simplify the crypto wallet user experience and thereby increase adoption. Here are some potential use cases for ERC-4337:

  • Wallet Setup: There is no need to write down seed phrases; setup can be quick and easy with just a few clicks.
  • Worry-Free Account Recovery: Multi-factor authentication and account recovery are now possible, relieving users of the stress of losing seed phrases.
  • User-Friendly Wallet Functions: Auto-pay, pre-approve transactions, and bundled transactions are among the many customizable services that users can enjoy.
  • Better Security: With less reliance on human memory and safeguarding of seed phrases, wallets could potentially be more secure.
  • Gas Flexibility: ERC-4337-powered wallets can pay gas fees with any ERC-20 tokens, and developers could even enable payment of gas fees in fiat.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication and Custom Coding: Integration with mobile devices (e.g., Face ID on iPhones) is possible, and users can set custom rules and limits on their accounts.
  • Automated DeFi and Trading Access: Users can automate the investment of idle funds in liquidity pools or trading in specific marketplaces and exchanges, based on custom criteria.

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Different Components of ERC 4337

There are four main components to ERC-4337:

  • User Operation: Pseudo-transaction objects used to execute transactions with contract accounts. These are created by the user's app.
  • Bundler: Actors that package UserOperations from a mempool and send them to the EntryPoint contract on the blockchain.
  • EntryPoint: A singleton smart contract that handles the verification and execution logic for transactions.
  • Contract Accounts (Smart Account): Smart contract accounts owned by a user.

Additional components can include:

  • Paymasters: Optional smart contract accounts that can sponsor transactions for Contract Accounts.
  • Aggregators: Optional smart contracts that can validate signatures for multiple Contract Accounts.

Limitations & Challenges of ERC 4337

While ERC-4337 is promising, it comes with its own set of challenges:

  • Higher Costs: Despite Paymaster-specific gas fee offloading and sponsored transactions, someone must pay the fee in the end. With high Ethereum network costs, this remains a concern unless all EVM-compatible scaling solutions and layer-2s start implementing ERC-4337.
  • Contract Verification: Contract accounts offer numerous features, but they do not allow key-based signatures, essential for first-time verifications. EIP-1271 allows for signatures via smart contracts, but implementation outside of the Ethereum chain can be challenging.
  • Massive Infrastructure Needs: Large-scale adoption of Account Abstraction accounts would require more Bundlers, resulting in substantial infrastructure and technical know-how demands.
  • Centralization Worries: If only a few Bundlers participate, transaction processing could become centralized, at least initially.

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The world of crypto wallets, complete with its lexicon of seed phrases, private keys, and public keys, can present a formidable barrier for newcomers. For many, the act of navigating a crypto wallet remains a complex task. The consensus among experts is that the interface for the average user must be as intuitive as possible to catalyze widespread adoption.

ERC-4337 provides the structural groundwork necessary to usher in a new generation of inventive and user-friendly crypto wallets. The innovations that developers may forge atop this foundation have the potential to redefine the principal interaction point between users and the crypto world. In this light, the influence that ERC-4337 stands to exert on both the user experience and the broader cryptocurrency landscape is a development that warrants close observation in the years ahead.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]:

Q: What does ERC-4337 do?

A: ERC-4337 supercharges user accounts on the Ethereum platform, transforming them into smart accounts. It enables these accounts to perform multiple tasks, handle multi-factor authentication, initiate crypto subscriptions, and more—all via code.

Q: Is ERC-4337 a token?

A: No, ERC-4337 is not a token. It is an Ethereum standard that focuses on account abstraction and the functionality of user accounts.

Q: What is ERC-4337 account abstraction?

A: ERC-4337 account abstraction refers to the Ethereum ecosystem's plan to bring smart contract functionality to wallets. It aims to move away from the traditional handling of user accounts and make wallets synonymous with smart accounts, which can perform a wide range of operations using code.

Q: How to implement ERC-4337?

A: Implementation details for ERC-4337 involve introducing a pseudo-transaction object called a UserOperation. Users send these UserOperation objects into a separate mempool. Bundlers then package these objects into transactions which get included in a block. New functions are also introduced to enable a wallet to function as a smart contract, and a new contract called the EntryPoint is introduced as a security measure.

Q: What is the difference between EIP 3074 and EIP-4337?

A: While the exact differences between EIP 3074 and EIP-4337 were not provided in the blog, it's clear that EIP-4337 focuses on account abstraction and enhancing user accounts on the Ethereum platform. EIP-2938, another proposal, was mentioned as a precursor aiming for account abstraction but required consensus-layer changes, whereas ERC-4337 avoids these changes.

Q: What is a bundler in ERC-4337?

A: In ERC-4337, a bundler is an actor that packages UserOperation objects from a mempool and sends them to the EntryPoint contract on the blockchain. Bundlers play a pivotal role in the process, paying gas for bundled transactions and earning fees from individual UserOperation executions. They function similarly to validators, selecting which objects to include based on fee-prioritization logic.

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Zainab Saberi

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