If you’ve been following along with Ethereum’s progress you’ll know that the worlds second most popular blockchain will soon be transitioning from proof of work to proof of stake. The final outcome will be a protocol known as Casper. To guide that process, network-wide updates are consistently taking place.
Ethereum has four major upgrades planned as part of its roadmap and they can be tracked as follows. Frontier went live in July 2015. Homestead, in March of 2016. Metropolis is currently being implemented with codename Constantinople as its second step. The last one to arrive on the scene will be Serenity. Ethereum team lead Péter Szilágyi anticipates the hard fork to take place on block #7080000 around the 16th of January.
#Ethereum Constantinople mainnet hard fork scheduled for block #7080000, estimated around the 16th of January, 2019!
— Péter Szilágyi (@peter_szilagyi) December 7, 2018
Ethereum Improvement Proposals
As part of Ethereum’s improvement process, proposals are regularly suggested by the core developers. These will improve the overall functionality of the blockchain as Ethereum moves ever closer to Casper. The community has approved the following five EIP’s for the Constantinople upgrade. Each EIP links to the technical details if that’s up your alley.
Introduces native bitwise shifting in the Ethereum Virtual Machine. This will allow developers to make some operations more efficient thereby saving on gas fees.
This will allow users to interact with addresses that haven’t been created yet on the blockchain. This deals with state channels which will allow Ethereum to better scale in the future.
Allows smart contracts to check the code of other smart contracts more efficiently (ie. less processing power). Again, the network will require less gas to perform these checks.
Ok, this is the big one. EIP 1234 proposes a delay to the difficulty bomb for approximately 12 months. Sounds cool but what is a difficulty bomb? Currently, the developers have built increased mining difficulty into the Ethereum algorithm to force miners to eventually switch over from proof of work to proof of stake. That’s a problem because Casper isn’t ready yet and users still need the security of the miners in the meantime.
The other more controversial change is a reduction in mining rewards from three Ether per block down to two. That’s a pretty substantial loss in mining profits and investors will be keeping a close eye on how this will affect hash rates and the overall security of the network going forward.
Another efficiency upgrade allowing several actions to be taken on each transaction similar to how EOS currently implements multi-level transactions.
How Do You Get on to the New Blockchain?
Major upgrades result in hard forks of the Ethereum blockchain. That process splits the chain in two which has caused some issues in the past. Fortunately, the community has reached consensus on this one and everyone will be moving to the new chain.
If you’re simply a coin holder then you don’t need to do anything. Exchanges, services, and node providers should be doing this on your behalf so the effect will be minimal for most users. Be aware though that some of these services may pause deposits and withdrawals of Ether during the changeover. If, on the other hand, you’re running an Ethereum node you’ll need to update to the latest software.
Onwards and Upwards
Ethereum continues to improve with each update. The Constantinople fork is not particularly groundbreaking though is making good strides towards improving the overall efficiency of the network. If you’re a miner, you’ll want to upgrade as soon as changes go live. May the fork be with you!
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