Ethereum (ETH): How I learned to stop worrying and love the “bomb of”

The sector of crypto-currencies is plagued with liquidations and layoffs, but Ethereum developers continue to work on merging, i.e. the soon-to-be transition of the blockchain network to a new, more energy-efficient mechanism for issuing blocks and stay secure.

Ironically, the markets’ pessimism coincides with a period of optimism in Ethereum’s development history. The network will soon abandon its energy-intensive PoW (proof-of-work) consensus mechanism, in which computers compete to issue blocks and earn rewards, to a PoS (proof-of-work) mechanism. -stake) more efficient, which randomly selects “validators” to add blocks to the blockchain if they “stake” 32 ethers with the network.

Ethereum had a spurred merger dress rehearsal a few weeks ago when its Ropsten testnet successfully transitioned to PoS. Testnets are networks that run alongside Ethereum and allow developers to experiment and test new applications without putting real monetary value at risk.

Despite some minor issues, the Ropsten merger was generally considered a major success, and over the next few months a series of similar trials will take place on other Ethereum networks. If these trials go without too many problems, Ethereum should finally be ready to embark on its official merger into a PoS network.

This article was published in Valid Points, CoinDesk’s weekly newsletter that analyzes Ethereum 2.0 and its impact on the crypto markets. Subscribe to Valid Points here.

PoS has been on Ethereum’s roadmap since its launch in 2015, but the network’s plan to transition from PoW to PoS is an engineering effort without real precedent. Ethereum has a market cap of $140 billion, and one mistake could spell financial disaster.

Given the importance of what is at stake, the Ethereum developers have been careful to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s to ensure that the transition to PoS goes without a major hitch. This caution, however justified, resulted in a series of setbacks for the project. The transition to PoS was planned as early as 2019, but whenever the merger (originally called “Ethereum 2.0”) seemed to be close, the schedule seemed to move back a few more months.

Leading Ethereum developers will bristle at the idea that the merger was never “incorporated”. Technically, it never had a concrete release date. But that’s just semantics. The Fusion schedule has, time and time again, exceeded most people’s expectations.

Merger seems really close this time around, but the road to PoS seems to get longer this month with the announcement that the “difficulty bomb” will be delayed for a few months.

As EthHub explains, “Ethereum’s ‘difficulty bomb’ refers to a mechanism that, from a number of predefined blocks, increases the level of puzzles in the proof-of-work mining algorithm, which results in longer than normal block times (and therefore less ETH rewards for miners). This mechanism increases the difficulty exponentially over time and eventually leads to what is known as the “Ice Age”, i.e. the chain becomes so difficult to mine that it breaks down. stops producing blocks (it freezes). »

The difficulty bomb has historically been used by Ethereum developers as an artificial incentive to implement fusion. Moving the Difficulty Bomb means issuing a network-wide update – something that will have to happen with the merge anyway, but is a bit of a headache for developers if it doesn’t. completely necessary.

As the bomb gets closer, the network slows down until it becomes unusable.

During Ethereum’s bi-weekly ‘All Core Devs’ call on June 10, a developer noticed that the difficulty bomb, which isn’t expected to completely freeze the network for another two months, had already started slowing the issuance of blocks to the point of becoming noticeable. On the same subject : Cryptocurrency price prediction today: Solana, Cardano and Bitcoin.

As a result, the developers agreed to repel the bomb by 700,000 blocks, or around 100 days. This will give them a few extra months to test and prepare for Fusion without risking slowing down the network for no real reason.

But if the bomb can be repelled at will, what’s the point?

Ben Edgington, product manager at Ethereum development company ConsenSys, described the difficulty bomb as “one of the quirks of Ethereum.” On the same subject : BTC Alert: Bitcoin drops below $27,000 as cryptocurrency liquidation continues..

“As for forcing developers, I don’t feel like that really does much good,” Edgington said. “Having those bomb forks is an illustration of that. We are about to do the third in the history of Ethereum. »

According to Edgington, the fact that the bomb has been repeatedly pushed back (without any updates from the PoS) is proof that it is not working as intended.

According to Edgington, Ethereum developers are already motivated enough to pull off the Merger. “We realize there is a cost to not delivering: There is an environmental cost, there is an issuance cost, there is a cost to not being on the most secure consensus protocol. You know, we think proof-of-stake is better than proof-of-work in a lot of forecasts. So there are real costs to not merging quickly,” Edgington said.

Not everyone agrees with Edgington on the uselessness of the bomb. Tim Beiko, who leads the All Core Devs call on behalf of the Ethereum Foundation, explained to CoinDesk that the “bomb is extremely useful for many reasons,” beyond just being a force function for the fusion.

“The first reason for its usefulness is that it forces people to make an active decision about whether to participate in the network,” Beiko said. Each time the Difficulty Bomb is pushed back, client teams — who build the software powering the Ethereum network — must update their code. The final Difficulty Bomb pushback will be during the Gray Glacier network upgrade, scheduled for June 29, which will require all client teams to update their software by June 27.

Each time the network is upgraded, customer teams must grow to update their software in unison. If the teams aren’t working together, they’re considering sharding — or bifurcating — the network into two blockchains. According to Beiko, the “active decision” to update and push back the difficulty bomb is good exercise for client teams, as they will eventually need to flex their update muscles for bigger changes, like the merger itself.

“The second reason [de la bombe de difficulté] — and this is one reason that I think is probably underestimated — is the idea that it makes it a bit more difficult to create a fraudulent fork of Ethereum,” Beiko said. “Two or three years ago there was, for example, Bitcoin Diamond, Bitcoin Unlimited, Bitcoin Gold, all these forks of forks of forks. The reason you largely don’t see them on Ethereum is that they will not only pass a one-line change – like many of these Bitcoin forks do – but they also require people to run the software put up to date. »

Beiko believes that bomb difficulty can help prevent fraudulent forks, as it makes creating a new version of Ethereum a bit more complicated. Unless the team behind an Ethereum fork has an engineer who can modify Ethereum’s code to remove the difficulty bomb, the fork will eventually come to a halt once the bomb is withheld , which will make it useless.

Moreover, according to Beiko, “beyond the technical change, you have to convince people to download it. You can’t just re-skin Ethereum, remove the bomb from it, and invite people to switch to your new network. Node operators, i.e. people whose computers keep blockchains running, will also need to update their software in order to support an Ethereum fork.

This means that launching an Ethereum fork also requires building a community that believes in your project enough to be willing to put in a little extra work in order to upgrade its software.

“I think that’s really healthy, both because it limits the number of low-effort forks, but if you have a legit fork, which I think are very healthy for blockchains…it puts a minimal technical bar on what they need to do,” Beiko said.

Thomas Estimbre
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