Byzantium,the first part of Ethereum’s Metropolis hardfork and the biggest upgrade for the network since last year, is being fine tuned by coders on the testing network.
This doesn’t affect the live ethereum network in any way, but it does indicate the upgrade is now very much due and may go live in two-three weeks.
That means the network will soon have to download the new node software, with miners and businesses, in particular, needing to pay attention in the next two weeks.
But all 24,600 node operators will have to upgrade if they want to stay on the main network. That’s because this is a hard fork. So the old chain will be discarded and a new one followed.
The upgrade has many technical components which improve processing and smart contracts functionalities as Alex van de Sande, an ethereum developer, explains at some length.
“Verifying Snarks with smart contracts will be possible from Byzantium, but it will be like writing evm bytecode yourself. We and others are working on the tools to make this easier to use.”
Bytecode being the very raw eth smart contracts code. Requiring considerable skill to navigate. While Snarks are a cryptographic tool used in Zcash for significantly higher privacy. A tool which Byzantium will bring to ethereum.
The upgrade will further somewhat increase scalability, and will reduce block reward to 3eth from the current 5, while reducing block times to around 15 seconds from the current near 25 seconds.
The latter suggests issuance might be reduced slightly, but that depends on when the fork actually activates on the main ethereum network.
Some calculations from Afri Schoedon, a Parity developer, suggests issuance would be reduced slightly if the hardfork activates now, but might increase slightly if it does in October.
However, issuance will certainly reduced compared to the situation before ethereum’s difficulty bomb kicked in earlier this year.
That increased difficulty, making mining and block finding harder, thus increasing block times to incentivize an upgrade to Proof of Stake (PoS).
But PoS has been delayed. So Metropolis is to delay the difficulty bomb too and return block times to normal. In the process, it is to also reduce issuance to maintain it at around the same level as now.
That means miners will be incentivized to upgrade, because if they don’t, finding blocks will become harder and harder, thus considerably lowering their earning. While the hardfork upgrade maintains them at somewhat steady current levels.
Some disagree with the reduction of issuance and are apparently planning to continue the old chain, while presumably removing the difficulty bomb while not lowering issuance.
Thus offering ethereans an alternative higher inflation network, but whether that has any support at all remains a question, with the vast majority expected to follow the 3 eth blockchain.