The ethereum network is to undergo its biggest upgrade in more than a year at block number 4.37 million which is estimated to be found on or around October 17th, just over three weeks from now.
The block number was decided at a developers meeting yesterday, which means the Byzantium Metropolis hardfork upgrade is now very much in its final stages.
The new upgraded node software with the hardfork trigger should be launched within days for both Geth and Parity, ethereum’s two biggest node clients.
At which point everyone needs to upgrade as it’s a flag day fork. That means, the fork will occur regardless of miner support or node support as long as some are running it. However, it is largely uncontroversial. Therefore all are expected to upgrade if they wish to remain on the main chain.
The fork has two headline grabbing features among a number of efficiency increases. The first is an increased level of privacy with some components of zk-SNARKs – used in Zcash – added to ethereum to such extent an eth developer was able to verify the authenticity of the zk-SNARKs components of a Zcash transaction.
Ethereum developers and Zcash developers have at times been in close collaboration with the aim of increasing ethereum’s privacy as requested by many businesses, including global multinationals which often cite privacy, or potentially lack of it, as a concern.
However, it is very much in early stages with the privacy components usable only in very raw low level almost base code. But it is the first step towards greater privacy.
The second main aspect of the upgrade is a delay of the difficulty bomb to return block levels within their usual average of 15 seconds, so providing more time for the development of Proof of Stake.
As block times are reduced, issuance is to be reduced too in order to keep inflation at around the same levels. Something which might leave room for some slight controversy, but from what we can see there appears to be almost unanimous agreement for the upgrade with little, if any, support for any dissent.
That may be because although initially there was some debate, developers seem to have struck the right balance, with the reduction in issuance appearing necessary due to the reduction in block times so as to avoid an increase in inflation.
Moreover, generally, public discourse appears to be very calm as far as the upgrade is concerned. Therefore, we might expect it to go through very smoothly, with ethereum’s network so upgrading just two weeks before Halloween and the birthday of bitcoin’s whitepaper.