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Everything That You Need To Know About Constantinople, Ethereum’s Big Upgrade

Constantinople was finished on August 31 and it is expected to be the next upgrade of the Ethereum network. This upgrade has a total of five new improvement proposals (EIPs). These proposals will alter the blockchain as soon as the protocol is released.

What does this mean? It means that the nodes will have to decide whether they want to use the new upgrade and continue on the Ethereum network or they will have to make a hard fork and run their blocks separately from the main Ethereum blockchain.

Hard forks are system-wide upgrades that have created a fair amount of confusion and drama in the recent past. Mostly, they happen when a group of users disagrees with the changes in the network and this creates two versions of the network at the same time. The most well-known forks are Bitcoin Cash (the most successful one) and Ethereum Classic. However, there are some that failed, too, like Bitcoin Gold.

These changes on the protocol can be quite dramatic sometimes, but in the case of Constantinople, many of the EIPs will simply not be visible for the normal users. End users will surely not see a lot of difference in the fork.

Most of the update is about the maintenance and optimization of the network so that small technical issues are improved and the whole system can be more efficient. Some of the other changes are related to the mining difficulty of Ethereum and some cold which will activate the “Ice Age”, in which new block creation will slow down until it stops.

This last change has been causing much contention among the network and many people have conflicting views on the subject. However, the developers are still confident that this new update will be well received. The code is still being tested at the time of this report, but they are quite sure that the changes will impact the ecosystem in a positive way.

The New Features

There are five main EIPs:

EIP 145: this is a technical upgrade that creates a more efficient way to process the information on the network using a “bitwise shifting” method (authors: Alex Beregsazaszi and Pawel Bylica);

EIP 1052: offers a way to optimize the execution of the Ethereum code on a large scale (authors: Nick Johnson and Bylica);

EIP 1283: it is based on the older EIP 1087 code and introduces changes in data storage and prices for smart contracts (author: Johnson);

EIP 1014: creates an off-chain scaling solution that can be used on certain state channels (author: Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum);

EIP 1234: the most controversial update reduces the block mining rewards from 3 ETH to 2 ETH and delays the difficulty bomb period for 12 months (author: Afri Shoedon).

It is important to note that all these changes include optimization and some small changes in the structure of the network. Most of the code is about scaling and structure and only the last one is going to have a discussable effect.

Optimizing the Code And Finding A Better Way To Store Information

Both EIP 145 and 1052 are mainly focused on optimizing the code of the network to make the Ethereum Virtual Machine more effective for developers. It is the EVM that powers the smart contracts of the platform and its bytecodes. The two EIPs can also be used to improve the longevity of the blockchain by serving the user needs in developing smart contracts.

Bitwise shifting, a feature introduced by the EIP 145, runs the bytecode without relying on arithmetic operations like multiplication and division, which means that the contracts will be processed faster by it.

EIP 1052 also introduces a code that lets the nodes check only the data that is vital for the code, not all of it, which speeds up transactions. This saves time and diminishes the cost of the transactions.

Another EIP, the 1283, deals with the storage of smart contracts and its main advantage is to diminish the cost of gas to power a computational unit and to store contracts. Together, these codes will diminish considerably the cost of development and will allow developers to make new decentralized apps.

Johnson, which created the EIP 1283, argues that the network was charging gas for things that did not actually happen or cost real resources before, which was bad for the development and the code will solve this issue.

State Channels and Economic Policies

Another important EIP is 1014. It will create “state channels” on Ethereum and it is part of a larger effort the creator of the platform, Vitalik Buterin, to scale it. Buterin believes that this can significantly increase the performance of the network and will make Ethereum hold a larger transaction volume while minimizing the effort of doing it.

This EIP will also be used to facilitate off-chain transactions, which are transactions that happen outside of the network.

The EIP 1234 is another addition and it is focused on dealing with the incremental increase in the difficulty of mining ETH blocks, the “difficulty bomb”. This was originally devised to encourage the transition to a proof of stake system, which is more ecological and efficient, but the switch for this new system is still away in the future. Because of this, steps must be made to decrease ETH issuance.

As it will be faster no mine blocks, the rewards have to be reduced or economic problems could appear. The creator of the proposal has described as the best way to delay the bomb. However, some people disagree on this decision to decrease the rewards because it may centralize mining in the hands of a few people, which could be bad for the ecosystem.

This concern is specifically important as Ethereum ASIC miners are starting to become more common in the Ethereum network.

The Future Of The Ethereum Network

After Constantinople, Ethereum will work better. While EIP 1234 is still a somewhat controversial measure, most of them all are widely accepted. Each EIP will be further tested before the release in October 8. While the changes are not very big, this day will certainly mark a new age for the Ethereum network… unless the release is delayed.

It would not be uncommon for the release to be delayed in case some of the codes still needs to be tested or fixed. This will mean that the update might come in November.

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