The questions circulating around what Ethereum must do in order to stay ahead of mining efforts while dealing with its own internal issues such as issuance and the difficulty bomb has led some developers to one conclusion: Commit to a hard fork of Ethereum every eight months.
This was the conclusion reached during a meeting which was conducted over Youtube on the 24th of August 2018. Some of the development team were even going so far as to suggest an even smaller window of time, proposing hard forks every six months, but this was subsequently considered to be too much pressure for the team. The long-awaited hard fork, referred to as ‘Constantinople‘ is expected to land soon.
Developers have since agreed to the fact that delaying hard forks to perfect the Enterprise Integration Patterns (EIPs), Ethereum's own equivalent of Bitcoin Improvement Proposals (BIPs) was not an ideal solution. Instead, the developers have opted to activate a greater number of hard forks that release only ready EIPs.
This is in contrast to the proposed fewer hard forks which release as many EIPs as possible. The latter strategy, developers argued, would have resulted in the delay of a number of EIPs which are otherwise ready to launch.
To put this into better perspective, bitcoin has never set a schedule for its hard forks. Historically speaking, the community within Bitcoin have been very hesitant towards the prospect of, and resistant to hard forks being proposed, it's usually something that's accompanied by a large volume of controversy and general discontent. Generally speaking, Bitcoin hard forks have only ever taken place during true emergencies, such as the value overflow incident, in which a hacker created 184.4 billion Bitcoin.
Setting a precedent for forking Ethereum every eight months could affect predictability concerns. The block reward, block time, coin supply, mining algorithm, and a large scope of other areas could potentially be changed irrevocably every eight months, which brings with it a large volume of logistical questions.
What it represents is something that would make Ethereum a far harder sell for people that are interested in buying in, especially since a fork can be relied upon to destabilize a price that is continually trying to stabilize. If we were to compare this to Bitcoin again, where the protocol is riveted and set in stone, with its fundamental characteristics being aspects of it that are unlikely to ever be subject to change.
Ethereum developers, during the discussion, also decided that they would leave the decisions over block rewards to the community at large, which will set the stage for a more protracted battle between miners and investors that could lead to multiple forks of Ethereum to balance it out. In general, every Ethereum fork could lead to different versions of Ethereum splitting off, and now it’s going to be a regular occurrence every eight months.
Even under the conditions of a best case scenario, if the entire community is under the conclusion that these hard forks are required, there would still be a large number of users left behind on the old chains if they aren't capable of keeping themselves up to date on the latest developments. The underlying consequences of this? A widespread loss of funds due to people sending Ethereum from addresses on the old chain, to addresses that now exist on the new chain.
On the flip side, perhaps frequent forking can be conducive for Ethereum to evolve more rapidly than cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin which avoid forks.
With greater knowledge of the crypto community, however, slight changes to the code generally lead to debates and in-fighting that can otherwise prove quite damaging, let alone forks which are an even more extreme scenario. It's perhaps some sort of crass irony that the coming Ethereum fork is named after the new capital of a decaying Roman Empire of the 4th Century AD.