Ethereum’s Ropsten Testnet Unstable As Istanbul Upgrade Released Early, Causing A Hard Fork

Ethereum’s test network, Ropsten, underwent a hard fork after the new Istanbul upgrade was implemented a few days early.

The plan was to initially release the Istanbul upgrade on October 2nd, with a block height of 6 485 846. However, it was instead released on September 30th, at approximately 3:40 AM UTC. The reason given was unusually fast block confirmations.

Hudson Jameson, the Ethereum Foundation’s community manager, stated that there appeared to be two chains running on the Ropsten test network. These chains were the miners from the old test network and the miners working on the new one. He explained that things like this were what testnets were made for, but warned that Ropsten would be unstable until this pans out.

Jameson explained that the most complicated part about proof-of-work networks like Ethereum is the fact that coordination between miners is lacking. He explained that he has been trying to run some miners himself, so the Ropsten network settles in the new Istanbul chain. 

It seems the main issue with the Istanbul chain isn’t even the chain itself, but the miners were not communicating with each other properly.

This new Istanbul upgrade is going to be up for discussion on Friday, October 4th, with the Ethereum core developers deciding what to do with it ultimately.

Past Complications

This isn’t the first time something like this happened. When Ethereum tried to run the Constantinople upgrade last year, they stalled the entire Ropsten network. The reason was the miners not having had the time to upgrade the blocks to the new network. The whole Ethereum team made a note not to publish upgrades on the weekend because of it. A good, if humorous, lesson to learn.

Hard Forks and What They Mean

A hard fork of a blockchain is when a new upgrade or system change within a blockchain causes it to no longer recognise other, older blocks. This forces the two blocks to “split apart,” turning into two separate blockchains: One running the new format, and the other running the older. Usually, these sorts of hard forks sort themselves out as miners upgrade their blocks to work on the newer form. However, sometimes they refuse and create their own blockchain entirely, like Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Classic, and Bitcoin being three separate blockchains.

Future Prospects

Last month, Australian based gaming company Immutable received $15 million in investments to help push their company to the next level. Their flagship game, Gods Unchained, makes use of the Ethereum blockchain to put real value to various products. This made them capable of $4.5 million in revenue with a player base of just 13 000. With this new investment, they plan to push the number of players to a hefty 1 million.

They hold the record of the second most expensive card ever sold, their Hyperion unique card selling for 137.8 ETH, or $62 000 at the time of the auction. The game’s future will doubtlessly improve Ethereum’s use.

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