In a few hours, Ethereum's blockchain is about to experience two hard forks which will occur nearly instantly. The hard forks are a means for the blockchain to receive new updates, with these particular two being known as St. Petersburg and Constantinople. The two are expected to change the way Ethereum's network functions by adding new rules.
It is unknown when the updates will arrive exactly, as they are not scheduled to occur at a specific time. Rather than that, the hard forks will take place when Ethereum mines its 7,280,000th block. If everything goes well, and developers find no reason to delay the event, the blockchain will primarily receive the Constantinople update, which will serve as a type of maintenance and optimization upgrade.
Immediately afterward, St. Petersburg will be activated as well, and it will disable a part of Constantinople code that was discovered to contain a large vulnerability. The flaw was discovered in January, right before the original Constantinople launch date. Once the updates are in place, five changes will have been made, four of which will be unnoticeable to the average user.
The fifth change will mostly impact the miners, as it will cut the block rewards from 3 ETH per block to 2 ETH per block. Ethereum has had block reductions in the past as well, with the last one being called Byzantium. Byzantium reduced the number of ETH gained per block solved from 5 ETH to 3 ETH.
This change will supposedly only be a temporary measure, as the miners will eventually be replaced by a new type of validators once Ethereum receives its next major upgrade — Serenity.
Other changes to Ethereum blockchain
As mentioned, blockchain reward reduction is only one of the five changes, although it may be considered the most impactful one. The other changes will impact the network's speed, scalability, efficiency, as well as energy consumption.
The updates are expected to arrive without many difficulties, although it is difficult to predict what will happen when it comes to hard forks. After all, Constantinople was long-anticipated, and it was already supposed to be introduced back in January. However, two days prior to its integration, developers noticed a security bug that delayed the entire process for over a month.
Eventually, they agreed that Constantinople and St. Petersburg should arrive together, which is about to happen later today.
As mentioned, it is not exactly clear when will the updates be implemented, as the speed of mining blocks can vary. However, it is estimated that it should happen at around 19:15 (UTC), although network participants who do not want to miss it should keep their eyes open for potential delays.
In fact, it is even possible that the hard forks will arrive before this time, with the only constant being that they will happen when ETH blockchain reaches the 7,280,000th block. Those interested in watching it happen live can use a developer tool known as fork monitor, which visualizes the blockchain data into a time series graph.
The general stance towards the updates and the hard forks is neutral, with most people simply wanting to see it happen and be done with it. The updates were already supposed to be in place over a month ago, and many feel like the hard fork has “dragged on long enough.”
For now, everything seems to be functional, and there are no bugs, flaws, or other issues that may delay or stop the integration. If this remains the case, the entire process will likely be completed without problems, with the only sign that the code was changed being a more effective network, and slightly smaller block rewards.