Ethereum Hard Fork: What Does Muir Glacier Upgrade Offer?

By January 4, 2020DApps
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  • The Ethereum network completed the Muir Glacier with block 9,200,000
  • The hard fork is designed to push the network to a proof-of-stake (PoS) system
  • The difficulty bomb will not go off until after 611 days

The Ethereum network had just completed the Muir Glacier hard fork, with major exchanges, including Binance, Kraken, Bittrex, and Bitso announcing their support for the upgrade. But what does it mean for node operators or miners, and what changes does it entail for the Ethereum platform?

Jan. 2 marks the date when block 9,200,000 was mined and along came with that is the trigger for the Muir Glacier hard fork update. There are two types of forks. First, a hard fork can be thought of as a change in protocol that, if not done in consensus, runs the risk of creating an alternative path or a split in the chain. One such case happened with the DAO case that split Ethereum and Ethereum Classic chains.

On the other hand, a soft fork is a change in protocol that doesn't have the same risk of a hard fork since the protocol upgrades are still applicable to older versions. Forks happen due to the open-source nature of blockchain because no central authority can determine how the network is maintained.

Now, the Muir Glacier, which is the second hard fork for Ethereum in less than a month after the Istanbul hard fork, was designed to suit one purpose: to delay Ethereum's ice age or what is referred to in the community as the "difficulty bomb."

The difficulty bomb makes mining for blocks in the Ethereum network harder. It also impels the network to transition from a PoW or proof-of-work system (where miners compete to solve the complex puzzles that unlock a block) to a proof-of-stake or PoS (where the option to forge transaction goes to validators with the most coin ownership).

With the Muir Glacier, the difficulty bomb will not go off for another 4,000,000 blocks, and that's estimated to be about 611 days from now. If the Muir Glacier is not implemented, block processing is expected to take 20–30 seconds per block, and that would effectively increase transaction fees.

"Imagine we had 13-second block times (that means we can do about 6,500 blocks a day)," said EthHub’s Eric Conner explained.

"Once we get to 20-second block times, we can only do 4,300 blocks a day. If we assume the network is generally fully utilized, we now have more fighting for block space every day. That's going to drive the fee market up and make transactions more costly to dapp users."

Ethereum
Representation of the Ethereum virtual currency standing on the PC motherboard is seen in this illustration picture, Feb. 3, 2018.

The hard fork is designed to push the network to a proof-of-stake (PoS) system

The difficulty bomb will not […]

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