Gauging Community Expectations and Developer Readiness as Ethereum’s Constantinople Launch Date Approaches

The next attempt to implement the Ethereum (ETH) hard fork is expected to come in the interval from Jan. 14 to Jan. 18 — or according to Afri Schoedon, the release manager for the Parity Ethereum client, Jan. 16. At that point, the 7,080,000 block will be extracted, and the Constantinople upgrade will be activated.

To be on the safe side, the Ethereum Foundation also added an emergency switch that will delay the activation of Constantinople in case something goes wrong. Initially, the hard fork was planned for November 2018 but was postponed after Ethereum clients failed to reach a consensus during the launch, as reported by Cointelegraph on Oct. 15. While Ethereum developers are going over the final details, investors, miners and decentralized application (DApps) operators are discussing the fork’s pros and cons, and analysts are forecasting Ether’s price change.

Once again about Constantinople

Originally planned for November, the Constantinople hard fork contains a number of changes and code optimizations designed to turn the current Byzantium into a more progressive Constantinople. Most of the improvements are aimed at reducing the costs of work or simplifying the process of creating DApps. In particular, they include a 12-month delay of the so-called “difficulty bomb,” which contributes to timely upgrades, and also suggests a decrease in the mining reward from 3 to 2 ETH for each mined block. Such changes are provided by the roadmap and are necessary for the gradual transition of the network to a proof-of-stake (PoS) algorithm and further improvement of scaling.

What turns Byzantium into Constantinople is five major Ethereum improvement proposals (EIPs), which are needed to soften the transition from the current proof-of-work (PoW) algorithm to the more energy-efficient PoS algorithm.

In particular, the EIP 145 proposal will allow DApp developers to optimize particular operations, which will allow the reduction of gas costs necessary for work. EIP 1014 will provide an opportunity to interact with addresses that have not yet been initialized on the blockchain, EIP 1052 introduces new operational codes for generating address hashes. EIP 1283 includes new features that will also reduce gas costs, and EIP 1234 will delay the “difficulty bomb” for 12 months and will reduce mining rewards.

What’s next?

In the future, the transition to a pure PoS (the Casper upgrade) will be made as part of the next phase of improvements to the Serenity code. Once the innovations are implemented, large holders of the third-largest cryptocurrency will join miners in the process of transaction validation. Such a scheme will reduce the likelihood of a 51 percent attack and increase the network’s security, since such validators can lose investments in case of abuse. To make the network more technically stable, the size of the mining block reward will be reduced from 3 ETH to 2 ETH, and the announced launch of the so-called "difficulty bomb," which will gradually complicate the extraction of Ether and make it unprofitable (“Ice Age”), will be postponed for a year.

The difficulty bomb is a gradual increase in the complexity of cryptocurrency mining, which makes mining unprofitable for the miners. This is necessary when switching from PoW to PoS.

The PoS consensus algorithm, in addition to improved security, will bring cheaper transactions and faster production of new blocks. Sharding will also become possible, which, together with the additional solutions of second layers like Plasma and Raiden, is supposed to significantly increase Ethereum’s scalability.

The concept of sharding can be represented as the work of a client of torrents. The blockchain breaks up nodes and transactions into smaller independent components called shards and each has its own transaction history log that processes only its own transactions, thereby taking a load off of the network.

Scalability has been Ethereum's Achilles' heel, and after the implementation of these solutions, it will be hypothetically increased by thousands of times, which will make the platform suitable for widespread commercial use.

Vitalik Buterin’s idea to achieve the same throughput capability as the Visa payment system, which handles 24,000 operations per second, is also planned for future upgrades. In its current state, the Ethereum network is able to process a maximum of 25 transactions per second (TPS), while many “Ethereum killers” in this regard have stepped far forward. For example, EOS is able to manage 1,200 TPS and Tron can already handle 2,000 TPS. Ethereum developers hope that their blockchain will become more competitive, and, in addition to a large number of operations, will offer working smart contracts and tremendous experience in solving technical problems. Hudson Jameson, a developer relations officer at the Ethereum Foundation, expressed his expectations to Cointelegraph with respect to the Constantinople’s main mission:

“The Constantinople network upgrade paves the way for cheaper smart contracts for a variety of use cases, especially state channels that can help scale the network.”

Novelties from the developers

On Jan. 4, during a regular video call, Ethereum Foundation members discussed the introduction of the ProgPoW code, which is aimed at countering ASIC miners. Until the last moment, it hadn’t been clear whether this new algorithm would be introduced in Constantinople. Things changed after the Ethereum developers meeting, during which the team decided to postpone the transition to ProgPoW until Istanbul, the subsequent network upgrade, as reported by Cointelegraph on Jan. 4.

Among other novelties being discussed by developers is the Ethereum 1x update, which implementation is scheduled for 2019. Several working groups shared their achievements, stressing that the decision was still at the earliest stages of development.

The list of innovations does not end there. Recently, new promising developments have appeared. Among them are solutions based on Snark (in which transaction data is converted into constant “compressed evidence”), which will allow reaching a significant level of network bandwidth without using Plasma and Raiden. Furthermore, this technology will increase data privacy. Another possible evolutionary path could be Turbo Geth, which will reduce the amount of stored history of all network computing by 80 percent and increase its throughput.

Meanwhile Parity Technologies is already preparing for the transition to Casper. Developers have added an additional version of Substrate, which was released on GitHub on Oct. 14 as an experiment. The code contains a mechanism of transition to the “Shasper” upgrade, which combines the platform’s in-house scaling solution, sharding, with its PoS consensus switch, Casper.

New coins expected, but not officially recognized

Despite the fact that no new coins are expected during Constantinople, most of the major exchanges have already announced support for possible forks and airdrops. Poloniex, Bittrex, Huobi, Binance and OKEx warn users of the need to transfer funds to the exchange in advance to get possible coins, and projects supporting the fork are asked to contact for cooperation.

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