#Ethereum's Next Upgrade Could Be the $29 Billion #Blockchain's Biggest Test Yet

August 31, 2018

Hard forks are never easy. By definition, such system-wide upgrades require every software user to upgrade to new rules near-simultaneously, meaning there's coordination difficulties that need to be overcome to ensure the code continues to operate as designed. Still, in a upcoming October upgrade named Constantinople, ethereum is faced with a perhaps unique challenge — how to find a balance between a web of diverse stakeholders, each battling for different outcomes. Making matters more complex, there's a hard deadline for the upgrade, currently set for October. Predicted sometime in early 2019, a piece of code known as the difficulty bomb is scheduled enact, thereby making ethereum's blocks steadily less time efficient to mine.

If no action is taken, the difficulty bomb will push ethereum into what is known as the "ice age," a period wherein the difficulty is so high that transactions can no longer be processed, making the blockchain unusable. (The bomb was originally included in the code to encourage the platform to quickly adopt new technology). Because delaying the difficulty bomb also impacts ether inflation (the time it takes to mine blocks is directly correlated to the quantity of ether distributed on the platform), ethereum is under pressure to upgrade its code before the bomb hits.

But, at present, a path forward remains unclear. With a total of four ethereum improvement proposals (EIPs) currently under discussion, many are arguing that in delaying the difficulty bomb, Constantinope should also reduce the amount of ether that is currently paid out to miners, the entities that run specialty computing hardware to secure transactions. However, miners are warning that too great a decrease in profits will reduce the security of the network, effectively forcing miners to secure other cryptocurrencies. (Concerns are especially great for GPU miners, which are now currently competing with ASICs, machines specialized for cryptocurrency mining and little else).

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Ethereum (ETH) is the 2nd largest cryptocurrency by market cap size. It is down 4.8% over the past 24 hours and is currently trading at $275.48. It can be bought with fiat dollars, credit cards, or debit cards on cryptocurrency exchanges such as CoinbaseCEX.io, and Changelly

 

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