We are in the run-up to ethereum’s fifth planned system-wide upgrade known as the Constantinople Hard Fork.
It is expected to happen on Wednesday 16th January and Hudson Jameson, who heads development relations for the Ethereum Foundation, says that they are all cautiously optimistic as the day approaches.
The Constantinople upgrade is a hard fork, because it will have to be unilaterally installed across all nodes in the network in order for the network to function as intended.
Hard fork upgrades come with some risks, which is why they are often hotly debated and agonised over. As Coindesk says: “For example, if a sufficient number of users don’t agree with an upgrade, it could cause the network to split. Such an event took place in 2016 when a controversial hard fork following the collapse of the DAO led to the emergence of two distinct blockchains, ethereum and ethereum classic.”
Afri Schoedon, release manager for the Parity ethereum client believes that the risk of a split on the chain is low. Schoedon gave his reason for optimism as, “Miners are prepared. Only miners can split the chain.” He backed up his statement by pointing out that adoption of the upgrade by ethereum’s top mining pools — the parties most critical in avoiding a chain split — has been strong.
Significantly, Peter Pratscher, the CEO of top ether mining pool Ethermine, said that a tracking site he runs puts adoption at only 15.6%. However he believes that these stats are wrong and that adoption is closer to a majority of ethereum miners. He also said, “We expect most of the not-updated nodes to be updated by the time the fork block arrives.”
Constantinople, now Istanbul, was the capital of the Byzantine Empire, and in the case of ethereum, the Constantinople hard fork forms part of a three-part upgrade called Metropolis. Most of the upgrades involved are not at all controversial, except for one: “the difficulty bomb.” This is an algorithm that increases the difficulty of mining ethereum over time. However, the controversial upgrade will decrease mining difficulty and it also “takes steps to reduce the reward miners are given for securing the network — down from 3 ETH to 2 ETH per block.” Basically, some miners are not content, but it looks like the majority are supporting it and the upgrade should go smoothly.