At the end of February 2019, Ethereum developers successfully activated a hard fork called Constantinople . It contained five Improvement Suggestions (EIP) to increase network speed and reduce transaction costs. One of them – EIP 1234 – reduced the reward for the block and carried the so-called complexity bomb for a year. It seems that soon the same thing awaits us.
Let’s start with the theory. A complexity bomb or Ice Age is part of the code in the Ethereum project that was introduced in 2015. Her task is to artificially slow down the cryptocurrency blockchain. After its activation, the complexity of mining increases, and the speed of creating blocks in the network, respectively, decreases.
The slowdown of the Ethereum network is easy to see on the charts. Here is the data about the block time – that is, the time the blocks were created on the network.
Under normal conditions, the creation of an Ethereum block takes 13-14 seconds, and when a complexity bomb fires, this figure increases. For example, on February 17, 2019 – shortly before the Constantinople hard fork – it took about 20 seconds to complete one block. The difference may seem small, because even such a block time is much less than 10 minutes to create a Bitcoin block.
But actually it is essential. Compared to normal 13-14 seconds, this is at least a 42 percent increase.
It is also very important to understand that an increase in block time affects miners. As less blocks are created per day, the reward of miners is reduced. Accordingly, they earn less.
Here is the reward schedule for the Ethereum blocks. Over the fourth of December, 11,719 new ETHs were formed on the network – a record low. For example, exactly a year ago the network was replenished with 19 660 ETH.
Why Ethereum Difficulty Bomb
The difficulty bomb was not introduced for fun or regular hard forks. It is needed to motivate miners who will continue to mine Ethereum on Proof-of-Work – that is, using their video cards – after the network switches to Proof-of-Stake.
Most likely, such people will be, so they need to be sent on the right track. Everything is simple here: since the bomb will increase complexity disproportionately fast, miners will not be able to compete with it. As a result, they will be forced to abandon coin mining on PoW.
In the end, the complexity of mining along with block time will be so high that the blockchain will stop working, that is, as if it will freeze. By the way, hence the name “Ice Age”.
Muir Glacier – Ethereum’s new hard fork
Since Constantinople at the end of February put off the bomb of difficulty for exactly one year, soon we will face the same problem. Ethereum still hasn’t switched to Proof-of-Stake , so they’ll do the same with the bomb – they will delay it.
There are arguments in favor of the current state of affairs. According to Ethereum developer Mick Zoltu, the strongest argument for a complexity bomb is to ensure that project representatives will not be able to do nothing. It sounds debatable, but there is still logic.
Mika also talked about the problems.
The problem is that the interested parties simply no longer pay attention and do not upgrade their customers. The bomb is designed to make people make informed decisions against the backdrop of regular network updates.
It seems that now the hard bomb Muir Glacier will delay the complexity bomb. Spend it under the guise of EIP 2387 proposed developer James Hancock. Hardfork should postpone the launch of the Ice Age on the Ethereum Mainnet by 4 million blocks or approximately 611 days.
The main problem of the Ice Age is its inclusion in a complex mechanism that is aimed at changing the time of the blocks, which is completely separate in purpose. To make matters worse: due to the close connection with the algorithm, it is very difficult to model or predict its effect on the network. To predict the impact of the Ice Age, you must make assumptions about the complexity of the main network in the future and predict the impact of changes in complexity on the impact of the Ice Age and therefore the blocking time.
As a result, the Muir Glacier fork will postpone the Ice Age “as much as reasonably possible” . In addition, developers will be able to update its mechanism. There are two options:
make the behavior of the mechanism predictable;
abandon the Ice Age completely.
Some developers really oppose the presence of a complexity bomb and offer to do something with it. So a scenario of radical change is possible.
When will the new Ethereum hard fork
Hardir Muir Glacier offer to activate on the following blocks:
Ethereum Mainnet – Block 9,200,000 or higher;
Ropsten Testnet – Block 7 117 117 or higher.
No test data for Kovan, Rinkeby and Görli yet.
Developers reached consensus on EIP 2387 during their last call last Friday. It remains to wait for a decision on EIP 2384 (delaying the complexity bomb in Istanbul / Berlin) and acceptance by clients of the Parity or Geth type.
This is the position of Mick Zoltu, which we have already mentioned.
I’m on the verge of shutting down the bomb completely and just changing the way the bomb works. But I am definitely opposed to the bomb continuing to work as it is now.
It’s not long to wait for the final decision of the developers of the Ethereum community.