The Ethereum network is about to undergo a major evolution with the transition to Ethereum 2.0. Behind the scenes, developers are busy preparing this major transition with hardfork.
Ethereum: updates galore
For several years now, the developers of the Ethereum network have been planning a major update called Ethereum 2.0.
The first stone of this update was laid on December 1, 2020, with the launch of the beacon chain, the base that ensures the consensus layer of Ethereum 2.0. As a reminder, Ethereum 2.0 is based on a Proof of Stake consensus mode, unlike the current version of Ethereum.
Subsequently, the developers have chosen to prioritize the transition from Proof of Work to Proof of Stake for the first or second quarter of 2022, via a mechanism called “The Merge”.
In the meantime, the two channels must prepare for the merger. To do this, the developers have initially updated the current version of Ethereum via hardfork London. Obviously, Ethereum 2.0 is not left out in this wave of updates. Thus, on Wednesday, October 27, developer Preston Valoon announced that the Altair hardfork had been successfully deployed on Ethereum 2.0.
Altair hardfork: what does it change for Ethereum?
The Altair hardfork is an update to the Ethereum 2.0 network, deployed in anticipation of Ethereum’s application layer being attached to the Ethereum 2.0 consensus layer via The Merge.
Two major evolutions emerge from this update. First, the Altair hardfork introduces support for thin clients on Ethereum 2.0.
“These are low-resource nodes that keep up with the chain with fewer features and slightly lower security assumptions.”,Paul Hauner, Altair developer and code reviewer for Lighthouse.
As such, these will be primarily useful on mobile and browser.
Second, Altair is introducing increased penalties when a node goes offline. These have been relatively low until now, so as not to penalize node operators too much while they become familiar with Ethereum 2.0.
In addition to these two major changes, Altair is also introducing a fix for some issues with validator incentives.
A successfully deployed hardfork
A hardfork is a network update, which requires a majority of validator nodes to be up to date in order to be effectively deployed.
In the case of Altair, participation dropped to a low of 93% during deployment, only to return to well over 99%. In practice, there are currently 248,544 active nodes on the network, compared to 1,922 inactive nodes. The inactive nodes, meanwhile, need to get up to speed as soon as possible if they don’t want to see their collateral go down the drain, squandered in penalties.
“All nodes had to upgrade, because it was a hard fork. No one will lose their 32 ETH but those offline now are seeing their balance slowly dwindle. If they don’t fix it, they’ll cross a threshold and be ejected.”Jeff Coleman, Developer
Meanwhile, the Ether continues to reach new highs. For example, the ETH price hit a new ATH by seeking $4,361 on October 21… while EIP-1559 has already destroyed nearly $3 billion worth of ETH.