The month of September is an exciting month for anyone following Ethereum. The development team behind Ethereum is working hard towards a much anticipated upgrade known as Metropolis. The Ethereum hard fork is poised to relieve a lot of stress on the Ethereum ecosystem, as well as, bring a little more convenient functionality for it’s users. Metropolis will be split into 2 core releases: Byzantium & Constantinople. The Byzantium Hard Fork will hit the testnet on September 18th and is scheduled to go live on October 9th, 2017 ( dates not final ).
Although only the Byzantine hard fork will be tested on Ethereum’s testnet, a successful testing process of the Byzantine hard fork will allow the Ethereum Foundation and its developers to streamline the integration of the second phase of the Metropolis hard fork. Once the Metropolis hard fork is completed, it would allow most of the decentralized applications to be commercialized and to be launched in a scalable and efficient ecosystem.
Many experts including Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam stated that scalability is a major issue for Ethereum if it intends to support large decentralized applications with millions of users. Metropolis is a major step towards scaling the Ethereum network efficiently.
Companies like JPMorgan, Microsoft, Intel and BBVA are actively developing applications on top of the Ethereum protocol to automate their operations and develop new infrastructures based on the immutable Blockchain network of Ethereum. For the Ethereum network to support all of the incoming large-scale dapps in the near future, especially many dapps that are set to be commercialized and implemented to larger platforms, developers will require a more robust protocol to work with.
Let’s take a look at some of the planned upgrades being introduced in Byzantium.
- Foundations for ZK-SNARKs / Zero-Knowledge Proofs
Byzantium will include the building blocks to implement zero-knowledge proofs or ZK-SNARKs in the future. The implementation of ZK-SNARKs will allow a higher-level of anonymity for the Ethereum ecosystem. To learn more about ZK-SNARKs, read the paper by Solidity founder, Christian Reitwiebner: http://chriseth.github.io/notes/articles/zksnarks/zksnarks.pdf
- Abstraction – EIP 86
Account abstraction is another great feature planned for the upcoming fork. It will allow users to have more control over their private keys and the ability for contracts to pay the mining fees instead of having the sender always pay for the gas. Additionally, the account abstraction will reduce the risk of being hacked by quantum computing.
- Simplified Programming in Solidity
The Solidity programming language is undergoing an upgrade to allow novice programmers to easily work with smart contracts. New functionality and an easier hands-on approach will encourage new programmers to begin building their applications and smart contracts.
- Mining Difficulty Time-Bomb
According to the development team, the difficulty time-bomb will be delayed By 18 Months ( source: core dev meeting ), this will reduce the block times from 24.3s to 14.1s. However, it’s implementation will increase difficulty for miners and make it less profitable in the future. The time bomb introduction is to slowly move Ethereum away from Proof of Work (PoW) to Proof of Stake (PoS). The benefits of PoS versus PoW will be discussed in another post. Update: The number of ETH issued per block will drop from 5 to 3.