Ethereum Constantinople update planned for January 2019

Posted: 10 December 2018 4:35 pm
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There's a new block height to mark in the calendar.

At the latest Ethereum core dev call, agreement was reached to set Ethereum's Constantinople update for block 7,080,000, which will most likely arrive somewhere between 14 and 18 January, Ethereum core developer Afri Schoedon announced on Twitter.

Next update

The next update is a bit controversial. It includes five updates, three of which aim to reduce gas costs, one which will set the groundwork for future scalability upgrades and one which will reduce the mining rewards, dropping them from 3 ETH to 2 ETH and delaying the difficulty bomb for 12 months.

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It also includes an emergency off button to slam in case something goes wrong, said Ethereum Foundation security lead Martin Holst Swende.

The miner reward reduction and difficulty bomb delay might be the most controversial part.

The reduction in mining rewards is intended to curb inflation somewhat, while also weaning miners off the system ahead of Ethereum's switch to proof of stake and, hopefully, ensure a smoother complete transition later.

The difficulty bomb refers to a long-planned decrease in mining rewards that was on track to hit before the network was ready. The manual decrease in block rewards is essentially a replacement measure in the absence of the planned difficulty bomb.

The reason it's somewhat controversial is because a lot of miners stand to become a lot less profitable without the full previous mining rewards. An approximately 33% drop in profitability is significant, and might see many miners switch away if it puts them below the break-even price point. Some fear that this will see the network potentially become more vulnerable to outside attack, especially when combined with falling Ether prices.

Others are more worried about the potential of a miner revolt against the proposed fork. Miner support is needed to successfully implement a hard fork update such as Constantinople, so putting this one through requires enough miners to willingly go against their own immediate financial interests and put the network first.

Hopefully the emergency button won't be needed, but it's probably good to have anyway.

Despite the delays caused by Constantinople's failure on the Ropsten testnet, a January timeline for the update is still within the initial estimated time frame, although many people would doubtless have liked to see it sooner rather than later.

The Constantinople update itself is half of what was once a larger and more ambitious update.

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