It’s not smooth sailing for Ethereum in the countdown to Constantinople
Things seemed to be progressing smoothly so far, but only time will tell how it all turns out.
- The Constantinople update
iswas due on 16 January.
- Things did appear to be proceeding smoothly in the lead-up and it
iswas not expected to be contentious.
- At least one fringe group has said it will be creating its own hostile fork. It's not clear whether they will follow through or if anyone will pay attention to it.
Update 16/1/2019: It's been delayed. Here's why.
Constantinople will be arriving at Ethereum block number 7,080,000, which is due on 16 January. It's been relatively smooth sailing so far, with approximately 50% of all nodes checking in as fork-ready.
The Ethernodes forkwatch overview is showing only 16%, but as Ethereum developer Afri Schoedon points out, it's off by orders of magnitude since it picks up a lot of other nodes that aren't actually part of the Ethereum network and which don't need to upgrade. An API that's intended to only pick up actual Ethereum network nodes is showing about 50% readiness.
This is probably more than enough, he says, as long as the nodes that actually matter are among the 50% that have updated in preparation for the fork. These include miners, pools, exchanges and other tools and service providers. The individual end users are typically the most lax with the updates, while the rest need to upgrade if they want to keep their revenue streams and viability intact.
"I think we are well prepared," he said.
It might be a reassuring note ahead of the mildly contentious Constantinople fork and after a couple of delays.
First, a potential vulnerability was discovered ahead of the testnet launch, which pushed things back five days. And then when the testnet did launch, another bug was discovered which saw Constantinople's launch date rolled over to 2019.
There have also been debates around one of the updates.
Among other upgrades, the controversial EIP 1234 will be implemented, dropping the miner block reward from 3 ETH to 2 ETH, and delaying the difficulty bomb by 12 months. This has naturally caused some consternation among miners, many of whom are already operating on thin margins in the bearish markets. This economic angst has led to some concerns of a contentious fork and predictions of a miner uprising.
Essentially, the fear is that the miners will en masse refuse to update their clients ahead of the launch in an effort to hold the network hostage until their demands (such as scrapping EIP 1234) are met. But based on the number of nodes updating so far, and general sentiment in the digital air, no one's really worried about this happening.
It might help that the reduced block reward, dubbed "the thirdening," will also be reducing Ethereum's inflation rate. Assuming there's any kind of economic logic behind Ethereum's prices, this might see a price increase. Of course, Constantinople has been a long time coming and so the inflation reduction might already be priced in.
A competing ProgPoW fork
Although there are no real concerns of a major fork or big miner pushback, at least one fringe developer has announced that he will be creating a competing ProgPoW Ethereum fork at the same time. Ikmyeong Na, the developer behind that fork, is demanding that ProgPoW be introduced in the Constantinople update as recently as 5 January.
The basis of the fork is his assertion that the Ethereum Foundation will never want to implement ProgPoW out of fear of ASIC miners responding with a hostile fork of their own. This is at odds with the most recent decision among Ethereum core developers to tentatively move towards ProgPoW by scoping it out, testing it in more detail and laying out a timeline for potential implementation.
As is often the case with fringe groups, Na has claimed that he's being censored. It's not entirely clear whether he's actually being censored or if people just aren't giving his ProgPoW demands much attention.
"I proposed an earlier adoption of ProgPoW to Ethereum Foundation, to make ASICs obsolete before we have a next issuance reduction for POS switch," Na explained. "However, my voice was censored and I received personal insulting and harassment from one of the core developers of Ethereum foundation. So today, I declare a war between ASIC manufacturers and the enemy of GPU miners and to make a forkable node to reflect miner’s voice again, to achieve network decentralization and a stable, sustainable world computer platform."
It's not clear whether that fork will go ahead or get any traction or if miners know that they're meant to be at war right now.
On the whole, it seems to be smooth sailing in the lead-up to Constantinople. But only time will tell whether things end up going as smoothly as it looks like they will.
Disclosure: At the time of writing, the author holds ETH.