We are less than two days before of the much-anticipated Constantinople hard fork on the Ethereum blockchain and uncertainty has sparked as only 20% of all nodes have already upgraded to the new version.
Constantinople has been set to launch on January 16 (block 7,080,000), and 1534 out of 7650 total nodes have adopted the proposed changes on Ethereum according to Ethernodes, a Constantinople adoption tracking service.
Representatives of the Ethereum community are confident that consensus will be ultimately achieved and the majority of nodes will update their clients just before the irreversible chain split.
However, as the Constantinople upgrade includes several depreciating features for the miners’ incentives, a debate has started lately about whether this is a concerted movement by a group of disappointed miners or simply a lack of information.
The Constantinople Hard Fork
The forthcoming upgrade was named after the capital of the historical Byzantium, the title given to the last Ethereum hard fork in October 2017.
In short, Constantinople will introduce new features that aim to optimize the blockchain and pave the way for the Serenity hard fork that will follow.
There are five Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIPs) that will trigger with Constantinople.
The Bitwise Shifting Instructions (EIP 145) is a change that aims to improve the cost and execution times in smart contracts.
Similarly, the Smart Contract Verification (EIP 1052) allows for the faster verification of smart contracts, which will now be based only on their hash codes.
SSTORE (EIP 1283) optimizes gas costs during SSTORE operation, and, CREATE2 (EIP 1014), a scaling solution which enables the use of state channels and takes transactions off chain.
The Ethereum developer team has decided to migrate from the PoW to the PoS consensus algorithm, on which the number of miners will be gradually reduced until they are finally eliminated.
Thus, the most notable change is probably EIP 1234, which includes a Block Reward reduction and a Difficulty Bomb Delay.
The difficulty bomb is a built-in code that once activated; it starts to increase the difficulty in mining new blocks, up to the point that miners will no longer be able to verify transactions. It is then time when Proof-of-Stake algorithm will become effective.
EIP 1234 will delay the difficulty bomb for 12 months when miners will be asked to vote again for the implementation of Serenity.
Until then, miners will be able to keep their operations, but their rewards for finding new blocks will be decreased.
Miners will receive with 2 ETH for newly minted blocks, cut down from 3 ETH that was rewarded to them thus far.
Could Miners Be Erupting Against Constantinople?
The new changes are clearly not favoring the interests of the miners. Of course, this is not the first time for miners to experience such a change, as the block rewards had been previously reduced (from 5 ETH to 3 ETH) during the Byzantium hard fork.
However, the last change was two years ago when Ethereum’s value skyrocketed at around $1400. Now, one ETH is worth $128, and another block reward reduction could put many miners out of business.
On top of that, there are rumors that Ethereum developers could implement the ProgPoW, a mechanism that aims to diminish the power of ASIC rigs in mining Ethereum.
If such a change comes in effect, it is certain that numerous miners will lose their incentive and halt their operations.
Nevertheless, a highly valid question will come up if the hard fork doesn’t meet the majority’s consensus. Which will the real Ethereum be after the chain splits and miners keep mining the old (longer) blockchain?