The Ethereum protocol is facing a great update. This new Hard Fork is the next step in the development of Ethereum and will be the last one to be implemented in the chain before the move to Ethereum 2.0
Istanbul is the latest in a series of updates: Frontier in 2015, Homestead in 2016, Byzantium in 2017 and Constantinople in 2019. The changes will seek to provide the network with greater scalability, security and interoperability.
The transition to network 2.0 will not be easy, but it will make Ethereum more scalable and capable of providing greater stability and security and this Hard Fork is the next step to follow to achieve the network update. This process will help the network to remain competitive in the market. Istanbul will make it possible for Ethereum 1.0 to run along with Ethereum 2.0. In addition, it is necessary to allow current customers to migrate to the new blockchain.
At the end of this complete update, the destination of the original Ethereum network will depend on how relevant it is in the market.
Improvements proposed by this new Hard Fork
The Istanbul update consists of a series of proposals for improvement of Ethereum (EIP), which aims to establish changes in interoperability between chains and security among other improvements. The main developers of ethereum finished a list of six different changes in the Ethereum code that will be activated for the next system update.
One of the improvements establishes an equivalence for each processed byte of 16 gas units, reduces the gas cost of transactions in the current Ethereum network 4 times. This unit is the one that measures the costs for transactions in Ethereum, and is charged in gwei or ether fractions depending on the priority with which said transaction is scheduled. Thus, they go from an average higher than 60 gas per byte to 16.
At a lower gas expense, the block size will be increased, which according to the developers has no adverse effect. This feature will allow “massive scalability for second layer solutions” in Ethereum.
EIP 1884 will increase the cost of gas from low-priced operation codes, that is, the instructions within smart contracts. As the size of the Ethereum network expands, certain smart contracts used by DApps are using a lot of computing power but pay relatively little in terms of gas costs to compensate.
There will also be an update of the Ethereum virtual machine that will change the way data is precompiled in it, achieving faster and more efficient data processing speed. It is based on the integration of a new hash function called ‘Blake 2’ that has already been implemented in Zcash.
After having been discussed by developers for almost a year, the ProgPoW Programmatic Work Test algorithm is an EIP that intends to decrease participation in the network of ASIC mining specialized hardwares, so that they cannot compete with advantage for the mining reward in the Ethereum network; and it is one of the most important updates proposed by Istanbul.
The results of the audit were able to calm concerns about the implementation of ProgPoW, its security and the impact it would cause on the network. It was concluded that the code is accurate and reasonably effective in reducing the advantage given to specialized miners.
While ProgPoW removes ASIC miners from the network, it may not last long. As computer chips become more sophisticated, ASIC miners could avoid the system and start extracting Ethereum again.
According to a report published by the group of collaborators mentioned above, the Ethereum community in general is in favor of ProgPoW. In fact, it is estimated that 94% of Holders are in favor of ProgPoW as is the mining population.
This improvement would make the network safer, since the hashrate would be distributed more evenly among the miners, which would make it difficult for them to group and organize an attack. It is expected that this will boost interoperability between chains with the private currency Zcash and help to provide security to the entire network. On the other hand, by eliminating large mining operations, it would reduce network hashrate.
Ethereum developers have established the launch of the Istanbul test network, the next update in the Ethetreum network.
As already planned, Istanbul will run in two parts. The first, which includes the six code changes known as Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIP), is expected to be implemented in the main network in October of this year.
The second will be activated time in the first quarter of next year, which will include several EIPs that require further testing and deliberation by the developers.