The Ice Age of Ethereum arrives, but there is no need to be alarmed. Despite the menacing name, the ice age has nothing to fear, nor the relative "trouble bomb" imposed to blow up the net. In fact, both the difficulty and the ice age are tools created by the Ethereum development team that will play a key role in the implementation of the next major update of Ethereum: Ethereum 2.0.
In the first part of this two-part series on the future of Ethereum, we will cover everything we need to know about the glacial age of Ethereum and the difficulty bomb. You will learn what these development tools are, why they were created and why they were recently in the news.
So in Part 2 of this series, we will cover the main updates for Ethereum currently under development, including Sharding, Plasma and Ethereum, the expected test consent algorithm (PoS): Casper. Together, these components will be part of Ethereum 2.0.
But before entering into the long-term plans of Ethereum, we must first take stock of where things are and what is needed before these important updates can be implemented, which brings us back to the ice age  What is the Ice Age of Ethereum?
The Ice Age of Ethereum is a planned slowdown of the Ethereum network that was first introduced in 2015. The Ice Age is the result of a "difficulty bomb" intended to explode into a certain phase of the development of Ethereum – in the same period in which Ethereum will pass from the test consent algorithm of the existing work (PoW) to the Casper PoS algorithm.
Since its publication in 2015, Ethereum has used a PoW mining algorithm, known as ETHhash. Mining is used to maintain network security, (used by many cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Monero and Zcash) a process involving miners & # 39; who use powerful computers to compete one with the other in a race to solve a complex computational puzzle. Regardless of the miner who finds the solution, he is given the right to add the block after the blockchain and is rewarded with a newly created cryptocurrency.
Most cryptocurrencies, including Ethereum, are coded in such a way that the "difficulty" of the mining algorithm changes with the number of miners trying to solve puzzles. This system ensures that the speed at which miners find the solution to the next block (and the speed at which new tokens are released) remains relatively constant over time, even though miners are continually investing in newer and more powerful mining hardware.  This brings us to the trouble bomb. As the name suggests, the bomb is a point where the mining difficulty of Ethereum will explode, becoming exponentially more difficult in a short period of time. As the extraction difficulty increases, it also increases the time it takes to extract each block. The difficulty bomb will be so powerful that the Ethereum network in its current form will eventually stop, a state that has been dubbed the Ice Age of Ethereum.
Why implement a bomb of difficulty?
may seem a disaster. Why do the developers of Ethereum want the network to stop?
As mentioned above, the difficulty bomb is set to explode while the Ethereum transitions from the PoW extraction to the Casper PoS system. This change will be so significant that it will require a tough ethereal blockchain fork. Once Casper is released, two Ethereum networks will work: the old network, which uses PoW, and the new network, which will use PoS.
With any difficult fork, cryptocurrencies run the risk of miners not migrating beyond the upgraded chain and will continue to extract the old chain instead. This is essentially what happened with Ethereum in 2016; the network was heavily forked to return users' funds after DAO's attack, but some community members refused to migrate to the new chain. The two chains existed in parallel: the updated chain was called Ethereum and the old chain was called Ethereum Classic.
To avoid such a situation, the developers of Ethereum codified the difficulty bomb as an instrument to persuade miners to migrate to the PoS. chain that follows the Serenity fork (which will include the full implementation of Casper). The bomb will essentially make the PoW mine on the old chain so difficult that it will no longer be profitable for the miners to work on.
A post on the August 2015 development blog by Stephen Tual, the then commercial officer of Ethereum, provides more information on the reasoning behind the bomb:
"Many of you have wondered how implement a shift from PoW to PoS in time for Serenity.This will be managed by the difficulty adjustment scheme just introduced, which elegantly guarantees a point of fork in the next 16 months … works as follows: starting from block 200,000 (at about 17 days from today), the difficulty will undergo an exponential increase, which will become evident only in about a year, at which point (just around the release of the Serenity goal), we will see a significant increase in the difficulty that will begin to push towards the future. high block resolution time. "
If you pay attention to the timeline described in the above quote, you will have noticed that we are currently far from the program that the Ethereu team m originally intended. In fact, the difficulty bomb has been delayed several times in recent years because Casper's development took much longer than expected. The bomb must coincide with the exit of Casper, so any delay in Casper also led to a delay in the bomb.
Recent news about the difficulty bomb
The trouble bomb has been a hot topic in recent months because the bomb had been scheduled for the last time at the beginning of 2019; however, the Ethereum team announced that the Casper update will not be ready for that moment. As a result, the bomb must be postponed again in order to provide more time for the Ethereum team to finalize Casper.
On October 30, Ethereum is expected to have a strong fork called Constantinople. This fork will introduce a reduced version of PoS that will be executed along with the existing PoW mining algorithm in preparation for the full version of Casper, which is currently scheduled for a period of time in 2019 (assuming there are no further delays).
With Casper not yet ready and the Ethereum difficulty bomb starts in a few months, many of the Ethereum community have advanced proposals for the updating of Constantinople that will delay the bomb and face some related problems.
A series of community proposals emerged to address the incumbent trouble bomb. On August 31, the Ethereum development team decided on the EIP1234 proposal, which delays the bomb of difficulty for about 12 months, while reducing the mining premiums on Ethereum from 3 ETH per block to 2 ETH. The delay will (hopefully) allow the Ethereum team enough time to finalize Casper before the bomb explodes, and the reduction of mining premiums will ensure that the number of new Ether introduced into the network will not become too out of control due to the reduced difficulty mining
The reduction in mineral remuneration also has significant implications for the rate of inflation of Ethereum. Unlike many other cryptocurrencies, Ethereum has no limits on the number of Ethers that can be created. The lack of a roof makes Ethereum more vulnerable to inflation than many other cryptocurrencies.
Before the reduction in premiums arriving in Constantinople, the estimated inflation rate on Ethereum was around 7.4%. Compare this with Bitcoin, which is estimated at around 4.25%. The reduction of mining premiums from 3 ETH to 2 should bring the rate of inflation of Ethereum significantly closer to that of other currencies and bring mining premiums more in line with the value of the network.
This concludes Part 1 of our series on the future of Ethereum. Now you have a clear understanding of the glacial age of Ethereum, the difficulty bomb and the expected inflation changes for the October update of Constantinople.
Keep an eye on Part 2 of this series, which will cover everything you need to know about Ethereum 2.0, including Sharding, Plasma and Casper.