Byzantium: new Ethereum hard fork: developer tasks and results

Byzantium: new Ethereum hard fork: developer tasks and results

Ethereum blockchain has experienced four hard forks over its lifetime. One of them has led to the chain split and emergence of a new cryptocurrency – Ethereum Classic. Results obtained by developers of updates are controversial. The next Ethereum fork called Byzantium seems the most reasonable, logical, and does not augur surprises. It took place on October 16, 2017, at 05:22 UTC.

New hard fork and its tasks?

Cryptocurrency forks take place when participants want to change something in the current network operation. It’s often caused by obvious problems and glitches. In case of Ethereum, the hard fork is needed due to high demand for the platform: Ethereum ERC20 tokens have gained unprecedented popularity in 2017. For example, several presentations given at the international Bitcoin & Blockchain Conference Malta 2017 were dedicated to this topic.

Developers pursue one more task – to initiate the shift from the Ethereum's proof-of-work mining algorithm to the more liberal proof-of-stake to enable a greater network decentralization and not to allow separate groups of miners to obtain too much influence. Byzantium has started the process and the launch of Casper testnet continued it. That’s why the cost of mining a block has been reduced to 3 ETH. As the transaction confirmation speed has grown, the general income from mining has not changed.

In the global perspective, the Ethereum developer, Vitalik Buterin, plans to develop a system that will be decentralized, scalable and secure, with scalability reaching thousands of transactions per second. But such a goal requires new updates, the implementation period of which is the next 3-5 years.

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Features of the upgrade

Earlier developers reported that Byzantium hard fork was rather conservative, as it did not suppose any radical changes in the network’s operation. The code contains nine Ethereum improvement protocols realized as individual patches. Their functions include:

  • fixing the problem of difficulty adjustments;
  • improvement to REVERT operations;
  • improvement to STATIC CALL operations;
  • difficulty delay feature;
  • receipt upgrade: transaction return data added.

More details are provided in the developer’s blog.

Despite its conservatism, the realization of hard fork provoked some difficulties. The hard fork was postponed for two weeks, however bugs were revealed in the Byzantium software anyway. Nevertheless, this upgrade of Ethereum was implemented as scheduled and works successfully now.

Like all updates of this sort, the new software should be accepted by all users. Those who don’t accept it will have no access to blockchain.

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Part of something bigger

As planned by Ethereum’s developers, Byzantium is a part of the game-changing upgrade called Metropolis. It was the first step towards the global upgrade. The second step called Constantinople is preliminary scheduled for 2018 and finally Metropolis will be realized.

Metropolis implies radical improvement in the platform’s operation. Apart from the final shift to the proof-of-stake algorithm, it will speed up the network’s operations and introduce additional functions, including anonymous transactions, facilitation of work with smart contracts and expansion of their functionality.

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