Ethereum: Core Devs agree to delay of the Difficulty Bomb

  • At the Ethereum Core Developer Meeting #76 the developers of ETH seem to have agreed to move the Difficulty Bomb a further 4 million blocks.
  • A reduction of the block reward is apparently not planned.

On Friday the monthly Ethereum Core Developer Meeting #76 took place. There wasn’t much interesting news except one discussion point. However, one topic was quite interesting, although the current mood is not quite clear, as there was no sound at the beginning of the livestream. According to reports, the Ethereum Core Developers have agreed to delay the Ethereum “Difficulty Bomb”.

The Ethereum Ice Age

The Difficulty Bomb is, besides the retargeting algorithm, responsible for the fact that Ethereum achieves a constant block time. The retargeting algorithm ensures that if a block time is greater than 20 seconds, the difficulty level is reduced, and if a block time is less than 10 seconds, the difficulty level is increased.

Additionally, the Ethereum developers have implemented the “Difficulty Bomb”, also known as “Ice Age”. This mechanism leads to an increasing difficulty of ETH mining, which in turn leads to an increased amount of time for obtaining a new block. This is intended to make ETH mining unprofitable in the long term and smooth the transition from the Proof of Work (PoW) to the Proof of Stake (PoS).

As Trustnodes now reports, the Ethereum developers have agreed on an “emergency hard fork”. There have been discussions about whether the Difficulty Bomb should be completely removed or only delayed. However, according to Trustnodes, the consensus now seems to be to remove the Difficulty Bomb without affecting the emission. Previously, a delay in the Difficulty Bomb was always accompanied by a reduction in the ETH Block Reward.

James Hancock said at the Core Developer Meeting:

In my opinion we should not touch issuance again. With hashrate already decreasing, I am not confident we want to reduce paying for security any further.

As Hancock explains, the falling hashrate is the reason the ETH developers don’t want to further reduce the Block Reward, concerned that the hashrate and thus the security of the Ethereum network will continue to fall.

Further delay of the Difficulty Bomb

A core problem that could lead to the removal of the “Difficulty Bomb” is that the “Ice Age” is very complex and makes it very difficult to predict block times. Hancock explained in a Core Devs discussion on Gitter:

And there is no way to predict the effect on block time without simulating the hashrate and difficult changes that occur right up to finding blocks.

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The main problem of the Ice Age is that it is embedded in the complex mechanism that targets block times, which is a completely different purpose. With EIP-2384 now under discussion, the aim is to push the Ice Age back as far as possible and give ETH developers time to update the Ice Age to overcome the design issue.

Tim Beiko explained via Twitter:

We thought we had months until it kicked in, but those numbers were wrong. The Ice Age is already being felt! There is now a proposal for a single-EIP upgrade after Istanbul to push it back: EIP-2387 a.k.a. Mountain Glacier.

Contrary to Trustnodes’ assessment, Tim Beiko tweeted that there is a broad consensus to move the Difficulty Bomb back a further 4 million blocks (and a total of 9 million blocks to activation), according to EIP-2384. However, a precise block number has not yet been determined.

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About Author

Jake Simmons has been a crypto enthusiast since 2016, and since hearing about Bitcoin and blockchain technology, he's been involved with the subject every day. Beyond cryptocurrencies, Jake studied computer science and worked for 2 years for a startup in the blockchain sector. At CNF he is responsible for technical issues. His goal is to make the world aware of cryptocurrencies in a simple and understandable way.

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