- Ethereum will conduct its next hard fork, Muir Glacier, on schedule at block 9,200,000.
- Activation is expected to occur on January 1, although variable block times may still affect the exact timing.
The Ethereum mainnet is scheduled to upgrade to Muir Glacier at Block 9,200,000. The hard fork is expected to be activated on Wednesday, January 1, 2020. The exact date may still change due to variable block times. Both the Ethereum Foundation and various developers from the Ethereum ecosystem have requested the node operators to update their software before 1 January 2020.
[IMPORTANT] Upgrade your nodes for the Muir Glacier upgrade happening on Jan. 1, 2020! See more here: https://t.co/hJRTHY9Gj1
— Ethereum (@ethereum) December 23, 2019
Node operators must update to Geth v1.9.9, Parity v2.5.12-stable, Besu v1.3.7, Nethermind v1.2.6, ethereumJS v4.1.2 or Aleth v1.8.0. Harmony (ethereumJ) will not support the fork and is henceforth an outdated client. At the time of writing 55.5% of all nodes have already updated.
Ethereum owners who keep their Ether (ETH) on an exchange (such as Coinbase or Binance), a web wallet service (such as Metamask or MyEtherWallet), a mobile wallet (such as Guarda Wallet or Trust Wallet) or a hardware wallet (such as Ledger, Trezor or KeepKey) do not have to do anything unless they are requested to do so by the exchange or the wallet provider.
What is the Muir Glacier?
The Muir Glacier hard fork merely contains an Ethereum Improvement Proposal, EIP 2387, which delays the Difficulty Bomb by 4 million blocks, equivalent to about 1.7 years. The proposal was first published at the end of November with EIP 2384 and later concretized by James Hancock with EIP 2387.
The Difficulty Bomb is a part of the Difficulty Retargeting Mechanism, which is integrated into Ethereum’s Proof of Work algorithm. This mechanism ensures a constant block time by controlling the difficulty of the mining. If a block time is too short (less than 10 seconds) or too long (more than 20 seconds), the mechanism increases the mining difficulty.
However, the Difficulty Bomb is a separate mechanism that manipulates the difficulty using a complex algorithm and increases the value every 100,000 blocks. This value is small at first, but increases exponentially, so that the effect is hardly noticeable at first, but then becomes very noticeable very quickly.
This mechanism serves as a deterrent for miners who might decide to proceed with the Proof of Work (PoW), even after Ethereum has moved on to the Proof of Stake (PoS) with Ethereum 2.0.
The Difficulty Bomb is already igniting
However, the Difficulty Bomb now occurred earlier than expected, with average block times increasing by almost two seconds within a month. In response, Muir Glacier was proposed as an “emergency” hard fork. Difficulty Bomb, the first effects of the Difficulty Bomb were already apparent last week.
Both the average block time and the mining difficulty increased significantly. The block time has risen steadily since early November, with a significant increase observed particularly on 14 December. While the average block time from March 2019 to the end of October was around 13 seconds, it has risen to over 17 seconds since 20th December.
The Ethereum mining difficulty has also risen continuously since the beginning of March, when the Constantinople hard fork was activated (on February 28, 2019). At the moment, the value is not far from the level at the time of the last fork.
The Ethereum price is currently following the general market sentiment and shows an increase of around 4% over the last 24 hours. However, the weekly chart (-7%) and monthly chart (-11.7%) show major losses.