Two months after Altair, Ethereum’s [ETH] network is gearing up for yet another major upgrade. Dubbed ‘Arrow Glacier,‘ the main objective of the upgrade is to push back the difficulty bomb for several months [estimated until June 2022] and give developers more time to move the network to Ethereum 2.0.
Ethereum’s difficulty bomb is essentially the increase in the difficulty level of puzzles in the Proof-of-Work [PoW] mining algorithm at a predetermined block. With more complex puzzles than usual, it becomes more difficult to earn Ether. As a result, the production of blocks on the Ethereum blockchain will lag. The difficulty bomb only works in PoW-based networks and is found only on the Ethereum mainnet and the Ropsten test network.
As the Ethereum network heads towards a switch to Proof-of-Stake [PoS], delaying the bomb on the mainnet is a viable option and instead run the much-awaited transition on the Ropsten before the bomb goes off on that network.
Happy birthday beacon chain!
Here's an updated roadmap diagram for where Ethereum protocol development is at and what's coming in what order.
(I'm sure this is missing a lot, as all diagrams are, but it covers a lot of the important stuff!) pic.twitter.com/puWP7hwDlx
— vitalik.eth (@VitalikButerin) December 2, 2021
Introduction of Difficulty Bomb
The devs have always known that Ethereum would eventually move away from PoW to rake in the benefits such as less carbon footprint, lower barriers to entry; increased support for shard chains required for scalability. While centralized continues to be a whole other debate, PoS has found a greater acceptance.
Hence the Difficulty bomb, which has been tickling since 2015, was added to increase mining difficulty exponentially over time, subsequently resulting in an ‘Ice Age.’ This would essentially make the blockchain cease producing blocks, leading to a “freezing out” PoW mining as the network transitions to its PoS consensus mechanism.
In a recent blog post, Ethereum Foundation’s Tim Beiko had earlier explained that the network upgrade in question would alter the parameters of the Ice Age/Difficulty Bomb and also requires node upgrade by the 5th of December this year.
What does this mean for Ethereum?
The Arrow Glacier upgrade will go live at block number 13,773,000 and is likely to climb the height by the 8th of December. However, the cryptocurrency market is at a highly volatile stage. This means the network may see the update sooner than estimated. This is a significant milestone in Ethereum’s roadmap which would ultimately pave the way for the “merge” of the Ethereum Mainnet with the Beacon Chain network next year.
Ethereum’s dramatic growth in network activity has been marred with major scalability challenges. But with 2.0, a compeletely different incentive structure would solve the concerns surrounding gas.