The upcoming Ethereum Istanbul hard fork is designed to help the network overcome its scaling challenges. The update brings six modifications in the code, all intended to improve the performance of the Ethereum blockchain.
Istanbul is the eighth Ethereum hard fork and is supposed to open the way for Ethereum 2.0. The upgrade should create a new, more scalable blockchain that uses a different consensus algorithm and sharding to increase efficiency and transaction speed.
The modifications during the Ethereum Istanbul hard fork are also expected to provide extra protection against replay attacks.
Ethereum was designed to be the decentralised internet – a blockchain-based platform where companies could build products and smart contracts. Ethereum is now home to a large number of dApps, from decentralised finance (DeFi) to blockchain games.
The Ethereum blockchain uses the Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus mechanism, which makes it relatively slow in performing transactions. The network still can’t provide long-term solutions for enterprise customers and it is currently dealing with scalability issues.
Ethereum is the second-largest blockchain after Bitcoin. However, with more and more dApps and tokens being developed on top of it, no one can tell how much the network can support. That’s just one of the challenges.
Since the first-ever ICO in 2013, the picture has changed a lot for Ethereum, which is no longer the only player in the market. Several blockchain-based platforms have been developed as alternatives to Ethereum for dApps and token issuance.
Among them are EOS, IOST, and TRON, all with products that aim to outperform Ethereum through increased efficiency and lower execution costs. Ethereum either has to embrace change or lose its privileged position as the top platform of choice for developers.
The Ethereum Istanbul hard fork in October
Ethereum Istanbul is a system-wide upgrade that aims to change Ethereum’s data storage process, the mining protocol, and code execution. These modifications should bring the network closer to what developers expect and need for building products on top of the Ethereum blockchain.
Istanbul is the last of a series of updates: Frontier in 2015, Homestead in 2016, Byzantium in 2017, and Constantinople in 2019. The changes will look to provide the network with increased scalability, security, and interoperability.
Istanbul consists of a series of Ethereum improvement proposals (EIPS), from which the most commented was the introduction of the ProgPoW consensus. This change will encourage decentralisation by balancing forces on the network.
If the tests don’t uncover any complications, the introduction of the Istanbul hard fork is scheduled for October 16. The implementation will be split into two phases. The first part includes six major code modifications:
- 152: Add Blake2 compression function F precompile
- 1108: Reduce alt_bn128 precompile gas costs
- 1344: Add ChainID opcode
- 1884: Reprice trie-size-dependent opcodes
- 2028: Calldata gas cost reduction
- 2200: Rebalance net-metered SSTORE gas cost with consideration of SLOAD gas cost change
The second part will focus on changes that require more time for testing, including 1057: ProgPoW. By the end of the hard fork, the network should be cheaper, faster, and more scalable. All these objectives will be reached without sacrificing decentralisation and flexibility.
Getting closer to Ethereum 2.0
After Ethereum Istanbul, users should expect the launch of a new blockchain next year. The Beacon Chain will be a blockchain that uses the Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus meant to consolidate Ethereum 2.0 Serenity.
Ethereum 2.0 is planned to run as a separate blockchain powered by a new token. Customers and end-users will have multiple options available for switching from the old blockchain (the current Ethereum network, called Ethereum 1.0) to the new one.
The transition won’t be a breeze, but it will make Ethereum more scalable and able to provide increased stability and security. It’s a bold move that helps the network remain competitive in the market. Istanbul makes it possible for Ethereum 1.0 to run alongside Ethereum 2.0. Moreover, it’s necessary for permitting current customers to migrate to the new blockchain.
At the end of this full upgrade, the fate of the original Ethereum network will depend on how relevant it is in the market. During the implementation of Ethereum Istanbul and Ethereum 2.0, developers will continue to improve and upgrade Ethereum 1.0.
Ethereum Istanbul is a bold but necessary move for the Ethereum blockchain. Many consider this hard fork a time-eater and distraction from the real objective, Ethereum 2.0. However, the upgrade is an essential part of the project, as it’s expected to provide increased decentralisation, scalability, and security.