The Ethereum Istanbul upgrade is now live.
With the implementation of Istanbul, the Ethereum network is now a step closer to ETH 2.0, due sometime in 2020.
Istanbul is the name given to Ethereum’s latest network upgrade. Previous network upgrades include Constantinople, Spurious Dragon, and Byzantium – part of the Metropolis roadmap.
Essentially, Istanbul brings a number of new features that will:
- Align the costs of opcodes with their computational costs and improve denial-of-service attack resilience
- Make layer-2 solutions based on SNARKs and STARKs more performant
- Enable Ethereum and Zcash to interoperate
- Allow contracts to introduce more creative functions
What are EIPs and why do they matter?
Changes that are implemented in Istanbul are defined using Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIPs). These EIPs describe standards for the Ethereum platform, including core protocol specifications, client APIs, and contract standards.
During the Istanbul upgrade, a batch of six technical EIPs were added:
- EIP-152: Adds Equihash PoW to the contract and enables Ethereum to conduct relay and atomic-swap transactions with Zcash.
- EIP-1108: Brings down the expensive zk-SNARKs price, reduces gas costs, and enables cheaper scaling of privacy-oriented applications.
- EIP-1344: Adds the ChainID opcode for contracts to track the correct chain of state and plasma. It also prevents replay attacks between different chains.
- EIP-1884: Adjusts the price of EVM opcodes to match with the computation required for a specific operation. It also prevents spamming attacks and balances blocks.
- EIP-2028: Makes zk-SNARKs and zk-STARKs cheaper by bringing down the prices of the gas required for calling data in the transactions.
- EIP-2200: Restructures the calculation of the cost of storage in the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). It also reduces the cost of gas and add news features like re-entry locks and same-contract multi-send.
The good about Istanbul
Congrats to @sparkpool_eth for mining the Istanbul fork block!
— vitalik.eth (@VitalikButerin) December 8, 2019
The upgrade has been split into two parts. The first one adds the EIPs described above. The second will add major changes, such as the much-anticipated PorgPow.
By introducing improvements to its consensus algorithm, Ethereum reduces the effectiveness of ASIC miners and enables traditional GPUs to be used in mining. This addition ensures everybody has an equal opportunity to mine Ether, improving decentralisation.
Moreover, Istanbul is set to make privacy-focused contracts cheaper to run.
Though Ethereum is comfortably leading the altcoin pack, other projects are catching up with technological advancements. To combat this, Ethereum 2.0 is expected to launch in 2020 powered by a new consensus protocol based on Proof-of-Stake (PoS).
Even though PoS seems to be less secure than Proof-of-Work (PoW), in the long term, Ethereum plans to fine-tune the protocol with higher scalability, stability, and decentralisation.
The Istanbul hard fork is the final step towards making ETH 2.0 a reality.
The bad about Istanbul
While technically successful, the recent Ethereum hardfork wasn't without negative consequences.
Some EVM operations were repriced to be cost more in fees which affected some smart contract activity.
— Antoine Le Calvez (@khannib) December 9, 2019
Prior to the upgrade, Ethereum node operators had to update their software to a fork-ready version.
Anytime there is such a fork, issues are expected to arise. According to the Ethereum foundation:
“If you are using an Ethereum client that is not updated to the latest version, your client will sync to the pre-fork blockchain once the upgrade occurs. You will be stuck on an incompatible chain following the old rules and you will be unable to send Ether or operate on the post-upgrade Ethereum network.”
While most services linked to Ethereum are running better now with lower fees, some smart contracts and exchanges have suffered a few issues.
For example, the number of contracts running out of gas (the ETH needed to run the functionalities within a contract) has doubled.
In addition, Gemini is still experiencing issues moving ETH funds from its hot wallet to its cold wallet. As the contract dates pre-2016, when no set gas fee changes were on the roadmap, it now seems to be running out of gas while running its operations.
Hopefully these issues will soon be resolved.