Preston Van Loon, a core developer of the Ethereum network, announced at the Permissionless conference that the highly-anticipated transition to a proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus mechanism, known as the Ethereum merge, will be happening sometime in August.
The Ethereum Merge will see the current Ethereum blockchain merging with the proof-of-stake beacon chain, shifting the network from mining to staking, where Ethereum holders can deposit their ETH in exchange for rewards.
Van Loon told the 5000 attendees that the transition is set to happen before the “difficulty bomb” can degrade the network as scheduled. “As far as we know, if everything goes to plan, August — it just makes sense. If we don’t have to move [the difficulty bomb], let’s do it as soon as we can.”
The “difficulty bomb” refers to a program coded into the Ethereum blockchain which is designed to encourage the transition to PoS by making it more difficult for miners to stay on the proof-of-work (PoW) chain by intentionally slowing down the network.
The Merge has been delayed several times, most recently in June, despite a successful “shadow fork test”, a term which refers to the process of copying data from a mainnet network to a testnet, where developers can test features before deploying it to the Ethereum network. Tim Beiko, Ethereum developer, warns of the possibility of another delay: “If client developers do not think they can deploy The Merge to mainnet before block times are slowed too much, it will need to be delayed again.”
The news comes as the Ethereum network is set to have a “huge testing milestone”, with the Ropsten testnet Merge set to be conducted on June 8th. The Ropsten testnet Merge will see the PoW test network combine with a new PoS consensus layer testnet, simulating what will happen once the actual Merge between Ethereum and Beacon Chain finally takes place and turns into a PoS network.
While both proof-of-work and proof-of-stake help keep the network secure, proof-of-stake has several added benefits. It takes much less energy, and it makes it easier to participate in running the network, enabling further decentralization and heightened security. The merge is also expected to decrease the issuance of ETH by about 90%, which will undoubtedly push the price of the coin up due to higher demand.
Another major update is “sharding”, which is a way to divide up the network into multiple chains. As the Ethereum Foundation puts it: “With shard chains, validators only need to store/run data for the shard they’re validating, not the entire network (like what happens today). This speeds things up and drastically reduces hardware requirements.”
If the Merge successfully takes place in August, the Eth2 sharded chains upgrade will go live early in 2023. Until then, the network will continue to utilize layer-2 networks like Polygon and Optimism to handle scalability and high transaction volumes.
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