Ethereum developers have delayed the network’s so-called “difficulty bomb” by about 100 days, placing a rough estimate in September for its long-awaited transition to proof-of-stake.
Ethereum currently uses an energy-intensive proof-of-work (PoW) mechanism to validate transactions. The difficulty bomb is an update built into the protocol that will significantly increase the complexity of PoW calculations, and therefore, the time required to process transactions – a kind of self-destruct mechanism meant to incentivize the transition to an environmentally-friendly proof-of-stake (PoS) model.
That transition, known as the Merge, has been repeatedly delayed. Postponing the difficulty bomb by 100 days – a decision that developers took last month – is an acknowledgement that the Merge will have to wait a little while longer.
Ethereum´s core developers debated the merits of delaying the difficulty bomb at a June 10 meeting. At that point, the time required to complete one block had already begun to increase, rising from about 13 seconds to more than 16 seconds, according to data from Etherscan.
Allowing the difficulty bomb to go off in June as originally planned “obviously has the very bad outcome that you have 20 or 30-second blocks by August,” Thomas Jay Rush, one of the call’s participants, said.
Nevertheless, it was his recommended course of action, he said.
“I think of it as hitting the community on top of the head with a stick,” he said. “The community has to pay attention to the fact that the core devs have the power to make this decision, we can use this to say, ‘You the community have to become more involved in these kinds of decisions.’”
Another participant, Andrew Ashikhmin, called that a “silly political game,” however.
Delaying the bomb “actually sends a good signal – that we are doing the responsible thing, that we don´t want to rush the merge with code that is not ready,” he said. “Doing nothing would actually be irresponsible because it would hurt the throughput of the network.”
If developers favored a delay, Rush said, they should announce a hard deadline for the merge, he said. But that too was met by opposition from other developers, including Tim Beiko, who led the meeting.
“If we delay the bomb two months, four months, six months, whatever,” he said, “I don´t care if there are some articles that say the merge is delayed until the end of the year.”
Lack Of Urgency
Developer Ben Edgington spoke up to defend a hard deadline, saying there was a lack of urgency in completing the merge.
“There are very real costs associated with not doing the merge: 130,000 tons of carbon dioxide every day,” he said. “It’s nearly a million tons a week. Every week we twiddle our thumbs, that’s a megaton of carbon dioxide we´re emitting.”
Beiko objected to the notion that developers didn’t feel pressure to complete the Merge.
“It’s worth noting [that] on the last call, and privately to me, client teams have mentioned they do feel pretty stressed and urgent,” he said. “Too much pressure just pushes teams to burn out or make worse decisions, and that’s not the situation we want to be in.”
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