The Ethereum difficulty bomb that may change 519 “tomorrow”

If this year’s Bitcoin bull market and shib boom have allowed a large number of outsiders to know and enter the market, then the “519 incident” on the eve of 520 will teach everyone a lesson and let everyone have a more comprehensive understanding of the market. It turns out that in addition to skyrocketing, the currency circle also plummeted and returned to zero. Many people think that the entire encryption market has collapsed, but for the elderly in the circle, the plunge and skyrocketing are only part of the development of the industry. After 519 is over, they still have to “sit down” and think about what to do tomorrow.

Excluding those global environmental factors, the fundamental core of the market’s future direction still depends on the movements of the basic sectors. In particular, it is an ecological aggregate like Ethereum that has enriched more than half of the resources in the current market.

Recently, the core developers of the mainstream public chain Ethereum announced that their mainnet London upgrade will be launched as scheduled on July 14. One of the most important content is that the difficulty bomb that was originally scheduled to be launched in the same period has been postponed to December. This may bring huge changes to the entire Ethereum ecosystem and even the market.

|Ethereum Difficulty Bomb

The difficulty bomb was written by code in 2015. It still exists and continues to be promoted as a very important mechanism. From the side, we can see that the official has already set the direction of Ethereum to the PoS consensus in the future, but it has not been able to Deal with this transition. The difficulty bomb is a mechanism algorithm that adjusts the difficulty of the chain according to the block time. It is mainly divided into two parts. One is the dynamic parameter adjustment similar to Bitcoin. When the block generation time is higher than 20 seconds, it will reduce the difficulty to less than 10. Seconds, it will increase the difficulty. The other part is the real difficulty bomb, which artificially increases the difficulty of the blockchain. The ultimate goal is to force the miners to lose development motivation and switch to the ETH2.0 Pos chain.

Compared with the dynamic parameter adjustment of Bitcoin’s difficulty setting at a rate of 10 minutes, the difficulty adjustment algorithm of Ethereum is more complicated. In the difficulty design of the difficulty bomb, it is presented as an exponential power of 2, and n is the number of blocks. , That is, the difficulty value of every 100,000 blocks is doubled, so as to continuously increase the height of the blockchain and increase the difficulty of mining. After a certain period of time, the difficulty of mining will increase exponentially with the height of the block until Miners cannot get rewards and blocks. As a difficulty bomb to “apply pressure” on miners, it is also a feasible way that can be thought of on the road of Ethereum’s transformation, to avoid the coexistence of the old chain and the new chain to the greatest extent.

Existence is reasonable. For the significance of the Ethereum difficulty bomb, some developers believe that the difficulty bomb plays an important role in the development of the network. An Ethereum wallet creator once said, “If there is no’difficulty bomb’, we You may end up in a situation where rollouts (system-wide upgrades) become difficult because people will no longer update their software because they don’t have to.”

|Difficulty Why is it so difficult to advance the bomb?

In February of this year, Ethereum developer Tim Beiko once said that the difficulty bomb may occur in July, and three months later, it was announced that the difficulty bomb will be postponed to December, and whether it will be launched is actually unknown. . In order to solve this delay problem, at the beginning of last year, the developers once proposed to replace the difficulty bomb with the difficulty freeze, but they all ended with a stop. The difficulty bomb is still advancing slowly until today.

It is understood that the Ethereum difficulty bomb has exploded three times since 2017. Developers have repeatedly delayed the explosion time by using pseudo-block numbers instead of the original block numbers. Last year, due to the extension of the block generation time, miners dig The cost of mining continues to increase, resulting in unprofitable miners and blockage of the system network. After the previous two experiences, to avoid the difficulty bomb exploding in advance and it is expected to be consistent with the ETH2.0 online time, the developer returned the pseudo block number to a safe height, but now it seems that the specific outbreak time of the difficulty bomb is still a problem. In the beginning, the difficulty of the difficulty bomb is very small, and it has no effect on the block time. But the growth of the difficulty bomb is almost exponential, that is to say, to a certain extent, the network difficulty will suddenly increase, and the block generation speed will also drop sharply.

From an analysis point of view, although it is necessary to “combine the two into one” in this way, the greater prudent consideration lies in the risks assessed by the developers. On the one hand, forcing miners to passively abandon the Pow chain, this can easily cause dissatisfaction and rejection of miners, resulting in community division, and there is a great possibility of forks. On the other hand, the exponentially increasing difficulty bomb explosion time mechanism will appear at unexpected times, causing technical difficulties to a certain extent, which will have a negative impact on developers and miners. This is why developers are delaying time and time again. The “explosion” came early.

And with the expansion of the Ethereum ecosystem to today’s volume, the ship is difficult to turn around, and the actual implementation of the difficulty bomb mechanism becomes more and more difficult. If in this process, the interests of all parties are not balanced, then the entire network may be affected. Frozen or even crashed.

In general, the conversion of Ethereum, known as the world computer, from proof of work to proof of equity takes longer than previously expected. Even though the scale and speed of development of the chain network are very fast, it is constantly consuming to a certain extent. The initial significance of the difficulty bomb is that in the long-term tug-of-war, if miners really want to continue mining on the old chain, they can hard fork a new chain before the difficulty increases, and then the difficulty bomb will no longer exist. But such a hard fork also has great technical risks and is accompanied by a lot of resource consumption.

Speaking from a more fundamental reason, the difficulty of the difficulty bomb is not as difficult as the difficulty of ETH to ETH 2.0. How to persuade people in the entire ecology to transfer a large amount of resources to PoS ETH without forks 2.0, this is an extremely difficult problem. It can even be said that the delay of the difficulty bomb is not that ETH 2.0 is not ready, but that the entire ecosystem, including the official, is not ready to deal with the impact and changes that this transition may bring.

Therefore, some people believe that the difficulty bomb is not the only way to complete the transition. Ethereum developer James Hancock proposes to replace the long-standing difficulty bomb with a difficulty freeze. Generally speaking, it is a more gentle and controllable “difficulty bomb”. .

|Can the difficulty bomb be “exploded” in place

In fact, we should not pay too much attention to such problems, because the development of technology takes time, and we only need to continue to pay attention to the development of things. More importantly, as a programmable blockchain network, Ethereum has established countless derivative tokens, Dapps, and a magnificent DeFi ecosystem, especially since the launch of the ETH2.0 upgrade thread in December last year, the market value of Ethereum Repeatedly hit new highs, and introduced more and more diversified efforts. What is certain is that with the increasing popularity of blockchain technology, the application scalability of Ethereum will continue to expand, the consensus will become stronger and stronger, and its value will naturally be recognized by more and more people.

From a technical point of view, the expanded Lay2 solution already has a very rich stack matrix. The EVM compatible with Ethereum or an innovative solution that is better adapted to the long-term expansion of Ethereum has become the key to solving the current Ethereum congestion problem. From an ecological perspective, after so many years of development, Ethereum has combined more and more elements to innovate and become the preferred “potential energy” position for developers. Taking distributed finance as an example, 90% of DeFi is currently concentrated In the Ethereum network. As for the current migration to the smart chain, it can only be used as an alternative, and symbiosis with Ethereum is still a necessary option, and its status cannot be replaced yet. Therefore, from the perspective of technology, ecology and development trends, Ethereum has a very good future.

This is not difficult to conclude. The difficulty bomb is no longer the only factor that determines the interests of miners. It is only a means to assist the transformation mechanism of Ethereum. As the future development of Ethereum becomes clearer, the transformation of ETH2.0 will gradually move towards When it is mature, developers will have more diverse ways of setting and handling the difficulty bomb time and in line with the interests of all parties.

Author/ Translator: Jamie Kim
Bio: Jamie Kim is a technology journalist. Raised in Hong Kong and always vocal at heart. She aims to share her expertise with the readers at blockreview.net. Kim is a Bitcoin maximalist who believes with unwavering conviction that Bitcoin is the only cryptocurrency – in fact, currency – worth caring about.