Ethereum’s Metropolis Update Will Occur Through Two Separate Hard Forks

Ethereum’s developers have provided the world with a little bit more information regarding the upcoming Metropolis hard fork. As noted earlier, this hard fork will go into effect at the end of September of this year and introduce a lot of changes to the ecosystem. As it turns out, there will be two separate hard forks making up the Metropolis changes. The two forks will be known as Byzantium and Constantinople respectively. Both hard forks will gradually introduce big changes to the greater Ethereum ecosystem.

The Tale of Two Hard Forks

Although the Ethereum ecosystem is no stranger to hard forks, it seems the developers are leaning toward introducing fewer changes per fork in the future. Considering how the Metropolis development update will shake things up quite a bit, a gradual roll-out of changes and opportunities is indeed a better approach. After all, the developers want to ensure all of their changes work properly before they are introduced to the public. If that means pushing some elements back a few months for optimization purposes, so be it. Constantinople and Byzantium are the two upcoming development changes to look forward to, as both hard forks are part of the major Metropolis update.

The first part of Metropolis will be the Byzantium hard fork which will go into effect as planned by the end of September. The team is still benchmarking the new gas costs, and results should be in within the next two weeks. Once these benchmarks are complete and the network clients integrate the Byzantium EIPs accordingly, the hard fork will be launched onto the Ropsten testnet for two to four weeks. This will give the Ethereum developers some time to collect additional feedback and fix any lingering bugs or issues that may have slipped through.

Accessing this testnet release could be a bit difficult. The Ropsten testnet is invaluable to Ethereum, but it is also difficult to synchronize. The goal is to find “more creative ways” for people to sync Ropsten, and a few different approaches are already being discussed. There are many different network clients which will benefit from different implementations of improved syncing procedures. There is still some work to be done, but representatives of all clients are on board to develop these solutions as quickly as possible.

The block number for the mainnet hard fork has yet to be determined by the developers. Right now, the best-case scenario involves introducing Byzantium on September 22nd, although it may be pushed back to October 27th if needed. Anywhere between these two dates seems to be the “ballpark” figure for the hard fork deployment, but more official details will be revealed in the next few days and weeks. Late September is still the original goal and the developers will try to stick to that date as closely as possible.

The core developers recently had a meeting regarding the mining difficulty bomb. As most Ethereum users are well aware, the mining difficulty will keep increasing to such a high level that it becomes virtually impossible to successfully mine Ether. A new EIP has been brought forward to address this situation and it turns out the mining reward will be reduced from 5 ETH to 3 ETH during the Metropolis stage. Some users feel the reward should be reduced even further later on, but those discussions are still taking place. The reduced block reward will go into effect when Byzantium launches on the mainnet.

All of this goes to show some interesting changes are coming to Ethereum, although they will not be rolled out all at once. For now, there does not appear to be a dedicated timeline for the Constantinople hard fork just yet, but we will find out more once Byzantium is deployed successfully. There is clearly plenty to look forward to in the Metropolis hard fork.