Ethereum Approaches Muir Glacier Hard Fork Upgrade

Ethereum is scheduled to implement a second hard fork in the space of a month as block times rise faster than originally anticipated.

Quick take;

  • Ethereum core developers have lined up a hard fork upgrade at block height 9,200,000 to tackle a faster than anticipated rising difficulty level
  • Reports show that roughly 77% of nodes are currently prepared for the upgrade which is scheduled to take place on New Years day.
  • The upgrade, called Muir Glacier, will be the Ethereum network’s second upgrade within the span of a month.

Muir Glacier Hard Fork

The Ethereum network is scheduled to upgrade to what has been called Muir Glacier via a hard fork at block 9,200,000. The upgrade is scheduled to take place on New Years day. Ethereum developers approved the hard fork upgrade at the 77th meeting of core Ethereum developers. The Muir Glacier upgrade only contains one proposal, to delay the Ethereum difficulty bomb by 4,000,000 blocks, or roughly 611 days.

What is the Ethereum difficulty bomb?

The Ethereum difficulty bomb refers to an element of the Ethereum difficulty adjustment mechanism which results in progressively greater amounts of mining difficulty being added every 100,000 blocks. While this is only one feature of the Ethereum difficulty adjustment algorithm, it does result in block times reaching a point where they begin to increase exponentially due to rising difficulty.

Ethereum Difficulty Bomb

This results in severely slowed block times which is commonly referred to as an Ice Age freezing the functionality of Dapps on the Ethereum network. Developers are forced to upgrade the network to address the rapid rise in difficulty and restore functionality.

Muir Glacier is an upgrade which has been agreed upon by developers due to the Ice Age approaching faster than was originally anticipated. At the current rate of Ethereum block time increases due to the impact of the difficulty bomb, it would be expected to result in 30+ second block time intervals in February 2020.

Ethereum has only recently completed an upgrade to Istanbul via a hard fork at block 9,069,000 on the 8th of December. When the Istanbul upgrade was being planned, it was estimated that the impact of the difficulty bomb on Ethereum block times would not become noticeable until mid-2020.

When this turned out not to be the case, Ethereum core developers began planning the Muir Glacier upgrade to solely tackle the issue of the difficulty level rising faster than expected. The Istanbul upgrade implemented six separate proposals making various changes to the Ethereum protocol.

Reports show that the majority of Ethereum nodes are ready to upgrade to Muir Glacier. At the time of writing, Ethernodes shows that roughly 77% of Ethereum nodes are prepared for the upgrade.