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Ethereum completes second hard fork in less than a month

By Lawrence Gash

The network's Muir Glacier upgrade staves off 'difficulty bomb'

The Ethereum (ETH) network has successfully implemented its second hard fork in the less than a month. A hard fork is a substantial change to the protocol of a blockchain network that renders previously valid blocks valid and vice-versa.

The "Muir Glacier" hard fork was announced on December 23 as a pre-emptive measure to prevent what had been termed an "Ice Age" wherein the Ethereum network would become congested and slower.

The Network’s proof-of-work system relies on two mechanisms to ensure an average block-validation time of 10-20 seconds, retargeting the mining difficulty and a so-called "difficulty bomb", which automatically increases mining difficulty every 100,000 blocks.

The upgrade occurred after the mining of block 9,200,000 and has delayed the "difficulty bomb" by four million blocks. While this issue will therefore return sometime in the years ahead, it is hoped that new technology within the long-awaited Ethereum 2.0 blockchain will defuse the bomb more easily.

While hard forks to defer the "difficulty bomb" have occurred in recent years, with the Byzantium Hard Fork in 2017 and the Constantinople Hard Fork early last year, the Istanbul Hard Fork of December 7 and the Muir Glacier upgrade were undertaken under much more desperate conditions.

Ethereum researchers had forecast the network to slow around the summer of 2020 but were caught off guard at the beginning of winter by a comparatively rapid slowdown. Had the two most hard forks not been carried out then Ethereum block-validation times would have surpassed their upper limit and reached 30 seconds by February.

Ethereum declined in value on January 2, following Bitcoin’s (BTC) lead, but gained 3.53 per cent following the US air attack which killed a senior Iranian military figure in Iraq to stand at $131.93 in mid-afternoon trading. Like gold, at times of increased geopolitical uncertainty, many investors flock to cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin is up even more, at the time of writing, standing at $7,287.82, an increase of 4.38 per cent.

FURTHER READING: What will 2020 hold for Ethereum and its cryptocurrency Ether?

FURTHER READING: Ethereum system upgrade set for New Year’s Day

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