The Ethereum Constantinople hard fork has been the focus of the Ethereum development community, and it is meant to bring a full suite of upgrades to Ethereum. Constantinople was deployed on the Ethereum Ropsten testnet at block 4.23 million on 13 October 2018, but it failed to work. Due to this failure, Ethereum developer Afri Schoedon thinks the Ethereum hard fork is unlikely in 2018.

After the Constantinople hard fork was implemented on the Ethereum Ropsten testnet it didn’t produce a block for 2 hours, and the first block it produced had zero transactions. At this time on 14 October, the Ropsten testnet is at block 4.236 million, but it is unclear if the testnet simply reverted back to original Ethereum after Constantinople failed.

A couple of different reasons have been given for the failure of the Constantinople hard fork on the testnet. Shoedon reports that there was a serious consensus issue, with a 3-way fork forming between Geth, Parity, and another Ethereum client.

Another reason given for the fork was that miners had simply not upgraded their nodes to Constantinople, so there was no one to mine blocks, explaining the stall at block 4.23 million. Ethereum developer Peter Szilagyi pleaded for other developers to start up a node running Constantinople to get the testnet blockchain moving.

Whether it is true or not that the lack of miners is the reason for this Constantinople testnet failure, it highlights how Constantinople has been very contentious for Ethereum miners. Constantinople lowers the block reward from 3 Ethereum to 2 Ethereum, which is catastrophic for many Ethereum miners that are already struggling. Ethereum’s price has declined from over USD 1,000 to less than USD 200 during 2018, making an intractable situation for most miners. Peer to peer pawning sites like LetGo and OfferUp are filled with Ethereum miners trying to liquidate their rigs since they are no longer profitable, even before this update.

On the other hand, Ethereum investors want Constantinople since it would lower Ethereum’s inflation rate. This creates a direct divide between miners and investors, making a community and blockchain split likely if the Constantinople hard fork included a block reward reduction. Ultimately, the miners get to decide which version of Ethereum is dominant, and in this case, the miners are not in agreement with developers, and there is nothing forcing them to implement this version of Constantinople.

There is a piece of code included in Ethereum which causes mining difficulty to exponentially increase at a point, this is called the difficulty bomb and leads to an Ethereum ice age where no more blocks are mined. This would be catastrophic for both miners and investors. This will force the Ethereum community to reach a consensus before the difficulty bomb goes off, or Ethereum will stop working. So if the Constantinople hard fork is not coming in 2018, certainly in 2019 some version of an Ethereum fork will be necessary to make sure the Ethereum ice age doesn’t happen.

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