Ethereum developers have so apparently decided to hard fork Ethereum every eight months.
This was the conclusion of a regular meeting conducted over YouTube on 24 August 2018. Some were even suggesting every six months but that was considered too much pressure for the team. A fork called Constantinople is coming soon.
Developers agreed that delaying hard forks to perfect Enterprise Integration Patterns (EIPs), the Ethereum equivalent of Bitcoin Improvement Proposals (BIPs), was not ideal. They have opted to activate many hard forks that release only ready EIPs, instead of fewer hard forks that release as many EIPs as possible. The latter would have delayed EIPs that are ready to launch.
To put this in perspective, Bitcoin has no set schedule for hard forks. The Bitcoin community has historically been resistant to any hard forks, with each accompanied by controversy and discontent. Generally, Bitcoin hard forks are reserved for true emergencies, like the Value Overflow Incident when a hacker created 184.4 billion Bitcoins.
Setting a precedent for forking Ethereum every eight months could affect predictability concerns. The block reward, mining algorithm, coin supply, block time, and anything else imaginable can potentially be changed every eight months. This might make it riskier to hold Ethereum since a fork could always destabilize price. Compare this to Bitcoin, where the protocol is basically set in stone and fundamental characteristics are very unlikely to ever be changed.
Ethereum developers have also decided to leave block reward decisions to the community, setting the stage for a battle between miners and investors that could lead to multiple forks of Ethereum. In general, every Ethereum fork could lead to different versions of Ethereum splitting off, and now it’s going to be a regular occurrence every eight months.
Even in the best case scenario, if the entire community agreed with these forks, there would still be users left behind on old chains if they aren’t keeping up to date on the news. This can lead to widespread loss of funds due to people sending Ethereum from addresses on the old chain to addresses on the new chain.
On the flip side, perhaps frequent forking can be conducive for Ethereum to evolve more rapidly than cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin which avoid forks.
Knowing the crypto community though, slight code changes generally lead to debates and fighting that can be quite damaging, let alone forks which are an even more extreme scenario. It’s perhaps unintentionally symbolic that the coming Ethereum fork is named Constantinople, the old capital of a fractured piece of the Roman Empire.
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