There is no doubt that Ethereum changed the crypto game for good by introducing a decentralized blockchain-based platform, essentially providing the conceptual blueprint for the next generation of blockchain.
And while Ethereum enjoys being the dominant platform for decentralized applications, as well as the second cryptocurrency in terms of market cap, the community behind the project continues to innovate. The day is here for yet another network-wide update; Istanbul hard fork is under way, and we are here to walk you through all that is about to happen.
Treading towards Ethereum 2.0
The network has gone through 7 hard forks (improvements and upgrades to its core protocol) and is already heading towards the 8th one – the Istanbul hard fork, with which Ethereum is approaching Serenity or Ethereum 2.0, often considered the concluding iteration in the network’s progression.
Having been postponed for a total of three times, the much-anticipated Istanbul hard fork should commence at block 9069000 scheduled for December 8th, 2019. For those not familiar with the term hard fork, we recommend checking out our in-depth coverage of the Constantinople Hard Fork.
The Istanbul hard fork is a major upgrade to Ethereum blockchain which aims to address scalability, lower gas costs, and amend smart contracts for more inventive functionality. In short, the whole thing intends to make the network cheaper, faster, while at the same time not compromising the core principles of decentralization.
The central concern regarding the latest Ethereum hard forks, however, is to lay the groundwork and finally make the transition from the current Proof of Work (PoW) consensus protocol to the Proof of Stake (PoS) model; namely to eventually reach the turning point of Ethereum 2.0. You can read more about the difference between the PoW and PoS here.
So it is not unexpected that initially, the network-wide update was to include a batch of 38 Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIPs). However, in response to the Ethereum community’s reaction, the entire array was scaled down to 14 and eventually the whole upgrade split into two parts. The first one dubbed Istanbul contains six of the 14 proposals. Berlin consists of other the eight scheduled for June 2020.
What EIPs are included into the Istanbul Hard Fork
As noted above, only six out of 14 EIPs were selected for the forthcoming Istanbul hard fork. Most of these concern scalability and lowering of gas costs. Below is a list of accepted Istanbul EIPs:
EIP-152 – Add Blake2 compression function F precompile.
Essentially this EIP should increase interoperability between Zcash and Ethereum.
EIP-1108 – Reduce alt_bn128 precompile gas costs.
A rather universally accepted proposal that will make privacy applications such as zk-SNARKs, AZTEC, and Zether cheaper to use on the Ethereum blockchain.
EIP-1344 – Add ChainID opcode.
The EIP proposes the usage of chain ID to keep track of contracts within the Ethereum chain that they are on. This should prove beneficial when dealing with signatures inside smart contracts.
EIP-1884 – Repricing for trie-size-dependent opcodes.
Probably the most controversial EIP of the bunch. That is in part because this EIP reprices certain opcodes that previously were thought of as cheap. However, its central aim is to prevent the blockchain from spam attacks that could cause extensive delays.
EIP-2028 – Transaction data gas cost reduction.
Aims to reduce the gas costs of Calldata from its current value of 68 gas per byte to 16 gas per byte. The central advantage of this proposal is that higher bandwidth for Calldata should improve scalability since more data could fit within a single block.
EIP-2200 – Net gas metering for SSTORE operations.
To reduce excessive gas costs, the EIP aims to alter the way EVM SSTORE operations are metered and charged.
The bottom line
The Ethereum Istanbul hard fork is a bold step for the network as a whole. Once the protocol updates are fully implemented, Ethereum is expected to be considerably faster, somewhat more efficient and fine-tuned security-wise.
Like most changes, the Istanbul hard fork might not be a breezy one; however, it is an essential part of the central project – the move towards Ethereum 2.0. The next phase is already in motion with eight EIPs confirmed – the Berlin Hard Fork that should include the controversial step towards ProgPoW, expected June 2020.
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