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Fork Off: Constantinople Delayed Till Late February

Eth will have a minor delay

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It has been a long week for Ethereum developers in the wake of the delayed Constantinople upgrade. The hard fork was expected earlier this week, opening the road to further scaling and efficiency for the smart contract protocol.  But the plan hit a snag after a smart contract-related security vulnerability was discovered, as Crypto Briefing has reported.

Ethereum developers, including Vitalik Buterin, gathered for a call on early Friday and decided to take a conservative path, setting a target date of February 27 for the upgrade.

Core developers explored a more aggressive path of three weeks but ultimately decided to play it safe, considering that the event involves more than just removing code. There is also a great deal of client testing involved with the hard fork.

Year of the Forks

The precise block number is tricky to calculate as a result of changes in block times related to a mining reward-fueled difficulty bomb that is “ticking” and will catapult Ethereum closer to a proof-of-stake system. Developers expect, however, that the hard fork will likely occur at block 7.28 million, which should push the block time up to 19-20 seconds. The core team will reassess the expected block number in two weeks.

The biggest issue for the planned upgrade is Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) 1283. A potential vulnerability tied to this EIP was blamed for the delay, which will also hold back implementation of the other EIP’s. The most logical solution, developers said, is to perform the other upgrades without EIP-1283, but doing so involves fallout for clients who had already upgraded in anticipation of the feature. As one developer explained, their networks would be “wiped out.”  

After some discussion, the devs ultimately figured out a way to satisfy both the Ethereum mainnet and testnets. Ethereum Hard Fork Coordinator Afri Schoedon told Crypto Briefing  (and later tweeted) –

Constantinople will be activated in around six weeks on mainnet without EIP-1283. Testnets will undergo hard forks to remove EIP-1283. Exact date and block number to be announced soon. 2-in-1.

That date is consistent with the back-of-the-envelope predictions of other developers, as Crypto Briefing has previously reported.

After Constantinople, the next Ethereum hard fork isn’t planned until October 2019. But there could be another added before then. Schoedon explained: “A patched version of EIP-1283 might be included in a subsequent network upgrade. But that needs further discussion and testing.” If 2018 was the year of the stablecoin, 2019 is shaping up to be the year of the hard forks.

This is not the first time the Ethereum network has been affected by a security flaw. A smart contract error led to the theft of $50 million in ETH from TheDAO in 2016, leading to the majority of the community to fork the protocol in order to rewind the hack. This time, at least, the bug was spotted before it hatched.

During the call, developers considered giving the fork a new name in light of all the changes to the upgrade. Ultimately, they decided that the community is waiting for Constantinople.

The author is invested in digital assets, but none mentioned in this article.

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