Last Thursday night Ethereum developers gave updates on ‘Istanbul’, the planned hard fork of the Ethereum network. The fork will be occurring in two stages, with the first likely in mid-October and the second in early 2020.
The first stage will see the implementation of six EIPs (Ethereum Improvement Proposals). More can be potentially accepted in the coming weeks. The target date for the hard fork’s testnet activation was last week but had to be pushed back to give developers time to approve and finalise the list of EIPs. Given that this list has only just been decided, the date has now been pushed back further from September to tentatively, 16th October. Commenting on this delay, core developer Péter Szilágyi stated:
“With previous hard forks, after everybody implemented [to their clients], we had literally months of testing before rolling out to the testnet. Now, we just came up with a final list of EIPs and we want to fork in two weeks? That’s a bit brave,”
This hard fork will be the eighth one on the Ethereum network, directly following the successful Constantinople update.
The reason it is split into two parts is to give developers time to work on the EIPs which require more time in development. The second fork contains “really big” EIPs which are important but which cannot be developed in the span of two-three weeks.
One of these EIPs is the controversial ProgPoW proposal which was slated to be introduced this year but which has been postponed to Istanbul Part II. ProgPoW stands for Programmatic Proof-of-Work, and is a program that reduces the benefits that specialised mining software has, especially compared to regular hardware. The whole point is to improve the democratic and decentralised nature of mining, to make it more accessible by removing ‘unfair’ advantages. This specialised mining, known as ASIC, uses a large amount of energy is more expensive. However, expectedly, ProgPoW is controversial and has yet to reach a consensus among developers.