Analysis: The specific time for the Ethereum difficulty bomb and the farewell POW

Will Ethereum’s proof-of-work mechanism (PoW) withdraw from the stage of history after the 2.0 upgrade is completed? This sentence contains two questions: first, whether the Ethereum PoW must be terminated; second, whether the termination occurs after the 2.0 upgrade is completed.

Answering these two questions first needs to understand the logic of sharding. At present, the Ethereum network has only one public chain. After the upgrade, the Ethereum will have multiple public chains (64 in the early stage, and will be added later). Each chain only needs to retain the current data and does not need to verify the data of the entire Ethereum network, so the nodes will be smaller and lighter. The beacon chain that went online on December 1st last year can be understood as the first chain of Ethereum 2.0. Its main mission is to realize the PoS mechanism and copy all the states of 1.0. After the shard chain is online, it will be connected to the beacon chain, and the current Ethereum public chain will be docked on the entire network as one of the shard chains.

Therefore, many miners believe that PoW mining can continue to provide accounting services for one of the shard chains. This possibility did exist in the early days, because the initial plan of the beacon chain was to only implement the basic functions of PoS, and only after merging the current main chain can the functional contract be executed. However, according to the current upgrade process, the beacon chain is already replicating the state of 1.0, so all the functions of the current Ethereum can be implemented without PoW.

Not only that, because the number of nodes required for each chain is reduced, the difficulty of attacking a single chain will also decrease, resulting in a decrease in network security. The PoS mechanism can punish malicious nodes by confiscation of pledged coins, but it is impossible to confiscate the hardware facilities of miners under the PoW mechanism, so the existence of PoW is a hidden danger to the security of the network. From the current public view of some large mining pools, there are fewer and fewer voices supporting PoW as a mining method for a shard chain or forking the existing Ethereum.

So, does the end of PoW happen after the 2.0 upgrade is completed? This depends on the priority of merge and sharding. The sharding phase of Ethereum 2.0 will start approximately in the second quarter of 2022. In the early view, due to the large number of decentralized applications on the Ethereum 1.0 main chain, in order for these applications to smoothly transition to the PoS mechanism, the Ethereum community will allow the remaining 63 shard chains to be connected to the beacon chain first. After the smart contract is executed normally, 1.0 and 2.0 will be merged. But now it seems that if the beacon chain successfully replicates all the functions of 1.0, then the merge does not need to wait until the end of the sharding process.

Judging from the existing formal news channels, almost all opinions believe that the merger is earlier than the sharding. In other words, the current Ethereum chain will be connected to the beacon chain as the first shard chain, which means that the merger will be completed by the middle of next year at the latest, when PoW mining will withdraw from the stage of history. Of course, the premise of all this is that the sharding phase is carried out as scheduled. If Ethereum’s upgrade plan bounces again, the minimum time for the merger will continue to be postponed.

As for the upper limit time of the merger, you can pay attention to the specific opening time of the difficulty bomb. As part of the London upgrade, EIP-3554 postponed the difficulty bomb that was originally planned to be implemented in July this year to December, when the daily output of miners will be significantly reduced. Therefore , the final opening time of the difficulty bomb can be regarded as the leading indicator of the end of PoW . If another protocol appears after EIP-3554 to continue to delay the difficulty bomb, it means that the upgrade conditions are not yet fully met. As security causes harm, it is naturally impossible to cancel the PoW mechanism. In fact, it is precisely because the Ethereum community considers that the current network is inseparable from the maintenance of a large number of miners, it will launch EIP-3554 to delay the difficulty bomb, which also makes the most radical views (that the merger can be completed by the end of 2021) Was pronounced wrong.

In summary, the merger of Ethereum 1.0 and 2.0 will mark the end of PoW mining. The upper limit time of the merger will not be earlier than the opening of the difficulty bomb, but not later than the opening of the sharding phase. The existing official information channels show that the difficulty bomb will be launched in December this year, and the fragmentation phase will be launched in the middle of next year. Therefore, under the premise of timely implementation of all plans, PoW mechanism 2 exit the stage of history in the first half for 22 years. (The head picture comes from StormGain)


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