Ethereum merged Plan A and Plan B

You should definitely read this this week, Tim Beiko brings AllCoreDevs update 011, a comprehensive post on what’s left on Ethereum’s road to merger.

The question is, when will it be merged?

This is the only question a lot of people are interested in right now, and the official answer is “when it’s ready”, which is true, but that answer doesn’t help much. So, let’s break it down.

This involves two somewhat separate parts that make predictions less straightforward. The first part is simple, the client’s readiness to merge, while the second part is Ethereum’s difficulty bomb.

Ethereum merged Plan A and Plan B

What is Ethereum’s difficulty bomb?

Difficulty bombs (sometimes referred to as ice ages) are a mechanism that existed in the early days of Ethereum and functioned to exponentially increase the difficulty of mining proof-of-work (PoW) blocks after a certain block height was reached , which in turn increases the interval time between blocks. There is currently a Dune dashboard‌ that shows how block production rates drop rapidly as the difficulty bomb goes into effect, which we can then hard fork to reset.

The idea of ​​the difficulty bomb is twofold, first of all it provides a forcing feature for developers that to dismantle or delay the difficulty bomb needs to go through a hard fork, the idea is that if we’re going to do that with a hard fork, then we will Take advantage of this opportunity for protocol upgrades. Especially in the early days, the purpose of the difficulty bomb was to encourage a rapid shift to a proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus mechanism. In my opinion, it’s pretty much a failure in this regard, evidenced by (a) we still haven’t successfully moved to PoS and have delayed the difficulty bomb at least 5 times, and (b) Arrow Glacier and Muir Glacier’s two hard splits The fork only delayed the difficulty bomb and did nothing else, its main effect was simply to complicate the plan.

The second, more realistic purpose of the difficulty bomb is to prevent miners from continuing to participate in PoW mining after PoS is activated. Miners need to defuse the difficulty bomb themselves, which is not hard (just one line of code), but the existence of the difficulty bomb effectively forces miners to maintain their own fork of the ETH1 client after the merge.

Anyway, the point is that the current iteration of the Difficulty Bomb will soon become noticeable.

Plan A and Plan B

The ideal path (plan A) is to merge before the difficulty bomb becomes a big problem. And the alternate option (Plan B) is to do another hard fork that only delays the bomb to gain a few more months to prepare for the merger.

So, it’s a race where plan A is optimal, but it depends on everything being fully in place before the difficulty bomb destroys Ethereum. But we don’t know the exact time, because the time will be affected by the overall computing power, and we don’t know exactly the merge-ready state of the client.

Most importantly, we hope to have a clearer picture of these two things by the end of May. At that point (or in the weeks after that), we’ll have to decide whether to go for it, or delay the difficulty bomb with a hard fork that’s Plan B. We can’t let decisions take too long, because it would take weeks to organize a hard fork to defuse the difficulty bomb, if needed.

So far, the test merge appears to be progressing well (see below), with the latest analysis suggesting that the difficulty bomb will not become a serious problem for Ethereum until mid/late August, when the average block time may rise to 20 seconds.

If I were a gambler, I’d bet some USDC on the August merger without delaying the difficulty bomb. But this is by no means financial advice, and don’t cry to me if you lose your shirt.

Tim Beiko gives his own take on the merger timeline (which I don’t think is materially different from the one discussed above).

You can join the EF mailing list‌ for updates.

test merge

See Tim’s ACD Update‌ for  #TestingTheMerge an overview of the pair. You can find notes from the weekly merged test call here‌.

Before we get to what the developers are doing to test the merge, I want to stress that if you run any infrastructure on Ethereum, you need to be involved in the merge as well. This is the only real way to make sure your project doesn’t break when we do this. To that end, my colleague Sajida has put together a merged testing leaderboard‌ to track who is testing.

Mainnet shadow fork

Since I last wrote on the topic of merge testing, we’ve done 3 mainnet shadow forks, one of which was in Amsterdam.

The mainnet shadow fork is an excellent test of the merge mechanism and client readiness. They are more or less equivalent to mainnet merging (although currently the Ethereum Foundation and development team control all validators, which makes shadow forks slightly easier). Shadow forks are so cool that I won’t go into all the details, but in general the tests have been a great success so far.

  • The first mainnet shadow fork took place on April 11, and here is a summary from Pari:

Marius announced that the shadow fork was a huge success. During testing, a configuration problem related to gas limit was found in the Geth client, but the problem was not serious, and there were various problems with different clients. , but these problems were discovered and resolved.

  • The second mainnet shadow fork occurred during the Devconnect conference on April 23, and here is a summary from Pari:

This is the first shadow fork where every client has survived the merge and managed to stay in sync afterwards, and we’re making real progress here!

  • The third mainnet shadow fork took place on May 5, and this test passed very smoothly.

More information can be found in the developer conference call transcript.

These include some new tests on merge sync that have found some issues, but they are definitely fixable.

In addition, the Goerli testnet has also undergone 4 shadow forks.

On top of that, we plan to merge three existing Ethereum testnets in June: Ropsten, Sepolia, and Goerli.

Beacon Chain Milestones

As of now, more than 10% of ETH is pledged in the Eth2 deposit contract. hildobby.eth assembles a nice deposit dashboard‌ that shows the status and history of pledge deposits. The number of active validators is now approaching 370,000 and growing faster than ever.

Also, in terms of client diversity, we also have some good news, Prysm’s market share is now less than 50%, which is a healthier state for the entire beacon chain. In the first few months, Prysm’s market share exceeded 68%, which is a very volatile situation. It seems like writing a few warnings really works, but seriously, a tribute to the individuals and institutions that are desperate to make changes that put their time and energy into making Ethereum stronger and more secure because of you.

Of course, the battle isn’t over yet. The next thing to improve is the diversity of execution clients, which is even worse than the diversity of previous consensus clients.


The staking page on has been completely revamped and it’s beautiful.

While Lido has been under some scrutiny recently, Lido is absolutely right as a tool with a 30%+ market share in the staking market. This seems to trigger a flurry of transparency. Lido’s next chapter is an updated decentralization roadmap that I requested in early March. In addition to this, they also shared Lido’s carrier strategy. Superphiz has some thoughts on it all.

Also from Lido, they published an article titled “Modeling The Entry Queue Post-Merge‌, which analyzes how merging might affect Lido’s social reward model when validator activation queues are very long.

As for Rocket Pool, Bits Be Trippin gave an overview of Rocket Pool in an interview with Darren Langley. Rocket Pool has announced support for Besu and Nethermind as Eth1 clients in its latest beta. Yay, client diversity!

Recommended popular science articles

  • What are the shadow forks that developers have been doing? Yash Kamal Chaturvedi’s article explains some.
  • ConsenSys has built a nice consolidated knowledge base, and there are a few recent articles worth your time reading:
  1. Four Pillars of Merger;
  2. On PoS, a video playlist of excerpts from interviews with Tim Beiko, Matt Nelson and Chris Anatalio‌, watch for a follow-up interview with Justin Drake on Monday.
  • Here’s an article for API nerds: Adrian Sutton of the Teku team writes about the team’s work around JSON type definitions‌. A large part of the workload of client-side development is such behind-the-scenes heavy lifting. are all good things.
  • From Adrian’s article on Inclusion Fee Stealing from Public Beacon Chain Nodes‌, this is a cautionary tale for those running validators who may want to rely on third-party services after performing client-side merges. Time to get your own execution client up and running.
  • This is a withdrawal topic that Alex Stokes talked about at the PEEPanEIP conference, and Alex was a great explainer.
  • bartek.eth has a very good post on KZG promises‌ and I gave a short talk on the topic of KZG promises on Devconnect (only slides, no video found yet). Polynomials seem to be the data structure of choice in the future for a variety of reasons, so now is a good time to get hold of all these things.
  • Today’s top news is Joanne Fuller’s article on formal verification of the Ethereum 2 protocol “Fixing the Array-Out-of-Bound Runtime Error‌”, I sometimes feel that the formal verification work my colleagues are doing on the protocol is underestimated, As Joanne explained, FV is a very powerful tool and it is very comforting to verify protocols like this.
  • I finally finished the chapter on randomness in the Eth2 protocol, and it turned out to be a lot more interesting than I expected, but it ended up taking a lot longer than I planned. Probability is too hard! Not sure what I’m going to challenge next, maybe the committee. I also want to finish some low level topics before I start moving up.

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