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Ethereum Client Developers Detail Difficulty Bomb Delays

2 mins
Updated by Kyle Baird
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In Brief

  • Ethereum difficulty bomb extended until December.
  • The mechanism will deter miners from remaining on PoW system.
  • ETH prices continue to slide towards $2,000.
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The Ethereum London upgrade will also entail an adjustment to the “difficulty bomb” in addition to the long-awaited fee calculation shakeup.

The Ethereum London hark fork is set to launch to mainnet on Aug 4. With it comes the highly anticipated EIP-1559 that will begin burning gas fees after changing the current auction mechanism.

Another upgrade called EIP-3554 will also be included and will delay the network difficulty bomb until December.

Ethereum network client-provider Nethermind detailed the difficulty bomb in a July 12 tweet, explaining why it’s still needed.

Extending the Ethereum ‘Ice Age’

Ethereum’s difficulty bomb refers to the increasing difficulty level or complexity of “puzzles” in the proof-of-work mining algorithm. As the calculations become harder, it results in longer than normal block times and lower rewards for miners.

The mechanism increases the difficulty exponentially over time, eventually leading to what is referred to as the “Ice Age.” This is when the blockchain becomes so difficult to mine that it freezes and stops producing blocks.

The difficulty bomb and EIP-3554 is a defense against attackers that try to fork the chain, Nethermind explained. It added that it ensures there is continued maintenance and urgency for changes. Additionally, if core developers drag their feet with implementing changes, the difficulty bomb sets in and Ethereum becomes unusable.

“Finally and perhaps most importantly, when the merge happens, it’ll encourage everyone to hop onto the Proof of Stake system, or else they risk staying on a chain that is unusable.”

Lead developer Tim Beiko stated that he suspects London would have shipped one to six months later if it were not for the difficulty bomb.

The difficulty bomb was essentially introduced as a deterrent for miners, which may opt to continue with proof-of-work mining even after the blockchain transitions to proof-of-stake. This has now also been slated for December.

The London upgrade is currently in its final phase of testing on the Ropsten testnet. It has seen more than 100,000 ETH burnt during the testing which began on June 24.  

ETH price outlook

At the time of press, Ethereum prices were down slightly on the day. ETH is changing hands at $2,025, which is still within its six-week range-bound channel. ETH has corrected a total of 53% from its mid-May all-time high and is teetering on dropping below a crucial support at $2,000.

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Martin Young
Martin Young is a seasoned cryptocurrency journalist and editor with over 7 years of experience covering the latest news and trends in the digital asset space. He is passionate about making complex blockchain, fintech, and macroeconomics concepts understandable for mainstream audiences.   Martin has been featured in top finance, technology, and crypto publications including BeInCrypto, CoinTelegraph, NewsBTC, FX Empire, and Asia Times. His articles provide an in-depth analysis of...
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