Ethereum’s Ropsten testnet is currently unstable following the activation of the Istanbul upgrade, a stepping stone towards ETH 2.0. The testnet is currently mining on two separate chains.

Testnets are supposed to be unstable, but it seems like the Istanbul upgrade ran into problems on the very first block.

The good news is, this is what testnets are all about and it’s to be expected.

Why the Sudden Hiccup?

Part of the reason may be that Ethereum jumped the gun and did it earlier than expected. The Istanbul block was supposed to be activated on the Ropsten testnet on October 2 at block height 6,485,846. Instead, it was done on September 30 at around 3:40 AM UTC. This was due to faster-than-expected block confirmations.

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The reason for the significant split between Istanbul and the main chain on the testnet is largely due to this sudden implementation. Most miners on the Ropstein blockchain have not upgraded to the latest software required for Istanbul. Miners have to do this manually and it’s possible that the earlier-than-expected Istanbul block caught them off guard.

Nothing New for Ethereum

However, the Ethereum community has seen something like this in the past. In fact, when Ethereum implemented its system-wide protocol upgrade ‘Constantinople’ last year, a similar situation unfolded. When tested on Ropsten, the network also split in two. Yet, that entire ordeal lasted just a few hours — whereas this split due to Istanbul has yet to be resolved.

The good news is that, according to Jameson, the split was caused by poor coordination between miners and not something inherently wrong with the upgrade. The chain split, however, might have some significant ramifications — which is why Ethereum core developers will be discussing it on their Friday call.

It’s possible we could see a backlog of progress on Istanbul until the issue is sorted out completely. Yet, in all, the leading smart contract platform still looks like it will keep good on its promises for ETH 2.0.

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