2017-08-21 | Keaghan Townsend
Ethereum will fall under a planned hard fork sometime in late September, transitioning into the 2nd official major upgrade of the Ethereum network.
This upgrade has been anticipated since the release of Ethereum’s road map earlier this year, and arrives just at the end of the developer’s projected time-frame for implementation. The fork will provide a number of updates to the network, and this upgrade fix some of the concerns and criticisms that Ethereum has faced. Metropolis is the 2nd upgrade to the Ethereum network – following the original Frontier release, and the very first hard-fork upgrade, Homestead. Metropolis is intended to be the “penultimate version” of the Ethereum network, setting the stage for one final fork and major upgrade.
There are several significant switches that the Metropolis update will implement. Two of these – zk-SNARKs and “account abstraction” masking – are focused primarily on security, anonymity, and privacy. The brainy contract functionality of the Ethereum network will also be getting an upgrade, enhancing automation and reducing costs. Eventually, the planned “difficulty bomb” will be delayed as the Ethereum network commences to inject its so-called “ice age” ahead of schedule.
A zk-SNARK proof is a method of verifying that one party possesses particular information, without actually exposing said information to the other party. zk-SNARK, which stands for “Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Skill,” was very first widely implemented in Zcash – which shares some developers from the Ethereum network – and is what gave that currency its veritable assure of privacy.
What this means for the Ethereum network is that transactions can now be ended and verified on the network, while information within said transactions remains private. One popular example is voting, wherein anyone could verify someone’s vote on the blockchain without exposing the actual vote.
This added security protocol permits the user to determine the address they have for the private key, using existing protocols (such as RSA.) This update will not be relevant to most users, but is a boon for the security-minded user that would total control over their private key – down to choosing the key themselves. Further, it improves security on the network by preventing the private keys to be exposed from their hashes, even via attacks from quantum computers.
Wise contract update
One of the more significant updates to the system in terms of widespread usage, is the upgrade to the clever contract system. With Metropolis, brainy contracts will have the capability to automatically and autonomously lodge fees, without needing user approval. Smaller switches to the network will also make the use of clever contracts on the network at the same time more secure and quicker.
The Ethereum network has a intentional design “flaw,” meant to spur users to accept radical improvements and upgrades as the network progresses. This is known as the Ethereum “Ice Age,” or “difficulty bomb:” over time, the network intentionally implements a minuscule increase to the amount of time it takes to mine a fresh block. This leads to an eventual slowdown of fresh block creation that ultimately “freezes” the network. This solved as the network implements the Casper proof-of-stake (virtual mining) mechanism.
The Ethereum hard-fork is a planned fork of the network, meaning that the Metropolis upgrade is not a split chain, such as Bitcoin Cash or Ethereum Classic. There will be no fresh currency. The Metropolis upgrade is miner-backed, miners on the current Ethereum blockchain will upgrade to the fresh Metropolis chain and desert the old one.