September 18 will mark the launch of the first test for the upgrades to the ethereum blockchain via a hard fork known as Metropolis.
The tests, code-named “Byzantium,” will be followed by a second test, “Constantinople,” at a later time. The Metropolis upgrade is expected in October if all goes well with the testing.
Developers from the Ethereum Foundation are spearheading the tests and development. The adaptations will purportedly bolster security, anonymity, and make for easier programming. The goal of the changes will be to provide greater flexibility to smart contract developers, allowing them to automatically pay their own fees without users externally funding them.
To make the changes, users will download the ethereum client that contains the blockchain, storage layer, logic layer, and consensus layer (all are in one package). The users can then modify the code to suit their specific needs.
The most important innovation in the fork is the institution of zk SNARKS (zero-knowledge Succinct Non-interactive Argument of Knowledge), known as “zero-knowledge proofs.” This provides for anonymous transactions of value without a verifier having to execute computations or learn what was executed. By using zk SNARKS, the verifier can confirm that a computation happened with “zero knowledge” of its details. The system is currently deployed by Zcash.
Other changes include Gas adjustments for bill settling; masking for security, that will allow users to determine the address for which they have a private key; and a so-called “Difficulty-Bomb” that will make mining more difficult. The latter is part of the transition from proof-of-work (PoW) to proof-of-stake (PoS) on the network, a transition that has been nicknamed the “Ethereum Ice Age.”
The move will slow ethereum mining, but whether that will have an effect on pricing is unclear. The upgrades will likely increase the number of system users.
After Metropolis is instituted, developers will focus on the upgrade known as Serenity. No date has been set for its arrival. Although final details are not known, the transition is intended to move the network from proof-of-work (mining) to proof-of-stake (virtual mining) using the Casper consensus algorithm. The transition is expected to reduce the resources required for ethereum mining, including the amount of electricity needed to power the computers.
Serenity will also feature tree token management that will allow smart contracts to be autonomous, reducing the need for external activation; and blockchain sharding, which allows each running node the ability to approve only its piece of the network, improving transaction times.
The changes are expected to affect enterprise applications and DApps when they arrive.
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