Why Ethereum, the second-largest blockchain cryptocurrency, is preparing for a hard fork? What will be the larger implications of these changes?
The Byzantium hard fork has been scheduled for October 17, as we recently reported.
However, why Ethereum, the second-largest blockchain cryptocurrency, is preparing for a hard fork? What will be the larger implications of these changes?
What is a Byzantium hard fork?
Ethereum has been known for its privacy limitation. This is due to the fact that the feature of privacy contradicts some basic methods of how a blockchain works, according to a recent report published at Coin Desk (coindesk.com).
With ethereum, servers and clouds are replaced by a thousands of “nodes” that are open to users from across the world.
“Transparency on a blockchain is vital such that it protects its users from the risk of double spending, which is when a malicious user sends the same coin to two different places at once. This risk is resolved by rendering the details of each transaction visible and storing them in a widely distributed ledger.”, according to Coin Desk.
Rewriting this fundamental procedure requires high-level mathematical endevours from the ethereum`s developers. The upcoming Byzantium hard fork brings on a new curve primitive and a pairing function for a specific curve which will reportedly make the cryptography possible, while strenghtening the security of a zk-snark compution.
As Coin Desk wrote in an earlier report, Byzantium would involve a total of nine ethereum improvement protocols (EIPs). Some of them are claimed to be changes like fixing the problem of difficulty adjustments, “returndata” operations, “static call” operations, new precompiles, a difficult delay feature and embedding transaction return data in receipts.
Another major feature would be introduced to ensure that contracts are secured, a change introduced to prevent a re-entrancy attack, an intrusted code that enters the contract and manipulates it.
Last but not least, the cryptographic procedure zk-snarks will eventually allow private transactions to occur on the ethereum network. This improvement is resulting from ethereum`s collaboration with z-cash, the privacy-centric cryptocurrency that applies the technology.
Next steps and their impact
On September 19, the zkSNARK part of a zcash transaction was verified on the Byzantim testnet, as largely reported in the online space. It is a trial that can mark a step closer to bringing this functionality to the public ethereum network. Testing on Byzantium will continue this month, while its introduction will then lead to the appearance of the gas-subsidised pairing checks and elliptic curve operations that make this kind of verification possible, as Coin Desk pointed out in a publication.
Nevertheless, if we put the verification aside, there is nothing in ethereum that can support the technology.
“We need practical implementations of all the other components of a zk-snark system (apart from the verification).”, as ethereum’s lead zk-snark researcher, Christian Reitwiessner, commented in an interview with Coin Desk.
It is expected that new features released in the second ethereum upgrade, Constantinople, will aim to provide a flexible ether wallet that gives users the option to pay for gas in tokens intead of ether.
The privacy conversation surrounding ethereum is just starting. The subject is to be followed as there is a range of complex challenges that still need to be faced by ethereum engineers. For example, it is to be figured out how zk-snarks can occur off the blockchain. Alternatively, maybe there will be another solution that is different from zk-snarks?
It is to seen which solution will be the best for the Ethereum ecosystem and how it would be realized into practice.