Ethereum’s shift from Proof of Work, or PoW to Proof of Stake (PoS) algorithm will not happen in June, as expected. In a tweet, Ethereum core developer Tim Beiko confirmed that the long-awaited ‘Ethereum Merge’ will come later than expected. “It won’t be June, but likely in the few months after. No firm date yet, but we’re definitely in the final chapter of PoW on Ethereum.” The setback is not surprising given that ‘The Merge’ has constantly been delayed ever since it was first proposed.
Ethereum developers has big plans to reduce energy consumption in crypto mining. The company aims to decrease the enormous energy consumed in Ether mining by 99.95 per cent— and this is possible only after switching from PoW to PoS consensus mechanism—developers call it ‘The Merge’.
According to Digiconomist, Ethereum consumes about 112 terawatt-hours of electricity per year, which is comparable to that of Netherlands and more than what Philippines or Pakistan use. A single transaction on Ethereum is equivalent to the power consumption of an average US household for over nine days.
With the PoS mechanism any Ethereum holder will be able to easily contribute to mining and earn specialised rewards. Miners won’t require any specialised computer or devices to mine Ethereum, reducing significant energy usage. However, Beiko observed that it could take more time for the developers to implement the switch.
On April 11, the Ethereum developers conducted a ‘Shadow Fork’ test with an aim to inch closer to deploying Ethereum Merge. A Shadow Fork test is a test conducted to copy data from Ethereum blockchain to a testnet. A ‘testnet’ is an alternative blockchain network used for testing and trial purposes. The developers run Shadow Fork to test the newly implemented features before replicating their results to the main network.
According to the developer, the Shadow fork test, which was run against both existing testnets and parts of it to the Ethereum blockchain as well, have revealed implementation issues in clients. “Once clients work without issues during shadow forks, then the existing Ethereum testnets (Ropsten, Goerli, etc.) will be run through The Merge. Once testnets have successfully upgraded, and remain stable, then a time will be set for the upgrade to happen on the Ethereum mainnet.”
The Merge, unlike previous Ethereum upgrades, will not be triggered by a block time. Blocktime is the time required to authenticate or verify a block, by crypto miners. In case of Ethereum, it is usually between 10 to 20 seconds. “The delay between choosing a time for The Merge and it going live on the network may be slightly shorter than prior Ethereum upgrades,” Beiko said in a blog post.
Difficulty bomb ticking
Ethereum’s switch will be triggered by something called ‘difficulty bomb’. The Ethereum developers will enforce a mechanism to force the PoW network to stop producing blocks, so that the network can be switched to PoS. And this cannot be done immediately, doing this instantly could cause the blockchain network to completely jam and miners would lose on incentives as well. So, this needs to be done in a process.
The developer plans to implement difficulty bomb by May, the effects of which will make blocks unbearably slow by August. “If client developers do not think they can deploy The Merge to mainnet (blockchain) before block times are slowed too much, it will need to be delayed again,” Beiko added.
For instance, if the difficulty bomb is delayed by 6 months, the Ethereum developers will implement the Merge before that. However, in case a major issue is found, the bomb will be terminated and another bomb delay would be considered.