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Understanding the Ethereum Difficulty Bomb: Why Has It Been Delayed?



If it is said that this year’s Bitcoin bull market and the upsurge of shib have allowed a large number of outsiders to know and enter this market, then the “519 Incident” on the eve of 520 has taught everyone a lesson, allowing everyone to have a more comprehensive understanding of this market. It turns out that in addition to skyrocketing, the currency circle also has plummeting and zeroing. Many people think that the entire encryption market has already collapsed, but for the elderly in the circle, the sharp drop and skyrocketing rise are only part of the development of the industry. After 519 is over, they still have to "sit down" and think about what to do tomorrow.

Excluding those global environmental factors, the fundamental core of the future direction of the market still depends on the movement of the basic sector. Especially Ethereum, an ecological aggregate that has enriched more than half of the current market resources.

Recently, the core developer of the mainstream public chain Ethereum announced that its London mainnet upgrade will be launched as scheduled on July 14. The most important thing is that the difficulty bomb, which was originally scheduled to be launched at the same time, has been postponed to December. This may bring huge changes to the entire Ethereum ecosystem and even the market.

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The difficulty bomb was written into the code in 2015, and it still exists and continues to be promoted as a very important mechanism. From the side, we can see that the official has already set the direction of Ethereum’s future PoS consensus, but it has not been able to Handle this transition well. The difficulty bomb is a mechanism algorithm that adjusts the difficulty of the chain according to the block time. It is mainly divided into two parts. One is the dynamic parameter adjustment similar to Bitcoin. When the block generation time is higher than 20 seconds, it will reduce the difficulty. Seconds will increase the difficulty. The other part is the real difficulty bomb, which artificially increases the difficulty of the blockchain, with the ultimate goal of forcing miners to lose their development motivation and turn to the ETH2.0 PoS chain.

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Compared with Bitcoin's difficulty setting at a rate of 10 minutes for dynamic parameter adjustment of blocks, Ethereum's difficulty adjustment algorithm is more complicated. In terms of the difficulty design of the difficulty bomb, it is presented as an exponential power of 2, and n is the number of blocks , that is, the difficulty value is doubled every 100,000 blocks, so as to continuously increase the height of the blockchain and increase the difficulty of mining. After a certain period of time, the difficulty of mining will increase exponentially with the height of the block until Miners cannot get rewards and blocks. As a difficulty bomb to "put pressure" on miners, it is also a feasible way that can be thought of on the transformation of Ethereum, in order to avoid the result of the coexistence of the old chain and the new chain to the greatest extent.

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Existence is reasonable. For the existence of the Ethereum difficulty bomb, some developers believe that the difficulty bomb plays an important role in the development of the network. An Ethereum wallet creator once said, "If there is no "difficulty bomb", we You could end up in a situation where rolling out (system-wide upgrades) becomes difficult because people will stop updating their software because they don’t have to.”

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Difficulty bomb math formula

In February of this year, Ethereum developer Tim Beiko said that the difficulty bomb may occur in July. Three months later, he announced that the difficulty bomb will be postponed to December, but it is still unknown whether it will be launched . In order to solve such a delay problem, at the beginning of last year, the developers proposed to replace the difficulty bomb with a difficulty freeze, but they all ended up giving up. Until today, the difficulty bomb is still slowly advancing.

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It is understood that the Ethereum difficulty bomb has exploded three times since 2017. Developers have delayed the explosion time by using fake block numbers to replace the original block numbers. Mining costs continue to increase, which in turn makes miners unprofitable and the system network is clogged. After the previous two experiences, to avoid the difficulty bomb breaking out in advance and it is expected to coincide with the launch time of ETH2.0, the developer returned the fake block number to a safe height, but now it seems that the specific time of the difficulty bomb breaking out is still a problem. Initially, the difficulty amount of the difficulty bomb was small and had no effect on block times. But the growth of the difficulty bomb is almost exponential, that is to say, to a certain extent, the difficulty of the network will suddenly increase, and the speed of block production will also drop sharply.

From an analysis point of view, although it is necessary to "combine two into one" in this way, the greater prudent consideration lies in the risk assessed by the developer. On the one hand, it forces miners to passively abandon the Pow chain, This can easily cause dissatisfaction and rejection of miners, resulting in a split in the community and a great possibility of bifurcation. On the other hand, the exponentially increased difficulty bomb explosion time mechanism will appear at an unexpected time, which has caused technical difficulties to a certain extent. It will have a negative impact on both developers and miners, which is why developers are delaying the early arrival of "explosions" again and again.

And as the Ethereum ecology expands to today's volume, it is difficult to turn around, and the actual implementation of the difficulty bomb mechanism becomes more and more difficult. If the interests of all parties are not well balanced during this process, then the entire network may be destroyed. be frozen, or even crash.

Generally speaking, it takes longer than expected for Ethereum, known as the world computer, to switch from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake. The original meaning of the difficulty bomb is that in the long tug-of-war, if the miners really want to continue mining on the old chain, they can hard fork a new chain before the difficulty increases, and the difficulty bomb will no longer exist. But such a hard fork also has great technical risks and comes with a lot of resource consumption.

From a more fundamental point of view, the difficulty of the difficulty bomb is more difficult than the difficulty of the transition from ETH to ETH 2.0. How to persuade people in the entire ecology to transfer a large amount of resources in their hands to PoS ETH without forking 2.0, this is an extremely difficult problem. It can even be said that the postponement of the difficulty bomb is not that ETH 2.0 is not ready, but that the entire ecology, including the official, is not ready to deal with the impact and changes that this transition may bring.

Therefore, some people believe that the difficulty bomb is not the only way to complete the transformation. Ethereum developer James Hancock proposed to replace the long-standing difficulty bomb with a difficulty freeze. Generally speaking, it is a more moderate and controllable "difficulty bomb". .

In fact, we should not pay too much attention to such problems, because the development of technology takes time, and we only need to continue to pay attention to the development of things. More importantly, Ethereum, as a programmable blockchain network, has established countless derivative tokens, Dapps and a spectacular DeFi ecosystem, especially since the launch of the ETH2.0 upgrade thread in December last year, the market value of Ethereum New highs have been set repeatedly, and the introduction has become more and more diverse. What is certain is that with the increasing popularity of blockchain technology, the application scalability of Ethereum will continue to expand, the consensus will become stronger, and its value will naturally be recognized by more and more people.

From a technical point of view, the expanded Lay2 solution already has a very rich stack matrix. EVM compatible with Ethereum or innovative solutions that are better suited to the long-term expansion of Ethereum have become the key weights to solve the current congestion problem of Ethereum. From an ecological point of view, after so many years of development, Ethereum has combined and innovated more and more elements, becoming the "potential energy" position preferred by developers. Taking distributed finance as an example, currently 90% of DeFi is concentrated in the Ethereum network. As for the current migration to the smart chain, it can only be used as an option, while symbiosis with Ethereum is still a must, and its status cannot be replaced. Therefore, from the perspective of technology, ecology and development trends, Ethereum has a very good future.

It is not difficult to conclude that the difficulty bomb is no longer the only factor that determines the interests of miners. It is only a means to assist the transformation mechanism of Ethereum. As the future development of Ethereum becomes clearer, the transformation of ETH2.0 will gradually move towards With maturity, developers will have more ways to set and deal with the difficulty bomb time and in line with the interests of all parties.


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