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This is actually a ‘planned’ hard fork, unlike the others that have been discussed within this article. For those that are unfamiliar with Ethereum’s ‘Metropolis’ update/innovation, it is actually the name of this ‘phase’ of development for the network that focuses more on the scalability of the coin than anything else.
There are four stages in total for the Ethereum network that were planned from the very beginning.
With the Metropolis network, there are a number of features associated with its implementation:
The proposed features of the network are as follows:
● Zk-Snarks — This refers to the feature that individuals have seen in coins like ZClassic which allow for greater privacy in transactions between users.
● PoS — This refers to ‘Proof of Stake’, which is a consensus algorithm. In Bitcoin, miners on the network all race to solve an algorithm in order to create the next block. Based on one’s speed in these calculations, they are allowed to create the block. The computer processing power that is necessitated in order to mine the next block is what qualifies as the ‘Proof of Work’. Conversely, Proof of Stake, relies on individuals in the community being selected to approve the block based on their ‘stake’ or holding of that particular cryptocurrency at that given point in time. There are many different ‘Proof of Stake’ formulas that are available at present, but all are contingent upon that fundamental precept.
● Smart Contract Upgrades — Smart Contracts refer to the ‘escrow’-like protections that blockchains can grant users that seek to make agreements with other users of the network. Typically, smart contracts are essentially ‘mini’-contracts that operate off of the principle of ‘When conditions A and B are met, C will happen’. The purpose of Smart Contracts are to provide a decentralized means of distributing payment to individuals based on the fulfillment of certain conditions that were previously agreed to between the two or more parties engaging in the transaction.
● ‘Account Abstraction’ — On the Ethereum network, there are two types of ‘accounts’ that users can hold on the network. The first type of account is the ‘classic’ account that many individuals are familiar with — holding a wallet with a private key attached to it. The second type of account is one that is operated/powered via a Smart Contract. The goal of account abstraction is to provide an equal level of programming/development malleability and flexibility to both types of accounts so that there is no discernible gap in difference between the two.
Each facet of this upgrade of the Ethereum network comes with its own pros and cons and the technical understanding/summary of each is extensive in nature.
Two concepts, however, that we want to delve into depth a bit more within this upgrade are ‘Byzantium’ and ‘Constantinople’.
In the Ethereum network, both of these city names correspond to different phases of the ‘Metropolis’ implementation.
The 1st phase is Byzantium
What is Byzantium? — At the time of writing, this first phase of the hard fork/protocol upgrade process is currently finished. According to those that are a bit more familiar with the technical nature of the upgrades that were included within this portion of the Ethereum hard fork, the consensus appears to be that the technical upgrades were of a nature that don’t introduce a discernible change in the protocol for the ‘non-tech savvy’ user. However, there were a total of nine different improvement protocols that were initiated within this hard fork. The overall goal of Byzantium and Constantinople are to improve the scalability and functionality of the Ethereum chain itself.
The 2nd phase is Constantinople
The second phase of the protocol upgrade, Constantinople, is designed to be final half of the protocol upgrade that is supposed to usher/ensure that Ethereum has the capacity to make the smooth transition from a Proof of Work consensus algorithm to Proof of Stake. Thus, there are several ‘tweaks’ that must be made to the code to upgrade it and expand the current consensus rules to allow for a smooth transition without compromising the chain itself.
Byzantium released at block height 437000 for Ethereum.
The features that are to be rolled out with this update are the Zk-snarks that were mentioned above, as well as the account abstraction principle.
Thus far, there is no definitive date/block height time for the release of Constantinople yet, but it is expected that this will occur sometime within the next year from the time of writing. However, once this is completed, then the Ethereum blockchain will be ready for the long-anticipated implementation of ‘Serenity’, which is the protocol upgrade that will finally switch the consensus algorithm on the chain from Proof of Work to Proof of Stake using the Casper consensus algorithm.