Ethereum finishes Gray Glacier hard fork to push the 'difficulty bomb' to September

Quick Take

  • Ethereum has finished the Gray Glacier hard fork implementing EIP-5133
  • The upgrade delays Ethereum’s “difficulty bomb” by 100 days.

The Ethereum core developers successfully launched the Gray Glacier hard fork today, a network upgrade that implemented the Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) 5133 at block height 15,050,000.

The Gray Glacier hard fork required that client software providers on the execution layer — like Nethermind and Geth — update their Ethereum nodes. Nethermind confirmed in a Twitter post on Thursday that the upgrade was successful.

The upgrade was planned to delay the so-called difficulty bomb, a pre-defined increase in the complexity of Ethereum’s proof-of-work mining algorithm, by 100 days. The difficulty bomb will now activate in mid September, roughly around the same time when the networks switch to proof-of-stake consensus is tentatively scheduled

What is the difficulty bomb?

The difficulty bomb is a feature that ensures Ethereum’s merge, the blockchain’s switch from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake consensus, is carried out smoothly. The mechanism makes Ethereum blocks harder to mine on its proof-of-work layer and serves as a disincentive for miners from forking the chain in what's called as Ethereum's “Ice Age.”

Why is the difficulty bomb delayed?

Earlier, Ethereum's core developers had scheduled the difficulty bomb to go live on June 29, anticipating the merge around this time. However, due to a delay in the merge schedule, the difficulty bomb in June was no longer needed.

Furthermore, a premature activation of the difficulty bomb would have likely make the blockchain unnecessary slow. According to data from Etherscan, block times had already started spiking on Ethereum, going from 13 seconds to 16 seconds. Now that the difficulty bomb has been pushed further, it is estimated that block times will come back down to normal levels. 

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