Ethereum developers will likely delay the ‘difficulty bomb’ but say the merge timeline is unchanged

June 10, 2022, 5:54 PM UTC

Ethereum developers will likely delay what’s called the “difficulty bomb,” they disclosed during Friday’s meeting. This decision comes after a mostly successful “merge” trial on its oldest test network, Ropsten.

The difficulty bomb will be helpful for the Ethereum network once it undergoes the real merge, a massive upgrade that will shift it from proof of work to proof of stake. 

Currently, Ethereum relies on proof of work, where miners race to complete complex puzzles to validate transactions. This requires a lot of computer power and energy. In proof of stake, transactions are validated by those who contribute, or “stake,” to the network instead. This consensus mechanism would dramatically decrease the amount of energy used on Ethereum, and could prove transformative for the most widely used blockchain ecosystem.

The developers will introduce the difficulty bomb to encourage support for the proof of stake chain post-merge. 

Once detonated, the difficulty bomb would exponentially increase the difficulty level of puzzles required for proof of work mining, ultimately making that mining impossible to do. Ethereum developers hope that the difficulty bomb incentivizes miners to accept the merge. 

If detonated too early, however, the difficulty bomb can be problematic. 

As Ethereum developers continue to trial the merge on its test networks, they’ll likely “push back” the date of the difficulty bomb as a precaution, they said during Friday’s meeting.

“This does not mean we will delay the merge. The merge will not be delayed,” one Ethereum developer said at the meeting. “This does not impact the merge at all.”

Though most developers agreed, some were a bit skeptical. 

“We say it won’t delay the Merge. I sincerely hope not,” Ben Edgington, Teku founder and product lead, tweeted after the meeting. “Every extra week on [proof of work] generates close to 1 Million tonnes of CO2 emissions,” he said, citing Digiconomist data.

Prior to the Ropsten test merge, Ethereum cofounder Vitalik Buterin and other Ethereum developers predicted the real merge would happen in August, or September or October at the latest.

In about three or four weeks, developers will trial the merge again on another test network to fully prepare for the high-stakes real deal.

“I think that delaying the bomb is the best option. I don’t think it sends a bad signal. It actually sends a good signal that we’re doing the responsible thing,” Ethereum core developer Andrew Ashikhmin said during the meeting. “We don’t want to rush the merge with code that is not ready. Doing nothing is irresponsible.” 

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