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What You Need to Know about Ethereum Constantinople

If you have an account on Cryptopia, and you hold ETH, you might’ve gotten an email today that contained the following message:

“Cryptopia will support the upcoming Ethereum (ETH) Constantinople Hard Fork. In preparation for the fork, we will be placing Ethereum and all ERC-20 tokens into maintenance between 14 January to 18 January.

To ensure that ETH holders are able to claim any airdropped/forked coins, please withdraw your ETH to a wallet where you control your private keys.”

So, what is Ethereum Constantinople? In brief, it is an update to the Ethereum blockchain — which ETH runs on top of — designed to optimize efficiency, allow for cheaper storage, and increase development.

The longer is answer is it is part of Ethereum’s four stage rollout that has been ongoing since the blockchain’s release:

  1. Frontier (July 2015): first live release, allowed developers to mine ETH and build dApps
  2. Homestead (July 2016): first production release, stabilized the platform
  3. Metropolis (October 2017): designed to make the platform faster and more secure
  4. Serenity (upcoming): will implement Proof of Stake

Stage three, which we are currently in, is split into Byzantium, which has already occurred, and Constantinople. So, we are roughly in phase 3b of the four planned stages. With each step, Ethereum has created faster transaction times and lower fees, which is to say, it has done a good job of scaling to date.

A large part of what Constantinople is designed to do is ease the transition from Proof of Work (PoW, Ethereum’s current protocol) to Proof of Stake (what it will be in Serenity). Proof of Work requires miners to solve complex mathematical puzzles in exchange for a reward in the form of ETH. But as miners become better and faster at solving these puzzles, the difficulty of the puzzles must increase to stabilize the average mining time. This is why Proof of Work is very energy consuming, and allows for a small group of large miners to hold a disproportionate amount of power. However, with Proof of Stake, the miners with the largest holdings create new blocks are awarded a transaction fee, instead of newly minted ETH. This allows the network to scale more effectively and is less energy consuming.

To ease the transition from PoW to PoS, Constantinople will make mining gradually less profitable for miners, reducing the block mining reward from 3 ETH to 2 ETH. However, the “difficulty bomb” that would make it considerably harder to mine ETH will be delayed for about 12 months, allowing for PoW to continue on as is for about another year without much change.

Within Constantinople, there are 5 EIPs, or Ethereum Improvement Proposals. The aforementioned change of reward from 3 ETH to 2 ETH and delaying of the difficulty bomb are outlined in EIP 1234. The others are described below:

EIP 145: outlines a more efficient method of processing information, called “bitwise shifting”

EIP 1014: facilitates a a scaling solution based on state channels and off-chain transactions (created by Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin)

EIP 1052: optimizes large-scale code execution on the Ethereum blockchain

EIP 1283: creates a more equitable pricing method for changes made to data storage

Constantinople will be rolled out as a hard fork. Some hard forks, like the one that resulted in Ethereum Classic, can be controversial. However, it seems like Constantinople will be introduced with relatively little disagreement among cryptocurrency users as to its viability.
According to Ethereum’s most recent biweekly call, Constantinople will be activated when block 7,080,000 is processed, which is projected to occur on January 14th, based on data from Etherscan.