According to official reports, the Ethereum Classic difficulty bomb has been successfully disabled through a fork procedure. The fork occurred on block 5,899,999 and the difficulty bomb that Ethereum Classic inherited is now history. But what was the difficulty bomb, and what does this mean for ETC going forward? We will answer all those questions and more in today’s article.
What was the Difficulty Bomb?
The difficulty bomb or “the bomb” as it is sometimes called in official documents, was a component of the original Ethereum code. It was designed to suddenly and sharply increase mining difficulty to the point where mining becomes effectively impossible and no blocks can be found after it. This occurrence is referred to as an ice age, where the chain is effectively frozen. This may sound like a bad idea on the surface (and it would be if an actual ice age were to occur) but the original designers and developers had a reason for implementing it.
The difficulty bomb was created as part of the original Ethereum launch back in 2015. In an official blog post, release coordinator Vinay Gupta described the reasoning for why the bomb was added into Ethereum’s code. The reason for the bomb is to effectively force the Ethereum Foundation and its developers to transition Ethereum away from proof-of-work mining into something else. That something else ended up being Casper, which is the Ethereum network’s eventual transition into proof-of-stake.
Gupta wrote that the “switchover [sic] to the new network will be enforced by “TheBomb””
Ethereum Classic Sticking With Proof-of-Work
One important distinction between original and classic is that while Ethereum has planned from the start to always move away from PoW, Ethereum Classic will differentiate itself by maintaining its affinity for it.
Part of this reason could be that the Ethereum Classic developers want their chain to hopefully inherit a significant portion of the mining hash rate that is currently dedicated to Ethereum. This is especially true after the recent launch of Ethash-compatible ASIC miners were released by Bitmain earlier this year. These devices will be in many ways forced to mine Ethereum Classic (unless another, more profitable alternative is available), and thus could help to speed up and secure the chain. There is even some evidence that ASIC mining increases coin prices, though this is not always inevitable.
The director of ETC Cooperative Anthony Lusardi has stated that the team has no intentions of attempting to resist ASIC mining. They feel that such a move would be pointless and maybe even destructive.
The Bomb has been Disarmed
Hooray! Successful fork! pic.twitter.com/WADjZcplIo
— ETC Cooperative (@ETCCooperative) May 29, 2018
The ETC Cooperative official Twitter account made an announcement not long ago stating that the fork was successful. The main purpose of the fork was of course to introduce new code for Ethereum Classic in which there is no difficulty bomb present. This means that mining can continue as normal and in accordance with all of the recent ECIP plans. The plan to remove the bomb is ECIP-1041.
A few hours after the fork, the ETC Cooperative announced that block times have improved (from 22 seconds to 14 seconds) and the network hash rate has increased.
We did it! 99% of the mining hashrate upgraded successfully.
Blocktimes getting faster; down from 22 seconds to 14 seconds.
Hashrate going up 5 TH/s -> 8 TH/s; making the network more secure. https://t.co/vYuyzgVQ10
— ETC Cooperative (@ETCCooperative) May 30, 2018
Prices for ETC coins have been seeing a general downward trend since the massive price pump at the end of last year. The currency saw an all-time high of $36.42 each, with today’s prices sitting around a relatively stable $13-$15. This is still a significant increase from where the currency sat shortly after the fork which was typically in the $1-$2 range. So far prices do not appear to have moved in any significant way since the fork was completed.
ETC prices for the last 30 days, image via coinmarketcap.com
What’s next for ETC?
Now that the difficulty bomb is out of the way, Ethereum Classic developers will be focusing on their latest virtual machine or VM implementation called Sputnik, as well as on development for sidechain support. Sidechains are a separate blockchain that keeps in sync with Ethereum Classic and can potentially allow for some useful features like mutability, which corporations would certainly need for privacy reasons. For example, if they needed to delete sensitive personal data, or the data of former customers or employees. This kind of flexibility could make ETC an attractive choice for privacy companies.
The project is also planning to hold its second annual Ethereum Classic Summit event, with this year’s event being held in South Korea later this September. And so while prices may not have responded immediately to the fork, this could also be a good sign. That being, the confidence of ETC holders has not been shaken, and the price solidity clearly demonstrates this.