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Ethereum launches first mainnet shadow fork ahead of the final merge.
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The Big Story
For the first time in its 7-year history, the Ethereum network has finally been shadow forked!
On Monday, Ethereum's first mainnet shadow fork went live as developers continue to work towards the network's ultimate transition from proof-of-work (PoW) to the proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus mechanism.
Basically, a shadow fork allows Ethereum developers to re-create what would happen during the final merge, without impacting the Ethereum “mainnet” aka the main blockchain network.
Parithosh Jayanthi, a developer at the Ethereum Foundation, said on Twitter that while last month's Kiln merge testnet was designed "to allow the community to practice running their nodes, deploying contracts, testing infrastructure, etc," the shadow fork goes a step further to stress test the network.
“This was the first time we attempted a mainnet-shadow-fork, we were expecting to learn a lot from the transition. The next week or so would be spent with sync tests against this fork and trying to trigger more edge cases,” Jayanthi added.
Here's a thread detailing the developers' #TestTheMerge efforts so far:
Jayanthi also warned people participating in the mainnet shadow fork that some transactions sent on the testnet could get replicated on the main chain since the shadow fork chain will share the same state as mainnet Ethereum.
So far, the shadow fork has processed more than 1.8 million transactions with an average block time of 13.8 seconds.
Another Ethereum developer Tim Beiko said that the result of the shadow fork will be crucial in deciding the timing of the much-anticipated final merge. The developers are now planning for another merge on the 22nd April as they weigh in on two important concerns: issues between clients on timeouts and valid block hash.
Making the switch
For years, the energy consumption concerns surrounding Bitcoin and Ethereum, two of the world's largest digital currencies that use the PoW consensus mechanism to validate transactions, have sparked a seemingly-endless debate among both crypto enthusiasts and environmentalists. While critics decry such digital currencies as energy hogs, their proponents hail them for being less intensive than the current global economy.
For context, Bitcoin and Ethereum miners consume a combined 315.56 Terawatt-hours (TWh) of energy per year, more than Mexico, Italy, and Saudi Arabia. With the implementation of the PoS model, Ethereum's energy use could decrease by 99.95% as transactions will be validated by nodes run by “stakers” instead of “miners."
The Ethereum 2.0 upgrade strives to make this change, along with making the entire network scalable, secure, and efficient. It has already launched its first phase, called the Beacon Chain, which went live in December 2020. While its next phase, dubbed The Merge, hasn't been confirmed yet, it's estimated to occur in late July.
As of writing, Ethereum stood at $3,044.01, down 0.07% over the last 24 hours.
The next move
As mentioned earlier, the Ethereum developers are planning to conduct some more testing before the final merge as there's a lot at stake here, and failure to implement these changes correctly could potentially crash the entire blockchain.
Along with powering its native token Ether, the Ethereum blockchain also supports DeFi applications and NFTs. And although many people may be impatient considering Ethereum's delayed timelines in the past, David Lawant, director of research at Bitwise Asset Management, says that such rigorous tests are necessary.
“This is a significant engineering undertaking. [A] lot of testing and preparation goes into such endeavors. The mantra for such mission-critical upgrades usually is, ‘It will happen when it’s ready,’” he told Fortune.
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