Ethereum’s Proposed Hard Fork ‘Muir Glacier’ Would Delay Impending Ice Age

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Ethereum developers have proposed a hard fork, named Muir Glacier, that should address the impending Ice Age, which could cause a significant slowdown on the Ethereum mainnet.

In an Ethereum improvement proposal at the end of November, Ethereum developer James Hancock wrote that the proposed Ethereum Muir Glacier hard fork would push back the mechanism, known as Ice Age.

Ice Age is unnecessarily complex and confusing

Ethereum’s Ice Age, also known as Difficulty Bomb, refers to the increasing hashing difficulty in the mining algorithm used to reward miners with Ether (ETH) on its blockchain. This piece of coding artificially slows down the production of blocks on Ethereum’s blockchain and therefore functions as a deterrent for miners who might choose to continue with proof of work (PoW) even after Ethereum has transitioned to proof of stake (PoS). 

However, according to Hancock the existing implementation of Ice Age is unnecessarily complex and confusing to communicate to the community. He adds that any updates to the design should be able to model the effect on the network in a straightforward way that is easy to predict when it occurs. Currently, Hancock does not believe this is the case.

Hancock further points out that Ethereum’s upcoming hard fork would push back the mechanism “as far as is reasonable,” to give developers the time to decide whether to update Ice Age so that its behavior becomes predictable or to remove it entirely. He added:

“This fork would give us time to address the community to understand their priorities better as far as the intentions of the Ice Age, and give time for proposals for better mechanisms to achieve those goals.”

ETH block propagation at least twice as fast

In November, blockchain advisory and product development firm Akomba Labs conducted a test on the Ethereum network that showed it could make block propagation at least twice as fast. Test findings showed that the average block propagation performance dropped from 360 milliseconds without running BloXroute’s Blockchain Distribution Network to 172 milliseconds with it.