Discussion on Istanbul Hard Fork is About to Start

Over two dozen Ethereum improvement proposals (EIPs) were submitted for evaluation and inclusion in the upcoming system-wide upgrade of Ethereum called Istanbul.

The list includes improvements to the $27 billion network which impact its data storage, code execution and pricing, mining algorithm, etc.

Ethereum core developers have discussed some of these proposals during a bi-weekly call last Friday, but only one EIP received tentative approval.

“We’ll talk more on the All Core Devs Gitter channel to wrangle in some of these EIPs that are still stuck in proposed and as quickly as possible decide on which ones are being implemented for Istanbul,” Ethereum Foundation community relations lead Hudson Jameson stated.

The hard deadline for Istanbul EIP submissions passed on Friday and developers are already working to reach an agreement regarding which proposed EIPs may be considered officially “accepted.”

The sole EIP to obtain a tentative approval was EIP 1108, which suggests a slight change to the Ethereum network’s gas fees. Per the developers, the proposal needs benchmarking figures which would be presented in the next core developers meeting.

Meanwhile, at least two other proposed EIPs have a high potential for delay. According to developer Rick Dudley, EIP 1559, which presents a different transaction fee model to Ethereum, is “a pretty complicated change.”

“[EIP 1559] we should assume that it’s possible that it will make it in [to Istanbul] but it seems unlikely right now,” Dudley said.

The other is EIP 1057, which is a proposed change to the proof-of-work (PoW) mining algorithm of Ethereum. Since April 2018, the algorithm became susceptible to mining by specialized computer devices dubbed ASICs. With a roughly $655 million yearly market for Ethereum’s mining incentives, ASICs outperform GPUs, which concerns developers as it could result in a more centralized mining landscape.

EIP 1057 is suggesting a revamped PoW algorithm called Progressive PoW (ProgPoW) to maximize GPU-specific computing capabilities.

Per Jameson, ProgPoW may encounter delay caused by different logistical issues in arranging the proposal’s third-party audit.

“We ran into issues starting the ProgPoW audit,” Jameson noted. “We had a hardware partner who specialized in ASICs who was going to work with Least Authority to perform the hardware parts of the audit. They are no longer participating in the audit so we are looking for other auditors for the hardware portion.”

The next official deadline for Istanbul is combining accepted EIPs with existing Ethereum software versions.

Per EIP author James Hancock, that step is similar to getting the code together so it can be completely tested. “The suggestion is to have reference implementations in two ‘major’ clients,” he stated. “The definition of major is pretty loose.”

Hancock added that he created a spreadsheet containing all the proposed Istanbul EIPs along with their relative “readiness” for mainnet activation.

The next “soft deadline for major client implementations” is around mid-July with the eventual mainnet release scheduled for mid-October.

According to Ethereum Foundation grant recipient Alexey Akhunov, people should be iterating upon the proposed “deadlines.”

“I myself will be questioning all the deadlines from the point of view of ‘what is the purpose of this deadline?’” Akhunov remarked. “Because this is the first time lots of these things are introduced, we are here to make sure that what we do is done for the reason and not because ‘someone says so.’”

For now, ConsenSys blockchain protocol engineer Danno Ferrin said the list of proposed Istanbul EIPs would stop growing and start shrinking.