Ethereum Devs Approve First Code Changes for ‘Istanbul’ Hard Fork


Two Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIPs) have been approved for inclusion in ethereum’s next major upgrade, Istanbul.

These are the first two code changes to be officially approved for the Istanbul upgrade, which is tentatively targeted to activate on ethereum mainnet in October.

In today’s bi-weekly call, developers discussed which of the nearly 30 EIPs for Istanbul would be approved and which would be rejected or delayed for a later system-wide upgrade, also called a hard fork.

While the majority of EIPs still do require further discussion, two are now officially approved.

EIP 2024 and EIP 1702

EIP 2024 – or, in some documents, EIP 131 – adds a new precompile to the ethereum virtual machine. Precompiles are normally expensive operations on the ethereum blockchain that deploy for a fixed fee or “gas cost.”

EIP 2024 introduces a precompile for a new hash function called “Blake2.” The function is said to be faster in verifying and authenticating blockchain data than other more traditional hash functions on ethereum such as SHA-3.

Various strands of Blake2 are currently being used by other cryptocurrency projects such as privacy coin zcash and domain-name platform Handshake. EIP 2024 introduces a precompile for a version of Blake2 called “Blake2B.”

“Blake2B means that we could interop with zcash on the ethereum main network,” said James Hancock, one of the three authors behind EIP 2024. “Wrapped ZEC within ethereum, [shielded] transactions, a whole lot of cool stuff.”

EIP 1702, on the other hand, authored by Parity Technologies developer Wei Tang, is geared towards smoother smart contract upgradability.

At present, decentralized applications (dapps) that run on the ethereum blockchain are based upon virtually immutable, self-executing lines of code known as smart contracts.

These smart contracts are compiled and executed through the ethereum virtual machine, said to be the very heart of the blockchain network, that functions as the engine deploying the many thousands of dapps created by developers.

The current ethereum virtual machine is expected to be upgraded in the long-term to WebAssembly code, which offers developers greater flexibility when it comes to programming language and performance.

EIP 1702 suggests introducing a new methodology for hard forks called “account versioning” so that upgrading the ethereum virtual machine or introducing new virtual machines in the network can be easier.

Tang explains in his proposal:

“By allowing account versioning, we can execute different virtual machine for contracts created at different times. This allows breaking features to be implemented while making sure existing contracts work as expected.”

Ethereum is currently the second largest blockchain in the world by market capitalization with over 20,000 daily active users, according to crypto analytics site State of the DApps.

Ethereum image via Shutterstock

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