Ethereum 2.0: First hard fork upgrade planned

Ethereum 2.0: First hard fork upgrade planned

The first hard fork for Ethereum 2.0 is coming up. This serves as a general test before deeper changes are made.
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Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin on Monday released a plan for the first hard fork of the new Ethereum 2.0 beacon chain, tentatively called HF1.

The hard fork will allow developers to introduce several major upgrades to the recently launched Beacon Chain. This also serves as a test for more in-depth changes in the future.

The biggest practical change is support for light clients

These are nodes that have minimal resource requirements and could run on mobile devices. This will allow „trust-minimised wallets“ to verify the blockchain themselves instead of Bitcoin System relying on external service providers.

Light client support will be introduced through dedicated „sync committees“. These are groups of validators randomly assigned to create special signatures. These make it easier to determine the correct version of the chain.

Other improvements include fixes to the fork election rules. Here, the developers have identified several cases where the protocol was potentially vulnerable to reorganisation attacks. The issues are subtle and require precise timing, but they would have allowed criminals to exploit flaws in the network and control a small portion of the validators. These vulnerabilities would have been known before the launch, but were discovered too late to be fixed in time, Buterin said.

The hard fork also includes practical changes. The functioning of the slashing and inactivity leakage mechanisms are to be revised. Currently, stakers on Eth2 can lose part of their capital. Either because they are inactive or because they try to support a minority fork of the chain. This is punished with slashing.

Losses due to inactivity were sometimes seen as a deterrent, as you were penalised in cases of force majeure, such as a bad internet connection or power outages. The system was set up to be very lenient. However, the team is now tweaking the mechanism further to make life easier for stakers with unstable connections. The leak is supposed to become square. That is, there is a clear difference between transient and continuous inactivity. Here’s a rough example of this: a staker who records 10 outages lasting six minutes each, for a total of one hour, would lose 10 times less than another staker who simply shuts down their device continuously for an hour.

Inactivity leaks are also supposed to end gradually and not immediately. This ensures that offline nodes lose value until the network is well above the threshold required for security.

While some of the changes provide more leniency in the system for honest mistakes, the team is changing some parameters to introduce harsher fines for bad behaviour. This is to „weaken“ the „training wheels“ of the system.

It is unclear when the hard fork will be implemented, as some details of the proposal still need to be worked out and reviewed. Meanwhile, Ethereum developers are trying to come up with a naming convention for HF1 and future hard forks. Proposed topics so far include names of stars, planetary systems, World of Warcraft zones and month names.