ViaBTC | The Roadblock to the Ethereum Merge
Since the revenue of Ethereum miners exceeded that of Bitcoin miners for the 12th consecutive month, the winning spree has finally been terminated in June, and the profitability of Ethereum mining took a sharp plunge primarily due to the overall sluggish market over the past few months. Moreover, the crypto market had been falling all through June. Of course, the recent price drop of ETH is also partly caused by the actions taken by Ethereum before the Merge. Having realized that PoW will soon become history, the ETH miners are looking for new opportunities in other fields.
This is apparent when we look at the Hashrate graph provided by the block explorer of Ethereum. As the mainnet merge approaches, Ethereum will soon shift toward PoS, which unnerves Ethereum miners who are still working under the PoW mechanism. However, the Ethereum Foundation recently announced that the recent Gray Glacier hard fork upgrade will delay the “difficulty bomb” by another 700,000 blocks.
According to the current block rate, the difficulty bomb will roughly be put off to mid-September. The decision to postpone the difficulty bomb has raised concerns that the Merge may be delayed again, and the road to PoS will be blocked once more.
The difficulty bomb is one of the major mechanisms that has been around since the early days of Ethereum. This mechanism works to gradually increase the difficulty coefficient of block generation when the Ethereum blockchain reaches a certain block height, thereby making PoW mining more difficult and lowering the speed at which ETH is generated. As such, the difficulty bomb is a key catalyst to the Merge.
A more realistic function of setting difficulty bombs is to prevent miners from engaging in PoW mining after the PoS upgrade. When the difficulty bomb “detonates”, Ethereum’s mining difficulty will increase exponentially, forcing miners to stop mining while enabling the network to smoothly switch from PoW to PoS.
In fact, people now frequently associate “delay” with Ethereum. During the London upgrade that took place in August 2021, the difficulty bomb was postponed to December 2021 considering that the Merge might happen at the end of the year. However, the actual progress of the Merge was disappointing. As such, the network went through the Arrow Glacier hard fork upgrade in December 2021 and delayed the difficulty bomb to June 2022.
Counting the current postponement, the Ethereum difficulty bomb has been delayed six times. The road to Ethereum 2.0 has been quite bumpy, presenting a huge technical challenge to developers. When asked “how do you see the space, or even just Ethereum, evolving for the better?” in an interview with Fortune Magazine, Vitalik Buterin said: “I think one of the important things, obviously, is continuing to improve Ethereum, the technology.”
The good news is that the Sepolia merge was completed on July 6. Of the three public testnets of Ethereum, Sepolia is the second testnet that went through the merge, following Ropsten, which completed its merge on June 8. Now, we have to wait for the Goerli merge, and there are rumors that it might be completed within the next few weeks.
Although Ethereum developer Tim Beiko said that the date of the mainnet merge cannot be determined until the Goerli and Sepolia testnets are merged and that he could not make any categorical promise as to when the Merge will be completed. However, he suggested a wide range (August to November) and emphasized that only a catastrophic event/failure or a series of routine mistakes will prevent the Merge from happening this year.
Though the roadblock to the Merge looks formidable, the current delay seems to be the last time the Merge is put off. Meanwhile, the core developers of Ethereum are also confident that the Merge will be completed this year, and we might witness the mainnet merge at the end of Q3 2022.