The second largest cryptocurrency project after Bitcoin, Ethereum, will be releasing an upgrade to its blockchain. It is a hard fork codenamed Istanbul, is set for release this December 2019 and aims to bring a series of improvements and updated features. Ethereum is better known as a decentralized and distributed platform for application development using smart contracts. It uses a native token called ether, which is the unit of cost for gas. Gas is the cost of computation to perform a task on the Ethereum blockchain’s network. This cost is associated with the compute resources that forms a part of the blockchain’s consensus mechanism that verifies transactions and validates blocks.
Istanbul is the successor upgrade to Constantinople, which was released earlier in 2019. According to the Ethereum blog:
“If you use an exchange (such as Coinbase, Kraken, or Binance), a web wallet service (such as Metamask, MyCrypto, or MyEtherWallet), a mobile wallet service (such as Coinbase Wallet, Status.im, or Trust Wallet), or a hardware wallet (such as Ledger, Trezor, or KeepKey) you do not need to do anything unless you are informed to take additional steps by your exchange or wallet service.”
The upgrades in Istanbul are detailed in EIP (Ethereum Improvement Proposals). More information is provided in EIP-1679.
This list is a summary of the upgrade features to expect from Istanbul:
- Ongoing work on post-quantum cryptography: both hash-based as well as based on post-quantum-secure ‘structured’ mathematical objects, eg. elliptic curve isogenies, lattices…
- Anti-collusion infrastructure: ongoing work and refinement of https://ethresear.ch/t/minimal-anti-collusion-infrastructure/5413, including adding privacy against the operator, adding multi-party computation in a maximally practical way, etc…
- Homomorphic encryption and multi-party computation: ongoing improvements are still required for practicality
- Decentralized governance mechanisms: DAOs are cool, but current DAOs are still very primitive; we can do better
- Fully formalizing responses to PoS 51% attacks: ongoing work and refinement of https://ethresear.ch/t/responding-to-51-attacks-in-casper-ffg/6363
- More sources of public goods funding: the ideal is to charge for congestible resources inside of systems that have network effects (eg. transaction fees), but doing so in decentralized systems requires public legitimacy; hence this is a social problem along with the technical one of finding possible source…
“In general, base-layer problems are slowly but surely decreasing, but application-layer problems are only just getting started.”
The upgrade is expected to take place (unless any new issues come up) at block number 9,069,000, which is expected on Saturday, December 7, 2019.