The Cardano Vasil Upgrade

According to the Cardano project team, their much anticipated Vasil Upgrade hard fork will proceed on September 22, 2022. The upgrade will bring more scalability and also lower transaction costs on the Cardano blockchain. A smart contract platform, like its competitor Ethereum, Cardano represents a third generation blockchain design.

There have been previous delays to the upgrade due to flaws discovered while testing during the summer of 2022. The Cardano project developers have been criticized for moving too slow in meeting targets, but this was to make sure that the software is stable and secure. What many don’t realize is that this is part of the team’s strategy to deliver a product that is tested for quality, making it less prone to failure. Let us not forget that many cryptocurrency projects have ended in failure due to poor development, not to mention tokenomics.

Cardano’s founder Charles Hoskinson mentioned in a YouTube video (from Altcoin Daily):

“We built Cardano to be the financial operating system of the world …. we understood a roadmap to get there … we’ve maintained actually that level of security and quality that people have come to know …”

Charles Hoskinson

In essence, what Hoskinson is saying is that in order to have a working cryptocurrency token, it has to meet rigorous testing and quality assurance. Despite news of errors in the protocol, it was during testing that they occurred. Errors were discovered on the test network, so that means it can be corrected before deploying to production. Development takes plenty of time in order to guarantee an ecosystem that is reliable and safe to use. The team is now ready to deploy the upgrade to the main network, and this should improve the network significantly.

Cardano is at the Goguen phase (smart contracts) of the roadmap to the Basho phase (scaling). This is the release of the Cardano smart contract platform that uses Plutus, a functional programming language that uses Haskell. This also includes the release of Marlowe which is a high level programming language for financial applications that can also be used for building smart contracts. Plutus is more advanced for high-end developers, while Marlowe can be used by users with no previous background in software development.

What will be interesting is what happens in the Cardano ecosystem after the upgrade. For Cardano’s native token ADA, this could mean a big price boost provided there are no complications during and after the upgrade. Traders and investors are keeping an eye on the price of ADA, as the news has been received positively so far (ADA spot market price was at $0.49 as of writing). This has kept ADA among the top 10 in the cryptocurrency market so far (based on CMC 9/4/22).

Cardano sets itself apart from other tokens. It is not a ‘meme’ nor is it considered a purely speculative asset like many coins that have no utility (i.e. ‘shitcoins;). Instead it has its own unique philosophy that is in line with the fundamentals of cryptocurrency, but based on the foundations of sound engineering. It is building a community with its own ecosystem, much like Ethereum. If Cardano can deliver on the many features it hopes to provide users, we can expect it to remain one of the top (if not the top) cryptocurrency in the market.

Disclosure: This is not financial advice. This is for educational purposes only. Do your own research always to verify information.

The Ethereum Altair Upgrade – Merging PoS With The Beacon Chain

The Ethereum Altair upgrade was completed on October 28, 2021. This is part of the transition to ETH 2.0, as PoS (Proof-of-Stake) consensus mechanism merges with the Beacon Chain.

The upgrade implements the following:

  • light-client support to the core consensus.
  • Setup of beacon state incentive accounting.
  • Fixes validator incentives issue.
  • Penalties for offline or inactive validator nodes per EIP 2982.

Over 95% of the network participated at the time of the upgrade’s first epoch. This is the first upgrade to the Beacon Chain since going online in December 2020 and could also be the last before the merge with PoS on the Ethereum mainnet.

According to IntoTheBlock researcher Lucas Outumuro:

Through the Altair upgrade, Ethereum sets the base for this vision, enabling the upcoming merge of the proof-of-work chain and the Beacon Chain. Finally, these are expected to benefit Ether holders and stakers by making it deflationary while offering higher returns to validators.”

The recent London Hard Fork had introduced a base fee as part of EIP 1559 with a coin burning mechanism that adds a deflationary feature to Ethereum. During the first 48 hours of that upgrade, $30 million in ETH were burned from the network’s circulation. As of 10/30/21, 681,030 ETH have been burned that is valued at $3,013,073,269. This puts pressure on supply as it decreases and drives the price of ETH higher due to market demand.

With ETH 2.0 set for deployment in 2022, Altair is part of the preparation. Altair is a hard fork, which means that the 250,000+ validator nodes who didn’t upgrade are now considered offline. Their ETH will then slowly diminish at about 10% per year. This was included in Altair as a sort of way to push for moving towards the upgrade. This not only benefits the validators, but the network as a whole as it comes to an agreement to pave the way for Ethereum’s next phase.

London Hard Fork Brings The Burn To Ethereum

The Ethereum network has activated the London Hard Fork successfully (12:34 UTC, Block# 12,965,000, 8/5/2021). In the first two days, $30 Million of ETH (Ether) were burned. That amount of ETH burned, removes approximately 3,000+ ETH from circulation. This is part of the EIP 1559 specification in which a certain portion of the transaction fee is burned per transaction. The hard fork also makes transaction fees on the Ethereum blockchain more predictable. This creates lower gas fees that can bring the costs of transactions down since there is now a base fee.

The introduction of a base fee addresses the volatility in transactions. This is regarding the cost of gas prices during times of network congestion. When the network is at its busiest, the cost of gas can suddenly increase which is why recent transaction costs on the Ethereum network has been high. With a base fee, this can prevent gas prices from suddenly shooting up to levels where it makes more sense to send large transactions than lower ones.

Since Ethereum uses an inflationary currency model, the burning introduces a deflationary system for the first time. This puts a check on the amount of ETH in circulation, which can affect prices to the upside. This has become controversial since it affects miner rewards, but the Ethereum network is moving away from mining (Proof-of-Work) consensus. A protocol difficulty bomb is part of the design for Ethereum 2.0 (ETH2.0) that will make mining more difficult, encouraging validators to move towards staking (Proof-of-Stake) consensus. The London Hard Fork will delay this at the moment to allow time for transition.

In a nutshell the London Hard Fork has enabled the following features:

  • Establish a base fee for transactions
  • Provide more transparency and predictability to transaction fees
  • Make ETH a more deflationary asset with a burning mechanism

Here are other EIPs activated during the London Hard Fork:

EIP 3554 delays the “difficulty bomb”.

EIP 3529 reduces gas refunds. Gas tokens (e.g. Chi) will become obsolete.

EIP 3198 allows users to return the base fee opcode.

EIP 3541 enables future upgrades to the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM)

Overall this introduces steps that will bring Ethereum closer to a minerless future. This gives time for miners to transition to staking, but once the difficulty bomb is activated it begins the “Ice Age” for mining. The new structure for transaction fees is also a positive development in light of the skyrocketing costs to run a transaction on the Ethereum blockchain. It doesn’t exactly lower gas prices, but makes it more manageable with a base fee. At least users will not have to deal with sudden increases when all they want to do is transfer ETH to another wallet or swap tokens. ETH will also be headed towards a more deflationary asset as well, with the burning of portions of its transaction fees. All of this creates positive market signals that drives further utility on the Ethereum blockchain.

(Photo Credit by Chris Schippers)

Ethereum’s Istanbul Updates

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