Istanbul Upgrade: 28 Ethereum Improvement Proposals Under Consideration

Ethereum’s developers have submitted 28 ethereum improvement proposals (EIPs), which include recommended codebase modifications that may be integrated into the upcoming Ethereum (ETH) network hard fork, called Istanbul.

The EIPs  are expected to change the smart contract platform’s mining algorithm, code execution and pricing mechanism, and data storage process.

Deciding Which EIPs to Include With Next Hard Fork

During the bi-weekly meeting between Ethereum Core developers (on May 24, 2019), the blockchain network’s development team discussed various approaches and EIPs which may help the platform scale effectively.

Commenting on the process for considering EIPs to be added to Istanbul, Hudson Jameson, the Community Relations Manager at the Ethereum Foundation, remarked:

We’ll talk more on the All Core Devs Gitter channel to wrangle in some of these EIPs that are still stuck in proposed and as quickly as possible decide on which ones are being implemented for Istanbul.

EIP 1108 Tentatively Approved During Bi-Weekly Meeting

Jameson also confirmed that the deadline for submitting EIPs to be considered for Istanbul passed on May 24. He added that Ethereum’s developers are now reviewing the proposals in order to determine whether they should be implemented in the next Ethereum hard fork .

EIP 1108, which recommends small adjustments to Ethereum network gas fees, was tentatively approved this past Friday (during the bi-weekly meeting). As explained on its Github page, EIP 1108 addresses the following:

The elliptic curve arithmetic pre-compiles are currently overpriced. Repricing the pre-compiles would greatly assist a number of privacy solutions and scaling solutions on Ethereum.

Currently, the implementation details related to EIP 1108 (and other EIPs) are being reviewed and Ethereum Core developers will be presenting benchmarking figures for repricing pre-compiles (for EIP 1108) during the next bi-weekly meeting.

According to Ethereum developer Rick Dudley, EIP 1559, which proposes a new type of transaction fee structure for Ethereum, is “a pretty complicated change.” Dudley believes that the final implementation specifications for EIP 1559 will most likely not be finalized by the time Istanbul goes live.

He also confirmed that the Istanbul hard fork, or backwards incompatible upgrade, will be activated at some point in October 2019. However, Istanbul’s Github states that the exact date and time for the planned Ethereum network update is to be determined (TBD).

ETH Mining Protocol Change Under Review

EIP 1057, which recommends a change to Ethereum’s proof-of-work (PoW) mining protocol, is also being considered to be included as part of Istanbul’s codebase modifications. Notably, the market for ether mining rewards has been estimated to be at $655 million (per annum) and powerful ASICs have been consistently outperforming lower-priced and less powerful graphics cards.

One of the design goals, for Ethereum, is to reduce miner centralization by modifying the current PoW mining protocol or replacing it with the ProgPoW algorithm.

Explaining why the implementation of ProgPoW was postponed, Jameson said

We ran into issues starting the ProgPoW audit. We had a hardware partner who specialized in ASICs who was going to work with Least Authority to perform the hardware parts of the audit. They are no longer participating in the audit so we are looking for other auditors for the hardware portion.

Developer Compiles Spreadsheet of All EIPs Under Review

In statements shared with CoinDesk, Ethereum developer James Hancock noted that the smart contract platform’s development team will be working on merging accepted EIPs for Istanbul. The merged proposals will then be added to Ethereum software clients, Hancock explained.

He also mentioned:

The suggestion is to have reference implementations in two ‘major’ clients. The definition of major is pretty loose.

The blockchain developer has compiled a list of all EIPs being considered for Istanbul and they’ve been marked to indicate whether they’re “ready” to be integrated into the Ethereum mainnet

The Coronavirus Outbreak Is Delaying China’s Digital Currency Research

China’s research into the launch of its own digital currency has reportedly been delayed over the coronavirus outbreak, which according to recent data has infected over 81,000 people worldwide and claimed the lives of 2,765.

According to the Global Times, an anonymous source close to the matter has detailed that the outbreak forced several government institutions to slow down. The source was quoted as saying:

The coronavirus outbreak has led to postponed work resumption in government institutions, including the People's Bank of China (PBC). Policymakers and research staff involved in the DCEP project are no exception, which weighs on the development process.

Commenting on the case the CEO of a Shenzhen-based blockchain firm involved in the launch of the digital currency, Shentu Qingchun, noted the People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank, was expected to make an important announcement during Q1 of this year.

Qingchun added, however, there’s only a month left and as such “chances that the announcement could be made on time are slim.” The currency, called Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP), is still being developed and officials are discussing scenarios in which it could circulate as cash.

The source noted that the digital currency could still be launched on time as the central bank has “abundant talent” that can help it deal with the delay in research. Per Shentu, since the DCEP is a digital currency it would help reduce hand-to-hand contact among individuals, which has helped the coronavirus outbreak spread. As such, policymakers could give the DCEP more attention.

The Global Times’ source added that research into the DCEP has “achieved fruitful results” and that it’s close to an end. The central bank’s research institute, per the report, has applied for 65 patents involving digital currencies, while its institute of printing science and technology has applied for 22.

Featured image by Floriane Vita on Unsplash.