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What is Ethereum’s Ice Age? The Difficulty Bomb Explained

What is Ethereum’s Ice Age? The Difficulty Bomb Explained

Difficulty bomb? Ice Age? Huh?

The difficulty bomb refers to mechanism built into Ethereum that increases the difficulty of mining over time. Once activated, the difficulty bomb slows down block times ushering in what is sometimes referred to as Ethereum’s Ice Age. During this time, blocks become more and more difficult to mine, increasingly slowing and eventually crippling the Ethereum network.

What’s purpose behind the difficulty bomb?

The difficulty bomb was originally added to Ethereum back in 2015 to put pressure on the community to grow or die. Simply put, it’s a way to force the community to come together occasionally to decide Ethereum’s upgrade path, primarily in preparation for Proof of Stake. This approach encourages the network to transition to Ethereum 2.0 and staking faster or face the consequences of slower block times.

How long until Ethereum’s Ice Age begins?

It’s hard to determine the exact date the difficulty bomb activates because block times vary. Not to mention, the Ice Age takes place gradually as mining difficulty ramps up. However, it’s worth noting the Ice Age or difficulty bomb has been delayed three times before. Ethereum’s Byzantium upgrade in October 2017, Constantinople in February 2019, and most recently Muir Glacier each pushed the Ice Age back.

On January 2nd, 2020, the Ethereum network’s Muir Glacier upgrade activated EIP 2384 which delayed the difficulty bomb for another 4,000,000 blocks. This gives the Ethereum community until roughly July 2021 to launch ETH2’s finality gadget or delay again before the ice age begins to slow block times to over 20 seconds.

What happens next?

Ethereum 2.0 Phase 0 spec v0.10.0 was released January 10th, 2019 and the ETH2 implementation teams continue to build their clients. This new release marks a stable target for Phase 0 multi-client testnets expected early 2020. Granted, Prysmatic Labs has been iterating on their Prysm testnet since May 2019. As it stands, the Prysm testnet is capable of handling the load of ETH2 mainnet and has over 28,800 participants running test validators. You can try it for yourself in a few easy steps or stay up to date with ETH2 by reading

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