Less than two weeks ago, the Ethereum network split into two after its developers made a change to the underlying code as they tried to fix a bug, which unfortunately led to a hard fork that split the network creating a new version that was only valid for upgraded nodes, but which was invalid to those that didn’t upgrade. This created a few issues within the Ethereum community and allowed us to see some of the differences between Ethereum and Bitcoin.
The changes come at a time when Ethereum trading is at its peak thanks to the market bull run. The second-largest cryptocurrency is trading at around $514 after seeing gains of over 12% over the past week. There is a lot of speculation going on, and this is driving the price of ETH up. Platforms like PrimeXBT are witnessing a spike in users who want to profit from trading ETH without having to own the asset itself and worry about getting a wallet to store it and other inconveniences that come with holding a token. PrimeXBT allows users to trade CFD products for different financial instruments like cryptocurrencies, where they can speculate on the price changes on the underlying asset and make money if the price changes positively or negatively.
What Led To The Split?
The split took place on the 11th of this month, early in the morning starting from block 11234873 after Ethereum developers introduced a code change that left those that hadn’t upgraded stuck on the minority chain, according to Nikita Zhavoronkov, the lead developer at Blockhair. Some of those left stuck on the minority chain were miners, but like any other individual who had to deal with this misfortune, it wasn’t their fault since it was an unannounced hard fork.
Nikita believes the network’s consensus failure shouldn’t be underestimated and should be seen as a serious issue and investigated like it was the case with DAO four years ago. The split led to an outage that significantly disrupted the Ethereum ecosystem. Leading exchanges like Binance and Bithumb had to disable ETH and ERC-20 token withdrawals. Another platform that suffered a service outage was Infura, which is a popular centralized Ethereum node service. This directly affected MetaMask, an ETH wallet, and created issues for ETH and ERC-20 token price feed on other services.
Though there hasn’t been an official report on what exactly took place, the problems seem to have come from recklessness. Ethereum developers are known to adopt the “move fast and break things” philosophy when it comes to developing their codebase, which can lead to unexpected hard forks.
Differences With Bitcoin
Both Ethereum and Bitcoin are decentralized networks that use proof-of-work consensus, at least for now. Ethereum is working on transitioning to proof-of-stake due to scalability issues. Unlike Bitcoin, the developers at Ethereum and its community do coordinate to conduct non-backward compatible hard forks. Something that highlights their centralized control over the network and diminishes the role of individual node participants. Such practices may be ok at Ethereum, but many Bitcoiners see that as a compromise on the network’s integrity.
According to Peter Szilagyi, lead at Ethereum Foundation, the controversial changes were made to fix a bug found in the codebase silently. Unfortunately, the new version of the code was less proven and less stable than older versions, which could have been one reason why some providers did not upgrade. And since the upgrade wasn’t announced, users felt they had a choice not to upgrade since they could stay on the older version. They didn’t expect the upgrade would split the network into two, which is the case for pre-planned hard forks that are announced, and users have a clear understanding that they have to upgrade before the code goes live.
The latest incident leads to a few questions on how Ethereum and its developers conduct themselves. One can only wonder what would happen if someone compromised the network and released a malicious code, if it would ever be audited and how the ensuing confusion would be fixed.
That said, maybe Ethereum can learn from the Bitcoin Core developers who ensure they take the necessary precaution never to introduce critical bugs. And their software is always designed to be backward compatible.