The Ethereum network has completed the Muir Glacier hard fork on January 2, although it was scheduled for the first day of the year.
The Muir Glacier update with its sole improvement proposal (EIP 2384) was activated at block number 9,200,000. The only purpose of the update is to delay the notorious difficulty bomb for Ethereum, a built-in algorithm of the blockchain that could suddenly increase the mining difficulty if left unchecked. The Muir Glacier update will delay the difficulty bomb for another 4,000,000 blocks, which represents approximately 610 days.
The network upgrade is a necessary step, since the performance of the Ethereum blockchain started to slow down with block generation time increasing on average.
After 2018 and 2019, this is the third difficulty bomb delay deployed on the Ethereum network. The Muir Glacier is also a quick-fix update due to a miscalculation when planning Istanbul according to the core developers of the network.
The developer community estimated the difficulty bomb to become noticeable in mid-2020, but performance issues started to appear in October 2019, forcing the community to address the issue sooner.
This latest fork in Ethereum 1.0 has been hard coded to ensure that the network maintains an average block time by adjusting the mining difficulty that is required to produce new blocks.
The Ethereum network will have another 610 days of optimal performance until the difficulty bomb issue re-surfaces. The Ethereum community plans to release Ethereum 2.0 by that point, making the difficulty bomb obsolete. Nonetheless, it remains to be seen whether Ethereum 2.0 is close to being deployed and if its launch will take place smoothly.
The update didn’t complete as quickly as expected, since the timing of the latest improvement was unfortunate.
Node operators and developers were advised to prepare for the hard fork before the holidays by upgrading their nodes and downloading the latest versions. However, there are still some clients unprepared for the Muir Glacier fork.
Fortunately, all major exchanges have provided support for the latest hard fork, meaning that users will not be in any way affected by the update.