The Merge is considered the biggest and most pivotal event by the Ethereum community. All things being equal, “The Merge” will happen in August 2022. The Merge upgrade on the Ethereum blockchain encompasses the combination of the altcoin’s mainnet with the Beacon Chain. Thereby, changing Ethereum’s consensus mechanism from Proof-of-Work (PoW) to Proof-of-Stake (PoS). Meanwhile, Ethereum public testnet, Ropsten, is projected to be trial-merged on June 8, 2022.
Ethereum Blockchain: The Migration From PoW to PoS
Ethereum proof-of-work (PoW) to proof-of-stake (PoS) transition is around the corner. Though launched with a proof-of-work (PoW) consensus algorithm in 2015, Ethereum’s vision has always been to become an energy-efficient, scalable and eco-friendly proof-of-stake (PoS) blockchain. This tells us that the proof-of-work (PoW) consensus mechanism poses a lot of problems.
Presently, Ethereum has the problems of network clogging, node-running difficulty (disk space), high gas fees, and too much energy consumption which makes the PoW mechanism (also known as mining) environmentally unfriendly.
Based on this premise, Ethereum founders and developers have been working on a full switch to the proof-of-stake consensus mechanism. This has been an active area of research and development since 2014 for the project developers.
Consequent upon that, a set of upgrades aimed at addressing these prevailing problems of Ethereum were introduced. The three upgrades in order of execution are named – Beacon Chain, The Merge, and Shard Chain.
Beacon Chain, The Merge and Shard Chain Upgrades
It is believed that these upgrades will make Ethereum scalable, secure, and decentralized. The beacon chain which is the ‘Phase 0’ on Ethereum’s technical roadmap was live in December 2020. The key purpose of the Beacon Chain upgrade was the introduction of proof-of-stake (staking) to the Ethereum ecosystem.
Note that the beacon chain is a fully independent network that has a PoS consensus layer. More so, it is operating parallel to the current PoW Ethereum mainnet. According to the team, the beacon chain has been an absolute success since its launch, finalizing 100% of its epochs with no downtime.
In turn, staking brings the advantage of lowering the barrier to participation thereby creating a larger and more decentralized network. Also, the beacon chain has the role of coordinating the network as well as serving as the consensus layer.
The Merge is the second phase of the upgrade while Sharding, the final phase is designed to make Ethereum more scalable by increasing transactions per second while decreasing the power needed to run a node and validate the chain. The Sharding upgrade is projected to be carried out in 2023 on the technical roadmap.
The Merge: Why and When?
While the beacon chain has been an appreciable development in the transitioning process, the Ethereum network cannot operate in two splits perpetually. Remember, the current Ethereum mainnet operates on a proof-of-work design while the Beacon Chain runs in parallel using proof-of-stake. To achieve a full PoW to PoS switch, with all history on the PoW network preserved, The Merge comes into the picture.
By definition, The Merge is the upgrade needed to bring the Beacon Chain and the Ethereum mainnet together. Practically, when the merge occurs, the Ethereum Mainnet will “merge” with the Beacon Chain to become its own shard which uses proof-of-stake instead of proof-of-work. After this merge, all blocks on Ethereum will be produced via PoS.
In the recent Permissionless Conference held on May 19 in Shanghai, Ethereum core developers noted that The Merge upgrade will go live in August 2022, with the clause, “if everything goes as planned.”
Before then, a trial merge has been scheduled to discover flaws and bugs before the actual merge takes place. On this note, it has been revealed that the Ropsten testnet, an Ethereum public testnet will be merged on June 8, 2022.
Merging Ropsten is a huge testing milestone towards Ethereum’s mainnet merge later this year, Preston Van Loon tweeted.
Ethereum blockchain is working hard towards becoming a better blockchain for both developers and users. Should these upgrades turn out to be successful, it can be said that the Ethereum network will experience a restructuring. Thereby, causing the blockchain to become more scalable, secure, and sustainable while still preserving its decentralized nature.