Earlier this month, the Ethereum Foundation team lead Péter Szilágyi confirmed the date of the network’s upcoming upgrade, Istanbul. Ethereum’s eighth hard fork overall and the second one this year is slated to take place on Dec. 4.
Istanbul will introduce a number of improvements such as interoperability with Zcash, cheaper zero-knowledge layer two scalability solutions, and adjusted gas price for certain operations, marking another milestone along the road to Ethereum 2.0, a highly anticipated “ultimate” version of the network. How exactly does Istanbul fit into the grand scheme of things?
Forks, releases and phases
No complex open-source system is ever in its final state — software is always in motion, constantly being improved and updated. This is especially true for Ethereum, whose path toward becoming a distributed “world computer” and the platform for decentralized applications has been outlined at its inception as a series of consecutive milestones.
The current goal that the Ethereum developer community is pursuing is an advanced version of the network called Ethereum 2.0, Eth2 or Serenity. The upgrade is expected to see a number of drastic developments, such as transition from proof-of-work to a more energy-efficient proof-of-stake consensus algorithm, realization of a new scalability paradigm called sharding, and the introduction of a more efficient Ethereum Virtual Machine capable of executing high-performance smart contracts. Researcher Danny Ryan has formulated five overarching design goals for Ethereum 2.0: decentralization, resilience, security, simplicity and longevity.
Differences in the language used to describe the stages of network updates can be confusing: There are hard forks named after the world’s great cities, numbered phases, releases denoted by version codes, and poetic labels such as “serenity.” Yet, it ultimately comes down to a rather straightforward structure.
The largest increment of the development process is…