Ethereum’s Berlin hard fork went live at block 12,244,000 Thursday.

The Berlin hard fork is a network upgrade that incorporates four Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIPs) that tinker with gas prices and allow new transaction types. The upgrade is a stepping stone to the much bigger London hard fork, which will activate EIP 1559, a momentous (and controversial) change to Ethereum’s fee structure.

The EIPs are:

  • EIP-2565, which reduces gas cost for a specific transaction type that uses modular exponentiation.
  • EIP-2718, makes all transaction types “backwards compatible” using so-called “envelope transactions,” which allows the addition of new transaction logic into Ethereum.
  • EIP-2929, increases gas costs for “op code” transactions, a pain point for denial of service attacks on Ethereum in the past.
  • EIP-2930, a new transaction type (made possible by EIP-2718’s envelope transactions) which allows its users to create templates for future, complex transactions in a bid to lower gas costs.

The Berlin hard fork, named for the capital of Germany that played host to the first Ethereum DevCon, was originally scheduled for June or July 2020 but was pushed back owing to centralization concerns around the Geth client on which most Ethereum nodes operate.

This hard fork, which means old Ethereum clients will not be compatible with upgraded ones, is one of many on the road to Eth 2.0, Ethereum’s herculean leap from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake.

The cortex of this new network, the Ethereum 2.0 Beacon Chain, currently holds over $8 billion worth of ETH. This smart contract is like a bridge between the current Ethereum and Ethereum 2.0 blockchains, and it holds various deposits of the 32 ETH needed to run validator nodes on the new network (these validators take the place of proof-of-work miners.

Next stop, London

Berlin will be followed by London in July, which is expected to incorporate EIP-1559, a proposal that will reduce the supply of ether.

Instead of a user sending a gas fee to a miner for a transaction to be added to blockchain, the network would set the fee itself and then burn it.

There are concerns that this will diminish miners’ profits, but does have the potential to make ether more valuable due to limiting supply.

The world’s second-largest cryptocurrency hit a new all-time high of $2,488.07 today, part of an ongoing rally that has largely been attributed to Coinbase’s much-anticipated public listing on Nasdaq.

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