All members of the crypto world are eyeing “Merge”, the long-awaited upgrade of Ethereum (ETH) to a new, greener method of processing transactions.
The move, which will see the second-largest blockchain network abandon its energy-hungry miners once and for all, is expected to take place early Thursday morning.
If you’re like us and eager to keep up with the merger approach, there’s no need to get overwhelmed. Below, we explain how you can follow the process and know whether or not the update was a success.
The merger is expected to take place at 4:23 am on Thursday, in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), according to estimates published on several websites that are monitoring the update. In Brasilia time, this will be around 1:00 am and 1:30 am.
You can follow the process on sites like brodel.wtf and wenmerge.com, which provide live estimates of when the change will take place. Crypto asset price aggregator CoinMarketCap created a special page that in addition to the countdown also explains what Merge is and answers some questions.
Google also joined in the fun. Just type “Ethereum Merge” or something similar and the search engine shows a timer of the merger.
Ben Edgington, product lead at blockchain firm ConsenSys, told CoinDesk that the first thing he will pay attention to when the merger takes place is whether or not transaction blocks are being proposed to the proof-of-stake chain. or PoS) of the cryptocurrency.
Remember that Ethereum is a decentralized network supported by a community of volunteers called “validators”. Every 12 seconds in the new system, a validator will be randomly selected to propose a “block” to the blockchain.
“We expect a block like clockwork every 12 seconds in the proof-of-stake chain. At each ‘slot’ (basic unit of time on the blockchain), which is an interval of 12 seconds, a validator is chosen by the protocol to propose a block for that slot. If that validator is offline, is in a different fork, or is not participating properly, that block will disappear,” Edgington explained.
You can view this data on chain explorers like beaconcha.in or beaconscan.com. Both sites list all new slots as they happen, along with information on whether or not a block has been proposed for them.
“Immediately, if we see ’empty slot, empty slot, empty slot’ (in explorers), that would be the first sign of trouble. Now if we see ‘block, block, block, block, block,’ we know we’re okay,” Edgington explained.
In recent months, several Ethereum testnets (testnets) have gone through their own transitions from proof-of-work (or PoW) to PoS – each serving as a sort of dress rehearsal for the real thing.
“We still haven’t had a completely flawless testnet merger,” says Edgington. “They all had little bumps, little 10% or 20% reductions in the number of blocks. But very quickly, within an hour, people fixed things and went back to normal levels, which is basically [um bloco] every 12 seconds.”
The next thing Edgington will look at after the merger is the network participation rate (the percentage of validators performing their duties).
If a newly proposed block receives enough votes from the wider Ethereum community – called “attestations” – its transactions are recorded on the blockchain with the digital equivalent of a permanent marker.
“In contrast to the proof-of-work network, in proof-of-stake all validators participate all the time – they vote for [todos] the blocks they see,” Edgington explained. “We know we have [cerca de] 420k validators, so we can count the votes and see how many are missing. So we get a participation fee.”
Christine Kim, a researcher at investment firm Galaxy Digital, explained how to look at the turnout rate in a recent article she wrote about tracking the upgrade. (The text, which is in English, is recommended reading for anyone looking for a deeper dive into Merge monitoring.)
“THE [taxa de participação] is particularly useful to get a sense of the overall health of Ethereum as a network [de prova de participação],” wrote Christine. “A high participation rate from validators suggests that there is a strong likelihood that epochs [grandes grupos de slots] be completed without delay. A low turnout rate, below the 2/3 threshold, suggests the opposite – that the completion of the network has a high probability of delay.”
Ethereum, in other words, will continue to function as long as the participation rate is above 66%, but the “Beacon Chain” – Ethereum’s proof-of-stake test chain that will merge with its proof-of-work mainnet later this year dawn – usually has a share that is around 99.5%. Again, you can monitor this number on the beaconcha.in and beaconscan.com websites.
As Christine suggested in her explanation of the importance of the turnout rate, the key indicator of a successful merger will be when the network achieves its purpose.
Purpose, Edginton explained, “is when the network collectively declares a block – a checkpoint in time that will never be rolled back. We will never rewrite history before that point.” This, in other words, is when transactions written to the new PoS chain become irreversible.
“The moment we pop the champagne is the point where we finalize the merger verification checkpoint, which will be around 13 to 15 minutes after the Merge,” he added.
Why so many minutes? Christine explained the following in her article: “Finishing the Ethereum Beacon Chain network is achieved after 2 epochs are confirmed by at least 2/3 of the active validators. An epoch is a period of time, 6.4 minutes, divided into 12-second intervals.”
The blockchain explorers we mentioned earlier – beaconcha.in and beaconscan.com – list each epoch along with the information on whether or not it has ended. Once the Merge developers see two finished epochs, then we can breathe a collective sigh of relief.
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