- Muir Glacier hard fork in January to delay the difficulty bomb by several years so that it can be fixed or eliminated
The Ethereum difficulty bomb was not projected to become a problem until July, but even before the Istanbul hard fork in early December the difficulty bomb began to kick in. Apparently the difficulty bomb has become unpredictable due to a coding flaw, and a hard fork named Muir Glacier will happen in January to prevent an ice age.
The difficulty bomb is a mechanism that helps force network changes. Essentially, the mining difficulty and block times begin to rise exponentially in a stepwise fashion once every two weeks, until eventually mining profits dwindle to zero and the block times become so slow that the network stalls, and this is called the ice age. A hard fork is then required to restore the Ethereum network to normalcy, and upgrades from the developers can simultaneously be implemented during the hard fork.
So far block times have increased from 13 seconds to 17 seconds, and by early February block times will increase to over 30 seconds if no fork occurs. The Muir Glacier hard fork should come in January though, and is expected to delay the difficulty bomb by several years. This will give developers time to fix the difficulty bomb so that it stops being unpredictable, and if it cannot be fixed then the difficulty bomb will be eliminated.
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