The Ethereum development team completed the final shadow fork test before the Ethereum Merge yesterday.
The thirteenth shadow fork, which copies the current state information of the Ethereum mainnet, went live yesterday. Nethermind, an Ethereum research and development company, announced that the shadow fork was successfully implemented on all the company’s Ethereum nodes.
A shadow fork is essentially a copy of the existing Ethereum mainnet that accepts all transactions going to the mainnet and all state data on the execution layer of the Ethereum mainnet. The shadow fork’s merging with the Beacon chain, Ethereum’s new consensus layer, results in a kind of dress rehearsal for when the Ethereum mainnet merges with the Beacon chain.
This process, dubbed “the Merge,” is expected to occur between Sep. 10 and Sep. 15, 2022, and will change the mechanism for validating blocks of transactions on the Ethereum network from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake, eliminating the need for the energy-intensive mining process native to proof-of-work.
Issues with missed blocks fixed
On Sep. 6, 2022, the Ethereum team launched the Bellatrix upgrade, a critical step in moving the network from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake. Unfortunately, the upgrade resulted in many missed blocks, a phenomenon that occurs when the Ethereum network fails to verify blocks of transactions waiting to be validated. The rate of missed blocks spiked from an average of 0.5% of blocks before the upgrade to 9% of blocks after the upgrade.
Developers believe that the spike in missed blocks occurred because node operators, i.e., those who validate Ethereum transactions and help secure the network, had not upgraded their software in preparation for the merge. At press time, the number of node operators without the latest software sat at 16.5%.
The missed block issue was tested with the shadow fork upgrade and found to have been fixed.
Important to get final shadow fork right
While developers launched multiple shadow forks this year, including a mainnet shadow fork in April 2022 and several forks on the Goerli testnet, none have carried more significant importance than the most recent. The Goerli testnet forks were early dry runs designed to test decentralized applications’ operation and how the mainnet would process transactions in a proof-of-stake environment.
Other blockchains, like Cardano, employed a sequence of testnets for its upcoming Vasil hard fork. One of the requirements for migration is that the top 10 decentralized applications migrate to the pre-production chain. So far, five have been successfully tested.
With the latest shadow fork being the last one before the merge, developers must get it right since billions of dollars locked up in decentralized finance will rise or fall on its success.
At the time of writing, there is $35.19 billion locked up in 553 decentralized protocols on Ethereum.