A highly anticipated update to the Ethereum network could be happening before schedule according to developers. The Casper update may be rolled out as early as the next hard-fork, Constantinople instead of previous plans for it to come with Serenity, the last development phase, in 2018. The hard forks are underlying changes to protocol creating new rules to improve the system; they do not necessarily result in a split into two versions of the asset.
There is no fixed date for Constantinople yet but it should be towards the end of this year or early 2018 according to the planned Ethereum development phase, or roadmap called Metropolis. The previous hard-fork, Byzantium, was the fifth for Ethereum which went through without a hitch on October 16.
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Casper is a game changer for Ethereum. It will move the technology away from a proof of work (PoW) to a proof of stake (PoS) protocol. The final version of Casper is not complete yet and Ethereum’s top developers are still scrutinizing two versions of the protocol, they will likely decide on one that combines the best of both.
Currently, both Bitcoin and Ethereum use a proof of work method to validate transactions. This requires the use of miners with powerful hardware to calculate the block hashes and validate the blocks and transactions. They get rewarded with new coins for every block they mine, this results in more competition between miners and excessive energy consumption.
Proof of stake is different in that it will make the mining virtual, using validators instead. A validator will use their stake in Ether to be used as part of the validating process where they will earn a little interest while it is locked up to validate blocks, a bit like a bank deposit.
It has been estimated that Bitcoin and Ethereum mining costs over a million dollars a day in electricity and hardware. By creating a virtual solution to validating the blockchain it will alleviate these physical demands and create a system that fights against mining centralization. It is estimated that around 80% of cryptocurrency mining is currently carried out in mega-factories in China.
The Casper update will change the way Ethereum is used and created, it will also have built-in systems that punish participants that don’t play by the rules and try to cheat the system. There is still a lot of work to be done on the protocols governing the fair use of the network by validators but Casper is definitely creeping closer.