Byzantium Fork: A Major Ethereum Update

Byzantium Fork is a fork that aimed to make Ethereum smart contracts suitable for use in the commercial space and increase transaction speed.

What is Byzantium Fork?

The Byzantium hard fork was the fifth and significant update to the Ethereum blockchain. Its main purpose was to improve the privacy, stability and resilience of Ethereum in line with the nine EIPs, the Ethereum Enhancement Protocols.

Fundamental changes to the software protocol are referred to as ‘forks’ in blockchain development. Soft forks are backward compatible, so as long as most nodes are upgraded to the new software, the network remains intact.

Hard forks are incompatible with older versions of the software, so if any node operator does not upgrade to the latest version, the blockchain will split into two different paths.

The importance of the Byzantium hard fork in the Ethereum ecosystem cannot be underestimated. The update was implemented back in October 2017 as part of Metropolis, the 3rd update to the ETH network, as outlined in the official Ethereum roadmap.

Previously, transactions in the Merkle tree referred to a root parameter, but the Byzantium hard fork modernised this feature by introducing a protocol for transactional status transfers to sequential blocks. This enabled the Ethereum network to overcome the inaccessibility of parallel processing to speed up chain creation. It also provided the ability to implement linear transaction sequences, which means that blocks in the Byzantium hard fork can execute multiple transactions simply by reporting success or failure. This feature enables the Ethereum network to execute transactions faster than before.

The Byzantium development includes four proprietary ethereum contracts containing code designed to reduce power consumption when implementing zk-snarks, a zero-knowledge encryption that is quickly becoming the privacy standard for future cryptocurrency transactions.

Zero-knowledge proofs are computationally intensive calculations that allow systems to show that they have the necessary cryptographic keys without revealing the contents of those keys. The new contracts ensure that the time-consuming calculations are performed directly on the CPU rather than through the Ethereum client, resulting in lower overall power consumption.

The block reward has been reduced from five ethers per block to three ethers per block with the Byzantium reward. This reduction is in line with Ethereum’s long-term goal to do away with the block reward in favour of the Proof of Stake mechanism.

Ethereum currently uses the Ethash mechanism, which is a modification of bitcoin’s Proof of Work algorithm. The move to Proof of Stake, which is used or adapted to some extent by many cryptocurrencies including Dash and Cardano, could once again help speed up transactions on the Ethereum blockchain.

In order to pave the way for widespread use of Ethereum and smart contracts, the Byzantium fork is intended to pave the way. Following the hard fork, the price of cryptocurrency skyrocketed after the announcement of an official hard fork.

Since the introduction of Byzantium into the Ethereum network, the total number of ETH transactions has exceeded the number of BTC transactions. This suggests widespread use of smart contracts in the future.

Related terms