Over the past few months, there has been a lot of speculation regarding Ethereum’s mining difficulty. This problem is known as the Difficult Bomb, and it poses a significant threat to the ecosystem. Or that is what most people think will happen if things ever come to such a point. Switching to proof-of-stake should make this a non-issue, though. Now is a good time to look at Ethereum’s difficulty bomb and what it could potentially mean for the network if left unchallenged.
THE ETHEREUM DIFFICULTY BOMB MAKES MINING IMPOSSIBLE
It is important to understand the problem of the Ethereum difficulty bomb first and foremost. When Ethereum was first created, the developers had to create a consensus algorithm. Similar to Bitcoin, this consensus is achieved through mining in a proof-of-work environment. However, with the mining difficult going up over time, it could potentially create a problematic scenario. After all, it does not appear there will be ASIC-like mining hardware for Ethereum anytime soon.
However, the Ethereum developers have come up with a different plan. From the outset, the plan was to make Ethereum mining impossible at some point in the future. This change will be introduced through an arbitrarily difficult block to mine, which will effectively create the difficulty bomb in question. As this difficulty bomb is activated on the network, the mining difficulty will skyrocket and eventually make Ethereum mining unfeasible and extremely unprofitable.
Some people would expect this to be the end of Ethereum, but there is no reason to panic just yet. The goal is to switch over to a proof-of-stake algorithm before the Ethereum difficulty bomb can even become a problem. Right now, that PoS algorithm is still in development, albeit its completion appears to be imminent. Do keep in mind there is still no official launch date for the switch to proof-of-stake at the time of publication.
The Ethereum difficulty bomb was originally supposed to be introduced as a form of smart contract. That plan of action was changed in favor of a difficulty adjustment scheme, which was introduced as part of the Frontier update in 2015. As part of this new schedule, it also became apparent the difficulty bomb would force another major Ethereum hard fork in the very near future. Such a hard fork is indeed on the horizon for Ethereum, as we all know.
It is quite interesting to see developers introduce a mandatory difficulty bomb to switch over to proof-of-stake, though. Such a thing would be unthinkable where Bitcoin is concerned, since there seems to be no need for it right away. Then again, Ethereum is a very different breed of cryptocurrency, and switching to proof-of-stake has always been one of its main objectives for some time now. There is no reason to think the difficulty bomb will ever become an issue, assuming the switch to PoS can be completed before that time.
In the end, the Ethereum difficulty bomb is quite an interesting way to set a development deadline for the switch to proof-of-stake. It sounds a lot more dangerous than it really is, since the development team has all of their ducks in a row. Moreover, the difficulty bomb will “force” the entire ecosystem to move over whatever the Ethereum ecosystem turns into after the next hard fork. Otherwise, users would be stuck with a blockchain that will not grow much longer once the mining difficulty spikes to unmanageable heights.