Ethereum’s Merge—the blockchain’s much-anticipated transition from its current proof-of-work (PoW) mechanism to a proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus algorithm—will be one step closer today if the planned trial upgrade on the Ropsten public testnet goes as planned later today.
First rolled out in 2016, Ropsten is Ethereum’s oldest testnet that allows for blockchain development testing before deployment on the mainnet. Similar to other testnets, it is identical to the mainnet, with the key difference that no “real” funds are at risk if any technical issues occur.
The date for the upgrade was first announced on May 18 when Ethereum core developer Terence Tsao broke the news that configuration for Ropsten’s Beacon Chain—a PoS network that runs alongside Ethereum's mainnet—had been merged and client releases should be expected soon.
Things moved quickly after that, with another Ethereum developer, Tim Beiko, announcing the launch of a new beacon chain on May 30, and the Bellatrix upgrade—one of the two required conditions for the Ropsten testnet Merge—activated on June 2.
The developers also had to decide on the so-called “Terminal Total Difficulty” (TTD)—a pre-decided difficulty value at which the Ropsten Merge occurs, something they did the following day setting the value at 50 quadrillion.
As explained by Beiko, such a high value was chosen “because of the low PoW hash rate on testnets, and the risk of The Merge having happened before the network was ready with the Bellatrix update.”
📣 Ropsten Merge Update 📣
As mentioned in the Ropsten Merge Announcement, the terminal total difficulty (TTD) at which The Merge happens on Ropsten must be overridden by node operators & stakers.
The correct TTD value is 50000000000000000 👀https://t.co/aPAWNJfDYh
— Tim Beiko | timbeiko.eth 🐼 (@TimBeiko) June 3, 2022
Per the Ethereum Foundation’s blog post, client software teams participating in the Ropsten Merge include Lighthouse, Lodestar, Prysm, Nimbus, Teku, Besu, Erigon, go-ethereum (geth) and Nethermind.
In essence, it gives developers the first taste of what things will look like in the future when Ethereum finally makes the move to a less energy-intensive PoS algorithm mechanism. And it’s quite clear that a successful Merge on the testnet would bode well for the Ethereum’s mainnet’s own transition.
“Merging Ropsten is a huge testing milestone towards Ethereum's mainnet Merge later this year,” Ethereum Core developer Preston van Loon wrote last month.
This process has been in the works for some years though, with multiple delays sending waves of frustration among the community and investors.
The new PoS model is supposed to solve some of Ethereum’s biggest issues, such as high transaction costs and the network’s ability to scale, so the stakes are indeed high, with the biggest upgrade in Ethereum’s history—if successful— having a good chance to become the crypto industry’s event of the year.