Ethereum has taken yet another small—but crucial—step toward the merge, the blockchain’s much-hyped and oft-punted transition to proof of stake.
Scheduled for today, Ethereum’s 10th shadow fork actually went live early yesterday, a full 26 hours ahead of schedule. Shadow forks are a focused trial run of aspects of the merge; they practice making one or two specific changes to the blockchain that will occur down the road.
That’s different from full testnet hard forks, like the Sepolia testnet that occurred earlier this month. Testnets are full dress rehearsals of the merge, which move the entire Ethereum mainnet over to a test environment network.
This week’s shadow fork practiced releases that will occur during Ethereum’s final testnet, Goerli, which is scheduled for August 11 and will be the third and final such test required before the merge is ready to execute.
The timeline for the merge has shifted numerous times over the last two years. Earlier this month, however, Ethereum core developers announced their intention to deploy the merge on September 19. As only one major event, the Goerli testnet, remains before that event, developers are optimistic this schedule (more or less) will stick.
The merge will see Ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization after Bitcoin, and the network responsible for some 64% of all decentralized finance (DeFi) activity, transition from a proof-of-work model to proof of stake.
Currently, new Ethereum is created via an energy-intensive process in which so-called “miners” direct huge amounts of computing power to solving difficult puzzles in the hopes of receiving blocks of new ETH.
The merge will end the practice of ETH mining, and replace it with a process in which holders of at least 32 ETH can pledge their existing ETH in order to create more. According to the Ethereum Foundation, the proof-of-stake model will make the Ethereum network 99% more environmentally friendly.
Since shadow fork 10 deployed yesterday, no significant glitches have been reported. Ethereum core developers will continue to deploy shadow forks up until the merge.