Ethereum blockchain is updating to Byzantium

The Byzantium hard fork will improve the performance of the blockchain network with an addition of new security features.

The latest upgrade to world’s second largest cryptocurrency, Ethereum, is currently live and includes addition features to the famed cryptocurrency. The Byzantium hard fork will improve the performance of the blockchain network with an addition of new security features.

In regards to the cryptocurrency sector, a hard fork can be defined as a change in the underlying protocol of the digital currency, creating new rules that improve the system. The hard fork is activated at a specified blockchain number and all clients of that specific currency need to upgrade. If they don't upgrade, they will be stuck with an incompatible chain that follows the older protocol.

The Byzantium hard fork is a part of a greater development plan of Ethereum, which is known as Metropolis. It encompasses two hard forks: Byzantium and Constantinople. The former is already on its way and the latter’s release date is yet to be announced. Constantinople's release is expected some time in 2018. Byzantium’s hard fork initiated at block number 4,370,000 (4.3mil).

Byzantium plans add new functionalities to the Ethereum network.  One notable addition will be the ‘revert’ function, which will allow developers to respond differently to function execution errors. The hard fork will also add opcodes for future- and post-devcon updates to the Solidity compiler, such as sharing data of any size between smart contracts and accessing the data without changing the blockchain. An additional layer of privacy will be included in Byzantium with zero-knowledge proofs. This will allow developers to verify encrypted transactions via mathematical operations without having to find out the user’s identity or account balance.

Ethereum's currency, Ether, is used by client via smart contract. These allow users to 'pay' for the smart contracts used for transactions with 'gas' purchased with Ether. As the network is decentralized and shared by everyone, the costs of 'gas' can inflate. The newest update, Byzantium, will reduce the costs of gas. Moreover, the ‘revert’ functionality will allow developers to handle errors without consuming all of the 'gas'.

If a user chooses not to participate in the hard fork and do not update their network then they will be left with a pre-fork blockchain. This blockchain will be relying on the old rules and will be without protection against the main network. The older users will be able to construct transactions but will not be able to see the effects of those transactions. Keeping this in mind, it is imperative that users and third-party clients update their platforms as soon as possible to avoid any inconvenience.

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