Ethereum Constantinople

Ethereum Constantinople is a hard fork of the Ethereum blockchain designed to lay the groundwork for huge scaling improvements.

Originally scheduled for Wednesday 16th January, Ethereum Constantinople has been delayed by developers. A vulnerability was found in the code that could have been exploited by hackers, putting funds at risk.

In a blog on Ethereum.org, the team explained: “Out of an abundance of caution, key stakeholders around the Ethereum community have determined that the best course of action will be to delay the planned Constantinople fork.”

The delay is temporary while developers work towards a solution.

What is Ethereum Constantinople?

The hard fork is part of Ethereum’s long-term scaling road map. Ethereum has long suffered congestion problems which results in high fees and slow transaction times when the network is busy.

The Ethereum team is working on several scaling projects including off-chain solutions, sharding, and, ultimately, a switch to “Proof of Stake” algorithm. Together, these changes should result in significantly higher speeds and lower costs.

However, upgrading the network while operational is like changing the engine in a moving car. The Ethereum team need to lay the technical groundwork before the big changes can happen.

That’s where Ethereum Constantinople comes in. It implements a series of maintenance upgrades that facilitate enormous scaling in the future.

What’s in the upgrade?

Ethereum Constantinople will implement five ethereum improvement proposals (EIPs).  They are as follows:

EIP 145 – Will result in a 91.4% saving in Ethereum gas costs through more efficient information processing methods. It relates to a process known as Bitwise shifting and requires the introduction of a native operation on the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM).

EIP 1052 – Makes it cheaper to process large smart contracts that only require a hash.  More specifically, this functionality returns the keccak256 hash of a contract’s bytecode. It improves upon the design of the EXTCODECOPY opcode.

EIP 1283 – This proposal aims to help smart contract developers by reducing gas costs related to changes made to data storage.

EIP 1014Introduces some off-chain transaction solutions to improve scaling possibilities.

EIP 1234 – Delays the “difficulty bomb” and reduces the mining reward from 3 ETH down to 2 ETH.

Of the proposals above, only the last one is considered controversial. Ethereum’s difficulty bomb is designed to make it progressively more difficult to mine Ethereum. At a certain point, it will become almost impossible, forcing the switch from “proof of work” to “proof of stake.”

The proposal exists to de-incentivize miners by not only making it more difficult to mine but by reducing the reward too.

Despite the controversial proposal, mining pools were generally on board with the upgrade. We were not expecting a contentious fork or competing chains.

Ethereum Constantinople Delayed

On Tuesday 15th January, Ethereum developers announced a delay to the upgrade. The decision involved Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin and other prominent Ethereum developers.

A new date for the upgrade will be discussed on Friday 18th January. 

A Critical Vulnerability Discovered

A vulnerability was discovered in one of the proposals (EIP 1283) by ChainSecurity, a smart contract auditing company. 

The vulnerability would have enabled a “reentrancy attack” against smart contracts similar to the 2016 DAO hack which saw $70 million in ethereum stolen.  

A reentrancy attack means a manipulative actor could theoretically ask the smart contract to perform a specific function multiple times before the contract is executed or anyone is notified. It means an attacker could keep withdrawing money almost endlessly. 

In a detailed Medium post, Chain Security explains:

“The upcoming Constantinople Upgrade for the ethereum network introduces cheaper gas cost for certain SSTORE operations. As an unwanted side effect, this enables reentrancy attacks when using address.transfer(…) or address.send(…) in Solidity smart contracts. Previously these functions were considered reentrancy-safe, which they aren’t any longer.”

Is Ethereum at risk now?

ChainSecurity concluded that the current Ethereum blockchain is currently at risk:

“A scan of the main ethereum blockchain using the data available from eveem.org did not uncover vulnerable smart contracts.”

At the time of writing, the Ethereum Constantinople upgrade is delayed with a new launch date to be discussed on January 18th.

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People love to compare the bitcoin crash to the dot-com bubble.

I get it. It makes a good headline. At the end of 2018, Bloomberg, CNBC, and Fortune were quick to print stories like this:

The Crypto Crash of 2018 Is Now Worse Than the Dotcom Bust

Crypto’s 80% Plunge Is Now Worse Than the Dot-Com Crash

Bitcoin is unfolding like the dot-com crash, just 15 times faster

If you look at bitcoin’s run-up in 2017, it does look worse than the dot-com bubble.

bitcoin vs dot com bubble chart
Source: WSJ

But these charts ignore one crucial thing:

The dot-com bubble was EIGHT times bigger than crypto

We’ll start with market capitalization.

The market cap of the NASDAQ Composite Index (which tracks tech stocks) during the peak of the dot-com boom was $6.7 trillion.

The crypto market cap at its peak was $828 billion.

In other words, the dot-com bubble was eight times bigger than crypto.

crypto market cap vs nasdaq market cap

The absence of Wall Street

The second big difference between the dot-com bubble and the crypto bubble is a complete absence of institutional traders.

Almost no-one on Wall Street was trading bitcoin in 2017. Most family investment offices and hedge funds didn’t hold crypto either.

Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, the “big money” hasn’t come to crypto yet. The two bubbles are completely incomparable when the investor base is so widely different.

Bitcoin was a bubble…

Don’t get me wrong. The bitcoin spike in 2017 was a bubble. A big one.

It had all the hallmarks of a big financial bubble: mania, greed, delusion, and capitulation. And the 80% drop is painful.

But if we’re going to put this in context with historic bubbles, let’s use a relative scale, not percentage drops. 

Bitcoin’s “dot-com moment” may yet be still to come

Bitcoin’s “dot-com moment” won’t happen until we see much bigger volumes of money flowing into it.

This infrastructure is building… Nasdaq and NYSE are launching on-ramps for crypto. A bitcoin ETF may be on the horizon. Institutional-grade custody is coming.

Only when these things are in place will we see the kind of money required for a “dot-com” level run-up.

And if that happens, the fall will be truly enormous when it bursts.

A version of this article appeared in our exclusive newsletter. If you’d like Block Explorer’s cutting-edge analysis in your inbox every Tuesday, sign up now.

bitcoin hack how to avoid

New Zealand based crypto exchange, Cryptopia, was hacked on January 14th.

In a statement released on Twitter, Cryptopia said the exchange “suffered a security breach which resulted in significant losses.”

The platform is currently in “maintenance mode” while the team assesses the full scope of the damages. Although no official figures have been released, Larry Cemark, analyst at The Block, suggests as much as $3.5 million worth of ethereum and CENNZ tokens were stolen.

New Zealand police and the High Tech Crimes Unit are currently investigating the breach.

The news comes after $1 billion in cryptocurrency was stolen in 2018. The full Cryptopia statement is below.

Cryptopia Exchange Hack Statement

cryptopia exchange hack

HSBC blockchain

HSBC used blockchain technology to settle more than three million forex trades in the last year. 

The trades, worth $250 billion, are a “small proportion” of HSBC’s total trading figures. However, it’s a huge step forward and proof that blockchain can offer real-world solutions.

HSBC said the distributed ledger technology had helped the company lower costs while reducing errors and delays. It has also allowed the bank to automate some processes that previously relied on manual input.

While many banks have experimented with blockchain technology, few have implemented it into existing processes. HSBC is now looking at how blockchain can help global clients improve forex trades.

Source: Reuters

blockchain developer

The annual salary for a blockchain developer has risen over the last six months, despite the ongoing bear market and crypto layoffs.

According to a new report by Janco Associates, blockchain developers command an extra $4,000 per year compared to six months ago. The average annual salary for a blockchain developer is now $132,000, although some experienced individuals earn as much as $176,000.

“CIOs do not want to lose the talent they have on board. As a result, they have increased compensation for those positions,” Victor Janulaitis, CEO of Janco Associates, explained to Computer World.

Blockchain developers are now among the highest paid IT professionals, period.

However, the pay rise isn’t just isolated to developers. Most blockchain-related jobs are experiencing a rise in salary demand. After the bitcoin price fell more than 70% in 2018, keeping talented individuals in the space requires a larger compensation package.

The news comes as many blockchain startups announce layoffs and restructures. As Block Explorer recently reported, high-profile companies like Bitmain, ShapeShift and ConsenSys have cut staff in recent months.

Perhaps startups are focusing on the core tech rather than ancillary services as the crypto winter takes hold.

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