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In 2013, Vitalik Buterin published the whitepaper that conceptualized “A Next-Generation Smart Contract and Decentralized Application Platform” – Ethereum. Initially launched with a proof-of-work (PoW) consensus algorithm in 2015, the vision has always been for Ethereum to become an energy-efficient proof-of-stake (PoS) network. For the first few years, the Ethereum community labored intensely to develop a PoS consensus mechanism that has the desired security and efficiency; going through ideas such as “Slasher” and “consensus by bet” until eventually settling on “Casper the Friendly Finality Gadget” in 2017. At that point, focus switched to the transition – how does a community upgrade the heart of a decentralized network while said heart is still beating?

The solution: The beacon chain. The beacon chain is a fully independent network which has a PoS consensus layer. It is running in parallel to the current Ethereum mainnet, where the consensus layer currently remains PoW. By keeping the PoS chain isolated from the main network a ready-to-ship solution is being perfected without risking the flourishing decentralized application platform of the Ethereum PoW chain. A one-way bridge from the PoW network to the PoS network began accepting deposits (as of November 2020) and the beacon chain is currently live, ready for action and secured by millions of ETH deposited across over 100K validators. Since its launch in December 2020 the beacon chain has been an absolute success — finalizing 100% of its epochs with no downtime.

While the beacon chain provides an elegant solution to transitioning the Ethereum consensus algorithm, the Ethereum network will not live split in two forever. To fully realize the transition to PoS, Ethereum’s history on the PoW network will be preserved as the PoS consensus layer is merged in as a replacement for PoW. This will be done through what is known as “The Merge”. Once completed, the PoW consensus layer in Ethereum will be removed and consensus on all future blocks on the Ethereum blockchain will be achieved by the new PoS consensus layer. None of the transactions done on the Ethereum network will be lost in this transition – “The Merge” will have no effect on the data layer of the Ethereum network. “The Merge” is not the launch of a new Ethereum version, but rather an exciting upgrade to the consensus layer – bringing Ethereum in line with the original vision laid out at its genesis

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Franco Breciano

I write about Startups, Company Culture, Tech Product Design, Web3, Health & Habits

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