What is the Significance of the Latest ETH Altair Upgrade?

October 26, 2021, 10:30 AM AEST - 1 month ago

On October 27, Ethereum developers will release another crucial update to the mainnet known as “Altair”, precisely at epoch 74,240. The London Hardfork upgrade in August introduced some changes to the current Ethereum network, most notably the restructuring of transaction fees. However, the Altair upgrade targets the Ethereum 2.0 Beacon chain and will ready the network for the long-awaited merge. 

What Difference Does Altair Make?

Danny Ryan, lead coordinator for the Ethereum 2.0 rollout, revealed the Altair upgrade would introduce a lot of changes for the Beacon chain, one of which includes light client support. This will enable low-capacity devices to participate in the chain.

Altair is an upgrade to the beacon chain that brings light client support, minor patches to incentives, per-validator inactivity leak accounting, an increase in slashing severity, and cleanups to validator rewards accounting for simplified state management.

Danny Ryan, lead coordinator, Ethereum 2.0 rollout

Ultimately, Altair is considered the warm-up upgrade for the Beacon chain and the clients towards the high-stakes merge – the unification of the current Ethereum application layer with the proof-of-stake Beacon chain. This might be the first and only upgrade to the Ethereum Beacon chain before the final transition to Ethereum 2.0, according to Pooja Ranjan, herder-in-chief at Ethereum Cat Herders. 

Although the Beacon chain was launched last year, its functionality is still limited to the deposit contract for staking. With the network merge scheduled to happen in the next year or two, all decentralised applications, smart contracts and accounts will be migrated from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake chain, which is deemed more scalable and greener for the environment.

Funds Are Safe

The Altair upgrade should not constitute any loss of users’ funds, given it only applies to the Beacon chain. No action is required by Ethereum users regarding the upgrade. However, Beacon node clients are urged to update to the latest version of their software, which is compatible with the upcoming upgrade. This process should take about eight to 10 minutes to complete, according to Ryan.

Failure to update before the Altair upgrade gets clients stuck on an incompatible chain following the old rules, which can result in downtime penalties.

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