Recently it was officially announced that Ethereum was ready to go through one of the next planned hard forks. Let’s look at this event in more detail.

What is a hard fork?

A hard fork signifies a radical change to a network’s protocol. This action requires all participants of the network to upgrade to the latest level. A hard fork can be started by developers or the community. In the case of Ethereum, the initiative is coming from within the platform. The way Ethereum was designed considers that it has to overcome several stages before it gets to a final position.

Ethereum has gone through a number of hard forks. Each of them made a contribution to the network’s development. Every time a different amount of changes is implemented. All the planned upgrades are announced beforehand in the Ethereum blog. Let’s take a closer look at the upcoming event!

‘Berlin’ hard fork

The upcoming hard fork has another famous city name. ‘Berlin’ hard fork takes us one step closer to ETH 2.0.  It follows ‘Istanbul’ (December 2019) and ‘Muir Glacier’ (January 2020) updates. The Berlin update will be implemented in the main net in mid-April, around April 14th, 2021. It is important to remember that the exact time may change due to the block time variability.

Originally it was expected later, in June or July 2021. ‘Berlin’ has been working on the last test network Ropsten since March 10, 2021. 

Unlike the previous ‘Istanbul’ upgrade, which brought only one change, Ethereum Berlin hard fork will implement quite a few changes:

  • Modular exponentiation (ModExp) gas costs. This will allow RSA signature verification and a number of other cryptographic solutions.
  • An algorithm for calculating the gas costs is specified. Gas costs will increase for SLOAD, *CALL, BALANCE, EXT* and SELFDESTRUCT for the first time. For the following transactions, it will be significantly lower. This decision is meant to make the network more resilient to DoS attacks  
  • Implementing a new transaction type that will allow support for multiple transactions.
  • Addition of an optional access list. This will be a list of addresses and storage keys that a transaction will access. Adding this list will make transactions easier to process and gas costs will be reduced.

What should users do?

Node operators are advised to upgrade their client versions at least seven days before the date. Developers also remind that it is crucial for them to receive customers’ feedback. It helps to improve faster and more effectively.

Ethereum ‘Berlin’ hard fork is going to introduce a lot of changes that will make the network safer, faster, and cheaper. It also takes us a little closer to the new Ethereum. However, it is not the last hard fork we are about to witness. The next update named ‘London’ is expected in July 2021.