Let’s take a peek into the vast history of the 8-year-old blockchain that’s here to revolutionize Web3 globally.
Everyone in the web3 space knows this name. Being introduced to the Bitcoin protocol and the world of cryptocurrency at the age of 17 – the young chap was enthusiastic about how the technology unifies and curates a beautiful mixture of math, economics, philosophy, and technology.
Not to mention his fascination for computer programming, cryptography, and Bitcoin.
Meanwhile, a young Vitalik understood (even with an adolescent mind) that Bitcoin has more scope. The technology of the decentralized web, he believed, had more range to provide than just the decentralized finance that Bitcoin deals with.
Thus, the birth of Ethereum. A decentralized platform for all developers – has DAPPs, DeFi, and more!
The Genesis of Ethereum
It was back in 2013, 4 years after the launch of the world’s first decentralized blockchain – Bitcoin, he attended a Bitcoin conference in San Jose.
He knew he wasn’t the only one geeking about this fascinating new tech. There was an entire community looking forward to how Bitcoin would shape the new world.
Being 19, at the conference, he realized the potential that Bitcoin had. A question that came across his mind was, “Bitcoin is here but what’s next?”.
He later went on to pen his thoughts about an open, free, decentral webspace, and called it “Ethereum ”. He went on to publish the Ethereum Whitepaper in late 2013.
The History of Ethereum
Vitaliks’ brainchild, Ethereum has lived a long life – 8 years since its release it has also come a long way in the blockchain arena while gaining fame with unparalleled momentum.
While the blockchains’ whitepaper release was on 27th November 2013, Vitalik broke the news about the platform in the Bitcoin Forum on January 2014.
The release of Ethereums’ first blockchain – the Frontier Release, took place on 30th June 2015.
The Idea of Ethereum
Following the Bitcoin Conference in 2013, Vitalik understood the Pros and Cons that Bitcoin could face. Being aware that Bitcoin intended to serve one sole purpose, he felt the need to do something about it.o
Not to fix the world but to make blockchains and Web3 better.
The young lad then conceived an idea. A general-purpose blockchain that welcomes creativity and expands functionality. It’s as good as Vitalik is to Helga Hufflepuff and Ethereum is to the Yellow-Black Badger team; welcoming one and all to the Web3 arena.
Ethereum contains a supporting built-in cum native programming language known as Solidity. This language gets employed in creating all decentral applications and programs for deployment.
Consequently, this blockchain comes with a revolutionizing idea of Smart Contracts. Smart Contracts are pieces of Solidity code that carry information about how a set of transactions or sequences must occur.
Ethereum aims to function as a platform for many decentralized applications that can be free and transparent in the open virtual web space.
Moreover, DApps dealing with decentralized finance, gaming, AV streaming, community platforms, and much more have the potential to make the web a better, safer, distributed space for all individuals.
Especially for identities, profiles, money management, and data security.
The DAO Event
The 2016 DAO Event of Ethereum is an incident that broke apart the Ethereum fraternity for better or for worse. Let’s find out what exactly happened that changed Ethereum so much.
DAOs are Decentralized Autonomous Organizations that govern some of the functions and activities occurring on-chain.
Although DAOs in Ethereum member-owned communities without central authorities, the organization made an arena to collect funds for a specific cause had scammed everyone who pooled in their ETH (Ether, the currency of Ethereum).
What started as a means of communication with strangers who’d fundraise turned tables when almost $150 million worth of ETH was amiss from the blockchains’ ledger. It became a massive crowdfunding event in the crypto space.
This event later led to questioning Ethereums’ security and understanding why Ethereum had a window to let the attack occur in the first place.
Sequentially, Ethereum went on to fix the broken code that got exploited. In addition, the fixing of Ethereums’ blockchain code accompanied certain amends. Two steps made by Ethereum to right the wrong were: 1 – removing the funds from the hackers’ account and 2 – returning the funds to the rightful owners.
Further, Ethereum also delisted all of its tokens from all the DEXs.
The Forking & ETC
A fork usually occurs when a path breaks into two.
Well, for Ethereum, The Forking was an event when the main Ethereum Blockchain broke into two different blockchains altogether.
As a result of the DAO attack, the Ethereum organization came to a reparation. A soft fork that could stop all the stolen funds from depletion.
However, due to a bug in the implementation code, the soft fork never took place.
Consequently, the hard fork took place. The Hard Fork features the return of all the stolen Ether through a Smart Contract. The crafting of the new contract was such that only withdrawals and refund requests could make up for the lost Ether.
Further, this broke the fraternity in two – one advocating the victims of the attack leading to another, more secure blockchain network and another side suggesting the ‘fork’ meant a shift to a chain with censorship. They believed things that happened on the chain shouldn’t have a huge impact despite a negative outcome.
Therefore, the implementation of the hard fork took place on 20th July 2016, a month after the attack. The hard fork upgradation is known as DAO Fork.
The new and secure form of the chain is even today famously known as Ethereum. The older chain that continues to exist without the upgrades is known as the Ethereum Classic.
Finally, Ethereum breaks into the Ethereum Classic chain and the Ethereum Mainnet chain.
Ethereum Classic has its token, the Ethereum Classic token (ETC). The chain shares a common database with the Ethereum network up to the 1920000th block.
Furthermore, the hard forking of Ethereum showcased that hard forks are possible and DAOs, although a great idea and a necessity, must be implemented properly.
The DoS Attack on Ethereum & Ethereum Classic
The DoS attack, often known as the Denial of Service attack, occurs as an attempt to make computers (and resources alike) unavailable for work. If and when an attack comes from several computers, one calls it a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.
A DDoS occurs when a lot of data traffic accumulates one way, and a system slows down with too much to process in a short amount of time. These attacks can be intentional, unintentional, or governmental. Was the attack on Ethereum & Ethereum Classic intentional or unintentional? Let’s figure it out!
The attack on Ethereum space started in September 2016. A time when the developers were in Shanghai for a conference. Hackers, potentially miners, found vulnerabilities and exploited them ruthlessly. It was intentionally exploited.
The attacker (or attackers) had sent in many transactions to clog the network. Clogging the network further degrades the systems for anyone at any time!
Moreover, the attacks kept repeating over and over, so frequently that Ethereum Classic ended up being attacked similarly. That’s not sad, it’s scary how the decentral web is prone to attacks one after the other! Well, what did Ethereum do to fix the issue? It had the Tangerine Whistle upgrade!
The Journey of Ethereum
27 Nov 2013, Release of Whitepaper
The whitepaper is the introductory document authored by Vitalik himself. The document previews Bitcoin and the Peer-to-Peer Network introduced for an electronic cash system flow by Satoshi Nakamoto.
Vitalik explains ‘Bitcoin As A State Transition System’, the concept of Mining, Merkle Trees, Alternative Blockchain Applications, and Scripting in the Bitcoin Blockchain.
He further goes on to explain his idea: Ethereum. What Ethereum accounts are, the features (nonce, ether balance, contact code, & storage). He elaborates on messages and transactions, Ethereum State Transition Function, the code execution in the blockchain, and the mining process.
In addition, young Buterin also provides a sea of applications and possibilities and describes the potential of the general-purpose blockchain. Some of the applications include:
- Token Systems
- Financial derivatives
- Stable-Value Currencies
- Identity and Reputation Systems
- Decentralized File Storage
- Decentralized Autonomous Organizations
Towards the end, he also pens some appendix data about fees, computation, scalability, etc. HIs concludes the paper by stating how Ethereum is an advanced and evolved version of the cryptocurrency, that provides financial functionalities.
As a summary of the document goes, he reminds us that the development and deployment of DApps are possible due to Smart Contracts. Protocols present within the system aid in file storage, decentralized computation, open-transparent market predictions, and more.
Finally, we leave the white paper believing that Ethereum is a platform for developers made with an easy way to introduce multiple financial and non-financial programs for decades to come.
01st April 2014, The Yellow Paper Release
The Yellow Paper is an official document by Dr. Gavin Wood, one of the five co-founders of Ethereum. It’s a nutshell version with the most recent updates and a detailed account of what and how the Ethereum network works.
The formal definition of Ethereum lies within the words of the computer scientist.
22nd July-02nd Sept 2014, The Ether Sale
Ether, the native cryptocurrency of Ethereum, went on sale for 42 days. This window was an opportunity for miners and investors of Ethereum. One could buy an Ether token through Bitcoin (BTC).
The Upgrades of Ethereum
There are 23 upgrades to Ethereum in total that’s discussed below. Amongst the 23, 22 are already implemented and one is future plan.
Here is a small list of the 23 upgrades we explore in this blog:
- Frontier Thawing
- DAO Fork
- Tangerine Whistle
- Spurious Dragon
- Muir Glacier
- Staking Deposit Contract Deployed
- Beacon Chain Genesis
- Arrow Glacier
- Gray Glacier
- Bellatrix Upgrade
- Paris Upgrade
- Shanghai Upgrade
Frontier – 30th July 2015
The Frontier release is the premiere release of the blockchain that went live. Essentially, the Ether coins sale was before the blockchain was live. Now, people could choose their roles and run the decentralized chain.
Some developers work on creating DApps. While some miners and nodes maintain the blockchain – the verification of information present in blocks and adding them into it the chain preset in the network.
Moreover, having a small cohort ready to go post-deployment, the Frontier release followed a positive Olympic testing era. In this release, blocks had a gas limit of 5,000. This initial release proved useful to miners to start operations in the network without having to ‘rush’.
Frontier Thawing – 07th September 2015
The frontier thawing release lifted the limit of gas per block from 5,000 gas to a default price of 51 gwei. The change made transactions possible because transactions require 21,000 gas.
In addition to these changes, a ‘difficulty bomb’ enters the network to make the Proof-of-Stake hard fork easy!
Gas: A virtual fuel that Ethereum uses to keep running. Smart Contracts need to get deployed on the blockchain.
gwei: Short for gigawei, a denomination of Ether. 1 Ether = 10^9 wei.
difficulty bomb: A setting on the Proof-of-Work consensus protocol. The difficulty bomb made sure that the transition to the Proof-of-Stake method occurred smoothly.
Consequently, the difficulty bomb was disarmed during the transition to the Proof-of-Stake upgrade.
Understand the Proof-of-Stake protocol with this cool introductory video!
Homestead – 14th March 2016
This fork took us to a preview of the future Ethereum has planned. It inculcates a networking change apart from several protocol changes.
Furthermore, it brought edits to the contract creation procedure, added a new opcode: DELEGATECALL, and introduced devp2p forward compatibility requirements.
All these additions, edits, and changes only led to a better Ethereum that is always ready for an upgrade!
DAO Fork – 20th July 2016
As mentioned above, the DAO fork was a consequential result of the DAO attack that took place. With almost more than 3M ETH gone in a hack, Ethereum took it upon itself to have a stinger firewall resistant to such situations and hacks.
The fork moved the Ethereums’ chain from a standard contract to a new contract and had only one functionality. To Withdraw.
This upgrade was for those who lost funds in the DAO attack. They could withdraw 1 ETH for every 100 DAO tokens stolen from them.
Those who refused the fork strongly believed there was no fault with the protocol and that the forking was unnecessary. This led to the creation of Ethereum Classic.
Tangerine Whistle – 18th October 2016
This upgrade, as already stated, was a remedy for the DDoS attacks that took place in September 2016.
But, the upgrade solely focused to repair the network health that affected the underpriced operations.
Consequently, it managed to do so by increasing the gas costs of opcodes that got utilized in spam attacks.
Furthermore, it reduces state size by subtracting a huge amount of empty accounts that were present since the earlier stages of the Ethereum Protocol.
Spurious Dragon – 22nd November 2016
After the Tangerine Whistle, which only took care of the network temporarily, this fork was a reparation process that ensures the firewalls were better by adding replay attack protection.
The upgrade has major features, some of which are:
- Preventing further future attacks on the network by tuning opcode pricing
- Enabling the “debloat” function on the blockchain.
Improvement protocols also include:
- Preventing transactions from one Ethereum chain from being announced on another (alternate) chain.
- Price adjustments to the EXP opcode. This makes life difficult for hackers who’d want to slow down the network through advanced contract operations.
- Allows the removal of empty accounts that got added via the DOS attacks.
- Edits to the max code size. The maximum became 24576 bytes for Smart Contracts.
Byzantium – 16th October 2017
The Byzantium fork is a sad fork. Why? Because the Byzantium upgrade brought in a change that reduced block mining rewards to 3ETH from 5ETH. Also, it delayed the difficulty bomb by 365 days!
The good news? It welcomes the ability to make non-stake-changing calls to other contracts and a cryptography method that eases the layer 2 scaling within Ethereum.
In addition, there are nine implementation protocols which are a lot more add-ons to the blockchain network. All of this is just to make Ethereum more scalable, stable, and secure in a decentral platform.
Constantinople – 28th February 2019
The Proof-of-Stake protocol is yet to come and Ethereum is getting ready for the same. Although the shift to the PoS consensus upgrade took place in 2022, Ethereum was preparing itself for a long time to ensure a smooth transition.
With that in mind, the Constantinople upgrade welcomed changes to the gas cost on the EVM.
Further, it also added a feature to interact with addresses that didn’t exist yet!
After all, the changes are brought in slowly to ensure the blockchain doesn’t freeze before the PoS implementation.
Know more about the upgrade from this video that explains it all!
Istanbul – 08th December 2019
Facing the end of almost five and a half years, Ethereum welcomes many protocols, additions, and upgrades.
Some of the major changes in the upgrade are:
- Optimized and lowered the gas fee for certain functions on the Ethereum Virtual Machine. (They optimized the prices of certain opcodes based on utilization.)
- Improved the DoS attack resilience.
- Enabled ZCash to interoperate with the Ether network.
- Smart Contracts can introduce different and new functions.
And most importantly, it came up with solutions for the Layer 2 scaling problems. The remedy was as simple as referring to STARKs and SNARKs to ensure data management and computational integrity on the mainnet chain occurs efficiently.
Muir Glacier – 02nd January 2020
The Muir Glacier upgrade faced a delay in introducing the difficulty bomb. Nonetheless, the block difficulty of the PoW consensus mechanism made the operability of Ethereum insecure. And so, the degradation couldn’t occur.
The increasing wait times and DApp-based transactions were the sole reason behind the difficulty of the PoW consensus layer.
So technically, it’s a version that procrastinated to continue with an actual upgrade due to some issues. Well, fret not. Ethereum solved them all to get ready for the release of the Beacon Chain (phase 0), the first phase of Ethereum 2.0!
Staking Deposit Contract Deployed – 14th October 2020
With the Beacon Chain genesis coming up for the upgradation of a sustainable, scalable, and secure blockchain. The Ethereum community was getting ready for Ethereum 2.0.
Thus, this contract introduced the Staking protocol to the Ethereum habitat. Although the Mainnet chain employed the contract, the implementation was for the genesis block of the Beacon Chain.
Understand the vision of Ethereum 2.0 with this detailed video:
Beacon Chain Genesis – 1st December 2020
Beacon Chain Block# 1
The Beacon chain, as the name suggests, the Beacon Chain is a beacon of hope. It’s a chain that takes the PoS consensus protocol for a trial. As the first release of the Ethereum 2.0s’ vision, the Beacon chain started chaining blocks on December 1st, 2020.
However, one must know that the Beacon chain prerequisites such as 16,384 deposits of 32 staked ETH to ship securely.
So, between the Staking Deposit Contract and the Beacon chain, the ETH got staked on 27th November 2020.
Berlin – 15th April 2021
So, the Ethereum Mainnet chain continues to grow and expand with a parallel Beacon chain running on the PoS consensus. The Berlin upgrade brings to us an optimized price on gas fees for certain EVM functions while increasing support for multiple transaction types.
A note to developers here, the upgrade brought a change in gas cost in two ways. One, it lowered the ModExp gas fee while the gas cost for the state access opcodes became higher.
London – 05th Aug 2021
The London Upgrade welcomes the 1559th Improvement Proposal. This led to a reformation of the transaction fee market as well as changes to how gas refunds are handled.
The upgrades’ prominent improvements are:
- Improvement in the transaction fee market
- Returning the BASEFEE from a block
- Decrease in gas refunds from the EVM
- Contracts with ‘0xEF’ do not get deployment status
- Halts the Ice Age until December 2021
What’s the Ice Age? It’s a hard fork that was supposed to take place at block# 200,000 but didn’t occur so far.
The necessity? The fork would introduce the difficulty bomb that makes working on the Ethereum Mainnet chain difficult. So hard, it would motivate a shift to the Proof-of-Stake model of working.
Altair – 27th October 2021
This upgrade is a special one because it’s the first upgrade the Beacon Chain experiences. Bringing in addition of “sync committees”, enables light clients’ activity and increased validator inactivity. Apart from these, it also slashes penalties as development moves toward The Merge.
🎉FUN FACT! The Altair Upgrade is the only upgrade that had a perfect rollout time for its release. All other upgrades and forks went live on a particular block number on the Proof-of-Work chain, where the block time varies.
Since the upgrade is specific to the Beacon Chain which runs on the PoS consensus layer, a block number is not necessary. Also, the Beacon chain works on a time-based epoch system consisting of 32 twelve-second ‘slots’ of time where validators can propose blocks.
So, having a complete understanding of how the system works, it was easy for the organization to calculate when the epoch would 74,240 reach the Beacon Chain for the release of the Altair Upgrade.
Arrow Glacier – 09th December 2021
The Arrow Glacier upgrade is again back with the sad news of a network update that pushes away the difficulty bomb until a tentative June 2022.
So, technically, it’s similar to the Muri Glacier, Byzantium, and the London upgrades!
But let’s not forget, although the Beacon chain is running parallelly with the Mainnet Chain, the difficulty bomb will deploy before the launch of the Merge.
Gray Glacier – 30th June 2022
As of the 30th of June 2022, Ethereum could not deploy the difficulty bomb. This meant only one thing.
The difficulty bomb got postponed. Again. 😕
Nonetheless, the new timeline was September 2022. And, on August 29th, @ethereum tweeted:
Bellatrix Upgrade – 06th September 2022
Well, six days into the 9th month, and as promised, the difficulty bomb exploded!
The Bellatrix upgrade is the first step toward the Merge. The 2nd phase that Ethereum looks forward to becoming Ethereum 2.0: a sustainable, secure, and scalable blockchain for all.
This upgrade to the Ethereum network comes with the TTD: Terminal Total Difficulty that sets a mining difficulty. A Mining level so difficult, it invites the Paris Upgrade in 9 days!
So far, the Beacon chain was merely a consensus layer with the Mainnet being the execution layer. The Bellatrix upgrade gets the entire Ethereum network ready for the execution layer’s transition from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake.
Paris Upgrade (The Merge) – 15th September 2022
The Merge of the two chains that ran Ethereum. The Merge of Ethereum 1.0 & Ethereum 2.0.
The Paris Upgrade is the shift of consensus from a PoW to a PoS system on the execution layer. This shift makes Ethereum more scalable and sustainable.
On the technical side of things, the upgrade was released right after block# 15537393 of the Mainnet chain. In addition, a new set of internal API techniques, known as the Engine API became active.
Ethereum believes that the Paris Upgrade has been one of the most significant upgrades in Ethereums’ history since the Homestead upgrade.
Vitalik expressed himself about the Merge on Twitter with the tweet below:
So, after 22 upgrades, what’s next? The Shanghai Upgrade.
Shanghai Upgrade – Mid 2023 – 24
The evolution doesn’t stop here for Ethereum. It’s here to bring a Web3 revolution to the world.
Now, ‘why is the Shanghai upgrade important or necessary?’ is a great question one may ask…
Simply because the Merge that came with the Paris upgrade was busy with the execution layer adopting the PoS consensus. Most of us oversaw the fact that it did not bring a way to withdraw the staked ETH.
Also, if you look closely into the plans of Ethereum 2.0, you’ll notice one small bit still amiss from the trinity.
Post the Beacon Chain and the Merge (which was supposed to come after Sharding), the last post-Merge clean-up and Sharding are remaining.
And that’s why the Shanghai upgrade is necessary for the Ethereum ecosystem. To clean up the mess after the transition and merge between Eth 1.0 & Eth 2.0.
P.S. Sharding is when the Ethereum chain breaks into 64 chains running parallel and synchronously. But imagine having to pull 64 execution layers of the shard chains into the PoS mode. That’s pretty difficult, and thus the Merge before the Shards!
Reaching towards the end of the post, here’s a meme for you to enjoy!
Synopsis & Conclusion
In Synopsis, Ethereum has come a long way since its conception during a Bitocin Convention inside Vitalik’s head. 8 years and counting, Ethereum has seen attacks such as The DAO attack, followed by the DDoS attack. And upgrades, not one, not two, but twenty-three of them in 8 years!
Ethereum has seen applications on Web3 being possible due to its presence.
Something commendable is that Ethereum has been forged through so many upgrades, constantly becoming something better than a one-time release.
In conclusion, having understood that Ethereum is here to power a community, we only conclude that Ethereum is here to dominate the world of Web3 with its many more upgrades.
The journey goes on…
So, Ethereum has managed to upgrade itself 23 times within eight years! When was the last time you upgraded yourself? Learned a new skill or a language? Comment down below!