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Ethereum 2.0: Altair update succeeds with 99% of the nodes on board

The first Ethereum 2.0 update  since the network was activated in December 2020 has been carried out successfully this week.

As reported by several top Ethereum developers on Twitter, the Altair update was successfully activated on Wednesday. This is the first update to the Beacon Chain, the name given to the Ethereum 2.0 proof-of-stake (PoS) chain , since its launch in December last year.

ETH 2.0 developers Preston Vanloon and Raul Jordan took to their personal Twitter accounts to inform the community that the update had been successfully completed.

Altair marks a significant step in Ethereum’s transition process from a proof-of-work (PoW) consensus mechanism to one of PoS; and this may be the last update before the Ethereum mainnet merge and its switch to PoS.

What changes does Altair bring?

As such, the update aims to provide the Beacon Chain with “lightweight customer support, minor patches for incentives, accounting for idle leaks by validator”; as well as increasing “the severity of the reduction and clean-ups for the accounting of validator rewards for a simplified administration of the state“.

Paul Hauner is the lead developer and code reviewer for Altair on Lighthouse, an ETH 2.0 implementation, explaining to Cointelegraph that the update introduces two main changes.

“First, it added support for thin clients, which are low-resource, downstream nodes with fewer features and slightly weaker security assumptions. Think of a lightweight node on your phone or in your browser,” Hauner detailed. “Second, it increased the penalties [for validators] for being offline and for stealing. These penalties were set low since genesis, so we don’t penalize users who were just learning things. The merger will further increase these penalties”.

99% of nodes updated

Because the Altair update came as a hard fork, all validators on the network had to update to stay offline. That is, anyone operating a Beacon node or a validator must update the client version to the new standard or they risk getting caught in an incompatible chain.

Fortunately, it seems that most of the validators have updated successfully. According to data from the Beacon Chain, there are currently approximately 248,553 active validators and just under 2,000 inactive validators.

Vanloon had reported yesterday in a tweet that the share initially dropped to 93.3% during the first epoch after the update. However, that figure quickly rose to around 95% and has since risen to around 98.7%. In this regard, Hauner assured Cointelegraph that currently almost all validators are on board.

It seems we have pretty much all validators online and running Altair now. It’s hard to know about these privacy-preserving systems, but I’d say we don’t have more than 1% –2% still offline.

Validators that are not updated will not be able to participate in the new consensus mechanism and will also face the risk of being removed and paying penalties. “The protocol sees no difference between a validator that was not updated and one that is temporarily offline due to a network or power problem. Those that didn’t get updated just need to update and then reboot their nodes. They will start validating again once their node reaches the Altair chain,” Hauner explained.

It should be noted that this update does not affect Ethereum proof-of-work network users and miners.

One step closer to the transition to PoS

The successful upgrade represents an important step on the Ethereum project path and means that everything is going smoothly for the transition to PoS. The final Ethereum 2.0 update , which will completely bypass the proof-of-work mechanism, is expected to take place in February 2022.

Developer Ben Edgington outlined the importance of Altair in a blog post earlier this month. He explained that, representing the only Beacon Chain update before the merger, ensuring the 2022 schedule depended on the success of this step.

The Altair update will provide us with valuable experience to ensure that The Merge [fusion] runs smoothly when it is ready for deployment in 2022.

Beacon Chain is the first stage of Ethereum’s new PoS blockchain, which will be merged with the current mainnet as part of the Ethereum 2.0 implementation . The PoS mechanism is more efficient in terms of energy expenditure as it relies on validators rather than miners. Currently Ethereum is still based on a PoW mechanism, a method that Bitcoin also uses.

The price of ETH has risen slightly after the last update and amid a general uptrend in the market. In the last 24 hours, Ether registered an increase of 4.4%; it is trading around $4,195 at press time.

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