Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin released a plan on Monday for the first hard fork of the new Ethereum 2.0 Beacon Chain, tentatively named HF1.
The tough fork would allow developers to introduce several key upgrades to the recently launched Beacon Chain that would also serve as a useful test of profound changes in the future.
The biggest practical change is support for light clients – nodes that have minimal resource requirements and can run on mobile devices. This would enable “low-trust wallets” that can check the blockchain themselves instead of relying on external service providers.
Support for light clients is introduced through special “sync committees,” groups of validators assigned at random to create special signatures that help identify the correct version of the chain.
Other improvements include fixes to fork selection rules where developers identified multiple instances of the log as potentially vulnerable to reorganization attacks. The problems are subtle and require precise timing. However, they could have allowed malicious actors to exploit the network while controlling a small fraction of the auditors. These weaknesses were known before launch but were discovered too late to be addressed in time, wrote Buterin.
In terms of practical changes, the hard fork aims to revise the way the cut and inactivity leak mechanics work. Right now, stakers on Eth2 may lose some of their capital either because they’re inactive or trying to support a minority fork in the chain that’s being punished with bat.
Inactivity leaks were sometimes seen as a deterrent to unplugging your home as they were penalized for force majeure issues like an inconsistent internet connection or power outages. While the system has been set up very leniently, the team is now further tweaking the mechanism to make life easier for stakers with unstable connections. The leak is adjusted to the square, which means that there is a significant difference between intermittent and continuous inactivity. For example, a staker who had a few minutes of downtime totaling an hour would lose ten times less than another staker who simply unplugged their machine for an uninterrupted hour.
Inactivity leaks also stop gradually rather than instantly, ensuring that offline nodes depreciate until the network is well above the security threshold.
While some of the changes make the system more lenient for honest mistakes, the team changes some parameters to introduce more severe fines for bad behavior. This aims to “weaken” the system’s support wheels.
It is unclear when the hard fork will run, with some details of the proposal still to be developed and reviewed. In the meantime, the Ethereum developers are trying to come up with a naming convention for HF1 and future hardforks. Topics suggested so far include names of stars, planetary systems, World of Warcraft zones, and months of the year, among others.