Generally, a blockchain fork is the point where a particular blockchain diverges into one of two potential paths forward. This particular fork though is part of an update to Ethereum.
Any software needs constant updates to fix issues or increase performance. In the world of crypto, those updates are done through forks.
Since cryptocurrencies are effectively decentralized networks, all participants in the network — known as nodes — need to follow the same rules in order to work together properly. That set of rules is known as a “protocol.”
A hard fork involves some sort of update or change to the protocol.
The Istanbul hard fork is a planned upgrade/change to the Ethereum blockchain.
It is the 8th Ethereum hard fork, and is one of the many hard forks of Ethereum 1.x that will take place before Serenity (ETH 2.0), Ethereum’s transition from its current proof of work consensus mechanism towards a proof of stake consensus.
What’s involved in Istanbul?
Istanbul brings upgrades that will:
EIP-152: Adds Blake2 compression function F precompile. This EIP will enable the BLAKE2b hash function and other higher-round 64-bit BLAKE2 variants to run cheaply on the EVM, allowing easier interoperability between Ethereum and Zcash as well as other Equihash-based PoW coins.
EIP-1108: Reduce alt_bn128 precompile gas costs because elliptic curve arithmetic precompiles are currently overpriced. Re-pricing the precompiles would greatly assist a number of privacy solutions and scaling solutions on Ethereum.
EIP-1344: Currently, there is no specification for how chain ID is set for a particular network and instead relies on choices made manually by the client implementers and the chain community. This EIP proposes to use the chain ID to prevent replay attacks between different chains and it would be beneficial to have the same possibility inside smart contracts when handling signatures, especially in regards to Layer 2 signature schemes.
EIP-1884: The rapid growth of the Ethereum state has caused certain opcodes to be more resource-intensive than they were previously. Therefore, this EIP reprices certain opcodes, to obtain a good balance between gas expenditure and resource consumption.
EIP-2028: Calling on-chain data requires paying gas on the Ethereum network. Part of the EIP will reduce the gas cost from its current value of 68 gas per byte to 16 gas per byte which will help increase the bandwidth as more data can fit into a single block.
EIP-2200: Provides a structured definition of net gas metering changes for SSTORE opcode, enabling new usages for contract storage, and reducing excessive gas costs where it doesn’t match how most implementation works.
There are a list of scheduled Ethereum hard forks after Istanbul as part of ETH 1.x, which is the comprehensive set of upgrades to the Ethereum mainnet intended for near-term adoption. More information about Ethereum 1.x and the team behind its continued improvements and upgrades can be found here: https://docs.ethhub.io/ethereum-roadmap/ethereum-1.x/
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Ethereum Istanbul Hard Fork Countdown Clock: https://etherscan.io/block/countdown/9069000
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