Parity, the second-largest provider of ethereum protocol software, has announced its final Byzantium release.
Coming just days before ethereum is to undergo a hard fork to upgrade its underlying blockchain, Parity’s release is the latest in four, all of which were found to contain “consensus bugs” – or faults in the software that would force network nodes, the computers underlying the blockchain, to split onto a different version of the protocol.
With Parity responsible for maintaining the software that runs nearly a quarter of the nodes on the ethereum blockchain, the delay in releasing code caused panic for some, and even led ethereum’s developer team to consider delaying the fork earlier today.
Still, it looks as though the Parity team has rescued the situation with little time to spare – the so-called Bzyandtium hard fork is scheduled for block 4,300,000 (about two days from now according to current metrics).
‘Push it back’
Still, while the planned hard fork is generally perceived as beneficial for the network, the ongoing bugs have damaged some people’s confidence in the coming change.
Voicing this concern on social media, one user said: “The Silicon Valley philosophy of ‘fail fast’ is not suited, in my opinion, to permissionless blockchains where millions of dollars are at stake.”
Other users urged ethereum to delay the hard fork, stating:
“Push it back, make sure there are no errors guys. This is worth it. Don’t rush.”
Responding to this request, Parity developer Afri Schoedon said that although the client’s team considered proposing a delay, it would be more complicated due to the work that’s already been done in an attempt to execute it.
For example, to move the Byzantium hard fork to a later date, all software clients would have to issue augmented releases containing a new hard fork number.
“Pushing a fix for one client implementation is easier than pushing an update containing the delay for all clients, especially if this happens on such a short notice.”
Going forward, Schoedon framed the last-minute panic as a good lesson for the ethereum platform, arguing it’s safer to implement a hard fork block number only after the client implementations have been prepared and properly tested.
Testing the code
All ethereum releases are subject to a test process called “fuzzing,” which involves clashing code against itself until a fault shows up. It’s a thorough process, one that manages to reveal tiny exploits that wouldn’t be obvious otherwise.
With this in mind, it’s possible that Parity could continue to demonstrate similar problems going forward that will carry directly into the Byzantium blockchain.
And while the bugs are hard to spot, it’s not unimaginable they could be identified by malicious agents bent on attacking the chain (ethereum isn’t without its enemies).
This is evidenced by the ongoing attacks on the ethereum test network Ropsten, where for no material profit, a lone attacker consistently spammed the platform in the run up to the hard fork, causing developers to move to a private testnet.
With all this in mind, it’s highly unlikely that Parity could carry these problems into the Byzantium hard fork. According to the startup, an announcement is forthcoming that will include more details about testing and features.