Ethereum’s (ETH) very first mainnet shadow fork has gone live (as of April 11, 2022).
This, as the developers of the second-largest digital currency by market capitalization continue the gradual transition to a proof-of-stake or PoS (blockchain) consensus model.
The shadow fork is a way to stress test the assumptions around syncing and state growth, according to Parithosh Jayanthi, an Ethereum Foundation developer. Jayanthi pointed out that it should also offer a way to check if the assumptions “work on existing testnets and/or mainnet.”
Ethereum has been working on a multi-stage transition to a PoS consensus mechanism that will aim to replace the proof-of-work (PoW) algorithm. In the PoS model, transactions are to be validated by computing nodes that are run by “stakers” and not miners. The switch in the consensus mechanism may considerably reduce the overall energy needed for the DLT network to operate, which is a significant point of contention for the Bitcoin (BTC) network, which runs on the PoW model.
The shadow fork will be sharing some of the data with the main ETH network, so some transfers may show up on both chains, Jayanthi noted. The shadow fork has cleared 1,166,016 transfers with an average block time of around 14.8 seconds (as of April 11, 2022).
This, according to a block explorer page that had been shared by the blockchain developer Marius Van Der Wijden.
The overall outcome of the shadow fork is vital to determining the timing of the final merge, according to Ethereum dev Tim Beiko (according to Galaxy Digital Research Associate Christine Kim).
Van Der Wijden, an Ethereum Foundation dev who came up with the shadow fork, and Jayanthi say that the shadow fork is a historical event. The Ethereum Foundation has attempted shadow forks of the Görli testnet, a proof-of-authority blockchain that’s used for testing the performance of decentralized applications (dApps).
Last month, another major milestone was reached with Kiln testnet merge, when a proof-of-work execution layer had merged with a PoS Beacon Chain. This had reportedly been scheduled as the final merge testnet prior to the final move to PoS.
As noted by Jayanthi, the Kiln merge testnet was specifically designed “to allow the community to practice running their nodes, deploying contracts, testing infrastructure, etc.” The shadow fork has gone a step further to stress test the blockchain network, he revealed.
After the recent shadow fork went live, the development team had found certain issues with Ethereum-powered software systems provider Nethermind and Hyperledger Besu, a Java-powered open-source Ethereum client.
The overall percentage of (transaction) validators performing their tasks, also referred to as the participation rate in the network, declined. However, the network remained above (as of Aprol 11) the mining requirement for finality, Jayanthi confirmed.