About a couple of weeks ago, Vitalik Buterin proposed raising Ethereum’s GAS Limit to cope with excessive network congestion. After some tests last week, during the last 36 hours the miners have adapted to the new GAS Limit, which has been raised by 25%, from the previous eight million to the current ten million.
With this increase in Ethereum’s GAS Limit, the ETH network will be able to process about 25% more transactions, since it is precisely this parameter that regulates the number of transactions that can be executed for each block of the ETH blockchain.
In recent days, in fact, there was a record value in the use of Ethereum’s GAS, which had repeatedly touched and exceeded the threshold of 50 billion units of GAS used to pay network fees.
The very use of GAS, immediately after raising the limit to 10 million has undergone a rapid surge, which has touched a new record, equal to 60 billion units of GAS used to pay transactions, smart contract operations or transfers of ERC20 tokens and more.
Ethereum raises the GAS Limit: Are blocks growing in size?
One of the side effects of the increase in the GAS Limit of Ethereum is certainly the increase in the size of the blocks on the ETH blockchain, which in order to contain more transactions will, therefore, have to increase its size, of up to 25% more.
At the moment this increase in block size has been rather modest and in fact, when looking at the chart, the trend has remained rather flat in the last few days, with some rare peaks during yesterday.
In any case, the increase in the size of the blocks of the blockchain involves, albeit in a slight and variable way depending on the load on the network, an increase in the time needed for the propagation of new blocks mined, thus increasing the risk of the occurrence of orphan blocks.
During these first hours of activity after the Ethereum GAS Limit was raised, the orphan block rate has remained unchanged for now, close to the classic average value for the ETH blockchain, a sign that for now the network is not affected by the increase in block size.
It will be necessary to assess the impact in the medium to long term, but since the upcoming Istanbul fork planned between October and November will further improve the management of the GAS limit and the scalability of Ethereum, the risk of affecting the stability and security of the network will be minimal.
In any case, the increase in the block size of any blockchain, in addition to the problem related to the propagation of blocks, limits, albeit partially, the decentralisation of the network, since increasingly powerful devices with more memory are needed to store, manage and process transactions on the distributed ledger.
Ethereum’s auto-scalability comes into play
One of Ethereum’s most underestimated strengths is certainly the possibility of varying some of the protocol’s limits simply by reaching consensus between the various parties, all without resorting to any forks.
One of these constraints is definitely the GAS Limit of Ethereum, which, in comparison to other blockchains, can be seen as the maximum block size of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. While BTC required a fork, thus creating Bitcoin Cash (BCH), to obtain a blocksize greater than the 1MB limit per block, on Ethereum it was enough to simply make the miners vote for the increase of the GAS Limit.
ETH miners can vote to increase the GAS Limit by 1/1024 for each block mined, thus allowing the network to automatically scale the block size in order to process more or fewer transactions.
By increasing the block size, miners can include more transactions, and thus receive a better reward due to the higher number of redeemed fees. However, an excessive increase in the GAS Limit can cause an increase in block propagation problems, which can cause a reduction or even loss of revenue for the miners due to orphan blocks and reorg.
For this reason, therefore, the ETH network is able to partially scale autonomously without forks, provided that the consensus between the miners is reached.