The Altair upgrade to Ethereum’s Beacon Chain is scheduled for Wednesday, 27 October 2021.
Altair, Ethereum’s upgrade to PoS
The Beacon Chain is none other than the new ETH 2.0 test blockchain that uses Proof-of-Stake instead of Proof-of-Work, and will in the future encompass the current Proof-of-Work based blockchain.
Altair may be the only update to the Beacon Chain before Ethereum finally switches to the new PoS-based blockchain.
Beacon Chain was launched almost a year ago now, in December 2020, and introduced staking to the Ethereum ecosystem. It is also already compatible with future “shard chains” that will enable faster and cheaper transactions. The transition to Ethereum 2.0, with the current blockchain becoming a Beacon Chain shard, is expected to take place next year.
After that transition, those who have staked their ETH on the new blockchain will finally be able to withdraw them, because until then they are locked.
The changes with Altair
The Altair upgrade to the new blockchain is meant to give developers a way to create lightweight clients for block and transaction validation that are less cumbersome than full node software and don’t need to constantly synchronize with the entire blockchain.
It also increases penalties to the ultimate level. Beacon Chain stakers will have to keep their nodes online and up to date with the latest software, because if they do not, they may receive penalties. At launch, these penalties were reduced to be more lenient on the early stakers, but now it’s time to get serious about taking away some of their ETH from those who don’t do a proper job of validating transactions.
Finally, Altair will ensure that the network can be upgraded to Beacon Chain in the future without any problems.
A necessary but not drastic upgrade
For now, it seems that only half of the Beacon Chain’s nodes have already been updated to the latest version, but with the introduction of Altair, developers expect a surge this week.
There have been problems with attacks on the old blockchain in the past due to outdated node versions, so with PoS it was decided to introduce penalties for those who do not keep their node up to date.
Altair is therefore not a particularly drastic update, and will not affect regular Ethereum users, but will pave the way for the transition to version 2.0.