Polygon, the Ethereum sidechain, hard forkd the network on January 17, 2023, resulting in a new Polygon blockchain. The hard fork aimed to fix some serious problems with the old channel. Before we get to the main problems that Polygon has been trying to solve, we will explain what a hard fork is so that you can better understand how the upgrade affects the Polygon blockchain.
What is a hard fork?
A fork is a change in the blockchain protocol due to an update of the blockchain or a change in its rules. Forks can also be seen in the creation of a new cryptocurrency based on an old cryptocurrency, with the ability to change and modify the way the blockchain works. Since cryptocurrencies are free software, the code can be copied, modified or reused.
A hard fork is achieved as a permanent departure from the previous version of a blockchain, meaning that nodes running the previous version will no longer be accepted by the new version. Nodes and miners on the old network will have to upgrade their systems to participate in the new chain.
For a hard fork to take place, channel users must vote to choose between the current version and the network update. Therefore, the update can only happen if the majority of validators on the blockchain agree.
Why did Polygon hard fork?
There are two main reasons behind the Polygon hard fork.
1. Reduce the time it takes to complete a block.
Reducing the time it takes to exploit a block aims to reduce the risk of reorganization (reorg).
A reorganization is a situation where a block is removed from a blockchain due to the introduction of a longer chain. This happens when two miners work simultaneously to add transaction blocks of similar difficulty to the blockchain, thus deviating from the main version of the chain. The miner adding the next block must choose which side of the fork is correct. When one is chosen, the other is overwritten. The miner who mined the deleted block will not be rewarded for that block which has a negative effect on the blockchain.
The Polygon hard fork is expected to reduce the time it takes to complete a block transaction and validate successful transactions.
Reducing the length of the sprint (the number of blocks a validator can produce consecutively) means they will be created in a shorter period. In the case of the Polygon, reducing the sprint length from 64 blocks to 16 blocks means that a block maker will take about 32 seconds instead of 128 seconds, reducing the chances for rearrangements. Therefore, it will reduce the chances of secondary validators stepping in to produce blocks.
Based on the above, we propose reducing the sprint length from 64 to 16 blocks. This means that a block producer is continuously producing blocks for a much shorter duration than the current 128 seconds. This will go a long way in reducing the frequency and depth of reorganizations. This does not affect the total time/number of blocks a validator produces in any given period and therefore there will be no change in block rewards.
2. Slow down the steady rise in gas prices
The update will also reduce gas spikes by changing the BaseFeeChangeDenominator from 8 to 16. Changing the BaseFeeChangeDenominator value to 16 should smooth out the base rate change rate. This will reduce the rate of wild swings during times of high demand which will improve the user experience of Polygon.
Is Polygon really decentralized?
While the hard fork is being hailed as a step forward that should improve Polygon’s efficiency, many have questioned whether a decentralized financial system is truly decentralized, as only 15 validators participated in the decision-making process to upgrade the system. This action has raised concerns about the decentralization of DeFi.
In any case, the Polygon hard fork should bring further stability to the Ethereum sidechain while reducing gas cost spikes – a winning combination for Polygon users.