# Simple Summary
Specification of the consensus mechanism upgrade on Ethereum Mainnet that introduces Proof-of-Stake.
This EIP deprecates Proof-of-Work (PoW) and supersedes it with the new Proof-of-Stake consensus mechanism (PoS) driven by the beacon chain. Information on the bootstrapping of the new consensus mechanism is documented in EIP-2982. Full specification of the beacon chain can be found in the consensus-specs (opens new window) repository.
This document specifies the set of changes to the block structure, block processing, fork choice rule and network interface introduced by the consensus upgrade.
The beacon chain network has been up and running since December 2020. Neither safety nor liveness failures were detected during this period of time. This long period of running without failure demonstrates the sustainability of the beacon chain system and its readiness to become a security provider for the Ethereum Mainnet.
To understand the motivation of introducing the Proof-of-Stake consensus see the Motivation section of EIP-2982.
- PoW block: Block that is built and verified by the existing proof-of-work mechanism. In other words, a block of the Ethereum network before the consensus upgrade.
- PoS block: Block that is built and verified by the new proof-of-stake mechanism.
- Terminal PoW block: A PoW block that satisfies the following conditions --
pow_block.total_difficulty >= TERMINAL_TOTAL_DIFFICULTYand
pow_block.parent_block.total_difficulty < TERMINAL_TOTAL_DIFFICULTY.
TERMINAL_TOTAL_DIFFICULTYThe amount of total difficulty reached by the network that triggers the consensus upgrade.
TRANSITION_BLOCKThe earliest PoS block of the canonical chain, i.e. the PoS block with the lowest block height.
POS_FORKCHOICE_UPDATEDAn event occurring when the state of the proof-of-stake fork choice is updated.
FORK_NEXT_VALUEA block number set to the
FORK_NEXTparameter for the upcoming consensus upgrade.
TERMINAL_BLOCK_HASHDesignates the hash of the terminal PoW block if set, i.e. if not stubbed with
TERMINAL_BLOCK_NUMBERDesignates the number of the terminal PoW block if
# PoS events
Events having the
POS_ prefix in the name (PoS events) are emitted by the new proof-of-stake consensus mechanism. They signify the corresponding assertion that has been made regarding a block specified by the event. The underlying logic of PoS events can be found in the beacon chain specification. On the occurrence of each PoS event the corresponding action that is specified by this EIP MUST be taken.
The details provided below must be taken into account when reading those parts of the specification that refer to the PoS events:
- Reference to a block that is contained by PoS events is provided in a form of a block hash unless another is explicitly specified.
POS_FORKCHOICE_UPDATEDevent contains references to the head of the canonical chain and to the most recent finalized block. Before the first finalized block occurs in the system the finalized block hash provided by this event is stubbed with
FIRST_FINALIZED_BLOCKThe first finalized block that is designated by
POS_FORKCHOICE_UPDATEDevent and has the hash that differs from the stub.
# Client software configuration
The following set of parameters is a part of client software configuration and MUST be included into its binary distribution:
TERMINAL_BLOCK_HASH is stubbed with
TERMINAL_BLOCK_NUMBER parameters MUST NOT take an effect.
# PoW block processing
PoW blocks that are descendants of any terminal PoW block MUST NOT be imported.
# Block structure
TRANSITION_POS_BLOCK, a number of previously dynamic block fields are deprecated by enforcing these values to instead be constants. Each block field listed in the table below MUST be replaced with the corresponding constant value.
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TRANSITION_POS_BLOCK, the validation of the block's
extraData field changes: The length of the block's
extraData MUST be less than or equal to
Note: Logic and validity conditions of block fields that are not specified here MUST remain unchanged. Additionally, the overall block format MUST remain unchanged.
Note: Subsequent EIPs may override the constant values specified above to provide additional functionality. For an example, see EIP-4399.
# Block validity
TRANSITION_POS_BLOCK, the block validity conditions MUST be altered by the following:
- Remove verification of the block's
difficultyvalue with respect to the difficulty formula.
- Remove verification of the block's
mixHashvalues with respect to the Ethash function.
- Remove all validation rules that are evaluated over the list of ommers and each member of this list.
- Add verification of the fields noted in the block structure section.
Note: If one of the new rules fails then the block MUST be invalidated.
Note: Validity rules that are not specified in the list above MUST remain unchanged.
# Transition block validity
In addition to satisfying the above conditions,
TRANSITION_BLOCK MUST be a child of a terminal PoW block. That is, a parent of
TRANSITION_BLOCK MUST satisfy terminal PoW block conditions.
# Block and ommer rewards
TRANSITION_POS_BLOCK, block and ommer rewards are deprecated. Specifically, the following actions MUST be taken:
- Remove increasing the balance of the block's
beneficiaryaccount by the block reward.
- Remove increasing the balance of the block's
beneficiaryaccount by the ommer inclusion reward per each ommer.
- Remove increasing the balance of the ommer's
beneficiaryaccount by the ommer block reward per each ommer.
Note: Transaction fee mechanics affecting the block's
beneficiary account MUST remain unchanged.
# Fork choice rule
TERMINAL_BLOCK_HASH parameter affects the PoW heaviest chain rule in the following way:
- Canonical blockchain MUST contain a block with the hash defined by
TERMINAL_BLOCK_HASHparameter at the height defined by
Note: This rule is akin to block hash whitelisting functionality already present in client software implementations.
As of the first
POS_FORKCHOICE_UPDATED event, the fork choice rule MUST be altered in the following way:
- Remove the existing PoW heaviest chain rule.
- Adhere to the new PoS LMD-GHOST rule.
The new PoS LMD-GHOST fork choice rule is specified as follows. On each occurrence of a
POS_FORKCHOICE_UPDATED event including the first one, the following actions MUST be taken:
- Consider the chain starting at genesis and ending with the head block nominated by the event as the canonical blockchain.
- Set the head of the canonical blockchain to the corresponding block nominated by the event.
- Beginning with the
FIRST_FINALIZED_BLOCK, set the most recent finalized block to the corresponding block nominated by the event.
Changes to the block tree store that are related to the above actions MUST be applied atomically.
POS_FORKCHOICE_UPDATED event MUST be respected even in the event that
TRANSITION_POW_BLOCK of the forkchoice is not a terminal PoW block from view of
Note: This rule MUST be strictly enforced. "Optimistic" updates to the head MUST NOT be made. That is -- if a new block is processed on top of the current head block, this new block becomes the new head if and only if an accompanying
POS_FORKCHOICE_UPDATED event occurs.
# EIP-2124 fork identifier
For the purposes of the EIP-2124 fork identifier, nodes implementing this EIP MUST set the
FORK_NEXT parameter to the
The networking stack SHOULD NOT send the following messages if they advertise the descendant of any terminal PoW block:
Beginning with receiving the
FIRST_FINALIZED_BLOCK, the networking stack MUST discard the following ingress messages:
Beginning with receiving the finalized block next to the
FIRST_FINALIZED_BLOCK, the networking stack MUST remove the handlers corresponding to the following messages:
Peers that keep sending these messages after the handlers have been removed SHOULD be disconnected.
Note: The logic of message handlers that are not affected by this section MUST remain unchanged.
The changes specified in this EIP target a minimal requisite set of consensus and client software modifications to safely replace the existing proof-of-work consensus algorithm with the new proof-of-stake consensus represented by the already in-production beacon chain.
This EIP was designed to minimize the complexity of hot-swapping the live consensus of the Ethereum network. Both the safety of the operation and time to production were taken into consideration. Additionally, a minimal changeset helps ensure that most smart contracts and services will continue to function as intended during and after the transition with little to no required intervention.
# Total difficulty triggering the upgrade
# Parameterizing terminal block hash
# Halting the import of PoW blocks
# Replacing block fields with constants
Deprecated block fields are replaced with constant values to ensure the block format remains backwards compatible. Preserving the block format aids existing smart contracts and services in providing uninterrupted service during and after this transition.
Particularly, this is important for those smart contracts that verify Merkle proofs of transaction/receipt inclusion and state by validating the hash of externally provided block header against the corresponding value returned by the
This change introduces an additional validity rule that enforces the replacement of deprecated block fields.
After deprecating the proof-of-work the notion of difficulty no longer exists and replacing the block header
difficulty field with
0 constant is semantically sound.
# Changing block validity rules
The rule set enforcing the PoW seal validity is replaced with the corresponding PoS rules along with the consensus upgrade as the rationale behind this change.
An additional rule validating a set of deprecated block fields is required by the block format changes introduced by this specification.
# Removing block rewards
Existing rewards for producing and sealing blocks are deprecated along with the PoW mechanism. The new PoS consensus becomes both responsible for sealing blocks and for issuing block rewards once this specification enters into effect.
# Supplanting fork choice rule
The fork choice rule of the PoW mechanism becomes completely irrelevant after the upgrade and is replaced with the corresponding rule of the new PoS consensus mechanism.
# Remove of
In prior draft versions of this EIP, an additional POS event --
POS_CONSENSUS_VALIDATED -- was required as a validation condition for blocks. This event gave the signal to either fully incorporate or prune the block from the block tree.
This event was removed for two reasons:
- This event was an unnecessary optimization to allow for pruning of "bad" blocks from the block tree. This optimization was unnecessary because the PoS consensus would never send
POS_FORKCHOICE_UPDATEDfor any such bad blocks or their descendants, and eventually any such blocks would be able to be pruned after a PoS finality event of an alternative branch in the block tree.
- This event was dangerous in some scenarios because a block could be referenced by two different and conflicting PoS branches. Thus for the same block in some scenarios, both a
POS_CONSENSUS_VALIDATED == TRUEand
POS_CONSENSUS_VALIDATED == FALSEevent could sent, entirely negating the ability to safely perform the optimization in (1).
# EIP-2124 fork identifier
The value of
FORK_NEXT in EIP-2124 refers to the block number of the next fork a given node knows about and
The number of
TRANSITION_BLOCK cannot be known ahead of time given the dynamic nature of the transition trigger condition. As the block will not be known a priori, nodes can't use its number for
FORK_NEXT and in light of this fact an explicitly set
FORK_NEXT_VALUE is used instead.
The number set to
FORK_NEXT_VALUE parameter should reference a block which is presumably happening a week earlier than
TRANSITION_BLOCK. Picking the number this way gives enough time for users who forgot to upgrade their software to do so when they see their nodes are losing peers.
# Removing block gossip
After the upgrade of the consensus mechanism only the beacon chain network will have enough information to validate a block. Thus, block gossip provided by the
eth network protocol will become unsafe and is deprecated in favour of the block gossip existing in the beacon chain network.
It is recommended for the client software to not propagate descendants of any terminal PoW block to reduce the load on processing the P2P component and stop operating in the environment with unknown security properties.
# Restricting the length of
extraData field is defined as a maximum of
32 bytes in the yellow paper. Thus mainnet and most PoW testnets cap the value at
extraData fields of greater length are used by clique testnets and other networks to carry special signature/consensus schemes. This EIP restricts the length of
32 bytes because any network that is transitioning from another consensus mechanism to a beacon chain PoS consensus mechanism no longer needs extended or unbounded
# Backwards Compatibility
This EIP introduces backward incompatibilities in block validity, block rewards and fork choice rule.
The design of the consensus upgrade specified by this document does not introduce backward incompatibilities for existing applications and services built on top of Ethereum except for those that are described in the EVM section below or heavily depends on the PoW consensus in any other way.
Although this EIP does not introduce any explicit changes to the EVM there are a couple of places where it may affect the logic of existing smart contracts.
DIFFICULTY operation will always return
0 after this EIP takes effect and deprecates the
difficulty field by replacing it with
Note: Altering the
DIFFICULTY semantics to return randomness accumulated by the beacon chain is under consideration but will be introduced in a separate EIP.
Pseudo-random numbers obtained as the output of
BLOCKHASH operation become more insecure after this EIP takes effect and the PoW mechanism (which decreases the malleability of block hashes) gets supplanted by PoS.
# Security Considerations
# Beacon chain
See Security Considerations section of EIP-2982.
# Transition process
The transition process used to take this specification into effect is a more sophisticated version of a hardfork -- the regular procedure of applying backwards incompatible changes in the Ethereum network. This process has multiple successive steps instead of the normal block-height point condition of simpler hardforks.
The complexity of this upgrade process stems from this fork targeting the underlying consensus mechanism rather than the application layer within the consensus mechanism. Although the design seeks simplicity where possible, safety and liveness considerations during this transition have been prioritized.
# Terminal total difficulty vs block number
Using a pre-defined block number for the hardfork is unsafe in this context due to the PoS fork choice taking priority during the transition.
An attacker may use a minority of hash power to build a malicious chain fork that would satisfy the block height requirement. Then the first PoS block may be maliciously proposed on top of the PoW block from this adversarial fork, becoming the head and subverting the security of the transition.
To protect the network from this attack scenario, difficulty accumulated by the chain (total difficulty) is used to trigger the upgrade.
# Ability to jump between transition PoW blocks
There could be the case when a
TRANSITION_POW_BLOCK is not observed by the majority of network participants due to (temporal) network partitioning. In such a case, this minority would switch their fork choice to the new rule provided by the PoS rooted on the minority
TRANSITION_POW_BLOCK that they observed.
The transition process allows the network to re-org between forks with different valid
TRANSITION_POW_BLOCKs as long as (a) these blocks satisfy the transition conditions and (b) the
FIRST_FINALIZED_BLOCK has not yet been received. This provides resilience against adverse network conditions during the transition process and prevents irreparable forks/partitions.
# Halt the importing of PoW blocks
Suppose the part of the client software that is connected to the beacon chain network goes offline before the Ethereum network reaches the
TERMINAL_TOTAL_DIFFICULTY and stays offline while the network meets this threshold. Such an event makes the client software unable to switch to PoS and allows it to keep following the PoW chain if this chain is being built beyond the terminal PoW block. Depending on how long the beacon chain part was offline, it could result in different adverse effects such as:
- The client has no post-state for the terminal PoW block (the state has been pruned) which prevents it from doing the re-org to the PoS chain and leaving syncing from scratch as the only option to recover.
- An application, a user or a service uses the data from the wrong fork (PoW chain that is kept being built) which can cause security issues on their side.
Not importing PoW blocks that are beyond the terminal PoW block prevents these adverse effects on safety/re-orgs in the event of software or configuration failures in favor of a liveness failure.
# Terminal PoW block overriding
There is a mechanism allowing for accelerating the consensus upgrade in emergency cases. This EIP considers the following emergency case scenarios for the acceleration to come into effect:
- A drop of the network hashing rate which delays the upgrade significantly.
- Attacks on the PoW network before the upgrade.
The first case can be safely accelerated by updating the following parameters:
TERMINAL_TOTAL_DIFFICULTY-- reset to a value that is closer in time than the original one.
FORK_NEXT_VALUE-- adjust accordingly.
The second, more dire attack scenario requires a more invasive override:
TERMINAL_BLOCK_HASH-- set to the hash of a certain block to become the terminal PoW block.
TERMINAL_BLOCK_NUMBER-- set to the number of a block designated by
TERMINAL_TOTAL_DIFFICULTY-- set to the total difficulty value of a block designated by
FORK_NEXT_VALUE-- adjust accordingly.
Note: Acceleration in the second case is considered for the most extreme of scenarios because it will result in a non-trivial liveness failure on Ethereum Mainnet.
# Ancient blocks are no longer a requisite for a network security
Keeping historical blocks starting from genesis is essential in the PoW network. A header of every block that belongs to a particular chain is required to justify the validity of this chain with respect to the PoW seal.
Validating the entire history of the chain is not required by the new PoS mechanism. Instead, the sync process in the PoS network relies on weak subjectivity checkpoints, which are historical snapshots shared by peers on the network. This means historical blocks beyond weak subjectivity checkpoint are no longer a requisite for determining the canonical blockchain.
Specification of weak subjectivity checkpoints can be found in the consensus-specs (opens new window) repository.
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