Ropsten, the Ethereum blockchain’s test network, has forked into two individual chains post the system-wide activation of the Istanbul hard fork that hit two days earlier than expected and caused the split.
Apparently, Istanbul was slated for release to get activated on October 2, 2019, with the block height reaching to 6,485,846. However, the up-gradation came out two days earlier on September 30, 2019, at nearly around 3:40 a.m. UTC.
Hudson Jameson, who works as the Community Manager at Ethereum Foundation, blamed the fast confirmation times as the primary reason behind the fork. He stated that the problem with the Ropsten network is the result of bad miner communication and not the drawbacks in the Istanbul upgrade code.
“It appears there are two different chains mining the Ropsten test network. There are miners mining on the old [Ropsten] chain and miners mining the new one,” said Jameson. His tweet further read: “This is what testnets are for! Be aware that Ropsten will be unstable until this all plays out.”
Generally, the miners working on a proof-of-work blockchain like Ethereum and test network Ropsten are compelled to upgrade their software manually so that they enjoy the smooth and easy continuation of a single chain. As per Hudson’s words, majority of the miners on the Ropsten testnet platform were not aware of the before-time arrival of Istanbul. This ended up in a split of the testnet between those miners utilizing the new upgraded chain and those who were operating on the old chain itself.
Péter Szilágyi, team lead at the Ethereum Foundation tweeted: “the Ropsten Ethereum testnet Istanbul forking is a bit unstable due to a huge miner pushing the non-forked chain.”
“The complicated part about proof-of-work test network is getting coordination between miners. Right now, we’re trying to run some miners to get Ropsten on the correct Istanbul chain,” said Jameson.
Earlier in October 2018, a similar incident occurred during the previous system-wide upgrade of Ethereum blockchain, Constantinople. This also led to the temporary chain split of Ropsten network continuing for few hours.
Also, at the time of the launch of the Ethereum Foundation’s community website called ethereum.org, the Ethereum Foundation removed it in no time for some undisclosed reason and later re-released it with additional features for the members after few months.