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Ethereum Classic basics
Ethereum Classic is a decentralized computing platform designed to execute smart contracts, which are applications that run as programmed without the possibility of censorship or third-party interference. It is a distributed network consisting of a blockchain ledger, a native cryptocurrency (called ETC), and an ecosystem of on-chain applications and services. Ethereum Classic is the legacy chain that split from Ethereum following a contentious hard fork, known as The DAO fork, in Jul. 2017. Like its sister chain, Ethereum Classic features an execution engine optimized for smart contract processing (known as the Ethereum Virtual Machine or EVM) and a Proof of Work (PoW) consensus system. While it shares some aspects with Ethereum, Ethereum Classic offers a more defined monetary policy and inflation schedule.
Ethereum Classic token type
Like ETH on Ethereum, the primary use for the ETC asset is to pay for the decentralized computation when using the network. ETC used to pay for executing transactions and smart contract functions is referred to as gas, and the costs associated with these actions are known as gas costs. ETC is also a native token with a monetary policy that creates a predictable, disinflationary emission schedule with a fixed supply cap. These qualities aim to give ETC store of value (SoV) propoerties. This asset also serves as a reward to miners for contributing resources to the network.
Ethereum Classic history and first price
The Pre-Mine Ethereum Classic's token distribution follows that of Ethereum, as the two chains have a shared history. Before the eventual split sparked by The DAO incident, ETH and ETC were the same asset (originally known as ETH).
The original distribution event occurred through a public token sale managed by the Ethereum Foundation, which sold roughly 60 million ETH (80% of the initial 72 million ETH supply). The sale took place between Jul. 22, 2014, and Sep. 2, 2014. The remaining 12 million ETH (20% of the initial supply) were allocated to the Foundation and early contributors. Of the ether sent to the Foundation:
- 3 million were allocated to a long-term endowment
- 6 million were distributed among 85 developers who contributed prior to the crowdsale
- 3 million were designed as a “developer purchase program” that gave Ethereum developers the rights to purchase ETC at crowdsale prices.
All other ETH (and now ETC) issuance that took place occurred through the process of Proof-of-Work (PoW) mining.
The Fork Distribution When Ethereum and Ethereum Classic split following the DAO fork (on July 20, 2016), anyone who held ETH now owned equivalent amounts of ETH and ETC. When a contentious hard fork occurs, users of the original chain can claim the native asset issued on the new chain, if different. Since the Ethereum Foundation trademarked the name "Ethereum" and the "ETH" ticker, the legacy chain opted to rebrand itself to "Ethereum Classic" and use the ticker "ETC" for its native asset.
The DAO hack gives rise to Ethereum Classic The DAO hack and resulting hard fork split the Ethereum network into two separate chains: Ethereum and Ethereum Classic (ETC). The DAO was an Ethereum-based venture fund that managed to raise ~$150 million in Ether in an April 2016 initial coin offering (ICO). A few months later (July 2016), an attacker exploited a bug in one of The DAO's smart contracts, enabling the hacker to steal 3.6 million ETH of the funds collected in its ICO.
A divide in the community formed around how to resolve the issue. One camp believed reverting the chain, thus erasing the hack from the network's history, was necessary to preserve the longevity of Ethereum. The other side reasoned mutability was antithetical to the ethos of crypto networks and refused to accept a ledger rewrite. The divide led to a contentious hard fork at block 1,920,001, and the legacy chain that did not reverse its transaction history rebranded to Ethereum Classic.
Before the DAO fork split the original Ethereum chain, there was just one group of users, service providers, developers, investors, and other network participants. The hard fork or "irregular state change" split not only the protocol layer but also the social and application layers. As the legacy chain, Ethereum Classic inherited the components outlined within the Ethereum whitepaper. At the time of the fork, Ethereum Classic was still identical to Ethereum regarding these original components. However, it soon began to diverge away from Ethereum by announcing its own roadmap and vision.
Philosophy and monetary policy change The Ethereum Classic (ETC) community stresses the core principals of censorship resistance and (most prominently) immutability. And as a continuation of the Ethereum blockchain, it features a Turing-complete smart contract language to support the development of more complex decentralized applications (dApps). The Ethereum Classic community governs the network by the motto "Code is Law," which instills the belief that ETC transactions and dApps are truly censorship-resistant and immune to any third party interference.
ETC later (March 2017) adopted a new, Bitcoin-like monetary policy fit with a fixed supply cap and disinflationary emission schedule. The proposal drastically deviated from the original Ethereum monetary policy, which remains in flux as Ethereum core devs look to establish a more concrete economic model for its future Proof of Stake (PoS) network. Instead of monetary flexibility (and some uncertainty), Ethereum Classic now features a max supply of 210,700,000 tokens and miner reward reductions every five million blocks. And unlike Ethereum, the community intends to stick with Proof of Work (PoW) as its consensus and token issuance mechanism.
Development teams and future developments ETC's structure varies from most blockchain projects, incorporating multiple development teams (IOHK, ETC Labs, and ETC Cooperative), each with their own goals. In general, most of these teams have focused on providing sidechain scaling solutions, improving development tools (SDKs), and promoting cross-chain transactions so others can build on Ethereum Classic. Some of these efforts, including Connext's state channels and ChainSafe's bridge to Ethereum and Cosmos SDK-based chains, have already launched.
ETC is one of the few cryptocurrencies where investors can gain exposure to it through a traditional brokerage and or retirement account. Grayscale Investments created an Ethereum Classic Investment Trust (ticker ETCG) that allows investors to gain exposure to ETC without having to store or secure it directly.
51% attacks As a minority chain using the Ethash mining algorithm, Ethereum Classic has been the target of multiple 51% attacks. The first attack occurred in Jan. 2019, when crypto exchange Coinbase detected a deep chain reorganization of the Ethereum Classic blockchain. The number of identified reorganizations eventually increased to a total of fifteen, twelve of which contained double spends, totaling 219,500 ETC (~$1.1 million).
In Aug. 2020, Ethereum Classic suffered three more 51% attacks. The first one resulted in a successful double-spend of 807,260 ETC (~$5.6 million at the time). The second attack occurred less than a week later and exhibited a similar reorg depth (about 4,000 blocks). The final Aug. 2020 attack resulted in a large reorg of 7,000 blocks, but there is no sign of a double-spend attempt as of yet. As for a possible solution, the ETC Cooperative would like to switch Ethereum Classic's hashing algorithm from Ethash to either Keccak-256 or SHA-3, which would mean Ethereum Classic would no longer be a minority chain and would potentially be less susceptible to similar attacks.
Vitalik Buterin and the Ethereum Foundation create the first blockchain-based, Turing-complete smart contract platform
The DAO hard fork activates at block 1,920,000, with around 80% of network nodes updating to the new client.
The hard fork split the original Ethereum chain into two separate networks. The legacy chain that did not reverse its transaction history later rebranded to Ethereum Classic.
Diehard was a non-contentious network upgrade, which resolved critical issues such as difficulty bomb (via ECIP-1010) and replay attacks.
ECIP-1010 delayed the mechanism that would begin the sequence of increasing the mining difficulty substantially. This difficulty increase was a built-in mechanism for Ethereum that aimed to remove Proof-of-Work (PoW) miners from the network as it switched to a Proof-of-Stake (PoS) alternative.
For developers to reduce the risk of a potential fork during protocol upgrades and to keep development resources focused on working on the next phase of the Ethereum Classic, it was reasonable to diffuse the Difficulty Bomb for one year.
Learn more: Ethereum Classic Freezes ‘Difficulty Bomb’ With ‘Diehard’ Fork by CoinDesk
With the acceptance of ECIP-1017, the Ethereum Classic community adopted a new, Bitcoin-like monetary policy fit with a fixed supply cap and disinflationary emission schedule. The so called "5M20 monetary policy" created a max supply of 210,700,000 tokens (or one that could never exceed 230 million ETC). It also introduced regular reductions in the block reward subsidy, which now get cut by 20% every five million blocks in perpituity.
Learn more: A Joint Statement on Ethereum Classic’s Monetary Policy by IOHK
ECIP-1041 removed the so-called "Difficulty Bomb" that Ethereum Classic inherited from Ethereum. By removing this component, Ethereum Classic developers allowed Proof-of-Work (PoW) mining to continue indefinitely. The Difficulty Bomb's purpose on Ethereum was to discourage the continued use of PoW mining as the network shifted to its Proof-of-Stake (PoS) based Ethereum 2.0 chain. Ethereum Classic does not intend to adopt PoS in the future.
Learn more: Defuse Difficulty Bomb Hard Fork Upgrade
ECIP-1048 made it so project testnets did not only have to rely on Proof-of-Work (PoW) mining. Instead, it allows projects to spin up Proof-of-Authority testnets, as seen with the Kotti Ethereum Classic testnet.
The Atlantis hard fork upgrade activated at block 8,772,000 (via ECIP-1054). It adopted Ethereum’s Spurious Dragon and Byzantium network protocol upgrades on Ethereum Classic to enable maximum compatibility across these networks. It also provided general stability upgrades for ETC.
See the specifications here
Learn more: Going to Atlantis: Ethereum Classic (ETC) ECIP-1054 Hard Fork by Dean Pappas
Agharta (ECIP-1056) activated at block 9,573,000. The hard fork introduced the same a href=" #roadmap"Constantinople and St. Petersburg/a protocol upgrades previously implemented on Ethereum to the Ethereum Classic network (via ECIP-1056). Like Atlantis, Agharta intended to maximize compatibility and cross-chain communication between Ethereum Classic and Ethereum.
Learn more: ETC Successfully Hard Forks to Agharta! by ETC Cooperative Ethereum Classic Successfully Completes ‘Agharta’ Hard Fork by CoinDesk
With an EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine) backend target for LLVM, developers can use a large scope of programming languages other than Solidity to deeply smart contracts and applications on Ethereum Classic. An EVM backend target opens opportunities for source-level debugging and exposes EVM interest to the LLVM community.
Learn more: Ethereum Classic Labs Announces the EVM-LLVM Alpha Release
After rejecting the Aztlan upgrade proposal, Ethereum Classic developers opted to move forward with ECIP-1088, dubbed Phoenix, which activated at block height 10,500,839. Phoenix was a more security-conscious version of Aztlan that introduced the outstanding Istanbul upgrades implemented on Ethereum to Ethereum Classic to enable maximum compatibility across these networks.
The chain experienced some syncing issues post-fork, leading some analytics companies to believe that ETC split post-fork. The ETC Cooperative later said it was not a contentious chain split. Instead, bugs in the OpenEthereum and Hyperledger Besu clients led to a poor syncing performance. Both the OpenEthereum and Hyperledger Besu teams have since released fixes to address these syncing and stability issues. The Core-Geth and Multi-Geth clients did not experience any issues.
Ethereum Classic developers are also encouraging node operators to migrate from Parity/OpenEthereum and Multi-Geth clients to the latest Core-Geth or Hyperledger Besu now that the upgrade is complete. OpenEthereum and Multi-Geth have also deprecated support for Ethereum Classic and now solely run on Ethereum.
Connext is a development group and Layer-2 scaling framework that uses state channels. State channels allow users and applications to perform transaction-heavy operations off-chain and eventually settle these transactions late on a base layer, like Ethereum Classic. They allow for blockchain scalability by absorbing the bulk of transactions and limit the state growth of the underlying blockchain.
Learn more: Connext State Channels on ETC
Ethereum Classic technology explained
Ethereum Classic (ETC) kept most of the original Ethereum technical features and architecture. It remains an account-based blockchain (as opposed to Bitcoin's UTXO model) consisting of external accounts, which are controlled by a user’s private keys, and contract accounts, which are managed by contract code. External contracts can create and sign messages to send to both types of accounts, while contract accounts can only execute transactions automatically in response to a message they have received. The latter are what are known as smart contracts and enable the programmability of decentralized applications (dApps).
Ethereum Classic also continues to use the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), the smart contract execution engine. It is a Turing-complete virtual machine featuring a specific language “EVM bytecode,” typically written in a higher-level language called Solidity or others such as the Python-based Vyper. Every operation on the EVM requires computational effort and memory. Ethereum Classic node operators and miners provide these resources to application developers and network users in exchange for gas.
The fee to make transactions or execute smart contract operations on ETC is (gas price) * (gas limit), and fees are paid to miners for including your transactions in a block. The gas limit is the maximum amount of gas users are willing to spend on a transaction, whereas the gas price is the cost users are willing to pay for each gas unit. A normal transaction on the network costs 21,000 gas but costs more if you are trying to execute something more complex as that requires more computational power. Users can also speed up their transactions by raising the gas price since that will incentivize miners to include the transaction(s) in the next block to receive those fees.
Ethereum Classic (ETC) uses Ethash as its Proof-of-Work (PoW) algorithm. New blocks are generated every 15 seconds, on average, and the current miner reward for each new block found is 3.2 ETC which is reduced by 20% every 5 million blocks (about 2.4 years). ETC will be mineable until around 2070 when miners will reach the soft supply cap of between 210 million and 230 million. In addition to miner rewards, ETC rewards miners for discovering “uncle blocks”. Uncle blocks are valid blocks that arrived too late, meaning another miner already solved the PoW and claimed that block height's reward. This practice aims to decrease mining centralization, reduce the chance of unintentional forks, and boost network security. Every new block can contain at most two uncle blocks. Uncle block rewards are 3.125% of the miners' reward or 0.125 ETC.
Ethereum Classic supply limit
When Ethereum Classic and Ethereum went there separate ways on July 20, 2016, anyone who owned ETH received an equal amount of ETC via a hard fork airdrop.
ECIP-1017 activated on December 11, 2017. The proposal introduced a disinflationary token issuance policy, in which the block reward is reduced by 20% every five million blocks, and stated the total supply would not exceed 210.7 million ETC.
On May 29, 2018, the Ethereum Classic community accepted ECIP-1041, effectively diffusing the Difficulty Bomb.
Ethereum Classic underwent its second block reward reduction on Mar. 16, 2020, dropping reward per block from 4 to 3.2 ETH. Per ECIP-1017 specifications, the reward will be reduced to 2.56 ETC at block 15,000,000 (expected to arrive on Apr. 15, 2022).
Ethereum Classic consensus
Modified GHOST protocol The Ethereum White Paper states Ethereum, thus Ethereum Classic uses a modified version of the "Greedy Heaviest Observed Subtree" (GHOST) protocol to distinguish the "longest" base chain (the chain with the most accumulated Proof-of-Work backing it) from forks. Nakamoto Consensus, the implementation used by Bitcoin ($BTC) and its forks, is problematic in networks with fast confirmation times (i.e., block times) like Ethereum Classic. Quick block times lead to a higher stale or orphan rate, which can split mining resources among competing forks and reduce overall network security. Accelerated confirmation times also increases the likelihood a single mining pool could obtain a majority of the hash power on a given chain.
The GHOST protocol attempts to solve this issue of network security by including orphan blocks in the calculation of the longest chain. Therefore, the GHOST model determines the valid chain byweighingthe parent and further ancestors as well as the number of stale descendants. The protocol also rewards the mining of orphan blocks directly connected to the longest chain to combat potential centralization concerns. Orphan block miners do not receive any transaction fees, only a portion of the block subsidy, as stale transactions are not considered valid.
Mining Ethereum Classic miners solve computational puzzles to generate new blocks by running the Ethash Proof-of-Work (PoW) algorithm. In this process, miners compete to discover a valid hash as defined by the network's difficulty adjustment algorithm. Ethereum Classic recalculates its difficulty level every block based on the time between the two previous blocks.
Cryptographers designed Ethash to be ASIC-resistant by making it memory intensive for specialized mining chips. But the popularity of Ethereum led mining chip manufacturer Bitmain to release the first ASICs miners for Ethash in April 2018. Since Ethereum and Ethereum Classic share the same mining algorithm at the moment, ASIC miners on Ethereum can shift their hash power over to Ethereum Classic to mine ETC. This opportunity combined with lower security spend on Ethereum Classic likely led to the various 51% attacks registered on Ethereum Classic, the first of which occurred in Jan. 2019 followed by three more in Aug. 2020.
Ethereum Classic governance
No On-Chain Governance
All network changes are subject to the improvement proposal or ECIP process, which is a standardized model for proposing changes to the Ethereum Classic ecosystem. In this model, anyone can submit code changes, dubbed Ethereum Classic Improvement Proposals (ECIP), that aim to either modify the core protocol or even the ECIP process itself. The ECIP process takes after the EIP and BIP systems used in Ethereum and Bitcoin, respectively.
Once the author submits a proposal, they must champion it to be successful, which consists of the author making themselves available to answer any questions from network stakeholders. Proposals must also pass through several stages before being implemented into node client software.
Proposals begin in the “Draft Stage,” and if successful, make their way to the “Accepted Stage.” Submissions must pass each stage by a rough consensus. Client developers may add the submitted changes to their clients at their discretion. There are no on-chain voting mechanisms Ethereum Classic relies on to make changes.
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