According to the block explorer Etherscan.io, Ethereum's node count has plummeted in the last two weeks from well over 9,000 to under 3,000. While chain explorers can give rough estimates, this drop does correlate with the glitch in node software that caused the chain to split just two weeks ago. But why hasn't the chain recovered these nodes yet?
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Two weeks ago a bug in a previous version of the most used Ethereum node software, Geth, caused Ethereum's blockchain to effectively split into two chains. This meant that over 50% of nodes had hard forked from the main chain, forming its own chain.
Nodes, like miners, contribute to a blockchain's decentralization. They act sort of like accountants by cross-referencing their own and other nodes' transactions history to ensure that the new transactions add up correctly. More nodes help a blockchain to be more robust and secure.
Fortunately, most miners had up-to-date software and were able to continue propagating authentic transactions on the main chain. This meant that Ethereum's blockchain was still secure, but it seems that approximately 6,500 other nodes are still running that previous software and are in limbo on an alternative chain.
The figure of 6,500 is a rough estimate, but these missing nodes are currently unviewable, at least until someone makes a blockchain explorer for this new chain allowing us to see what is going on with the forked-off network.
Ethereum's hashrate remains high as almost all miners have updated, but its node count has been reduced down closer to levels of competitors like Solana, Cardano and others. It is still unclear why or how Ethereum has not regained these nodes. It seems concerning that so many nodes would continue running on this fork rather than making sure they are up-to-date and actually on the main chain.
It is possible that a small number of miners remained on the previous node client and continued minting blocks as usual in the new fork without noticing. This could have caused individuals running nodes to not notice something was off. At a certain point, it is possible that these people may not want to reverse the transactions that have occurred on this alternative chain and instead choose to stay. Those still on this alternative chain could be at risk of double-spending attacks as it has little to no mining power.
Right now it is unclear as to how this matter will be resolved. The easy solution is to have every node and miner on this fork update their software to be compatible with the main chain. That said, if they are unwilling to make that change then there could be a permanent Ethereum fork created.
This story is developing.