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How The Merge Impacts Ethereum’s Application Layer

Ethereum’s transition to proof of stake – The Merge – is near: devnets are being stood up, specifications are being finalized and community outreach has begun in earnest. The Merge is designed to have minimal impact on how Ethereum operates for end users, smart contracts and dapps. That said, there are some minor changes worth highlighting. Before we dive into them, here are a few links to provide context about the overall Merge architecture:

The rest of this post will assume the reader is familiar with the above. For those wanting to dig even deeper, the full specifications for The Merge are available here:

Block structure

After The Merge, proof of work blocks will no longer exist on the network. Instead, the former contents of proof of work becomes a component of blocks created on the Beacon Chain. You can then think of the Beacon Chain as becoming the new proof of stake consensus layer of Ethereum, superseding the previous proof of work consensus layer. Beacon chain blocks will contain ExecutionPayloads, which are the post-merge equivalent of blocks on the current proof of work chain. The image below shows this relationship:

For end users and application developers, these ExecutionPayloads are where interactions with Ethereum happen. Transactions on this layer will still be processed by execution layer clients (Besu, Erigon, Geth, Nethermind, etc.). Fortunately, due to the stability of the execution layer, The Merge introduces only minimal breaking changes.

Mining & Ommer Block Fields

Post-merge, several fields previously contained in proof of work block headers become unused as they are irrelevant to proof of stake. In order to minimize disruption to tooling and infrastructure, these fields are set to 0, or their data structure’s equivalent, rather than being entirely removed from the data structure. The full changes to block fields can be found in EIP-3675.

Field Constant value Commen...
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