The network stats show a constant average blocktime of around 17 seconds. Whenever you check it is around 16~18 seconds.

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Reading the blog post by vitalik buterin it states the block time should be 12 seconds on average. (Update: Ok, more recent resources state a 15 second target time.)

Why is the average block time constantly at around 17 seconds?

Post is related to a rapidly changing event.

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    Great question, and a clear answer. Don't forget to upvote these people! We want to have lots of clear shining examples for other people to follow on the site. – Jeff Coleman Jan 21 '16 at 0:19
up vote 53 down vote accepted

Due to advances in blockchain research, it was shown that significantly lower block times were possible and perhaps beneficial given the current connectivity of the internet. One of the potential risks of a low block time is a higher rate of orphaned blocks (competing blocks that do not make it into the main chain). To counter this, a GHOST protocol is used which pays for these orphaned blocks (known as uncles), adding to the security of the main chain. Instead of the main chain being "longest", it is instead "heaviest".

During the development of Ethereum, several different times and targeting algorithms were tested, eventually settling around 15s. Due to the specific total difficulty calculation used, the actual time between blocks is currently around 17 seconds, however a change scheduled for Homestead will hopefully alter this closer to 15 seconds. This is only proposed as a temporary solution, as Ethereum intends to transition to proof-of-stake, potentially offering near-instant finality.

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    Good answer. But it's a bit misleading to talk of potentially near-instant finality, because it's really difficult to go below 5 seconds block time. Also, chain finality is only probabilistic until a certain threshold, which may be (much) longer. – Symeof Jan 21 '16 at 23:43
  • I disagree @Symeof. It is conceivable that eventually proof-of-stake and other factors such as network size will be able help achieve near-instant finality. Obviously that goal may not be achieved this year, or even multiple years from now, but the changes coming to Serenity seem to indicate future levels of blockchain abstraction that can facilitate making changes to the consensus pieces of the blockchain much simpler. As newer innovations in the space crop up, the network can react. – Hudson Jameson Jan 24 '16 at 8:03
  • @Hudson: I certainly hope so. But I don't see how an increase in network size would help finality. Do you have a reason to believe that? – Symeof Jan 24 '16 at 9:17
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    @Hudson: latency plays a major role indeed. It doesn't seem likely that this could be pushed down past a certain point, since the network is global. Also we may need to have a working definition of finality: because in most system it's just a probabilistic threshold (i.e the likelihood of having a transaction reverted is lower than Epsilon)... – Symeof Jan 24 '16 at 10:07
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    "near-instant finality" -> Are we talking 1s, 100ms, 10ms? – Randomblue Jan 26 '16 at 6:39

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