A top level meeting with Ethereum core developers last week ended with full agreement for the blockchain to implement the ProgPow algorithm and ultimately a move away from professional and centralized mining.
Discussions among the ETH dev community about a possible migration onto ProgPow have been on going for a couple of years, and although there are many critics about the move it is looking ever more likely.
ASICs Equipment Dominate Ethereum Block Rewards
Since application-specific integrated circuit (ASICs) were enabled professional miners equipped with the costly mining gear have dominated the ETH block rewards, which has angered many miners who don’t own the expensive and exclusive ASICs.
This hasn’t sat well with some of the core dev team, who say it goes against the Ethereum whitepaper proposal, which aimed to keep the network optimized for low-cost and easily accessible software, with an aim of keeping mining as decentralized as possible.
Some of the core dev team claim the powerful ASICs mining machines, costly and only in the hands of the few, ‘centralizes’ the mining and threatens the network security, by heightens the possibility of a 51% attack.
After Bitmain released ASICs specifically designed for Ethereum, other GPU miners’ profits’ were pretty much nullified. This led many to demand a change in the algorithm and move to decentralize the mining before the launch of Ethereum 2.0.
There’s a controversial upgrade scheduled for June this year, the EIP-1962 upgrade will make some changes to the ETH cryptography. Then just a few weeks later it’s expected a hardfork will take place, which will likely see the more controversial ProgPow implemented.
Related Reading: What’s China’s Stance on Bitcoin Mining?
A Split In The Ethereum Community
Of course, not everyone is happy with the move. Some Ethereum developers are against the idea and many in the community have publicly shown their disapproval.
Their arguments are valid, however, as a chain split, which might see exchanges running both versions of Ethereum would be detrimental to the Ethereum brand.
Although Ethereum hardfork coordinator James Hancock said that a split is unlikely and that ProgPoW is the most “ready to go” of the current upgrades.
‘I have not seen any evidence that there is an ideological or people willing to step up and actually have a network split,’ said Hancock. ‘If I’m wrong I’ll resign as hardfork coordinator.’
Ethereum has already split once before. Many will remember the DAO hack which saw millions of ETH syphoned off after a fault in the DAO code was exploited. The Ethereum community decided to hardfork the chain and restore all the funds to the DAO smart contract. Many were against the idea and afterwards the dissenters kept the old chain going and formed Ethereum Classic (ETC).
Whether it’s maintaining the status quo or a move towards balancing the mining capabilities, mining is an important part of the Ethereum ecosystem. Yes, ASICs capability increases the hashrate, but because of the cost and scarcity of them, it also centralizes the power.
There will always be splits in decentralized communities and Ethereum is no different. Whatever the core devs decide on will be for the best of the whole community and not just the powerful few, and personally I hope they implement ProgPow.
Author: Tommy Limpitlaw