During the most recent Ethereum developer call, which happened today, Greg Colvin affirmed that the devs were going back to ProgPow, also known as Progressive Proof of Work, the new mining system of the ETH network which has been discussed until exhaustion since last year.
The debate is very, very old. A lot of people use specialized mining devices called ASIC miners and the goal of ProgPow is to make them useless. These people have paid for these devices, however, so they remain a strong opposition.
However, the problem lies in the fact that people using ASIC miners can be harmful for the decentralization of ETH as they mine it with a lot more efficiency than other people, centralizing the network as time passes. Since the first ETH-based ASIC miners were deployed in 2018, the debate has been very lively.
According to the developers, ProgPow could represent an impact of $655 million USD in the annual market of rewards. Because the update involves so much money, it is hard to come up with a consensus about it.
An important part of the debate is about whether the measure is actually good or not. Some people defend that Ethereum would be more decentralized if only GPU miners were allowed, while others believe that big corporations would still push out individuals, so blocking ASIC miners is a waste of time.
Colvin has affirmed, then, that the project is moving forward. According to him, many agreed on the project and, while the decision was not unanimous, nobody objected it or tried to block it, so there is a certain consensus that this is the right move along the developer community.
The Main Barrier: Investigating Potential Bugs
However, despite the so-called consensus, there is a huge barrier between the idea of ProgPow and its implementation: testing the protocol for bugs. Everybody remembers the problems that the Constantinople update had. They were found out days before the launch and this has caused a massive commotion in the community.
The ETH developers are not eager to let that happen again, though. Because of this, they are looking for any technical issues and will only launch the update when they are ready to do it without the chance of creating new bugs.
Third party security audits have already started now and the core developers are already working with these companies. The main problem is that some disagreements between the third party companies and the core developers have been reported and this is delaying the process.
Launching an upgrade to such an important software is generally very hard, so this part has to be done without issues and this may represent an even longer delay. Hudson Jameson, the community manager of the Ethereum Foundation, has affirmed that two separate audits have been proposed so far.
One of them, which is benchmarking, may not even be done, though. The other one will be a constraint analysis on the update and how ASIC miners would compare to GPUs, which is a very important part.
The Road To The Launch
Alexey Akhunov, another core Ethereum developer, has also admitted that the whole process was very difficult. He has emphasized that there is no clear goal for the success of the upgrade and that the criteria are not clear, which causes a problem.
In any case, the audits will continue, it is only not clear how long the community will have to wait for the update. Some people have the goal of launching with together with the next hard fork, which is set to happen until the end of the year, however, nobody is actually sure whether this will be a successful idea or not.
According to Martin Holst Swende, any Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) needs to work well to be accepted. Even if ProgPow is accepted and used later, it can always be removed, he affirmed.
Now we’ll have to wait in order to find out when the update will finally be launched.