Ethereum community lead: “ProgPoW is dead”

By March 3, 2020Ethereum
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The contentious upgrade proposal refuses to die. (Image: Shutterstock)
  • Ethereum community lead Hudson Jameson has published a post on ProgPow, the contentious upgrade proposal that threatens to bring about a chain split.
  • Jameson concludes that ProgPow is dead, based on evidence of community dissent.
  • The ultimate fate of the proposal will be discussed at the next Ethereum core developer call on March 6.

Ethereum community lead Hudson Jameson has addressed concerns about the blockchain platform’s controversial proposal ProgPoW. He said, in a blog post published on Monday, that in his opinion the proposal was dead, based on community dissent.

ProgPoW’s objective is to change Ethereum’s hashing algorithm, minimizing the advantage of so-called ASICs—specialized chips optimized for faster mining—by tilting the balance in favour of GPU miners.

The upgrade was tentatively approved by Ethereum developers in January. A coin vote and miner vote suggested overwhelming support for ProgPoW, and the upgrade passed an audit.

But, since its inclusion in a July 2020 hard fork was announced last month, the Ethereum community has argued that ProgPow threatens the platform’s fragile but lucrative Decentralized Finance (DeFi) industry, among other factors. The danger of a chain split and a rival version of Ethereum is too great, ProgPow’s detractors have argued.

“In my opinion, ProgPoW isn’t worth it and is dead based on overwhelming evidence of community dissent,“ Jameson concluded in his blog.

After explaining the decision-making process that led to ProgPoW’s inclusion in the next raft of upgrades, Jameson explained the reasoning behind his stance.

His primary objection, he said, was that misunderstandings about the effect of the new algorithm constituted too great a risk.

“With the prominence and money involved in DeFi and other on-chain protocols it would not be in the interest of anyone to support an Ethereum fork long term over a contentious algorithm update that is primarily rallied against because the community was not properly informed or heard,” he said.

Jameson, a well-respected voice in the Ethereum community, stressed that he was not speaking on behalf of the Ethereum Foundation, or any other entity.

His considered response to an issue that has led to such furious debate, was appreciated, as evidenced by the response on Twitter, and—to a lesser degree—on Reddit. Most respondents appeared to agree with his reasoning.

But Jameson’s intervention also signals a shift in Ethereum’s decision making from core developers to the wider community.

The platform’s governance processes were recently criticised by none other than Ethereum cofounder Vitalik Buterin.

In response to requests for clarification of the process, Jameson said that the network’s current governance could be construed as “technocratic”—controlled by an elite of technical experts.

He later elaborated on the topic when asked, on Reddit, whether technocracy and community sentiment based governance were compatible.

He said that protocol developers decide what changes are put into clients, but users, miners and other parties can choose to influence what gets added based on feedback, and to run (or not run) the software.

“In short, although Ethereum is technically a technocracy currently, community sentiment is heavily taken into consideration and can change the direction of Ethereum,” he said.

He added that, in future, other pillars of governance, such as a bi-weekly community meetings could be added. “At that point we wouldn't fully be a technocracy,” he said.

But some were left wondering whether considerations of the wealth locked into DeFi (approximately $1 billion), might be a dangerous distraction when difficult choices needed to be made on the network.

Meanwhile, the ultimate fate of ProgPoW will be decided at the next Ethereum core developer call on March 6.

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