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Ethereum ProgPow Set for July Amid Heavy Opposition

Sead Fadilpašić
Last updated: | 2 min read

Ethereum core developers have announced rather suddenly that the long-discussed programmatic proof-of-work (ProgPoW) will be implemented as a part of the hard fork scheduled to follow the planned Berlin upgrade. This has once again split the community into different camps of opinion.

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Two years after its proposal, criticized even by many Ethereum developers, ProgPoW will be arriving to Ethereum. Core developers have agreed during a call last Friday to go with the EIP 1962 (Ethereum Improvement Proposal) that will bring additional cryptographic functions, tentatively set for June 2020, with the ProgPoW hard fork following it three weeks later, in July 2020, bringing forth a new mining algorithm.

As a reminder, there’s an ever-present fear of re-centralization of crypto, the cause of which some say could be the expansion of ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) chips, which can mine cryptocurrency more efficiently than GPUs (graphics processing units) and CPUs (central processing units), but which are also so expensive that only the biggest companies can run them. Ethereum team’s solution to this was agreeing to implement ASIC mining hardware resistance after testing the proposed code, so to effectively block ASIC chips usage with the update dubbed ProgPoW and replace it with GPU hardware, so that GPU mining remains competitive.

Meanwhile, ProgPow-related EIP 1057 states that the goal is “to resist the centralization of PoW [proof of work] mining power such that these coins couldn’t be so easily manipulated by a few players.” The proposal adds that the algorithm is not backwards compatible with the existing Ethash, that it will require a fork for adoption, and that the network hashrate will halve “since twice as much memory is loaded per hash.”

On the other side stand many developers and ETH supporters who fear that this may result in exchanges running two versions of Ethereum, with the old and the new mining algorithm, which would mean a chain split on two blockchains with different mining rules. Other reasons against it include the opinion that core developers have too much power, as well as the unwillingness to “hold tokens of a chain that hard forks against the will of the majority of its users,” as Gnosis founder and OpenEthereum maintainer Martin Köppelmann says.

James Hancock, Ethereum Hardfork Coordinator, believes that a split won’t happen, stating in the call: “I have not seen any evidence that there is an ideological or people willing to step up and actually have a network split. If I’m wrong I’ll resign as hardfork coordinator.”

Meanwhile, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin criticized the way in which the decision was made. “It went from “phew, this thing is gone and has not been talked about for quite a while” to “OMG it’s now SCHEDULED FOR THE NEXT HARDFORK???!” within the span of 1.5 hours,” he writes.

Eric Conner, Gnosis product researcher and Ethereum advocate, argues that EIP should be discussed thoroughly on multiple forums, and that if “there is any hint of contention from a large set of community members,” per EIP 1, that EIP “should die there.” Conner refuses to run a ProgPoW version of Ethereum.

Others, like Ethereum core developer Hudson Jameson, and Igor Lilic, Principal Tech Lead at ConsenSys, are calling for a mature debate, as is part of the process, without targeting individuals.

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Learn more: Ethereum 2.0 Phase 0 ‘Certainly’ Coming This Year, Deadline Unknown