After a two-hour live streamed conference, Ethereum core developers appear no closer to reaching agreement on the future direction of the project, as we rapidly approach the next major network update.
Bi-weekly meeting #45, led by Hudson Jameson, has shown little progress from the group toward reaching a majority verdict on key Ethereum improvement proposals (EIPs) by mid-October, when the second Metropolis hard fork, called ‘Constantinople’, is due to go live. The frustratingly slow pace at which the dev community has responded to the upcoming update so far was remarked upon by Ethereum Software Developer, Péter Szilágyi early on,
“I think we wanted to discuss a simple fork at the beginning of the year, so the fact that we’re at the end of the year and we didn’t do it yet speaks volumes of how well we organize hard forks.”
Another developer also pitched in, stating that feature-rich updates have been the root cause of the team’s labored efforts in hitting recent deadlines.
“We insist on acting like a big corporation rolling out releases with a ton of features all at once and then being unable to roll it out because we can’t get all the features ready to go at the same time.”
The main issues discussed by the present members on Friday, were the reduction of ETH block rewards, delaying/ removing the difficulty bomb and addressing the proliferation of ASIC mining on the Ethereum network; all of which still remain in contention.
Three conflicting EIPs in particular were debated in this conference and have divided Ethereum miners, investors and developers a great deal over which code changes to make prior to the Constantinople fork; 858, 1234 and 1295. All three of these proposed changes are neither forward nor backward compatible with the current blockchain and would need to be implemented using the Constantinople hard fork.
This proposal sets out to reduce the hugely inefficient energy consumption of the current PoW mechanism by reducing ETH block rewards from 3 ETH to 1 ETH; in a bid to minimize the overall environmental impact and appeal of the ETH mining. The name ‘Perinthos’ has been proposed for this new chain.
EIP 1234 has submitted that the difficulty bomb, which gradually increases mining difficulty over time, should be delayed by 18 months so that the network does not have to increase miner rewards, would have much faster block times and so the current PoW mechanism could remain as stable as possible. The plan is also to reduce ETH block rewards to 2 ETH to bring the security aspect of the Ethereum PoW mechanism in line with the market.
Brian Venturo, CTO of Atlantic Crypto, argued that reducing block rewards in this way would only serve as an advantage for ASIC miners, because it would become too cost-ineffective for smaller GPU miners.
“Reducing from 3 to 2 is going to force GPU off of the network and all that’s going to be left behind is the ASIC community. If our goal is to remove the ASIC participation of the network, let’s not do the opposite.”
This ongoing issue with ASIC mining technology has sparked concerns over fears that a small monopolistic community of miners could potentially gain centralized control over a sizeable portion of the network. A new consensus algorithm called ProgPow (programmatic PoW) was proposed in EIP 1057 to combat this threat.
Blockchain Specialist, Danny Ryan, commented on ProgPoW in closing during the meeting, accepting EIP 1234’s ETH Reduction provided this new mechanism was committed to.
“2 seems like a reasonable compromise to me, and an investigation and a commitment to try and do ProgPow in 8 months also seems like a reasonable element.”
The last EIP in contention proposes to remodel uncle rewards and remove nephew rewards altogether, instead of reducing the overall ETH block reward. This ensures that network security and stability are maintained, and that miners are incentivized for their continued participation. The proposal also wishes to remove the difficulty bomb entirely so that network throughput is not progressively limited over time.
The next Core Dev meeting (#46) is scheduled to take place on August 31st, where Ethereum Developers will have another opportunity to decide on which long-debated improvement proposal to take forward into the Constantinople hard fork.