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Ethereum hard fork for ProgPoW expected in July

  • Ethereum is expected to implement the controversial EIP 1057, ProgPow, in July, changing its mining algorithm in favor of GPU mining.
  • The hard fork will not exclude ASIC miners from the ETH network, but will significantly reduce their efficiency advantage over GPUs.

The topic of the Programmatic Proof of Work (aka ProgPoW) has been widely discussed over the past year. As the Ethereum core developers discussed a few hours ago at Core Devs Meeting #81, this discussion could soon come to an end. During the meeting, the core developers decided (again) that ProgPoW should be implemented. The hard fork is tentatively scheduled for July.

According to the schedule, the hard fork is scheduled to take place three weeks after the EIP 1962, a controversial update that will add additional cryptographic features to Ethereum. The EIP 1962 is expected to go live in June.

Why is ProgPoW important for Ethereum?

ProgPoW is probably the most controversially discussed EIP within the Ethereum community in recent years. The discussion focuses on the question whether the Ethereum network is centralized through ASIC mining. According to the whitepaper, Ethereum was designed as a decentralized network operated via easily accessible computer hardware in the form of GPUs.

When Bitmain released the first ASIC Miner in 2018, designed specifically for Ethereum (ETH), the core developers were reluctant to implement a new mining algorithm. As a consequence, a discussion about the increasing centralization of the Ethereum network through ASIC mining was initiated. The fear: A handful of miners could potentially gain control of the network through a 51% attack.

In addition, numerous GPU miners complained about a lack of profitability. During the discussion, a group called IfDefElse therefore proposed a new algorithm called ProgPoW. The implementation was designed to close the efficiency gap for GPU miners compared to the specialized ASIC miners. Based on Ethash, it was suggested that the advantage that future ASICs should enjoy over GPUs should be reduced to a maximum of 20%.

ProgPoW was then submitted under EIP 1057 and discussed for months within the Ethereum community and in the Ethereum core developer calls. The first (preliminary) approval was already given on January 4, 2019. ProgPoW was approved in Meeting #52 and an audit in Meeting 54 on 1 February 2019. The Ethereum Cat Herders were commissioned to carry out an audit. This audit is currently still in progress.

Worries about a possible hard fork

Although ProgPoW has already received the approval of the core developers several times, the discussion is still ongoing. A few express concern about the possibility of splitting the community. Some opponents of the proposal fear that exchanges could run both Ethereum versions, with and without ProgPoW. At the recent Core Devs meeting, Ethereum coordinator James Hancock said that a split is unlikely. ProgPoW is the most “ready to go” of the current improvement proposals:

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.

However, at least two influential project leaders are against ProgPoW. SpankChain CEO Ameen Soleimani and Gnosis founder Martin Köppelmann expressed objections to the upgrade. However, both were invited during the current meeting to attend the next one. Hudson Jameson stated that this will not change the decision of the team:

There will be plenty of time for open dissent that won’t really change the decision, necessarily, because we’ve already gone back and forth and approved it twice.

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Jake Simmons

Jake Simmons has been a crypto enthusiast since 2016, and since hearing about Bitcoin and blockchain technology, he's been involved with the subject every day. Beyond cryptocurrencies, Jake studied computer science and worked for 2 years for a startup in the blockchain sector. At CNF he is responsible for technical issues. His goal is to make the world aware of cryptocurrencies in a simple and understandable way.

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