Ethereum Blockchain Software Tech Upgrade Debate Is Still Unresolved

Earlier this year, the Ethereum community was thrown into turmoil as it debated implementing a system-wide software upgrade to return $239 million in lost funds as a result of the Parity breach. The debate, which has been largely ignored since April, is back at the forefront of the Ethereum community.

This week, the Ethereum community is in turmoil over the proposed implementation of EIPs 867 and 999.

Last year, a bug in the popular Parity Ethereum software led to the loss of over 513,000 ETH, worth about $420 million at the time (down to about $240 million today).

That loss led to the release of a controversial code proposal called Ethereum Improvement proposal (EIP) 867. Soon after the release of EIP 867, the community became what some called “a battleground”.

As detailed by CoinDesk, the EIP 867 proposal was,

“crowded with bitter commentary, snide pull-requests and coordinated attempts to erase the idea from the platform’s repository.”

That proposal simply wanted to make it easier for Ethereum users to reclaim lost Ether. The proposal detailed a process where users could submit requests in a clear and executable way to those who maintain the network.

The debate over EIP 867 took place towards the end of 2017 and first few months of 2018. Why are we suddenly talking about it again?

Well, some of the Ethereum community’s biggest stakeholders are expected to meet in Berlin this week to address decision-making challenges across the decentralized network.

One of the key things these stakeholders will discuss will be EIP 999 and the way it hasn’t been reviewed. EIP 999, for those out of the loop, is a proposal that seeks to reactivate the 584 wallets where much of the $420 million in frozen funds remain.

EIP 999 is described as a “contentious code change.”

This week’s events began with a meeting of the Council of Ethereum Magicians, a group of developers formed in early 2018 in order to discuss how Ethereum should handle technical updates and code disputes. That group had a scheduled meeting last Saturday.

As part of that meeting, Ari Schoedon, communications manager of Parity Technologies (the company whose coding problem caused the $420 million freezing of ETH funds last year), suggested a change to EIP 999.

CoinDesk has a good writeup explaining what happened next:

A relatively minor suggestion, Schoedon asked to advance EIP 999 within the parameters of ethereum's process for code review. Due to what he perceived as a lack of technical objections to the proposal, he inferred it should be set to “accepted” status. But the move had wider repercussions, with sometimes vitriolic debate surfacing on Twitter, Github and Reddit. The reaction was swift, with those against the code even proposing a rival pull request to move the proposal to the “rejected” state.

Major members of the Ethereum community are grumbling over the proposal and the reaction to it.

“I wish people would stop using the EIPs repository for political grandstanding,”

tweeted Ethereum core developer Nick Johnson on July 16.

Some members of the community have strong opinions against EIP 999. It seems like a straightforward request today: to unfreeze the massive amount of ETH funds locked in frozen wallets. However, the move has sparked backlash from people who fear such requests will become too commonplace.

Some believe that the proposal puts too much power in the hands of too few people.

“If Ethereum users and developers are able to act like market managers,”

explains CoinDesk,

“How are they different from today’s central monetary authorities?”

That’s why some Ethereum community members are freaking out over EIP 999, with some people claiming Ethereum is already “completely centralized.”

“The Parity bailout EIP was just stealth ‘accepted' by the Ethereum Foundation despite community rejection. Apparently the community found out and now the pull request has been closed,”

one Ethereum community observer tweeted: “Ethereum is completely centralized.”

Complicating matters further is that Schoedon, the developer who initiated the pull request to move the proposal to accepted, is also the author of EIP 999.

Other members of the Ethereum community are pointing to EIP 999 as proof that decentralized governance is inefficient:

EIP 999 is a great example of stalled governance and it just won’t go away, and it is consuming every discussion to the point of exhaustion.

Others feel like there hasn’t been enough discussion. One Reddit user warned that there hasn’t been sufficient input from the community prior to the pull request.

Changes are being made to the EIP process which remove the need for community consensus, and allow EIPs to become Accepted based only on being “technically feasible”. It also removes the ability of core devs to vote on EIPs before they get accepted.”

explains /u/ezpzfan324 on Reddit’s /r/Ethereum subreddit.

“Interesting that this happens right after Parity failed again to get their fund recovery EIP accepted. Funny how they thought it could be accepted just for not having “technical objects”…anyone else see a parallel?

the Redditor continued.

What Happens Next For The Ethereum Community?

The next step for the Ethereum community is to improve EIP 867. If implemented, EIP 867 would introduce a fund recovery request process within the Ethereum network.

Of course, other users don’t want to see such a process implemented, and some believe it will be the beginning of the end of Ethereum as the network immediately becomes more centralized.

Ultimately, Ethereum is going through a minor governance crisis at the moment. Some are calling for the Ethereum Foundation to take a stronger stance, while others say the Ethereum Foundation should take a step back. It’s a bit of a mess – and we’ll keep you posted as this mess continues to unfurl across the Ethereum network.

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