Ethereum’s October Upgrades in Limbo as Developers Call Concludes With No Results


Ethereum’s community maintains communication between the developers with a bi-weekly call, which usually discusses changes to be made in the network, upcoming projects, etc. This week’s call was meant to discuss three concepts up for proposal – the difficulty bomb, ether issuance, and ASIC resistance, which are all big topics of debate.

The difficulty bomb is a clever moniker for a part of the code in the infrastructure. This code makes blocks less efficient for mining, but the delay can inhibit the issuance of cryptocurrency. There were six proposals with various methods of handling these concerns. The discussion of ether issuance is largely because it is much higher than it should be right now, which some users believe is the reason that the ether’s market has been suffering. As for the ASICs, there have been mining chips available for the same use for miners lately, but there are many advocated for GPU mining that want the chips removed and excluded. This topic of discussion did not become heated until the recent difficulty bomb and ether issuance became worrisome.

The phone call was scheduled with multiple miners and investors that make up over 50% of the hashing power, all of which would have a time to speak on these topics and others. The intention was to hear out all of these proposals via a live-streamed video call, which would help them decide on changes to Ethereum’s current state. The economics of the platform, along with mining methods and upgrade speeds, were all brought up. However, two hours of discussion later, the group collectively decide to reproach these issues at a follow-up meeting on August 31st instead.

The “Difficulty Bomb”

The Ethereum community does not have much time to make many of these decisions. The ticking “difficulty bomb” has to be either removed entirely or delayed for now. The official deadline for all of these changes are not until early next year, but it creates a complication. The group has to decide if they want to use proof-of-work protocols to eliminate the hardware presently being used, or if they want to say goodbye to ASICS instead. To do so, the community will way the benefits of which rewards are fairer and if these changes need to be made at the same time.

Every person in the group has the potential to lose or gain funds, which is what makes the delay in decision-making incredibly worrisome for everyone. The conversation alone is difficult. Even the Chairman for this decision, Hudson Jameson, said, “I honestly don't know how to make a decision. I don't know how we'll go from here.”

The Issuance Debate

Even with the lack of decision, there was still substantial talks about how mining impacts the distribution and creation of ether. Both Brian Venture (CTO of Atlantic Crypto) and Matthew White (software developer) urged the group to limit ether’s maximum output, going much further than just a reduction. That would move Ethereum away from their original plan, which dictated that there would be no cap established until mining hardware becomes unnecessary. White commented,

“Getting the issuance under control will have good effects for price which is important for developer salaries and projects and funding new projects.”

CEO Xin Xiu of Sparkpool, a mining pool that is responsible for at least 20% of the hashrate, believes that there will be a negative effect in lowering issuance rates. He said, “There is a tipping point and when we get there everything will break down and we cannot get back. In my opinion the change of issuance will be a big impact to the security.

The ASIC Resistance

Proof-of-work mining is planned for replacement at a later time in their original roadmap, but the question of if Ethereum should prevent the use of mining chips is something they need to assess now. The use of mining chips pushes out loyal GPU miners, which primarily succeed because the latest hardware is not required to make a promising profit.

Reducing the amount of ether being issued would easily reduce the amount of profit that miners make. However, Ethereum developer Danny Ryan believes that a “reasonable compromise” could involve blocking ASICs from mining on their network. Jameson chimed in on this concern, believing that the testing needed for this type of change may not be included with the hard fork in October.

Even though many people were in support of these changes, there were some developers that were heavily against the loss of ASICs for miners, and even argued that it could damage GPU mining profits.

Ending Remarks

With a week left to individually ponder the best path for the community, Jameson believes that more can be gained by letting participants and community members voice their own opinions on social media. The additional attention is always beneficial for the platform, but these are the voices that the decisions would impact, making them essential to the process.

Jameson concluded by saying,

“Between now and next Friday there will be more community comment about the EIPs and the different perspectives here.”

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