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Will Dogecoin be flipping the switch any time soon?
If Dogecoin was stakeable, would you stake it? $DOGE 🐕
— Marshall Hayner (@MarshallHayner) August 20, 2023
This consensus mechanism, which uses mining to validate the network, requires specialized computers working non-stop to crunch random strings of numbers to ultimately add the latest block of transactions to the chain of record. For their work, miners earn the network’s native currency as a reward for their efforts.
The debate between these two consensus mechanisms revolves mostly around environmental concerns. When Ethereum executed its merge event–moving it from proof of work to proof of stake–last year, the Crypto Carbon Ratings Institute reported that the network now uses roughly 99.99% less energy.
Heavyweight crypto players have also advocated for Dogecoin’s switch to proof of stake, including Vitalik Buterin. After Ethereum completed its merge, Buterin said he was “hopeful Dogecoin is going to evolve to proof of stake sometime soon.”
Yesterday’s poll, though, is just the tip of the iceberg, says Dogecoin core developer Patrick Lodder.
“There has been a really contentious back-and-forth between proponents and opponents on Twitter and Reddit for years,” he told Decrypt.
The idea first “popped up” back in 2014 by Jae Kwon, the co-founder of theblockchain, due to mining issues. According to Lodder, the developer consensus on that occasion was that there would be “too steep a learning curve for users and developers.”
The discussion may have fallen into the background, but it never went away. And a proposal for a switch can even be found on the Dogecoin Foundation’s “trailmap.”
Pseudonymous Mishaboar, a Dogecoin node operator and crypto educator, said though that the latest debate has “not been accompanied by anything concrete” beyond the Twitter poll.
He also pointed out that although the Dogecoin Foundation “has been hinting” at a switch, it’s an “independent organization,” reminding Decrypt that there is no centralized organization encompassing the network.
Another core Dogecoin developer agrees with both Lodder and Mishaboar.
Xanimo, a pseudonymously core Dogecoin developer, thinks there isn’t much substance to the current debate, and that “the community has become hyper reactionary.”
“People are getting so bombarded with disinformation at every second,” he told Decrypt, that they now “overreact” at even the “possibility of discussing new ways of thinking,” referencing the recent poll–which received a 60% no-vote to staking DOGE tokens.
Dogecoin hurdles on the horizon
Besides any ideological hurdles, switching to a new consensus mechanism comes with a host of technical challenges too.
“Assuming there would be no contention and no one would be left behind, it would be a challenge technically,” said Lodder. “There would need to be software that can validate the different proof of work and the proof of stake logic of the code, making for a very hard and complex target.”
Switching is one thing too; maintaining such a large network over time after such a jump could also be a headache.
“Even if there would be a perfect mechanism proposed for the staking logic itself, I am extremely worried about the integration and down-the-line maintenance of the resulting network,” he said.
Both Lodder and Mishaboar are skeptical of proof-of-stake.
The latter told Decrypt that despite his concerns regarding proof of work (namely environmental and centralization) he “currently sees no valid alternative that would not introduce worse problems.”
Lodder pointed to concerns surrounding the concept of proof of stake security, ”where you secure an asset with itself in a closed loop,” as well as with “the suitability of it for an ecosystem that has a majority of the coin in centralized custodian wallets.”
Xanimo, on the other hand, “couldn’t care less about proof of stake,” but shares the environmental problems raised by Mishaboar.
“ASICs needed for PoW need some refinement across the industry,” he said, adding that it has to do “particularly with sustainable” energy sources.
The current discussion, lively and apparently long-lived, has an uncertain outcome, notwithstanding the unlikeliness of it happening.
“I don't exclude anything, but I have learned to be extremely conservative when it comes to these things,” concluded Lodder. “If you can solve something in user space, don't change consensus algorithms.”