In brief

  • Vitalik Buterin has criticized Ethereum’s developers for their decision-making process on ProgPow 
  • He remains neutral on the proposal, which would tilt the balance in favour of GPU miners
  • He suggested that a new decision making process be adopted for contentious proposals. 

Ethereum’s cofounder Vitalik Buterin broke his silence on ProgPow on Monday, and criticized developers for how they handled the controversial upgrade proposal. 

ProgPow would change Ethereum’s hashing algorithm, minimizing the advantage of so-called ASICs—chips optimized for faster mining—by effectively tilting the balance in favour of GPU miners. 

The move has been a political hot potato since the proposal was announced in June, 2018. It was finally approved earlier this year, subject to a positive audit. However, after ProgPow was declared safe, it went into hibernation. Officially, devs declared that an opportunity for a separate fork to host it had to be found, but many were likely hoping that it would die of deadlock.

However, on a call last Friday, developers suddenly resurfaced ProgPow, and tentatively reapproved it. They set a date for July—three weeks after the blockchain's next expected hard fork (upgrade,) in June.

That ProgPow was suddenly on the table again came as a surprise to many in the Ethereum community, including Buterin. 

“The way progpow was ninja-reapproved definitely did not help make people trust the governance or feel safe, “ he tweeted. 

Asked to explain what he meant by “ninja-reapproved,” he said: “It went from ‘phew, this thing is gone and has not been talked about for quite a while’ to ‘OMG it's now SCHEDULED FOR THE NEXT HARDFORK???!’ within the span of 1.5 hours.” (emphasis: Buterin’s)

He suggested that the lack of a clear signal on “where we clearly don't want governance to go” was responsible for the furor greeting Friday’s announcement. 

Vitalik Buterin remains neutral on ProPow

The ProgPow proposal seeks "to resist the centralization of PoW [proof of work] mining power,” by making it harder for the bigger players, who typically use ASIC rigs.

However its opponents fear that implementing ProPow may result in a chain split, which could happen if the network of users disagree on on how the blocks should be made, and form their own chain. Others fear it could bring gains for some GPU producers over others

Buterin’s comments initially seemed somewhat surprising since he has taken pains to step back from Ethereum decision making. Which is likely why he reiterated that, even though he was surprised ProgPow had resurfaced, he remained neutral on whether it should be implemented. 

But he did suggest that a new procedure was needed for contentious proposals. 

Ethereum community manager Hudson Jameson has promised a blog post summarizing the pros and cons of ProgPow to inform debate. But meanwhile, over on social media, the arguments raged on.