Ethereum Community Debates Consensus Algorithm Targeting ASIC Miners


Faced with the next bomb of trouble and reduced blocking premiums, some in the community are pushing for a consensus-resistant algorithm of ASIC ProgPOW to maintain decentralization.

ETHNews recently reported on the reawakening of concerns over ASIC mining platforms ahead of last Friday's request for core devs. In that coverage, we expressed some skepticism about the potential for the inclusion of an ASIC-resistant protocol so soon before the implementation of Constantinople. While the developers in the most recent request have discarded the possibility of resistant ASIC measures in the October fixed handgrip, they appear to be seriously worried . There is now a discussion on the inclusion of a "programmatic work test" in Istanbul, the tough parade to follow Constantinople. The algorithm, called "ProgPOW", has been in development for at least the last year and is described in detail on GitHub:

"ProgPOW is a work test algorithm designed to bridge the gap efficiency available with specialized ASICs: it uses almost all parts of commodity hardware (GPU) and is pre-configured for the most common hardware used in the Ethereum network. "

In other words, while some algorithms They provide highly specialized and costly mining equipment a strong advantage over the more common ones, ProgPOW tries to equalize the playing field by reducing financial barriers to entry. The ASIC-resistant algorithms have been considered and implemented by a number of other blockchains, including Zcash (considered, ultimately rejected) and Monero (implemented) as a way to reduce the centralization of mining pool.

Since the birth of Ethereum, ASIC resistance has always been a low-level concern, but there has never been enough concern within the developer community to push any anti-ASIC measures to the mainstream. ; implementation. However, in a bearish market, with the impending bomb of difficulty and the reduction in block premiums expected in Constantinople, miners are worried about profitability, pushing more serious discussions on the issue last Friday. Still, there is no sense of certainty or consensus around the question.

Hudson Jameson of the Ethereum Foundation began the conversation by suggesting that ProgPOW was implemented in a "second hard gallows after Constantinople", pushing back and forth on an appropriate timing. The general consensus was that six months would have been too early, as it would not give the client developers enough time to keep up, but a year would be too far. Eight months have emerged as a temporary goal, but as Martin Holst Swende, head of security at the Ethereum Foundation, pointed out, the last time they were the eight-month target, and that did not work.

While some members of the mining industry, including the consultant Andrea Lanfranchi and Xin Xu of SparkPool, seemed to agree that ASIC extraction was a problem, most of which were not he spoke. Carl Larson, the author of an EIP to reduce block premiums, has claimed that no one has shown that ASICs actually have a significant advantage. The Ethereum Foundation coder Jason Carver argued that while ASICs have a significant advantage over the old GPU rigs, they are about on par with the new GPU machines. The developer of Ethereum Jean Cyr raised doubts about the fact that ProgPOW is "not optimized" and expressed his preference for a continuation of the status quo instead of a new consent algorithm. Nick Johnson, chief developer of Go Ethereum, also expressed skepticism about ProgPOW. In the end, they agreed to review related materials and return next week to discuss the matter in more detail. They also directed people to online channels for discussion.

As recommended, the debate is now warming up on reddit. Some are confused as to why developers should invest time in ASIC resistance when Casper will make the concern irrelevant. Redditor TheBounceSpotter opened a thread elaborating on these concerns:

"During the call there was a push for ProgPOW to be included in the next fork (Istanbul) that would be about 8 months later Constantinople, but based on previous maturities, it is more likely that there will be a gap of 10-11 months, so we are observing a 12-14 month time frame before ProgPOW is implemented, perhaps sometime from September to November 2019. I thought to 2019 – the beginning of 2020 was the new period of time granted for the chain of beacon Casper?

"Does it mean that ProgPOW will only be operational for 0-6 months before the POS? If so, why are we assigning one of the limited EIP slots to Istanbul (each EIP requires time and resources to test, only 3 actual updates are turning it into Constantinople)? And if not, does it mean that everyone involved is already aware that Casper will be delayed much later … again? "

Another discussion, initiated by the redditor ZergShotgunAndYou, stated an opposite position:" I too believe that ProgPOW should be implemented in a future hardfork (preferably sooner or later, ideally in the ; HF in Istanbul 8 months after Constantinople). I especially like the approach they have taken to develop it. "

Later in the thread they raised more specific concerns about the fact that the only Ethereum ASIC mining platforms are currently implemented by two companies: Bitmain and Innosilicon:" I would say I have a single entity (or a couple) that controls both the production that the sale of mining equipment is detrimental to the decentralization and security of the network. "

As expected, the range of responses varies considerably and there seems to be little common ground. For the most part, the discussion remains civil, though sometimes the concerns are expressed in hyperbolic and sensational terms: despite how frustrating it can be. in terms of efficiency, it would seem to be a sign that the Ethereum community is effectively maintaining a decentralized consensus-building structure.

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