In a recent bi-weekly developer meeting, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has come out against the proposal for a hard fork that would disable Ethereum ASICs.
The hard fork proposal would mean the blockchain changes its software to limit the performance of ASIC mining hardware, which is designed to yield the majority of block rewards and represents increased centralization.
The EIP 969 proposal was made by core developer Piper Merriam, who detailed a technical proposal for how this might be achieved while still using GPU cards as the primary mining mechanism.
Buterin did not seem concerned and suggested that there are more important tasks at hand. He responded:
“Getting everybody to upgrade is likely to be fairly chaotic and detract from more important things. So, at this point, I personally lean quite significantly towards no action.”
Vitalik Buterin opposed suggestions that Ethereum needs a hard fork in order to make the network ASIC resistant, as Monero has recently done. It was recently suggested by Monero Core team member ArticMine that Bitmain were near 70 percent of Monero’s hashrate, opening up the network to potential attack. Prior to the fork, an unknown pool made up more than 70 percent at one point, which has since been reduced to less than ten percent.
Buterin seemed to view the threat of centralization from ASIC mining as negligible, explaining that ASIC mining is only 2.5 times more efficient than existing GPU miners and that it is not worth changing the algorithm if it will slow down other developments.
Why Hard Fork?
Ever since Bitmain announced the release of an ASIC miner for Ethereum, the possibility of a hard fork to evade ASIC mining has been a point of discussion in the Ethereum community.
Bitmain, a hardware company who appear to place profits over ideas of decentralization, could represent a threat to the security and decentralization of the network.
This led to a discussion over a hard fork to avoid such a possibility, and a proposal was posted on the Ethereum GitHub – which showed that the majority of developers were in favor of performing a hard fork to avoid ASIC mining, with only 42 opposing the measure.
In the meeting, developers also discussed confronting ASIC miners another way by creating an algorithm. Buterin was not against this idea but saw it only as a backup option worth pursuing if it does not detract from more significant aspects of the project.
However, community manager Hudson Jameson stated that if there were strong feelings in the Ethereum community, there was still the potential to move towards a fork, irrespective of the core developers:
“If the community truly wants this to happen and has a good enough reason we can definitely do that, but for right now it sounds like consensus of the core devs to not do anything at this time.”