EOS is experiencing what might be considered a full-blown constitutional crisis.
Revealed Thursday on Telegram, Block.one – the company that designed the EOS protocol but turned the code over to its users at launch – proposed that the rules governing behavior on the platform be scrapped and replaced with a "v2.0."
Envisioned as a "holistic blueprint for a globally scalable blockchain society" governed by a written constitution, EOS completed its launch just two weeks ago, but disputes over stolen private keys immediately tested the viability of its governance structures.
In particular, the EOS Core Arbitration Forum (ECAF), a body meant to settle disputes among participants, has drawn criticism for ordering that seven EOS addresses be frozen by the block producers who maintain the ledger. It then drew additional criticism when a fake order circulated, making it clear the off-chain process was vulnerable to even amateur spoofing attacks.
But on Tuesday, Block.one CTO Dan Larimer went so far as to state that he's had enough.
Larimer, whose other projects include Steem and BitShares, wrote on Telegram that "damage to [the] community from ECAF is greater than funds we hope to restore to users" and said he'd clarify his thoughts in a blog post, which was published Wednesday.
That post turned out to be a "proposed EOS constitution referendum," though, in fact, his goal was a complete replacement of the old document with a new set of rules.
"Am I correct," a Telegram user asked Larimer Tuesday (before he'd published the proposal), "in understanding you're proposing removal of the entire current constitution, and replacing it with one that only refers to arbs [arbitrators] being able to rule on code VS intent and code vulnerabilities / hacks like DAO?"
Larimer responded with one word: "yes."
A post on Block.one's website Thursday made it clear that Larimer was not acting in a personal capacity, but that his desired constitutional overhaul was endorsed by the company behind the EOS protocol. The post, a lightly edited version of Larimer's post the previous day, also clarified that the "referendum" was, in fact, a "proposal for EOS Constitution v2.0."
Code is (mostly) law
Block.one's post explains that the concept of "code is law" – that blockchain networks can only be governed to the extent that actors can be controlled by software protocols – is compelling, but fails to recognize "that bugs/extraordinary events will happen and that the community needs a process to establish the intent of the smart contracts in order to quickly resolve issues in a transparent and predictable way, when they do occur."
It suggests "ending all protocol-level arbitration orders other than to render non-binding opinions on the intent of the code," but leaves room for ECAF and, in principle, competing arbitration forums – when all parties in a contract agree to be bound by the decision ahead of time.
Those agreements and any code implementing them, however, would be at the application layer.
For Ferdous Bhai, founder of 21MIL, which runs a (non-validating) block producer though the cryptocurrency exchange ChainRift, told CoinDesk that Block.one's proposed constitution is "a huge improvement over the original one," but still unenforceable.
He went on to say:
"Anything not enforceable won't be enforced, so there's no point in having a constitution IMO [in my opinion]."
Many involved in EOS see the constitution as being the whole point, but for Bhai – who has been banned from an EOS Telegram channel for his vocal opinions on the matter – EOS is a promising technology for building decentralized applications (dapps). The constitution, in his view, only introduces "unnecessary drama and politics."
The community is likely to vote on the new constitution soon, though a number of questions and concerns need to be addressed . These range from the risk of potential vote-buying to the way Block.one will allocate its votes, as well as the technical capacity to hold a referendum (which may not yet be fully in place).
Burning money image via Shutterstock