Ethereum Developers Give 'Tentative' Greenlight to ASIC-Blocking Code

A 'tentative' consensus was reached today that ethereum's developers will propose blocking ASIC before the blockchain's proof-of-stake upgrade.

AccessTimeIconJan 4, 2019 at 4:40 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 8:44 a.m. UTC

Members of ethereum's open-source development community tentatively agreed Friday to implement a new algorithm that would block specialized mining hardware, or ASICs, pending further testing on the proposed code.

If accepted by the network of users that run the ethereum software, the code change, dubbed "ProgPoW," would block ASICs, such as those made by major mining firms like Bitmain. In its place, the new software would allow general purpose, or GPU hardware – which is typically phased out by ASICs – to compete for rewards on the platform.

ASICs were developed for ethereum as early as April 2018.

Speaking in the developer call today, security-lead Martin Holst Swende said that he prefers the switch as it will help ensure the safety of ethereum's eventual transition to proof-of-stake, a new system in which users mine the cryptocurrency not by burning electricity, but by setting aside coins they hold.

"We know today that Ethhash has flaws which are currently being targeted. So, that's why I would like to switch as soon as possible to give us time to move to proof-of-stake," Holst-Swende said.

Concluding the conversation, developer relations for the Ethereum Foundation Hudson Jameson appeared to categorize consensus as having been achieved on the proposal.

Jameson said:

“Sounds like we have come to agreement that we are tentatively going ahead with ProgPoW, which means we are going ahead unless there is a major problem found with the testing or things of that nature. We will be going forward with ProgPoW.”

This means that, unless developers encounter unexpected issues with the change, ProgPoW would be released as part of a standalone system-wide upgrade, or hard fork, within the next two to four months. Aside from ProgPoW, no other software changes will be included in the upgrade, developers said.

The news comes at a time when Constantinople, the platform's fifth major upgrade, is nearing activation. Speaking on the call, Parity release manager Afri Schoedon said that according to current block times, Constantinople is due to activate "10 minutes after 12:oo UTC on Wednesday, [Jan.] 16th."

Originally planned for November, Constantinople brings a host of design changes aimed at streamlining the platform’s code. It also seeks to delay the so-called “difficulty bomb” – a code fix designed to prompt frequent upgrades – for 18 months, while reducing the ether mining reward from 3 ETH to 2 ETH per block.

Developers also said that a further hard fork, dubbed Istanbul, should be planned to occur in October, after a period of nine months. Proposed by Afri Schoedon in today's call, this would be part of a periodic upgrade cycle intended to maintain the regularity of upgrades.

Still, the timing for PropPoW, which will deviate from the periodic upgrade cycle, is still unclear, with developers agreeing to question of upgrade timing in the next developer call on January 18.

"Let's do some homework until the next core dev call and see how people can implement [ProgPoW] into their frameworks and maybe we can talk about timing in two weeks," Holst Swende said.

Bitcoin mining farm image via CoinDesk archives 


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