Switch to ProgPOW: Ethereum Community Debates ASIC Resistance

Ethereum’s planned move to Proof of Stake (PoS) protocol along with proposed improvements through Constantinople which was recently delayed could help bring back the platform’s good days. However, as the fork date draws nearer, a serious debate has sparked within its community and it does not seem to be going away anytime soon. Some Ethereum users are keen to know if there is enough support for the network to switch to ProgPOW – the mining algorithm that will improve the competitiveness of GPU against ASIC miners.

The debate gathered steam after the ProgPOW topic was initially included in the next Core Dev Meeting agenda on Feb 1 but was later removed according to Andrea Lanfranchi who claims to be in charge of ProgPOW’s integration into ethminer, an Ethereum GPU mining worker. He notes that he is pushing for a “quick definition of a matter which, left unfaced, will leave both parties involved (the ones in favor of change and the ones against it) in a state of uncertainty and/or wishful thinking with potential further economic losses…”

The community will hopefully use the data provided by a future 3rd party audit to raise their voices towards rough consensus.

— Hudson Jameson (@hudsonjameson) January 30, 2019

More decentralized applications (dApps) activities are currently being run on the TRON and EOS blockchains than Ethereum’s though the Vitalik Buterin-led platform still hosts more dApps. According to DappRadar ranking, only two Ethereum-based dApps are in the top 50 (42nd and 45th spots) in terms of a 24-hour user basis. Despite the downward market trend and the reduced number of new ICOs, the Ethereum platform still leads as the most popular platform by a very wide margin. A reform of the platform’s setup is expected to make it more active and attractive.

Varying arguments
The main question at hand is whether ProgPOW should be introduced now to prevent contentious fork of future POS or not. The question is hinged on several views which include that ProgPOW will render ASIC miners somewhat obsolete for mining Ethereum. Since many small investors and miners use GPUs for its mining, this would seem a good development for them as ProgPoW will offer a stable ASIC resistance.

Also, while GPUs could be used to mine other coins and can use more than one algorithms, ASICs are reportedly developed mainly for the Etash protocol which can mine other coins as well but cannot change its algorithm. With that, GPUs are considered prone to being used for attacks as they can switch to a more profitable chain unlike ASICs whose use tends toward centralization but have more at stake as incentive to not attack.

The near future dilemma lies between avoiding centralization as a greater threat and ensuring no contentious hard fork by introducing ASIC resistance. Mining equipment manufacturers like Bitmain would be much affected by the latter.

Votes so far
Though nothing credible yet, independent votes are already being conducted on various fronts showing different voting patterns. While Reddit votes can be easily manipulated, for example, voting with coins could be biased by miners who have large amounts of Ether. Most of the vote counts are too small to be considered reliable. These votes are not necessarily final to be used in the decision-making process but they could serve to gauge the pulse of the community.

Looks like the #Ethereum $ETH community is not supporting a hardfork from #Ethash to #ProgPoW ??? pic.twitter.com/Qx2NKNEWUS

— Marius Kjærstad (@MKjrstad) January 19, 2019

What is your opinion regarding a potential Ethereum PoW Change? Currently the following options are on the table: Switch to ProgPoW and obsolescence any existing Ethash ASICs, switch to a different PoW Algorithm (ASIC friendly or ASIC resistant) or do nothing and stick to Ethash?

— Bitfly (@etherchain_org) January 13, 2019

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