ProgPoW not listed for Ethereum update test

Despite completed audits of progPoW, (programmatic proof-of-work) the feature is not listed as an EIP included in the istanbul testnet. Ethereum Cat Herders, a community that assists developers by coordinating network upgrades announced that the first update test will occur on October 3rd. 

ProgPoW was listed in the Istanbul proposal under Istanbul 2 as tentatively accepted. 

“There is a pending audit, above and beyond standard security considerations, that should be evaluated prior to inclusion.”

ProgPoW recap

The EIP (Ethereum Improvement Proposal) for progPoW was proposed in May 2018. The idea behind the potential upgrade was to put mining power back into the average consumers hands. ProgPoW would change the way ethereum is mined to take better advantage of a GPU rather than an ASIC. 

In January 2019, progPoW was included as an EIP in the Istanbul update as tentatively accepted and pending an audit. Ethereum Cat Herders were in charge of reviewing progPoW and ended up hiring Bob Rao and Least Authority to execute the audits. 

On September 9th, Both audits concluded that progPoW would be successful in decreasing the advantage of ASICs but questioned the longevity of the solution. After the audits were released, Ethereum Cat Herders made a statement on the status of progPoW. 

“Our understanding of the current path is that there is a plan to implement ProgPoW in a future hard fork, yet to be determined.”

Who is in charge of approving progPoW?

Despite blockchain networks being decentralized and permissionless, Ethereum uses off-chain governance to patch Ethereum. What this means is that there are no specific guidelines to how an EIP is approved. EIP1, which lays out the process of implementing an EIP, mentions that there needs to be a community consensus. Regardless, the term community is not defined and neither is the means of identifying a consensus. 

There are websites that tally votes of miners and of holders, both of which overwhelmingly vote in favor of progPoW. Ethereum devs still have a say themselves and will meet with owners of decentralized applications to hear their thoughts. 

Is progPoW really important? 

Implementation of progPoW is a dividing topic in the ethereum community. A big player in game recently quit her job so she could “fully dedicate herself to progPoW.” Other people might quit Ethereum if progPoW came to fruition. 

MakerDAO’s Rune Christensen asked Twitter how DAI should handle a fork resulting from progPoW, emphasizing how stability could be affected by choosing the wrong fork. Though, he clarified to us that he doesn’t think progPoW is strong enough to completely divide the community. 

“TBH I dont think it would be hard to get full consensus on either fork. The actual progpow split is limited to the people feeding the drama on twitter”

Christensen’s statement is contrary to conversation that was going on in a recent ethereum core dev meeting. According to Tim Bieko, Trent Van Epps noted that the division could cause a network split. 

“A final comment is that ProgPow *could* cause a network split. While miners seem to ~unanimously support ProgPow (and are still signalling in some recent blocks), it’s worth noting that part of the community may fork over this.”