Most members of the Ethereum community are counting down the days until the network’s “merger,” a massive upgrade that promises to improve its efficiency and drastically reduce its environmental impact. Among the most excited, unsurprisingly, is Ethereum co-creator Vitalik Buterin.
But while the impending merger generated excitement in the Ethereum community, it also drew criticism and speculation.
The merger will change Ethereum from a proof-of-work consensus model to a proof-of-stake one, and not everyone is happy about it. For example, some are lobbying against the merger by announcing a possible ongoing upgrade of the “ETH PoW” (“Ethereum proof-of-work”) chain.
In a call with reporters on Friday night, Buterin acknowledged the ETH PoW move but isn’t too concerned.
“I don’t expect Ethereum to really be significantly damaged by another hard fork,” Buterin said, referring to the controversial 2016 hard fork, or blockchain split, that resulted in a separate chain known as Ethereum Classic. “My impression of almost everyone I spoke to in the Ethereum ecosystem is that they have fully supported and rallied around the proof-of-stake effort.”
Mostly, and unsurprisingly, the interest now in ETH PoW has been driven by Ethereum miners like prominent Chinese cryptocurrency miner Chandler Guo, because miners have something to lose after Ethereum switches to proof of participation: your income.
Currently, with proof of work, Ethereum miners validate transactions on the network and in turn earn token rewards by using very expensive equipment and computing power. Some miners have invested tens of thousands of dollars to mine Ether for a living. With proof of stake, Ethereum will rely on a trusted network of validators, effectively eliminating its mining forever. For that reason, miners may want to try to continue Ethereum’s proof-of-work chain, no matter how unlikely or risky it is to try, in order to retain their investment.
For the most part, according to Buterin, those pushing for a fork are just “a couple of strangers who basically have trades and most just want to make a quick buck,” he said. “So I don’t expect it to have substantial long-term adoption, just because I think Ethereum Classic already has a superior community and a superior product for people testing the work.”
But that doesn’t mean we won’t see “a couple of tokens” as Ethereum changes.
“If a proof-of-work fork goes big, there will definitely be a lot of applications that will have to choose one way or another,” Buterin said, adding that if ETH PoW gains substantial traction, he expects a lot of confusion in the market. and problems “I hope that whatever happens, people don’t lose money.”
Even if it was done, the production of Ether (ETH) proper would not continue on its forked proof-of-work chain after the merger. Miners would have to create a new coin (and a new coin name) for whatever they mine and hope it gets adopted by the masses, while Ether will remain exclusive to Ethereum on its new proof-of-stake chain. The same goes for apps and projects, Buterin said.
“From everything I’ve seen,” he said, “everyone is going to favor the proof-of-stake side.”
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