One of ethereum’s main client has merged into its master branch a controversial proposal to change ethereum’s Proof of Work (PoW) algorithm prior to a broad consensus between developers and others being achieved.
The surprising move was made by Afri Schoedon of Parity Tech a few hours ago. Schoedon has recently been at the centre of controversy after he said an ethereum 2.0 competitor being developer by his employer, Polkadot, is better than eth.
That attracted a backlash from ethereans, with Schoedon then deleting all his tweets, claiming he is quitting social media.
Some suggested he had received personal threats, pointing to one quickly deleted reddit comment. Schoedon then said he is not quitting social media, but he is quitting ethereum. Now, presumably, he is not quitting ethereum either.
The code merger doesn’t quite have any effect on the ethereum network. Parity has released a fork client, so there’s no obvious complication regarding the upcoming Metropolis fork at the end of the month.
That client apparently had a bug, so a security release was made a week ago. Whether they now plan to have a ProgPoW release, isn’t clear.
The proposed algorithmic change is currently undergoing an audit, with no decision made on whether it will be incorporated.
The merger thus might suggest Parity plans to go ahead regardless. If that is the case, then they’re presumably trying to show they have significant influence and even power over ethereum and they can act unilaterally and perhaps not very amicably.
In effect what we appear to have here is a team split. Parity Tech is of course busy working on the Polkadot testnet, with their privileged position in managing the Parity client giving them some free PR.
Controversy presumably would work to their benefit, as might “show stopping” bugs. A considerable overlap and even friendship between competing devs, moreover, makes it difficult to see how ethereum can defend itself from what might be a rogue client. Taylor Gerring, an eth developer, said last year:
“I’ve been involved with Ethereum since its very early days and have had plenty of time to interact with Gavin and observe how he interacts with others. The nicest way I can be honest is that Piper and Bob are willing to be public about their feelings, but they are NOT the only ones that feel this way
So, after having spent 4+ years in the cryptocurrency space and crossed paths with a number of questionable actors, at what point should we stand up and say “enough is enough”? 2018? 2020? How many more years do we have to remain mum on questionable actions before being honest with the community and admitting the truth?”
Gavin Wood, co-founder of Parity Tech and Polkadot, left the Ethereum Foundation (EF) in 2016 under unclear circumstances.
In an interview at the time Wood said he felt some people made more money than others, stating that ethereum “didn’t take the route of what you’d expect a technological venture to take.”
“I urge all those who have placed Ether under the DAO to look beyond the faces and research the structure of the contract and understand properly what agreement your funds are tied to.”
A bit more than a month later, the DAO was hacked, with ethereum descending into a temporary mess. Then in or around September 2016, the Parity client gains prominence due to not being affected by a harmless DDoS exploit. Harmless in as far as funds weren’t affected.
Since that point, Parity has been an important part of ethereum, but tensions were visible now and then. If there was a bug, for example, there would be some arguments on whose’ fault it is. During a debate on whether to restore some Polkadot ICO funds frozen due to a bug, there were statements like:
Small company… fighting for our "family". 11 *million* dollars. Let that number sink in. Google was built out of 200k, but sure, lets feel sorry for the handful of people who abused the entire ecosystem out of millions. This family crap is pathetic. https://t.co/PnrbmDFJa3
— Péter Szilágyi (@peter_szilagyi) April 22, 2018
Most recently, a Parity bug on the Metropolis testnet led a number of high level personnel from Parity to immediately call off the fork for three months.
Hudson Jameson, chairman of eth dev calls, agreed to push it off despite the person in charge of testing stating he was able to finish it before Devcon4. Just prior to Devcon, however, there was Dotcon0, so the fork was pushed off with the whole month of December reserved for Christmas.
With days prior to Devcon4, the agenda was still not up on the website. People had to go around and demand it, with just a draft version being served three days before the actual conference.
This is a sad day for Ethereum. I considered myself very close to Afri and have worked closely with him over the years. We were sort of clones of each other in a way because we had similar ecosystem tasks around managing the security of the network and community management. 1/ https://t.co/PQElLJheEq
— Hudson Jameson (@hudsonjameson) February 18, 2019
Moreover a groupthink appears to be prevalent among some developers who seem unable to take concerns into consideration.
Hudson Jameson, for example, who has the biggest impact on public perception of eth besides Vitalik Buterin, Chief Scientist at the Ethereum Foundation, has still failed to self disclose any conflict of interest even though Buterin effectively asked for it.
Buterin of course previously said he was taking a step back from eth development and will focus on research. That’s what Gavin Andresen said before the 2015 mess.
You leave a vacuum, others will fill it, especially if it serves their interest. Conflict of interest in regards to Blockstream was, after all, their main criticism too. In eth, however, there’s a bit more leadership, so it may work out differently.