Ethereum’s transition from using a Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus algorithm to a Proof-of-Stake (PoS) protocol has been a long time coming—and will be a bit longer still. During a recent Ethereum core developer’s meeting, Vitalik Buterin discussed, among many things, his current thinking regarding the slow transition to a Proof-of-Stake system.
There is a “difficulty bomb” set to go off in Ethereum, which will slowly make PoW mining harder until the entire network slows to a halt, in an effort to eventually force a switch to PoS. By the end of this month, block times will reach about 14.6 seconds. Those block times will more than double to 32 seconds by the end of August. If left unchecked, Ethereum would be rendered useless by the end of the year. Efforts are understandably being made to stave off Ethereum’s impending “Ice Age.”
While it’s looking like it might take over a year to fully move away from PoW, other stages of the transition may arrive ahead of schedule, according to Buterin. The current roadmap doesn’t involve simply pulling the plug on all mining, it’ll be a slow transition, easing PoS protocols into the network.
During the core dev meeting, Buterin outlined his general idea to first run PoS “on top” of PoW, where PoW is doing basically all the work and PoS steps in at the end to “finalize” blocks. After that, the network would move to a hybrid PoW/PoS system. Eventually, rewards for PoW miners will go down, as rewards increase for PoS validators. These changes would be rolled out slowly, first through a soft fork, and then eventually via hard forking the network.
There’s clearly a lot of decision-making going on behind the scenes. Thankfully, Buterin and the Ethereum Foundation share similar ideals when it comes to transparency and community involvement. When a reddit post asked about Ethereum’s governance, Buterin commented, describing what the Foundation has been doing regarding governance:
“Here's how I would describe what we've been doing:
- Constantly keep an eye out as to what users are looking for, and make sure that we are satisfying people's concerns.
- Be transparent about what we're doing.
- Have frequent developer calls between the various client developer teams and researchers, and publish the minutes and audio as much as possible.
- If there are controversial choices or hard tradeoffs to be made, present the tradeoff and do our best to give the community an input.
- For anything truly controversial, try to gauge community consensus via carbonvote or similar tools as well as other polls.”
If this level of transparency became industry standard across more sectors of the economy, we’d have a lot more trust in the average enterprise. Increased trust between consumers/end-users and the companies/people that supply goods and services would be nothing but beneficial for the entire economic ecosystem. Every day, it’s looking more like fintech just might lead that charge.