Ethereum’s “Cat Herders,” a group of consultants reportedly responsible for “reviewing and finding an independent party” to carry out an audit on programmatic proof-of-work (ProgPoW), a new form of consensus algorithm for the Ethereum blockchain, have revealed how and why their team was assembled.
In a Medium blog post published on March 25 by Jameson Hudson, an Ethereum developer and self-described “communicative programmer,” Ethereum’s Cat Herders explained that “due to the evolution of thinking that resulted in the delay in Ethereum’s move” from proof-of-work (PoW) to proof-of-stake (PoS)-based consensus, there seems to be a growing concern now that Ethereum’s current version of PoW, Ethash, might be “gameable.”
ProgPoW: Reducing ASICs' “Hash Rate Benefit”
As noted by Hudson, the belief that Ethash “could be gamed” by miners who use expensive ASIC chips stems partially from the assertion that those using computationally powerful hardware equipment can “start to monopolize” the Ethereum network's hash rate. This, many have argued, could “lead to threats of centralization.”
As Hudson mentions in his blog, “a small community group,” called IfDefElse, had initially proposed that ProgPoW be used and that the Ethereum community consider integrating it in the smart contract platform’s next hard fork.
Ethereum Improvement Proposal 1057: ProgPoW
“Built on top of Ethash it is suggested that” ProgPow could potentially “reduce the hash rate benefit future ASICs would enjoy over GPUs to a maximum of 20%,” Hudson wrote. However, he also clarified that ProgPoW had been designed to “decrease the economic incentive to build an ASIC, not the ability to build one.”
Referred to as Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) 1057, ProgPoW has been developed and promoted constantly by its creators, Hudson claims. According to the developer, the plans to move forward with integrating ProgPoW on Ethereum’s mainnet had been “tentatively approved” by the platform’s core developers in a bi-weekly meeting held on January 4, 2019.
"Gauging Community Sentiment" & Conducting Technical Audits
In a meeting held by Ethereum’s developers in early February, it was reportedly decided that ProgPoW would first be subjected to a review and audit process. Currently, Ethereum Cat Herders have “identified two main tasks around this review/audit of ProgPoW,” Hudson stated. These include “gauging the community sentiment” towards implementing ProgPoW and also conducting a “technical audit” of ProgPoW.
Notably, Hudson revealed that at the time he posted on Medium (about 10 hours from press time), the survey results had been “overwhelmingly in favor” of implementing ProgPoW.