The Ethereum Saga: Hard Fork of the Month

The Ethereum saga continues this month with the “third hard fork in the last four months.”  This one includes a mechanism to let “developers” delete empty records that have been injected to slow the system. That’s right, this “decentralized” system is yet again modifying code to enable “centralzed” sysadmins to fix things.

As I have pointed out before, these kinds of operations are necessary and routine in most software systems, but they are difficult, politically controversial, and messy in decentralized blockchain systems. (Alyssa Hertig recounts that one group accidentally executed the patch—I mean, “the hard fork”—at the wrong time, effectively dividing the network fo ra time by accident.)

This story reveals some of the peculiarity imposed by the Nakamotoan ideology. The common and necessary practice called “issuing a patch” is a traumatic and newsworthy “hard fork”, which can go horribly wrong. The completely ordinary role of sysadmin cannot exist, and so must be simulated by a cadre of “developers” whose authority may or may not be recognized. This is no way to run a railroad!

As for Ethereum itself, by now, it is almost silly to consider it a “decentralized” system. The developers are clearly taking charge and actively managing the health of the code and the network. That’s a good thing engineeringwise, but it isn’t really a proper “blockchain” thing, is it?

 

Cryptocurrency Thursday

10 thoughts on “The Ethereum Saga: Hard Fork of the Month”

  1. “but it isn’t really a proper blockchain thing” (rolling my eyes). By all means, please provide the reference to your blockchain bible and it’s commandments on what is and what is not allowed in this new technology. Decentralization also means no one is the authority to determine your so called normative behavior.

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    1. It is gratifying to have someone read my post!

      If you read carefully, you will see that I am pointing out that Ethereum isn’t operating in a “decentralized” way, because a small set of “developers” are actively modding the system continuously, in ways that change the history on the ledger.

      That, my friend, is definitely not how “blockchains” are supposed to work.

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