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Ethereum Hard Fork: How Important Is Backwards Compatibility?

The Ethereum Foundation has delayed the testnet launch of the Istanbul update until the start of October. But some are raising concerns about one of the Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIPs) which will break certain smart contracts. So should technology be backward compatible ad infinitum?… or is a little disruption necessary in the name of progress?

Too Many EIPs Delay The Upgrade

The testnet activation of the latest update was originally due to happen on September 4th. However, the date has been pushed back to the start of October due to a large number of EIPs submitted for review. Developers eventually accepted six of these for inclusion in the Istanbul package, with a further eight in the following upgrade.

The testnet delay means that the mainnet activation will also occur a month later, in November after the DevCon developer conference.

Breaking Ethereum’s Contract

However, Parity developer, Wei Tang, has raised concerns about one of the improvement proposals, Ethereum Improvement Proposal 1884. This “will break at least a few deployed contracts,” he tweeted, continuing that “what worries me is that some participants on last AllCoreDevs seem to classify it as acceptable behavior.”

He goes on to say:

For software engineering, if you’re developing something that many people depends on, then backward compatibility is one of the top priorities for making any design decisions. This is especially important for blockchain, because a lot of money can be involved.

The technical details of the compatibility issues can be found on GitHub.

You Can’t Make An Omelette Without Breaking Eggs

While Tang’s concerns may seem valid, there is, of course, a counter-argument that obsessing over backward compatibility is counteractive to progress.

Tang makes the example of Microsoft’s Windows gaining popularity because of backward compatibility. Whilst it may have gained popularity in this period, it arguably fell into a technological black-hole.

Apple’s insistence on allowing old-tech to fall into obsolescence was (and still is) widely criticized. However, it took Microsoft years and many iterations of Windows before it caught up to the advances of Apple’s OS X, losing backward compatibility on the way.

If it were purely down to Microsoft, we would likely still be lugging around laptops with legacy VGA and serial ports. Slimline, slimline!

With concerns as to how much space is left on the Ethereum blockchain, clearly something must be done or technology could die. With stakes that high, surely a few broken contracts are a small price to pay?

What do you think about the disputed Ethereum Improvement Proposal? Comment below.

Image via Shutterstock

The Rundown

Říj 20

ShapeShift Removes Support for Ethereum Amid Forking Mishap

Source: bitcoin


Update (10-20-2016, 11:26 AM EST): This article was based on a tweet from ShapeShift that they had temporarily removed all Ethereum-based assets from their platform. That tweet has since been deleted, and the company’s blog post on the matter does not mention removing the assets, although they caution Ethereum-based token traders, telling them to expect transaction delays.

Update (10-20-2016, 11:42 PM EST): Ethereum-based assets have been up and running without issue since being returned to the site.

Technical problems and increasing transaction wait times on the Ethereum network have led popular cryptocurrency exchange ShapeShift to remove all Ethereum-based assets from their platform.

Also read: LaBITconf in Buenos Aires Shows Latin America Is Fertile Ground

ShapeShift Says Goodbye to Ethereum

As ShapeShift’s blog states:

“As some are aware, there have been ongoing malicious attacks on the Ethereum network over the past week or two. The attacks are changing and evolving, and as one vector is fixed, others are opened up. This struggle could continue for a while, unfortunately, though we’re confident Ethereum will emerge stronger. What this means for our users is this: Anyone doing an order with Ethereum (or Ethereum-based assets — Reputation REP, Digix DGD and SingularDTV SNGLS) should expect considerable delays in their order processing. Generally, Ethereum-based transactions are simply taking hours (or even a day or two) to get into their first block.”

Ethereum, perhaps, is having a difficult time adjusting to an increasing amount of transactions on its network. The cheap nature of “gas,” the internal cryptocurrency, has made for creative swarms of attackers to overload the system.

While hard forking is not necessarily good practice, some argue that it is the only way forward for Ethereum at this point.

Some stand to profit massively from the creation of a duplicate blockchain, which can double the coins in possession that one has and trade openly on two distinct markets. ShapeShift will not be a part of this, but look for them to re-join the Ethereum trading community in the future.

Dash, Monero, and Lightcoin remain as popular assets on the exchange, but the shift away from Ethereum has widened the spotlight on altcoins to an even wider buffet of choices.

It is not widely known whether or not ShapeShift deploys transactions directly on competing blockchains of altcoins, or if a solution is being used in-house to only interact with those blockchains at certain points. It will be interesting to see whether or not other cryptocurrency exchanges follow suit.

What do you think about ShapeShift’s decision to remove all Ethereum assets from its platform? Let us know in the comments below.

Images courtesy of ShapeShift, Crypto-Graphics.

The post ShapeShift Removes Support for Ethereum Amid Forking Mishap appeared first on Bitcoinist.net.

ShapeShift Removes Support for Ethereum Amid Forking Mishap