Developers discussed an algorithm change for Ethereum during the April 4th Ethereum developers meeting. EIP 958 was submitted on March 29th by Ethereum developer Piper Merriam for general discussion. In the streamed developer meeting, Piper points out that “this is not an area I have expertise to make decisions” and that he presented the EIP to “facilitate” the discussion. Piper continued by pointing out that the proposal suggests “low touch changes to the Ethash algorithm” designed “not to improve ASIC resistance as much as an attempt to break existing ASIC hardware.” The ASIC hardware in question would be the recent release of Bitmain’s E3 Ethash ASIC miner.
Ethereum co-founder and developer Vitalik Buterin went further to explain the circumstances of the new hardware being prepared by Bitmain. He began by stating that the ASIC efficiency is only 2.5x better than current GPU mining rigs, and that the new device was basically “a regular computer” with the non-mining components stripped out. He continues by pointing out that without knowing what would be required, a change in algorithm (“maybe whatever the hell Monero uses”) wouldn’t actually manage to make a difference. He wraps up by stating that the effort required would likely only net the community six to twelve months before needing to revisit the issue. He stated his opinion would be “leaning towards no action” although he does point out that in a worst-case scenario where a large share of network hash was controlled by Bitmain the development team could hasten work on the POW code already in the pipeline.
Many members of the community disagree, worried that Bitmain commanding even a 25% ownership of the Ethereum network hash would have negative effects on the de-centralized nature of the currency.
The entire developer meeting is linked in the video below. I encourage readers to listen in on the entire meeting, but those of you wanting to get right to the ASIC meat can skip to the 32 minute mark.