Ethereum Classic is preparing another hard fork. It was announced in statements published last week that the project’s development and mining community is committing to a change in its monetary policy by December of this year. Essentially a move to a new protocol, all current Ethereum Classic users and miners should have upgraded their software by then.
If everyone does not upgrade their software, the project can split into two incompatible networks, blockchains and currencies. Of course, that is exactly how Ethereum Classic itself broke away from the Ethereum Foundation’s Ethereum last summer.
And, if it’s up to Reddit user “Ignatius_G_Reilly,” history will repeat itself by the end of this year:
“If the Ethereum Classic project had any value in the first place, then Ethereum Classic Classic is its true champion.”
The Revamped Monetary Policy
A revamped monetary policy has been high up on Ethereum Classic’s priority list for some time.
The project started increasingly differentiating itself from Ethereum since the split. Ethereum Classic is in no rush to move to proof of stake, for example, and it recently diffused the “difficulty bomb” that would have forced its developers’ hands. Part of the distinguishing effort, some suggested that a change in monetary policy would help investors properly evaluate the classic ether token (ETC).
“Ethereum will adopt a new monetary policy when they move to proof of stake mining,” Ethereum Classic’s pseudonymous project coordinator, “arvicco,” told Bitcoin Magazine. “We won’t switch to proof of stake anytime soon. But in order for a platform token to be viable, the monetary policy could not be ‘undefined.’”
The upcoming monetary policy is formalized in ECIP 1017 (Ethereum Classic Improvement Proposal 1017), drafted by Matthew “snaproll” Mazur. Resembling Bitcoin’s gold-like properties, ECIP 1017 places a hard cap on the total amount of tokens to be issued on the Ethereum Classic blockchain. Specifically, it is “tithing” a 20 percent reward reduction about every two years, meaning the supply will be capped around 210 million ETC. The vast majority of coins should be mined around 2070.
While ECIP 1017 was not the only contender for a monetary policy change, it did take an early lead. And now, it’s the only concrete proposal left, arvicco said:
“No competing technical proposals were adopted by any teams, and the key stakeholders in the ecosystem expressed their support for ECIP 1017.”
Ethereum Classic, of course, originally emerged as a sort of protest movement: a protest against the DAO “bailout,” a protest against the centralized decision-making process by the Ethereum Foundation and, perhaps especially, a protest in favor of immutability. As a guiding rod for the project, the state of the blockchain should not be altered, even if it displeases its users.
But that does not mean Ethereum Classic opposes all hard forks. Like Ethereum, Ethereum Classic hard forked in 2016 to counter a type of spam attack. And as mentioned, it also hard forked to dismantle the difficulty bomb. In both cases, the community agrees these protocol changes did not violate the project’s principles of immutability.
On the other hand, while Ethereum implemented the “Spurious Dragon” hard fork to rid their blockchain of empty spam accounts, Ethereum Classic did not. Though some Ethereum Classic users considered this hard fork desirable, others believed it to be a violation of immutability. Given this division, the community decided against Spurious Dragon.
Perhaps, therefore, “immutability” itself is not the only requirement to adopt a hard fork; it’s not always necessarily clear when “immutability” is or isn’t violated. Rather, as for any decentralized and blockchain-based currency, an underlying requirement is widespread consensus; in this case, consensus over when “immutability” is violated — and when it is not.
To build consensus for the upcoming hard fork, the change in monetary policy has been extensively discussed, arvicco said:
“Everyone had ample opportunity to make their case during the discussions on Slack, conferences and events we held as a community. We don’t have the luxury of a ‘benevolent dictator,’ so we had to form [our] position through discussion and compromise.”
As a result of this process, the different development teams working on Ethereum Classic have now agreed to implement the hard fork, a decision that is backed by Ethereum Classic’s most important mining pools, investors and more.
“But when all is said and done, Ethereum Classic users will either support the proposed changes by adopting compatible clients,” arvicco concluded, “or not.”
Ethereum Classic Classic
And now that the announcement to hard fork is made public, it seems maybe not everyone agrees with the change in monetary policy after all. While it so far appears to be a small minority, some Reddit users — mostly absent when the change was debated — are criticizing the announcement.
Indeed, the proposed hard fork may just spark another protest movement: Ethereum Classic Classic was announced last week
“This attempt at central planning of the monetary supply is an artificial limitation of the Ethereum Classic inflation rate, providing no other service than suggesting a ‘rarity’ of the ETC token meant to influence market perception,” he told Bitcoin Magazine. “In no way does this arbitrary decision help the continued functioning of the Ethereum Classic chain.”
Lampooning the subreddit sidebar of Ethereum Classic, Ethereum Classic Classic echoes the protest sentiment of the early Ethereum Classic days. “We believe in a strong separation of concerns, whereby system forks are possible only to correct actual platform bugs or provide functionality upgrades, not to bail out failed smart contracts, associated special interest groups, or aspirant central bankers,” it reads.
“The planned Ethereum Classic hard fork is in no way a ‘functionality upgrade,’ and certainly constitutes a ‘bail-out’ of ‘associated special interest groups.’”
And there seems to be another similarity, too. Perhaps surprisingly, the Ethereum Classic project last summer garnered support from people who never cared for Ethereum itself. This included so-called “Bitcoin maximalists” who really just wanted to frustrate Ethereum’s hard fork — or have some fun with it.
Ethereum Classic Classic, so far, likewise appears to be supported by critics that never really cared about Ethereum Classic in the first place. In much the same way that “Bitcoin maximalists” supported Ethereum Classic, some Ethereum proponents are now backing Ethereum Classic Classic.
“The humor employed in our communication is not ‘trolling,’ but [is] really used to underline the absurdity of the Ethereum Classic project itself,” Ignatius_G_Reilly said. “Taking a step back, Ethereum is where the real game is happening.”
But therein may also lie a difference.
Ethereum Classic was initiated by a Russian-speaking segment of Ethereum users, and subsequently embraced by other Ethereum users in opposition to the DAO hard fork. While supported by “Bitcoin maximalists,” the heart of the project consisted of a group of people who self-identified as members of the Ethereum community.
Ethereum Classic Classic, so far, seems to be supported mainly by Ethereum Classic critics. Whether this alone is enough to sustain a digital currency remains to be seen. With some 60 followers on Twitter, about 30 subreddit subscribers, no known developers, no mining pools and no businesses coming out in support of the project so far, Ethereum Classic Classic has a long way to go.
Ignatius_G_Reilly, however, seemed hopeful:
“We are rallying resources and contributors and will make a further announcement on this subject.”