EthereumPoW vs Ethereum Classic: A Tale of Two Forks, Which is Better?

In the dynamic landscape of blockchain technology, where innovative solutions continually reshape our understanding of digital transactions and contracts, Ethereum has emerged as a pivotal player. Born from a vision of a decentralized world, Ethereum’s smart contracts and decentralized applications have been revolutionary, facilitating a paradigm shift in the way we perceive and interact with blockchain technology. However, the Ethereum universe is not monolithic; it is characterized by forks that have led to the creation of new Ethereum-based chains. This comprehensive guide intends to explore these two forks, aiming to provide a detailed comparison of EthereumPoW and Ethereum Classic.

A Tale of Two Forks

A “fork” in the realm of blockchain refers to a split in the protocol of a blockchain network, giving birth to a new blockchain that shares its history with the original up to a certain point. This split can be classified into two categories: hard and soft forks. A hard fork, like the ones that led to EthereumPoW and Ethereum Classic, involves a radical change to the network’s protocol, resulting in the divergence of the blockchain into two distinct entities that no longer recognize the validity of each other’s transactions.

Ethereum Classic’s inception traces back to June 2016, following a controversial event known as the Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) attack. The DAO, a decentralized venture capital fund built on Ethereum, suffered an attack exploiting a vulnerability in its code, leading to the theft of around 3.6 million Ether. The Ethereum community was confronted with a critical decision – to allow the stolen Ether to remain with the attacker, adhering strictly to the principle of immutability, or to intervene by hard forking the blockchain to return the funds to the DAO investors.

The majority favored intervention, leading to a hard fork that resulted in the creation of a new chain, which retained the name Ethereum, where the impact of the DAO attack was reversed. A minority, however, were adamant in their belief in blockchain’s immutability, refusing to accept the new chain. They continued to maintain and develop the original chain, which came to be known as Ethereum Classic.

The birth of EthereumPoW was born out of the community’s desire to transition Ethereum from a Proof of Work (PoW) consensus mechanism to a Proof of Stake (PoS) mechanism to address scalability and environmental issues. This endeavor, known as Ethereum 2.0 or simply “Eth2,” involves multiple phases and necessitates a series of hard forks. EthereumPoW represents one of these stages, a temporary solution that maintains the PoW mechanism while introducing improvements in preparation for the full PoS transition.

Understanding EthereumPoW

EthereumPoW represents an essential stage in the evolution of the Ethereum network, serving as a critical link in its journey towards a full Proof-of-Stake (PoS) transition. Although Ethereum has since completed this transition in an event known as “The Merge” in September 2022, an examination of EthereumPoW provides a thorough understanding of the phased approach the network undertook to minimize disruption and ensure a seamless transition to Ethereum 2.0.

At its core, EthereumPoW maintains the Proof-of-Work consensus mechanism of the original Ethereum blockchain. Proof-of-Work, a protocol that requires participants to perform complex computations to validate transactions and create new blocks, played a crucial role in securing the Ethereum network in its early stages.

Nevertheless, EthereumPoW was not merely a continuation of the existing Ethereum blockchain. It introduced several enhancements aimed at addressing the blockchain’s existing limitations and preparing the network for its eventual transition to PoS. These updates primarily focused on scalability, network security, and transaction efficiency.

Scalability remained a central challenge for the original Ethereum network, with its capability to process transactions per second (TPS) proving inadequate in the face of rising demand. EthereumPoW introduced several upgrades designed to mitigate this problem. Through enhancements such as off-chain transactions and sharding, EthereumPoW strove to increase the network’s throughput, reducing congestion and transaction latency.

Simultaneously, EthereumPoW reinforced the network’s security measures. While PoW provided a reliable means of securing the network, it was not without its shortcomings, including susceptibility to 51% attacks. EthereumPoW brought forth a series of security protocol updates to counter these potential threats, fortifying the network’s resistance against malicious actors.

Furthermore, EthereumPoW aimed to improve transaction efficiency. The network adopted various strategies to optimize its gas pricing mechanism, enabling more predictable transaction fees and reducing the complexity for end-users.

Understanding Ethereum Classic

Ethereum Classic, often termed the “original” Ethereum, holds a prominent position within the blockchain space. Unlike the chains that emerged from subsequent forks, Ethereum Classic remained true to the initial Ethereum blockchain’s principles and technology, serving as a testament to the ethos of immutability and decentralization that underpin blockchain technology.

Ethereum Classic operates on a Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus mechanism, similar to the early stages of the Ethereum network. This approach involves miners competing to solve complex mathematical problems, with the first to solve a problem earning the right to add a new block to the blockchain and receive a reward in Ether Classic (ETC), the native cryptocurrency of the Ethereum Classic network.

One of Ethereum Classic’s defining principles is its unwavering commitment to blockchain immutability. The concept of immutability – the idea that once data is recorded to a blockchain, it cannot be altered or deleted – is a fundamental pillar of blockchain technology. Ethereum Classic’s steadfast adherence to this principle reflects its philosophical stance that blockchains should be free from external interference, even in the event of malicious actions like the DAO attack that spurred its creation.

From a technological perspective, Ethereum Classic continues to align with the original Ethereum network’s protocols and features. It supports smart contracts and decentralized applications (dApps), offering a robust platform for developers to build a myriad of decentralized services.

However, Ethereum Classic is not devoid of enhancements and adaptations. Recognizing the need to address potential security and scalability concerns, the Ethereum Classic community has undertaken various initiatives. These include proposing updates to its network protocol and exploring mechanisms such as sidechains and state channels to improve transaction throughput and network efficiency.

Community and Developer Support

In the ecosystem of blockchain technology, the community’s support and the dedication of developers are essential factors determining a platform’s growth, evolution, and ultimate success. Therefore, an analysis of the community and developer support for EthereumPoW and Ethereum Classic becomes critical in evaluating these two forks.

Starting with EthereumPoW, its role as an intermediary step in the Ethereum network’s transition to PoS meant it benefited from substantial community backing. Many within the community viewed EthereumPoW as a necessary measure to ensure a smooth and successful transition to Ethereum 2.0. This support was crucial in fostering a strong developer base focused on implementing upgrades to the EthereumPoW protocol, enhancing its security, scalability, and overall network performance.

However, EthereumPoW’s transitory nature may have affected its long-term community support. With Ethereum’s complete transition to PoS, EthereumPoW’s relevance may have decreased, causing a potential shift in community and developer attention towards the final PoS Ethereum blockchain.

Turning our focus to Ethereum Classic, its journey has been characterized by an unwavering commitment to the core principles of blockchain technology. This adherence to principles such as immutability has helped foster a strong and dedicated community that views Ethereum Classic as the “original” Ethereum. Despite the DAO incident and subsequent attacks on the Ethereum Classic network, this community’s resilience has been notable.

Developer support for Ethereum Classic has been consistent, as evidenced by ongoing efforts to improve its technology and secure its network. Ethereum Classic Labs, the leading supporter of the Ethereum Classic protocol, has been at the forefront of these initiatives, striving to ensure the blockchain’s sustainability and growth. However, the smaller size of the Ethereum Classic community, relative to Ethereum, may limit the number of developers contributing to its ecosystem.

Security Measures

A blockchain network’s security is a core determinant of its reliability, influencing user trust and participation. Let us elucidate the security measures inherent in EthereumPoW and Ethereum Classic, and the implications they bear on the networks’ robustness.

The EthereumPoW, retaining the original Ethereum’s PoW consensus mechanism, was inherently secure against common blockchain threats such as double-spending. ETHW’s requirement of significant computational power to validate transactions ensured that any attempts to alter the transaction history would necessitate a prohibitive amount of resources. Moreover, EthereumPoW introduced additional enhancements to fortify its security against potential threats, focusing on prevention mechanisms against 51% attacks, a risk associated with PoW.

As part of its transition strategy towards PoS, EthereumPoW deployed a mechanism known as the ‘difficulty bomb.’ This feature was designed to gradually increase the difficulty level of puzzles in the PoW mechanism, effectively dissuading miners and accelerating the switch to PoS. However, it also served a security purpose by disincentivizing malicious actors attempting to take over the network.

On the other hand, Ethereum Classic’s security narrative is shaped by its unyielding adherence to the PoW consensus mechanism and the principle of immutability. Ethereum Classic’s security measures, in essence, were the original Ethereum security protocols. However, the network has faced significant security challenges, most notably multiple 51% attacks.

Despite these incidents, Ethereum Classic’s commitment to bolstering its security framework has been steadfast. Initiatives such as the introduction of a new upgrade, known as Modified Exponential Subjective Scoring (MESS), have been implemented to make 51% attacks economically unfeasible. In addition, the network is exploring collaborations with other PoW chains to enhance its security measures.

Scalability and Future-proofing

In the blockchain universe, scalability – the ability to handle increased usage without compromising performance – stands as a critical factor for long-term success. It becomes even more significant when it comes to blockchain networks like EthereumPoW and Ethereum Classic that aim to support a wide array of decentralized applications (dApps).

EthereumPoW, while maintaining the original Ethereum protocol, was more of a stepping stone towards a more scalable solution, Ethereum 2.0. In its quest to transition to Ethereum 2.0, EthereumPoW incorporated various interim scalability solutions, including but not limited to, network protocol upgrades and optimization of transaction processing. The ultimate objective of these measures was to facilitate a smooth transition to the proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus mechanism, inherently more scalable than proof-of-work (PoW), its predecessor.

It’s essential to note that EthereumPoW’s function was transitory, designed to ease the Ethereum network into a scalability-focused future. As such, its design inherently integrated future-proofing – the act of anticipating the future and developing methods to minimize the effects of shocks and stresses of future events.

Ethereum Classic, on the other hand, continues to employ the PoW consensus mechanism. While PoW provides a high level of security, it’s known to face scalability issues as the network expands. In the case of Ethereum Classic, the community has proposed various solutions to these scalability challenges, such as improving network protocol efficiency and exploring layer-2 solutions like state channels and side chains, which aim to process transactions off-chain before recording the final state on-chain. In doing so, Ethereum Classic seeks to increase its transaction capacity without compromising its commitment to decentralization.

In terms of future-proofing, Ethereum Classic’s primary strategy is iterative improvement. Rather than planning a wholesale transition to a new consensus mechanism, the network is more focused on enhancing the existing infrastructure. This strategy involves continuous development and the implementation of new features, such as the aforementioned scalability solutions, as well as security enhancements to guard against future threats.

Decentralization and Philosophy

Decentralization, a foundational principle of blockchain technology, represents the dispersion of authority, responsibility, and functions from a single central point or authority. In this section, we examine the degree to which EthereumPoW and Ethereum Classic embody this principle, as well as the philosophical implications of their individual approaches.

EthereumPoW, in essence, was a pathway to Ethereum 2.0, a highly scalable version of Ethereum that eschews the PoW mechanism for a PoS system. With its primary purpose as a transitory phase, EthereumPoW’s approach to decentralization was inherently shaped by its objective of achieving a more scalable Ethereum. By gradually moving towards PoS, EthereumPoW paved the way for a network with a reduced dependency on energy-intensive mining, opening doors for a more equitable participation in the network’s governance and operations.

However, this transition to PoS also sparked philosophical debates within the Ethereum community. PoS’s introduction marked a paradigm shift from the original PoW ethos, where the ability to create new blocks and earn rewards was proportional to computational power, to a system where the ability to validate transactions is linked to staking nodes. This change has led some critics to argue that PoS could potentially lead to a concentration of power among wealthier participants, challenging the principle of decentralization.

Ethereum Classic, on the other hand, staunchly adheres to the original Ethereum protocol and its PoW consensus mechanism, despite its known limitations with respect to scalability and energy efficiency. This commitment to PoW is rooted in the network’s strong philosophical inclination towards immutability and decentralization. Ethereum Classic’s community maintains that PoW, with its requirement for computational work to validate transactions and create new blocks, embodies a more equitable distribution of power.

This commitment to PoW and decentralization has also led Ethereum Classic to prioritize security and resilience in the face of attacks, underscored by its resilience in the face of multiple 51% attacks. While these incidents have been challenging, Ethereum Classic’s community views them as affirmations of their commitment to decentralization and network security, reinforcing the network’s resolve to improve its security measures without compromising its core principles.

Closing thoughts

So, which fork is better? The answer is not clear-cut. It depends on one’s perspective. If the emphasis is on innovation, adaptability, and scalability, EthereumPoW’s transition to Ethereum 2.0 represents a significant achievement. If, however, one values strict adherence to the original principles of blockchain technology—namely, immutability, decentralization, and security—Ethereum Classic’s steadfast commitment to these principles might be more appealing.


How do EthereumPoW and Ethereum Classic approach the concept of privacy?

Both EthereumPoW and Ethereum Classic, while maintaining transparency as their cornerstone, do not inherently include privacy features in their protocol. Any privacy-focused solutions are usually built at the application layer, through dApps or smart contracts.

What are the use cases of Ethereum Classic in the enterprise sector?

Ethereum Classic, being fully compatible with Ethereum, allows businesses to create and execute smart contracts and develop decentralized applications, but lacks enterprise-focused development compared to EthereumPoW.

How have the Ethereum Classic and EthereumPoW communities addressed the issue of centralization of mining power?

EthereumPoW has addressed this by transitioning to Proof-of-Stake in Ethereum 2.0, effectively eliminating mining. Ethereum Classic, however, still faces the issue due to its adherence to Proof-of-Work.

How do EthereumPoW and Ethereum Classic ensure the compatibility of new upgrades or changes with existing systems?

Both networks employ rigorous testing and multi-stage rollouts to ensure compatibility of upgrades. They rely on developer and community feedback to identify and rectify any compatibility issues.

What are the requirements for a node to participate in the Ethereum Classic and EthereumPoW networks?

For Ethereum Classic, nodes require the full blockchain data to validate transactions. EthereumPoW, transitioning to Ethereum 2.0, introduced shard chains, thereby reducing the load and requirements on individual nodes.

Disclaimer. The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decisions.

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Damilola Lawrence

Damilola is a crypto enthusiast, content writer, and journalist. When he is not writing, he spends most of his time reading and keeping tabs on exciting projects in the blockchain space. He also studies the ramifications of Web3 and blockchain development to have a stake in the future economy.

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