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Furore grows around Ethereum’s controversial EIP 867 proposal, Buterin weighs in

A controversial proposal dubbed EIP 867 has driven tense debate in the Ethereum community, where co-founder Vitalik Buterin has now stepped in.

Ethereum last experienced a sizeable split where its community either embraced or rejected a proposal to refund some $3.6 million USD in Ether plundered during the attack on the DAO, and now the seeds of new friction have come to fruition.

A new proposal, dubbed EIP (Ethereum Improvement Protocol) 867, aims to make it easier for Ethereum users to reclaim lost Ether, wherein users could submit an executable format to request the return of stolen funds.

The proposal comes not only in the wake of the attack on the DAO, but further after incidents such as one event where some 513,774.16 ETH was rendered inaccessible after a portion of Parity Technologies’ code library was deleted.

EIP 867 is less of a protocol and moreover a proposal, however, thanks to the fact that it does not offer any software changes but rather marks a framework for new proposals to follow. Specifically, EIP 867  offers a standard to enact fund recovery operations in the near future, which would accordingly be called Ethereum Recovery Proposals.

To be enacted, EIP 867 would have to pass through four steps. The first – which has been completed – would see a developer submit a pull request which would be evaluated by EIP editors.

Second, and thus in progress at the time of writing, EIP editors would evaluate the request for ‘technical correctness’ and whether it is ‘in tune’ with the Ethereum ‘philosophy’ – where, should these conditions be met, editors would ‘merge’ the request as a draft into the next stage.

The third stage would mark the stage where actual software implementations could be trialed, and later successfully accepted. Thereafter, the final stage would mark an upgrade of the Ethereum platform where various nodes running Ethereum software make the decision to upgrade accordingly.

Controversy has not been far behind EIP 867 – EIP editor Yoichi Hirai initially rejected the proposal on account of its failure to align with the “Ethereum philosophy”, and later resigned from his post on account of his legal concerns should the proposal be allowed to continue into the next phase.

Proponents and detractors

Two according views have arisen in the Ethereum community – one follows the principle that ‘code is law’ and that recovery should not be possible. Previously, this debate saw the seismic shift that shattered Ethereum into its core platform and Ethereum Classic, where communities argued over the decision to refund 3.6 million Ether from the DAO.

Detractors of EIP 867 accordingly believe that all executions and transactions are final and immutable and should not be corrected on a blockchain. Specifically, a chief argument has arisen that a movement of funds – chiefly where ownership is speculative – is beyond the capacity of developers and could make such persons liable for charges of corruption or bribery.

Proponents of EIP 867 argue that in cases where fund ownership is clear, recovery should occur. Points presented argue that Ethereum has a responsibility towards its users in the event their funds are compromised and that, should the platform adopt mechanisms for the retrieval of funds, it could lead to increased adoption.

Vitalik Buterin has ultimately waded into the debate after criticism that Ethereum’s governance model is intrinsically flawed. Vocal opponents have cited their dissatisfaction that Ethereum’s team of core developers has not been quick enough to resolve the dispute.

In conversation with leading proponents of either argument, Buterin offered that “I actually personally think that, in general, our governance mechanism as it is de-facto is really not that bad. Probably the main flaw is not so much what the mechanism is, as how we communicate it.”

Buterin evaluated that a key lack of clarity outlines how proposals such as EIP 867 are heard; explaining that “the impression that a lot of community members got from the outside is that [EIP 867] is a lot closer to being merged, than from being actually implemented, or actually finally accepted, that anyone involved in the decision-making process actually intended to signal that it is”.


The debate around EIP 867 looks ultimately set to continue into the future.

At the time of writing, the proposal has sat as an unaccepted draft for nearly three weeks, while furore on its potential acceptance continues to drive unrest in the wider Ethereum community.

Alex van de Sande, a developer of Ethereum’s mist browser, has proposed that another proposal dubbed the Immutability Enforcement Proposal (IMP) – which accordingly argues that fund recovery should not be made possible – should be merged in response to EIP 867.

Buterin ultimately agreed, responding that “I agree that’s definitely a clever way of undoing the signal.”

Have your say!

What are your thoughts? Would you support EIP 867 or the IMP? How could the Ethereum community find resolution? Be sure to let us know your opinion on Twitter – join the conversation @coininsidercom!