Just days after the EOS blockchain activated its mainnet on June 14, it froze seven accounts that it suspected belonged to thieves who had stolen funds from users.
Even before the dust began to settle on that news, the people maintaining the blockchain – called block producers – suspended 27 more accounts on June 22, saying in a statement that the “logic and reasoning for this order will be posted at a later date.” Hong Kong-based EOS is a fierce competitor of Ethereum, prompting some to call it an “Ethereum killer.”
Its move to put accounts on hold, without issuing a complete explanation, has led to an outcry from the cryptocurrency community.
Some pointed out how it goes against blockchain’s decentralized nature. But a few optimists have called the move “pragmatic” and supposedly a small sacrifice to make the blockchain secure.
The suspensions have led to a heavy sell-off of the EOS cryptocurrency, leaving investors who participated in its initial coin offering (ICO) – before the product went live – on the losing end.
Now that its governance methods are facing increased scrutiny, some are wondering if the EOS blockchain can deliver what it promises.
The EOS blockchain is a smart contract platform advertised as a system for decentralized applications (dApps). The tech behind it is said to be a game-changer for the blockchain industry. It aims to create a more scalable network, offering a throughput of up to 6,000 transactions per second, as opposed to the six transactions per second seen on the Ethereum platform.
The EOS protocol was developed by Block.one in 2017. Its record-breaking ICO raised almost US$4 billion, and the EOS cryptocurrency has rapidly grown to become the fifth-largest crypto by market cap.
A constitutional mess
The EOS blockchain’s problems stem from the uncertainty surrounding the chain of command of its “stakeholders.” As such, the lack of a proper governance process has created a constitutional mess.
There are different groups that serve as decision-makers on the EOS blockchain. While 21 chosen block producers keep the platform running, a governing body called EOS Core Arbitration Forum (ECAF) is tasked with resolving disputes.
The problem arose when block producers froze the first seven accounts in a unanimous decision, without getting the go-ahead from ECAF first.
Days later, the reverse happened. ECAF prohibited block producers from processing transactions of the 27 additional accounts, but didn’t immediately clarify the rationale behind the order.
Calling ECAF a mistake, Block.one wants to drop the existing rules and replace them with a new governance framework, with CTO Dan Larimer proposing a version 2.0 of the EOS constitution.
Block.one said it would use its 10 percent stake in the blockchain to make changes and maintain the integrity and potential of the platform.
But the team has to act fast before the token’s reputation within the crypto community suffers further damage.
Unexplained decisions could lead to failure
Such a framework will only work if everyone agrees on the rules, says Paul Griffin, director of Singapore Management University’s Masters of IT in Business program.
These rules must then be published and shared with those in the network. And if any changes are made, they must gain everyone’s approval before being implemented. “If there is too much unexplained ruling or censuring, people will stop buying into the EOS cryptocurrency – probably rather quickly,” he warns.
Bobby Ong, co-founder of cryptocurrency data website CoinGecko, says the EOS blockchain needs to resolve its problems quickly and create a process as transparent as possible, or risk losing users.
Freezing accounts without proper authorization is “worrisome,” as Griffin puts it, because “people buying into the cryptocurrency would want to know under what circumstances accounts may be blocked.” He likens this scenario to PayPal suspending accounts while it investigates any suspicious activity, which can be frustrating to users.
While a blockchain can be run in a centralized manner, Griffin contends that it makes “no sense as everyone would still have to trust the central authority. They might as well use other technology instead of blockchain.”
He continues, “For people to use the blockchain, there must be trust – which means the governance of the blockchain must be clear and robust. Time will tell if trust is being misplaced or not. And of course, if trust is lost, then the value of cryptocurrency will be lost as well.”
But Ong notes that by agreeing to participate in the EOS blockchain, participants have already implicitly accepted its rules.
“If you are not in agreement with it, you are free to use another blockchain and token. The EOS blockchain by itself is a political system where its ideals are ingrained in its constitution… It is very political in nature [and] there will be more of such situations happening in the future.”
EOS still holds potential
Given the potential of the EOS blockchain, some supporters aren’t willing to give up on it. They see the weeks following the launch as a testing phase.
Anndy Lian, CEO of Singapore-based distributed platform company Linfinity, believes that at the end of the day, the EOS blockchain made the account suspension decisions with its users’ welfare in mind.
“EOS froze those ‘criminal accounts’ to secure and protect people’s property… I believe EOS is doing the right thing.”
Ong observes that having an arbitration process in place ensures that actions will be taken on any suspicious activity. “This means that thieves will not be able to get away with multi-million or billion-dollar hacks to the system.“
“EOS aims to solve scalability at the expense of decentralization. There will be a subset of apps that I believe will grow with the need for less decentralization. All it takes is one dApp on the EOS blockchain to be viral, and opinions will change very quickly,” he concludes.
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