Polygon Hard Fork: a technical advancement or a lack of decentralization?

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Polygon reaches milestone of 200 million crypto addresses

On Tuesday, the Polygon successfully completed a network hardfork, creating a new blockchain that aims to offer faster transactions and reduce spikes in transaction costs. While the upgrade was hailed as a technical advancement by supporters, others shared concerns about how the fork was executed. According to some, this hard fork shows that the Polygon network is not decentralized at all.

Why did Polygon perform a hard fork?

A hard fork is an event where a majority of the blockchain’s validators (usually 67% in the case of Polygon) agree to upgrade to new software, creating a new blockchain.

In December, the Polygon team presented an initial plan to implement a hard fork. The team advocated using a hard fork to shorten the duration of on-chain transactions — a move that would both shorten transaction times and reduce the frequency of reorganizations. In addition, they suggested using the ability of a fork to double the blockchain’s “BaseFeeChangeDenominator” to mitigate brief transaction fee spikes that previously impacted the network.

Unrest in the Polygon community

The Polygon team’s proposal sparked a heated debate among the network’s community, with some demanding more information about the necessity of the proposed changes, and others criticizing Polygon’s leadership for not focusing on other, more urgent adjustments that did not require such a drastic measure as a hard fork.

To resolve the issue, Polygon leadership decided to hold a vote, but only the network’s 100 validators, participants serving Polygon’s nodes, were allowed to participate in the poll to decide whether the network should continue with the proposed hard fork or not.

Only 15 people decided the fate of Polygon

In total, only 15 validators took part in the vote. 13 of them approved Polygon’s plan, resulting in an 87% approval rate. According to a source familiar with the matter, some Polygon validators hadn’t even registered with the forum where the polls were being conducted and may not have been aware that voting was taking place.

As a result, only 13 votes ultimately decided the fate and future of Polygon. A few weeks later, Polygon announced its decision to proceed with the hard fork as initially proposed.

It is therefore not surprising that immediately after the outcome of the vote, the team received a lot of criticism. The community said the voting process was undemocratic and too centralized.

Perhaps more strikingly, Polygon leaders have not even indicated that the poll’s results would be binding. They seemed to view the hard fork poll as an early feedback mechanism rather than an official vote.

Fair or not, the hard fork was pushed through and 99 out of 100 validators updated their clients, triggering the hard fork. But the validators didn’t have much choice either. Holding back the hard fork would probably have caused much bigger problems for the validators.

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