Polygon’s Surprise Code Change Triggers Questions and Controversy

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In web3, there aren’t many words more fought over than “decentralization.” So if someone calls a blockchain’s decentralization into question, it’s going to draw a crowd.

A Dec. 15 tweet from engineer Nathan Worsley claiming that Polygon hard forked its blockchain without warning raised eyebrows. That’s because a project would have to be centralized to get nodes to upgrade so easily.

Worsley’s tweet garnered over 1,800 likes on Twitter, and people like Chris Blec, an ardent critic of many DeFi projects’ security practices, chimed in. “It’s more surprising to me that people are still shocked that Polygon is centralized enough to pull off this upgrade so quickly,” he said. 

Vulnerability

Polygon caters to Ethereum users and offers multiple ways to make transactions cheaper and faster. Polygon did not respond to messages sent through their press contact page or public relations representative. Co-founder Mihailo Bjelic did respond on Twitter, saying that the change in the codebase was made in response to a vulnerability found by one of the project’s security partners. 

Bjelic also tweeted that a detailed blog post about the fix was in the works. 

Decentralization is perhaps the core value proposition of blockchains in the eyes of many proponents . An uncensorable substrate through which anyone can transfer value and interact with DeFi applications is a powerful motivator for people who want to use their money outside of centralized parties’ control. Because of this, “centralized” is one of the worst things a person can call a blockchain.

Fundamental Problem

In defending Polygon’s choice to keep the change quiet, co-founder and COO Sandeep Naiwal tweeted that because it was a security update, it was best to push the change through without publicizing it as that could have led to the vulnerability being exploited.

Not everyone was convinced. Alex Pilar, founder of Pallaemon Digital, which offers advising Bitcoin services, sarcastically suggested on Twitter that Polygon is more akin to a traditional corporation rather than a decentralized blockchain.

“I consider the lack of decentralization in DeFi to be an absolutely fundamental problem, and I don’t understand why the community is so tolerant of it,” Pilar told The Defiant via a Twitter DM.

While the nature of the change to Polygon’s codebase and how it proliferated throughout the project’s nodes isn’t yet clear, it’s plainly evident that decentralization is still a contentious topic in the web3 world. 

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