Oct 8, 2019 at 20:00 UTC Updated Oct 9, 2019 at 02:15 UTC news
The Takeaway: Ethereum’s creators now acknowledge the blockchain wasn’t built to scale as a mainstream transaction platform. A planned reboot meant to address some of those issues, known as Eth 2, is at least two years away. There is no plan for how or when to migrate tokens and smart contracts onto Eth 2, according to ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin, James Prestwich and other leading community members. Ethereum devotees at the network’s premier conference, Devcon, took all this in stride. Unlike the blockchain’s critics, they see iteration as inherent to development.
For ethereum’s critics in the bitcoin community, last month brought a “gotcha” moment.
Joseph Lubin, co-founder of the second-largest cryptocurrency by market cap, acknowledged onstage at Ethereal Tel Aviv that the network, in its original form, wasn’t built for mass adoption. “We knew it wasn’t going to be scalable for sure,” the ConsenSys CEO said.
Predictable cries of “ scam ” from ardent bitcoiners followed. But Lubin’s statement wasn’t scandalous in the least to the ethereum fans at Devcon – the community’s largest and most influential annual gathering – where roughly 3,000 attendees gathered this week in Osaka, Japan.
Even those who knew the first version wasn’t scalable don’t see early marketing claims as misleading. They see iteration as an inherent process.
“Bitcoiners are kinda like hardcore fascist Catholics that just think everything else is wrong,” Dean Eigenmann, a researcher at the ethereum startup Status, told CoinDesk. “I think [ethereum] underdelivered on its promises, but it has delivered.”
The sanguine vibe at Devcon highlights the difference between bitcoin and ethereum, which has emerged as its own force to be reckoned with: Bitcoin is an individualistic monetary asset while ethereum, convoluted as its path to mass adoption may be, is a communal promise to continue experimenting with smart contracts, together.
Summa co-founder James Prestwich, one of the leaders of a project aiming to create cross-chain capital flows between bitcoin and ethereum, told CoinDesk he believes all cryptocurrency narratives evolve. So even if a blockchain manifests something different than the original white paper, that doesn’t make it a scam.
“Something will exist in 10 years. It may not bear any resemblance to [the ethereum] that exists today. And there may not be good continuity,” Prestwich said. “But something named ethereum will be around in 10 years.” Signage for Devcon5, Osaka, Japan, Oct. 8, 2019. (Image via Leigh Cuen for CoinDesk)
Speaking of the Ethereum Foundation, led in part by ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin, Eigenmann added:
“The foundation hasn’t taken the money and run.”
So what have the ethereum founders delivered since they sold more than 7 million tokens to retail investors to kickstart the network in 2014?
For starters, they spawned a global lifestyle brand. There’s a distinct aesthetic that defines ethereum events, from rainbows and pastel palettes, vegan-friendly snacks and magician-themed group panels about financial inclusion.
Many of the attendees gathered on Tuesday were among the cohort who had previously put their money in communal pools governed by open-source software, including more than $537 million worth of crypto locked into decentralized finance (DeFi) applications. If bitcoiners harp on “freedom” from censorship, ethereum fans are focused on creating “open” and “collaborative” platforms with more egalitarian governance than traditional institutions.
The bottom line is, the original ethereum platform inspired billions of dollars worth of economic activity, from token sales to DeFi loans, and influenced the way regulators view cryptocurrencies that “decentralized” after fundraising. Ethereum also attracted a devoted following of more than 17,000 developers around the world, according to the startup Dappros .
But the jury is still out as to whether that accrued value will translate to the next version of the smart contract platform. ‘Lack of strategy’
Devcon attendees weren’t shy in discussing the road ahead, or who will fund this work.
According to Peter Mauric, ethereum client Parity’s head of communications, the bulk of ethereum-related funding programs will now prioritize creating a new blockchain, Eth 2. Sources with knowledge of such development plans estimated it would take at least two years to build this next version of ethereum.
“No one really knows what Eth 1 will look like once Eth 2 exists,” Mauric told CoinDesk. “There’s not a ton of new development going on in the current chain clients. Most of the ongoing work is maintenance.”
As Prestwich explained, the first phase of Eth 2 – called Phase 0 – is coming this winter:
“Ether moved to the Phase 0 chain will be converted to a new token. These tokens can’t be moved on-chain. At least six months after launch, a hard fork will add transfers. Until then, users are locked in.”
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