The future of Classic

So, it looks like, as it stands right now, ETC is doing much better price-wise, than many have projected. There is at least one, albeit a slightly broken, “Classic” blockchain explorer. Plenty of exchanges have either announced ETC listings

or already listed it. There are even a new subreddit and an Ethereum Classic Github org. So, all in all, it looks like a new Coin was born and an ecosystem is starting to form around it. What’s next?

But isn’t Classic the real Ethereum? It is the original chain!

It may indeed be the unforked version of the Homestead fork of Ethereum. However, Classic is not Ethereum because

a) Ether holders voted decidedly for the hard fork (and, by proxy, against Classic). True, only about 5.5% of the total supply of ether was used to vote, but that is no reason to deem the it invalid because the vote was well advertised and anyone who wanted to vote did so. For instance, I did not participate because the side I was supporting had already been winning by a huge margin.

b) Miners voted in support of the hard fork, e.g. https://dwarfpool.com/eth/voting. Again, low turnout does not mean inconsequential results for the same reasons as in point a)

c.i) The Foundation has recently announced that they will be supporting the non-Classic chain

Seeing the results of various metrics, including carbonvote, dapp and ecosystem infrastructure adoption, this means that we will focus our resources and attention on the chain which is now called ETH (ie. the fork chain)

c.ii) Ethcore (disclaimer: I actually work with these guys) has been pro-fork from the start and that position still has not changed, even despite Gavin’s recent, either misexpressed or largely misunderstood, tweet

c.iii) DApps, blockchain explorers and toolkit devs are sticking to the forked (ETH) chain as well, e.g.

c.iv) Perhaps, only Consensys, a large Ethereum middleware development company, have been cautious not to make comments on the whole DAO-forking incident. Though, from a DApp developer’s perspective, it only makes sense to favour the chain which is favoured by protocol devs. Plus, ConsenSys must have a ton of vested interest in ETH, so I doubt they will ever come out supporting Classic.

We could go on, adding more links to various sources and announcements, but what’s referenced here should already be enough to serve as an indication that the Ethereum ecosystem has largely favoured the forked version of the chain.

Finally, this piece of comedy gold, besides its unparalleled level of toxicity, has left me speechless for a minute with these claims:

The ETH DEVS, unknown to them at this moment, are owned by the original chain that is trading as ETC on the Poloiniex exchange.

and

The ETH logo, branding, domains, github and funds belong to the original Ethereum chain. The Hardfrok has no entitlement and must seek alternative options.

While, obviously, being basically rubbish, the post does highlight a peculiar difference in the Bitcoin maximalists’ understanding of what a blockchain is and anyone else’s, especially of those with some in-depth knowledge of the technical aspects of it:

  • Maximalists: blockchain is God
  • Non-maximalists: blockchain is a log

In any case, neither The Foundation nor any of the core devs have ever pledged to develop or maintain any particular chain. The promise originally given and diligently delivered on by ETH/DEV, the organisation who brought you Ethereum 1.0, was to

research, design and build software that, as best as possible, facilitates, in a secure, decentralised and fair manner, the communication and automatically-enforced agreement between parties.

The ETH/DEV website has been taken down but you can still read the rest of the mission statement at Wayback Machine. No part of it suggests anything about the dominance of any chain, immutability or “code” being “law”. While not legally binding, the mission statement is still a good summary of the goals that the team was striving to achieve.

With all that in mind,

Ethereum Classic is not Ethereum.

It is, in fact, a completely new cryptocurrency. An alt-coin, if you must.

Looking beyond the current ETC price spike, let’s talk about what the future of Classic might look like. It is not a secret that, long-term, the value of a cryptocurrency is driven by its utility. The utility, in turn, correlates with the number of applications making use of the cryptocurrency, the number of services integrated with it, etc.

We may even say that utility correlates with the number of dev hours put into developing the protocol and peripherals, which, of course, depends on the number of developers working on the platform as well as their commitment to it.

Forking and cloning every single DApp from the main chain, as proposed by some, is a plan that is never going to work because

  • Network effects: certain applications, e.g. prediction markets, benefit from having larger numbers of users. First-movers would always have that advantage
  • Maintenance: even a 1-to-1 copycat still requires someone to maintain it
  • Off-chain interactions: e.g. Digix. You may be able to copy the application, but not the real world assets tied to its tokens

In other words, in order to succeed Classic needs its own healthy, growing ecosystem.

In order for the project to get anywhere, new leaders will have to come forward, and soon. There definitely is some potential candidacy:

Having a core engineering team driving the protocol development is a requirement too. Although, if it is true that the current “classic” community consists mainly of crypto-anarchists and diehard Bitcoin fans then there surely must be enough capable individuals to form such a team.

It just seems a bit odd that if there was a large enough group of people who wanted to create a version of Ethereum that is free from The Foundation then why did they not fork it earlier? Regardless, now there is a fork and I wish you all the best in taking it forward.

To conclude

Classic may indeed be an ideologically pure version of Ethereum in the eyes of a libertarian or a crypto-anarchist. It’s just that the Ethereum community seems to be much less radical-minded than many think it to be. We’re just a bunch of nerds. We debated, we voted and then we forked. Classic is not Ethereum.

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