What went wrong with Ethereum in 2018

I am convinced that Ethereum is — and has been, for the past couple of years — the most important blockchain, and the one with the best prospects for development and adoption in the immediate future. I’m not an “ethereum believer” at all and actually I don’t believe in any particular blockchain. If someone today showed me a more consistent and active ecosystem than what has come to be created around Ethereum I would change my mind in a moment. What is important for me and for the company I am a CTO for is the development of trustless technologies and social assumptions. The very concept of blockchain is non-essential provided that better technologies and/or social assumptions emerge that lead to a society as free as possible from mediation and the need to trust centralized bodies.

With this article I want to talk about what, in my opinion, went wrong for ethereum this year. Or, if you will, what could have gone better.

1:

Ether is the best currency ever conceived by mankind. However, the Ethereum Foundation does not develop its lawful potential.

To date, the killer application of each blockchain is the monetary function. Through the possibility of being exchanged through on-chain contracts (smartcontracts) too, Ether is not only a “crypto currency”. It can also perform the following tasks:

  1. means of payment
  2. value reserve over time
  3. value denomination (price)

Ether can do so much more because it can be exchanged among parties also in view of rules and conditions written in a contract without having to depend on third parties for executing agreements or for resolving contractual disputes.

Ether therefore is not only a currency, it is an evolution of the very concept of currency as humankind had conceived it before Ether itself.

In order to be expressed, this enormous potential does not only need improvements on both a technological and social side, and I am referring particularly to scalability or simplicity and security in the management of private keys.

I am specifically thinking of the issues in the relationship between Ethereum (and, by extension, of each and every blockchain) and the laws and regulations of the world, which are now the main source of friction when it comes to the mass adoption of Ether as a world-class currency.

The Ethereum foundation does a commendable job in the development of the ecosystem. Its constituents, starting with Vitalik Buterin, as well as an enormous research work, bounce like pinball beads off every corner of the planet to promote Ethereum, but for reasons that I cannot explain to you today, the foundation has not provided for any award (grant) in the field of legal research.

Research is not just about technology, code, social assumptions. Research can also lie in finding the best possible legislation(s) worldwide to develop Ethereum as a currency. Ethereum foundation’s cash prizes could also be given to law firms that offer the best possible framework for each piece of legislation, or the best possible legislation globally, in an open source fashion, to base one’s Ethereum-related business.

Looking at the latest wave of grants reserved by the Ethereum foundation, for example,

https://blog.ethereum.org/2018/08/17/ethereum-foundation-grants-update-wave-3/

we find no trace of such fundamental issues.

Likewise, during the last Devcon and, in fact, even in previous ones, I have never heard of projects that are pushing for adoption by trying to smooth the friction linked to the laws and governance systems of the various countries.

2:

Metropolis

The Ethereum evolution that goes by the name of Metropolis has had and continues to represent a painful, incomplete birth that will not reach (in my opinion) the main objective for the development of the ecosystem: the abstraction of the EIP859 account concept (link +link) even after the introduction of the Paygas opcode.

Assuming that “Metropolis” after the split in 2 hard forks is still a reasonable concept (personally I consider the current Ethereum as “Byzantium” and the coming one as “Costantinople”; I don’t see why the two hard forks should be brought back to pieces of the same project seeing how things have gone), and assuming that finally on January 16th this last passage to Costantinople takes place, the fact remains that unfortunately what was by far the most important, useful and radical change for Ethereum has not been incorporated.

I understand the ambition and difficulty (and the dangers) in terms of trade-off between innovation and security of the protocol but it was a shame that the Paygas op-code has not been introduced (neither it will be with Constantinople), so far smart contracts on Ethereum must always be “stimulated” with a transaction to change status, and this represents a significant technical and social limit for the DAPPs.

The Ethereum development team decided to devote every effort to solving together the issues of scalability and efficiency of the blockchain through the transition to an innovative form of Proof of Stake, the Sharding, and a new and more efficient programming and compilation language that goes by the name of eWASM before introducing this type of feature in the protocol.

However, the truth is that Metropolis cannot be said to have been a full success compared to the announcements and expectations generated in previous Devcons.

3:

The emergence of asics mining

It was supposed to happen sooner or later, and it did so exactly on time. Bitmain has placed on the market equipment dedicated to ethash (and equilash) mining, which suggests that it has long been mining its own dedicated ethereum hardware. This is not the place to discuss how much this represents a cancer for Ethereum and how much asics mining is a real poison for any blockchain.

The overwhelming majority of the Ethereum community agrees with the need for a change in the Proof of Work (waiting for a POS that will require over a year to take over) as soon as possible. It appears that the ProgPow project currently being tested is a candidate rather close to replacing ethash.

In this case one can say that S… Happens… it would have been better if it hadn’t happened, though.

This is what I think went wrong for ethereum in 2018. With that in mind, Ethereum is to date (and I fail to see how it cannot remain for a long time still) the spearhead of a cultural, conceptual and industrial movement linked to the notion of a trustless society.

Originally published at funnyking.io on November 13, 2018.

Author: Paolo Rebuffo, CTO @Deepit AG

www.deepit.ch