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The Ethereum community has always been in favor of the bleeding edge and taking chances. In fact, most of us agree to the idea that if a better platform were to come along that we would willingly defect to it. And yet, even as these new platforms launch with the features ETH 2.0 is working towards (PoS, Sharding, etc…), there’s a clear reticence amongst the community to migrate.
So, why is this? Let’s dive in.
Us vs. Them
If you’ve been keeping up with the community, you can probably guess a few of these reasons. The first of which is the means by which some of these platforms are communicating themselves / have been communicated to the community.
One instance of this would be the pitting of Polkadot against Ethereum by Afri Schoeden — a core developer who would ‘Rage Quit’ Ethereum as a result of the harassment that he faced after causing a commotion in the community regarding Polkadot’s superiority to the incumbent.
This departure would cause unrest within the community which deeply mourned their loss and sympathized with Afri’s reasons for leaving. This wouldn’t last long, though.
Just two months after the event, an unknown party unveiled Dothereum — a fork of Ethereum being built as a Parachain on Polkadot. And while the identities of those working on it have yet to be confirmed, a number of individuals have traced it back to Afri.
Naturally, the community which had previously sympathized with the reasons Afri had left immediately turned the other way and viewed him as traitorous and attempting to create a divide in the community. And such sentiment has certainly changed the way in which individuals in the community perceive the overall Polkadot project.
You’d think that Polkadot would try to avoid such damage to its reputation after observing what happened with EOS, which actually branded itself as the “Ethereum Killer”.
How did such a marketing approach work out for them? How many people migrated off of Ethereum to EOS? Personally, I know a few people that tried EOS out, but the network effects weren’t there and the people who stayed chiefly did so to make a quick buck from Block One.
EOS certainly did get a lot of attention though, but mostly in the form of satire from the Ethereum community which began to truly loathe EOS and celebrate its regular hiccups / failures. If this was purely about tech, the Ethereum community would been aggressively lampooning other Delegated Proof of Stake platforms, but it wasn’t — EOS had waged a war on Ethereum and the community unified against the attacker.
And it hasn’t stopped. New platforms are launching each month and positioning themselves as obsolescing Ethereum — telling developers to move on to their platform instead of working with the developers and allowing them to come to that conclusion on their own.
Now, you may be thinking, “There are millions of developers in the world, why does he keep focusing on the importance that these platforms take developers from the Ethereum community? Can’t they just onboard people who are new to the space?”
Not really, and the reason for this is quite simple.
The “Killer dApp”
So, this phrase has been passed around a lot within the community for some time now as the thing which will bring blockchain technology to the masses and harbor a new wave of people flooding into the space. Well, when the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) began really taking off in 2017, it was Ethereum’s “Killer dApp”.
While others had raised money in this fashion before, it became standardized and much easier to facilitate on Ethereum. Couple this with the fact that people were raising tens to hundreds of millions of dollars in just a matter of seconds (and with no accountability!) and you can see why a lot of people had turned their eyes to Ethereum.
And as the hype subsided, we saw a huge amount of attrition within the community. But a number did stay, and have contributed to an even larger overall community around the platform.
So, while these other platforms may be technically superior, they have yet to offer such a unique value proposition. And with the amount of regulation coming down on them, it’s unlikely that they will ever be able to offer something as compelling as the ICO was to the general public.
And it’s for this reason why it is important for these new platforms to focus on the Ethereum community. Because until they are able to provide value to the general public and draw people in with the next “Killer dApp”, the people interested in building on their technology will be constrained to the existing pool of developers (with the majority building on Ethereum).
Developers who are considering building on a new platform also have to weigh the benefits of the platform to the established Ethereum ecosystem and community. And when you’re already working on something so new and novel, you want all the help you can get.
Ethereum has so much existing infrastructure that developers would be leaving behind if they were to migrate. Veil is a great example of this, a peer-to-peer prediction market built on the open protocols of 0x and Augur (which are both on Ethereum) would not be possible on any of these other platforms because the tooling simply does not exist.
While Ethereum may be technically inferior to these other platforms in theory, it has been live for almost four years and has adapted over that time to address the multitude of vulnerabilities and inefficiencies that come with running a system in production. And these other platforms simply don’t have that sort of clout, at this point.
Network Effects Wear Off
This all said, network effects only last for so long. With enough frustration due to the constraints of the Ethereum platform, developers will certainly seek greener pastures as alternatives become more viable. The question is whether or not Ethereum’s roadmap for scalability can address those concerns before they do so.
The answer to this is ‘Yes’, but I don’t see that scalability coming from ETH 2.0 for the fact that it will simply take too long to deliver on and is highly experimental. So, in the meantime, we have layer two solutions working to provide greater scalability for the mainnet with popular scaling solutions such as plasma and state channels. And these are great, but what if we could combine the layer one roadmap with the speed and agility of layer two development?
I proposed this idea a while ago and was excited to see that it was exactly what SKALE’s ‘Elastic Sidechains’ are offering developers in the Ethereum ecosystem. Each Elastic Sidechain is equivalent to a shard in ETH 2.0 with the Ethereum mainnet serving as the beacon chain (assuming finality in ETH 1.X). And with each Elastic Sidechain supporting threshold signatures, they are able to perform interchain communication (cross-shard communication) in the same manner as proposed by the ETH 2.0 specification.
And they aren’t the only ones! There are many many teams working on flavors of Plasma (Plasma Group, Loom, etc…), State Channels (Connext, Celer, Counterfactual, etc…), and other scaling solutions whose work will vastly improve the usability of Ethereum so that it can continue to attract many more businesses and individuals as the smart contract platform of choice.
As these other smart contract platforms spring to life, I see no threat to Ethereum. Although more technically advanced than Ethereum, they often pit themselves against the Ethereum community (preventing adoption of their technology from existing developers) and often market their tech instead of their value to people outside of the existing blockchain community (preventing further public adoption). The latter point is often a result of them not being able to offer any novel value to those whom they are marketing to a.k.a. no “Killer dApp”.
Couple this with Ethereum’s battle-tested network, thriving ecosystem and community, and the ability to scale through layer two technologies, and the reasons for migrating to other platforms quickly fade. This isn’t to say that it isn’t possible that one of these platforms can usurp Ethereum, I just find it highly, highly improbable.