Buterin joined McCormack and Blockstream chief strategy officer Samson Mow to chat about the long-standing tussle between preeminent cryptocurrency Bitcoin and Ethereum.
The podcast host highlighted the ongoing debate between Bitcoin and Ethereum and the focus on the finite supply of the former in comparison to Ethereum’s token supply which still remains uncapped.
Why the warfare?
The podcast began with McCormack posing a question to Buterin around the ongoing conflict between the Bitcoin and Ethereum communities.
Buterin highlighted the early years after Bitcoin’s inception as a period of calm which perhaps masked various differences in ideologies that were not clear at the time. Reminiscing on the ‘Bitcoin space’, Buterin said there were different camps with different views but things were easier going:
“I think there’s been this broader fragmentation of the cryptocurrency space over the past ten years, if you remember back then it was called the Bitcoin space in 2010 to 2013. Up until around the end of 2013 there was this feeling of harmony in the crypto space but it definitely masked these kinds of differences that I think we didn’t realize existed at the time.”
The following year would fundamentally change the cryptocurrency landscape as the Ethereum initial coin offering took place and the project garnered an enormous amount of attention. Buterin believes this is the starting point of the space becoming fragmented into different ideological groups:
“Around 2014 things started diverging. The ethereum sale happened and I think the project launching and the sale happening was the first big non-Bitcoin asset to gain anywhere close to the level of interest that it did. It convinced a lot of people in the industry, for better or for worse, that cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin were not a toy anymore. Around the same time we started seeing Bitcoin having its big-blocker vs small block split which would lead into its own ‘ holy war’.”
Buterin admitted that he had ‘overestimated’ the thought that others in the space had shared his values and ideologies on cryptocurrencies when he started advocating the benefits of alternative cryptocurrencies:
“My first post where I kind of took an anti-maximalist position back in 2013 called ‘In defence of alternate cryptocurrencies’ – when I wrote that I felt genuine surprise that there were people that did not think like myself and I thought that if you’re in favour of Bitcoin you should be in favour of crypto as a whole. I guess since then you just have different groups of people within the crypto space that have these somewhat different visions of what crypto is fundamentally about.”
Another major talking point was the ongoing move of Ethereum to Ethereum 2.0, which will see the protocol move from a proof-of-work consensus algorithm to a proof-of-stake, sharding powered consensus protocol.
McCormack asked Buterin how challenging the segway had been and if he felt like the Ethereum Foundation had ‘bitten off more than it could chew’. Buterin replied by highlighting the challenges faced while stating optimistically that the transition would go smoothly:
“I definitely freely admit that for example, Ethereum 2.0 is much harder than we expected to implement from a technical perspective. I definitely don’t think that we discovered any fundamental flaws that make it impossible and I do think it will be finished. It’s just a matter of time and it’s actually been progressing quite quickly lately.”
The Ethereum cofounder also suggested that the smart contract platform has become resilient due to its nature:
“From an application perspective point of view, I feel like Ethereum’s use in different sectors and is something that can kind of rise and fall independently so if Ethereum tries to get into one space and it turns out it’s not actually useful for that space then fine, those applications won’t go anywhere and the other sectors will keep going.”
2 year roadmap to ETH 2.0
Buterin also gave an update on the ongoing testnet of Ethereum 2.0 which is in its beginning phase. As the Ethereum cofounder explained there is still a long road ahead and expects the full on testing and final move to ETH 2.0 to take another 24 months:
“One of the exciting pieces of news from about two weeks ago is the launch of the Medalla testnet that is the largest multi client testnet of Ethereum 2.0 and phase 0. This is the phase that introduces the scaffolding, the proof of stake parts. It does not yet include sharding, that starts in phase one but for sharding, the spec is very close to finished so it’s just a matter of waiting for implementers to feel like they’ve done enough on the phase zero side and move onto phase one.”