Buterin: until scaling problems solved, developers using Ethereum are “screwed”

Ethereum co-creator Vitalik Buterin winds up his busy week at the Deconomy conference in Seoul, South Korea, with a talk on the future of blockchain tech. 

It’s certainly been an eventful few days for Vitalik Buterin; his “joke” about hard-capping Ethereum caused a stir on April Fool’s Day, and his outburst aimed at Craig Wright – where he called the man who claims to be the creator of bitcoin “crazy” and a “fraud” – made worldwide headlines too – oh, and he met Doge (known to its friends as Kabosumama the Shiba Inu).

Yesterday, however, he topped it all off by laying out a long-term vision for Ethereum, as well as musing on the potential of the blockchain as a whole. You could argue, in fact, that he sees them as one and the same – which would make sense.

One of his conclusions was significantly more eye-catching than the others, though: that the current Ethereum blockchain simply won’t handle the demands of running a large decentralised app, and that scaling needs to be priority for its developers.

His turn of phrase was far more colourful, according to reports.

“If you want to build a decentralised Uber and Lyft on top of an unscalable Ethereum, you are screwed. Full stop.”

Ethereum can handle around 15 transactions per second, we’re told. Uber apparently handles around 12 – but payment systems will handle many, many times that, and Ethereum simply couldn’t hope to cope. Buterin, though, has spoken in the past about his wish to scale Ethereum to VISA-like transaction numbers.

This makes the idea of ‘scaling’ – making a system technically robust enough and fast enough that it can handle an explosion of use – top of the list in terms of forward planning for anyone hoping to take their blockchain tech mainstream.

At the forefront of developments for Ethereum in this area is ‘sharding’, which would split its blockchain into smaller discreet parts, allowing the number of transactions processed simultaneously to grow as it is divided further. It’s a development that’s expected to come among a raft of changes to the Ethereum code that are in the pipeline.