… And they’re not that kind. Here’s why that matters.
Over the last few days, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has been revealing some detailed insights into how he sees the future of his creation panning out. Firstly, he took to his blog, to publish a very in-depth paper (honestly, part-time cryptographers need not apply) on how he believes it can overcome the danger of a 51% attack.
Specifically, it outlines his adoption of an idea first posited by computer scientist Leslie Lamport in 1982, a computer scientist who received the Turing Award for his work on distributed systems – at least according to this breakdown from Blockmanity.
Then, yesterday (August 15th, 2018), Buterin embarked on an epic 71-part Tweetstorm outlining the history of, and the thinking behind, Ethereum’s ‘upcoming’ Caspar update. That massive paradigm shift for Ethereum, should see its much-touted move from the Bitcoin-style Proof-of-Work (PoW) mining model, to a bespoke implementation of a Proof-of-Stake (PoS) system that should offer scaling and speed efficiencies. Strap yourself in for this one, if you want to take that ride.
1. Today I am going to make a tweet storm explaining the history and state of Ethereum’s Casper research, including the FFG vs CBC wars, the hybrid => full switch, the role of randomness, mechanism design issues, and more.
— Vitalik Non-giver of Ether (@VitalikButerin) August 16, 2018
Created by Buterin and Vlad Zamfir, Casper is effectively their two projects developed in tandem: ‘Casper the Friendly Finality Gadget (FFG)’ and ‘Casper the Friendly GHOST: Correct-by-Construction (CBC)’. If you want to know more about them, you can read it here, courtesy of BlockGeeks.
The Problems With Ethereum
All of this development, though, is happening against the backdrop of a seemingly ever-falling cryptocurrency market, and the panic that can bring with it. Panic that has moved other Ethereum big-guns to defend the second-by-market-cap crypto.
The recent interjection from Jospeh Lubin pointing out that: “We build more fundamental infrastructure, we see a correction, and the potential gets even more impressive,” and that the current market conditions are down to “trader types” is a clear attempt to decouple debate about ETH’s value from those regarding Ethereum’s worth. Something that Ethereum currently feels to be important.
It’s probably not a coincidence that his thoughts come amid rumours that many of ETH’s current price woes are directly due to some teams among the plethora of ICOs that used Ethereum as their platform – and currency of choice when taking investment for their tokens – ‘cashing out’ in order to be assured of being able to pay their bills going forward.
That was a rumour that seemed to find its voice with CNBC crypto-expert Rand Neuner, in a tweet from a few days back. His is a story that mixes – as the thread develops – a little bit of dotcom bubble analogy with the kind of nervousness over market value that has summed up crypto in 2018.
Spent the morning with an ICO (not to be named) they raised $30m usd with a solid roadmap, they raised when ETH was $1200. They panicked and sold their remaining ETH last night – they have $4m left.
— Ran NeuNer (@cryptomanran) August 8, 2018
It was a thread that was later picked up and expanded into a larger piece by Bloomberg, after Ethereum’s value took a nosedive earlier in the week. That piece, though, also contained quotes like this:
“Worries that the Ethereum platform won’t be able to withstand enough transaction volumes to support applications for the mass-market, as competitors spring up, have also weighed on the digital asset this year. While raising billions, most ICOs don’t have working products while many have been fraudulent or have had security issues.”
The Ability To Scale
While Buterin has gone on record as saying that Ethereum will eventually be able to handle a million transactions a second, by implementing sharding. The current lack of viable large-scale blockchain-based products is an issue that has caused more than a few to draw comparisons between the current state of the blockchain market and the dotcom booms of nearly two decades ago.
It’s an issue that has been picked up in other places, with research saying that of the Top 100 Cryptos, 60 have yet to actually release a working product. Ethereum, of course, is one that is fully operational – but as the basis for contracts and dApps, has some fierce competition. Perhaps most notable among that is EOS, an ICO that raised an eye-watering $4bn before going live earlier this year, based on the work of Daniel Larimer.
Larimer, now CTO for EOS, was also the creator of the Steem and BitShares blockchains, and – most importantly, in this case – the creator of the Distributed Proof of Stake algorithm upon which EOS, and thus the 200 or so dApps that are intending to use it (as of now), is built.
Delegated Proof-of-Stake (DPoS), like PoS models, creates consensus via a staked users that receive rewards based on their holding of cryptocurrency rather than mining. However, rather than all holders working to validate a blockchain, it relies on them using those stakes to select ‘representatives’ to do the work.
We’ve already covered news of the many distributed applications looking to build their systems on the EOS blockchain – which, it claims, will not suffer from the speed and scaling problems Ethereum would be looking at, should anything with a large user base look to use it. Problems that Buterin said will mean it is “screwed” if not fixed.
It’s these potential scaling problems that Etherum’s Casper projects are looking to avoid, and what makes it so critical to the future of Ethereum. Having forked into Ethereum Classic in 2016 on the back of the schism regarding how it was going to proceed after the DAO controversy, the original Ethereum Foundation has now chosen to make itself a platform as much as a cryptocurrency – so make a viable platform it must, or risk withering on the chain.
With this in mind, when it’s – perhaps – most direct competitor has an opinion on those development plans, it’s worthy of note. Which brings us to this…
— IMEOS (@IMEOSONE) August 16, 2018
In this tweet, Twitter user @IMEOS – which, as a media source that focuses solely on EOS is hardly a impartial narrator, we’ll grant you – appears to be showing us a screenshot of a Telegram conversation. In said conversation, Daniel Larimer not only calls into question Ethereum’s lack of a timeline for implementing Buterin’s latest security measure, but it’s whole Casper-driven PoS roadmap.
He then, in later comments, seems to imply that what Buterin proposes in his blogpost is a methodology that has been implemented in his DPoS systems for the past 4 years – in the form of Non Byzantine Fault Tolerance (BFT) finality.
This is largely an esoteric observation beyond the knowledge base of most of us, (myself included) but – as far I understand it – the ultimate point is that Larimer believes Ethereum’s as-yet-to-be-implemented proposal, whenever it does make it into the code, essentially resembles something he has used in previous projects but later rejected during the creation of EOS.
His latest blockchain actually uses a system called Pipeline DPoS BFT, which appears to offer infinite scalability in terms of validators without hitting resources, and will – it’s claimed – ultimately be quicker than Casper (hit this link for more – good luck).
Whether you want to get into the deeper technicals or not, we think you’ll agree, it’s not the kind of interjection the Ethereum team needed right now.
Context Is King
While we can’t vouch for the context of the comment, or what preceded and followed it, to see Daniel Larimer quoting a timeline equivalent to the end of the universe for Ethereum solving its biggest issue is not what you can consider positive.
@IMEOS’ tweet, though, appeared before Vitalik’s long Casper update – it could possibly even have prompted it. There’s no way of telling an exact timing of Larimer’s alleged comments are from the screen-grab, other than his referencing of the same Blockmanity article we did earlier dates them after August 12th.
It’s all a bit ‘Handbags at Dawn‘, we know – but nevertheless an interesting insight into the competitive relationship between two platforms that are going to battle it out for the hearts and minds of dApp and Smart Contract developers over the next couple of years.