Ethereum Founder Vitalik Buterin recently discussed in his blog post his excitement about Ethereum and its potential. He admits that originally, he was more general about what Ethereum can achieve. But now, after so many projects being developed on Ethereum, he is shifting his gaze to applications already known to work. In this article, we look at some Vitalik’s reasons as to why we should be excited for Ethereum and its potential.
What is Ethereum?
Ethereum is an open-source, public, blockchain-based distributed computing platform featuring smart contract (scripting) functionality. It provides a decentralized virtual machine known as the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). The EVM can execute scripts using an international network of public nodes. Ethereum also provides a cryptocurrency token called “ether” ($ETH). Ether ($ETH) can be transferred between accounts and used to compensate participant nodes for computations performed. Ethereum was proposed in late 2013 by Vitalik Buterin and launched in 2015.
To learn more about Ethereum, check out our article: Ethereum 2.0 is coming- Here’s what you NEED to know.
Reason 1: Ethereum as a form of payment
In countries with fewer links to the global financial system or with extreme inflation, cryptocurrency (and Ethereum) is a valuable asset. Vitalik realised this in December 2021 when he was able to pay for meals using cryptocurrency in Argentina.
One obstacle to the more widespread use of cryptocurrency, according to Vitalik, was high transaction fees. At the time, fees cost about a third of his meal, and several minutes to confirm. However, since he and the restaurant owner had Binance wallets, they were able to transfer the funds instantly for free.
Since then, there have been significant improvements to the Ethereum network. After the Ethereum Merge transactions are being processed at a much faster and more stable rate. Scaling technologies such as rollups will even further push Ethereum’s scalability. Technologies such as social recovery and multisig wallets with account abstraction are also improving wallet security. It may take years for these technologies to mature, but progress is certainly being made.
Donations are a notable use case for cryptocurrency. For example, we saw donations being made to Ukraine and refugees relying on digital currencies as a form of payment.
To learn more, check out our article: Crypto war- The role of cryptocurrencies in the Russian-Ukraine conflict.
In addition, countries’ adoption of CBDCs (e.g. China’s DCEP/e-CNY) has led to serious concerns about financial surveillance and control. According to Vitalik, cryptocurrency is the only technology that can combine digitalization with privacy.
This makes payments one of the major reasons to be excited for Ethereum and its potential.
Reason 2: Decentralized Finance (DeFi)
Vitalik also sees huge potential in DeFi. In particular, he considers the following DeFi products to be especially important:
- Decentralized stablecoins: Decentralized stablecoins are considered a secure and stable digital money. Essentially, halfway between holding crypto assets and withdrawing to fiat currency. They are also usually pegged to a reserved asset, such as the US Dollar, making it less volatile than most cryptocurrencies. Decentralized stablecoins have added aspects of being fully transparent and non-custodial. An example of decentralized stablecoins is the DAI token, DUSD or EOSDT.
- Prediction markets: Prediction markets have been a reliable part of the DeFi landscape since Augur launched in 2015. They have been gaining traction ever since, demonstrating their utility in the 2020 US election. Allowing people to predict (and profit) from the outcome of the 2020 US elections. In 2022, both crypto-based prediction markets such as Polymarket, and play-money markets like Metaculus are becoming even more popular. Crypto-based prediction markets are advantageous, as they are more trustworthy and accessible worldwide. Vitalik expects these markets to continuously grow in terms of usage and value over time.
- Other synthetic assets: Major stock indices and real estate have the potential to be replicated in the same way as stablecoins. However, there is a challenge in creating an appropriate balance of decentralization and efficiency to make these assets available at reasonable rates of return.
- Glue layers: These will be necessary to allow users to easily trade between different assets, such as ETH, centralized or decentralized stablecoins, synthetic assets, etc.
Reason 3: Blockchain Identity
Vitalik is bullish on blockchain identity. Blockchain identity uses blockchain technology for aspects of identification such as basic authentication, attestations, naming, and proof of personhood. An example mentioned by Vitalik is the Sign In With Ethereum (SIWE) standard. The SIWE standard lets users log into websites similar to how we use Google or Facebook to automatically log in. But with SIWE, we can log into sites without fear of Google or Facebook accessing our private information, or locking our accounts. SIWE is currently used in end-to-end encrypted email, Skiff and many blockchain-based alternative social media projects.
Also, ENS allows usernames to be used with proof-of-personhood systems. This can enable users to prove that they are actually human. This is especially useful for airdrops and governance, as it ensures fairness and prevents abuse. Proof-of-attendance protocol can also confirm a person’s participation and thus their eligibility for airdrops and participation in governance.
Vitalik believes that each of these applications has its individual uses. But the true utility will be seen when these aspects are all combined. For example, users can log on to Blockscan chat using Ethereum, making them visible by their ENS name. Then, to fight spam, Blockscan chat could “verify” accounts by examining their proof-of-attendance protocols. This verification process could show information on a user’s participation, and even verify token balances or a proof-of-personhood profile. In turn, it can be determined whether the user should be eligible for rewards and perks.
Reason 4: DAOs
DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations) are smart contracts that represent an ownership or control structure over an asset or process. Vitalik believes there is still room for improvement for DAOs, particularly in terms of ensuring they are not abused. For example, DAOs are crucial for the long-term survival of decentralized stablecoins. But, there have been cases of malicious actors abusing DAOs to drain DeFi projects out of hundreds of millions.
Reason 5: Hybrid applications
Finally, Vitalik believes there are applications that can take advantage of both blockchains and other systems in order to improve their trust models. For example, voting can utilise systems such as MACI to combine blockchains, ZK-SNARKs, and a limited centralized (or M-of-N) layer for scalability and coercion resistance. This will allow voting to be censorship resistant, auditable, and private.
According to Vitalik, we are only at the beginning stages of building applications that will push Ethereum’s potential even further. Currently, these applications face the challenges of the limits of present-day technology, such as the lack of scalability of blockchains. There will also be other challenges to come, such as privacy issues.
However, there are numerous reasons to be excited for Ethereum, because all these problems can be solved. Vitalik believes that it will require us to look beyond the quest for excitement and short-term profit. Because sometimes, it is the more stable and boring applications that become the most useful and valuable in the long run.