Vitalik Buterin and Coinbase CTO Answer Questions at ETH San Francisco 2018

Siamak Masnavi

Last Friday (5 October 2018), at "ETH San Francisco" (which calls itself the "world's largest Ethereum hackathon"), the creator of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin, and the CTO of Coinbase, Balaji Srinivasan, whilst on stage, were presented with questions from the audience. They also took part in a game of "Overrated or Underrated".

Of the audience questions, the best one, which was addressed to Vitalik, was: "What are the cool things in other blockchains that Ethereum should adopt?"

Vitalik replied:

"On the community side, one of the things I love about Zcash (ZEC) is this kind of separation between Zcash Foundation and Zcash Company, and Zooko is part of one and not the other... Another one of the interesting ideas that, I think, Zooko came up with up is this idea of practical control over protocol development and control over trademark ownership should be maximally separate, and that is an interesting idea that Ethereum and probably other public blockchains should consider adopting because unfortunately there really isn't a good way to have a trademark not belong to anyone, but this seems like a pragmatic approach that does kind of minimize the centralization harm that can come out of that issue particularly..."

Then, Vitalik and Balaji were asked to say what they think ("Overrated" or "Underrated") of various technologies used in the crypto space.


Vitalik: "I'd say about correctly rated at this point. They are very powerful, and I think general purpose zero-knowledge proofs are a really huge advancement in cryptography... The fact that we are fairly close to making privacy-preserving protocols for very large classes of things involving abstract programming languages is huge. And I do think the community recognizes that."

Balaji: "zk-SNARKs are still underrated. People in this audience know what they are, but after Sapling [the next major upgrade of Zcash] comes out in a few weeks, I think it just gets mainstream to a much greater extent... And with ZK-STARKs and bulletproofs, it's going to go to the next level because we're going to get rid of the trusted setup, and we have even vaster transactions, and possibly smaller proof sizes. So, I think all those technologies are underrated relative to what the general population knows about them."

Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)

Vitalik: "On the margin, I'd say overrated... I am like suspicious of things that get too buzzwordy. "

Balaji: 'I'm an investor in CryptoKitties. I do think that in the long term NFTs will be important... Today, if you go and look at DappRadar, there's not a lot of volume in buying and selling collectibles and NFTs. But In do think that as they start to get hooked into video games... I think that's the thing that's going to pull them up in the medium term. So overrated maybe today, but underrated in the long term."


Vitalik: "Globally speaking, I'd say underrated. I still think a lot of people don't realize the extent to which stablecoins solve one of people's biggest concerns with the cryptocurrency space, which is that in order to use these applications, you have to expose yourself to a lot of the volatility, and with stablecoins, a lot of that goes away, and you can actually use applications that look like regular applications involving dollars... In the long run, these kinds of tokens are a way for traditional financial systems to upload themselves to crypto land if they want to."

Balaji: "I'd say that stablecoins are underrated today... If you can have a stablecoin that people trust and that doesn't have redemption risk, then, I think in the medium term we'll think of ... FinTech before stablecoin is like mobile before iPhone in the sense that every FinTech company if you could just have a digital dollar... if you didn't need to do a banking partnership or something like that, you'd just go and program right away with the digital dollar, based on the blockchain, and I think that's a really important medium term thing that could happen if we could get a functional stabecoin."

Off-Chain Scaling

Balaji: "I realy believe off-chain is very underrated in the sense that for most applications... people should keep their state in a normal Postgres database, and have blockchain functionality. So, like, the blockchain will provide balances, will provide addresses, your users can send and receive funds, and you can keep your images and normal user data in Postgres... So, then your app has two data stores: it's got Postgres and it's got the blockchain... and that kind of model is going to be a pretty important one. And Moreover, anything that you can do off-chain, you should do off-chain because blockchains are relatively low capacity right now. You want to batch transactions. You don't want to pay fees. You want to do as much as you can off-chain and just write the absolute minimum digest on-chain."

Featured Image Courtesy of ETH San Francisco