Vitalik Buterin Answers Tuur Demeester’s Criticisms of Ethereum (ETH)

Siamak Masnavi

On Saturday (29 December 2018), a day after crypto analyst Tuur Demeester, Editor-in-Chief of Adamant Research and Founder of Bitcoin alpha fund Adamant Capital, took to Twitter to launch a 50-tweet-long tweestorm that attacked Ethereum (ETH), gifted Russian-Canadian computer programmer Vitalik Buterin, a co-founder of Ethereum, went to Reddit to deal with these criticisms point-by-point.

Vitalik's rebuttal on Reddit came in the form of a reply to the "Tuur's criticism discussion thread" on the "/ethereum" subreddit. In this article, we focus on Vitalik's most interesting comments. 

Tuur: "First, ETH’s architecture & culture is _opposite_ that of Bitcoin, and yet claims to offer same solutions: decentralization, immutability, SoV, asset issuance, smart contracts, …"

Vitalik: "Agree! I personally find Ethereum culture far saner, though I am a bit biased :)"

Tuur: "I agree with Ethereum developer Vlad Zamfir that it’s not money, not safe, and not scalable."

Vitalik: "I'm pretty sure Vlad would say the exact same thing about Bitcoin"

Tuur: "To me the first red flag came up when in our weekly hangout we asked the ETH founders about to how they were going to scale the network. (We’re now 4.5 years later, and sharding is still a pipe dream.)"

Vitalik: "The core principles have been known for years, the core design for nearly a year, and details for months, with implementations on the way. So sharding is definitely not at the pipe dream stage at this point."

Tuur: "Recently, a team of reputable developers decided to peer review a widely anticipated Casper / sharding white paper, concluding that it does not live up to its own claims. "

Vitalik: "That review was off the mark in many ways, eg. see, and by the way CBC is not even a prerequisite for Serenity"

Tuur: "On the 2nd layer front, devs are now trying to scale Ethereum via scale via state channels (ETH’s version of Lightning), but it is unclear whether main-chain issued ERC20 type tokens will be portable to this environment."

Vitalik: "Umm... you can definitely use Raiden with arbitrary ERC20s. That's why the interface currently uses WETH (the ERC20-fied version of ether) and not ETH"

Tuur: "Bitcoin’s Lightning Network is now live, and is growing at rapid clip."

Vitalik: "Sure, though as far as I understand there's still a low probability of finding routes for nontrivial amounts, and there's capital lockup griefing vectors, and privacy issues.... FWIW I personally never thought lightning is unworkable, it's just a design that inherently runs into ten thousand small issues that will likely take a very long time to get past."

Tuur: "For the uninitiated, here’s a good write-up that highlights some of the fundamental design problems of proof-of-stake. Like I said, this is science experiment territory.…"

Vitalik: "And here's a set of long arguments from me on why proof of stake is just fine: For a more philosophical piece, see"

Tuur: "Over the years, this has become a pattern in Ethereum’s culture: recycling old ideas while not properly referring to past research and having poor peer review standards. This is _not_ how science progresses."

Vitalik: "I try to credit people whenever I can; half my blog and posts have a "special thanks" section right at the top. Sometimes we end up re-inventing stuff, and sometimes we end up hearing about stuff, forgetting it, and later re-inventing it; that's life as an autodidact. And if you feel you've been unfairly not credited for something, always feel free to comment, people have done this and I've edited."

Tuur: "My third point addresses PoS’ promise of perpetual income to ETHizens. Vitalik is no stranger to embracing free lunch ideas, e.g. during his 2014 ETH announcement speech, where he described a coin with a 20% inflation tax as having “no cost” to users."

Vitalik: "Yeah, I haven't really emphasized perpetual income to stakers as a selling point in years. I actually favor rewards being as low as possible while still being high enough for security."

Tuur: "Another huge issue that Ethereum has is with scaling. By putting 'everything on the blockchain' (which stores everything forever) and dubbing it 'the world computer', you are going to end up with a very slow and clogged up system."

Vitalik: "We never advocated 'putting everything on the blockchain'. The phrase 'world computer' was never meant to be interpreted as 'everyone's personal desktop', but rather as a common platform specifically for the parts of applications that require consensus on shared state. As evidence of this, notice how Whisper and Swarm were part of the vision as complements to Ethereum right from the start."

Tuur: "By now the Ethereum bloat is so bad that cheaply running an individual node is practically impossible for a lay person..."

Vitalik: "Umm.... I just spun up a node from scratch last week. On a consumer laptop."

Tuur: "Another hollow claim: in 2016, Ethereum was promoted as being censorship resistant…"

Vitalik: "Yes, the DAO fork did violate the notion of absolute immutability. However, the 'forking the DAO will lead to doom and gloom' crowd was very wrong in one key way: it did NOT work as a precedent justifying all sorts of further state interventions. The community clearly drew a line in the sand by firmly rejecting EIP 867, and EIP 999 seems to now also be going nowhere. So it seems like there's some evidence that the social contract of 'moderately but not infinitely strong immutability' actually can be stable."

Tuur: "Other potential signs of centralization: Vitalik Buterin signing a deal with a Russian government institution, and ETH core developers experimenting with semi-closed meetings"

Vitalik: "Suppose I were to tomorrow sign up to work directly for Kim Jong Un. What concretely would happen to the Ethereum protocol? I suspect very little; I am mostly involved in the Serenity work, and the other researchers have proven very capable of both pushing the spec forward even without me and catching any mistakes with my work. So I don't think any argument involving me applies. And we ended up deciding not to do more semi-closed meetings."

Tuur: "Another red flag to me is the apparent lack of relevant expertise in the ETH development community."

Vitalik: "I personally am confident in the talents of our core researchers, and our community of academic partners. Most recently the latter group includes people from Starkware, Stanford CBR, IC3, and other groups."


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