Known for occasionally making controversial comments, Vitalik Buterin has added some new enemies to his list by savagely criticizing NEO, TRON, and EOS. As is often the case in the crypto-world, the criticism are largely around how centralized these protocols are
In what could be considered an artfully handled defense, Buterin countered any jabs at Ethereum’s transaction throughput goals by asking why it was even prudent to have goals for throughput in the first place. In his words:
“Because the purpose of a consensus algorithm is not to make a blockchain fast. The purpose of a consensus algorithm is to keep a blockchain safe.”
This points to one underlying debate that is playing out in real-time. Some platforms are obsessing over the scalability of a project without keeping the long-term security of the coin a priority. Vitalik is arguing that this is a huge mistake and ignores several realities about the technology.
Blockchain technology is purposely inefficient in terms of throughput of transactions. If users were looking for efficient, centralized solutions would probably be much faster. But instead, they are looking for a secure and trustworthy platform. Speed becomes a consideration, but only afterward.
Platforms of a Different Type
The comparison based on transactions per second (TPS) ignores and looks to generate an efficiency where there should be none, at least in Buterin’s eyes. He went on to pointedly jab at NEO with the comment:
“When a blockchain project claims ‘We can do 3,500 TPS because we have a different algorithm,’ what we really mean is ‘We are a centralized pile of trash because we only have 7 nodes running the entire thing.’”
NEO is known as having 7 consensus nodes in operation, and though it may be operating with separate goals in mind than Ethereum, that does seem to be a fairly “centralized” structure to run under. TRON and EOS are two other currencies that he was targeting in this talk, seeing as they are often compared to ETH in terms of their efficiency. These sorts of ideological debates are common at conferences like the one Vitalik was at, and are part of why the crypto world is full of so many disputes.
After these polarizing comments, Vitalik discussed scaling solutions that he does see worth pursuing over an arbitrary throughput goal. Mostly, this involves layer 1 and layer 2 solutions, such as sharding or Lightning Network. He would also like to see the latency period for transactions go down to a more reasonable number (under 10 seconds).
Longer Term Implications
All of these comments are after significant criticism for the higher transaction fees that resulted during the crypto boom, and the many questions around what Ethereum will do when transaction volume does increase again.
With many cryptocurrencies selling off in recent days, and support levels failing to hold up, it is important to note that Ethereum is going through an extended period of weakness right now. There is technical selling pressure on ETH, and most crypto bulls are avoiding the coin for the time being.
Vitalik is not your regular charismatic CEO type, but he also is very intellectually confident and shows his powerful persona in other ways. For example, in late December of last year, he responded in full to a long Twitter thread criticizing Ethereum’s scalability, architecture, and future plans. For an industry dominated by thinkers, this is the person you want at the head of the company, galvanizing a movement behind the coin.