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What do you want for your dApp?

Ethereum is sometimes misunderstood by both Ethereum enthusiasts and its detractors. The unproductive debates that are currently happening are most likely a consequence of these insufficient understandings.

The easiest way to describe and sell the vision shared by the Ethereum community has been to present the applications that would eventually be built on top of the platform: high scale decentralized applications, used by your own grand-mother. These applications’ backends would consist of immutable smart contracts that link users together without the need of a third party: decentralized Uber, Facebook etc.

One problem is that some people who share this vision do not understand that Ethereum is not the only way to achieve this vision, even if it may seem to be the preferred way. The proper and unique value that Ethereum will bring to its dApps is the ability to easily create interoperability between them, leading to a rich network effect. 
In the same way, vocal Ethereum detractors often do not understand Ethereum technology and goals in depth.

I will give my point of view about what Ethereum is today, what it will be tomorrow and what is the path between. What should be built on top of it today and what should not.

The world Computer.

Talking about the Ethereum platform as a world computer is another easy way to describe our vision. And often misunderstood too.

The best way to think of Ethereum’s world computer is a piece of hardware composed of a hard drive on which anyone can store public personal data and a motherboard on which anyone can plug processor chips. Anyone can use these chips, giving them writing access to its personal part of the Hard drive.
Once you gave a chip writing access to your data, this chip runs no matter what and can damage your part of the hard drive.
Chips are actually immutable smart contracts crafted by developers that keep running thanks to miners.
The hard Drive gathers the pieces of data related to every account. Your personal part of the Hard drive is your account and every data created when interacting with smart contracts.

The richest part of Ethereum lies in the interoperability between settlements.

The goal of the world computer is to store in its hard drive settlements that happened between users after having used a service and its underlying chip.
A decentralized Facebook would only develop and plug a chip that would enable access rights management of your private facebook-like page (i.e friends and privacy settings).
A decentralized Poker would only develop a chip that would enable game creation with specific terms and that would processes the result of the game (played outside of the world computer, using state channels, or p2p messagerie between players). Both of these chips could theoretically be developed on top of the bitcoin blockchain or on top of a new dedicated blockchain.

The real value of Ethereum is that these chips are sharing the same langage and are natively connected. They can easily operate together. For instance it would be really easy to create a Poker game in which only your Facebook friends could join by connecting those two chips.

The vision: “we will either solve the scalability and consensus problems or die trying.” Vitalik Buterin, 2014 (link).

What the Ethereum community wants to achieve is a state in which the World computer has:

  • almost unlimited processing power at disposal for every chip. (protocol level improvement: PoS, sharding)
  • fundamental chips that make it easy for other chips to work together. (value transfer management, ID, registries, security tools etc…)
  • fundamental chips that make it easier for users to interact with their data (tokens, wallets, ID, etc…)
  • external tools that make it easy for users to connect and interact with these chips (browser, light clients, regulations, stablecoins etc…)

Everyone has to understand that Ethereum “maximalists” like me are trying to get to that point the earliest we can. And this means two things that are often misunderstood:

  • It is not 100% sure whether we can get there or not.
  • It will take time and until then, some unexpected events can happen that should not stop us.

“Homestead is the second major version of the Ethereum platform and is the first production release of Ethereum” : What does it mean? Ethereum as of today.

The homestead release is the first production release of the two main chips of the world computer: Value management chip that enables anyone to transfer value from an account to another, using Ether and the “Plugging chip” that allows anyone to create chips and plug them to the shared computer, thus controlling the Hard Disk. This early product is already much more advanced than a lot of other initiatives and can be used as-is for a lot of applications. 
Seeing the rise of Ethereum Classic that aims at maintaining immutable this early version of the Ethereum blockchain is good sign that we are creating something valuable.

But we must not mix up the technological product that is the Ethereum blockchain as of today with the technological solution for large scale dApps that will be the Ethereum ecosystem in a few years.

Ethereum Classic wants to be able to rely on the product today and already demands stability which makes sense. It is a purist and risk averse community that is more satisfied by the current product than Ethereum idealists are.
Ethereum developers want to develop and improve the solution until the vision of the World Computer is achieved. The Ethereum blockchain protocol whose development is lead by the foundation is only part of the solution. The extended solution consist of every dApp that is built on Ethereum, but also integrations with other blockchains and services like p2p messaging, decentralized file storage. To reach this, developers that share this vision are sticking together on the ETH chain.

My opinion is that it is too soon to expect 100% immutability, removing flexibility for robustness. Ethereum Classic will be a great and secure blockchain that can do more than most of other blockchains but should not be seen as a competitor of Ethereum that will be the first platform on which large scale dApps can live and interact.

We still need to understand better the powers and dangers of these chips and how to design them securely, create testing environments and best practices.

The Ethereum community has chosen to remove the theDAO chip including the implications for the Ether balances because the community thought that it would get us more easily and faster to our final vision. This means that Ethereum is currently still in development, and even if from the technological standpoint the chip was behaving as expected, from the Ethereum vision standpoint it was messing with the still in development World Computer.

What should not be built today on the Ethereum Blockchain.

This article was sent to me and explains how we broke the Ethereum blockchain by Hard Forking and why dApps should trust ETC rather than ETH.

“Stampery has a clear mission: to enable anyone in the world to create a verifiable record of their data. Such a record has to be independently verifiable, from everywhere, at zero cost.”. This application is really simple: it uses blockchain as a registry. It does not care about the interoperability that will be allowed by Ethereum. For this kind of applications, the current world computer has enough features and the only thing that matters for them is that it remains immutable.

I think that this app should not be on the Ethereum blockchain. Ethereum will do much more than it needs and to get to that point, there could be some unexpected behaviors. It should remain on Bitcoin or ETC.

What should be built today on the Ethereum Blockchain.

Now let’s think about a company that has a 5 year vision for its product. This company wants to create a registry for documents that is advanced: automatically contracted insurances for its documents, automated copyrights registrations. This company should start to experiment on the Ethereum blockchain right now, starting with a as simple of a record as Stampery’s and scale it along with the Ethereum ecosystem, integrating complementary services that will arise.

Peace!

I hope that after this read some of you will have learned more about the purpose of Ethereum. Now, just choose, don’t troll please!