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Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum and one of the industry’s prominent thought-leaders, recently spoke at the Hong Kong’s StartmeupHK Festival 2021 tech conference. Among many topics, Buterin shared his thoughts on Ethereum’s hotly-anticipated shift from proof-of-work (PoW) to proof-of-stake (PoS).
To the disappointment of many however, the shipping of shard chains is not expected until sometime in late 2022, according to Ethereum’s latest roadmap. While a transition from PoW to PoS is expected to take place sometime in 2021/2022, the inclusion of shard chains is seen by many as the official completion of the Ethereum 2.0 upgrade. While many have believed the delay was due to the technically-burdensome transition, the actual issue is apparently something different.
At the conference, Buterin explained:
“One of the biggest problems I’ve found with our project is not the technical problems, it’s problems related with people”.
This might come as a surprise, as many people had thought the delays to PoS were due to computational, or programming-based issues, as changing the consensus algorithm of the largest blockchain ecosystem certainly sounds tough. But this is apparently not the case.
He spoke about disagreements and issues with the Etheruem team, stating that “we have a lot of internal team conflicts in these five years. If you are building a team, it is important to know who you are working with”. This is not the most shocking revelation when you consider how many Ethereum co-founders have left in the past to build rival blockchains. Just think of individuals such as Gavin Wood, co-founder of Polkadot and Kusama, and Charles Hoskinson, founder of Cardano. In fact, of Ethereum’s original co-founders, Buterin is the only one still at the company.
Buterin’s reveal that it is the people holding back Etheruem’s upgrades, rather than the technology, is bittersweet. On one hand, it shows that the upgrades are computationally and practically possible, meaning that we will eventually see them rolled out in the future. But on the other hand, it gives us a damning picture of how the Etheruem team functions and operates.
Buterin’s citing of team conflicts also seems contradictory to what we have previously known about Ethereum’s struggles. This largely due to comments made by others working on the blockchain such as Tim Beiko. In the past, he was spoken about Ethereum’s struggles as primarily technological ones.
For instance, earlier in the year, Beiko noted that sharding (the ability to run nodes on lower spec computers) was one of the biggest factors holding back the blockchain. However, Buterin’s most recent words suggest otherwise.
The demand for Etheruem to switch consensus algorithms has never been higher. The late 2020-2021 bull market has acted as a stress test for the blockchain, and one that it is unfortunately failing. Gas fees are astronomical, and transaction times are taking longer than usual.
During the last few months, many users turned away from Ethereum because it was simply too expensive and time-consuming to use, especially for smaller payments. This is damning for DeFi, as projects that use automated market makers (AMMs) such as Uniswap and AAVE have become unsustainable due to congestion. As a result, alternatives such as the Binance Smart Chain have thrived.
Not only this, but with recent concerns regarding PoW’s environmental impact, people have been attentively watching Ethereum’s progress. The switch to PoS was being haled as a saving grace for crypto in the long run, in part due to this.
Considering the sheer size of Ethereum’s ecosystem, if it cannot fix its congestion issues in due time, it could temporarily prevent the market from growing further, as high fees and slow times disenfranchise retail investors. At the moment, Ethereum supporters can only hope that these internal conflicts get swiftly resolved, as the future of the blockchain looks poorer and poorer as its problems persist.
What sort of internal conflicts do you think the Ethereum team has been facing? Let us know in the comments below.