Last year, early Coinbase employee and Polychain Capital founder Olaf Carlson-Wee put forth the notion of “smart contract fragmentation,” the idea that several smart contract platforms would rise to the fore and coexist in the future because of regional, technical, and ideological differences.
One year later the verdict is still out on the matter, of course. Yet in that span Ethereum has not only maintained its lead as the most popular smart contract platform but has also gained further ground on its direct competitors, namely Tezos, EOS, Cardano, and newer upstarts like Algorand and Polkadot.
To be sure, Ethereum’s development inertia and teeming developer community combined with the rise of the project as the main home of decentralized finance, or DeFi, has made the blockchain a juggernaut of sorts in the cryptoeconomy for now.
But there isn’t many Ethereum backers who would afford their chosen platform a complete free pass in any respect. Generally speaking, the Ethereum community is arguably the most self-aware and self-critical in the entire cryptocurrency ecosystem.
Many of the project’s top proponents often sound off just as loud on problems in their own sphere of influence as the project’s varied skeptics do.
With that said, few would take it as a given that Ethereum will march easily to triumph; there are no shortage of obstacles ahead, in every direction. The best thing that can be done is to approach these obstacles in good faith. As such, here’s three avenues that, if approached with with resolute resolve, can help Ethereum maintain it’s dominance in the arena of new public infrastructure.
It’s All About Money, Good Faith, and the Everyman
Many Ethereum proponents openly worry about the so-called “Tragedy of the Commons,” wherein individual users act contrary to the collective good, i.e. using up community resources without replenishing them.
In the case of Ethereum, one avenue of this tragedy means that some users come and go without funding the infrastructure that Ethereum and its various dApps rely upon. It’s not that this dynamic will remain in perpetuity, either; rather, it’s that while Ethereum is still fledgling, it needs an “all hands on deck” approach to funding useful ecosystem endeavors.
“If Ethereum is dethroned as the top smart contracts blockchain, it will be because of the unwillingness of Eth holders to fund public goods,” ConsenSys researcher and Optimistic Rollup creator John Adler said this month, adding:
“In order to stop the brain leak, Eth holders need to fund these public goods to the same extent as VCs have done with all these new L1 chains. In other words, not the tens of thousands than we’ve seen from past grants, but tens to hundreds of millions.”
Moreover, it’s important that the Ethereum community keeps answering the big and tough questions. In maintaining self-awareness and self-critiques in good faith, Ethereum’s proponents can continue to put the project’s best feet forward without falling into propaganda and dogmatism.
Another important thing that Ethereum’s backers can do is continue to back Ethereum as neutral public infrastructure that is as interesting and productive for massive companies as it is for unbanked individuals. It’s open to the biggest enterprises and the poorest persons all at the same time. In this sense, Ethereum is like a new internet but an internet of value, rather than just an internet of information.
To that end, continuing to focus on what the average user would want from a world computer and payments rail is certainly fertile ground for tapping into what should be built out for the masses. If we work for the lowest of the low on up, we have a chance to change the entire world itself.