On the Shoulders of Giants - The Daily Gwei #311

Ethereum wouldn't be here without Bitcoin (and so much more).

Many of the apps that we know and love on Ethereum today actually started out as ideas that pre-date Ethereum. If you explore the old (2014 or earlier) BitcoinTalk forum posts, you’re bound to come across ideas that sound very familiar to the things being built in the Ethereum ecosystem today. There are even early Bitcoin commits from Satoshi that involved building a decentralized p2p marketplace on Bitcoin!

Source: https://twitter.com/sassal0x/status/1425709213095845890

There are very few people throughout history who have had the foresight to build or invent something truly unique - you have to be one part genius and one part crazy - and many of us will unfortunately never do something as grand as come up with the theory of relativity or invent something like the automobile. But both Albert Einstein and Karl Benz were themselves still standing on the shoulders of those who came before them - innovating and pushing forward by utilizing other people’s discoveries and work. Now, in the Ethereum ecosystem, researchers and developers are building on decades worth of computer science research and centuries worth of economic research to build out a new decentralized world.

So why didn’t all of this innovation happen on Bitcoin? Well, looking back through crypto-history we can see that the Bitcoin ecosystem started showing the first signs of ossification around 2013/2014 and then pretty much fully ossified by embracing the “no hard fork” design philosophy mid-2017 when Bitcoin Cash split off of Bitcoin (effectively removing the “big blockers” from Bitcoin). It’s actually a fun thought exercise to imagine an alternate reality where Bitcoin never ossified and in turn Ethereum was probably never created. Would Vitalik be working as a Bitcoin core developer? Would Bitcoin have changed to Proof of Stake? Would smart contracts have been added to the network? Would it even still have the same monetary policy? I’m sure this alternative reality exists somewhere in the multiverse!

I’m going to take a possibly unpopular opinion here and say that I actually think it’s a positive that Bitcoin ossified. This is because I believe that Bitcoin attracts a certain type of person that isn’t really interested in anything but a self-sovereign store of value. In other words, many Bitcoin fanatics couldn’t care less about DeFi or NFTs or whatever else - they simply just want a network that secures their precious BTC. Meanwhile, everyone else who wanted more out of this technology joined the Ethereum ecosystem instead of having to deal with a community/network that was just focused on one use-case. If you really think about it, there would probably be a lot more infighting in the community if Bitcoin was the only game in town as starkly different ideologies and beliefs would be constantly clashing.

I’m sure many of you are already aware of this but for those who aren’t - Ethereum was actually created in-part because many of the things that Vitalik wanted to do in the Bitcoin ecosystem weren’t possible due to inherit limitations of the Bitcoin network. It was his frustration with not being able to change Bitcoin that led him to create Ethereum so if you really think about we all have the Bitcoin community to thank for allowing Ethereum to come into existence.

And now that Ethereum is alive and well, it’ll work to finish what Satoshi started.

Have a great day everyone,
Anthony Sassano

Enjoyed today’s piece? I send out a fresh one every week day - be sure to subscribe to receive it in your inbox!

Join the Daily Gwei Ecosystem

All information presented above is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as investment advice.