Published on February 6th, 2015 | by Donald McIntyre


I Asked Vitalik Buterin Which Networks Will Prevail After The “Blockchain Wars”, This Is What He Answered

I appreciate that Vitalik is always so kind to answer my non-technical, newbie questions, and what I value the most is that he takes the time to translate what he is going to tell me to layman’s terms, this was his short answer:

I really don’t like this “final networks that will prevail” concept.

Well, I like his sincerity too!  :)

Here is what he said about different types of networks covering different types of needs and niches:

I think there are going to be plenty of networks with plenty of trade-off profiles. Particularly:

  •  Subjectivity / security trade-offs – Ripple is more secure theoretically, because even if it breaks the nodes can coordinate to revert it, but also much more heavily depends on trust.
  •  Scalability / security trade-offs – low transaction costs will for many dapps be mandatory, but in other cases you want absolute security with the full chain processing your transaction.
  • Privacy / cost trade-offs – zerocash, ripple and everything in between.
  • Safety / liveness trade-offs – do you want the network to be more likely to keep on going no matter what, or to be resistant and unexploitable by attackers no matter what?

Regarding Ripple (and I guess Stellar too because they are very similar) he says it occupies a specific space in the market, but it would be much more defensible if it had a Turing-complete programming language like Ethereum.

About Ethereum 1.0 and Bitcoin + Sidechains, they don’t satisfy the low cost, low scalability niche because of “every-node-processes-every-transaction” property, but his hope is Ethereum 2.0 will satisfy that need.

This is what he had to say about the nature of blockchain/network competition:

What will happen though is that I think networks will stop competing on features; the concept of “x is the network for decentralized exchange”, “y is the network for domain names”, etc will disappear, as turing-complete languages are just a much better way of handling those needs. But there will exist distinctions between different classes of needs.

As an analogy, he compared the different blockchain/network styles and their trade-offs with the hundreds of programming languages out there:

Think python / c++ / go / bash / ruby / haskell / browser javascript / nodejs. Programming languages are everywhere. But they are mostly not application-specific…

But this was the phrase that helped me picture the industry better:

[The different blockchain/networks] occupy different regions of the trade-off space.

This is, if you think of a chart with different quadrants, each with a different quality “subjectivity”, “scalability”, “security”, “liveness”, “privacy”, etc., you could plot and map on the chart the different networks according to what they prioritized.

My conclusion:

At the bottom of the Crypto Application Stack (please see chart below), the consensus layer, there will be several blockchain/networks serving different niches according to their trade-off profile needs. As there are plenty of trade-off profiles there will be plenty of networks in the future.


The Crypto Application Stack:

Crypto Application Stack - Vitalik

Source: Chart courtesy of Vitalik Buterin


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About the Author

Founder of Naation. Inventor of Etherplan. Co-founder of Global Financial Access. Founder of Dineronet and McIntyre S.A. Previously, at Morgan Stanley and UBS.

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