Vitalik Buterin highlighted fundamental differences between the core design of Bitcoin and its smart contract pioneering predecessor Ethereum having trade-offs during a widely-tuned-into Twitter Space on July 6 .
Buterin, who co-founded Ethereum alongside eight other influential cryptocurrency developers, spoke at length with Bitcoin advocates Eric Wall and Udi Wertheimer about the technical and cultural nuances of either protocol.
“I think they’re definitely different experiments in terms of the culture and unavoidable trade offs that they’re making and that’s something that I’ve only really come to realize over time.”
Buterin believes there is great value in Bitcoin and Ethereum continuing to co-exist, while admitting he had separated the technical and cultural aspects as best he could
“When I was starting with Ethereum I was looking at them as a kind of technical
systems and cultural systems somewhat separately. I had my beliefs on culture, that maximalism is crazy.”
Buterin said he had focused on taking a system from Bitcoin, which was fairly basic, and creating a more programmable system that mirrors “how computers evolved”.
With technological and cultural aspects intermingled in the development of both Bitcoin and Ethereum, Buterin highlighted the inevitable trade-offs of these systems.
“There are points at which you have to make certain choices. Like if you make a system that supports more functionality, then any kind of functionality that you support ends up having risks, right?
Buterin said that extensive functionality requires protocol complexity, but functionality itself can introduce risks to a blockchain system.
“That’s an example of something that we saw during the last few years.”
Ethereum, which originally employed Bitcoin’s proof-of-work consensus algorithm, shifted to proof-of-stake consensus in 2022 during the highly anticipated Merge.
The change in its core consensus protocol saw stakers introduced as the new ‘miners’ of the network. Staking 32 ETH is required to be a validator, which then receives rewards for processing transactions and maintaining the network.
The change also caused a split within the Ethereum community as Buterin highlighted, referring to the Ethereum DAO fork of 2016 which caused a fork in the chain, leaving ETH as we know it today and Ethereum Classic (ETC) as two separate chains.
“A lot of the people who were in favor of a more purist approach toward immutability ended up
going to Ethereum Classic and people who are much stronger proof of work proponents.”
Buterin believes that many of the “subtle choices” made by both protocols in terms of functionality end up providing value and continue to co exist.
“There’s just like a lot of these subtle choices that both platforms have made that like really go beyond the question of being general purpose or not trying to be general purpose?”
Highlighting a plethora of differences between Bitcoin and Ethereum which ended up in either protocols “choosing different trade offs” down the line.
“The result of all this is that we have these two different experiments that seem to me to be valuable. I’m happy that they’re both continuing to exist.”
Buterin added that both protocols can also be considered “more honorable” than “overinflated” scams that the cryptocurrency space has been littered with over the years.
“I do think that there is a kind of core commitment to values in there that I think is valuable for the space to actually provide something that matters to people.”
Another central theme emphasized by Buterin was the need for blockchain to move beyond its current limitations by prioritizing scalability:
“We need to find ways to scale up blockchain systems to handle a larger number of transactions without sacrificing security or decentralization.”
This sentiment echoes the growing consensus within the industry, as developers and innovators strive to enhance the capabilities of blockchain networks.