Fighting for Decentralization: Interview With Ethereum Classic Coordinator

It’s been almost six months since the fateful Ethereum hardfork that followed notorious The DAO attack. The turmoil around the fork has subsided since then, so now it’s high time to calmly assess the situation and take a closer look at Ethereum Classic.

Notably, as early as last May, Vitalik Buterin stated that Bitcoin should fork into Core and Classic. Ironically, the Ethereum founder couldn’t have imagined it’s his project that would undergo similar separation just a few months later. Ironically, the separation wasn’t caused by a schism regarding technical aspects of Ethereum as it could possibly have happened in Bitcoin’s case due to its infamous block size debate. Existence of two Ethereum blockchains is a result of ideological controversy within the respective community.

ForkLog talked with Arvicco, the project’s coordinator, about the emergence of Ethereum Classic and its evolution in the industry.

ForkLog: It’s been almost six months since Ethereum Classic emerged. What was the most difficult after the launch of a parallel chain? As we remember the community wasn’t unanimous about the advent of ‘another’ Ethereum.

Arvicco: The hardest thing was to come through the first two days after the Ethereum hardfork that had violated basic blockchain principles for the convenience of The DAO investors. Back then, supporters of the bailout fork were triumphant about the sweep victory and congratulated each other with the successful hardfork. Back then, we had less than 1 per cent of miners, and very few people were aware of the original Ethereum blockchain’s continuing existence.

Ethereum Classic hashrate historical chart - etcchain.com

Ethereum hashrate historical chart -  etherscan.io

ForkLog: After the launch of Ethereum Classic, you managed to garner serious support not just from miners and low profile community members, but also from such stakeholders as Barry Silbert, Chandler Guo, and Charles Hoskinson. Did the team deliberately work towards that, or the support came on its own?

Arvicco: As the saying goes, in the beginning was the word, and the word was the Crypto-Decentralist Manifesto that underlay the ideology of the entire Ethereum Classic movement. The entire progress of ETC that followed is based on the fact that people are now aware of the community’s ideology and principles, and that they supported them. Some of them even felt an urge to make a contribution to the movement. That’s how ETC attracted its influential supporters, miners, investors, and exchanges.

Barry Silbert:

Charles Hoskinson:

Ironically, initially Chandler Guo insisted he was going to make a 51% attack on the Classic network.

However, shortly afterwards Guo changed his stance and joined the ranks of the project’s supporters.

ForkLog: Speaking of the team, how many people are now involved with Ethereum Classic? Who are they?

Arvicco: As ETC is a truly decentralized movement, just like Bitcoin, it’s hard to answer the question. How many people are there in ‘team bitcoin?’ Should we include everyone independently contributing to the project’s success, or just those working with Bitcoin Core?

It’s the same with Ethereum Classic. There are 1,680 members in ETC Slack channel, and there are 36 contributors on GitHub. Just like in Bitcoin, there’s no formal hierarchy: people make their contributions where they deem necessary, and gain reputation and influence if their efforts prove successful. It could be development, writing specifications or marketing materials, organizing various events, setting up mining farms, providing media support, etc. People involved in different projects within the community support each other not because they have to, but because they have a common interest of making ETC successful.

ForkLog: The exchange incident was probably the most controversial issues with Ethereum Classic. Some were confused by sudden emergence of a new coin on Poloniex while the administration failed to notify users of such plans. Was it intentional, and, if so, why?

Arvicco: There was no ‘exchange incident.’ It exists only in the minds of some ETH supporters who still believe that ETC is an ominous conspiracy, not a result of a schism within the community due to a betrayal of basic blockchain principles. Some exchanges just saw a great business opportunity in ETC. Eventually, they were proven right: within the first week of trading, ETC trade volume exceeded all other cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin included. Even now, ETC is one of five most steadily traded altcoins.

Ethereum Classic trading volume and market cap in the first three month of the project’s existenc – coinmarketcap

ForkLog: Some exchanges not just refused to add ETC, but neither did they give coins to their users insisting there were no coins as someone had allegedly withdrawn them earlier. This led to plenty of debate within the community. What do you personally think has happened in rea;ity?

Arvicco: There’s no secret here either. Ethereum developers who were hastily preparing code for ‘the DAO fork’ were so confident in its success they didn’t incorporate any protection from reproduction of transactions. It could’ve been implemented easily by just changing the format of transactions, but they didn’t do that. As a result, the networks didn’t completely separate: all ETH transactions could make it to the ETC network, and vice versa. In fact, once somebody withdrew ETH from an exchange, a similar amount of ETC could just ‘leak away’ along for the ride without any sanction.

The problem can be prevented by implementing some technical measures to ‘separate coins’ and always using separate addresses for ETH and ETC payments thereafter. Some exchanges, mostly the major ones, had the required technical expertise to keep ETC from leaking away, but there were exchanges that lacked this expertise. The official position of Ethereum Foundation was of no help here as they publicly and insistently recommended users and exchanges to just ignore ETC.

Unprotected exchanges fell victims of a recurring ‘reproduction attack.’ As a result, they lost users’ ETC, and therefore failed to pay them.

ForkLog: Obviously, there wouldn’t be any Ethereum Classic without Ethereum. As far as I know, at some point you were quite positive about Ethereum and its prospects. When did you change your mind? I assume The DAO incident and the consequent hardfork could well be sort of a final trigger, couldn’t they?

Arvicco: I used to consider Ethereum one of the most important projects for development of blockchain technologies and their transition to a higher level in terms of their impact on the world and the society. Bitnovosti.com has made a lot to popularize Ethereum in the Russian-speaking part of the community by publishing dozens of related features long before the topic went mainstream.

My attitude changed as I started to realize that instead of being a decentralization movement Ethereum is going towards centralization of decision-making and, if you mention some aspects, even turning into ‘a cult of personality’. The hardfork simply was a climax of this trend, and made it all too obvious. It’s such a concentration of power of decision-making that made violation of blockchain principles possible. This led to confiscation and redistribution of assets, which is fairly impossible in Bitcoin’s decentralized world.

ForkLog: Generally, how do you see the forked Ethereum’s future?

Arvicco: I believe the very possibility of violating blockchain immutability, the legitimacy of confiscation and redistribution which ETH supporters shamefacedly call ‘incorrect change of the state of blockchain’, they all undermine Ethereum’s basic value proposition. Let me remind you that Ethereum’s motto is about ‘decentralized platform that runs smart contracts: applications that run exactly as programmed without any possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud or third party interference.’ Ironically, the motto is still on the homepage of the forked Ethereum, even though every other word there is now a lie.

If there’s no guarantee of running the code as programmed and so on, the very existence of a decentralized platform of execution of smart contracts becomes meaningless.

It’s much easier and cheaper to get the same results without creating an inefficient and endlessly redundant system for computational consensus, which is blockchain. Therefore it makes no sense to use ETH blockchain if a system requires immutability, censorship resistance, or no third party interference. Most apps that really require blockchain consider such requirements essential. As this simple truth makes it to the heads of developers of distributed systems, the prospects of the forked Ethereum don’t look too brilliant.

ForkLog: Emergence of an alternative for Ethereum as a smart contract and dApp platform is certainly on the plus side of Ethereum Classic. Is there any interest from developers who wish to issue tokens and make their apps on the base of Ethereum Classic? I know of some instances when an app was deployed in two networks at once, but someone might prefer the original chain anyway.

Arvicco: Since the networks are technically equivalent, any code developed for Ethereum is quite executable in the ETC network. Indeed, there are examples of successful deployment of apps in both networks, with Ethereization being one of them. We expect other ETH-based projects to move towards multi-deployment as well.

There are such projects as Stampery, Fundonomy, or ETC Win, that are located (or going to locate) exclusively in the ETC network. Usually, developers opt for ETC because they believe immutability of history and censorship resistance are the most valuable features. We’ve heard some news of development of next-generation ‘dark market’ trustless apps deployed in ETC. Development of such apps is a long process, but one of them could become that very killer dApp the Ethereum ecosystem currently lacks.

ForkLog: Speaking of ETC Win. What could you say about it?

Arvicco: As far as I know, it’s one of the Chinese ETC community’s projects focused on creating a decentralized smart contract-based exchange. They’ve had a successful ICO and raised over one million ETC to fund the development.

ForkLog: When you speak with a project coordinator, it’s hard to resist temptation and ask about the cryptocurrency price. How much will ETC cost by the end of 2017?

Arvicco: I don’t predict cryptocurrency prices as a matter of principle. Still, it is my belief that market need for a decentralized platform of smart contracts and apps executed exactly as coded, without any possibility of interception, censorship, scam or interference has been objectively proven as expressed in Ethereum’s high market cap prior to The DAO incident. As the market understands that Ethereum Classic implements this original vision the best way, I see no reasons why ETC market cap can’t reach similar, or even higher, value.

Arvicco was interviewed by Toly Kaplan

  • bitpop

    Please, this can’t be allowed to go forward!

    Ethereum Classic ($ETC) is a proof-of-work (PoW) coin. All PoW coins, including Bitcoin ($BTC), are vulnerable to a 51% double spend attack. The difference between $ETC and $BTC though, as far as protection from a 51% attack is concerned, is night and day. For Bitcoin, even a state-sponsored actor would have difficulty acquiring or gaining control of the ~3.3 Eh/s (SHA256) capacity needed to ensure success of a 51% attack against Bitcoin.

    With $ETC, though, the capacity required for an attack is a relatively trivially low threshold. Maybe $10M worth of higher-end GPUs is all that is needed. And this capacity is needed for only for a few hours — or one day at most, so the capacity could be “borrowed” from the miners currently mining other coins (that use GPUs for mining.) Even if just 1 out of 8 GPUs used for mining Ethereum were coordinated to 51% attack $ETC, they would be guaranteed success (by simply having more than 51% of existing $ETC mining capacity).

    Nobody should be confusing $ETC with $BTC — the risks of loss due to attack are at completely different levels.

    $ETC is nowhere near mature enough for “Decentralization”.

    • Victor Fomin

      If you consider 51% attack against ETC trivial, you are welcome to try it. Just a reminder, current ETC nethash of ~900 gh/s is about 5 times more than original Ethereum nethash upon its inception. So, it’s all relative.

      Let’s not forget, ETH is going to migrate to a PoS scheme that has historically proven to be insecure and prone to all kinds of vulnerabilities. Adding to Ethereum’s already huge attack surface. I can’t see THIS ending up well under any reasonable scenario.