Ethereum’s eighth birthday is this week. Eight years ago, in July of 2015, Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” was a #1 hit. Minions played in theaters. News of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight echoed on late night television. Coverage of the Ethereum launch didn’t make it into the New York Times or the Washington Post. But if you were a member of the burgeoning cryptocurrency ecosystem, you were already paying attention.
CoinDesk reporter Grace Caffyn covered the much-anticipated release. In “Ethereum Launches Long-Awaited Decentralized App Network,” she wrote, “Grand in scale and flexible by design, it aims to decentralize pretty much anything on the Internet.” The article also showcased the voice of the skeptics who dubbed Ethereum “rudimentary,” “overambitious” and saying that it had, “much to prove.”
Ethereum was born on July 30, 2015, at 10:26 a.m. EST.
The founding team named the first release the Ethereum Frontier.
“Frontier is coming – what to expect, and how to prepare,” Steven Taul, Ethereum’s Cheif Operating Officer, wrote on the Ethereum Foundation’s blog on June 22, 2015.
“During the Frontier release, we expect early adopters and application developers to establish communities and start forming a live ecosystem. Like their counterparts during the American Frontier, these settlers will be presented with vast opportunities, but will also face many dangers,” Taul warned via the blog.
Taul’s forecast proved true. Today, Ethereum is a flourishing ecosystem with 1.6 million weekly active users, eight 50,000 node validators to decentralize the network, thousands of communities, and $226 billion in market cap.
I spoke with six leaders in the Ethereum ecosystem to celebrate the past eight years of Ethereum, and to look forward to what’s on the horizon.
What is the state of Etheruem in 2023? What are the opportunities and challenges? I asked these questions to Amanda Cassat (marketer), Rachel Wolfson (journalist), Thomas Klocanas (investor), Rik Lomas (educator), Wayne Chang (developer), and Alisha.eth (ENS governance lead).
Throughout my conversations, a prevailing theme emerged: The optimism resonating amongst those driving the Ethereum network forward.
1. Amanda Cassatt (Serotonin)
Amanda is the CEO of Serotonin, a Web3 marketing company, and the author of Web3 Marketing, a handbook for the next internet revolution.
How did we go from crypto to Web3?
The parents of our industry are technology and finance. They had a baby and it was crypto. That’s where the technology came from, but it’s also where the people came from. We inherited people from those places and the things they cared about. As our movement intersected other industries, like gaming, entertainment, art, and fashion, we not only expanded the use cases beyond financial ones — we expanded the movement.
What are you excited about in Ethereum’s future?
I’m really excited about zero-knowledge proofs. You can get excited about ZkSnarks being integrated into Ethereum and zk rollups on L2s. This concept is going to help move the needle on the next bull market narrative and unlock significant impact and growth. There are many use cases and examples of business logic that makes sense with configurable private data that don’t make sense in a world where all data — not just a representation or abstraction of it — are on the public blockchain.
What do you think AI’s role in blockchain will be?
Anybody that’s saying AI is taking the wind out of the sails of web3 doesn’t understand that these are enmeshed. Artificial Intelligence creates asymmetry in content creation on the internet. Because of that, we’re going to need provenance on every piece of content to prove it came from an authentic verifiable source
2. Rachel Wolfson (Cointelegraph)
Rachel is a journalist at Cointelegraph, and the host of Web3 Deep Dive, where she discusses the state of Web3. Her show has featured guests likeChelsea Manning, Gary Vaynerchuk, Joe Lubin and more.
What’s your favorite use case for Ethereum?
Peroni Beer’s use of Ethereum and Polygon Scan for food traceability. Peroni Beer is a popular Italian brewery that features a scannable QR code on most of their products that allow consumers to understand how their beer is produced. By scanning the QR code, consumers can see the source of the beer ingredients from the very beginning of production until products hit the shelves.
What is the number one challenge for adoption at the moment?
Gas fees on the Ethereum network are too high. Data shows that the average gas fee required to make transactions on Ethereum was about $20 on July 16th.
3. Thomas Klocanas (BlockTower Capital)
Thomas is Head of Venture at BlockTower Capital where he manages a $150 million early stage fund focused on investing in crypto and digital asset-enabled companies. Between 2017 and 2019, Klocanas was the Director of Strategy at ConsenSys.
What’s the difference between Ethereum in 2023, and Etheruem in 2017?
In 2017, the industry and public, including ConsenSys, started getting excited about use cases at the application layer. For example: Real world asset tokenization (Securitize, RealBlocks, Meridio & more), Music (Ujo & more), Metaverse (Decentraland, Cellarius & more) and more.
Fast forward to 2019: During crypto winter, a lot (not all!) of the early visions and projects were too early to market. Until recently, the infrastructure and tooling was not developed enough to support these applications for mainstream users (as one example, CryptoKitties essentially contested the entire Ethereum network).
In 2023, these use cases are gaining traction. BlockTower Credit securitizes traditional private credit assets on Ethereum using Centrifuge while leveraging a credit line from MakerDAO. SandBox is collaborating with mainstream artists like Snoop Dogg and Steve Aoki while Louis Vuitton launches NFTs. We’re slowly but surely delivering on the early promises of crypto.
What has Web3 taught you about human behavior?
Ownership is a powerful drug.
What is your biggest worry for the future of Ethereum?
A tendency to elevate the wrong folks to positions of thought and company leadership. See the consequences with FTX, Celsius etc. With every cycle, crypto goes more mainstream, thus every bad piece of PR hurts and sets us back even more.
4. Rik Lomas (SuperHi)
Rik is the CEO of SuperHi, an online coding platform. Lomas launched SuperHi Basic Income, a crypto enabled basic income experiment, and is the lead instructor for Crypto + Web 3 for Creatives.
What’s your favorite thing about Ethereum?
If you buy a car, and the car company shuts down, your car doesn’t suddenly disappear. With web3, your content is something you own.
Why is decentralization important?
When you build decentralized software, people have incentives to build on top of it. On a centralized gated system, no one can get involved without permission. With web3, people can work together.
What’s the best way to get started with Etheruem?
Download a Rainbow wallet and get started. I’d suggest checking out Zora, Foundation, Mirror, and MetaLabel.
5. Wayne Chang (SpruceID)
Wayne is co-founder of SpruceID, empowering organizations to manage the entire lifecycle of digital credentials. The SpruceID team co-authored Sign-In with Ethereum, the open standard for one-click Ethereum login that has 1,000,000 downloads on NPM.
What is the current state of Ethereum?
In 2023, people who were in Web3 for the wrong reasons aren’t here anymore. It’s easier to connect with people in the Ethereum ecosystem without getting shilled an NFT or feeling pressure to join DAOs.
Where do you hope Ethereum will be eight years from now?
I hope we’re not using web extensions (aka. web wallets). I’m excited about phone manufacturers like Apple and Google using passkeys, Magic.link which allows non-custodial wallets via email signup, and Sign-in with Ethereum of course.
How can we improve Web3 social?
Web3 social would benefit from public attestations. With cryptographic signatures, we could make public attestations to verify that, “this content was signed by a private key from the office of Congressman” etc.
6. Alisha.eth, Governance Lead at ENS Domains
Alisha.eth is the Governance Lead at ENS Domains. ENS issues human-readable names on the Ethereum network that make it easy to send assets, login, and messages with other users on the network. According to Dune Analytics, ENS Domains has issued more than 2.7 million decentralized names on the Ethereum network.
Where do you hope Ethereum will be in 2030?
The 2030 version of Ethereum that excites me is one where critical pieces of internet infrastructure are powered by Ethereum. In an ideal world, this infrastructure would be built on credibly neutral open source public goods, like ENS.
What are your favorite use cases for ENS? (feel free to list a few, and I may link to them)
My favorite use cases for ENS are:
- Verifying content with ENS — As AI gets better at imitating humans, it will become increasingly important to ensure that information is verified by the source. Ethereum Name Service is primed to be the verification layer for content on the internet. Users can sign messages, either offchain or onchain, to verify they are the source of information. ENS names are controlled by the user (there is no middleman or platform in-between) so consumers can trust that a certain piece of information is verified or fake.
- Portable identities — Turning any domain into an ENS name that becomes a portable identity is the future of decentralized social media. Being able to create an ENS name that doubles as your handle or username on a website or app progresses us past land grabs for usernames every time a platform is launched. Our identities persist across the internet. With ENS, we have the technology to enable a single digital identity that is user-owned.
- Offchain subdomains — Issuing free ENS names with CCIP-Read is an incredible solution for companies to onboard millions of users to ENS for free. CoinBase has done this with cb.id names, which has onboarded over 2 million new users to ENS in less than a year.
What surprises or exciting news should we expect from ENS in the coming year?
The most interesting thing about ENS is that it is backwards compatible with DNS domains (like .com). In the next 12 months, the number of DNS domains that will be integrated into ENS will explode. The next phase of ENS adoption will onboard tens of millions of users without any cost to projects or companies. These users will get the full range of benefits that ENS names provide, without having to know anything about the ENS protocol.
Ethereum is not only a technical phenomenon, it’s a cultural phenomenon.
In 2013, Vitalik Buterin wrote the original Ethereum whitepaper. What Bitcoin does for payments, Vitalik explained, Ethereum would do for everything programmable.
The following year, in 2014, Ethereum further proved itself by raising $18 million from 6.6K bitcoin wallet addresses.
As Ethereum celebrates its eighth anniversary, it’s remarkable to see how far it has come from its modest origins. Today Ethereum has entered the dawn of an era in which cryptocurrency’s applications extend beyond finance into the mainstream user experience.
In the past few years, on the Ethereum network, we’ve seen an attempt to buy the United States Constitution with $45 million worth of Ethereum pooled together from 17,437 people around the world. We’ve seen global brands like Budweiser, Gucci and Tiffany & Co enter Web3. Beeple’s Everydays sold for $69 million, music NFTs launched by Snoop Dogg, Grimes, and thousands of Web3 musicians on Sound.xyz. Safe (formerly Gnosis Safe) now stores $58B of Ethereum assets across hundreds of thousands of Ethereum users. The impact of Ethereum goes on and on.
The cultural and technological influence of Ethereum even seems to be extending back to crypto’s original blockchain: Bitcoin. With technological advancements in the bitcoin ecosystem, such as bitcoin ordinals, smart contracts, indexing projects like BRC-20, and layers twos like Lightning and Stacks, Bitcoin now has NFTs, DAOs, Web3 wallets, tokens, DeFi and more.
On Twitter, I saw a Bitcoin-maxi tweet, “Ethereum is the testnet for Bitcoin.” Love it or hate it, even bitcoin naysayers can’t help but admit Ethereum’s influence on the broader landscape of web3.
Ethereum’s eighth anniversary marks a milestone in the evolution of all blockchain projects. With the commitment of a dedicated community, Ethereum is well-positioned for further growth and impact in crypto and identity security, shaping the future of a decentralized internet.