After the hard fork was implemented into Ethereum, the community saw a divide.
While it was originally thought that the original chain of Ethereum would die out after the fork, unprecedented events revealed a large group of the community who were still holding on. When Ethereum Classic (ETC) emerged with its community, a few developers came forward with the promise to join the ETC network. One developer in particular, who was originally involved with Ethereum during its infancy, stepped up to support the newly titled Ethereum Classic.
Charles Hoskinson, a Colorado-based tech entrepreneur and mathematician was one of the core founders behind the Ethereum technology. After the fork split the community, Hoskinson stepped forward proclaiming his support. Rumors of him being exiled or leaving the Foundation on bad terms had been circulating the internet, which makes his restored support for ETC all the more interesting.
ETHNews was able to get an interview with Hoskinson. We asked him why he was rejoining everyone on ETC, and if he was planning on powering the helm.
Why did you get into Ethereum?
“When I first heard of Ethereum, it was a really cool technology that everyone was passionate about. It had a broad scope and application. Some thought it was a crypto-anarchist utopia where you could build a whole new world of governance and others thought it was a new computational model that allowed you to do all kinds of infrastructure- like a better version of BitTorent. The big issue, however, was that when they first began the project it was an aggregation of a lot of philosophies, properties, and people. When I came in, I was the unifier to keep all these tribes running and to solve the most important component: How are we going to get funded?”
Hoskinson goes into the separation of ideas with wanting to bring in a VC to fund the Ethereum project, and his ultimate split.
“We had a hard choice to make. Do we flip the switch for a crowdsale and become a profit entity or not for profit? If a VC was going to come in, they would want some form of consolidation and governance- they would most likely want it to be a full profit entity because VCs are not a charity. I proposed a hybrid infrastructure.
Concisely, we had a philosophical fight about whether to take VC money or not and I was on the losing side of the fight. I was mutually pushed out of the organization and went on to do other things while they went on to form the foundation.
They raised 18 million, launched Ethereum then spent most of it in the first year. I bear them no ill-will or feel they’re bad people, but the problem with open source projects is it’s always going to have fractures and fragmentation, and deep seeded philosophical differences between the founders. We had eight of them and one side is bound to be pushed out in the other direction. I happened to be on the losing side.
What unified me with the Ethereum movement, why I wasn’t so bitter or harsh until recently – was that I still believed in the social contract of Ethereum. [I believed in] this idea of a world computer that is censorship resistant and the code is immutable. So I can take an arbitrary smart contract and I can run that contract and never fear that some government’s going to show up, or some entity is going to show up and say, ‘No, no. no. That’s not right. That’s not appropriate,’ and shut it down. Instead, I get a guarantee that it’s just going to run, the network is going to do that. Just like Bitcoin gives you a guarantee that your transaction is going to send through.
Whatever grievances, or disagreements, or philosophical differences I may have with the other Ethereum founders, until they forked... that principle was solid. The minute they forked- what they basically said was, ‘Code is no longer law. Code is sometimes law unless it’s inconvenient to the entire network.’ We should simply reassess that.
And so I joined Ethereum Classic initially mostly as a protest. And I wanted to say, ‘Listen, this is not ok. Not everybody agrees. You don’t have 99% of the community behind you. There is certainly a subset of your population that thinks you have betrayed the social contract you raised the money for, and you have, in a way, damaged your community. And we’re not going to take it. We’re going to make sure that you understand that the decisions you have made are not free and they have some form of consequence.’
But then after interacting with the Classic community and having a lot of conversations and getting to know them, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is a self-sustaining ecosystem if it wants to be. Meaning that there is a tremendous amount of opportunity for Ethereum Classic to diverge from ETH and actually become its own coin and chart its own course and have a different philosophy and different roadmap. And that, in and of itself, is actually a really exciting thing. Whenever you find a good ecosystem, a good value, good developers, good community you don’t just throw that away. That’s something you keep, cherish, and grow and see where it goes.”
What are your thoughts on the DAO exploiter and what do you think his/her/or their intentions were?
“That’s an interesting question. It’s impossible to know the machinations of the hacker. Some people hack for protest, some hack for profit. Unless the hacker is ever exposed, we’ll never know his or her intent. But it does bring up a very valid concern about the Ethereum ecosystem. What should have practically been the focus of the core developers instead of the DAO hack itself, should not have been, ‘should we reverse this transaction or not and give everyone their money back?’
It should have been a question of, ‘is the model that people are developing smart contracts in really the best model?’ And I would argue that it’s not. The initial emphasis that the core developers of Ethereum took for the languages you develop smart contracts in, was making them accessible and really easy for low to mid skill developers to come in and rapidly build a prototype. Now, that’s great if you want to demonstrate and showcase the power of the system. It’s not good if you want to build what’s called high assurance software- or mission-critical software. The kind of stuff you’d expect to see with Bloomberg price feeds or the things you would see with jet engines or the Mars Rover.
There are software techniques and methodologies that exist to write that kind of code and you generally do not have bugs, flaws, and errors that would cause that kind of cataclysmic damage. So in my view, the proper response to the DAO hack should have been, ‘Ok, well that’s a bad incident for the ecosystem but let’s move on and focus on the formalization of smart contracts and changing the developer experience so that we get strong guarantees of behavior instead of developer accessibility.”
What do you aim to achieve by joining Ethereum Classic?
“I basically outlined three things I’d like to do while I’m in the Ethereum Classic community.
First I want to calm everyone down and say that I understand you’re angry and that we started as a protest, but now we have a real cryptocurrency. We have to make hard decisions about what our social contract means to us and if there is community consensus behind our goal. Unfortunately, that’s hard to do because I think there are multiple camps in the Ethereum Classic community and it’s going to take some time for us to massage things out and figure out where they are- and if they’re compatible or not.
The second thing I’d like to do is try to create a community roadmap where Ethereum Classic diverges in that it’s no longer just a carbon copy of Ethereum but is its own coin in its own right. So I’d like to see it as kind of a test bit for a different philosophy behind how smart contracts should be done and [are] validated. So when Ethereum executes its own roadmap now we actually have empirical evidence, data, about the differences between these two chains and get to see which model is better. I think it’s good for the whole community and it provides tangible value for both Ethereum and Ethereum Classic.
So my hope for the third thing I’d like to achieve in the Ethereum Classic community before I leave is to leave it with a decentralized governance system that is much better than a foundation model. So that if whoever is in charge gets hit by a bus, something like Ethereum or Ethereum Classic would actually have the ability to continue on and you wouldn’t have to worry who the next person is going to be with questions of, ‘what is their philosophy and what are they going to do to the system?’ One loss of an individual won’t destroy it.”
Do you see Ethereum and Ethereum Classic coexisting or one chain dying out?
“It completely depends upon divergence and convergence. If Ethereum Classic and Ethereum decide to keep the same consensus model and basically be carbon copies of each other, there’s really no reason for them to both coexist and they’ll conflict until one kills the other- which will [most] likely be Ethereum, given the amount of momentum and money it has behind it, [it] will kill Ethereum Classic. So, it’s in the best interest of the Ethereum Classic community to be somewhat pragmatic and we will not compromise our social contract, we will accept that there are some basic things that we probably should do. For example, it might be wise to stay on Proof of Work while Ethereum moves to Proof of Stake because then they can absorb the entire mining community. Furthermore, it’s probably wise to fork the protocol to resolve the replay attack and somebody has to blink first on that.
I really think that time will tell on whether or not the chains will coexist and that depends on how the community is going to coalesce. Is it going to stay as a protest movement or is it going to move over to a more cohesive movement with a vision? And if it does, is that vision going to stay connected to Ethereum at the hip? Or is it going to diverge and become its own coin? If it diverges, then I think both coins can comfortably live. And because they’re both very sophisticated, it’s going to be quite easy for these coins to work with each other, talk to each other, and do things with each other. They will be able to build all kinds of great things and smart contracts, and so forth. My hope is to see a divergence in a productive way.”