Vitalik Buterin Reflects On Strengths, Weaknesses of Ethereum, 'Hardening' the Blockchain

The co-founder and intellectual leader of the largest smart-contracts blockchain ecosystem addressed a packed room at the EthCC conference in Brussels.

AccessTimeIconJul 10, 2024 at 12:31 p.m. UTC
Updated Jul 10, 2024 at 12:34 p.m. UTC

BRUSSELS – Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin gave a keynote talk about hardening the Ethereum blockchain as a base layer, in front of a packed room full of an estimated 1,100 attendees, at a developer conference in Brussels on Wednesday.

Buterin spoke at length during his presentation at the Ethereum Community Conference (EthCC) about the strengths and weaknesses of the largest smart-contracts blockchain and its sprawling ecosystem, including his concerns about transaction censorship, as well as a proposal to increase the “quorum threshold” from 75% to 80%.

Buterin said he believes the strengths of the Ethereum ecosystem include that it is a “large and reasonably decentralized staking ecosystem,” and that it is a highly international and intellectual community.

Weaknesses of the blockchain still need to be addressed, Buterin said, including the difficulty of solo staking given the requirement for 32 ETH to become a validator for the blockchain, and that running a node is technically complicated. He said both of these issues “are very addressable.”

The Ethereum community's intellectual leader ran through an array of technical improvements – meant to fix the various weaknesses that exist on Ethereum – that would allow for “protocol simplification.”

“So if you want a robust ecosystem, it needs to be simple," Buterin told the crowd. "It should not have these, like, 73 random hooks and some kind of backwards compatibility because of some random dumb thing that this random guy called Vitalik came up with in 2014.”

51% attack

Buterin also expressed concerns about a 51% attack on the blockchain, sharing that the collective Ethereum community assumption would be that everyone rally together, force a minority soft fork and slash the attacker.

“It depends on a lot of assumptions around coordination, ideology, various other things, and it's not clear how to do something like that as well in 10 years,” Buterin said.

One of Buterin’s more concrete proposals that he was advocating for came from the idea that recovering from chain attacks becomes very hard if that chain finalizes; increasing the quorum threshold to 75% to 80% might help prevent that.

“I think there's value in really doubling down on these strengths, and at the same time, recognizing and fixing our inadequacies and making sure that we actually live up to our very high standards,” Buterin told the crowd.

Buterin has frequently made an appearance at EthCC in past years. In 2023 he spoke about challenges surrounding "abstraction," and the year before that he spoke about Ethereum ahead of the Merge.

Edited by Bradley Keoun.


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Margaux Nijkerk

Margaux Nijkerk reports on the Ethereum protocol and L2s. A graduate of Johns Hopkins and Emory universities, she has a masters in International Affairs & Economics. She holds a small amount of ETH and other altcoins.