On Thursday October 8th, we hosted an AMA with Vitalik Buterin. It all took part inside of the Status public channel #status. We started running these AMAs within the app as a means of enabling anyone, anywhere to ask questions and get their answers in a fully decentralized and privacy first environment.
Lats week marked the most successful Status AMA to date, with over 35 questions answered and a buzzing >850 messages sent across our 90 minutes with Vitalik. A set of questions were pre-submitted via Twitter and via a submission form while others were asked and answered live during our session.
The AMA was broken into 2 parts:
- Part 1 - questions for Vitalik from the Status community
- Part 2 - questions from Vitalik for the community to respond to
We are issuing Keycard prizes for the best questions and answers. Here is a recap of how it all went down. Some questions have been combined since they broadly referred to the same topic and respective answers also matched up.
Part 1 - Questions from the community:
Q1: Will Ethereum 2.0 Replace Ethereum 1.0 or they will work As 2 separate products?
Vitalik: ETH2 will replace ETH1. The current ETH1 chain state (ie. all the balances and smart contract code and storage) will become incorporated as part of the ETH2.0 system, so applications don't need to do anything to migrate.
Q2: Are there any competitors now on the market for Ethereum 2.0?
Vitalik: Depends what you mean by competitors :D
There's certainly a bunch of chains that have marketed themselves at least privately to VCs as "Ethereum killers" at various points in the past, though there's a lot of projects that want to work as collaboratively as possible with the Ethereum ecosystem. eg. NEAR has been positioning itself as an "Ethereum scalability solution" recently
Q3: People invest billions of dollars in De-Fi. What do you think about "De-Fi's rush"?
Vitalik: I'm happy that there's a lot of interest in using Ethereum, though definitely unfortunate that the usage is being concentrated in a few categories and it's pricing many of the other categories out. Personally I hope that that the short-term hype dies off and we can see the more long-term sustainable applications emerge. I think the more sustainable applications are often the more "boring" ones, eg. stablecoins and synthetic assets are really valuable.
Q4: How can our projects or products appropriately bridge the way decentralization works with society without crashing with its hegemonic side?
Vitalik: I think the largest challenges in this regard are on the decentralized governance side.
As I wrote in articles like https://vitalik.ca/general/2019/04/03/collusion.html, it's not so much markets that are plutocratic, it's the interaction between markets and non-market governance systems that often causes problems; markets for matters of public concern (like governance votes) fail in ways that markets for apples don't.
Making governance systems that are robust to collusion is challenging, and we're trying different experiments like eg. the identity-based approaches that Gitcoin quadratic funding is turning to, our work on MACI https://github.com/appliedzkp/maci, etc.
Q5: Besides blockchain, what solutions have you seen that achieved a way into an autonomous system for societies, communities, collectives and or individuals?
I love Status in the way that the project never sold itself as a way to invest or do whatever thing for growth. In fact, one of its slogans, which I love, states "Through privacy, preserve culture". The project definitely knows and shares a vision where people NEED to reframe their right and duty for autonomy, bringing tools of communication and the well-known wallet and dapp browser, with the tone focused on human rights.
Vitalik: It depends what you mean by "solutions". So for example a lot of the work being done by Radicalxchange has to do with governance design, but it's operating at a different layer, so it's not really competing with blockchains.
There's also communication solutions like Polis that Audrey Tang is a big fan of, unfortunately I have not yet researched it enough though I really should look into it more...
Q6: What are your thoughts on stable chains like xDai?
Vitalik: I view xDai as being valuable for the short term, but in the long term I do favor scalability solutions that fully inherit the Ethereum chain's underlying security, which means channels, Plasma and rollups. xDai-like sidechains rely only on their own validator set for security.
Q7: What do you think of Status's performance? Is it feasible to have tens of millions of users? If so, what will be the impact on Ethereum?
Vitalik: My main worry is that for something like Status to scale to a very large number of users, we need to have robust p2p networks where (i) messages propagate very quickly, but also (ii) messages only propagate to nodes that are looking for those messages, so that nodes don't get overwhelmed by having to download everyone's traffic.
Existing blockchain networks have (i), BitTorrent has (ii), being able to stably have both is still a work-in-progress. I really hope it succeeds. The other challenge is of course on-chain scalability; but fixing that is easier, Status just needs to support rollups!
Q8: Will zksnarks be added to ETH2.0?
Vitalik: Support for zksnarks has already existed in Ethereum since the 2017 Byzantium hardfork, when we added the elliptic curve precompiles. Applications that use those precompiles have existed for years, eg. tornado.cash is one example.
Q9: What are your opinions on staking pools for ETH2.0?
Vitalik: We've realized that staking pools are inevitable from very early on, and if done well they can be reasonably decentralized and robust. That said, we do hope that we don't get anything like a staking pool monopoly any time soon, and that solo staking will continue to be viable. We've tried hard to make the incentives in ETH2 very little-guy-friendly...
We hope that the blockchain will stabilize, so the work will look more like maintenance in 2-3 years, so maybe some resources will be freed to focus on infrastructure and applications.
Q10: Is quadratic voting for protocol governance bad/problematic?
Vitalik: I think the main challenge with quadratic voting is that it depends on identity, and getting identity to work in a blockchain context is hard! Though projects like BrightID are trying...
Q11: What advice would you give to aspiring Ethereum core devs?
Vitalik: Write your own eth1 or eth2 implementation and see if you can get it to pass the tests. It's a great way to learn!
Q12: With the rise of DAOs how do you see physical assets being managed when they’re brought on chain? Who would own them and who would have a claim over ownership of assets if the DAO comes to a disagreement?
Vitalik: This is a good and really important question! It depends entirely on what the DAO's legal structure is. Maybe ask the LAO team what they have in mind, as I know they're trying to solve exactly these kinds of challenges.
Q13: How do you think we can address the technical barrier of onboarding more people into the blockchain? Is it going to be primarily through design or through rethinking the way we do things on Ethereum? Or will blockchain remain a highly technical segment only for those willing to invest a lot of time and effort into figuring out how it works and to build tools/businesses on and for it?
Vitalik: (1) easier exchange infrastructure and (2) easier security+usability. Reducing fees is in the long run also important!
I fully recommend, especially for non-financial applications, actively look to migrate to an optimistic rollup or zk rollup today; it's a good fit because even though the tech is not well tested, for a non-financial app even a fatal bug won't lead to loss of funds.
It's not just about bundling and executing at once, it's also about moving the execution off-chain. Transaction data is published on chain, but execution is not done by default, it's only done if someone actually challenges that particular batch
Or in a ZK rollup the execution is replaced by doing it off-chain and publishing a SNARK proof that the execution was done correctly.
Q14: Do you think there a reason why the De-Fi apps are not implementing rollups? What are they afraid of?
Vitalik: Making an EVM-capable rollup is hard! See Kelvin Fichter's thread on the hard work that the Optimism team had to do.
Q15: What's the current state of account abstraction? Any chance of it coming any time soon? It would obviously have huge implications on ZK / privacy based contracts...
Vitalik: There's an EIP!
That said, it will take some time for AA to get on mainnet. What may very well happen is, optimistic rollups will support account abstraction before mainnet does, as they have much more flexibility in how they accept transactions given how sequencers work. In that case, I see AA-dependent applications being tried out inside rollups first. And realistically privacy-preserving stuff has to be done on L2 at this point; I use tornado myself and txfees on L1 right now are crazy, ~ $5-20 per withdrawal.
Hope that someone can make a tornado-like thing on L2 soon!
Q16: Will Ethereum ever have the privacy by default features to where it is an 'opt out' option rather than opt in?
Vitalik: The Ethereum base layer tends to strive for generality first and foremost. I don't expect it to have base-layer privacy because there are too many different privacy solutions with different tradeoffs, so it's better to do such things at layer 2.
So I don't expect Ethereum the blockchain to be privacy-by-default, but I do hope that at some point wallets will make private sends default in more and more cases! I think reducing gas costs of private sends (eg. via L2) is important for this to be viable!
Q17: Besides scaling/fees, what do you think is the most important bottleneck for getting Ethereum to be used by a billion people?
Vitalik: A big non-technical one is just ease-of-use of the fiat -> crypto channels. Exchanges are not easy to access in many places!
Another one is usability and security. It's just too easy to just accidentally lose $200,000 with the way wallets work now; this is a big reason why I'm such a relentless advocate of smart contract wallets with social recovery and multisig and the like!
Q18: What do you think about decentralized storage? Swarm, Filecoin etc.
Vitalik: I don’t really know yet, these systems are either in beta or have not yet been released, in a year or two we will see...
Q19: How do you think ETH2 (scaling) could improve or impact p2p exchanges?
Vitalik: P2p exchanges where more of the infrastructure was blockchain-based would be interesting! Theoretically you can do it without a blockchain but I can see how pragmatically building some logic on-chain just makes things easier and allows developers to be lazier...
Q20: What is your take on the launch of the UNI token? Was it necessary? Well structured?
Vitalik: I really really loved the UNI launch! I particularly loved the egalitarian aspect of everyone getting 400 UNI, with only 1/3 of the pool going to liquidity providers in proportion to how much they contributed.
I know that it was imprecise and there were people who had dozens of accounts etc., but on the whole it led to a very positive effect. Of course the challenge is, no one can repeat the same thing again, because people will try to get many accounts with every future dapp that might have a token :D
Q21: What are your biggest concerns about (crypto)law?
Vitalik: I definitely hope that Ethereum applications will continue to be legal! I expect the next couple of years to be important; the EU is making a push for crypto legislation recently, and it's interesting to see some of the principles there. I hope that some reasonable distinction between acceptable vs unacceptable behavior when issuing assets and making applications can be found.
Q22: Besides serving as an incentivized testnet for ETH2, would you say that providing finality to ETH1 is the main practical goal of ETH2 Phase 0?
Vitalik: Yeah, I think this is a reasonable way to think about it, though it would require clients to actually agree not to revert finalized blocks. In practice, what I think will happen is, if the ETH1 chain reverts longer than a few hours, then the ETH1 chain and the ETH2 chain will point to different blocks, which will trigger errors and require manual resolution, at which point the chain that actually did appear first can be selected via user-activated soft fork as the winning chain!
Q23: Do current smart contracts need an upgrade or any changes to work in ETH2?
Vitalik: No, smart contracts will work on ETH2 as is!
Q24: Would you push for a Status fork/update that features mesh networking?
Vitalik: That would be awesome. I've been a fan of what I call incentivized single-hop mesh networking for a long time!
Basically, there are a lot of situations when you do not have an internet connection, but there are 50 people around you who do, so the idea is that we could have a market where you can look for people selling their connections via bluetooth or some similar local non-internet channel, and if you find someone connect to them and route bandwidth through them, and pay for it with channels.
The initial killer app would be just giving people a lot of redundant WiFi options at crypto events and the like. And then you can scale up the network effect from there...
Q25: Are you worried about "dark" DAOs?
Vitalik: Definitely somewhat worried, though I think in practice DAOs that try to have direct real-world effects that lots of people really dislike are going to be attackable in a lot of ways. It's hard for key participants to remain anonymous, every paragraph you say will be statistically analyzed and used against you, there's ways to attack the oracles, etc.
Q26: What is the advantage of a wormhole?
Vitalik: Wormholes potentially allow de-facto faster than light travel, which seems like it could be really useful in helping humanity colonize interstellar space, or in ensuring cryptocurrency/blockchain networks can keep working well once we do that?
Q27: You seem to like Status - what do you use more, desktop or mobile?
Vitalik: I have been testing out desktop today! Unfortunately on Linux it ends up segfaulting or otherwise crashing so far; but definitely hopeful that the bugs get ironed out soon. The interface looks great!
I've also always been optimistic about Status, but the SNT coin is another issue. The value of SNT requires not only Status success, but also an economic model. Is it possible that Status can be combined with the built-in DEX aggregator, a bit like MetaMask is now doing...
Q28: With so many different interests and areas of expertise, how would you generalize the driving factor of your work over the years?
Vitalik: I guess the values behind the work have always been the same: building free and open systems so that we can all cooperate better. It started with Bitcoin as an open source permissionless digital currency, and even since the beginning, Ethereum has been all about enabling decentralized governance experiments, creating global open-access financial tools, things like Status, etc etc.
I hope that over time we can build up to an entire suite of tools that allow anyone in the world to engage in a lot of basic functions, including maintaining an identity, using financial tools, creating different structures for collaboration for for-profit or non-profit activities, etc, all without depending on centralized intermediaries or being limited by jurisdictional/geopolitical boundaries!
Part 2 - Question from Vitalik to the Status Community
Vitalik: Personally I would love to hear more stories from status users (or Ethereum users more generally) from countries/locations that we don't normally think of as being existing crypto hubs. Would love to understand eg. what the perspective of more people from Africa or India or Southeast Asia who are exploring these applications is, why they find this tech valuable, what challenges they're facing, etc.
As a response to this question and since we had participants from a wide array of countries take part in the AMA, we will start bring you stories of Ethereum users from across the Status ecosystem. We'll begin with keen contributors and expand our coverage to newcomers and long term crypto enthusiasts alike.
Stay tuned and get in touch if you'd like to join this effort!