Vitalik Buterin is the co-founder of the Ethereum blockchain and leader that the community follows. This leads to a question of whether Vitalik is a caretaker or dictator of the community. Let’s look into Vitalik’s life and his contribution to the Ethereum blockchain.
Vitalik’s Early Life
Vitalik Buterin is a Russian but his family moved to Canada. He was born in Kolomna, Moscow Oblast, Russia to Dmitry Buterin and Natalia Ameline. His father Dmitry is a computer scientist and so Vitalik naturally gained interest in the field. He went on to study in Canada at the Abelard School and mentioned that his time in this school as the most interesting and productive part of his life. At Abelard, he formed a good network among the teachers and students and his interest in learning grew in this school due to their ability to teach everything in detail. Vitalik put a lot of effort into learning as much as he could and was highly interested in Math, programming, and economics. If you notice, these interests are required to become a successful blockchain developer.
Vitalik learned about Bitcoin from his father in 2012. In 2013, he traveled around the world and met with other programmers to discuss starting the Ethereum Blockchain. He then returned home and published a white paper proposing Ethereum. To dedicate all his efforts to the platform’s development, Vitalik dropped out of the University of Waterloo and focused completely on Ethereum.
He worked as a writer for Bitcoin Magazine, and was the first co-founder and leading writer for this magazine. He has also written about Bitcoin for other magazines like Bitcoin Weekly. He even held a position of the editorial board of Ledger – a journal that focuses on articles on cryptocurrency and blockchain.
Vitalik is the co-founder and inventor of Ethereum, a decentralized mining network and a software development platform combined into one. In short, it is called as a “World Computer” since any decentralized program can be run on its network without any additional infrastructure. Vitalik had a chance to interact with many cryptographers, mathematicians, and economists. These people gave him the knowledge to create the Ethereum blockchain.
The Ethereum blockchain has become the number two crypto platform in terms of market cap, second only to Bitcoin. Many Smart Contracts have been created on top of the Ethereum blockchain. ICOs became very famous and started to draw millions of dollars only after Ethereum came into existence. Most of the ICOs have been built on top of Ethereum and they used the Ethereum blockchain to build their own dApps.
DAO Hack Controversy
The first controversial incident happened which led the crypto community to criticize Vitalik as a dictator and Ethereum to be a centralized coin was the DAO hack. DAO is short for Decentralized Autonomous Organization which acted as a decentralized venture capital fund. It was built as a Smart Contract on top of the Ethereum blockchain. DAO was a complex Smart Contract and there were a lot of areas in its codebase which were susceptible to bugs and vulnerabilities. On June 18th, the community and developers noticed that the funds were being drained out of the DAO contract. Overall, around 3.6 million Ether was stolen by an anonymous hacker. The hacker was able to use the vulnerability that existed in the splitting function. This bug was not from Ethereum but from DAO. Initially, a Soft fork was planned but programmers found out that the soft-fork was not possible due to the immutability of the Ethereum blockchain.
The team then decided to hardfork in order to return all the Ether back to DAO. This hardfork created a lot of controversy among the Ethereum community, which split into two. One community wanted the hardfork but the other wanted the Ethereum blockchain to remain immutable like Bitcoin. Anti-hardfork community members argued that the code is law and the terms and conditions should be applicable to DAO also regardless of what had happened. They further argued that the blockchain is immutable and they should not change at any given time.
The Community was asked to vote for this hardfork and the majority of them voted for the hardfork. The hardfork happened and Ethereum Classic was born out of this fork. This DAO hack incident was considered controversial and Vitalik was accused of helping his friends. Moreover, the larger Crypto community points to this incident to convince people that Ethereum is centralized and Vitalik is the dictator of this platform.
Vitalik Death Hoax
The problem a blockchain will face when it has a leader and is centralized was first known to the world when there was fake news on a troll site called 4Chan. The news claimed that Vitalik was dead in a car crash and this news started spreading like a wildfire. The Death hoax affected the price of Ethereum and it fell sharply by $4 Billion in market cap. Vitalik himself came out and posted a picture of him holding a block number from the Ethereum blockchain, thus confirming he was still alive at that block time.
Cryptospace again started to debate if Vitalik really died then the future of Ethereum would be in jeopardy. This is another important side effect when a crypto platform is controlled by a leader instead of it being decentralized like Bitcoin.
PoW to PoS change
Vitalik was also accused of dictating the decision making instead of taking general consensus when he proposed by himself that Ethereum will change from Proof-of-Work to Proof-of-Stake. This change is a big change and the decision will decide the future of Ethereum. They planned to first change it to a hybrid of PoS and PoW and then change it completely to PoS. This decision was taken by Vitalik himself without any community consensus. This also led to the crypto community accusing him of dictatorship over the Ethereum blockchain.
EIP-999 is a proposal that will help in releasing the freeze that locked 513K Ether in a Parity wallet. Parity wallet got frozen with $150 million of Ether funds due to a serious bug in the software. EIP-999 also requires a hardfork on Ethereum blockchain just like DAO. According to our Coindesk article, there is a split in the Ethereum community over this hardfork. This is also controversial since the crypto community thinks that Vitalik will finally decide whether the network will move toward another hardfork to activate this proposal. This is another reason the community believes that Ethereum is a centralized network and it is dictated by its founder Vitalik.
The above controversial decisions taken by Vitalik should have been avoided and he should have allowed the community to decide via a consensus. The hardfork should have been avoided since the blockchain is believed to be decentralized and immutable. Vitalik should stay away from taking critical decisions about Ethereum in the future for it to be considered a decentralized and leaderless blockchain.