On the eve of the hard fork scheduled for 20-21 July, we interviewed Taylor Gerring, one of co-founders of Ethereum Foundation.
He has also served on the Board of Directors for Ethereum Foundation and is currently an International Speaker and Blockchain Consultant
CT: Why Ethereum?
Taylor Gerring: The name Ethereum comes from the game World of Warcraft. In that game, there is a zone called Netherstorm with several references to "Ethereum". You can see this reflected on Google Trends, where a search for Ethereum shows a bump around 2007. By comparison, today's search volume for Ethereum the blockchain technology easily outpaces the temporary game curiosity.
CT: What do you think of the hard forking solution to The DAO incident. Are we more secure today?
TG: For me, the primary concern for blockchains should be "does this help us achieve a greater audience"?
Marketing, branding, and community sentiment play into this more than most technologists would like to admit, but at the end of the day, we have to attract eyeballs and mindshare to push blockchains into global consciousness.
Although there's a a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem with adoption and scaling of blockchains, multiple goals can be sought in parallel, since longer-term scaling research will ultimately help get us where we need to be.
Because the Ethereum community has generally been handling issues with aplomb, I'm cautiously optimistic that the end result will be a more resilient network both in technology and preparedness.
CT: How you got involved in Ethereum?
TG: I was on sabbatical in 2012 after having worked for some large corporate enterprises. I was in search of something different to work on and in that time, I re-discovered Bitcoin as a means for tipping over the internet.
It didn't take long for me to jump down the rabbit hole, and in that process I met Wendell Davis, founder of Hive wallet. While working on early attempts at Dapps for that project, he encouraged me to attend the Darkwallet event taking place in Milan.
It was there that I met Amir Taaki, Peter Todd, Mihai Alisie, and many others in the Bitcoin space. Several of the ideas discussed there revolved around making crypto easier to use, but were ultimately limited by available protocols. It was here that I heard the first rumblings of some new idea that would solve a lot of problems from some Russian kid that wrote for Bitcoin Magazine.
After returning home to Chicago, I stayed in touch with Mihai who eventually connected me with Vitalik Buterin to assist on the Ethereum website.
CT: Ethereum and smart contracts: Do you feel that in the real world it would be difficult to understand for lay people?
TG: I believe a large part of the misunderstanding with so-called smart contracts is that the name is partially a misnomer. Really what we're talking about is programs on blockchains. These programs can be coded to do just about anything, but have the added benefit of digital uniqueness without central point of failure. From this point, lots of things are possible from digital assets to autonomous assistants.
CT: You have talked about micropayments as a useful application for cryptocurrencies. What do you think of the arrival of Steem on the scene in that context?
TG: I haven't spent much time looking into Steem yet, but the idea of micropayments for content and actions has been waiting for implementations and it's great to see both them and projects like Akasha (built upon Ethereum & IPFS) begin developed.
The question of whether we can properly incentivize good community behavior with real value remains to be answered, but certainly any solution that allows for users to own their own data and makes use of decentralizing technologies for resilience is a huge win in the face of more traditional services.
CT: What is the future of Ethereum in your view? Is it going to finally displace Bitcoin as the cryptocurrency of choice?
TG: People are waking up to the capabilities of blockchains beyond value transmission.
While this property does remain as a core component to any public blockchain, there are loads of opportunities for new projects to enter the industry and take a foothold.
No technology, including Bitcoin and Ethereum, is guaranteed to succeed, though I do think the segments of payments & remittance is Bitcoin's game to lose.
When I originally immersed myself in Bitcoin, low-cost near-instant microtransactions were a dream to build towards.
For that dream, I developed a short-lived service called Paythru, making it possible to send Bitcoin to digital entities that hadn't yet published a tipping address. Once updates like the "no dust" minimum were put in place, I started to encounter some of the limitations of Blockchain as "one chain to rule them all".