Vitalik Buterin says that money, blockchain identities, decentralized finance (DeFi), decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and hybrid applications are the top developments he is excited about in the Ethereum ecosystem. In a Dec. 5 blog post, the Ethereum co-founder describes his experience of using Ether (ETH) as a means of payment in a cafe in Argentina:
"When we walked in, the owner recognized me, and immediately showed me that he has ETH and other crypto-assets on his Binance account. We ordered tea and snacks, and we asked if we could pay in ETH. The coffee shop owner obliged, and showed me the QR code for his Binance deposit address, to which I sent about $20 of ETH from my Status wallet on my phone."
That cafe visit occurred last December, when Ethereum was still proof-of-work, so the transaction didn’t really make “pragmatic sense,” Buterin conceded. Network fees accounted for one-third of the transaction, and the funds took several minutes to arrive. But due to Ethereum’s merge to proof-of-stake in September, "transactions get included significantly more quickly, and the chain has become more stable, making it safer to accept transactions after fewer confirmations."
Then, addressing the rise of DeFi, Buterin wrote that the industry started off honorably but quickly became "an overcapitalized monster that relied on unsustainable forms of yield farming." However, he added that DeFi is in the "early stages of setting down into a stable medium, improving security, and refocusing on a few applications that are particularly valuable."
Next, Buterin praised the rise of blockchain identification methods, such as Sign In With Ethereum (SIWE), and their ability to enhance user privacy. "It [SIWE] allows you to interact with a site without giving Google or Facebook access to your private information or the ability to take over or lock you out of your account," wrote Buterin. Furthermore, he said such protocols could also be used to prove eligibility in events like governance or airdrops without compromising users' personal data.
Regarding DAOs, Buterin said while the term "captures many of the hopes and dreams that people have put into the crypto space to build more democratic, resilient and efficient forms of governance," greater work needs to be done to improve censorship resistance and susceptibility to internal organization. Highlighting the example of MakerDAO, Buterin wrote:
"MakerDAO has $7.8 billion in collateral, over 17x the market cap of the profit-taking token, MKR. Hence, if governance was up to MKR holders with no safeguards, someone could buy up half the MKR, use that to manipulate the price oracles, and steal a large portion of the collateral for themselves."
Finally, the Ethereum co-founder noted the potential of merging Ethereum blockchain technology with off-chain processes such as voting. In one scenario, Buterin wrote: "Votes are published to the blockchain, so users have a way independent of the voting system to ensure that their votes get included. But votes are encrypted, preserving privacy, and a ZK-SNARK-based solution."
As for the next steps, Buterin stuck to his belief in prioritizing projects with long-term value propositions rather than those fixated on short-term profit. "Many of the more stable and boring applications do not get built because there is less excitement and less short-term profit to be earned around them: the LUNA market cap got to over $30 billion, while stablecoins striving for robustness and simplicity often get largely ignored for years," he wrote. Post-Merge, Ethereum's next major anticipated update is the Shanghai hard fork, which will enable users to withdraw their staked Ether. The upgrade is scheduled for the second half of 2023.