Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum’s co-founder, was certainly thinking outside the box when he proposed a radical new Ethereum scalability solution this weekend: using another blockchain—Bitcoin Cash—to provide the so-called “data layer,” where verification takes place, for the Ethereum platform.
Buterin’s suggestion to deploy a competing blockchain is a controversial short-term fix to Ethereum’s scalability issues. Ethereum and Bitcoin Cash are among the two biggest blockchains that permit users to create smart contracts. Creating a hybrid version of Ethereum by using a competitor ‘s technology raises the question: Why bother with Ethereum at all?
Writing on an Ethereum research forum, Buterin said that the idea is meant as a stopgap, to improve the blockchain’s throughput while developers work on Ethereum 2.0. The planned upgrade, which is supposed to dramatically speed up the Ethereum blockchain and allow it to scale, has been in the works for at least two years and is scheduled to be rolled out in early 2020.
Buterin said that using Bitcoin Cash, which forked from Bitcoin in late 2017, could create a four-fold increase in throughput, and lower fees. In addition, he said, the mechanisms to verify Bitcoin Cash blocks already exist inside Ethereum. He went on to praise the willingness of the Bitcoin Cash community to lend their blockchain to other projects.
But his suggestions met with reactions ranging from shock to disbelief on social media platforms, and community members, were quick to point out flaws in the idea.
They included leading blockchain architect and thought leader, Rick Dudley, founder of blockchain consultancy Vulcanize. “I wish I didn’t have to read any of this,” he tweeted. “I can think of 5 different things I’d suggest before I’d suggest what V did. I also don’t take his suggestion ‘seriously.’”
Ethereum UX designer Alex van Sande thought the suggestion was a joke. “I guess when you’re Vitalik you can shitpost your April’s fool joke whenever you want! ,” he tweeted.
Bitcoin Cash emerged out of a conflict between Bitcoin’s miners, developers and investors over the platforms’ need for scalability as it grew in popularity. It’s championed by Bitcoin fundamentalist Roger Ver, and characterised by its larger block size and faster transaction times.
Buterin noted that Bitcoin Cash has its issues, including a 10-minute block time, but proposed that Ethereum could piggy-back on new techniques Bitcoin Cash is developing, such as Avalanche pre-consensus, which prevents double spends.
Perhaps even more controversially, Buterin also proposed that there were features such as the reduced gas costs of Ethereum Classic, a fork of Ethereum itself, which could be explored.
Buterin’s comments sparked some concern that perhaps promised scalability improvements are further off than planned.
But the Ethereum Foundation, which is holding an AMA throughout today in its reddit forum, confirmed that the 2.0. upgrade would not be delayed. The most likely release date is still set for Q1 2020.